The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published October 10, 2023
I haven’t been posting on this site very much at all since you can find my work elsewhere, but these 2023 Phillies are worth a mention. We all felt it coming on Monday night. It was too good to be true. The Phillies weren’t going to go into Atlanta and come back leading a best-of-5 series two games to none. Zack Wheeler was pitching the game of his life, until he wasn’t. Rob Thomson was pulling all the right strings, until he wasn’t. The juggernaut Braves offense was being silenced. Oh well, so much for that.
Look, it wasn’t fun, as the events of Game 2 created a seismic shift in this series that took the Phillies’ odds of pulling off the upset from probably about 95% if they took a 2-0 lead to something like a coin flip now that we are knotted at one game apiece. But last year, these two teams faced off under similar circumstances. After winning a tight slugfest in Game 1, the Phils were shut down 3-0 in Game 2, and it was back to Philadelphia. Once there, the Phils pounded the Braves by a combined total of 17-4 over two games en route to winning the series. Their silent bats in Game 2 didn’t portend a collapse.
Then, one round later, the Phillies took Game 1 on the road in San Diego, only to fritter away a 4-run lead (sounds familiar) in the next game to send things back East in a deadlock. Three home wins later, the Phils were dancing to the World Series. Heck, even once they got to the Fall Classic, the Phillies won Game 1, dropped Game 2, then counter-punched with a Game 3 victory. (I will conveniently ignore what happened in Games 3 through 5, but you get the point.) Ultimately, the takeaway is that ‘playoff momentum’ really doesn’t matter, and that’s especially true for this group of Phillies.
They faced adversity all year long last year and made a shocking playoff run. They are better and deeper this year, and that added expectation won’t cause them to choke or wilt. They may simply get beaten by a better team, and that’s fair. This is something that insecure, pouty Braves fans could not possibly accept after their almighty club dared to lose Game 1 of this series, with their collective sigh of relief after Game 2 matched only by the speed at which they are backpedaling their childish overreactions to one game.
Am I worried? Sure. One team will win, and one will lose. There is always worry attached to sports, where nothing is a guaranteed outcome. But there is no doubt that the Braves are worried about the prospect of coming to CBP, where it will be Bedlam at the Bank. The Phillies know that they can win in Atlanta. The Braves are doubting their ability to do so in Philadelphia. The most likely outcome here is that the teams split two games, and we head back to Dixie for a deciding Game 5, where Zack Wheeler will hopefully be at his best. It would be nice to wrap things up before then, of course, but we’ll see how this all plays out. I do believe that the victor of this series is your NL champ, as they should be able to run through Arizona in five or six games. The D-Backs are looking impressive against the Dodgers, but the other shoe will drop for them in the NLCS. That’s just how I see it.
So, take heart that these Phils recovered and didn’t let any phony notion of ‘momentum’ derail their trip to the World Series last year. The same could happen this time around. In the back of my mind, however, I think back to the 2011 NLDS where the Phillies took on the Cardinals. Those were different circumstances, since the Phillies had homefield advantage, but I will never shake the disappointment out of my mind over the way that the Phillies won Game 1 but blew a lead in Game 2. Yes, they won Game 3, but one ‘rally squirrel’ and a blown Achilles tendon later, the Cards were victorious in five games to start their title run. I just hope the same thing doesn’t occur here.
Let’s enjoy the next two games, at least. And then a bunch more after that, for good measure.
The Braves' comeback win drove thousands of yokels wild. (AP/John Bazemore)
I used to be at Section215.com before the site closed. Here are some of my top articles...
"Yeti" image copyright FanSided.com
A journey through the last quarter-century of Philadelphia sports, as seen through the lens of a true fan. The book includes an exclusive list of the 50 Most Disliked Philadelphia Athletes. A must-read for all of Philly's long-suffering fans, especially those who "grew up" during the 1990's and early 2000's.
(Editor's Note: The Eagles lost. Take this down so it doesn't hang here forever and make you look dumb.)
Published February 10, 2023
Nothing like a list to hold your attention, right?
That is all.
Here’s the list.
Got this photo from Yahoo. They didn’t have anyone credited for it, so too bad, I’m using it. Birds.
Published February 2, 2023
The national media, by and large, is stupid. As are the myriad of fans out there who just want to “hot-take” themselves into notoriety. I get it, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Yes, these Philadelphia Eagles defeated a QB-less 49ers club to capture the NFC title, just one week after they beat up on an underwhelming Giants squad. But the Birds paved their playoff path by being the best team in football this year, so it’s only fair that they should have the best chance to stomp their opponents, correct? The games aren’t played on paper, however, so it was incumbent upon the Eagles to actually do the stomping. Mission accomplished so far.
Nick Sirianni didn’t luck his way into a great roster that any Joe Blow could coach to the brink of a championship. Jalen Hurts didn’t simply benefit from a system where any Tom, Dick, or Harry could successfully guide the offense. Nonsense, all of it. This is simply a well-constructed, well-coached team that is rightfully one of two left standing for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
The haters and the doubters talk a big game, and the Eagles have one more task ahead to silence any would-be critics. Heck, even a win over Big Red and the Chiefs will still be regarded coolly by some. “Mahomes wasn’t 100%, no fair”, they’ll whine as the Eagles parade down Broad Street again. But in the event that the Eagles fall, they’ll be derided as frauds by these same bozos, ignorant of the fact that they’ve gone 16-3 to this point of the season. That didn’t happen by accident.
The Eagles accumulated a 5-1 regular season record against teams who went on to make the playoffs, prior to their actual two postseason victories. In addition, they went 3-0 against teams who were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 18 (Packers, Steelers, Titans). These teams were one victory away from a playoff berth, and the Eagles dished out losses to all three, outscoring them by an aggregate of 109-56.
Counting their two playoff games, the Birds have held teams under 20 points 9 times this year. They’ve scored under 20 points just twice. They are complete. But completeness doesn’t guarantee a championship. The hunger is there, as well, some intangible that the team seems to have. It makes the hair stand up on the back of their fans’ necks. Everyone can taste it. The trophy beckons.
In a short while, we’ll see if they can get to the finish line, to cross the threshold that separates “fun memories” from immortality.
The Eagles celebrated their NFC title with some random guy. (John Angelillo/UPI)
Published December 29, 2022
Eagles fans, please just relax.
