You can fire Mo Cheeks, but you can't fire the guy who updates the standings. Last place. That's where the Sixers sit in the Atlantic Division. A coaching change can't hide that fact, and it certainly can't make the fans interested in the Sixers again.

You can debate all you want whether it was time for Cheeks to go. But the organization has bigger troubles than which guy stands near the bench in a well-tailored suit.

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The Sixers threw a bunch of money at Andre Iguodala, and even more at Elton Brand, in an attempt to win games and energize the fan base. What a difference a 10-14 record makes. The only thing flatter than the Sixers are the attendance numbers. They're 26th in the NBA, averaging just under 14,000 fans per game. That's thousands fewer than the number of people who will show up at the same arena to watch fat men gorge themselves during Wing Bowl.

While the players underachieve and the franchise flounders, the marketing team is trying to run the promotional equivalent of the weave to perfection. Between the "all you can eat" section and "the guys' night out" special (which grants you and your entourage an audience with the Sixers' dancers, among other perks), the marketing people are doing a fine job promoting a weak product. Food and females are generally the perfect bait, but not even those have reeled in fans. Not a good sign.

Tickets for the Sixers' return to the Spectrum in March go on sale today. It's the team's latest desperate attempt to increase attendance. The first 500 people to purchase tickets in person at the Spectrum box office will get to tour the Sixers' old locker room. They'll also get to meet some of the team's alumni.

If you're a fan, I recommend waiting. The longer you hold out, the sweeter the enticement. In a month or two, they'll be offering caviar and Cristal and a chance to play small forward against the Knicks.

Seriously, if the season continues like this, the Sixers will be forced to come up with a gimmick that would have surprised legendary baseball showman Bill Veeck. And he once sent a midget to the plate.

There are two kinds of people: those who relish a good brawl and don't mind getting their knuckles bloody, and those who would rather not enter the ring.

At every turn, the Phillies have proven to be the former. A little fight (not to mention a championship) goes a long way around here.

It's been an interesting off-season for the Phils. Make what you will of the Raul Ibanez signing, but the bigger - or at least more entertaining - story has been the team's overt swagger. Some clubs walk quietly after winning a title. Others look at the competition and dare them to come get some.

So far, the Phils have taken every opportunity to jab a finger in the Mets' collective eyes. Consider: On the day the parade rolled down Broad Street, Jimmy Rollins stood in front of thousands of fans at Citizens Bank Park (and countless others watching on television at home) and kicked the Mets while they were down.

"A lot of things were made in the off-season," Rollins said. "We can talk about the New York Mets. They brought in that great pitcher, Johan Santana, but they forgot that it takes more than one player to bring home a championship."

Even though Rollins spoke the truth, his comments made a lot of New Yorkers upset. They're so sensitive that way.

Rather than gather the troops and tell them to simmer down, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. joined the hit parade last week. When asked about the Mets' signing of closer Francisco Rodriguez - who recently called the Mets "the team to beat" in the NL East - Amaro said it was no big deal. He said they had Billy Wagner, too, but that never got them anywhere.

Again, Mets fans didn't appreciate the candor. Nor did those same fans take kindly to Cole Hamels appearing on WFAN in New York and calling the Mets "choke artists." When Hamels - who's just about the easiest-going guy you'll find - starts putting his jab in your face, it might be time to throw in the towel.

Don't you just love the attitude, the unflinching bravado? Not since Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn thumped and bumped has Philly been treated to a team that's so willing to scrap and trash-talk without compunction. It's the perfect approach in a town full of fighters. It's also a stark contrast to how other teams, particularly the Eagles, handle their rivalries. Ask Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb whether they hate the Cowboys and they'd be all too happy to sidestep the question. They can float like butterflies, but they have no sting.

Meanwhile, the Fightin's - thankfully - live up to their nickname.

Prepare yourselves. Tonight is the 40th anniversary of the now infamous "those Philly savages pelted poor Santa Claus with snowballs" game. You can bet the ESPN nitwits will bring it up repeatedly this evening. . . . If Sean Penn doesn't win the best actor Oscar for his turn in Milk, it will be a grave injustice. . . . Too bad Jason Witten and Terrell Owens were separated before they came to blows. That's a fight I would happily pay $49.95 to see.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.