Welcome to the Center Of The Sports Universe, Philadelphia, Pa. The Phillies’ signing of mega-star outfielder Bryce Harper last week continued a movement that started with an Eagles’ win in Super Bowl LII and promises to continue for years ahead. Not since 1980 has the Big Four of professional sports in this city been so well positioned to dominate.
Consider everything that has happened since the Eagles’ win over New England on Feb. 4, 2018:
• The Sixers followed The Process to a playoff spot last season and then took it up a notch by swinging slam-dunk trades to acquire forwards Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and now have a team that is positioned to compete for an NBA title RIGHT NOW with a starting five that also includes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick. That fivesome is as good as any out there in the league, and the Sixers are moving on up in the NBA’s Eastern Conference as playoff posturing intensifies.
• The Flyers, young and out of sorts early this season, made a change at head coach and promoted star-in-the-making goalie Carter Hart and almost instantly became one of the hottest teams in the NFL. The Flyers have won four of their last five games to start this week, and while they are still on the outside looking in with regard to the NHL postseason, they still have 16 games to play and a very real chance to reach the playoffs. And if the Flyers get there, look out. The future is bright for the Orange and Black.
• Harper’s signing is the $330 million cherry on the top of a brilliant offseason for the Phillies, who promised to spend heavily in the offseason to build their roster. They’ve done exactly that, adding a star catcher, J.T. Realmuto, a smooth, all-around shortstop in Jean Segura and a veteran leader and big bat in outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Winning the World Series is suddenly a realistic goal for a Phillies team that has languished in the bottom part of the National League East Division for much of this decade.
• How about the Eagles? We’re about to find out, but they’ve already started getting the ball rolling by signing defensive end Brandon Graham, who most thought would be leaving in free agency, to a new contract, and extending All-Pro center Jason Kelce’s contract through the 2021 season. The Eagles created salary-cap space by doing those deals, the start of what should be an extremely active several weeks to come.
The point of it all? Sports means everything in our region. And the teams push each other, encourage each other, work together as much as they can and, clearly, compete with each other to host the next championship parade down Broad Street.
Who is the next team to win a title? It’s going to be an interesting race to find out. The Eagles certainly think they are in position to compete for seasons to come, expecting quarterback Carson Wentz to be healthy and on his best game, building around him along the offensive line and with an upgrade to the skill positions and by bolstering a defense that last season hung in there despite some devastating injuries.
The good news is this: If you’re a four-for-four fan of professional sports in this city, then you’re living large. There has not been a better time since 1980 – when all four teams reached their respective championships, with the Phillies the only team to emerge victorious. It could happen again, sooner than you think. It all started with a Super Bowl victory on Feb. 4, 2018, and it’s gotten better and better since then. ••