July 17, 2006
The Heart of Darkness
He waited the usual volume of hate mail he gets when he takes on a town or a team, and .... nothing. No suspicious powder in the mail. No E-A-G-L-E-S chants on his answering machine No gift-wrapped horse head pillows.
Not only did I get zero complaints, some Philly fans even e-mailed just to say, "Right on, the sports scene is absolutely morbid right now, never seen anything like this before" and "I majored in psych in college and am becoming convinced that Philly sports fans are suffering from collective depression, all the signs are there."
The reason for his returning to the subject this week was a letter from Brendon of Philadelphia, a self-styled long-suffering Philly fan, who described waiting for Sixers GM Billy King to pull the trigger on an Iverson trade "like watching your girlfriend drink too much at a party. You KNOW she's going to eventually blow chunks. There is no doubt. It's gonna happen. And it's gonna be ugly. The real question is, where? ..."
This caused Simmons, who understands malaise because he was a Boston fan for those plague years that ended with the Patriots victory over the Rams, to empathize with the mass depression that's moved into the Delaware Valley.
After awhile, we started EXPECTING things to go wrong. That's when you know there's a problem, when you're trapped in an ongoing state of pessimistic inadequacy and there's no way out. Hence, the depression connection.
Well, doesn't that describe Philly fans right now? Pessimistic inadequacy? After 22 years of suffering and falling just short, dealing with a relentlessly unhappy media getting everyone riled up, enduring dozens of ludicrous front-office moves, getting their hopes raised by some genuinely big-time superstars (Lindros, Iverson, McNabb, Roenick, Schilling, Cunningham) and big-time contenders (the '93 Phillies, '01 Sixers, multiple runs with the Eagles and Flyers), McNabb's bizarre collapse in the Super Bowl and the subsequent T.O. debacle seemed to push everyone over the edge ... and these fans were uber-pessimistic to begin with. Hell, in a column about the "Worst 20 Sports Fans" for my old Web site, I picked Philly fans No. 1 and braced for the deluge of hate mails that never happened. Instead, they e-mailed in just to say stuff like, "You're right. We're insane. There's something wrong with us."
And that was eight years ago. He describes signing books in town last December as the Eagles season was petering out, and found the bitterness nearly disarming:
"I couldn't believe the body language of the locals -- signing a sports book for these poor people was like signing a romance novel for Jennifer Aniston right after Brad and Angelina started dating. You can't even imagine how many people asked me, "Can you sign it? Maybe this will happen to the Eagles someday?" And that was before T.O. went to Dallas, the C-Webb trade backfired and the Mets ran away from the Phillies.
All this is a precede to his message for Billy King, whom he describes as "one of the worst GMs in any sport:" No way Philly should trade Iverson.
Launch anti-King Web sites, he suggests. Protest outside radio stations. Chant Iverson's name at Phillies games.
The post caused Philly Sports Review to go all existential on us.
I’ve never lived elsewhere, but I have to believe we bring most of this garbage on ourselves. Bill Giles aside, calling WIP gives many a sense that they truly have a say in sports around here. They don’t, and the more they have no affect the more they yelp and the dumber they sound. Lazy national sports writers/broadcasters use WIP to get a sense of Philly fans, so we all get lumped together with idiots screaming E A G L E S in the middle of April.
Welcome to Phillyville didn't write about the Simmons column, but he could be exhibit A for the malaise. He wrote on Wednesday:
"I've been on this earth 31 years and today feels like the low point of my existence of being a Philadelphia fan. Worse the Rhonde Romp to close out the Vet. Worse than that certain unspeakable event. Worse than watching Mitch Williams throw 6 pitches all the while knowing where the final one would end up. It's that bad. Like some mangy cur, we are beaten by out good-for-nothing owners and whipped by our neighbors from whom we seek refuge."
What set him off was an interview with Kyle Korver in the Des Moines Register, where the Sixers sharpshooter talked about suiting up in a town where fans sometimes throw pennies at their own players. "In Philadelphia," Korver said, "no matter where you play, you'll get booed if you don't do well," Korver said. "In here, you're going to get cheered, no matter what."
Phillyville: Most perplexing, why doesn't anyone seem to understand that is what drives our mania? With every attack we suffer from a player for whom we root or an owner to whom we pay our hard-earned dollars, we become more wary and unwilling to expose the withered flesh of our shattered hearts.
We, the Philadelphia fans, often feel completely alone. Abandoned by the teams we love and backed into corners by the constant attacks of the national media. What have we done to deserve this? Are we really so different than fans elsewhere? Are we deserving this treatment?
Hath not a Philly fan feelings?
I looked one more place for some light on the Philadelphia sports fan's suffering, the site called Philly Sucks, where Michael Carboni's real-time ticker reminds just how long it's been.
We're at 8,448 days since a major pro team won in all. Phillysucks has a grabbed a couple of Web sites if anyone's interested. FireBillyKing.com and FireBobbyClarke.com. They're empty right now. I guess Carboni's too bummed to do anything with them.
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Why does anyone care what Bill Simmons thinks, really? He's a hack whose only ability is to quote movies and compare them to plays. When a real sportswriter like Peter Gammons or (now the Inquirer's own) David Aldridge or Bill Rhoden says something like that, I'll listen.
Posted by: Anthony | Jul 17, 2006 9:35:22 AM
David Alridge is a TOTAL HACK and so is Bill Rhoden. Bill Simmons is the voice of my generation and is THE WRITER for the under 40 set. He is right and btw, you can see what kind of hack Aldridge is in that he is a Philly columnist who doesnt live in PHILLY!. That's dishonest and hacky.
Posted by: That Dude | Jul 17, 2006 11:11:03 AM
Who cares with Simmons thinks? Who cares if any team ever wins a championship? Everyone should just grow up and get over the "We deserve a championship" stupidity perpetuated by those WIP morons, who only care about the ratings
Posted by: Mark | Jul 17, 2006 3:30:33 PM
Many of us have made sport our idol. Maybe all that failure is God's way of saying "get your priorities straight."
Posted by: Geoff | Jul 17, 2006 6:01:13 PM
If that was the case, wouldn't God want every team to lose every year to get everyone's priorities straight? Not just in Philly?
Posted by: Mark | Jul 18, 2006 8:21:52 AM
Who knows? Just speculation. He may be giving us what we deserve and others mercy.
Posted by: Geoff | Jul 18, 2006 11:03:02 AM
Then explain all the hurricanes that have and will happen in Florida and the other conservative states in the south? You know, the ones who voted for Bush and are supposed to be 'good' people? Seems to me they would be shown 'mercy' and other states, like New York, would get what they deserve. I think the whole thing is stupid but that's what I believe.
Posted by: Mark | Jul 18, 2006 1:50:01 PM
your name is geoff
Posted by: gerhardt | Jul 19, 2006 2:39:13 AM
If Dan Rubin quotes from my blog again without first posting a damn link to my blog in his sidebar, I'm going to hunt him down and make him sit at the bar at the Standard Tap until his ears bleed from the god awful racket.
Dude - not cool.
Posted by: rubylegs | Jul 19, 2006 10:56:09 AM
Hm. That would be a novel approach. But you keep writing good stuff and a link is more likely to magically appear.
Posted by: daniel rubin | Jul 19, 2006 10:59:33 AM
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