Monday, October 10, 2011

A Familiar Feeling

Throughout my 27-plus years on earth, there has been one common theme to being a Philadelphia sports fan: disappointment. It is something I grew up experiencing as a sports fan in this city. The Phillies being perennial losers. Two blown saves in the World Series. Buddy Ryan. Rich Kotite. Ray Rhodes. Four NFC Championship losses. One Super Bowl loss. The Flyers bowing out spectacularly, whether way too early or painfully too late. John Lucas and everything else the Sixers have done. It's been a city full of sports teams destined to disappoint.

The 2008 Phillies changed all that for a time.

And what the Phillies have done since, becoming a National League powerhouse and bringing in big-name pitcher after big-name pitcher, has spoiled us. But in the back of all our minds, that old familiar feeling began to creep up. When the Phillies couldn't repeat despite Cliff Lee's brilliance, the thought started to resurface. When Michael Leighton let in the softest Stanley Cup winning goal of all time, you could really feel it coming. When the bats went silent last year against the Giants, the first real tinge of disappointment reappeared. And now this. That old, familiar feeling is back in full force.

This was supposed to be the year of Philadelphia. The Phillies pulled off the biggest offseason coup in recent memory, reacquiring Cliff Lee to join Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt to all but ensure another parade down Broad Street. The Eagles nearly matched them, bringing in high-priced free agent after high-priced free agent, headlined by Nnamdi Asomugha and the trade of Kevin Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. In August, there was no better place to be as a sports fan than Philadelphia.

Now here we are, two months later, with the Phillies sent home after just five games in October and the "Dream Team" sitting at a disgusting 1-4. If that's not disappointment, I don't know what disappointment is.

The real shame of it all is that Roy Halladay has to get lumped into this disappointing team that the Phillies ultimately became. That man deserved way better. Yes, his first-inning troubles were incredibly annoying this series, spotting the Cardinals three runs in game 1 and another in game 5, but all he did is retire 21 in row to win game 1 and go 8 innings of 6-hit, 1-run ball in the final game. That man pitched his balls off for this team, and his teammates let him down.

I honestly don't know how his teammates can look him in the eyes after Friday night. I really don't. Sure, Roy is the one who gave up consecutive extra-base hits to start the game and spot the Cards a run, but the Phils were left with nine god damn innings to just put one or two on the board to stay alive and they couldn't do it. Without a doubt, give Chris Carpenter credit. He deserves all the credit in the world. The guy showed exactly why he is an ace, pitching an incredible game, finishing off the complete-game shutout. But it's inexcusable for this team to do so little at the plate, and compound that with boneheaded plays in the field, on the base paths and at the dish.

Three hits with the season on the line, with two of them coming off of Shane Victorino's bat. Chase Utley getting thrown out on the base paths yet again. No production from the high-priced slugger, a guy who ended the season as terribly as you can, making the final out for the second straight season and then seriously injuring his achilles. God knows what effect that will have on Ryan Howard. Placido Polanco became a dinosaur overnight. Carlos Ruiz seems to have used up all his October magic. Cliff Lee let us all down with his game 2 performance. The only guys you can really say didn't disappoint are Doc and Hamels. Maybe Jimmy, who had a great series, but ultimately even he failed to get a hit in game 5 as the Phils went out with a whimper.

A franchise record in wins, four supposed aces and a lineup full of accomplished players turned into one giant ball of disappointment. The Phillies have reached the point that those Andy Reid teams with Donovan McNabb did all those years. Making the playoffs and having a good record no longer matter, it's what you do in the postseason. And just like the Eagles always found a way to come up short, so have these Phillies since that surprising 2008 title. Every year, this team got better in the standings and added more talent on paper, yet ultimately they came up short, seeing diminishing returns in playoffs year after year.

It would be foolish to say that the Phillies are done. Roy and Cliff and Cole are all coming back, and some youth will be infused with the veterans in the lineup. But Chase and Ryan and Polanco aren't getting any younger. Shortstop is a question mark if Rollins walks. No one knows what to expect from John Mayberry and Dom Brown. Oswalt may be gone. There are question marks where this team had so few. This was supposed to be the year, just like it was supposed to be the year for so many years for McNabb and Reid. Then it wasn't.

Sadly, that theme is back with the Eagles as well, and with them, it's not even possible to get worked up anymore. No one on the planet thought they should run a play with 8 seconds left in the half and no timeouts except for the morons on that sideline, so of course Michael Vick held on to the ball too long, then tossed it out of the end zone as time expired, leaving three points on the field.

