It wasn’t a particularly proud year for Philly sports fans. Amid off-field controversies and lackluster performances on the fields, there were still a handful of bright spots for tortured fans in the City of Brotherly Love.
A year after four new coaches took the reigns of Philadelphia’s major sports franchises, more stability and perhaps bright futures gleam on the horizon for local fans. It’s in the short term where things look bleak.
Here’s a look at what we’ll remember about the year that was in 2014:
1. Mone Davis and the Taney Dragons
They are the Little League team that captured not only the heart of the city, but took national acclaim as they fell short of a World Series title. They returned home from Williamsport as rock stars, receiving a parade down broad street and honors from the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers.
As for Mone Davis, the young woman whose overhand fastball will inspire inner city girls for generations to pick up a baseball and hang with the boys, don’t be surprised if she winds up on a list similar to this in the not-so-distant future.
2. Phillies combined no-no
For all the times Cole Hamelswasn’t provided the run support he deserved, perhaps one late summer afternoon made it all okay.
The lefty went six innings against the Braves on September 1 without allowing a hit. Then Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon kept it going to complete the fourth ever four-man no hitter. The Phillies, of course, would finish dead last in the division by seasons end.
3. Eagles-Cowboys Thanksgiving
It was literally the most-watched television event of the fall season. And the Eagles made everyone believers, pounding the Cowboys on Thanksgiving day to the tune of 33-10. Everything went right for the Birds, who seized solo first in the NFC East, highlighted by 159 rushing yards for LeSean McCoy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Philadelphia moment if there wasn’t a catch. Big D came to town in December to even the score with their 38-27 win on Sunday Night football, giving the Eagles’ playoff hopes a major setback.
4. Flyers-Rangers go to 7 games
The 2013-14 season was a wild ride for the Flyers, who were able to overcome a horrific start and new coach to earn a playoff berth and battle against rivals the Rangers.
Philly got spectacular goaltending from backup Ray Emery and were able to force a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden.
But the team just wasn’t speedy or accurate enough to overcome a barrage of Rangers blocked shots and Henrik Lundqvist in net as they fell in the decisive game.
5. DeSean Jackson leaves town
The drama leading up to DeSean Jackson leaving down was only equaled in ferver by the confusion (still) and outrage when he finally did. Citing that the All-Pro wide receiver was not “buying into” Chip Kelly’s system, the Eagles cut the wideoutduring their last offseason. He obviously returned to the NFC East as a Redskin and visited Lincoln Financial Field September 21, a game the Eagles would win in comeback fashion.
6. Rollins becomes all-time leader
It wasn’t long ago that most Phillies fans thought shortstop Jimmy Rollins would retire as a Phillie. But he was traded to the Dodgers in December, retiring just his Phillies’ hit record of 2,306 hits.
Back in mid-summer, J-Roll did provide Phils fans one last fleeting memory when he passed Mike Schmidt as the team’s all-time leader to much pomp and circumstance. He’ll return to the city as a Dodger in August.
7. 76ers drop 26 straight games
The 76ers just barely avoided setting a very dubious pro sports record when they limited their record-tying losing streak to 26 games last spring. Had they lost to the Pistons (who they defeated handily) at the end of March, they would have lose the most games of any pro team ever in any sport.
Luckily for Sixers’ fans there was a bright spot, as Michael Carter-Williams still managed to run away with 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
8. 76ers draft Joel Embiid, Dario Saric
The draft was thrust into chaos this summer when Joel Embiidgot injured working out for a potential suitor, followed by the 76ers drawing the No. 3 spot in the draft instead of the second spot where they were projected to fall.
As a result, Sixers GM Sam Hinkiepushed his rebuild back a few seasons, taking the injured big man Embiid at No. 3 and using Philly’s second first rounder to take Dario Saric, whose contract overseas keeps him from coming to the NBA for at least a season or two.
9. Papelbon adjustment-game
It wasn’t necessarily a moment that, in and of itself, was meaningful to Philly sports fans. But when Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon was ejected from a game for ‘adjusting’ himself toward fans and the umpire, it was sort of a microcosm of the season for Philadelphia teams.
The dysfunction at Citizens Bank Park seems to be the same that is happening across the Philly sports landscape, with personnel issues seemingly keeping each franchise from taking the next step.
10. Lindros and LeClair return
The Flyers are battling their way back after some early-season struggles but none of that mattered during a special pre-game ceremony a few weeks ago honoring the contributions of former Flyers John LeClair and Eric Lindros.
Both returned to Philly after a period of time during which no reunion was thought possible. And both game dedicated Flyers fans the opportunity to look back at a memorable run in the 1990’s with the Legion of Doom striking fear all across the NHL.