Friday, November 05, 2004

By David Scott
Boston Sports Media


Rawhide

I was drinking Jack Daniels DURING the games – worked for me. . .The ”WIPsters” at ”610 AM” in Philly were in a lather about the hiring of Charlie Manuel over that of Jim Leyland. Seems the biggest fear in Phillie Phandom is that Manuel and slugger Jim Thome are “too close.” Seemed to work for Tito and Schill, didn’t it?

Between the Lines of Pages (Internet and non-)So riddle me this: Wasn’t the Ty-Law-Out-Four-to-Six-Weeks-Confirmation/‘scoop’ by the Globe and Nick Cafardo an illustration of just how pre-mature the Michael Smithhire was by ESPN.com? Smith’s been almost ALL-Pats for the Worldwide Bleeder, but potentially the biggest news of the season was reported first by a paper that doesn’t even have a full-time Pats beat guy! ESPN.com should have been breaking that story and overplaying it through its network. Instead they suffered the humiliation of having to credit Smith’s former employer. . . How’s that for a backhanded compliment to the Globe Sports Desk?. . . Carl Poston, he of THE Postons, of course, had to show he was mightier than the Patriot Organization, thus releasing the info early. Surprised he didn’t fly Steve Burton in for another sit-down.

Hoops

Scott’s Shots took a brunch-time jaunt over to the Wyndham Franklin in Philly for yesterday’s annual Atlantic 10 Media Day to check in on the status of the League Calipari Built. Let’s put it this way for Commissioner Linda Bruno’s little league that couldn’t: Temple coach (and legend) John Chaney admitted to Hampshire Gazette scribe Matt Vautour that not only couldn’t he name any expected stars in the league “I can’t even name all the coaches.” See below for some more Chaney magic. . .Before we go any further with observations from the under-attended A-10 media day, let us direct your attention to one of the nation’s most enduring pre-season college hoops packages. Those of you who read this space regularly are A) quite insane and B) quite aware of our fondness for the writings and observations of Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel. Wetzel is currently undertaking his Fifth Annual Trippin’ Tour (TT V) where he barnstorms from college outpost to college outpost in search of (in order) the game’s heartbeat, a “working tap” in every town and more than a few hilarities. In the interest of full disclosure, I was the shotgun rider for TT I back when hoopstv.com (rest its blessed soul) was burning through cash with astonishing speed. Since then, Wetzel has “upgraded” his traveling companion to the lovable, huggable, basketball teddy bear known as Bret Bearup. Aside from actually having a balance of positive numbers in his bank account, Bearup also outclasses me with his daily humor (one-liners are his specialty), his basketball knowledge and his deftness with the ladies (which I like to attribute to his positive bank balance and not to my repulsiveness). To see the duo of Wetzel and Bearup together is to re-live the WWF tag team days of Andre the Giant and Ivan Putsky (if they weren’t, they should have been). To read the account of their nine-day tour is to discover just what makes college basketball the “Official Sport of Scott’s Shots.” Check it out at http://www.sports.yahoo.com/. . . Meanwhile, back at the A-10 gathering we were happy to run into Vautour, the ever-helpful Ray Cella of the A-10 and old co-worker and roommate, Bill Doherty, one of the Philly area’s finest freelancers. Unfortunately, it was also the occasion to see Dead Coach Lapping, the University of Massachusetts coach who is 19 games under .500 in his three year Amherst tenure (34-53, 10-19 last year), Steve Lappas. Just about the time we were going to go over and chat with the fourth-year head man at his desolate table, the anti-Calipari got on his cell phone and sat at his table on that phone for a good 10 minutes. Now, folks, if Coach Chaney was wrapped up in a phone call, we’d gladly wait 10, 20, 30 even 60 minutes to chat with him. But when the reincarnation of Ron Gerlufsen is giving us the cold shoulder, we’ll gladly move on to someone who cares. So we chatted up Dayton’s engaging young gun, Tom Izzo-disciple, Brain Gregory and Xavier’s first-year (but you’d never know it) head man, Sean Miller, the former feisty Pitt guard. We even got a few moments with Rhode Island’s Jim Baron, who doesn’t necessarily wax poetic, but he doesn’t sit at his table on the cell phone either. . . UMass was chosen third in the East on the men’s side and fourth on the women’s side. Most of the talk of the day centered on the league “being down” this season, which it will be. But, as Gregory pointed out “We’re victims of our own success. We had some major, major wins last year all throughout the season and not to mention the attention (Jameer) Nelson got (at St. Joseph’s)”. . .In fact, it’s the A-10 (not the ACC, Big East or the SEC) that has the past two National Players of the Year in Nelson and David West. How do you like dem apples Basketball Bob Ryan, Teddy Sarandis, Mike Shalin and/or Mark Blaudschun?. . Some numbers plucked from the newest UMass Media Guide (which opens with a fitting memoriam to Jack Leaman): The Minutemen have not been ranked nationally since November of 1998; Percentage-wise, Lappas is averaging just under 18 losses a season, which puts him neck and neck with the aforementioned Gerlufsen, who Roget lists as a synonym for pathetic. Even he was at just under 17 L’s a year. . . Tony Barbee, calling Tony Barbee: Your head coaching position at the alma mater is beginning to open up. (Sadly, Lappas might just mess around and have a winning record with his non-conference slate featuring Birmingham Southern, Yale, Northeastern, Miami, Rider and BU. They do get Gonzaga (away), UConn (home, where it will be a Husky crowd) and BC (home), but overall it is a “job-saving” schedule meant to prolong the agony for those who care deeply about the State U’s once-proud basketball program. GIVE US BARBEE FOR THREE (or four years). .What do you bet I don’t get my Christmas card form the UMass Athletic Department this year?. . . Much love and big ups and major props to ESPN for taking the successful formula used for College Football GameDay and translating it into College Basketball GameDay starting Jan. 22 (Storrs for UConn-Pitt). Putting the combo of Rick Majerus and Jay Bilas on-site (with either Chris Fowler or Rece Davis) should make for a good take throughout the day’s games, leading up to the 9 p.m. tip of the feature game. Watch for Majerus to dominate and develop into the network’s “Next” Dick Vitale, who will work the prime time game with returning Brad Nessler and rising Erin Andrews on sideline duties. AK-47, Andy Katz will serve as the GameDay reporter, presumably adding interviews and features to lead into desk discussion with Bilas and Majerus (or, if you prefer, the Pretzel Rod and the Oreo). What ever way Vitale is worked into the mix, he will need to reel it in a little to let Majerus find his groove and prosper. Other sites on the itinerary include UMass, Holy Cross, Iona – I KID! The stops will include Lawrence, Kan., Syracuse, N.Y, College Park, Md., Lexington, Ky., Memphis, Tenn., Stillwater, Okla. And Washington, D.C. (for the ACC Tourney). . . And even more praise for NOT including Duke’s over-told Trust Fund Woodstock set-up in KVille outside Cameron.

The Wisest Owl of All

Whenever the opportunity and the timing coincide, there is no better way to spend a couple of minutes than sitting at the knee of Temple’s John Chaney. Even when he was the Devil Incarnate to Calipari’s Rising Star, Chaney was a case study in what college basketball coaches were supposed to be. If this sounds like fawning it’s only because it is. Shoot me – I revere the man. Even the 14 pages in the Temple Media Guide barely touch the surface of Chaney, who will begin his 23rd season at Temple (483-224) when Auburn visits Philly on November 19. And don’t think for a minute the 72-year-old doesn’t hear the snickers, the whispers and the Joe Paterno comparisons. “I find myself always in the mode where I want to fight back (at the critics),” said Chaney from under his steel gray Nike running cap. “Especially when the reasoning they use is bad reasoning. I’ve heard for 10 years now. ‘How long are you going to stay?’”The answer Chaney gives is “as long as I’m healthy.” And health is not a concern for the zestful mentor famous for 5 a.m. practices and brutal schedules. “I know what Joe (Paterno) is going through and he’s really hurt inside. But he’s a fighter. And he’s a gentleman. I’m not a gentleman. I’ll bit back, I’ll fight back. He’ll try to answer without profanity, but I don’t give a shit.”Classic Chaney.Later, as the hour-long Gospel According to John wound down Chaney got deep into some political talk, something his own stellar SID, Larry “Doc” Dougherty was hoping Chaney would steer away from (fat chance). “That little rascal (The Philly Daily News’s Mike Kern) got me into it,” Chaney explained as Doc took a seat between his men’s coach and the most underrated women’s coach EVER, Temple’s Dawn Staley (Chaney nearly said as much). It was too late. Chaney had already spoke of the election he found confounding and offered this on “that guy” from Georgia, Zell Miller. “You know Zell Miller’s an asshole,” Chaney surmised before returning to some talk about Salem’s Rick Brunson, an all-time Chaney fave. There was also snippets on ageism in society (and coaching), patriotism, scheduling and, of course, his current team that isn’t expected to do much. . . but probably will.But, as always, there was a bit more to listening to Chaney and actually FEELING his words. “You know, now, in recruiting, I’ve got two strikes against my ass: My age and what they tell the kids are ‘three ay em practices’.” What they can never, NEVER, use against him is his convictions and his character. . . Temple’s Paddington Al Shrier the real guy, not the famous Bobblehead, was in the house, along with the top secret documents he houses in his ever-present briefcase. . . Immortal Mel Greenberg the guru of women’s basketball was present, making it a truly wonderful mid-afternoon. . . Seriously though, the small turnout left many coaches being interviewed by fellow coaches. With no true “national story” (as Nelson was last year), the league is dependent on Chaney’s story to stir the masses. And while he did draw a big (15 media folk) crowd for a brief span, the merits of such Media Days needs to be re-examined. The preview yearbooks are long put to bed and the information gathered is nothing that couldn’t be picked up in a teleconference (much like the in-season weekly ones that are a notebook writer’s wet-dream). There’s also the issue of unnecessarily taking a ‘student-athlete’ (such as UMass’s Rashaun Freeman, last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year) away form his classes for the day without very much redeeming value (right, Myles Brand?). Worst of all, the media gift was a cheesy A-10 totebag made of burlap or some crap. I remember when spunky little Ron Bertovich used to give away plasma TVs. And that was before there even were plasma TVs. Or Bertoviches for that matter. . . Thanks, you’ve been great. For more A-10 humor like this, be sure to pick up my book titled “The A-10: Forever on the Cusp.”. . . We kid because we used to have to do gamenotes ourselves,

