Karma can be a ... cruel mistress.
Fate has conspired to deliver to Philadelphia the two greatest sports traitors in the city’s history for the maximum number of appearances for the foreseeable future. Both play for divisional rivals.
It’s like being able to heckle your ex at their job performance review ... every time they have a job performance review.
A day before Ben Simmons returns with Brooklyn, Carson Wentz got traded from Indianapolis to Washington. That means Wentz, the most hated player in Eagles history, will visit Philly at least once a season, since the Commanders play in the NFC East. Simmons, the most hated player in Sixers history, returns Thursday, one of two seasonal trips by the Nets, members of the Atlantic Division.
On these days, there will be a vortex of hatred and vitriol not seen in Philadelphia since the Revolutionary War. It’s as if Benedict Arnold will be delivered into George Washington’s hands three times a year. Each appearance will be an event. Local governors might as well cancel school.
Even the geography is perfect.
Thrice annually, a black hole of disdain will open between New York City and Washington, fueled by the frustrations of 5 million fans with one Super Bowl, two NBA titles, and an infinite list of grievances and grudges.
Now and forever, Simmons and Wentz top that list.
The Judas Phenomenon
Philly forgives most misdeeds — Phillies fans largely think Pete Rose should be reinstated, and Andy Reid still gets cheered — but both Wentz and Simmons committed the mortal sin that not even brotherly love can forgive.
They each stole money. About $33 million, effectively.
Wentz did it first. He actually began plotting his exit from Philly the moment he was benched in Game 12 of the 2020 season, a season in which he was the NFL’s worst quarterback. He twice issued trade demands, once immediately after the season, and then another after he got Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson fired. Why? Because he was too scared to compete with Jalen Hurts, then a rookie who’d been drafted explicitly to be his backup.
In the end, the Eagles sent Wentz to Indianapolis in a bad trade, because he left them with a crippling hole in their 2021 salary cap. Undermanned, the Birds flopped in the first round of the playoffs. Unprincipled and unvaccinated, Wentz caught COVID-19 near the end of the season, played horribly when he returned, cost the Colts a playoff spot, and the Colts soured on him. It seemed like that was punishment enough.
But no. He was exiled to D.C. Karma, man. Karma.
He now has to work for Dan Snyder, the NFL’s worst owner, and play at FedEx Field, the NFL’s worst stadium ... and that dump will seem like heaven compared to his yearly trip 130 miles north on I-95.
Simmons put himself in just as unsavory a quandary.
Simmons dunk-choked in the Sixers’ playoff finale against Atlanta last season, then, after his coach and a teammate called him out, boycotted training camp and the first 54 games of the Sixers’ season. He just didn’t show up.
He cited mental health issues, but he neither presented proof from his own therapists nor submitted to team exams, and so lost more than $20 million in salary and fines — but, more significantly, he left a hole in their payroll worth $33 million.
The Sixers were finally able to trade Simmons to Brooklyn at the Feb. 10 deadline for disgruntled Net James Harden, who has been phenomenal in Philadelphia. But Sixers fans will never forgive Simmons for his duplicity, since most believe his mental health claims were bogus.
Simmons returns Thursday, and he’ll sit on the bench — officially, because his back is sore, but, really, because he’s too cowardly to play in the game and face the music. Courtside seats for Thursday’s game were being resold for $4,000 to fans eager to holler at Simmons. He’ll lounge there in street clothes, endure the inevitable vulgar chants, his signature smirk smirking away, and the fans will revile him all the more.
This is the sort of anger that never goes away.
Should the teams officially recognize their returns? A team source indicated Ben would get no highlight tribute Thursday, even though Sixers coach Doc Rivers said he thought Simmons should get one.
After all, Simmons won Rookie of the Year and went to three All-Star Games as a Sixer. Wentz made the Pro Bowl after his second season.
Hard pass, Doc. Then again, maybe Doc hates Ben, too. Imagine how loudly that montage of misplays would be booed.
Besides, what would the Sixers show?
One of the 30 free throws (out of 45) Simmons missed against the Hawks? Or maybe one of the five three-pointers he made in 309 games with the Sixers? Or the dunk-choke?
How about Wentz?
Maybe the Eagles could scroll through his league-high 15 interceptions (in less than 12 games) during the 2020 season. Or how about the concussion Wentz earned when he wouldn’t throw a screen pass into the ground in a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. That might be in poor taste, though it would be appropriate, considering how often Wentz got hurt: collarbone, knee, back, and, of course, his pwecious widdle feelings.
At any rate — not that this would ever happen in Philly (wink emoji) — but fans certainly shouldn’t seek to injure or inappropriately insult either player. However, endless, modified outrage is fully justified.
Wentz quit on the Eagles when they were in a playoff race. Simmons basically bailed on the Sixers because, after the dunk-choke, Rivers questioned his ability to be a championship-caliber point guard in the NBA and Joel Embiid pointed to the dunk-choke as the turning point in that game.
They took their balls, and they found new homes. As karma would have it, those homes turned out to be uncomfortably close to the sites of their betrayals.
If they think their feelings got hurt when they played for Philly, just wait until they come back.
Again. And again. And again.