January 23, 2017
Chris Christie was absolutely right last week when he called Eagles fans “angry and awful people.” I can speak from a position of knowledge on this topic because I am an Eagles fan – and I am both extremely angry and undeniably awful.
I am angry because I voted for the New Jersey governor – twice, no less – stupidly believing all of the lies he told over the past seven years. And I am awful because my votes gave him the power to make the insulting statements he made about Eagles fans.
What this incorrigible, obnoxious man needs to know is he violated a trust by saying what he said about the very same people I have been talking to on my WIP radio show for the past 27 years – grandfathers and fathers and sons who hand down their love for the Eagles from generation to generation.
The fans I have gotten to know are people who make it through a tough work week with happy visions of a big football game on Sunday, people who show up six hours early to tailgate before that event, people who have endured 56 seasons of failure without ever giving up hope.
They are not awful people. In fact, they are the opposite of awful – fans who bring a passion to sports that is unrivaled in America. And when washed-up politicians like Chris Christie attack them, they don’t lapse into a period of self-reflection; they launch a counter-attack.
Here’s mine: Christie lost favor with New Jersey voters when he began flaunting his love for the Dallas Cowboys, belly-bumping Jerry Jones and acting like a supersized groupie in the owner’s luxury box – right after the governor had secured our votes for a second term. That act alone was a middle finger to all of his supporters.
Oh, he had mentioned his affection for the most evil of all sports franchises during his first term, but he made sure to downplay that affiliation until he had won re-election by awful and angry Giants and Eagles fans like me.
Of course, while we were discovering the truth about Christie’s worship of the Cowboys, we were also learning what an out-of-control bully he had become. There are only two logical interpretations of Bridgegate. Either he ordered four days of traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, or he is incompetent.
Given what he know about Christie now, it’s a safe bet that he used his power to inconvenience the people he represents – and, in some cases, endanger their lives – because he is a vindictive boor who wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not supporting him. More than one of his aides is going to serve jail time because of him.
Christie’s motive for attacking Eagles fans is especially obvious to me because I happen to be in a business he hopes to join now that he is unelectable for any political office. The governor made his rash comments on WFAN, where he has been campaigning for a talk-show host job for the past year.
Even though WFAN is a sister station of WIP, I hope Christie succeeds in his quest because I want to see him fail as spectacularly in my business as he has in politics. He thinks people will be as naive about him as a talk-show host as they were about him as a public servant. They won’t. It’s impossible to hide a lack of character for four hours, unscripted, every day.
Two years ago, Chris Christie came into the WIP studios to discuss his love for the Cowboys, and promptly fell flat on his well-padded derriere with a splat that echoed right into the microphones. As he struggled to get to his feet, I covered for him. I was embarrassed for him, and so I protected him.
I am one of those awful people he was talking about last week.
And it makes me angry.
Joel Embiid’s bid for a starting spot on the All-Star team fell short last week, but it wasn’t the fault of the fans, the players or the media. He didn’t make it because of the Sixers.
That’s right. The organization denied him his rightful spot among the elite because of their unscientific, cowardly plan to limit his minutes after foot surgeries kept him on the sidelines for the two previous seasons.
And if the suddenly resurgent Sixers don’t make the playoffs this season, the front office and its medical staff deserve the blame for that failure, too.
Is there any doubt that Embiid would have been an All-Star if he had played more than 25 minutes a game? Is there any question that the Sixers would truly be in a playoff race – and not 5½ games out of it – if his bosses didn’t keep him off the court for close to half the team’s minutes so far?
No and no. Embiid deserves to be an All-Star starter – he could still be named a reserve later this week – and he has earned the right to lead his team into the playoffs. But the nameless, faceless medical people behind the scenes, and the front-office executives who have enabled them, denied him those opportunities.
It isn’t asking too much for Bryan Colangelo to offer, even at this late date, some proof that the minutes limitations have some basis in science. But the GM remains incommunicado. Even when the limits have been raised, no one has ever explained why, for example, it was suddenly safe for Embiid to play 28 minutes instead of 24.
Embiid injured his left knee twice during Friday night’s win over Portland, both times with daring plays that landed him on the floor under the basket. Later, he said he felt fine, though – according to his prearranged schedule – he didn’t play the next night in Atlanta. (A loss, of course.)
The Sixers need to accept now, at the beginning of Embiid’s career, that one of the reasons he is so effective is because he sacrifices his body, plays to the fullest, all of the time. No minutes limit is going to alleviate the risk. No doctor’s orders are going to stop him from being himself.
Joel Embiid is an amazing young player, and there’s every reason to believe he will be extraordinary for a very long time – if his bosses finally realize how illogical it is to hold back both him and his team.
In these turbulent political times, the very last people I rely on to guide my beliefs are egomaniacal sports figures like Gregg Popovich and Curt Schilling. How does designing a perfect pick-and-roll play or throwing a 95-mile-per-hour fastball qualify these blowhards as experts on the current state of America?
Popovich, a brilliant coach in San Antonio who has always acted as if he’s equally inspirational on all topics, decided to use his bully pulpit – and make no mistake, this is one of the great bullies in sports – to offer views on the new president, the women’s protest march (he approved), and even the CIA over the weekend.
What was particularly hypocritical about Popovich’s screed is its underlying message that there’s no place for arrogance in leading our country – even though Popovich’s long NBA career has been characterized by that exact quality. Just Google Popovich and arrogant. There are currently 78,400 results.
And then there’s Schilling, the ex-Phillie who is conducting a one-man crusade to keep himself out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. For no good reason, Schilling launched into an attack against the half a million protesters in D.C., calling their march “insanely stupid.”
I’ll spare you all the details of his latest tirade, but let’s just say it’s no more logical than the dozens of other missteps he has made on social media. Worthy of serious consideration for the Hall because he was such a clutch pitcher for so long, Schilling fell far short in the balloting last week. Voters just can’t stand the guy. Imagine that.
Schilling’s former teammate, Kevin Millar, provided the perfect postscript for Schilling and Popovich’s unsolicited political opinions last week.
“We all have opinions,” Millar said, “and nobody cares about them.”
And finally …
• Sixers owner Joshua Harris and GM Bryan Colangelo finally did interviews with the local media. Well, one element of the local media – the broadcast team handling the game Saturday night in Atlanta. The top two executives who have been unavailable to the media for months here finally made themselves available – 800 miles away from home. You can’t make this stuff up.
• The Flyers took five days off and then came out flat again on Saturday night against a weak Devils team. They play with no emotion, have no confidence and are prone to collapse whenever adversity strikes. Coach Dave Hakstol said the only solution is to work hard, work hard. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to train a parrot to say that after every game?
• New England’s Tom Brady finished the suspension-shortened regular season with 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions, one better than former Eagle Nick Foles’ incredible 27-TD, 2 INT season in 2013. And this, I believe, is the last time you will ever see the names Tom Brady and Nick Foles used in the same sentence.
• Chip Kelly met with New England coach Bill Belichick last week after the ex-Eagle coach was bypassed for the offensive-coordinator job in Jacksonville. The speculation is, if Pats’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gets a head coaching position, Kelly will replace him. Because let’s face it, if there’s one thing Tom Brady needs, it’s Kelly’s outdated offense.
• Green Bay’s putrid performance in the NFC Championship game underscored just how horrific the loss was by Dallas a week earlier. How did the Cowboys not take more advantage out of that Swiss-cheese Packers defense? And how could Aaron Rodgers be so good one week, and so lost the next? Boy, the bozos in Dallas must be scratching their heads today, don’t you think?