I’m hearing way too much doubt and panic about a team that’s still 13-2 following the Birds’ disappointing but extremely predictable Christmas Eve loss in Dallas. As I told you last week — even before the Jalen Hurts injury news broke — they were going to lose that game. The Cowboys, begrudgingly, are a good football team, and you weren’t going to beat them on their turf to clinch the division, sweep the season series, and all that. The more important thing, I mentioned, was that the Eagles at least stay healthy. That…uh…didn’t go so well, either.
But it’s not the end of the world. Most of the crucial players to this team are still here, and even if someone misses time, next man up. We’ve been here before. You didn’t think this would be easy, did you?
All this leads me to this weekend’s game against the Saints. With Jalen Hurts’ status up in the air as of this writing, I can still tell you with confidence that the Eagles are going to win this game, thereby clinching a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Important players will be able to rest their bumps and bruises for the Week 18 game versus the Giants and then during the bye week. It’s gonna be fine. Trust me.
New Orleans (6-9) is not a good football team. Yes, they still have something to play for because their division is so lousy, but don’t obfuscate “still alive” with “not garbage”. The only half-decent team they’ve beaten this year is Seattle. Any other time they’ve played someone with a pulse — Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Fran — losses. While anything can happen in the NFL and I wouldn’t put my life savings on the Birds this week, this is as close to a lock as you can get.
It might not be pretty if the Eagles decide to be generous with the turnovers once again like they were in Dallas, but the fact that they were able to make so many mistakes against a good team and still have a chance at the very end should illustrate just how big the margin of error against the Saints is. Further, I believe that Nick Sirianni and his staff have this team focused enough to not let that happen again. After the Eagles’ first loss of the season, they ripped off five straight wins. Now, after their second loss, how many games remain in this Eagles season if they earn a first round bye and make the Super Bowl? Five once again. Just another five-game winning streak and we get another parade, no biggie.
On top of all this, an Eagles win on Sunday means a Saints loss, which means New Orleans is officially knocked out of playoff contention and the Eagles guarantee themselves a likely top-10 pick (anywhere in the 8-13 range probably) thanks to that multi-layered Howie Roseman masterstroke. By quashing any delusions the Saints still have of making the playoffs, which would put that first-rounder no earlier than the 19th selection, the Eagles win on all fronts. It will be wonderful. I know that the players on the field don’t really care about the draft element, but the Eagles’ front office and their fans sure do. Such a high pick could yield fruitful results for years to come, given the success the Eagles have had with a fair number of their first rounders.
Once again, to all the braindead WIP callers/hosts/etc., everything is fine and you can exhale after Sunday’s game. I understand that you always have to have something to complain about, but it’s really not necessary at this point. In a few days, we’ll all be celebrating a division title, the clinching of a first round bye, and a potential top-10/12 pick in the 2023 draft.
Twill be a great way to ring in the new year.
The Eagles will send the Saints back to their smelly town feeling sad. (Yong Kim, Inquirer Staff)
Published December 19, 2022
(Note: I wrote this before all of the Jalen Hurts injury info started coming out. It doesn’t really change the spirit of the article, but that’s why I don’t mention it.)
Well, this has been fun.
Not in my wildest dreams could I ever picture the Philadelphia Eagles charging out to a 13-1 record, winning in such a variety of ways that they defy the ability to categorize them as simply a “high-flying offense” or “dominant defense”. They are a chameleon, a team capable of adjusting in-game to seemingly any circumstance. It’s not always pretty, but they’ve shown time and time again that when the dust settles, they figure out a way to be on top.
Except this week, because they’re totally going to lose to the Cowboys on Christmas Eve.
I know. Eagles oldheads (and plenty of youngsters too) out there are going to flip out over such indignity, and they’re going to sulk and moan for the entire holiday because of an undesirable outcome of a football game. I really do get it. Sports have ruined my ability to enjoy literally anything in my life on so many occasions. This time, however, it doesn’t even matter.
The Eagles have put themselves in such a great spot with their performance this year that things aren’t hinging on this game. While they can officially clinch the division and the NFC’s top seed, they still have time for that after the fact. The bigger matter at play here is that this is the Cowboys’ Super Bowl, their chance to puff out their chest and reclaim legitimacy after Doug Pederson and the Jaguars made them look like bums in Week 15. That Cowboys loss, while ultimately helpful for the Eagles by creating separation in the standings, will also serve as fuel for Dallas. They’re a good team, and I really couldn’t expect them to lose two games in a row at this juncture of the season, no matter who the opponents are.
I want this to be clear. I am in no way rooting for an Eagles loss. I don’t believe it will “teach them a lesson” or any mumbo jumbo like that (although I am still glad they lost to Washington, because there would be too much pressure right now if they were 14-0). But I call ‘em as I see ‘em, and this game is just so much bigger for Dallas to make a statement than it is for the Birds. Really, the only important thing is that the Eagles come out of this game healthy. Lose, fine. But have a couple key players go down in the process? Then I would change my tune. In a vacuum, the score of the game doesn’t matter.
The Eagles will be the #1 seed in the NFC and have to win two home games to advance to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys are almost certainly locked into the NFC’s #5 spot, and they’ll go on the road to face whatever team emerges from the cesspool that is the NFC South. I’d frankly expect the Cowboys to beat whoever it is, although falling on their faces to some 7-10 “division winner” would be pretty funny.
The more likely scenario is that Dallas wins and then faces either Minnesota or San Francisco in the next round, at which point their annual trend of playoff failure will be on full display. Or, dare I say it, might the ‘Boys be headed to Philly? It’s certainly possible, and it would be a good game. And you should also put zero stock into whatever happens on Christmas Eve in Dallas (again, as long as key injuries don’t muddy the waters).
Eventually, though, cream rises and scum sinks. Enjoy your W on Christmas Eve, Cowboys fans. At least you’ll be able to look back at that fondly as you shed wistful tears while watching the grainy VHS of the last time your team made the Super Bowl.
Eagles fans, don’t let your Christmas be impacted by a game that doesn’t matter.
PS If the Birds win, even better. Merry Christmas to all except the Cowboys and their fans (and New York, as usual).
