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Happy the Sixers Prolong the Playoff Season, But Not Drinkin’ the Philly Sports Kool-Aid This Time

May 12, 2012 1 comment

Andre Iguodala stepped up to the free throw stripe. He huffed and puffed a deep breath, and he calmly sank two foul shots in the final seconds of the game, hauling his Sixers team right into Round 2 of the NBA Playoffs.

Sounds like an excerpt plucked from a book in the fantasy section of Barnes & Noble. But it actually can be considered a piece of journalism, a factual account of how this professional basketball team advanced to the second round for the first time since 2003.

If this is Carlos Boozer’s face before Iggy stepped to the line, what do you think it looked like after he actually made both FTs?

If you were to have polled a slew of Sixers fans prior to that first foul shot, what percentage would you say would have predicted that Iggy would knock down both shots? 5 percent? 10? The pessimism bouncing around in the heads of the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, and the negativity reverberating in living rooms throughout the Delaware Valley at the moment the ref raised his arm, were crucial to Iguodala’s metamorphosis into author of the latest chapter in the city’s compendium of playoff poetry.

If you look at this story collection chronologically, Iguodala’s recently penned entry follows an epic Flyers chapter, its ink still drying and its impact still etched in the fan base’s psyche. Yet, at the same time, the hockey team’s victorious march through an emotion-heavy slugfest with its cross-state rival seems like a bygone tale from a distant past.

Thanks to the way the schedules are stacked, the Sixers have sort of played this role all year. They have been the team the city has turned to and dumped their hope into. Today I reviewed some still un-erased, midseason notes on my work station whiteboard, most likely from early February when the Flyers were slipping a bit and the Sixers were starting to convince their city:

Just when another team fades, the Flyers shortcomings perhaps weaning them off from the list of Cup contenders, another team emerges to inject that ever-persistent dose of hope to the town’s sports junkies. So Philly.

 Even the Sixers, counted on to be embarrassing in recent years, are now right back in the mix of this cycle. But fans really have a chance to detour away from Letdown City if they keep their expectations right where they were to start the season. Winning a playoff series was the goal at the outset and should remain the goal. The problem is teams around here rarely exceed the fans’ expectations because the passionate followers adjust those expectations midway.

And thus the Philadelphia sports samsara goes on. Put hope in a team, team wins. Put even more hope in a team, it loses. Don’t put much hope in the next team, team wins. Now put hope in that team, team loses.

For me, the Sixers have been tough to put much optimism into, as I find it difficult to get excited about a team you know does not have the tools to win a championship. Not even the divine intervention that placed Iguodala’s two foul shots through the hoop is going to change my stance on that. But the blessing of this position is the ability to step back and acknowledge that one of our teams reached its realistic goal. I have no problem putting the Bulls injury circumstances aside and enjoying the accomplishment. But I don’t want my tempered expectations to be misconstrued as dissatisfaction.

I have no problem clenching a fist over a Sixers playoff series win. But that’s about as far as I’ll go.

In the postgame minutes of Thursday night, I tweeted that I felt good for Andre Iguodala, and implied that I felt good for his team as well. However I also went on to post the following message on Facebook:

 The Sixers advancing is like being given a few extra drops of water as you are starting to cross the desert. You undoubtedly want them, but the impending doom of a whole summer of just Phillies is still staring you smack in the face and you know you’ll be out of agua soon.

A non-Philadelphian reacted to my comments and the supplementary comments of my fellow Philadelphians by calling into question our ability to be pleased. “Flyers out, obviously a bummer. Sixers move on, also a bummer?” he asks.

Quite the opposite, I say. I am happy and truly thankful of what the Sixers have accomplished. I will call their season a success with a straight face, and I will be rooting for them like crazy to take down the Celtics tonight in Game 1. I am just unwilling to recalibrate my scale of expectation this time around. I am heeding my own midseason advice this time, unwilling to roll up my sleeve and shoot up with what I know is another lethal dose of hope.

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Are you ready for Sixers season?!?

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Just kidding. Who could give a flying shit about the Sixers right now?

The Eagles are undergoing an exciting, and yet controversial facelift under the work of Michael Vick, who is performing surgery on opposing defenses. The Phillies have officially made the playoffs and are poised for another World Series run. The Flyers, who borrowed the hearts of  non-hockey diehards with a thrilling postseason run last year, are getting ready to begin a now highly anticipated season.

The Sixers, well….what is there to say at all? Apparently there is, and that is why I was shocked to find myself reading a column about them today before I looked over all the Monday morning Eagles analysis. The headline to Kate Fagan’s piece caught the attention of my trackpad: 76ers Said to Offer Iguodala In a Deal for Anthony.

I first wondered how an article from The Onion wound up on the Philly.com sports page. Iguodala for Anthony? That’s like Kevin Kolb for Tom Brady. Too soon? (Sorry Kev, Vick has reduced your role to punchline until he gets injured.)

A guy who kinda looks like and scores like Iverson...

....for a guy who makes Iverson-like money with one tenth of Iverson's talent. I'd do it.

Seriously though, could one of the NBA’s biggest stars make his way to Philly? A source in the article mentions that Denver has always liked Iguodala’s game. Who knew there was a team out there (besides the Sixers)  that appreciates a slasher who can’t shoot, can’t play any real position, can’t make his teammates better, but can command an $80 million contract.

The column is at least honest about the fact that it will be difficult for the Sixers to become front-runners in the Carmelo sweepstakes, but just the prospect of bringing him here should perk up the ears of fans who’d like the see the city’s basketball team become relevant. And with the current status of the team, it will take a move like this to find that relevancy. Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is expected to be a key to a better era of Sixers basketball. Yet the team lacks so much that I can’t see one rookie really turning it around by himself. But pair him with a prolific scorer  like Anthony and that’d be product I’m eager to check out.

It would be wise for the organization to be as aggressive as can be in its attempts to court a player who would be the first legit star on the Sixers since A.I. Part I. Otherwise, this team will be condemned to the cold shoulder this season from a city that surely has enough fanatic verve to spread across four major sports teams. Nothing can be more embarrassing for an organization than a Philly stadium or arena that is empty all year. When that happens, it’s always crystal clear who is at fault.

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