100 Seasons ... 100 Heartbreaks
They say history is written by the winners but as the Penguins dispensed of the Flyers on Sunday afternoon -- capping yet another season without a championship in Philadelphia -- the losers made a little history of their own.
The Flyers' elimination made it 100 consecutive seasons without a title for Philadelphia's four major teams. That's far and away the record for a four-sport town -- a gold standard for civic sports futility.
Philadelphia (yes, my hometown) has been a major trophy-free zone since 1983. The drought has battered the area's collective psyche, rendering an entire generation of sports fans wounded, disillusioned and emotionally bankrupt. Whether you chalk up the streak to bad players, bad management or just plain bad luck, the hard numbers remain the same: 100 seasons, zero championships.
Is there a pox on Philly's sports teams, like the Curse of Billy Penn purports? No. Every season is its own snapshot. But there's nervous (read: bad) energy generated throughout the city whenever one of our teams makes a deep playoff run, a palpable tension among the locals as the big game approaches. That much is real.
Sure, baseball and hockey lost years to work stoppages along the way. But we'd be remiss to discount those lost seasons: the calendar pages still turned and the pain still festered.
A lifetime of rooting for teams that always let you down has taught many Philly natives how to lose, itself an important life lesson. Fans have been conditioned for failure. They expect defeat. Compound this trend with the city's historical inferiority complex and you've got something worse than fatalism: It's the perverse sense deep down that we don't even deserve it.
To commemorate the dubious milestone, here's a list of the 100 worst moments in Philadelphia sports during the drought. The scope is limited to the four major sports with a couple of obligatory exceptions. While the sheer length of the list might strike an outsider as a tad gratuitous -- an excessive tribute to failure -- there's simply no better way to relate the epic scope of Philly's perpetual heartbreak.
100. Phillies lose 10,000th game in franchise history | July 15, 2007
With a nationally televised 10-2 loss to the Cardinals, the Phils become the first team in pro sports history to lose 10,000 games.
99. Eagles cough up 21-0 lead in Andy Reid's coaching debut | Sept. 12, 1999
You wouldn't think a team coming off a 3-13 season could manage to disappoint anybody. But the Eagles outdid themselves in Reid's debut, taking a 21-0 lead before letting the Cardinals rally for a 25-24 victory on a last-second Chris Jacke field goal.
98. Phillies sign Mark Leiter to two-year, $4.3M contract | Dec. 12, 1996
The terms might seem modest by today's standards but the Leiter signing was a big deal at the time considering Philly's famously thrifty front office. The righty ended up making history in two years with the Phils, becoming the first player to lead the league in losses and blown saves in back-to-back seasons. Huzzah!
97. Flyers ship Rod Brind'Amour to Carolina | Jan. 23, 2000
The return -- Keith Primeau -- wasn't so bad. But many fans felt betrayed by management's decision to trade away Brind'Amour, the beloved team captain and one of the most popular players in franchise history.
96. Eagles and Ravens kiss their sisters | Nov. 16, 1997
In possibly the ugliest football game ever, the Eagles and Ravens played to a 10-10 tie. But the biggest losers were the Baltimore-area Pizza Hut owners, whose season-long gimmick promising $1 off a large pizza on Monday for each Baltimore sack on Sunday backfired when the Ravens got to quarterback Bobby Hoying a franchise-record nine times. The area's 52 outlets ended up marking down pies to $1.69, creating multiple-hour waits and lines around the block.
95. Phillies trade Bobby Abreu to Yankees for nobody in particular | July 30, 2006
When general manager Pat Gillick sent Abreu to the Bronx for a four-pack of low-level prospects -- C.J. Henry, Matt Smith, Jesus Sanchez and Carlos Monasterios -- longtime Philadelphia Daily News scribe Bill Conlin dubbed the deal as "The Great Gillick Giveaway."
94. Pistons eliminate Sixers from East quarters with 100-77 stomping | May 1, 2008
A preseason pick to finish in the East cellar, the Sixers were the feel-good story of the second half while rallying to an unlikely playoff spot. But after taking a 2-1 series lead against the Pistons in the first round, Detroit responded with three straight wins.
