Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year That Was

Believe it or not, 2009 is over when the clock strikes midnight, and with it goes the first full year of The House that Glanville Built publishing whatever damn well we please. And by we, I mean me, with very few exceptions. Since I'm vain and all, I'll take you down memory lane for my favorite posts of 2009.

Jan. 6: An Epic Journey

Jan. 9: I have thoughts? by Arkansas Fred

Jan. 11: So Let Me Tell You About My Weekend

Jan. 14: A Letter to Joe Pa by Arkansas Fred

Jan. 26: cameron crazy by The Charles

Jan. 27: Remembering Why I Love Video Games

Jan. 28: What a Way to Go Out

Feb. 3: Don't Forget About Kobe

Feb. 5: So I Lied

Feb. 5: Big News? by Joltin' Joe Blanton

Feb. 26: Good Day Giroux

March 2: I'm so mad I could punch a baby by Arkansas Fred

March 6: Who Wants to Dance?

March 9: So Long Suckers … the Weekend that Was

March 16: Yo, Guy, You Stink

March 19: Let the Madness Begin

March 30: The Shot Heard Round the Main Line

April 2: Your Defense is Offensive

April 3: 'Who Knew the NIT Would Feel So Good?'

April 7: Wayne's World, Party Time

April 9: Am I Soothsayer? No Questions Asked

April 13: Here's to Harry, the Greatest Announcer Who Ever Lived

April 14: Remembering Harry the K

April 20: A Walk-Off, a Phenom and an Upset

April 21: Robbie Gould is Not a Fan of Me

April 27: A Split, a Sweep, a Draft, and an Epic, Epic Collapse

May 1: From the Scene of the Crime: How the Sixers Got Dismantled

May 5: My Hat Trick's Better Than Yours

May 13: We are Not Werthy

May 14: 5 Faceoff Guys Flyers Should Target

May 15: I Think I'm Still Drunk

May 18: The Reverend Rankings — My 5 Favorite/Least Favorite Players: Phillies

May 21: Hey LeBron, What Would Kobe Do?

May 25: My Bronx Tale

May 29: The Reverend Rankings — May Favorite Players: Sixers

June 2: I Could Go for a Ty

June 4: The Story No One's Talking About: Hedo's Revenge

June 8: Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer

June 10: The Curious Case of Greg Dobbs

June 16: If I Hear the Word Twitter One More Time

June 25: Meet the Moron

June 26: It's Drafty in Here

June 30: The Reverend Rankings — My 5 Favorite Players: Flyers

July 7: My 2009-10 NBA Conundrum

July 8: The Reverend Rankings — My 5 Favorite Players: Eagles Defense

July 13: Might Ducks 3 is the Worst Movie Ever

July 24: Other Fans Typically Annoy Me

July 28: The Reverend Rankings — My 5 Favorite Players: Eagles Offense

July 29: Sadly, an End of an Era

July 29: So Crazy It Just Might Work

July 31: A Man With Two First Names

Aug. 4: The Reverend Rankings — My 5 Favorite Players: Eagles Special Teams

Aug. 10: Weddings, Gambling, Injuries and Opportunities Lost

Aug. 13: Looking Back at A.I. and Stack

Aug. 20: Don't Ever LEEve (depressing)

Aug. 26: Brad Lidge Sucks, Cole Hamels Blows and Vice Versa

Sept. 4: 3 is Greater than 1

Sept. 8: The Longest Long Weekend Ever

Sept. 14: Cole, Car Wrecks, Paulus Sucks, Ribs, Picks and Pedro

Sept. 18: World, Meet Jacory Harris

Sept. 28: I Hate Penn State and the Philadelphia Mets

Oct. 7: Hats Off to Richards, Carle, Briere

Oct. 8: So That's What It's Like Being Blind

Oct. 9: Twin Killings

Oct. 12: A Call from Denver

Oct. 13: The Agony of Victory Tastes So Sweet

Oct. 16: The Bridge is Swaying but Phils Still Standing

Oct. 19: So Cy Young Winners are Pretty Good at Pitching


Oct. 22: 'You're Gonna Win Those Games. You're Goin to the World Series'

Oct. 29: The CC Show

Oct. 30: Another Pitching Duel

Nov. 1: Cole Hamels Fucking Sucks

Nov. 2: I Feel Like I Just Got Punched in the Gut

Nov. 3: The Phillies Should Pay Me to Go to Playoff Games

Nov. 9: Perhaps You'd Like to Kick My Dog While We're at It

Nov. 12: Long Live Iggy (And Brandon Jennings is a Monster)

Nov. 16: Fat, Drunk and Stupid is No Way to Go Through Life

Nov. 23: I Love the Drake (and Running the Football)

Nov. 24: Jared Odrick is a Beast

Nov. 30: Moosed and Goosed

Dec. 1: Going Back to Philly

Dec. 1: College Football Fantasy

Dec. 4: Allen Iverson: Brotherly Love

Dec. 7: An Ax, a Phenom, a Punch, a Beast and a Homecoming

Dec. 8: Return of the King

Dec. 10: The Whitest Sequence in the World

Dec. 11: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Frontline Aces

Dec. 15: What's Up, Doc?

Dec. 21: Not Quite Snowed In

Dec. 29: My 5 Most Memorable Games of the Decade

BallHype: hype it up!

Connect Four

Don't look now, but the suddenly streaking Flyers have won four games in a row, all on the road, after last night's 6-0 beatdown of the Rangers in the Garden, jumping all the way from 14th place a mere week ago to 8th in the Eastern Conference. Finally, this team is starting to resemble the one from the first few weeks of the season, the one we all expected to see.

Ten days ago, the Flyers started out so flat against the Rangers at home that Peter Laviolette took a timeout in the first minutes. The Flyers responded, dominating the rest of the way, but they still lost 2-1. Clearly, Philadelphia remembered that and wasn't going to allow that to happen again. Just 54 seconds in, Blair Betts scored his fourth goal of the season to put the Flyers on the board, driving hard to the net and banging home a rebound off an Ian Laperriere shot. It was a message sent loud and clear by the former Ranger Betts and his teammates: No more fucking around. Time to play some hockey.

From there it was all Flyers. Danny Briere and Claude Giroux made it 3-0 before the first 15 minutes had even been played. And it was all Flyers the entire way. They outshot the Rangers 11-5 in the opening period, chasing Henrik Lundqvist from the game. Then they ousthot the Rangers 18-5 in the second, lighting the lamp twice more, both goals coming from Simon Gagne. And while the Rangers did finally muster up some shots in the 3rd, oushooting the Flyers 12-2 in the final 20 minutes, the play never really tilted in their favor. In fact, even though the Flyers didn't even get a shot a goal for the first 8 minutes and 30 seconds of the third period, they still outscored the Rangers 1-0, because on that first shot of the final period for Philadelphia, Gagne scored, his third straight goal, good for the natural hat trick.

It was a good, old-fashioned beatdown and clearly a statement game for the Flyers. Yes, they've gone on this four-game winning streak by beating the Lightning (11th in the East), Carolina (15th), the Islanders (13th) and last night the Rangers (10th), not exactly the cream of the crop, but the most important thing is the Flyers have played incredibly well in all those games, with the exception of letting the Canes back into it. And last night was the best of the bunch. They put together three solid periods of hockey, and most importantly, they found a way to score goals. A lot of them.

