This has been a very difficult week for me, and probably for most Philadelphians.
Last weekend was one of the most brutally painful experiences in my 40-odd years as a Philly sports fan. I mean, it’s one thing to watch the Phillies — the mightiest team in major league baseball — wash away a historic season because they can’t make up one stinkin’ run on the St. Louis Cardinals.
But to literally add insult to injury, we were treated to the sight of all-star slugger Ryan Howard, who may have stunk up the Cardinals series worse than anyone; rupture his Achilles tendon in that last futile at-bat. Swung for all he was worth, missed the ball badly and corkscrewed himself into the dirt next to home plate. He’s out at least six to nine months, maybe a year, maybe forever.
Then Sunday we watched the Eagles go 1-4 by losing to the Buffalo Bills. To their credit, the Bills are, along with the Detroit Lions, one of this season’s early pleasant surprises.
My beloved Eagles, on the other hand, are awful. I’m not proud of it, but it had to be said. A defense known for 20 years as one of the league’s most dangerous is now incapable of tackling anyone. This supposed “wide 9” defensive setup the Eagles have adopted should be renamed “15 yards up the middle” — which is the usual result.
The defensive backs refuse to hit anyone for fear they’ll break a nail, the team lacks anything remotely resembling a middle linebacker, and Michael Vick completes most of his passes to guys who are not wearing green uniforms. In Vick’s defense, if there is any, the number of times he’s been thrown violently to the ground this season may be affecting his decision making skills. Pain will do that.
But this column is not so much about last weekend’s sports lowlights, or about the yearly humiliation of the Philly sports fanatic. It’s more about how these things prove a momentary distraction at exactly the wrong time, taking our eye off more important questions — like who the hell these “Occupy” people are and what they want.
It started in New York City as “Occupy Wall Street” a semi-directionless protest against the excesses of bankers and big business.
Sure, it was mostly the usual unwashed masses of college students, hippies and professional protesters — but this time there was a difference. Some strange bedfellows joined those protestors — tea partiers, libertarians and lots of suit-and-tie good government types were out there as well.
When the protests spread around the country, including here in Philadelphia on the west apron of City Hall known as Dilworth Plaza — they were welcomed as champions of the downtrodden, attracting local politicians and dignitaries eager to be seen as ‘regular’ people.
Now that the protests have entered their second week, you’ll notice a subtle but definitive attitude change.
Already there have been stories planted in the local press about how much the protest is costing Philadelphians in terms of police overtime and surveillance, and how the price tag may go up. According to these published reports, “Occupy Philadelphia” has cost taxpayers something in the neighborhood of $400,000.
Already there are blogs and comment boards leaning toward the “Go home and get a job, ya bunch of losers!” side. Somehow, and most brilliantly, the millionaires and profiteers have managed to get some regular middle class people to not only agree with their narrow worldview, but to preach it to others.
Soon enough, the protestors will be painted as interlopers, outside agitators and expensive unwanted houseguests — all in a massive marketing effort designed to spin doctor the protesters into irrelevance, and hopefully obscurity.
No mention though, you’ll notice, of how much the corporate bigwigs and bankers — you know, the ones the protestors are against — are costing those same taxpayers. No mention of how many Philly taxpayer dollars are burned on the altar of DROP, or paid out in pensions to felonious former police officers, or handed out to contributors and cronies like Halloween candy.
By my admittedly poor math, even if the “Occupy Philadelphia” protests continue to cost $400,000 per week, they have about 587,500 more weeks before it reaches the $245 billion it cost us to bail out the “too big to fail” banks in the first place.
Which makes the “Occupy” protests seem like a pretty good bargain.