Councilman a lucky charm for Philadelphia sports teams?

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Keith Hartzell shows he’s a loyal fan with series of murals painted on his home

Councilman Keith Hartzell gestures toward a Sixers logo, the newest of his four Philadelphia sports team emblems, painted on the exterior of his home in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue. Councilman Keith Hartzell gestures toward a Sixers logo, the newest of his four Philadelphia sports team emblems, painted on the exterior of his home in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue.

OCEAN CITY — Most people throw in the towel when their favorite sports team stinks. Keith Hartzell throws up a mural.

Starting in 2007, Hartzell, one of Ocean City’s three at-large councilmen, began answering anti-Philadelphia sports team sentiment with the first of four larger-than-life murals he’s had painted on the exterior of his home. The latest, for the Sixers, was commissioned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game on March 2, 1962.

“It’s become kind of a weird tradition and superstition,” Hartzell said of the history of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers logos that dominate the unassuming façade of his home in the 700 block of Asbury Avenue.

A permanent guest 1-2 p.m. Saturdays on “The Betson Connection,” which is broadcast on WIBG-1020 AM, Hartzell began taking heat for his “homerism” a year after he joined the radio program. The Eagles were 5-8 in 2007, on their way to last place in the NFC East Division, and callers to the show were displeased with both the team’s record and Hartzell’s unabashed rah-rah attitude.

“People were disgusted,” said Hartzell, whose daily wardrobe usually consists of at least two pieces of Philadelphia sports team apparel. “They couldn’t believe that I was still a fan. I decided, I’m a fan, I’m going to paint the emblem up. I’m going to paint an emblem up and show my loyalty.”

The emblem, painted – as all the logos were – by Kevin Murphy of Ocean Air Art and Design, went up and the Eagles went on to finish 8-8.

“Now, in my mind, I think I’m on to something,” said Hartzell, whose lifelong love of Philadelphia sports developed during his childhood, which was spent in Hawaii where broadcasts of Philly games weren’t available, but baseball cards were.

His parents returned to the Philadelphia region, from which they originally hailed, when he was in junior high school and he became an even harder-core Philly fan.

The year after Hartzell “assisted” the Eagles to a .500 record, the Phillies were suffering a losing streak. Hartzell, ever the cheerleader, said, “I was speaking highly of them, really energized, but everybody else was complaining. So I put the emblem up, and they go to the World Series. Well, they win the World Series in 2008. Once the team was written off, I painted the emblem.

“The superstition got stronger. People started asking me, ‘What are you going to paint next?’ They’re suggesting ‘How about this? How about that?’ I said it has to be slump.”

Fast forward to 2010. The Flyers were one game away from Stanley Cup playoff elimination, trailing the Boston Bruins three games to none in the second round of the Eastern Conference finals.

Hartzell ordered the team’s logo to be painted on his home, thinking to himself, “We’re going to make a comeback.”

“I’m not necessarily a hockey fan, but this team needed a comeback,” he said of his decision to give the logo a place of prominence on his abode.

The Flyers advanced past the Bruins, becoming the third team in NHL history to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0. They won the conference championship by beating Montreal and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost in overtime in Game 6 to Chicago.

With the logos of the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers taking up all the real estate on the front of his home, Hartzell had to relegate the Sixers logo to the southern side of his building. He said he doesn’t feel the ’76ers need his help at this point, and that the team is working at what he called “optimum level” with the talent it has. However, he viewed Chamberlain’s historic 100-point game noteworthy, and so ordered the basketball team’s emblem, making the Sixers the fourth and final professional sports team he plans to so honor.

He predicted his next logo will be for a college team, most likely Penn State for football or Temple or Villanova for basketball. Since Temple is the No. 5 seed in the Midwest region of the 2012 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, Hartzell may want to put his painter on speed dial.

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