So I recently moved back in with my parents, because crushing student loan debt does not repay itself. The U.S. in the past 30+ years has evolved wonderfully for people who like to have the same relative wealth as their parents but also the weight of being tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) in the hole before they're employable.
Being away from home for the past few years, I haven't heard as many 76ers takes from my family, mostly because their only reasons for paying attention to the squad amount to an attempt at small talk over something I quite clearly take interest in. And it's mostly been that way for my entire life - for instance, my dad's most recent attempt at following the Sixers ended when Moses Malone (RIP) was traded away.
Anyway, while walking through my living room my dad asked why the Sixers weren't good yet. As he put it, they're four years in and only have a big man with an injured leg. So I snapped back, rather condescendingly, about all of the Sixers for-Process bullet points: that we're only beginning a third year and not a fourth, that the Sixers still had a really interesting two big combination, four draft picks, a clean cap sheet, and are in great position to obtain superstars if they're not already on the roster, that the only way to win is by having multiple superstars, that the best way for a team without them is through the draft, and everything else.
But that's not the point. The fact that I snapped at my dad who was uninformed as an instinctual reaction to even a minimal slight on the Sixers - instead of correcting the point thoughtfully and presenting the facts coherently - is where we're at in The Process: we're at the point where both people pro- and anti-Process have dug in their heels so much that anything like a single incorrect fact cited sets off a firestorm.
Polarization has infected our society. In sports and politics and pop culture and every faction within those, there's no more room for nuance. The ability to string together a coherent argument and argue with logic, reason, intellect, and detail isn't valued because it doesn't bring attention or, in television terms, ratings.
Every news show is some variation of ESPN First Take. We're all evolving into Stephen A. Smith. The worthiness of your argument matters not as much as how high the mountaintop is you stand upon, how loudly and widespread the echo chamber reverberates your buzz terms, and how many page views you bring. The message doesn't matter as much as the moral outrage or biting snark that accompanies it.
We're guilty of it here at Liberty Ballers as well in one way: in case you somehow haven't noticed, or it's your first time here, we're heavily invested in The Process and are believers in the cause.
This leads to other things as well that are probably not great. We generally hire like-minded people who express similar viewpoints, and that's a conscious decision, because the for-Process bias of the site's managers, first with Mike Levin and then with Jake Pavorsky and myself, causes us to tend to bring in people much like ourselves. It tends to happen across all walks of life.
Unfortunately, this also means we have a staff of 17 men, only two of which are minorities, with mostly liberal thinkers, who all have the same for-Process leanings.
Because of things like this (just as much as the Trust The Process t-shirts at the lottery parties) we do resemble a cult. For some reason, we've seem to accept the brandishing of the word "cult" in reference to us as a badge of honor, despite cults typically representing the worst extremes in society and a blind acceptance in lieu of rational thought.
And that cult mentality manifests itself whenever a single anti-Process point is made. "The Sixers should have drafted someone who isn't injured!" they say. We react by arming ourselves with knives. "Is Hollis Thompson an NBA rotation player on a better team?" they ask. We assemble internet militias to defend his honor. "The Sixers should have made more progress by now!" they think. BURN THE WITCH AT THE STAKE.
Or in a real life situation from just yesterday, an NBA writer on Twitter points out how awful the Sixers healthy point guards are (which is a true point that even both extremes agree upon) and it evolves into a circular, endless argument where the honor of Kendall Marshall somehow needs to be defended (on our side) and the failure to sign a point guard who's healthy somehow is an indictment of the Process (on their side). Like, what the hell are we even doing here? Why is this an argument? What are we trying to accomplish?
It's gotten to a point where both the criticisms and defenses of those criticisms are old and tired and cyclical and nonsensical, and they do nothing to advance anyone's thinking or understanding of a situation. It's "are you in or are you out?" The Process, and the supporters of The Process, are no longer welcoming - we're actively driving away people by clinging to a certain set of beliefs.
The most disheartening part for me, however, was that the intentions of most for-Process Sixers fans before the rebuild were entirely focused on how to rebuild the team, and everyone knew that the Sixers should probably do so through the draft, but where to go from that point was open to interpretation. That openness is gone.
We should bring that openness back. Maybe it begins with bringing in more voices, people who may disagree with the team and are willing to cogently explain their viewpoints. Maybe it begins with us acknowledging more of the pitfalls of the Sixers during the last few years than we have to date. Maybe it begins with an honest effort to explain the motives of the Sixers without accepting that it's the only way to conduct business.
Those self-improvements will make us more knowledgeable fans and better people, and it will turn fewer people away. Being a fan of a team should be a welcoming communal experience, not something exclusive.
Ten minutes after I snapped at my dad, I realized how ridiculous I was and apologized. He found how much I cared amusing. Maybe if we just realized how unimportant the Sixers are, and how silly this all is, we'd all be much less unbearable. Or at the very least, we wouldn't be a cult. I think that's a step in the right direction.