Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Festivus for the Rest of Us

Happy Festivus everyone! Not time to waste. I've got a lot of problems with a lot people; now you're gonna hear about them. Let the airing of the grievances begin!

I'm going to go with a team-by-team breakdown and the problems I have with each. First up, your Philadelphia 76ers.

For starters, you guys suck. Like truly, completely suck. Donkey balls. Hairy ones. The Sixers currently sit at 7-21 on the season, 14th in the Eastern Conference. Only the 2-win New Jersey Nets have a worse record in the East, and only Minnesota's 5-24 record is worse than Philadelphia's in the West. They are, in a word, pathetic.

And there is no shortage of people I've got problems with. First and foremost, I got a problem with you, Mr. Ed Stefanski. Before the start of last season, I pleaded with you to go all out for Josh Smith and avoid Elton Brand like the plague. Did you listen? No. No you didn't. How's that working out for ya? You also overpaid for Andre Iguodala, outbidding yourself for him. Makes no sense. Then to cap it all off, you go out and sign Eddie freakin Jordan as the coach this year, and if anyone's watched the Sixers at all, they know how terrible Jordan's been.

Which brings me to said head coach. First of all, how old are you? (Types Eddie Jordan into Google.) 54? Turning 55 next month? Braces are for teenagers covered in pimples, not men in their 50s. How can you take a guy seriously when he has braces? Honestly. It's a freaking joke. And your god damn substitutions, rotations and decisions are maddening. No one knows what the hell you're gonna do from one game to next. Players don't know their roles, you can't draw up an out-of-bounds or end-of-game play to save your life, and seriously, this is the NBA, the Princeton offense doesn't work. Notice, the major college programs that produce the most NBA players don't run the Princeton offense because it doesn't prepare players for the next level. And it doesn't win national championships. There's a reason it's called the Princeton offense. Because it belongs in Princeton, not the NBA. Idiot.

Then there's you, Elton Brand. Oh, the problems I have with you … let me count the ways. For starters, you went to Duke, which means you're a soulless, heartless cretin of a human being. If we can even call you a human being. Not only that, but you are a liar. Just ask Mike Dunleavy. Plus, for all your 20-10 seasons and all-star appearances, you've never once made your team better. In fact, you're the king of being on shitty basketball teams. And since being signed to an $80 million contract, you've done nothing but drag down and slow down a young, athletic Sixers team that was on the rise. You're a basketball albatross. And you suck. I hate you. I hate you so very much.

I'm also not fond of Willie Green, though he has played surprisingly well. Royal Ivey, Rodney Carney, Primoz Brezec, Jason Smith and Jason Kapono don't really affect me either way. Samuel Dalembert is frustrating, but at least he's athletic and amusing. Lou Will is a great sixth man; the same can't be said for starting. And if you think Allen Iverson can't play defense, just watch Lou. He makes Iverson look like Gary fucking Payton.

I like me some Andre Iguodala, but not as much as Andre likes himself. Listen, you're a very good, very talented, versatile player. Every team would be glad to have you … as a second or third guy. You are not a go-to, upper-echelon player. Shit, you've never even been an all-star. Tyrone Hill was even an all-star. Look it up. You have no handle, take terrible shots and make horrible decisions in crunch time. Again, you're a very good player and I'm glad you're a Sixer. But you aren't nearly as good as you think you are.

I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday or Allen Iverson. I like all those guys. Though, no offense to Jrue, I'd much rather have Ty Lawson.

Next up … your Philadelphia Flyers.

Where to begin. I guess the best place to start is the record. Through 35 games, the Flyers sit at 14th place in the East — the same position as the Sixers. Now, this city didn't expect much from its basketball team, but the Flyers, that's a different story. Two seasons ago, this team made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. Then last season, despite continued inconsistency and a far too laid-back mentality, they had a pretty good year and made the playoffs. Yes, they lost in the first round, but they also lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. So they go out and address the defense, nabbing Chris Pronger in a blockbuster trade, and people had the Flyers pegged for the top of the conference. Instead, they're sitting ahead of only the Carolina Hurricanes. Awful.

