There is intense excitement in the air.

The Philadelphia Eagles are in the NFL divisional playoffs this coming Sunday afternoon at 4:45 (FOX 29) against the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field.

For a city with a passion for its sports teams, there are high hopes for the new year of 2004.

The goal is the Super Bowl in Houston, but that is two difficult victories away just to get there and then one final touch to capture.

Philadelphia fans are so hungry for a championship and a huge parade down Broad Street. The Eagles have not won a football championship since 1960 against, you guessed it, the Packers. That means 43 long years of frustration.

In fact it has been 20 long years since Philadelphia had any sort of champion in the four major sports of football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. The 76ers were the last team to win one back in 1983 when they swept the Los Angeles Lakers.

The drought is one major reason fans are holding their collective breath this time around. They are taking each game one at a time because they have suffered so many major letdowns so often.

Plus, there has been so much adversity this year for head coach Andy Reid, his staff and the players. There have been injuries galore. Yet, the Eagles have overcome them and other shortcomings to reach this stage.

But for a team that reached the NFC Championship game the last two years before falling, the time is now. The window of opportunity is short in the day and age of free agency and salary caps.

This team could undergo a major facelift after this year, including the possible loss of some quality assistant coaches like defensive wizard Jim Johnson and offensive leader Brad Childress for other coaching opportunities around the National Football League.

Even the casual sports fan becomes caught up in the frenzy. With all the troubles people have, they look to their sports teams for enjoyment and entertainment to escape from their everyday problems and worries.

Young and old are caught up in the hysteria when a professional sports team succeeds. It is the happiness involved with a scholastic team winning an individual or league, district or state championship carried to the ninth degree.

Some businesses thrive with people seeking memorabilia, souvenirs and sports team apparel, in this case that of the Birds, as keepsakes. People are in a generally happy mood and some gather at sports bars and restaurants to watch the games on television.

This scenario is obviously good for business.

"Fly Eagles fly, on the road to victory..." You will continue to hear the theme song a lot during these happy days and maybe for the next few weeks.

* * * *

The Gladiators captured the Phoenix Lanes Fall Senior League bowling championship with a 23-9 record. They beat out Gary's Angles, which closed at 22-10, by one game.

They were followed by 4 Old Broads at 18.5-13.5, U.S.A. 18-14, Ghosts 17-15, Good Guys 17-15, Youngsters 16.5-15.5, New Champs 16-16, Hopefuls 15.5-16.5, Road Runners 15.5-16.5, Up Starts 15.5-16.5, Go Getters 14.5-17.5, Nascar 12-20, Optimists 12-20, Strikers 12-20 and Free Spirits 11-21.

Last week's high scores belonged to Sam Gutchen (284, 597), Bob Faulkner (239, 653), Reggie Lee (239), Tom Harper (181), Sandy Lawrence (514) and Mary Choiniere (227, 629).

Barry Sankey covers a variety of sports as a staff writer for The Phoenix. He can be reached at bsankey@phoenixvillenews.com.

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