Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ed Snider Must Go

So says Stephen A. Smith.

And he's absolutely right. Snider's recent tenure as the chief of the Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia 76ers has been abysmal, and it's time for Comcast Corporation to give him a graceful exit and find new people to run both teams. Smith's column is right on point, once again demonstrating that this columnist is an excellent writer who has the courage to take a stand on important issues.

The facts support what Smith says, namely, that the Flyers are an awful team that responded poorly to the evolution of the pro hockey game. Put differently, while other teams have the skating equivalents of Reggie Bush and Michael Westbrook, the Flyers have continued to put the Jared Lorenzens of the ice hockey world on the ice. While the Broad Street Bullies of the early and mid-1970s brought notoriety to the City of Philadelphia and two championships, that was a long time ago. The 76ers had their brush with glory about 5 years ago, but under GM Billy King they have made a succession of bad moves. They've missed out on the European invasion, and they've spent their money poorly. It's pretty clear that Snider either knows little about, or has little interest in, basketball. And it's a shame that the powers at Comcast ever thought that just because a person is successful in one line of work means he'll automatically be successful at another. Even Michael Jordan couldn't hit a baseball well -- and that was at the AA level.

About a month ago a group of sportswriters gathered on Comcast SportsLive in Philadelphia talking about the fates of these two franchises. One, a respected Daily News reporter, said that he doubted that Comcast could let Ed Snider go because he thought that Snider was smart to have a deal where he couldn't be fired. That comment just goes to show you that the writer should stick to sportswriting. Last time I checked, anyone can be fired, especially in the United States and most especially at a publicly held company. Now it may be that Snider would be due for quite the exit package upon his termination. While there's probably enough justification to terminate Snider for cause (after all, in sports, the ultimate measurement is the won-lost records of the team and how they fared at the gate) and relieve Comcast of some of the burdens that they would have if they terminated him without cause, the guess here is that both parties would want to resolve the matter with dignity and little fanfare under some sort of separation agreement. That said, Comcast shouldn't be afraid to do the right thing here, and my guess is that the fans won't get too upset over Snider's departure. He's ridden the wave of the Broad Street Bullies for a long time.

The fact remains that the pro hockey and hoops franchises in Philadelphia are among the worst in their respective sports, and both teams need to re-tool in order to improve. The 76ers, with three first-round draft choices, including their own, and increasing cap space, will have a golden opportunity to take some big steps forward after this season. If Comcast has any regard for their loyal if shrinking fan bases, they'll turn over the 76ers to new leadership. While they're at it, they should do the same thing with the Flyers.

It's hard to let iconic figures go (although I confess that I've been in the minority for a long time and haven't been the biggest fan of Ed Snider's and never thought that he should have had anything to do with the 76ers -- and time has proven me correct). Bob Knight's departure from Indiana was a fiasco, and the succession planning for Joe Paterno at Penn State has been a mess (with the diehards lambasting well-intentioned suggestors of a solid succession plan, me included). What's curious is why Comcast let Ed Snider rise to this level in the first place. True, he had developed an excellent reputation as a successful owner in the NHL, and it's probably the case that when Comcast took on both teams they needed someone to run them, because they probably couldn't supply the management. But it's clear that in retaining Snider for so long, they made a mistake.

Stephen A. says what many of us have been thinking, and, once again, whether you like his style or not (and I think his style is just fine), he's right.

Now the decisions are up to Comcast.

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