Here’s the scene: Steve Monforto makes a nice catch of a foul ball while in the second level of the stands at a September game at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies broadcast crew focuses on him as he hands the ball to his daughter, Emily. She then immediately tosses the ball down below. Obviously, this was the cutest thing ever. But, amazingly, a half-year later this remains the cutest thing ever. How is nobody sick of that little girl throwing the foul ball back yet? The Phillies had an incredible season, with several dramatic playoff wins, and yet the most lasting image might be a kid throwing back a foul ball after her dad made a nice catch. Even the replay being in a Mastercard ad couldn’t make this moment lose its luster.
A handful of local teams (La Salle football, Father Judge boys’ soccer) have won state championships in recent years, but no one can match the Swenson Girls Track Team for story and success. The Far Northeast Philadelphia school, a Lincoln High annex, boasts three consecutive outdoor state track championships and an indoor state track title last year while practicing most of the time in the school’s hallways. Running gets really boring when one sees the same sights over and over. It’s amazing the team is able to keep its runners on the squad, let alone win state titles. The distance runners, incidentally, do laps around the Northeast Airport. Maybe dodging doors and dodging airplanes are the strategies of a winner.
The 76ers are awful. But for just a few minutes, everything was perfect. Sure, Allen Iverson never led the Sixers to the Promised Land, but for a long time he was the best show in town, pretty much the only bright spot this franchise has had since Charles Barkley (who, incidentally, never won a title, either). And everyone was able to celebrate that when Allen Iverson returned in December and kissed the logo at center court. Then things went back to normal: Andre Iguodala was inexplicably introduced after Iverson, who missed a wide-open layup on the first play of the game. The 76ers got blown out. But, hey, it was a pretty amazing couple of minutes.
Crack reporting has revealed that, after they won the pennant in 2009, the World Series in 2008 and who knows how many other big games, the Phillies’ clubhouse kind of reeked of marijuana. Thank God nobody in the local press made a big deal of our local sports heroes enjoying a well-deserved celebratory toke. Hell, I don’t even think it’s been mentioned in print. Oh, shit!
Larry Holmes won the first 48 fights of his professional boxing career and defended the heavyweight title successfully 20 times. Now, he hosts a talk show on Channel 51. On What The Heck Were They Thinking?! , the Easton Assassin—along with co-host Mike Mittman, an ex-WFIL disc jockey with a great old-timey radio voice—opines on stories of the day, everything from sports to politics to “digital drugs,” usually ending with the title quote. One episode opened with Mittman saying, “Now let’s get the champ’s thoughts on the bailout.” Sometimes his band, Larry Holmes & Marmalade, even plays a song or two. There’s a paucity of cheaply produced local television in this area. On the plus side, Larry Holmes is by far the best anywhere. Clearly, this is who NBC should be hiring to host The Tonight Show .
Following the Eagles during the 1990s was easy. The team usually stunk. Almost every win was a minor miracle, a win over the Cowboys a cause for canonization. But now that the Eagles have been Super Bowl contenders for a decade with nothing to show for it, it’s impossible. Most Eagles coverage appears to be done with the goal of sucking any possible enjoyment fans could get out of the team. More time is spent dissecting Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid’s press conferences (in order to bash them) than on simple X’s and O’s. But one man, Ray Didinger, actually analyzes the team and provides cogent analysis. That’s why Didinger continues to be the best Eagles analyst on radio and TV, bar none.
Take the Broad Street Line as far south as you can to Pattison Avenue. Exit east and you’re greeted by parking lots and grey concrete structures. Exit west and there’s greenery, lakes, huge (living) swans and a gazebo. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park is already known for its skatepark and golf course, but its network of ponds and extensive open grass makes it a key spot for outdoor winter sports. If it’s below freezing for a consecutive week, get a group of peeps together for pickup hockey (just make sure someone knows how to test the ice). More of a dancer? Practice some figure skating and figure eights instead. The wide open spaces are ideal for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, especially if Philly gets hit by another snowpacolypse, Or bring the dog out for a frolic, go jogging, make snow angels or go ice fishing—you'll have fun, and you won’t pay a cent.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, Broad Street and Pattison Ave. fairmountpark.org.
All due respect to the Philadelphia Kixx, but indoor soccer just wasn’t happening. How could a city home to every major sports franchise not have a Major League Soccer team? Thankfully, that changes April 10 when Philadelphia Union make their home debut at the Linc (their home stadium in Chester should be completed later in the season). It’s not just gents, though, women’s pro soccer has come to Philly, too, with Philadelphia Independence. Add in that Philly’s a finalist to serve as a World Cup host city, should the U.S. get the games in 2018 or 2022 and you’ve got the makings of a long-in-the-works soccer renaissance. A lot of people pitched in to make all this happen, but it’s hard not to give most of the credit to the Sons of Ben, the local soccer nuts behind it all. Soccer fans, you probably owe those guys a beer. Just don’t expect us to start calling it “football.”
Ready to find out Philly's coolest people, fanciest food, tastiest drinks, best shopping and more? Welcome to PW's "Better Than Best" list, a roundup of all of the city's top hidden treasures.
Letters to the Editor