For over a century now, American sports have, for the most part, brought people from different races, classes, genders and political affiliations together. In today’s polarized environment, the simple act of following or rooting for the same team can bring two very different people together, allowing them to bridge partisan or racial or ethnic divides that might otherwise keep them apart.
Sports, then, are something special: They unite people in an otherwise divided society. And for those lucky enough to live in cities with dominant sports teams, this phenomenon is especially true. Four years ago, the city of Cleveland rallied around Lebron James when he returned from South Beach to northern Ohio. His homecoming revitalized the city. The same thing is happening today in 2018, in Philadelphia: The success of its sports teams have given the city life, and it’s not a stretch to say that it is the best sports city in America.
When considering the four major sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL — as well as college basketball, Philadelphia’s hockey team is probably the worst of the bunch, and the Flyers still made the playoffs this year, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Things are obviously looking pretty good for a city when its worst sports team took two games off the defending champions in the playoffs. And though the city’s baseball team, the Phillies, got off to a slow start, they’ve turned it around and are now ranked third in the National League Standings.
Of course, despite the successes of the Flyers and Phillies, most Philadelphia fans are right now focused on the 76ers and their recent victory over the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
“The Process” is finally working: Years of tanking have finally paved the way for the team to take the league by storm. Former first-overall picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz have looked good, and Joel Embiid is shaping up to be one of the best centers in the league. After dispatching the Heat in five games, the 76ers will face either the Celtics or the Bucks; both are beatable, and an Eastern Conference Finals berth is not out of the question.
No matter what happens in the second round, for those who stuck around long enough during the losing seasons while trusting the process, it’s a great time to be a basketball fan in Philadelphia.
There’s not much to be said for the Eagles and Villanova Wildcats. Winning the Super Bowl is always a surreal feeling for football fans, and anybody who watched Jason Kelce’s heartfelt speech during the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade couldn’t help but root for him and the rest of his teammates. Football fans in Philadelphia are on top of the world, and with a top-five defense and a franchise quarterback in the fold, the Eagles should be competitive for many years to come.
If you’re living in Philly and a fan of the four major professional sports, things look pretty good: Every team is competitive. But a successful college basketball team puts things over the top. Villanova won the national championship earlier this month, its second title in three years. And with Jay Wright at the helm, they’re primed to keep making big runs during March.
Today, at this very moment, there’s no better city to be in than Philadelphia when it comes to sports. The Flyers made the playoffs and gave the Penguins a good run, the Phillies are surging, the 76ers are on a roll and the Eagles and Wildcats just won on the biggest stage in their respective sports. No other city has come even close to that kind of success over the last year: not New York, or Los Angeles, or Boston or any of the usual suspects. No, Philadelphia is far and away the best place to be. And the best part? The success looks like it will continue, and the rest of the country ought to watch out.
Contact Andrew Ziperski at ajzip ‘at’ stanford.edu