A lone figure stands, weeping, on the edge of the Ben Franklin Bridge on a dark and cold December night in Philadelphia. He looks down into the dark abyss as the wind and snow whips his Gucci suit around his pasty body. Wiping away tears, Sam Hinkie, GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, loosened his grip on the bridge cables, ready to make one last final plunge into the Delaware River.
“What are you doing there friend?” A voice says from the sidewalk. Hinkie looks down and sees a kindly old man wearing a cotton winter coat and fedora, looking up at him with a strange smile on his face.
“I’m….not that it’s any of your business, but I’m going to end it all. This world doesn’t need me, this city doesn’t need me. The fans hate me, the NBA made the organization hire someone that is going to take away all my power, my process isn’t going to last…everyone….everyone would be better off if I wasn’t here! If I had never been in any of their lives,” Hinkie said, crying again.
“Well son, my name is Charles, angel 2nd class. You’ve given so much to this world, and it’s my job to show you just how much your friends, family, city, and organization would miss you if you had neHinver been in any of your lives. I will show you just how it would all change if you had never been born,” Charles said, helping Hinkie down from the railing.
“Isn’t this a bit, well, trite? It’s obviously the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? Not too original,” Hinkie said thoughtfully.
Charles looked at him and smiled his warm Christmasy smile.
“It’s not as trite as, say, a sports blog writing close to 1,000 words based on a movie release from 1946 and very loosely connecting it into Philadelphia sports, now is it?” Charles said, as he put his arm around Hinkie. “Do you remember this date? May 14, 2013?”
Hinkie’s eyes went wide as he shook his head.
“That was the day the 76ers hired me as GM.”
“Yes of course, Sam. Well let me take you back to that day. What would have happened if you had not been an option for the team…well…let’s see,” Charles said, and the world began to melt away……
Sam and Charles were standing in the back of a room filled with media members. Josh Harris was sitting behind a table in front of a 76ers back drop.
“That’s….that’s Josh. This is when he announced me as team president, the happiest day of my life,” Hinkie said. Charles shushed him as Josh Harris began to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, our search for a team GM is finished. I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of the 76ers front office, Allen Iverson!” Harris said, as a buzz filled the room.
Charles looked at Sam, motioning towards the front of the room as Iverson made his way to the podium. The 76ers legend cupped his hand to his ear as the room exploded in applause and cheers, welcoming him home.
“But, why are you showing me this? I didn’t get nearly the reaction this day that Iverson got, everyone seems happy to see him. All I remember were the blank faces as I walked out to shake Josh’s hand,” Hinkie said.
“Sure, they’re happy on the outside, but it’s his first day. What happens two years from now, where you are presently, with him still at the helm? Maybe we should find out,” Charles said, as he put his arm tightly around Sam and the room began to spin again.
When Sam opened his eyes he was on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, watching the 76ers warm up. To his surprise, Joel Embiid was on the court in warmup gear, sinking jumper after jumper, with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor warming up hard next to him.
“Joel? He’s ok? Why is he fine?”
“Well, when he first complained about his foot after the draft last year, Iverson assigned several team representatives to oversee every aspect of his life. Made sure he didn’t goof off, stuck to his rehab, didn’t ride his Funky Duck on a bad foot…turned his life around. He actually debuted halfway through the season and teamed with Nerlens to go on a bit of a tear. Plus Iverson made several shrewd moves to bring in some veteran talent on the cheap, it really helped the team out,” Charles said, pointing to a banner in the WFC rafters. It read, Philadelphia 76ers, Eastern Conference Champions 2014-2015.
“They won the East?”
“They sure did. Embiid dominated and they ended up losing in 7 to Golden State. Pretty great for a team expected to tank before the season started. Plus, they still received a 1st round draft pick from the Lakers and were able to select Okafor who slid out of the top three,” Charles nervously said. “Maybe this wasn’t the best idea to show you this stuff, usually it turns out to be much more positive for the person I’m showing these things too.”
Hinkie only shook his head as he looked up to the jumbotron and saw a live shot from Fox 29 news in front of the World Trade Center.
“Wait, the towers are still standing if I had never been born?!”
“Wow…ummm….that’s weird,” Charles said. “This is not going well.”
“No it’s not! Not at all! Everything you’ve shown me so far has been positive, much better off with me not here,” Hinkie yelled.
The former GM checked his iPhone and quickly went to CNN’s homepage. The front page story showed President Obama at the Paris Climate Change Summit, declaring an official end to global warming due to all of the world’s combustion engines being replaced with water engines. Another story declared the official end to ISIS, as all religious malcontents throughout the world had reached a consensus and learned to live in peace and harmony.
He gasped when he read Donald Trump had officially dropped out of the presidential race, saying it was due to his “gross incompetence and lack of general appeal to mankind.”
At that instant, he was back on the Ben Franklin Bridge, looking down into the water again. A hand reached out and pushed him in the back, sending him plummeting down into the churning water.
“Never had to do that before, oh well,” Charles said, as he walked away from the bridge, whistling cheerfully.
When Hinkie splashed into the water, a chorus of angels descended upon the city, bathing Philadelphia in a warm glow of peace and love. The spirt of Christmas was present throughout the city, as strangers helped strangers, the rich helped the poor, and everything was right in the city.
Nobody knew what caused the change, why the city became such a wonderful place to live…only one man knew the true story and he truly earned his wings that chilly December night in Philadelphia.
Merry Christmas everyone! Trust the process!