When these teams meet, the team that scores more points always wins. (Jeremiah Jhass, Cowboys site)
Published October 25, 2022
Well, this has been fun.
For just the tenth time in my 38 years on the planet, a Philadelphia team is in the championship round of their respective sport. And this has to have been the most unexpected one of the bunch, except for perhaps the plucky Flyers going all the way to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final but then all of us being punished for that since they’ve been mostly bad since.
So, let’s soak this one in while we can.
Instead of some deep dive into how they got here or an analytic breakdown of whether or not they stand a chance against Houston, I just have a few thoughts from a fan’s perspective. You can read all kinds of fine articles by fancy wordsmiths whose primary job is to write about sports as their main source of income, but I’ll give you the real feel from a real fan who does this for fun.
First, Bryce Harper. Joe Davis’ TV call and Scott Franzke’s radio call of his epic dinger on Sunday were very good. But the call should have literally been “Bryce Harper is immortal” when that ball went out. Talk to me next week after the World Series is decided, but this guy has proven without a doubt that the Phillies were wise to sign him when they did. What a legend. See you in Cooperstown, Bryce, as if there were any doubt about that already.
Another huge key to this was the Zack Wheeler signing. Thank you, Matt Klentak. Lol. In much the same way that Ed Wade was actually partly responsible for the 2008 championship team, I guess you have to give somewhat of a tip of the cap to past front offices for bringing pieces in. Wheeler. Realmuto. Drafting guys like Nola and Hoskins. It takes a village, and sometimes it takes a very long time, but it finally came together for this team after a decade in the wilderness.
Now we’ve got Dave Dombrowski playing the role of Pat Gillick, the old wizard who just knows how to put a team over the top. And it’s been such a satisfying way to get there. Starting off by going into St. Louis and beating a Cardinals franchise that I’ve always despised because everything they touch seems to turn to gold. Let Albert Pujols leave? No problem, win some more titles. You’re only an average team? That’s ok, your division is terrible, win 83 games and you’ll definitely make the playoffs. Also, Scott Rolen. Ugh. Hate them.
So it was quite fulfilling to see the Phillies probably end the MLB careers of Pujols and some of his geriatric pals (a phrase I used in an article I wrote for my other website, but which the editor removed because I guess it was too mean). Then they go and beat the Braves, which I couldn’t celebrate that much because my wife is a Braves fan. Still, cathartic. Playing San Diego was a bit of a letdown, as the ultimate thrill would have been toppling the Mets. But of course they went ahead and messed the bed against these same Padres. You can’t have everything, I guess.
Now they face an Astros team that everyone hates, making this the first time ever that a majority of a sport’s fans are probably pulling for a Philadelphia team. Taking an honest look at this, I’m not optimistic. I said before the playoffs even started that Houston was going to roll over everyone. And so far they have, as they’re 7-0. It sure would be great if the Phils stole one of the first two in Houston to plant a seed of doubt. We’ll see.
I give the Phillies a 30% chance to win this thing. But regardless of the outcome, there can be no complaints. They’re as healthy as they can be, and they can line their pitching up exactly the way they want to. If they just get beaten by a better team, so be it. Let’s be proud of that NL pennant, even if the bigger prize isn’t in the cards.
Because of how unlikely all of this is, it’s been a real blast. It’s stating the obvious, but this is what makes sports fun. It’s why you’re a fan and suffer through all the garbage.
Hard to believe, Harry.
Don’t know if you heard, but the Phillies did it. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Published September 28, 2022
With the 2022 MLB season coming (and somewhat dragging) to a close, the Phillies find themselves in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. They’re swerving hazardously between lanes and look like they’re ready to careen off the road any second, but still, they’re behind the wheel.
A week from now, we will know a lot more about the ultimate fate of the Fightins, although the story will hopefully not be concluded at that point. This leads me to the three outcomes that can possibly spring forth from this Phillies season: accomplishment, relief, and anguish.
As many people know, baseball can often be boiled down to the “three true outcomes” of a plate appearance: home run, walk, strikeout. It reduces the game to its purest form, pitting the hitter against the pitcher in a test of wills without taking into account any fielders having to intervene. But enough analogies; let’s look at the three true outcomes of this 2022 Phillies season.
ACCOMPLISHMENT: This will be the overriding emotion surrounding the club if they win a playoff round (i.e., the best-of-3 Wild Card series). This will mean that the Phillies have not only conquered their playoff demons, but they’ve gone into a hostile environment and won two out of three to advance to the National League Division Series and actually treat their home fans to a playoff game or two for the first time in over a decade.
Essentially, if the Phils get as far as the NLDS, they’ll be playing with house money. Nobody should rightfully expect a parade at that point, although anything can happen, but it will be a positive step for Bryce Harper and company to show management and the fans that the team might just be one or two moves away from being a real championship contender.
RELIEF: You’d think there would be more excitement surrounding this team as it sits in a playoff spot with the calendar about to flip to October. But, no, any enthusiasm has largely been replaced with dread and that “not again” feeling. And so, if the Phillies do manage to hang on, the fanbase will be breathing a sigh of relief more so than celebrating, outside of perhaps the five minutes immediately following any clinching scenario.
In this outcome, the Phils go on the road for the Wild Card series and lose, hopefully not embarrassing themselves in the process. It will feel like an unceremonious end to the season, but the mere fact that they’ve slayed the dragon and passed the moniker of “longest NL playoff drought” onto someone else will be a huge burden lifted off everyone’s shoulders. Then we regroup and look for bigger and better things in 2023.
ANGUISH: We know all too well what this is. The Phils either collapse again and/or the Brewers get hot enough to pass them, banishing the Phillies to their 11th straight season of postseason-less baseball. We will wrap up year four of Bryce Harper with zero playoff appearances, Aaron Nola will enter his age-30 season with zero career playoff starts, and Jean Segura will continue on as the active leader for most games played without a postseason appearance, although nobody really cares about that.
Use whatever synonym you want for anguish, but the Phillies should fear both apathy and outrage from their fanbase if they blow this lead down the stretch and can’t make the playoffs this season. Yes, they had injuries, but so did plenty of other teams. And they even managed to dig themselves out of the Joe Girardi-shaped hole that they were stuck in for the first two months of the season. There will simply be no excuse for this outcome, which is why it feels all too imminent
Prove us wrong, Phils.
