I see no villains here.

Watching this as an ex-pat Philadelphian is a bit like going to an elementary school classroom on the day they learn about the Revolutionary War … only the classroom is in England. Rebels and Loyalists? They’re called patriots and tories people, and you’ve got the good guys and bad guys mixed up.

I see no controversy, no bullies, no bad guys. I see a bunch of people who realized that, if that was the way the game was going to be played, then that’s the way they would play it. I see heroes, people whose names and faces I still recognize 36 years later.

I see a big ol’ pornstached brick wall that might as well have been built in front of the net, god bless him, a captain that would have pushed you out a window to win a game, and a full-blood Indian sharpshooter who could take the ash off a lit cigarette at 50 yards. I see a couple defensemen who protected them so they could do their jobs, lest the other teams break their bones. I see a bunch of guys that I love fiercely, who hated to lose more than they wanted to win.

I remember the parade, I remember my mother banging on the bottom of a saucepan with a spoon to celebrate the first cup victory, I remember Gene Hart coming apart at the seams and Kate Smith singing, I remember The Wink — and my father immediately stating that we would see that little bit of film for the next 20 years (he underestimated), and I don’t care if “everyone else” hates them. Fuck everyone else. We’re not everyone else. If they hadn’t played the way they played, they would have gotten destroyed … and were … and where were the lamentations then?

I remember once when I was in college. I had posters of Rick Tocchet and Dave Poulin on my wall, both from my other favorite Flyers team, the 1986-87 crew who gave of themselves so valiantly. One little pissant who was in the room one time took exception to them. I wouldn’t even have to ask Ed Snider to guess where the little ferret-face came from — St. Louis, of course. Calling the Flyers “animals” with such a superior sneer in his voice. I told him to blame his own team, because St. Louis created them, so why shouldn’t they have gotten bitten by the animal? (This genius also thought that “gays should all be lined up and shot because the Bible says it’s wrong.” Funny how the Bible’s injunction against killing didn’t faze him. He wasn’t exactly the jumpingest bean on the griddle.)

Don’t talk to me about villains. There’s no controversy there for me. Nothing but warmth and love. If you’re not from Philadelphia, you have no idea what they mean to us. Those guys are loved like family, and they walk on water as far as we’re concerned.

Except Bernie. Who walks on lava. While juggling chainsaws.