Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whoa Doctor!

Why do newspaper columnists and ESPN/SI bloggers think I care what share of the Nielsen TV ratings the World Series gets? How could that possibly be of interest to me?

These announcers and columnists act like "storylines," as opposed to good baseball, is what people care about. The reason they are whining so much about the lack of storylines is because better storylines makes their jobs easier. They are like robots, and were probably salivating at the chance to rehash all the old 'Manny Being Manny' cliches and whatever else they had planned for a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. Uh-oh! Now they have to actually think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Levels of Booing

Booing does not help someone perform better. Yet Philadelphians boo their teams and players constantly, at the drop of a hat. You could call it being passionate and die-hard, I call it being fickle and selfish.

I have railed against our proclivity to boo before, but I am going expand on that, because not all boos are created equal. Some are acceptable, and some are not.

Level 0: Booing opposing teams, players, and fans

Not even open for debate. Something Philadelphians excel at.

Level 1: Booing for lack of effort

This is totally acceptable, and something I am proud of Philadelphians for. We do not tolerate a lack of hustle, or even a supposed lack of hustle. This comes up most often in baseball, where players like Mike Schmidt and Bobby Abreu, both all-stars, never really fit in because of their supposed lack of hustle (in truth, the game just came naturally to them, they made it look easy).

Best example: Booing Freddy Garcia for not running to first on a groundball. After the game he said his job was to pitch, and I knew right then and there Freddy would never do his job in Philadelphia again.

Level 2: Booing for failure to do one's job

Fans take some things in sports for granted: chip-shot field goals and sacrifice bunts both come to mind. When a player is unable to do what we believe is easy, we will boo that player. If Chris Coste cannot get the runner to second because he popped up his bunt, we will boo him for that. Will it get him to bunt better next time? No. But this is a boo out of frustration, and although not very supportive, I can defend it.

Level 3: Booing a coach's decision

Sending out the punt team? Defensive replacement for Pat Burrell? Yanking the goalie? Boo. It's the coach, not the players fault. I'm sure it doesn't raise the player's spirits, but this one is still okay in my book. Sometimes a boo is used to send a message, and this can be one of those times.

Level 4: Booing a player or team's failure

When the Eagles can't convert on 4th and 1, or the Flyers give up back-to-back goals, the fans are going to boo. They are upset, angry, and second-and-third-guessing the coach all at once. The only way to express all that is going on in their hearts, heads, and guts, is to let out a deep, resonating BOOOOOOO!!!!! as the players put their heads down and shuffle off the field. Is it effective? Not in the least. Does it make the players tighten up and worry about failure more than they should? Probably. Is it our God-given right as paying sports fans who haven't won a championship in 20-odd years? I guess so. Should we continue to do it? Only if we want to continue to be paying sports fans who haven't won a championship in 30-odd years.

Level 5: Booing a tragic flaw

This, to me, is the big one. It's probably the loudest, longest-lasting boo, and the one that can make anyone - player or fan - sick to their stomach. It's the culmination of an entire season, or seasons, or lifetime, and it's the boo of the tragic flaw. Typically this boo comes out late in the season, when one of our teams is about to blow a game in the way we all knew they would.

Ex: The Phillies have no situational hitting and get shut down by quality pitching. Picture a late September game against the Mets. Our pitching staff has hung in there, giving up 1 run over 7 innings. We are facing Johan Santana, and have managed plenty of double plays and strike outs, but no actual runs. Then we get runners on first and second with no outs. Top of the order up, J-Roll, first pitch groundout, Victorino, goes down swinging, Utley, takes a strike, then pops up to second.

Wait for it.....

.....aaaaaaaaaaand here come the boos.

Now I put this as number 5 because it's probably the most damaging boo on our psyche. This is not a boo you want to take lightly. Am I guilty of it? Not yet, but I could be. This boo is in our nature, and I can't say I defend it, but I understand.

Level off the charts: Booing someone because they aren't someone else.

This occurs when fans believe somebody else should be walking up to the batter's box, or coming into a game for a save situation. Fans are basically saying 'we wish you were someone else, so regardless of how hard you work or how good you are/were/can be, we are going to boo you because of a manager/coach's decision.

Best example: Booing Donovan McNabb at the NFL Draft. We wanted Ricky Williams, we didn't get him. Possibly my least proud moment as a Philadelphia sports fan.

This one also gets to what J-Roll was saying...how can a fan possibly boo somebody on Opening Day? Let alone draft day?

I am proud of Philadelphia sports fans, most of the time. But I will never understand how one can claim to support their team one moment and then boo the hell out of them the next.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Can I Get A Do-Over?

I have touched (rambled) on this subject before, (here, and here) but with the start of training camp, I think it's time to revisit that age old issue known as 'the contract situation.'

It's really starting to piss me off. Every year, some of the biggest news heading into training camp is not "how will so-and-so fit in with his new team" or "will the draft picks make a difference" or a million other questions about the state of the team. No, it is always about contract situations. And how half the players on the team are unhappy with theirs.

