An average joe runs his mouth

If Joe Banner was trying to steal the spotlight from the Phillies as spring training opened, the Eagles president completed a successful media blitz. No one is talking about the Big 4 anymore. They are talking about Joe Banner.

During an interview on WIP, Joe Banner compared favorably his Eagles — a half-century without a championship — with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have six Super Bowl victories and two in the past six years. The Eagles have made it twice, and lost both times, in the past 45 years.

“We’ve been to five championship games in the last 11 years,” said Banner. “They haven’t. We’ve been in the playoffs the last three years. They haven’t. At the same time, the ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl and they’ve been more successful at that particular part than us, so I don’t look at them and say they’re really smart and they’re really good, and we’re not.”

Banner’s comparison to the Steelers came in the middle of a week in which he openly mocked the work of two-time championship coach Mike Shanahan, dismissed criticism of the hiring of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo as “predictable,” and seemed for the first time to connect a championship to Andy Reid’s job security, before claiming the next day that he was misrepresented.

So, what should we learn from this experience? First, Banner should never appear as the voice of the franchise. He is so completely out of touch with the fans, he should find someone who doesn’t insult them. And second, he needs to get a clue about his team.

The Eagles are not in the same stratosphere as the Steelers, and they will not be until they win at least one Super Bowl. Success in professional sports is defined by titles. Yes, the Birds are contenders. Yes, they make a lot of money. But in a city like ours, winning it all is what truly matters. Just ask the Phillies.

More alarming, at least to me, is the implication of that Steeler comparison. Delusional thinking like this can happen only in a hermetically sealed world where hard, cold facts are treated like a transmittable disease. It is no secret that Banner has never had much tolerance for dissent, but it is clearer than ever that he surrounds himself with an army of bobble-headed yes-men.

Well, here’s a potent little slice of reality Banner will never hear from his minions in the NovaCare Complex: After all these years, Andy Reid is no longer seen as the biggest obstacle to the Super Bowl. That distinction belongs to Joe Banner.

Sleeping at the mic

Something extraordinary — and appalling — happened last week in the midst of the resurgence of the Sixers. Their rookie color TV commentator, Eric Snow, fell asleep during a broadcast.

Mark Zumoff, the play-by-play announcer, is heard asking Snow: “Are you meditating?” Snow replies: “I was trying to stay awake. Some people, you know they kind of wear on you. … They make you a little sleepy.”

It’s hard to imagine what is more alarming: the fact that a broadcaster would act so unprofessional, or that it was Eric Snow. In his playing days, there was no one more professional than the steady-handed point guard on the beloved 2001 Sixers team.

So what happened? It’s really not that complicated. Snow doesn’t play basketball anymore, and clearly he doesn’t take his new occupation that seriously. I have worked with former athletes for years in radio, and there is a transition period from the glory of playing the game to the daily grind of working behind a microphone.

What Snow will learn — if he survives this embarrassing blunder — is that his new job will require the same commitment as his old one. When you commit a turnover in basketball, you lose the ball. When you screw up like this in broadcasting, you lose your job.

Changing attitudes

Months before the first pitch of a new season, the Phillies are already a huge hit. On the first day for the sale of single-game tickets, a total of 70,000 flew out of Citizens Bank Park. Lines ran all the way down the street on a cold, winter day in February.

How popular are the Phils? Well, they passed the 3.3-million mark in tickets sold for the 2011 season, about half a million ahead of the pace for last year’s first sold-out season. Those 3.3 million are the third-highest attendance total for any season in team history.

The better tale is how the Phils accomplished a feat that would have seemed impossible as recently as 2002, when they averaged less than 20,000 per game. The crossroad came in 1998, when the owners realized that Philadelphia is a major sports city requiring a major financial commitment.

Phillies president Dave Montgomery said that abandoning the self-defeating philosophy that Philadelphia was a small-market franchise because of its proximity to New York was the true turning point. From that decision arose a brilliant new stadium, a parade of top free agents, a revitalized farm system and — exactly one decade after the change — a world championship.

–Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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