You thought when the Super Bowl ended it was all over. You thought you wouldn’t have to pretend to care about sports for another six months. Unfortunately, you were wrong. Sportsball never ends!
It’s February, and the #LOLSixers are still losing (but not as depressingly), the Phillies are getting ready to get ready for the baseball season, and college basketball is nearing its exciting end. You probably have no idea what any of this means, but don’t fear. Billy Penn has compiled its monthly guide to Philadelphia sports for people who know nothing about Philadelphia sports.
Update: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training for the Phillies next Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. “Pitchers and catchers report” is a time for grown men to play catch at a ballpark early in the morning, play golf in the afternoons while smoking cigars and play cards at night also while smoking cigars while getting paid to be there. By early March, the rest of the team will join and they’ll play practice games every day. You might be asking, “Why would players have to travel to Florida for two months to prepare for a job that consists of standing around a green field chewing tobacco for three hours and going up to swing a stick at a ball every 45 minutes or so?”
It’s a great, unanswerable question. Spring training is basically annual confirmation that you embarked down the wrong career path.
What you can praise: Right now all we should do is praise. Spring baseball is made for saps who like to quote Yeats and listen to “Chandelier” on repeat. In the spring, the fact that the Phillies are still paying over $130 million for a team that will almost certainly fall out of contention by June is irrelevant. At the beginning of every spring, no team is in last place yet. Fans won’t get much to love about the Phillies this year, so at least praise the fleeting moment in which they’re undefeated because they haven’t played anyone yet.
What you can criticize: Wait, actually forget spring optimism and Yeats for a second because these Phillies are so bad science has already figured out they’ll be the worst team in the Major Leagues. Baseball Prospectus ran a few advanced statistical metrics to figure out how many victories teams would get this season and found out the Phillies would get the least, giving them the worst record in all of baseball.
Learn about a player: Darin Ruf. He’s the guy who might finally fill in for Ryan Howard if Howard, formerly one of the Phillies’ best players, continues to struggle. Ruf is pretty much a character in an 80s family sitcom: He grew up in the Midwest (Omaha, Neb.) where he probably ate a lot of steak and corn to get big, is married to his college sweetheart who played on the school’s softball team and is in contention for playing time for the Phillies because he’s a hard worker who has advanced far beyond his talent level. A starting position this year for Ruf is a starting position for America.
How to really impress somebody: Take a friend to spring training and live the lazy life of a baseball player for a week. Apparently the airlines must realize the Phillies are mad-awful this year because flights to Tampa from Philadelphia during spring training are cheap. You could go during the week of March 16 for a $165 round trip. A trip like this for a sports-loving friend would earn you a lifetime’s worth of sportsball points. You’d never have to talk about sportsball again.
Update: The sky isn’t falling as low as it once was, or at least it doesn’t feel like it. Why? Well the #LOLSixers are still the #LOLSixers, but the season is mercifully about halfway over and the draft lottery awaits in just two months. If the #LOLSixers keep tanking and the stars align the right way, they’ll be in position to draft Jahlil Okafor. And unlike the team’s recent draft picks, Okafor will almost certainly be a spectacular player right away. He is currently averaging about 18 points and 9 rebounds per game for Duke, one of the best college teams in the country.
What you can praise: The #LOLSixers are getting a puppy. Franklin the Dog is set to become the team’s first mascot since it parted ways with consistent inducer of night-terrors Hip-Hop. The mascot will be unveiled today at 1 p.m. today, but Grantland revealed Franklin is a fluffy, blue dog (Billy Penn was personally hoping the #LOLSixers would just get a Corgi). Franklin will probably look like this:
What you can criticize: The #LOLSixers might be less depressing, but they’re still so bad that Andrei Kirilenko would rather forfeit $3.1 million than play basketball for them. The #LOLSixers picked him up as part of a trade a couple of months ago, and everyone thought they would release him and just keep his expiring contract. But the #LOLSixers decided they wanted to use Kirilenko. Kirilenko did not take kindly to this. He is now considered part of the team roster but has yet to actually join the team for even a practice. To get him to play, the #LOLSixers have suspended him without pay. And Kirilenko would apparently lose out on $3.1 million than suit up for Philadelphia.
Learn about a player: Tim Frazier. Frazier just joined the #LOLSixers on a 10-day contract (yes, such contracts are common, and some players get signed to one 10-day deal and never play in the NBA again). And the #LOLSixers are going to want him for longer than 10 days. In his debut game last Friday, Frazier had 11 assists. In his second game Saturday, he had another eight assists and led the #LOLSixers to victory. His assist totals for those first two games were better than the first two career games of superstars LeBron James, John Wall and Damian Lillard.
Also very important, Frazier has a good sense of humor. When the team’s website interviewed before his debut on Friday, he compared himself to Eminem’s character, B. Rabbit, in “8 Mile,” saying “It’s like that Eminem song, you only get one shot.”
On the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs. pic.twitter.com/utnbHFhblG
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 6, 2015
How to really impress somebody: Tell them it’s not a big deal you’re not an #LOLSixers fan because they’re really not very popular. According to this map that lets you see the favorite NBA team in every county in Pennsylvania and beyond, the #LOLSixers are beloved in only a few counties surrounding Philadelphia. Most of the state favors the Lakers and the Heat over the #LOLSixers, as well as Camden County. If you just cross the river, you’ll find plenty of people who don’t care about the #LOLSixers.
Update: March Madness, those magical two days when Microsoft Excel is used solely for tabulating money made or lost from bets on basketball games, will be here before you know it. But Philadelphia teams have some work to do. As of now, Villanova is the lone team poised to make the Big Dance. That’s totally not cool for Philadelphia, which usually has at least two teams in the NCAA Tournament and once had four back in 1995.
What you can praise: Temple is one of those teams that could make the NCAA Tournament. After really sucking the first couple months of the season waiting for a young roster to mature, Temple beat highly-ranked Kansas in late December and from there the momentum has continued to build. The Owls are 17-7 and could end in first place in their conference if they can beat upcoming opponents like Southern Methodist University and Tulsa. They most recently won when their player Josh Brown banked in this nifty shot with only a few seconds left.
Learn About A Player: Brothers Flo and Sho Da-Silva. Those are shortened names (Shofolahan and Shofolarin) but awesome nevertheless. The two brothers have been a major reason why University of the Sciences is ranked No. 1 in its region at the Division II level. Even better, they helped lead the program to the biggest victory in school history in December when University of the Sciences won at Drexel. It was one of the first times ever that a Division II team beat a Division I team at home. Flo is a freshman biology major while Sho is a junior majoring in health science. Yay for cool names and yay for science beating sportsball!
How to really impress somebody: Take your Valentine’s date to Penn’s 7 p.m. game against Brown at The Palestra. Seriously. The Palestra is arguably the most beautiful place to watch basketball in the country. Basketball is arguably the most beautiful sport in the world (aside from soccer). Sure, Parc promises Stephen Starr cuisine and mood lighting, but what a cliche place to spend Valentine’s Day. Real romance unfolds at the Palestra.*
*Disclaimer: Real romance MIGHT NOT actually unfold at the Palestra.
How to really impress somebody Volume 2: Hire the St. Joseph’s Hawk to appear at a work function. There’s no better way to surprise people you must professionally impress day in and day out than by bringing a man dressed as a bird that constantly flaps its wings to celebrate a special occasion.