SUPER BOWL Eagles fans eager to fly high on victory
Despite having four professional teams, Philadelphia rarely celebrates a championship.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The City of Brotherly Love is a city of losers in the sports world.
None of Philadelphia's four major professional teams have won a championship since the 76ers captured the NBA title in 1983, and they've won only nine titles in more than 120 years. They've come close several times, only to disappoint their long-suffering fans who are accustomed to agonizing losses and heartbreaking finishes.
The Eagles are hoping to end the 22-year title drought by defeating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl next Sunday. A win would spark a frenzied celebration in this championship-starved city. More than a million fans would be expected to turn out for a victory parade on Broad Street that would be held on Feb. 8.
"When I came to Philly in 1977, all I ever heard about was the parade the Flyers got when they won the Stanley Cup," said Ron Jaworski, quarterback of the 1981 Eagles, the only other time Philadelphia reached the Super Bowl. "I can't even imagine what it would be like if they won the Super Bowl."
Jaworski, who played at Youngstown State and is now an NFL television analyst, was on the field for the final seconds of the Eagles' victory over Atlanta in the NFC championship game last Sunday. He understood the magnitude of the win, especially since the Eagles had lost the last three conference title games, including two losses at home.
"This is the most passionate football community in the country," Jaworski said. "They've supported their team through good years and bad. They endured the three devastating championship losses. It seems all those memories were erased on Sunday. The outcome of the game affected the mood of the entire city, and I can tell you people are walking around town with a swagger like you've never seen before."
They won't be strutting around if the Eagles lose to the Patriots. Though some fans are satisfied their team overcame adversity -- a severe ankle injury to All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens -- to reach the Super Bowl, just getting there won't cut it for many of the devoted loyalists.
"Nobody cares if you lose. They only remember if you win the big game," said season ticketholder Joe Parisi.
In Philly, it's easy to remember the championship teams because so few have won it all. It's even easier to recall all the failures.
The Eagles have won three NFL championships in 72 years, but none since 1960. The 76ers have won three titles in 56 years. The Flyers have won two Stanley Cups in 37 years, but none since 1975. The Phillies have won just one World Series (1980) since their inception in 1883, and have lost more games than any team in sports.
"A whole generation has grown up without experiencing the feeling of winning a championship," said die-hard fan Mike Sarinceno. "We've been teased and disappointed so many times. We're due."
Laughingstock of the town
The Eagles have caused fans more grief than any of the teams in recent years, beginning in the mid 1980s when Buddy Ryan came in and proclaimed, "You got a winner in town."
Ryan backed up his bravado, rebuilding a losing organization and rejuvenating a fan base that lost interest following a string of six straight losing seasons from 1982-87.
But Ryan's teams, led by quarterback Randall Cunningham and defensive end Reggie White, were 0-3 in the playoffs, the first loss coming in the infamous Fog Bowl at Chicago on Dec. 31, 1988.
Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes followed Ryan and both had moderate success, each winning one playoff game. But eventually the Eagles hit rock bottom and were considered the laughingstock of the league when Andy Reid was hired in 1999.
Reid came in without any previous experience as a head coach, drafted Donovan McNabb in his first year and has taken the Eagles to the last four NFC championship games, finally winning one this year.
One game remains, though, and a city's hopes are riding on it.