As I have said before, I don't envy many of the day-to-day challenges that the owners, GMs and coaches of our local sports franchises face. One particularly difficult challenge that many of them struggle with is communicating with their fan bases. On Thursday, I was listening to Angelo Cataldi interview Scott O'Neil, the new Sixers CEO, and he was ripping him about Sam Hinkie's total lack of communication with the fans. Angelo, as is usually the case, had created a highly charged debate focusing on the question of whether a professional sports franchise has an obligation to communicate with the fans. As one might expect, Angelo vigorously argued that a team has an absolute obligation to constantly communicate with the fans and to be totally honest with us because we pay the freight and we have the right to know everything that's going on.
I believe Angelo is basically correct, but not completely. I have often compared sports to politics and I think the comparison is especially relevant in this instance. During my many years in politics, I like to think that I communicated with my constituents more often and more effectively than any recent elected official. In fact, some members of the media suggested that I did it to a fault. But I did so because I believed that I had an obligation to the people who elected me and whose tax dollars paid the cost of running the government to be as honest as possible. However, there were a few occasions - very few - when I felt I couldn't disclose everything to the public. For example, in 2003 when the terror-threat level was raised to orange I told the public that we were adding extra protection for the state's five nuclear plants, but I didn't disclose the type and scope of our deployment for obvious reasons.
Similarly, we shouldn't expect Ruben or Monty to disclose publicly what they feel is our No. 1 priority in seeking to add players. That would only drive the price to obtain what we need way up. Just like we wouldn't expect Chip Kelly to tell the fans on Thursday what our game plan is going to be for Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
But these instances should be the exception, not the rule. The fans, just like the citizens, have a right to know what's going on. They pay for the product and should know the whens and whys of the decisions being made. Besides, openness and honesty is not only the right thing, it's the smart thing! I strongly believe that the reason I have maintained a high level of popularity in our region for the past 36 years is because I was open, I let people know what was going on and why, and I was always honest with them even when we screwed up. That approach works equally well in sports.
Imagine how much more popular Andy Reid would have been if he had used his great sense of humor and talked straight to the fans and the media, and had given us real answers instead of the canned pabulum that he tried to feed us. Andy never got the credit his record deserved because he was such a poor, unresponsive communicator. Likewise, Ed Snider doesn't receive the recognition that he deserves from the people of the city for all the great things he has done for us, and for all the effort and money he has put forth trying to bring another Cup to the city. Ironically, the rare times that Ed talks to the fans he does very well and does so in a clear, logical and persuasive manner. So does my lifelong friend Dave Montgomery, who used to be reluctant to deal with the press but now does so remarkably well. After you hear him talk, you realize that the Phillies are led by a smart, reasonable and pragmatic businessman who has a deep and abiding love for the game and our team. Perhaps more than anyone, Chip Kelly and his straightforward, honest approach to communication shows how someone can quickly build a bond with the fans here. I have talked to countless people who are fully on-board the Chip train solely because they love the things he has said and the way he has handled himself.
So, come on, Josh and Scott, tell Sam to talk to us and maybe even dare to go on Angelo's show. We know he's smart, bold and has already made some good moves. If he opens up a bit, we might just grow to like him.