Friday, May 28, 2010

Exercise in Phutility


In their last 5 games, the Phillies have scored 3 runs. In their last 9 games, that total only jumps up to 15 runs. Just to put that into perspective, in the Flyers last 5 games they have scored 17 goals; and in their last 9 games that number jumps up to 32. If I may, I would like to describe the Phillies in the words of the Asian construction worker from Major League, "They're shitty." While I am certain that the Phillies will bounce back from this slump of epic proportions, I am content to dwell on it for the time being as it is eating me up inside right now.

You would think that in order to score zero runs in three games, a team would have to be hitting the ball pretty poorly right? False. In the last three games, the Phils have thrown 20 hits up on the board. They are just not getting the hits at the right time. This is what kills me. Last night the Phillies had several chances to get runs in, due primarily to free passes from Pelfrey rather than hitting prowess, and hit into a double play three separate times. Unacceptable. Several things need to happen if the Phils want to get out of this slump.

First, Jimmy Rollins needs to get healthy. Jimmy, this lingering hamstring problem is a huge pain in the ass. Don't play until you are healthy. If you play before you are 100%, you are only going to injure yourself again causing an even longer setback. Shane Victorino, how about you raise that average a bit? Last night was a good start, but unfortunately nobody else wanted to hit you in. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, start hitting. I AM PISSED. Raul Ibanez, are you serious? You hit 23 homers in the first half last year. Now you are batting .253 with 3 home runs. Unacceptable. I wouldn't mind seeing a righty bat take your place in the outfield until you start hitting. Ugh, I am so fed up right now. Thank god for the Flyers, otherwise I would have no avenue to vent.

While I am sure the Phillies will soon break out of this slump with a 20 run onslaught of some poor team, right now it just seems like they can't do anything and it is the most frustrating thing ever. A 3 game shutout sweep against the Mets is the equivalent of having someone wrinkle your Randy Travis poster, piss the seat and hide your keys. On top of that, you walk to your parking lot in the morning to find that your car, park in its rightful spot and complete with parking sticker in the window, has been towed. Fuck you, New Haven. If I don't get a full refund, I'm gonna take you to small claims court, and take my business TO COMCAST!

Monday, May 24, 2010

ESPN Philadelphia.com?

Get Flyered up sports fans. After a 13 year hiatus the Broad Street Bullies are back in the Stanley Cup Finals. After losing in excruciating fashion in their last two Conference Final trips, the Flyers have exercised their demons and have made it back to the finals with a most remarkable run through the playoffs. Their opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, may come in as the favorites after sweeping San Jose in the Western Final, but I think this series is going to be a thriller. Most of all though, it will be good for the recovery of a sport still reeling after a lockout.

Since the lockout of 2004-2005 we have not really had a marquee Stanley Cup Finals matchup. Whether it be big stars facing off, or two big cities pitted against each other, it has just not happened. Let's look at some of the recent Stanley Cup Champions; Pittsburgh, Detroit, Anaheim, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Colorado. Not exactly world centers. Since even before the lockout, we have not seen a series with two big cities like this one in a long time. It is great for hockey because now you can add two large hockey markets in America that will be re-charged in their passion for hockey. We have never questioned the Canadian passion for hockey, but in recent history it has lost some luster in America. This will certainly help spur some more interest in the good old US of A. Now all the league needs is New York and L.A. to square off in the Finals.

As for the actual series, I hesitate to pick a champion due to the lack of information I have about the Blackhawks. I know that the Flyers beat them in the only game they played this year, but I also know from watching the Olympics that Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa are all nasty. Then again, the Flyers have coach Peter LaViolette who led the Hurricanes to the cup only a few years ago. At this point in the year, it is anybody's game. I certainly wouldn't count the Flyers out of any series after all they have been through though.

Through their ups and downs since their last title in 1975, the Flyers have always had a loyal following. They have always been competitive, but just haven't seemed to put it all together. Right now they seem to be surging at the right time and, surprise surprise, they are getting great play from their goaltender. Whatever happens, this is going to be a great series for the sport of hockey. Lastly, LATS GEW FLOYERS!!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stars of Tomorrow On Display at Yale

Never before had I voluntarily woken up at 5:45 a.m. to do anything until I decided to help out at the Division 1 East Regional Golf Tournament at the Golf Course at Yale this week. The mornings were rough, but it was definitely worth it to see some of the upcoming PGA tour stars on display. Not to mention the fact that all volunteers get to play the course sometime in the near future. Let me take you through some of the highlights of the three day event in New Haven this week.

