Rob Tornoe is a sports fan. He roots for many of the same teams you do. So, last weekend his whole world came crashing down. Check out the Tornoe Spin on the Phillies and the state of the Eagles.
Forever Underdogs Philadelphia sports fans feel more comfortable as underdogs. The home of Rocky has always survived being nervously optimistic about the chances of the teams around town. But what happens when expectations shift, and fans expect a “dream team” to make it to the Super Bowl, and the best rotation baseball has ever seen to secure a World Series victory?
Well, last week happened.
Not only did Phillies fans suffer through the worst post-season loss since “Black Friday” back in 1977, the once-vaunted dream team of Eagles players now sit at 1-4 and risk not even making the playoffs.
It can be argued that the Phillies were the victims of circumstance. Baseball has a problem in the way the playoffs are structured. I mean, shouldn’t a team that wins 102 games in the regular season have more than just a single-game advantage over a wildcard team that slipped in on the last day of the season?
Regardless, that argument does nothing to help defend the lackluster offense produced by a talented squad of post-season underachievers. Hunter Pence contributed two hits, Ibanez and Victorino were non-factors, and in addition to his struggles at the plate, Ryan Howard’s injury late in the game means the frustration of the loss will carry over to next season in more ways then just emotional resonance.
Even with the devastation of the Phillies’ loss, fans hoped the bad taste could have been washed away with an Eagles win. Already sitting at a disappointed 1-3 mark, Big Green took their exciting offense and underachieving defense to Buffalo where they somehow managed to gain 500 years and still lost the game.
One has to look at the defense constructed by Andy Reid and first-time defensive coordinator (actually, first time defensive anything) Juan Castillo. The switch to the “wide nine” defense has been an unmitigated disaster for the Birds. As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, the Eagles have neither the personnel nor the defensive coordinator to make it work effectively for four quarters. At this point, the Eagles would be better off hiring Herman Cain to install a “Nine-nine-nine” defense.
This has become clear to every fan as they’ve seen opposing offenses rack up 100+ yards on the ground, while averaging five yards a carry. Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson even brought it up, saying, “”I mean, who didn’t know that we were going to run the ball? They’ve been exposed in the run game the entire season.”
Unfortunately, the brain trust for the Eagles won’t bring in Eric Mangini or another defensive expert to help Juan Castillo right the wrongs of this defense, nor will they abandon the “wide-nine” defensive front that has exposed the team’s glaring weakness at both linebacker and safety.
I’d say we can all root for the Flyers, but after last year’s playoff disappointment, that’s no sure thing. We also might not have the Sixers to lean on, as a labor dispute might end up claiming the entire season.
There’s always the Union, right? Rob Tornoe is a WHYY contributor, and draws sports cartoons for The PhiladelphiaInquirer. Follow him on Twitter @RobTornoe