Posted tagged ‘Philadelphia’

A familiar feeling for Birds fans

January 19, 2009

Learning how to deal with disappointment is part of learning how to be an Eagles fan, something my 1-year-old son found out today.


(OK, maybe he didn’t know what was going on, but I’ll tell him about it in a few years.)


Sunday’s 32-25 loss to Arizona was disappointing, but not surprising.


I’m 32 years old and have never seen a title for the Birds. My fondest memories of the Birds growing up are of Buddy Ryan’s Gang Green machine – and they never even won a playoff game despite a defense that always ranked among the NFL’s best.


The dominant Eagles teams of the early 2000s under Andy Reid should have won a Super Bowl or two or three, but only played in one and we all know the outcome there.


I, like many pundits, figured the Eagles would cakewalk past the Cardinals, not the least of which because they are the, you know, Cardinals.


But somehow the men in red managed to disappoint us all again. That’s OK because we know the feeling. It’s part of bleeding green, right?


Here are some thoughts on the Eagles’ fourth NFC title loss (frown) in their last five visits:


–Donovan McNabb played a decent game at QB, but he continued his frustrating track record of not being able to take the team on a winning (or, in this case, tying) drive. All of the great ones did it (and some not so great, see Eli Manning in 2008 Super Bowl), but McNabb doesn’t come up large in big spots.


The Birds trailed by 7 with 2:53 left and needed McNabb to take them 80 yards for the tying score. He got the Cards’ 47, but that was it. Certainly it’s not all on McNabb’s shoulders, but you have to find a way to get it done if you want to be great and he didn’t – and hasn’t in the past.


–Did someone forget to tell the Birds’ defense the start time? Brian Dawkins’ bunch didn’t show up until after halftime. By then, it was 24-6 in favor of the hosts. Then, whether it was halftime adjustments or whatever, the Eagles came out flying after the break and shut the Cards down in the second half – until it most mattered.


Down 1 with 10:45 left, Cards QB Kurt Warner marched Arizona 72 yards on 14 plays, chewing up 7:52 of the clock to put the hosts back in front. The defense looked like its old, first-half self on that drive.


When the Eagles really needed a big play to hold the Cards to a field goal, no one stepped up and Tim Hightower scored on a perfectly executed screen pass from 8 yards out.


–The Eagles caught a huge break when the refs ruled that Victor Abiamiri muffed the kickoff and the ball touched out of bounds, giving the Birds the ball on their own 43 with 3:06 left in the first half.


The Cards tried to challenge but were denied because the ball was ruled out. Replays showed that the ball never touched the sideline, and also were inconclusive whether Abiamiri even touched the ball.


It didn’t end up mattering, but it was a break nonetheless – something you can point out to Birds fans who feel the refs are always against the Eagles.


–On that same play, was Troy Aikman saying the Cards intentionally kicked the ball short to attempt to recover it? The noise level in my parents’ house got raised at the time so I didn’t hear him clearly, but I thought that’s what he said.


I would guess that the Cards were just trying a pooch kick to prevent any kind of long return.


Here are some more random thoughts after watching the game…


–DeSean Jackson is good; Greg Lewis is not.


–Ridiculous penalty by Quintin Demps. Deserves a fine.


–Chris Myers is useless as a sideline reporter. Pam Oliver is OK.


–Brian Westbrook looked old and slow. Correll Buckhalter still has some jump.


–Hank Baskett can block … but can’t catch.


–Kevin Curtis is better than I thought.


–Awful hold by Rocca on Akers’ missed extra point.


–Larry Fitzgerald is a beast … but Sheldon Brown and Demps need to be better in coverage.


–Kurt Warner is tough.


–Remember all the talk about the D-line’s resurgence? Maybe it got to their heads.


–FOX graphics needs an editor. It’s “McNabb” not “McBabb.”


–Brent Celek will soon make us all forget L.J. Smith.


Moving on…


The Sixers have put together a nice, little streak of seven straight wins – as Elton Brand still sits and watches.


I’ll be in the big house Monday to see how they fare against the Mavs.



That’s all for now.


Time to give thanks to Philly sports figures

November 26, 2008


Now is the time to look around and give thanks for all that we have, time to take a break from the criticism and cynicism that we all get caught up in and spin positive.


So, here are some Philly sports figures for whom I’m thankful:




Charlie Manuel: The manager put aside the criticism and directed the Phils to their second world title, ending the city’s 25-year title drought. Enough said.


Ryan Howard: The big man persevered through an early-season slump and delivered when it mattered, finishing with a league-best 48 homers and 146 RBIs. He came up huge down the stretch, too, hitting .352 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in September. Worth every penny of that $10 million!


