Just after noon on a Saturday inside the WIP studios above East Market Street, two men in a little studio talked sports, talked Sixers. This was not, however, for WIP listeners. Two other men in a larger studio down the hall at the sports talk station were talking for the radio airwaves, also about the Sixers.
For this conversation, you needed iTunes or SoundCloud or Google Play. You needed to know the way. If you don't have a clue about Ricky Sánchez or his rights, you probably haven't caught up to the podcast transmitting from the little room, simulcast on Facebook Live.
This revolution has been podcasted.
The two in the room are Spike Eskin and Mike Levin. If you're at all into Trust the Process, they are spiritual leaders, podcasting together since 2013. They didn't invent the term defining the Sam Hinkie era - "We popularized it, I would say," Levin said.
"Very much," Eskin said.
"But now it's everywhere," Levin said. "We don't own it anymore."
They're mostly sort of almost OK with that. (They're more than OK with Joel Embiid announcing he is The Process). They do keep a list, however. A podcast topic: "Let's talk about enemies of The Process."
As is both their habits, Eskin had been to the game live the night before and Levin had watched it on television, more "into Zumoff," as he put it, referring to Sixers play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff.
Eskin, the program director at WIP, has been the maestro behind much of the Trust the Process offshoots, such as last year's NBA Lottery party that filled Xfinity Live. This day Eskin was talking about whether watching Joel Embiid highlights instead of the All-Star Game at Xfinity Live would be a good idea. (Conclusion: Yes). Eskin figures Raise the Cat is the first Sixers social media sensation that he hasn't been involved with. (Eskin's own father, Howard, is on the enemies list.)
As avid as ever, Levin, 27, who grew up in Bucks County, went to Council Rock South High School, now lives in Venice, Calif., and works as a writer for an NBC comedy. He turned writing a comment on a Sixers blog when he was a sophomore at Ithaca College into eventually running the Liberty Ballers website. He hosts the podcast from the West Coast with Eskin. He happened to be in town in late January so they were together in the studio, with Levin's father, Glenn, holding the phone up for Facebook Live, and getting complaints from watchers about the camera jiggling when he laughed at something the guys said.
After a thousand ideas for names to the podcast (End of the Line, Transition Speak, Arnett Moultrie's Couch, The Rebuild, Sixes and Sevens) they both agreed instantly on Rights to Ricky Sánchez, not remembering exactly who came up with it.
Sánchez had been drafted early in the second round in 2005 by Portland, traded that day to Denver. His rights were traded to the Sixers in 2007, and those rights finally traded by the Sixers to Memphis in 2012 for Sam Young. So Sánchez was traded after five years without ever playing here. His rights had value. The player himself? He's never played a game in the NBA. (That trade was pre-Sam Hinkie, by the way.)
Make no mistake, though. Hinkie worship still is encouraged on the podcast. Here's the caveat: Levin doesn't think every Hinkie move hit pay dirt. He and Eskin argue about the relative worth of Hinkie additions. It might surprise some to know blind devotion is not required.
"I was mad forever," Levin said after taping the podcast. "I've been furious at the Sixers for most of my life. . . . The reason we were so pro-Hinkie, it was what we were asking for, for at least five years. 'Please have a plan, please tear it down, please stop trying to middle your way into success.' So they did. We were like, 'This is our guy; he's giving us what we want.' "
In the podcast, they talk hoops but in such a way that allows for the mocking of Paul Millsap, the Atlanta Hawk chosen for the All-Star Game ahead of Embiid - as in, who is he?
"People are looking for reasons to not have fun," Levin said of the Embiid All-Star snub, shaking his head at the idea that minutes restrictions should be a thing.
They took questions. Who should Embiid romance All-Star weekend? Levin suggested a change-up, maybe an older established actress like Jessica Chastain. (Facebook watchers checked in . . . "Embiid and Meryl Streep would be adorable.")