The Flyers got superb contributions from all four lines, with three of them scoring goals and all of them playing hounding defense. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continued their awakening, each dishing out two assists. Danny Briere had a beauty of a goal, waiting out Lundqvist by deking about 15 times before stuffing the puck home, and added an assist. Claude Giroux scored the third goal of the game and assisted on the last one, firing a picture-perfect pass to Gagne all alone. And Simon, well, what a difference this guy makes. At times, it's easy to forget just how damn good Simon Gagne really is. He's been here so long that we probably don't appreciate him as much as we should. To be fair, his time missed due to injury over the years hasn't helped, but when he's healthy and on the ice, there aren't many forwards in the league with more complete games than Simon Gagne. He's a tremendously underrated defensive player, backchecking with the best of them, and his scoring touch is something to marvel. Since he's returned, he's played incredibly well, and he's helped raised the game of a previously slumping Richards. And last night against the division rival Rangers, who were two points ahead of the Flyers heading into the game, all he did was post a natural hat trick to kill any hopes of the Rangers showing life. Oh, and he assisted on Giroux's goal for good measure. Let us never take for granted just how good Simon Gagne is, no matter how many times he gets hurt.

But offense wasn't the whole story. No. The Flyers played smothering defense last night too. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the Flyers completely dominated the puck, putting forth the relentless, aggressive forecheck that Laviolette expects form his players. All four lines were playing the majority of the game in the Rangers' zone. Richards-Gagne-Giroux scored four of the six goals and were running circles around the Rangers. Carter-Hartnell-Briere probably supplied the most sustained chances, Betts-Laperriere-Carcillo continued to be one of the most hard-working lines in hockey, and Powe-van Riemsdyk-Asham pounded the Rangers, working the cycle offensively and applying the forecheck with reckless abandon. If ever there was a player made for Laviolette's aggressive forecheck system, it's Darroll Powe. His impact on this new system has been evident. It's not a coincidence that this four-game winning streak has coincided with his return.

And all four of those lines backchecked like hell to keep the Rangers at bay. Add in the countless blocked shots by the Flyers, led by Kimmo Timonen, and it was total domination. Laviolette reunited Tiimonen and Coburn, and that duo was brilliant, highlighted by Coburn's save as Leighton was wiped out in the corner thanks to a collision with Hartnell. Pronger and Carle looked exactly like they did at the beginning of the season, which is to say a frontline, shutdown duo with some scoring punch. And Oskars Bartulis played perhaps his best game of the season, visibly stepping up his came to cover up the rookie mistakes of Danny Syvret with Ryan Parent on the shelf.

Then of course, there was Michael Leighton. Yes, the Flyers limited the Rangers to just 22 shots. And yes, Leighton had only faced 10 shots through two periods (5 in each). But when called upon to make a big save, Leighton did just that. He stopped all 22 pucks fired his way, and he made a couple of real dandies. Like sliding across to thwart a rebound attempt and gloving down a dangerous bid from the NHL's leading goal scorer, Marian Gaborik.

Photo courtesy of Enrico

In these last four games, Leighton has surrendered just six goals. For all you math wizards out there, that's a 1.50 goals against average. Pretty damn good. And not too shabby for a guy who was playing so horribly for the worst team in the conference that he was waived. Admittedly, I wasn't expecting much from Leighton. I watched him play a few times with Carolina, and to be perfectly frank, he sucked. A lot. He always looked out of position and frantic back there, and his terrible numbers (over 4.00 gaa) told the story. When he took over against Florida after Brian Boucher injured himself making a save, he looked like the same goaltender: out of position, frantic, out of place. Truth be told, I thought he looked that way at times against Tampa Bay too. But after the Flyers won, and then won again, you could see his confidence grow and you could see exactly why Leighton is in the NHL. He's a big body, sure, but he's also lightning quick from post to post. He displayed that a few times last night. And with the Flyers clearing everything in front of him and getting to just about every rebound that had been eluding them prior to this win streak, Leighton has looked more and more like a capable netminder. So much so that no one would be surprised if the Flyers decided to change their mind and start Michael Leighton tomorrow (or Saturday or whenever the weather permits) in the winter classic over Boucher, who is slated to come back and start. It's been a nice turnaround for Leighton, and when Ray Emery returns, the trio of Leighton, Emery and Boucher may afford Philadelphia some nice trade bait.

One thing's for sure. It's nice to have him right now, and it's even better having the full complement of forwards in front of him. Oh, and winning four in a row is pretty nice too, especially when the fourth is a 6-0 whooping of the Rangers, with the ex-Ranger Betts scoring what amounted to the game-winner.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pro Bowling

Well, the list of the NFL's Pro Bowlers are in, and the Eagles did quite well for themselves. Six Eagles in all were named to the team. Yesterday, before the teams were announced, I told Adam EatShit that four would definitely make it and potentially six could. True story. That doesn't mean I got all the guys right. Let's take a look.

Defense: Asante Samuel, Trent Cole

Asante was one of my four locks to make the team. He's tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with nine (along with Jarius Byrd and Darren Sharper), and he has a reputation of being a big-play corner, which he is. No surprise in him making it. However, truth be told, I don't think Asante Samuel necessarily deserves to be on the team. Don't get me wrong, he's a fine player and just about every one of his 9 interceptions have been huge, but you watch the guy play week in and week out and he's certainly no shutdown guy. Very good, yes. Great, great playmaker. But he offsets that with the worst tackling in the NFL. As good as he's been taking the ball away, he's been just as bad giving up big plays by horribly missing tackles. Still, the guy has 9 interceptions, leading the league, so of course he was going to make it. Hard to argue.

As far as Cole goes, he was on my could make it list. Not a lock, but a guy I thought had a good shot. The reason I didn't have him as a lock? I had no idea that he was third in the NFC in sacks and fifth in the entire NFL. Had I known that, I would have definitely called him a lock. His 12.5 sacks are even more impressive if you get to watch this team every week. This is not exactly the Eagles defense we've grown accustomed to over the years, the one that punishes opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles struggle at times to get any pass rush from anyone not named Trent Cole, and the blitzes seem to have lost their luster with the passing of Jim Johnson. That leaves opposing offenses with one guy and one guy only to key on in passing situations, yet every week, Trent Cole has wreaked havoc on quarterbacks, running backs and every single offensive lineman he's lined up against. I used to be a guy who knocked Cole a bit early in his career, saying he was a bit overrated and nothing more than rush specialist. Over the past few years, he's proven that sentiment wrong, becoming one of the most dominant ends in the NFC. He's been a master this season both against the pass and the run, snuffing out screens, running down plays … basically, Trent Cole has been a beast. He most definitely earned this bid.

Offense: DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Leonard Weaver

DeSean and Weaver were two more of my locks. Let's face the facts, DeSean Jackson is the best wide receiver in the NFC East, and frankly, he's every bit as dangerous as any player in the entire league. His 8 touchdown plays of 50 yards or more this year are tied for the NFL record, and he still has the game against Dallas to make that record all his own. He more than any other player has made this offense impossible to stop, because his speed and big-play threat demand attention, opening up the rest of the field. And sometimes, DeSean simply can't be stopped. He's just too damn good. His selection was a no-brainer.

As was Leonard Weaver's, which I'm sure no one would have ever guessed heading into the season. Now, the Eagles' fullback woes from a season ago were well-documented, so it was no surprise when they went out and got themselves a true fullback this offseason. And by all accounts, Leonard Weaver was the best available one out there. When the Birds signed him, everyone was happy, but everyone also sort of questioned how big of a deal it would be. After all, the Eagles run a ton of empty or one-back sets, meaning a fullback can only have a minimal impact. Yes, as last season showed, that minimal impact is still very important, but chances were Weaver wouldn't be a key cog on most downs. Boy did that change in a hurry. Of course Weaver is an excellent blocker who has created holes for Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy all season long, not to mention done a great job helping keep Donovan McNabb clean. That alone doesn't get you to the Pro Bowl though, unless you're the lead blocking back for a 1,500-yard rusher. Weaver was not. No, what he became was the most versatile fullback in the entire NFL. The former college tight end showcased his sick hands throughout the season, making clutch catches and huge plays. When Westbrook went down, he displayed his deceptive speed and running skills, lightening the load of the passing game. He has arguably been one of the most valuable players on this explosive offense, and he certainly has been the most dynamic, most versatile fullback in the entire NFL. Again, no-brainer.

