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Top Ten Philadelphia Sports Headlines Of 2013

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Riley Cooper's controversy was the top Philadelphia sports story of 2013 (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Riley Cooper’s controversy was the top Philadelphia sports story of 2013 (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – 2013 was an up and down year in Philadelphia sports, to say the least. The first half was full of “downs,” including coaching changes for every professional team, and losses upon losses as well. But the second half has proved to be more positive, with some of those changes looking like positive ones.

10. The Sixers Beat The Heat In Season Opener, Start 3-0

The outcome seemed like it was a certainty. Here we had the best team in the NBA, coming off their second consecutive NBA championship against what was thought to be (and still might be) the worst team in the NBA, and possibly one of the worst teams in NBA history. The Heat were going to beat the Sixers, no problem.

After a Michael Carter-Williams steal and dunk, and an 18-0 lead, there was a problem for the Heat. The Sixers shocked the world, beat the Heat, and started 3-0 to the surprise of just about everyone. They’ve since come back to Earth, but we’ll always have 3-0.

9. La Salle’s Sweet 16 Run

Cinderella’s slippers belonged to Dr. John Giannini, Tyrone Garland and the Southwest Philly Floater.

The La Salle Explorers unlikely run was highlighted by Garland’s big shot to beat Mississippi State, and a trip to the Sweet 16.

We say we don’t care about how the rest of the country feels about Philadelphia, but it’s hard not to bask in the glow when one of our own is a national darling.

8. The Phillies Stay Old

The Phillies finished 81-81 in 2012, and took another step back in 2013, finishing 73-89. Though it cost Charlie Manuel his job, it didn’t change the thinking of a front office who continues to invest in its aging core.

While many suggest the Phillies need a youth movement, Amaro Jr. and company continue to add band-aids to close the giant wound, and old band-aids at that. Marlon Byrd is 36, and they signed Carlos Ruiz, 35 years old, to a three year deal.

You want to grow old together in marriage, but not a baseball team.

7. Nick Foles Throws Seven Touchdown Passes In One Game, Sets NFL Records

Nick Foles is in the pro football Hall Of Fame. This is a fact. At least until someone throws eight touchdowns in a game.

Foles tied an NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes in a game, sparking a winning streak, and a stretch of play from Foles that even his biggest supporter would have expected. He started the season as a backup, and ended up setting the record for highest QB rating ever in a calendar month, and throwing 19 touchdowns before he threw his first interception.

Though the story of the record is history, the legend of Nick Foles is still growing.

6. Andrew Bynum Never Plays A Game For The Sixers

Any time you trade your best player, two recent first round picks, and a future first round pick for a player, you’re really hoping it works out.

When the Sixers traded Andre Iguodala, Nic Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick for Andrew Bynum (and Jason Richardson), it’s hard to imagine it would have turned out this poorly. Bynum knee problems, highlighted by stories of bowling and dancing, prevented him for ever playing in a game for the Sixers, and only participating in one practice.

5. Sam Hinkie Trades Jrue Holiday, Then Stops Talking (To The Ire Of Some), Then Josh Harris Buys The Devils

Imagine you’ve got a piece of paper, with your plan written on it. As time passes, the plan changes, and you make marks on the paper with the updates. Eventually, when you’ve crossed out enough parts of the plan, and scribbled on some new ones, the paper is a mess. The only solution is to rip up the piece of paper, and start fresh with a new one. That’s what Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie did when he traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday on draft night, for the pick that would become Nerlens Noel, and a first round pick in the vaunted 2014 draft.

Hinkie, never particularly interested in getting his name in the press, decided to concentrate on his job, rather than interviews over the next few months as he searched for a coach, and former first round picks to sign on the cheap. This tactic did not make many in the media happy, and sparked some controversy.

To make matters more… interesting, Josh Harris, managing owner of the Sixers, decided to purchase another undervalued sports franchise, the New Jersey Devils. It’s one thing to own two teams in two different cities in two different sports, it’s a bit of another when the two are heated rivals.

4. Ed Snider And Paul Holmgren Fire Peter Laviolette, Peter Luukko Quits

It wasn’t so much that the Flyers Peter Laviolette; that wasn’t much of a surprise. It was a little surprising that it happened so few games into the season, but the Flyers were bad, and Snider had to do something.

But the press conference announcing the change to Craig Berube took a turn for the interesting, when Howard Eskin and Mike Sielski challenged the team’s “culture” and the franchise’s habit of changing head coaches. Ed Snider didn’t like the line of questioning, and his quote of “I think we have a pretty good culture,” will live on in Philly lure.

Just a couple of months later, Peter Luukko’s decision to quit the Flyers and Comcast-Spectacor still sits in a strange place, with most waiting for whatever the other shoe is, to drop.

3. Phillies Fire Charlie Manuel

No one would argue that Charlie Manuel was doing a particularly good job in 2012 or 2013 managing the Phillies. Many would even say that it would be a fair decision to not bring Manuel back for the 2014 season. But to make Manuel the “fall guy” for the team’s troubles, was silly to almost everyone.

For Manuel to go, and it be the man who put together the team that got him fired, Ruben Amaro Jr. to do it, started a fan revolt, and turned Manuel into more of a folk hero than he already was.

In some ways, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to Manuel’s legacy, going out with loving tributes instead of being the face of the team’s failure.

2. Eagles Fire Andy Reid / Eagles Hire Chip Kelly

Everyone knew that Andy Reid’s run as Eagles head coach was coming to an end. Still, even announcing the news on New Year’s Eve couldn’t slow the reaction of the dismissal of a man who had spent 14 seasons as Eagles head coach. For over a decade, all Eagles fans knew was Andy Reid, and they had gotten pretty sick of it all, to put it kindly. Reid’s last two years were a disaster, finishing with worse-than-it-looked 8-8 record in 20011, and an every-bit-as-bad-as-it-looked 4-12 record in 2012. Sure, the firing happened on the last day of 2012, but the story lasted well into 2013.

Eagles fans were warming up the Gus Bus, with the entire football world sure that the Eagles second meeting with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley meant the team was going to hire him to be their new head coach. Especially because the other apple Howie Roseman’s eye, Chip Kelly, had turned the Eagles down and decided to return to Oregon.

SURPRISE!

Chip Kelly changed his mind, and the Gus Bus drove to Jacksonville. After some mid-season struggles, the Eagles have won five straight and Kelly looks like the hire of a lifetime.

1. Riley Cooper’s Racist Rant Caught On Tape

Sometimes the biggest stories are the best. Sometimes the biggest stories are just the biggest.

Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was caught on tape, seemingly drunk, using racial slurs at a Kenny Chesney concert. The story made national headlines, and the Eagles made the controversial decision to keep Cooper on the team. Many suggested that if Jeremy Maclin had not been injured, Cooper would have been cut immediately. But Michael Vick stepped up in Cooper’s defense, and the Eagles weathered the storm.

Months later, Cooper has emerged as Nick Foles’ favorite target, and the references to Cooper’s mistakes are few and far between, but not forgotten.

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