Chase Utley: The epitome of a Philadelphia athlete … tough, clutch, determined, ferocious. Played with an ailing hip for most of the season and still hit .295 with 33 homers and 104 RBIs. More than his numbers, Utley’s intense approach to the game is contagious amongst his teammates.


Cole Hamels: Earned legendary status with his beyond clutch postseason performance, going 4-0 in 5 games with a 1.80 ERA, 30 K’s and 9 BB’s. That’s the definition of an ace.


(Update 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Shame on me for accidentally leaving closer Brad Lidge off this list. Mr. 48-for-48 has to be here.)




Brian Dawkins: Age has slowed Dawkins, but there hasn’t been a better Eagles safety in the team’s modern history (sorry Wes and Andre). He’s still exciting and fearless.


Jon Runyan: Like Dawkins, age has had an effect on him this year. But is there anyone tougher in pro football? Runyan has played in 139 straight games … and counting. Good enough to get him on this list.




Mo Cheeks: He has directed the Sixers with the same class and poise with which he played. Cheeks got through to his young players last season with his upbeat approach, and led the team on an unlikely run into the playoffs.




Paul Holmgren: While hockey isn’t my forte, I’ve always admired the Flyers’ willingness to go for it all year in and year out. In Holmgren, the team has a GM who has been able to get the team back on track after Bob Clarke burned out.


College hoops


Phil Martelli, Jay Wright, Fran Dunphy: Put them all in one category. The coaches of St. Joe’s, Villanova and Temple, respectively, are three of the best in the business. That they all ply their trade within 10 miles of one another is a stroke of luck for Philly.


Media outlets


Comcast SportsNet: CSN has the Philly sports fan covered, whether it’s Daily News Live, Post Game Live or SportsNite. Plus, you go here to watch the Phils, Flyers and Sixers. No Philly sports fan can do without CSN.


950-ESPN and 610-WIP: I’ve heard sports radio criticized as an evil in sports. Perhaps there is some merit there, but I view sports radio as an outlet for fans. When the teams are struggling, the radio gives fans a voice for their displeasure. And when the teams are going well, it’s a place for fans to rejoice.


Note: CSN and 610-WIP both appeared on a similar list in my Courier-Post sports media column on Nov. 24, 2006.


TV/radio personalities


I like media members who are objective, straight with fans and not afraid to ask tough questions and tackle tough issues. These gentlemen embody that for me:


Ray Didinger: Eagles analysis always is on point.


Michael Barkann: Makes Daily News Live what it is.


Jody McDonald: As knowledgeable as anyone.


Mike Missanelli: Entertaining and opinionated.


Glen Macnow: On the fans’ side.


Anthony Gargano: Like listening to your friend.


Angelo Cataldi: Over the top at times, but holds people/teams accountable.


And here are the announcers I most enjoy in Philly:


Harry Kalas: Nothing like his voice on a warm, summer night.


Scott Franzke: Never thought Kalas would have an equal in the radio booth – until now.


Merrill Reese: No home team announcer is more objective.


Note: Barkann, Didinger, Kalas and McDonald appeared on a similar list in my Courier-Post sports media column on Nov. 24, 2006.



Who are you thankful for? Tell me.



Sixers tonight: I’ll be at the Sixers-Magic game Wednesday night. I’ll give my thoughts about the game here Thursday. Speaking of the Sixers, two new gigs for ex-analyst Steve Mix.



Wednesday sked



Orlando at Sixers, 7:30


Flyers at Carolina, 7

College hoops

Saint Joseph’s vs. Alabama in Maui, 2










Reid’s coaching more concerning than press conferences

November 14, 2008

Andy Reid’s (non)news conferences were a major topic on sports radio and in the newspapers on Thursday.


Reid’s (non)news conferences always have rubbed me the wrong way, with the coach’s refusal to answer legitimate questions troublesome, annoying, frustrating…you name it.


I don’t like it and think his act is wrong and completely unfair to loyal Eagles fans who deserve better based on the time, money and commitment they have made to following the team.


That said, Reid’s performance on the sidelines of late is far, far more alarming than anything he says – or doesn’t say – into a microphone.


And his coaching is concerning on many levels.


Like him or not, Reid has had a ton of success as head coach – one of the best in Eagles history.


In the beginning, his offense was innovative and his play-calling, while frustrating in its reliance on the pass, effective. These days, his offense is stale, his play-calling curious and his record mediocre.


Since the Super Bowl loss to New England following the 2004 season, Reid is 29-28.


Just an average coach.


Asked by a caller to his 610-WIP radio show Thursday night what the difference between 2004 and today’s Eagles, former Eagle Ike Reese, who played on that Super Bowl team, said it’s a combination of Reid and the talent before concluding that it’s Reid and his play-calling more than it’s the talent.