Jason Peters on the other hand was a bit of a shocker to me. In the first few games, Peters was less than stellar, committing a slew of false start and holding penalties. He looked a bit slow and a bit out of shape. He's certainly progressed as the season has gone on, and frankly, he's been damn good. Well worth the big contract, and making everyone forget about Tra Thomas. But Pro Bowl good? I don't think so. He wasn't especially good on Sunday, and he's had more moments where he's gotten beat than you'd expect from one of the best tackles in the game. In the run game, he's a complete mauler, a truly dominant force, and he's good as a pass blocker, but honestly, he didn't completely wow me. Again, he's very good, and he's been great in a good number of games as well, but I was a bit surprised at his inclusion.

Special teams: David Akers, DeSean Jackson

Akers was my fourth and final lock. The guy is leading the NFL in scoring with 139 points, has made an NFL-best 32 field goals and has missed just four kicks all season, going 32 of 36. He's shown he still has it from long distance, making a 52-yarder and having no trouble getting the ball there, he's a perfect 11-11 from 20-29 yards, 8-9 from 30-39 and 11-13 from 40-49. Basically, David Akers has been brilliant this year. Rumors of his demise the past few seasons were grossly exaggerated, including by yours truly. Most points and field goals gets you to the Pro Bowl every time. And rightfully so.

DeSean was also named as the punt returner, which was another lock. He leads the NFL in punt return average at 16 yards per return, has the longest punt return in the league at 85 yards, and is tied with Patrick Crayton with two returns for scores. Basically, he's the best punt returner in the league.

Who should have made it: Sheldon Brown and Brent Celek

In the words of Matt Mosley:

For the Eagles, I think cornerback Sheldon Brown and tight end Brent Celek should have been on the team. They're both alternates, but that doesn't cut it. Brown has played through injuries and been excellent this season. Celek simply had to overcome too many big names. Vernon Davis had an excellent season for the 49ers and Witten finished strong for the Cowboys. I could make an argument that Celek should've made it in front of Witten. Just look at the huge discrepancy in touchdowns.

In my humble opinion, Sheldon has been the best player on the entire Eagles defense. Better than Asante. Better than Cole. Better than anyone. As Mosley pointed out, he's played through injury, and it hasn't slowed him down one bit. The guy has five interceptions, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and two touchdowns — one an interception return and one a fumble return. He's third in the NFL in interception return yards with 152, and more importantly, he's one of the few Eagles who rarely misses a tackle. He's a big hitter, sure tackler and excellent player. He's been so good that Asante has been able to get his 9 picks because a lot of teams have been throwing Asante's way more than Sheldon's. It's not the first time Brown should have made the Pro Bowl. For years, he was the better corner while Lito Sheppard was getting the picks and return touchdowns, thus going to Pro Bowls. But this may have been Sheldon's finest season. I thought he had a shot to make it, and I really thought he should have. With the loss of Jim Johnson and Brian Dawkins, not to mention the injuries in the secondary and the poor play at the safety position, Sheldon has been the guy back there that has held everything together. He really deserved a trip to the Pro Bowl this year. He really did. It's a shame that he doesn't seem to get the acknowledgment he deserves across the league.

As far as Brent Celek is concerned, he was the other Eagle I though had a chance but probably wouldn't make it. Vernon Davis scored a league-high 12 touchdowns from the tight end spot, more than anyone, so he was a lock. Then you had to assume Jason Witten would be named on name recognition alone. Plus, he is a damn good player. But as Mosely pointed out, Celek probably deserved it over Witten. Just look at the TDs. Celek has 8, Witten just one. Yes, Witten is a better blocker, but Celek vastly improved on that this season, turning it from a weakness to becoming more than adequate. And yes, Witten caught 88 balls to Celek's 69, but even with 19 fewer catches, Celek has just 79 less yards. Celek's 12.7 yards per catch is nearly two full yards more than Witten's. And those eight touchdowns to just one are hard to ignore. Throw in the fact that I had Jason Witten on one of my fantasy teams and Brent Celek on the other, and I can attest to the fact that Celek has been far more valuable this season than Witten. By all accounts, Celek has had a more productive year than Jason Witten. But Witten has the rep. Those are the breaks. I'm just glad Tony Gonzalez didn't make it over him, because Celek definitely had a better year than him.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 5 Most Memorable Games of the Decade

In case you haven't heard, the decade comes to a close when the clock strikes midnight at the end of Thursday's New Year's Eve festivities, and everyone and their mother is doing lists from the decade of 2000-2009. Consider this my contribution to said lists, only I'm going to do something a little bit different. I'm going to list my 5 most memorable games for the teams I root for (i.e., one for the Sixers, one for the Flyers, one for the Eagles, one for the Phillies, and one for Penn State — the only college because I'm actually a graduate), and the 5 most memorable games I attended in the past decade. Enjoy.

1. Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
Really, any Phillies fan could go for the entire 2008 postseason, whether it be Brett Myers' walk, Matt Stairs' moon shot or any game Cole Hamels pitched, but nothing will ever trump the game that finally crowned the Phillies, the city of Philadelphia, World Fucking Champions.

The game began on Monday, Oct. 27 and ended on Wednesday, Oct. 29. It began with Cole Hamels pitching his sixth straight brilliant gem of the postseason, despite the fact the rains were falling and he could not grip his devastating changeup. It got postponed after the Rays tied the game in unplayable conditions. It resumed with a sprint and a bang, the first shot coming off the bat of the previously dead Geoff Jenkins, who picked a hell of a time to get his first postseason hit. I'll let my past self recount the rest:

I watched the game with just three other people: Adam EatShit, uncle jellyfish and our boy Alan, here at my house. And last night, the Phillies showed just how hungry they were to give us all something to celebrate. They played the way they have all year, only they didn't. A leadoff double by Geoff Jenkins--his first hit of the World Series--followed by a bunt to move him over by Jimmy Rollins followed by a popup that was just a little too far for anyone to reach, and the Phillies had a lead via small ball.

After the Rays tied it up with a home run by Rocco Baldelli, no problem. A leadoff double by Pat Burrell--his first hit of the World Series--followed by Shaner moving pinch runner Eric Bruntlett to third with a grounder to the right side, followed by a laser base hit up the middle for Pete Happy, the most underappreciated player in this entire run. Small ball again. Back in the lead. For good.

J.C. was phenomenal. And Lidge was, well, perfect. When he got Eric Hinske on strikes, the four of us leapt up and formed a 4-man hug. I sat in disbelief, walked out to Girard and saw the fireworks, literally. Mayhem was upon us. I returned inside to find Adam EatShit crying, and I, too, shed a tear. Finally, it was our turn. THE PHILLIES ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!!

It's a moment I'll never forget as long as I live. Ever. And it was, without question, the best game of the last 10 years for any Philadelphia team of any sport.

Best Phillies Game I Attended: Game 4 of the 2008 World Series.
As part of the greatest weekend ever, silver fox and I attended game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, also known as the Joe Blanton Home Run Game.

