Tom Brady > Peyton Manning

By Johnny Green

(I wrote a column about Brady and Manning the other day, but before I posted it, I remembered that Bean wrote one a few months back. So this is his take on the “Best Quarterback of the Generation” debate.)

(AP Photo/ Charles Krupa)

The NFL is the best football league in the world, and it is made up of the best players in the world. Among these players there is one position that outshines the rest, and that position is quarterback. The quarterback is the player who takes the blame when the team loses and the credit when the team wins. They have a lot of control over the outcome of the game, and they are the teams’ leaders. There are a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL today, but there are two main ones that stick out in everybody’s mind, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. There are countless numbers of debates on who is better out of these two. I am going to tell you why Tom Brady is better, and some of the reasons even go past football. Continue reading

Back to the BCS: LSU and College Football’s Potential Nightmare

 

 

The worst possible scenario that could happen next Saturday: Georgia upsetting LSU in the SEC Championship game. Why? Because it could potentially leave the unanimous best team in the country out in the dust, making way for a lesser Oklahoma State to finish number two in the BCS. This is a problem for two reasons: It shows that it’s not about HOW many games a team loses, but WHEN and relying on a computer system is absurd as Tim Robbins fitting into the Warden’s suit in Shawshank.

 

Of the top-five teams in the BCS, only LSU remains undefeated. Analysts are saying that barring a blowout, LSU will make the BCS title game even if they lose to Georgia because of the difficulty of their schedule (they beat eight top 25 teams). But the fact that there’s still a possibility of LSU not making it should be worrying the hell out of college football. LSU is a 14-point favorite against the Bulldogs and they’re expected to win. They will most likely win and by a large margin. But, what if they don’t?

 

Take it back to my point about it’s not how many games a team loses but when. Then take it a few weeks when Alabama lost to LSU, 9-6, in a more exciting game than most people give it credit for (it was the top two defenses in the league, no one should’ve expected a 35-34 finish). Alabama dropped to three in the polls and then climbed back to two, ending their season in a rout of rival Auburn. They sit at 11-1 and guaranteed themselves a spot in the BCS championship game. If LSU loses to Georgia, Alabama would jump LSU as the highest ranked team in the country, regardless of their loss against them. AND, overrated Oklahoma State may possibly jump in the two spot. Basically, the BCS said (in their best Office Space voice), “LSU we know you won 12 games already, but you lost too late in the season and we’re going to have to drop you from the title game. Yeaaah, sorry.”

 

Why is that a problem? Beause it goes to show that the timing of the loss is everything. When a team loses early in the year, they have weeks to make up for that loss and get back into the higher part of the rankings. Plus, a team ahead of them has a better chance of losing one game if there are six left, rather than if there is one. LSU should not be punished because it took them 12 games to lose when it only took Alabama and Oklahoma State to lose nine and 20 respectively. The computers don’t measure wins overall, but losses.

 

How can the BCS be fixed? Brent Musberger said to add a playoff system, which is a solid idea. Take the conference champions and have them play in an eight team playoff to determine the champion. It would create new conference rivalries and create a “March Madness” feel to it. Or add a plus-one to the end of the season if two teams end up undefeated. I love the latter because I want a team like TCU or Boise State to finish undefeated again so they can go up against an LSU or Alabama and get destroyed so we can stop hearing, “But they finished 13-0, they deserve a shot!” (And I am a fan of Boise State, but they do play a dreadfully weak schedule.)

 

Although next Saturday isn’t for certain, one thing is, the BCS needs a change. If LSU drops out of the BCS title game because their loss came at the last week of the season, riots should happen in Baton Rouge.

 

Trent Richardson Should Win the Heisman

The current Heisman Trophy finalists are: Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, and Trent Richardson. Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma) both lost on Saturday and eliminated themselves completely. There’s little doubt that Luck is the favorite to win it. That leaves one other contender, Richardson. (There’s an argument for Moore because he’ll get the record for most wins by an FBS quarterback, but the respect factor for Boise State is so low because his team ranks 45th in strength of schedule and they play in the Mountain West Conference.) Although Luck is the second coming of Elway and has an NFL tagline of “Suck for Luck,” on a college scale he plays in a weaker conference and doesn’t have the stats that you need to be a Heisman winner. Honestly, he’s just a part of a trend where quarterbacks win any individual offensive MVP award. Here’s the list of Heisman winners since 2000.

2000- Chris Weinke (he was 30 when he won; a 30 year old playing with 18 and 19 year olds. No surprise he won.)

2001- Eric Crouch (my favorite player as a kid. He was exciting.)

2002- Carson Palmer

2003- Jason White (business owner in Oklahoma, what a waste.)

2004- Matt Leinart (coolest college athlete of all time, he hung out with Nick Lachey!)

2005- Reggie Bush (doesn’t matter that he vacated the trophy, we all know)

2006- Troy Smith (smaller faster version of Tebow, just too small)

2007- Tim Tebow (this man is inhuman. Never never never flustered.)

2008- Sam Bradford (accuracy)

2009- Mark Ingram (no doubt about it, clear cut from the beginning he should’ve won)

2010- Cam Newton (absolute stud in college, soon to be an absolute stud in the NFL)

Of the 10 winners, eight were quarterbacks. There are arguments for every player that did win. Tebow is the best college player of all time, Bradford threw 50 touchdowns, and Cam Newton made Auburn a superpower. But did Carson Palmer deserve it more than Larry Johnson who rushed for 2,000 yards? Or did Jason White deserve it more than Larry Fitzgerald who had 87 catches for 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns? Yes, most of those quarterbacks threw 40 or more touchdowns with less than 10 interceptions and many running backs that are finalists have 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. So there is your standard for what players need to win the award because spread offenses give quarterbacks four and five wide receiver sets and have them in shotgun most of the game and throwing 45-50 times. Compare it to a running back that may only get 15-20 touches a game, but with easy games against inferior opponents, their stats need to reach a certain point too. It’s hard for a running back to win, but when the evidence is there, it should be noticed and rewarded.

