Monday, December 31, 2012

Like Him or Not, Andy Reid is the Greatest Eagles Coach in the Super Bowl Era

Yesterday was the final game of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia, as the coach who roamed the sidelines starting at the Vet in 1999, onto Lincoln Financial Field and ending his tenure at the New Meadwolands was officially given his pink slip on New Year's Eve, 2012.

(via The700Level)

While the pathetic 42-7 loss to the Giants put an emphatic stamp on an all-around dreadful season, this loss, this season, the past three seasons really were simply proof that time has and probably already had come for Reid in Philadelphia. Ever since Donovan McNabb and Jim Johnson left, the Eagles have not been the same team as they were during the lion's share of Reid's tenure.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that Reid turned around a laughingstock of a franchise, raised expectations and had some remarkable success. Ultimately, he was never able to get to the summit, but he damn near always had the Eagles in position to be there at the end. It's no secret that he was frustrating over the years, but it's also no secret that he was one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.

And I'm tempted to say he's the greatest coach in franchise history, but then I heard Ray Didinger say he was the second best coach in Eagles history in his mind, behind Greasy Neale, who coached the Eagles to back-to-back championships prior to the Super Bowl era. So maybe Reid isn't' the best coach in franchise history, but he is unquestionably the best Eagles coach of the Super Bowl era. He had unparalleled success, and ultimately, he made us care even more about the Eagles again. For that, I will be forever thankful.

Now, I could probably go on a lot more than I already have, but truthfully, I've already done that earlier this season here and even last season here.

So instead I'll defer to two of best Eagles writers out there, in my opinion: Sheil Kapadia (who actually was on the sports staff of the Daily Collegian at Penn State with me) and Rich Hofmann.

"Cheat Sheet: Ten Thoughts On the Eagles"
5. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: Eagles fans can appreciate what Reid accomplished and still think it’s time to move on. That point seems to be lost on many in the national media, and you’re going to hear a lot of analysts next week talk about how under-appreciated Reid was in Philadelphia. But the truth is, this team is 12-19 in its last 31 games. The franchise has not won a playoff game in four seasons. The coaching staff has been in disarray. And the quarterback situation is up in the air. Reid has accomplished a lot and given fans many great memories, but it’s time to go in a different direction. It’s really as simple as that.

"Andy Reid's legacy: Raised expectations for Eagles"
Reid was different. He did not connect on an emotional level with the fan base. He simply coached well enough and consistently enough to raise their expectations to a place where they had never been. He threw too much, and he butchered the clock for years, and he lost every press conference, but he made the playoffs nine times and went to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. It was not enough for him or for you - but the reason was because of those raised expectations.

Think back to the early 1970s, if you are old enough, or to 1983, or 1994, or 1998. Through most of those decades, failure was the house guest who never seemed to leave for very long. For the Eagles, for much of their history, the good times were just hiccups. A run of nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons would have been inconceivable.

Make no mistake: Reid deserves to be fired. After 8-8 and 4-12, it is time. But as he sped away on that security cart on Sunday night, heading for an unknown future, it was hard not to wonder about what life is about to become for the Eagles. Because whoever replaces him has to know that the job is harder than the one Andy Reid took over in 1999 because the expectations are so much greater. That is the man's legacy.

As I said yesterday:

(via CSNPhilly)

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

So I know I've been pretty much absent here the past couple of weeks, but I do plan on getting back into the swing of things in 2013. I've just been so damn busy and a little burned out here to close out 2012. I blame the Mayans.

Anyway, to make amends, here's Rasheed Wallace, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Will Blalock singing Jingle Bells way back when they were all Detroit Pistons. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Also, this. I don't care if he's hurt and a bit player. He deserves it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The New York Knicks are not only playing incredible basketball, but they are without a doubt one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA. Watching Carmelo Anthony go bonkers against the Nets the other night was just awesome, and as much as I despise New York sports teams being from Philadelphia and all, the Knicks are fun to watch.

As it turns out, the Knicks also have a rapper among their midst, their best on-the-ball defender Iman Shumpert. And while the second-year guard has yet to play this season due to injury, he'll only make the Knicks better when he gets back.

Anyway, here is Shumpert rapping. Enjoy your Friday knowing you don't have to watch the Eagles this weekend, who very clearly still suck.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joakim Noah Is The Worst

Listen, unless you are a Chicago Bulls fan or a Florida Gators fan, you already know that Joakim Noah is the worst. No, he's not the worst player in the league or the worst person in the world … he just seems like the worst person in the world when he's playing against your favorite NBA team.

Noah is a classic case of a player you'd love if he's on your team but absolutely loathe if he is not. If you are a Joakim Noah fan and not a fan of the Bulls or Gators, I think you need to get your head checked. Not because Noah is nothing but an agitator — though he most assuredly one of those — because Noah certainly has game. He is a tenacious defender, all hustle all the time, a guy who does the dirty work, and oh yes, a player who has gotten better every single year he's been in the league. Hell, he even has a semblance of a jump shot now and can hit free throws, even though his shot itself is comically horrid in its form.

That is precisely why Noah is even more annoying. He is a good player. He doesn't need to do these childish things. But he does because he knows it gets under opponents' skin, or perhaps even more importantly, opponents' fans' skin. And boy oh boy was Noah at his annoying best last night in Philadelphia.

See, I headed down to the game last night with silver fox, securing upper-level, center-court seats for $5 via StubHub, all set to watch the Sixers take on a Bulls team without not only Derrick Rose, but Kirk Hinrich as well.

I figured with the Bulls down to Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague at the point, Jrue Holiday would have a field day and propel the Sixers to victory. For a while, it sure seemed like that was going to happen. Holiday came out gangbusters, absolutely abusing Robinson and Teague damn near every time down the floor, and he had the hot hand. Along with a strong performance by Evan Turner, the Sixers led early and became frontrunners, albeit not by a large margin.

While Holiday and Turner were balling, Chicago was able to stay in it thanks to its size. It's no secret that the Sixers are struggling in the big man department since you know who has not and may not play a single game this season. As a result, Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng were doing some damage rebounding and scoring inside.

And of course, every time he did something well, Noah made sure to let the Philadelphia faithful know it. Apparently, Noah was not pleased at the Philadelphia fans' reaction when he got injured last year in the playoffs, so he wanted to get a reaction out of them last night. Mission accomplished. After hitting a wide open 15-footer at the end of the first quarter, with his team still trailing, Noah broke out the finger guns, back-in-the-holster celebration. After a 15-footer. In the first quarter. With his team trailing. God I hate him so very much.

Since the celebration got the exact reaction Noah was looking for, a chorus of boos, he continued this charade the rest of the game. The guns-in-holster routine, the loud, annoying clapping on defense, the encouraging fans to rain down more boos — the entire repertoire. Seriously, he's the worst.

