NBC Philly has covered Philadelphia sports for decades and we have been hard pressed to remember a story as unique as this one. The city of Philadelphia is often regarded by those in the know as the most knowledgeable and loyal sports cities in the U.S. and arguably the world and with that comes expectations. Even though the last 30 years of professional sports seasons in the city have been met with far more heartbreak and disappointment then championship parades (only 3 championships across all sports during that time) that hasn’t lessened the fan base’s passion for winning, in fact it’s only served to heighten it.
Those aspects weren’t lost on the owners of the MML Blitz expansion franchise that kicked off its inaugural season just 8 weeks ago. The McClelland Sports Group (MSG) were acutely aware of the sports culture in the city and why it felt like such a perfect match with the unpredictable and violent nature of Blood Bowl that gets played in the Blitz league. Even the team name of the “Taligate Bullies” was paying respect to two different traditions. The first being the right of passage of pre game tailgates consisting of hours of beer guzzling and eating before fans enter the stadium to cheer on their team. The second part of the name harkening back to the “Broad Street Bullies” of the 1970s that captured back to back Stanley Cups and generally beat the living hell out of the rest of the NHL. Those teams still walk on water in the city and prove that aggressive, blue collar, hard hitting, in your face style of play capture the fanbase’s attention like no other so expectations within the organization were high.
It was a rocky start however, as the Bullies went 0-1-1 in their first 2 games including a soul crushing series in their first game where star QB Sirion Bullseye failed to pick up the ball on back to back attempts and then failed to avoid a tackle of a 3 foot halfling leading to a tie that felt like a loss. Looked like it was the same old story for a Philadelphia franchise outside of just a few small pockets of diehards. Then it all changed….
The Bullies went on a 4 game winning streak to vault into playoff position and Rarth the Blackheart became a cult figure in the city. His propensity to cause mayhem and destruction on the pitch grew into legend as he racked up 12 casualties while causing multiple deaths of opposing players whipped the drunk, blood thirsty crowds into a frenzy. Not to mention his Twerper feed became a viral sensation with posts of his “kill” list before each game, pictures of him sharpening his claws, and videos of him partying with tailgaters and slamming multiple beer bongs before walking in the stadium for the game and decapitating someone. There hasn’t been a figure that this city embraced more than the Blackheart since Rocky.
In the last regular season game all hopes seemed to be dashed as the Bullies got bludgeoned 2-0 by the Ghrond Bellboys and Rarth was knocked out of the game and placed into concussion protocol meaning he would miss the next week’s game if the Bullies made the playoffs. As things played out the team did limp into a playoff berth, literally and figuratively, but with their physical locker room leader sidelined for the game they entered as massive underdogs. More than 600 TV down they were by far the largest longshot of the first round with all major experts picking them to lose and lose handily with the exception of Howard Overkill-sel. He predicted a tight game with Sirion Bullseye completing a long pass to Ted Berry at some point that would swing the game.
Well he looks like a genius right now because despite all the odds that’s exactly what happened! A tough hard fought game ran into OT tied 1-1 when an opening occurred at midfield as the ball was fumbled barely within range of team captain Sirion Bullseye. He was able to reach the ball, pick it up and throw it nearly across the length of the field to an uncovered Ted Berry who waltzed into the endzone capping one of the most improbable wins the city has ever seen and one of the biggest upsets in Blitz playoff history. It has made them the talk of the town across blogs, fan sites, and sports radio with the “us against the world” attitude suiting the city and fans like a glove.
The semi-final game, no matter who it is against, will be the most anticipated game for a franchise in its first season in the history of the city. When Rarth the Blackheart was reached for comment about the upcoming game, his first playoff game after having to miss the quarterfinals, and what his prediction for the game was he simply answered….”Pain”.