As much as Philadelphia sports fans feel cursed (and rightly so) a lot of the time, it's been a pretty crazy run of excitement down at the ol' sports complex in South Philly lately.
First we had Red October (and November) with the Philadelphia Phillies making an improbable run to the World Series last fall. Then we all bore witness to a pair of Eagles playoff games en route to a Super Bowl appearance, although I don't remember how that turned out. Now, Friday night will mark the 76ers' first home game of round 2 of the NBA playoffs as they continue to tussle with the Boston Celtics, while at the same time Bryce Harper will make his 2023 Citizens Bank Park debut in front of what will no doubt be a raucous sellout crowd as the Phillies take on the Boston Red Sox.
One might argue that the Phillies' sweep at the hands of the Dodgers this week and the Sixers' no-show in Game 2 in Boston might put somewhat of a damper on things, but Friday night will present a perfect "turn the page" opportunity.
All eyes will be on Bryce Harper
From a Phillies perspective, all eyes will be on Harper. We can't say for certain that Harper cemented his legacy or fully earned his plaque in Cooperstown during last year's playoff run, but it sure felt like it at the time. With his elbow barking all year, he almost carried the Phillies to a championship as he and the boys gave us all some memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, with news of his Tommy John surgery mere weeks after the playoffs ended, it seemed as though 2023 might be a write-off for him and the team, a huge letdown after things came to tantalizingly close last year.
Bryce Harper is not to be denied, however, making a borderline miraculous recovery from his surgery and getting back in time to help the Phillies for 100+ games this season. His limitation to DH duty is less than ideal, but Harper's return gives the Phils legitimate hope for the rest of the year. As such, expect an outpouring of appreciation from the rabid fans on Friday night and throughout the rest of this first series, as we get our first glimpses of Harper in action at home in six months.
Let's all hope that the Phillies can pummel the Red Sox over the weekend, sending them and their fans back up I-95 with nothing to show for their efforts. Sixers, please follow suit.
I just can't get over how insane it is that Harper and Joel Embiid, two Philadelphia MVPs, will be making their returns to town on the same night down at the sports complex. Throw that in with the perpetual Eagles excitement, and we really are at a fortunate time to be Philly sports fans. (Pesky rumors of the continued existence of a hockey team in Philadelphia persist, but they are unsubstantiated at this time.)
Still, wow, what a time to follow these teams. Ultimately, it would be nice if someone could break through and win again, but sports can't simply be tied up in the mentality of "title or bust", otherwise 99% of our efforts would be a colossal waste of time. Instead, let's try to appreciate the ride that these teams are taking us on in the moment.
Bryce Harper...Friday night...
Ya Gotta Believe.
Catch the Fever.
Ring the Bell.
The 2023 Philadelphia Phillies have officially arrived.