They've already fired their coach, and that's had exactly 0 effect on their play. They're lazy, undisciplined, show no heart, can't pass, can't score, can't kill penalties, and can't stay healthy. They are a complete and utter mess. And a disgrace. As much as I loved to place the blame at the feet of John Stevens, it's abundantly clear that he wasn't the problem. These players are. Because they simply haven't shown anything this season. At all.

There's four guys in particular who've drawn my ire this season. We'll start with the big one: Scott Hartnell. Hartnell is a very talented player. He can score goals. He can irritate the opponent. And he has size and strength. He's also a complete fucking idiot. He's the epitome of what's wrong with the Flyers. Just like this team is loaded with talent but can't seem to get out of its own way, Hartnell is a skilled player who makes more boneheaded, costly mistakes than anyone I've ever seen. Hartnell leads the NHL in stick penalties, proving he is lazy and dumb. Two nights ago, in the Flyers' loss to the Panthers, he lazily threw his stick out between a Florida player's legs and tripped him, while the Flyers were on the power play. That negated the man advantage, and when the Panthers went on the power play with Hartnell still in the box, they scored. That's the type of thing he does every single night. There isn't another player in the NHL who takes as many stupid penalties as Hartnell does. Add that to his infinite number of blind, cross-ice passes that inevitably get intercepted, and it's enough to drive you insane. If there's one guy on this team I'd like to see get traded, it's Scott Hartnell. Maybe he should spend more time working on his game and using his brain and less time worrying about his faggotty ass hair. What. A. Douche.

Speaking of douche, has anyone ever seen Jeff Carter play hockey? Yes, the guy scored 46 goals last season, his breakout year, but man, is he one giant pussy. For a 6'3", 200-pound guy, he sure doesn't play like one. Watch any Flyers games and count how many times he actually hits someone. Don't worry if you can't count. It doesn't happen very often. I've never seen a guy who's so big shy away from contact so much. And puck battles along the boards? He might as well not even try. He never wins them. Again, Carter is a talented player and a big part of this team — and underrated defensively — but man, is he a pussy. And if he's not scoring goals, as he's failed to do this season, he's pretty much worthless.

Not as worthless as Braydon Coburn, mind you. Two seasons ago, Coburn was a shutdown defenseman. Paired with Kimmo Timonen, he was the most explosive and second most reliable guy on the blue line for his team. I mean, he was on the verge of stardom, certainly looking like a future all-star. Then last season, John Stevens broke up the Timonen-Coburn duo, and Braydon suffered. A lot. He had a terrible season, routinely getting out of position and looking more timid on the rush. So far this season, he's continued to struggle. A guy who once looked like a future Brian Leetch/Paul Coffey now is nothing more than average. He has size and speed and shows his talent in bursts, but overall, he has struggled. He's not a guy I'm ready to even remotely give up on, but he needs to find his game from two seasons ago. Right now, he's just not cutting it.

And finally, as painful as it is for me to criticize him, Mike Richards has been playing like complete dog shit of late. And as Richards goes, the Flyers go. Just take a look at earlier this season. Richards began the year on a goal-scoring tear, and the Flyers were playing great hockey. Over the past two months, Richards has slowed down, and the Flyers have slumped. He's the leader, the captain, and he's just not getting it done. Sure, he still hits and works hard, but something is off. He's a step slower, a split second off on his timing, and since he's come into the league, I can't remember him missing on so many passes. It's almost as if Scott Hartnell's rubbing off on him in a bad way. As the Flyers continue to swoon, Richards seems to try and force more and more passes that aren't there, throw blind pucks to no one in particular and generally doesn't look like Mike Richards. Add in his alarmingly laissez-faire attitude last season as the Flyers stumbled down the stretch, and it makes you wonder if this guy's really ready to be a captain. But it's too late to really think about that. Richards is the captain, he's here for the long haul, and his teammates look to him to lead. Right now, he's struggling to find his game, and the Flyers are following suit. He needs to step it up big time or else.

