Behind the Mic: Where Do I Sign?

In case you missed it, Saturday was the first day of NBA free agency and some rather large contracts were signed. The big names caused a big stir. Stephen Curry signed for $201 million (5 years); Blake Griffin for $175 million (5 years); and the 76ers got JJ Redick for a mere one-year $23 million contract. Curry’s deal was the biggest in NBA history and, it seemed to me, that it had to be one of the biggest of all time.

I knew there were bigger contracts over longer periods of time, but how did this one stack up on a per-year basis? I investigated. According to Wikipedia, only boxer Floyd Mayweather made more in a year than Curry – $72 million-plus in 2015. Kobe Bryant in his last year made $20 million. Five players in the NBA currently make more per year than Bryant ever did.

Is it justified? It would certainly be hard to argue the value of Curry or Griffin to their respective teams. Some things would seem to be obvious – they put people in the arenas; they therefore add to the concession dollars; they play up to their potential; and, most importantly, the owners think they are worth it. To me, that’s enough said. Unless the owners are willing to greatly reduce the price of a ticket (which they are not), I have no problem with the players getting a large piece of the pie that would otherwise go to the owners.

By the way, of the top 25 sports contracts on the Wikipedia list, 22 were signed by baseball players. Curry, Griffin, and Mayweather were the only ones to crack the list.

Where are the NFL players? This is interesting because when you look at their per-game paychecks from last year, they do just fine (not that anyone thought they were hurting financially). Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts made $1.4 million per game; Jay Cutler $1.1 million; Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers made $1.3 million. Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady is not in the top 125 considering overall contracts.

So what do we take away from this? These are very talented people who are, obviously, highly valued financially in our society, rightfully or wrongfully. They are making more money for an event or a season than almost every American household will make in a lifetime. When it comes to the concerns of most Americans – putting food on the table, clothing the children, the economy, worrying about Obamacare vs Trumpcare, or Medicaid and Medicare, most cannot relate to their income.

However, we also create their value by buying the expensive tickets, the over-priced beer and food, and their jerseys. When we say they are not worth getting paid what they make and then buy tickets to their games, we deflate our own argument.

Bottom line – in our society, we are all worth what someone is willing to pay us!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. Speaking of NFL contracts, Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will make $25 million this season, but that’s not the point here. In 2019, the Raiders will move from California to Nevada. California has the highest income tax in the nation and Nevada has no state income tax. Carr will save $8.7 million in taxes!
  2. Yankees’ rookie Aaron Judge has put up home run, RBI, and batting average numbers to warrant being named both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki are the only players to win both awards in the same year. By the way, Fernando Valenzuela is the only player to win the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same year.
  3. If you follow the PGA, you know that Phil Mickelson and caddy “Bones” MacKay split after 25 years together. Mickelson’s brother, Pete, will take on the caddy role. So what does MacKay do? He signed a multi-year contract with NBC/Golf Channel to be an on-course announcer. His insights should be somewhat different from all the former players who have become announcers.
  4. It’s not just our President who gets in trouble with his “tweets”. Rory McIlroy had problems this past week himself. Fellow golfer Steve Elkington suggested that McIlroy, with “100mill in the bank”, was so rich he is “bored” with golf and that is why McIlroy missed the US Open cut. McIlroy tweeted it was more like “200mill, not bad for a ‘bored’ 28-year-old.” He regrets that tweet and has turned his Twitter account over to his wife. Is there a lesson here for our President?
  5. Our “first-time ever” broadcast of the Men’s Senior Baseball League continues to get postponed due to weather. We will get it done at some point. But the Blue Mountain League Game of the Week continues on Tuesday, July 18, when the Orioles visit the Limeport Bulls. Watch at 9:30pm.

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 2)

Continuing our update on local summer time hoops in the Eastern Pennsylvania region, here are some interview clips and pictures (below) featuring various teams and tournaments in the RCN-TV viewing area.

 

Coming up on the July 6th edition of “SportsTalk” we’ll have local basketball coaches and instructors in studio to talk about the top summer basketball action so far and preview the second half of the summer Hoops season.

We’ll also be joined by ESPN Radio’s Devon Givens to recap the NBA Draft and to give his thoughts on how the DeMatha HS and Washington product, Markelle Fultz, will fit in with his new 76ers team.

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Also, check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” again soon and we’ll have additional updates and more interviews and video highlights of the summer league basketball action involving teams in the RCN-TV viewing area.

