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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Philly Fans Fed-up . . . with Philly Fans?

Apparently even Philly fans are fed up with, well, Philly fans. ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons pitied us in his latest and cited support from the home fans. In response to a Philly fan’s e-mail fearing the possible trade of Allen Iverson, he writes:

[It is] the most underrated sports subplot of the summer -- every horrified Philly fan dreading the news that Billy King gave away Iverson. It's legitimately cruel. Hasn't this city suffered enough? In last week's NBA column I suggested that Philly ban pro sports for a calendar year for everyone's safety. And normally, whenever I write something about a fan base that could be perceived as negative, the fans always fight back in droves and I'm guaranteed some hate mail . . . But with that comment? Not only did I get zero complaints, some Philly fans even e-mailed just to say, "Right on, the sports scene is absolutely morbid right now, never seen anything like this before" and "I majored in psych in college and am becoming convinced that Philly sports fans are suffering from collective depression, all the signs are there." . . .

Depression is a serious illness and I would never make light of it. Obviously Philly fans aren't legitimately depressed. At the same time, couldn't there be a more harmless form of depression that's sports-related? When I was living in Boston in the late '90s and early '00s, we were absolutely battling sports depression before the Pats beat the Rams to win the Super Bowl -- it was the tail end of a titleless 15-year stretch when everything had gone wrong (Bias and Lewis, Bird's back, Neely's hip, McHale's feet, Nomar's wrist, Clemens fleeing to Canada, Parcells going to the Jets, Pitino and Duncan, etc.), and after awhile, we started EXPECTING things to go wrong. That's when you know there's a problem, when you're trapped in an ongoing state of pessimistic inadequacy and there's no way out. Hence, the depression connection.

Well, doesn't that describe Philly fans right now? Pessimistic inadequacy? After 22 years of suffering and falling just short, dealing with a relentlessly unhappy media getting everyone riled up, enduring dozens of ludicrous front-office moves, getting their hopes raised by some genuinely big-time superstars (Lindros, Iverson, McNabb, Roenick, Schilling, Cunningham) and big-time contenders (the '93 Phillies, '01 Sixers, multiple runs with the Eagles and Flyers), McNabb's bizarre collapse in the Super Bowl and the subsequent T.O. debacle seemed to push everyone over the edge ... and these fans were uber-pessimistic to begin with. Hell, in a column about the "Worst 20 Sports Fans" for my old Web site, I picked Philly fans No. 1 and braced for the deluge of hate mails that never happened. Instead, they e-mailed in just to say stuff like, "You're right. We're insane. There's something wrong with us."


He goes on to rip Billy King, but I don’t need to quote that stuff. We know how bad he is.

I’ve never lived elsewhere, but I have to believe we bring most of this garbage on ourselves. Bill Giles aside, calling WIP gives many a sense that they truly have a say in sports around here. They don’t, and the more they have no affect the more they yelp and the dumber they sound. Lazy national sports writers/broadcasters use WIP to get a sense of Philly fans, so we all get lumped together with idiots screaming E A G L E S in the middle of April.

Simmons’ best point is worth repeating: We are “dealing with a relentlessly unhappy media getting everyone riled up.”

How often do local media types defend themselves against such claims? How often do they bring up the title “drought” in Philly? How often do they fixate on one mistake for days, weeks, and even years?

The latest example is their reaction Terrell Owens’ book on the fiasco between he and the Eagles. It was a week of discussion on Daily News Live. One of them (Paul Domowitch, I think) actually said the Eagles would have to answer questions about it when camp opened almost two weeks from the day he was on – and then the fans are blamed. It’s a non-story now, the rantings of a psycho, yet it has already been announced that it will be a story a week from now. There is example after example of the media creating stories out of nothing.

The fact is that three of the four major teams have been to the finals of their sport since the turn of the century. The Eagles have been one of the best teams in football for years. Even the Phillies put two young guys in the All-Star game.

The media all but packed Allen Iverson’s bags because he “had to go,” and already have geared up to crucify King if he “gives him away.” Or if he doesn’t trade him. Ed Wade decimated the Phillies, yet Pat Gillick is doing nothing because he hasn’t turned them around in half a season.

I’m not an apologist for any of these teams. Yes, I’d like to see the Sixers do something to get rid of their cap problems. I even agree he should be fired. The Eagles are too vanilla. The Phillies need a roster turnover. The Flyers come up short every year. And, no, I don’t want fans for media members.

But fans that don’t wear losing as a bad of honor would be nice. So would a media that doesn’t soak up non-stories because they’re easy to cover.

Week in Review
· Bill Giles should never be allowed to speak for the Phillies (or anyone) again. His comments about Brett Myers “helping” his wife — even though Myers consented to counseling after being arrested for hitting her — prove he’s an out of touch old man.
· Chris Webber went on Comcast this week and absolved himself of blame for snubbing fans on Fan Appreciation Night. Apparently he needed to be told he should be on the bench with his team.
· Considering all of his other banter, I find it odd that Owens allows himself to be manipulated so much by Drew Rosenhaus. Not that T.O.'s not a monumental idiot on his own, but the agent, who got nothing from the Birds' contract he helped T.O. break, now gets him to publish a book with his brother's company? Am I off-base, or does the agent qualify as scum o' the year??

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