Pigskin

Also stirring up the riveting (or more likely the revolting) hot air at WIP (sort of a poor man’s 1510 AM, The Zone in Boston as a reference point) was Terrell Owens and what has become a fairly ugly on-going war of words with Ray Lewis. Ever the loyalists, Eagles fans are sticking up for THEIR TO, even if a year ago they would have sided with Lewis. Or better yet, not even cared. Oddly, I too find myself in the corner of TO, at least on his point that the NFL (and some of its partners, it should be noted) seem to embrace Lewis despite his dubious past; at the very time the NFL tries to limit TO’s expressions of freedom. Years ago, when he was still very much Jerry Rice’s back-up, Scott’s Shots shared some hours with Owens in Jamaica during the fabulous-to-attend Superstars competition. Most of what happens in Jamaica stays in Jamaica, but Owens did completely crush me in a Sea-doo competition. He must’ve been doing 50 in the water and I was doing like 12. With the brake on. He soaked my ass, sped away and soaked my ass again. You gotta love that in a guy. . . Also unbearable during the monthly Philly jaunt was hearing the Pats’ loss through the weathered lungs of the Steelers radio network’s broadcast veteran, Myron Cope. Next time I complain about Gino Cap, remind me of the awful Cope, would you please? I’ll still abhor Cap, but Cope brings it to another level of awfulness. . . Oh, and Howard Eskin, the WIP blabbermouth and controversial figure? He has so much damn attitude and so much damn ego that you wonder why anyone would call in and be humiliated by the guy’s long pauses and one word answers. He wouldn’t last a minute in the Boston Market.

Rants and Raves

Best of luck to the immortal Jimmy Breslin who called it quits this week from his space inside New York’s Newsday. "Thanks for the use of the hall," he wrote to end his Tuesday column. Classic. Breslin is never far from my thoughts when I look at a story being completely over-covered and attempt to take a different angle. It’s Breslin who is responsible for the JOURN 101 analogy known as “The Gravedigger’s Story.” As the anecdote goes, Breslin abandoned the herd reporting mentality in the aftermath of JFK’s death and instead went and found the guy who was digging the President's grave. It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to try and remember that one on occasion. . . Rachel Nichols of ESPN is officially stalking Shaq at this point. Is she going to all 82 of his games? Which reminds me: It’s so good to have Stephen Angry back in regular rotation. I hadn’t been yelled at and demeaned for a good a three months or so.

-30-

David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull and can be reached at david@bostonsportsmedia.com

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Let's Not Go There

That seemed to be the stance taken by Terrell Owens and his former coach (when he was with the 49ers), Steve Mariucci. That doesn't stop our little band of media members from still trying to make a story out of this non-story. Bob Brookover couldn't get any good copy out of T.O., so he resorted to ripping quotes from his book Catch This! Going Deep with the NFL's Sharpest Weapon in order to dredge up negative stories. Brookover seems to lay the groundwork here for "more oppportunities to decline questions about his controversial past" that are sure to be plastered across headlines before the season ends. Why can't we just focus on the 2-0 start, and talk about the play on the field? Dana Pennett O'Neil gets Mariucci to mention that Andy Reid never called him for feedback about T.O. before making the decision to acquire him. Mark Eckel says that when Mariucci was asked what his feedback would have been, he answered, "that's a theoretical question that I don't need to answer."

Shannon Ryan writes about Steve Sciullo, was was cut by the Colts and signed by the Eagles shortly thereafter. The article gives some insights just what it's like for a player to go through being unemployed to having to deal with all the ugly details about moving and finding a place to live. Sticking to actual football issues this time, Bob Brookover talks about the Eagles' increased use of the shotgun this season. Jack McCaffery writes about this too, and has Donovan McNabb saying this is a way to keep defenses on their heels. Les Bowen writes that this Sunday's Eagles-Lions game will feature two, perhaps lesser known, brothers facing off in the NFL: Jerome and Stockar McDougle. Sam Donnellon doesn't know what people are up in arms about over the Eagles giving up so much yardage on defense. He says this approach by the Eagles is nothing new, and calls it the Alfred E. Newman "what, me worry?" approach to Jim Johnson's defense. Paul Domowitch says that McNabb might be "the man," but Brian Westbrook is the "most indispensable" player upon whom the Eagles' hopes of getting to Jacksonville lie. McCaffery also writes about what it's like for Kevin Jones to be playing against the Eagles, the team he rooted for growing up. I believe Bob Grotz (not officially credited with the article on the website, but this is his regularly scheduled piece) records Lions quarterback Joe Harrington's response to the question of whether he was impressed by McNabb's career: "Does 100 pounds of dough make a big cookie?" Mmmm...100 pound cookie... [insert Homer Simpson drool here].

The Philles continued their too little, too late "domination" of the Florida Marlins, defeating them 12-4 yesterday at Pro Player Stadium. Todd Zolecki and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Rich Hofmann thinks he knows why the Phillies failed to live up to expectations, and it has to due with their starting rotation and the lack of "quality starts" (he uses some statistics to try and back up his assertions).

Bill Lyon writes about the ugliness that surrounds the Jeremy Reonick situation, and notes that both sides can't be right. Ed Moran talks with Bob Clark, who insists the Flyers are "a long ways from being on the hook for Roenick's salary." J.R. believes his salary would be covered by insurance anyway. Anthony J. Sanfilippo has Clark admitting he has "no clue why [J.R.]'s doing this. You'd have to ask [him] why he's doing it." Fortunately, Ed Moran reports that the Flyers have not had to lay off most employees. Being a larger company, Comcast-Spectacor has had the advantage of shifting employees around and moving them to other responsibilities during the lockout. Meanwhile, Don Steinberg says that NHL fans might be able to get their fix, in somewhat of a strange fashion, as G4techTV will be "simulating" the entire NFL season, and actually broadcasting the results. Comcast SportsNet is expected to even show highlights packages. Details such as the hardware (XBox, Playstation 2) and software (which game will be used for the simulation) have yet to be worked out, but my guess would be the first one that drops any restrictions with their game license that would prevent it from being used in this manner.

Marc Narducci was there for the press conference announcing Todd MacCulloch's retirement. Eliciting laughter from the assembled audience, "Big Mac" summed up his career: "I was amazing. I was way better than you guys remember. I don't get the credit." Phil Jasner submits his article on the subject as well, and gets MacCulloch to joke that he was going to try his hand at baseball next. Phil also reports that the Sixers are trying to negotiate a contract extension with Samuel Dalembert and his agent before October 29, and before the NBA's next collective bargaining agreement, which could have a completely different set of contract constraints.

