In the inaugural "Top 5" here on SBNation Philly, we're taking on a big and potentially controversial topic... the top five most popular athletes in Philadelphia. These aren't necessarily the top five most supremely talented guys, but you don't get to be one of the most popular guys in town if you aren't pretty good...
5. Mike Richards - Earlier this season, he may not have made this list. You had writers and anonymous sources questioning whether he should be the captain and whether Chris Pronger was wielding more influence in the locker room. After the Olympics and after this postseason, no one is asking those questions anymore.
Why? Well, the short answer is that Richie plays like Clarkie... In the span of a few short months he won an Olympic gold medal, played a key part in the Flyers hanging onto a playoff spot, and through sheer effort led the team on it's improbable run through the Eastern Conference onto the Stanley Cup Finals. His cheeky smile as he hoisted the Prince of Wales Trophy and whisked it off into the lockeroom is an image we won't soon forget. We won't soon forget Richards either, who is signed here for another decade. He's the Flyers' captain, one of the best defensive forwards in the league, one of the team's top scorers, he plays the power play and the penalty kill, and he centers the top line. Flyers die-hards have known how good Richards was for a while, but after this year the rest of the city does as well.
Actually, the ladies who hang out in Old City probably already knew him as well...
4. DeSean Jackson - A year ago, or six months ago it actually would have been difficult to pick from among the Eagles who is more popular in the city. In fact, any list of the top five most popular guys in town would have undoubtedly been populated largely with Eagles like Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Jon Runyan, and Brian Westbrook. That said, among this new look Eagles team there's one obvious star. DeSean Jackson. Not only is the self proclaimed "D-Jacc" easily the Eagles' most visible and well known player nationally, he's also their most potent weapon. A threat to score as a WR, punt returner, and even a runner last year Jackson was the first player to be named as a pro bowl starter at two different positions. He also tied the record for the most 50+ yard TDs in a year. He's active on social media, he's not afraid to talk, and perhaps most importantly he plays wide receiver in a town obsessed with the WR position.
TAFKAMB over at Liberty Ballers said of Jackson "He's officially become a stud with the million or so 50+ yard touchdowns last season, and is virtually unstoppable in the open field. It remains to be seen how he'll perform without Donovan, but the Kolb-McCoy-Jackson-Maclin-Celek youth movement is certainly spearheaded by the lightning fast Cali boy."
3. Ryan Howard - Chicks dig the long ball. Dudes do as well. Actually let's be honest, everyone does. Few people in baseball and few people to ever wear a Phillies uniform hit the long ball better than Ryan Howard. He strikes fear in the hearts of opponents. No one looks away when he's at bat. He was the first player in Citizens' Bank Park history to hit a ball all the way to Ashburn Alley. There's a few reasons why CBP is filled every night, not the least of which is because people want to see Ryan Howard swing the bat. The guy is a star in every sense of the word and at least so far he seems to be the standard bearer for power hitters in the post steroid area.
His resume really speaks for itself. Rookie of the year, NL MVP, NLCS MVP, two-time All-Star, two-time NL HR king, three-time NL RBI leader, Home Run Derby champ, and of course "World F-ing Champ." He owns the Phillies single-season HR record and was the fastest player in MLB history to reach 200 home runs (actually he owns 13 team or MLB records). He's also one of the surprisingly few local athletes with a national endorsement contract.
2. Jimmy Rollins - Is he the best Phillie of this golden era? No. Has he done anything this year? Not really. Have I broken from my fellow Philly area bloggers to put him on the list? Yes. Does he belong here? Yeah, and let me tell you why.
Jimmy is in a virtual dead heat for the title of longest tenured Philadelphia athlete. Eagles' David Akers and Flyers' Simon Gagne made their debuts in late 1999, while Jimmy first played for the Phils in 2000. Over the past decade he's collected 3 gold gloves, 3 All-Star Game selections, a silver slugger award, the NL MVP and a world championship ring. He is the leader of this golden era of Phillies baseball and is also probably the most charismatic guy on the team. He talks trash and he backs up it, which only endears him to fans more. In 2007, coming off a year in which the hated Mets won the NL East Rollins proclaimed his Phillies squad "the team to beat" in the division. Not only was he right, he did everything in his power to make it right that year winning the NL MVP, flirting with Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, and becoming only the fourth player to ever have at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 HRs, & 20 stolen bases in a year. That 2007 season really was the catalyst of the World Series and all the goodness that followed.
He is the quintessential "Talk the talk and walk the walk kind of guy" and the biggest personality on the team. He's not a jerk though... as evidenced by his efforts to bring baseball to young African-American kids and of course his annual Basebowl event. Plus, who could forget this moment?
1. Chase Utley - There's probably three words that best sum up why Utley made this list. The unassuming Utley, who isn't the most charismatic personality in the clubhouse was an odd candidate to utter arguably the most famous phrase in recent Philly sports history.
Yes he's a perennial All-Star, he's clutch, he co-owns the record for homers hit in a world series, he does it with the bat and the glove... He's charitable... But "WFC" is why Chase is No. 1
So there's your top 5. I'm sure there will be disagreement which I'd love to hear. Did the Phillies "holy trinity" deserve to dominate the top 3? Should a Sixer have made the list? You tell me...