However, Reese also cited some deficiencies in talent, specifically tight end (L.J. Smith), safety (Brian Dawkins) and, interestingly, sporadic quarterback play (Donovan McNabb). It’s interesting because Reese is a McNabb backer.


It’s fairly obvious to the naked eye that Reid is just not the same coach today that he was five years ago.


And that, more than those futile (non)news conferences, is most concerning.



A commentator last week wondered why I excluded Penn State from my Philly weekend sports schedule (see below).


It’s simple: I don’t consider Penn State a Philly team. I grew up in South Jersey and have lived here my entire life, but never felt like the Nits were part of the fabric of Philadelphia sports.


I understand the Nits get some media coverage in Philly, but I don’t feel like they’re a Philly team.


I mean, State College (192 miles), according to google, is farther from Philadelphia than Washington, D.C. (137), Baltimore (97) and New York City (95.6).


Sure, it’s the state school of Pennsylvania and many around the country root for their state school regardless of the distance. But Philly isn’t a college football town. While I’m sure there are plenty of Penn State fans in Philly, I’ve never felt like the town lived and died with the Nits – not even close.


I love JoePa and all he represents, but sorry Penn State fans but you’re just not a Philly team.



Weekend sked




Sixers at Indiana, 7 p.m.

College Hoops

Rider at Saint Joseph’s at Wachovia Center, 7 p.m.

Temple vs. East Tennessee State at Charleston Tourney, 3 p.m.

Albany at Villanova, 8 p.m.




Flyers at Montreal, 7 p.m.


Oklahoma City at Sixers, 7 p.m.

College hoops

Morgan State at La Salle, 2 p.m.

Penn at North Carolina, 4 p.m.

Temple at Charleston Tourney, TBA

College football

Harvard at Penn, Noon

Towson at Villanova, 1 p.m.




Atlanta at Flyers, 7 p.m.


Eagles at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

College hoops

Saint Joseph’s at Holy Cross, 4 p.m.

Temple at Charleston Tourney, TBA

Ranking the city’s radio pxp announcers

November 13, 2008

I had to turn off the radio while listening to the Sixers’ Tom McGinnis tonight.


I like McGinnis’ enthusiasm, but he too often goes over the top and his call becomes one big shouting match. The whole broadcast becomes a blur. That’s what happened during his call of the Sixers-Raptors game tonight.


It got me thinking about the city’s play-by-play announcers and how I’d rank them.


Here’s No. 4 through 1 and pros and cons about each:


4: Tim Saunders, Flyers.


Pros: Saunders gives you a solid call and clearly paints a picture of the action. It’s easy to feel like you’re sitting rinkside and watching the game.


Cons: His high-pitched squeal on every scoring opportunity can get annoying. … And his between-period interviews are tough on the ears.


Thought: Analyst Brian Propp’s departure should make Saunders and the overall broadcast better.


3. McGinnis, Sixers.


Pros: Brings excitement and his catchphrase, “Are you kidding me?!”, is top-notch. … Gives solid analysis as well as play-by-play.


Cons: Loses control and broadcast too often becomes shouting match. … Compromises calling the action on the floor while getting overexcited about a previous play.


Thought: Broadcast is better with McGinnis running solo. Former partner Todd MacCulloch was far too monotone for my liking.


2. Merrill Reese, Eagles.


Pros: What a voice! … The most honest of the city’s radio announcers, Reese won’t pull punches if the Eagles are stinking up the Linc. … TD calls are spine-tingling.


Cons: Reese has an odd tendency to constantly repeat himself. … Suffers from a poor analyst in Mike Quick and a broadcast inundated with commercials and other unnecessary interruptions.


Thought: I miss Reese and Stan Walters minus all of the in-game interruptions that mar today’s broadcast.


1. Scott Franzke, Phillies.


Pros: Easygoing style perfect for a warm, summer evening. … Has quickly developed a chemistry with partner Larry Andersen and, maybe more importantly, Philly fans.


Cons: Sometimes gets too caught up in the back-and-forth with Andersen. … Maybe this only bothers me, but it seems like it’s a real annoyance for him to read names of the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest. That’s a contest that I think fans really enjoy and look forward to and it shouldn’t be treated with such disdain.


Thought: I hope my grandkids will be listening to Franzke calling Phillies games.



Solid win by the 76ers tonight, defeating Toronto 106-96. I watched the middle two quarters and listened (to some of it, anyway) the fourth quarter in the car.


Seems like that half-court offense clicked tonight, and Philly also found a way to integrate some running.


Was very impressed with rookie Marreese Speights, who had 12 points and seven rebounds while playing some strong defense in 20 excellent minutes. Looks like a keeper.