CSN has Phillies-Marlins at 7:05.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Getting Ready for Detroit

Bob Brookover says Sheldon Brown got a little pre-game advice from an old friend, Troy Vincent, who told him he'd be fine. Bob Ford says that Dick Vermeil has often "mocked" past Eagles coaches with his can't-miss-'em-cause-they're everywhere billboard endorsements, but Andy Reid just might end up being the guy future coaches will have to live up to. Shannon Ryan writes about the efforts of the special teams, where Reno Mahe leads the NFL and is 2nd in the NFL in punt returns, and J.R. Reed is 2nd in the NFC and 3rd in the NFL for kickoff returns. This article in the Inquirer, compiled by both Brookover and Ryan, suggests that perhaps Vikings coach Mike Tice could have challenged Terrell Owens' touchdown reception, but also notes that if you want to be picky, defensive pass interference could also have been called. They also throw in a line about T.O.'s slam dunk celebration was probably intended "to show Randy Moss he was a better basketball player." Marc Narducci writes about Steve Mariucci (say that three times fast), who probably won't want to talk about his past relationship with T.O., but won't mind talking about the "highest respect" he gained while working alongside Reid in the past. Dana Pennett O'Neil offers a glimpse into the personal life of Jevon Kearse, whose family has had its share of tragedies. One light moment is mentioned in the story from his first season with Tennessee:
During his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans, he went to a room for his vertical-leap test. He stood on the floor, beneath a 13-foot ceiling and asked the coaches if he was able to jump up and touch the ceiling, could he forgo the test? The coaches laughed. "I jumped up and knocked out a tile,'' Kearse said with a sheepish grin.
John Smallwood says that if Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown keep performing this year, fans won't be moaning about the losses of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Les Bowen says that offensive coordinator Brad Childress is now calling the plays from the press box. Is anybody else surprised he isn't on the sidelines, where you will find defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is? Don't most teams have this the other way around? Just curious. Bowen says he had to double check the tape to make sure Reid really did say Donovan McNabb played "a super game." Meanwhile, his counterpart on the Vikings admitted getting somewhat rattled by Kearse's defensive presence: "He was all over the place. It was like he had a clone or something." Bob Grotz reports that the Eagles go into next week's game against the Detroit Lions as 4.5 point favorites. He also mentions that the Eagles are next-to-last in the league in terms of total yards given up on defense. Fortunately, they don't fare as badly in the category the NFL uses to keep track of wins and losses: points given up. Grotz also mentions that the Eagles are the only team to post consecutive double-digit victories through the first two weeks of the season. Jack McCaffery analyzes McNabb's "what a difference a year makes" comment, and suggests that it translates to: "the Eagles are better -- much, much better, perhaps championship-quality better -- than they have been at any time in their relatively successful recent past." Ashley McGeachy Fox has her weekly NFL rankings. Coincidentally, her top 5 match those of ESPN's Power Rankings which were posted yesterday.

The Phillies were finally able to end their nearly 18-month frustration in Miami, as they beat the Florida Marlins 4-2 last night. Todd Zolecki, Marcus Hayes and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Deitch's Phillies Scoop gets Bobby Abreu's thoughts on fellow Venezuelan native Ugueth Urbina, and how he's handling the very scary situation where his mother's been abducted by ransomers demanding $15 million. Hayes' notebook says the ESPN analyst John Kruk met with Phillies president David Montgomery earlier this month, but it wasn't to talk about the expected-to-be-vacant manager's job. Apparently Kruk is being considered for "rejoining the team in some other capacity."

The Sixers web site has announced that Todd MacCulloch is retiring (this is not a surprising development). I missed this last week, but their web site also had this Q&A with Billy King last week, and gets his thoughts on the upcoming season, including how he thinks things will go with new head coach Jim O'Brien. Tim Panaccio reports the Jeremy Roenick is still looking to get paid the $7.5 million he would have made this season, because of the concussion he claims would have kept him out of the season that likely won't be played at all due to the lockout. Looks like this could get messy and ugly. Meanwhile, Howard Eskin seems to be getting the hang of this blogging thing. While trying to look smarter than he is, he pats himself on the back for the the Eagles game going "just like I mentioned...on Sunday night's Sports Final." Would he have admitted he was wrong if he hadn't? Not likely, given his past track record (we won't get into his past "stone cold mortal lock" picks in the past that apparently weren't that "stone cold" or "mortal" to begin with. At least Howard and I agree on one thing. Here's what he had to say about Mr. No Comparison:
Now I also realize how easy it is to take Randy Moss out of the game. Get him moody. Just take away the long ball and he gets cranky and VERY moody. While wtaching the game you realize how much Randy Moss is all about himself and not about the team. Great athlete, but a TERRIBLE teammate.
CSN has Phillies-Marlins at 7:05.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

"What a Difference a Year Makes"

A year ago, the Eagles were headed into their bye week with an 0-2 record, and lots of questions swirling around their star quarterback Donovan McNabb. Today, they are 2-0 (for the first time since 1993), after defeating the Minnesota Vikings in a Monday Night Football showdown. Bob Brookover provides us with a game recap. Bill Lyon believes the win confirms the Eagles status as the team to beat in the NFC, and says "there is still no reason to think they can't make another run at the you-know-what Bowl." Stephen A. Smith says, going into this season, there were lots of questions surrounding the team, such as how would they deal with the loss of free agents Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Stephen A. says, so far, "there's little for anyone to complain about," as the Eagles are getting it done with their defense. Phil Sheridan says last night's game was "classic No. 5." Shannon Ryan writes about the embarrassing gaffe displayed by the head official, Bill Carollo, who couldn't seem to get out the explanation of why Donovan McNabb was an ineligible receiver on a crafty play. Dick Jerardi says "he got midway through before sounding very much like an elementary school pupil who forgot his lines at the school play." Exactly. Bob Ford writes that the game might have been billed as an offensive showdown between Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, but "for the second straight week, and this time against a much better opponent, the Eagles did more than the other guys, which is how they keep score in the NFL." Ashley McGeachy looks at the play of Brian Westbrook, who quietly got the job done, between the running and short-passing game. Speaking of which, was that the fastest first-half of a Monday Night game in quite awhile? With the running game (and short-passing game that Andy Reid often employs in place of a running game), it seems like the clock never stopped in the first two quarters. Marc Narducci looks at the surprising 2-0 Detroit Lions, who are up next on the Eagles schedule. In his weekly NFL column, Gregg Easterbrook mentions that this game will feature the "one pairing of undefeated teams," while openly wondering if there will be any undefeated matchups left come October.

Ira Josephs looks at ABC's coverage of the game, including the you-could-have-saved-us-the-hooting-and-hollering miking of Randy Moss and his "colorful, but clean, language." Les Bowen has a playful look at Donovah McNabb claiming T.O. should have gotten "a technical for hanging on the rim a little bit" during his touchdown celebration. Les also looks at some of the stranger officiating miscues of the night (including plays that could have been challenged but weren't, and plays that couldn't be challenged because of the initial call on the field). It didn't affect the outcome of the game, but let's just say that this crew didn't bring their A game last night. Rich Hofmann has a look at the confidence that McNabb's teammates have in him. Bill Conlin writes that, it might have taken awhile, but T.O. earned the "equivalent of a TKO" in his matchup against Moss, so to speak. John Smallwood talks about the "bend but don't break" mentality of the Jim Johnson defense, which ranks first in the NFL for fewest points allowed and red-zone defense over the past 4 seasons. Dana Pennett O'Neil has some quotes from an apparently sour Daunte Culpepper, who was upset that his fumble at the "one inch line" was ruled as such, since he felt the "ball might have broke the plane" (it didn't) and that he knows his "body was in" (doesn't matter), "but they didn't even review it" (even if they hadn't, they wouldn't have reversed the call). Maybe instead of hoping that officials will bail him out, he should concentrate on holding onto the ball. ABC displayed a pretty telling graphic during the game, noting how this has been a problem for Daunte. Speaking of which, Bill Fleischman talks about the the ABC coverage of the game, including a production error which briefly had the score of the game at 17-12 (instead of 17-9), as they incorrectly assumed a Minnesota field goal attempt was good (it was short). Bob Grotz opens his article telling Randy Moss he was right: "it wasn't even close," there is no comparison between him and T.O. Jack McCaffery writes that the Eagles "won a potentially dangerous game with relative ease." I'm not sure what Rob Parent's problem is, but he incredulously asks us today, "aren't the best teams in this league supposed to win with defense?" Someone needs to tell Rob the NFL tracks wins and losses by who scores more points than their opponents, not who wins the total yardage game. Meanwhile, Mark Eckel says that Donovan McNabb made plays when he needed to, and so did the Eagles defense. Jon Marks talked eith Rod Hood after the game, who had this to say about covering Randy Moss: "He didn't talk too much. He got mad at the refs and was talking more to the refs than to us." I have to say, I got quite tired of staring at the constant scowl on Randy throughout the ABC broadcast. Nick Fierro summed up the game this way:
On the national stage of Monday Night football, with every mistake magnified tenfold by John Madden's marker, the Eagles needed to be on their best behavior. Once again, as has become the norm under coach Andy Reid in prime time games, the Eagles proved up to the task.
Todd Zolecki has Kevin Milwood calling Gavin Floyd's curveball "stupid good," and talks about the possibility of Ryan Howard trying out in the outfield this fall. Dennis Deitch says the Phillies hope to return the favor from last year and knock the Marlins out of playoff contention (only difference was, the Marlins were treated with a wild card berth, and an eventual World Series championship for their troubles last year, the Phillies will have no such "consolation prize.")

