Bill Lyon: At sea with Eagles coach Andy Reid

Posted: November 05, 2012

Fade in . . .

Nightfall at sea. On the bridge of the USS Iggles stands a large rumpled man who favors black shorts even when it's colder than a well- digger's posterior. He cups a hand to ear, leans in against the wind, and anchors himself in that splay-legged stance of an immovable offensive lineman.

Cap'n Andy.

A man - we'll call him Jeff - scrambles up awkwardly to the bridge, barking a shin, cursing softly.

Jeff: "What are you doing?"

Cap'n Andy: "Listening."

Jeff: "Well, duh."

Cap'n Andy: "For whispers. That's how it usually starts. With whispers."

Jeff: "When what starts?"

Cap'n Andy: "The mutiny."

Jeff makes a gargling sound: "Oh, you can't mean us."

Cap'n Andy: "No one's immune."

Jeff: "But they love you. They're always saying so . . . 'Big Red, he's got our back. . . . Coach Andy, he's our man. . . . Coach always puts the blame on himself.' You know, Andy, to be frank here, there are times when I have to admit that all gets to be a little much."

Cap'n Andy: "Well you didn't do either one of us any favors, you and that bilge about what's unacceptable. Put the bull's eye square between my shoulder blades with that one, you did. Now I have to win - what, 10? Maybe 11? As long as they'll keep blaming themselves, we're safe. But after the quarterback, my best trump card, I'm going to be running out of sacrifices."

And he turns back toward the sea, hands cupped, straining to hear.

What? Did you hear that? Were those whispers?

Ah, but Jeff has left, and Cap'n Andy is all alone.

In the dark . . .

Out at sea . . .

On the bridge . . .

Fade out . . .

Mystery of Andrew

"Tall ain't all" is an axiom that the 76ers have tried mightily to prove these last uncomfortable decades. Whenever they have been able to land an athlete tall enough to see over the tree line, he has been revealed as woefully lacking in the most elemental of basics, adept only at cashing those paychecks that come with those long strings of zeroes but precious little else. (Moses, Moses, where have you gone, old Fo Fo Fo Moses? To you we raise a glass.)

So the euphoria was understandable when the Sixers landed Andrew Bynum, regarded by most talent assayers as no worse than second-best center in the NBA. So starved were we for such unexpected bounty that we ramped up the Mummers strut and suspended our usual Philadelphia skepticism. Hey, the sun shines on us for a change.

And then came the word: Andrew Bynum has ouchy knees.


Knew-it, knew it, knew it . . .

Knew-it, knew-it, knew-it . . .

And it all became so mysterious sounding, with trips to Germany for lube jobs, for something called blood spinning, and you heard the word noninvasive. Say what they will: If they stick you with a needle, Ouch!, that's damn well invasive. Anyway, the preseason came and went, and the regular season began, and still no Andrew Bynum.

Knew-it, knew-it, knew-it . . .

Andrew Bynum scales 285 pounds, and the knees that are the pilings to support such weight are 25 years old, which means he's not new to the up-and-down-the-court rodeo. In the NBA, one season is worth, oh say, 10 years worth of civilian running. Arthritis is a given.

It's not as though the Sixers, giddy though they were, didn't know they might be buying a pig in a poke. Bynum's mileage, after all, was there for all to see.

The shame is that the Sixers have done exemplary work in putting together a nice, on-the-come product. The consolation is the clause in Bynum's contract that would let each walk away after this season. But a one-year rental is slim consolation. It feels like one step forward, two steps back.

So then, root for the lube jobs and the blooding and, oh yes, that Ouch! noninvasive thing.

Mystery of Lance

One by one, all my heroes are falling down.

The one that stabs the deepest is the man on the bike.

I refused to believe. Long after they had run Lance Armstrong to ground, I wouldn't let go. It was irrational, and it was unreasoning denial. It is what happens when the heart outweighs the head.

But when at last his guilt became undeniably obvious, I felt betrayed. Sad more than enraged. I was unable to be objective about him because, in the midst of his seven Tour de France championships, he sent my wife, who was battling cancer, one of those coveted yellow jerseys, autographed, and bearing this exhortation: "For Ethel, Hang Tough, All My Best. Lance Armstrong."

From one warrior to another.

We placed that jersey on the mantel, a place of honor. It's still there. We wrestled, fleetingly, with whether it should be removed. But no . . . because it remains a symbol, a symbol on so many levels, like the man himself: Lance Armstrong is chronicled to be a cheat and a fraud and a liar and a bully. He is also, for many of us, a candle in the window, a source of inspiration, a tireless crusader who has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund research into that insidious coward of a disease.

Shouldn't all that good mitigate against the other?

I am not smart enough to know. But what I do know is that if you ever find yourself sitting across the table from death, you might be surprised to discover what you're willing to do.

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