It made it all the more agitating that Noah had an outstanding game. He finished with 21 points on 7-10 shooting, nabbed seven boards and dished out five assists. On top of that, he made some absolutely tremendous plays down the stretch, including a few spectacular passes that led to buckets. He was without a doubt one of the players of the game.

However, a big key to why the Sixers lost last night — besides going an absurdly terrible 5-11 from the foul line — is due to Doug Collins.

Normally, Doug gives me little reason to criticize him for his in-game coaching. However, last night he completely dropped the ball in the fourth quarter. There is no disputing that Holiday was having a tremendous night through three quarters. He was aggressive on the offensive end and scoring almost at will. He was the reason the Sixers were winning at half.

To start the fourth, Collins gave Holiday a breather, not out of the norm. With how much the Sixers rely on Jrue, he needs to get a blow every now and then. Here's where I have an issue. Chicago had begun to assert itself behind Noah and a resurgent Luol Deng, who suddenly found his shot after not doing much in the first half. As the Sixers' offense looked pathetic to begin the fourth with Holiday on the bench, I thought for sure Jrue would be back in after a couple of minutes — a quick breather then back out there to keep his hot hand going.

Instead, he sat, and the Sixers became stagnant. By the time we reached the TV timeout, I thought for sure Jrue would be checking in. No dice. In fact, Holiday didn't check in until there was less than 7 and a half minutes left in the game. Collins left his best player, the guy who was carrying the load offensively, on the bench for almost 20 minutes of real time, and when Holiday came back, he was not the same player. The time on the bench clearly cooled him off, and the player who had taken command in the first three quarters turned into an ice-cold turnover machine.

No two ways about it, Holiday was terrible in the fourth quarter. And while he's definitely not absolved of blame, I put a lot more onus on Collins for sitting a guy so hot for so long.

Once Jrue went back in, it all fell completely apart. The Sixers started to turn the ball over, take quick, bad shots, miss free throws and get abused underneath. Noah and Deng led the way, and Chicago walked away with a victory, Noah acting like an ass the entire time but earning it with his tremendous play.

This was a game the Sixers absolutely could have and probably should have won, but they didn't. Holiday and Turner were very good through three, terrible in the fourth. Thad Young was efficient but quiet. And Spencer Hawes, who somehow managed a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, was horrible, missing shots and quite literally playing ole defense. Spencer Hawes is back to being terrible again, so that's fun.

Last night confirmed once again that while the Sixers are without a doubt a fun team to watch at times and a bunch that won't quit, they desperately need a guy like Andrew Bynum inside. It also confirmed that Joakim Noah is, as everyone already knew, the worst kind of worst — a great player who also relishes being an agitator in the most annoying way possible. But god damn is he a good player. Trust me, it pains me to say that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Let the Nick Foles Rhetoric Begin

Let's get the particulars out of the way early, shall we? Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles played exceptional football yesterday in a thrilling 23-21 victory over a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad fighting for a playoff berth. Foles was 32-51 for 381 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, a real-time, slow-motion rushing touchdown and zero turnovers.

Oh, and he also happened to lead a game-winning drive in the closing minutes, throwing the winning touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the game. No two ways about it, Nick Foles put on one of the most impressive performances by an Eagles quarterback since Mike Vick's video-game explosion against the Washington Redskins in 2010.

Naturally, in a season where finding any sort of silver lining has been nearly impossible, people are grasping on to Foles' performance, with the rhetoric flowing all over the damn place.

I get it. I really do. The Eagles have been so dismal and searching for something, anything to be positive about. Nick Foles has provided that with his play so far in his rookie season, and he's certainly looked more polished and competent running the offense behind a revamped line than Michael Vick did this season.

But good lord, has the freight train of optimism been out of control. I don't mind the excitement and the praise so much. Foles has earned that with his play, particularly the last two weeks against the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's the seemingly definitive statements: "cementing his place," "definitive game," etc. Let's not forget we've seen plenty of quarterbacks shine in the short term only to fizzle into obscurity. I'm not saying that Nick Foles will do that, but I'm also not ready to declare him the great white hope either.

The man has started a grand total of four games, taking snaps in five overall after relieving Michael Vick in a home loss to the Cowboys. His record stands at 1-3 following yesterday's victory, playing behind a team that has seen its season spiral out of control. He's thrown four touchdowns while tossing 3 interceptions. And while he most certainly has gotten better with each game, it's relevant to point out that the past two weeks, Foles' best two performances, came against the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Cowboys, while boasting a top 10 pass defense this season, are a dysfunctional team in their own right, while the Bucs are dead last in the league in pass defense. And let's not forget that Foles threw an atrocious pass on that final drive yesterday that should have been intercepted to end the comeback bid.

Don't get me wrong, Foles was really good against the Cowboys and really besides that errant throw tremendous yesterday. He really was. There is reason for optimism and maybe even some hope, but I think it would do us all a little good to give it some perspective. So yes, enjoy yesterday's performance and victory, because while it didn't help their draft position any, it was fun to watch. Andy Reid certainly enjoyed it. (Seriously, I have never seen Andy so happy after a victory, including when the Birds went to the Super Bowl. I guess after all he's gone through this year, he needed that victory.) But let's just enjoy it for what it was: a great performance and exciting victory, but just one impressive performance in an ultimately completely meaningless game, at least for the team.

I hope Nick Foles is the answer under center. I hope he develops into a franchise quarterback and leads the Eagles to prominence. I'm just not ready to say he is and he will. As we like to say at The Sports Fan Journal, it's never a good idea to crown someone too soon.

However, I am going to go ahead and crown this catch by Jason Avant yesterday as the play of the year for the Eagles.

That was insane.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Well, seeing as Ben Revere is now the newly minted centerfield for the Philadelphia Phillies, I pretty have to go with Revere sining "Single Ladies," courtesy of The700Level.

I hate that song so very much, like I'm sure a large percentage of the male population does, but looking at Beyonce is never a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jordan Hill, Larry Johnson and Defensive Lineman U

Due to its long tradition of producing talented, NFL-bound linebackers, Penn State has earned and lived up to the reputation as Linebacker U. From Ham to Millen, from Conlan to Short and Arrington, from Posluszny and Connor to Bowman and Lee, and now with Mauti and Hodges giving way to Hull and the next big recruit, the names ring eternal.

What people may not realize is that Penn State has also become an NFL factory for defensive linemen under defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., to an almost astonishing degree.

Johnson, father of 2,000-yard rusher Larry Johnson Jr., has been the defensive line coach at Penn State for 13 years, and he's been so damn good that new head coach Bill O'Brien made sure to keep him around. And for good reason.

