You never know just how vulnerable you are until you are the victim.
Woke up this morning to find my Christmas lights had been almost completely removed. When I called Horsham Police, they sent out a squad car and commenced an investigation. One of the officers confided in me that this has been happening all over Horsham, and they suspect roving bands of Philadelphia Eagles fans originating most likely from the crime-infested Talamore development on the other side of the Township!
It was evident that in addition to removing most of my lights; they added green lights; and promptly smeared Crisco all over the bushed and tree trunks. The helpful police said the Crisco would disperse sufficiently to permit restorative work in about two weeks.
Bednarik separating Frank Gifford (16) from the ball (1960).
Bednarik was an outspoken critic of the modern football player in his later years, bemoaning the end of the two-way player, then laughing at the likes of Deion Sanders when he decided to play “two-way football” at the cornerback/wide receiver positions.
The most disturbing piece of video shot during the Charlie Hedbo massacre was perhaps that shot by man across the street from the assassination of French police officer, Ahmed Merabet, a 42-year-old Muslim himself.
Engineer Jordi Mir described the terror and panic he felt after having just witnessed the cold blooded, merciless shooting as Merabet lay obviously wounded on the sidewalk. Alone and feeling isolated in his flat, Mir fled to his computer and posted the video to Facebook.
After but 15 minutes, he thought better of his decision and took the video down; but it was too late. Within an hour he was mortified to see it being replayed across the world on hundreds of media sites and broadcasts.
No one – in my opinion – could blame Mir for what he did, given that moment in time and the terror he must have felt. The story does not go into why he felt posting it was a mistake he regrets. But it is a lesson in the unforgiving nature of today’s instantaneous “share it” culture.
Political commentator Charles Krauthammer, never one to be mistaken for a “tax and spend” liberal, is championing a $1.00 boost in the national gas tax. But he’s not pushing it as a way to fix the transit infrastructure.
Krauthammer wants the tax boosted to continue the psychological pressure on the consumption of petroleum products and as a way to relieve the pressure – even if only a little – on those consumers living day-to-day in everyday America by reducing Social Security taxes among other options.
He makes several valid points on the both the psyche of the American automotive consumer and his fickle relationship with overseas oil. lying just below the surface is the same mistrust all should feel about the obviously selfish motives of the Saudis, who are driving down the cost of oil (now below $50 a barrel) in a blatant strategy to corner market share and render economically less feasible the hunt for and development of alternative energy sources.
If, as some sources suggest, this artificially low price of foreign oil persists for two years, exactly how much damage will be done to efforts to wean us from the oil nipple?!?
If you know the story of Louie Zamperini, you know of the extraordinary trials he went through in his early life. I haven’t yet seen the movie, “Unbroken”, but I plan to. I did thoroughly enjoy Lauren Hillenbrand’s book by the same title. If you haven’t read it, you really should, especially if you can squeeze it in before seeing the movie!
From all accounts, Zamperini is an extremely likeable man. A close family member had several chances to meet Zamperini at public events in a law enforcement role in his native home of Torrance, CA. He had nothing but praise for the old WWII hero.
Zamperini died this past July.
But another interesting friendship Zamperini encouraged was with former USC quarterback, Matt Barkley. Barkley, third string QB for the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles, met Zamperini as a USC freshman in 2009.
Barkley describes how no one know who this “old guy” was as he addressed their class. But by the end, Barkley was listening intently and was so struck by his story that he hung around to talk to “Unbroken” hero afterwards.
Matt Barkley and Louie Zamperini
And a friendship was born.
Barkley shares that “Louie embodied what it means to push through your mental limits and even the physical limits of what your body can do.”
It was a lesson that served Barkley well in his struggles to make the transition to the NFL. The two men, roughly 70 years apart in age, conversed regularly. Zamperini even invited Barkley to watch the U.S.-Canada 2010 Olympic Games hockey matchup in his home.
