Monday, December 29, 2008
The Jewish festival of Chanukah commemorates two significant miracles in the people's history. One is historical; a celebration of a dramatic, against-all-odds military victory that ensured the survival of the Jews despite the intentions of a tyrannical foe. The second is the stuff of legends; that when the victorious band of brothers went to re-dedicate the Temple they'd won back, there was only enough oil to light the lamps for one day. Yet somehow this oil lasted for eight.
And as Jews all over the world lit their menorahs for the eighth and final time in 2008, Philadelphians were celebrating a miracle all their own.
Somehow, some way, with the deck heavily stacked against them, the Eagles made the playoffs. Call it the Miracle at the Linc.
I could have seen the Bears losing to the Texans. But the 5-10 Raiders going into Tampa Bay and holding off a determined Bucs team? That was the stunner. Knocking Dallas out of playoff contention would have been motivation enough. But the Tampa and Chicago losses set up a showdown where the winner was headed to the playoffs, and the loser was going home.
And it wasn't even close.
When the smoke and rubble cleared, the final tally was an incredible 44-6. (Just typing that is fun. Can I do it again? 44-6! Over Dallas!) The Birds embarrassed the team--and the player (and the owner)--they love to embarrass the most. And our holiday gift to the people of Dallas is a miserably long offseason of wondering how all of that talent couldn't even crack the playoffs. I kinda feel bad for them. Oh wait. No I don't.
It was nice to see the run game return, especially without relying so heavily on Brian Westbrook. It was nice to see Donovan making nice passes into tight spots, like DeSean Jackson's inside the 10, and the touchdown pass to suddenly-stud tight end Brent Celek in the back corner of the end zone. It was nice to see touchdowns coming from red zone possessions early on rather than disappointing field goals. It was really nice to see karma in action, with TO dropping a ball in his chest and Pacman Jones fumbling a kickoff with just seconds remaining in the first half. And it was nice to be able to make jokes like, "We missed the field goal and they made it. Should be 47-3 and it's 44-6. What a difference."
And the defense. What can you say about this defense, that came to work every down of every game all season, winning a couple of games on their own, and keeping them in games they probably should have fallen out of. Four fumbles forced, two returned for touchdowns, one against the toughest running back in the league to bring down, and an interception. Who knew Chris Clemons was a) that fast and b) had such a stiffarm! Damn! Tashard Choice got schooled!
What a day. Everything that could have gone our way, did. The other games. The Akers field goal sneaking inside the corner of the uprights for that extra boost before halftime. The bounce of the first Romo fumble right into Clemons' hands. The way the Barber fumble stayed in bounds for Jozelio to scoop it up and go 96 yards. The word "unbelievable" was invented for days like yesterday.
Ed Werder said on ESPN, "When it was over, the Eagles were going for the playoffs, and the Cowboys were going for the smelling salts."
My friend Shwa texted me, in perhaps the understatement of the year:
"Didn't see that one coming."
But Brian Dawkins couldn't have said it any better than he did to his squad after his second forced fumble.
Bring on the Vikings.
Special year-end Other Musings:
Pekka Lintu, Finland's ambassador to the United States, officially recognized the Flyers as the "most Finnish team in the National Hockey League." (Antero Niittymaki, Kimmo Timonen, Lasse Kukkonen, and Ossi Vaananen.)
I love Riley Cote, Flyers resident toughguy since Donald Brashear left. But against the Capitals two Saturdays ago, Brashear reminded Cote--and the rest of us--who's still the man. Check this out.
The winner for worst sign ever at a sporting event goes to a kid at last week's 6-4 win over the Senators, which read, "We're hot, you're not." Oooh, BUSTED! Are you kidding? How does anyone even know who he's talking to?
Have you seen the Billy Mays commercial (you know, the screaming infomercial guy) for ESPN 360? I get the concept; it's supposed to be funny. But all I can think of is Happy Gilmore saying, "Ya know, I know what you're doing right now. And I don't like it. So why don't you shut your trap. Before I put my foot in it."
I don't know about you, but when they turn it over to Marcellus Wiley on ESPN, I laugh to myself, thinking of the Ving Rhames character Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. I just want someone to ask him about a quarterback and have him say, "In the third, his ass goes down."
Shakira was on while I was at the gym the other day. Shakira, your hips may not lie, but your voice sounds like Kermit the Frog on acid.
In the past I'd been excited about Toyotathons. But now? Now is the Toyotathon of Toyotathons. So I don't know what to do with myself.
Just what the hell is a "rib-sticking meal?" Does that mean it has greater eatability?