Then there is your Philadelphia Eagles.

Yes, the Eagles are leading the NFC East at 10-4, have clinched a playoff spot, are fighting for an outside shot at a first-round bye and playing their best football here in December … par for the course. But that doesn't mean I still don't have plenty of problems with some of these guys.

Andy Reid has his fresh new contract, and he's earned it. But man, that doesn't mean I have to like the guy. He's still the absolute worst coach in the league at managing the clock, challenging plays and going a bit overboard with the passing. Though admittedly of late, he's remained remarkably balanced, and the Eagles have won 5 straight. That's not a coincidence. But still, the same old, same old keeps happening … dumb penalties, terrible clock management, etc. I won't be satisfied until he wins a Super Bowl, and we all know how likely that is. Plus, that decision to go for it on fourth down in the first quarter from their own 29 up 4 on Sunday was just awful. But that picture of him with DeSean is priceless. Really is.

That brings me to another fat guy … Shawn Andrews. Depressed or not, enough is enough already with this guy. At one time, Andrews was my favorite player on the offense, and perhaps the best (certainly in the top three). He was one of the absolute best guards in all of football, a complete beast. Then he got hurt, got depressed and now has absolutely no desire to play football. He's stealing money. The Eagles rebuilt their offensive line around this guy this season, letting mainstays Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan go and bringing in the talented Jason Peters, who roomed with Andrews at Arkansas, and his brother Stacy. And he let them down, injury or no injury. It's evident Shawn Andrews doesn't want to play football. Time to stop paying him as a football player. Thank god Winston Justice has done such a fine job this season, otherwise, we wouldn't be talking about the playoffs.

As far as the rest of the offense, well, there isn't much to complain about there. DeSean is a star, Donovan is Donovan, Vick has become effective down the stretch, LeSean has been good, Leonard Weaver is a stud, Westbrook's been hurt but is still Westbrook, Avant has been excellent, Celek quietly has put together a Pro Bowl-caliber season, Macin's been good and the line has played well all season long. Hell, even Reggie Brown has somewhat come back from the dead. But the defense … that's another story entirely.

In the early years of the McNabb-Reid era, the Eagles were a defensive team. Hugh Douglas, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, Carlos Emmons, etc., were physical, tough, strong-tackling defenses. Even as the years went on, with players like Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Michael Lewis, Shawn Barber, Jevon Kearse, Derrick Burgess, etc., the defense made a ton of plays, got to the quarterback and tackled well. This season, they can't tackle for shit, and they struggle to get pressure. Sure, a lot of that probably has to do with the loss of the late, great Jim Johnson and Sean McDermott being in just his first season as a defensive coordinator. But it's more than that. Not a single player on that defense besides Sheldon Brown and Jeremiah Trotter can tackle. Not one. And the biggest perpetrator is the guy who has taken over for Brian Dawkins.

The one mainstay on all of those defenses prior to this season was Brian Dawkins. It's no accident that the Eagles have been regarded as one of the best defensive teams in the league with Dawkins roaming the secondary. Sure, he's lost a step and can't cover like a corner the way he did when he was young, but the guy made plays and made big ones. And as recently as last December, he was playing some of his finest football. So what do the Eagles do? They decide to let Dawkins walk, insulting him with a subpar offer. And the guy that has taken over, Sean Jones, has been an embarrassment. Granted, I got it on good authority that Jones was a very good safety, and in his first few games starting midway through the season, he played pretty well. But in the past few games, he's been worse than terrible, missing tackle after tackle. And two misses in particular put him the category of Asante Samuel territory. Against the Giants, Sean Jones missed Brandon Jacobs in the open field so badly that it could go down as the single worst tackle attempt in NFL history. Well, it could have prior to Sunday's game against the Niners, where he did an even worse job trying to tackle Frank Gore. I mean, the guy can't tackle for shit. It's ridiculous. That's probably why he lost the job out of training camp to Macho Harris, who, oh by the way, isn't very good.

