Sunday, April 15, 2007

Three things get you the ring

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

Three things: Mind, body, soul.

These are the things that comprise the anatomy of a champion. All are essential, and if lacking in any one, it typically makes for an insurmountable obstacle.

The mind - or intelligence - is obvious. Regardless of how skilled you are, if you don’t know how to play the game, how to outthink the opponent, your abilities will forever be limited. Think about the countless prized prospects and can’t-miss draft picks who ultimately fell by the wayside because the mind wasn’t there.

The body - or athleticism - is even more evident. No matter how much intelligence or passion you possess within you, it becomes moot if you can’t hold your own on the playing field (though it will get you a foot in the door for a career in coaching).

However, the last one stands above the rest, as it’s one that can compensate for a lack in others at critical times. It’s also the one that provides the foundation for any future success.

It is the soul, better known as heart. It is the essence of sport, and the one most appreciated by the fans. Especially Philadelphia fans. We’re all about the soul here (which makes our AFL team name so appropriate).

In fact, we here have been known to put such emphasis in our hometown players having – and showing – heart that at times we tend to put on blinders, even using it as an excuse to dish out mulligans. Example: One gutsy catch by Aaron Rowand justifying an otherwise sub-par 2006 season.

And if our players decide to wear their heart on their sleeves for the world to see? Even better.

This, plus a dirty uniform each night, indicates effort to us. And whenever the team loses, stats be damned, it certainly helps to see a visible level of frustration shown by the player, commensurate to our own. A nonchalant shrug of the shoulders just doesn’t cut it here.

It’s the reason why Brian Dawkins will be forever beloved in this town, and why Donovan McNabb will continue to be second-guessed. It’s why Jeremy Roenick, a Flyer for a similar period of time as Peter Forsberg – and the less productive of the two most expensive free agents in team history – will always be looked back upon more fondly during his time here. It’s why Pete Rose – here for far less time than Mike Schmidt and one of far shadier character – was still embraced far more while here. It’s why Bobby Abreu was never embraced at all.

Hell, on a grander scale, it’s why the 1993 Phillies and 2001 Sixers, both runners up, are looked back upon with more affection than the few and far between teams which have actually won it all.

All because of the emphasis we put on heart. And, rightfully so. Without it, you just don’t stand a chance. As a team, and especially in Philadelphia.

And, to date, it seems to be the lacking component of our 2007 Not-So-Fightin’ Phils.

Sure, there are several glaring on-paper issues that linger as well (see my “Ten Reasons to Be-Leery” article, most of which have already come to fruition), but the biggest one of all is that this year, similar to those of recent years, has begun without a sense of urgency, without a fire burning inside and out, without a clear emotional leader. Sorry, Charlie, but whipping out the pom-poms and proclaiming to the masses that this is simply a blip on the radar is simply an unacceptable alibi at this stage.

Heart is what gets the uniform dirty. Heart – a prerequisite for will and determination – gets you the clutch hits late in the game. Heart is what inspires someone – anyone, be it player, coach, general manager or ownership – to speak up and speak out, loudly, when heart is not shown by the remaining pieces of the puzzle.

And without heart, it looks as if this season will turn out similar to those of recent years passed: Just short.

Have a heart and send Jeff some feedback at jglauser@phanaticmag.com.

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