Spoiler alert: Zamperini became such a gracious man in his later years, when he was given the opportunity to carry a torch for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan he sought a media-arranged meeting with the former Japanese soldier who tormented him in the WWII prison camp. The offer was rejected by Mutsohiro Watanabe.
During last Sunday’s game, Philadelphia Eagles fans took a collective gasp when Nick Foles went down heavily under the weight of Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus. But in this case the gasp was hardly accompanied by dread for a season lost to an irreplaceable cog in the football team’s fast break offense. Truth be told, a lot of Eagles fans were becoming a bit jaded with Foles’ performance over the first half of the season.
Personally, I do not understand that sense of dissatisfaction with a quarterback who has been central to the growing success of Chip Kelly‘s high octane offensive scheme. In this Nick Foles seems to be the victim of his own success.
So too are those cynical fans …
But of course the local sports media immediately turned Mark Sanchez‘s re-appearance into a quarterback controversy! And they do so for a team that stands 7-2 and atop the NFC East!
Foles enjoyed an almost flawless season in 2013, throwing for 2900 yards, 27 TDs, and just 2 Interceptions. Those are not superhuman numbers; but it was that last data point … just 2 INTs (317 pass attempts) that really paved the way for this season’s excessively high expectations for Foles 2nd season.
And yet, even I have to admit, Mark Sanchez piqued my interest in the pre-season. He was acquired as a free agent after being dumped by the Superbowl-bound New York Jets …
(Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention!)
You had to like what you saw of Sanchez in those pre-season games, if you bothered to watch. Quick reads, sound decisions, strong and accurate arm … He seemed extremely comfortable in Kelly’s fast paced offensive system. The first question that came to mind then was, “Just how bad are the New York Jets?”
Questioned answered …
Sanchez for his own part stepped in last Sunday against the Texans and performed admirably. But face it, Sanchez stepped into a good situation with an offensive line finally stabilized for better protection and an improved running game to boot.
Foles spent the first half of the season playing behind a patched-up offensive line, beset by an early season injuries. If you pay attention to offensive line play, you could see how the O-line struggled against the pass rush; could not provide a suitable pocket for Foles to step into and throw; and how often Foles was forced to throw passes off his back foot.
The poor throwing posture and mechanics caused many of Foles’ problems. And of course, Foles threw some passes a bit early due to the constant pressure and resulting hits.
In one of Foles’ better games against those New York Football Giants (also not Superbowl-bound), he enjoyed the benefits of an improved O-line, with the return of Lane Johnson; was able to step into many of his throws; and played much better as a result.
No mystery there …
Regardless, any team that relies so heavily on QB performance (and what team does not?) is in a much stronger position having two players who can be plug-and-play ready.
The one factoid to keep in mind is that for all our Monday morning quarterbacking and opining about who should be playing QB for the Birds, Sanchez signed a one-year deal … the product of his miserable Jets exit and Sanchez’s desire to get a second chance at being The Top Guy. Regardless of what happens this season, Sanchez could very well take whatever success he may have and move on to a QB-desperate team next season!
Or maybe Sanchez will not be as successful over the long term as he has looked so far.
The good news is that the Eagles seem to have found a great second option at QB in Sanchez. It’s a “problem” of the best kind for the Philadelphia Eagles!
UPDATE: Very interesting article in The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning about how Chip Kelly and Mark Sanchez crossed paths very early in Sanchez’s football career. Coincidences like this are often hard to shake off. Will Fate play a role in how this plays out?
Much angst has plagued Philadelphia sports fans the past several weeks over the words or behavior of some the city’s biggest sports stars. As with just about every other situation in Life, there are lessons to be learned and subtle insights into truths that can lie just below a stormy surface.
Two recent cases-in-point need no introduction to any Philly sports fan not lying in coma the past month.
The first incident was the very public benching of Phillies shortstop, Jimmy Rollins.
Rollins was benched – somewhat stealthily – by new manager Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame player who earned his plaque from both Production and Effort. Although it was obvious that Rollins had wandered into Sandberg’s doghouse, it was only slightly less obvious the likely reason was Rollins “Who cares?” remark to questions about his slow start to the Spring Training season.