In a strange twist of fate, it was the one game in the World Series that lacked any true drama, any tension. The Phillies exploded offensively, Ryan Howard hit two bombs, Jayson Werth added another. It was nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. I was giddy like a little schoolgirl the entire game, never having experienced a playoff game in person, much less a World Series game. It was the greatest fan experience at a game of my entire life. Joe motherfucking Blanton.

2. 2004/05 NFC Championship Game.
Growing up an Eagles fan is the equivalent of heartbreak. For three straight years, we watched as the Eagles were at the top of the NFC, only to lose in the championship game each and every year, falling a game short of reaching the Super Bowl. The first came against the Rams, where an upstart Eagles team wasn't expected to be, but nearly pulled off the upset. Then came the game they couldn't lose: The final game at the Vet, against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that the Eagles have owned, playing in frozen weather, conditions the Bucs had never won in. It was the year the Eagles were winning the Super Bowl. Then they didn't, as Joe Jurevicius and Keyshawn Johnson and Brad Johnson and Ronde Barber took the game and won the Super Bowl two weeks later. And then there was the third straight time, the embarrassment to the Panthers.

But finally, on that frigid January afternoon, the Eagles were determined, were focused and were going to the Super Bowl. Not even Michael Vick could stop them.

It was the greatest game the Eagles have ever played in my lifetime, considering the conditions, the history and the importance of it all. It was glorious.

Best Eagles Game I Attended: This one, the 2004/05 NFC Championship Game.
I was a junior in college at Penn State at the time. Earlier in the week, a friend of mine called and told me his brother was stuck in Texas and that he had an extra ticket to the NFC Championship game. It was mine if I wanted it. Of course I jumped at the offer, and on the Friday before the game, I piled into a car along with Adam EatShit, his brother, and two other friends, riding all the way back to the Philadelphia area in the middle seat in the back of a Jetta … and I've never been more comfortable in my life.

We headed to Widener University in Chester to meet up with another friend who was going to the game with us, only to find him nowhere in sight when we arrived. Turned out, he and the buddy we were staying with had gotten entirely too drunk, gotten into a fight, and our friend was passed out in the trunk of his car outside in freezing weather. After hours of searching for him, we finally found him and brought him inside. Then we slept.

When we awoke the next morning, there was a massive snow storm. A few brave soles ventured out to get food and beer, but the rest of the area wasn't going anywhere. It was virtually a blizzard outside, and we were all set to watch college hoops all day. And we did. What we witnessed was an upset for the ages, as Allen Ray, Randy Foye, Jason Fraser, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry upset No. 1 Kansas. It was awesome. We drank, relaxed and waited for the morning.

Sunday finally came, with snow on the ground and the temperatures colder than I can ever remember. We went to Tony Luke's before the game, got cheesesteaks and headed over to the Linc for some tailgating. It was so cold outside that I felt like my hands were going to fall off as I was eating my cheesesteak. I couldn't take it, so I had to finish it inside the car. Finally it was time to head in, and I sat up in nose bleeds next to my friend's cousin, a stranger until that point. I have never been so cold in my life, and I have never cared less about being cold in my entire life. As far as I was concerned, it was 70 and sunny. And as Chad Lewis caught that touchdown that broke his foot and sent the Eagles to Jacksonville, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life up until that point, hugging complete strangers sitting around me, jumping up and down like an idiot. I was so happy I wanted to cry.

After the game, we headed back with a friend of ours in the trunk, got in a slight fender-bender with him in the trunk yelling through, "What the hell was that!?!?" And the driver whom we hit stuck his head out the window and proclaimed, "I DON'T CARE! WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!" And that was the sentiment across the city. Nothing else mattered. The Eagles were finally going to the Super Bowl.

When I returned to class later that week, I showed up with a life-size cardboard cutout of Donovan McNabb, just to rub it in a little to the Pittsburgh fans. Alas, the Eagles fell short of the ultimate goal, and a year later, the Steelers won the Super Bowl yet again, giving the Pittsburghers the last laugh. But that one glorious day against the Atlanta Falcons was a thing of beauty. It really was.

Honorable Mention: 4th and 26.
I was also at this game with my dad. I was a sophomore in college, purchased two tickets — one for myself and one for my father — for way too much money, and sat in disgust as the Eagles were giving away a lead. It was 4th and 26, and all hope was lost. Until it wasn't.

Freddie, you magnificent bastard. I'd like to thank your hands for being so great. My dad and I couldn't believe it. We were stunned. And then we watched as David Akers tied it to send it to OT, Brett Favre threw up a gift to Brian Dawkins and Akers ended the game to advance to the NFC Championship game. It was unreal.

3. Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.
I was always a Sixers fan growing up, even when they sucked and the best players were Clarence Weatherspoon and Dana Barros. But when Allen Iverson came to town and Larry Brown followed suit, my fandom became an obsession. I watched Iverson and Brown turn a horrid franchise into a playoff team, then a contender and finally Eastern Conference champions. I taped playoff games, never missed a regular season contest. And when the little Sixers that could shocked the world against the unbeaten, indestructible Lakers, I really thought maybe this team built around David really could slay Goliath.

I was a high school junior at the time. I taped the game, just as I had numerous other playoff games that season. As I watched it live, I was going berserk. When it ended, I watched it again. And again. I even brought the tape into school and begged my Latin teacher to play it for us instead of watching Rocky in Latin. She agreed. I watched it as if it was the first time I had seen it. And I've done that about 30 or 40 times since, every time yelling about foul calls, screaming for the travel on Rick Fox, marveling at the step-over, waiting for Eric Snow to make the face, listening to Allen proclaim that Tyron Lue was holding him and Dikembe Mutombo anoint himself as playing great. When I went to college two years later, I honestly must have watched that game once a month, minimum. Just thinking about it makes me want to watch it right now.

Best Sixers Game(s) I Attended: Games 3 and 4 of the 2002 NBA First Round Playoffs.
Now, I could have went with Allen Iverson's return to Philadelphia as a member of the Denver Nuggets just as easily, but watching him on my side in the playoffs was even better. Coming off the high of the 2000-01 season, Arkansas Fred, silver fox and I bought a 10-game plan for the 2001-02 season along with Arkansas Fred's dad and secured ourselves playoff tickets. After the Celtics defeated the Sixers in the first two games, the series came back to Philadelphia. We were at both contests, and both were equally electric.

In game 3, the Sixers edged the Celtics 108-103 behind 42 points from Allen Iverson, 19 of which came from the free throw line, a stunning 23 points form Eric Snow and 18 more from Derrick Coleman. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker were beasts as well in that game, scoring 29 and 27 respectively, but the Sixers edged out the Cs. The very next game, Walker and Pierce were at it again, this time combining for 45 points, but Allen Iverson's 28 points and Dikembe's 14 boards helped the Sixers edge out the Celtics 83-81 in an intense battle.

The thing I remember most about those two games was the entire crowd in unison letting out a collective, "Noooooooooo!!!!!!" every time the Sixers dumped the ball in the post to Dikembe. The man was a great defender, great shot blocker, great rebounder, but he had hands of stone. More often than not, he would fumble the ball away, but he occasionally surprised us all by nailing home one of his line-drive hook shots. The other thing I distinctly remember is just how intense and tense the atmosphere was. Every basket mattered. Every timeout was crucial. Every turnover seemed deadly. Every rebound vitally important. The atmosphere was off the charts. Too bad the Sixers couldn't host a game 5, because that debacle in Boston was the worst basketball game I ever watched. But those two in Philly were fantastic. I'll never forget them.

