The former D. A., mayor and governor puts politics aside and picks the best owners in Philly history, dishes on the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers, Jay Wright and Jack Ramsay, Curt Schilling, Donald Trump, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas and the proposed on-campus Temple football stadium. Not to mention waxing nostalgic about why Penn would have beaten UCLA for the national championship in 1971!
By Theodore N. Beitchman
It was Friday the 13th and my luck wasn’t bad — spending 90 minutes with the most passionate and prominent sports fan in all of this sports-crazed town and region.
If you doubt Ed Rendell’s passion, check him out in section 114 at the Palestra any night Penn is playing. You can’t miss him. His prominence derives from 24 years in elected public office — eight as Philly district attorney, eight as Philly mayor, eight as Pennsylvania governor — and he has somehow managed to persuade the Daily News and Comcast SportsNet to pay him for his opinions and uncanny knowledge of fun and games.
He also has paying gigs from MSNBC; as special counsel to his former law firm Ballard Spahr; a couple of investment firms, and from teaching at the Fels School at Penn. Not to mention a boatload of speeches.
I didn’t have to pay him but I did buy him lunch.
Since sports and food are two of Rendell’s faves, it wasn’t hard to get him going on a discussion of the state of play in Philly today.
Rendell grew up on the tony Upper West Side of Manhattan and graduated from the elite Riverdale Country School (Carly Simon was a classmate) before coming down to blue-collar Philly in September 1961 to go to Penn and Villanova Law School.
He became one of the most successful elected officials in U. S. history — winning 13 of 15 elections — by connecting with working class voters. By my observation — having worked for him for six years in City Hall and knowing him for 26 — a big part of that connection was based on sports.
It’s the default common denominator for a lot of black, brown, yellow and white people, women and men, urbanites, suburbanites, city and statewide.
That, and his everyman, self-deprecating personality, accentuated by his rumpled look.
So, as he waited for his T-bone to cool down from its 500-degrees at Ruth’s Chris’ beautiful new location at 18th and Market Sts., he couldn’t wait to dig in to Philly sports.
What about the assumption that a successful executive like himself who happened to be a sports nut would be perfect running a sports league?
“I used to hear that talk,” Rendell says, “and it’s one of those things that sounded better on paper than it really is. For me, the dream job would be MLB commissioner. I love baseball and love going to games. But I could see myself lying in bed and thinking, ‘What were you thinking? Why are you wasting your time?’ Can you imagine trying to govern a sport with all those egomaniacs as owners?”
When he arrived in town in 1961, Rendell was a boy without a baseball team, his New York Giants having moved to San Francisco in 1958.
“When the Giants moved I started rooting for the Chicago White Sox, a team I couldn’t see. So the Phillies became my team. And 1961 was a tough year to be a Phillies fan,” he says with a laugh. “They lost 23 straight games. And let’s not forget 1964!”
Many Phillies fans would love to forget 1964 — when they led the National League until late September, then lost 10 straight and blew the pennant to the Cards.
One of Rendell’s closest friends is David Montgomery, a fraternity brother at Penn and a Phillies’ lifer — from the ticket office in 1971 to president during the Phils’ glory days.
“I am biased, obviously, because I love David,” he says, “but the Phillies won five straight division titles under David. I don’t think any Philly team ever did that, not even Connie Mack’s great A’s teams in the 1920s!”
And he ranks Monty up there with Flyers owner Ed Snider as the greatest owners in Philly history.
“The other quality that David brought to the Phillies was as a corporate citizen. Until he became president the Phillies weren’t known as very interested in helping the city’s communities. Now they give a ton.”
And the Phillies under new president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak?
“They’re doing it right, and I am very happy with their offseason,” he says. “Trading for Clay Buchholz and re-signing Jeremy Hellickson should give fans hope. They are both good pitchers, which is obviously important, and they would be great trading chips in July if the team gets off to a good start and needs an extra bat for a playoff run.
“And it will be exciting to see how well all of their kids in the minors like J. P. Crawford do.”
“My dad had two seats for Giants games,” he recalls, “and I used to love going up to the Bronx with him. He died when I was 14, December 1, 1958, and one of my relatives made sure that my brother Robert and I got the seats for the incredible Giants-Colts NFL championship game, which Baltimore won 23-17.”
Not for nothing is that game called “the greatest game in NFL history.” The whole country was watching on December 28, 1958, and the NFL became must-see TV.
By the time he arrived on Penn’s campus, the Eagles had just won the 1960 NFL championship at Franklin Field and had begun a 15-year slide into oblivion.
He has been a big Birds fan ever since, and he has made news and gone out on a limb that hasn’t always pleased Birdland.
In 1999 Mayor Rendell recommended that the Eagles draft running back Ricky Williams instead of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who had a terrific career that many believe makes him the greatest Eagles quarterback ever.
