Wednesday February 16th, 2005

Tale of the Tape
Which is a better sports town, Boston or Philly?
Boston and Philadelphia have a lot in common. Both are jealous of New York, although neither would admit it. Both are known as lovable losers. And both believe they are the best sports town in America. But only one city can truly hold that honor. Let's break down the key categories.

Favorite Sport
Boston Philadelphia
If the Pats win their third Super Bowl in four years, don't be surprised if the lead sports story on the news is "Just 12 days until pitchers and catchers report." New Englanders like football and used to be into the Celts, but they're obsessed with the Sawx. The Phillies could be 10 games up in the NL East in the middle of July and 90 percent of the calls to the sports radio station WIP would be about the Birds. Not that the Phils are going to be 10 games up in any of our lifetimes, but you get the point, Philly is a football town.
Most Crushing Moment
Boston Philadelphia
It's hard to imagine anything could beat Bucky Dent's homer in the 1978 one-game playoff against the Yankees, but Bill Buckner did just that by letting a whole region's hopes and dreams trickle through his legs in the 1986 World Series. Aaron Boone's dinger to give the Yanks the 2003 ALCS, the Bruins' loss in Game 7 of the 1979 NHL semifinals to the Canadiens are right up there and so is Magic Johnson's "junior hook" in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals were up there.Where to begin? The Eagles' last two NFC Championship Game defeats were tough. The Phillies pained fans with their historic 1964 collapse and their 1977 NLCS disaster. The Sixers blew golden opportunities in the 1977 and 1980 NBA Finals. And Flyers fans are still reeling from heartbreaking losses to the Islanders in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals and the Oilers in '87. But for one moment in time, Joe Carter's home run off Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series tops the list.
Most Embarrassing Moment
Boston Philadelphia
The Bears' 46-10 win over New England in Super Bowl XX has become the benchmark for Super Sunday romps. Nothing says blowout like a Refrigarator Perry TD. It wasn't one moment, really, it was 73 of them. The number of losses the 1972-73 Sixers suffered in setting the NBA's record for futility. Take that Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Favorite Athlete
Boston Philadelphia
Obviously Ted Williams holds a special place in history, but to keep things more modern, you have to turn to basketball. Following in the footsteps of Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and John Havlicek, Larry Bird made Boston the basketball mecca once again in the 1980s and in many ways became the symbol for the city. The Bruins' Bobby Orr and Cam Neely (partly for his off-ice persona) also hold a permanent place in fans' hearts. Joe Frazier, Mike Schmidt, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson, Bobby Clarke, Donovan McNabb and even Smarty Jones all have their followers. But perhaps the only man to never be booed in Philly was Julius Erving. The Doctor defined cool in the '70s and brought Philly its last world championship in 1983. If you expand the category to personalities, the Phillies broadcasting team of Harry Kallas and Richie Ashburn deserve a mention as well.
Best Sports Movie
Boston Philadelphia
The upcoming Jimmy Fallon-Drew Barrymore film Fever Pitch will be a strong contender when it comes out later this year, but for now, Red Soxaholics have to settle with the 2003 documentary Still We Believe. Celtic Pride, starring Dan Akroyd, may be the worst sports movie ever.Philly has hosted several fine films: Philadelphia, Philadelphia Story, Trading Places and Mannequin, parts I and II. But no films ? sports or otherwise ? captures a city like Rocky. Although it was about a different city, Dr. J's transcendent performance in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh also deserves mention.
Worst Trade
Boston Philadelphia
This is one category Boston can beat any city in. When the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1918, they changed the destiny of two sports towns forever. Nothing Ruthian, but the Phillies did trade Ryan Sandberg to the Cubs for Ivan Dejesus. And the Sixers gave up Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson.
Most Overrated Player
Boston Philadelphia
