Joshua Harris and Adam Aron came to town, defibrillation paddles in hand, and brought the Sixers’ corpse back to life. The new owners are everything the old owners weren’t: People who care and have an actual plan.
Even more interesting was what their debut revealed about the owners we already have: likeable Dave Montgomery, outdated Ed Snider and elitist Jeff Lurie. Billionaire businessman Harris and resorts entrepreneur Aron unwittingly said a great deal about all of those owners and, in so doing, a great deal about themselves, too.
The new management face is Aron, who grew up in Abington immersed in the world of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and the greatest public-address announcer ever, Dave Zinkoff. Aron can rattle off Zinkoff’s old lines effortlessly, and he doesn’t need much prodding to do it. The CEO and co-owner is one of us — a fan — with two Harvard degrees and an undefeated record in business.
The first thing Harris and Aron did upon their arrival was to slash ticket prices on almost 9,000 seats, some by 50 percent or more. If they had rented a neon billboard calling the previous owners clueless, the message wouldn’t have been any clearer. Comcast and Ed Snider are gone, and so is the clueless way they ran the Sixers.
Less tangible, but just as impressive, was the way Harris and Aron took a page from Montgomery’s manual and built an immediate bond with fans. They made their new ownership about the people, setting up a website (www.newsixersowner.com) where fans have direct contact with the bosses. They even reached out for advice from former president Pat Croce, a man who knows more about fan bonding than anyone.
In the process of their introduction, Harris and Aron showed us a quality that we undervalue in the high-stakes, cutthroat world of pro sports. They showed people skills, something the Phillies have in abundance and something the Eagles don’t have at all.
During separate interviews with Harris and Aron, I pinned them down on their accessibility to fans. Specifically, I asked them if they’d be as available after a five-game losing streak as they were last week. They both said they would be, but then proved it by adding that it’s their responsibility to talk to fans. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ bosses, Lurie and Joe Banner, remained unavailable for a seventh straight week.
Two days after that impressive debut, talks broke down in the NBA lockout. For the first time in memory, I actually gave a damn. I’m disappointed that we’ll have to wait longer to see the new Sixers. Congratulations to the new guys for starting to make us care again.
Don’t buy into Birds hype
An alarming thought occurred to me last week after reading and hearing about how the Eagles had saved their season.
The general theme after a shaky 20-13 win was the Birds would be fine, that they had survived the premature demise of their promising season.
What if the Eagles won that game not because of their newly redesigned defense but because of the dreadful performance of Rex Grossman? What if the Eagles are spending this bye week deluding themselves into thinking they’re better than they really are? What if — perish the thought — Tony Romo exposes them on Sunday night?
These Eagles aren’t very good at dealing with reality, but here’s a dose of it: Kurt Coleman isn’t going to make three interceptions in a game again; he probably won’t get three more this season. The linebackers still aren’t big enough or fast enough to scare anybody. The heralded corners can’t tackle. Juan Castillo still has shown little evidence that he knows what he’s doing.
And that’s just on defense. Mike Vick is still getting hit too much, the big-play offense is not making enough big plays, the placekicker can’t be trusted and Andy Reid is still the head coach.
The Eagles saved the season in Washington, you say? I doubt it. I have a really bad feeling that the only thing they actually did is prolong the agony of a lost cause.
Luck be a Phillie tonight
Ruben Amaro, Jr. did a brilliant job of building the 102-win Phillies, but now we can finally see what his team lacked the most. It’s the ultimate intangible in sports: luck.
Just go back to the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series. The Cardinals were leading 1-0, with the top Texas hitters due up. Does that call to mind any recent moment for the Phillies? Like, say, Game 5 of the NLDS … same score, big hitters scheduled to hit?
In St. Louis, Ian Kinsler led off by blooping a base hit into left field, triggering a two-run rally that tied the series. In Philadelphia, Chase Utley crushed a ball to the base of the center-field wall, where it died in the glove of John Jay. Kinsler hit the ball 200 feet. Utley hit it 400. Kinsler won the game.
Utley lost the season.
I was talking to coach Peter Laviolette after his Flyers had lost to the Capitals on four deflected goals. He said he hadn’t slept much. He kept seeing the puck snake through a throng of skaters and ping-pong into the net. Three of the four goals had actually struck Flyers on their way in.
You can’t coach luck, he said. And you can’t general manage it. You can put together one of the best starting rotations in history, but you can’t tell the ball where to land with the game — and the season — on the line.
– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
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