A great time to be a Philadelphia fan

Much of the time it’s far from easy being a fan of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams. There have been long dry spells over the decades for each of the city’s franchises in major sports.

The Phillies didn’t win their first world championship until 1980, nearly a century after their 1883 founding. Most of the years in between were forgettable to say the least. And it took close to three more decades for them to win another title.

The Flyers and 76ers had their championship glory years decades ago. Fans much younger than 50 can’t remember either of them winning a title.

Then there are the Eagles, who went nearly six decades between winning the NFL championship in 1960 and their thrilling Super Bowl victory five years ago.

Back in 2018 the Eagles seemed primed for years as a championship contender behind young quarterback Carson Wentz, who had tremendous success early in his career, and head coach Doug Pederson, widely hailed for his gutsy “Philly Special” play call.

Things didn’t work out as planned. Wentz wore out his welcome in Philadelphia and has since bounced from team to team trying to recapture the magic he delivered years ago as an Eagle. And Pederson lost his job in Philadelphia as the team rapidly sunk into mediocrity.

Typically it takes a long time for an NFL team to regain its form after winning a championship and then having to rebuild. Especially when the would-be franchise quarterback doesn’t pan out. But Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman has made it happen, returning the team to the Super Bowl with only a handful of players remaining from the last championship roster.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts, a controversial second-round draft pick, has turned out far better than many people imagined he would. He offers a dual threat as a runner and a passer and brings plenty of big-game experience from his time on the national stage as a college football player at Alabama and Oklahoma.

Through smart trades, free agent signings and effective use of draft picks, Roseman quickly built a roster that’s stacked with talent from top to bottom on both sides of the ball.

And head coach Nick Sirianni has proved himself up to the challenge of making the most of the players he has in one of the NFL’s most high-pressure environments.

So for the second time in a matter of months, sports fans in our area are enjoying the excitement of a favorite team on a possible championship run.

The sound at Lincoln Financial Field as the Eagles won the NFC crown on Sunday was remarkably reminiscent of the din Phillies fans created back in October, unnerving National League rivals. It’s a Philly thing, as has been repeated often lately.

Of course there are other cities with loyal and vocal fan bases, but there is something special about the people in our region. Can it be annoying and off-putting to people who root for other teams? Most definitely. The abrasive approach personified by longtime Eagles center Jason Kelce isn’t for everyone. But it suits the people of the Philadelphia region just fine.

Longtime fans have endured lots of losing seasons. They’ve felt disrespected by people in places like New York, Boston and Dallas who are perceived as carrying an air of superiority about them. Likening Philadelphia’s underdog status to Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies is a cliche, but it’s one so many people in our region have embraced.

The Eagles may be betting favorites in the upcoming Super Bowl, but fans and the team are sure to think of themselves otherwise. That’s just how they see the world.

And it’s bound to be a tough game for the Eagles. The Kansas City Chiefs have a Hall of Fame caliber leader in former longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid and an all-time great quarterback in the making in Patrick Mahomes. This will be their third Super Bowl in four years.

But it wouldn’t be wise to bet against Philadelphia. The team and its boisterous fans are going to have their say.

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