 

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down

One of the regular elements of the “RCN SportsTalk” program is that on each show, all of our studio panelists identify a person or a group of people in the sports world for doing something extraordinary (“thumbs up”) and calling out a group or individual for doing something excessively bad (“thumbs down”).    Most weeks, I don’t have much difficulty coming up with at least one “winner” to identify on each week’s show/podcast, but some weeks—like this one—I have a hard time trying to limit my choices to one, or even two.

I’m always interested in hearing what our viewers/listeners have to say and love hearing your feedback, and this week, I’d like to extend that invitation to you to help me figure out who is most deserving of these “honors.”

Here are the nominations…

“THUMBS UP” CANDIDATES
Washington Redskins
The rumors are that the Redskins, who had the number-5 overall pick a year ago will not be looking to make a big splash in this year’s draft.  Instead, the word is they’ll be looking to trade down to get more picks (we’ll have more on both the Redskins & Eagles draft options & possibilities on our April 21st “NFL Draft Preview Show.”   I like the idea of Washington continuing to accumulate talent and add capable bodies, in lieu of getting caught up in the hip of a “named” player and think the team is continuing to head in the right direction, fresh of their division title from a year ago.

Villanova Men’s Basketball
I put the Wildcats on here for several reasons…

Not just for the fact that they won a national championship.  Not just that they did it in dramatic fashion (for my money, the most exciting finish to the tournament, EVER).  Not just for the fact that they did not have any “big named” stars, but instead won with fundamentals, great team defense, an outstanding coach and a blue-collar, workmanlike approach in their victories.  BUT…they also handled themselves with class, before, during and after the game (unlike someone else—see below).  For more thoughts and comments on the Wildcats great run, check out last week’s “SportsTalk” podcast here .

Flyers
After some tough losses on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the team rebounded with a tremendous win over Pittsburgh to not only clinch a playoff berth, but to sweep a weekend pair of games (the second win was against the Islanders) and pay tribute to their owner Ed Snider.  Ed was one of the most passionate owners in sports and tried to do whatever it took to put together a winning team each year.  The gritty effort by the Flyers for most of the season, and especially this weekend, was exactly what that organization was all about for many years, with Mr. Snyder leading the way.   He will be truly be missed by fans, players, coaches and everyone surrounding the Delaware Valley region.

Phillies
As I stated in the above video clip (with a great response by ESPN Radio’s Eytan Shander), there were WAY too many Phillies fans that were panicking last week when the team lost its first four games of the season.  Again, it is a REBUILDING year.  No one—including the front office themselves—is looking at winning anything this season.  Take this year for what it is—the team has accumulated one of the deepest prospect pools in all of the major leagues.  It will be extremely unlikely that at least some of the young players won’t contribute at some point.  Patience is what’s needed here, and it is an exciting time to watch these guys develop, along with a few other somewhat interesting storylines (eg., how will Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz’s final seasons play out, will Darin Ruf earn a full-time spot in the future, will Cody Asche bounce back and more).  The team rebounded with two nice wins in New York and will have their share of well-played games.  But please, stop getting carried away over the wins and losses of this year’s team.  The record isn’t what’s important this summer…the maturation of their young stars IS.

HS spring athletes
I know it’s not uncommon for the scholastic spring sports athletes to deal with unreasonably cold temperatures and poor weather conditions for the first half of their sports season.  I have many memories over the last few years (and once again experienced it last Friday) of sitting in a chair in an open space, trying to make notes on games and capturing video (which is hard to do with gloves on) while the cold, gusty winds blow…to say nothing about what the athletes have to endure (hitting a metal bat is one of the most painful ‘regular’ experiences one can have in sports).  With frigid temperatures all last week and snow cancelling games the last few days, many sports programs are going to have a grueling schedule over the next month playing catch-up to get all their games in, and it’s truly not fun, even playing a sport you love, when the conditions are this bad.  However, our area young people will continue to battle and give themselves a chance to keep playing meaningful games—when the weather finally becomes more athletics-friendly.

*******

“THUMBS DOWN” CANDIDATES
Philadelphia 76ers Front Office
I’m still shaking my head trying to figure out what the heck happened to the “Hinkie process.”  Was this purely a Colangelo-family hostile takeover?  Was the organization strong-armed by the league itself to make a change?  Or was there another conspiracy theory that hasn’t gotten much attention, as we speculated on last week’s program.  We’ll try to get a better assessment of the front office changes and the future direction of the franchise on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” (live, 7-8pm, RCN-TV) as one of our guest will be Eric Goldwein (who runs the ESPN-affiliated site Hoop76.com) and also covers sports for the Washington Post.