I have always been a big Jimmy Rollins fan. Even more so since his 2007 statement that the National League East Championship passed through Philadelphia. Not only was this an aggressive statement in a season following several where the NL East was dominated by the Atlanta Braves, Rollins walked the talk; won the 2007 National League MVP; and ensured the Phillies first Division Title in string of division titles!
Yet, no one found fault with Sandberg’s public – though muted – benching of the team’s senior statesman during the spring lead-up to Sandberg’s first full season in the Phillies captain’s chair. He needed to set a positive attitude, including a mindset where caring mightily about wins and losses would be paramount. So even though it was “only Spring Training”, Rollins was sent a message about Leadership, Substance, and Mentoring.
Now read the views on Spring Training ’14 as uttered by Chase Utley, the Phillies second baseman in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s April 5 article on Utley’s hot season start in contrast to his quiet spring.
“Obviously, you’re looking for results in spring training, but being around for a while, I know that’s not the most important thing.”, Utley said. “The most important thing is getting your rhythm going into the season.”
First off, no one is going to confuse Utley and Rollins in either personality or demeanor on the field. Utley is all business all the time. Rollins enjoys the game and is not afraid to show it. Personally, if blessed with the ability to play the game at their level, I would prefer Rollins approach to enjoying the game as much as possible, if not necessarily his undervaluing the Power of Words.
In reality, Utley was expressing the very same mindset Rollins expressed when it comes to Spring Training success … or lack thereof. The difference is that Utley’s quote was not issued in the midst of a slump – even if only a spring training slump. Secondly, it’s not like Utley to be so flippant as to reduce his well-stated sentiment into two words certain to curdle the milk in Ryne Sandberg’s corn flakes!
Moral: It ain’t so much what you say as how – and when – you say it.
Photo from the source.com
Sometimes what’s not said that says all you need to know …
When I first heard the rumors about the Eagles shopping Jackson, I chalked it up to off-season football beat writers being a bit bored waiting for the April college player draft. No way could I see the Eagles wanting to jettison a skilled player that yielded 1300 yards and 9 TDs in just the previous season.
How could they be so stupid?!?
But then the stories – or rumors for all we really know – began to come out. A lot of it was disturbing from a team unity/distraction-avoiding point-of-view … The most incriminating pieces of evidence coming from Jackson’s own Instagram account.
Until the whole story comes out – if it ever does – no one will really know what the Eagles knew and when they knew it.
The Big Aha! – for me however – was not what was being said; it was in what was NOT being said … by those in the Eagles locker room.
Where were the players when “one of their own” was being pilloried in the press and set adrift by a team that lives or dies by the profligacy of its Offense?!? Why was there no circling of the wagons, no outward signs of support from those still with the team? Where was the All for One and One for All?
Only LeSean McCoy came out in tacit support of Jackson, but that was only after the deed was done.
To me, that said so much more than all the stuff that was being said about the character of Jackson. It was apparent that his standing among his team and teammates was lacking significantly. It was obvious that there was certainly something behind what was being said, even if we never really know for sure what it was.
A tribute to the only reason I ever watched a Sixers game
Now before I disappoint, I must warn you that this is not a treasure trove of Cranky Man’s various sports accomplishments. Many though they are, I was a child born before the Age of Electronics-at-Your-Fingertips. Sadly there is no video, films or even a decent grainy photo of those numerous magical moments from my past.
No video of those broken field runs on cold, snowy days with a well-worn pigskin under arm as I danced through flailing arms or plowed through helpless tacklers on makeshift gridirons along Ashton Road. No snapshots of my gazelle-like grace as I tracked down a moonshot homerun fail on a sun-scorched softball field at Thomas Holme School at Willits and Holme Avenues. No montage of my patented top-shelf, net-filling wrist shot during ridiculously hot and humid summer night street hockey games in the parking lot of the old Crown, Cork and Seal factory at Angus and Ashton Roads.