And then there was that fateful night in December 2010, when the Birds-Vikings game at the Linc had to be postponed because of the “threat of snow.” Gov. Rendell said:
“My biggest beef is that this is part of what’s happened in this country,” Rendell said in an interview on 97.5 radio in Philly. “I think we’ve become wussies. … We’ve become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”
Sounds like a certain president-elect, who at one time tried desperately to buy an NFL franchise and had to settle for being the most powerful man in the world!
“Don’t get me started on Donald Trump,” he says. “He’s a brilliant marketer. That’s all I’ll say on the record!”
So, Guv, how do you think the Eagles are doing these days?
“If you consider that the Eagles were talent poor,” he says, “at wide receiver, cornerback, running back and linebacker, 7-9 looks pretty good. Especially when you remember that we lost so many close games. Now that’s on the coach, and I think that the jury is still out on Doug Pederson — especially his play-calling.
“But we had the third-best record in the NFL against playoff teams. And if we sign DeSean Jackson as a free agent and have a productive draft, Carson Wentz will have some weapons to play with.”
And do you trust big boss Howie Roseman to run the draft?
“I hope Joe Douglas not just sets up the draft board but makes the picks,” he says of the Birds VP of player personnel who was hired last spring after a very successful run as the Baltimore Ravens’ chief scout.
College basketball has a special place in Rendell’s heart, and like a lot of hard-core Quaker fans the memory of 1971 bubbles up at the slightest provocation:
The greatest of all Penn teams went 28-0 and was poised to go to the Final Four until Villanova blew the Quakers’ doors off in the Eastern regional 90-47.
“That was the year I thought we could have gone all the way,” he says. “Villanova took UCLA to the wire [before losing 68-62] but I think we could have beaten them. Don’t forget, that was after Alcindor and before Walton!”
So, Guv, how would you compare what Jay Wright has done at Villanova, winning a national title and making the Cats a national team, with Jack Ramsay, who many believe is the greatest coach in Big 5 history?
“Both created perennial powers,” he says of Wright and Ramsay, who coached St. Joe’s from 1955 through 1966 and got to the 1961 Final Four (though three players were charged with point-shaving and the Hawks’ 3rd place was vacated).
“The difference is that Ramsay did it with mostly smaller Catholic League players and some from the Public League. Jay has elevated Villanova into a national power by recruiting from all over the East coast.
“The other similarity is on defense. Ramsay was one of the first coaches — John Wooden was another — who used the zone press. And look at Villanova’s defense: I think they play perimeter defense as well as any school in the country.”
And how about the defending national champs who are currently 18-1 and ranked No. 1 in the nation?
“Jay has done a great job with only seven kids. They miss Phil Booth a lot, and we’ll never know how good they could have been if Omari Spellman had been eligible to play.”
So, make a pick: Ramsay or Wright as the best in city history?
“I think their accomplishments are equal.”
He is a politician, after all.
But not on the conventional wisdom that ex-Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling won’t make the Hall of Fame because of the incendiary statements he has made, especially joking about hanging all the writers!
“I loved what he did for the Phils in 1993, getting us to the World Series,” he says. “And how many pitchers have gotten three teams to the World Series — Phillies, Red Sox and D’Backs? I know he can be his own worst enemy, especially with the writers, but I think he belongs in the Hall. If only based on his postseason record.”
The Guv thinks that the Flyers are going in the right direction, and is also impressed with the rejuvenated Sixers, and he thinks Jay Wright might leave Nova if things don’t work out with Brett Brown.
“And did you see Joel Embiid dancing with the Sixers dance team after they beat the Knicks the other night? You gotta’ love that guy!”
And he is ambivalent about the proposed on-campus Temple football stadium:
“As governor, I would have had to approve it. And I think there are lots of reasons to be for it. But Temple’s program is on the rise and what happens if Temple hosts Notre Dame and there is only a 35,000-seat capacity? They would move that game to the Linc, theoretically. I think the remedy is for Jeff Lurie and Eagles to cut Temple some slack on the rental rate at the Linc.”
With that, this analog former-D.A., mayor and governor flipped open his phone and called his driver to get back to the office.
There were calls to make, work to be done, and, oh yes, that night’s Penn-Yale game at the Palestra.
Section 114 and his 50-year chums awaited, and all was right with the world!
Our performance in 2016 was better than the Dow!
Unique monthly visitors increased from 11,669 in December 2015 to 148,158 in December 2016!
Monthly page views shot up from 21,038 to 595,208!
Bounce rate dropped from 87.6% to 17.67%
Average session spiked from 1:59 to 4:15!
By Theodore N. Beitchman
“When a man knows he is to be hanged…it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” Samuel Johnson famously said back in 1777.
Chances are he didn’t have woeful Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor in mind!
Agholor’s failure to catch a ball has been well-documented here and elsewhere. And so have solutions to his problem:
Has there ever been anything more pathetic than Michael Barkann interviewing a psychiatrist on “Philly Sports Scream,” by Skype, by the way — as if we had to get this shrink on the air quickly so that he could impart his psychobabble!?