 Here’s a comparison on the two favorites.

Richardson- 149 carries for 989 yards and 17 touchdowns

That’s 6.6 yards a carry on only 18 carries a game. To compare, a solid NFL running back averages about 22-25 carries a game. He’s second in rushing yards (50 behind Virginia Tech’s David Wilson) while playing on an Alabama offense who has a game-manager for a quarterback and no explosive offensive threats like a Julio Jones. He also plays in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country and runs for touchdowns like this. The conference has eight of their 12 teams with winning records (compare that to Luck’s PAC-12 that has five of their 12 teams with winning records). The SEC has six teams in the BCS top 25 with four of them being BCS bowl eligible with LSU and Alabama as the top teams in the country. The SEC is known for having the best and fastest defenses and Richardson is embarrassing them. Those statistically around him (like Wilson, Bernard Pierce, and Ray Graham) are in weaker conferences like the ACC, Atlantic 10, and Big East. If he finishes with 225 carries for the season he’ll have close to 1,800 yards and 28 touchdowns (projected).  Reread that last sentence.

Luck- 1888 yards, 20 touchdowns and 3 interceptions

It’s funny that the best pro prospect in 25 years went to the same school as the best pro prospect 25 years ago. It’s also funny that if Andrew Luck lives up to Elway’s hype, then Stanford will have had two of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL as their alumni. Having said that, in competition for a college sport’s “Most Outstanding Player,” do Luck’s NFL potential and talent equate him to winning the Heisman? He ranks 23rd in passing yards and 8th in touchdown passes. His three interceptions are third amongst that top 20.  It sounds like a solid ratio, but look at the teams he played against.  Of the seven teams, ONE team had a winning record,Washington. The others had losing records and Colorado was 1-7. His conference, the PAC-12 has three teams in the BCS top 25 with two of them being bow eligible. The Cardinals don’t play a team in the BCS top 25 until Oregon on November 12; the loser will drop far enough in the BCS that they won’t be BCS bowl eligible. So save Luck’s parade in New York for another day.

The both of them have their biggest games coming up in a few weeks and it will make or break their Heisman hopes. If Richardson runs all over LSU, arguably the best defense in the country, then he will no doubt be the favorite to win the Heisman. The same can be said for Stanford against Oregon. If Luck goes off against the Ducks then that ONE game against ONE good team will propel him far enough in the eyes of voters to win. That’s unfortunate because Richardson is the rightful owner to the Heisman Trophy.

 

The Pressure is on the Phillies in Game Five

A few months ago I posted about the “Beauty of a Game Seven.”  Most underdogs can either steal or over-achieve in two games which improve the quality of a seven-game series because it allows the best team to win. But, game fives don’t have the same magic.  The lesser of the teams CAN win a series because the margin of error is so small.  A team only needs three wins to advance to the next round instead of four. On paper, the difference is only one more win, but there are still two teams.  A 2-2 series compared to a 3-3 series is TWO more games which, in the scope of baseball (only sport with five-game series), is at least 18 more innings, one less chance to use the team’s Ace on full rest, and creates a “hot-team” complex that can be argued doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t have the same grueling drama or bravado that a seven game series has.  Game five is game seven’s little, more annoying brother who just wants to know, “Why can’t I go to movies with you?!” Which big brother would reply, “Because you’re just not old enough, now SCRAM!”  Game five is the reason that the pressure is on the Phillies to win on Friday.

The St. Louis Cardinals have stolen two games from the Phillies.  Two blown leads by the “Phightins” have given hope to a more inadequate pitching staff and an above-average lineup that didn’t come alive until September.  They also have Tony La Russa, the all-knowing baseball prophet, who decided to pitch Jaime Garcia, his second-best starter, in game three because of his home record and La Russa had confidence that they would split the first two games. (The worst part, that idiot was right) Playoff stud Cliff Lee pitched like the opposite of Playoff stud Cliff Lee and surrendered a four run lead in game two that tied the series at 1-1.   Regardless, the pitching for the Phillies has been solid.  Albert Pujols, his generation’s best hitter who is batting .412 in the series, only has 1 RBI and has been getting misleading base hits.  The bases are usually empty or the outfielders for the Phillies are able to get the ball in fast enough to stop any base runners from advancing.  But, the Phillies problem is guys like Ryan Theriot and David Freese who are batting .600 and have five RBIs in the series, respectively.  

The contrary can be said about the Phillies’ bats who still are susceptible to a team-wide slump can’t win scoring 3 runs a game, even with that pitching staff.  Ryan Howard is continuing his trend of disappearing in the playoffs and is batting a dismal .133 with six of his 15 outs being strikeouts. The rest of the offense has stalled to averaging three runs a game after putting up 11 in game one.  In game four, Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino went a combined 0-12 in a loss that sent it to game five. The offense only needs to come alive a little bit because, unlike the Cardinals, Phillies have their Ace of the Aces, Roy Halladay, going in game five.  Halladay, who in a conference said “I’m here to bury Caesar not to praise him,” is the video-game player you’d want for an elimination game.  There’s not much more I can say on it that doesn’t require actually watching the Machine pitch.  He’s so fierce and so competitive and his focus is so strong it’s like he took three Adderall with a 24 oz. can of Red Bull. The man could pass a polygraph test his demeanor is so calm.  If I was to use a cliché I’d say that, “he doesn’t have blood in his veins, but ice.”  At an early 2-1 favorite, Halladay will be the reason the Phillies advance.