Washington Wizards
Wow, what happened here?  Fresh off an impressive 2014-15 season and an optimistic-to-realistic chance to improve coming into this season, the Wizards fell flat and didn’t even come close to making a late run for a playoff berth—let alone not improving on their performance from a year ago.  There’s plenty of rumors as far as who gets the most blame (along with a CBS report of the players taking shots at each other).  Some long, hard questions will have to be addressed this off-season and the once promising future of this team, centered around the talented John Wall, is now very much in limbo.

North Carolina Men’s Basketball Fans
After losing the championship game to Villanova, the Tar Heel fans were so bothered by their upset loss, that they apparently lost their minds.  They are actually circulating a petition calling for the NCAA to reverse the outcome of the national championship because they questioned one of the referee’s calls.

Seriously?

North Carolinians couldn’t have just graciously accept a thrilling victory by the Wildcats and give them their rightful honor following a tremendous run in the tournament?  I know quite a few people that support the Tar Heels and really feel badly that some of their fellow-supporters tried to give all of their fan base a black eye for a tasteless attempt at redemption.

Chip Kelly
I still haven’t gotten over the way he gutted the team while harboring a nasty attitude towards just about everyone he came in contact with, then tried to take the ‘weasel’ approach after he left by saying he had nothing to do with the 2015 collapse.  I’ll probably keep him on this list for quite some time.

So, let’s hear it!  Who do you think deserves a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” the most?  Email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and hear us read and respond to your opinions on our weekly show/podcast!

The SportsTalk Shop: NBA Draft Preview – 76ers

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll take a look at the two NBA teams in the RCN viewing area and how they’ll approach this year’s NBA Draft, which will commence on June 25.

Today, a look at your Philadelphia 76ers.

#1:  “The #3 Pick Wasn’t That Bad”
I know fans of “the tank” were hoping the franchise’s record losses would result in a mammoth takeover by the Sixers in this year’s draft.  (The “#OneSixEleven” movement was trending before the lottery got underway last week).  However, the main objective of the team doing so poorly over the last few years is to secure marquee names.  In my opinion, there are really only three of these available in this year’s draft class (sorry, I’m not buying into the whole Emmanel Mudiay frenzy).  It looks as though D’Angelo Russell will be the most probable player left over after the number-one (Timberwolves) and the number-two (Lakers, as of now) picks are selected.  Adding a second (not likely) or even a third (barely even conceivable) top 11 pick would have shifted the Sixers’ rebuild into overdrive.  However, it is far more important to the philosophy in place that they gather another major name now, and then fill in with several above-average players in future years, either through future picks and/or trades/free agency.  In fact, I think it was more beneficial for Philadelphia to have picked up one of the three best college players in the country, rather than get two picks  beyond the top three or four selections.  Ignoring the pie-in-the-sky options and given the odds and the criteria of the NBA lottery, I think Sixers fans should be very happy with their team’s outcome with a number-three selection.

#2 “The MCW Trade Worked Out After All”
Regardless of whether you prefer Russell or Mudiay, the 76ers should be getting a premiere guard who can play either the ‘one’ and ‘two’ spot on the floor.  While the trade of last year’s Rookie of the Year initially rattled the “#InHinkieWeTrust” fan base, dealing Michael Carter-Williams is now looking like a very smart deal.  The 76ers will get their front-line perimeter player to go along with their bigs (Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and eventually Dario Saric) inside.  Eventually, Philadelphia will also get an additional first round pick (a 1-3 protected pick in 2016 and 2017, unprotected in 2018), which can enhance the team’s roster.  They also unloaded a player who will probably never have as much trade value as he had this past season, without really losing out on a few months of MCW’s services in what was a meaningless season anyway.  The team can look to take its first significant step forward in this rebuilding process, as long as they abide by point #3.

#3  “Don’t You DARE Trade THIS Pick”
At a time when the Philadelphia sports fans’ patience is being stretched beyond its reasonable limits, the Sixers fans have tolerated, if not embraced, the “Together We Tank” theory.  Record-setting losing streaks have not jettisoned the fan base.  In fact, I’ve seen a resurgence in 76ers fans’ passion lately, seemingly (and strangely) invigorated by the losing.  After weathering some minor drama following the MCW deal, the fans have continued to support the team despite radical decisions and some insane comments by the 76ers’ front office (don’t even get me started on the multiple reports of Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil’s “Ferraris in the driveway” abomination).

