Columnists, Sports

Going for Two: Next great sports story

23-year-old quarterback Carson Wentz has been a leader for the Eagles this season. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
23-year-old quarterback Carson Wentz has been a leader for the Eagles this season. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League, watching some of the premier young talents in baseball.

Coincidentally, the 2016 World Series saw an abundance of former Cape Leaguers duke it out for baseball’s crown – including former Anglers Andrew Miller, Chris Coghlan and Kris Bryant.

When the Cubs finally won their first title since 1908 in seven games, I was reminded of a sentiment from two of my colleagues from the Cape: “The Cubs winning the World Series is the last great sports story from the 20th century.”

And while it seems hyperbolic, the sentiment is true. With the Cubs finally breaking their 108-year curse, what is the next great sports story in America?

Cleveland has finally gotten over its title drought with the Cavaliers title in June, the Red Sox exorcised the Curse of the Bambino in 2004 and both Chicago baseball teams won their long-awaited titles after years of ineptitude.

Where should we even start?

My first instinct is the Philadelphia Eagles. An historic team from a blue-collar city, the Eagles have been the NFL’s version of the loveable losers since their inception in 1933.

Since joining the league as an expansion team 83 years ago, the Eagles have won three championships – however, all of them came before the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

In the Super Bowl-era, the Eagles have been to the championship game just twice, in 1980 and 2004. Both times Philly has fallen, leaving their loyal fan base hungry for a title.  

As far as cities go, Buffalo has been one of the most tortured sports towns in recent memory.

Sporting a football team that once lost four consecutive Super Bowls – a feat that’s seemingly impossible – Buffalo has watched its beloved Bills fall from near-glory to the dregs of the league.

Now the Bills aren’t circling any wagons, while head coach Rex Ryan has done a great job of wasting away the talent of a young mobile quarterback and a top-tier running back.

Buffalo also has been victimized by their hockey team, as the Sabres have yet to win a Stanley Cup. They did fall twice in the finals – that counts for something, right?

The Oakland Raiders, on the other hand, were once the pinnacle of excellence in the NFL. Winning Super Bowls in 1976, 1980, and 1983, the Raiders made the playoffs seven times in the 70s, five times in the 80s and six times between 1990 and 2002.

However, since their loss to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, Oakland has fallen to become one of the worst franchises in the league.

As bottom feeders to the rest of the NFL, the Raiders have seen their record plummet despite Oakland fans continuing to support the silver and black.

However, the past two seasons have been hopeful ones for the Raiders as Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray have helped lift Oakland from futility to first place in the AFC West nine games into 2016.

If and when the Raiders cap off their return to NFL relevance by finally winning another title, it could be another notch in a long list of great sports stories.

Sometimes though, the best sports stories are often the ones that come out of nowhere.

Tom Brady and the 2001 Patriots rattled off a Cinderella run that culminated in a Super Bowl for a franchise that had been aggressively mediocre up to that point.

Mike Piazza’s home run for the New York Mets on the first baseball game played after 9/11 was the perfect moment for the city that almost no one could have scripted.

And then there are stories that have been molded through time, giving fans everywhere a reason to watch and support teams and players as they clamor for a chance at glory.

With the Cubs bringing a World Series crown to the North Side of Chicago, the next great sports story is waiting to be discovered by a sea of people watching its every move.  

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