But because it is a game five and “anything” can happen, I thought of the two cause and effects that can potentially happen after Friday’s game.

Cause: Roy Halladay does his thing, shuts down the Cardinals offense, and gets the and win

Effect: The Phillies won’t get much hype for pulling off a game five win because that’s not how the media looks at favorites.  The Phillies were SUPPOSED to win this series and all they did was keep within the hype. But, because it wasn’t a sweep, the questions John Buccigross will ask Chris Singleton are along the lines of “The Phillies waited until game five to put a lesser team away, is there cause for concern in Philly?”  The baseball pundits won’t agree and say that the Cardinals were a hot team and “people forget how much talent St. Louis really has.”  It’ll be followed by Halladay being recognized again as arguably the game’s most dominant pitcher with the Phillies players saying that they’re looking at it as just another win and are looking forward to the next series. 

The fans of Philly will be calm, but with shades of doubt.  The Brewers-Diamondbacks series has been display after display of offense as each team is averaging more than five runs a game.  They’ll set pitching matchups, seeing when Zack Greinke will pitch against Halladay or Lee. They’ll call Mike Missanelli nervously asking, “With how good the bats from the Milwaukee/Arizona are looking and our offense doesn’t look like it can compete?” To which Mikey Miss will reply, “In the playoffs good pitching beats good hitting. I don’t see how anyone could doubt the Phillies with that pitching staff. They’re the best team in the National League.”

Cause: The Phillies offense stagnates and the Cardinals do just enough to win

Effect: Turmoil in the streets of South Philadelphia. The end of Philly as a city will commence.  Car pileups, fires, looting, riots, destruction of the streets, and chaos infect one of the oldest cities in America (yes, you can argue that this happened in 2008 when the Phillies win the World Series).  Mayor Nutter has taken refuge in city hall as the citizens of Philly demand for his head because no one can grasp what happened.  Signs littered throughout the city would read “Missing Person: Ruben Amaro Jr.”

Although the above was said tongue-and-cheek, it’s not that far from the truth.  ESPN will brutalize the Phillies as badly as the Eagles.  With Cliff Lee picking Philadelphia for less money and creating arguably the best starting rotation in the history of baseball, anything short of making the World Series is a bust.  The Phillies already used their “get-out-free” card with a loss in the 2010 NLCS to the inferior San Francisco Giants.  ESPN would blast headlines like “What a Mis-steak!” or “Four Aces Can’t Beat St. Louis’ Straight Flush” (those are actually pretty good) and the 2011 Phillies would be considered one of the most blown seasons ever; especially since they lost a team who needed 18 wins just to MAKE the playoffs. (Regardless if the Cardinals are considered the “hot team” there’s no such thing baseball.  Yes, they’re “hot” at the end of the regular season, but the playoffs are a different monster.)  Don’t be surprised if they do a timeline of all the signings the Phillies and Eagles made throughout the past year while the national sports fan begins to look at Philly as a Choke City.

I really hope for the former.

Why Sports are So Important

On Saturday night, I attended a wedding between two good friends of mine. It was a nice ceremony and I cut a rug for the majority of the time.  I ran into my friend Shawn and immediately said, “Yeah, I’m gonna miss the [Eagles] game Sunday because I have work all day.”  His response, “Dude me too.” Then both of our minds clicked and we said at the same time, “We should just record the game and watch it later.” We devised an entire plan. With a time window from 9-11 pm I would patiently wait for Shawn to walk into my house and tell me he’s done work.  We would then wait for our friend, Steve (who also had work), to call us so we could all watch the game. My phone and laptop would be off all day and I wouldn’t turn it on until the next day.  To help reinforce our plan I set up signs at work outside of my area that read in bold blue ink, “NO Talk About the Eagles Game” “I DVR-d It.”  I didn’t talk to my boy BC because we argue football every time we see each other and I couldn’t risk it. (He yelled to me that the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl and Tony Romo would win the MVP. I honestly was left speechless because it was so irrational my brain couldn’t grasp it, I had to sit down.)    I put my Ipod on shuffle and trudged through my nine hour shift.

When I left at 9:00 I came home and immediately yelled as quickly as I could, “Don’t tell me anything about the game. I know nothing, justleavemealoneanddon’ttellmeanything!” Shawn arrived around 9:30 and I said was to meet him in 10 minutes at his house.  The plan became such a mission that we didn’t watch the Phillies because they might reveal the score of the Eagles game which happened a few hours earlier.  I didn’t put on my Michael Vick jersey because we were getting food and I didn’t want someone saying, “So how about that game today?” To say we were paranoid, determined, anxious, and excited would all be appropriate and it made me think, “Is there anything else that evokes this much emotion?”

Look at it this way.  Does anyone record the State of the Union address or America’s Got Talent or American Idol or any other event with that much vigor and determination to have it viewed without any biased or prior knowledge?  I tried making a list or at least an idea on why sports are such an integral part of our lives and why we go to the ends of the Earth or to the brink of insanity to keep the purity of something that only last a few hours.

