I have been a lifelong, diehard Philadelphia sports fan as long as I can remember. It has not been easy, as my teams can truly test the mettle of a fan. We have had some wonderful, winning teams and even a few championship seasons. However, this past year has been a hard pill to swallow, even for an optimist like myself.

My Sixers made a blockbuster trade and obtained one of the top-three big men on the planet. He has yet to break a sweat on the court, and the team seems mediocre.

My fly-guys are all skating in Europe and playing for "bupkis" while risking injury.

The Phillies' season was gut-wrenching. At times they looked sharp and played fantastic, but for most of the year they were pathetic, and we just found our that one of our best players is lost to us for a good month to start next year.

And finally, my football team has become the laughingstock of the league and has hit rock bottom. The team should change its name to the Philadelphia Cupcakes and forfeit the remaining games.

A true fan should stand by his team even in the dark moments, but it gets harder with each passing season.

Dr J. is gray and shrinking. Schmidty is playing golf in Florida. Pete Rose is banned, and the Tugger is dead. Ron Hextall is drinking beer from the Stanley Cup in Los Angeles. Clarkey and Bernie are only memories. Concrete Charlie is about 80. Jim Johnson is gone. Brian Westbrook is on Comcast with Donovan McNabb, and Reggie and Jerome are playing for God's team.

Well, as my daddy always told me, "Not to worry, son. We'll get 'em next year."

LEWIS BRATSPIS

Northfield