Here’s my take:
The Eagles should listen to the wise Mr. Johnson and bench the bum!
His problem is not with his head, it’s with his hands.
Once he sees Paul Turner and Bryce Treggs making catches of Carson Wentz passes tonight against the Packers, that will concentrate the mind of the 2015 No. 1 draft pick.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson had not, as of yesterday, made a decision on whether Agholor will be active. Pederson said he’s “not ruling him out yet,” and the Eagles are preparing five wide receivers to play. That includes Agholor and Turner.
It’s time for Pederson to stop pussyfooting and earn his pay.
If he benches Agholor tonight, the rest of the team will notice, and their concentration will also improve!
By Theodore N. Beitchman
So, the Doug Pederson market has crashed faster than Trump University.
Faster than Chip Kelly’s Honeymoon by the Bay.
Faster than the Eagles’ descent from a 3-0 Super Bowl hopeful — really, who besides lame-ass Philly media types believed that? — to a 3-2 NFC East also ran.
Remember when Pederson was being hailed as a genius for his skill at clock management and setting up rookie Carson Wentz to succeed?
The deification was absurd for a guy who never even called the plays when he was Andy Reid’s glove puppet of an offensive coordinator in KC!
He was being compared to Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells.
This was the guy geniuses like trust-fund owner Jeff Lurie and Big Boss Howie Boy Roseman snapped up as the new coach last January before Kelly’s body was even cold.
Now, after his massive screw-up yesterday by allowing Big V – rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai – to continue in the game as Lane Johnson’s replacement, you have to wonder if he should be compared to Ron Kotite for his cluelessness!
Maybe Vaitai will become a useful NFL lineman.
But yesterday, he was Redskins’ veteran outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s rag doll. In the first half Vaitai allowed Wentz to get sacked twice, and they destroyed Eagles drives.
And then, after the game, Pederson was asked why he hadn’t replaced the rookie.
Pederson said the rookie would learn and get better and that in no way does he plan to go to Plan B, whatever that might be as the team gets ready to face the Vikings, Cowboys and Giants the next three weeks.
“He’s a warrior,” Pederson said of Big V. “He’s a battler. He stepped up and did a good job. He’ll learn from it and be ready for next week.”
A good job?
What about other changes on the O-line?
“No, we really didn’t have to change much,” he said.
In a way, Philly lawyer Alan Cotler is a Stranger in a Strange Land.
No, he is not a Martian come to earth to be raised by earthlings, as in the Robert Heinlein classic science fiction novel.
Stranger than that!
Cotler is a life-long devotee of the New York Giants — he still calls them the New York Football Giants 58 years after the baseball Giants fled to San Francisco! — in Eagles Land.
So, he bleeds Big Blue, not Midnight Green.
And he comes by his Blueness naturally.
“I was born in the Bronx on Pelham Parkway,” Cotler says over lunch at the new Ruth’s Chris at 18th and Market. “We moved to Queens when I was 8 in 1958. And all the Giants games and the Yankees games were on black and white TV.”
For those not familiar, that was exactly the period when the Giants were the toast of the town and the NFL — with great players like Rosie Brown, Rosie Greer, Sam Huff, Charlie Conerly, Kyle Rote and Frank Gifford — and every Sunday night was a victory party at P. J. Clarke’s and Toots Shor’s.
In 1958 the Giants played the Baltimore Colts in Yankee Stadium for the NFL title and lost 23-17 when Alan Ameche plowed into the end zone from the 2 in what would is considered the most important game in the television history of the still fledgling NFL. The league’s popularity spiked after that game because the whole nation was watching, a rarity in those days.
And in 1959 they beat the Colts for the title 31-16 in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Young Cotler was hooked!
“I was a huge Charlie Conerly fan,” he says.
“This was before the AFL was formed and before the Titans played at the Polo Grounds and the Jets at Shea Stadium in Flushing.”
Even Joe Namath couldn’t make him give up his allegiance to the Giants for the Jets.
“My first game was with my dad at Yankee Stadium in 1960 or 1961,” he says, referring to the years when the Eagles beat out the Giants for the Eastern Conference title and then the NFL crown against the Packers, and the next year when the Giants beat out the Birds by half a game.
He went to Flushing High in Queens and excelled in basketball, which won him a full ride to Penn, where he played on the 1971 28-0 Quaker team that is considered the greatest in Big Five history. Of course, they did get their doors blown off in the Eastern Regional by Villanova 90-47.
“The thought of that game hurts even 45 years later,” he admits.
He used to work at Eagles games in the press box at Franklin Field, handing out stats to the writers for $50 a game, a free lunch and a sideline pass.
“But nobody will ever take the New York Football Giants away from me,” he says at Ruth’s Chris.
After Penn and Penn Law, Cotler became the prototypical Philly lawyer, with an atypical love of Big Blue.
“Lots of people at the firms where I worked [Pepper, Kleit Rooney — owned by Steelers owner Dan Rooney — and Reed Smith] wanted me to become an Eagles fan,” he admits. “But no dice.”
