Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The really hardcore pessimistic sports observers -- the true cream of the crap -- had a thing for scoffing at all the attention the Taney Dragons and their ace pitcher, Mone Davis, received during and after a Little League World Series run that resulted in a third-place finish in the United States bracket.
Why all the attention for a team that didn't even win, they groused.
Here is the return volley: Which Philadelphia-area team in high-profile athletics had a better 2014?
The Eagles certainly ran away with the Best Major Sports Franchise ... but what they have to show for calendar year 2014 is a playoff loss to the Saints to open it, then a regular season that while playoff-worthy is, in truth, pretty similar to what the team did after September last season -- that is, a Super Bowl longshot.
The Phillies, Flyers and Sixers have been at varying levels of disaster in 2014. It would be a perfect time in the pro-sports cycle for the Union to vault soccer into the major-sport conversation, but they are just as oddly constructed as the Flyers and in as much leadership disarray as the Phillies.
The collegiate teams haven't gotten there, either, although Villanova football is preparing for the quarterfinals of that-alphabet-soup-they-call-Division-1-AA-football-these-days tournament.
So we will let Villanova football take its stab at giving Philly a title. But there's time to look to 2015 and provide a theme for each team as it tries to bring a modicum -- heck, a freakin' scintilla -- of hope to the coming sports year.
n Eagles: They will be in the postseason dance. That much is a virtual lock. But Seahawks' defense sent a clear message Sunday that there is no way it is going to let Mark Sanchez beat it. It's tough to imagine a convalescing Nick Foles would have much of a chance, either. Even worse than the reality check was the fact that with the win Seattle is closing on Arizona in the NFC West standings, meaning that the back-door hope a home game against the defending champ could offer a sliver of hope is slipping through the Birds' fingers, too.
What is the hope for 2015? Clarity at quarterback. The longer Chip Kelly's innovative system doesn't end in a Super Bowl appearance, the tougher it will get for a pedestrian QB to guide the Eagles there.
n Villanova basketball: There's a lot of college hoops left, but this Wildcats team has that early scent of something very special. Jay Wright's squad is nine-deep, a huge benefit. It also is one of the most intelligent teams around. Josh Hart is reminiscent of Shane Battier, his stats not doing his hoop IQ justice. The only thing the Wildcats have going against them is that this seems to be the most high-quality depth within the Top 10 rankings in a decade. Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga, Louisville ... it is hard to remember this many well-rounded teams.
What is the hope for 2015? The Wildcats have Final Four ability. It truly can be Wright's best squad, and if he has a desire to move on to bigger and better things, this is the team to load the catapult.
n Phillies: Did anyone at the end of 2011 think this franchise would have choked its fan base to death in three years? It reeks of 1997, when there were zero expectations and Scott Rolen was allowed to mature in a dead zone. Maybe Maikel Franco can do the same. Everything else about the franchise is series of Joy Division lyrics.
What is the hope for 2015? That the ownership and leadership gains some direction. Ruben Amaro Jr. is a lame-duck GM. The team president is a 78-year-old interim. The silent ownership has gotten more silent, because most of them are passing away. Someone needs to take charge. It can't continue like this.
n Flyers: They are getting almost as depressing as the Phillies, except there isn't even a championship season to recall in the recent past.
What is the hope for 2015? Does anyone have a suggestion? Because it seems the franchise is being dragged into rebuilding kicking and screaming. Maybe some young defensemen will get a chance to develop next year. If they succeed it would e a novel turn of events.
n 76ers: They are on the upswing! Provided winning two out of three games after losing 17 straight qualifies.
What is the hope for 2015? Unlike the Phils and Flyers, there is substance to this question. The hope is Brett Brown's optimism is bottomless and his coaching is impeccable. The hope is Joel Embiid plays before this season ends. The other young players deserve the presence of the franchise's centerpiece at the end of what will be a long, loss-heavy season. And there is hope that Sam Hinkie, beyond the unfair hand he has dealt his coaching staff this season, really does know talent. There are hints on the roster and overseas that he does.
There you have it: Villanova hoops could bring Taney-esque excitement to Philly. The Eagles are entertaining. Otherwise, it would be appreciated if 2015 would at least live up to this motto: At least it wasn't 2014 again.
To contact Dennis Deitch, email firstname.lastname@example.org