Sadly those magical moments are lost forever to the public except as they reside in my somewhat refracted long-term memory, exaggerated somewhat perhaps – like photo-shopped wedding pictures of an imperfect bride. However, I might be able to find a few witnesses, given enough time and access to a sufficient supply of memory jogging altering alcohol.
No, what we have here are those distance moments and recent events in Philly sports history that shaped my psyche as a Philadelphia sports fan.
Some of the moments I have selected may surprise you. In many cases they are not those iconic moments when Championships were sealed for the Ages. Instead, they might be the plays that made that Championship seem probable, maybe inevitable.
Some are simply those indelible feats of personal accomplishments from which heroic sports memories are made. Several memories are those of epic failure, that as an early sports memories many recall those long stretches of Philly sports futility.
Needless to say, your list of memorable Philly sports moments will include some of these, and others as well. So feel free to offer your own, and maybe it will show up on a future trip down Memory Lane!
The Earliest Baseball Magic – Fathers Day 1964: The family is bundled into the car driving home from an afternoon Fathers Day visit. I am eight years old. Dad turns on the radio just in time to catch the last few innings of Jim Bunning‘s perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies against the futile New York Mets in the first game of a sun-baked doubleheader.
Bunning was an all out, full-body thrower; often finishing his follow through his left forearm on the ground. He would retire from baseball in 1971 and would be elected a U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1999. He still serves in the Senate,
The Night Superman wore a “P” – June 23, 1971: It was an ungodly hot day in Cincinnati as the Phillies prepared to take on the Reds that night. Pitcher Rick Wise was not feeling well on the back-end of a bout with flu-like symptoms. When he stepped out onto the Riverfront Stadium Astroturf field, the on-field temperature was close to 120 degrees.
Wise recalled that his warm-up pitches seemed like they could barely reach the plate. Yet after the Reds went down in order through the first nine batters, Wise started to feel stronger figuring the heat had sweated the last of the flu from his system. When he batted in the fifth inning, Reds starter Ross Grimsley left a slider up in the zone and Wise hit it out of the park for a homerun.
At some point after this, a bored fifteen year-old heard from a friend that Wise was pitching a no-hitter. The Phillies weren’t much better – if better at all – than the 1964 version. So not many 15 year-olds spent their time inside the house during the Summer watching them struggle in their mediocrity. But a no-hitter is a no-hitter, so we all ran into the house to catch the last innings.
In the eighth inning, with a no-hitter a very real possibility, Wise came to bat against reliever Clay Carroll. When he looked down at the third-base coach for the sign on a 2-0 count, George Myatt simply turned his back to Wise. He could swing away. Carroll layed one out over the plate and Wise drove it for his second homerun of the game.
In the ninth, Wise got two outs and none other than perennial hit machine, Pete Rose, stood between Wise and no-hit, two homerun immortality. Rose worked the count to 3-2 then …
In one of those romantic twists that makes baseball such an interesting game, Rick Wise was the starting pitcher in that second game of the doubleheader in which Jim Bunning pitched his perfect game 7 years before!
Favell’s Big Flop … April 2, 1972: It’s the last game of the Philadelphia Flyers 1971-72 regular season. The hometown hockey club, which I had just started to follow, needed to simply avoid a loss to grab the last playoff spot. A win or even a tie against the Sabres in Buffalo would do the trick.
Doug Favell was in the nets. Favell was known as a flopper, who loved to flop and flail in the crease.
As the third period ran down into its final seconds, the Flyers clung to their first playoff berth in stubborn defensive hockey and a 2-2 tie. With just 15 seconds left in the game Sabres defenseman Gerry Meehan – a former Flyer himself – collected a puck inside the Sabres zone and made a pass in the neutral zone. As he cleared the blue line he got the puck back …
I was devastated and for months broke into nervous twitches every time I heard the name Doug Favell.
Clarke and The Hound: Of course much better Flyers memories were right around the corner!