There aren't too many commercials that have me laughing out loud for several minutes after I've viewed them. But this one did.
Happy 2009 everyone. Go Birds!
Monday, December 22, 2008
There is an expression reserved for a rare group of people that are incorrigibly stubborn, and stubbornly incorrigible:
They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
And so it was with the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. Given early Christmas presents by both Dallas and Tampa Bay, the Birds went into their 4:15 showdown with Washington finally, miraculously, in control of their own destiny. In games where the score is as close as it was yesterday, it's usually pretty easy to figure out who the goat is. Yesterday, that was not the case. Yesterday, losing was a team effort.
The defense, as it's been pretty much all year, was strong. I appreciate that half of the team actually showed up and did its job. For everyone else, there's plenty of blame to go around. So get ready, cause here it comes.
Boo on Andy Reid. How is it that you still don't know how to manage the clock and playcalling? 55 seconds into the second half, looking like they didn't know what game they were playing, Reid calls a timeout. I just knew somehow that was going to come back and bite us, and I said so at the time. You think that might have been helpful after Reggie Brown's catch on the 1? Yeah, I do too.
And another boo for Andy, from the department of If It Ain't Broke, Break It Til It Is. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think it's taking it to a new level when you've done something over and over and failed, changed it up to terrific results, and then reverted back to what was a miserable failure. 46 pass attempts, 16 runs. That's almost 3 out of 4 plays. And that's just ridiculous, regardless of Westbrook's health.
Boo on DeSean Jackson. 4 drops. 2 of them deep, one in the end zone. You wanted the spotlight. You wanted the ball. Both were given to you, and you dropped them both.
Boo on LJ Smith, for dropping two dump-off passes that I could've caught, as well as for missing that crucial block on the pass to Westbrook at the Redskin 4 that should have been a touchdown. It was a bad playcall, but it would've been fine if you hit your man. LJ, your team, coaching staff, and fans, all stuck with you, wanting you to be what we all thought you could've been. Instead, 2008 was an enormous disappointment.
Boo on Donovan McNabb. I know some of you will disagree with this one, citing the seven (seven!!!) dropped passes, tossing away the "couple" of shorties thrown. But I disagree. I saw several horribly underthrown passes and several more thrown foolishly to covered, sometimes double-covered receivers. It's true that the WR corps didn't help him out, but he didn't help himself much either, and he was lucky not to be picked off. And would it kill you to run the ball and get a first down on 3rd and 3 when you have no one open? More importantly, Donovan, it's called urgency. Look into it.
And lastly, boo on Asante Samuel. Last week's interception runback against Cleveland was not an easy pick, requiring athleticism to even get a hand on the ball, much less catch it. Yet he made it look pretty easy. On 3rd and 10 from just about midfield, a pressured Jason Campbell floated a duck nowhere near his receivers, but right into the waiting arms of a Pro-Bowl cornerback. Who subsequently let it bounce off of his elbows. Possession near midfield might have been slightly more helpful than being downed at the 3.
The worst part? They're still alive. In the unlikely event that we beat Dallas, the Raiders upset the Bucs, and the Bears fall in Houston, we're in. They can't just put us out of our misery, can they.
As my friend Matt texted me yesterday,
Other Musings: I happened to look at the nutrition facts of a Dasani bottle of water the other day. As expected, everything was zero. Zero grams of fat, zero cholesterol, zero calories and, guess what, it's zero percent of the recommended daily value. It says "Percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet." No they're not. They're based on the fact that zero is zero percent of anything. How old were you when you learned that?
Flyers beat the Caps 7-1 on Saturday, behind a Scott Hartnell hat trick and two goals by Jeff Carter, who for the moment leads the league with 25 goals. This guy was almost dealt at last year's trade deadline. Good move keeping him, eh?
Lastly, -ability is spreading like a virus, like a cancer. The latest offender is of the repeat variety, now that Optimum is now advertising something about "knowability." Shoot me. I'll tell you one fact that's become highly knowable to myself: I know that pictures hold much more nicely to my fridge with my World Champions magnet.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
And yet, as always, there are a couple of things we need to discuss:
1) Andy Reid, your playcalling has suddenly improved since the debacle against the Ravens just three weeks ago. I must give credit where it's due. But here you are, moving the ball at will against a miserable defense, and you once again resort to trickery? DeSean Jackson at quarterback? Yes, it would've been kinda cool if they'd have pulled it off. And it's not to say that there isn't a place for that kind of thing. But that surely wasn't it. Enough with the "cleverness." Just put the ball in the end zone.
