Good vs. Evil (Part Two)
Well, what is there to talk about? D’uh! There is only one thing to talk about -- this Wednesday night’s WWIII-style matchup between the Boston Blitz and the Philadelphia Inventors. What’s at stake? EVERYTHING! The entire Eastern conference of the USCL for starters. Then there is the psychological prize that the winner will take into the playoffs – where Boston and Philadelphia will very likely meet one last time.
Team manager Michael Shahade would kill me if I (even jokingly) made any predictions about the game. I have learned to keep my fat mouth shut. (see here)). However, let’s discuss a couple factors that will be pivotall to Wednesday’s game.
1) Momentum. Boston itself admits that it is currently in some kind of slump. They . . . . gasp . . . tied both New Jersey and Queens in the previous weeks. (Got to love a team who considers two consecutive draws a slump – if you are trying to intimidate us, Boston, it is working.). Philadelphia, however, is on a winning streak. Indeed, in the previous weeks they beat the very same New Jersey and Queens teams that Boston could only muster draws against. This momentum is clearly noticeable at the individual level tool. For example, Philly NM Bryan Adams hasn’t lost a single game in his last three appearances; Boston’s Chris Williams, on the other hand, has lost his last two games. “Momentum” is a very tricky variable to factor, but all have to agree Philly has the edge here.
2) History. This is not the first game between these two teams. They played very early in the year. The result? A 3.5 to .5 spanking by Boston. This has been (by far) the biggest loss for the Philly squad this year. From a psychological standpoint, this devastating defeat will weigh heavily on the Philly team.
3) Curse(?). The Red Sox won the World Series – sweeping the Rockies four games to nothing. The New England Patriots are looking virtually unstoppable in the NFL (they beat the Redskins 52 to 7 on Sunday!). In short, Boston, as a whole, is having a pretty good frickin’ year. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is Philadelphia. The city really is amazing. It hasn’t won a sports championship since 1983 – the biggest slump for any city fielding four professional sports team (hockey, baseball, basketball, and football). Even better -- the Philadelphia Phillies became the first team this year to lose its 10,000 professional game. The city will always have “Rocky,” but fictional characters aside, the city hasn’t produced a winner of any kind in decades. Will the city’s curse continue into the chess world?
4) Underdog Syndrome. How remarkable is Philadelphia’s performance this year? Well, though they are tied for second place in the East and have assured a playoff spot, they were predicted to win the USCL championship by only 4% of voters in a USCL poll (Boston received 28%; New York 14%). Indeed, many people predicted that Philly would be in the conference's basement (prompting tearful apology letters). Conversations with Team Manager Shahade have suggested that this, indeed, might be Philly’s greatest weapon – they are often sorely underestimated. Will Boston make the same mistake so many others have made this year?