But no matter the eventual path that the 2022 Phillies end up taking, I’m sure that the faithful fans of this city can absolutely, 100% agree on one thing in the end…
Don’t pat yourselves on the back until you make it, boys. (Andy Lewis, Icon Sportswire)
Published March 15, 2022
I won’t bother to rehash what so many other articles have done, including this one I also wrote, delving into the reasons why Claude Giroux either should be sent out by the NHL trade deadline or the franchise should find some way to keep him.
No matter your opinion on the subject, it certainly looks like the writing is on the wall for the long-time Flyers captain to be dealt away from this current dumpster fire and to any one of a number of teams with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations this season.
What I want to do, simply, is salute and say thank you to Giroux, who has been borderline criminally underappreciated during his time in town. Hey, you don’t get my nod as the second best Philadelphia athlete of the past decade for nothing. And while some will disagree about his elite status, I find those arguments pretty hollow. A quick rundown…
Claude Giroux never won a championship, so he’s automatically terrible.
In case you haven’t noticed, the same could be said of all Flyers in the last 47 years, many of whom then went on to win a title somewhere else. I suppose I can blame ESPN culture for feeding us the idea that titles are the only thing that matter, but let’s be smarter than this. While the lack of a Cup (at least, so far) during his career is a blemish on Giroux’s resume, you can’t fault him for the teams that were put around him. The Flyers have simply never been championship-caliber for his entire career, and there isn’t any shame for him personally being unable to completely drag a team to a Cup. I don’t know what people expected.
Claude Giroux wasn’t any good compared to Crosby and Ovechkin.
While Giroux did, in fact, play up to the level of these kinds of players on occasion, about 99.9% of players in NHL history aren’t a Crosby or an Ovechkin, who both have legitimate cases as top-10 players of all-time. Let's not blame Giroux for the Flyers having to go head to head five or six times a year with these two players and frequently get toasted. The Flyers actually came out on the right end of these matchups a fair amount of times, but Philly fans will always glom onto the negatives. Of course.
Claude Giroux wasn’t a good captain.
Look, I’m not going to lay out some defense of why he may have been a good captain/leader. But, again, the fact that he didn’t get a Cup handoff doesn’t automatically make him unworthy to wear the “C”. Similarly, Giroux isn’t going to elevate some underachieving youngster into an all-star player. Maybe his style of leadership just didn’t impress a lot of fans, but unless you have all the facts you can’t pass judgment. If there was really some issue with him, the team would have taken the “C” away years ago. History tells us that they’re not afraid to do such a thing. As another point of comparison, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog has been a captain just as long as Giroux and also has zero titles to his name. It happens, and a guy can’t be blamed for everything even if he is ostensibly the face of a team that comes up short.
I don’t want all of this to merely be a defense of Giroux, because I really don’t think he needs one. I believe it’s been an absolute privilege to watch him play for this team and to see his family grow behind the scenes as he made a life for them in his adopted city of Philadelphia. I see that the Flyers have a ceremony planned on Thursday for his 1,000th game. It’s well-deserved, and it’s just a shame that it had to be done on the night of him reaching that milestone, because it’s very likely to be his last home game with the Flyers.
So whether you’re in the building that night or just watching from home, if you’re a true Flyers fan, take a second to think about what you’re seeing. It’s possibly the end of a distinguished Flyers career, one that many of this organization’s fans have never seen anything like. Giroux still has some runway left in his career, as he’s just 34. Don’t forget that. Maybe he can still put himself on the Hall of Fame radar with a few more solid seasons (and perhaps that elusive championship, which the Hall seems to overvalue). Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem like it’ll occur here.
Sadly, it’s time for Claude Giroux to go, through no fault of his own. And I personally can’t promise that my eyes will remain dry on Thursday and then whenever news of his exit from town becomes official. He’s exceeded all reasonable expectations on the ice that we could have had, and he’s been a model citizen while doing it. If that’s not worth celebrating and looking back fondly on, then I don’t know why anyone bothers being a sports fan.
Thank you, Claude. Congratulations on an amazing Flyers career, and good luck with the rest of your journey.
It's gonna be weird when Claude Giroux is no longer lacing 'em up for the Flyers (Yong Kim/Inquirer)
Published January 15, 2022
Imagine this scenario.
The Eagles hang tough with Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three-plus quarters of their NFC wild card playoff game. It's back and forth, and the Eagles manage to find themselves ahead with mere minutes to play. But that's when Tom Brady does his thing, leading Tampa on an 85-yard drive in the final two minutes, connecting with Rob Gronkowski on the winning score just in time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The media falls all over itself in praising the GOAT for doing it again.
How painful would that be?
But you know what would be even worse?
If the Eagles lost 41-10.
I don't know if all sports fans do this, or if it's a uniquely Philly thing, but when it comes to "if you're going to lose, how would you prefer to do it?", I'd much rather the Eagles drop an absolute heartbreaker than get their doors blown off.
Is this the prevailing sentiment? I'd assume so, but you never know. Nobody wants a gut punch, but at least it'd be an entertaining and memorable game, which is more than we've been seeing in this town of late. And, really, it's all about the situation. Eagles fans can't have any real expectation at this point other than the team avoiding getting its heads kicked in. If they lose a tight one, everyone is going to be upset, of course. But it'd be 100 times worse if they get run out of Tampa faster than Antonio Brown.
A 9-8 finish was a pleasant surprise for the Eagles this year, but they still have a ton of doubters. And that's a fair assessment, because they largely beat up on bad teams while falling short against good clubs. Falling on their faces in Tampa would only serve to fuel the "they just got lucky" narrative and wipe away much of the progress that they seemingly made this season. It really does matter HOW they lose on Sunday, if indeed they do fall.
Hey, maybe they'll even win. I certainly don't expect it, but they've got a shot. Just trying to be realistic here, even as I sit down and act like a rabid fan on every single play of the game. Reality goes out the window when you’re actually watching your team. We know this. But I’d like to be able to look back on this game, if they lose, and say that they gave their best and it took max effort from their opponents to win the game.
