In his 14 years here, Andy Reid never grasped the responsibility an NFL coach has to the fans. Chip Kelly already understands the bond. That’s why Kelly stood there in the middle of the Wells Fargo Center at 7:40 a.m. last Friday and offered an official hello.
“Yo, Philly!” he bellowed from the floor of the arena, triggering a response that buckled his knees. And so began the new relationship between a city starved for a championship and a football lifer who wants it even more.
Chip Kelly gets it. He realizes that many of those 20,000 fans at Wing Bowl will also be in the seats at Lincoln Financial Field, will also be wearing high-priced team apparel, will also be cheering when the Eagles win — and yes, booing when they don’t.
I know exactly what the cynics are thinking. Kelly found a way to silence the loudest critic in the sports media (umm, me) by the simple gesture of traveling down Pattison Avenue and spending a couple of minutes at a silly wing-eating contest. These naysayers think my support can be won that easily. And, of course, they are correct.
But the doubters are also missing the point, that Kelly cared enough about the fans to make an effort Andy Reid never saw as important. Oh, Reid lavished praise on the zealots who filled every seat for every game. He just never figured out that a few hollow words, usually delivered during the euphoria of victory, were not enough for a city that deserved so much more.
Kelly’s appearance at Wing Bowl was his idea, not mine. He brought it up in our first conversation after he was hired, saying he wanted to attend because Wing Bowl “is the second most important bowl in Philadelphia.” Yeah, right, I thought. With all of the half-dressed women and disgusting eaters? Fat chance.
The truth is, I never bothered to pursue the idea. It was Kelly, through the Eagles’ PR staff, who contacted WIP and meticulously planned it in a way that would avoid any embarrassing situations. (In other words, no photo ops with girls in bikinis, no stepping over drunks, no vomit, etc.) The new coach went out of his way to be at Wing Bowl because he thought it was important.
Winning my favor wasn't his goal. He is smart enough to realize my support extends only to his first mistake, his first bad loss, the first dumb comment. My reactions tend to be knee-jerk, with emphasis on the latter word. He has done his homework. He knows that.
Chip Kelly was at Wing Bowl because he wanted to acknowledge how important the fans are. And for the first time in 14 years, the coach of our football team actually believed it.
Say goodbye to biggest fraud in sports
The worst thing about the outcome of the Super Bowl was that Ray Lewis left as a champion. Despite a month of nauseating hype and a memorable final night in New Orleans, Lewis should be remembered as the biggest fraud of the past generation in sports.
He is a devoutly religious man only when it serves his agenda. He is the worst example of a look-at-me era in sports, a charlatan espousing teamwork while pushing aside his fellow players for his solo on center stage. And he still has a shady past on which he chooses to shed no light.
Only an egomaniac like Lewis would expect not to be asked last week about murder charges he faced after Super Bowl XXXIV. Two men were killed in Atlanta in 2000, and Lewis ultimately pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Lewis lashed out last week when asked about the incident.
“Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,” Lewis said.
He compounded the infraction by later telling CBS that “God never makes mistakes,” implying that the two victims deserved to die. After the victory, he boldly declared that God chose to support the Ravens over the Niners in the Super Bowl.
The great irony in Lewis’ obnoxious behavior is that, at 37, he is a terrible football player. The Ravens won not because of the one-time superstar but in spite of him. Goodbye, Ray Lewis. The sports world will be a better place without you.
Remember the good times
The end of the NFL season is never a welcome time, but this year promises more despair than usual. Until the Phillies open their season on April Fool’s Day in Atlanta, our city is looking at 55 days with only the Sixers and Flyers to entertain us. And they both stink.
Please pardon the brutal appraisal of our winter teams. I would have found a more eloquent term, but neither club is worth the trouble. The Sixers posted back-to-back wins last week against awful opponents, prompting coach Doug Collins to predict his players are finally coming together. Yeah, and I’m beginning to resemble George Clooney.
Until Andrew Bynum actually plays a game, there is no reason for hope. The rest of the team is Jrue Holiday and a bunch of inconsistent non-entities. And Bynum revealed more of himself than he intended when he said it “didn’t really matter” when he returned.
The Flyers are even worse. Not only do they lack any offense, especially on the power play, but they can’t make it through a game without someone on their already shallow roster getting hurt. At one point last week, nutty goaltender Ilya Byzgalov actually gestured to his teammates to calm down. Ilya Bryzgalov, team leader. Can the Flyers sink any lower than that?
Here’s my best advice for the avid Philadelphia sports fan in the winter of darkness that awaits us: Live in the past the way I do (2008, 1983, 1980, 1975, 1974, 1960). Remember the good times.
And remove all sharp objects from your house for the next two months, just in case.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» The Eagles raised ticket prices by $10 last week. Billionaire owner Jeffrey Lurie carefully analyzed the situation after a dreadful 4-12 season and concluded that he just wasn’t rich enough. Like he said last month, he sure does love the fans, doesn’t he?
» Sports Illustrated gave Ruben Amaro, Jr. a “D” for his work in this offseason. Hey, I know I’m in the minority here, but the Phillies GM gets a solid “B” from me. He solved third base with Michael Young; fixed the eighth inning with Mike Adams and added a gazelle in center field, Ben Revere. Not bad at all.
» LeSean McCoy needs to stop Tweeting immediately. His public squabble with two girlfriends last week was an embarrassment to him and to the Eagles' organization. Hey, LeSean. If you’re actually that big of a jerk, we’d rather not know. OK?
» Bravo to Marshall Faulk, the Hall-of-Fame running back who publicly ripped the New England Patriots for cheating him out of a Super Bowl victory 11 years ago during the Spygate era. Isn’t it time for the Eagles join the chorus for the larceny of 2005? Or is it just a coincidence that the Pats haven’t won it all since they got caught?
» Allen Iverson would like to join the Sixers as a “consultant,” according to his spokesman. No one has said what he would be offering advice about, but it’s definitely not how to end a basketball career gracefully.