He even tried to flip Mayor Ed Rendell, another former New Yorker who is probably the biggest Eagles fan in this Eagles-crazy town:
“I said, ‘I can’t understand why you’re not a Giants fan.’ ”
Cotler, who is also still a Yanks, Knicks and Rangers follower, is the kind of fan who wears a Giants sweatshirt to an Eagles-Giants game at the Linc and takes some grief but not much else.
But then there was the second Miracle in the Meadowlands in 2010 when the Eagles came back from 31-10 down in the fourth quarter to win 38-31 on DeSean Jackson’s stunning punt return.
“I was there,” he says matter-of-factly, “and there was some trash talking from Eagles fans after the game. That was the worst of all-time.”
Going to Giants games on the road isn’t the only manifestation of Cotler’s obsession with Big Blue.
“For years I used to go to Giants training camp with Lou Cochet, a Penn basketball teammate and investment banker,” he says solemnly. “We would go together to Fairleigh Dickinson.
“And then when Lou became ill in 1998, I called George Young, the Giants GM, out of the blue [of course, which color would you have chosen?] and told him that Lou was too ill to attend camp. So Young allowed me to interview him for 45 minutes on video so I could show it to Lou in the hospital.”
Cochet died at 49 in 1999.
And then there was the time Cotler had a trial in Florida, when his expert witness was so impressed by Cotler’s devotion to the Giants that he gave him a gift of a 6-foot poster of his Giants heroes.
So, on Dec. 22, when you are at the Linc for this year’s Eagles home game with the Giants, look for the 6-5 guy in a Giants sweatshirt.
And know this.
But he’s harmless.
Let me see if I get this straight:
The Minnesota Vikings make Eagles big boss Howie Boy Roseman an offer he can’t refuse — a 2017 No. 1 draft pick and a 2018 No. 4 (which could be a 2 if the Vikes win the Super Bowl) for average quarterback Sam Bradford — and the butt boys in the Philly media are deifying Howie Boy as the greatest general manager in the team’s history!
Might I remind the butt boys that Joe Kuharich traded a quarterback in 1964 — the future Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen to the Redskins for Norm Sneed! — and uttered the priceless:
“Trading quarterbacks is rare but not unusual.”
Excuse me, but bubblehead Kuharich ruined the Eagles for a generation by trading the great Jurgensen, who played another 11 years for the Redskins, and Roseman’s trade up to get Wentz and then sending Bradford packing could have similar consequences.
So I can’t quite figure out if Roseman is more like “The Godfather’s” Hyman Roth, the behind-the-scenes brains of the operation, or Fredo Corleone, who could fuck up a rock fight!
By trading Bradford, Roseman has completed his offseason-long expunging of every significant move from Chip Kelly’s tenure in charge of the Eagles.
Gone are Bradford, DeMarco Murray, and cornerback Byron Maxwell, and the bill for all three will cost the organization $14.3 million in dead cap money this season.
The Eagles still had to pay $11 million for Bradford in 2016 — in the form of the signing bonuses he already got this spring — but Roseman essentially traded $11 million in cap room for a first-round pick next spring and a fourth-round pick in 2018. That’s a deal worth taking. In the long term, netting a first-rounder for the QB was in Philly’s best interests, but by starting Carson Wentz (which it will reportedly do, if he’s healthy), the team’s chances of struggling this fall increase significantly.
If Wentz has a good first season and goes on to a Jurgensen-like NFL career, then I will admit Howie Boy is Hyman Roth.
But if rushing the North Dakota State rookie into starting action this Sunday and this season stunts his growth and leaves Philly with another mediocrity, then Howie Boy will be Fredo.
As Roth famously said, “This is the business we have chosen.”
I’ll be checking back on this dynamic as this Eagles season unfolds.
A native of Philadelphia, Ted Beitchman has been a journalist for most of his adult life.
Starting at the Evening Bulletin, Beitchman has held senior editing positions at the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles herald Examiner and was sports editor of the Washington Star and San Francisco Examiner before becoming senior editor at Inside Sports and Sports Illustrated in New York City.
He moved back to Philadelphia in 1991, and worked for Ed Rendell’s campaign for mayor, becoming Rendell’s deputy chief of staff to chief of staff David L. Cohen from 1992-to-1997.
In City Hall, he responsibilities in the areas of gaming, public safety, zoning and city planning, among others.
Beitchman owns and operates a Philly region digital sports site — FASTPHILLYSPORTS.COM.
Quite possibly the most popular question surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers over the past few seasons is simply, “What’s wrong with this team?” Honestly, it’s a fair question and one that needs a direct answer. The 76ers have a plethora of young talent, but it just never seems to come together. Philadelphia has been searching for something to get excited about from their young basketball team for years now, and we’re all still waiting for it to happen.