It is a representation of your region- If you think about it; it’s the least logical, but strongest reason for why sports are so important to us.  Does the fact that Milwaukee has a good baseball team make it a good city? No, I visited that city in August and it was fun, if you enjoy empty streets by 11 and empty bars that have drunken Brewers fans talking about how much better Yovani Gallardo is than Roy Halladay (it really was fun though).  But sports fans don’t take it that way.  If your team is bad, then you have a self-conscious perception of yourself that the entire world judges you as a part of that team. If the Phillies blow it against the St. Louis Cardinals then people nationally will call people from Philadelphia “choke artists” because sports are the microscope that American cities are looked through. It makes us invested in the game because if the team is the best, then the CITY is the best.  Do you know anything about people from Seattle? No, but you know that the Seahawks stink so why would visiting Seattle be on your list of “West Coast Cities I’d Like to Visit?” It’s the reason that BOSTON got its own issue of ESPN the Magazine; not just the Patriots or Celtics or Bruins or Red Sox.

It’s a loooooooong season- Every sports season has a range of about four months.  Exposure to something over four months a year eventually leads to a liking if not a respect for whatever the viewer is seeing. For example, I listened to “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” for about nine months every morning from 10-12. I hated Colin Cowherd. I couldn’t stand him.  From his stupid rant on John Wall (who he called J-Wow) to his whiny and high pitched voice I couldn’t understand why he had a radio show.  But hearing him every day I started to calm down and out of sheer saturation and exposure he started to grow on me.  I started to strive away from what I didn’t like and began to focus on what I DID like.  It took a long time, but I have respect for Cowherd and I don’t think he’s that bad.  He actually makes some good points and his analogies are creative and solid.  He’s educated and keen to what goes on around the world.  It’s the same with sports franchises.  The Phillies play from April-October which is more than enough time to “expose” a non-fan to the sport, to the players, to the front-office, and to the fans.  For example, the Four Aces being on the Phillies gave the team so much publicity that people now enter their own little “Four Aces Cliques” based off which one of the four they like they most.  The long season allows for the ability of gradual exposure making it simpler to ease into fandom instead of it being thrust down your throat. 

Winning is an addicting feeling- I grew up in a dismal time in Philadelphia sports. The Sixers stunk (except 2001), the Eagles stunk (up until 1999 when the Andy Reid era started), and the Phillies stunk (up until 2007). The Flyers were good but in the hierarchy of the Philadelphia sports market they’re fourth by a large margin.  Regardless, up until about 10 years ago, all Philly knew was losing.  All my generation knew was bad team after bad team after bad team.  But Philly’s new generation got its first taste of winning in 2001 when Allen Iverson led the Sixers to the Finals.  Dubbed the worst Finals team in NBA history, Iverson scored 30 of his game-high 48 in the first half and the Sixers stole game one from the Lakers. Although the Sixers lost the series 4-1 (it was the only game the Lakers lost in the playoffs that year), Philadelphia was hooked on a drug called Winning. And around the same time the Eagles became contenders with the Phillies following suit. Soon enough, Philadelphia was a winning sports town. 

But why is it so addicting? Because it’s so simple. In a world where nothing is clear-cut or simplistic, sports are.  You either win or you lose.  That’s it. There is no “well we lost out on our mutual fund, but our Sirius satellite stocks are doing well!” You either won 28-27, get to celebrate with a parade, or you lost 28-27 and you get to think about what could’ve been for the next six months.  Winning equates to accomplishment and succeeding at a task is a coveted emotion.

It’s our childhoods- Every kid grew up playing a sport. Whether it was baseball, basketball, football, hockey, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, or track and field, we all personally had a stake in a sport.  The knowledge of the game and thrill of the competition stays with us for our entire lives.   Turn on sports talk radio and listen to how many callers say, “I used to play college baseball” or “I’ve coached football for years.” It represents the best times of our childhoods. It represents a time of purity when all you had to look forward to on Fridays and Saturdays was your next football or baseball game.   They were games that could be played with minimum resources.  All that’s needed to play basketball is a ball and a net, football needs a ball, baseball needs a bat, a ball, and a glove. All of which could be found for more than affordable prices. Today, kids spend the majority of their time playing video games which cost 300$ for the system alone. And unless they create some professional video game league, they’ll miss out on an important aspect of being kids; and that’s going outside and playing.

It’s about companionship- Some of the longest stints of my social life come during a sporting event.  I’ll go the bar during playoff basketball or a UFC title fight more often than I do just to get some drinks.  It’s a guaranteed conversation topic and it allows for people to gather for a single reason.  Without sports the bar would be a metaphorical wasteland of socialite drifters trying to find common ground with other socialite drifters that they’ve never met nor are they likely to ever see again.  With sports it creates an identity and sense of being a part of something.  Regular people now become fans and now have a common ground to start conversations.  “Hey my name is John,” becomes “So what do the Phillies do in the bottom of the inning here? Do you keep Halladay in?” I’ll be at a bar sitting next to a stranger.  Now on a regular night I wouldn’t really say anything to the stranger because there’s nothing to say.  But if I look up at the screen and Vick throws a dart to Desean Jackson I can look at him and say, “Did you ever think Michael Vick would be able to throw a pass like that?” And then take off from there.  It’s the reason that at parties, when all the guys meet in the corner, they don’t talk about the drapes that they just bought, but did Halladay pick up his 20th win or did the Eagles beat the Cowboys.  Regardless if the person is wearing a rival team’s jersey, a little hazing and heated conversation makes for a time that you can’t achieve if you’re talking about Democrats and Republicans.

