Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Question of the Week – What is your favorite season of a sports team that you’ve experienced?

Hi, I’m back after a week off (the past few weeks have been really, really crappy in the real world, so I haven’t been able to do much on-line, and I just missed last week, so I apologize), and it’s NBA playoffs time, and Philadelphia is still playing (let’s hope by the time you read this, they will have won their first-round match-up, but with Joel Embiid injured, it’s looking unlikely they’ll go much further), and I was thinking about seasons of teams that I like and which one was my all-time favorite. I like a lot of teams, and while most of the teams I like have been crap more often than not (Philadelphia sports teams do not have the most sustained legacy of success, sadly), every team I really like has had success at some point during my life, so I do have favorite seasons. Here they are, by team:

Pro football: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. Won Superbowl 52 over the New England Cheaters and Pretty Boy Tom Brady. Not only won, but did it with a back-up quarterback and perhaps the ballsiest play call in football history.

That was on fourth down, remember, and it came with the Eagles winning in the game and well within field goal range. But they needed all the points they could get, and they ended up winning by eight points, so going up 22-12 instead of just 18-12, plus showing the Cheaters that they weren’t backing down, went a long way toward providing the win. It’s the only Super Bowl they’ve won so far. More than that, the season was so much fun. Carson Wentz was playing out of his mind before he got injured (sadly, he has never been the same since and has become more of a douchebag since then, it seems), the team was destroying its opponents, and then, once Wentz got injured, they could play the “underdog” card even though they were the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs because nobody believed in their quarterback. The NFC Championship Game was one of the most fun games in recent Eagles history, as they obliterated the obnoxious Minnesota Vikings (who were looking forward to playing a “home” Super Bowl that year), and the parade was great, with Jason Kelce providing one of the most memorable post-championship speeches you’re ever going to hear:

I vaguely recall the 1980 Eagles, who also went to the Super Bowl (but lost), and the 2004 Eagles, who also lost the Super Bowl, were great. The late 1980s/early 1990s teams, with Randall Cunningham at quarterback and that ferocious defense, were also fun, but it has to be the 2017 Eagles.

College football: I’m a huge Penn State fan, of course, as it’s my alma mater, and the Nittany Lions are one of the most successful college football teams in history, so this is a bit harder. I remember the 1982 team well enough (they won the National Championship), and I very much enjoyed the 1986 team smacking around the arrogant Miami Hurricanes at the Fiesta Bowl to win the team’s second National Championship. The 2016 team beat Ohio State in dramatic fashion to catapult them to a Big Ten Championship, then played (but lost) one of the most entertaining bowl games in history, against USC in the Rose Bowl. The 2012 team was fun simply because in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, they could have completely fallen apart, but they managed to stick together and post a winning record even though they had no shot at a bowl game. However, my favorite season is still the 1994 team. They should have won the National Championship (or at least shared it, as they didn’t get a chance to play Nebraska, the other undefeated team), but they were screwed by Big Ten writers who didn’t like Penn State invading their territory (the team’s first year in the conference was 1993) and dominating it so quickly. Penn State destroyed teams – they beat a pretty good Ohio State team 63-14, for instance – and Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Mike Archie, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady, and Freddie Scott tore defenses apart. They dropped in the polls after beating Indiana only 35-29 when Paterno took out all of his starters and the Hoosiers scored two touchdowns late (the second one on the final play of the game, so it wasn’t like they even had a chance to take the lead), so it didn’t look as bad, but they had a great game the next week against Illinois, who had a pretty good team that year and a very good defense and went up 21-0 early in the game before PSU came all the way back. They also had a great game earlier in the year against Michigan, going back-and-forth with the Wolverines before winning. Unfortunately, conference contracts meant they had to play a decent but overmatched Oregon team in the Rose Bowl instead of playing Nebraska, so while they beat up the Ducks, the Cornhuskers beat Miami and everyone felt bad that Tom Osborne hadn’t won a National Championship yet in his overrated career, so they gave it to him. In 1997, it should be noted, nobody had a problem splitting the Championship between Nebraska and Michigan, but I guess that was too much in 1994. This was the last time Penn State had a reasonable shot at a National Championship, and it sucks that they didn’t get it. Still, what a fun season. How can you not love Ki-Jana Carter breaking off an 83-yard touchdown run on Penn State’s first play of the Rose Bowl?