Both Marc Narducci and Phil Jasner report the Sixers signed shooting forward Josh Davis. Finally, Daily News writer Ronnie Polaneczky says she was able to give away all 50 of her remaining "salary caps" due to high reader demand (see yesterday's link).

CSN has Phillies-Marlins at 7:05.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Are You Ready For Some Football?

The water in the fountain at JFK ("Love Park") has been changed to "Eagle green," which can mean only one thing: the Eagles are hosting another prime time game in the City of Brotherly Love. Bob Brookover gets Terrell Owens to further respond to Randy Moss' comments last week that there is "no comparison" between him and T.O.: "Obviously, it wasn't a smart comment on his part." In yesterday's Inquirer, Brookover previewed a bit of T.O.'s autobiography, which opens with an interesting story that gives a glimpse into his off-the-field life. Bill Lyon is looking forward to the matchup between two quarterbacks in their primes. Since he doesn't have anything to write about the Flyers, Tim Panaccio has been conscripted into following Jerome McDougle's Madden 2005 XBox exploits. Rich Hofmann wonders how much blitzing the Vikings will try tonight (it didn't work very well for the Giants last week). Les Bowen talks about the success of Andy Reid's teams under the big lights (6-1 MNF, 13-1 in prime time games period), except when the NFC Championship is on the line (so he suggests that they move this year's championship to a Monday night, or at least after 8PM). Interestingly, the Vikings haven't played on Monday night in nearly three years. Bowen also gets David Akers' and Dirk Johnson's thoughts on the (perfectly legal, therefore no fine or penalty) hit that Jeremiah Trotter laid on Jeff Feagles last Sunday. Bob Grotz includes some good stuff from the always-quotable Hugh Douglas, where he somehow manages to compare tonight's matchup using analogies involving lumberjacks, axes, and chainsaws. Al Morganti says the "Big Show" circus is in town, referring to Monday Night Football. He also offers a 34-31 Eagles victory as a prediction. Mark Eckel believes the Eagles' red-zone defense will be the key, and offers his own prediction (34-24 Eagles victory). In yesterday's column, Eckel gets former Eagle Troy Vincent's thoughts on the whole "who's better, T.O. or Randy Moss" argument. OK, one more final prediction, this time in Peter King's MMQB (always a lengthy read). He believes it'll be 30-21. Meanwhile, Randy made some rather disparaging remarks toward his organization last week, as reported in Brookover's notebook:
There's a lot of [stuff] around here that needs to be changed. You name it - from people, to the administration, all the way to the... Metrodome. If I was the owner or general manager, I would do it. But I'm not, so to hell with it.
The Phillies actually played a game yesterday. Todd Zolecki, Harvey Yavener and Dennis Deitch have the game stories on their 7-2 victory. Marcus Hayes reports that Billy Wagner wished to personally apologize to umpire Dana DeMuth, who had ejected him from a game a week ago for allegedly throwing at a batter. Coincidentally, DeMuth was on vacation ("interesting timing," says Hayes). Mike Olshin chats with Wagner, who'd just like to put this forgettable season behind him and look to next year. Jim Salisbury ripped Carl Everett in his column yesterday for making negative comments about Phillies fans. Everett alleged that "they throw golf balls, bats, everything." Salisbury set the record straight, and aimed a few shots Carl's way.

Phil Jasner's article shows the NHL isn't the one league with labor issues: the NBA and its refs have yet to come to an agreement, and it's possible that replacement officials could be used this year (but hey, on the bright side, Dick Bavetta won't be able to "fix" Kobe Bryant's Lakers to get into the playoffs). Ronnie Polaneczky tried marketing "salary caps" as somewhat of a gag item the last time MLB went on strike in 1994, and is offering what's left of her inventory to readers who email their requests. When Howard Eskin finally returns to the air, we better not hear him deriding savvy internet folks anymore, since he's resorted to starting his own blog, chronicling his activities during his suspension from WIP. He seems to be enjoying his down time, but a quick look scan of his site (where some pictures show him going to town on a burger loaded with the works), and I'm sure he's lost his credibility as a spokesman for LA Weight Loss. Speaking of bloggers, Jack McCaffery admits he just doesn't "get it" (do you think he's stumbled across this site, and doesn't particuarly care for some of the valid criticisms aimed his way?)

ABC has Vikings-Eagles at 9:00 in the first of three Monday Night Football appearances for Philadelphia this year.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Whole Lot of Talk (and Not Much Else)

Bob Brookover looks at the jobs Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, and Roderick Hood will have to do in order to try and at least contain Randy Moss on Monday night. Shannon Ryan writes that Dorsey Levens is just glad to be back with the Eagles (again). Marc Narducci talks about the homecoming of Bryant McKinne, who graduated from Woodbury High in Gloucester County. Les Bowen reports that, even though he was disappointed at being cut, Clinton Hart left a (positive) note for his ex-teammates, to "go get that championship," upon cleaning out his locker on Tuesday. Bob Grotz has Moss pretty much running his mouth about their being "no comparison" between him and Terrell Owens, because "nbody sees the coverage that I see." Why do those sound like lame lyrics to a rap song? Meanwhile, Hough Douglas added his two cents on the subject:
"Who’s better, Randy Moss or Terrell Owens?" Douglas said rhetorically. "That’s just like comparing a cheetah to a lion. They’re both beasts, you know what I mean? They’re both cats. They’re both specimens. And they’re both human."
Mark Eckel says that some of the Eagles "behavior" on the field Sunday earned the scorn of "two unnamed scouts" who werent' happy with the "Eagles swagger and bravado after just one game." I won't mention the web site cited in the article, but let's just say that Mike Florio (writer and editor for the site) shouldn't quit his day job. Rich Hofmann says that, with (at least) two legitimate superstars, things are twice as nice for Andy Reid's team:
Around the Eagles, there used to be one special player press conference every week, McNabb's. Now there are two. There used to be one jersey sales level to track, now there are two (and, really, three if you include Jevon Kearse, who really has flown completely, freakishly below the radar so far).
I came across this poll which indicated that only 3% of the NFL's players consider Reid the best coach in the league (compared to 45% for the league-leading Bill Belichick). David Fleming was at the "Link" on Sunday and filed a column on ESPN.com. If you're going to at least refer to the stadium's nickname, at least get it right, huh David?

As expected, the NHL officially announced its lockout (without using that word) yesterday. Tim Panaccio has the story. The main issue is "cost certainty" (code word for "salary cap," which the players adamantly refuse to accept). In his usual poetic style, Bill Lyon pens: "So if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it...And if a puck drops on the ice and no one is there to see it..." Exactly. Don Steinberg says employees at Comcast-Spectacor, owner of the Flyers (and Sixers) have been feeling the pinch since a hiring freeze was implemented on January 1. Marc Narducci gets a feel for the attitude of the players: one of "resignation, desperation, depression - and even anger." Ed Moran has commissioner Gary Bettman ominously saying, "the very future of our game is at stake." Rob Parent quotes Bettman further, calling the players union's moves "unforgivable," comparing their actions to 'trying to pick a fight.' Adam Kimelman reports that about a hundred people will soon be laid off in the league's office, and talks about the real people who lose out in the whole "bunch of spit." Jack McCaffery seems to be strangely siding with the players on this one: "They've even volunteered to take five-percent pay cuts"--how nice of them! And "the players are way, way ahead...having volunteered give-backs." I'm not quite sure how he can take this position, not that either side is completely correct here. But how can the players refuse to accept the notion that a salary cap (like the one that exists in the NFL and NBA) is the only way for their already precarious league to stay in existence? These eight articles are probably more than you'll see linked here over the next year, assuming this impasse doesn't unexpectedly go away.

The Phillies managed to win a fairly meaningless 9-1 game yesterday over the Reds. Todd Zolecki, Paul Hagen, and Dennis Deitch have the game stories, including the dangerous collision between Todd Pratt and Jim Thome. Zolecki's notebook indicates that Larry Bowa hasn't seen the handwriting on the wall yet, as he fully plans on being here to manage the team in 2005. Hagen's notebook has Mike Lieberthal acknowledging the fans' displeasure at his inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

The locals are off tonight.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It's Just About Over

The Phillies approached mathematical elimination last night by losing 7-6 to the Reds in Cincinatti. Todd Zolecki and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Paul Hagen says that technically the Phils aren't eliminated yet, but paints the scenario that must happen in order for them to sneak into the wild card (let's just say there's a better chance of the Arizona Cardinals making the NFL playoffs this year). Zolecki's notebook says that Kevin Millwood will return to the starting lineup for Sunday's game.

