One of the first lessons of writing a sports column is not to take personally the actions of the people you write about, even if those actions are infuriating. I have broken that rule more than once in my career, and I’m going to break it again right now. I don’t like Sam Hinkie.
Now please understand that this is not the dislike a person feels if a stranger steals his car or insults his wife. No, this is not personal in that way. It is simply the visceral reaction of someone who has worked for three decades in the Philadelphia media and for a quarter-century talking to fans every day on the radio.
Last week, after 14 months of self-imposed silence that included even the night of a much-anticipated draft, the Sixers GM finally fulfilled a major part of his job — speaking to the customers. He gave predictable answers to many questions about his farfetched rebuilding plan, but he also revealed an arrogance that is intolerable in a passionate sports city like Philadelphia.
The most revealing moment came when a reporter asked him why he doesn’t make himself available for questions as frequently as most other GMs.
“That’s not me,” he said.
No one was bold enough to point out that his job description requires communication with the media — the fans — but soon thereafter he went on WIP radio and actually appointed himself a spokesman for the very people he has spent a year aggressively avoiding. Without a hint of irony, he declared that Sixers fans understand and support him.
How would he know?
As someone who actually talks to these people every day on the same station, I concede that there are some optimists willing to give Hinkie the benefit of a very big doubt. Many more, however, see him for who he really is — a totally unproven sports executive with absolutely no regard for the fans.
Hinkie has picked an occupation that demands – even encourages – public scrutiny, and he has chosen not to participate. Three of his four top acquisitions have not played a single minute yet in the NBA, and two won’t for another year or two more. Meanwhile, Hinkie is not taking questions.
At 63, I see Sam Hinkie as a threat to the Philadelphia I moved to half a lifetime ago because it was a demanding sports city that embraced only the worthy. On the day I arrived here, the Phillies fired their manager. The team was in first place at the time. I fell in love.
Hinkie wants to change that world, alter that reality — at a time when we made international headlines by booing NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for three straight minutes. Well, Sam Hinkie doesn’t get to make the rules in Philadelphia. He refuses to recognize that he’s damn lucky to be working here.
And that’s why — on a very personal level — I don’t like Sam Hinkie.