However, if Philadelphia passes up this opportunity to get a major name, whether it be Russell, Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor or even Karl-Anthony Towns, this region will boil over with disgust.  The prospect of another full season of NBA D-League retreads occupying a majority of roster spots without a prominent name to join Noel and Embiid to start the season would destroy all the positive mojo that has been building over the last couple of seasons.  Public opinion (not to mention Head Coach Brett Brown) would rail against this regime if they trade away their highly placed pick this time around.  The 76ers made out well in the numbers game with the lottery, and have put themselves in a situation that would make it nearly impossible to NOT improve for the 2015-16 season.  A “trade down” would, at best, slow down the resurgence, and it could take years (and maybe millions of free agent dollars) to get a starting guard at the caliber available to them.  After several questionable, albeit seemingly positive moves, an incorrect decision leading up to June 25 could be disastrous for both the short-term and long-term goals of the organization.

Who do you think the 76ers should draft with their number three pick…and do you think, if Towns or Okafor become available, Philadelphia should pick up another ‘big’ and then swing a deal for a guard?  Email us your sports opinions anytime at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune into our next live “SportsTalk” show, on Thursday, June 4th at 7pm.

The SportsTalk Shop: The End of the Innocence

The End of the Innocence
Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world….

But “Happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

–Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence”

This song came to mind the other day following a conversation I was having with some of our RCN-TV crew members about, strangely enough, the Philadelphia 76ers. At that time, there were rumors about potential deals the Sixers could make, and one of the more prominent ones discussed included Jeremy Lin coming to Philly. During our debate, one person said that Lin might be the best available player to help the team this year—to which I quickly jumped in and said that they’re not looking to acquire him to help the team win this year. I explained the, uh hem, logic, behind the philosophy that the 76ers don’t want to improve this year. In fact, having a significant improvement this season could set the franchise back years. Let me explain…

For folks not familiar with the peculiarities of the NBA salary “cap,” the 76ers are trying to peel away as much money as possible to try to clear cap “space,” so that they have funds down the road (aka, 3-4 years from now) to acquire big name talent. The flip side of that is there is also a salary “floor” where the team must spend a certain amount of money to avoid paying a penalty. What the Sixers are trying to do is find the most expensive (overpaid?) player(s) they can find to help them get to the salary minimum, but make sure they don’t acquire enough “quality” players so that the team struggles again this season and has a better chance of a lottery pick next summer.

The benefit of acquiring Lin or an expensive option like him (he has since gone to the Lakers) is that they could pick up a player with a big enough contract so that they wouldn’t have to add additional players to get to the salary floor. The Sixers are looking to avoid bringing in additional “better” players because higher quality players mean the team would win more games—which is clearly not something they want to do. To put it another way, the team would rather bring in one slightly better player with a huge contract (like Lin), instead of having to bring in, say, three quality players making less money to avoid running the risk of winning more games.

To people who are not familiar with this new, ‘unique’ strategy, this approach to building a sports franchise may seem somewhat bizarre. Yet most Philly sports fans have accepted and even embrace the “together we build” mantra and are perfectly willing to be successfully bad for the near future (although I don’t think some fans realize just how long this may actually take). If successful, it will probably be the mold that other teams use for years to come.

In full disclosure, I have basically been on board with this strategy from the beginning. Sure, I did a double-take when the team traded away their only premium piece in Jrue Holiday last year. And I certainly had to catch my breath in last month’s NBA draft when the team selected injury-riddled Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who, if he plays for the 76ers at all, won’t be available until 2016. But when I stopped to consider “the plan” the team adopted, it all seemed to make perfectly good sense.

Until I said it out loud.

Is this really what professional sports is turning into…and what exactly are we grooming the sports fans of the future to accept?

If my son was a Sixers or pro basketball fan—which he is not—how exactly do I explain this “anti-winning” strategy to someone under the age of 16, and have it make enough sense to get them interested in the sport? Should we encourage our young people to ignore badly played basketball for the next two to three seasons because we really don’t want to win anyway? Do we put the parental control lock on the Sixers for three years until they become something worth watching? Or do we follow another team and show examples of how well they play only to then “bandwagon-jump” over to the 76ers when (if) they start having a winning season? This is the Delaware Valley after all, and the proposition of the third idea disgusts me.

