Wednesday October 22nd, 2008

Whatever happens on Nov. 4, I will always remember Sarah Palin as the bravest of the national candidates. Or the most foolish. Take your pick. For, you see, a couple of weeks ago, when the Philadelphia Flyers opened their NHL season, the courageous hockey mother came onto the ice, her innocent little daughter in tow, to drop the first puck.

Understand now, this is Philadelphia, alleged City of Brotherly Love, where sports fans have been known to boo Santa Claus and children looking for easter eggs. And here comes a politician daring to intrude onto the Flyers' ice. Standing her ground before a phalanx of charging moose is child's play by comparison. Even before the governor stepped into the rink a special web site named with a raunchy double entendre had been created with the main message: "It's time to hip check the right wing."

Well, somehow she escaped to campaign into that kinder, gentler small town America. The best ears on the premises estimated the booing was either only "resounding" or "deafening." Not bad. When Donovan McNabb, who was to become the veritable savior of the Eagles, was drafted by the team a few years ago, the boos registered on the Richter Scale. The TV show that takes place in Philadelphia is Cold Case. Any TV show dealing with Philly fans would be called "Hard Case."

Philadelphia, Pa. -- or Fil-wee, as many of the denizens pronounce it -- is the toughest sports burg in the country. The Red Sox fans are a nation. The Cub fans are a support group. Fil-wee fans are a pandemic. Only now, we're supposed to feel sorry for Philadelphia.

You see, not since the 76ers won the NBA in 1983 has a Philadelphia team won a championship. There are 11 other U.S. cities that, like Philly, have a team in all four major team sports, and all of them have had champions in this quarter-century. Heading into the World Series against Tampa Bay, Philadelphia teams have failed to win a championship in 100 straight seasons.

Of course, given that the Phillies last year became the first and only team in all humankind ever to lose 10,000 games, a mere 100 seems like small potatoes. The Phillies are to losing what the Zimbabwe dollar is to currency.

And speaking of money, one local columnist, Frank Fitzpatrick of the Inquirer, postulates that good Philadelphia baseball and bad economy go together. The old Philadelphia Athletics were champions when the market crashed in '29, and, invariably, he notes, the Phillies usually enjoy what modest success they have posted in recessionary times. They won their one and only World Series in 1980 when the prime rate hit 20 percent for the first time and Jimmy Carter got booted out of the White House precisely because Ronald Reagan kept pointing out that everybody in the country was worse off.

So, you feel sorry for poor old Philadelphia? OK, root for the Phillies. But if they win, sucker: better have your money in your mattress.

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