2) Asante Samuel. The word "incredulous" was invented for the look on my face when Samuel, running back his interception, flipped the ball away before crossing the goal line. Are. You. Kidding. Me. It was one thing when a cocky rookie did that on Monday Night Football. (DeSean, you are forgiven.) It is entirely another for a six-year, All-Pro veteran cornerback to do that. At least he had some sense to pick up the ball in the end zone. If they had lost that, I would've lost it. I understand you're excited cause you haven't done that in a while, but get a hold of yourself.
3) Kevin Curtis. Welcome back to the land of the living.
Boys, if you're reading this blog, let's make it happen. Find every ounce of strength, courage, and magic you've got, and let's beat up on the Skins and Cowboys. Wouldn't it be sweet if we knocked Dallas out on the same day we punched our ticket?
Have faith. And maybe, just maybe, it'll happen.
Other Musings: Through 30 games, the Flyers are 17-7-6. How's that for appropriate patriotism from Philadelphia? And oh yeah, even though they're still four points back, they've also played four fewer games than the Rangers. 2nd-ranked power play, only behind Detroit, and a league-leading 12 shorthanded goals. Love this team.
I don't care at all for NASCAR, and all the more so since I discovered the name of one of their legends is Dick Trickle. How unfortunate is that name?
Not only is drinkability ridiculous, the concept is actually spreading. I saw a commercial recently for Optimum digital something or other, that has "great shareability." Kill me.
Everytime I think of Big Papi now, I think of that MLB commercial where the guy in the Red Sox hat in Japan is mistaken for Ortiz. Because he's wearing the official hat. To assert that the Japanese people are really that dumb is absurd, and probably racist. Only Americans would be that stupid. "You no Big Paaaapi."
And you might have heard that the Yankees stole away CC and AJ. But I don't really care. I've learned that my front door opens a whole lot more easily with the help of my World Champion keychain.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Remember this moment, when we're across the street,
When the Eagles take it to the one, and push with all their might—when their might falls inches short,
remember this moment.
When the Flyers fly to the Cup with seeming invincibility, and with heartbreaking instability, gut-wrenching fallibility, fall on their faces—when they leave fans stunned and silent,
remember this moment.
When the Sixers take game one of the Finals, raising the city's hopes higher than anyone expected, and they drop games 2, 3, 4 and fall in 5—when we sit staring at our TVs, stuck drinking the warm backwash of our beers and all we can say is, "of course"—remember that the course has changed
because of this moment.
Remember this moment, when it's hardest to remember this moment.
When it feels like the drought will never end,
remember this moment,
and how it will feel
when it happens again."
Monday, November 3, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Two more things worth mentioning:
1) Pat Gillick is the man. This guy makes all of the right moves that seemed small, yet completed this team (see Jayson Stark's article on ESPN.com) and what does he do when they present him with the National League trophy? He gave all of the credit to Ed Wade, his predecessor at GM, for "a tremendous job getting the nucleus here." All Gillick did, he said, was "kind of filled in around what Ed had in place." What class.
2) I totally fell in love with Charlie Manuel. We've all criticized him as manager, wondering just what the hell he's thinking. But this guy is the patriarch of a real baseball family. As he went to hug Hamels in the post-game celebration, you could see that he called him "my boy." That's why every every infielder is involved in every mound conference during the game. That's why every player leaves everything out on the field. That's why, even when no one outside of the locker room understood it, these guys swear by Manuel. Every player is like Christopher on the Sopranos, saying of their Tony, "I would march into Hell for that man." After losing his mom, June, on the day of Game 2, Charlie fought through it all, calm and cool, focused on being the leader his team needed him to be. And in his typical, understated fashion, dedicated the win to the people of Philly and to June. "I guarantee you my mom's watching right now."
And while ESPN.com writer Gene Wojciechowski is right that the champagne celebrations are overdone, the Phils earned this one. We earned this one.
I gave you beating the Brewers in four. I was one off when I said we'd beat the Dodgers in six. Tampa Bay is a very good team. But my friend Ben said it best:
"It's our time."
We're winning the World Series in six games.
Billy Joel knows what I'm doing. I'm keeping the phaith.
Other Musings: Anyone notice that the drinkability ads are even bigger? The word itself is the focus of the campaign now, whereas before it was just a throw-in line. It's like someone read my blog and did it just to spite me.
Also dumb are the ESPN commercials where guys think that because they listen to them everyday that they know them. "Mike! Mike Tirico! It's me, Stupidy Stupid! I listen to you guys everyday!" If I were a celebrity, and someone just got into my car at the airport, I wouldn't think it some funny coincidence, a cute story to share at the ESPN Radio water cooler. No. I would think I was being carjacked. And that's not so funny.