Johnson has coached seven first-team All-Americans during his tenure and 14 first-team All-Big Ten linemen. The big names include the likes of first-round NFL draft picks Courtney Brown (1st overall), Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick.

While Brown and Haynes turned out to be NFL busts and Maybin has bounced around, all of them were tremendous college players, and several have thrived in the league. Tamba Hali is a perennial Pro Bowler. Jimmy Kennedy and Penn State linemate Anthony Adams have had long NFL careers, while Odrick and rookie Devon Still are just really beginning their professional journeys.

Johnson's track record is astonishing, especially recently, with Maybin bursting onto the scene in 2008, Odrick being named Big Ten Defensive Lineman and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and Still following up two years later by duplicating Odrick's honors.

This year, Johnson continued his success grooming monsters on the line, as senior Jordan Hill was named first team All-Big Ten and is sure to play on Sundays next season.

Hill, one of the leaders of the team and another key part in keeping this season from falling apart, was oftentimes a one-man wrecking crew — the same way Still and Odrick were before him. As a defensive tackle, Hill finished fourth on the team in tackles with 64, trailing only starting linebackers Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Glenn Carson. He registered 4.5 sacks and had 8.5 tackles for loss, which may not sound like much but is outstanding considering the nonstop double teams he faced. And he was the reason that Mauti and Hodges were able to shine, occupying blockers so the backers could get to the ball.

The best part of all is that Hill saved his best performance for last. Hill said he never even considered leaving Penn State because he loved the place. He loved it so much that he shed a few tears on senior day, his final game as a Nittany Lion, and nothing was going to prevent him from having his moment. Not nagging injuries, not a Wisconsin team with a massive offensive line and the desire to gain momentum heading into the Big Ten title game.

All Hill did in that final outing was completely and utterly dominate, taking over the game from the defensive tackle position. It was a marvel to watch. Hill had 12 tackles, eight of them solo, including three for a loss and two sacks. Every play, he was in the backfield disrupting things, and even when the Badgers managed to move him a little, he found a way to the ball. It was a thing of beauty. Even the announcers were gushing over his dominance.

In his final game of his collegiate career, Hill was far and away the best player on the field, quite literally putting forth the type of performance we saw from Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska.

Hill continued the new tradition at Penn State under Larry Johnson, becoming a standout, NFL-bound defensive lineman. And with freshman Deion Barnes being named the Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year, the new Defensive Linemen U is bound to live on as long as Larry Johnson Sr. remains on those Penn State sidelines.

Linebacker U is alive and well, but it's time to make room in the spotlight for the Penn State defensive linemen and their coach.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jimmy V. and the Greatest Awards Speech of All Time

Jimmy V. Week culminates tomorrow night, and as someone who has lost a loved one to cancer this year, I'd be remiss if I missed posting the greatest awards acceptance speech of all time, as I do every year.

This holiday season, if you can, do some good and give your time or money to a worthy cause, whether it be the V Foundation, another cancer charity or any charity of your choosing and remember how lucky we are for the things we do have.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

If you want to hear the worst rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," I present Dirk Nowitzki.

To offset that atrocity, here is Chris Harford and the Band of Changes playing "What We Do Not Know" on Thanksgiving night, shot in terrible fashion by yours truly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 2012 Penn State Football Season

On Saturday, Penn State finished its unprecedented 2012 season with a win over Wisconsin. The win put the Nittany Lions at 8-4. Usually 8-4 wouldn't be considered a great season, especially in Happy Valley. Not a terrible season, but not great. Yet when you consider where this program was a year ago, or six months ago, 8-4 is incredible. It's perhaps the best 8-4 season that ever was.

Let's take a quick look at where the program was a year ago. We all know what happened, and I'm not going to rehash that. I just want to mention that the program had parted ways with its legendary coach, who had led the program since before most of the people who read this site were born, long before. For the first time in almost half a century, there would be a new man patrolling the sidelines for Penn State. The man hired to replace him would have some big shoes to fill, and such a major change could in itself be cause for a season of struggles.

Then six months ago the NCAA handed down its sanctions on the Penn State football program. Crippling sanctions that were pretty much intended to blast the program back to the Stone Age while competing against programs with hovercrafts and laser guns. There would be no bowl games for four years, there would be less scholarships available, and current players could transfer without the penalty of having to sit out a year. And some major pieces sure did transfer. Silas Redd, the team's leading rusher. Justin Brown, the team's best returning wide receiver. Anthony Fera, the team's dependable starting kicker and punter. The team's depth chart was left depleted, and players who under ordinary circumstances wouldn't have seen the field all season where forced into major playing time.

So all hell had broken loose in Happy Valley. Talented players were leaving for supposedly greener pastures, recruits were being scared away, second- and third-string players were about to get significant playing time, and there was a brand-new, first-year head coach trying to navigate this mess. At this points the "experts" proclaimed the program basically dead, and you heard predictions of 2-10 and 3-9 being bantered about. So how did 8-4 come to be?

It all starts with the leadership of the senior class, especially Mike Mauti. After the sanctions were announced, Mauti stood with a group of fellow players and defiantly stated that he, and the players behind him, were going to stay at Penn State, show what Penn State was really all about, and work to leave a positive impression on the program and help it start to rebuild. And boy did he. Along with fellow seniors Jordan Hill and Gerald Hodges, he anchored the defense and provided invaluable leadership. The entire senior class deserves to be greatly commended, but in particular Mauti. His loyalty, passion, dedication, and leadership were inspirational and should be an example to us all.

Next in line to get a ton of credit is first-year head coach Bill O'Brien. The hiring of O'Brien was not met with much enthusiasm from alumni, fans, and even former players. And after an 0-2 start, it didn't look good. But once the team got comfortable with the coach's schemes and ideas, it started to click. The team won 8 of its last 10 games and even managed to flirt with the top 25 a few times. O'Brien did some really good things on the field while also making some rookie mistakes, but his leadership cannot be denied. He sat there and accepted the sanctions, even though he or no one on his team had anything to do with the atrocities that occurred. Instead of complaining or making excuses, he sat there, accepted his circumstances, and said that his program would recognize what happened and do its best to move on to try to keep the program afloat through the sanctions and work on building a bright future. He's off to a great start. I sure hope he doesn't leave.

Credit is also due to Matt McGloin. I have been extremely critical of McGloin during his time at Penn State. He was never able to overtake Rob Bolden for full-time starting quarterback responsibilities, and his play was frustrating to say the least. He had a propensity to make mind-boggling throws that would inevitably lead to interceptions. He was a turnover machine.

