Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Phreaking Out in Philadelphia

For those of you who indulge in a bit of Schadenfreude (glee at someone else's misfortune), look no farther than Philadelphia. It's fascinating.

Fans of the Phillies are in despair; fans of the Eagles are in misery. For a detached observer, both teams are interesting cases.

This past weekend, wrote Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, was "the worst weekend in Philadelphia sports history."

Just a couple of weeks ago, expectations were sky-high in Philadelphia. Both the Phillies and Eagles have high-profile players galore. With one of the best starting rotations arguably in baseball history, the Phillies had 102 wins in the regular season -- but flailed at the plate while being shut out by the Cardinals in the decisive Game Five in Philadelphia.

Now, just like our own Pittsburgh Pirates (ouch), the Phillies are out of the playoffs ... and on the last out of Friday night's game, they lost star slugger Ryan Howard to a crippling Achilles tendon injury that like will take a year of rigorous rehab for recovery ... and they also face the loss of several prominent free agents (Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge) and players with high-ticket options on their contracts (Roy Oswalt, Placido Polanco). Fans in Philadelphia, not unexpectedly, are turning ugly and pointing fingers -- at the players, the manager and the front office. They all face a long winter.

Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles, who have the self-proclaimed "Dream Team," are reeling, and some fans and talking heads in the media are calling for head coach Andy Reid to be fired. They're saying he's clueless, and it's turning ugly.

This is all fresh off the Eagles paying out huge money for several star free agents and inconsistent quarterback Michael Vick, all of whom have contributed to a 1-4 record. There is no end in sight, and it's how the Eagles are failing that has their fans bellowing. Mistakes, penalties and turnovers are rampant. 

The Eagles, in fact, are at the bottom of the NFL in turnover ratio with a minus-10, tied with -- you guessed it --our hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers may be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season, but at least they are 3-2 and coming off a win. The Eagles would gladly take that. Instead, they are taking relentless flak from their always staid and dignified fans.

It's interesting, and kinda fun to watch -- if you're into Schadenfreude. But not Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, no sir. We've lived with the Pirates for too long. We still remember with bitterness the Pirates' loss in the 1992 NLCS when left fielder Barry Bonds failed to throw out lead-footed ex-Bucco Sid Bream at the plate in the bottom of the ninth in Atlanta. We knew that was the end of an era, and the Pirates never recovered. Plus, we've had too many AFC Championship losses to take any sort of winning for granted. Nope, no sir. No Schadenfreude here. 

What we find interesting -- and this may be a reach -- is the impression that Philadelphians wouldn't be happy unless they are unhappy. Call it "Self-Schadenfreude." 

Maybe that's why Philadelphia fans are so good at vitriol. They practice it.

Just a thought.