Two weeks ago, at a closed-doors Philadelphia Union town hall meeting with season ticket holders, Sporting Director Earnie Stewart twice mentioned your team, your town, your Philadelphia 76ers.
“I don’t want to sound corny or sound like the 76ers, but I have a passion and a burning desire and we’re going to get there.”
For context, getting “there” means winning games and filling seats, two things eluding most Philadelphia sports teams. Stewart mentioned “The Process” specifically in an earlier quote about the Union’s slow build to become more relevant and competitive in Major League Soccer.
On May 10, one day before the Chester town hall, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman also referenced the Sixers while discussing injured draft pick Sidney Jones on SportsRadio 94 WIP.
“We can really take cues from the team across the street in some of the things they’ve done for some of their players who have missed time,” Roseman said then. “Those are a bunch of smart guys. They did it two years in a row. Just watching those guys and how big a part they were of the franchise, of the team. You learn lessons from everyone and it was a great observation for us to have in the same city.”
Roseman didn’t use the word “process,” but Doug Pederson has:
Doug Pederson: "Trust the process."
— CSN Philly (@CSNPhilly) September 25, 2016
But wait, there’s more. 18-year-old Flyers prospect Carter Hart referred to “process” one month prior to Roseman’s comments.
“Great things take time, it’s a long process,” Hart said in April. “You just have to stick to the grind every day and just worry about getting better. I know that’s one of the big things Philly believes in, and just worry about getting better every day.”
Phillies GM Matt Klentak was asked about the slogan, but didn’t reciprocate the verbiage in his response.
MLB.com: “Trust the process” has become a very trendy phrase in Philadelphia in recent years. As a GM, how important is it to develop a plan and have the discipline to stick with it regardless of the bumps along the way?
Klentak: I think it is critical. If you look at baseball over the last 10 years or so, the organizations that have really devoted themselves to a plan — whatever that plan has been — have been rewarded as long as they’ve stuck with it. Those that have changed course halfway through, for those organizations, sometimes it takes a little bit longer because you have to start over in some ways. As important as anything, we have our plan and we stick with it.
So you see that “process”-related language has seeped into conversation regarding the other teams in town. That’s a bad thing, since it’s now been diluted and debased to the point where it’s become an excuse, a crutch to lean on when underperforming franchises are asking fans to be patient.
“Process” is not a blanket term for a rebuild.
It’s dishonest to refer to Sam Hinkie’s plan as something that simple. This was a calculated and unique risk that everybody knew was going to result in short term losses. The goal is long term gain.
Hinkie understood that you need a generational superstar (or two) to win a NBA title. The proof is in the third-straight Cavs and Warriors championship series, which also happens to be the first interesting playoff series of 2017.
The Sixers’ Process is built specifically around NBA methods of player acquisition.
This isn’t the NFL, where you can package half a dozen draft picks, grab Carson Wentz, then surround him with free agent receivers and running backs.
Nor is it baseball, which requires years of farm system cultivation and the guts to move on from aging stars and crappy contracts. One only has to look at the St. Louis Cardinals to understand where the Phillies went wrong.
This certainly isn’t the NHL, where Connor McDavid is only on the ice for 35 percent of the game. Every team needs a good goaltender and a couple of Chris Kunitz or Ryan Johansen types.
And it’s definitely not MLS, which has more methods of player acquisition than the “four major North American sports.” You can draft, sign youth players, make trades, or pay seven million dollars for a foreign superstar, which Philly definitely isn’t doing.
In addition to this gross perversion of The Process, you just can’t have four teams tanking at the same time, or five if you like the Union or Soul or Blue Rocks or whatever. There are diminishing returns on multiple losing seasons from multiple teams, like a fatigue that saps you with such force that you wake up one day not even giving a shit about Philadelphia sports.
For the record, I’m not a Process hater.
I’m in my early thirties, so I fall into that Gen-X/Millennial gap where I’m too old to be a fiendish Process devotee, but young enough to also not be a crotchety baby boomer. I don’t worship at the altar of Hinkie, but I’m also not going to dismiss a new idea in the same way that Clint Eastwood would tell somebody to get off his lawn.
I’ll reserve judgment until The Process has either come to fruition or failed.
What’s the alternative?
Do we really want to go back to the days of Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Thad Young?
You can do things “the right way” as the Atlanta Hawks or LA Clippers, which ultimately awards you zero titles and a first-round playoff exit. To me, being last place or third place isn’t much different, since finishing in either of those positions wins you nothing.
And that’s the issue with older Philadelphia sports fans, who philosophically disagree with “tanking,” but have only witnessed one championship since 1983.
Isn’t it ironic that we clamor for titles in this town, yet a portion of the fan base is morally opposed to a risky and innovative method of getting there?
It’s not like anything else is working.
On the other hand, younger Sixers fans need to stop with the Grover Norquist-style blacklist for the anti-Process crowd. This isn’t partisan politics.
Anyway, The Process is fine when one team is tanking. But when four or five are terrible at the same time, it’s redundant. And when Process language seeps into other sports as a myopic excuse for failure, then it’s dangerous.
You can be for or against The Process, but let’s all agree that it belongs to the Sixers, and nobody else.
— phil cufaro (@ripits247) April 7, 2017