Fans, particularly those from Philadelphia, are almost always left disappointed when their teams fall short of the grand prize, a championship. Second-round Game 7 loss to the Celtics … as an 8 seed? Who cares. Four straight NFC Championships? So what. Back-to-back World Series appearances? We want a dynasty!
We, fans of Philadelphia, have expectations of our teams; some of them are rational, most are not. But an amazing thing has happened amid this tanked season, and specifically the 25-game losing streak. With no expectations, we’ve come to accept, if not embrace one of the worst professional sports teams we’ve ever seen.
Which all brings me to this: Over at TrueHoop, Tom Sunnergren wrote about the Hinkie Machine, and how a fan base — known more for its snowball throwing than its patience — has found hope in this throwaway season. Here’s the link to the post. I’d strong suggest checking out the whole thing, but this excerpt is a nice start.
There’s an angst, a deep-seeded dissatisfaction, that pervades Philadelphia sports culture. It’s so ambient and consuming, so normalized, that it’s difficult to really see or feel while you’re inside of it — to cut to the punchline of an old joke, what the hell is water?
“Passion” is what some Delaware Valley partisans attribute this cantankerousness to — “love” and “loyalty” are also frequently cited — but it’s probably best understood as a highly-developed palate for unhappiness.
All of which makes it strange and noteworthy that, with the 76ers poised to tie an NBA record for consecutive losses on Thursday, the modal attitude in this angsty, angry city, isn’t frustration, despair or apathy, but something that, if you squint just a little, looks suspiciously like optimism. Maybe even hope.