4. Penn State vs. Ohio State, 2005.
Boy did I ever pick a bad time to graduate high school and head off to Penn State. The year before I arrived, Penn State had its worst season under Joe Paterno in decades. My freshman year, I did get to witness Larry Johnson rush for 2,000 yards, get jipped out of the Heisman, and watch Penn State get screwed by calls against Iowa and MIchigan. In all, it was a pretty solid season that let me watch future NFLers Larry Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Jimmy Kennedy, Anthony Adams and Michael Haynes, to name a few. Then the suck started. In my sophomore year of 2003, Penn State went 3-9, beating only lowly Indiana, Kent State and Temple. It didn't get much better my junior year, going 4-7 including the worst football game ever played, a 6-4 loss at home to Iowa. The program was in shambles, and Joe Paterno was starting to get some heat.

But then my senior season happened. Penn State finished the regular season 10-1, winning the Big Ten and coming one second away in Ann Arbor from going undefeated and playing for a national championship. They did it behind the leadership and talent of Michael Robinson, not to mention the shot in the arm from star-studded recruit freshmen Derrick Williams and Justin King. And the highlight of that season was undoubtedly the 17-10 victory against Ohio State in Happy Valley.

It was a tight game, a defensive battle, and the Nittany Lions went out and proved they were the better team. Not only that, but Paul Posluszny, who went on to win both the Butkus and Bednarik, proved he was the best player on the field. And he was the best player by miles that night. Better than A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter combined. How do I know? Because I was there …

Best Penn State Game I Attended: Penn State vs. Ohio State, 2005.
It was my senior season. I had suffered through the doldrums, missing just one game in my four years, a home game against Illinois my freshman season to attend my uncle's funeral. I was finally rewarded as a senior, and this game was by far the best college football game I have ever attended, surpassed only by the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons as far as any football game I've ever attended.

The atmosphere was electric, like nothing I have ever been a part of before. The only game that can even come close to comparing was the 40-7 thrashing against Nebraska my freshman year, when the "Fuck Nebraska!" chants began a full hour before the game. But this was better. This was special. It was the first true whiteout, and the only whiteout I respect, even though I bucked the system and wore my blue No. 43 Brandon Short jersey, the same jersey I always wore. There was nothing manufactured about that moment. There were no announcements made the game before to wear white, no whiteout printed on the ticket. It was a campus-wide movement that spread through word-of-mouth and culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime moment. In a sense, it sort of ruined the experience of going to a Penn State game after that because since that incredible moment, the university has tried to financially capitalize on it by designating whiteouts and marketing the atmosphere as something it's not every week.

Moments like that game can't be marketed and manufactured. Just can't. This was two undefeated heavyweights going at it toe-to-toe in prime time on national television. It was the two best defenses in the country with the two best linebacking corps going at it. It was two tough, heroic quarterbacks dueling. It was Penn State and Joe Paterno announcing to the world that the Nittany Lions are back, far from washed up. And watching Paul Posluszny roam around the field and dominate in a way that even LaVar Arrington never did, it was something to behold. He was everywhere, on every play, and his rundown sack of the speedy Troy Smith was the single greatest sack I've ever witnessed in my entire life. I'm still not sure how he got him, how he closed so fast. Believe me when I tell you that on that night, no one could outrun Posluszny. No one. He may not have had the fastest 40 time in the world, but he had the best closing speed in the country that season, hands down. He dominated that game. And when Tamba Hali sealed the game with his sack and forced fumble, the place went nuts. Riots occurred downtown. Police were out on their horses. It truly was Happy Valley once again.

5. Game 4 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Five overtimes. Five. The Flyers opened the series losing the first two games at home. After battling the Penguins in game 3, a do-or-die game, and coming away with a 4-3 victory in overtime, the Flyers had to manage to get another victory in Pittsburgh to salvage any hope of advancing. So how do the two teams follow a hard-fought overtime game? By dueling it out for 8 periods — 3 in regulation and five overtimes.

As obsessive of a fan as I am with everything, I'm not sure that anyone I know loves the Flyers as much as me. I literally would watch every single game in my bedroom from the moment Comcast Sportsnet came into existence, was on basic cable, and started airing home hockey games instead of having to pay for Prism. And I watched every road game and the rare home ones that were on before that. I grew up a diehard.

It didn't matter that I was in high school and had to wake up in the morning. It didn't matter that I had homework to do that stood no chance of getting done. There wasn't a chance in hell that I wasn't going to stay up and watch every last second of that game. I began watching it in my family's living room with my dad. As it got later and my dad fell asleep, I moved upstairs to my room to watch the rest in solitude. It was almost too much to take.

Every bounce, every pass, every miscue felt like it could turn the tides. The tension was breaking my nerves. I didn't move for one second for fear of missing something, anything. The players were visibly gassed, looking like dead fish out there just flailing around. During each short intermission, Jim Jackson and Gary Dornhoefer talked about the players getting IVs, ordering pizzas, trying to get some sort of energy. Then finally, mercilessly, Keith Primeau raced up ice, stopped on a dime, cut inside Darius Kasparaitis and ripped the shot past Tom Barrasso Ron Tugnutt to end the game and tie the series. By the time the puck hit the back of the net, I had already sprung up off my bed, flew halfway down the stairs and was on my way to writing my dad a hurried, probably unlegible note about what had just happened. By some miracle from god, I didn't scream like a maniac and awaken everyone in my house, but I vividly remember pumping my fists, whisper-screaming, "YEAH!!! YEAH!!!! YEAH!!!!" as I raced down the steps to alert my father as to what had just taken place.

It's not only the greatest Flyers game of the decade, it's the greatest hockey game of the decade. Maybe of all time. And it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Keith Primeau and Flyers fans.

Best Flyers Game I Attended: Game 3, 2000 Eastern Conference Finals.
After that 5 OT game, the Flyers won the next two to advance to the Easter Conference Finals against hated New Jersey. The teams split the first two games in Philadelphia, and somehow, some way, my dad scored two tickets to game 3 in Jersey.

The two of us went and witnessed the Flyers hand the Devils a 4-2 loss to take a 2-1 series lead, highlighted by the greatest save in the history of the world by one Brian Boucher, then a rookie sensation.

It was a save for the ages. And I remember everything about that game like it was yesterday. First, the walk through the tunnel from the parking lot over to the arena. Then watching as Darren Pang stood on top of a podium to be eye level with his colleagues at ESPN. Flyers fans outnumbering Devils fans by at least 2-to-1 in New Jersey. Boucher's incredible save. John LeClair taking a stick to the face from Martin Brodeur on a followthrough while Brodeur was playing the puck, resulting in blood gushing down LeClair's face. Rich Tocchet completely dominating, scoring the goal that iced the game. Goals from Mark Recchi and Keith Jones. And a young, baby-faced Simon Gagne added another. It was a thing of beauty. And as I wrote after Boucher recorded his first victory for the Flyers this season about that game more than 9 years ago:

The win gave the Flyers a 2-1 series lead, and as we were walking across the bridge from the arena to the parking lot at the Meadowlands, there were glorious Flyers chants and a huge, giant of a man in a Flyers jersey with the custom name "Hot Tub" on the back. Everyone kept yelling, "Hey, Hot Tub!" It was great. And if you didn't know any better, you'd think the game took place on south Broad, because the whole place was packed with Flyers fans.

Of course, we all know what happened from there, and it's nothing we want to relive. But on that night, it was the Flyers who owned the Devils in their own building. It was Brian Boucher who made ridiculous save after ridiculous save, not Martin Brodeur. It was the Flyers taking control. And I was there.

BallHype: hype it up!