So, is rookie Ben Simmons the answer? Will he be able to propel the 76ers back to relevance and possibly even the playoffs? It’s tough to tell, but we’re going to look at how close this team can get back to that point. Not only have the 76ers gotten worse over the past four years, but it peaked in 2015–16 with a brutal 10-72 record. It’s ugly on paper, and it was pretty ugly on the actual court, but this coming season, the potential to actually trend back upwards is there.
When evaluating the talent on the roster, Philadelphia not only has Simmons, but also big men Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Joel Embiid. Tack on the likes of Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Gerald Henderson, Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson, and a long list of additional young draft picks, and the potential is there.
Here’s to hoping the 76ers don’t mess this up with some over-the-top trade. Assuming they don’t, we predict that the 76ers are back in the playoffs sooner than later.
As strong as the 76ers’ roster looks on paper, the fact remaints that it’s going to take this unit some time to learn how to play together. Whether the team keeps or trades Okafor is irrelevant, because no matter what happens, a player like Simmons — who can just demand the ball in that way — will be a change for Okafor, Embiid, and Noel. Overall, it will take some time, but the good news is that the expectations aren’t playoffs-or-bust in 2016.Find Now!
With that said, expecting 20-plus more wins this season from the 76ers doesn’t seem unrealistic. Simmons will need to adapt to the talented trio of big men, while the big men must adapt to their new, young star. It will be a process, but one that’s well worth it when all is said and done. We’ll give it a year before this group fully figures out how to play together.
The Philadelphia 76ers are playoff-bound in 2018–19. We’re going to give the 76ers a jump in their record in each of the next two seasons (not surprising, when you’re going from 10 wins last year). While expecting 25 wins next year sounds about right, we see them winding up around 35 the following year, and based on the 2015–16 standings, that places them in a tie for the No. 11 spot in the Eastern Conference.
If the 76ers are then able to continue their improvement in 10-game increments, it would give them 45 wins the following year, and likely place them inside of the playoff threshold for the 2018–19 season. It’s not going to be easy to do, but if we assume that the team improves their guard play, and the talent on the roster stays around with the improvements, then this seems feasible. Don’t sleep on Philadelphia turning it around sooner than many people expect.
I am a news junkie, and my TV is on all day (with the sound off) in hopes that I can figure out for myself what’s going on and come to some sense of it all.
But even I had to turn off the news last week as the awful reports came in from Louisiana and Minnesota about two unarmed black men being shot to death and then the even more awful news from Dallas about one black man killing five cops.
So, now we are left to wait for woeful Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to make the official announcement:
He has settled for Doug Pederson as the Birds next coach, replacing Chip Kelly, who was fired on Dec. 29.
In so doing, Lurie will be following in a long tradition of Philly sports teams:
Settling for second- or third-best because (fill in the blank) is a Philly guy, or he knows the organization, or he knows the market!
Every team has pulled this idiotic wool over our eyes.
The Phillies elevated Ruben Amaro Jr. to general manager and kept him until it was way too late.
The Flyers have seemed to exist as a jobs program for anyone who has ever worn the orange and black. Does Paul Holmgren ring a bell?
The Sixers gave us GM Ed Stefanski, who had the terrible judgment to draft loser and whiner Evan Turner back in 2010 when DeMarcus Cousins was still on the board!
The Phils have gotten out of the “hometown habit” by hiring Andy MacPhail and Mat Klentak; the Flyers actually went outside the box to get Dave Hakstol, who had never coached in the NHL; and the Sixers got Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown, Jerry Colangelo and Mike D’Antoni, none of whom had ever worked in Philly before.
I understand Lurie’s desire to find someone he is comfortable with. That’s human nature.
But in never even interviewing Hue Jackson, calling Ben McAdoo when it was too late and asking Ron Jaworski to sit in on the coaching search, Lurie has fallen into a trap that will surely fail.
Pederson may turn out to be a great coach and an inspired hire. I certainly hope so.
But, as I watched the Kansas City Chiefs piss away a playoff game the other night against the New England Patriots because the massively overrated Andy Reid still can’t figure out the two-minute drill, I was wondering what in the world Doug Pederson, Reid’s offensive coordinator, was doing?
We’ll never know for sure.
But in settling for Pederson, Lurie is in the great tradition of Philly sports.
If you are in that part of Eagles Nation who agrees with the chattering classes — Eliot Shorr-Parks, Ray Didinger and Mike Missanelli — that quarterback Sam Bradford has not proven himself to be a franchise quarterback:
I’ve got some news and context for you!
In 13 games — he missed two because of an injured shoulder and a concussion — Bradford has completed 316 passes out of 494 attempts (64%) for 3,405 yards, with 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a passer rating of 84.6.
His numbers may seem ordinary to his critics who rely on stats the way Billy Beane did in “Moneyball.”
But bear in mind that he has done all that with an offensive line so threadbare — does anyone really think Jason Peters is still the left tackle he was a couple of years ago — that at times resembled Penn State’s O-line.
Bradford has been sacked 27 times, which means he has dragged his boney body off the mat and gotten back in the fight.