Bobby Clarke‘s overtime goal in Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals didn’t clinch The Cup, but it convinced this Flyers fan that they would inevitably bring Lord Stanley to Philly for the very first time!
Then in 1975 the Flyers won the Stanley Cup again. But it was Bob “The Hound” Kelly who set the table just 11 seconds into the 3rd period of a scoreless Game 6. He absorbed a hellacious hit from Buffalo defenseman Jerry Korab; controlled the puck behind the net; and with a little help from Bobby Clarke nudging Korab out-of-the-way …
Current Flyers and NHL broadcaster, Bill Clement scored the second and final goal to wrap up the Flyers successful Stanley Cup defense.
Boone to Rose: Any Philadelphia sports fan knows the date,October 21, 1980. On this night the Phillies would win their first World Series. But it was this iconic play between Bob Boone and Pete Rose from the clincher that seemed to represent the hand of the baseball gods to anoint those Phillies as World Champions.
Wilbert romps through Cowboy-land: It was January 7, 1981. The Philadelphia Eagles had been improving steadily since Dick Vermeil had been hired as coach in 1976. By 1978 – and the Miracle in the Meadowlands – the Eagles were playoff bound over the next several seasons. Then, on a bitterly cold day in January 1981, they were facing the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and a chance to go to their first Superbowl.
On their very first drive of the game, the Eagles drove down to the Cowboys 42-yard line and Wilbert Montgomery set the tone for the rest of the day.
Wilbert’s romp and an unbreakable defense won the game 20-7. The Eagles lost the Super Bowl however, to Jim Plunkett and the Oakland Raiders.
J & J … No, I was never a big Sixers fan; but there have been times I watched, enthralled to see some of the best athletes to ever play in Philly.
In 1983, when the Sixers won their last NBA title, it was Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, and Moses Malone – the final piece to the puzzle – who made it possible. Jones playing the perimeter and stout on defense; Malone backing up his “fo’, fo’, fo'” playoff series prediction; and Julius simply being Julius.
Shane, Stairs and Utley’s Gambit: When the Phillies finally broke through again in 2008, their ascendency to World Series Champion was no sure thing. Yet it was a collection of plays that eventually convinced me that it could, should, then would happen.
Victorino did it again, with the Phillies down 5-3 in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Chavez Ravine against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I always though Victorino’s home run off Cory Wade was even bigger than Matt Stairs‘ game-winning deep space launch off Jonathan Broxton, because it changed the entire Dodgers relief strategy as well as tied the game. Both were unforgettable moments that convinced me the Phillies should win the whole enchilada.
And finally, I leave you with this little gem that slightly pre-dates my own backyard football career. How exactly we are able to reach all the way back to 1928 to watch a sandlot game of football is amazing!
The Philadelphia Eagles are nowhere near completing their transformation into the image and likeness of Chip Kelly. They are nowhere near the level of play needed to compete among the top teams of the National Football League. They are nowhere near playing the kind of football that normally leads to a NFC East Division Championship, then again neither is the rest of the NFC East.
So the potential is here for some playoff football in Philly!
Of course the potential is also there that they will drive you bat scat crazy, as they did against the Giants on October 27, which was probably the worst pro football game I can ever remember watching. And the Dallas game the previous week was almost as bad.
But two weeks a difference can make.
Nick Foles (Photo from usatoday.com)
Now, despite the title of this post, I am honestly trying to not getting ahead of reasonable expectations. Even if the Eagles were to triumph in the NFC East, which looks like the only way they can get to the post-season tournament, they shouldn’t get very far. However, just getting there after two really crappy seasons and a coaching change should be success enough.
Andy Reid won only four games his initial year in Philly. Kelly has that beat already; but he has benefitted from a significantly better roster than Reid had in 1999.
My only expectation … (Hope is probably a better word, if you can use “hope” when speaking about sports.) … for this season was to be entertained once a week, by watching a well-played football game and observing how this team transformed itself.
Expectations there have been met, although those two games against the Divisional rivals not named Washington still leave a bad taste.