Baseball: This is also a bit tricky, because the Phillies had that great run from 2007-2011 and won the World Series in 2008. I loved that team, but by then, I wasn’t as into baseball as I used to be, so I didn’t love them as much as I once did. I recall parts of the 1980 Series-winning team, but not enough to make it my favorite. So my favorite season of Phillies baseball is 1993, when an underdog team managed to make it all the way to the World Series before losing to Toronto in six games. That team, with Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk and Darren Daulton and Dave Hollins and Jim Eisenreich and Tommy Greene and Danny Jackson and Curt Schilling, was so much fun. They beat the evil Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, somewhat surprisingly, and then gave us a wildly entertaining World Series. Game 4 was wild, with the Phillies leading 14-9 at the beginning of the eighth before the Blue Jays scored six runs to win, 15-14. The next day, Schilling pitched a shut-out (the last WS shut-out until 2003, I think) and the Phillies, who were losing the series 3 games to 1, managed to survive. Then came Game Six. Sigh:

Even with that, this is still my favorite season of Phillies baseball. It’s certainly fitting it ended with a loss, given that the Phillies are the losingest professional sports team in history. That’s something!

Basketball: In 1983, the 76ers destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers, 4 games to none, in the NBA Finals, the last time the Sixers have won the title. I remember that series, but not very well, so it’s not my favorite. I’ve never been a huge basketball fan, but I enjoy it, and I very much dug the 2000-2001 season of the 76ers, who somehow managed to secure the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference despite having only one true star, Allen Iverson at the top of his game (he won the MVP award). They got through the playoffs and played some classic games (the final game against Toronto in the second round, the entire Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee), but then ran into the buzzsaw that was the Shaq/Kobe Lakers at the height of their powers, and they lost 4 games to 1. HOWEVER, that one game – holy shit, was it fun. It was Game 1, Iverson went supersonic, scoring 48 points to drag the team to an overtime victory. Yes, that’s where this comes from:

Shaq and Kobe restored order and pulverized the Sixers after that, but the only thing anyone remembers from that series is the one game Philadelphia actually won. It’s still my favorite season of Sixers basketball … until they manage to win a championship. That would be nice.

(I don’t really follow college basketball enough to say one season is my favorite, but my favorite final game is the Villanova/Georgetown final in 1985, when the Wildcats stunned the Hoyas to win the championship. It was almost the perfect shooting game for ‘Nova, and it came at the perfect time. Just a great game.)

Hockey: I’m not a big fan of hockey, but in high school, many of my friends were, so I checked in through osmosis, I guess. The 1987 Stanley Cup Finals stick in my mind because Ron Hextall, the Philadelphia goalie, won the playoffs MVP even though the Flyers couldn’t quite beat the Edmonton Oilers in the final. A player from the losing team winning the Conn Smythe Trophy doesn’t happen too often, but it does occasionally, and Hextall was marvelous that season and in the playoffs. The Flyers have had some good teams since I began being aware of sports, but I’m just not that into hockey, so I don’t care too much.

I’ve had some other favorite sports seasons – Penn State wrestling is currently dominating, and they’re fun to watch, and the Penn State women’s volleyball team was fun to watch a few years ago, when they were dominating. I liked the two seasons of Philadelphia Stars USFL football in the mid-1980s. I enjoyed watching the Phoenix Suns in the late 2000s, when Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire were running wild and getting jobbed out of championships. I don’t live and breathe sports as much as I used to, but I still like watching, and maybe I’ll get to experience one of my favorite teams winning another championship before too long!