In the meantime, the young people in Eastern Pennsylvania will find some other things of interest to them…the Eagles, Flyers, video games or what have you. Hopefully, they’ll somehow find a way to get excited about the sport of basketball and learn about the excitement of the sport by watching some local high school and college teams. And IF the team is good by the 2017-18 NBA season, possibly the novelty of a winning pro basketball team will attract older kids back to the sport.

Or perhaps we need to start teaching kids about all the business aspects of sports before we tell them to work on their free throw shooting or teach them how to figure out players’ rebounds-per-game averages. Maybe it’s time to sit our young people down and say that, while winning is stressed, and sometimes, over-stressed, at the lower levels, there are certain situations when it’s OK if we don’t go all-out and try our best to succeed.

Perhaps we should be having more adult-type conversations on how the modern sports world is evolving, and cut back on teaching sports fundamentals, the histories of our favorite teams and simply, having fun with games.

Maybe it is the end of the innocence.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: 4 Spring Observations

Most weeks, when I sit down to write my weekly blog, there’s one issue or topic that rises above all others, making my writing discussion decisions rather easy. However, as I sat down to started brainstorming (insert your own jokes here) about which topic to delve into this week, I found myself getting pulled in a few different directions. So instead of an in-depth commentary on just one issue, I have thoughts on four topics of conversation going on in the Delaware and Lehigh Valley areas.

1. The Flyers DO have a chance to advance.
I’ve been riding an emotional roller coaster with this team all season. From the coaching change early in the year…to weeks of spectacular play…to Craig Berube calling out his players for lackluster play right before the playoffs commenced…I really wasn’t sure what to expect for the Flyers’ postseason. I was leaning towards a Flyers series win over the Rangers in six games, but then I heard the ominous report on Steve Mason and was skeptical of any advancement. However, Ray Emery’s 31 saves in net on Sunday gave me and all Flyers fans hope and, just as importantly, tied the opening round series at one game a piece. Unless the Flyers sweep at home, they would have to win at least one more game at Madison Square Garden (Sunday’s victory was their first at MSG since 2011). However, the way Philadelphia was skating in game two and the quality shots they’ve been taking has made me a believer in this team, and I think they can win the series in seven games.

2. The weather is severely affecting the high school baseball season.
I know, the weather has made a mess for everyone over the last five months. During any given week, practice schedules change numerous times, game planning sessions are drastically shortened and young athletes are playing games at a rate in which the professional sports’ unions would be protesting in earnest if it was suggested they play a similar schedule. It hasn’t been fun for all the scholastic sports. However, in high school baseball, rules limit the amount of innings a pitcher can throw in a given week and the weather does give bigger schools and teams with more pitchers an inherent advantage. With most teams having to play four, five or even six games in a seven-day stretch, there are teams that simply don’t have enough quality pitching to compete. It addition to an uneven playing field, the games themselves are also affected. A “regular” pitcher may throw the first five innings of a game, but then may reach his innings limit, forcing someone who normally doesn’t pitch into emergency duty. The result? A 2-1 pitchers’ dual turns into a 15-13 slugfest (and then games that run too long might be cut short because of daylight issues early in the season). It’s not a fun way to play, but the local coaches and athletes have done their best under horrible circumstances.

3. It wasn’t pretty, but the 76ers’ season came to a merciful end.
It isn’t often that a professional sports team can guarantee how their season will unfold and then deliver on its promise. Armed with the “together we build” mantra and the preseason objective of trying to lose on purpose in order to enhance its lottery draft chances, the 76ers tied an all-time record for consecutive losses this past season. After stunning the world with a season-opening win against the Heat, the season quickly went south and the trade-deadline purge helped push the franchise to all new levels of futility. Ironically, their season closed out with a pair of wins – against Boston and a short-handed Miami team.

There were a few bright spots on the court: Michael Carter-Williams delivered some tremendous single-game performances and looked like he can run the point when/if the team ever makes a playoff push. Amongst the rubble of this horrific season, Henry Sims emerged as a serviceable big man who could be a key man off the bench for the team going forward. Tony Wroten also had more good games than bad, and role players like James Anderson and Hollis Thompson gave gritty performances throughout the season. The upcoming NBA draft will be key for the program to move forward, but even with a good draft, the Sixers will probably not be any better than a 30-win team one year from now.