Paul Domowitch has a look at Randy Moss' reaction to Terrell Owens' comments that the Monday Night Football matchup would be like "Michael vs. Magic." It seems as if Moss was offended by that pairing, and boastfully claimed "there is no comparison." Domowitch gets several scouts to offer their views on Moss, who some feel "takes plays off." It certainly should set up for some nice drama on ABC. John Nalbone offers an early preview of the matchup of the teams expected to battle for NFC supremacy. Speaking of the Vikings, Marc Narducci says quarterback Daunte Culpepper just wants to 'get the taste of our their mouth' that came from their last game of the 2003 season, when the Cardinals beat them with a touchdown as time expired, keeping them out of the playoffs. Bob Brookover looks at the roster moves yesterday, which had Andy Reid bringing back Dorsey Levens, and cutting Clinton Hart. Les Bowen has some of Hart's former teammates voicing their opinion that he is not likely to remain unemployed for long, as some team is likely to want his services. Bob Grotz gets a few words from Hart's agent, says Shawn Andrews underwent successful surgery on Monday, and reports that the Eagles are 3 point favorites against the Vikings (which is to say, the Vegas oddsmakers are calling this one a pretty dead-even matchup).

Rich Hofmann makes a big deal of the Eagles using instant replay on the Linc's huge end zone screens to their advantage (perfectly legal use, according to NFL officials). If you're interested in some news off the field, Shannon Ryan has a look at Hollis Thomas' car collection. Ashley McGeachy Fox offers her NFL rankings after Week 1. Her #1-3 picks, as well as #32, are pretty much spot on with those from ESPN.com. Monday, the USA Today had an interesting article on the Eagles, which contained a chart showing that "only three teams in NFL history have shown upward mobility [improving records from season-to-season] over a longer period" then the current (1999-present) Eagles, and one of those teams was the Eagles (1940-45). I missed a couple of articles over the weekend that were pretty good. Mark Eckel talks about what its like covering the Eagles in his 20th year as the Trenton Times' beat writer. If you scroll all the way to the end of this article from the Boston Globe's Peter May, you will see him give kudos to Phil Jasner of the Daily News, for being the recipient of the Curt Gowdy Print Media Award.

Finally, Rob Parent chats with Keith Primeau on the day that NHL owners are likely to lockout the players. Primeau says things aren't looking very good, and believes the players could be locked out for two, or maybe even three, years.

CSN has Phillies-Reds starting at 12:35.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"The Eagles Have Landed"

Sorry for no posting yesterday. I actually did get through the million articles following the Eagles' season-opening win over the Giants, but just didn't get a chance to link to any of them. Anyway, today's headline comes to us courtesy of Jevon Kearse's reaction to Terrell Owens' unique touchdown celebration routine on Sunday. Onto the links...

It's NFL season, which means Bill Lyon is back to his usual job of waxing poetic about the home team. Bob Brookover wonders what Andy Reid will do to to replace Shawn Andrews, who suffered a season-ending broken fibula in Sunday's game. Speaking of shoring up the O-line, Mark Eckel jokes that maybe the Eagles can trade for Kansas City's John Welbourn, who was flagged for 3 penalties on Sunday. Shannon Ryan has a look at Derrick Burgess, who was just happy to make it through the game without ending up on Reid's post-game "Injuries..." report. Marc Narducci provides a glimpse at next week's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings (in a Monday Night Football showdown), who will be without running back Mike Bennett. Les Bowen notes that the Eagles might have gotten out and acquired some "playmakers," but the coach is still plain vanilla. In yesterday's press conference, Reid understated T.O.'s contributions as a "nice job." Bill Conlin thinks that Reid's press conferences seem a little too much like court proceedings to him, and somehow became so distracted by the coach's monotone voice, he attempted to blind him by reflecting light off his watch, I think. Bill Fleischman looks at the FOX ratings for Giants-Eagles. Jack McCaffery says T.O. might be "the man," but it is Donovan McNabb who will need to turn in an MVP-like performance this year if the Eagles are to get to the Super Bowl.

The Phillies weren't able to make it a lucky seven last night, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Reds. Todd Zolecki, Paul Hagen, and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Zolecki's notebook has Billy Wagner expressing remorse at his post-game rant after getting thrown out of the game on Sunday. Hagen's notebook contains the quotes in question (they feature lots of deleted expletives).

The New York Post's Paul Schwartz has an article on Terry Bradshaw's comments on FOX's pregame show regarding Giants' coach Tom Coughlin:
There's no way I could play for Coughlin, he is mean and hateful. There's a little part of me that hopes this guy falls flat on his face because that's a total lack of respect for the players. I'm realizing this guy is a jerk.
These comments were apparently in response to a report that Coughlin had fined some of his players for showing up "late" for a team meeting, even though they had been "on time."
Asked for a clarification of his rules, Coughlin said his time is different than ordinary time. "Players ought to be there on time, period," he explained. "If you're on time, you're on time. Meetings start five minutes early."
Nice boss. Meanwhile, the Giants punter Jeff Feagles was still complaining about the "helmet-to-helmet contact" he was allegedly the victim of on Sunday. He is hoping the NFL fines Jeremiah Trotter.

Dan Gross says Howard Eskin is doing something with his time off: keeping a daily diary of how he spends his time. Here's a look at yesterday's entry. Glad Howard's discovered the internet is useful for something besides promoting his useless betting advice. As of yesterday, the page was formatted horribly. It appears this was cleaned up today, as Howard must have figured out how to use the "Enter" button on the keyboard. WIP listeners get to experience a "throwback" of sorts this week, as Eskin's former co-host Mike Missanelli is being paired with Steve Fredericks (who is coming out of his April retirement, albeit briefly) during the 3-7 PM time slot. Is there any way to keep these two on the air even after Eskin's suspension is over?

CSN has Phillies-Reds starting at 7:10.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Strangest Home Run You'll Ever See

The Phillies somehow managed to win three straight against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, winning 9-4, in a game that featured one of the most bizarre home runs you will ever see. Todd Zolecki, Marcus Hayes, and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Teammates were ragging on Jason Michaels, who was already asking the SportsCenter folks to go easy on him after the game. Paul Hagen reports that MLB commissioner Bud Selig says fans are very happy with the current wild card setup, and also finds an interesting "Phillies doormat" for sale on MLB.com.

Bob Brookover anticipates the unveiling of the Eagles' defense on Sunday, right along with Brian Dawkins. Sam Donnellon says that if some of the interference calls that were called in the preseason are called now that the games that count have started, it'll be "arena football in the fall." Rich Hofmann writes that one thing you can always count on Andy Reid's teams doing is show up (unless it's an NFC championship game at home; then, all bets are off). Les Bowen says Brian Westbrook will only occasionally be used for punt returns, as Reno Mahe will be featured in that role (along with serving as J.R. Reed's lead blocker on kickoff returns). Shannon Ryan looks at the Giants' Ron Dayne's weight loss, and how he will figure in Sunday's matchup. Bob Grotz captures Jim Johnson's thoughts about this. "I think they want to use Dayne a lot more than they did last year," Johnson said. "Of course, if they play him at all it will be a lot more than last year." Dick Jerardi takes a look back at the many stops on the resume of Giants' new head coach Tom Coughlin, and has him eagerly anticipating being back on the sidelines this year. Paul Domowitch writes about the league's "points of emphasis" on illegal defensive contact this year. He includes this great quote from one of the Oakland Raiders, Ray Buchanan: "Right now, they're treating the wide receivers like sissies. You're running down the field, you turn back and look at the ball, and if you have bad breath, they throw the flag." He also includes quotes in there from a member of the NFL Competition Committee, who expressed concerns that the "overly aggressive" defensive schemes of recent years was causing NFL games to get bogged down like the NBA (which itself has tried recent measures to boost scoring). I missed this yesterday, but Rich Hofmann predicts the Eagles will go 10-6 this year. Jack McCaffery looks at the Vegas over/under line of Eagles wins (10 1/2), and somehow employs new math while pulling out the crystal ball and predicting a "10-6-1" season (unless I'm missing an awful attempt at humor).

Well, Howard Eskin made page 1 of today's Inquirer and Metro, and not in a good way. Don Steinberg's article (linked to late yesterday) on Howard Eskin's suspension appears in today's edition of the Inquirer, with the added information that "attempts to reach Eskin for comment yesterday were not successful." Apparently, Dan Gross of the Daily News was slighly more successful in getting in touch with Howard, as he does have a meaningless 2 sentence quote from him that is the equivalent of "no comment." There are some very interesting quotes ("highlights") in that article from Eskin's despositions related to this case that demonstrate Eskin's ego, as well as his hypocritical stance on lawyers. The Daily News also ran the text of the on-air apologies of both Eskin, and WIP's VP and GM Marc Rayfield, which are being played during Eskin's time slot, which has been temporarily taken over by the reputable Glen Macnow. This leads to the question, why can't Macnow become the permanent replacement in this time slot? According to a philly.com poll originally linked to here last night, over 71% of the nearly 4,000 participants have said they don't want Howard back on the air.

