April of 2011 has provided a very different feeling in Philadelphia sports. Very different.
Instead of making vacation plans, the 76ers are preparing for an eagerly anticipated return to the playoffs as a possible 6-seed in the east, a year after winning just 27 games. With match-ups against Boston, New York, and Orlando before the conclusion of the season, the Sixers will be able to tell how prepared they really are for the NBA's big dance. At 40-37, Doug Collins and the Sixers have been a pleasant surprise in Philadelphia as well as the rest of the country. Expect them to make some noise in the playoffs.
Instead of starting slowly in their first few games of the season, the Phillies have shot off to a 3-0 start, and look good all around. The critics may say that it's no big deal, it was against the Astros. But considering that the Phillies have started either 2-8 or 4-6 in 4 of the last 5 seasons, Its good to see this team playing well right out of the gate. The starting pitching has not disappointed, and timely hits from this offensive lineup has allowed the Phils to put up 21 runs in the first 3 games. With the Mets, Braves, Nats, and Marlins on the upcoming schedule for the Phillies, it gives us a nice look at the divisional competition, and a great opportunity for Charlie and the gang to get a good divisional lead in the first 3 weeks. Anything less than a World Series win this year is a failure.
Instead of fighting for the 5th or 6th seed in the East, the Flyers find themselves limping badly into the playoffs, still atop the Eastern Conference standings. They have lost 3 in a row, and 12 of the last 18 games, and somehow are still hanging on to first place. With their most points since the 2002-03 season, the Flyers have not given anyone reason to think that they will return to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. Last season, they slept through the season, only to wake up in a shootout against the New York Rangers on the last day of the season, which propelled them into the playoffs and onto the Stanley Cup Finals. This year they were playing great for the first 61 games, then fell asleep midway through a game up in Ottawa. Two seasons, two totally different attitudes. But with a veteran team, expect resiliency, toughness, and a rejuvenated squad when the playoffs start. After all, I think that is what the players have been thinking about for the last 18 games.
Instead of preparing for the big draft day trade and looking forward to spring mini-camps and training camp in the summer, Andy Reid is just waiting for draft day. With no CBA, the Eagles are left out in the cold with so much to gain from a would-be Kevin Kolb trade. There will be football eventually, but the Birds are losing out on the 2011 NFL Draft. But Andy and the guys won't let this lockout get in their way. With a good, young team look for the Eagles to be one of the top NFC teams again whenever football decides to come back to our television screens.
It will be a very interesting April and May in Philadelphia professional sports. But for today, April 4, 2011, I leave you with a Bold Prediction: