Kermit was right; it ain't easy being green.
It also ain't too easy being orange.
Or whatever color the Philadelphia 76ers are wearing this year.
For those who didn't grow up Philadelphia, this may be hard to understand, so bear with me.
You see, I made a horrible mistake once when I was an impressionable lad of six-years-old. My father took me to Modells and said I could pick out any baseball cap I wanted.
Excited, I grabbed a dark blue baseball cap with a large "A" embroidered on the front. His reaction was...priceless.
"The Braves??? The Atlanta Braves?? What is your mother teaching you???"
Mind you, I didn't know it was a Braves' cap.
Blue was my favorite color at the time, and it was pure ego that made me want a cap with the initial of my first name on the front.
But needless to say, the lesson was learned:
P-H-I 'til I die.
Nowadays though, being a Philly sports fan ain't a ride through Fairmont Park. In fact, it's hard work.
And even the most staunch supporter can, on occasion, find it difficult...
It was easy the year before last when they were in contention and playing well and making each game exciting and memorable.
But now they're just pathetic.
Their best players are banged up, they make the most routine plays seem like they require Herculean effort, and they seem to not really care.
Postgame, they say all the right things, but the emotion, the fire, is just gone and everyone knows it.
The Mets are like Reality TV; it's a waste of energy to watch, and you're normally better off just changing the channel.
Maybe I'll have the strength to hate them next year, but this year I'm just not motivated.
It used to be pretty easy.
You had so many to direct your hate to.
Irvin was the cocky womanizer (Note: I did not cheer when he was injured; that's just sick).
Emmit was T.O. before T.O.
Troy Aikman was the QB with the so-so arm who everyone seemed to think was so great.
Jimmy Johnson was...well, he was Jimmy Johnson.
And of course, worst case scenario, you always had Jerry Jones.
Well, like the Mets, it's hard to "hate" mediocrity.
They're just too pathetic.
They have some 13 Pro Bowlers on their roster and can't make the playoffs. And even when they do, they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Their coach, despite his girth, is a mental midget who'd blow away in a stiff breeze. But unlike Parcells, who makes it so easy to hate him, Wade Philips seems like a nice enough guy...can't believe I said that.
I actually feel bad about the fact that Wade has to coach next to his replacement all next year, knowing it's win or wanted ads at this point for him.
Their quarterback is such a space cadet he thought it was a good idea to take a vacation out of the country before a playoff game, which didn't work out too well.
Much as I wanted to hate him for his obvious arrogance, it was Jessica Simpson he went with.
There's been no four and one or bounty bowl to attach to this generation of Cowboys, so it's hard for me to stir up any real hate except for the obvious "they're in our division" thing.
The most I can generate is mild amusement, bordering on slight irritation.
I'm a junkie for local sports news.
Especially the "Ransom CAT Countdown to Kickoff"
CSN reports live from Lehigh at Eagles' camp, they go down to Florida for the Grapefruit League, they even show some of the Sixers' Summer League games.
There's only one problem.
Most of the reporters for this network are idiots! I know that sounds harsh and a bit arrogant, but let me explain.
Derrick Gunn, Ray Didinger, Neil Hartman, Ron Burke, John Boruk. These guys are intelligent media men. They do their research, they keep their opinions unbiased, and they are not overly critical. So, of course the air time for those guys is limited.
That's to make room for the other idiots.
Guys like Michael Barkann (How funny is it that he's on this site?), John Smallwood, Paul Domowitch, Ed Barkowitz, Rich Hoffman, Dei Lynam, Stan Hochman...I could go on but I won't for the sake of brevity.
These chumps embody everything that is wrong with Philadelphia sports fans.
Their moody, negative, highly critical, sarcastic, and egotistical commentary makes me want to jam rusty screwdrivers into my ear canal and twist until the pain stops.
Nothing is ever good enough, they know more about sports than any player or coach out there, and they relive each and every mistake or bad play until you forget that the team actually won the game!
They'll take some arbitrary stat (like number of completed passes within five yards on second down when Sheldon Brown is on the left side of the field) and make it into some stat to swear by.
Oh, and they constantly flip flop (sound familiar?). One day Andy Reid has to go, the next day he's a genius. One day Charlie Manuel is a bumpkin screwing up the Phillies, the next he's a Southern Dandy.
Once in the same broadcast they simultaneously praised and berated the play-calling of Andy Reid, and it was in reference to the SAME play!!
But since I love my Philly sports, this is the crap I have to put up with.
Speaking of which...
Ah yes, the site that boasts the tag line: "anything & everything Philly."
Well I guess there is some truth in advertising, since the sports articles on that site read like they let “anyone and everyone” write columns for them. Suffice it to say, if you're looking for in-depth intelligent sports analysis, seek life elsewhere!
Bill Conlin (pictured above, man he's getting a lot of press today!) is one of the writers who, if he were working on a jigsaw puzzle, would cut, staple, and tape pieces that obviously don't belong together just to complete the puzzle.
He could not care less if what he writes makes sense to you, he only cares if it makes sense to him. He loves the sight of his own words more than anyone else ever could, and it's a running theme on that site.
And because the articles are horrendous, the comment section is a mirror image of its content.
The reason I even joined this site was that I'd had enough.
Now thankfully, I can at least read the work of some people who actually care about the craft!
You can imagine, growing up in North Philly (Shout out to 18th and Thompson!), the '90s had some things I hated more than anything in the world.
MC Hammer Pants.
All the lame Transformers spin-offs (Gobots, I'm looking at you!).
The ridiculousness of Bo Jackson on Tecmo Bowl.
Mitch...Williams...you're cool now, but dude...!
But mainly, I save most of my ire for the Giants and Cowboys.
See, back then they just kept winning everything and the Philadelphia Eagles could never get it all together. Something was always in the way.
That something was the Dallas Cowboys and/or the New York Giants.
If it wasn’t "America's Team" dragging their entourage of coke fiends and prostitutes to Super Bowl after Super Bowl...
It was LT the coke-fueled (hmm...I'm sensing a theme) sack machine and the powerful 'stache of Hostetler winning in New York. The Eagles always drew the short straw.
Fast forward to 2009, and my friends (yes, I have friends who are not Eagle fans) keep bringing up old stuff.
I'd like to say: after what have you done lately, it's really a weak argument.
Because in their lifetime, they've seen their teams win it all.
Never mind if the last few years, the Eagles have DOMINATED the NFC East; the last NFC East team to win a Super Bowl was those pesky G-Men.
And they beat the only team I truly despise that's not in the NFC East in the New England Patriots.
Never mind that the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since the '90s or that they had such a wonderful collapse against the Eagles to the tune of 44-6 last season. They had a dynasty in the '90s.
So every year until there's a green parade down Market Street, I have to hear this crap...
Maybe I just need new friends...
Much like Bokeem Woodbine in the movie "Life," the Sixers just "can't get right."
I was too young to really enjoy Fo, fo, fo, so my Sixers' memories begin with Charles Barkley and his subsequent trade for a couple of food stamps and a pack of Now & Laters. Those were some dark, dark times...
Then Pat Croce won the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, and I just knew that the Sixers were going to turn the corner.
And they did for a little while, the peak of course being the '00-01 run to the Finals.
But once Billy King came on board, he promptly proceeded to, as they say, screw the pooch. His sins are LEGION.
He brought in bad coaches like Ayers, Ford, and O'Brien. I think Mo was at least a solid assistant coach, but his Portland stint should have been his last.
There was the overpaying of wonderfully average players like Greg Buckner, Derrick Coleman, Kenny Thomas, Brian Skinner, and Samuel Dalembert.
He also overpaid for Eric Snow and Aaron McKie, but they made up for it with heart and determination.
The bringing in of washed up, has-beens like Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson, or a never-was-liked Toni Kukoc.
Trading Allen Iverson...yeah, it was probably the right move, but couldn't he have gotten more?
The Sixers are still paying for King's folly (literally) to the tune of money owed to Chris Webber and Aaron McKie and the fact that Samuel Dalembert is allowed to draw an NBA salary.
Ed is making it just as bad by trading Kyle Korver for pocket change.
Also keeping Willie Green and going into next season with Lou Williams as your starting PG.
The overpaying of a very good (not-yet-great) Andre Iguodala and a very good (not-great-anymore) Elton Brand.
If this Eddie Jordan move doesn't pan out and he has to eat two more years of Samuel Dalembert, Ed and Billy could be interviewing for a TNT job.
It's nearly been a decade of really mediocre Sixers' basketball...
We know you're smarter than us, Andy Reid.
We know that without you we'd never have any NFC Championship losses to complain about.
We know this is the offense that both Joe Montana and Steve Young won Super Bowls with.
Still, the very definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
Like the way I keep expecting to be able to eat all the Tastykake Lemon Pies I want and stay in shape. Wanna know how that's working out Andy? Maybe you already do...
It's been successful, but I, like many of us, are tired of "almost."
When I look at the huge offensive line, the amazing Brian Westbrook, the speedy Desean Jackson, and the fact that Donovan McNabb throws one of the most accurate deep balls in the game, I can't help but wonder:
Are short passes and screens the way to go with this personnel?
I'm not saying abandon it altogether, but mix it up more. I know everyone runs on first down and the defense is ready for it, but if you execute it well it doesn't matter what the defense expects.
You yourself said that.
Because they shouldn't.
Guys like Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble, and Mike Richards are too talented to disappear in the postseason. Especially given their regular season success.
Simon Gagne finally made it through a full season and was showing signs of reverting to his true form.
Young guns like Claude Giroux,(who was the Flyers' best skater from start to finish in the playoffs) and some undrafted dude named Darroll Powe (who emerged as a legit NHL forward) tried to pick up the slack.
Defensemen Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn also had a good series (three assists a piece), but it wasn't enough.