DAY 1: I arrived at the course at 7 a.m. not really knowing what to expect. I was told I was going to be a scorecard runner but ended up operating the scoreboard by the first hole and the practice greens. As I was setting up shop all the players were practicing putting before their tee times. It was cool to see all the different get ups that players had. Eastern Tennessee State had some sweet pink shirts, UNC-Wilmington rocked some awesome black and white plaid pants, Vanderbilt players all had sick visors, and UVA payed their respects to Yeardley Love with a black patch on their hats. UVA also pulled up in one of the sweetest vans I have ever seen, a euro-looking Mercedes van with golf lockers in the back and a huge Virginia logo on the sides. That's riding in style. At the end of day 1, Texas was atop the leaderboard at -6. The other teams that competed for the right to advance to the finals (top four teams advance) were Kent State, UCLA, Eastern Tennessee State, Southeastern Louisiana University, UVA, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Lafayette, UNC-Wilmington, Penn State, UNC-Charlotte, Liberty and Alabama.

DAY 2: On the second day of the tournament, I was assigned to collect the scores from the players as they finished up the 17th hole. This was by far my favorite assignment. I got to see some great golf shots on a tough hole and then interact with the players a little bit afterwards. I razzed a Lafayette player for his 8 and congratulated a South Carolina guy for his chip in birdie, one of the few birdies of the day on 17. In general, the southern players were a lot more polite and thanked me for helping out. The Lafayette players were by far the worst mannered. After collecting the players scores, I would radio them back into the scoring center in the clubhouse. The chick that worked there was smoking hot.

DAY 3: On the final day I was given the menial task of re-stocking the coolers on the tenth hole and the driving range. Pretty lame, but I was done by 11 a.m. so I wasn't too upset. I got to see a little bit more of the course too which was cool. The Course at Yale was voted the #1 college course in the nation and I can definitely see why. The extreme undulation, difficult greens and extreme length (18th hole is a 621 yard par 5, I expect to score in the double digits on that one) make it a challenge for even the best golfers out there. In case you don't believe me, let me just tell you that Lafayette shot +60 over the three day tournament. When all was said and done, Texas and Kent State tied at -5, and UCLA, Penn St. and UVA all moved onto the final as well with scores of -4, -3, and +3 respectively.

It was great to see how golf is supposed to be played, and there are definitely some dudes I would keep my eye on to potentially make the PGA Tour in the future. Rhys Enoch of ETSU shot 7 under during the 3 day tournament, Texas Longhorn Cody Gribble tied the course record with a 64 on Thursday; and his teammate Dylan Frittelli was one of the few to birdie 17 on the day I kept score. TJ Howe and Kevin Foley led a solid Penn State team, and Kevin Miller was huge in Kent State advancing to the finals. If you ever get the chance to watch a golf tournament with very skilled players in it, I recommend that you do so. It is really a treat to see the game played at such a high level. These players would put the Donk's golf game to shame.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Going Green

While it is tempting to consider what Sixers fans are setting on fire after securing the #2 overall pick in the NBA draft, or pondering how Flyers fans are planning to top their celebration from game 1 after yet another shutout of the Habs (possibly planning some sort of Canadian Bacon-esque raid I would guess), tonight I am going to discuss the Celtics. From what I have seen from the C's so far this playoffs, they look like the most mentally composed team out there. This has been made even more evident by how many stupid plays Orlando is making and how the Celtics are just picking them apart because of it.

The Magic may not have come into the Eastern Conference Finals as heavy favorite, but I would certainly argue that they were the favorites. They had not lost a game in the playoffs and had absolutely annihilated the Hawks in the previous series. The Celtics meanwhile beat the Heat in 5 and the Cavs in 6. Now though, it is the Celtics who look like the far superior team. They are firing on all cylinders on offense, playing great team defense, and not making stupid mistakes. Meanwhile, the Magic are way off their game.

Perhaps the perfect example to highlight what I mean occurred in the second quarter of tonight's game. As the Magic were pushing the ball up the court on offense, Dwight Howard buried Kevin Garnett with a shoulder trying to set up in the lane and drew an offensive foul. The Magic hadn't even gotten the ball past half court and Howard stupidly shoved Garnett out of the way for no reason at all. Moreover, it was Howard's third foul of the game. It may seem like a minor point to dwell on, but it is mental lapses like these that add up. Couple Howard's shenanigans with the fact that by halftime of tonight's game the rest of the Magic players seemed more caught up in yapping at the refs than actually focusing on the Celtics and you've got the beginnings of a snowball effect. That is disrespectful to the other team on the floor and a pretty damn good way to lose a game.