It's really fun to say "Nomaahhh," but in the end, what was all the fuss about? Now that he's out of town, it's obvious there was a reason the former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was overshadowed by Derek Jeter and A-Rod. The question wasn't would Eric Lindros bring the Cup back to Philly, but how many championships would he win? The Flyers should have let him go to Quebec or the Rangers in the first place and saved everyone the headache.
Arch Rival
Boston Philadelphia
It's gotta be those Orioles. Everyone in Boston hates those pesky birds from the south. Just kidding, this is the town that invented hating another team. There's even a rumor that a faint "Yankees suck" chant could be heard at the Boston Tea Party. The Sixers-Celtics rivalry was also pretty intense, although its heyday is long gone.No one really cared when the Eagles lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV. All that really mattered was beating Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. Whether it's Buddy Ryan's Bounty Bowl, booing a seriously injured Michael Irvin, or zealously hurling snowballs onto the field, Philly fans love to hate those Cowboys.
Favorite Player To Boo
Boston Philadelphia
Alex Rodriguez became the perfect target for Boston boo-birds last year. In fans' minds, he spured the BoSox for the Yankees in the offseason and then had the audacity to take a swing at Jason Varitek.Anyone. It doesn't matter if it's an opponent, Mike Schmidt or Kris Kringle. Although in fairness, that was a crappy Santa Eagles fans booed back in 1968. At least they're equal-opportunity booers.
Best College Tradition
Boston Philadelphia
Hockey lives in the annual mid-winter Beanpot tournament between Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard. The best part, a Boston-area team is guaranteed to win every year. Although it's been on the brink of folding for years, Big Five college basketball still gives us some of the strongest local rivalries in sports. And no arena can match the Palestra for living history.
Most Hated Coach
Boston Philadelphia
In recent years, Rick Pitino and Grady Little were in a heated race in this category. Pitino drew so much antipathy because of his huge salary and even bigger ego. But at least Pitino had success at Providence before permanently screwing up the Celtics. It's not fair to crucify Little for one bad decision, but hey, it's Yankees-Red Sox.Rich Kotite had a Super Bowl team handed to him on a silver platter and coached it into the ground. For all his unusual tactics, Kotite's predecessor Buddy Ryan was a great drafter and left the team loaded with talent. Ryan's only problem was his awful offensive coordinator -- Kotite. Any doubts? Ask the Jets.
Most Lovable Relief Pitcher
Boston Philadelphia
This is easy. How can you top Sammy "Mayday" Malone? Just imagine how good he could have been if he had stayed off the sauce for all those years.Tug McGraw leaping into the air is the lasting image from the 1980 World Series, and when he passed away in 2004 from brain cancer, all of Philadelphia mourned.
Biggest Celebrity Fan
Boston Philadelphia
Many would say Ben Affleck's best role since Good Will Hunting was his stint as super Red Sox fan last year. Sen. John Kerry had hoped some of the Red Sox magic would rub off in 2004, but apparently Boston gets only one miracle a year. While Will Smith will always be welcome in South Philly, he has a long way to go to catch up to Bill Cosby, the original celebrity fan. He's been there for his alma mater, Temple University, and all the pro teams through a lot of lean years.
Best Owner
Boston Philadelphia
How can you not love a guy referred to as the Jewish Santa? Robert Kraft built a dyanasty in an era when there are no dynasties in the NFL. And, not to get mushy, has a team filled with what seem like good guys.Sure, Leonard Tose tried to move the Eagles to Phoenix to support his vice-ridden lifestyle. But the city had to forgive him for his years of generosity and a sense of inappropriate flair that you had to admire.
Best Annual Tradition
Boston Philadelphia
The Head of the Charles is a great party, but not nearly as impressive as the Boston Marathon. This annual rite of spring almost makes it worth it to endure a New England winter.OK, so it's not a sports event, but the annual Mummer's parade holds a place in Philly fans' hearts right next to their sports teams. And they'll be plenty of struttin' if the Eagles beat the Pats on Sunday.

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