Only a few hours separate us from another 12-month installment of athletic notoriety. Philadelphia has contributed its share to sports lore, and 2010 undoubtedly contributed enough fodder to this city’s hungriest fans. Here is my list of the top ten Philadelphia and Philadelphia-area sports events. Many of my selections are “no duh” choices, but I hope others lead to discussions. Note that the events descend in importance as the number grows.
1. May 29: Roy Halladay throws Major League Baseball’s 20th perfect game, defeating the Marlins 1-0 in Miami.
When watching this game, I thought the Phillies’ third-inning run would be their only one against starter Josh Johnson. Little did I know that that single score would be the envy of the Marlins, as Halladay made them look futile 27 times. Being well accustomed to disappointment in my 21-year tracking of the Phillies, I thought Ronnie Paulino’s grounder would cause Juan Castro trouble. Thank God for fallibility, mine that is. Halladay had none this night.
2. May 14th: The Flyers defeat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals
I was more glum than mad after the Bruins captured the first three games of the series because I felt the Flyers showed little heart. I wanted the Broad Street bunch to bounce the Bruins, a solid team with skilled players galore. Games 4-6 went the Flyers’ way, forcing a decider in Boston. Even the most rabid fan had to have felt fate would be cruel when the team fell behind 3-0 in Game 7. Simon Gagne scored a late goal to complete a miraculous comeback, making his team only the third to rally from a 3-0 series deficit. I hated seeing the fiery competitor go to Tampa Bay, but my consolation is knowing few Flyers have displayed more heart that No. 12.
3. December 19: The Eagles demoralize the Giants on a last-second punt return
Oh, how this one made me grin! I detest the Giants and their gawky quarterback Eli “Please don’t call me ‘Sheli'” Manning. Who really would have thought, however, that they would blow a 21-point lead with eight minutes to go? Who would have thought the Eagles, with only 10 points after 52 minutes, would not only win but do so in regulation? Certainly not I on either point! I am not a fan of the Birds, but I must confess their win gave me a grin that The Joker would envy.
4. October 6: Roy Halladay throws only the second no-hitter in postseason history.
I love watching masterful pitchers and knew Halladay would delight me dozens of times when he joined the Phillies. Hitters can fail seven times out of 10 and still have legions of fans. The Cincinnati Reds would have settled for going 1-for-28, as they managed only a fifth-inning walk against the playoff rookie. Just like the last out of his perfect game, the final attempt to hit Halladay had me scared, but Carlos Ruiz is not the face on the front of this blog because I think he is cute!
5. November 15: The Eagles throttle the Redskins on Monday Night Football
45 first-half points!!! The Redskins are another team I dislike, but I felt for them as their wretched defense foolishly thought it could avoid a whooping. Only fatigue kept me from watching to see if the Eagles would hit 70. Though they hit “only” 59, who could argue with a 31-point road victory and further proof that Donovan McNabb was a liability?
6. December 15: Cliff Lee rejoins the Phillies
The whole “Merry Cliffmas” sentiment was corny, but Lee gave me great joy in snubbing the New York Yankees, whom I have to dislike as a Red Sox fan. Even with Lee, I could not see the AL East crown going to the Bronx Bombers, as Boston is loaded offensively. I expect them to bomb in a different way now that the crafty left-hander has decided he would rather play in a city where nobody spits on his wife. As for the Phillies, I have them reaching the World Series in 2011 against my Sox. I will refrain from making a prediction.
7. May 18: The Sixers win the second pick in the NBA Draft
The Sixers had only a six percent chance of securing the second pick. So much for the odds! A full month would pass before the team would make Evan Turner their pick, but everyone knew the former Ohio State Buckeye would end up on South Broad Street. He has struggled to impress many fans so far, but I do not see him following in the footsteps of draft busts Shawn Bradley and Larry Hughes. He will be a star, though I am not sure “super” will ever precede that title.
8. January 1: The Flyers play in The Winter Classic
Four and a half months before they would blow their aforementioned playoff lead, the Bruins handed the Flyers a 2-1 defeat at Boston’s Fenway Park. For the game, the Flyers won retro jerseys from the 1973-’74 season, the first of their two Cup campaigns. I hope this year they add another title so that those who don the orange and black 36 years from now can recall them as fondly as so many recall Bobby Clarke, Rick MacLeish, and Bernie Parent.
9. November 6: Joe Paterno earns his 400th win
I have often wished that Paterno were related to me. Oh what stories he would tell! I would love to hear about what he said to rally his Nittany Lions from a 21-0 deficit to defeat Northwestern, 35-21. I must settle for soundbytes but also feel fortunate to be alive at the same time as one of the greatest minds in the history of sports.
10. May 21: The Sixers hire Doug Collins
Because he had coached Michael Jordan in the skywalker’s early days, I knew Collins had plenty of experience with fledgling products. I had wanted him to join the Sixers years ago and had lost hope that his disciplined style would ever come to South Philly. His team is showing improvement, and I will give more than a marginal look at the rest of their campaign. The East is traditionally weak, so might we be dealing with a playoff team? Stop that laughter!