93. Eagles trade draft picks for Ron Solt | Oct. 4, 1988
The Eagles traded a first-round pick in 1989 and a fourth-round pick in 1990 to the Colts for the high-priced guard. The lineman didn't make his Philly debut until Oct. 26, playing part of two quarters before leaving the game with pain in his left knee and missing the remainder of the season. He was gone after three-and-a-half years.
92. Sixers sign Kenny Thomas to seven-year, $50M deal | July 16, 2003
Thomas was a serviceable, hard-working power forward but this expensive deal helped put the Sixers in salary cap jail for years.
91. Eagles blunder away statement-making Week 1 victory against Rams | Sept. 9, 2001
The up-and-coming Eagles opened the '01 regular season with the Rams at the Vet. Philly had the eventual NFC champs on the ropes when linebacker Quinton Caver tried to score on a fumble deep in St. Louis territory rather than falling on the ball. The Rams recovered instead and held on for a 20-17 overtime victory.
90. Black Tuesday | Feb. 9, 1999
A veteran Penn team hosted archrival Princeton at a jam-packed Palestra, one year after the Tigers finished 27-1 and peaked at No. 7 in the national rankings. The Quakers scored 29 unanswered points early, led 33-9 at halftime and 40-13 with 15:15 remaining. But the Tigers stormed back, took their first lead with 2:15 left and escaped with a miraculous 50-49 win -- their 35th straight Ivy League victory.
89. "Talkin' About Practice" | May 9, 2002
Was it blown out of proportion? Absolutely. But the negative perception from Allen Iverson's famously surreal half-hour presser would reverse much of the national goodwill earned during his storybook '01 season and haunt the pint-sized scorer for the rest of his Philadelphia career.
88. Penguins throttle Flyers in East finals | May 18, 2008
The underdog Flyers played decently in spurts but never looked confident while falling into a 3-1 series hole. That's when the Penguins exploded for a 6-0 victory in Game 5, sending the Flyers limping home down Interstate 76.
87. Brian Westbrook KO'd for playoffs with Week 17 injury | Dec. 27, 2003
The scatback Westbrook, one-third of Philly's three-headed monster, led the team with 13 touchdowns during the '03 season. But a torn tricep suffered in a Week 17 blowout victory in Washington required surgery and the Villanova alum missed the playoffs. In his absence, the Eagles mustered just three points in an NFC title game loss to Carolina.
86. Sixers trade for disinterested Chris Webber | Feb. 23, 2005
Least favorite Philly sports pastime of the mid-2000s: Watching this gimpy, undersized forward pout and sulk in between hoisting 19-foot jumpers.
85. The Bobby Hoying era | 1997-98
Hoying won NFC Offensive Player of the Week in his third career start -- tossing four touchdowns in a thrilling 44-42 victory over Cincy -- and was immediately proclaimed Philly's quarterback savior. He went on to be sacked 63 times in just 15 games.
84. The 1993 NFL Draft | Apr. 25, 1993
Eight total picks. Five of the first 77 selections. Two first-round picks. A whole lot of nothing.
83. Reggie Miller demonizes Philly in East semis | May 19, 2000
The second-best team of the Iverson era won 49 games and entered the playoffs as a dark-horse Finals contender. But a typically cold-blooded performance from Miller and sidekick Jalen Rose helped the Pacers send home the Sixers for the second straight year.
82. L.A. defense confounds Randall Cunningham in another wild-card setback | Dec. 31, 1989
On the one-year anniversary of the Fog Bowl (see No. 27), Rams defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmer confounded Cunningham's improvisational offense with a pesky zone. The result: a 21-7 loss.
81. Flyers offense fires blanks against Leafs in 1-0 playoff ouster | May 2, 1999
Sergei Berezin's goal with 59 seconds left in regulation gave the Maple Leafs a series-clinching 1-0 victory. Curtis Joseph, passed over by the Flyers in free agency, made 26 saves in the shutout.