Gimme a freakin' break.

I understand all the quotes players rattle off. "This is a business." "I am just looking out for my family." "I have outperformed my contract."

Now, that last one is a bit of a sticky spot. In the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed, so a team can cut a player who is underperforming. But if a player overperforms, he does not get anything extra except maybe a bonus here and there. So I'll give them that.

Here's my issue, something that seems to really affect the Eagles more than any other team:

Young players signing long-term contracts extensions (I''m looking at you, Lito, Westbrook, and Shawn Andrews), and then immediately complaining about how they are not fair.

They have to understand what they are doing when they sign through 2013, right? It's called giving up maximum dollars for long-term security. Or are they hiring agents from the Hollywood Upstairs Sports Agency School?

Every year, the price to sign a star free agent goes up. Nate Clements signed a big deal last year, Asante Samuel signed a bigger one this year. If you sign an 8-year contract extension, and then a year later someone who you think you're better than signs a bigger deal, you can't just say "I want a new contract."

Either don't sign the extension, or stop complaining about it.

It wasn't like the Eagles held a gun to their head - they made smart business decisions by locking up young talent for the long-term before they can hit free agency. The Eagles do take on some risk as well - there is guaranteed money in the form of signing bonuses. If a player they think will be good ends up tearing all his ligaments or forgets how to block, they still get that signing bonus ($8.7 million in Lito's case).

I understand you want to get the most bang for your buck, but you can't have it both ways.

If you want to continually get what you are worth on the open market, sign a one-year contract (or 2 or 3, no need to be so drastic). If you want the piece of mind and stability that a long-term contract affords you, go ahead and sign on the dotted line, just don't go bitching about it two years later.

In the case of Westbrook, I don't know what he was thinking when he signed that contract. If you hear him talk, you know he has confidence in his abilities and thinks he is one of the best RBs in the league. So why sign a contract before you show that true potential? The Eagles were able to buy low on Westbrook, getting the extension done right before he burst through as a top 3 running back. Running backs have short shelf lives, and probably only get 1 or 2 really good contracts before they get sent to pasture. I'm sure his agent knew that, I'm sure he knew that, before they signed the deal. Imagine what he could have gotten if he was a free agent this year? He blew it, plain and simple (I guess that's what you get with a 'Nova education).

I remember when they announced Lito Sheppard's and Sheldon Brown's extensions. It was a big deal - locking up our secondary for years to come with two bright young promising stars. I remember chuckling and thinking how the front office (RJ) swindled these guys into extensions, knowing full well that they would be worth so much more in a couple seasons. Well why didn't they know that?

And remember our good friend T.O.? You know what kick-started his removal from the team? It wasn't his relationship with McNabb, or that we lost the Super Bowl, or that he was under so much pressure from concealing his homo-erotic tendencies, no it was his contract. A year into signing a 7 year, $49 million dollar deal with the Eagles he was unsatisfied with it! One year in!You know why? 'Cuz it was backloaded, and he realized the Eagles would cut him before he saw the big money at the end of the contact. Again, let me ask, what kind of agents are they hiring? Do they not read the fine print?

Now, I don't know if this situation can be solved. It's not really the players, front offices, or agents fault (well, it is kind of the agents). It's the whole mess that is the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Matt Ryan will probably make more money with his rookie deal than Westbrook will make in his entire career. Go figure.

So what I am going to do is give some advice to the Phillies: overpay for a quality starting pitcher (Cole Hamels would do just fine). Scout the leagues, target a guy you think will be a stud for 5,6,7 years to come. Sign him to a record contract. Guess what? Within two years, that record contract, that oh-my-god, this is the biggest deal in the history of the MLB, will be an afterthought. Because some team will come along and find the next best guy and give him an even bigger deal two years later. And there won't be anything our pitcher can do about it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Dear The Spectrum,

We will miss you. We will miss the sticky floors, the seats directly behind concrete pillars, the boozy tailgating before concerts, the way clouds of smoke would float above the crowd at Phish shows. We will miss minor-league hockey, indoor soccer, princesses on ice, and everything else your wonderful venue provided for us after the Comcast Center became the new home of the Sixers and Flyers.

We are going to miss you, dear Spectrum. Sure, maybe minor-league hockey, indoor soccer, and princesses on ice aren't that big of a draw these days. And sure, maybe you are parked boldly in front of progress, playing a game of chicken with the Future. And sure, maybe I personally won't miss actually being inside your venue, but I am going to miss you.

You know when I'm going to miss you? When I am eating grilled mahi mahi with mango salsa before Phillies games, shopping at Nautica and Eddie Bauer at the halftime of Birds' games, paying $8.50 for a beer because I can no longer tailgate in the parking lot, and sleeping in one of the new hotels erected on your spot because drinking and driving has become "too dangerous."