Dexter and the Answer

So last night I got a basketball double-header to go along with some Monday Night Football. In the early tilt, I watched the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels outlast Rutgers, and then witnessed the Philadelphia 76ers somehow manage to pull away from the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half to win 104-93 in the Rose Garden. Neither game went quite as I expected.

It all began with Rutgers-UNC, which was tight in the first half, with UNC's young backcourt continuing to make freshmen/sophomore mistakes with turnovers and questionable decisions. As frustrating as it is watching the Tar Heels' guard play this season after being treated to three seasons of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, the thing that was bothering me the most was trying to figure out if Rutgers center Hamady Ndiaye is related to former UNC forward Makhtar Ndiaye.

From left to right: Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Makhtar Ndiaye and George Lynch

Carter, Julius Peppers, Ndiaye, Jamison

Now, there is no known relation between Makhtar and Hamady as far as I can tell, but they're both from Dakar, Senegal, both play/played Division I basketball and both went to prep schools. I have to believe they are related somehow. I refuse to believe otherwise.

Anyway, the game itself looked like it was getting out of reach for Rutgers, as UNC used its size and strength to build a 16-point lead. But that lead shrunk to four, as Mike Rosario went off. If you haven't seen the 6'3" sophomore from Jersey City play, trust me when I say this kid can ball. He has a stupid-ass semi-mohawk haircut, but the guy can fill it up. He was giving Carolina fits in the second half, along with Jonathan Mitchell.

During that stretch where a 16-point lead became 4, the Tar Heels looked plain awful. Ed Davis, who has been projected as a top 10 pick, looked tentative and uncharacteristically missed several easy bunnies, finishing just 3-9 from the field. The sophomore is nowhere near ready for the NBA. He hasn't even established himself enough on the college level as far as I'm concerned. He did nab 15 rebounds though, so that's a pretty damn good start, and down the stretch, he and Tyler Zeller pretty much gobbled up every board, which allowed UNC to take control at the end.

But the player who stood out for the Tar Heels was true freshman Dexter Strickland. Make no mistake, this team is run by Larry Drew II, who made some key plays, but Dexter Strickland is this team's wildcard in the backcourt. Last night, he took over the game down the stretch, hitting a back-breaking three that Rutgers was daring him to take after the Scarlet Knights had just cut UNC's lead to four. That trey pushed it back to 7, and Carolina never looked back.

The thing that was so impressive about Strickland last night was his speed and confidence. Now, very few human beings who pick up a basketball can match the speed and quickness that Ty Lawson displayed in his three seasons in Chapel Hill, but Strickland isn't all that far behind. Touted mainly as a shooter, that part of his game wasn't mentioned or perhaps wasn't there when he was in high school. Hell, it wasn't there early in the year, but since beating Michigan State, Strickland has shown the explosiveness that this backcourt desperately needs, especially in Roy Williams' run, run, run system. Strickland gave Carolina that last night, and he demanded the ball down the stretch, showing no fear as a freshman. You could see his confidence grow with each bucket. He finished with a team-high 18 points on 6-8 shooting and 5-6 from the line. And he was the best player on the floor wearing baby blue.

Of course, the Heels had the superior athletes and more depth, evident by the six players who scored in double digits (Drew 10, Davis 11, Deon Thompson 14, Will Graves 10, Strickland 18, Zeller 10). But that game continued to prove that this will be a trying year watching North Carolina. Even with Strickland improving and looking confident, and Larry Drew playing steadier ball, the guards simply aren't as good as people have grown accustomed to at North Carolina. But they're still a big team with a ton of depth and ranked in the top 10, so it's not exactly a down year either. We'll have to wait and see just what we can expect from this squad in 2010.

For the Sixers, however, it has been a down year. A way down year. My main reason for wanting to stay up and watch the game last night was to see Brandon Roy do his thing and see a talented Blazers team that had won four in a row. I don't get to watch nearly as many Portland games as I'd like.

But once the game started, I could tell the Sixers had come to play, not just concede a victory to the Blazers. Allen Iverson came out and scored six points in the first quarter of his first game back from knee arthritis, and the Sixers were hanging tough. Sure, Roy was getting his and the Blazers took a lead into halftime, but the Sixers were making Roy and the Blazers work for everything and sticking with them, heading into halftime a very confident team.

And that confidence carried right on over to the second half. The Sixers came out on fire, putting up 34 points in the 3rd while getting contributions from everyone: Brand led everyone with 10 in quarter, Iggy added 7, Dalembert and Lou Will each had four, Al and Speights each had 2 and Royal Ivey even had a cameo, scoring 5 points on a three and a buzzer-beating two to close out the quarter. The Sixers looked enthused, excited and good. As a result, a six-point deficit turned into a 4-point lead heading into the final 12 minutes. And this time, the team that couldn't close out games finally did. And they did so because of Allen Iverson.

All season long, this team has been in games, but they haven't been able to finish them. For all the good Andre Iguodala does, and he does plenty of good, he hasn't been able to carry a team on his shoulders down the stretch. Neither has Brand. Or Speights. Or Thad. Or anyone. Allen Iverson has been doing that his entire career, and he did it again last night, scoring a team-high 9 points in the final quarter. And the Sixers followed suit, closing out a talented Blazers team on the road.

Say what you will about Allen Iverson's age, his past, his deficiencies. Last night proved that with a full complement of players, the Sixers are better with Allen Iverson than without him. He knows how to close, and he showed his younger teammates how to do just that last night.

Uncoincidentally, the Sixers played perhaps their best game of the season last night. Everyone contributed, everyone chipped in. And Allen Iverson was a big part of that. A.I. scored 19 points on a very efficient, very unselfish 7-11 from the floor. He got to the line a game-high seven times (tied with Brandon Roy), nabbed three rebounds and dished out five assists in 31 minutes of action. He looked a lot like the Iverson of old, swishing home jumpers, attacking the rim … and looked a lot like a newer, older, wiser Iverson at the same time, dishing out 5 assists, not taking any wild, contested shots, playing selfless basketball, not selfish basketball. And the whole team benefitted.

Elton Brand was aggressive, assertive and dominant. He scored a game-high 25 points on 11-16 shooting, nabbing 9 boards in the process. Andre Iguodala had an insane floor game, putting up 14 points, 7 boards, 9 assists, a steal, two threes, and shooting 6-13 from the field, all while playing 43 minutes and hounding Brandon Roy on the defensive end. Samuel Dalembert continued to show he absolutely loves playing with Iverson, putting up 14 points and 8 boards himself on 7-9 shooting, and not committing a slew of boneheaded fouls. He just seems to be more interested, to play harder, better when Iverson is in the lineup. Lou Will didn't have a great game stats-wise, but he did play 35 minutes, wasn't forcing the issue, and added five boards, five dimes and 3 steals to his 9 points. And Speights and Ivey were fantastic. Marreese rebounded from his awful game in Utah by hitting 7-8 from the field for 14 points, and Ivey came in, hit those two buckets in the third, nabbed three boards and dished out two assists in 16 and a half minutes of play, putting up a +15 for the night.

Iverson's presence helped everyone out last night. If you watched the game, that was abundantly clear. Yes, it did take away playing time from Jrue Holiday, who only saw 11 minutes of action, and yes, Willie Green and Jason Kapono got DNPs, and yes, in the end, this may hinder the draft position and slow up the progress of Holiday. But dammit, it was fun to watch the Sixers play such a great game. To beat a good team on the road. To show signs of the team that for two seasons running has made the playoffs and given far superior teams a scare in the first round. Even in the midst of a terrible season, even with the hopes of scoring a high draft pick, even while dreaming of John Wall or Derrick Favors, losing is never fun to watch, never fun to expect, never fun to accept. Last night was fun. And if it wasn't fun for you, maybe you aren't as big of a Sixers or basketball fan as you thought.