Steinberg also says the Eagles history will sson be available on a DVD collector's set, and also notes that Stephen A. Smith will serve as a judge in ESPN's Dream Job, along with Denver Post columnist Woody Paige. What is Stephen A.'s mindset going into this gig? "I'm not going to be cruel, but I'm not interested in showing sympathy to anybody, either," he says. "My obligation is to the viewers, just like when I'm writing a column it is to my readers. And that is to call it like I see it." Ray Parillo reports on St. Joe's "outdoing" the Eagles signing Andy Reid yesterday through 2010 by extending Phil Martelli's contract through the year 2012. As usual, I have no idea what Harvey Yavener is trying to say. He says "that just as there is a formula for winning, there's also one for losing." Apparently, there's also one for writing columns that confuse the reader by the second paragraph.

CSN has Phillies-Mets starting at 7:10.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Eskin Suspended

I have not been been able to listen to WIP today, but according to the Inquirer's Don Steinberg, Howard Eskin has been suspended for 30 days as part of a settlement in a civil suit that Allen Iverson's lawyer, Richard Sprague, filed after Eskin made libelous remarks in 2002 during Iverson's legal troubles in the summer of that year. I had been wondering why we were seemingly seeing more of Eskin on NBC 10's sportscasts lately (has anyone seen or heard from John Clark recently?) I have often been critical of Eskin in this space for his blatant anti-Iverson agenda, and for his often single-handed efforts to run him out of town. Interestingly, whenever Iverson is involved in legal incidents, the numerous incidents of his past are dredged up. At the end of Steinberg's article (which will probably appear in tomorrow's print edition of the Inquirer), numerous incidents are cited demonstrating that this is a pattern of inappropriate behavior and commentary by the self-proclaimed "king of bling."

WIP needs to seriously consider whether allowing Eskin to continue to spew his mean-spirited attacks on its airwaves is in its best interests. To cite his often used line, Eskin needs to do the right thing, and either resign, or clean up his act. This is nothing more than what he has demanded of the target of his scathing comments, Allen Iverson, in the past. It's now simply put up or shut up time for Howard. At least for the next 30 days, WIP listeners who are tired of his act can be glad it's shut up time. Interestingly, a poll on philly.com indicates that a majority of listeners (at least those who voted) do not want Eskin back on the air. Of course, these results might just be skewed, as Eskin has not directed his devoted followers to flock to the website and vote in his defense.
Special NFL Preview

Here's my attempt to provide links to the major articles (there's just too many to link to every one of them) in the area papers today. First off, Bob Brookover reports on the contract extension the Eagles offered to Andy Reid yesterday, as mentioned here yesterday. Les Bowen also reports on the extension, and reminds us that Reid's next win ties him with Dick Vermeil for career total with the Eagles, and that if the Eagles go at least 11-5 this year, he will become the franchise's all-time winningest coach. Les also includes Reid's attempts at self-deprecating humor, when he mentioned that, with the contract extension, 'he'll continue to look at himself under a microsocope. It's a pretty big microscope.' John Smallwood says the extension is well deserved, when you consider that Reid delivered the Eagles from the wasteland that was a 3-13 season to one of the most successful NFL teams in the league. Meanwhile, Jack McCaffery takes the opportunity to question this move and attempt to spread his negativity.

Phil Sheridan says Terrell Owens is one of the few free agents who actually wanted to come to Philly, and that he gets a chance to start here with a clean slate. Brookover's notes column includes T.O.'s response to a reporter's question of whether Donovan McNabb's completion percentage will increase with him in the lineup. Owens says not to get too caught up with the statistics, and to focus on what really matters, just winning. Rich Hofmann believes "Owens has everything to gain. McNabb has everything to lose," since, if the Eagles finally win the "big one," Owens will be seen as the missing piece. Bob Grotz writes that Owens "would like to pencil" the Eagles in the Super Bowl. He also says T.O. expects lots of yellow flags to be flying, at least early on in the season, as defenses and officials adjust to the new "points of emphasis."

Mark Eckel says don't look now, but the Eagles, particularly the defense, is actually healthy going into their season opener against the Giants. Bob Ford looks back at playoff misery past, and concludes that the Eagles "have been unable to survive in the one-and-done world where the better team doesn't always win." Brookover takes a look at the other teams and coaches who have failed in 3 straight tries at the conference championship, and how they did after getting that close (only John Madden's Oakland Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl). Speaking of Madden, Bill Fleischman has him giving Reid some advice: "The worst thing I could do is panic. I thought if we keep getting to the championship game, we're eventually going to win the damn thing." Paul Domowitch chats with a coach who experienced similiar futility, Marv Levy (of the infamous Buffalo Bills who reached the Super Bowl four straight years without coming away with a victory). Levy reminds Eagles fans to keep things in perspective: "It's much more difficult to maintain good depth today than it was then, which makes what the Eagles have done the last few years even more amazing."

Brookover blasphemously turns the Eagles into religion:
They came to Bethlehem (Pa.) to see the newly acquired receiver. The search for a savior was over. Hymn No. 81 - "T.O., T.O., T.O." - was performed on a daily basis as the green-clad congregation grew from 12,000 one day to 25,000 a few days later. The Eagles had themselves a big-play wide receiver, and the good word spread quickly. Praise be to coach Andy Reid and owner Jeffrey Lurie. Praise be to Terrell Owens.
He says that despite all that, No. 5 is still the difference maker on the team. Even Marc Narducci got into the NFL preview act (in addition to turning his Sixers beat writer assignment in), observing that the weekly injury report is the "true equalizer in the NFL," even "more so than free agency." Les Bowen gets Brian Dawkins, Hugh Douglas, and WIP host Anthony Gargano's thoughts on the Eagles faithful. He writes:
As a fandom, it's never a good thing when you have to start labeling your disappointments, to keep them straight: the St. Louis loss, the Tampa loss, the Carolina loss. It sounds a little too much like Red Sox Nation, which tends to label by villain or scapegoat: Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner...
Sam Donnellon talks with David Akers, and his thoughts on the crazy winds down at the Sports Complex. Akers also says if he could pick one kicker in the league to make a clutch kick, it would be New England's Adam Vinateri. Marc Narducci previews the much-maligned, feeling disrespected, offensive line of the Giants. Don Steinberg looks at the multiple delays being introduced into tonight's pre-game musical performances by both the NFL and ABC to prevent a repeat of Janet Jackson-gate. Performer Jessica Simpson will be wearing an "NFL approved" wardrobe (you can't make this stuff up).
A Day Late and a Dollar Short

This morning, we'll have an abbreviated set of links. We'll follow-up this afternoon with a summary of the exhaustive previews of the upcoming NFL season that kicks off tonight with a special Thursday edition of Monday Night Football (marketing geniuses at work there) featuring a rematch of last year's AFC championship game.

The Phillies managed to win both games of their doubleheader yesterday against the Braves. Todd Zolecki, Marcus Hayes, and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Zolecki's notebook says its possible that both Placido Polanco and Chase Utley could be on the roster next year, and Deitch's notebook says that John Vukovich's failing eyesight led him to pull himself out of the first game yesterday, but he was back at his position as third base coach for the second game. Deitch also talks about how normally mild-mannered Bobby Abreu went ballistic after a called third strike.

Marc Narducci has the story of the Sixers buying out Greg Buckner's contract, a story originally broken by Phil Jasner yesterday. Jasner provides additional details today, including the unconfirmed report that the Sixers negotiated the contract buyout for almost $5 million less than the nearly $13 million Buckner was due. Interestingly, while both Marducci and Jasner seemed to be able to get quotes from Buckner's agent Steve Kauffman, Jon Marks wasn't able to, listing him as "unavailable for comment."

