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Philadelphia Sports Is In Bad Shape, But It’s Been Worse

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By Joseph Santoliquito

Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — This looks bad. Really bad.

The 76ers’ season is over. It was over before it started, when they made the trade for Andrew Bynum. The Flyers season began with hope and has since sunk rapidly, more than what the most pessimistic pessimist envisioned. They don’t look playoff bound either.

The Eagles had their worst finish since going 3-13 in 1998—and the Phillies are trying to recover from an utterly forgettable 81-81 season.

If the Phillies don’t make the playoffs this season, it will mark the first time since 1991 that Philadelphia’s four major pro sports teams will not make the playoffs.

But it could be worse—believe it or not.

There have been far more dismal times for Philadelphia’s teams.

Take 1972, for instance. The Sixers went 30-52, thankfully eight games better than the woeful Buffalo Braves. But still, no postseason for a team that would reach the ultimate nadir of 9-73 the following season.

In ’72, the Eagles finished last in the NFC East going 2-11-1, and the Phillies made a splendid summer for everyone by landing in the basement of the National League East with a 59-97 record—the fewest victories the Phils have had in a full season in the last 40 years, 37.5 games behind the division-champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Even the Flyers, the eventual saviors of the city, didn’t make the playoffs, closing their 1971-72 season 26-38-14 and out of the playoffs.

Back then, the Sixers, Eagles and Phillies weren’t just bad—they were pathetically bad.

In the ’72 NFL season, the Eagles had the most anemic offense in the game. They were a team that lost by an average of 14.8 points per game, scored a league-low 145 points during the 14-game schedule and allowed 352 points.

If not for Steve Carlton’s incredible 27-10 record with such a horrid team, ’72 was completely unmemorable for the Phils. They finished first from the bottom in the National League in runs scored (503) and their team batting average was a robust .236.

Billy Cunningham and Hal Greer were the last remnants of the 76ers all-time great 1966-67 team that won the NBA title. The ’72 team would deteriorate further to new depths the following year, going 9-73 in ’73. The Sixers were so bad that local newspapers threatened not to cover them.

In ’72, the Flyers began shaping into one of the all-time great franchises that went on to make the playoffs 17-straight years and become the only Philadelphia team to win consecutive world championships since the Steve Van Buren-led Eagles won two-straight world NFL championships in 1948 and 1949.

But ’72 was Fred Shero’s first year as Flyers coach. He and general manager Keith Allen were shaping a team and culture that still carries on today. Shero also inherited goaltender Doug Favell, who wasn’t bad, and someone named Lew Morrison wore No. 8. The following year, 1973, a 20-year-old named Bill Barber, an eventual Hall of Famer, arrived with another rookie who took over the No. 8 jersey, Dave Schultz, an all-time Philly favorite.

Two years after ’72, someone else showed up that put the Flyers over the top, goalie Bernie Parent, and ended the miasma that enveloped Philadelphia sports teams.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.

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