And also bear in mind that the group of receivers Bradford was throwing to was so woeful that tight end Zach Ertz was often his primary target.
I don’t know who thought that Riley Cooper, rookie Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff were first-rate NFL receivers.
Agholor may be someday but he has been hurt and even when Bradford targets him the chances are even money that he’ll drop the ball.
Has there ever been more dropped balls by an Eagles team?
Now you can argue that Chip Kelly screwed up bigtime in overestimating the O-line and receiving corps.
And I would agree.
Chipper the GM needs to step up this off-season and get offensive linemen to replace Peters and the two no-name guards — Alan Barbre and Matt Tobin — that have played alongside center Jason Kelce and right guard Lane Johnson.
And Kelly also needs to find quality receivers — by hook or by crook, by draft, trade or free agency.
Otherwise, it won’t matter if Bradford is back next season or not.
I happen to think he has earned a new contract, but without a better line and better receivers even Tom Brady wouldn’t make a dofference!
The powers that be at 94 WIP have surrounded blowhard Josh Innes with Spike Eskin and Hollis Thomas to get him through his afternoon show without pulling the pin on the hand grenade that is his personality.
After Philly radio lifer Tony Bruno retired rather than spend another nanosecond next to the awful, insulting, self-important Innes, the powers determined that he needed a buffer.
The rest of us have to settle for Bufferin.
Innes spends most of his four hours — down from five, thank the gods — insulting his callers, instructing us about life in that hotbed of sports mania called Houston (which is such a lame media market that even Comcast couldn’t make money down there!), picking fights with anyone he can think of — but especially Mike Missanelli of 97.5 the Fanatic.
Innes has been claiming that he is bleaching Missanelli’s bone in the ratings, that arcane method by which advertisers decide who is listening and how many, what their ages are and every other subset you can imagine.
Innes is insufferable as he preens and bays at the moon, claiming that Missanelli won’t be on the air before too long, and he is ready to bet his own dollars to back it up.
The two got into a shouting match at Eagles training camp the other day, evidently because Mikey Miss upheld the honor of his good chum Anthony Gargano, whom Innes is bragging he ran off WIP.
Here’s the thing:
Innes just calls people names, knows nothing original about Philly sports and is a bully.
My guess is he won’t last very long in Philly, just as Donald Trump won’t last very long on the national political stage once actual voting starts next February.
Nobody likes or votes for a bully, especially one who doesn’t entertain, which is Innes’ job description.
At least Trump is good for a laugh every once in a while, unless of course you are an Hispanic-American, a woman who doesn’t want her body nationalized or anyone else he isn’t blaming for our national ills.
Like the man said:
“Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but everybody is not entitled to his own facts.
It is a fact that the local lame-ass media and great swaths of the national media, which hovers over Philly from 35,000 feet and dispenses boring conventional wisdom, have decided that Riley Cooper’s existence as an Eagle is at the root of the phony controversy about whether or not Eagle Supreme Leader Chip Kelly is a (choose one or more):
A serial non-communicator.
A “my way or the highway” guy.
Divorced, which no one seemed to know until a boring Washington Post thumb-sucker uncovered this factoid two weeks ago.
It is also a fact that this is the “silly season” in which there isn’t much to report on the Eagles — especially today because there is no training camp practice.
But at some point Mike Missanelli and Josh Innes and Rob Ellis have to face the fact that:
The only reason that Cooper stayed on the Eagles after his awful racist epithet went viral in September 2013 was because both Michael Mick and Jason Avant, leaders in the locker room and African-Americans, publicly expressed their support for their teammate Jackson.
Not because if they hadn’t they would be tagged as malcontents, as some in the media have said.
Cooper stayed, and largely because the Eagles best wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, suffered a season-ending ACL injury, Cooper thrived on the 10-6 team that won the NFC East.
Just this morning on the Fanatic, the normally level-headed Ellis was pumping someone named Jimmy Kempski — who, by the way the next time he names a source of his will be a first.
And Kempski conflated Cooper’s presence on the roster with one of the reasons Tra Thomas, Shady McCoy and now Brandon Boykin raised issues about Kelly’s alleged racism/communication failures.
It seems to me that Kelly is not a racist, but I don’t know him so I don’t know how he communicates. Though Louis Riddick, a former Eagle exec now with ESPN (who happens to be African-American) vouched for his communication skills yesterday with Mikey Miss.
And, as far as communication is concerned, Kelly is a maestro at the presser podium, rattling off answers as quickly as they come. Unlike his predecessor Andy Reid, who communicated in grunts and voice-clearings.
Riley Cooper had a down year in 2014 following his surprisingly productive 2013, which earned him a new contract.
But if he doesn’t produce in 2015 he will be gone faster than you can say:
And that is a fact.
I feel Brandon Boykin’s pain and embarrassment.
Really, I do.
He is going into his fourth NFL season, and he has never been able to impress his coaches — Chip Kelly and Andy Reid, who drafted him in 2012 — that he is anything more than a nickel back.
