bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Hey Philadelphia 76ers…huh?

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OK, so who can explain to me what is going on with the Philadelphia 76ers? No one? I didn’t think so. The NBA regular season started this week, and if you polled a thousand knowledgable sports folks and counted up how many of those people would have predicted a 3-0 start for this team, I guarantee the total would have been zero. That’s exactly how they have started, though, and I am just completely astonished.

Before the season, the bookmakers in Las Vegas all set over-under numbers for the win totals of every team in the major sports. This means you can take the number, say 40 wins, and place a bet that the team will win more than 40 games this season, or you may take the other side and say they will win fewer than that number. For the Sixers, the number was set at 16.5. They play 82 games, mind you, so this number is extraordinarily low. In fact, I am not sure there has ever been a lower total set for an NBA team.

To give you context, the Sixers won 34 games last year. They then traded their only All-Star player, point guard Jrue Holiday, to New Orleans. They made it clear that they were building for the future and would go into the season with a roster full of new draft picks, castoffs, and a couple of guys who they carried over from last year’s team. They could then work to clear salary-cap space and try to sign a mega-free agent or two to become competitive. Expectations were low this season, but with good reason. I thought they would struggle to reach 16 wins, and might even take a shot at the fewest wins in NBA history, a record held by a Sixers team from the early 1970s. If you looked at this team’s schedule, they were set to play the defending champion Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, a big-time contender, in those first three games. It was easy to assume that they would not only lose these games, but get crushed in them. Instead, led by the brilliance of rookie Michael Carter-Williams, the boys from Philadelphia are the talk of the NBA.

So what does this mean? Are the Sixers a playoff team? It still seems unlikely to me. Will they win more than 16 games? Most definitely. It is clear that new head coach Brett Brown is a guy who can really coach. If he can get this performance out of this team, look out when they do get those free agents. I have not watched a great deal of NBA basketball over the last few years, but I am intrigued by this team. I watched the last few minutes of the game against the Bulls on Saturday night in a bar in Chicago. The Bulls had led by 20 as late as the third quarter, but the Sixers roared back. I was the only person in the bar cheering for the good guys, and it was a lot of fun. Michael Carter-Williams sure looks like a star-in-the-making, and Evan Turner might be a little bit more of a player than I had thought. It will be fun to watch.

Good sports, continued:

2) Nebraska beat Northwestern on Saturday on a 49-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired. I was going to put this under Bad Sports, as my daughter goes to Northwestern and I was actually on campus when the game happened (although it was an away game). We were disappointed, but you have to give Nebraska credit for making the play.

3) I don’t want to make this column too Philadelphia-centric, but did you see what Nick Foles and the Philadephia Eagles did to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday? Foles, who had played well in relief of Michael Vick for a couple of weeks in a row before looking atrocious and getting hurt against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, merely threw for over 400 yards and seven touchdown passes against the Raiders. The seven TD passes ties a record from 1969 that was also tied by Peyton Manning earlier this season. I guess Foles has earned himself a few more starts.

Bad sports:

1) Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins early this week after he had apparently been bullied by other players a bit more than he could take. You don’t hear about bullying much for people beyond the ages of adolescence, but that certainly does not mean it doesn’t happen.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon got himself back on the idiot list this week, as he was suspended yet again for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. This is his second suspension this season, and he will not be eligible for reinstatement until next year.

3) This was a bad week for NFL head coaches. John Fox, of the Denver Broncos, was hospitalized on Saturday after feeling lightheaded at practice. He will have heart valve surgery shortly. Then, in a scary scene, Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field as the first half of Houston’s Sunday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts was ending. As of the time of this writing, his condition is not yet known.

4) Former Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Freddie Mitchell was sentenced to 37 months in prison for tax crimes this week.

5) Semyon Varlamov, goalkeeper for the Colorado Avalanche, was arrested this week for allegedly kicking his girlfriend and then stomping on her. Sounds like a good guy.

6) Florida Atlantic head football coach Carl Pelini was forced to resign after he reportedly admitted to some kind of illegal drug use.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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