Did anyone notice the postgame interview with Victorino where the guy asked him if he'd rather play the Red Sox or the Marlins? Oops.
Did anyone notice the guy (I think he was a scout?) who came over to Cole Hamels when he was being interviewed following the game and said something like, "The best looking guy and the best pitcher I know." Whoa, awkward.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
1) Donovan McNabb is back. Last week and, arguably, the last few games of 2007, we saw that Donovan's arm strength is every bit as good as it's ever been. What we hadn't seen in a good long while was his ability to scramble. Two plays stand out in my mind: the one where he wriggled free from a surefire sack to get the first down, and the other where it took five Cowboys to bring him down as he correctly switched the ball to the sideline hand twice. And how bout the Favre-esque flip to Westbrook for 18 yards at the end of the third? As many of us have said for years, all it takes is a couple of lemons-to-lemonade plays per game to get the defense thinking about it, and everything else opens up even more. I confess I got a little emotional, saying things like, "There's the Donovan McNabb I remember!"
2) The offensive line is a wall. Simply put, all of the above is true, because this is true.
3) Asante Samuel is worth every penny. A lot of us seem to have forgotten that the defense was actually decent last year. The difference between last season and the years before was the lack of turnovers forced. And that's what they paid Samuel the big bucks for. What Donovan's scrambling does for the offense is what Samuel's presence does for the defense. It allows everybody else to be that much more aggressive.
4) Brian Westbrook is a man possessed. There is an argument to be made--at least for the moment--that Westbrook is the most valuable, if not the best, running back in the league. The leaping touchdown that bailed out DeSean Jackson's unparalleled stupidity in the second quarter (oh, don't worry, we'll get there) and the twisting, third-effort touchdown in the fourth have me convinced.
5) DeSean Jackson is the real deal....... Amazing stat I saw last night: Jackson is the first rookie to start his career with two 100+ yard receiving games since 1940, when Don Looney, another Eagle, accomplished the feat. He is incredibly exciting, but....(can you tell I'm chomping at the bit on this one?)
Overall, we should be very encouraged. Birds played a great game on the road against a ridiculously talented team, and established themselves, for all to see, as a serious championship contender.
1) Donovan McNabb still makes the occasional poor choice with the football. Note to Donovan: If you have no one to throw to, nowhere to run, and are about to get hit, for the love of God, throw the ball away. Yes, it is that simple. I appreciate trying to make something from nothing, but a sack is less than nothing. Personally, I prefer nothing to less than nothing. But maybe that's just me.
2) Handoffs. Another note to Donovan: faking out a defender = good. Faking out your own running back = bad.
3) The hook and ladder. The hook and ladder?!? Are you kidding??? What are we, in high school?!? Nevermind that the execution was terrible, leaving Westbrook with literally nowhere to go. Whether he meant to or not, the message Andy Reid sends with that play call is that he doesn't have the confidence in McNabb to throw a 20-yard pass and get another first down. I just don't understand resorting to a play reserved for the utmost desperation, when your quarterback has been able to move the ball almost at will. I usually trust Reid, but every so often his playcalling is nothing short of bewildering.
1) The single stupidest play in the history of football. Congratulations, DeSean Jackson. Your mom must be proud. If you didn't see it, you need to. As Emmitt Smith correctly said, the problem is that Jackson was so focused on what he was planning to do to celebrate the touchdown that he forgot to score it first. And the worst part of it is it's not the first time he's done something like that! In his area high school all-star game, running in for an easy score, Jackson went to do a flip into the end zone. Except that he landed on the one. Oops. (Watch it here.) He is so lucky that it wasn't a turnover and that Westbrook bailed him out. If that had been the difference in the game....nah, I don't want to think about it.
2) I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, Terrell Owens. Love how he still doesn't think he did anything wrong as an Eagle. Is anything TO does TO's fault? One thing I realized last night is that, as strong as my dislike for players like Jose Reyes and Martin Brodeur, it's in the world of athletics and not terribly personal. But I think if I ever actually met TO in person, I would punch him in the face.
Other Musings: Can someone tell me just what in the hell the More Taste League is? How can a food or drink have more taste than any other? How does that make any sense? (Thanks Mark.) Nevermind that the imbecile "cool" guy recognizes him as "the Commish," he still feels the need to say, "of the More Taste League, that's right." When reporters address the presidential candidates as "Senator," do they say, "of the United States Congress, that's right"? I don't think so.
And, oh yeah, the Phils are only a half-game out of first.
Keep the phaith. Now and forever.