Romancing the Sixers — for now
The 2012 Sixers are reminiscent of the Oscar-winning movie “Titanic.” They are thoroughly engaging and often exciting, but we all know how it’s going to end. They’re going to slam into an iceberg and sink.
If there was any genuine hope that they could steal a championship in this lockout-shortened NBA season, it was demolished Friday against a real title threat, the Miami Heat, at the Wells Fargo Center. Miami has now beaten the upstart Sixers by 20 and 21 points, home and away, with and without Dwyane Wade. Miami is better. A lot better.
Even a win over Atlanta on Saturday (and another over the reeling Lakers last night) didn’t change the impression that the Sixers are not the miracle New York Giants of the NBA, and this leads to an interesting question about Philadelphia and its bottom-line sports fans: Can we remain in love with a team that we know — absolutely know — cannot win it all?
And make no mistake; this city is in the first blush of a romance with its basketball team. Attendance is skyrocketing, and TV ratings are already approaching a 10-year high. Especially appealing is the blue-collar, underdog nature of the club. They have won by outworking opponents, actually showing determination on the defensive end of the floor.
The only real personality on the club is straight out of central casting. His name is Doug Collins, approaching 60 now but still as aggressive and indomitable as he was when he helped lead the 1982-83 Sixers to their last championship. Collins is the anti-Andy Reid — honest, self-effacing, even funny. When he was asked last week what he’s been saying at halftime to spark his team to huge third quarters, he quipped: “I’ve been married for 40 years, and I haven’t inspired my wife yet.”
But is good good enough for fans who still remember the Phillies parade of 2008? Is a second-round playoff ouster enough progress for one year? Does a team like the Sixers, with energetic new owners, need only entertain us this season, not provide hope for the ultimate celebration?
The answer is yes, to a point. The novelty of this unexpected reawakening by a dormant franchise is bright and fresh, so we can shrug at a crushing defeat or two. But history shows that our lust soon turns to contempt.
At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon — never my intention, but often my fate — I hereby warn the Sixers and their impressive new owners that this honeymoon won’t last forever. They’ll be lucky if it survives the current season.
The Sixers are going to need something more than great buzz if they want to win back our love for more than a few fleeting weeks. They’re going to need some better players.
Phillies relying on old heads
Is Geritol a performance-enhancing drug? If it is, the Phillies may be in serious trouble. Their acquisitions of Chad Qualls, 33, and Juan Pierre, 34, were the latest in a stunning commitment to the old and the over-the-hill. The Phils are not getting better; they’re getting older.
Don’t forget that before this latest wave of senior citizens, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had already signed Jim Thome, 41, and Ty Wigginton, 34. Add to those new names Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cliff Lee (all 33), Roy Halladay (34) and Jose Contreras (41), and what you have is the composite age of a slow-pitch softball team.
Domonic Brown is the best example of this negative trend, a much-praised prospect who has produced next to nothing. He will be 25 next season, and has a .236 average and seven home runs in 246 at-bats. Still, he remains the best young player in the system, the tallest midget in the circus.
The Phillies, unofficially, are the oldest team in baseball. The bats cannot go silent the way they did last year. The starting pitchers must fight age for one more year. For the Phillies of 2012, this may well be their last chance to win it all.
Birds fans not fooled
An amazing and ominous thing happened right after Andy Reid broke his 30-day silence and talked about his most disappointing season. There were no cries of anger, no threats of boycott, not even a quiet murmur of discontent. No one cared.
This apathy is a new twist in Reid’s 13-year tenure, and the most compelling sign yet that the fans are through with the coach, even if his bosses aren’t. On the morning after Reid’s kinder, gentler — but no more revealing — news conference, callers on my WIP show were far more interested in talking about the Sixers or even our silly Wing Bowl.
The last sustained outpouring of calls on the Eagles happened five weeks ago today, when owner Jeff Lurie announced his decision to bring Reid back. Since then, no issue has connected with the fans, including Juan Castillo’s return, GM Howie Roseman’s vow to remain competitive, or even DeSean Jackson’s impending free agency.
Fans have checked out and Reid’s evasiveness provided no reason to return. Calling Castillo “a great coach” after five blown fourth-quarter leads didn’t win Reid any attention, nor did his mixed messages on the four-game winning streak at season’s end or the recent failure of his drafts.
Yes, Reid smiled more, never resorting to his tired tradition of snapping back at reporters. But it’s too late for a change of manners. The silence of the fans was a clear indication of that. The only thing that will truly revive the interest of Eagles fans now is a change of coaches.
– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
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