As this is going on, the Celtics are keeping their mouths shut and simply playing the game hard. They have made it to the top of the mountain before, and now that they are fully healthy again can sense that it is in reach once more. The best example of this might be Rasheed Wallace. Wallace was a complete bum all season; drawing technicals, playing horrible defense and just being generally lazy. In the playoffs though, he has been playing inspired basketball and has kept his mouth shut for the most part. Throw him in the mix with a healthy KG, Jesus Shuttlesworth, Pierce and the playoff MVP so far Rajon Rondo and you've got a dangerous mix.

This game and the series are far from over, but it is things like this that can cause a team to completely unravel. If the Magic can't calm down, play smart, and focus on the other team, then they will have no chance against the veteran C's. Oh yeah, one more thing; CANADIAN BEER SUCKS!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

King Without A Crown

One of the biggest free agent frenzies in recent history will take place this summer in the NBA. Up for grabs are superstars like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce and of course Lebron James. Where these players end up could drastically impact the futures of several NBA franchises. With that being said, these signings might not impact them in the positive way that you would think though. So be careful what you wish for New Jersey, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, et al., getting one or even two of the players via free agency might not be the ticket to the finals that you imagine it to be.

Wherever Lebron James goes this summer, he will certainly command the maximum amount of money that he can get from that team. While I will not argue that Lebron is not worth that much money, I will point out that paying that much to get one or two players is extremely damaging to a franchise. If a team spends big bucks to sign Lebron, or even bigger bucks for say Bosh and D Wade, they might not be able to throw enough money at other players to field a truly NBA championship caliber team. The best teams out there are usually not the teams that make a big splash in free agency, but the ones that draft well and trade well.

Let's take a look at the remaining teams in the NBA Playoffs; the Magic have gotten where they are today because of one man, Dwight Howard. They have put some solid free agent pieces around him in Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, but the reason they are in their second straight conference finals is because they got Dwight Howard with the #1 pick several years ago. The Celtics both drafted and traded well, and that is how they were able to get a nucleus of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and KG. The Lakers made the deal of the century trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant 14 years ago, and also got Pau Gasol from Memphis for pennies on the dollar. Andrew Bynum was also a solid draft pick a few years back, and there you have the Lakers. Phoenix has constantly tinkered with their team, but the most important piece of their puzzle is Steve Nash. While he was originally drafted by Phoenix, he was re-acquired via free agency from Dallas in 2004. Every rule has an exception I guess, and Nash is it. Without 2003 first round draft pick Amare Stoudemire though, the Suns wouldn't be where they are right now.

What about some of the teams that have made a big splash in free agency recently? The Sixers shelled out big bucks to sign Elton Brand a few years back and have done nothing since. What about when Orlando cleared up enough cap space to make a run at both Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady about 10 years back? They ended up with T Mac and Grant Hill and eventually became so bad that they were able to draft Dwight Howard #1 overall. So maybe in the long run that wasn't so bad, but definitely not what they intended to happen. Finally, who can forget when the Wizards won the prize possession of the 2003 offseason. His name? Gilbert Arenas. Enough said.

While these free agents may appear to be the solution to your team's woes this offseason, keep in mind that free agency often hurts a team in the long run. With all of the money tied up in one or two players, there is no money left to sign solid role players. Try telling that to a GM looking to put butts in the seats though.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Boston Strangled


Let's play a little game called texts from last night. Some time around 7:30 or so, shortly after the Flyers scored their first goal of the game, a text went over the wire that looked something like this;
TO: Beef
FROM: William
RE: Flyers
TEXT: How great would it be if they came back and won this game 4-3 also?

Chalk one up on the plus side for TPLIYP. In one of the greatest feats in Philadelphia sports history, the Flyers became only the 4th pro sports team to ever erase a 3-0 deficit in a series and sent the Bruins packing in 4 straight last night. Not only that, after trailing 3-0 in game 7 they came back and won the game 4-3 as well. If that isn't a bit of poetic justice for one of the scrappiest, most hard working teams out there then I don't know what is.

The Flyers were meant to accomplish something like this. They have been forged by trials and tribulations all season. The man in net, Michael Leighton, was not even on this team to begin the season, but was acquired because starter Ray Emery was lost for the season. He is only playing now because Brian Boucher got injured in game 5. Through thick and thin the Flyers just keep plugging away though. Moreover, this team had to win a shootout in the final game of the season against the Rangers to even make the playoffs. That is the kind of do or die, character building experience that enabled this team to come back from 3-0. Finally, they just plain work hard. The best evidence I can show for this is Scotty Hartnell. Sure, he's a goon. No doubt about it. But every time he is on the ice he is going all out. He often tries to skate so fast that he just plain falls over, but he also gets the other team out of their game by being a pest and chips in with a goal every now and then. This team simply had the right make up to win this game and pull off this miraculous comeback.

