Holidays in Philly

What we’re thankful for in Philly sports

Our athletes don’t just #SticktoSports

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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Sugarcoating is for Thanksgiving cookies and pie, so let’s get right to it: This has been a tough year for a lot of people in this country. It’s been an especially tough year for a lot of people around Philly, and while in most cases society looks to sports to distract us from the daily grind of life, it’s gotten harder and harder to do that this year.

People want writers like me to #StickToSports, but that’s difficult when the President of the United States has become the biggest sports story in the country. And I’m not even just talking about the protests during the national anthem in the NFL, a movement that grew exponentially after Donald Trump told the league’s owners to fire every last “son of a bitch” who kneels during the song. Oh, and that’s still going on, too. This was part of his Twitter rant Wednesday morning!

Trump has inserted himself — or been inserted — into the news cycle for the NBA too, as well as Major League Baseball and, admittedly less divisively, the NHL.

Like the college game better? Well, you can’t avoid him there, either. College football saw the President drawing ire from one of the amatuer game’s most prominent coaches. College basketball your thing? Hope you’re not a UCLA fan.

It’s impossible to stick to sports, unless the political football in this country being played on a daily basis counts as sports now. (Maybe then Trump would stop complaining about how ratings are down.) And so this is why this year I’m so thankful to work in a city with such socially aware athletes.

Yes, it’s great that the Eagles are 9-1 heading into Thanksgiving and Carson Wentz seems like the real deal and we went from talking about firing Doug Pederson in September to looking up flights for the Super Bowl two months later. But knowing there are socially conscious players like Malcolm Jenkins leading this team makes it easy to pull for their collective success.

Jenkins is one of the leaders of the NFL movement to use the platform of sports for a greater good. Colin Kaepernick may still get the headlines, but players like Jenkins are doing real work to make our cities — this city — better without nearly as much of the spotlight. Chris Long, his Eagles teammate, came to Philly this year and in the wake of unrest in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, announced he was donating his entire salary to help educate kids around the country, including both where he grew up and here in Philly.

The Eagles aren’t the only ones not sticking to sports in the city. Before he ever played an NBA game, Sixers star Ben Simmons told an Aussie TV crew if he was back home he’d call the president a dickhead. (Ben Simmons totally called the president a dickhead.)

Joel Embiid — the city’s favorite player and tweeter — has been routinely going after the president since he was elected. And new Sixers guard J.J. Redick said at media day before the season, “I think being anti-Trump is sort of like eating breakfast in the morning. It’s just something that you do during your day.”

Flyers assistant captain Wayne Simmonds was thrust into the conversation when his season began because everyone kept asking him, as one of a handful of black players in the NHL, if he planned to kneel during the anthem. Simmonds, raised in Canada, said the conversation needs to get back to what it was originally about. Racism.

“Obviously this touches home for me. If I play another six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years in the NHL, which I plan to do, I’m gonna be raising my kids in this country. It’s a scary thought to think that because my child is black, they could be walking down the street and they’ll be harassed or killed or something just for being black. That’s an extremely scary thought.”

So, this Thanksgiving as we sit around the table and tell each other what we’re thankful for while the NFL flashes on the TV behind us, yes, I’m thankful the Cowboys stink and the Eagles are great. I’m thankful the Sixers are relevant and the Flyers have an exciting young core and the Phillies have a ton of talent and a new manager who can hopefully bring the best out of them.

But this year, in Philly sports, I’m thankful for so much more.

In the spirit of the holiday, I asked some friends in the industry — and threw it out on Twitter — for what people are thankful for in Philly sports. Here are some of the responses. Admittedly, they stick to sports better than I did.

Glen Macnow

I’m thankful that Philadelphia sports fans currently have as worthy a group of athletes to root for as I can ever remember. Solid citizens like Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Carson Wentz. Terrific personalities like Joel Embiid and (I predict) Gabe Kapler. It’s fun to root for your teams — but it’s more fun when you’ve got players and coaches who make you want to root for them as people.

Marshall Harris

Remember the Sixers 10-win season of two years ago? Seems like much longer, I know. I’m just thankful the Sixers have processed all those losing seasons into the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and that the future looks so bright in what should always be one of the world’s preeminent basketball cities.

Jillian Mele

Ok…. I’m thankful for the Eagles making football fun again in Philly. 👏 It’s been too long and the city/fans DESERVE to be excited and proud of their team! Plus now that I live in New York it’s a fun way to poke the Giants fans. 🙊

Alex Holley

Would it be too easy/obvious to be thankful for the Eagles ??

Kevin Negandhi

What I’m thankful for:
Carson in year 2.
Howie 2.0.
The Process x 2 (Joel and Ben).

Jimmy Kempski

As a reporter, you’re supposed to remain objective and not root for the team you cover. That said, when the Eagles are good, the readers are extremely engaged, and my page views are through the roof. Chasing page views is a terrible way to do the job, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when you can point to them at contract renegotiation time. So thanks Eagles!

Don Bell

I’m thankful for Doug Pederson’s “emotional intelligence.” We snickered when Jeff Lurie mentioned it at his introductory press conference but he was right. Pederson shoved ego to the side and heavily evolved between his rookie season and Year 2. He also expertly ignored criticism about his credentials and now the Eagles are a Super Bowl contender. Thank goodness for Dougie P’s emotional intelligence.

Eytan Shander

Biggest thing I’m thankful for in Philly sports is that we have a pulse. It’s socially acceptable to go to basketball games again. We have a franchise QB that every WR in the NFL will want to play with, same with a PG and C in the NBA. Trust the freaking process!

John Stolnis

The thing I’m most thankful for with the Phillies this year is that “Trusting the Process” seems like it’s going to work! Rhys Hoskins looks like a star, Nick Williams looked better than I thought he would, and J.P. Crawford is going to be here for a long time. We’re over the hump, with better days getting closer and closer.

Matt Mullin

This year, I’m thankful for all those losses Philly fans have had to endure over the last few years. Admit it, you got cocky and needed to be reminded of what it felt like to lose. But without them, there likely wouldn’t be Carson Wentz or Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons – and the current winning wouldn’t feel nearly this good.

John Barchard

I’m truly thankful for the Eagles and Sixers. The last time they were both relevant together at the same time was about 15 years ago and it is such a joy to watch both of these franchises hit their stride at the same time. And really it’s because we all said Wentz and The Process would work and it has. Makes everything taste better when Philly can dunk on a lot of the national pundits.

FanSince09

I am Thankful that Philadelphia has three of the most exciting players in all of sports. Joel and Ben have already made the Sixers must see TV and are just getting better. On the Eagles, we finally have a class act who’s also a talented, gritty, scrappy leader with a very high football IQ and a ton of heart who won’t puke in the SuperBowl as our QB. Also eternally thankful that he Phillies no longer have Hammels. It is the start of a very bright era for are city.