But during the spring, coach O'Brien endorsed Matt as his starter. Matt studied the coach's new offense and learned it well, and he flourished. In 2012 he was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 10. He completed 60.5% of his passes for 3,271 yards. And he threw 24 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. He looked poised, he looked in control, and for the most part he made the correct reads and throws. He also deserves credit for his senior leadership.

Two quick final notes. Allen Robinson showed some star potential throughout the season. The sophomore receiver finished with 77 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns. Just for reference, his freshman season numbers were 3 catches for 29 yards.

Finally, it was fitting that Sam Ficken ended the season with a game-winning field goal. To say the season has been an struggle for Ficken would be an understatement. It's hard to put a loss on a single individual, but if ever there was a time it would be on Ficken in the Virginia game. Yes, Allen Robinson dropped a touchdown pass, and I'm sure there were plenty of less obvious mishaps that occurred, but Ficken missed 4 of his 5 field goal attempts (including a 20 yarder), and missed an extra point, with Penn State losing by a single point. That games seems forever ago now, and it was nice to see the kid pull through against Wisconsin and hit that big kick and end his season on a good note.

As a Penn State fan, I can't thank this team enough. Especially coach O'Brien and the seniors. I'm thankful for the loyalty they displayed, and thankful that they helped Penn State take a step forward. Most importantly, I'm happy for them, that their loyalty and dedication paid off and was rewarded. They were a part of one of the most important seasons in Penn State history, and they will go down as one of the most special.


Last night, I begrudgingly went to the Eagles-Panthers Monday Night Football spectacle despite my better judgment. The main reason is because my roommate had two tickets that were literally going to go to waste if I didn't take them, and even with this team being my least-liked Philadelphia Eagles team of my entire life, I can't just let tickets go to waste unnecessarily in good faith.

Plus, I was kind of looking forward to the shit show that was sure to ensue, and that's exactly what happened.

We all know the Eagles lost 30-22 in yet another pathetic display of effort by everyone not named Bryce Brown. But even the rookie running back couldn't stave off the failure in his breakout game, putting the ball on the turf twice to put a damper on his 178-yard, two-touchdown game.

I actually was reveling in the chorus of early boos as the Birds fell behind 14-3, playing with the type of effort that can only be described as nonexistent. In fact, it actually peeved me a little bit when the Eagles came back, took the lead and looked like they may actually be trying to win a game for once.

But those feelings quickly dissipated as the Eagles once again displayed their true character, turning the ball over, failing in the red zone and, on one late drive, jumping offsides on three consecutive plays. It was the most Eagles performance of the season in a year full of Eagles performances.

The only thing that made the trip worthwhile was the induction of Troy Vincent into the Eagles Hall of Fame. After all, Troy was one of my favorite players ever, and he and Bobby Taylor were key in the rise of Jim Johnson. That duo allowed Johnson to craft his elaborate blitzes at any time because he knew he could trust Bobby and Troy to not get beat in man coverage. That was truly a great cornerback duo.

All I could think about watching Troy speak as he thanked the fans is how disgusted he must be with this current crop of players, particularly on defense. The secondary is clueless and yet again had at least a half dozen communication breakdowns despite Todd Bowles proclaiming those should not be happening at this time of the year. The line still can't get the job done, and the linebackers were exposed yet again. This team stinks.

The worst part about it is, even after a seventh straight loss and with the team sitting at 3-8, these guys still seem to believe there's reason to congratulate themselves. Colt Anderson, who quite literally cannot play football, celebrated after making a play on special teams. Really, Colt? You're 3-7 at the time and on the way to 3-8, with the worst special teams coverage in the NFL, and you make one play and think you're hot shit? Go pound sand. Seriously. Fuck off. Forever.

And Trent Cole, hoo boy I have turned on Trent Cole. Here's a guy who has completely fallen off the cliff this season, quite literally being invisible the entire year. Then all the sudden last night he makes a few plays in the backfield like he remembered he's Trent Cole and makes sure the crowd knows it was him making the play. Go fuck yourself, Trent. Keep telling us how good you and Jason Babin are while dong nothing, and keep acting fake tough as you get blown off the ball. This is a defense that is all talk, with absolutely no heart or desire to back it up. They suck.

I hate this Eagles team more than I've ever hated any other team I've rooted for in my entire life. They are a collection of selfish, clueless players who continue to, even now, act as if their record doesn't reflect who they really are. Well guess what, you assholes are 3-8, you are one of the worst teams in the NFL and you are just a shitty, shitty group of players.

No amount of self-congratulations can mask that. You suck. I hate you all. And I've never wanted an Eagles season to end sooner.

I hope you're used to those boos, because they're only going to get louder and more pronounced, even as the crowds get thinner and thinner.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Oklahoma City Thunder are really difficult to dislike. Things like this just make it that much more difficult. They just seem to have fun.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Embracing the Suck

Yesterday, my friend Matt and I were watching the beginning of the Eagles-Redskins game, a 31-6 whooping by Washington, in which the Skins scored less than two minutes in. We both agreed that in some perverse way, we're accepting and even enjoying the Eagles going into the toilet.

It's the type of absurd, masochistic mind-set that comes with growing up as a Philadelphia sports fan.

You see, until the Phillies won the world series in 2008, I had gone my entire life without witnessing a single Philadelphia professional sports team win a championship. Worse yet, as a child of the 1980s and 1990s, my teams weren't just championship-less — they were horrible. The Phillies sucked with the exception of one year in 1993, when they blew two saves in the World Series to lose in six games. The Sixers were a complete joke, changing uniforms and players more often than they won games. Once Charles Barkley left town, the biggest stars were Clarence Weatherspoon and Dana Barros until some little guy from Georgetown came storming into the city.

The Flyers were irrelevant in the late, late '80s and early '90s until this Eric Lindros fellow came along, but his era was marred by concussions, playoff disappointment and those god damn New Jersey Devils.

And the Eagles, shit, they were the worst of the bunch. The Buddy Ryan-Randall Cunningham era produced exactly zero playoff victories. Then came running joke Rich Kotite, followed by one deceptively good year by Ray Rhodes before the Eagles turned to shit again. And until Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb continually came up just a little bit too short, the Eagles sucked.

So for long stretches in my lifetime, all four major professional sports teams in my city have sucked, some longer than others. It's a scenario I'm fully familiar with, and one that I am now beginning to embrace as the walls come crumbling down around the Philadelphia Eagles.

Where the Phillies still have a big payroll and star-studded pitching, the Flyers have young hope in Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, and the Sixers have new management and potentially a new star in Andrew Bynum, the Eagles have absolutely no hope right now. None.

