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January 26, 2023

Eytan Shander: Philly fans expect success — and will tolerate playoff failure

The Philadelphia Eagles are heading to the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia 76ers are heading to the NBA Finals. The Philadelphia Phillies are heading back to the World Series. The Philadelphia Union are heading back to the MLS Cup.

That’s just the half of it.

There was a time in this city when putting those four sentences together would get you committed, most likely by your friends and loved ones. But oh, have the times changed. This is way more than our teams are playing well, this is something different with the city. Something different with our teams right now. 

We used to have hope with our Eagles, right?

That level of despair and pain, the gut-wrenching feeling of watching your Eagles fall short each year – sometimes in the Super Bowl – only to be revived by Draft time; that’s hope. 

That is tangible hope that something is going to change but you are still mired in some awful situation. You don’t need hope if you are winning, or successful, or not miserable. Hope is usually reserved for the hopeless, that is what we were for so long until the 2017 season. Even then, the team went through so much bull***t that it was hard to just focus on them winning games, let alone the Super Bowl. 

People aren’t walking around hoping the Eagles win this weekend, or the Sixers knock off the Bucks or Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, or the super loaded Phillies make it back to the playoffs. They are expecting it.

Rightfully so.

In a short period of time, loaded with both regular season and postseason success, most Philadelphia sports teams – including the most important – have changed our “hope” to “expectation."

Make no mistake, this is not the tired old radio bit of asking if this season is a success if the team doesn’t win something. These seasons are already successful in a macro level. The Eagles have succeeded with help from the Phillies, Sixers, and Union. Who knows? Maybe Nova or Temple can sneak into the tournament or the Flyers make a run at the Playoffs. 

Winning breeds confidence from players and coaches, it should do the same for fans. We should be bumping our chest about a meaningless game in the middle of January in the NBA, or the same in July, if we truly expect the most out of our teams. 

Celebrate every victory – every first down, check, or dunk. Any goal. Celebrate another team’s mistake because good teams are also fortunate in the luck column. Do it all. 

There are going to be drawbacks, the Phillies have a loaded payroll and come off a World Series loss, so the built in expectation is an immediate return. If you think the Eagles are playing under a microscope each week, get ready for 162 of those type of postgame shows. The Sixers have a second round problem, it’s an issue that will haunt them until it’s exorcised. Even the Union have a huge task in returning a historic combination of a defense and goalie, something that isn’t quite easy to do year in and year out. Speaking of which, that’s the NFL. Maybe the Eagles are the new dynasty, maybe not. It’s not easy to keep winning games in the NFL, let alone playoff games. 

But life wouldn’t be what it is if everything was mapped out and you knew what was going to happen. Be it the journey, the destination, or simply the company – our sports “lives” are defined by one hell of a windy road. The Eagles may be down on Sunday, the Sixers may be down in a series, the Phillies may be too... ok ok, we know not to doubt them ever again.

The point is we will see plenty of negatives. Injuries, derailments, clubhouse issues, reports about on or off the field issues. Life gets in the way of sport, and sometimes it’s amazing theater to see a team bounce back and battle through it. 

I have been asked multiple times on recent radio hits around the country about what this city will do, or what the reaction will be, or how bad it will be if the Eagles lose the Super Bowl. I honestly think we will be fine.

Follow me here. 

This is part of the change from the old hope to new expectation wave we ride. There will be major disappointment if any of our teams lose in the final game or series of their season. Let’s not be totally idiotic in assuming the extreme. But what will change is looking around and knowing that there are key pieces in place for every one of those teams to return. 

Every team mentioned above, including and especially the Eagles, has a legit shot to be right back in the final game(s) of the season. The only outlier here is Doc Rivers who will take the blame and be called on to be fired, but even someone as critical as I have been would recognize the masterful job it would take just to make it to the NBA Finals. Doc is staying if they make it, you need to be ok with that too. 

So, yes, we are going to be ok if that ever does happen again. Seeing one of these currently constructed teams lose (again) in the final stretch isn’t going to last as long. The initial sting will be awful, but not violent. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl has certainly helped, but so has Joel Embiid, the Phillies, and Jim Curtin’s defense.

We no longer have hope, we have conviction. 

**I know there was a tweet/FB post about a ticket giveaway through PV, but that is actually going to be done a different way. I will be doing something Friday morning, so stay “tuned”**

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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