Is Philadelphia in 2018 the biggest sports turnaround in history?

Macnow: Bask in the glow once more, Eagles fans

It’s a cliche, but never before has the saying “What a difference a year makes” been more apt than in the city of Philadelphia, right now. 

The Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies all missed the playoffs in 2017. The Eagles finished in last place in the NFC East at 7-9, the Sixers second to last in the East, the Flyers finished near the bottom of the Metro and the Phillies lost 96 games and were last in the NL East.

It’s hard to remember, but the mood of the city but it was grim.

The Eagles had gaping holes at wide receiver and cornerback and little reason to hope (aside from a half-decent debut campaign from Carson Wentz) after Doug Pederson’s rookie year.

The Sixers shut down Joel Embiid in February, didn’t play top pick Ben Simmons at all and couldn’t find anyone to trade Jahlil Okafor to while settling for a second round pick for Nerlens Noel.

The Flyers couldn’t get reliable play from their veterans or goalies.

The Phillies narrowly averted 100 losses and were disappointed by the performances of key prospects after fall call ups.

Even the Union collapsed and missed the postseason in MLS play.

What a difference a year makes. The turnaround is remarkable.

After downing the Patriots 41-33, the Eagles marched down Broad Street lifting the Lombardi Trophy for the first time ever last month. That alone is one of the biggest turnarounds in sports, up there with the 2013 Red Sox who flipped from worst to first winning a World Series title. But the Birds’ fellow tenants in South Philly have also fared remarkably well.

The Flyers are jockying for first place in their conference thanks to a resurging Claude Gioux. On the hardwood, the 76ers have turned The Process into an All-Star starter (Joel Embiid), a likely Rookie of the Year (Ben Simmons) and are currently just a few games out of fourth in the East (good for home court advantage in the playoffs). The only team that may miss the postseason in 2018 is the Phillies, who brought in Gabe Kapler and are turning the page to emphasize youth and analytics. And if it means anything, the manager said recently that: “if everybody on our roster takes a small step forward, we have an opportunity to shock people.”

A lot has been written about single-season turnarounds for specific teams — like the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes, the 1969 Mets, the 2007-08 Boston Celtics or the 2012 Indianapolis Colts. But has a single city ever pulled itself so far from the mud into national prominance like Philadelphia has?

LeBron James is considering coming here. So is Mike Trout. Each team as a young head coach, young franchise cornerstones and a long road of success ahead. This kind of achievement is unprecedented.

So much has changed in Philly in one year, the New York Times says the city is dealing with an “identity crisis.”

Asher Raphael, co-CEO of Power Home Remodeling in Chester PA, oversaw the placement of three billboards in Cleveland to tantalize James to join the 76ers. 

“Hopefully the Super Bowl changed the stigma of playing here,” the lifelong Philly fan said. “We are not an underdog city anymore. We are Super Bowl champions. It’s an amazing town and an amazing community.”

With the sudden success, a new self-image and a lot to cheer about, is the New York Times right? Are Philly fans changing their identity?

“The beauty of sport and the beauty of being a fan is to be able to ride the wave when you have the opportunity to do it,” Philadelphia sports psychologist Joel Fish said. “We are pretty seasoned as fans to react when things aren’t going our way.”

And now they are. Lets see how far these teams can take a city that knows how to appreciate success.

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