You’re getting soft, Philadelphia. I write these words with great reluctance because this is the city where I chose to live, the one place in America that didn’t tolerate disrespect from its sports heroes — no matter who it was.
Mike Schmidt — baseball’s greatest third baseman — treated you with disdain for many years here, so you booed him. Yes, even Mike Schmidt.
But you’ve decided to look the other way when sports figures fail you, lie to you, treat you with less honor than you deserve. You see no evil when Chase Utley sneers at questions about his knee injury, you speak no evil when DeSean Jackson refuses to give you a minute of his valuable time, you hear no evil when Chris Pronger tells you his broken hand is not your concern.
There are so many sacred cows in Philly, you should open a farm. Yet every time I point out the arrogance of our stars — every weekday on the radio — where once there was rage, now it’s a shrug.
Mike Richards took a “maintenance day” just before the start of the playoffs. The only thing he maintained was his contempt for the fans. We still don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t the head cold he begrudgingly revealed. In his eyes, you don’t deserve to know the real story.
Even more irritating was Pronger’s parrying over the condition of his broken hand. Pronger is the best leader in hockey, maybe in all of sports. And he isn’t playing the most important games of the season. Why? “It’s none of your business,” he said. The next call I take slamming him for that obnoxious answer will be the first.
Utley has been stonewalling questions about his knee for two months. You praise his consistency. DeSean Jackson does a weekly interview on Comcast SportsNet via computer because driving to the studio is inconvenient. You admire his use of alternate media. Jeff Lurie hides from reporters all year. You understand. After all, the Eagles’ owner is busy. He’s a billionaire.
What none of the sports figures realize — and what you have forgotten — is that they are all privileged because of you. Your loyalty to their teams, your willingness to pay for the honor of cheering for them, is the basis of their wealth and their celebrity. Without you, they are just Chase and Chris and DeSean. They are nobody.
It is very rare that I criticize fans because I realize their passion has given me the best job I’ve ever had. But this isn’t the tough sports town that it was 10 or 20 years ago. So, here’s one voice in the wilderness lamenting a legacy that made us different, that made us better. You’re getting soft.
From No. 1 goaltender to Siberia
Imagine for a moment that you’re Sergei Bobrovsky, a 22-year-old goaltender who has been No. 1 all season. Today, on the morning of Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs, you’re not No. 1. Or No. 2. In fact, you will not be dressing.
Peter Laviolette has made many bold moves as Flyers coach, but nothing is more fascinating — or dangerous — than his current machinations. After benching Bobrovsky in the final game of the regular season, the coach did it again in Game 2. There are no immediate plans to use him again.
Is this the right way to treat a rookie who won 28 games and then held the Sabres to one goal in Game 1? For today, yes. But the long-term implications are harder to predict, especially for someone dealing with the culture shock of his first year in a foreign country.
What it says about Laviolette is that there is no tomorrow. He’s trying to win now, even if it means damaging the psyche of a promising player. In the space of 12 ugly minutes last Saturday, Bobrovsky fell behind Boucher and Michael Leighton. Seven shots and three goals is all it took to move him right out of the playoff picture.
In his four seasons of Russian hockey, there is no record of Bobrovsky ever being sent to Siberia. Well, he’s there now.
Iguodala must go
The first two games of an already doomed series vs. Miami have established one fact for the Sixers: Andre Iguodala must go.
He has been an enigma from the day he arrived, a rare star with no position and no personality. He has flirted with greatness — especially in moments featuring his undeniable athleticism — but these feats were always followed by far more dramatic disappointments.
Now, there is no argument left about his role on a winning team. He has none. At a time when he is the highest-paid and longest-tenured Sixer, he has failed miserably. One number is all it takes to end all arguments about Iguodala — nine. That’s the number of points he has scored in the first two games of the playoffs.
Iguodala isn’t strong enough to play forward and cannot shoot well enough to play guard. He cannot compensate for his shortcomings with dynamic leadership because he isn’t a leader at all. He is a relic of a lost era in Sixers basketball, the years after Allen Iverson left town. Iguodala will always be the other AI, the lesser AI.
The Sixers worked all year for the chance to make it back to playoffs, where they will be pummeled by the Heat in four (maybe five) games. All will not be lost, however, if Sixers management gets the message it has been avoiding for years: Andre Iguodala must go.
–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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