By Jason Hannigan, ’16
Born and raised a Philadelphia sports fan can be both a blessing and an incredible burden.
The traditional Philly fan possesses a vast wealth of knowledge and a passion for their teams that is unrivaled in other major pro sports cities. This passion is often mistaken for ignorance.
Santa and snowballs. Batteries and J.D. Drew. More recently, wristbands were thrown onto the ice during the Flyers-Capitals playoff game, with the hometown team being pummeled by a visibly superior Washington team. What was supposed to be a memorable night honoring the life of beloved owner, Ed Snider, would ultimately stir up the old Philadelphia sports fan bashing, that pops back up into sports news every four or five months.
Stuck between a successful past and a bleak future, Philly fans hope for the best, while peeking cautiously around the corner.
Philadelphians have been hardened over time. Only seven professional championships to boast over the last five decades, while seemingly every major market within a 90 minute train ride has a number of trophies to show for.
For a city that lives and dies by their teams, it is unacceptable. But the reality is, a parade down Broad Street isn’t coming any time soon.
The 76ers, under the guidance of former General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, Sam Hinkie, have been involved in a full-fledged tanking project coined “The Process”. This process has spanned the last three seasons. During this period, the team has an embarrassing record of 47-199.
For most fans, the Sixers are seen as blatantly anticompetitive on a night-to-night basis. However, senior Kevin Lawson sees it differently. “You have to build from within. We have the chance through the draft to find a superstar.”
The goal of the 76ers radical experiment is to acquire and stockpile draft picks, in the hopes of unearthing a gem.
| “You can’t draft better than the rest of the NBA, but you can more often than the rest of the NBA”, – Sam Hinkie
Statistically speaking, this logic makes sense. While it’s impossible to bat a thousand and get every pick right, there’s a greater probability with more selections to come across a real star. But in terms of reward for their purposeful lack of effort, there is little to show for other than a league worst win percentage of .122.
The team’s two talented big men, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, have a highly questionable fit on the court together. Both are natural centers, which forces one to either ride the pine or play out of position. Former 2013 first round pick, Michael Carter-Williams, was shipped out to Milwaukee and the Bucks organization for the Lakers coveted 2016 first round pick. While the team’s other two touted prospects from the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, have yet to even play a game.
With Hinkie’s resignation, the process, which has come to define the Sixer’s organization, looks to be in doubt. Which then raises the question: where do they go from here?
The appointment of Hall of Famer Jerry Colangelo as the Sixers’ new chairman of basketball operations is a promising first step in rebuilding a team that lacks an identity beyond the score column.
| Colangelo, who helped shape the United States basketball program, is considered one of the NBA’s most successful owners and executives.
The Sixers are not the first to throw in the towel and begin to rebuild, with the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Union all coming to terms with the unfortunate reality that the past is well behind them.
But the team people in the city really love are the Eagles. And even they have found themselves in a dark state.
Jeffrey Lurie and the Philadelphia Eagles found an innovative mind in Chip Kelly. Like Hinkie, he was a statistical maniac, whose offseason roster-shuffling and head-scratching trades emulated that of someone playing in a Yahoo Fantasy Football league.
But like seemingly all good things with sports in the city, his tenure came to an abrupt end.
When he first arrived in the NFL in 2013, fans expected Kelly to not only revolutionize the organization, but also the league itself, with his “blur” offense. While his offense was able to produce moments of brilliance, particularly in his first season, it failed to sustain itself over time.
The 2015 season would ultimately be the first and last year of the Chip Kelly era. Preceding his third season with the Eagles, Kelly waged – and won – a frantic power struggle with Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman, and was given full control of personnel decisions that previously had to be made with Roseman’s approval.
Kelly wasted no time asserting his newfound authority, gutting the roster of fan favorites and Pro Bowl caliber players alike. Nick Foles, who established himself with the Eagles, was traded, while Jeremy Maclin was let go in Free Agency. Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, as well as Cary Williams were cut from the roster. Not only were they pro bowlers, they were the only players who understood and were physically capable of running Kelly’s offense.
But perhaps the most significant move was the shocking trade of LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for an injury-plagued, young linebacker in Kiko Alonso.
Dealing away the franchise running back was the final straw for many fans, including Senior Dane McGrath. “Chip Kelly drove the Eagles into the ground with his trades and molding the team to his liking. Absolute power corrupts.”
The Eagles decision to move on from Chip Kelly after failing to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season, marked the conclusion to a three-year relationship that began with imagination and ended with blown personnel calls and anything but innovation.
Kelly’s final edition of the Eagle’s offense was overall below average at running the ball and downright horrible when it came to passing. This was hardly the revolution Philadelphia had in mind when the Eagles lured Kelly away from Oregon three seasons ago. It was (wait for it) all a blur.
The same can be said for Philadelphia’s last professional championship. A blur.