LeSean McCoy (Photo from pennlive.com)
With three home games over the next four weeks – sandwiched around a bye week, the Eagles are poised to give Dallas a run for the division. That would be enough of an accomplishment for this season.
The unfortunate part of this scenario – of course – is that these games are Home on the Linc, where the Eagles have lost 10 in a row! That’s unfathomable … And one would think that correcting this aberration is a priority for Chip Kelly.
Irregardless the future looks bright.
Nick Foles has taken a stranglehold on the Quarterback job. The Defense, which looked horrid in the early weeks, is playing much better. Adapting to and playing better in their new 3-4 alignment after a rough stretch on the Learning Curve. And LeSean McCoy is being … well … LeSean McCoy.
Future expectations look very promising. If Kelly can wring a 5-5 start from the remnants of the Reid era and a crop of draft picks, then a few seasons of further talent stocking and development can tease out your Philly bred tendency towards cynicism. And one of my fears, that the Eagles would wind up trapped in another era of revolving door Head Coach selections may be avoided.
For now, I am modifying my projected season record for the Eagles to 9-7.
It could be a lot worse, which is what I had expected.
After watching ESPN’s fawning over and RG3 preening in anticipation of his highly anticipated return to the gridiron; after listening to the negative ESPN nabobs questioning how the University of Oregon Ducks‘ offense could possibly work in the modern NFL and enduring their almost unanimous vote (Well done, Trent Dilfer!) in favor of the hometown Washington Redskins; after watching RG3 burst out of the inflatable Redskins helmet to kneel upon FedEx Field (Did you too wonder whether RG3 was going to kiss the FedEx turf?), it was a pleasure to view Washington, D.C.’s reactions to Chip Kelly‘s High Flying Circus.
Such was the pleasure of hearing the stadium rocking “RG3 Is Back!” celebration turn into a hushed “WTF is happening?!?” moment-of-crises for Redskins fans. Watching the Skins’ defense waving to each other; gesturing wildly in one direction or the other with each new formation wrinkle. Seeing the expression on Mike Shanahan‘s face as the Eagles’ score mounted and his offense sputtered throughout the first quarter.
McCoy had his dancing shoes on
The only visual I did not enjoy was the look on Robert Griffin, III’s face as he struggled to counter the ease with which Michael Vick and the predatory Eagles sliced through the Redskins’ defense. It was obvious that RG3 is not completely back from his catastrophic knee injury. Respecting Griffin’s game, it was tough to watch him struggle last night.
Now if it was Tony Romo …
Yep, Chip Kelly’s High Flying Circus was in town! There was plenty for Eagles fans to like …
ease with which Eagles receivers were getting open
quick, decisive reads Vick made in shredding the Redskins’ defense
21 Eagles first downs to 3 for the Skins in the first half
turnover tally favoring the Birds
surprisingly efficient defense
Trent Cole likes playing defense standing up
As much fun as last night was, this post really is not the near-sighted love fest it sounds like. This Eagles fan has been through too many wild roller coaster rides that ended on the business side of a brick wall to think this game can be this easy. For surely there be monsters out there just looking for the chance to gut this circus and dance on its crushed three-ring tent.
That being said, it was refreshing to finally get the wrapper off the new toys and see how well they played together. We thrilled to see an offense that had you perched on the edge of the seat to take it all in.
We were relieved to see a defense that remembered how to tackle and found ways to get the ball back. We were delighted to find that unorthodox can work if for no other reason than it made football look like fun for both players and fans.
But beware … There be monsters out there!
My concerns start with Michael Vick‘s always tenuous hold on football health, the possible adjustments that the League’s defensive geniuses will throw at Chip Kelly’s HFC, the ability of McCoy to handle the workload AND stay healthy, and whether the defense can maintain a high level of play (at least from that first half). The rather obvious observation from last night’s game is that keeping the trio of Vick, McCoy and DeSean Jackson healthy will be key to this team’s long-term football health
Yep, there are questions aplenty. But at least the ride looks to be exciting!