Things They Should Do: The700Level's Recommendations to the New Sixers Ownership

Things They Should Do: The700Level's Recommendations to the New Sixers Ownership

It's been one week since the Philadelphia 76ers' new ownership group addressed the Philadelphia media and fans to outline their hopes and goals as the heads of Sixers basketball.

Josh Harris & Co. even encouraged the public to log on to Sixers.com to make helpful suggestions about what they would like to see moving forward. The best 1,776 comments, recommendations and outbursts will apparently receive free tickets whenever the NBA decides to resume play.

Intrigued by the promotion and taking a page out of the McSweeney's "Things 'They' Should Do" playbook, we decided to list our own suggestions for the team. The open question posed to The700Level staff: "What would you change, or not change, about the Sixers?"

The responses vary from serious to semi-serious to Enrico's idea for Sir Charles Barkley's Taco Stand. Enjoy.

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Rev: Off-court

Josh Harris and Adam Aron repeatedly mentioned how they plan to transform the game-day experience. My advice? Know your audience. Philadelphians respect real (see: Iverson, Allen).
 
At this point it's cliché to hate that ridiculous rabbit mascot. In my mind, the anger towards Hip-Hop is symptomatic of the larger frustration with "the show" at Sixers games.
 
Stop with the crowd noise meters. Stop with the music being played during possessions. Stop with the Hare Raisers.

I understand there’s a time and a place for entertainment (namely, during stoppages in play and between quarters). I don’t understand creating an environment where the product on the floor is secondary to the show off of it.
 
Put a winning product on the floor and the fans will come. Play smart, unselfish, team basketball and the fans will come. Your customers know a winning product. Masking your deficiencies with a sideshow only further infuriates them.
 
I am not advocating a sterile game-day atmosphere. I just want it to be about the basketball.
 
On-court
Let this team breathe a bit. They have a lot of quality young talent. Let them play together. Don’t grasp for a quick fix. They had a good thing going towards the end of last season. They are a young, well-coached team on the rise.
 
By and large, winning NBA teams have consistency. They develop a core, they learn to play together, and the front office makes complementary tweaks. Granted, unlike the Lakers, Bulls, and Spurs juggernauts of the past this team does not have an All-NBA first team player, so throw that model out of the window.
 
The team I’d use as a reference point for this Sixers squad is the Pistons team from the early 2000’s featuring Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace.
 
They won by playing defense (they allowed a league low 84.3 points-per-game in their ’03-’04 championship season). They played team basketball, everyone knew their role, and they spread teams out and beat them. From 2002-03 to 2007-08 they advanced to the Conference Finals four times, and the NBA Finals twice.
 
It’s about consistency, chemistry, and talent. I don’t envision an All-NBA first team player finding his way to Philly any time soon. With that in mind, let this young talented group play together as a team. Find out what you’ve got. Let them breathe.

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Enrico: Sir Charles Taco Stands

Similar to Bull's BBQ over at Citizens Bank Park, Sir Charles Taco Stand can feature the delicious offerings from Taco Bell such as the Five Buck Box, Chalupas, Gorditas, etc. But you'll also get the chance to shake hands with Charles Barkley himself as you do with the Bull at CBP.

Now, in theory Chuck would be selling his own homemade hot sauce or something, but we just don't see Barkley doing that. So maybe they can have a festival game of sorts. Instead of a dunk tank, Charles tries to throw you through a fake bar window or something.

Oh, and more car flags. They should sell more car flags.

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Nick: Back to the Future

Harris & Co. understandably want to make a fresh start with this unfortunately languishing franchise, but that doesn't mean they have to ignore the past entirely. Indeed, they might be best served by drawing on the rich history of this once-proud franchise to reinvigorate the passion of the old fans and quickly introduce the new ones to generations of Sixers basketball. While I'm largely in agreement with Rev's sentiments above and Kulp's below, there's no reason not to have some fun along the way. Thus, I'm calling for the institution of a 2-part "Back to the Future" plan.

