100 Seasons ... 100 Heartbreaks
They say history is written by the winners but as the Penguins dispensed of the Flyers on Sunday afternoon -- capping yet another season without a championship in Philadelphia -- the losers made a little history of their own.
The Flyers' elimination made it 100 consecutive seasons without a title for Philadelphia's four major teams. That's far and away the record for a four-sport town -- a gold standard for civic sports futility.
Philadelphia (yes, my hometown) has been a major trophy-free zone since 1983. The drought has battered the area's collective psyche, rendering an entire generation of sports fans wounded, disillusioned and emotionally bankrupt. Whether you chalk up the streak to bad players, bad management or just plain bad luck, the hard numbers remain the same: 100 seasons, zero championships.
Is there a pox on Philly's sports teams, like the
Sure, baseball and hockey lost years to work stoppages along the way. But we'd be remiss to discount those lost seasons: the calendar pages still turned and the pain still festered.
A lifetime of rooting for teams that always let you down has taught many Philly natives
To commemorate the dubious milestone, here's a list of the 100 worst moments in Philadelphia sports during the drought. The scope is limited to the four major sports with a couple of obligatory exceptions. While the sheer length of the list might strike an outsider as a tad gratuitous -- an excessive tribute to failure -- there's simply no better way to relate the epic scope of Philly's perpetual heartbreak.
With a nationally televised 10-2 loss to the Cardinals, the Phils become the first team in pro sports history to
You wouldn't think a team coming off a 3-13 season could manage to disappoint anybody. But the Eagles outdid themselves in Reid's debut, taking a 21-0 lead before letting the Cardinals rally for a 25-24 victory on a last-second
The terms might seem modest by today's standards but the Leiter signing was a big deal at the time considering Philly's famously thrifty front office. The righty ended up making history in two years with the Phils, becoming the first player to lead the league in losses and blown saves in back-to-back seasons. Huzzah!
The return --
In possibly the ugliest football game ever, the Eagles and Ravens played to a 10-10 tie. But the biggest losers were the Baltimore-area Pizza Hut owners, whose season-long gimmick promising $1 off a large pizza on Monday for each Baltimore sack on Sunday backfired when the Ravens got to quarterback
When general manager
A preseason pick to finish in the East cellar, the Sixers were the feel-good story of the second half while rallying to an unlikely playoff spot. But after taking a 2-1 series lead against the Pistons in the first round, Detroit responded with three straight wins.
The Eagles traded a first-round pick in 1989 and a fourth-round pick in 1990 to the Colts for the high-priced guard. The lineman didn't make his Philly debut until Oct. 26, playing part of two quarters before leaving the game with pain in his left knee and missing the remainder of the season. He was gone after three-and-a-half years.
Thomas was a serviceable, hard-working power forward but this expensive deal helped put the Sixers in salary cap jail for years.
The up-and-coming Eagles opened the '01 regular season with the Rams at the Vet. Philly had the eventual NFC champs on the ropes when linebacker
A veteran Penn team hosted archrival Princeton at a jam-packed Palestra, one year after the Tigers finished 27-1 and peaked at No. 7 in the national rankings. The Quakers
Was it blown out of proportion? Absolutely. But the negative perception from
The underdog Flyers played decently in spurts but never looked confident while falling into a 3-1 series hole. That's when the Penguins exploded for a 6-0 victory in Game 5, sending the Flyers limping home down Interstate 76.
The scatback Westbrook, one-third of Philly's three-headed monster, led the team with 13 touchdowns during the '03 season. But a torn tricep suffered in a Week 17 blowout victory in Washington required surgery and the Villanova alum missed the playoffs. In his absence, the Eagles mustered just three points in an NFC title game loss to Carolina.
Least favorite Philly sports pastime of the mid-2000s: Watching this gimpy, undersized forward pout and sulk in between hoisting 19-foot jumpers.
Hoying won NFC Offensive Player of the Week in his third career start -- tossing four touchdowns in a thrilling 44-42 victory over Cincy -- and was immediately proclaimed Philly's quarterback savior. He went on to be sacked 63 times in just 15 games.
Eight total picks. Five of the first 77 selections. Two first-round picks.