Levin knew college prospects, that sort of thing, but when he was writing for Liberty Ballers, he wasn't too wonky. How much of a role should a journeyman like Tony Battie have had when he with the Sixers from 2010-12? Levin's thought was always "It doesn't matter. It's immaterial."
Levin just knew he was sick of writing roundups about Tuesday night games with the Bucks that invariably ended 87-78. Coincidently, he moved on to a Liberty Ballers emeritus role just prior to the play on the court getting interesting to write about. He does wonder what the future of that will be.
You don't have to wonder about the origin of Rob Lowe offhandedly saying "Trust the Process" in an episode of the Fox series "The Grinder" that aired last April. Levin cowrote the episode. He'd been a production assistant on "How I Met Your Mother", moved on to assistant in the writer's room for "The Grinder", and now is a staff writer for "Trial & Error" starring John Lithgow.
How bad is Levin's Sixers' addiction? What lengths will he go to satisfy it? He remembers the 2015 NBA Draft, while he was working on "The Grinder".
"Got my buddy to cover for me in the room all day, was just watching the draft all day, checking Twitter," Levin said. "I had two screens, one was the draft, one was Twitter. I looked at it for too long, didn't go to the bathroom, didn't eat - got my first and only migraine, and threw up the next morning entirely."
When Levin was an assistant, he could take morning shifts, get out by the time East Coast games were starting in L.A.
"Now that I'm in the room all the time, it's harder," Levin said of being a staff writer on a show. "I sort of went to the bathroom a lot during Embiid's first game. A couple of times I've had my phone here" - he mimics having it down by his hip. "It's like risking my job. It's a bad idea. I shouldn't do it. But Embiid's first game? How am I not going to watch Embiid's first game? After all this, I'm not going to watch?"
Does he have kindred spirits in the room, or at least sympathetic souls?
"I try to keep it as separate as possible," Levin said. "It's too weird. It's too hard to explain. It's so dumb. I don't want anyone to listen to this. It's so stupid. Find it, like, purely. I don't want to be advertising it to like I met this person at a holiday party - 'so you have a Sixers podcast, I should listen to it? Is it funny?' 'Not really, a little.' "
That doesn't mean it never comes up in Los Angeles.
"I was at a meeting at CBS and a guy was from Philly and he was talking and I was like, 'I have a Sixers blog and a podcast,' " Levin said.
The guy's response: "You're that Mike Levin."
No real business got done for the rest of the meeting - "We talked about the Sixers," Levin said. "Didn't get a job from it."
The Trust the Process community is vast and proud, and leery of converts. There is a Twitter hashtag out there, unrelated to hoops, only decipherable to longtime devotees, a secret handshake born on the podcast.
Near the end of this one, Levin asked Eskin how he feels generally about the Sixers?
"Good," Eskin said.
"Just generally good?" Levin said. "Not otherworldly good?"
"I don't feel otherworldly good," Eskin said. "I don't think I know how to feel that way. I'm excited every time they win. I think I have too much hate in my heart and every time that they do well, you want to rub it in everybody's face."
"Which is not, you know, armchair psychologist, the healthiest thing," Levin said.
"No," Eskin immediately agreed. "I'm happy. When it's happening I'm happy. When I'm watching. But I don't feel the next day, like - I also have a little sense of dread, now that there are expectations - what the next two years are going to be like."
A couple of bad Sixers weeks were coming, they both felt.
"I sort of miss it," Levin said. "I sort of miss the losing."
"Well, because we could tell everyone it doesn't matter," Eskin said.
"It was so relaxed," Levin said.
This sounded like their last podcast, Eskin joked.
"Yeah, we're done," Levin said.
Win or lose, there was "a freeing feeling" to the win or loss not changing the equation, Levin said. "In the long run, it doesn't matter. Longest view in the room - it's all going to work out. As far as you can see, that's when the Sixers are going to be good."
Eskin suggested the name for a Levin book: "What happens when it doesn't matter that you're smarter than everyone anymore?"
End of the podcast? The two went on for a few more minutes, got to talking about Nerlens Noel's newfound jump shot. "I think it's real," Levin said.