Going forward, I think the Flyers match up very well against Montreal. Perhaps the craziest thing about all of this is that the Flyers are now hosting the Eastern Conference Finals as a #7 seed. From here on out though, it's all a bonus. I couldn't be happier that the Flyers put the Big Bad B's into the history books as some of the biggest choke artists of all time, and in such poetic and symmetric fashion too. That in and of itself is good enough for me. Obviously I will be rooting for them to win the cup, but in my eyes they've made me happy enough already. All I have to say is, in my best Philly accent "LATS GEW FLOYERS!!"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Binocu-Gate


Binocu-gate. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I could see that on a t-shirt. Soon enough it probably will be on a t-shirt too, because Rockies manager Jim Tracy has decided to be a little bitch about this whole stealing signs business. Stealing signs is a part of the game. If Jim Tracy wants to stand on his pedestal and say that his team doesn't steal signs too then he is a total moron. Every team does it, but the Phillies definitely didn't have to be this obvious about it.

Baseball is a game of failure. A guy who fails 7 out of 10 times at the plate is an all-star. Because of this, baseball players and teams try to get any advantage that they can and one of these is by trying to pick up the other team's signs. If a team is not creative enough with their signs that the other team is able to decipher them, then they deserve to get them stolen. However, a man sitting in the bullpen with binoculars and talking on the phone? That's a little much.

I have several problems with this approach by the Phils; first this guy is not a player. Stealing signs should only be done by a player, because then the pitcher has the recourse to throw one at his noggin. Secondly, technology should not be used. Binoculars and telephones take the skill out of stealing signs. If that were okay then everybody would be stealing everybody else's signs. While the media would like you to think that the Phillies are the only team doing this, I guarantee you that every team has a "camera in center field", or a guy in the bullpen, or a guy just watching the game on TV and calling down to the dugout. The Phillies were just way too obvious about it. If you are going to steal signs, don't sit in plain view in the bullpen with a set of Bushnells.

Similar to the "Spygate" controversy, I think the most important thing to remember in all of this is that the Phillies are not winning all of these games because they are cheating. They are just a good team. In no way is the 2008 World Series championship tainted by this, nor are any other wins. As for Rockies manager Jim Tracy, let he without sin cast the first stone and, in the words of Charlie Manuel; "Keep crying."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Huh?

Brian Cushing took the league by storm this past season with 87 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. As if that wasn't enough, he also has great hair. Naturally, Cushing took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in the off-season after such a great season. A few days ago, it was revealed that Cushing will be suspended 4 games next season for violating the PED policy of the NFL in September. Because of this, the Rookie of the Year award will be voted on again. Makes sense. Wait a minute, Cushing is on the ballot again? Huh?

So, let me get this straight, Cushing's steroid use was serious enough that he should be stripped of his rookie of the year award, but not serious enough that he is still on the ballot? Does this make sense to anyone else? This bizarre turn of events shows just how jaded everybody is by steroid use in sports. Cushing, who was caught using hCG in September to elevate his testosterone levels after steroid use, should be removed from the ballot altogether.

Think about the repercussions of this vote; if Cushing wins the award again it basically means that nobody cares that he was on steroids. Is that the kind of precedent the NFL wants to set? I'm surprised that Roger Goodell hasn't stepped in and removed Cushing from the ballot. Make the writers choose a player who wasn't caught using last year. Don't even give them the option to choose Cushing.

Man wins award. Man loses award for cheating. Man could possibly win award again despite cheating. If that isn't a microcosm of the confusion of the steroid era then I don't know what is. Nobody seems to know what to do with these juicers and it is embarrassing. Goodell, draw a line in the sand. Kick Cushing off the ballot, or just make sure he doesn't win. If he were to win again, it would be just another example of steroid users getting away scot free.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don't Faze Me Bro


Over the past week or so, many sports personalities have made light of how stupid Philadelphia sports fans are. The latest chapter in Philadelphia sports fan infamy involves a 17 year old Phillies fan running on the field and eventually being tazed by a cop with a great shot. The very next night, another fat Philadelphia oaf ran on the field, with pot on him no less, and was arrested. Speaking as a die hard Philadelphia sports fan, you make think that the laundry list of Philadelphia sports fan idiocy may give the collective group a black eye (pun intended), but in reality we really don't give a shit. Its just who we are.