I am going to miss the way you and The Vet used to hang out together, bragging about chick stadiums you used to bang while pounding a couple warm tallboys of Busch Light. You and the Vet, spitting on opposing teams' fans, making little kids cry, refusing to wipe the cheez-whiz off your mouth, dipping Skoal and smoking cigarettes at the same time. Giving each other black eyes just for the hell of it.

You two were the shit. Now, these fancy boys are showing up. Sure the Linc is pretty intimidating, and the Bank is pretty boozy, but without you there to guide them, they are going to forget their roots. A couple of years from now, the Linc and the Bank are going to see a passed out drunk chick covered in her own vomit. They will be a little confused, thinking "Isn't there something I am supposed to be doing right now?" Then they will look in your direction for guidance, and the only thing they will see is some high-end boutiques, too-fancy "sports" bars, and a hotel with more clean linen then you, dear Spectrum, have ever laid eyes on. And instead of getting a gentle prodding from you, saying things like "Go on, take her pants off," they will instead just alert the proper authorities, and someone will come and clean her up and escort her to the game.

It's going to be a scary world without you, you king among men.

Hopefully they will give you a true and honorable send-off befitting of your majestical place in Philadelphia sports lore. I am talking, of course, about sticks of dynamite jammed into every crevice of your structure, resulting in a 6 AM implosion where you crumble to a pile of rubble and dust.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Brand New Beginning

Oh you like that title don't you. ZING! It's the truth though. With the signing of Elton Brand the Sixers have begun their next era. Simultaneously, I think I just might have shaken that 2 year hang over left by Allen Iverson's departure. Besides being the most compelling and exhilarating player this city has ever seen, Iverson made the Sixers relevant every night. Sure we didn't quite win a championship or even go deep into the playoffs every year, but we had an identity. The last two years were difficult for me as a Sixers fan having only known an Iverson led squad since middle school. I ordered the NBA league package to watch the Nuggets play--I needed my fix. I probably paid more attention and rooted harder for the Nuggets at times last year than for my hometown Sixers. I can't say I am ashamed; it was what I looked forward to most as a basketball fan. It was comfort food like mom's baked ziti or veal cutlets.

All this changed when the Sixers signed Elton Brand last week. We entered a new era and became relevant instantly. I have spent the past week reading NBA analyst after analyst praise the Sixers for their bold move and even call us "contenders in the East." You kiddin me!? I haven't heard that since 2001. There are months ahead of day dreaming about Iggy dumping the ball down to Brand in the East conference championships as he punishes a Kevin Garnett or Anderson Varejao on the low block time and time again. Maybe Elton will kick it out to LouWill for a sweet, sweet 3. Or dish it to a cutting Iggy for a monstrous jam that will send the Wachovia Center into an uproar. Maybe he will throw an 'oop over his head, off the backboard to a flying Sammy D who will certainly improve on an already stellar campaign last year (Sammy D an All-Star? Ben Wallace did it...I'm just sayin!). The possibilities are endless.

Dude looks great in that jersey...not to mention, did we get new jerseys?

We have already looked into season ticket packages on the The2-1-5 here. A friend made a Brand t-shirt jersey with only a white tee and a black Sharpie and received plenty of love at the Phils' game.

The Sixers are back baby!

(Now the Sixers probably need a two guard who can score to really put them over the top...and I know this one guy who is going to be a free agent at the end of the year...I know, I know, I know, but I'm just sayin baby I'm just sayin...)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why I Love Local Sports Radio (Or Really Just ESPN 950)

So I do a good amount of radio listening at work these days. I have speakers on my computer and jump around from listening to music, national sportsradio, local sportsradio, PTI or other podcasts, and even some NPR from time to time. I usually tune into Mike Missanelli at 3pm.

I have emailed Mikey Miss twice and have had both emails read on air. You could say I'm batting 1.000 or heating up if you will. Here is my last piece from a few weeks ago that was called "impressive" and "very well written." I was flattered and totally pumped for the rest of the day at work.

"Hey Mike, enjoy the show.
I first thought Imus and bigots like him should absolutely be fired for their disgusting comments, but by giving him a forum he becomes a talking point for people to address the bigotry he exudes. Having such a bad stigma attached to him and his comments asserts that speech like that is unacceptable and disgusting, the hope being that people will think twice before speaking like him and maybe think harder about tuning in and therefore supporting him and his beliefs.

He actually read my full name (and pronounced it correctly) and I have even received a few letters from my growing fan base.

Anyway I am here to officially endorse ESPN 950. This town has enough sports negativity and doesn't need that "other station" and especially that "other guy" reminding us about it everyday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

From Mike & Mike in the Morning (Or, Why I Hate National Radio)

"Lots of big news today....CC gets his first win, Harden gets traded, and Elton Brand is headed to Philly. But by far, the biggest news today, Brett Favre may be coming out of retirement!"

Give me. A fucking. Break.