After we got food and arrived at Shawn’s house it was 11:00.  I thought to myself, “I’m about 15 minutes away from seeing this game.”  At the same time, Shawn’s little brother, Mikey, walked past us.  Shawn and I both got out and yelled, “Don’t say anything, DON’T SAY ANYTHING!”  He said, “Dude…the Eagles are terrible.” My world crashed. He later told us that he thought we didn’t want to talk about it because they lost to the 49ers.  It was eleven hours and a great amount of energy for nothing.  I turned on my phone and saw that the Eagles blew a 20-3 lead and lost 24-23.

Working on Sunday and Having to Watch the Eagles via Texts and Phone Apps

I got my first job when I was 16. I worked at Chuck E. Cheese as a game-room technician where I mostly slacked off, talked about how much I hated it there, and I even said the classic “this isn’t even going to be my career, so why take it seriously?” line. I did the same thing at Sears when I was 17 and 18.  I worked the majority of my weekends so I missed every football Sunday from 2006-2009.  It was then I got a job at a dialysis center and where I finally had Sundays off.  It was like a new world being introduced to me. To me the flowers petals were brighter on Sundays. My mom’s cooking smelled that much better and football was that much more enjoyable.  For the next two years I never missed a game, I was content and my mind’s highlight reel was full of plays and great moments during the season.  So why am I telling you all of this? Because all of that ended three weeks ago, I’m working weekends again.  It’s the reason I wasn’t able to give a post about week 2. I couldn’t get enough video to properly give an opinion. 

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” That’s the text I got from my friend John. It was 2:00 pm on Sunday afternoon and I was on my break. The Eagles were playing the Giants. I started getting frantic; I opened up one of my sports apps to check the score, it was 14-0. The eagles were losing. I was so confused; Michael Vick had about 80 yards and an interception. That’s as in-depth as I could get. I called my cousin Mario to see what was going on, but he didn’t answer. I texted John back and sat at the break table doing the “I-have-to-go-pee-but-I’ll-wait-until-the-last-minute” dance impatiently waiting for John to text me back.

“The Eagles playing that badly or is it a misleading 14-0?” I asked. Experience taught me how to ask questions in that sense.  I wanted to see if the Eagles were playing that terribly (which they’re good for about once or twice a year) or did a few bad bounces go against them (like a tipped pass that was intercepted).  John eased me for a little and told me that the Eagles were moving the ball against the Giants, but they just couldn’t get score when they got into the red-zone.  Besides the offensive line the red zone offense was an area of concern because they had no big wide receiver to just throw the ball up to which was why Plaxico was such a hot commodity in the off-season.

“Misleading, they are moving the ball, they just can’t score.”  My break ended and I looked at my phone for one last time before my break ended and would take secret trips to the back room to check the score.  I picked up and put down the same screwdriver five or six times before I said to myself that I had to switch up what I was doing. It was terrible too because in the back you were alone, but there wasn’t much service so sites that would take seconds to load were now taking minutes.  I was in limbo and I didn’t like it.  It’s like going out and forgetting your phone at home and the whole day you’re disconnected from the world.  That if there was a disaster happening outside you wouldn’t know about because you didn’t get a text saying to panic. “Score Mobile” opened finally and the score was 14-13, the Eagles were making a comeback and they were in the red zone.  I perched up behind a stack of boxes and kept hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh.

Around 3:00 the Eagles took the lead 16-14 off of a field goal by Alex Henery.  I was excited because the offense was finally going and I thought this would be a turn-around even though it was still early in the season.  In one of the toughest divisions in football, a 2-1 start with a 1-0 division record three weeks into the season would be big.  But I didn’t know Vick was out with a broken right hand and that Mike Kafka was playing for the second straight week. I didn’t know that the Eagles were getting lit up through the middle of the field because their linebackers and safeties are horrible. I didn’t know that the Eagles changed the positions of their linebackers two weeks into the season; completely reshuffling the positions which could explain why Brandon Jacobs was so wide open on that touchdown. (I didn’t know that Brandon Jacobs was that wide open) I didn’t know that the other touchdown was a display of terrible tackling. I didn’t know that play made it look like Asante Samuel’s mantra of, “I don’t get paid to make tackles” was spreading throughout the locker room.  Nnamdi Asomugha played like his name was Dmitri Patterson and the stellar talent gene in the Matthews’ gene pool must’ve skipped Casey. 

The Eagles lost the game 29-16, sending shockwaves through my day and had my Cowboys-fan-friend BC talking about “how bout them Eagles?” Is this what happens when your offensive line coach becomes your defensive coordinator? You panic and reshuffle the defense?  The Eagles need to play man-coverage because they have the best cornerback core in the league, but Castillo played zone.  The tight end still kills the Eagles and it is so blatant and so common that if you closed your eyes and listen to the announcer say, it’s a pass, 85% of the time you can guess that it’s going to be thrown to the tight end.  Castillo looked desperate with changing the defense around like that and someone could argue that the pressure is getting to him.  Something needs to be done as soon as possible because there will be a lot of answers needed if the Eagles don’t make the playoffs this year.

Reflection on 9/11 and the First Week of Football

Reflecting on 9/11/11 and the First Day of Football

When 9/11 happened I was in sixth grade. I was sitting in the back of Mrs. O’Brien’s class when my principal, Mr. Nardiello, walked in and told my class what happened. He said the World Trade Centers have just been attacked and since we were the oldest in the elementary school he felt that we should know.  After he told us what happened I raised my hand and asked if they were the Twin Towers because my dad took me past them a few months earlier.  That’s what he called them and the Twin Towers were about as much as I knew about New York at the time.  