1) Clap your hands, stomp your feet and immediately return to the use of the team's 1970's warm-up song, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Sixers." The blaring orchestral music and chanting choruses of pieces like "O Fortuna!" and its imitators have become so over-exposed in modern athletics that the Sixers should chart a new—or, in this case, old—course.

The answer (besides re-signing The Answer—wait, didn't we try that?) is to come up with something uniquely Philadelphia (and something that, for a change, has nothing to do with Rocky or a cheesesteak).

Listen to the song. You can't help but like it. I've never had anyone tell me they've disliked it when I've played it for them; and, believe me, I've played this song in some pretty random places at some pretty random times. The fact is, it's a hit. Dave Zinkoff may be gone, but this jam can have a meaningful second-life.

2) Track down the son of the guy with the absurd beard (real name: Steven Solms) who used to sit in the front row in the 1980s, assuming the son can produce an equal or greater amount of facial hair. Though the elder Solms is no longer with us, we would like his memory and passion for the Sixers to live on. As such, the younger Solms' responsibilities would include sitting in Ed Snider's old court-side seat and evidencing the constant expression that he cannot believe what he just saw. You can get a look at his father's past brilliance between the six and ten-second marks of the video below.

You know what? Let's find a reason to use that music, too.

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Kulp: Doesn't Matter

Not to diminish the grievances or suggestions of my colleagues, but I don't put much stock into bells and whistles. No matter what attractions are added to the show, people are going to either love it or hate it, but the one constant is they will go to the game as long as it is
affordable and/or the team is good.

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And there you have it, Mr. Harris. To borrow from Andrew Kulp/Adrian Balboa, "Win, Just Win!" You can send a pack of tickets our way as a thank you at any time.

What about you guys? What are your best ideas to reinvigorate the Sixers?

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The postseason accolades and awards are nice, but Soul defensive back Tracy Belton has a much higher goal.

Named as the Arena League Football Defensive Player of the Year during an awards ceremony Friday, Belton, considered the passion and spirit of the Soul defense, is more than comfortable putting aside individual honors and pushing his teammates to greater heights.

Reaching the ArenaBowl against the Arizona Rattlers Friday in the Gila River Arena (7 p.m./ESPN) the prize is out there, and Belton has his blinders firmly affixed. The focus and concentration is not in question, so the task ahead remains paramount.

“I want that ring, I need that jewelry,” Belton said during media day Friday. “Oh yeah, it would definitely be nice to get that ring.”

To obtain that shiny piece of hardware, Belton and his defensive teammates have the task of trying to shut down the most potent offense in the league.

Guided by quarterback Nick Davila, the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, the Rattlers are averaging 80.3 points per game. From an offensive standpoint, Arizona led the AFL in many offensive categories, including scoring, total offense, rushing, third-down conversion and fourth-down conversion.

To complement the offense, the Arizona defense ranked first in the league in defensive scoring defense, rushing defense, interceptions, turnover ratio and sacks allowed.

In a league which glorifies offense, the task ahead for the Soul defense is considered a challenge. After all, these teams each finished with a 13-3 mark and each defeated the other team on their home turf.

“To win this game, we hope they make mistakes,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “They are very explosive, but our secondary is playing at a high level. For us, we need to limit our mistakes.”

If Davila, who is the first player in AFL history to win the MVP award three times, is to be challenged, the Soul’s offense need to be proficient. Coming into the ArenaBowl, the Soul averaged 59.0 points per game. That was good enough for fourth in the league, but quarterback Dan Raudabaugh put up better numbers, in certain categories, than Davila.

In head-to-head competition, Raudabaugh tossed more touchdown passes (14 to 13), passed for more yards (541 to 431), completed more passes (48 to 32) and averaged more yards per game (270.5 to 215.5) through the air. Yet, the Rattlers’ offense is swift, quick, efficient and lethal.

“In this league, the quarterback is the most important position,” Davila said. “You have to make decisions quickly, and facing a defense like Philly, that’s the challenge for us. It’s about limiting mistakes. The team which makes fewer mistakes is the team that usually wins.”