4. High school lacrosse is finding its niche in Pennsylvania.
After becoming a sanctioned PIAA sport several years ago, the sport of lacrosse is gaining momentum. I have announced scholastic games in New Jersey where the sport has been around for decades. At many schools in the Garden State, lacrosse is as popular as basketball, wrestling or even football is at Pennsylvanian schools. While it will probably never ascend to that level in this state, the quality of play has drastically improved in eastern Pennsylvania. Most existing programs now have little trouble getting enough players to complete a quality team, and the skill level is definitely better than the first few seasons when lacrosse was labeled as a “club sport.” Finances and low enrollment numbers will keep many schools from starting a lacrosse program for the foreseeable future, but for the schools that have a team, the game is fun to watch and will continue to get better with improved competition.

How do you feel about some of these issues? What other sports events going on now should be discussed? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com to continue the sports conversations!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: The Art of the Tank

 

It’s been a curious season for the Philadelphia 76ers. New General Manager Sam Hinkie initially drew sharp criticism because of his limited amount of “media time” he presented fans when he first came to the City of Brotherly Love. That bitterness soon turned to optimism once he started his plan for the future for his NBA team, which brings us to today’s topic.

Tanking.

First of all, let me be clear about this. On a recent “RCN SportsTalk” show, a fellow disagreed with me in stating the 76ers were tanking. I don’t think the players are trying to lose, nor are they doing anything on purpose to keep the 76ers from winning games. This is not a point-shaving issue. This is about Hinkie putting the Sixers in a situation when they have very little hope of winning games, so that they improve their chances of getting a higher pick—and better players—in the draft for the next few seasons.

Hinkie unleashed his strategy with a vengeance when he traded his only All-Star caliber player, Jrue Holiday, on Draft Day 2013. He has continued his game plan by trading nearly every player making significant dollars, which not only enhances the team’s propensity to lose, but also clears cap space so that the team will be able to —one day—sign quality free agency to compliment the players the team selects in the draft.

The 76ers also seem to have handled the marketing nightmare of trying to attract fans and season ticket holders during a period in which they are unabashedly trying to lose—and lose royally. They adopted the slogan, “Together We Build”, and even the team’s announcers have done an admirable job of dismissing the monstrosity of what is happening on the court, with promoting what the future may hold DURING their game broadcasts.

This artistic strategy to reboot the franchise was fully embraced by the Delaware Valley area. Every few years, whether it’s the Sixers, Phillies, Eagles, or, to a much lesser extent, the Flyers, the call inevitably rises for a team to “blow themselves up” and start over. Phillies fans have been asking/hoping/praying/demanding for this for some time, and unless the Spring Training results are a complete aberration of what’s to come, they’ll probably be correct in assessing there will not be any postseason games played in Philly this fall. From time to time, a team–if they’ve failed miserably in their retooling effort—must start anew. Last summer, and even through the majority of the 76ers season, the fan base has celebrated this strategic approach to completely gut the team, in an effort to be good three, four, or even five years from now.

Alas, all is not cozy among basketball fans in the Delaware Valley.

Apparently, the 76ers have been too successful—at losing.

There’s now a growing minority of fans that have now seen enough of the horrific defeats. The Sixers have failed to cover even the most gargantuan of line spreads to some of the other weaker teams in the NBA. Plus, the fact that this team is setting all-time records in futility is now starting to irritate die-hard basketball fans. This past week, the team shattered a franchise record for consecutive losses and few would dispute the team has an excellent chance of breaking the league’s consecutive-loss record of 26 set by the Cavaliers in 2011.

There also seems to be some surprise when we as journalists are asked by fans if we expect the team to make the playoffs in the next two years and I, and others, say “no way.” The art of “tanking” is not a guaranteed process, and it will take time—AT LEAST three years, minimum. And even then, you need the team to draft wisely—for every draft pick. Plus, you need to find a way to entice quality free agents to come to a situation that requires a player, who only has a handful of seasons to play this game, to show patience. You need to avoid injuries, you need chemistry to magically develop among the new players, and a little bit of luck is also a requirement. And even then, there’s no guarantees the team will win a championship.

Meanwhile, blogs, websites, tweets and columnists are all having fun with the plight of the lowly Sixers, and “#Winless for Wiggins,” and “#LowSeedForEmbiid” have been trending anytime the team is in the news. Talk show hosts are beginning to hear their audience saying “enough is enough” of all the lackadaisical play, and I’ve heard more than one fan echo, “We really don’t have to be THIS bad, do we?”

