Tanking is bad and millennials enable it.
If I didn’t burn my fingertips off yesterday on a plate of bacon, this would be the hottest take I’ve touched all week. Teams tank because it’s a high-risk, high-reward way to improve without getting stuck in mediocrity. It’s a new-ish idea and new ideas are foolish, according to columnists.
Today’s perpetrator is John Smallwood in his column, “Philadelphia, city of tankers.” Can you already feel the warmth?
Philadelphia in 1980 became the only North American city to have all of its franchises in the four major sports – MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL – play for their respective championships in the same year.
And even though the Phillies were the only team to actually win the title, “The City of Brotherly Love” took to its sports moniker well.
Not being familiar with Philadelphia sports history at the time, I honestly believed it was simply another tribute in a long history of championship teams.
I learned differently when I came to the Daily News in 1994.
He’s right that 1980 was a great year, even though three out of four teams fell short of the ultimate goal, but that is the exception, not the rule. Philly is known as a city of losers. The Phils were the first team to 10,000 losses, the early ’70s Sixers own the NBA’s futility record, and the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Disregarding a handful of years, Philly sports has been a wasteland. Fans “embracing tanking” as something to try to break the mediocrity makes sense because losing is kinda our thing. But Smallwood continues:
Three decades later, a new mantra has become associated with Philadelphia sports – “Tanking.”
It started with the extreme rebuilding plan of Sixers president/general manager Sam Hinkie in 2013 to break down the roster and then assemble the worst team possible in order to increase the odds off acquiring the No.1 overall pick in the draft.
To my surprise, more than a few Sixers fans from the gritty, blue-collar Philadelphia region were giddy with the idea of intentionally losing to justify the goal of trying to acquire a potential franchise-altering talent … like a bad case of the flu, the idea of throwing away games to the bottom before hopefully rising to the top infected the entire South Philadelphia sports complex …
In 2014, some Eagles fans said the Birds should sacrifice what would turn into a 10-win season to try and position them to draft University of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Last season, Flyers fans, who are the most loyal in the city, wanted new general manager Ron Hextall to make every effort to be bad enough to be in position to draft one of two “generational” prospects – Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
Down the stretch of last year’s lost season, Phillies fans openly rooted for the team to lose 100 games rather than risk losing the No.1 overall draft pick.
Fans from the “gritty, blue-collar Philadelphia” are open to tanking (and it’s not a majority) because we’re tired of being a laughing-stock by accident. We’ll be one on purpose for a few years to have a shot at being great. Teams want a superstar because it works. Outside of the Wilt, Dr. J, and AI eras, the Sixers franchise has been trash.
Eagles fans did want Mariota, but few seriously suggested the Eagles tank the whole season. Many wanted to trade up for him after 2014, which would have sacrificed a 7-win season and maybe saved Chip Kelly’s job. Phillies fans rooted for 100 losses and the top overall draft pick in what was already, obviously, a discarded season. If you think losing 95 games is any better than losing 100 you don’t understand perspective. But Smallwood hasn’t even brought the fire yet:
It becomes more a fan base of millennials each year. Perhaps as a fringe Gen-Xer, I’m too old school in my belief that intentionally trying to lose at historic levels to possibly set up a better future goes against the essence of competitive sports.
None of this backs up his argument (if he even has one). He’s talking about “the essence of competitive sports” and the legacy of Philadelphia, but the legacy of Philadelphia sports is one of losing:
In most cases, I am not an ends-justifies-the-means person.
I’ve had numerous heated debates with Philadelphia fans – primarily Sixers fans – who argue that unless the team wins the championship the season does not matter anyway.
Maybe a lot of them weren’t around in 1980.
If they were around, they could not have accepted Philadelphia christened as “The City of Champions.”
Most fans don’t think a non-championship season is a waste. A season where there’s no chance at all? Totally. And the ends do justify the means if the means are a championship squad. EVERY. TIME. 2016’s historic losing throughout the city is an outlier. 1980, with historic winning, was the same. You can’t compare them. Philly teams have been decidedly mediocre, as a whole, most other years. The Sixers were actually the worst team of all-time before they won their title in 1980, and not just one in the eyes of a talking point.
And maybe the fans were around from ’71 to ’75, or from ’91 to ’98. In those stretches, no Sixers team had a season above .500. By advocating for tanking, we’re trying an alternative to the team’s eternal mediocrity.
The whole column is pointless, and when I said as much, Smallwood gave up on me:
@jimadair3 I said u were right. What more do u want?
— John Smallwood (@SmallTerp) February 17, 2016
When I reached out to another media member with whom I often discuss these columns, he started to tell me about a completely different column from Smallwood today which also doesn’t make sense.
Smallwood argued that the Sixers have already failed at the trade deadline because …. I’ll let him take it:
Center/forward Jason Thompson was the type of big man contending teams always look for at the trade deadline.
Hinkie once got value for LaVoy Allen. Thompson could have easily been moved in a deal getting some value for the Sixers’ future.
At the end of July, however, Hinkie traded Thompson to the Golden State Warriors for Gerald Wallace, who was released, cash and more of those oh-so-desired draft considerations.
[He also opens his column saying yesterday’s Magic/Pistons swap was great for the Magic, when pretty much everyone thinks otherwise. They traded four-years of control on Tobias Harris for a half-year of Brandon Jennings and a maximum of 1.5 years of Ersan Ilyasova.]
The reason Hinkie got so little for Thompson in the GSW deal is because he had ZERO value. He was thrown into the Kings deal as a salary dump because one of the most inept franchises in sports didn’t have a use for him.
Either way the Sixers will end up getting nothing for Thompson, which is way less than if they still had him to move come the trade deadline.
Smallwood makes one good point: “Nothing” is, in fact, less than something. But Thompson was moved in a deal that got some value for the Sixers’ future– pick swaps and a future first from the Kings.
Decrying Hinkie for not trading a veteran for picks, when he’s done it over and over again (so much, that columnists like Smallwood complain about it) is just absurd. Again a writer has successfully argued against their own point by not making a consistent point at all. It’s almost as if they’re being bad on purpose. Where have I heard that before?