CSN has Phillies-Braves starting at 7:35. ABC has Colts-Patriots at 9.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Rained Out

The remnants of Frances probably spared another loss for the Phillies yesterday. But the rain only provided a temporary stay of execution, as they've now got a doubleheader against the Braves this afternoon. With no game to report on, Todd Zolecki alludes to a report in the New York Daily News about Larry Bowa possibly coaching the Mets next season. Marcus Hayes gets a quote from Billy Wagner that leaves you scratching your head: "We definitely need to get a good feeling about ourselves heading into October." Heading into what, the end of a disappointing season? Because they're certainly not heading into the playoffs. Jack McCaffery sums it up this way:
Billy Wagner did not perform as expected this season, and neither did the Phillies. That connection is sturdy and clear. So, that question again: What might have been? And this answer: It’s worth trying to find out again in 2005.
The Eagles have taken steps to keep Andy Reid at the helm into the next decade. Bob Brookover reports that his extension will probably earn him more than Bill Belichick of the defending Superbowl champs. Reid calls Philly "one of the best cities in the country." Meanwhile, Brookover says Todd Pinkston is still trying to live down his infamous "lack of focus" comments after last year's disappointment performance in the NFC title game. Shannon Ryan reminds Kurt Warner that the last time he won as the starting quarterback was against the Eagles--well over two years ago, in the first NFC title game appearance of Reid's team. Bob Grotz says a lot is riding on the offensive line this year. Mark Kram has a nice feature length article on Dhani Jones, who wants to be remembered for being more than just an athlete. Sam Donnellon didn't have anything better to write about, so this is what he submitted today:
Anyway, all these thoughts started to rush through my head yesterday as I sat at a red light and watched the tractors pushing around the Vet's remains, churning it into a parking lot. What if buildings have spirits? What if buildings have tortured souls? What if the Vet is still standing there, invisible among the rubble, sucking opponents popups over the new park's walls, sucking the energy from the Eagles at the most inopportune times, slamming some whammies on pitchers' arms and running backs' foots. Just a thought. Sleep tight, all ye eternally heartbroken fans.
Finally, Don Steinberg reports on ESPN's creation of yet another channel in their lineup, this time one featuring college sports.

CSN has a doubleheader featuring Phillies-Braves starting at 4:35.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Unofficial End of Summer

With the Labor Day weekend now behind us, we can now say that summer is (un)officially over. Of course, for the local "boys of summer," the Phillies, summer seemed to end somewhere after the All-Star break. But let's not be picky. The local nine dropped yet another to the Bravers yesterday, 3-1. Todd Zolecki, Marcus Hayes and Dennis Deitch have the game stories. Zolecki's notebook reports that Kevin Milwood wants to return to the rotation as soon as possible. Well, not entirely for the benefit of the Phillies, but more likely to boost his free agent stock. Nice. Rob Parent says that what's wrong with the Phillies is that "the management leaders are followers of a philosophy that begs patience but doesn’t exude confidence or competence."

Bob Brookover has a look at Brian Westbrook's key role in the running game this year, and hints at the possibility that Dorsey Levens will be back (even though he was cut in the initial roster trimming to 53 players). Shannon Ryan has a look at the coach of the Eagles' first real opponent this year, their division rival NY Giants, and their coach, the stoic-faced Tom Coughlin. Rich Hofmann wonders about the "law of unintended consequences" striking with the NFL's new "point of emphasis" (illegal defensive contact), and whether that will mean open season on quarterbacks, as defenses make their inevitable adjustments. Bob Grotz writes that the Eagles will go as far as Donovan McNabb takes them, and has Brian Dawkins seconding that thought by saying "this is still Big 5's team." Tom McNichol says Eagles fans are ready for yet another Superbowl-or-bust bandwagon ride. Mark Eckel has some AFC insiders still questioning how Jevon Kearse will hold up this season for the Eagles. Mark also gets a quote from Jim Mora, who says, "the fact that T.O. actively pursued Philly spells trouble for the rest of the league." At least Eagles fans hope so. Phil Sheridan hopes that both the players and management have learned something over the past couple of years, with the current theme of "Reunited" (reminding me of the late 70s song):
Maybe the players can learn that they're not showing the Eagles anything by finding suckers elsewhere. Maybe the Eagles can learn to prevent things from reaching the point where players feel they have to leave to prove anything.
Mark Eckel also provides his previews of both the AFC and NFC (Eagles fans beware: he doesn't have them getting to the big dance, again). On a better note, ESPN.com has posted its preseason power rankings, and as expected, the Eagles are prominently featured.

Phil Jasner reports that Greg Buckner's agent is hoping the Sixers either trade or buy out his client. I'd like to be the first to offer to drive him to Philly International. John Smallwood is appalled at the audacity of the damn Yankees (as if baseball fans needed another reason to cheer against the Evil Empire).

Have a look below at an email exchange between myself and Boston Sports Media Watch's Dave Scott.

CSN has Phillies-Braves at 7:35.

BATTLE OF THE DAVES: An Email Exchange (aka A Tale of Two Cities)

Friday Sept 3

Davey Philly -
I'll have to keep this first salvo of Philly observations fairly short - not for a lack of Philly Phodder, mind you, but because I'm heading to Fenway to see Pedro plow down the Rangers. Maybe I should slow down for you: Fenway is a BASEBALL PARK, Pedro is a BASEBALL PITCHER and the Rangers are BASEBALL (sort of) Wild Card Contender. After two days in the City of Brotherly Cheesesteaks, I'm well aware that Ben Franklin's Town is none too enamored with its underachieving bunch of Phillies.

Initially, I would have thought that might make for some compelling talk radio (oxymoron aside). It doesn't, clearly. If 610-AM WIP is the best your city has to offer for alleged talk radio, then your city should be ashamed. I've heard more intelligent discussions among the dogs at young Percy the Dog's canine play groups.

How on earth can I be expected to take a station seriously if they run an ad urging listeners to come see Temple Owls football and billing it as "Big Time College Football?" If Temple's "big time" that must make a school like Lehigh purely NFL-caliber. Big Time? How about Big Shame?

Beyond the false advertising, it's virtually impossible to distinguish the inmates (callers) from the prison guards (hosts). In two days of admittedly limited listening (WXPN-FM is by far the wiser listening option), I heard aspiring brain surgeons call in to inform listeners of how nice the new Phillies stadium (ignoring the bums playing on the field) and one guy, Mike the Cowboys Fan, who lamely tried to espouse his belief that Dallas is better than Philadelphia. The hosts at that particular midday time offered stirring rebuttals to the tune of "yeah, right" and "no sir." I'd never wanted to hear the gruff voice of Fred Smerlas more in my life. And Smerlas is mostly intolerable, at best.

It would appear that Philly sports talk radio has one thing Boston sports radio blatantly lacks: numerous African-American callers (which I infer from the twang of their voice, which may admittedly be a flawed means of audience measure, but I'm comfortable in the assumption. The demographics prove it.) But it wouldn't matter if the get-a-lifers were pink, teal or aqua - they're sorely unprepared to be speaking on anything broadcast to more than one human soul.

And then there's Howard Eskin. Holy crap - is this guy doing the college radio late shift at St. Joe's or major market sports talk? I lasted about 90 seconds with with his grating radio vibrations. He was - I'm not making this up, Boston talk radio listeners - saying something about tennis at about 4:55 on a Wednesday afternoon. If tennis has ever, ever, come up on WEEI, it would have only been to make fun of Bud Collins bow tie, I assure you. I know Boston's provincial and mainly a three-major-sports Pro town, but the next time there's lively tennis debate on talk radio it will be the very FIRST time in broadcast history.

Seeking solace from the radio, I managed a few strong minutes of TV viewing with the "Philadelphia Daily News Live"show. Whoa! What a collection of wits this show featured on Wednesday. I'll get more into in my next correspondence to you, but at one point there were approximately 87 panelists bombarding a Phillies September call-up with questions solely conceived in an effort to elicit some type of headline-making response. Desperation, thy name is Philly Baseball Writers. It was so comical at one point that when one panelist said to the subject, Ryan Howard, "Ryan, This is Paul Domowitch in the studio," it would have been well within Howard's right to as "How man damn people you got in that studio?" Not even the mostly-steady Dei Lynam could steer this ship into safety. Each stiff on set was stiffer than the next and when self-loving Dave Jones got on camera to talk Penn State football, there was more dead-air than a morgue.

All right - that's enough for now, but man, I got to tell you: that town of yours has more not-ready-for-prime-time players than a decade's worth of Saturday Night Live.
On the other hand, I had a 1 a.m. veggie mock steak and cheese at Larry's on Hawk Hill that may have been created by the Food Gods themselves.
Looking forward to hearing how much you enjoyed 'EEI. And maybe the chowdah?
Be well,
Davey Boston

Monday Sept. 6

Well, first of all, I must say, thanks your filling me in on the details of what Fenway Park is, who Pedro Martinez is, and what the sport of baseball is. As a Massachusetts native, I found these news flashes amazingly informative. Almost as much as a Pete would-somebody-please-find-his-darned-chair Sheppard 20/20 segment. And of course, Fenway is just down the street from my alma mater Northeastern. But again, thank you for the condescending attitude. I forgot how much I miss New England.

Yes, I will admit, WIP leaves much to be desired. I suppose that's what happens when the lone sports radio station has a monopoly on the market. Glad to see what competition has done in raising the bar between 850 WEEI and 1510 The Zzzzzzzzz (somebody wake me up now)-one. As far as "big time" college football is concerned, it's well known that this is Penn State country. If you want big time college ball, then this is your city.

So glad you have such a high-minded view of other city's residents. Inmates? Prison guards? And a few sentence later, a covert attack on African-Americans (and in your mind, those probably go together with the previous questions). Amazing how you can tell the race of a caller with the "twang of their voice." I guess you're more comfortable with the ramblings of Dan from Quincy. And you want "stirring rebuttals"? I just loved the exchanges going on with Dale and Neumy on Friday. Apparently, the only members of Sox Nation that could get on the line were fans who foolishly thought the third base coach should be fired. Stirring, riveting listening, I tell you.

