Jonathan Papelbon created a media firestorm — with my help — when he said Philadelphia baseball fans are smarter than their counterparts in Boston. He was looking right at me when he said it, and I nodded. Because, of course, he was right.
Who could have guessed that Boston would react so outrageously to the comment, returning fire with shrill verbal assaults that proved the point? By the end of a busy week, The Boston Globe was defaming Philadelphia by rolling out a 2-year-old vomiting incident, and sports station WEEI was ripping little old me.
As someone who grew up 40 miles outside of Boston and covered both the Celtics and the Red Sox for years back in the 1980s, I can say with total conviction that Papelbon was correct in comparing us favorably to Boston.
The word Papelbon used during our interview in Clearwater last week that best described Boston and its passion for the Red Sox was “hysterical.” The fans treat victories like a sacred affirmation of their superiority, and losses like a personal insult. In close games, they clutch their hands together in prayer, or cover their eyes. These people desperately need to get a life.
We love sports in Philadelphia every bit as much as they do, but there is more balance in our approach, more logic. We are much more vocal negatively when our players fail us — just ask Ilya Bryzgalov — but we don’t react idiotically when someone offers a fair and honest appraisal. And sorry, newspaper nitwits, one stupid fan throwing up on an 11-year-old girl in 2010 has no bearing on this discussion.
If I have one criticism of Papelbon’s remarks, it is that they didn’t go far enough. The fans of our pro teams are savvier than those in Boston, or in any other North American city. Before my radio career, I spent 15 years in the U.S. and Canada covering teams in every major sport, and I’m not being a homer when I say Philadelphia has no rival.
That’s why, as I was sitting across from Papelbon and unwittingly started the controversy simply by asking him to compare the two cities, I was not at all surprised by the pitcher’s response. He spoke the truth, simply and concisely. To lessen the blow to Boston, he even added that it might be because our team plays in the more tactical National League.
I was highly amused when the morning-radio hosts at WEEI leveled an attack against me last Friday, suggesting that I had goaded Papelbon into the statements because of my own personal bias against New England. This is exactly what Papelbon meant when he called the people “hysterical” up there. If they had bothered to listen to the interview, they would know how absurd that accusation was.
In the past 15 years, I have been approached twice by WEEI to work the morning shift at that station, and I have rejected both overtures. Do I really need to tell you why? Because Philadelphia is a smarter sports city than Boston, that’s why.
Turner rising to occasion
Evan Turner may not be a bust after all. The No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft found his game just when it appeared that all hope for him had evaporated. How could this happen? I’ll tell you how. Coach Doug Collins finally accepted the truth about Jrue Holiday.
And the truth is that Holiday cannot defend the best scoring point guards in the NBA. Just check with Tony Parker (37 points), Derrick Rose (35), Deron Williams (34) and Brandon Jennings (33). Heck, even ancient Andre Miller scored a season-high 28 against Holiday. With Holiday and equally inept Jodie Meeks working in the backcourt, the Sixers were helpless against the better guard tandems.
Enter Turner, who is listed as the shooting guard in the new backcourt, but we know better. Turner not only plays a more tenacious defensive style, he is bigger and tougher when the play moves inside. He may be the best rebounding guard the Sixers have ever had.
Let me be the first to admit I had given up on Turner. Well, at least now the truth is emerging. Turner needs to play, and he needs the ball in his hands a lot more. That was the lesson of last week. Give Turner the ball on offense, and assign him the best scoring guard on defense.
No one can say for sure yet where this all leads for Turner, but one thought keeps recurring after his best week in the NBA. Is it possible, after months of lamenting the lack of a real star on the Sixers, he was here all along?
No Peyton in Philly
As usual, Andy Reid ruined all the fun. After one full day of blissful speculation, Eagles fans were informed, in no uncertain terms, that the coach would not be bidding for the services of
the best QB in the past decade, Peyton Manning.
Reid then added his usual insult to the occasion. He made it sound as if the decision not to pursue Manning was a no-brainer.
“We’re obviously happy with Michael [Vick],” he said. Reid didn’t specify whether he was most happy about Vick’s ranking as the 14th best quarterback in the NFL last season, or his 18 turnovers, or his three games missed because of injuries.
Has there really been anything about Vick’s performance in the past season and a half that merits the faith Reid is showing?
Imagine Manning checking off bad play-calls at the line, running an efficient two-minute drill or preventing the chronic squandering of timeouts. It’s not obvious that the coach needs help in these areas? Really?
Andy Reid is facing the most important season in Philadelphia, and already he is closing his mind. Signing Peyton Manning might just have been Reid’s last, best chance to save his job.
– 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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