I don’t need the Eagles getting smoked, and then having to listen to the same dopes call WIP about it for the next few months until mini-camp starts and we begin the cycle of insanity all over again. The Eagles did benefit from a light schedule this year, it’s true. But the fact that it was heavily front-loaded and then offered more cannon fodder on the back half isn’t on them. They certainly took a while to gel as a team (and coaching staff) this year, and it happily coincided with a stretch of the schedule that was much more manageable. They deserve credit for what they accomplished. But if they end up no-showing in a playoff game, it opens the door to a lot of unneeded criticism that we really don’t have the fortitude to deal with right now.
So, Eagles, go out there Sunday and win!
But if you don’t, let’s not get embarrassed, at least.
Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady will be throwing footballs. (Image sort of courtesy of NFL.com)
Published December 13, 2021
Nobody is hanging a "Season Saved" banner anywhere, but at least the Philadelphia Flyers were finally able to stop the bleeding, courtesy of a pair of wins out west in Vegas and Arizona. All of a sudden, it's a two-game winning streak! It remains to be seen if any momentum can be gained from these wins, but let's at least enjoy them for what they were.
I booked a trip to see the Flyers out west a few months ago, after they had gotten off to a decent start on the season. Little did I know that the wheels would fall off so completely, leading me to dread taking myself on the road to see them play a pair of games. This would be the first time that I had seen the Flyers play far enough away to merit an airplane ride, and it sure looked like I was going to regret it.
But leave it to the Orange and Black to always leave you scratching your head. Their 4-3 in Vegas against the Golden Knights was definitely one of those games. The Flyers took advantage of a subpar game by the Golden Knights' backup goaltender, and they actually cashed in on two power plays. Then, Carter Hart made it stand up, earning first star honors with his 41-save performance. It was the kind of game that you need to play when you're on the road against a better team and are just trying to get your confidence back.
A personal highlight for me was meeting Carter Hart's billet mom and dad on the concourse before the game (the family he lived with when he was playing in juniors in Everett, WA). I happened to be wearing a Hart jersey, and she was getting pictures with people who were. Overall, Vegas was a fun atmosphere, but the Flyers did their part to tamp down the crowd, never letting the Knights get a lead or build up too much momentum. It got hairy at the end, but the Flyers ended their skid in a pretty satisfying fashion. Kudos to Max Willman on his first NHL goal, and to Claude Giroux for setting the franchise's power play points record.
Side note: I randomly saw Flyers radio man Tim Saunders walking the Strip the day before the game. I got his attention and had a brief exchange with him as we both kept moving in opposite directions (it was really windy and cold, for Vegas). Now, if only the TV crew could get back on the road, as well. Anyway, the Vegas portion of the trip was better than expected.
The next night in Arizona, it felt more like a Flyers home game. Flyers jerseys/fans far outnumbered those who supported the home Coyotes. Again, it was far from a perfect game for the Flyers, as they twice coughed up the lead and Martin Jones was pretty mediocre. Still, that ended up being plenty for the Flyers to be able to beat a very poor Coyotes club, 5-3. Patrick Brown's first goal as a Flyer was an absolute gift after a turnover by the Arizona goalie, and James van Riemsdyk was the first star with two goals. It was also "Throwback Night", as they played 90s music in the arena and displayed graphics befitting that era on the scoreboard. It made me feel very old.
The Flyers had a lot of fun by winning a couple of games in the desert and, by extension, so did I. Nobody can honestly say that they've turned around their fortunes in a smidge over 24 hours with these two wins. But, for a little while at least, it was nice to remember what winning hockey felt like.
Kevin Hayes and the rest of the Flyers remembered how to score. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun)
Published September 28, 2021
Flat out embarrassing.
That’s how Monday night’s loss in Dallas played out on the national stage for your Philadelphia Eagles, dropping them to 1-2 on the season as they face a gauntlet of tough games in the weeks ahead.
Jalen Hurts was inaccurate, the defense was gouged repeatedly, and Nick Sirianni seemed to have forgotten that an NFL head coach is allowed to call running plays, as he reached Joe Girardi-like levels of coaching malfeasance. It was somewhat inexplicable, but really not all that surprising when you consider how a young coaching staff and quarterback are likely to react when dealt with an early challenge like the Eagles faced from Dallas.
People are predictably screaming and stomping their feet today about how Sirianni doesn’t look like an NFL head coach, as well as issues on both the offensive and defensive fronts. But why? Is this something that some people weren’t aware of as we geared up for the 2021 NFL season? What coach looks like he truly belongs in the NFL after three games? What did you expect from what is essentially a rookie quarterback? And are we at all surprised that the Eagles’ offensive line is already decimated with injuries?
To that last point, injuries, every NFL team needs to expect a considerable amount. And the Eagles have been particularly affected over the past few years, for reasons that still remain unexplained. The team’s depth headed into this campaign was extremely shallow, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they would be in trouble once some starters went down.
Three games in, and we’re there already.
The defensive line really misses its emotional leader, Brandon Graham. And Howie’s young, high draft picks are having issues keeping opposing teams away from their QB. Throw in Hurts’ lack of touch (and a receiving group that has potential but is extremely unreliable to this point), and you’ve got the makings of a 6-11 team, something that I tried to tell you a few weeks ago just before the season began.
The Eagles are going to get blown out a few times this year, but things will look better from time to time, and I believe they’ll hang in some games that you won’t expect them to and even manage an upset or two along the way. And, hey, there’s always those two games against the Giants.
When you add up all of the elements, I still believe that we’re looking at a 6-11 team, but I want credit if they’re within a win of that mark in either direction.
The really unfortunate part of this is how many veteran (i.e. old) players that the Eagles still have in key positions. It’s not something that you want to see in a team that’s supposed to be “rebuilding”. But a glance at the draft capital that the Eagles have accrued tells you that they’re angling to be more competitive beginning next year. And while I’m not trying to pardon them for accepting mediocrity or worse this year, we can all live with it if the team can reap rewards in the next couple years.
This season will tell us a lot about Jalen Hurts and some of the other young players, especially on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a 17-game trial run to help evaluate who should remain as foundational pieces for the franchise. As such, there is potential for this to get ugly. But maybe we see just enough bright spots to make this season fun and offer hope for 2022 and beyond. Getting stomped by the Cowboys, though, presents the sobering reality that 2021 will not be the Eagles’ year, at least in terms of wins and a postseason berth.