Following that 31-6 embarrassment Sunday, which came after five straight embarrassments before that, the Eagles sit at 3-7 and are on a six-game losing streak. The Andy Reid era is all but over, with the MIchael Vick era set to expire as well at season's end. And the most sobering part of it all is that this team that is supposed to have "so much talent" is a whole hell of a lot farther away than a new coach from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

The Eagles are a fundamentally flawed team that is simply not built for success. They have terrific skill position players in LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But outside of that, there isn't much. The defensive line is a muddle of heralded players who simply aren't getting it done anymore. The offensive line was built around Jason Peters, an unquestioned star, but not much else. With Peters out for the season and perhaps never quite being the same after rupturing his achilles twice in a few months, the rest of the offensive line consists of late-round picks, scrub free agents and a first-round bust.

The linebackers, outside of DeMeco Ryans, are still unproven. After a fast start, Mychal Kendricks has regressed as the Eagles have deflated. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is a high-priced bust. This team has no safeties to speak of. Its supposed "pass-catching" tight end cannot, in fact, catch passes.

And worst of all, there is no franchise quarterback in the midst, not with Vick regressing over two seasons — woeful offensive line or not — and not with Nick Foles playing scared and probably scarring him for the future with this putrid team.

Outside of kicker Alex Henery, who has been the lone Eagle doing his job and doing it well all season long, there isn't another player on the entire roster that you can say has had even a decent year. Shady, for all his talent, can't get on track when he's getting hit as soon as he receives the handoff. Vick and Foles are getting battered and making terrible decisions. The offensive line is not one capable of playing in the NFL.

The defense is soft and troubled and confused. They can't generate pressure, can't stop the run and can't cover anyone. The heralded corners have woefully underperformed, while the defensive line has been completely invisible.

The special teams, outside of Henery, are perhaps the worst in the league. They can't cover kicks or punts, and they can't return kicks or punts.

And the coaching has been abysmal, almost laughable. Bobby April deserved to be fired long before Juan Castillo, as did Marty Mornhinweg. Todd Bowles did a terrible job with the secondary and has continued to do a terrible job as the defensive coordinator. And Andy Reid continues to make the same mistakes he did 14 years ago, only now he doesn't have the talent or the defense to mask those mistakes.

Worst of all, this team has completely and utterly quit on its coach, on the season, on each other. No one looks like they're having fun. Yesterday's debacle against a mediocre at best team was more proof of that.

DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper were spouting off at each other. DeMeco Ryans felt compelled to celebrate after back-to-back tackles as his team was getting embarrassed in the fourth quarter. Nick Foles looked scared. The defense, for the thousandth time this year, looked like it didn't want to hit anyone.

The Eagles suck. There's no two ways about it. Instead of getting all worked up and feeling the blood pressure rise, it's time to embrace the suck. We've all seen it before, and it's happening again.

This franchise is lost. The team has quit, the head coach checked out. So now it's time for us to do the same. We'll still watch. We'll still cheer and boo and follow. But instead of losing your cool and getting frustrated, just sit back and watch the train wreck. It's a lot more fun that way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Philadelphia Daily News writer Eddie Barkowitz is a really cool dude and not afraid to drop some dance moves no matter how they look. Here he was last week on Daily News Live attempting to Dougie with the help of Olympic Gold Medalist McKayla Maroney.

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 Philadelphia Eagles: Most Disliked Eagles Team Ever?

The 2012 edition of the Philadelphia Eagles has been an unmitigated disaster. The team is 3-6 and has lost five straight games for the first time under coach Andy Reid. They are a mess at every level, from front office all the way down to the field. They've fired their defensive coordinator, even though all logic would have told you that the former offensive line coach should never have been hired to that position. The on-field product is consistently outplayed in every facet of the game.

The Eagles have been around for a long time, far longer than I have, so I can't speak to the teams from before my time, but I began to wonder ... is this the most disliked Eagles team in the history of the franchise?

Let me start at the the top. This current Eagles ownership has been accused in the past of doing just enough to keep the team competitive, but not enough to take that last step. Just enough to keep the butts in the seats and the TV ratings up and all that merchandise moving off the shelves. While that isn't really the issue with the 2012 team, ownership is still drawing the ire of the fans because of continued disappointments and because they appear to be downright delusional. They continue to insist that the Eagles are the "gold standard," and while they are busy talking about it other teams like the Patriots and Steelers and Giants have decided they would just go ahead and win multiple Super Bowls.

The front office and specifically the scouting are an absolute joke. There have been power struggles between general manager and head coach. Even worse, this team's draft record is putrid. Management and coach have this "we are smarter than you and we are going to prove it" attitude. They try to prove it with mind-blowing draft picks. Well guess what guys, you aren't that much smarter than everyone else.

My favorite/most frustrating example is the draft of 2010. The Eagles had a glaring need at the safety position. They traded up to the 13th position. Sitting there waiting to be drafted was Earl Thomas, a stud safety out of Texas. I became excited when I saw the move to trade up, I was sure Thomas was going to be the pick. Then the pick came in. Brandon Graham. Well since then, Graham hasn't really done much of anything, while Earl Thomas has already been to a Pro Bowl. Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, the Eagles safeties still suck. If you need another example, see Danny Watkins.

The 2012 Eagles feature a coach who has been here for 14 seasons. He has done a lot of good things during his tenure. But he has failed miserably in big games, going 1-4 in conference championships and losing his only Super Bowl appearance. He is one of the best in the game at preparation leading up to games, but one of the worst at in-game decision making. He continues to drive fans mad with his play-calling, his mind-numbing inability to manage the clock, and his inability or unwillingness to make in-game adjustments. Add in his broken-record post-game press conferences (I must have heard "I've got to do a better job" 6,000 times over the past 14 years) and you have a coach who has worn out his welcome with the passionate and loyal fan base.

The players on this team have seemed to adopt their coach's post-game ways. Week after week we hear things like "We've got to play better" or "We are a better team than we are showing right now," and then the following week they come out and play the same mistake-filled game they had the week before. The team has high-priced free agents who have grossly under-performed (see Nnamdi Asomugha). And they have Jason Babin more worried about what the fans are yelling from the seats than doing his job and maybe actually getting a sack once in a while. Not the best way to keep the fans on board while the season crumbles around you, Mr. Babin. Maybe you should leave the Twitter alone for awhile.

The team has a polarizing quarterback in Michael Vick. There are those who love Mike Vick for his athleticism, his fearlessness and effort, or for the story of redemption that he is trying to write. But even his most staunch supporters (a group that I will admit I am a part of) can't defend his erratic and inconsistent play this season. And for every fan who is a member of that group there are two who are on the other side. They hate Mike Vick. They hate him for his lack of being a prototypical quarterback, for his decision-making issues, for mistakes he has made in his past. This contingent has been out in full force this season as Mike has regressed from the flashes he had shown in 2010.

