1. Archive

Philadelphia has attitude

They've experienced Ben Franklin and William Penn, while we celebrate Jose Gaspar and Hulk Hogan.

Historic mismatch, huh?

Philadelphia named one of its major bridges for Walt Whitman, but Tampa Bay's busier spans honor comparative smallwigs, Howard Frankland and Courtney Campbell.

Poetic justice?

Up here where Betsy Ross stitched a flag, Independence Hall prodigiously stands. Back in my Florida neighborhood, the most famous building is, I would guess, Columbia Restaurant.

Table for four?

Jimmy Stewart, Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant were grand in The Philadelphia Story,and Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his courageous Philadelphia. There have been so many superior movies set in Eagles town, including the Rocky package.

Tampa Bay . . . flick-shy.

Cocoon doesn't count.

No matter, this is football!

Sure, we're widely seen as chad-fumbling beach folks, from where the sun warmly shines, with Ricky Bell and not the Liberty Bell as local lore. With ties looser than Philly's to the Declaration of Independence. But, you red-white-and-blue Philly aristocrats, we the Florida people are coming along in the business of football.

Kick it off, take a look.

Our college teams are America's best, with three Florida universities constantly stalking national championships. In the pros, the Miami Dolphins won two Super Bowls, being perfect once. Jacksonville got good in a hurry with its Jaguars.

But this is about the Bucs, who went from being really, really bad for a long, long time (never messing up fewer than 10 games from 1983-95) to being pretty good the last four seasons (31-21), even with last Sunday's excruciating field-goal stabbing in Green Bay.

As surely as Philly cheesesteaks warm your winter innards, it'll be bone-splintering cold today as the NFL sultans of hot, the ShiverBucs, labor again to overcome their teeth-chattering history, trying to stone the Eagles in the most famous Pennsylvania meat locker since Rocky.

Philadelphia has a century and a half of hard-baked crust in dealing with professional sports. Often tougher on its struggling homies than on visitors like the Bucs. Nobody knows that better than the Phillies, a baseball franchise with more all-time losses than any team in any sport.

"Right now, the Eagles are a clear No. 1 in the minds of Philadelphia sports crazies," said Bill Lyon, in his 29th year of writing columns for the Inquirer. "With a 10-0 start, the (NBA) Sixers zoomed to a solid second place, followed by the (NHL) Flyers, with the Phillies a deep, deep last place."

All about winning.

Last time the Eagles had a home playoff shot, the Detroit Lions came here, a dome team shoved into cold, hard, hostile December reality, and Philadelphians would have a 58-37 celebration.

It's a tough town.

Patrons at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa are notably loud and passionate, but in comparison to followers of the Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies, the Bucs constituency falls well shy of Philadelphians in the emotionally crafted arts of rage, nastiness, demands, inhumanity and enemy-baiting.

Even the clock is a factor.

"Because it's a late-afternoon December game," Lyon said of today's Eagles-Bucs affair, "it will be even colder and bleaker than is the 1 o'clock norm, while our legendary fans will have three extra hours to get drunker."

So ugly were some Eagles clientele that, in recent seasons, a makeshift court was set up within Veterans Stadium bowels. No kidding. Verbal or physical overexertion could put you before judge Seamus McCarthy's bench, for immediate gavel-hammering ajudication. He became renowned as a hanging jock judge.

Only in Philadelphia.

Then, there's the notorious playing surface at the Vet. Frankly, it's a parking lot painted green. Harder than a witch's heart. A 25-year civic embarrassment. More slippery than the North Pole. A field repeatedly voted by the NFL Players Association as the league's lousiest.

Open for an appeal, Judge?

I thought not.

Still, the X'ers and O'ers who wear Bucs uniforms say it will come down to talent, desire and function among the athletes, with Arctic air nor rocky field nor badgering Vet customers anything beyond minimal effect.

"Cold didn't beat us in Green Bay," said Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson. "It was some offensive malfunctions early, then eventually a missed field goal. Cold will neither win it for the Eagles nor lose it for the Bucs in Philadelphia. That's pretty much all in the minds of outsiders and amateurs."

For feisty Philadelphians, it's been a long wait for their second NFL championship. Only time the Eagles ruled, before the invention of a Super Bowl, was in 1960 when Buck Shaw was coach, Norm Van Brocklin played quarterback and Chuck Bednarik was a legendary two-way player.

Forty years ago, at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus, the green Birds won the NFL final 17-13 over the coach for whom the Super Bowl trophy would be named, Vince Lombardi of Green Bay.

As the clock was dying, his Packers were driving, trying to pull it out. Jim Taylor ran the football. Precious seconds were ticking, with maybe 7 or 8 remaining.

Bednarik, a Hall of Fame linebacker, tackled the Green Bay fullback and then laid atop a squirming, fuming Taylor until time had expired. A squashing Philly is yet to emulate.

That is cold fact.

Another chance upcoming.