The second-best team of the Iverson era won 49 games and entered the playoffs as a dark-horse Finals contender. But a typically cold-blooded performance from
On the one-year anniversary of the Fog Bowl (see No. 27), Rams defensive coordinator
Hindsight undresses Eagles fans on this one. But I'll come clean: I wanted
Trailing the Cowboys by 17 points in the fourth quarter on a soggy afternoon,
The Eagles assumed they'd found the anchor for their offensive line in Everett, the eccentric center who wore Megadeth Ts and hadn't cut his hair since 1991. His two-year stint proved an injury-marred disaster.
Overly eager to beat the Mets to the punch for Garcia, management ignored the warning signs -- like the right-hander's significant drop in velocity the previous September -- and brokered a trade with the White Sox in exchange for blue-chip prospect
With the Eagles (7-4) trailing the Niners (9-2) late in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park, Cunningham connected with
Upset by a courtside heckler's alleged racial epithets in New Jersey, Barkley spit at his tormentor. But the All-Star forward "didn't get enough foam" and the substance ended up hitting an 8-year-old girl was sitting on her mother's lap. The league fined and suspended Barkley, and the subsequent public relations nightmare helped precipitate his trade out of Philly the following year.
One year after suffering a disappointing sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers confidently set out to defend their conference title. They wound up taking an enormous step backward as team captain
In need of a replacement for the departed White, the Eagles inked
The Phils inked Jefferies to the biggest contract in franchise history at the time. The switch-hitting infielder spent four disappointing years in Philly -- bottoming out in 1997 with a .256 average -- before getting dealt to the Angels for fringe minor league pitching prospect
The Eagles' third straight wild-card exit -- a
Having suffered a regular-season sweep at the hands of the Giants, the fans in Philly spent the week leading up to a divisional playoff at the Meadowlands convincing themselves it was impossible to beat a team three times in one season. It took
Philadelphia's celebrated Legion of Doom -- the forward line consisting of Lindros,
In his first game since departing Philadelphia as a free agent, Seattle's
First-year general manager Gillick started dumping salaries on July 26 as the Phillies fell below .500. Alas, the team caught fire and took a half-game lead in the wild-card race with seven games remaining. But the Phils lost three of their next four to miss the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year and 22nd time in 23 seasons.
On the same day the Phillies won the NL East, the Eagles traveled to the Meadowlands
The Eagles traded their first-round pick in 1991 and 1992 to move up and select
Management made Tartabull their prized free-agent signing of the winter. But after getting hit by a pitch on Opening Day and breaking his foot, the veteran outfielder opted to sit out the year before retiring -- just seven at-bats into his Philadelphia career.
Just weeks after booting two field goals and three extra points to help the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl XXX, the Eagles inked Boniol to a huge free-agent contract. He made under 70 percent of his field goal attempts during two years in Philly, including just 7-of-20 kicks from 40 to 49 yards.
In a game marred by heavy rain and wind, the Niners knocked starting quarterback
The Phils selected Drew with the second pick of the MLB draft despite warnings the FSU product wouldn't sign for a dime under $10 million. Philadelphia management held their ground and Drew spent a year playing with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League.
His rags-to-riches ascent from trainer to team president awakened the organization from its mid-'90s dormancy. But when the public face of the Sixers lobbied for a larger ownership stake following the team's Finals run,
Choking away a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter against a hated rival was bad enough. But losing
The Sabres netted three goals apiece in the first and second periods, forcing the Flyers to play out the final 20 minutes of their season in a virtually empty Wachovia Center.
How ill-equipped was this awful, awful team?
After losing Pro Bowl guard
Six days after
After rejecting a 10-year contract extension which could have been worth up to $140 million, Rolen signed a one-year, $8.6M deal with the intent of leaving as a free agent at season's end. Things turned ugly when an anonymous teammate called the All-Star third baseman a clubhouse cancer and Rolen publicly slammed the team for their lack of commitment to winning. The Phils eventually dealt Rolen to the Cardinals for
Moe promised 50 wins with his up-tempo approach. He was fired after 56 games. The news broke the day after the Sixers suffered a 149-93 loss to the Sonics.
