Overachievers: three teams write the new Philadelphia sports narrative

In a city where we expect the worst, something shocking is happening.

They weren’t supposed to be this good. They’re finding ways to win and forcing their way into national discussions held by people who had previously written them off. They’re young, they’re exciting, and they will only get better.

Who am I talking about?

Is it the Phillies, who just came off of a streak of six straight wins and who crested five games above .500 for the first time since their pennant runs?

Is it the Flyers, who took the best team in hockey to six games in a post-season they weren’t supposed to qualify for with a roster that’s clearly in rebuild mode?

Or is it the Union, who are unbeaten at home this year and who currently reside in second place in the East despite everyone picking them to finish last or near last?

The answer is all of the above.

There’s a new feeling inside the hearts of the Philly faithful: hope. When you talk to fans, there’s a gleam in their eye and a smile in their voice, something that says “we’re just getting started”. And that’s exactly right. Not one, not two, but three young teams are showing significant progress by playing better and at times winning, and that’s exciting. The future in which these clubs challenge for titles hangs there tantalizingly close, a juicy apple waiting to be picked at just the right time, but to harvest it too soon would be damaging and premature. We, like the new GMs, must have patience.

Each of these teams has been recently rebuilt by those new general managers: Ron Hextall at the Flyers, Earnie Stewart for the Union, and Matt Klentak for the Phillies. Old players were jettisoned and new players brought in. Smart decisions were made. Each of them realize Rome wasn’t built in a season but you can get a heck of a good start on a foundation in that time, and it’s starting to pay off. This isn’t last year’s teams getting lucky; these are new teams finding success at a young age. They are exceeding our expectations and making us dream while they do.

As they succeed, it’s natural for us to raise our expectations. Maybe the Phillies can ride their pitching to a Wild Card spot. Maybe the Union can make the playoffs. We saw it during the Flyers’ playoff run: people who didn’t expect them to make the playoffs were suddenly disappointed the Flyers didn’t win the Cup. The orange and black didn’t fail because they didn’t win the Cup; they succeeded by exceeding the original expectations we had for them before the season started. They showed real growth and progress, and that should be our expectation for these teams at present. Show us growth, show us progress. Show us you’re more mature. Show us that you’re better than you were last year, or that you will be soon. Give us continued hope for the future.

It would be different if it was just one of the teams, too. Far too many years have seen the town hang their title hopes on an Eagles franchise (for lack of a better option) that was not equal to the task; far too long have we had to wait that long off-season for our hopes to renew. To replace the also-rebuilding Eagles with another team from the city would be no better. No, this is something much bigger. What we have here is something more, something for all times of the year, a gloriously-beautiful patchwork quilt of promise to keep us warm in the cold season and on which to picnic in the warm season: hockey for the fall and winter, running into spring when soccer and then baseball starts and goes through summer into fall, climaxing just in time for hockey to begin in earnest. Can you imagine that? Hope in every season.

Get excited. Dare to believe. Good things are coming. Hope is a real thing, and it’s surprisingly something we’re allowed to have, even in this town where we expect the worst. Overachieving teams are just the beginning of rewriting the tired Philadelphia sports narrative of which we are equally tired. This is the beginning of something great.

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