All of this manifests itself with a wildly inconsistent product on the field. The most frustrating thing about it is that they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Turnovers, especially in the red zone. Bone-headed penalties at the worst possible times. Some of the worst tackling you would ever see on an NFL field. Complete meltdowns in coverage. Ridiculous play-calling and usage of timeouts. And the same old lines from coaches and players following each loss.

It really is a comedy of errors. Combine all these factors with the yearly frustration of a championship-starved fan base, and the frustration and anger have come to a boil. All these factors could actually make the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles the most disliked team in franchise history.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Rev And Tinsley Square Off For NFC East Incompetency

Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Rev And Tinsley Square Off For NFC East Incompetency

It's Friday, Time to Dance

So I'm sure you've all seen former Philadelphia 76er and current Atlanta Hawk Lou Williams throwing down on Tyler Hansbrough the other night, which was awesome.

So in honor of Lou doing something I wasn't quite sure he could still do, here he is with Meek Mill doing Lou Williams and Meek Mill things.

And as always, Dallas sucks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jrue Holiday: Potential, or Potentially Flawed?

With the news that the Philadelphia 76ers signed 22-year-old, fourth-year point guard Jrue Holiday to a four-year, $41 million extension last week, there's been a lot of questions about whether or not this was the right move for the Sixers.

The majority of Sixers fans I know and have read seem to like the deal, banking on the 22-year-old progressing and getting better to enter the upper half of point guards in the league. Then there is the other school of thought, where some believe Jrue is what he is and not worth the contract. Personally, I lean toward the former over the latter, but I think it's an interesting topic of conversation.

In fact, my buddy Dan and I had the following quick email exchange:

Dan: I'm not sure: on one hand, he and ET suck together for some weird reason and I'd rather have Steph Curry 50% of the time and he got less money. On the other, he's still only 23 or something and it's not crazy considering shitty players like Demar DeRozan routinely get $40mm in the NBA nowadays. I guess I'm just not convinced that he's a PG that can lead a team to the finals and hate the idea of locking up money in anything that's not going to get you to the promised land.

Me: I kind of feel the same way to be honest. I like Jrue and think he has potential, but he hasn't really shown it yet. But it's definitely a "friendly" contract, if you will, given the NBA landscape. I guess the hope is he and Bynum can create the foundation. We'll see.

At face value, I tend to agree with Philadunkia's Steve Toll — although without nearly as negative of an outlook — that Jrue hasn't been anything close to an elite point guard. Truth of the matter is, he's been kind of a disappointment the past two seasons on the whole. The numbers Toll shares reveal as much, putting him the lower half of Eastern Conference point guards and the fourth best in the Atlantic Division. Through three seasons, Holiday simply hasn't been the point guard both the fans and the front office hope he one day can be. Every time he looks like he's about to "make the jump" to the next level, he seems to regress. That's certainly worrisome for a guy now in his fourth year in the league.

Yet I find myself having a cautiously optimistic view on Jrue. The main reason is that watching the Sixers the past three seasons, neither Eddie Jordan nor Doug Collins really have given Holiday the reins to the offense. Jordan was a notorious flop here in Philadelphia, doing little to help along his rookie point guard, and Collins, thrust into a difficult situation, relied on his veterans Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams to do the bulk of the ball-handling and help build a winning culture. Even last year, as Holiday asserted himself as the clear starter at point and a guy out there late in games, Collins still often put the ball in the hands of Williams and Iguodala come crunch time.

Admittedly, this can be seen as a sign that Collins doesn't trust Holiday in those situations, which very well may be true. But as the Sixers gave the Heat a battle two years ago and then flew out of the gates last season, Collins was not looking so much at development as winning games, thus he put the ball in the hands of the veterans in the fourth quarter. Personally, I thought this strategy was a flawed one, given that the Sixers had no realistic shot of competing for a title, even with a team that was one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. But that's the way Doug went, for better or worse.

This year, with both Andre and Lou gone, the keys have finally been handed over to Holiday full time, especially with his backups being undrafted rookie Maalik Wayns and journeyman Royal Ivey, and no point forward on Iguodala's level around. Finally, he is the one running the show out there, and that's where real development comes for a young point guard, particularly for one who played out of position as a shooting guard during his one year of college.

Now, it remains to be seen if Holiday is actually capable of being that guy. In an ideal world, the Sixers would let the season play out and then make a decision from there. That would be the best course of action in a bubble. But the NBA doesn't work in a bubble, and given that Holiday is only 22 years old and is considered a guy with a lot of talent, there is a team, or teams, out there willing to overpay him — and overpay him big time should he have a good year. That's the gamble the Sixers had to take into consideration. If Holiday matures into the point guard they think he can and they let him go to free agency, someone would have come in with a much bigger offer, handcuffing the Sixers. At that point, they would either have to let him walk or pay him even more than the four years and $41 million they are now.

Of course, we have no idea how this is going to play out, but I feel that paired with Andrew Bynum, it was a move the Sixers were prudent to make. That statement could come back to haunt me, and that contract could come back to haunt the Sixers. I sincerely hope it doesn't.

Through the first four games of the season, the reviews are mixed on Holiday. The good news is that now as the primary ball-handler every time he's on the court, his assists numbers are way up from his career five a game to 9.5 so far, putting him fourth in the league here in the early going, trailing only Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Brandon Jennings. At the same time, his turnovers are way up as well, averaging five a game through four contests. That's not good.

Last night was a microcosm of that, as Jrue put up an impressive 14 points and 12 assists in a disgusting-to-watch 77-62 victory over New Orleans, but he also had seven turnovers, which you simply cannot do on a night-to-night basis.

At times this season, just like at times throughout his short career, Holiday has looked incredibly impressive. Then there are moments when he isn't really running the offense, instead hoisting early shots that seem ill-advised or turning the ball over in sloppy fashion. However, in this remarkably small sample size, I have seen progress. The assists are a good indicator, and as time moves on as the primary decision-maker, you'd like to believe he'll cut down on the turnovers and get a better feel for running the offense the more he's out there. That's the hope I have and the hope the Sixers have.

But right now, that's all it is: hope and potential. But as the naysayers have pointed out — and I have as well at times — Jrue hasn't fulfilled that potential. And that could mean he is potentially flawed, and potentially not the guy fit to run a championship-level team.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Eagles Are Dead But Marcus Vick Is Alive

Coming out of the bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles still had a chance to get back into the NFC East race and potentially put things together, even after firing their defensive coordinator in a clear panic move. After all, Andy Reid teams were 13-0 following the bye week in the regular season during his tenure, the Eagles were just a game behind the Giants in the loss column, and the Eagles tend to play their best football in November and December under the current regime.

But my friends and I were discussing that possibility and ultimately came to the conclusion, as most Eagles fans did too I suspect, that that scenario wasn't go to play out this time for one simple reason: This team is shitty. Really shitty.

