Saturday, December 17, 2005

28 Going On 45


I've seen the future and the hardware shines bright

Late last night I sat down in my recliner, flipped through the 400 channels of digital cable and, after watching about 2 hours of SportsCenter, settled on the Jennifer Garner chick flick 13 Going on 30. Still awake when the film reached FIN, I went into my sports room, sat down with a beer and began to think, what would my life be like in 17 years, when I’m 45?

Then I started to think about Philadelphia sports 17 years in the future. I took a swig of beer, and rested my head against the wall. Must have been a little too hard, though, as one of those turnstile-gift bobble head Mike Schmidt dolls dropped down from a shelf above and knocked me on my head.

Suddenly, I woke up, in a strange place. There were Phillies World Series pennants on the wall from 2019, 12-year-old twins begging for lunch money, and the mirror showed me an image of a salt and pepper haired older man with a fading mustache. Frightened, I asked one of the kids their names?

“I’m Sonny and he’s Fredo,” one said. I immediately knew they were my sons. Who else would name their kids after characters in The Godfather?

“Honey? Get the kids ready for the bus,” a woman’s voice boomed from another room. I was scared as hell to find out to whom I was married. Wedding photos framed on the wall revealed she was cute, but it was an old photo. Then I saw her. Beautiful. She handed me a glass of orange juice, and I dropped it. When I bent over to clean up the spill, I slipped and whacked my head on the floor. I went out like a champion who fought one fight too many.

When I came too, I was in the parking lot of Commerce Bank Field (they had conveniently taken over every stadium in town) tailgating at an Eagles-Cowboys game, which was for the NFC Championship. I looked at someone’s newspaper and the date was January 23, 2022. The Birds, playing for head coach Brian Westbrook, had reintroduced the West Coast Offense, which had become passé by 2010. The Eagles won the game, and then beat the Jaguars in Super Bowl LVI. It was the Eagles second title, with the previous victory coming in 2008 over the Kansas City Chiefs. I went to the tickertape victory parade in Center City. Some jerk in one of the offices decided to throw his stapler out the window, striking me in the back of the head and ending my elation.


Can Jim Boeheim end the Sixers 39 year NBA Championship drought?

Magically I arrived at my next stop, a Temple University men's basketball contest, where John Chaney was finally ending his coaching tenure, just two months past his 90th birthday. Chaney had taken a page out of Jay Leno’s book, announcing his retirement five years earlier. At the same time that he made his announcement, James Kingston, an 8th grade point guard from Birmingham, AL, was being considered for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Chaney’s announcement beat him out of it. But Kingston was a tough kid, and made the cover four times over the next four years, with the last one reading, “Hoo, Hoo, I’m an Owl.” Kingston, and many of the other top McDonalds All-Americans got together and decided to play for Chaney, looking to win the coach his first ever championship. It worked, and in his final season, Chaney cut down the nets of March for first time in his illustrious career. I was celebrating in the aisles and jumping up and down, the last time missing the step and taking a bad tumble.

My next vision was game 7 of the NBA Finals at the old, dingy Commerce Bank Center. Sixers Head Coach Jim Boeheim, whose transition to the pros was rocky, had taken over a dismal club in 2019. His winning percentage in the league was below .300, and this would’ve likely been his last chance at redemption. It worked. The players bought into his system, and competed the next two seasons with no one standing out as a star. Their starting lineup was like a revolving door, with players receiving an equal amount of time on the floor. It was a revolutionary approach, but for a team of cast-offs, past-their-prime veterans, and hapless rookies, they had nothing to lose. The gamble paid off, and the Sixers hoisted the trophy for the first time since 1983, beating, who else, the Los Angeles Lakers. I was loving it, but I knew my time was about to end there, so I picked a fight with the meanest cholo-looking Lakers fan I could find, let him hit me with a good one, and went out like a light.

I eagerly awoke on an unseasonably warm October night. I was sitting on the first base side of the brand new Veterans Stadium at Commerce Bank Park, built on the same site as the original Veterans Stadium. After retro fields went out of style in 2013, the city council devised a plan to build an L-shaped skyscraper with a ball field as the centerpiece, and the Philadelphia skyline as the backdrop. It featured a retractable roof, could be easily converted into any nouveau or retro style should tastes change, and also served as a great business rental opportunity. The aging Darren Daulton was at the helm, with a coaching staff that consisted of Mike Schmidt, Curt Schilling, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and Von Hayes. With their knowledge of the game, the team could do nothing but win. It was their third title in four years, and second consecutive.


Harsh reality of 2005

With the loud crash of a bottle of suds falling from my hand and smashing on the floor, my odyssey into the perfect sports world abruptly came to a halt. Because my glimpse of the future was so vivid, I immediately ran for my sports almanac. It confirmed that I was back in 2005, and reminded me of the 22-year drought of serious hardware.

I got knocked on the head in a city that hadn’t seen a title in 22 years, and in one magical journey I witnessed four championship victories. If my fantastic voyage is any indication, Philadelphia will be sports town U.S.A. in 2022.

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