This is the time, folks. This is our Paris.
All the people who know nothing about sportsball can finally exact revenge on their sportsball-loving friends during next week’s NCAA Tournament, a true equalizer when it comes to sports intellect. You’ll get to fill out a bracket, probably choosing teams based on nicknames or colors… or U.S. News and World Report rankings if you’re the geeky type. Your sportsball-loving friends will fill out a bracket pretending to know the exact strengths and weaknesses of Gonzaga and Northern Iowa. Then they’ll cry as you dominate them because the tournament is so unpredictable. Victory will be sweet.
Meanwhile, the #LOLSixers earned their biggest victory of the season, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly has apparently been getting advice from #LOLSixers GM Sam Hinkie on how to lose like 30 players at the same time. Welcome to the March edition of our guide to Philadelphia sports for people who know nothing about Philadelphia sports!
Update: Next week = green beer and brackets, one of the finest times to live. The NCAA Tournament first round happens on Thursday and Friday, and St. Paddy’s Day is of course Tuesday. The really smart, capable employees of this city will call in sick Wednesday through Friday and have a nice five-day weekend.
What you can praise: Philadelphia is probably getting two teams in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova, ranked as the No. 4 team in the country, is definitely in, and the Wildcats will probably get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Temple is hanging by a thread, though. The people who project teams in the NCAA Tournament (see directly below) are mainly saying Temple will be one of the last four teams in. If the Owls screw up and lose this Friday against Memphis, they might not get that NCAA invitation. Be sure to keep your fingers crossed for Temple come Sunday when the teams get selected.
Learn about a player: Joe Lunardi. OK, Lunardi isn’t a basketball player but when it comes to March he is pretty much the guy college hoops fans will be talking about for the next few days. He’s ESPN’s bracketologist, the person who uses statistical analysis to predict which teams will get in the NCAA Tournament and even which teams will play each other. He’s also a Philly guy. Lundari graduated from St. Joseph’s and when he’s not moonlighting for ESPN works there as assistant vice president for marketing communications and teaches a bracketology class.
A must-see college event: Anthony Fleet wrote about the magic of Penn’s Palestra basketball gym last week. Well, this Saturday afternoon at 4, it will feature an Ivy League championship game between Yale and Harvard (smart people ball!). The winner goes to the NCAA Tournament. The loser has to get back to applying for that corporate debt markets summer internship at Morgan Stanley.
Update: The #LOLSixers are now less a basketball team than a Slate thinkpiece. Everybody has been weighing in on the Fightin’ LOLs since Hinkie blew up the team yet again at the trade deadline last month. Big pieces on the team have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, Grantland, Business Insider and elsewhere. The verdict? Nobody has any idea what the #LOLSixers are doing and this makes them one of the most fascinating teams in sports. That might not mean you’ll get to watch entertaining basketball at the Wells Fargo Center anytime soon, but at least the #LOLSixers are relevant in terms of Internet clicks. The plan for turning around the team’s SEO is working!
What You Can Praise: OMG the #LOLSixers just beat the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. I told this to a friend as the final seconds were unfolding at a bar. His response: What does that mean?
OK, so the city didn’t exactly erupt with emotion. But seriously, that was the biggest victory for the #LOLSixers all season. The Hawks have had the best or one of the best records in the NBA all season and have a decent shot at winning a championship. And somehow the #LOLSixers beat them. It probably helped that Atlanta was resting three starters, but hey, who cares about the fine print? Enjoy the the happy moments while you can (or, I don’t know, get angry because that win puts them further away from landing the top pick in the NBA Draft).
What you can criticize: The #LOLSixers might be a pyramid or ponzi scheme. At least that’s what Grantland’s Rafe Bartholomew thinks, and his idea doesn’t sound terribly far-fetched:
Good news, everyone: I flipped some ambiguously tangible assets for a few less-tangible ambiguous assets with a slightly greater ceiling, only it’s going to take even longer for us to turn this around, so GET YOUR SEASON TICKET MONEY IN NOW.
What the team should do to make fans happy: Know how many draft picks this team has over the next few years? Countless. Next year alone they could have 10 and in the next five years about 15 more and probably counting. These picks are distant and mysterious and there’s not necessarily anything a regular human could ever do to actually prove their existence. They’re kind of like stars in the outer reaches of our universe.
And just as the International Star Registry sells naming rights to stars, the #LOLSixers should start a program allowing fans to purchase naming rights for draft picks. It would be a total success: “Happy Valentine’s Day, hon’. The 17th pick in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft is now named Josephine. I hear they might be using this one on a Slovenian!”
Learn about a player: Thomas Robinson. Robinson was recently acquired by the #LOLSixers and unlike most of the other players they’ve acquired who get quickly cut or choose to lose millions of dollars rather than play, he’s sticking around. Good thing, too. Robinson is well-regarded as a great person who’s dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity. Back in college, his grandmother, grandfather and mother died in the span of about a month. And then he had to take care of his sister, who was 7 at the time. Robinson hasn’t quite lived up to his potential yet as an NBA player, but he’s certainly worth cheering for if the #LOLSixers keep him around.
Update: The entire team is gone. Or at least many of the cool kids, including LeSean McCoy, the running back you’ve heard of because he left a small tip that one time at PYT, and Jeremy Maclin, the guy who’s really fast and caught many of the passes on Sundays last year. In their place, coach Chip Kelly has added an injured linebacker who he used to coach in college at Oregon and will look to add several free agents over the next few weeks and months. These roster moves are either strictly business or racist, depending on who you ask. Yes, sportsball is quite divisive.
What you can praise: Well after these roster moves, the Eagles are by most estimates slower and less talented, and they also have less depth. But they did clear somewhere around $30 million by dumping those guys and will have about $45 million to spend on football’s offseason shopping spree: free agency. The Birds will have a real shot to get some of the most attractive free agents in the NFL. Kelly will also be able to win back some fans who are undoubtedly pissed about the trade of McCoy and release of Maclin. He’ll need to sign the best free agents in the league and then win the Super Bowl to really capture their hearts, though.
What you can criticize: The Eagles have replaced McCoy so far with a blank space and not the good Taylor Swift kind. They were supposed to be getting a replacement running back from San Francisco in Frank Gore. But Gore got “cold feet” and doesn’t want to play for the Eagles anymore. Dang it, Frank. Surely you couldn’t have been intimidated by any fans with high expectations to fill in for Shady McCoy, right?