Which, if you don’t know, is the guy Eagles coaches throw in on 3rd down and obvious passing situations to guard against a first down.
It is an important position, first named by George Allen when he coached the Washington Redskins in the 1970s.
But it does not have the cache or contract potential of a starting corner or safety.
I don’t know about Reid, but Kelly thinks Boykin is too small to be a starter. The Pittsburgh Steelers can live with that, and that’s why they pursued him in a trade for a fifth-round draft choice.
Sometime between learning of the trade last Saturday night and Sunday, Boykin had a brain fart and, as is typical, reverted to Twitter to say:
“Kelly is uncomfortable with men of our culture.”
Which the lazy, lame-ass local media translates in Kelly having a hard time relating to young, outspoken black players, similar to what whining Shady McCoy said when he was traded and what Tra Thomas implied when he was cut loose from his Eagles coaching sinecure.
A mini-firestorm ensued and now Boykin backtracked faster than he ever did on the field:
”I said he was uncomfortable with men of our culture,” Boykin said. ”I’m not saying he’s a racist at all. That’s not what I said and I think it was kind of taken out of context. When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach no matter what outside of football.
”I want to be able to sit there and talk to you about whatever. There were times he just wouldn’t talk to people. You were walking down the hallway and he wouldn’t say anything to you.”
In other words, Kelly doesn’t like small talk.
Which the media perfectly understands every time he bats one of their stupid questions away.
There is a big difference between being a racist and being anti-social.
Brandon Boykin will learn that quickly enough if he doesn’t get to start for the Steelers, who by the way have a black coach.
I am about to commit a cardinal sin.
Chase Utley is a selfish, me-first player who cares not a whit about the Phillies as a whole, only himself.
There, I have said it.
Utley is in the sunset of his terrific career as Phillies second baseman. He was a vital cog in the team that dominated the NL East for five years and made two World Series, winning one.
Utley was a consistent 150-game performer from 2005-to-2009, fell to 115 games in 2010 of his health, 103 in 2011 and only 83 in 2012, though he rebounded in 2013 and 2014.
In 2011 and 2012 he missed the first two months of the season because his balky knees were acting up. That’s what happens when age settles in on a player.
But in both of those years he neglected to inform the witless Phillies management of his condition until spring training. Now you can make the argument that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. or someone should have been monitoring Utley’s winter workouts in L. A., where he lives. And you would not be wrong. Utley is a valuable asset, and the team has an obligation to keep track of his health.
But Utley had a responsibility to inform Amaro or even the switchboard operator at the Phillies office (the troglodyte-like franchise probably still uses rotary phones!) that he was in some distress.
But no, Utley is the Phillies’ Quiet Man, so when he goes all Gary Cooper on us we give him a pass. Unlike Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard, who were held to a different standard.
And after two relatively injury-free seasons in ’13 and ’14, in which he magically returned to health and high performance, Utley went and did it again.
Spring training arrived five months ago, and, wonder of wonders, Utley had again suffered an off-season injury, this time to his ankle. So he missed most of the Grapefruit League, started the regular season slowly because of the ankle injury, and as this is written, is hitting just .179 (his lifetime BA is .281) in 65 games.
Oh, and he has been on the disabled list since June 24 because of pain in his right ankle.
Not that any team would want to trade for the aging, infirm Utley, who, thanks to Amaro’s incompetence, has $15 million vesting options for 2016, 2017 and 2018 that kick in if he makes 500 plate appearances in each preceding season. Including this season.
“Since Utley has a full no-trade clause as a player with 10-5 rights, that is a discussion that begins and ends with the Phils’ second baseman,” writes Casey Feeney of CSN Philly. “And if the past decade is any indication, that will not be a long conversation.”
As usual, Amaro has exacerbated the situation by publicly stating that even when Utley returns Cesar Hernandez is the Phils’ second baseman.
And just today, Utley’s agent or fairy godfather has lobbied on his behalf with Fox Sports ace Ken Rosenthal, who tweeted:
- Ken Rosenthal@Ken_Rosenthal 2h2 hours ago
Good news on Utley: Per source, he not only is feeling better, but also has figured out a flaw in his swing that was caused by ankle injury.
Which is a naked play to get back in the line-up so he can get his 500 at-bats and get another $15 million next season.
As of this writing, Utley has only 218 AB’s, so if he doesn’t return to the starting lineup he has no chance at the 500.
Sorry, Chase, you have gotten one pass too many from the local lame-ass media.
It’s time for you and your selfish ass to get out of town.
If you weren’t listening to 94 WIP last Friday afternoon between approximately 2:02 p. m. and 6 p.m., you ought to thank your lucky stars.
I was listening, and I was riveted as if I were driving on the turnpike, saw a 90-car accident and couldn’t stop looking.
Lucky for me, I have never had a nervous breakdown or seen or listened to someone literally melting down, but this is what I imagine it must be like:
Someone named Josh Innes on an unexpurgated rant that makes Donald Trump seem sane and level-headed.