My response to these people…isn’t this want you wanted? In fact, Philadelphia fans have been begging for a demolition of your sports teams for years. As soon as a team peaks, or shows very little promise for the next season, the fan base’s instinct is to call for a complete overall of the franchise. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, nor the level of recent success a general manager has had. The call for a MAJOR overall of the 76ers has been requested…and granted, and the Sixers organization has brilliantly executed that strategy. Fans, like it or not, have gotten exactly what they asked for.

Remember this, when the Phillies are eight games under .500 in mid-May.

Are you on-board with the Sixers’ “tanking” this season? Which players would you like the team to obtain via the draft and free agency? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us Thursdays live at 6pm on RCN-TV as we discuss local, regional and national sports issues each week.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Evan Turner

Kudos to the RCN Marketing Department for staging a coup for us!

They arranged for an exclusive one-on-one interview with the 76ers’  staring forward and the former 2nd-overall draft pick Evan Turner  for us, and the interview came on the heels of the Sixers announcement that they FINALLY named a head coach! (Watch Evan’s reaction below when I ask him about the long process).

Before we talk about the on-the-court issues, I asked Evan about (and give him credit for not ducking those questions — including the one on his own future with the team as he’s in his last year of his contract), a quick word about Mr. Turner and his camp. I’ve been to a number of camps with pro and former pro athletes, and I was very impressed with the way that Evan conducted himself with the youngsters. He genuinely seemed interested in the kids and spent TONS of time talking with them (one youngster must’ve had his ear for at least 25 minutes). He never blew anyone off, answered everyone’s questions, and never once—even briefly—acted like he did not want to be there.

He spent time working on drills with his staff (his supporting coaches also really seemed to do a great job), and had some fun with them during individual drills (the kids, of course, loved it when he dunked). It was very nice to see an NBA star be very humble and very accommodating to his fan base. Over the last few years, we’ve gotten a number of people who say they no longer have interest in the NBA. We’ve had more than one viewer call it a “thug league,” based on some of the athletes who bring guns into locker rooms and wear gangsta clothing while on team trips, et al. I myself have never had an issue with a 76er player or a member of their organization (I covered them regularly for four years), and was happy to see that Evan did nothing to divert that opinion.

As far as the interview, we listed a few of the questions below, with the rest of the interview to be show on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show at 6 pm and on RCN On Demand for your viewing pleasure.

What do you think of the 76ers off-season moves, the hiring of Brett Brown as head coach, and Evan’s future with the team? Do you think he’ll ‘step-up’ with the new regime, or should the team “tank” for a higher draft pick? Post a comment below and email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll address your comment/questions on our next program (our Aug. 22nd show will also include beat writers discussing the Eagles/NFL issues, the Phillies & Charlie Manuel’s departure, and high school sports preview features).

 

Is this the best time of sports year? – The SportsTalk Shop – March 4th

Is this the best time of sports year? Andy Williams (ask your parents about him if you don’t know who that is) may disagree, but if your sports-interests cross over many different areas, it’s hard to find a better several weeks of the calendar year than the time period we’re currently in – especially in the Eastern PA region. Consider:

  • If you’re a Flyers fan, this is traditionally the time of year in which you start to get your line rotations down and start looking forward to potential matchups for the post-season. The Flyers are also quick to try to tweak-and-improve heading down the stretch run. Things are never dull when you’re talking hockey this time of year in the Delaware Valley region.
  • Spring training is a time when hope springs eternal. Whether the Phillies are looking to return to the post-season, or hoping for a miraculous turnaround, the exhibition season is a time when you’re technically in first place for a month, you have younger and/or journeymen players hitting .400, mop-up men with ERA’s under 3, and areas where the “what ifs” of an organization show glimmers of hope that your team could actually be in the hunt for the playoffs. Even when the current core of all-time Phillies greats succumb to Father Time, and a World Series appearance is not a realistic outlook, spring training, at the very least, gives us a look at what’s to come—even if it’s just to grow envious of the people in short-sleeve shirts and shorts.
  • We may not have a perennial #1 team in the NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournament, but the Big 5 is still one of the greatest city battles in the country. We’ve been blessed by having some great teams offer us some exciting runs in March Madness, from Mark Macon’s Temple team getting to the Sweet 16, to the outstanding guard play of St. Joe’s in the Big Dance a few years ago, to the hard working Liberty HS grad Darrun Hilliard, now establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with at Villanova, as the Wildcats look to continue knocking off some of the top teams in the nation. And let’s not forget the efforts of a team from Bethlehem just about this time a year ago making some national news by slaying the mighty goliaths of Duke. The beauty of the structure of league tournaments & March Madness gives even passive basketball fans a rush of excitement by seeing your local teams, whether you’re from that school or not, beat a couple teams this time of year.
  • Unless you covered the 76ers in the 1990s (like I did) and used this time to hope for horrible play (and often got your wish) for a chance at more ping pong balls in the lottery, this is also an interesting time of year. If the team has had any kind of success, you’re looking to make a push for the playoffs and maybe surprise some people with some upset series victories (as the Sixers did last year and again in 2001). Even when the team has hovered around or slightly below .500, there’s usually a few interesting storylines, young players to watch, et al to keep your interest and give us some semblance of hope for the following season.