Ten years later, after Saddam Hussein’s reign ended, the first black President was elected, Osama bin Laden had been killed, and the economy had been so disastrous that it was compared to the Great Depression, I sat with all my friends at a packed bar around noon on the anniversary.  The place was buzzing with breakfast and diner-goers on their way out and being replaced by those who have been waiting for this day since the Super Bowl ended.  Voices were loud, teams’ jerseys were worn, and drinks were being served while I continuously took my phone from my pocket to check the clock and waiting for 1:00.  Time wasn’t moving like I wanted to so instead of 12:30 it was 12:06 then 12:10 then 12:13 then 12:20 and so on.  After the eternity I waited, each of the 20-or-so TVs in the bar turned into the football paradise I have been waiting for.  It was then that the bar got silent.  The Bears, Steelers, Giants, Cowboys, 49ers, Patriots, and Eagles fans, active a moment earlier, fell silent as each TV played the same trumpet ballad. The images on each TV changed to 20 American flags stretched across the entire surface of the fields and each player from each team held a part of it. To say you could’ve heard a pin drop would be cliché, but true nonetheless.  To say we stopped being fans and started being Americans would be cliché, but true nonetheless. To say that all of our lives came into perspective, if only for a moment, would be cliché, but true nonetheless.  It was a moment you’ll remember where you were.

But, to get to the football side of it, I couldn’t wait to get to that bar.  I turned 21 in April and knowing that I would finally experience a “Sunday-Funday” had been on the top of my “I Can’t Wait for Another Reason to Hide the Fact That I May Be an Alcoholic” list.  I went to sleep early Saturday night (it was really 1:45, but who under the age of 30 has a respectable bedtime?) and woke up early on Sunday.  After calling multiple people I got a ride from a friend’s girlfriend. She said it was no problem because she “knows her place on a football Sunday,” her words, not mine (besides, that’s a whole different monster I don’t want to deal with).  Here are my observations on the first Sunday of the NFL weekend.

The Eagles Still Have Holes on Defense- That offense can score whenever it wants to.  Whether it’s Lesean McCoy running the ball or catching it out of the backfield or Michael Vick making plays with his feet or Desean Jackson exploding for an 80-yard touchdown (he dropped a guaranteed 90-yard touchdown pass that had the whole bar say OOOOOOOOOO-awwwwwwwww) or Jeremy Maclin scoring when Desean is double-covered or the other Steve Smith catching a pass across the middle. The offense is lethal.  Having said that (in my best Larry David voice), this team was awful against the run.  If Steven Jackson didn’t get hurt, he would’ve rushed for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. My friend JJ said to me about 30 times that the Eagles should get Lofa Tatupu and after the third time I was agreeing with him.  Casey Matthews isn’t ready for that role yet. And PLEASE PAY DESEAN JACKSON.

Goddamn the Packers are Good- When you have videos like this, you’ve made it. Is there any question that the best team in the NFL at this moment is Green Bay? That offense is as explosive as the Eagles and they can score on any play. Aaron Rodgers, who stole his people’s champ from Freddie Mitchell (but we’ll let that slide, I guess), has become a legitimate MVP candidate and is threatening to take Peyton Manning’s spot as the second best QB in the league. They are the most solid team offensively and one of the most solid teams defensively.  Now with Randall Cobb as a potential special teams threat, they are virtually unbeatable.  It’s amazing how great of a job Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers have done in Green Bay. Favorites to repeat? They have to be.

The Steelers Looked Terrible- I don’t know how much more Big Ben could’ve embarrassed me.  I took him as my starting QB in two of my fantasy leagues and bet on the Steelers going into Baltimore and bet on the Steelers carrying me to an overall solid weekend. Basically what Big Ben and the Steelers did was the equivalent to a kid throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Shop-Rite after I stressed that “Oh, little Chazz is great, he has never once acted up in public.” Feeling embarrassed I would tell my Steelers child that, “When we get into the car, I’m beating seven shades of shit out of you.”  (To be honest, I didn’t lose that much money on the Steelers, but as a broke college student you have to add two zeroes to every number to find out how much it truly costs.)

Calvin Johnson is a Grown Man- The man has the best nickname in sports just continues to prove that no matter where, who, when, or how the ball is thrown, he’ll go up and catch it.  He’s been doing it since he’s broken into the league. The only way to stop him is to make up a rule about how catching a ball is a process and it doesn’t end with two feet hitting the ground followed by his entire body hitting the ground. Honestly, if he can have a solid quarterback, he will eclipse Andre Johnson as the best wide receiver in the league.  Matthew Stafford looks like he can do it if he can stay healthy. Here’s how a huddle between Stafford and Calvin Johnson sounds like.

Stafford:  Megatron I want you to do a 10-and-out, I’ll hit you on the back shoulder.

Johnson: How about I just go deep and make you look like a superstar?

Stafford: I was the number one overall pick, Calvin.

Johnson: I made Drew Stanton and Shaun Hill look decent.

Stafford: Okay, deep pass to Calvin on two.

Is There Any Doubt That Tom Brady is Great?-  I don’t know how much more I should continue on this subject, but here it goes.  He has done more with less than any other QB in history.  Think about it, Montana had Rice. Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison.  John Elway had Terrelle Davis and Shannon Sharpe, the best tight-end ever.  Tom Brady’s receivers during his Super Bowl runs, Troy Brown, David Patten, and Deion Branch.  I’ll let his line from Monday Night Football talk for me; 32 for 48, 517 yards and 4 touchdowns.  And Peyton Manning can compete with him as best ever?

Tony Romo Does It Again- Nothing to say here, Tony Romo’s actions speak louder than my words.