Let’s at least hope that this season serves as a springboard to coaching competence for Nick Sirianni and his staff, as well as a confidence-builder for some of the important players on the team.
Just expect a lot of bumps in the road this season, and don’t get too upset when things look like they did on Monday night in Big D.
The Philadelphia Eagles...uh...aren't good. (AP Photo/Michael AInsworth)
Published September 3, 2021
If you wanted one of my trademarked Iggle Prediggles®, you’ve got it already. The Eagles will go 6-11 during the 2021 season. You can stop reading right there.
Actually, don’t stop reading, please.
Let’s talk about what will probably happen this year, and what the team might at least be able to build on even if it posts a losing record.
First, figuring out what they have in Jalen Hurts is the most important element of all this. His predecessor who shall not be named basically forced the Eagles’ hand into going all in with Hurts, and it will be interesting to see how he fares with a clean slate. No doubt Hurts is completely ready to go after all ten of those preseason snaps he took. Still, even when you’re staring down the barrel of what looks like it’ll be a long season, it could still be fun to see what Hurts might be capable of. Let’s hope that he acquits himself well and stays healthy, because this season is over if Joe Flacco needs to go under center for an extended period of time. As for Gardner Minshew, I have no idea what to make of all that. Let’s just enjoy the mustache ride.
As usual, the Eagles feature several young players on offense who could be breakout candidates, or could end up being total duds. The Birds aren’t the only team in the league who pumps the tires on recent draft picks and says “look how good these guys are”, but we’ll see if they’re just blowing smoke.
On defense, you have to like additions like Steven Nelson and Ryan Kerrigan. They bring a veteran presence and are still impact players. But, as I’ve been saying for years, the Eagles’ inability to draft and develop true game-breakers on the defensive side of the ball continues to hurt the club. Really, since Fletcher Cox came into the league, the Birds have come up extremely short in their evaluation of defensive talent. This year’s top defensive picks, Milton Williams and Zech McPhearson, will try to start turning that narrative around. It really is a huge advantage when your youngest (cheapest) players make big contributions to the club. Let’s see if we get any glimpses this season.
As for rookie head coach Nick Sirianni, his first season isn’t so much about wins and losses as it is showing that he can run a team. Let’s all accept that he’ll look overmatched at times, because it’s part of the growth process. But if there is true talent there, it will show itself more often than not. Even if he’s great this year, he likely doesn’t have the horses on this club to make it a playoff team or even a .500 one (8-8-1, you know it!). Let’s have a competent year and then build on that going forward.
There’s a pretty clean parallel to be made here between the 2021 Eagles and the 1999 club that featured Donovan McNabb and rookie head coach Andy Reid. That team went 5-11. It wasn’t a pretty year, but the signs were there. And the next thing you knew, they were in the playoffs the next year and started their streak of NFC title game appearances. It’s probably too ambitious to expect the current iteration of the Eagles to make that leap in the next couple years, as the 2021 club doesn’t have the collection of young talent that the 1999 team did (especially on defense). Still, stranger things have happened.
Again, though, the Eagles are going 6-11 this year. And I feel like I’m even being generous with that, as this was going to be called “The Eagles are going 5-12” originally. But I’ve looked things over and I think they can squeeze out a sixth win.
They’ll win two games against NFC East foes. Pick any two; it doesn’t really matter. They’ll probably split with the Giants and Cowboys and get swept by Washington, but who knows for sure. Heck, depending on when they get those divisional wins, they might still be in the playoff race in December even with a bad record. I can’t decide if that would be fun or annoying.
The Eagles will also pull off a surprising win of some sort, like they did against the Saints last year. Perhaps that Thursday night affair with the defending champion Bucs is the one they bank this year? Sure, why not.
They’ll beat the Jets too, because they always beat the Jets. I think they’ll also nab a win against either San Fran or the Chargers. And for the sixth win, their game at Detroit looks tempting, but let’s not be fooled by that one. More likely it’ll be Carolina or Vegas. Just a gut feeling of mine. I do know that they won’t be winning their opener in Atlanta, so feel free to bet the house on the Falcons that day.
I know this all sounds ultra-defeatist, but a losing season doesn’t mean that there’s no hope to be had going forward. Because even if the Eagles go 6-11, which they will, this can be a valuable year for Hurts, Sirianni, and company. Then, maybe we can start to talk seriously about them competing in 2022.
It could always go completely off the rails, of course, but I’m trying not to take this to too dark of a place. I believe that we can still have an exciting year of football that could springboard this team to future success. So let’s enjoy it as best we can while taking the long view. It’s not all about 2021. After all, the Birds are going 6-11.
Our second favorite Nick eventually? (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Published September 9, 2021
Like everyone else around these parts, I was saddened to learn of the passing of comedian/radio host Big Daddy Graham. Saddened but not shocked, however, as he had been in failing health for several years, with a sad reality having long since set in that he would not be able to return to the way things were. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and close friends, who no doubt carried a heavy burden and a broken heart, seeing him in physical pain and low spirits on a daily basis. Rest easy now, Big Daddy. You will be missed.
Now that I’ve said all that, I want to lighten this up with a quick (maybe) anecdote about a personal interaction with Big Daddy.
I met the man a few times over the years, having participated in the Quizzo game he was running one time at a bar owned by my wife’s friend and then spotting him hosting another game at Delaware Park on a separate occasion where I chatted him up during a break in the game but didn’t actually play. But my most memorable interaction with Big Daddy was the first time that I met him.
When I was a teenager, in the summer of 1998, I found myself with my dad on the Atlantic City boardwalk watching Angelo Cataldi broadcast his WIP Morning Show in front of Caesar’s. He was there every Friday during the summer back then, and I was interested to watch some of the show and perhaps even meet him and his cohorts. With him on that particular day were Joe Conklin and Big Daddy Graham. Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes, the other staples of Angelo’s show, were off that day.
At some point during the show, and keep in mind that the broadcast went from 6 to 10 am, a disheveled guy stumbled around on the boardwalk and completely passed out, obviously the effect of enjoying himself a bit too much in some form or another the night before. And while someone collapsing on the boardwalk about 20 feet in front of a live radio broadcast is a serious thing, I can assure you that this man was breathing the whole time and someone called 911 almost immediately.
