The State Of Pro Sports In Philadelphia: Disappointment And Hope

A Salesian Sports Journalist’s Perspective on the Challenging Directions of Pro Sports

Alexander McCrystal, Reporting Journalist

With the future of the world being fogged by the uncertainty of elections and diseases, one thing that we are used to has come back just the way we remember it. Sports (minus the fans) are back! While it has not exactly been the same it is comforting to know that some things haven’t changed. With Philadelphia pro sports specifically, the way these teams have disappointed us again while also giving hope is something that hasn’t changed in the least bit. There are some terrible stories of choking and ineptitude, as well as uplifting and hopeful stories of new and future success. Here’s an all encompassing review of the current state of the five major sports teams in Philadelphia. 

First team on the docket is the Philadelphia 76ers. A team with massive expectations around this time last year that has become a chronically underperforming mess. There are many, many issues with this team, such as the coaching, front office, roster structure, effort, and terrible GM moves by Elton Brand. Out of all of these issues only the coaching has been addressed so many but admittedly, Doc Rivers is a massive improvement over Brett Brown, who did not fit the team well. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are the key pieces of this franchise and need to play like it for the Sixers to not only get past the second round, but not get swept out of the playoffs. The ‘Process’ has unanimously been deemed a failure, and unless this core of players need to prove they can be true contenders soon, the past decade will have amounted to no success or progression. This next off season and following season will be pivotal for this franchise.

When I mentioned five major sports teams, I was referring to the Major League Soccer team known as the Philadelphia Union. While nowhere near as popular as the other four major sports, the team is wildly successful and gaining popularity quickly. While I have never been an avid fan of the beautiful game, I can recognize the success this team has had and the reasons for their success are encouraging. The most important part of this ball club, which is still only a decade old, is the collection of homegrown soccer academies in Philadelphia, which is where most of their star talent has come from. Anthony Fontana, Mark Mckenzie, Jack de Vries, and Brendan Aaronson are key homegrown players. Ilshino, Alejandro Bedoya, and Cory Burke are also significant contributors on this roster. Then there is the goalkeeper, Andre Blake, who is by far the best keeper in the MLS. The coaching staff, led by head coach Jim Curtin, has done a great job in developing their players, and are a big reason for the team’s rapid growth and success. The Union have already clinched a playoff spot and are looking to do some damage in the MLS cup playoffs. The future is looking bright for this young team.

The Philadelphia Phillies were dealt a difficult hand this year and are still managing to disappoint and underperform in spectacular fashion. This team was almost guaranteed a playoff spot yet they went 1-7 in the last eight games which they only needed to win two. Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins all dealt with injuries yet were extremely productive on offense. Didi Gregorius and Zach Wheeler proved to be valuable additions from the offseason. Alec Bohm had a breakout rookie season and has made a case for Rookie of the Year. With all of these valuable assets, how did they manage to collapse so fast? They had an Achilles heel, the bullpen. This bullpen was historically bad; in fact, it was almost incomprehensible. The bullpen had a combined ERA of 7.06; the second worse in MLB history. They also blew eight separate three-run leads. If the Phillies just had a league average bullpen, they would’ve been able to close out games easily. This team had playoff aspirations but failed spectacularly. They fired GM Matt Klentak after season’s end as a way to try to desperately get over the hump. This was a move that many saw coming, as Klentak had not done a great job of making the right moves that the Phillies needed to succeed. This team has major questions this offseason, with Didi Gregorious and JT Realmuto being free agents and fans pushing for their return, and a bullpen that desperately needs to be fixed, this next season has high expectations, low hope, and a fate that is increasingly ambiguous as more time goes on.

Unlike the Phillies, who failed to meet expectations, the Philadelphia Flyers exceeded their own, beating the odds and having an incredible season this year. They became the first seed in the Eastern Conference and made it all the way to Game Seven of the Second Round against the New York Islanders after being down 3-1 in the series. But once game seven rolled around, the magic had run out for the Flyers, and just like that, the season was over. The team had varying expectations before the season but exceeded all of them. Now there are questions about the future but it is looking like another playoff run is imminent. New head coach AV has brought the team to new heights and now his team is expected to succeed again. However, pieces of the roster are in question. Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Kevin Hayes, and the rest of the forward core is looking to be back and better than ever and players are locked in for the next few years. Carter Hart is the goalie of the future that Philly has been waiting for and some cap space needed to be cleared so they can give the money that he deserves for a long future in Philly. That meant saying goodbye to Tyler Pitlick and Nate Thompson, two players on last season’s competitive team. However, a surprise retirement from key player Matt Niskanen left a huge hole on the defense. They have tried to patch the bleeding by signing veteran D-man Erik Gustafson. However, most of the roster has been left alone for another run at the cup. The young talent in the Flyers farm system is enough to justify not signing many free agents, as these young players show promise in development. While maybe one or two more moves can be made this offseason for an important offensive defenseman or a sniping forward but the future of this team looks bright for this young squad that is gaining the heart of Philadelphia sports fans.

Last but not least is the Eagles, a team that has a less-than-ideal roster, a coaching situation that is in no way desirable, and a petty quarterback controversy. Yet this team still has a chance to make the playoffs by winning the dismal NFC East. Most likely they will win this division purely because they look much better than the other teams in this division. However that is not saying much for this team. The Cowboys are lost, the Giants are directionless, and the Washington Football Team is…… something. The team has way too many injuries to look like a Super Bowl contender yet they still may make the playoffs. The story of this season is Carson Wentz and his constant scrutiny while he carries this team to comebacks, and breakout star WR Travis Fulgahm who was a practice squad player weeks ago. The defense is hit or miss and can fall apart completely at times. While this team looks shaky at times, they seem primed to take the title for the worst division in NFL history. Another miracle run may be imminent.