So what do you say? Is this the greatest time of the sports year or not? Hey, even football fans have those involuntary “voluntary” camps sprinkled in and also previews of potential draft choices to chomp on right now. Let us know via email at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and/or post a comment below, and we’ll see what is YOUR favorite sports season.

The SportsTalk Shop – February 4th

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

That might just describe the state of Philadelphia pro sports right now. With the Flyers (as of this writing on 2/4) mired in last place in the Atlantic division, the 76ers six games under .500 and out of the top 8 playoff spots, and the Phillies coming off an off-season in which they did not acquire a “big name” power bat, following a season in which they finished out of the playoffs and a very mediocre 81-81, it’s easy to be pessimistic.

Those are the bad numbers … now, let’s check out the other side.

First, the Fly Guys are currently just 2 points behind the Rangers and 3 points away from the last playoff berth with one of the most aggressive front offices in all of sports. You know they will make moves (for better or for worse) to try to ride the ship and improve some areas in need of strengthening, especially help on the power play. They’ve also had more than their share of injuries and you can hope that would balance itself out with other teams, especially with the very aggressive four-games a week schedule teams have to endure because of the lockout. And about that condensed schedule, it does make it easier for a quicker reversal-of-fortunes than in normal years. Given continued solid performances by Ilya Bryzgalov in the net, a “hot” week or two could give the Flyers a 10 to 12 point bounce which should calm the anxiety of some of South Philly’s most loyal fan base.

The Sixers, of course, have their big man Andrew Bynam soon to make his long-awaited debut in Philly. He will certainly need time to adjust to his teammates and the new offense, but maybe the team doesn’t need him as much as fans think—at least right now. They certainly need a reliable — and consistent — presence in the paint. But even at 10 to 14 minutes a game to start will help with the team’s depth up-front. I also think his return will light a much needed fire under some other members of the frontcourt (see Spencer Hawes & Lavoy Allen) that have shown flashes of solid play, but not on any kind of regular basis. The team has been gelling better of late with all the new pieces to this year’s team. If their play improves, it will allow Bynam time to get his legs back to as-good-as-its-going-to-be condition for the playoffs, at which time he will have to step and deliver his much need his in-close to the basket skills.

And for the Phillies, who open spring training on February 13th, it is true that Ruben Amaro Jr. spent less money this offseason than the majority of other teams in baseball. He did, however, address every need the Phils had, albeit with some very questionable players. But his moves give the Phils some extra depth that he didn’t have last year at this time. For example, if Dom Brown slips again going after a routine fly ball and breaks his wrist, John Mayberry again can’t establish plate discipline until July, or Delmon Young develops an affinity for Tony Luke’s cheese steaks, the team does have a young stud in Darin Ruff, just chomping at the bit for a chance to bring his big bat to the Bank. The Phillies also have a multitude of options for the bullpen—the candidates for the remaining roster spots NOW have some big league experience. And if all of the options for the corner outfielders and third base positions fall apart and/or if health issues once again crop up for Halladay, Utley and/or Howard, Amaro still has an ace card to play. The team is roughly 7-million under the cap, and the team didn’t go over the luxury tax in 2012, meaning the team can go over in ’13 and not be penalized too harshly. With free agents-to-be like Utley, Halladay, Ruiz and others coming off the books at the end of this season, it wouldn’t surprise me if a big addition would be made during the year, if the team needs one.

Do you think any of these teams and make run for the postseason, and which teams have the most upside? Post a comment on our blog here or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us for the hottest local and national sports conversations live on Thursdays at 6pm on RCN-TV. Don’t forget, Villanova and LaSalle surprised us with some rays of sunshine over nationally ranked teams a few weeks ago. It isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility that the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies all make the playoffs this season…even if optimism’s not burning brightly here on these cold February nights.