Football is Baaaack

There has been a lot of action in the weeks since the lockout ended in July.  Starting with the absolute disrespect the league showed for its fans that further cemented the mantra that the NFL is “a business,” the league hasn’t mentioned its appreciation for its fans sticking through a lockout that was more senseless than Charlie Sheen’s comedy tour (Charlie Sheen reminds me of the friend who everyone thinks is funny and says that he could do stand up until they realize that without his friends he has just a bunch of inside jokes that get him booed off the stage.  I’m sure the Tiger Blood joke killed in between each snort of cocaine.).  Rosters were at 96 players and had to be trimmed down with no Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) and barely a training camp.  Free agents couldn’t be signed for days after the lockout ended and players on a team couldn’t be traded which had fans from different cities scrambling in confusion (the Eagles couldn’t trade Kevin Kolb right away and led to a slight worry that they would just keep him…again).  Or that when free agency had started there were mass and false reports where various free agents would end up. Adam Schefter, who should be called “The Weatherman Because He’s Right 30% of the Time,” speculated that the Eagles were the front-runners for defensive-end Ray Edwards and the Jets would land the prize of the off-season, Nnamdi Asomugha.  But Edwards went to the Falcons and Asomugha landed with the Eagles (who also got Jason Babin, the other Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown, Cullen Jenkins, and Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie). 

Then we had to endure the likes of Mark Schlereth, Merril Hoge, and Herm Edwards with their ass-kissing reviews of every team and every player they get questions about.  Then we had to hear about Tim Tebow and how much of a winner he was in college and “No matter how bad his mechanics are the man is a winner!” Bottom line, Tebow can’t play.  In the latter part of August, Fantasy Football drafts happened throughout the country reminding men that Sundays are about to get so much more enjoyable; that although birthdays are meaningless and Christmas is spent with your in-laws, at least you can hear Joe Buck every week (my favorite fantasy team name was from a guy who sells funeral plots. His team name was Grim-reaper, points for appropriateness.) For the final few days before the season, the NFL was dominated with Peyton Manning reports of whether or not he would play in week one. I watched SportsCenter multiple times today and Manning’s Neck competed with the KHL team plane crash (my prayers go out to the families of those lost) for most times it was preceded by “Developing Story” or “Breaking News” (it was 4-3 Peyton when I turned it off).  Peyton’s neck spread so far that it led to this conversation in my Sports Journalism class today.

New York Giants Fan: Is Peyton playing this week?

Me: I’m not sure, they said he’s doubtful.
New York Jets Fan: I don’t think he’ll play.

Me: *Nods in agreement*

NYGF: Damn, well I drafted him sixth overall in my one fantasy league.

Me: Yeah, I was thinki…wait, what? YOU PICKED HIM SIXTH OVERALL?!

NYJF: *Laughing*

NYGF: Yeah, Vick went one and Brady went five and I don’t like Aaron Rodgers.

Me: *Passes Out*

And still, with all of that, all I have to say is, it’s good to be back.

Glory Hallelujah! The Philadelphia Eagles ARE Contenders!

(Full analysis of the additions to the Eagles are upcoming, but they are so active right now, it would be silly to make one now.)

First, stop with the Miami Heat comparisons. If they were EL HEAT Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, and Andre Johnson would’ve set up their contracts so they could’ve been free agents and taken their talents to South Philadelphia.  I also don’t like the whole “Dream Team” nickname because the Philadelphia Eagles still have holes they need to fill and problems they need to address (more on that in a bit). And as far as Rob Ryan’s comments on the Eagles, it’s just another reason for me to hate the Cowboys.  (Seriously, I hate them.  They’re like Yankees fans.  They live in Scranton, Pennsylvania and don’t like sports until they see how many championships the Cowboys won. Then they’re the biggest die-hard fans ever, but will never visit Cowboy Stadium.  Stop, you’re an embarrassment to your region and a front-running-fraudulent-counterfeit-fake-pseudo-false fan.) The only reason Ryan even got attention for that is his cooler and better coach brother Rex.  Did you know who Rob Ryan was until Rex stepped on the scene? Probably not. Let Cullen Jenkins’ tweet sum up everything about Rob Ryan. Thank you for letting me vent.

It’s been 60 years since the Eagles last championship and seven years since their last trip to the Super Bowl. You know the Super Bowl where Number 5 was caught throwing up in the huddle during the last minute drive against the New England Patriots.  The final score ended up being 24-21 and the Eagles didn’t sniff the Super Bowl for four years until they lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game in 2008. Philadelphia has had to endure the yelling and pundit hatred towards the city because of their lack of love for McNabb and their demeanor overall.  Notice no matter how well the Eagles do in free agency, no one says anything nice about the city.  You’ll never hear Darryl “Moose” Johnston say how “Great of a city Philadelphia is to play in.”  Since that 2008 season, it’s been two first round knockouts, one to the Dallas Cowboys and the other to Green Bay Packers, a quarterback change that resurrected Michael Vick’s career, and a full revolution on the offensive and defensive side.  It’s the first year since the 2004 season that the Eagles are serious contenders for the Super Bowl. And in a weaker NFC, who can stop them?