Mainly because the goal tending was somewhere between horrifying and atrocious, but the bottom line is the Flyers still lost to the Penguins without putting up much of a fight.
During the 2009 offseason, the Flyers signed controversial goaltender Ray Emery to a one-year contract and traded Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and two first-round draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks for Chris Pronger.
The Flyers also sent Mike Knuble, Martin Biron (anyone crying over that?), and Nitty packing.
So, I guess Ed Snider and Peter Luukko are tired of it too.
Few things suck more than seeing your neighbor pull up in a brand new 525i (I know this from experience) with that cheese-eating grin on his face.
And that's exactly what our neighbors to the North West have been doing the past decade.
They don't have a basketball team, and their baseball team is the butt of many a joke, but when it comes to football and hockey they kick Philly's...well, butt.
Even before Ben Roethlisberger was having sandwiches named after him and collecting the only rings that single men should wear, the Steelers were a first class franchise.
The Neil O’Donnell buyout (yeah, you tell me Neil wasn't paid to throw those picks to Larry Brown!) notwithstanding, this has always been a very good team.
They always seem to make all the right draft picks and ship all the right people out of town.
Wouldn't catch them drafting Freddie Mitchell...
To make matters worse, the Penguins, after dominating the '90s and picking up a couple championships in the process, are primed to be dominate again with guys like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Seeing the Steelers and Penguins win is like watching someone else make out from a distance. Perverted, creepy, and pathetic.
The Phillies brought home the town's first championship since 1983 last season.
You'd think they'd get more love for it.
Baseball coverage in Philly equates to this:
"(insert player here) pitched six and a third, (insert player here) went (stats) and (insert player here) picked up/blew the save. News out of Eagles camp shows..."
Seriously, I'm not kidding.
The Phillies win; it's an afterthought. An Eagles' player gets a high ankle sprain and there’s a press conference with Rick Burkholder.
Where's the "Ryan Howard Show?"
The "J-Spot" with Jimmy Rollins?
"Chase What Matters" with Chase Utley?
"For What it's Werth" with Jayson Werth?
I'll even take "The Many Uses of Spam and Rice" With Shane Victorino!
Does anybody but me care that a slimmed-down Ryan Howard has turned himself into a defensive marvel at first?
That Jayson Werth is having a great year as an everyday player?
That keeping J.A. Haap may have been the most brilliant move of the decade, next to getting Cliff Lee and trading Jim Thome?
For me, this goes beyond recent events. My father, who introduced me to sports in general, also introduced me to Howard Eskin.
And the hate began almost immediately.
Even at a young age, he came across as inappropriately irate. It seemed like he was getting back at everyone who ever pushed him at the playground, or called him Howard "Foreskin."
He's had to retract so many statements, issue so many apologies, and pay so many fines you would think his listeners would realize how little he knows.
But Eskin is only part of the problem.
Eskin may say some dumb things (some really, really dumb things), but his listeners are even worse.
These are the guys who wanted Ricky Williams so badly they were instructed to boo any draft pick who wasn't an overrated, chubby running back from Texas. And they did.
These are the guys who have called for A.J. Feely over Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia over Donovan McNabb, and who will at some point want Michael Vick over Donovan McNabb.
Want to know how the McNabb puke story gained so much steam? Look no further than 610 on your AM dial.
They thrive on negativity, and they eat very well.
So, if you ever overhear a ridiculous leap of logic...
A hateful rant against a Pro Bowl player having an off day...
Or the words: "I would never have..."
Turn the station, quickly!
In the past year and a half Philly fans have suffered great losses.
For me, there was none greater than the death of Harry Kalas.
Losing Harry Kalas is a blow any true Philly fan is reminded of during every home game.
Many of my summer days and nights were spent sitting on the porch drinking a Franks Vanilla Cream soda listening to the Phils play-by-play man.
More than any other announcer since or before, he felt Philly's frustration and he let us know.
Since his passing, I watch most of the Phils games on mute, and I don't know if that will change anytime soon.
I don’t know if I want it to, either.
Despite all my complaining, I know:
One day I will once again hate the Mets and Cowboys with a passion (the Braves, too, I guess).
I'll still watch Comcast Sportsnet because where else am I going to go for my Philly fix?
I play basketball, hang out with, and am part of the same congregation as Cowboys and Giants fans, so only Andy Reid and company can help me there. (This year???)
The stain of Billy King may linger on, but at least he's not making any more decisions. And Ed may yet prove to be right in his moves. I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer.
I secretly hope I'm wrong and the Andy Reid WCO works to perfection this year, after all, I'm able to make it work on All-Madden...
The Flyers sacrificed a lot of chemistry and talent to put together a pretty good roster, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Joffrey Lupul loss is really gonna hurt...
Fact is, Pittsburgh deserves all their success, despite my jealousy of it.
If the Phils can win again this year, maybe Philly receives a sports transfusion...
You can't stop the ignorant, you can only hope to ignore them.
And lastly, the best way to honor Harry is to cheer the Phils until you lose your voice...
And then make signs!