by Clark Groome
As the Phillies stumbled through the first half of the season the day before Independence Day and lost five of six before breaking for the All Star Game for a MLB-worst winning percentage of .333, I searched for some good news about Philadelphia sports.
There was plenty of negative stuff happening: The NBA fined Joel Embiid $10,000 for posting “’F’ LaVar Ball” on Instagram.
Both the 76ers’ and the Flyers’ highly-touted first round draft picks – Markelle Fultz and Nolan Patrick – have suffered some physical setbacks: Fultz injured his left ankle (does this conjure up the problems that have kept Embiid and Ben Simmons from becoming full-time members of “The Process”?) and Patrick had abdominal surgery before the draft to fix a sports hernia that has been troubling him for just about a year.
And in a startling media event, Comcast Sports Net fired two of the best team beat reporters in their respective sports: Dei Lynam who covered the 76ers and Tim Panaccio who reported on the Flyers. Both had been at it for years and were respected both locally and nationally. Most of their colleagues share my puzzlement over these moves.
It seems likely that Comcast is trying to save money. I thought that Comcast, it of the two major skyscrapers in downtown Philly, had enough money to buy Italy and still have money left over for its execs and others to order both the appetizer and dessert at any restaurant in town. It’s a shame, folks, and it’s the public that will suffer from losing the insight, knowledge and respect these two reporters bring to their jobs and the sports they cover.
So, that’s the glass-half-empty-part.
Now for the good news, written with fingers crossed (try that, touch typists).
First, and this is a sentence I never thought I would write: The 76ers are the most exciting team in Philadelphia at the moment. Fultz’ addition to a lineup that includes reportedly completely healthy Embiid and Simmons and the recent addition of two veterans: guard J.J. Redick and forward Amir Johnson, should make this an exciting team too watch.
Sixers tickets are selling like hotcakes, and those more familiar with the sport than I think the locals have a good chance of making the playoffs this year.
The same is true for the Flyers. In addition to Patrick, the Flyers have several young players in the system that could make the team and energize it. Among those you should watch are forwards Oskar Lindblom and Taylor Leier, defensemen Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg and goalies Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz.
The new goalie tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth should be a bit better that last year’s Neuvirth/Steve Mason pairing, if only because Elliott is happy to part of a two-goalie system that Mason hated and resisted.
A lot will depend on the Sixers and Flyers remaining healthy (and reports are that Fultz and Patrick will be fine), but it could very well be a positive year for both inhabitants of the Wells Fargo Center.
Going back to the Phillies, encouragement can be seen in pitcher Aaron Nola’s impressive performances and in the leadership that shortstop Freddy Galvis has shown during the last couple of months. These two are bright lights in a somewhat dreary story.
But the best news, albeit about three years late, is the election of former Flyer Mark Recchi to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Here are some of his stats: he’s 12th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,533 points in 1,652 games played. He had 627 points in his 602 games with the Flyers, the team for whom he played the most games. He holds the Orange and Black’s single season scoring record with 123 points 1992-1993.
He won Stanley Cups with three franchises: The Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991, the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Throughout his lengthy and distinguished career he was class personified. A leader on and off the ice the great mystery about his career is why it took four eligible years to add his name to the roll of all-time greats.