No, Allen Iverson isn't the answer to a championship. He may not even be the answer to turning the season around, to making a playoff push. But he is the answer to more entertaining basketball, and he makes the 76ers better. Last night was proof of that.

BallHype: hype it up!

Cease and Desist This

Last night, we Eagles fans had a rooting interest to say the least. If the Vikings could manage to lose one of their final two games — either last night against the Bears or next week against the Giants — then the Eagles control their own destiny for the 2nd seed and a first-round playoff bye. Naturally, we were all pulling for Donovan McNabb's boyhood favorites, because having to root for the Giants ever makes our skin crawl.

On their second drive of the game, the Bears marched down the field and kicked a field goal. As Robbie Gould took the field, I said, "All right douchebag, tonight I want you to make all your kicks and then go home and have your leg fall off." For once, I was rooting for that no-good bum. Trust me, it pained me to do so. Then, after he made it, I said, "You know what? He'll probably miss the game-winning kick or something." Adam EatShit turned to me and said, "I was going to say, 'You know what's gonna happen right? He's gonna miss the winning kick.'" Glad to see we were on the same page.

For a while, it looked like that was all going to be a moot point. The Bears completely owned Brett Favre and the Vikings in the first half, as the old pain-killer addict continued to prove he's too old to hold up for an entire NFL season. The Bears held a 16-0 lead on three Faggy Robbie Gould field goals (from 22, 42 and 41 yards) and a touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to G-Reg Olsen.

If the first half was any indication, no game-winning attempt would be necessary. But then the second half happened. In eerily similar fashion to the Eagles game Sunday, the Bears could not duplicate their first-half performance, turning into a pile of dog shit in the second half. Minnesota came out and scored on an 80-yard drive and looked to pull within a touchdown and field goal from taking the lead. Only that didn't quite happen, because the Bears blocked the extra point, returned the kickoff 57 yards and immediately answered four plays and one penalty later on another touchdown pass by Cutler, this time to Desmond Clark, 23-6 Bears.

Cutler and Chicago were sitting pretty, so I started focusing more of my attention on the Sixers-Blazers game. Next thing you know, the Vikings are making a Broncos-esque comeback, scoring 17 straight points to tie the game — first a touchdown pass from Favre to Visanthe Shiancoe, then a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Longwwell, and another TD run by Adrian Peterson, tie game.

Not good. But then again, just as he had after Adrian's first touchdown, Danieal Manning had another huge kickoff return, this time taking it 59 yards to the Minnesota 21. Two plays later, Jay Cutler hit Earl Bennett in the end zone, and the Bears went ahead again. At that point, I was going nuts, rooting for Jay Cutler as if he was one of my own. All the Bears needed now was one stop, just one stop.

They could not get it, as Favre threw another crippling interception drove the Vikings all the way down the field to the Chicago 7 with 1:04 remaining. On first down, Percy Harvin ran left for no gain. Just three more stops, Chicago, just three more. On second down, Favre passed to Jim Kleinsasser for just one yard, 32 seconds left, ball at the Chicago 6. Only two more stops needed. When Favre was forced into an incompletion on third down, I was pumping my fist and yelling loud. Just one more stop. But then, on third down, Favre threw a jump ball to Sidney Rice, and that tall son of a bitch came down with it. I cursed. I yelled. The game was going to overtime, and I was certain that the Vikings would win the coin toss and the game. A 16-point lead wasted, and a go-ahead drive with less than five minutes wasted. I was pissed.

But my demeanor immediately turned around when the Bears won the coin toss. Chicago started at their own 32, and it didn't take long for them to get in field goal position. On the first play, my man Cutler hit Devin Aromashodu for a 33-yard gain, putting the ball at the Minnesota 35, damn near if not in field goal range. Three plays and eight yards later, out trotted Robbie Gould for the game-winning kick from 45 yards … and sure enough, the motherfucker missed it.

The second he kicked it, I knew it was no good. I let loose on a tirade for the ages, calling him everything from a fag to an asshole to a jerkoff. I should have known better than to rest my hopes on Robbie Fucking Gould. Shit, I did know better, and I once again proclaimed my hatred for that vile, vile man. I wish nothing but ill will toward him for as long as he shall live, which I hope isn't very long. What. An. Asshole.

I could envision it now: Brett Favre, on prime time national television, on Monday Night Football, marching the Vikings into field goal range and to victory, putting all our hopes for a bye on the shoulders of the underachieving, scumbag frauds that are the New York Baseball Ping Pong Synchronized Swimming Football Giants. Seriously, how fucking gay is that name? We know you play football, schmucks. Anyone who calls them the New York Football Giants should be maimed, especially if you are under 100 years old. The baseball Giants have been in San Francisco for fucking decades. We know the New York Giants play football. Jerkoffs.

Luckily, Favre did nothing with the good field position Robbie Gould handed him, throwing an incompletion followed by back-to-back sacks and a punt. Of course, Chicago then punted as well, but Adrian Peterson decided to officially hand off the title of "Best Running Back in the League" to Chris Johnson by fumbling at a crucial time, giving Chicago the ball at the Minnesota 39. And of course, my man Jay Cutler came threw, wasting no time by throwing a 39-yard touchdown on the very next play to Aromashodu to end the game. Now all the Eagles have to do is beat Dallas on Sunday, and a first-round bye is theirs. Thank you, Jay Cutler, for finally turning into the quarterback Bears fans had hoped you'd be. There was never a better time than week 16 to remember how to play football.

And Robbie Gould, go fuck yourself. Seriously. I fucking hate you with every fiber of my being. I hope your leg falls off.

Cease and desist that.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Anybody Out There Links

My guess is no, no one is out there today. There are empty cubicles all around me in the office, as the majority of normal people seemed to have taken the week off. I, on the other hand, used up all my 2009 vacation days already, because that's what I do. Now I get to go to work when no one else is here and surf the internet. Advantage me.

Heading into Christmas, the Flyers were a lost team. They had just lost their fourth straight game, a 4-1 loss to Florida, and were sitting at 14th in the East. Since then, the Flyers have left the friendly confines of Philadelphia, taking on three teams that could hardly be considered world beaters in the form of Tampa Bay, Carolina and the Islanders, and suddenly the Flyers find themselves on a three-game winning streak and sitting in 11th place, just two points out of the 8th spot. Playing the Lightning, Hurricanes and Islanders is good tonic for a struggling team.

Regardless of who those wins have come against, it's nice to see the Flyers get some W's. They're finally completely healthy up front, as Darroll Powe was the final piece to reenter the fold, and the team has responded. Peter Laviolette can now roll four lines comfortably, and the team has looked fresher and refreshed, putting the recent struggles behind. Blair Betts scored twice in Powe's return, his first two-goal game of his career; Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have awoken from their slumber; Danny Briere has broken his scoreless drought; and the team looks a lot more like the early-season version than the one that couldn't buy a win.

With the return of Gagne, Powe and Betts, Laviolette has made some subtle changes, putting Claude Giroux on the top line, reuniting the Betts line and putting Briere and Hartnell back with Carter. The trio of Gagne-Richards-Giroux has been brilliant, Carter-Hartnell-Briere look like they haven't missed a beat, Betts-Laperriere-Carcillo has continued to bring energy, and Powe-van Riemsdyk-Asham has served well. Every line can score, play defense and provide energy. As a result, the Flyers are on a three-game winning streak, albeit against some inferior competition. And Laviolette has played Braydon Coburn with Chris Pronger, hoping Pronger can have the same effect on Coburn as it did on Matt Carle, who's been spending most of his ice time with Kimmo Timonen. This is not to say the Flyers are back, especially with Brian Boucher and Ray Emery still ailing, but the Flyers look much better than they have in months. They're even winning some faceoffs. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come.

