April 23, 2019
One of the most disturbing stories over the past week was the decision by the Flyers to remove the statue of Kate Smith and remove her storied rendition of God Bless America from any game presentation.
The decision occurred after attention given to some lyrics to two songs she recorded about 80 years ago. The situation became known when the New York Yankees announced they were made aware of the lyrics and decided to stop using her rendition of God Bless America during their games.
Within 24 hours, the Flyers followed suit, announcing they were erasing Smith from their history and taking down the statue of her outside the arena. The Flyers and their parent company Comcast-Spectacor were shoved into a corner when the Yankees made their decision.
It did not take long for the Flyers to hide Kate Smith’s statue under a tarp, and then hide for cover when the ensuing criticism crashed around them. The one element to be considered here is that the name “Flyers” has to be considered in terms of Comcast, a huge company that owns and runs the team.
Nobody can really be sure what the reaction would have been if the team was still owned and run by the late Ed Snider. After dealing with Snider through the years, it is a sure assumption here that the statue would still be standing and Snider would have reacted far differently.
However, this is a different age, and public corporations must react with far more caution than individual owners must.
The most unfair aspect of this is the fact that Smith is long deceased and there can be no defense of why the songs were recorded. It is always dangerous to try to revise history, and doubly so when it involves any sort of art or artist.
There are those who are offended by the lyrics of some Rap artists, even Meek Mill who is celebrated by teams such as the Sixers and Eagles. In a few years, the stories might very well be that it was a disgrace to have those artists featured at games.
There is no doubt here that under Snider the Flyers would not have buckled under the pressure that came with the decision by the Yankees. However, Comcast deals in a much bigger, much more complicated world.
Part two of the Kate Smith saga is the hope that the fallout will finally mark a break with the whole ‘God Bless America” element to the Flyers games. Tradition is great, but it got to the point of embarrassing when the organization tried to stir up the muscle of the past in ordinary regular-season games.
One of the strengths of the organization is its ties to the past, and no team is as reliant on its alumni from the past as the Flyers, who are still well represented well by the likes of Bernie Parent and Bob Kelly, but this organization needs new people to blaze a path toward a better future.
The best hope is that the space left vacant by one missing statue will eventually be filled with a statue of Carter Hart.
As the Philadelphia 76ers head toward the next round of the NBA playoffs and a looming date with the Toronto Raptors the spotlight gets bigger and brighter on Joel Embiid – and he appears to be more than willing to bask in that glow.
In the long and storied history of Philadelphia sports there haven’t been many that compare to Embiid in terms of personality, impact and controversy. He is a combination of Charles Barkley, Eric Lindros, Brian Dawkins and Jimmy Rollins. He is talented, brash, outspoken and often injured.
The NBA should be grateful that Embiid is so willing to ask for the attention and all the slings and arrows that come with all that talent and attention. Embiid has no problem going to Ali route and stating that HE is the shoe, that HE is the best player on the floor.
Embiid’s challenge is to walk the walk after he talks the talk. Embiid has to back up the words, and to some extent he has to walk on healthy knees. In order to make that a reality Embiid will likely have to change some of his dietary habits and keep himself in better shape – but for right now fans only want him to reign on the court.
Embiid has the unique ability to get under the skin of opponents with his play on the court and – frankly – some childish comments when the game is done. At this point it all seems wonderful, but it could quickly change with a change of fortunes.
What we are watching is the maturation of a star in Philadelphia, and the next chapter could be the best.
The Phillies lost a grim game on Monday night in New York where a rain delay set the scene for a loss during which Bryce Harper was ejected by an umpire with rabbit ears for complaining about calls from the dugout.
In the aftermath, Harper suggested he should have had more control and apologized for being tossed. There was also a complaint from starting pitcher Jake Arrieta that would have much preferred that Harper and his bat had remained in the game.
One aspect of the whole event that should be considered is the emotional investment by Harper. It might have been a short-term loss of Harper’s bat in an April game, but in the long run Harper’s attitude will help drive the Phillies.