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CNNSI: Why Philadelphians Hate Themselves


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Big Philly style

Philadelphians don't feel brotherly love for hard-luck losers like Mickelson

Posted: Monday June 21, 2004 11:54AM; Updated: Monday June 21, 2004 4:02PM

Tell us, the SI.Com editor told me, what is on your mind. Write a blog once a week and we'll stick it on the site. Then, like media members to the free chicken wings in the hospitality room, readers will flock. Don't say, I said, that I didn't warn you: this could be dangerous, the idea of entrusting SI writers with unlimited space and the freedom to muse on whatever they like. Dinner's on us, he said, and I agreed: a blog was a fantastic idea. So, some thoughts ...

Phil Mickelson: The reason Americans love you is because you three-putt from 5 feet out, just like they do. Anyway, Mickelson is meant to be a lovable loser, the eternal sidekick. He's the Cheech Marin of golf. Which makes Cheech Marin, I suppose, the Tiger Woods of inhaling. ... Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 500th homer on Sunday, and his dad was there to see it. An impressive feat, and a healthy Griffey could easily get to 600. Which makes me wonder: with so much genetic capital involved, is it nature or nurture? ...

Discoveries made while covering the NBA Finals in Detroit last week: Luke Walton is Brent Barry in waiting. ... Some men are meant to wear a beard. Rasheed Wallace is not one of them. ... Kid Rock smells like beer -- probably because when I passed him in the tunnel underneath the stands at The Palace he had one in his hand (he was headed to the Pistons locker room). Rock, by the way, made a great decision to sing a subdued version of America the Beautiful (with backup hummers) instead of attempting, and surely mangling, the high notes of The Star-Spangled Banner. ... Vinnie (the Microwave) Johnson still looks like he was born with a keg for a torso. ... Gary Payton represents the answer to the following trivia question: Which NBA player has the most ill-fitting nickname? Payton covered Chauncey Billups in the Finals less like a Glove and more like maternity clothes. (New Moniker: The Large, Roomy Shawl?)

Dept. of Ludicrous Overreaction: After Game 2, the hosts of a Detroit sports radio station were asking callers to weigh in on whether Larry Brown's decision not to foul Shaq at the end of Game 2 represented a) the worst coaching decision in Detroit sports history and/or B) the worst moment in Detroit sports history. Most callers voted yes to both. ... Speaking of fair-weather fans, I was in the City of Brotherly Love over the weekend and saw a letter to the editor in The Philadelphia Inquirer sports section about Smarty Jones. The reader wrote that Jones lost in the Belmont because he just couldn't overcome the label "Philadelphia horse." Talk about a city with some serious self-image issues.

When I lived there for a spell in the late '90s, Philly teetered between adoring the local teams and deploring them, often in the same week, if not the same half hour. I remember one particular white Christmas during which the big gift was an Eagles jersey -- specifically that of Bobby Hoying, the latest in a line of Eagles QBs of the moment. Hoying had led the Eagles to something like three wins in a row and his smiling face was all over the papers. Young women swooned over him, small boys emulated him, ironworkers wanted to drink Yuenglings with him. He was the new Philly icon: Ron Jaworski with height, Rocky with a football, Boyz II Men before they went all-ballad, all-the-time. At least until he lost a game a few weeks later, at which point Hoying was reduced to second-string shrapnel by fans on talk radio, just another worthless should-be-a-backup indicative of the Eagles' inability to procure a top-tier signal-caller. Before Hoying, Ty Detmer had been the guy who titillated the Eagles fans with a few wins. Then it was Ty's little brother, the little-used (and for good reason) Koy, who enjoyed a brief bright moment before being relegated to the city's list of failed saviors.

What ticks off the Philadelphia folk even more is that it seems the best thing for an athlete's career is to get the hell out of the city. Hence the JPEG a friend sent me a couple months ago. It's a mock version of the Philadelphia Daily News featuring a headline that reads "GRUDGE-ADELPHIA." The subhead: "Other Cities Give it Up Over Time, But Not Us." A montage of traitors fills the cover: Larry Brown in a Detroit Tigers jersey (which he wore to a Pistons press conference), a grinning Scott Rolen in a Cardinals uniform, J.D. Drew wearing Braves duds and pointing double-barreled fingers (one imagines after swatting a home run against the Phils) and the sour face of Richie Kotite in a Jets hat. I know it is but small comfort, but I'd like to point out to the Philly not-so-faithful that former Sixers first-round draft pick Shawn Bradley has sucked everywhere he's played.

In ending this inaugural blog, I suppose I could make a reference to an obscure band (You've been great. Enjoy Billy and the Beaters!) but I think that coda is spoken for at the mag. Instead, how about an homage to a lost talent of the Golden State Warriors? So ... you've been pleasant. Enjoy the innumerable skills of Uwe Blab.

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