Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All Roads Lead to Tampa

In the early part of this decade, the word Tampa was akin to the dirtiest of words if you are a Philly sports fan. As we remember all too well, the Tampa Bay Bucs beat the Eagles in the final game at the Vet (the NFC Championship following the 2002 season). That was the game we thought we had in the bag. We had beaten Tampa 2 straight years in the playoffs and a couple of times in the regular season as well. Unlike the year before (against The Greatest Show on Turf), we had homefield advantage, and we weren't to be denied the ultimate prize. Then, Rhonde Barber happened.

In 2004, the Flyers made a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the conference finals, they faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That Lightning team was very good, clearly more talented than the gritty, battle-tested Flyers. But the Flyers had a one-man wrecking crew going by the name Keith Primeau. He hit everything that moved, got into fights with the other team's best players, and scored ridiculously clutch goal after ridiculously clutch goal.

In game 6 (with the Flyers trailing in the series 3-2), Primeau scored the tying goal with 1:51 left in regulation, and set up the winning goal less than 2 minutes into overtime to stave off elimination. In game 7 though, the Flyers ran out of magic and just didn't have anything left in the tank.

For the second time, the city of Tampa had ruined our dreams of a title, and had prolonged our championship drought. Fast forward to October 2008, and the Phillies were making a long playoff run, which lead them all the way to the World Series against, you guessed it, the Tampa Bay Rays. Was this the time we could finally exorcise the demons of the last 25, title-less years? Was this where we would finally get our revenge for the 2 championships they won at our expense? In a word, hell yeah!

That wonderful team formed my 3 favorite words: World Champions!!! The drought was over, and maybe now, we could be positive instead of negative about our teams. Maybe we could expect the best instead of the worst from now on. Maybe, just maybe, everything would be different now.

All of which brings us to the unlikely playoff run the Eagles are in the midst of. While the Eagles won't play the Bucs in the upcoming weeks, the Bucs played a huge role in our even being in the postseason. If the Bucs didn't miraculously lose to the Oakland on the final day of the regular season, the Birds would've been home for the holidays.

The Eagles - Tampa parallels don't end there, either. If the Eagles win 2 more games, guess where they will be heading to play in the Super Bowl. That's right, the city of Tampa. The Phillies did it, why not the Eagles? It's finally our turn my friends, and maybe it's the optimism still bleeding over from the World Series victory still fresh in the mind, but I think the Eagles will run the table and bring the city its first ever Super Bowl victory. All roads lead to Tampa, all roads lead to victory.

- Murdock

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