Philadelphia is on our minds this week. Not just because the Celtics have the 76ers on Thursday, but because Philly’s doing its best in multiple ways to take spots typically reserved for Boston teams.
Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, is Tom Brady’s prime competition for NFL MVP. His 10-1 Eagles are the the favorites to face the Pats in the Super Bowl. Then there are the 76ers, who can only hope their ongoing “process” will make them the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference for the next decade rather than the Celtics.
Yet before you go thinking Philadelphia is becoming the next great rival for Boston across all sports, consider a few things:
IT’S HARD FOR BOSTON FANS TO TAKE ANYONE ELSE SERIOUSLY BECAUSE THEY’RE SPOILED
Wentz is in his second season and is having an MVP-caliber season. If the Eagles are 10-1 with a young quarterback now, what might they look like if they draft well and put a supporting cast with staying power around him?
Really good, but you’ll forgive Boston fans to not identify the Eagles as their NFC counterpart just yet. After all, we’re just one season removed from the Cowboys looking like the 13-3 Cowboys, led by a rookie quarterback, to be the kings of the NFC for years to come. Dallas is 5-6 this season.
Most importantly, even a few seasons of dominance might not get the attention of a Boston fanbase that has been spoiled rotten by the Patriots. Nobody in either conference has been able to match the Pats’ staying power, so Boston will have to see prolonged dominance before they actually believe it.
DO YOU ACTUALLY TRUST THE PROCESS?
Having picked first overall in two straight drafts and third overall in the previous two, the 76ers could very well grow a terrific nucleus of young talent to challenge the Celtics in the coming years. Yet with the injuries they’ve already faced (Ben Simmons missing all of last season; Joel Embiid being eternally day-to-day, Markelle Fultz being a physical and mechanical mess so far), it’s hardly a sure thing.
Simmons and Embiid are both elite players. There’s no question there. But Embiid’s health will always be a question and we haven’t seen anything good from Fultz yet. So far, it seems the Celtics smoked them in that trade. If Fultz ends up being a player, this could be a tremendous rivalry. It still seems like a big “if.”
CROSS-CONFERENCE RIVALRIES ARE TOUGH
There have been great cross-conference rivalries (the Celtics and Lakers an obvious one), but they can be a bit tough given the infrequency with which the teams play. The Red Sox are in a different league than the NL’s Phillies, while the Pats and Eagles can only play each other in the regular season every four years because of the NFL’s scheduling. Not much heat there.
THE OTHER TEAMS ARE IN NO MAN’S LAND
Right, the other teams. The Phillies finished last in the NL East last season, so even if the Red Sox corrected their course to a World Series berth, it sure as hell wouldn’t take them to Philadelphia.
The Bruins and Flyers have always had a good rivalry, but it’s seen better years given where the teams currently stand. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in two of the last four seasons and currently sit below .500. The Bruins, coming off their first playoff berth in three years, are on pace for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic but will have to fight for it.
THERE AREN’T ANY REAL VILLAINS
Real quick: Who is the Eagles’ head coach? There’s no shame in not knowing it’s Doug Pederson off the top of your head. I’m guessing a lot of Patriots fans don’t.
If that’s the case, it’s probably a product of the infrequency with which the teams play each other. But even with the 76ers, is there really anyone Celtics fans should despise? Not yet.
Boston and Philly could eventually become rivals across all sports. It’s probably just early to say it’s already begun.