Speaking of the Sixers, I hopped on Kate Fagan’s live chat on this afternoon. Fagan was surprised Kyle Korver was booed Tuesday night, but I wasn’t.


I replied that the reason Korver was booed was because he wasn’t wearing a Sixers jersey. Should Philly fans cheer opponents?


In truth, I think the booing was good-natured. I missed the introductions, but thought I heard on radio that he received a warm welcome.



Donovan McNabb missed Wednesday’s walkthrough due to personal reasons. There’s no truth to the rumor (which I’m making up) that he was scouring the local high schools for some better receivers.


Seriously, hope everything’s OK with McNabb and his family.


On a side note, ESPN 950’s Brian Seltzer says on his blog that Kevin Kolb is “very close” to having the entire playbook down.


Two problems: First, it’s ridiculous that he doesn’t have the entire playbook down by now. Second, it’s ridiculous that the playbook is that big and complicated.


I’d suggest Andy Reid do some research on Vince Lombardi. I’ve read several books on Lombardi and the great coach only had a few plays in his playbook, but required perfection from the few he had.


It’s not how many plays you have, but how well you execute the ones you have.



Thursday sked


Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7:30

76ers aren’t very good “Brand” right now

November 12, 2008

It’s not time to hit the panic button, but the 76ers aren’t a good basketball team right now.


In attendance Tuesday night, I watched a team that looks disjointed – except when they’re out running and gunning.


The Jazz beat Philly 93-80 in a contest that was a yawner except for the 76ers’ exciting third-quarter run when they outscored Utah 30-14.


The loss dropped the 76ers to 2-5, while the Jazz improved to 6-1.


So, what’s the problem?


There’s been a lot of talk around town about how the team has had trouble in the early going with spacing around newly acquired Elton Brand, something assistant coach Jimmy Lynam addressed on the pregame radio show.


Lynam said it was something the Sixers worked on entering the Utah game, adding that the team also wanted to work on its “pacing,” i.e. pushing the tempo more.


That’s what they did in the third quarter when they made the run, with Andre Miller (25 points, 6 assists) leading the charge.


The spacing seemed fine Tuesday, but the Sixers – despite benefiting from many easy baskets – shot just 38 percent from the field, including 22 percent (2-for-9) from the arc.


So, shooting is one problem.


It seems to me that Brand may be another problem.


I know he averages a double-double (20.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg) for his career, but I’m not sure if he’s the right fit for the exciting run-and-gun style that carried the Sixers into the playoffs last season.


Based on Tuesday, Brand seems most content working at the elbows and settling for 10-to-15-footers, and not banging down low, like, say, Carlos Boozer of the Jazz. And he doesn’t have the speed to run with the Iguodalas, Williamses, etc.


Don’t get me wrong, Brand’s a very good player and the Sixers’ early struggles certainly don’t fall all on his shoulders. And it’s not his fault if it turns out he’s not the right fit; he’s just playing the way he knows how.


But my eyes Tuesday night say that Brand is miscast on a team of young players who want to run.



Gotta read Mark Kram’s piece on Lenny Dykstra in Tuesday’s Daily News. Dykstra tells Kram: “I was born to make money.” It was similar to the recent HBO piece on Dykstra, but still good nonetheless. 



Wednesday sked


76ers at Toronto, 7 p.m.


Time to end Reid/McNabb era

November 11, 2008

I’ve seen enough of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era, with Sunday’s loss to the Giants the clincher.


The coach and quarterback have accomplished a lot since joining the Eagles in 1999, as much or more than any coach and QB in Eagles history.


But Sunday was the latest example of how frustrating things have gotten in Eagleville, and it’s time to split them up.


I still think McNabb is one of the better QBs in the NFL, one who can excel in the right offense with the right team. That could even happen with the Eagles under a new offensive philosophy.


I doubt Reid’s going anywhere, though, so I think it’s time for McNabb to move on and Reid to give Kevin Kolb a shot.


I do feel bad for McNabb because he’s asked to throw the ball 60-70 percent of the time, but he has subpar players to catch the ball.


The Eagles’ mediocre receivers, sans the electrifying and talented DeSean Jackson, couldn’t get open, were beaten to their spot and dropped balls in Sunday’s loss to the Giants.


Yet, Reid continues to rely on mediocre receivers in his passing offense. Absolutely maddening.


It’s doubtful Reid will change his offensive philosophy or bring in better receivers, but it’s clear change needs to be made.


So, put in Kolb and see what he can do. Maybe he won’t do any better. Maybe McNabb will prosper somewhere else.


Then the coach will have some real questions he’ll have to answer.



Tuesday’s sked


Utah at Sixers, 7 p.m.

Flyers at Islanders, 2 p.m.