Of course this defense gave up 24 points and couldn't stop the run. Jarrad Page keeps exposing himself as a terrible football player. Killer penalties from rookie Danny Watkins, making his first start, and King Dunlap derailed a touchdown drive. Vick got pounded all day, and made things worse by throwing four horrendous interceptions. Fred Jackson had a field day running all over this team. Jason Avant, who had an otherwise outstanding game — 9 catches for 139 yards — had a killer a fumble and another ball that got ripped from him for another turnover. That's become another habit for this team, a wide receiver having a huge game only to make a crippling mistake at an inopportune time.

LeSean McCoy, clearly this team's best player period, got too few touches yet again, as Reid and Mornhinweg abandoned run for the thousandth time in their tenure. And then all hope ends when Juqua Thomas Parker jumps offsides on a 4th and 1 when all the Bills were trying to do was get the Eagles to jump offsides.

He should be cut today for something so stupid. He really should. It's not like Parker is any good anyway. Cut him now. Send these players a message, because it's clear they need a wake-up call. Or maybe a new head coach.

Plain and simple, this is beyond a bad football team, it's an absolutely terrible one. They can't tackle, they can't protect the quarterback, they can't even cover despite having three of the best cover corners in the league. It is the softest football team in the NFL, one that looks defeated. One that looks like it has lost respect or at least stopped listening to its coaches, especially the fat one with the mustache.

Before the season started, everyone expected the Super Bowl to at least be in the equation. Now it's looking more like Andrew Luck could be the best prize this franchise could win. Pathetic. Disgusting. And disappointing. A familiar feeling that has resurfaced here in Philadelphia.

The only saving grace is that the Flyers have done things in two games that they failed to do in 82 last year. In the opener, they scored two goals in the final minute of the first period, after not scoring a single goal in the final minute of any period in any game the entire 2010-11 season. Then on Saturday night, Ilya Bryzgalov shut out the Devils in a dominant 3-0 victory, stopping all 20 shots he faced. As we all know, the 2010-11 Flyers, with their goalie carousel, didn't record a single shutout all year. Through two games, Bryzgalov has surrendered a grand total of 1 goal, earning a shutout in just his second game in the Orange and Black.

It's impossible not to be impressed with the Flyers in their first two outings. Claude Giroux has scored in both games, Matt Read got his first NHL goal and newcomer Wayne Simmonds scored his first as a Flyers Saturday night. Sean Couturier is quickly becoming my new favorite Flyer, doing an excellent job on the penalty kill. And there is no lack of toughness, evident by Simmonds absolutely destroyed David Clarkson.

Very good start for the Flyers.

Plus, Penn State actually came out and physically dominated a BCS conference team for the first time in a long time, besting Iowa 13-3 by completely controlling the line of scrimmage. Exercising some of the demons, the Nittany Lions were able to run all over the Hawkeyes, racking up 231 yards on the ground led by Silas Redd and his 142 yards.

It was without a doubt the most impressive performance by Penn State all season. The defense continued to dominate, with everyone making plays. I was particularly impressed with Devon Still and Jordan Hill yet again, the two guys who continue to be the best players on the team, along with Malcolm Willis, who finally saw a lot of playing time. Willis played really well last year when Nick Sukay went down, to the point where I thought he was Penn State's best safety, and he impressed me again. He looked like the best safety out there again Saturday to me.

True freshman Adrian Amos also did an outstanding job at corner filling in for the injured D'Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris. It's easy to see why the coaches are so high on him. Amos did an outstanding job on McNutt all game.

Offensively, things started to look a little better as well. The offensive line for the first time really all season got consistent push, clearing the path for Redd and Curtis Dukes to gash the Iowa defense. And once and for all, a Penn State quarterback clearly set himself apart. I don't see any possible way Rob Bolden should see the field again unless Matt McGloin gets hurt.

I was openly pulling for Bolden to take the job, but McGloin simply has been and is better than Bolden. Honestly, Bolden couldn't even make the simplest of throws on Saturday, while McGloin was making plays and controlling the huddle. He still made some mind-blowingly stupid throws, namely his inexcusable interception in the red zone and another jump ball tossed into triple coverage, but he is clearly the guy. Even with how ugly and terrible this team has looked this season, Penn State sits at 5-1 and 2-0 in the conference following this win. If Penn State sticks with McGloin and lets him grow, hopefully the offense can build on Saturday's performance against Purdue and Northwestern in preparation for the tough games to close out the season.

A surprising run by the Nittany Lions and continued success from the Flyers would go a long way to distracting us from the disappointment of the Phillies and Eagles. Though we all know that feeling is back, so disappointment for those teams could be right around the corner.

That familiar feeling of disappointment has returned, and really it probably never left. Now it's back out there for everyone to see, and I have to admit, it feels like Philadelphia again.

1 comment:

  1. Well...

    Friday night was certainly one of the more despicable sights mine eyes have seen in recent memory. You know your team better than me, so I'll just hit you up with sporadic questions, and you can tell me where everything went wrong.