Philly fans losing their sense of outrage

Posted: July 24, 2014

WHAT LUCK.

A day after the Sixers secured abject failure for two more seasons, there stood owner Josh Harris in the hallways of the Wells Fargo Center. As always, Harris was willing to offer a few candid not-for-publication observations concerning the Sixers' long-range plan. Suffice it to say Harris, a billionaire hedge-fund savant, was energized by the potential long-term return of investment in injured center Joel Embiid and young Croatian star Dario Saric - neither of whom will be of much real use until 2016.

Then, Harris got down to his real business.

As owner of the New Jersey Devils.

That's right. For those who missed it, the same guy who owns Philadelphia's basketball team also owns the hockey team that is geographically closest to Philadelphia, has knocked the Flyers out of the playoffs three times since 1995 and has won three Stanley Cups in that span.

It's as if Phillies owner David Montgomery bought the New York Giants, then attended the televised NFL draft, wearing Giants gear.

The way Harris did.

Harris was in the arena to attend the first round of the NHL draft. On the same home floor where the Sixers will play on their way to losing at least 100 games in the next 2 years, where Devils will spill Flyers' blood, Harris was on the stage with New Jersey's contingent of brass for photos with their first-round pick.

The crowd still on hand was overwhelmingly Flyers fans.

Nobody booed.

Nobody seemed to care that Harris was not only wearing enemy colors, but he was making money off them.

This outrageous scene was just one more instance of outrage gone wanting.

For a town with a proud tradition of cantankerousness, Philadelphia now swoons in the doldrums of placid acceptance of team policies and plans.

Outrage is out of style.

Conformity is all the rage.

This is relevant today because the Phillies are looking for a slew of suckers to take their aged, overpaid core off their hands, with young, promising talent in return. The first deadline is next week, but several Phils - Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, maybe even Chase Utley - make so much guaranteed money in the near future that they should clear waivers and be available through August, too.

Most of the area's outrage currently is directed at Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the architect of a roster bloated with entitled, old players, rife with underdeveloped youth. Amaro is the current target, having replaced Donovan McNabb, then Andre Iguodala, then Andy Reid, then Charlie Manuel, God bless him.

There is a school of thought - the good school, where you want your kids to go - that the franchise is pot-committed to the players it now has. Trading the best veterans will set the club back a decade.

No one will care.

Why is that a certainty?

Consider the remarkable behaviors of the other three teams, the results of those actions, and the reaction from those actions and their results.

Start with the Sixers, and Harris, who in 2012 whole-heartedly endorsed the trade of All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala as part of a four-team trade for Andrew Bynum, an injured, petulant center who never played a game for them. The next season, after hiring rookie general manager Sam Hinkie, Harris' Sixers traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in June 2013 for injured center Nerlens Noel. Noel has never played a game for them. That trade also brought the pick that netted them Dario Saric, who won't play for them for at least 2 years. This year's draft also netted them injured center Joel Embiid, who - you guessed it - probably won't play for them this season.

Assuming they are slotted high in the 2015 draft, the Sixers might have to trade down. There might not be anybody hurt enough to warrant a top-five pick.

It's not that the Harris/Hinkie plan is without merit. No sport allows a faster rebuild than basketball, given its superstar bent and its tiny rosters.

But what have Hinkie or Harris done to warrant such confidence?

More, really, than the football coach.

Hinkie helped build a somewhat successful franchise as an assistant in Houston. Harris has deconstructed and rebuilt actual businesses, not just the pretend businesses that sports franchises really are.

Chip Kelly? He had a few good seasons at a college in the Northwest, running an offensive system dependent on the excellent cardiovascular systems of men too young to drink. In his first season as an NFL coach, Kelly won the worst division in football, lost a playoff game . . . and still wielded enough clout to cut the most talented, long-tenured receiver the team has had since Mike Quick.

Yes, there is a contingent in Southeastern Pennsylvania that believes releasing DeSean Jackson in his prime is madness.

That contingent should be about 5 million strong.

By the nature of the sport, an even smaller contingent has held the Flyers accountable.

Then again, the volatile nature of the hockey transaction wire - big trades, free-agency whirlwinds, firing coaches three games into a season - makes outrage more difficult.

It bears mentioning, though, that scoring wizard Jeff Carter and versatile Olympian center Mike Richards have now won two Stanley Cups with the Kings since the Flyers traded them away; that their cap space, later occupied by "franchise goalie" Ilya Bryzgalov, was wasted; and that the decision to retain taskmaster coach Peter Laviolette instead of the players who made him useful was, at its roots, flawed.

Certainly, the Flyers were not robbed when they rid themselves of the excellent young pair of forwards. Wayne Simmonds is their most consistent player, Jake Voracek often delightful, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, promising.

Similarly, assuming the Sixers get two contracts out of their reconstructed centers, and assuming Saric doesn't damage himself in Europe, the Sixers could ascend just as the Cavaliers, Bulls and Pacers hit their free-fall.

And, well, DeSean's big-play frequency dwindled as the season progressed . . . and, yes, he was a nonconformist pain in the neck.

Still, it seems the teams can do little wrong. Consider the reaction when the Flyers overpaid 33-year-old free-agent forward Vincent Lecavalier last summer.

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

Yes, Philadelphia.

Yes, you can.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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