After missing most of the week's practices to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, backup quarterback Cunningham was thrown into the fire when the Cowboys knocked
After squandering a 3-1 series lead against Washington in the Patrick Division semis, the Flyers returned to the Capital Centre for the decisive Game 7 and sprinted out to a 3-0 lead. But the Caps rallied to force overtime and
The Eagles selected Allen, a left tackle out of Indiana, with the ninth overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He was gone after one season and later pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault. "He was a good player to have," mused Buddy Ryan, "if you want someone to stand around and kill the grass."
After limiting Buffalo to two goals in four games during Philadelphia's regular-season sweep of the Sabres,
McNabb's torn ACL marked the third time in five seasons the Pro Bowl quarterback was lost to injury with six or more games left in the season. Garcia stepped in and lead the Eagles to a surprising division title -- but McNabb would never take another snap without the dreaded injury-prone tag.
One week after resigning as coach of the Sixers after six years, Brown reached a long-term agreement to coach the Pistons -- the team which eliminated Philadelphia from the playoffs weeks prior.
The Eagles christened their sparkling $512 million stadium the same way they closed down the Vet: with an emotionally taxing loss to Tampa Bay. The Eagles couldn't even crack the scoreboard in a dismal 17-0 whitewashing to open the '03 season.
With victories in 12 of their first 13 games, it seemed nothing could go wrong for the high-flying Eagles. Then Dallas cornerback
After rallying back from a 2-0 series deficit to draw even with the Celtics in their first-round series, the Sixers carried the momentum into Game 5 at the FleetCenter. But after falling behind 87-77 through three quarters, the Sixers watched the Celtics drain their first nine attempts from beyond the arc in the fourth. Boston rolled away with a 120-87 victory.
Ricky Watters sure knew how to make a first impression. The well-compensated free agent fumbled twice in his first game with the Eagles -- a 21-6 loss to the Buccaneers -- and drew throaty boos from the Vet crowd after short-arming a pass over the middle to avoid contact with a Tampa Bay defender. "I'm not going to trip up there and get knocked out," explained Watters. "For who? For what?"
Philadelphia came to embrace the thoroughbred from Someday Farm in Chester County, a stone's throw from the city. And when Smarty Jones became the first unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, even casual sports fans took notice. But after winning at Preakness, the fan favorite fell short at Belmont when 36-to-1 longshot Birdstone made a late charge to win by a nose.
After leading the Eagles to a promising 4-0 start, Cunningham broke his leg early in the season's fifth game. It was the quarterback's second season-ending injury in three years and marked the end of his time as franchise player.
After surrendering a last-minute score to fall behind 21-20 against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the Eagles found second life when Ty Detmer completed a 46-yard pass to
In the fifth and deciding game of their first-round series, the Nets rallied from a 90-83 deficit for a stunning 101-98 victory over Philadelphia. One year after winning 12 of 13 games on their way to the title, the Sixers inexplicably lost each of their three home playoff games -- against a team which hadn't won a postseason contest in its seven-year NBA history.
After forcing a seventh game with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Lightning two nights prior, the Flyers fell agonizingly short of their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in seven years with a 2-1 loss in Tampa. A punchless power play -- just 1-for-25 in the series -- helped seal Philly's doom.
After sprinting to a 7-2 start, a second straight playoff trip seemed like a foregone conclusion. But a five-game skid set up a must-win game at the Vet against the Giants. Facing a 16-13 deficit in the waning seconds,
Highly controversial to this day, the Flyers traded
The Eagles looked sharp throughout most of their first game since the banishment of Owens. But after the Cowboys scored with 3:04 left in regulation to pull within 20-14, McNabb fired an inexplicable interception to Roy Williams, who sprinted into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Adding injury to insult, McNabb suffered an season-ending aggravation of his sports hernia on the play.
With all but one player back from the previous year's Elite Eight team, many believed
Facing the Bucks in Game 7 of the East semis,
No single day was more responsible for accelerating Philly's fall from NBA supremacy. Determined to get younger in the middle and deeper up front, the Sixers traded
The Bears scored a divisional playoff victory over the Eagles in a
Holdout threats. Training camp suspension. Sit-ups on the driveway.
