November 26, 2018
The firing of Flyers GM Ron Hextall this morning should sound an alarm for every sports executive currently working in Philadelphia.
Hextall earned his pink slip not just because he did a bad job in rebuilding the Flyers but also because he never gave a damn about the customers. Hextall had a huge advantage over the usual suits brought in to oversee a pro sports franchise, and still he managed to fritter it away.
He came back to Philadelphia as a true sports hero, one of the best goaltenders in Flyers history and a promising team-builder as an assistant in Los Angeles. The fans already loved him here. All he had to do was treat them with some respect.
Instead, right from the beginning, he did the opposite. Insulating himself from the public except for a few terse appearances a year, Hextall was arrogant for no good reason. Somehow, he had convinced himself that he would be judged solely on his ability to restore the Flyers to Stanley Cup contention. Nothing else mattered to him.
Hextall proved how little he thought of the fans last May when he said: “My philosophy is I do what I believe is right. I'm not going to do something to make me popular. I'm not going to do something that's going to take away from the success of our team to put a few more people in the stands.”
That’s a brilliant plan, isn’t it? Tell the fans they don’t matter, and do it after another early playoff ouster and the softest ticket sales in a generation.
The truth is, he should have gotten the boot then. Of course, Hextall didn’t get fired on Monday because he was a jerk; his demeanor just made it easier for the nameless, faceless people now running the Flyers to send him packing. There will be no blowback for this move because no one really thought Hextall was doing a good job. And rest assured, he wasn’t.
The most glaring mistake in his tenure was his futility at finding – get ready for some irony here – a goaltender. That’s right. Hextall was a brilliant at the position, but he showed no ability to scout goalies. Even his brightest hope, Carter Hart, is languishing through a blah first season as a pro. The five goaltenders on the roster should form a corporation, Mediocrity Inc.
Hextall’s overdue departure does not bode well for his equally dismissive coach, Dave Hakstol, who also has no interest in the customers. Their recent cries of “Fire Hakstol!” are sure to increase in volume now that the one person saving him is gone.
There will be no tears shed when he departs, too. He is about as inspirational as a sleeping pill.
If you’re getting the impression that I approve of this sudden move by the Flyers, you are right – and not just because Hextall deserved it. My bigger hope is that the other executives who show no respect for the fans – Andy McPhail and Matt Klentak of the Phillies, to name just a couple – will learn an important lesson today. When you don’t appreciate the fans, pretty soon you’ll be sitting right up there in the stands with them.
• It’s hard to remember a time when it made more sense for Eagles fans to root for the Cowboys than when Dallas faced Washington on Thanksgiving Day. I tried. I really did. But that ghastly stadium and those nauseating blue stars made it impossible. Then I saw Cowboys owner Jerry Jones smiling, and I felt like upchucking. Some habits are just not meant to be broken.
• Has there been a bigger sports rip-off in the past decade than that lame 9-million, winner-take-all, pay-per-view golf showdown between two has-beens, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, last week? Mickelson won “The Match” on the fourth playoff hole. A rich guy got richer. Whooppee. Only in America.
• Far be it from me to question the Kardashian phenomenon, but it is no surprise that the 76ers ended their 20-game home winning streak on Friday night with Kendall Jenner sitting courtside. Ben Simmons’ on-and-off gal pal is just the latest Kardashian to hex an NBA player. Kris Humphries, Tristan Thompson, Blake Griffin and James Harden – among many others – have all expressed regret for dating a Kardashian. Proceed at your own peril, Ben.
• Everyone assumed Markelle Fultz would have a major impact when the 76ers selected him first in the 2016 draft, and he finally got some national attention when Dallas wide receiver Amari Cooper mimicked Fultz’s double-pump free throw to celebrate a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Even though Fultz tweeted “good shot bro” after the gesture, something tells me Fultz’s feelings were hurt. I have no sources on this. I’m just taking a wild guess.