Notes
Since the Phoenix Mercury are scheduled for a home game in Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix Friday night, home site for the Rattlers, the title game was switched to home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. … Among league leaders this past season for the Soul, Belton was fourth in tackles, Jake Metz led in sacks, Darius Reynolds was sixth in receiving and Jeramie Richardson was second in rushing. … In comparison of QBs, Raudabaugh was second in the league in passing (101 TDs, 63.3 passing percentage) and Davila placed third (110 TD passes, 69.6 passing rating). … This is the third league title meeting between these two teams. The Soul dropped the previous two championship games, 72-54 in 2012 and 48-39 in 2013.

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

The Phillies were one strike away from winning the World Series and Citizens Bank Park was in a full roar.

Carlos Ruiz trotted to the mound for a quick chat with closer Brad Lidge.

Lidge wanted to try to put away Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinkse with his signature slider, a pitch that had helped him go 48 for 48 in save chances during that magical season. Ruiz was in complete agreement. After catching the pitcher all season, he knew how good Lidge’s slider was. He also knew that Lidge threw three versions of the pitch, a get-me-over offering that he used to get a first-pitch strike, a backdoor bender that he used against lefty hitters, and The Good One, a sharp, downward-breaking dagger that left hitters flailing at air as it cork-screwed toward the dirt.

On that spectacular October night nearly eight years ago, Ruiz looked into Lidge’s eyes and issued a directive: Give me the good one. Lidge complied. Hinske swung over the vicious slider. Ruiz fished it out of the dirt and Harry Kalas shouted, “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball” as the stadium erupted in euphoria. Ruiz, the kid who wasn’t even a catcher when the Phillies first scouted him in the summer of 1998, sprinted to the mound, collapsed to his knees and joined Lidge in a joyous hug, the image of which will remain emblazoned in the minds of Philadelphia fans, well, forever.

Ruiz’s words to Lidge — Give me the good one — gained new resonance on Thursday because the veteran catcher, beloved by teammates and fans, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later (see story).

Ruiz spent 11 seasons with the Phillies and when you consider where he came from and what he accomplished, well, he always gave the team and its fans the good one.

“I’m excited, but also sad,” Ruiz said moments after the trade became official.

Excited because at age 37, and firmly in the twilight of his career, he has the chance to join a first-place team and get to the postseason one more time.

And sad because, “I have so many memories in Philadelphia.”

The greatest, of course, was the World Series championship, catching the final out and rushing to the mound to join Lidge as the pitcher dropped to his knees, looked to the heavens and shouted, “Oh, my God, we just won the World Series!”

But there were so many others.

Ruiz was a backbone member of five NL East championship teams and the best catcher a Cy Young winner named Roy Halladay ever pitched to. Halladay said it himself. Ruiz caught four no-hitters, including two of Halladay’s. He was an All-Star in 2012.

All in all, it was a pretty good run for a guy who signed for $8,000 off a sandlot in Panama in 1998. That same year, the Phillies signed Pat Burrell for $8 million. Ruiz would have signed for nothing.

“All I wanted was a chance to play professional baseball,” he said. "I'm thankful the Phillies gave it to me."

At the time of his audition for the Phillies, Ruiz was a 19-year-old second baseman. Phillies scouts were skeptical of his ability to make it as an infielder. They warmed to him when he said he’d give catching a try. He learned the position on the fly and made a steady progression up the ladder until arriving in the majors in 2006 and becoming a regular in 2007, the year the Phillies broke a 14-year playoff drought and won the NL East.

Ruiz was a favorite in the clubhouse for his good nature and team-first attitude. He would do anything for the team, anything to win, and you can’t fake that stuff. That won him the admiration of teammates. In 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his love for Ruiz in typical Papelbon style. He called Ruiz “a Panamanian redneck.” Years later, Cameron Rupp, the man who supplanted Ruiz as starting catcher, praised Ruiz for his mentorship. It’s not easy for a player to groom the man who will take his job, but Ruiz did it earnestly and graciously. Today, Rupp is arguably the most improved player on the Phillies’ roster.

