The Liberty Bell. “Wiz with or wiz without?” Independence Hall. The Vet and the Italian market. These are some of the sights and sounds of Philadelphia. Sure, these are all important cultural parts of Philadelphia, but these sights don’t make people post death threats, or like one critic of Philadelphia sports said, “If there was a rain out for a Phillies game, the fans would go to the airport and boo planes landing.”
Fightin’ Phillies, the Broad Street Bullies, Blitz inc., and the Sixers are all names that Philadelphia sports fans have adopted for their beloved team. Philadelphia is a city that weighs much of its own pride in their beloved sports teams.
The city of brotherly love’s sports are also captured on the big screen, in “Rocky” and “Invincible.”
Sure, these teams and nicknames represent Philadelphia as a sports city, but what sports spectacle figure stands by the go hard or go home no holds barred Philadelphia blue collar mentality?
A true Philadelphia sports icon is an athlete that has sweat and bled on the Philadelphia streets. He’s scraped his knees and broken bones on the asphalt. That icon is the underdog. The names that comes to mind are South Philadelphia’s own Rocky Balboa, and Glenolden native, Vince Papale. We all know Rocky would beat Papale in a fight, but who better represents the city?
Your answer is Vince Papale. Not to put Rocky down, but he doesn’t exist. Although a strong reminder of the existence of Rocky is a statue that overlooks the city from the art museum, the Vince Papale story is true.
Although Papale only caught ten balls for one touchdown in his offensive career, Papale was noted for his heart and special teams intensity.
The story of Papale and his importance in Philadelphia sports history, is that a low-income bartender and substitute teacher made it through a rigorous Eagles training camp and onto the field at Veteran’s stadium.
Papale is still the oldest rookie in football history. Papale was named special teams captain and “Man of the Year” by his teammates in 1978. Papale helped lead his team to soon to be crowned football coach, Dick Vermeil.