That goes for Quintin Mikell too. After a tremendous season last year, and the year before as well, Mikell has been average at best this season. The formerly strong tackler has missed more tackles this season than he has his entire career, and he's dropped more potential interceptions than any player in recent Eagles memory. Perhaps he can't get over the loss of Brian Dawkins, but he sure as shit better get his head back straight before the playoffs.

Then there's Asante Samuel. Asante is the king of high risk, high reward. For every great play he makes breaking up a pass or intercepting a ball, he negates with a back-breaking missed tackle. He's a weak, weak individual, and when he actually does make a tackle and tries to intimidate the ball carrier he miraculously took down, it makes me watch to punch myself in the face. How can a guy who misses more tackles than Ryan Howard misses low and away sliders act like he's hot shit when he actually does make a tackle? I don't get it. You aren't Ray Lewis. Save your celebrations and hot dogging for your interceptions. And learn to tackle, for real. You're getting paid too much damn money to look like a girl when someone's coming at you with the ball. Don't get me wrong, Asante is good, but he's also the worst tackler I've ever seen play. I mean, he makes Deion Sanders look like Dick Butkus.

That bring me to the linebacking corps. I like Will Witherspoon a lot. He played really well his first few games. But he's kind of disappeared since. Still, he's the Eagles' best linebacker. Chris Gocong sucks. Akeem Jordan is eh. Joe Mays can't get on the field. Jeremiah Trotter has no knees. Tracy White is a special teamer. And Moise Fokou has a weird name. That is to say, the linebackers aren't very good. It's amazing how little value this team puts into the linebacking corps, especially since the teams that win the Super Bowl typically have great linebackers: Ravens, Steelers, Patriots, as just a few examples. No wonder this team can't win the big one.

Not that this team gets much help from the line. Now, Trent Cole has officially converted me from thinking he is mainly a pass rusher who can't do shit against really good offensive linemen. Yes, he still struggles at times against mammoth, athletic tackles, but really, Trent Cole is a monster. If he had another threat along the line, he'd be considered one of the best in the business. And I really like Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. I think they are both fine players, especially against the run. But man, no one helps out Cole in the pass rush. He's the only player that can get to the quarterback. Bunk and Patterson don't get a great push on the pass rush, Trevor Laws has been inactive because he doesn't do anything, Victor Abiamiri also does nothing, Jason Babin continues to be a bust, sometimes I forget Chris Clemons is even on the team, Darren Howard is average, Juqua Parker shouldn't be a starer … no one gets any push. Shit, Antonio Dixon, who wasn't even supposed to make the team, has been the best backup the entire season. These guys simply don't get enough pressure.

It doesn't help that McDermott can't dial up a blitz that actually works either. The Eagles, who used to be so damn good at disguising blitzes and pressuring the quarterback, show their blitzes too early, blitz too often and routinely fail to get to the quarterback even when blitzing. It's tough to watch, especially after seeing Jim Johnson master the blitz the past decade. It's almost as if opposing offenses know what blitz the Eagles are going to call before the Eagles do. That's not good.

Just like Sav Rocca. It's either a 50-plus yard bomb or a 30-yard shank. There is no in between with Rocca. He's too inconsistent, and I think it's time to send him packing. Plus, what's with the whole signing Australian rules football players as punters instead of, you know, signing guys who are actual punters from college? I don't get it. Let's sign a guy who's never punted an actual football before instead of a guy who was really good at punting a football for four years at a major college. It's insanity. No more Australian rules football punters. How about some American football punters? Makes too much sense, I guess.

