Four-for-Four: The Reality Sucks Edition

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January 24, 2014; Ko

Days like Friday are the type that serve as brutal reminders of some of the plights that come along with being a Philadelphia sports fan. Players who manage to deal with the growing pains and excel in the city, much like former Eagles WR DeSean Jackson did in his six seasons with the Birds, achieve a status that flirts with heroic levels. Mostly due to the fact that the city has seen so few championships, players take priority over the decisions of the franchise if the team hasn’t won a championship. Were it not for the Eagles defense forgetting how to tackle against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 NFC Championship game, one could argue that Jackson would have had the two most significant Eagles touchdowns in the last decade, going along with Miracle in the Meadowlands part II. Hearing the news of Jackson’s departure brought upon a mixture of feelings that was unfamiliar to me. I imagine it being similar to what it would have felt like if the Phillies had moved one of their core pieces when their value was high instead of holding on for one last run.

Speaking of the Phillies, maybe it was just me, but seeing Kevin Frandsen have his walking papers handed to him by Philadelphia only to jump ship and sign for the exact same amount ($900K) in Washington really got at me for some reason. When a team goes sour like the Phillies have, one tends to gravitate toward players like Frandsen. Despite his physical limitations and lack of God-given talent, Frandsen provided entertainment in his time in Philadelphia, as well as a strong voice in the locker room. He was one of the few outspoken players who stood behind what the organization was doing. I am all on board for the Phillies gearing their roster efforts towards getting younger, but Frandsen jumping to the Nationals seems to be a tell-tale sign that the utility infielder was less than pleased with not remaining on board for 2014.

Friday morning also brought bad news for Flyers free agent acquisition Vincent Lecavalier, who was demoted to 4th line center for the time being. Lecavalier was supposed to bring an improved veteran scoring presence from the departed Daniel Briere after he was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead, the former NHL MVP has struggled to lock down a place in the lineup that best highlights his now-limited talents. Lecavalier does not have the ability to change directions at the drop of a dime and explosiveness to play on the wing, but he cannot be counted on for the defensive responsibilities required of the Flyers centers to play his natural position. Lecavalier’s contract he signed prior to this season carries on through 2018. Giving owner Ed Snider a ‘reset’ button in the form of compliance buyouts spells trouble for underperforming veterans like Lecavalier. Hopefully the 33-year old can use the motivation of his demotion to inject some offense into a Flyers team scratching and clawing to clinch a playoff berth. Otherwise, his time in Philadelphia could be very short-lived.

Rounding out the region is the loveable losers that the Philadelphia 76ers have become. Before the weekend’s end, the Sixers will most likely surpass the 2010-2011 Cavaliers as the most consistently bad team over the course of a regular season the NBA has ever seen. Though perhaps not in the nature they’ve gone in doing so, many figured the 76ers to end up as one of the most futile squads in the league for the 2013-2014 campaign. Now, with the end of the regular season mercilessly nearing, the uncertainty of such a bold strategy starts to become more of an issue. Everything that Sam Hinkie and the 76ers brass have done over the course of last season into this regular season has been to position oneself for a high lottery pick. No matter how the team’s final 10 games go, the 76ers will have positioned themselves with a prime chance to secure a top three pick. Despite that being the case, the nature of the NBA lottery will have the Philadelphia front office sweating until their name is announced with whatever pick they end up with. Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown have already made it clear they do not plan on making any sort of splash in free agency, so the only way the team will see any improvement going into next season would be through the draft. For NBA conspiracy theorists, there are several teams that, if they were awarded a top pick, would improve the product of the league (Lakers, Celtics). In my opinion, giving the Sixers a high pick would do more for the league (re-igniting a dormant fan base) than patching up the mismanagement of the league’s two most popular franchises by pushing them up the lottery. Regardless, depending on who declares for the draft, the anticipation for the announcement of the lottery order could bring with it a huge sigh of relief or a recoil of disgust for 76ers fans. Being a fan in this city has its fare share of trying times. Right now, and in the coming weeks, could be among the most defining stretch for the city in terms of the next few years of its professional sports.