For Me in 2003

If the world were organized for my happiness, these things will happen in 2003.

People who haven’t read the Dowd report won’t offer an opinion on whether or not Pete Rose should be reinstated to eligibility to participate in baseball or election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. If we counted on opinion polls for important decisions, we’d have had a nuclear war already. The uninformed and uninterested are always delighted to offer an opinion. Its value is another thing entirely.

NHL teams will not announce “it’s not a concussion” when we’ve seen a player unconscious on the ice and wobbling off it like a man on the way to the drunk tank. It isn’t just a headache, no matter how many times you repeat the phrase. Treat the players with the appropriate caution and the fans with the appropriate respect. Players aren’t disposable (although Mike Modano can’t be faulted for feeling they are treated as if they are) and the fans aren’t stupid.

On the same subject, in addition to installing more flexible glass, which is supposed to be in all arenas by the end of this week, the NHL will mandate the end of upper-body armor. Players can get sufficient protection with soft padding for shoulders and elbows, and then their shoulders and elbows become much less career threatening as weapons used against other players.

Michael Jordan will retire permanently and remove himself permanently from my notice. We won’t be able to help hearing him called the greatest player ever and I suppose he’s earned that. But any other mention of him should be punishable by banishment to the auxiliary (no buffet) press box.

The Flyers won’t trade a promising young player. For anyone. Period. Watching this team struggle to score, while Ruslan Fedotenko (the guy who provided high energy and timely scoring late last season for the old orange and black, but for whom ice time couldn’t be found on this top-heavy squad of underachievers) and Vaclav Prospal scoring and thriving with the (no this isn’t a misprint) suddenly competitive Tampa Bay Lightning, is torture. Prospal would lead the Flyers in scoring (8 goals, 25 assists, 33 points) and Fedotenko would be fourth (8, 7, 15). Look to Jan Hlavac at Carolina, who would be third (7, 11, 18). Even Eric Lindros, suddenly considered overrated by the league’s GMs, who hasn’t had a steady line and has switched back and forth from center to right wing, would be leading the Flyers in scoring (11, 12, 23), tied with Jeremy Roenick (12, 11, 23).

Athletes will leave their kids off the dais during press conferences (retirement announcements receive special dispensation). Not only don’t I buy it that they are model fathers (if Allen Iverson is ever there to tuck the kids in, it’s because he leaves for the clubs after they’ve gone to sleep), but don’t the increasingly security conscious athletes realize they are painting big red targets on those kids for the criminally inclined? A little anonymity could only help a child living in a famous parent’s shadow.

Neil Hartman will realize it is unprofessional to make no attempt to correctly pronounce athletes’ names and will find someone to coach him. Steve Coates will realize that the majority of people watching the Flyers’ broadcasts aren’t named Smith and will discontinue the practice of making fun of names that didn’t originate in the British Isles.

Baseball’s owners will decide they need a real commissioner to regain the trust of the fans and the vibrancy of the game. It would help if that commissioner loved the game with contagious passion and had a resultant ability to conceive of how to market the game effectively. Bud Selig’s current mismanagement of the Pete Rose situation is a perfect illustration of his inability to do what is best for baseball. And it is also a pathetically transparent a play for personal popularity. It isn’t a popularity contest Bud. Save the game, and the fans will love you. Kill it, and they’ll hate you, whether Rose is enshrined or not.

The Flyers offensive players will start shooting. Wayne Gretzky wisely said, “100% of shots not taken don’t go in.” (Actually, that’s not entirely true, considering the errant passes that glance off of skates and past helpless Flyers’ goalies.) There is only one Flyer in the top 50 in shots taken. Are you ready for this? Eric Desjardins.

Phillies fans will be patient with Jim Thome early, recognizing that the notoriously slow-starting slugger will more than make up for April during the rest of the season. And they’ll enjoy the season for what it is–an opportunity to watch a well-constructed team, with a chance to compete–no matter the results.

A non-Philadelphia reporter will cover a major Philadelphia sports event without dissing the fans. I’ve seen fans throw objects, bottles, and invective at a visiting team as it celebrated winning a championship. In Toronto.

ESPN will bring back NHL2Night on a nightly basis before the playoffs. Tell me how you can spend a half hour every night talking football, which is played on the weekend, but you can’t talk nightly about hockey, which is played pretty much every day for nine months.

Jim Thome will hit 50 home runs. Pat Burrell will hit 40. And the Phillies will be in the playoffs, win or lose, it will be a great step.

The Flyers will, as usual, be out in the first round, so that finally they’ll have to unload the dead wood–starting with the GM.

Last, but not least, the Eagles will win the Super Bowl. (And there will be rejoicing in the streets without violence.)

Happy New Year to me. And to you.

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