Though no one has ever asked for an all-over-the-place, hyperbole-driven, talk-radio-in-text (and other hyphenates) column from anybody, Cataldi has delivered it. His whole schtick can be summed up in one of his lines here: “Philadelphia sports fans want the truth about their teams, delivered in plain language, preferably in a raised voice.” Or, broken down: I will yell dumb things at you.
Cataldi’s column begins with a brag about his “two degrees in journalism,” to remind you that what follows has no excuse for being such garbage. It’s about the “clowns and has-beens and frauds” that run the pro sports teams in this town. Cataldi takes the controversial opinion that, hey, maybe Ruben Amaro is bad at his job (and maybe Jeff Lurie is a bit clueless). Shocking. But the biggest problem with this whole thing comes in a couple of opinions with no background — Cataldi’s style — about Sam Hinkie:
In this space every week, you will read the truth as I see it, taking no prisoners and suffering no fools. For example, the clown I refer to in the opening paragraph is, indeed, Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, the worst general manager in sports. The has-been is Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 40 years. And the fraud is Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, whose bogus rebuilding plan is impressive only to idiots.
The alarmingly large army of knuckleheads embracing GM Sam Hinkie’s master plan need to ask themselves one question: Are Michael-Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel actually building blocks for a Sixer championship? If your answer is yes, congratulations. You win a lifetime supply of Hinkie Kool-Aid.
Cataldi never offers an alternative — just like Howard “I’m so upset that Hinkie won’t talk to me that I’m actually getting alarmingly obsessed” Eskin* — just the buzzwords and armchair analysis that the Sixers (and analytics-driven sports) don’t lend themselves well to. People coming from the same viewpoint as Cataldi will often say, against tanking, that the Sixers made the Eastern Conference Semifinals just a few years ago, without acknowledging that the team fell ass backwards into them in a lockout shortened season and that it was their undeniable peak.
People like Cataldi, who make their money by shouting, don’t understand what the Sixers are doing. I’m not on board not because Hinkie is a genius or because the Sixers are guaranteed to be great in two years, because neither of those things can be said with certainty. Fans drinking the “Hinkie Kool-Aid” are just hoping. That’s it. I acknowledge that the Sixers’ plan may not work. I know that it might. But rather than floating around the middle, bouncing back between a 10th seed and a 7th seed and just chilling there for years (a real alternative), Hinkie and the Sixers want to actually try to win something here. If it works, great. If not, we’ll all move on… like we’ve been doing for 30 years. At least an effort is being made to build something good – great, even – instead of pretending everything is alright and knowing you’ll float around the middle for decades.
But people like Cataldi and Eskin work only in absolutes. Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. “Fraud” vs. someone who will give the media a quote or two here and there. On that side, Hinkie is a fraud, a nerd, and a non-basketball person doing backroom deals and burning bridges. He’s a businessperson, not a players’ GM. Except that he might be:
No one is sure if the Sixers’ plan will work. But what about blowing it up and starting over to really gun for something big instead of being mediocre is against the Philly-fan ways? Cataldi is right that Philly fans are passionate. But he seems to think they’re a lot dumber than they are, and he’s fit into that role pretty well himself.
*This is really just as much about Eskin as it is Cataldi, but Eskin didn’t write dumb lines in a column.