If someone was to ask me five years ago that the Philadelphia Eagles were going to be major players in a free agency year and actually committed to their plan of going “all-in” I would’ve said you’re crazy.  Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, who has overpaid free agents (Jason Peters), is notoriously cheap on players who are on the wrong side of 30.  However this year, their three biggest pick-ups (Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, and Nnamdi Asomugha) are all over 30.  Those three signings fixed the defensive line and officially blocked off whatever side of the field Asomugha plays.  (Within in the next week I’ll have a post on why Asomugha is BETTER than Darrelle Revis.) They traded their best asset in Kevin Kolb for a second round pick and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, a younger and more physical coverage cornerback, a change from Asante Samuel who jumps routes, but gets beat by the double move a lot.  The reason for abandoning one of the best coverage corners in the NFL; to help out the defensive line.  The longer receivers are covered, the easier it makes it on the defensive line to break through and get to the quarterback. It’s going to be tough to matchup with the Eagles this year. However, it’s not all good.  Casey Matthews, a fourth-round pick out of Oregon, is their starting middle linebacker, but he’s not ready yet and the Eagles could use a safety.  But as active as the Eagles are in free agency, I have to wait to analyze how they’ll match up against other teams.

The Eagles offense is going to put up points. They put up a franchise record 27.4 points per game last year and only have improved their offense. They drafted an offensive guard in Danny Watkins and are on their way to fixing the problems that had them knocked out last year.  They have taken steps to improve their defense and on paper it looks like they have done a great job.  But there are still more holes to fill so Eagles fans don’t jump ahead yet. Just enjoy the ride for now. More to come later

 

Why I Won’t Watch the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game

The All-Star game and Home Run Derby used to be worthwhile.  My favorite memory of the “Mid-Summer Classic” was Ken Griffey Jr. rocking home runs in 1998 and 1999 and winning back-to-back home run derby titles.  By far my favorite player with the prettiest swing ever, Griffey gave hope to a steroid-laden era that there may have been someone who did it naturally.  The whole “who’s on steroids and who isn’t” debate has been so diluted, Jose Bautista, the MLB’s new home run king won’t even get a sniff of credit from me because I can’t trust any players. It was exciting baseball when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were going home run for home run and smashed the long ball and ratings record.  There wasn’t a more personally exciting season in baseball (besides the Phillies winning the 08 World Series of course) when Barry Bonds broke the home run record again. But allegations, confessions, and the “Mitchell Report” exposed the cheaters for who they were and baseball hasn’t recovered since.  It took the most exciting play in sports and made it as exciting as a bloop single.  The Home Run Derby was something that was to be desired (in 1998, Griffey Jr. won with a total of seven home runs).  It was hard to hit home runs, but now with undetectable human-growth hormones and performance-enhancing drugs, how can anyone appreciate David Ortiz or Robinson Cano hitting 18 home runs in the Home Run Derby?

That’s just the home run part of it.  I don’t even want to talk about the “show” of it. I do like the sportsmanship and how each player participating wants to see everyone do their best, but I can’t stand the production of the whole thing.  Do you really need Chris Berman screaming “Backbackbackbackback GONE! WHOOP! ROBINSON ‘IF YOU DON’T KNOW NOW YA’ CANO!” (He’s run his course, I loved the nicknames as a kid, but when he runs out of breath after each sentence and barely chokes out a few more words it’s time for him to retire.)?   Bring someone in with some personality and some energy like Stephen A. Smith; someone who will raise his voice and won’t use catch phrases (think about it, could you imagine Smith as a commentator?  One can dream…) It’s like the Super Bowl halftime show, there’s just too much going on.  It’s supposed to be an event every adult thinks back to their childhood when they would have home run derbies with their friends and children to appreciate the difficulty and purity of it.

Then there’s the likes if the Legend-Celebrity Softball game that was a good idea, but is saturated with too many no names. To have the kid who does the voice of “Go Diego Go” is ridiculous and desperate. And why do Ricky Henderson and Ozzie Smith play every year? There isn’t any other Hall of Famer that would want to play? And what’s the deal with everyone being miked up? I understand that it’s supposed to add a personal and comedic element, but the only problem is, they aren’t funny. Spare me the game, simplify everything a bit and save me as a baseball fan.

As for the All-Star game, it’s the same as every other All-Star game; boring.  It’s an exhibition match that doesn’t have the same energy like All-Star games in the past.  These players are multi-multi-million dollar earners and general managers and owners don’t want them getting hurt during an exhibition match.  What’s frustrating is the vote.  Pundits like Mike Golic can’t stand that every team is represented, but don’t mind when Derek Jeter (whose below-average season has been masked by his 3,000th hit) receives the American League starting shortstop over breakout star Asdrubal Cabrera, who is making the Cleveland Indians relevant again. What’s even more frustrating is the players who are voted into these All-Star games miss it for the sake of not wanting to play.  It is an absolute disrespect to the fans, which are directly responsible for the million-dollar contracts, to have them vote you in as a starter and then just abandon them. 

Back to Golic’s view of “every team being represented,” he needs to understand that there are small and big market teams.  Sure there are snubs, but it’s a necessary evil because if as many teams are losing money as the attendance shows then there has to be some glimpse of hope. For example, how many fans attend a Florida Marlins game, about 1,000? It’s not fair because 5 million fraudulent and front-running Yankees fan can vote in six of their players and the Marlins are left out.  And at the least the small market players actually SHOW up to the All-Star game instead of missing it.

So how did the MLB try to curtail (but failed) this?  They made the All-Star game worth something and now the winning league gets home-field advantage for the World Series.  Basically, regardless of how well a team performs throughout the season, if their team loses the All-Star game then they have to start the series with two games as the Away team. If the leagues had the same rules it wouldn’t be so bad, but the American League has a designated hitter compared to the National League where the pitchers hit.  So if the Phillies play the Red Sox in the World Series and American League wins the All-Star game, the Phillies will start the series in Boston, regardless if they have the better record.  Shame on you Bud Selig.

It’s not the worst of all the All-Star events (the NFL has that locked) and it gets by off of tradition.  But it won’t last forever and they need to adjust as soon as possible.

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