Before the ambulance arrived, however, Big Daddy and Joe Conklin took it upon themselves to go lay down on the boardwalk next to this man, basically doing snow angels on the ground next to him. My dad took some pictures during all this. Remember, this was 1998. It was an actual film camera.
Shortly thereafter, the ambulance arrived, and it was obviously not their first experience with the passed out guy, as I think the EMT even said “Wake up, sunshine” as she sort of slapped him awake. All the while, Angelo gave a play by play of the man being loaded into the ambulance, and the EMT yelled at him. It was great.
At any rate, after a bit, Big Daddy was speaking to my dad and asked if he could send him copies of the photos when he got the film developed. (How did we ever live like this, by the way?) He gave my dad the WIP station address, and my dad obliged by sending the photos a few days or weeks later.
I thought that was the end of it, but we were pleasantly surprised to receive a WIP swag bag in the mail courtesy of Big Daddy. It included an autographed headshot, a pen, a Don McKee-chain, and various other items. It was at that point that I developed an admiration for Big Daddy after he took the time to respond to a favor with a kind gesture like this. It’s the little things, you know.
In the years that followed, I would occasionally email him about topics that I heard discussed on his show. And I can’t thank him enough for keeping me company during some of the overnight shifts that I used to work, his voice providing a welcome soundtrack to the monotony of having to be awake and working at 3 am. If you’ve never had to do it, consider yourself lucky.
In addition to enjoying his radio stylings, I also received Big Daddy’s “Ravings from a Man Who Never Sleeps” email newsletter for a number of years. The final time that I corresponded with him, after diving into my email history, appears to be in 2013. I had just seen him and Joe Conklin perform their “Two Funny Philly Guys” show at The Colonial in Phoenixville. It was a riot. I sent Big Daddy a quick message thanking him for the show and saying that he made new fans out of the friends who went with me that night. His reply was short and sweet: “Thanks Kevin. Your email made my day”.
I’ll miss Big Daddy. We all will. Let’s never forget what he taught us…
Who's that man? It's Big Daddy Graham. (CrossingBroad.com)
Originally published March 22, 2019. I present it here unaltered in form because, even though some info is now out of date, the spirit remains the same. Put Dan Baker on the Wall!
The Phillies announced this week that Bobby Abreu will be the 2019 inductee into the team’s Wall of Fame. Good for Bobby. But this got me thinking.
This is going to sound like a lot of repitition, as you can look at my article about how the Flyers should honor long-time PA announcer Lou Nolan that I wrote back on October 14 (and which you annoyingly have to scroll down about half of the way to read, sorry about that). But, in the same vein, it helps us land perfectly on the next person that the Phillies should so honor...public address announcer Dan Baker.
Some background - Dan Baker has been the in-house voice of the Phillies since 1972. You’ve heard him at every single Phillies game you’ve ever attended. Or, if you’re super old, since you were a kid at least. And since the retirement of Yankees’ PA announcer Bob Sheppard a full decade ago, Baker has been the longest-tenured PA man in the major leagues. He is simply peerless in this regard.
And don’t forget that he also spent 30 seasons performing the same job with the Eagles before they inexplicably “moved on” from him five years ago. I neither know nor care to know the name of the guy who replaced him.
Philadelphia sports fans have been incredibly lucky to have enjoyed the soundtrack that we have over the last half-century. From Harry Kalas to Gene Hart to Merrill Reese, Lou Nolan and on and on, a litany of superb voices have greeted us at the stadiums, on the radio and in our homes. Baker is in that class.
Let’s not take Dan Baker for granted, as the man is now 72 years old. Maybe his aim is to hit 50 years with the Phillies, or maybe he’ll just keep on going for as long as he possibly can. Either way, he has earned it. And so the Phillies should set their 2020 Wall of Fame space aside ahead of time, with Baker earmarked as the recipient of the honor.
The team will have special nights at the ballpark this year to honor Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Baker is the man who will emcee those ceremonies, having been with the team through the entirety of their Phillies careers, just as he has for hundreds more who have played at Citizens Bank Park and Veterans Stadium.
So, before the Phillies start putting the core of their 2008 World Series team into the Wall of Fame, the team should first give a fitting salute to Baker, who still does the same quality work that he has for decades. There is plenty of time remaining to induct players who have retired in recent years.
I met Dan Baker once, at a panel discussion at La Salle University when I was going to school there. After it was over, I made sure to introduce myself to him. He indulged me and several others by announcing our names like we were coming to bat for the Phillies. Honestly, it was a top thrill in my life.
His voice and his style is so ingrained into me that I can’t imagine attending a Phillies game without hearing it. He no doubt gets requests like this all the time, and he is always happy to oblige. I also know that he does pre-recorded voicework for peoples’ wedding reception introductions. This wouldn’t happen if people didn’t have such a deep connection to him.
Simply put, Dan Baker has been an important part of the Philadelphia sports landscape (not just baseball) for almost 50 years. It’s time to show our appreciation. Phillies, make it happen.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 1980's.
Published July 15, 2021
I'll do my best to not make this political, because this whole thing isn't a political issue, just one that concerns health and common sense. After the embarrassing situation that the Phillies put themselves in this past weekend, I've come to one conclusion concerning the direction of this 2021 club.
If the Phillies are going to add players for a playoff push (which they absolutely should do), they should do their utmost to only acquire players who have been vaccinated.
Since MLB is tracking vaccination rates with things like the 85% threshold we've heard so much about, I am operating under the assumption that any club can find out the vaccination status of any player. Teams are always privy to comprehensive injury and medical histories before they consummate a trade, after all. And so, armed with this information, the Phillies should immediately cross the names of any unvaccinated players off their trade list.
Maybe this sounds prejudicial, but it really isn't. I mean, if getting the vaccine is an individual choice, then teams should be able to CHOOSE not to trade for such players. America, right?
Ok, now that we all agree that this is an ironclad policy that nobody, even those who hate science, can find fault with, let's talk about the "why".
As we just saw with Aaron Nola missing a start due to contact tracing after Alec Bohm was placed on the covid list, being unvaccinated is a risky proposition that can wreck a team in the blink of an eye. If the whole goal here is to win baseball games, it's imperative that key players (but really, all players) take the time to get the shot so that their availability to play is assured.
