COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia 76ers' season has been anything but fun. It's been a depressing winter for the owner, the coaching staff, players and fans. But as disappointing as it might seem, taking a closer look at the City of Brotherly Love's other professional sports teams - Eagles, Flyers and Phillies - raises the argument that the Sixers might actually be the city's least disappointing franchise.
A year ago at this time, Phillies fans were cautiously optimistic. Coming off a 102-win season in 2011, fans knew heading into the 2012 campaign that Ryan Howard would miss the beginning of the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. What they didn't realize is that he would end up missing more than half the season, and that during his 71 games he would put together a less-than-impressive .219 batting average.
What made Howard's absence from the lineup even more debilitating was the fact that Chase Utley also missed significant time. The second-baseman's injury was diagnosed as chronic knee problems - sound familiar Sixers fans? - and so fans had hopes that he was being held out of the spring-training lineup mainly to preserve his beat-up knees for when the games actually counted. Utley ended up not being activated until June 27, and by then Phillies fans were chanting "Let's Go Eagles" in the upper deck of Citizens Bank Park.
With two major bats out of the lineup it was frustrating - just ask Cliff Lee - but not a surprise that the Phillies struggled to score runs. In the end, a team that many thought had a chance to make another run at a World Series title ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The 2012 Eagles were under pressure from the start to improve on an 8-8 performance that owner Jeffrey Lurie declared would be unacceptable if repeated.
As the 2012 season unfolded it became clear that the Eagles were below average in three primary areas: offense, defense and special teams.
As their 4-12 record reinforced, in less than two years the Eagles went from a Vince Young-proclaimed "Dream Team" to the division basement, frustrating the city's most avid fans to the point that Lurie had no choice but to fire the franchise's winningest coach after the worst season of his 14-year tenure.
Flyers fans live and breathe orange and black, and so when the first part of this season went up in smoke - or in owners' and players' greed - the residents of the same city that once booed Santa at an Eagles game, were standing in lines at the mall for a chance to sit on his lap and beg him to bring back the NHL season.
Santa obliged. But in hindsight, it might have been best for Flyers fans if the jolly old man stuck to delivering toys.
The Flyers are slowly skating their playoff chances away, on many nights thanks to average (at best) goaltending and players who often appear to just be going through the motions. Nothing frustrates this blue-collar city more than players who don't even look like they are trying hard. Just ask Mike Schmidt.
Yes, the Flyers had little or no preseason to prepare and, like the Sixers, they've suffered injuries. But expectations are high for the Flyers even in their leanest years, so being buried at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and close to last place in the Eastern Conference was not expected by even the most pessimistic fans, and therefore certainly isn't accepted by even the optimistic ones.
There's a good chance that by October 2013, Doug Collins will be the only Philadelphia head coach/manager remaining of those at the helm of their respective teams in 2012. Why? Mainly because once reality set in that Andrew Bynum's only scoring this season would happen at a bowling alley, Sixers fans immediately had to accept the fact that their team had little or no shot to make the playoffs. In fact, most agree that for the betterment of the team, it's probably best that they won't make the playoffs.
And that is the basis for the argument that of all the Philadelphia professional sports teams, the Sixers are the least disappointing. The team gave fans what they expected - mediocrity. And you can't be disappointed when you get what you expect.
On the flip side, the other three teams were all expected - at least by fans - to make the playoffs and possibly advance once there. Their fans got the unexpected, and with it comes disappointment.
As Collins might say: "We should pray for those fans."
Jon Buzby is an award-winning sportswriter from Delaware and has followed the Sixers since 1976. He contributes regularly to multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.
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