Honesty may still be the best policy in sports — and in life — but the policy has expired. Shameless liars like coaches, team doctors and color commentators have spawned a cynicism so deep that the truth is no longer identifiable.
A case in point was the simplest of comments offered last week at the NFL combine by Chip Kelly. The new Eagles coach said he didn’t want to trade Nick Foles because he really wanted to work with the young, promising, but slow-footed quarterback.
The howls of indignation that followed this innocuous remark were astonishing. An internet poll I oversaw at WIP radio had 58-percent of Eagles fans saying Kelly was lying. Reports surfaced almost that the coach was looking for nothing more than a third-round draft pick for Foles. The consensus was: Who does Chip Kelly think he’s kidding?
What made this reaction so interesting is that Kelly has absolutely no track record for fabrication. He was known at Oregon as guarded, maybe even distrustful with the media, but never a liar. So far, he has dazzled no one with the hiring of his new staff and decision to bring back Mike Vick. But he has made no obvious attempt at deception.
So why has he been branded an unreliable source for information? Well, the obvious reason is that he’s following Andy Reid, a coach who had no respect for the fans or for the truth. Remember, it was Reid who said he was “trying to win the football game” when he got LeSean McCoy hurt in the final two minutes of a 31-6 loss last season.
The Eagles, as an organization, have obviously been no slaves to the truth, either. Their medical reports have been consistently misleading, their explanations for fan-unfriendly decisions have been insulting and, well, former president Joe Banner poisoned many psyches with his 16 years of tall tales.
Fans have every right to doubt what sports figures are saying, especially after a decade of lies from Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and an ever-growing list of cheats and scoundrels. And when these sports voices are not lying to them, they are hiding from sight, like Sixers GM Tony DiLeo or Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz or Eagles owner Jeff Lurie.
The few who do tell the truth in sports quickly rise to the top of popularity polls: Charles Barkley, Larry Andersen, and — just last week — Claude Giroux. The Flyers captain said his team was “going through the motions” in a game against Montreal, inspiring some improved play from his teammates and outright amazement from the fans.
As someone who has survived 23 years talking sports in Philadelphia, I can say with some authority that honesty is the one quality that can cut through the din of deceitful voices rattling in our ears. Fans will always embrace an honest answer to a fair question. They will always revere an honest person.
If Chip Kelly learns nothing else from the cynicism over his support of Nick Foles, it should be this: Just tell the truth. It will definitely separate him from the pack of incorrigible liars who populate the sports world today.
Doc passes ace torch to Hamels
Roy Halladay’s gracious handing of the torch to Cole Hamels re-established him as the soul of the Phillies. No one on the aging team deserves a World Series win more than the 35-year-old pitching warhorse, Doc Halladay.
After Hamels was chosen to start the exhibition opener, Halladay stepped up and praised the decision to make the young lefty the ace of the staff. Halladay has started every season opener since 2002, and he accepted without complaint the demotion that his poor 2012 season demanded.
Then Halladay reclaimed his role as a leader by publicly calling for more urgency to win from the entire team, especially early in the 2013 season. The future Hall of Famer pointed out that the Phillies treated April and May like extended spring training last year, while Washington raced out to an insurmountable lead.
Of course, if you were reading this column back then, you already know how absurd the Phillies’ blasé attitude was, and ultimately how destructive it became. In his own subtle, classy way, Halladay was sending a high, hard one right under the chin of manager Charlie Manuel, the culprit behind 2012’s early stupor.
Thanks to Halladay’s leadership last week, we can all take some comfort in the notion that April and May will be better this season. Nobody has more riding on it than Manuel himself.
Andrew Bynum, the big negative
Is there really anything else to say about the poster boy for sports apathy, Andrew Bynum? Ah, let’s give it a try.
Bynum has become such a negative influence on Philadelphia sports that Sixers tickets are selling for pennies on the secondary market and there are public demands for the lackadaisical center’s immediate release. Despite my utter disgust over him, I disagree with this sudden outcry for revenge.
First of all, dumping him now would give Bynum a chance to sign with another team and maybe play enough games to showcase himself before free agency. Other than satisfying our natural urge to punish a deadbeat, there is nothing to gain from this.
A better idea is to continue to monitor his progress from chronic knee issues in the hope that he can get back on the court soon. Hey, he did actually practice with the team for the first time over the past few days. There’s always hope.
Now here comes the best part of this plan: When Bynum is finally ready to show the world that he’s worth the $100 million or more he will be seeking after this outrageous season, the Sixers should sit his rear end on the bench and never play him. Not one minute.
Think about it for a second. The Sixers would be insane to sign Bynum to a long-term deal after the past six months, and the current season is a lost cause anyway. Scoring a win over Bynum — and a blow against unmotivated, me-first, hair-stylin’, bowling-crazed egomaniacs — would provide some solace, wouldn’t it?
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» The Eagles are talking about restructuring Nnamdi Asomugha’s contract. How about requiring the overrated cornerback to pay the Eagles to play here next season? If he gives back, say, $5 million, of the money he’s stolen so far, we might be able to stave off the nausea of watching him play again.
» Howie Roseman said last week that the Eagles will draft the best player on the board with the fourth pick, and then the GM quickly added that this stud will have to fit into the team’s new system. Hmmm. Isn’t that a total contradiction? Could it mean Roseman has no idea what he’s doing? Just wondering.
» Tony DiLeo finally made a move six months into his tenure as Sixers GM. He acquired Charles Jenkins and his 1.7-per-game average from Golden State. Jenkins is a point guard, the deepest position on the Sixers. So now it’s official. DiLeo is off to a very slow start as GM.
» If a lack of leadership was such a big deal on the 2012 Phillies, then can we finally stop praising Charlie Manuel for being so brilliant at managing personalities? Obviously, if no one stepped forward, that failure reflects on the guy leading the players, doesn’t it?
» Andrew Bynum unveiled yet another new look last week when he corn-rowed one side of his head and coiffed an Afro in the other side. Still, fans continue to criticize him for not paying attention to the important things. It’s just so unfair.