We can say that unequivocally following last night's incredibly difficult to watch 28-13 loss to the Saints down in New Orleans, which came on the heels of the Eagles getting absolutely embarrassed by the Atlanta Falcons. This team is 3-5, which certainly doesn't eliminate them mathematically from the playoffs given there are five division games remaining and a half of season left to play, but for all intents and purposes the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles are dead.

This is a team that cannot block a sole, quite literally playing a rotation of offensive linemen that simply cannot play. They aren't good enough players to even be backups in the NFL, let alone guys you have to rely on week in and week out. The loss of Jason Peters was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to this team, and its trickle-down effect has been disastrous.

Already struggling, the Eagles then lost their center Jason Kelce, the one guy who actually was playing competently. Danny Watkins sucks and then got hurt. Evan Mathis is terrible. And Tood Herremans was playing his worst football of his career, then got injured last night as well. Now the Eagles are forced to play stiffs like King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds, Dennis Kelly and Demetress Bell. You can't lose four offensive linemen and compete, and truthfully, the Eagles couldn't even keep it together when everyone besides Jason Peters was healthy. They simply have five offensive linemen out there who can't play, which renders the entire offense useless.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line has been the biggest underachievers on the team. Trent Cole has disappeared. Jason Babin has been exposed as a fraud. And this line that was supposed to be the deepest and most talented group of pass rushers in the league cannot generate pressure. Sure, they got a few sacks last night, but for the most part they were ineffective yet again.


You can't win the NFL, or any level of football for that matter, if you can't win the battle in the trenches. The game is won and lost at the line of scrimmage, and the Eagles simply are atrocious on both sides of that line. The offensive line is a joke, quite literally full of players not worthy of the NFL contracts they have, while the defensive is all flash and no substance.

When you combine that with poor fundamentals, bad tackling, horrid coverage, boneheaded penalties, turnovers and ignoring the running game even when it's quite literally dominating, you have yourself a disaster. That's the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. They are a just a shitty team with no hope, and they are dead in the water.

But hey, at least we learned that Marcus Vick, yes that Marcus Vick, is alive and well on Twitter:

I am really exciting to be following Marcus Vick now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bouncing Back: Penn State Continues to Move Forward

Heading into the 2012 college football season, no one knew what to expect from the Penn State Nittany Lions. After starting 0-2 with a loss to Ohio at home and a squandered opportunity at Virginia, things looked grim. But from there, Bill O'Brien and Penn State bounced back with five straight victories before falling to Ohio State.

On Saturday, the Nittany Lions bounced right back again, trouncing Purdue 34-9 to prove that no matter what sort of turmoil this team goes through, Penn State will not succumb to the pressures and quit on this season.

Matt McGloin bounced back from a difficult game where he reverted to his old self by picking apart the Boilermakers to the tune of 321 yards passing and two touchdowns without any of those costly turnovers. Brandon Moseby-Felder bounced back from a season of dropped passes with his best game to date, hauling in six passes for a game-high 129 yards and a score. The running game bounced back from an anemic showing against the Buckeyes to gain 185 yards, led by Zach Zwinak's 134. The defense bounced back after getting worn down by Ohio State to suffocate Purdue's offense. And Bill O'Brien bounced back from a rough second half where he was outsmarted by his counterpart Urban Meyer by pushing all the right buttons. Hell, even Sam Ficken bounced back from a season of struggles to make both his field goal attempts and knock through four extra points.

All in all, it was an encouraging sign, another in a line of many for the program. No matter what kind of hand the Nittany Lions are dealt, they seem to find a way to come out ahead. Truthfully, 6-3 isn't the type of record that's going to knock the socks off of the college football world, but this is no ordinary 6-3 team. It's a 6-3 team that simply refuses to make excuses or take the easy way out.

This entire season has been built around bouncing back, a program that needed to bounce back from a scandal so heinous and unfathomable that many thought it would take years, if not even longer. And while the long-term ramifications are still to be sorted out, this team, led by this new, fearless coach, just keeps bouncing back.

These Nittany Lions bounced back from the departures of some key players by circling the wagons and playing for each other. They bounced back from a demoralizing start to go on a winning streak. And they bounced back from a rough home defeat to a rival with another impressive performance.

As a result, Penn State is beginning to bounce back as well, at least from an alumni standpoint. Thanks to the football program, especially the players. going out and working their tails off to provide a distraction for a few hours, some of that pride that was so suddenly stripped away is returning. I saw it this weekend in Boston as I watched the game at The Greatest Bar, Boston's Penn State bar. The alumni there were cheering and chanting and hanging on every play, showing their school pride in a city some 430-plus miles away.

For a program and school that still has a long way to go to restore faith and take the proper steps to help in any way it can for the pain and misery it allowed to happen on its very campus, this team represents the Penn State resolve.

No matter how many jokes we are the butt of — from South Park to The League to everything in between — and no matter how many people want to pigeonhole an entire community based off the actions of five individuals, we are all working as hard as we possibly can to bounce back, to help our university bounce back. Bill O'Brien and the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions are a proud extension of that, a team that just keeps bouncing back and showing its resolve.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Stephen Jackson and Kevin Durant rapping? Yes please.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Andre Who? Spencer Hawes Steals the Spotlight in Season Debut

Last night, I attended the Philadelphia 76ers' 2012-13 season opener against the Denver Nuggets with silver fox and a friend of ours.

The game itself was mostly supposed to be about Andre Iguodala playing in first real game as a Denver Nugget right back here in Philadelphia, against the only NBA franchise he had known prior to being dealt in the blockbuster Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard trade. His return and reception were billed as the biggest storylines, even more so than the new-look Sixers since Bynum is out of commission at the moment as he mends his knee.

And while Iguodala's reception was a smattering of cheers and a larger contingent of boos, as Jrue Holiday predicted, the Iguodala storyline quickly faded in this one — though there was one hilariously enthusiastic kid sitting at the end of our row who started saying "Boo Andre, boo Andre," about 20 minutes before tipoff and never relented. Pretty funny stuff.


However, the return of Andre Iguodala was about as underwhelming as it gets, mainly because Iggy played one of the worts games of basketball I have ever seen him play in his entire career. I don't know if he was pressing and trying to do too much to sort of show the Philadelphia fans and Doug Collins that he really is a star or he was just having one of those hideous offensive shooting nights that drove us nuts during his time as a Sixer, but Andre was bad. Real bad. As in almost comically bad, to the point where I wouldn't have wanted him on my team under any circumstance last night.