So what are your favorite seasons by a sports team? Don’t be shy!


  1. My favorite baseball season? Tough. 1962 was NYY v. SF Giants in a series that went 7. 1969 – the “mazins. But I’ll pick 1979 We Are Family Pirates, who came from 1-3 to win the WS.

    I loved when the Celtics (Bird) and Lakers (Magic) played each other in the NBA Finals. I LOVED that ‘Nova game!

    My favorite season was when the Patriots went 18-1. Go, Giants!

    1. Greg Burgas

      ’62 was the Richardson series, wasn’t it? The line drive heard ’round the world? 🙂

      I hated the Lakers/Celtics series, because it meant that Boston had probably gone through Philly to get there!

      That was a good Super Bowl, when the Giants beat New England. Both times, frankly.

  2. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    Favorite season of any sport ever: 2017 Eagles. It’s not close.

    Baseball: 2009 Yankees (Dad’s from NJ)…and the 2015 Royals.

    Basketball: ‘08 Celtics (moved to Boston when I was 5), followed by the ‘10 Celtics and the ‘17 Celtics.

    College Football: Boston College 2007 (Matt Ryan year).

    Gaelic Football: 2020 Cork

    Rugby: 2018 Six Nations (Grand Slam for Ireland)

    1. Greg Burgas

      I thought you might agree about the 2017 Eagles!

      Man, that ’09 Series. The Phillies had such a good chance to go back-to-back, but they just couldn’t do it. Confound it!

  3. DarkKnight

    I pretty much only follow basketball so for me it would have to be the 2012-2013 Miami Heat. We had the best record in the entire league and Lebron James was the best basketball player in the world and managed to win both MVP and Finals MVP. The Finals against the Spurs had me on the edge of my seat and Ray Allen’s clutch three to send the game into overtime during game six will forever be seared into my brain.

  4. Rantel

    The only sports team that I’ve followed seriously throughout my life are the Ottawa Senators, who don’t exactly have a string of glorious victories to their name, so my pickings are slim.

    There’s the 2006-2007 season, where they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the Anaheim Ducks in five games, but I was just a kid then. So for my favourite I would probably have to go with the 2016-2017 season, where they made it to the conference finals and fought eventual Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins to a near-standstill (game seven, double overtime.) This was, tragically, the last remotely good season the Sens have had to date.

    I continue to live in hope. (And I still have the beard that I initially grew as a playoff beard in 2017, so there’s a lasting positive impact that it’s had on my life.)

    1. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, the Senators aren’t exactly the exemplars of success in sports. Hockey is weird, though – it seems like teams come out of nowhere all the time to win big, so who knows with Ottawa? I would love to see a Canadian team win the Cup again …

  5. Corrin Radd

    The Ohio State 2002 National Championship season was incredibly fun, with Tressel as coach and Maurice Clarrett as running back. There were so many close games and miracle wins, including the overtime win for the national title. The Buckeyes have had many great seasons and players since then, but that one sticks with me most.

    The Columbus Crew 2008 MLS Cup season was also a great one. I attended many of the games that season including the home legs of the playoffs.

    Soccer and college football are my sports, and you can’t do much better than living in Columbus for that combo.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Well, Ohio State sucks, so BOOOOO!!!!!! 🙂

      I did like that they won the National Championship that year, because man, I loathe Miami. And Tressel was never as objectionable as Meyer, so that’s all right.

      You’re right, though – for soccer and college football, Columbus is not a bad place to be!

  6. Bright-Raven

    Favorite Two MLB Seasons were the 1984 Detroit Tigers (and almost also Chicago Cubs, who flamed out in the NLCS against the Padres) World Series, which the Tigers wiped the deck with the Padres 4 games to 0, and then the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series season. There were some other seasons with the Cubs getting to the playoffs as well obviously, but those are more painful when they kept failing. It didn’t bother me as much in 1984, because the Tigers were / are my AL team. But that was a crazy year in general, because the Chicago White Sox and the Tigers were neck and neck all year, and people in Illinois were thinking it was going to be a “Chicago Subway Series” most of the summer. I knew the Tigers would win the AL and probably the World Series (I think they started the season something like 22-5 and then 35-15 by the All-Star Break), and I just wanted to see the Cubs go to the World Series since it had been so long since they’d made it. Little did I know it would take them another 32 years. (Honestly, them finally winning one was more of a relief than anything.)