Though the Phillies can't exactly control what their current players think, say, and do, they can at least keep a handle on any new players they bring in. And if they decide to trade for a player who either ends up contracting the virus or simply gets shelved because they get too close to somebody who does, this fanbase and city is going to explode.
The Phillies have done so many things wrong over the last few years, both on and off the field, and the Nola fiasco is just the latest faux pas. Add in some of the other things that certain Phillies have had to say about the vaccine, and you've got to wonder what is wrong with these guys.
It's incumbent upon the organization to only bring in reinforcements who have gotten the vaccine, giving the Phillies their best chance of success down the stretch. Losing any more players to this for any stretch of time is unacceptable, and there should be consequences for the club and individuals if it happens again.
So, for the sanity of us all, the Phillies must make sure that they're smart about this and don't open the door for further disaster and subsequent scathing criticism. Let's see what happens.
Don't point at me; you're the problem. (Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire)
Published June 23, 2021
We all knew that Major League Baseball’s sudden crackdown on “sticky stuff” was going to be a disaster, and of course the Phillies found themselves front and center on Tuesday night with the whole Joe Girardi-Max Scherzer drama. Joe G. ended up being the first casualty of the rule, although indirectly, that boots a pitcher and suspends him if he’s found to be doing something illegal.
Whether a pitcher eventually gets kicked out for violating this rule remains to be seen, but I didn’t have to dig too far into my memory bank to find a few instances of times that I wish a Phillies pitcher was found to be cheating and subsequently ejected before something really bad happened. Yes, this is complete revisionist history, 20/20 hindsight, or whatever you want to call it. But here are five cases where things might have worked out better for the Phils if this rule was in place and their hurler got the ol’ heave-ho…
April 14, 2016
In just his second start with the Phillies, Vince Velasquez strikes out 16 Padres hitters in a masterful complete game shutout where he allows just three hits and zero walks.
And I really wish it didn’t happen.
That’s because it set the bar so unreasonably high that the organization has given the guy chance after chance for half a decade since that game, all in the vain hope that maybe he’ll be able to achieve something remotely close to that level again.
If this performance by Vinny V. never happens (against a wretched Padres club that would go on to lose 94 games that season, by the way), I have no doubt that the organization would have severed ties with him long ago. At least, by virtue of how long he’s stuck around, we’ve become well acquainted with “The Velasquez”, a very distant cousin of “quality start” and “The Maddux”.
Yes, “The Velasquez”, a game where your starter fails to go 5 innings despite throwing 90+ pitches, all while allowing at least 4 runs while tossing in multiple walks and/or wild pitches for good measure. It’s a loose definition, but you get it. Point is, if Vinny had gotten tossed out of that game before he could deliver an epic performance, we’d all be a lot happier right now.
September 7, 2005
My hatred for former Phillies closer Billy Wagner runs pretty deep, even though he now admits how much of a jerk he was while in town. So, props for that, at least. But I point to this game as the #1 instance of Wagner letting the team down, as it came in the worst possible spot, against his former Astros teammates while the Phillies jockeyed with them in the playoff race.
Wagner allowed a homer to Craig Biggio with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, turning a 6-5 lead into an 8-6 deficit that would end up being the final margin. The Phillies would go on to miss the playoffs by a single game, bested by the Astros for the Wild Card. Houston went all the way to the World Series that year, but maybe they wouldn’t have even reached the postseason if Wagner had simply been inspected and ejected on that fateful evening.
November 1, 2009
Fact: Brad Lidge was amazing in 2008.
Also a fact: Brad Lidge was a mess in 2009.
Lidge capped things off for that season by allowing three runs in one inning, his only appearance of the series, in the pivotal Game 4 of the 2009 Fall Classic against the Yankees. He took the hill in the ninth inning of a tie game as the Phillies attempted to even the series, and even recorded the first two outs. It’s at that point that I would have loved for umpires to halt the game and eject him for something, anything, because what followed wasn’t pretty.
Johnny Damon singled, and then pulled off his ridiculous double steal. Then Lidge hit a batter. Then he allowed two more hits. The Phillies trailed 7-4, and this one was done. Yes, they’d take Game 5, but it was just delaying the inevitable as the Yankees prevailed in six games.
October 2, 2011
In Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the Phillies spotted Cliff Lee a 4-0 lead through two innings as they attempted to take a stranglehold in their best-of-5 series against the Cardinals. That’s when Cliff Lee imploded. In what turned out to be the final postseason appearance of his career, Lee uncharacteristically gave up 5 runs on 12 Cardinals hits over 6 innings, taking the L and dramatically altering the course of the series. And, no, I’m not absolving Charlie Manuel for being so slow to pull him, either.
Maybe, if Lee actually does his part and the Phillies go up 2 games to 0, they polish the series off with having to get to a decisive Game 5 that they’d go on to lose and which has ruined the franchise for almost a decade now.
Yes, the Phillies decided to stop scoring on that cold October evening (I was there, trust me), but Lee’s choke job will always stick with me. If he had been kicked out after two or three innings, the end result might have still been the same, but it couldn’t have been worse than what actually happened.
October 23, 1993
I probably don’t need to get too deep into this, but let’s just say that I’d like to get in a time machine and have the umpires go do a spot check on Mitch Williams after he finished his warmup pitches to start the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series in Toronto. I would have made sure that sunscreen, Spider Tack, pine tar, Ecto Cooler, and every sticky substance known to man was on his hat, glove, and belt so that he wasn’t allowed to throw any pitches that night.
The rest is history, of course. Joe Carter’s home run won the Series for Toronto, a championship that still stands as the most recent title won by a Canadian team in the big four sports leagues, at least until Montreal wins the Stanley Cup in a few weeks.
Wait, what’s that? You’re saying the Raptors won an NBA title? Yeah, ok, nice try.
Anyway, I sure wish that Jim Fregosi had to make another move other than going to Mitchie Poo that night.
Was this just another way to repackage a “painful Phillies losses” list? Kind of. But MLB’s new rule (or, actual enforcement of a rule that’s been around for years) has provided us with yet another new way to look at things. Ah, baseball. Never change
Remember when the Phillies used to make the playoffs? (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Kevin Lagowski lives in Lincoln University, PA with his wife, two sons, and dog. He used to work in the TV control room world, but now he's a technical writer/program analyst.