For the first time in quite a few years, the Philadelphia sports scene is poised to enter the winter season without the warmth of optimism for any of our major teams. To make things even worse, ownership is deciding that the fan bases that virtually pay the athletes’ exorbitant salaries in this town are either inattentive, stupid, gullible, or all of the above. In any event, the goodwill that many of our local team owners and general managers have so effectively established over the past decade or more is now being slowly but surely dismantled because they are taking for granted the very source of their success.
To begin with, there are the Sixers. The optimism that had basketball fans in this city so enthused and excited about this season has turned on a dime. Despite the choice of a first-class head coach in Doug Collins and ownership members that interacted with the fans on an unprecedented level, the Andrew Bynum fiasco is now threatening to undermine all of that positivity. This is an ownership group that hyped the Bynum trade to the point that it invited fans to Philadelphia’s Constitution Center to greet the new acquisition. As a result, hundreds of fans showed up to cheer on the big man, and all was right in SixerWorld.
Now, months later, the perpetually fan-friendly ownership has vanished from the public eye, and the organization has all but written off the idea of ever seeing Andrew Bynum lace them up for this team at any time this season. Cryptic statements like “no timetable” and “go with what we have now” have slipped into the lexicon of Sixers’ brass, making both the fans and the media wonder aloud if this team knew we were getting back damaged good in the Andre Iguodala deal with the Lakers. The Sixers ownership should keep in mind that if they want to interact with the fans on a regular basis and ask for their input on a variety of issues, which they have in the past, then they should do the same when times aren’t so rosy and the questions are tough. Otherwise, the spectre of large swaths of empty seats at the Wells Fargo Center, which have become more common lately, will become a permanent fixture through the Spring, definitely not something to tweet home about.
The Eagles are the most egregious example of ownership ignorance, by far. The fact that Andy Reid and his coaching staff is still in power in the throes of a brutal losing streak and a downward spiral overall since 2008 is unconscionable. When the head coach isn’t flat-out lying to the fans and media, which he does with impunity, the GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie go missing whenever the heat is on, from either the media or the fans. This is a franchise that never owns up to its own horrendous decisions: Brutal draft picks throughout Reid’s tenure, the Michael Vick experiment, the promotion and eventual dismissal of Juan Castillo, just to name a few. The fans would have more respect for an organization that admits to at least a few of these missteps, rather than going into hiding as Lurie and Roseman have evidently done while the fans bear the brunt of another losing season. Lurie and company, like the Sixers’ brass, are extremely accessible when things are going well, or when Lurie in particular is giving his “gold standard” state-of-the-team address, which usually lulls both the press and the media into a coma anyway.
Again, just as the Sixers may be noticing the empty seats at the Wells Fargo Center, the Eagles, despite their perennially supportive fan base, should be wary of the plummeting ticket prices for the remaining games this season, along with falling price tags for Eagles merchandise. In addition, other than LeSean McCoy, who do the fans most relate to on this unusually unlikable team? There is no bond there as there was to the Donovan McNabbs, Brian Westbrooks, and Brian Dawkins of teams in the not-so-distant past. This can be directly attributed to the condescending, obnoxious and dishonest persona of the organization as a whole. The fans feel betrayed and bitter, and who can blame them? The fans and the media are tired of this organization’s act, that is one fact that both can agree upon.
The Phillies more than any other local team have probably built up the most goodwill over the past decade, by doing the one thing that the fans hunger for-winning it all. Their 2008 championship, 2009 World Series appearance and five straight NL division titles have provided this organization with an extremely generous benefit of the doubt when it has come to its decisions and overall performance. But these heady times may also be waning as well, especially after an abysmal season in 2012, which followed two early playoff exits, despite possessing arguably the best pitching rotation in baseball. To add to that misery, the team has so far been unusually quiet this offseason, while other teams have been making moves to improve their squads. The team is one of the oldest in baseball, devoid of speed with the recent loss of Juan Pierre, an outfield that is completely unstable, and no definitive third baseman. In addition, key players like Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley are all coming off of injury-shortened seasons. With no talented prospects to speak of, due to the past trades which brought them the current starting rotation, ownership is hopefully poised to make a major move along the lines of acquiring a Josh Hamilton or Giancarlo Stanton. Anything less would certainly not placate this fan base, whose patience at not getting another shot at a World Series ring is wearing understandably thin.
Ruben Amaro has never operated on a level of complete honesty with this fan base, but that fact has been offset by major moves that he has made each offseason, such as acquiring Halladay, Cliff Lee (again), and Jonathan Papelbon. Now that success has been fleeting as of late, the fans will show limited patience with any excuses Amaro or the organization will make should no big names be signed in the coming weeks.
Finally, there are the Flyers. Ownership cannot be faulted entirely for the events that have conspired to virtually eliminate most of this season, and most fans view the commissioner as the villain in this situation regardless. However, the mere fact that the Philly fans have been deprived of watching their beloved Flyers over the past couple of months in the face of the other team’s troubles only adds to the spectre of a long, aggravating winter.
The current condition of our major sports teams today is not the main issue, it’s the fact that ownership is not open and honest with the fans when their fortunes go south, or their decisions do not result in success. They have been behaving like fair-weather owners and GMs, and they would be wise to remember that this is not a city of fair-weather fans.Tags: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Andy Reid, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Donovan McNabb, Doug Collins, Giancarlo Stanton, Howie Roseman, Jeff Lurie, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Hamilton, Juan Castillo, Juan Pierre, LeSean McCoy, Lockout, lousy winter, Michael Vick, MLB, NBA, NHL, Philadelphia, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ruben Amaro, Ryan Howard, sports