After chasing and catching the Mets for the NL East title in September, the Phillies played like an emotionally spent team during a
A Philly team which set out to "Bring It Home For Jerome" fell furlongs short of its goal in an emotional season-ending setback.
Where else can you find five Division I programs within a 17-mile radius with 7,000 wins among them? The Big 5 schools -- La Salle, Penn, St. Joe's, Temple and Villanova -- had
Perhaps the most divisive star athlete in city history, Iverson earned and repelled fans equally, but inspired both camps with his reckless playing style. His last months involved a benching on Fan Appreciation Night, fines, and alleged trade demands. The franchise's second all-time leading scorer never got a proper send-off at home.
The Phillies held a half-game lead over the Marlins in the wild-card race with eight games left, but dropped two straight at home to the woeful Reds and three straight in Florida to miss the playoffs yet again. Philly closed the year with losses in 12 of their final 13 meetings with the Marlins.
While Philly fans had long been accustomed to losing players to bigger markets, watching the team's all-time sack leader opt for a future in Green Bay proved particularly painful.
The Eagles took a 17-13 lead into halftime, but
The Phillies milked one more year out of their collection of holdover veterans from the 1980 World Series champs. But the Wheeze Kids, as they were dubbed, didn't put up much of a fight in a five-game loss to the Orioles.
Chaney's dream of reaching the Final Four fell short again in his fifth trip to the Elite Eight, when the
The Sixers captured the heart of a blue-collar, championship-starved city with their hard-working and defiant approach. When they finally ran out of comebacks against the Lakers in the fifth game of the '01 Finals, the Philadelphia fans gave the team a 10-minute standing ovation after the final horn sounded.
After sweeping the Rangers in the East semis, the Flyers promptly dropped two straight at home against the Devils in the conference finals. But Philly rallied to tie the series with two wins at the Meadowlands and brought momentum home for the pivotal Game 5. That's when Claude Lemieux's
The gangly 7-foot-6 center out of Brigham Young signed a $44M contract, the most lucrative deal in Philadelphia sports history at the time, and ended up becoming a symbol of the team's mid-1990s ineptitude. Bradley hadn't played competitively for two years while working as a Mormon missionary in Australia and it showed. The Sixers
The Flyers went down like lambs against the Red Wings in four games, a quiet end to the team's first Finals trip in a decade. Philadelphia mustered just six goals in the entire series, with Lindros held scoreless until his meaningless tally with 30 seconds left in Game 4.
Blue Jays outfielder
In the classic three-quarters-for-a-dollar trade, Sixers owner
The Eagles opened the Kotite era with Super Bowl aspirations, but it all unraveled in Week 1 when the reigning NFL MVP went down with a season-ending knee injury. The team went through five different quarterbacks including
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead in the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals against
The Eagles fell one game short of the Super Bowl for the third straight year with a 14-3 loss to Carolina in the NFC title game. McNabb tore rib cartilage on a late hit by linebacker
After stunning the heavily favored Lakers with an overtime victory in Game 1, the Sixers had a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead back to Philadelphia. Trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter, Larry Brown's charges used a 13-3 run to close within three points with 2:12 left. But late baskets from
There was no shortage of talking points following a 24-21 loss to the Patriots, from Philly's failure to capitalize on the Patriots' first-quarter errors to the still-unexplained, time-sapping drive in the fourth quarter.
After taking a 3-1 series lead against the Devils, the Flyers mustered just three goals in three games against their Turnpike nemeses to complete a painful seven-game meltdown. Game 7 is best remembered for
Philadelphians still have a hard time understanding why
The blindside factor makes the NFC title game between the Eagles and the Bucs the choice as the definitive Philly sports tragedy of the drought era. The idea of losing to Tampa Bay in the final game in Veterans Stadium history was unthinkable. Consider these facts:
* In the three most recent meetings between the teams -- including wild-card showdowns in 2000 and 2001 -- the Eagles had outscored the Bucs by a 72-22 margin.
* The Bucs entered the game 1-21 all-time when the temperature was under 40 degrees (with the lone win coming in Week 17 against the hapless Bears). The gametime temperature in South Philadelphia: 22 degrees and windy.
* Tampa Bay had never won a road playoff game in franchise history.