Let's run down the list:
- two Phillies fans run on the field in two days. One is tazed, the other has pot on him.
- a Phillies fan (from New Jersey) intentionally vomits on a little girl and tries to beat up her dad, an off duty cop.
- a Flyers fan jumps into the penalty box and tries to fight Tie Domi
- Eagles fans cheer as Michael Irvin lies motionless on the turf with a broken neck
- Phillies fans throw batteries at J.D. Drew
- Eagles fans, including future governor Ed Rendell supposedly, pelt Cowboys players and coaches with snowballs
- Eagles fans mercilessly pelt these two saps with snowballs
-Eagles fans pelt Santa Claus with snowballs
- Flyers fans pelt St. Louis Blues coach with debris, leading to fight between players and fans in the stands.
- Phillies fans pelt Dick Allen with batteries

That list makes any other city look like a bunch of prim ladies. I often get asked my thoughts on the terrible image of Philadelphia fans, and my only reaction is really to laugh. No Philadelphia fan really thinks too much about these incidents. If they are deeply concerned by them, then they are not truly a fan. This is just par for the course in Philly.

Lets take a look at some of the most revered sports figures in Philadelphia history, then you might understand what I am talking about. In hockey, Bobby Clarke and the Broad Street Bullies (great documentary about them on HBO right now if you've got an hour) are the most beloved Flyers players of all time. They are nothing but a bunch of goons, but they worked hard and earned the city's utmost respect.

What about in baseball? Other than the Phillies right now, I would argue this these guys were one of, if not the most loved teams in Philadelphia sports history. The ring leaders were a fat mulleted first baseman and a dip spitting, drunk driving outfielder. This is what it takes to be a hero in Philly.

The Iggs are popular now, but again I think the team that the city most identified with was the one that was led by Buddy Ryan. He took no prisoners and actually paid guys to injure players on the other team.

In basketball, the player that Philadelphians love most is either a fat guy that loved to run his mouth off, or a criminal who was run out of every other city.

Every player that I just named is a personification of the city of Philadelphia. They are not glamorous, they are not intelligent, they are certainly not classy, but they work their asses off. That is why no Philadelphia fan makes much of all these supposed black eyes for the city. We don't expect everyone to be perfect. We just expect them to work hard. How to really cause an uproar in Philly? Miss a tackle, don't run out a pop fly, let in a soft goal or don't play defense. That is when you start to hear the boo birds in full force. If you work hard though, you can act as retarded as you want. We literally do not care. Let the pundits damn us all they want, that is how it works in Philly as a player and as a fan.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is Bear Hunting Season Over?


Tiger Woods had better hustle if he wants to catch the Bear. What seemed like only a matter of "when" after Tiger captured his 14th major championship in 2008 has now become a matter of "if" after a 2 year drought, multiple affairs and time off, and a missed cut in his second tournament back. Tiger sits 4 major championships behind Jack Nicklaus and golf immortality. While the window is still open for Tiger to take over, if this weekend was any indication of the future, it is closing quickly.

In 2008 at the age of 32, Tiger Woods won his 14th major championship by out-dueling Rocco Mediate for the U.S. Open Championship in an 18 hole playoff at Torrey Pines. Playing on a torn ACL all week, Tiger churned out one of the gutsiest performances ever recorded in all of sports. Though he would have to take the rest of the year off, it seemed inevitable that Tiger would soon eclipse Jack Nicklaus for the most major golf championships. 2 years later though, we are still waiting for number 15.

In the 2 years since that last glorious championship, Tiger Woods has gone through the ringer. He went o' fer in 2009, including a losing to Asian man Y.E. Yang in the PGA Championship even though Tiger had the 54 hole lead (a lead he had never relinquished prior). Then we all know what happened after that. Tiger is back now, but will he ever be able to catch the Bear? It is not looking good at the moment, as Tiger missed the cut with an unheard of 7 over 79 in round 2 of the Quail Hollow Championship last week. As if that wasn't reason enough to question Tiger's run at the record, now the young guns are coming.

While Tiger was trying to find his game this past weekend, two things happened that could put an end to his run at Jack Nicklaus. First, 20 year old Rory McIlroy shot a final round 62 (a course record) at Quail Hollow to win his first tournament of his career. Secondly, 18 year old Ryo Ishikawa shot a final round 58 to win a tournament in Japan. These guys are considered to be two of the future stars in professional golf, and it looks like they have already arrived. You better watch out Tiger.

While the future might appear gloomy for Tiger, I personally think this is just a blip on the radar. At 34 years old Tiger still has plenty of time to catch Jack, who won 6 of his 18 majors after the age of 35. Tiger will no doubt find his game again and could start adding onto that major championship tally again by the end of this year. The events of this weekend should have him working twice as hard though.