There’s no denying the basketball tradition in the city of Philadelphia. The Palestra, shown in the photo above and Penn’s home court, is the best venue I’ve ever experienced for college basketball. The city’s high schools continuously produce top-level talent, and it’s not uncommon for a Big Five school to garner a national reputation. Villanova has taken the torch most recently, but each of the city’s schools have had their moments of glory. I bring up the Big Five and Philadelphia basketball because I heard the other day someone make the argument that Philadelphia is a college basketball city, and not a pro basketball city. The same way it is a pro football town, and not interested in college football. I’ll concede the football point. The Eagles are always kings, but in basketball, I’m not sure if the description is accurate. I think a lot of basketball fans in Philly might just be front-runners.
I’m not condemning the true fans. The city’s colleges all have loyal allegiances, and the rivalries are intense. St. Joseph’s hates Villanova, vice-versa, their game is called the Holy War….you get the idea. Any team, in any sport, in any town has its loyalists. Philadelphia is the same, and perhaps the college teams in town have more share in the die-hard market than the Sixers, but there’s a lot of unaffiliated fans out there. And, when it comes it basketball they flock to the winner. This year and last, it was Villanova. Maybe next year it will be Temple. A few years back, when St. Joe’s was blitzing through the season undefeated, they had everyone’s attention. I’ll put myself in this category. I was pulling equally hard for St. Joe’s in 2004 and Nova in 2009. This makes me a fraud, but I don’t think I’m alone.
The Sixers, are a sad, and completely different story. Yes, they have their fans (more ashamed to be seen in public every day). I would also agree that a premiere college program or two takes away from their fan base slightly, but there’s no question that if the Sixers were winning, they’d fill the building. In times like these, though, I don’t know if the town would raise much of a stink if Comcast wanted to move the franchise to Vegas, or Cuba.
I understand that very few teams are able to consistently draw crowds when they don’t win. That kind of loyalty exists mostly in the NFL, and in cities with fewer sporting options. I don’t expect the Sixers to sell out every night, but there’s not even a modicum of interest in them. They haven’t won anything since 1983, but we aren’t talking about the Clippers here. There was Doc, and then Charles, A.I, the team has had superstars, deep playoff runs, and all the time they’ve been on the back burner. Make the finals, and then we’ll sell out the building. Or, bring in Pat Croce to personally hold the hands of everyone in attendance, and you’ll get a decent crowd. Otherwise? Eh, 13 thousand.
I stopped caring about the Sixers long ago, and I honestly think that even if they started winning again, I’d be a little hesitant to get back on board, but I know many would. I guess, it’s just a shame to see, a town that is supposed to be a great sports town, and supports the Eagles and Flyers so unconditionally be so apathetic and fair weather. I guess there just isn’t enough love to go around.