    College Baseball would probably be any of the LSU championships (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, and 2009), and I didn’t mind when South Carolina won in 2010 and 2011, either.

    Pro Football – USFL when the Michigan Panthers were winning championships back in 1983-84 (just hated that they folded mostly because Trump was a dick and just HAD to have the USFL playing up against the NFL and the Panthers owner wasn’t down with that so he mergered with the Oakland USFL team where they became the Invaders in 1985. I was 11 and since they were in the championship game all three seasons that the USFL existed, and they proving to be a superior team to the Lions, I just didn’t much care about the NFL one way or the other). Unfortunately the current USFL Panthers Roster (their offense especially) is playing more like the Lions than the Lions right now.

    I also remember the Bears had that 15-1 season and won the NFL Championship in 1985 as well, and I lived in Illinois at the time, so that was the NFL team I semi-cheered for (since the Lions sucked). I also like whenever the Baltimore Ravens win championships (2001 and 2013), but feel sad for Cleveland since the Ravens are really the Browns (and I was a fan of them as the Browns – *hated* John Elway and Denver) and Cleveland hasn’t seen a championship with their new team yet.

    College Football is hard for me to really say. I guess LSU winning national titles in 2003, 2007, and 2019, and whenever Central Michigan beats Michigan State. (CMU beat MSU at MSU’s home field the first time in 1991, 20-3. It was my first year at Central – transferred, so I as a sophomore – but the town of Mount Pleasant, MI went nuts. I don’t know if it made national news, but it was like the LA Riots or the Watts riots. Cars overturned and ablaze, homes with windows bashed in. I felt so bad for the team, because the joy of beating a nationally ranked MSU as a smaller school was completely erased with the shame of being the catalyst for people’s bad behaviors. It was such a weird season, too; they ended up with a record of 6-1-4 (yes four ties games in a single season). I know we beat them two more times since then, but don’t remember when. I wish they would beat Michigan, but they get steamrolled every time it seems.

    NBA Basketball – Detroit Pistons championships in 1989 and 1990. I rarely watch the sport, but for whatever reason that team, I liked to watch at least during playoff time.

    College Basketball – I don’t watch. Really couldn’t tell you anything about it, other than lately the South Carolina Women’s team has been winning national championships lately, which is nice for the locals here since it brings in much revenue to Columbia, but I don’t actually follow it.

    Hockey – Red Wings Championships in 1997 and 1998. Otherwise, again, don’t much watch the sport.

    Don’t watch soccer, so nothing of note there.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Those ’84 Tigers were really good. I didn’t watch a lot of American League baseball, but just paying attention to them, they just tore up the league. That NLCS was pretty good, too – I remember most announcers being somewhat stunned that San Diego beat the Cubs (the Rick Sutcliffe Cubs!).

      Michigan only won one USFL Championship, sir! 🙂 They beat the Stars for the first one, but the Stars won the second two. That first game, even though the Stars lost, was a pretty good game, if I’m not completely misremembering it.

      Ugh, that ’97 Stanley Cup series. I honestly thought the Flyers had a chance!!!! 🙁

      1. Bright-Raven

        You are correct, the Panthers actually only won the first USFL championship in 1983, 24-22 over Philly. The original site I was looking at misprinted the 1984 stats. Anyway, they moved out west and took over the mergered Oakland Invaders roster and played in the 1985 championship against the Stars and lost 28-24 as their kick returner muffed a kick at the 4 yard line and killed their field position to make a final comeback drive in the 4th quarter. I would say the two teams were the two best and fairly evenly matched.

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