Not only did he shoot an abysmal 5-13 from the floor, including going a woeful 0-4 from deep (yeah, Andre, that's why Doug didn't want you launching those), he was way off. He didn't just miss shots, he missed them badly. I mean, it looked like he had never shot a basketball in his entire life, to be honest with you. Beyond that, he didn't even really stuff the stat sheet the way normally does. It was an all-around pathetic showing by Iguodala in his Denver debut, in front of his longtime fans no less. Booing him wasn't even necessary. Frankly, fans should have been cheering every time he had the ball because it was beneficial for the Sixers.

In fact, that was kind of the story of the entire game for Denver. The Nuggets, a trendy team that some people even consider a dark horse for the Finals, looked completely lost on offense without the injured Danilo Gallinari in the lineup. Corey Brewer was laughably terrible, to the point where I was ecstatic when he had the ball. Ty Lawson was contained early. Iggy was a complete non-factor. Ditto Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried. Hell, Wilson Chandler was trying to do things on offense it was so bad for Denver.

Truthfully, the only Denver Nugget who looked like he could do anything in the first half was that other former Sixer, Andre Miller. Miller, playing his typical old-man game, just seemed to do whatever he wanted, getting the rim the way only wily old men do, finding passing lanes and creating the few chances the Nuggets had.

But the Sixers jumped out early and never looked back, playing the type of basketball that is completely opposite from what we're used to. With Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright rotating in and out, this team just guns it. There is no shot these guys won't take, no moment when the three isn't' a viable option. And it's damn exciting to watch, at least when the team is winning and hitting those shots. Last night, they were in the first half, which allowed the Sixers to build a lead.

But it wasn't the shooting, or even the impressive first half of Jrue Holiday, or the woeful night for the Nuggets that allowed the Sixers to kick off the season with an 84-75 victory. Actually, those same entities flipped midway through the third quarter, and the Sixers were dangerously close from letting their lead get away. Wright and Richardson went cold from beyond. Jrue started forcing stupid shots early in the clock and playing really dumb basketball. And Ty Lawson finally kicked things into gear. Before you knew it, a 14-point lead had shrunk to three.

However, there was one guy there to save the day: Spencer Hawes and his ridiculous haircut.

In a game that featured two young, exciting point guards, a game that featured Andre Iguodala returning to Philadelphia, a game that featured a hard workers like Kenneth Faried and a talent like JaVale McGee, a game that included former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner — who was invisible by the way (credit Iggy for some of that, at least) — it was Spencer Hawes who was head and shoulders the best player on the court. I mean, he was better than everyone else out there by miles. It was stunning to see, even more impressive than his early-season dominance last year.

Hawes had one of the most impressive games of his life, scoring 16 points and nabbing 12 rebounds on 6-11 shooting and even hitting 2-3 from beyond the arc. But it was so much more than that. He added five devastating blocks, which felt like 15. He was literally defending the rim with his life, altering countless shots beyond the five he blocked. Hawes was also all over the place on both ends of the floor, picking up two steals, hustling his ass off and simply outworking everyone out there.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around and Hawes threw back yet another intimidating — yes, I said intimidating — block, the Wells Fargo Center was in a total uproar, first starting the absurd and yet wholly appropriate "M-V-P! M-V-P!" chants, followed by a deafening chorus of "SPEN-CER HA-WES! CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!" It was not even remotely what I expected heading down to the game, and it was everything that makes basketball great.

The crowd was electric from the start, anticipating a new season with new players and a new philosophy, not to mention amped up to go all out against Andre Iguodala. The game, even with all its sloppiness and poor shooting, was exciting. And Spencer Hawes put on a show that no one really expected. It was as fun as a season opener gets.

The game was supposed to be about Andre Iguodala returning home. Instead, it was about an oafish-looking 7-footer with an absurd haircut making all those fans who wished the Sixers would not have re-signed him this offseason stand up and cheer his name in unison. The NBA is back in Philadelphia, and I could not be happier about it — or happier about the very friendly (four years, $41 million) Jrue Holiday extension.

This season is going to be fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller Are Good, the Eagles Stink

This weekend was about as bad it gets football-wise for me. Penn State, following a very hard-fought first half, got completely blitzed in the second half to lose 35-23 to Ohio State, while the Eagles got flat out embarrassed by the Atlanta Falcons, giving Andy Reid his first regular-season loss following a bye week of his head coaching career.

Honestly, there's not too much to go over for either game, though there are a few things I'd like to note about the Penn State-Ohio State game. For starters, I can't say enough about the make-up of this Penn State team. Even after missing several blown opportunities to make big plays — namely a slightly off-target pass to Allen Robinson that Robinson still probably should have brought in and a sure-fire pick six dropped by Stephen Obeng-Agyapong — the Nittany Lions played tremendous defense and took a 7-0 lead on a blocked punt my Mike Hull, and even when they fell behind, they never quit, making the final score respectable.

I will say that it's disappointing that the referees' horrid call extended Ohio State's final drive of the first half, which directly led to a tired defense that thought it had gotten off the field surrendering a momentum-altering touchdown to tie it up just before half. The defense played outstanding in that opening half, but you can only contain Braxton Miller for so long. If Penn State does get that stop and then manages to score before halftime, or even just take that 7-0 into the break, who knows how things play out.

Still, that terrible (and I mean terrible) call aside, this game was lost in the third quarter. Coming out of the break, Matt McGloin tossed an atrocious pick six, the type of throw that he became known for prior to this season, and the game spiraled out of control from there. Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell flat out outcoached Bill O'Brien and Ted Roof from there on out, the first time all season really where the new Penn State staff has been overmatched.

The Ohio State defense, which came into the game struggling, was dominant, completely shutting down Penn State's exciting attack. Fickell was clearly ready for this one and overwhelmed O'Brien and his players.

As for Meyer, he found a way to let his quarterback loose even as he was struggling to throw the ball, and Braxton Miller simply took over in the third quarter. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, this one was all but over.

Like I said, credit to Penn State for not giving up and laying down, fighting until the very end, but the Buckeyes simply outclassed the Nittany Lions on Saturday in the second half.

It was a nice measuring stick, and while the outcome was not desirable, it's proof that Penn State hasn't fallen off as dramatically as some suspected — at least not yet — and that O'Brien and his staff are still headed in the right direction.

As for the Eagles, what can you really say about that 30-17 embarrassment other than not a single player, unit or coach looked even remotely good? Everyone sucked. The defense couldn't stop the Falcons to save its life, looking worse than if ever did under the admittedly underqualified Juan Castillo. The offense was inept and laughable. And the special teams is the special teams.

There's not much else to say about this team other than the longer this goes on, the more it feels like the Andy Reid era is coming to a close. Speaking of Andy, the most entertaining thing about Sunday was former Eagle Asante Samuel's remarks about his former coach after the game.

The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles suck.