In ‘saddest’ sports city, Philly faithful try to deal with defeat – Philly.com




Mike Mancinelli and Melanie McDonough were home for the holiday, and with time to burn Friday afternoon before the struggling Flyers played Nashville, they visited a corner dubbed “Fan Zone” inside the Modell’s store on Snyder Avenue.

A wave of discounted despair confronted them.

Mark Sanchez and Riley Cooper Eagles jerseys marked 25 percent off.

Red Phillies pinstripes with “UTLEY 26” on the back hanging from a rack.










The 76ers jersey not yet worn by Joel Embiid, slashed by 50 percent.

McDonough, 22, eyed a pair of Flyers slippers. Mancinelli, also 22, circled back.

“There’s maybe two Eagles shirts I would buy,” he told her, “but -.”

No need to finish that thought.

A Black Friday indeed.

How is the Philadelphia sports fan to cope, when the city’s four major professional teams – all in various states of disrepair – have won only at a 34 percent clip this calendar year?

Or when Philadelphia is knighted as “the saddest pro sports city in America” by a blogger for USA Today? When the hallowed tradition of Thanksgiving football becomes unwatchable before halftime?

“You’re the same,” said Andy Fisher, who nursed a pint Friday at Chickie’s & Pete’s near the stadium complex with a Jakub Voracek Flyers jersey slung on the back of his bar stool.

His buddy Jim Hayes nodded. The 37-year-old from Voorhees wore an orange Flyers hoodie. They, too, were headed to the Wells Fargo Center for the game.

“That’s a true Philadelphia thing,” Fisher, 38, said. “If you don’t watch the same amount, you’re not a true Philadelphian.”

That does not preclude the ability to vent to your neighbor, to a sports-talk radio show, or to Eagles players via Twitter.

“I’m ashamed,” said a man named Barry, who called 97.5 the Fanatic on Friday afternoon from his cellphone. Barry admitted that the Thanksgiving rout by Detroit was the first time he could remember turning off the Eagles before the final whistle.

“Who could blame you, Bar?” said Rob Ellis, one of the sports-talk show’s hosts. A few minutes earlier, Ellis had debated where Eagles coach Chip Kelly might ultimately stand on the city’s “all-time hate list.”

Ellis, who has worked in Philadelphia radio and TV since 1996, said he could not recall a more morose time.

For four hours Friday, he served as psychiatrist. “Oh, my God,” Ellis said about an hour after his show ended.

One caller described how he spent two hours alone in his darkened apartment after the Eagles lost. But most were just bitter.

“I think it’s therapeutic for people,” Ellis said. “The day after is usually a day to vent. It’s like the five stages of grief. I still think people are angry. Apathy hasn’t set in yet.”

Not yet. Hey, Temple football is ranked 25th in the nation and has a big game against Connecticut at the Linc on Saturday night.

But the Sixers, Phillies, and Flyers have embarked on “rebuilding” phases that could linger for years without tangible results.

The losing even overcame Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor, one of the city’s few potential superstars, who said Friday it was “dumb” to punch a heckler Wednesday outside a Boston nightclub.

And the Eagles …

“It’s depressing,” said Frank Marcorecchio, who has a small Flyers logo tattooed above his right ankle. The 49-year-old Pennsport resident watched the whole 45-14 drubbing by the Lions at his brother-in-law’s house.

When it turned bad, his father-in-law rooted for a 50-point loss. The swift blowout at least eliminated one potential topic for argument at local Thanksgiving tables, as the season is all but over.

“I still watch, because you never know what could happen,” Marcorecchio said, voicing a faint hint of optimism while he shopped at Modell’s.

He paused.

“How much can they screw this up?”

Well, that is one reason to watch.

For the city’s entrepreneurs, losing is a boon for creativity. A man who declined to provide his name stood at the corner of Eighth and Market Streets hawking T-shirts. Eagles was crossed out on one, replaced with Turkeys. A grinning cartoon turkey wore an identifying chain around its neck. Lurie, it said, in a new look for the Eagles owner.

“Funny shirts, on sale!” the vendor yelled. “Five bucks.”

At Modell’s, an employee conceded that sales were slow. But he was happy to see a few people poke at the hapless teams’ gear. Those, he said, were the diehards, the kind of customers he wanted.

Mancinelli, who lives in Pittsburgh but grew up in Downingtown, said it gets harder and harder to trust the rebuilding processes.

“But,” he said, “you stick with it.”

He left with McDonough to continue a tradition, the annual Flyers game on Black Friday.

They actually won, beating the Predators, 3-2. In overtime.

mgelb@philly.com

215-854-2928 @MattGelb







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