You can say I’m overreacting, but I think this is a mistake.
It’s one thing to poll fans on whether they’d like a Moose for a mascot or if they want back an epic warm-up song that the franchise will only barely use, because those are mostly meaningless decisions.
Fandom is by its nature a knee-jerk, emotional and rarely rational experience. If it involved being level-headed or measured, it would cease to be fandom, but rather, to an extent, objective analysis. See if you can tell the difference between these three sentiments:
– Lou Williams sucks. He can’t play defense. He takes too many shots. He sucks.
– Lou Williams is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Play him 48 minutes a night.
– Lou Williams is a change-of-pace reserve who is one of the best-undersized scorers in the league, but has very real limitations to his game at both ends of the floor.
The third sentence is a reasonably accurate depiction of Lou Williams of which Lou’s teammates, coaches and basketball operations executives are all well-aware. So why do the Sixers need need to wade through reactions from fans of one extreme or the other to learn what they should already know?
Before I get too far into this, I’ll state right here that I am fully on-board with Adam Aron and the new ownership’s embrace of both the fans and social media. I like that they want us involved. I like that they care what we think. I like that they make us finally feel valued. And I really like that Aron himself took the time to comment on this website a few months back in response to our reaction to the team’s new commercial campaign.
It’s just that there’s a difference between making the fans feel necessary and merely pandering.
And it’s because I believe, or at least hope, Aron won’t be taking these tweets seriously that this move feels like pandering.
To borrow from Asante Samuel, this isn’t a fantasy league. The National Basketball Association exists under the most complex collective bargaining agreement in North American sports. Franchises are made or ruined for years by just a single move. Under the old ownership, this organization already wasted millions and much of the last decade trying to appease its fans with poor financial and basketball decisions that were never leading to a championship.
I like to think of myself as a largely in-touch fan and yet I have no idea what kind trade exceptions the Sixers may or may not be holding onto. I don’t know which teams are and aren’t interested in Andre Iguodala nor, more importantly, what they would offer in return. And I don’t have the first clue what free agents will or won’t be available in the summer of 2014. These are all questions that are essential in discussing player movement, rather simply declaring “amnesty Brand now” without any consideration of how, why or when the team should do it just because a casua
l fan or season ticket holder is feeling frustrated.
Those who know do know the answers to the preceding questions are the basketball operations executives the Sixers are paying to chart to the long-term course of the franchise in order to win a championship. That’s the goal — win a championship. When those individuals put their brains and resources together to win a title, they won’t have to worry about what the masses think, because the masses will be on board. Sixers fans want success, or as Doug Collins has been calling it to a lesser degree: “relevance.” The twitter promotion was a nice change of a pace at the start and can still be a great wrinkle for this organization going forward, but it has reached its limits when it comes to roster dissection.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, as much as the Sixers should care about making the fans happy, they shouldn’t care about what those fans want on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of a devastating losing streak. When they ask what the fans think about their roster, it isn’t hip, catchy, or new-media savvy. It’s insulting. There are people in the organization who spend everyday with the players, who live and breathe basketball, and who get to watch the college and pro game up-close every night either is in session. They’re the talent evaluators. Not the fans. Unless the Sixers come across someone who was shouting from the South Philadelphia rooftops in 2010 that J.J. Barea would be a vital cog in a title team, they shouldn’t listen.
So, sure, continue to ask us what we think of a new lighting scheme, insist on our thoughts about a moose for a mascot, and call our home phones to ask how to make better use of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Sixers.” Those are the some of the best elements of a new fan-owner partnership.
But don’t ask for your fans for advice on how to shape your basketball roster. Because it feels like pandering, and fans deserve better.