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Top 10 Philadelphia Sports Stories of 2010: Roy Halladay's No-Hitters, Michael Vick, Flyers' Stanley Cup Run, and Cliff Lee Returns

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Twice in the last week, major sports media outlets have featured front page articles about the sports landscape in Philadelphia. The simple summary of these columns is that, for a change, it is a great time to be a Philly sports fan.

As 2010 draws to a close, a look at the top ten sports stories in The City of Brotherly Love reminds all of us that the past year was truly one to remember. The Phillies continued to be the envy of Major League Baseball. The Flyers came within two wins of a Stanley Cup Title, and the Eagles appear to be on their way to an NFC crown behind one of the most exciting rosters in the NFL.

Of course, the Sixers are still the Sixers, and their absence from this list is a sign of their virtual disappearance from the city’s sports consciousness. But hey, three out of four aint bad.

So, here are the top stories from Philly sports in 2010.

10. The End of the Kevin Kolb Era

Maybe “era” is a poor choice of words. After all, eras are historically significant periods, and Kevin Kolb’s tenure as the Eagles starting quarterback, lasted less than one half of one forgettable game. In the season opener against the Packers, the Eagles newly anointed franchise quarterback attempted a total of 10 passes before being pile driven into the Lincoln Financial Field turf. The fallout of that 29 minutes and 16 seconds of play was a complete change of the franchise’s direction. In one of the most hotly debated Philly sports topics of the year, Kolb was replaced as the starter by Michael Vick and that change was quickly deemed permanent by head coach Andy Reid.

9. Flyers Comeback from 0-3 Series Deficit Versus BruinsFlyers Bruins Game 7

In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been surprised when the Flyers became the third team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 playoff series deficit. After all, this youthful squad found its way into the playoffs by winning a thrilling overtime shootout on the final day of the regular season. But when the Bruins jetted to a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7, we all figured the Flyers were out of dramatic escapes.

The next sixteen minutes of play proved us wrong again, as the Flyers clawed their way back to a 3-3 tie before Simon Gagne flipped home the dramatic game winner to finish off the Bruins.

8. Michael Vick’s Dominance of Redskins on MNF

Week 9 of the Eagles season featured a rematch with Donovan McNabb’s Redskins at FedEx Field. Shortly before kickoff, the Redskins signed the former Eagles quarterback to a five year, $78 million contract extension. Unfortunately for McNabb and the Redskins, they endured one of the worst curb-stompings in Monday Night Football history at the hands of Michael Vick. Vick led the Eagles to a 35-0 lead by the first play of the second quarter. The game reestablished Vick as one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. His final statistics: 20 for 28, 333 yards passing, 4 TD passes, 8 rushes, 80 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD.

7. The Return of Cliff Lee

After their unexpected World Series run, the Rangers were practically offering Lee partial ownership of the team. But, we all knew that the Yankees would back up the Brinks truck and eventually drive off with the biggest free agent prize of the year. That is, until around 6:00 PM on Monday, December 13th. That was when we first heard that the Phillies were the “unnamed team” that was suddenly a part of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. By the time we woke up the next morning, Ruben Amaro had completed the deal  that brought back the guy who became a Philly hero in 2009.

desean jackson miracle at the meadowlands 26. Miracle at the New Meadowlands : Part 2

The 2010 emergence of Michael Vick as an MVP candidate, along with the dazzling play of DeSean Jackson reinforced the old adage that “You can’t teach talent”. And up until Week 15 of the NFL season, we thought we had seen it all from the Eagles two most talented offensive weapons. Well, we hadn’t. Down 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Vick needed only six minutes to lead three scoring drives with his dazzling running ability and precision passing.

Then, in one of the most dramatic finishes in franchise history, DeSean Jackson flashed past Giant defenders on his way to a 65 yard punt return for a touchdown on the game’s final play. Following the game, Giants coach Tom Coughlin summed up the stunning defeat most effectively: “I’ve never been around anything like this in my life.”

5. Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game

There have been 395,282 major league baseball games played since 1876. Only twenty times (once every 19,764 games) has perfection been achieved by a pitcher. So, what began as an ordinary Saturday night contest between the Phillies and Marlins developed into something more historic with each precision pitch delivered by Roy Halladay’s incredible arm. Despite Halladay’s dominance, the Phillies eight position players had to make their share of clutch plays, the last of which was Juan Castro’s smooth put-out on a grounder to third. Phillies fans who watched Halladay that night were suddenly sure that Ruben Amaro’s decision for the Phillies’ staff ace was nothing short of perfect.

4. Flyers lose in O.T. in Game 6 of Stanley Cup Finals

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals was shaping up to be the perfect script for a 2010 Flyers team whose ability to survive rivaled that of Jason Voorhees (the Bernie Parent mask-wearing villain from the Friday the 13th series). In a season of unlikely comebacks, Scott Hartnell shoved a loose puck past Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi with 3:59 remaining to force overtime. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that overtime would last just over four minutes as Patrick Kane whipped a shot that almost nobody in the Wachovia Center realized had crossed the goal line to end the Flyers season.

3. Roy Halladay’s Playoff No-Hitter

It took 2 hours and 34 min, and the amazing thing about this game was that it was unlike any other no-hit/perfect game bid we had ever seen. We usually refrain from discussing a potential no-no while it is in progress, for fear that a lucky bloop single will greet the next pitched ball. However, on that Wednesday night in October, anyone who watched the Phillies playoff opener became more confident with each inning that Roy Halladay was in the midst of the greatest playoff debut by any player ever.

2. Donovan McNabb Trade

The end of years of criticism and speculation finally came on April 4, 2010. An embarrassing playoff elimination at the hands of the hated Cowboys left even the most phillies giants nlcsdevoted McNabb supporters wondering, “Is #5 still the man for the job?”. For the Eagles front office, that question had apparently been answered. Andy Reid and company were prepared to hand the keys over to Kevin Kolb, certain that his style of quarterbacking would finally take their West Coast Offense to the next level. Oops……

1. Phillies Playoff Loss to Giants

The Giants didn’t scare us. Sure, they had a couple of good starting pitchers, but their offense was about as punchless as it got. Plus, the Phillies had just dismissed the upstart Reds in three games. Unfortunately, even the most cautious Phillies fans didn’t see the 2010 season ending as abruptly and disappointingly as it did. All of the talk about the Phils’ All-Star lineup was finally silenced as we watched Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and company get upstaged by the likes of Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net