“Carlos was the everyday guy for more than eight years,” Rupp said. “I’m sure it was hard. It can’t be easy. But he never stopped helping me. There might be guys who wouldn’t do something like that, but not him.

“I can’t tell you how much he helped me. He’s awesome.”

Ruiz’s hustle, his non-stop effort, and, oh, yes, his place on championship teams — that’s what Philadelphians love most — earned him a special spot in the hearts of fans. Cup your hand to your ear and you can still hear those fond shouts of Choooooch from the stands.

They will be heard again when Ruiz goes on the team’s Wall of Fame someday. But for now, he heads off to Los Angeles to join another former Phillies fan favorite and champion, Chase Utley, in a late-career run at one more moment of postseason glory.

You gave us the Good One, Chooch.

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

CLEVELAND -- Barkevious Mingo never really fit in with the Browns.

The Patriots will try to find an ideal spot for him.

A major disappointment in Cleveland, Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft was traded to New England on Thursday.

The Browns received a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft for the linebacker.

Mingo, a former LSU standout, has recorded just seven sacks in three seasons and spent much of last season on special teams.

Mingo's size -- 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- and speed have made him intriguing, but Cleveland's coaching staff couldn't find the best way to utilize him. The Browns moved the 25-year-old Mingo from outside linebacker to inside earlier this summer.

Cleveland declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Mingo's rookie contract in May. With the trade of Mingo, left tackle Joe Thomas and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert are the only first-round selections by Cleveland from 2007 to 2014 that are still with the team (see full story).

NFL: Harrison, Matthews and Peppers talk with PED investigators
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Green Bay Packers defensive players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers met this week with NFL investigators looking into allegations linking them to performance-enhancing drugs, the players' union said Thursday.

Matthews and Peppers met with league representatives on Wednesday, while Harrison did so on Thursday, according to the NFL Players Association.

Last week, the league threatened Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and free agent Mike Neal with indefinite suspensions if they did not meet with investigators. All of them were mentioned in an Al-Jazeera television interview with Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. In the December report, Sly made claims of PED use by several athletes, including Harrison, Peyton Manning and the three others, but later recanted his claims.

The since-retired Manning was cleared after a separate NFL investigation in which he granted interviews and provided all records sought by league investigators.

The league's deadline for cooperation from the four current players was Thursday. The NFL first notified the four on Jan. 11 about the investigation into the Al-Jazeera report (see full story).

Dolphins: Team intensifies efforts for Zika control at stadium
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins say they've intensified mosquito-control treatments at their stadiums because of the Zika virus.

The Dolphins' stadium is more than 10 miles from the nearest area of the virus outbreak. Even so, the Dolphins say they decided weeks ago to undertake additional treatments as a precaution.

Construction workers are at the site daily completing the latest phase in a $500 million renovation. The first home preseason game is next Thursday against Tennessee.

The Marlins and Miami-Dade County have stepped up spraying in and around Marlins Park "in an abundance of caution," team president David Samson said Thursday. Treatments targeting the mosquito that transmits Zika are being used even though the Marlins play most of their home games indoors under a retractable roof.

Marlins Park is about 2 miles from the nearest area of virus outbreak.

Treatments at the 265-acre Dolphins stadium site include the parking lot and follow recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those treatments are expected to continue through the football season and beyond.

Vikings: New stadium sells out for inaugural season
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have sold out their new stadium for the inaugural season.

The team announced on Thursday that they've started waiting lists for tickets and suites. The official capacity at U.S. Bank Stadium will be 66,655, with more than 60,400 seats committed for the entire season and the remaining single-game seats also sold out.

Returned tickets from visiting team allotments typically make a small number of seats available the week of each game.

The Vikings host San Diego on Sunday in an exhibition game, their first action at the $1.1 billion venue. The regular-season opener is on Sept. 18 against rival Green Bay.