Philadelphia was recently voted the third worst sports town in America. The rankings were the “work” of an online gambling web site who won’t be the beneficiary of a citation let alone link in this space, but you can make book elsewhere we are justified in considering the source. Among the factors used in determining the rankings were the decidedly quantifiable number of championships won by professional sports franchises in a given city and, you guessed it, the exceedingly subjective rating of the behavior of local fans. In the latter case, the people behind this particular list noted that Philadelphia fans were “alcoholic rageaholics”, an affliction that should send substance abuse therapists and local barkeeps to their dictionaries (OK, not the barkeeps) to bone up.
Some myths die hard and the legendary rowdy behavior of the local sports fan is one of them. I will resist beating that dead horse again.
On the other hand, the lack of championship trophies and parades on Broad Street are a matter of public record. Regrettably, it doesn’t appear the totals will increase in the near future.
The Eagles, so close a mere year and a half ago, are now a mediocre team as their 4-3 record attests. Their weaknesses are numerous on both sides of the ball and, more critically, on the sidelines themselves. Coach Andy Reid, a good judge of talent before the games begin, is a rotten administrator when it comes to play-calling and time management. It isn’t as though the final minutes of either half sneak up on Andy; he just doesn’t seem to know what to do when they arrive. Presumably, he runs his charges through two minute drills; the question is, who runs Andy through his? Maybe he should take a cue from the Phillies and hire more ex-head coaches for his staff. Suffice it to say the love affair with Andy is all but over in this town. You know that to be the case when the press, bloggers, cab drivers and hotel doormen all mimic his “This one’s on me” post-game mea-culpas.
Meanwhile, across the street things are even worse if that can be imagined.
The Flyers may be the only organization since the Arizona Diamondbacks hired and fired Wally Bachman within forty-eight hours to give a three-year contract extension to their coach only to fire him a few weeks later. I guess owner Ed Snider knows he is on the hook for that one.
Snider wasn’t done with that dismissal, however. The bigger one was his acceptance of GM Bob Clarke’s “resignation” a face-saving affair for both parties. Clarke admitted to being burned out, but the sad truth is that he just couldn’t adjust to the changes taking place in hockey. A lot of folks believe Clarkie couldn’t let go of the bruiser mentality that marked the Flyers when he was a player, and that was his undoing. Unlike his counterpart across the street, however, Clarke was not a particularly astute judge of talent, especially if that talent was born in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union. That change in hockey has been going on for a long time, but Clarke was slow to catch on and would probably still like to stick to drafting and acquiring only players with Canadian or US passports.
Clark also had a penchant for acquiring players who had great records against the Flyers, a factor that should have weighed lightly in trying to build a winner. Clarke was also known to trade away players, regret the decision, and try and reacquire them (which he did more a few times if memory serves). That kind of second-guessing has no place at the top of an organization.
Snider could never forget the young Bobby Clarke, who helped bring the neophyte owner of a then-new franchise not one but two championships and parades in successive years in the mid ‘70’s. (Without those titles Philadelphia might have been number one in the poll under consideration.) That debt had been paid many times over by the time the account was finally closed last week.
The prospects for the other occupants of the Wachovia Center are equally dim as the Sixers prepare for another season under another local hero, Mo Cheeks. Poor Mo. He means well and is probably a competent coach, but it is hard to tell when he simply doesn’t have the talent to work with. Not only is he saddled with an aging veteran forward with lousy knees and a crappy attitude in general, he had to stand by all summer and endure rumors that his other marquee player and the face of the franchise for what seems to be forever, was going to be traded at any minute. Did the Sixers try to trade Allen Iverson and find no takers or did they simply believe no one was willing to offer enough in return? The guess here is that they realized for better or for worse that Iverson was the only draw this team still possessed. Did the Sixers believe fans would turn out to see Samuel Dalembert lope up and down the court or the aforementioned veteran with lousy knees show up for fan appreciation night in civvies?
The other burden Cheeks must carry, though no one would necessarily put it this way, is his General Manager, Billy King. For my money King holds the distinction among GM’s in this town of being the worst judge of talent and least capable horse trader of them all. Even had Ed Wade remained in town, King would hold that distinction, no mean feat.
Finally, of course, we have the Phillies. Brace yourselves, sports fans, because the Phillies may just be the best hope to break the long string of local failures. I am not predicting they will win it all next season, but with a few crucial pickups they should finally make it into the post-season, an achievement that only an online betting site would fail to count as a major triumph!