Linkages …

-Say what you will about Bill Simmons, but there is no denying the guy knows his basketball. Need proof? Check out this:

Rudy Gay (playing well) has moved into the deadly Iguodala Zone for nonfranchise players who will get overpaid and, even worse, start believing this makes them franchise players.

If that doesn't sum up Andre Iguodala in a nutshell, then nothing ever will. Iggy, you are not a franchise player, no matter how much money you're getting paid.

-Have you noticed that lately the Eagles are winning the types of games they used to always seem to lose?

-More on Brian Dawkins' return.

-Another reason to hate Victor Harris:

Harris was asked to sum up his day - which included another fumbled kickoff, this one recovered by the Eagles - and he said, "Rookie."

So let me get this straight, Victor. You were absolutely horrible because you're a rookie? So rookies are supposed to take dumb penalties and fumble twice? I don't remember LeSean doing that yesterday. Or Jeremy Maclin. And yeah, you are a rookie, but it was the 15th game of your rookie season. Shouldn't you be making fewer mistakes by now?

God, I hate you. If you were looking to sum up your day in one word, here are a few suggestions for you: shitty, terrible, awful, horrible, fuck, sucky, crappy, etc. The fact that you are a rookie has nothing to do with it. Idiot.

-The Eagles are a bad second-half team, and the reason is pretty simple. At halftime, coaches go in and make adjustments. As I've been saying for the past 10 years, Andy Reid is the worst coach in all of football at making adjustments in-game. The facts are the facts:

"We came out [in the second half] and turned the ball over [a McNabb interception early in the third quarter and a Macho Harris fumble late in the period] and things kind of snowballed from there," Reid said. "We're not a very good second-half team right now and we have to take care of that."

The Eagles have outscored teams, 273-142, in the first half this season. They've led at the half in 11 of their 15 games and have won all 11. But they haven't been nearly as effective in the second half. They've been outscored 100-72 in the third quarter, including 17-7 yesterday, and 171-156 in the final two quarters.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Andy Reid is one of, if not the, best coaches in the entire NFL Monday-Saturday. On Sunday, he's awful. The proof is in the pudding.

-Andre Miller doesn't seem pleased with the fact that the Sixers didn't offer him more money and years, because he evidently wanted to come back.

Andre Miller may have a point.

-Ed has a pretty solid NFL All-Decade team.

-The power of the beard:

-Two Sporting Blog moments of the decade of note: Dan Levy remembers the power of Why Can't Us? and Kenyon Martin broke his leg and helped contribute to me overvaluing the Cincinnati Bearcats for the millionth time in the tournament, even though Martin was out with said broken leg.


-Mo Speights addresses Elton Brand's comments:

Kate Fagan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before last night's game against the Utah Jazz, reserve center Marreese Speights(notes) addressed comments teammate Elton Brand(notes) made after the Sixers' last game, Tuesday's loss at the Washington Wizards, which gave them a 7-21 record.

That night, Brand said: "Certain guys didn't box out, didn't rebound, and weren't tough. Certain guys got a longer leash than others, so they played longer and the mistakes were shown."

Although Brand didn't name Speights, it was clear which player he meant, because Speights had played alongside him for most of the game's decisive fourth quarter. The Sixers lost, 105-98, allowing 33 points in the final quarter.

Speights said he heard about Brand's comments because "people called me.""I was kind of upset because I wouldn't think my teammate would throw me under the bus like that," Speights said. "I would never say nothing like that about him. But, hey, he's been in the league longer than me, so I can't say nothing about it."

I bet to differ, Marreese. I think you can say something about it. Something like, "Hey Elton, at least I'm not stealing $80 million for being a bum playing on one leg and dragging down the entire team. At least I'm not a guy who has made every team I've been on in my career worse. I'm only in my second season and have been to the playoffs as much as you. (Oh wait, you were on the roster last season even though you didn't actually play in the playoffs at all, so I guess you've got one more trip than me.) And if I recall, last season we completely sucked when you were in the lineup, then you get hurt, I play more, and we turned into a pretty good team that made the playoffs without you. Shut the fuck up you worthless bum." That would have worked.

-Saw this on Christmas, which Wade then followed up with this against Indiana:

-Brandon Stokely got ejected early yesterday for this:

While you certainly can't make contact with a ref, Stokely had a point. Will Witherspoon all sorts of interfered with him on that play.

-The play before Baron's game-winner, laid out beautifully by Kevin Arnovitz:

-Philadunkia's Christmas wish list. It's a good one.

-2009's Most Forgettable Sports Moments.

-The first of many TV appearances for one Michael Jordan:

-Rough Justice has a very interesting article about athleticism in basketball which provides us with a link to this awesome video of Steve Nash while simultaneously taking incredible shots at Bill Simmons with his use of footnotes.

It's a hell of a thing.

-Spencer kindly shares with us all a sample day from Urban Meyer's recovery plan. You know, the coach who resigned, then unresigned and is now taking a leave of absence but will probably coach at the start of the season.

-Former Penn Stater Nate Bump was signed by the Phillies.

-Worst of the Christmas weekend:

The Philadelphia 76ers: I pretty much expect crappy teams to get blown out by the Jazz in Utah, so in most ways, Philly's 97-76 loss is rather routine. What makes this one a little extra special is that the Sixers managed to stay reasonably close through three quarters before going nine minutes without scoring in the fourth. Philadelphia went scoreless from Royal Ivey's trey with 50 seconds left in the third until Thaddeus Young made a layup with 4:05 remaining in the game.

Here's a recap of that nine minutes of fail: Young missed a 9-footer; Andre Iguodala missed an 18-footer; Jrue Holiday missed a 21-footer; Elton Brand missed a jumper; Marreese Speights grabbed an offensive board and missed the follow-up; Iggy lost the ball (steal by Mehmet Okur); Brand missed a 19-footer (blocked by Okur); Speights missed a 21-footer; Iggy missed a jumper (blocked by Paul Millsap); Speights lost the ball (stolen by Wesley Matthews); Iggy missed a 25-foot three-pointer; Brand grabbed the offensive board, after which Lou Williams missed a 25-foot three-pointer; Speights missed a 5-footer; Williams missed three-pointers on back-to-back possessions; Iggy had his layup blocked by Andrei Kirilenko; Young missed a three-pointer; Holiday missed a three-pointer.

So, basically, the Sixers either jacked up a long-range shot, got a shot stuffed, or turned it over. Way to run an offense, boys. Said Philly coach Eddie Jordan: "In the fourth quarter we didn't put any sort of rhythm or flow together. Their defense was good. We missed some open shots and we didn't execute as well as we would like."

-Not good: Jamaal Jackson out for the season with a torn ACL.

-A nice little article on Penn State wide receiver and West Catholic grad Curtis Drake.

-Brian Boucher and Ray Emery are back at practice.

And on the docket tonight, Temple takes on Bowling Green and UNC plays Rutgers in college basketball action, while the struggling Sixers take on Andre Miller and the Trail Blazers in Portland at 10 p.m. Hopefully all three games will be on TV, though I'm skeptical about the two college games' availability. At least I'll get to watch the Sixers lose yet again Brandon Roy play. That will be fun.

BallHype: hype it up!