So, it doesn't sound like you were thrilled with Daily News Live, eh? Well, from what I've seen on Boston's current offerings, I know you must have really missed Bob why-can't-Philly-get-broadcasters-like-that Lobel. Enjoy it the next time he rambles on with that Dan putting-my-kids-through-college-with-the-same-tired-curse-nonsense Shaugnessy.

Fortunately, we both appear to agree on one thing: Howard Eskin is a moron and a nitwit (though not necessarily in that order). OK, make that two things. Larry's cheesesteaks are among the best to be found in the city. I should know, I used to live up the street from Hawk Hill. But the next time you're fortunate enough to be down this way again, you really should make a trip to South Philly and enjoy a steak from Geno's. Just remember: "a steak WIT" means you'd like fried onions. Heineken's are sold separately.

Looking forward to your next rebuttal.

- Dave M.

Monday Sept. 6 (later that night)

Dave Philly -
So much for Brotherly Love, eh? And I was just getting ready to ask if you wanted to meet at any one of your numerous Wawa stores and have some Wawa Java. Guess not. Maybe another time?

I understand. I'm sure it can can be hard to realize your adopted residence is a Big League town with Double A-caliber sports media. At least if you lived in a real hick college town, you'd have some worthwhile college ball talk. Living in a "big" city should have other rewards besides constant heartbreak, miserable sorrow and a bum on every corner. Those incessant tourism commercials with the Cultured Taxi Driver sure don't seem to represent the Philadelphians we saw. Most of the folks seem to be walk around the area as if they're trying figure out whether Mike Schmidt and Dr. J ever really happened.
But you do have the small things. Atlantic City is nearby. John Chaney is a living legend. And Donovan McNabb gives good quote.

It must also be so comforting to drive by the Philadelphia Park Racetrack on your way home and see the Smarty Jones sign. You guys will always have a horse that choked to hold your heads high about.
Rocky should be ashamed.

Before we go any further, it was a bit PhillyNasty of you to play the Race Card and attack my observation that Philly has more African American sports radio callers. I'm big enough and secure enough to know that, in general terms, whites and blacks have different speech patterns and yes, "twangs." If you don't differentiate between callers that's fine. The rest of the listening public is doing it for you, not to mentiuon advertisers and radio execs.
But it's all good - OUR Pats open Thursday, OUR Sox are generating enough readable stories to fill the Daily Snooze for a year and believe me when I say this: OUR Celts are almost back. (Okay, not even I could say that with a straight face. The Celts suck. They might suck for the foreseeable future. But we're on a roll and face it, the Sixers ain't in no great shakes either. Steve Mix isn't walking through that door and neither is OUR Connor Henry).

My visit to your fair city did include a trip to the gargantuan Manayunk Brewery where the Bohemian ale Scott's Shots drank was blonde and the lady named Cat from Austin, was a brunette. And what a fine brunette she was. Not only did this tall drink of water have two feline-related tattoos below the belt and above the thigh, she also took the SS business card and gave it a loving home between her sizable assets. What a woman!
Sadly though, the one representation of a true Philly woman I could find came from a 27-year-old off-duty cook named Dawn who, we were pleased to find out, was from the Northeast.
"Oh yeah," I asked. "Whereabouts? I'm from Boston."
"Not that Northeast - Cotman Ave in Philly."
Of course. Classy dame, this one. Her lone Boston experience came with her ex-fiance (smart man) when it snowed "like seven feet that week and, without offedning you, Bostonians are f'in j---offs."
No offense taken. You seem to be a good judge of such things.
"We stayed at the Red Roof in Framingham for 60 bucks a night," Dawn continued. "In Boston they're rude as s---. They hear your accent and they think they can screw you. In the city they wanted like $279 a night. I make that in a week. But the Red Roof? We had a huge room and two king size beds."
Wow! Why can't Boston have chicks like that? She can cook (fries, anyway) AND she has a mouth like a trucker. Philly rocks! Let's Hit the Roof!
Don't get us wrong - it was heartwarming to see th Philadelphia Inquirer run a 20-page high school football preview for last Thursday. I learned the top Pennsylvania prospect is Callahan Bright, a defensive tackle and that made me chuckle because in Boston, the only ones who think Callahan is Bright are the Right Wing 'EEI listener(s). Point is, I was impressed with the dedication to schoolboy sports.
Then again, when all you've really got is schoolboy sports, it makes sense to cover the crap out of it.
Listen, Dave Philly. I don't want to have this petty war over our two fine cities bring us apart. We're both just guys on the side of truth providing valuable services to our sister web sites. In fact, to show my gratitude I'll even give you a tip on a great restaurant out on the Main Line called Nectar - take the little Missus Dave Philly over there and spoil her a bit. Lord knows she's not getting any big thrills from your sports teams.

All my best,
Davey Boston

Tuesday Sept. 7

Dave S.,

Well, this certainly has been interesting. Hopefully next time we will be able to schedule this debate so that we can get more timely responses to each other. It's been a bit hectic here lately. The next time we try and schedule one of these things, I might not be very close to a Wawa.

I do find it curious for a Red Sox fan to criticize another city for enduring "constant heartbreak, miserable sorrow, and a bum on every corner." But I guess you haven't gotten away from your little seaside shanty and visited Downtown Crossing in awhile. As far as the whole Smarty Jones thing, that never happened. Let's just say I found it as riveting as that PGA tour that recently passed through Norton, MA (as in, pass the Nyquil).

As far as the "race card," I'd like to remind you that I was not the one who threw that card on the table. But I call 'em like I see 'em, and your remarks certainly didn't come across very well to this reader this side of I-95.

I am glad that you were able to enjoy some of the "finer things" of the city on your visit. And we can agree to not further ignite a "petty war over our two fine cities." Let's just stop throwing so much negative vibes this far south, shall we? If we're going to throw nasty vibes out there, can't we at least pick on a mutually agreeable metropolis that is worthy of such venom, such as the home of the 26-world time champion, New York Yankees?

Sincerely,
Dave M.
PSMW


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Down and Out

It gets harder and harder to come up with attention-grabbing headlines when loss piles up after loss. It seems as if the Phillies last won a game in July. Actually, that's probably not that far off. They lost (again) to the Braves, 7-2, last night. Todd Zolecki, Marcus Hayes, Dennis Deitch, and Mike Olshin have the game stories. Olshin longs for the good old days when the Philies could beat up on the Brewers. Zolecki's notebook says Ryan Howard's name could be thrown out there at the end of the season as trade bait, since he has Jim Thome, signed through at least 2008, blocking him at first base. Olshin's notebook has Howard smacking a ball off the Dodge Durango sign on the right field second deck. Bill Conlin is not very happy with this team's performance:
The team you have helped lavish with your taxpayer contribution to Citizens Bank Park, this $93 million collection of ballflesh - Ed Wade's Misfits - represent a singular milestone in the 122-year history of the franchise. These Phillies represent rock bottom. The pits. It is as bad as it gets when measuring heightened expectation against underwhelming performance.
Sam Donnellon writes that blowing up this team isn't an option, and that it will be another long winter for this team.

Bob Brookover reports that Eagles' offensive coordinator Brad Childress clearly calling Koy Detmer the #2 quarterback, and says "there really wasn't that much conversation about it," stemming any (backup) quarterback "controversy." Les Bowen also reports the same, adding that Detmer's serving as David Akers' holder probably influenced this decision. John Nalbone openly wonders when rookie Shawn Andrews will be releasing a "best hits" album. Brookover's notebook talks about the extension referred to here yesterday on Brandon Whiting's delayed physical with the 49ers. Kevin Mulligan isn't exaggerating when he calls the 2004 Eagles the most "anticipated Philly sports season" ever and says "there hasn't been anything a close second." Bob Grotz has a notebook item about Terrell Owens' reaction to Hugh Douglas being a media magnet. Bob also has a must read interview in a sitdown with Andy Reid. Rob Parent says that with the re-addition of Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas, could Bobby Taylor and A.J. Feeley be far behind? Meanwhile, the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro mentions how Herm Edwards' staff was "irritated" when the Eagles starters sat during last year's final preseason game, which "roced the hand of the Jets not to use their starters," as if that had anything to do with their 6-10 season.

Stephen A. Smith says Kobe Bryant still has lots of "issues," regardless of whether his legal troubles are now behind him. Smith writes, "someone is always doing something to him. It is never the other way around." It all boils down to the question, "what kind of man is he", and concludes that "the problem stems from his continual unwillingness to address the question at all."

Dick Jerardi wonders whether Penn State has become a "soft" team.

Mercifully, the local nine are off tonight.