Oh, and this team lost to the Raiders. The Raiders. For real. Though to be fair, the Raiders have seemed to manage to beat pretty good or decent teams yet lose to bad teams. But still. The Raiders.

Finally, the Phillies.

I don't care what all the common sense the future have in store, I got a big, big problem with trading Cliff Lee. Ruben Amaro and company could have made my dreams come true, uniting Roy Halladay with the greatest man who ever lived. I mean, they really could have. As in, they traded for Roy Halladay in a deal that was totally separate from the Cliff Lee trade. Talk about payroll and the farm system all you want. I don't give a shit. Having two Cy Young winners, two of the absolute best pitchers in baseball heading your starting rotation would be the most awesome thing ever in the history of the universe AND give this team the best chance at getting back to the World Series for the third straight year and potentially winning the whole damn thing for the second time in three seasons. With the way Lee pitched this past postseason and the general dominance of Roy Halladay, I find it hard to believe any team could beat the Phils in a playoff series.

All I wanted for Christmas was my two frontline aces, and it was within our grasp. But I won't get it. All I know is it's not a good idea to trade a Cy Young winner still in his prime and coming off a dominant season and playoffs for unknown commodities. But the Phillies did, instead of putting together one of the all-time greatest one-two pitching punches in MLB history. Ba humbug.

If you aren't making money even though you're selling out damn near every game, everyone is wearing jerseys and buying Phillies merchandise, everyone is eating and drinking at the concession stands, people are paying $10, $15, $20 for parking, TV ratings are through the roof as are television revenues and everyone within an 80-mile radius of the city is a Phillies fan, then you're business model is broken. $140 million budget my ass. If $149 million would kill you for one season of greatness, sell the team. Ebenezer Scrooge David Montgomery can kiss my ass. But seriously, I'm all sorts of pumped about Halladay.

In a related story, you wanna know another reason the Phils couldn't keep Lee? Jamie Moyer. Instead of riding off into the sunset and retiring after winning the World Series, the old man wanted to come back. The Phillies wanted him back too, for one year. Jamie insisted on two. This is the second year. He's going to make around $8 million. There's the Cliff Lee money. Add that to the fact that Jamie turned into a grumpy old man last season, complaining about getting pulled from the starting rotation even though he was sucking it up, and we have ourselves a guy that is killing us right now. Plus, his dad is annoying. Trust me, I know.

While we're on the subject of pitching, Colbert Hamels the first. What. A. Pussy. A year ago this time, I never imagined uttering another unkind word about you. You were the NLCS and WS MVP in 2008, simply brilliant and on the verge of becoming one of the game's best. Then you turn around and have an awful 2009, coming in admittedly unprepared to start the season and never getting back to form. In the playoffs, you were even worse, not pitching a single good game. Every little thing that didn't go your way got in your head, and you let it affect you. That's called being mentally weak, a.k.a being a pussy. A call not going your way, a jam shot finding a hole, an error behind you … you let it all affect you. And you sucked for it. As good as you were in the 2008 postseason (and you were REALLY, REALLY good), you were equally as awful in 2009. Get your head on straight. Stop filming shitty Comcast commercials and develop that curveball, trust your out-pitch changeup and stop trying to blow a 91-mph fastball past Major League hitters. Grow the fuck up already. Shit.

And of course there was Brad Lidge. I don't have the energy to even bring up all his incredible fuckups, and the fact that Ryan Madson is not a closer. But trust me, those two combined to form the most dreadful closing duo since Mitch Williams was in town. Talk about a fall from grace. Going from an unhittable setup man and perfect closer to complete shit. Not good.

The rest of the Phillies are all right with me. Though I would like to advise Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez to fucking lay off that old fucker Andy Pettitte's low and outside breaking ball for once. Fucking christ! None of those pitches were fucking strikes, yet you guys kept chasing. It was so god damn annoying. It really was.

But I still love you guys anyway. And the rest of you too. Happy Festivus! Where's my aluminum pole?

BallHype: hype it up!

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