Thursday, March 01, 2007


Man does not live by metaphor alone...fortunately. The unlamented Chris Webber was quoted in this morning's Inquirer as saying this about his new teammates on the Detroit Pistons, "It feels really good to be with a group of guys you can trust and go to war with."

Guess what, Chris, basketball can be very rough, but it ain't war. Just ask the guys in Iraq.

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Word out of Florida is that Brett Myers would be willing to go the bullpen in a pinch. Bad idea on many levels but let us just choose one: wrong temperament. Here's a guy who has a history of rattling when the game isn't on the line.

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In one of the boldest challenges yet to Bud Selig's idiosyncratic rule over the dominion of baseball, at least two prime abusers of supplements, Mssrs. Bonds and Sheffield, have both announced they will not cooperate with George Mitchell's investigation. Bonds refusal came via his hired mouthpiece who insisted his client will not answer questions while still under threat of an indictment by a grand jury. Sheffield, speaking for himself, labeled the investigation a "witch hunt". The guess here is Selig will back down rather than evoke executive privilege for "the good of baseball" as one of his predecessors put it. Everyone knows he just wants Bonds to go away. As for Sheffield, let's just say the Commissioner is not about to tinker with the newest member of the Detroit Tigers just when that franchise has finally become a contender again.

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The Philadelphia 76ers may be the best bad team in recent NBA history. First, they stink up the league despite the presence of two superstars. Then, they trade one and buy out the other in an attempt to right the ship. Instead, they continue to lose but a little less often. Next, some of their remaining youngsters combine with a few of the newcomers, step up and assume command as the team reels off a couple of good wins only to get blown out in a couple of bad losses. And so it goes, one or two up, three or four down. Finally, they beat one of the best teams in the league, which had an incentive to play well as it tried for a record fifteen straight wins against Eastern division teams on the road. (Small matter that the Suns went after the record with two starters out with injuries.)

Their coach, beloved as a player here in another era, has struggled in his leadership role and his mentor and an ex-76er coach is waiting in the wings.

All the while, people wondered if these Sixers didn't realize their up-and-down play was jeopardizing the number of balls they'd have in the upcoming draft lottery.

Frankly, I am impressed with some of this team's players for the first time in memory. They could have laid down and quit a long, long time ago but fellows like Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver and Andre Miller have underscored what it means to be professional.

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On the other side of the Wachovia Center, however, we have the Philadelphia Flyers, who are just plain horrible. Every time there is a glimmer of hope for this once-proud franchise someone else goes down with a terrible injury or someone else plays a miserable game (especially in goal) and whatever little momentum forward has been generated slides downhill faster than Sisyphus. Anything that could go wrong has; anything that might go right does not. There are so many holes to fill on the ice and off it would take another miracle on ice to straighten things out.

If one player epitomizes the mess this club is in it is goalie Robert Esche. Once considered the future of the franchise in goal, Esche probably first wore out his welcome when he spoke candidly during the lost season of a few years ago. Then, his outspokenness, a rash of injuries and Bob Clarke's notorious misjudgment of talent and human nature combined to put Esche in the doghouse. With the acquisition the other day of Martin Biron, Esche's days in Philadelphia are clearly numbered.

There has been such a revolving door in the Flyer's locker room the last few seasons, one wonders if anyone will notice Esche has departed. One thing is certain: the Flyers could save time and money by handwriting the name plates of players on tape when placing them above the stalls.

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