Innes is an angry asshole whom the dopes at WIP have foisted upon us, evidently for the sin of fleeing to 97.5 the Fanatic.
All we want is someone of average intelligence speaking rationally and insightfully about sports.
We don’t care what Innes thinks about other sports talk jocks, especially Mike Missanelli, who is on opposite him on 97.5 the Fanatic.
We don’t care what he did in Houston, a backwater if ever there was one. And we do care that Innes just rants before he thinks. That’s why we have left.
Tony Bruno couldn’t take it anymore.
So ther Philly sports talk lifer retured rather than have to work with this imbecile any longer.
Innes evidently won the spring ratings book, and he is very proud of that.
Let’s see what happens come September, when millions more people will be listening to what he says about the Eagles.
He better come up with more than the conventional wisdom:
Why did we let Shady McCoy go?
Is Chip Kelly really up to the job?
Sam Bradford better be healthy.
Any fool can say that.
The difference is that when any fool says those things, it doesn’t feel like a root canal without drugs.
Innes won’t last in Philly. He’ll return to another backwater in which his shit passes for introspection.
Good riddance, in advance.
Goldstein’s on North Broad Street was packed to the gills last Friday for Harvey Pollack’s funeral, which doubled as a joyous memorial and Sixers reunion.
The 1967 NBA champions were represented by Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham and Billy Melchionni and the 1983 champs by Julius Erving, who offered a beautiful spoken tribute.
President Sam Hinkie, CEO Scott O’Neil and coach Brett Brown led a contingent of present-day Sixers.
Most of the media tributes after Harvey’s death last week at the age of 93 concentrated on two elements of his remarkable life: the number 100 that he drew on a piece of paper for Wilt Chamberlain to hold up after he scored 100 at Hershey, Pa. in March 1962 against the Knicks (there was no game action photography); and statistics that he invented that are now part of the basketball lexicon — defensive rebounds, plus/minus, triple doubles — way too many to list.
But the one area of his career that has gone almost unremarked upon — his son Ronnie mentioned it Friday in his eloquent homage — was his work as a public relations man for the Warriors and Sixers.
It was relatively easy to drum up publicity for the Warriors, who started started four Philly guys — Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Tom Gola and Paul Arizin. But they moved to SF, and after a season without pro basketball, Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman bought the Syracuse Nationals and moved them to Philly.
The Nats were hated rivals of the Warriors, and we were being asked to root for a team we despised; and there were no Philly players on the team.
So, in 1963-64 Harvey’s task of drumming up interest was a monumental challenge, especially in a newspaper environment in which he had to beg for space as opposed to today’s saturation coverage.
A third problem existed:
There were three newspapers in Philly back then — the Bulletin, Inquirer and Daily News — and only the Bulletin sent a reporter to cover games!
Walter Annenberg, the irascible and vindictive owner of the Inky and DN, used both papers to wield political power and settle old scores.
The new 76ers scheduled most of their 40 home games in Convention Hall, which had a 12,000 capacity, instead of the Arena, which only held around 6,500 fans.
Annenberg owned the Arena, and he settled that score by dictating that no home games would be covered by either paper, with only wire copy to used in this fashion:
Four paragraphs if the 76ers lost and two graphs if they won!
So Harvey was dependent on the Bulletin, which in those days was the city’s paper of record, for all his publicity. It’s a good thing Bob Vetrone and Jim Heffernan were dedicated to covering basketball, and they helped get lots of features into the paper to supplement their game stories.
Harvey was a fiercely loyal fellow, and he never forgot how important the Bulletin was to the early days of the new team.
He always gave preferential treatment to any paper or radio or TV outlet that sent a reporter to cover every game because daily coverage was where the team’s bread was buttered.
He showed his favoritism when Sports Illustrated started noticing the Sixers after they traded for Wilt in 1965. The SI man was given a seat in an auxiliary press section or the upstairs press box at the Spectrum instead of on the floor.
I asked him why this prestigious magazine was given second-class treatment, and he said matter-of-factly:
“They don’t cover us every day and they are a weekly. I don’t care how big they are. I reserve my floor seats for the reporters who come every day.”
Even Walter Iooss, the great SI photographer, was shunted off to a corner, but he was still able to snap this classic shot during Game 5 of the 1967 Eastern finals against the dreaded Celtics.
When Wilt was traded back to Philly, his first game as a 76ers was against the Warriors, his old team. He dominated Nate Thurmond and the 76ers won 110-103.
Oh, and the game was played at Annenberg’s shabby, old Arena because of a scheduling conflict at Convention Hall.
Harvey appreciated that irony.
The NBA draft is tomorrow night, June 25, and everywhere you look or listen blowhards are telling you what the Sixers will do or
should do with the No. 3 pick overall.
It’s a free country and everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but some of what passes for expert commentary is laughable.
The Sixers should take D’Angelo Russell, the excellent point guard from Ohio State. He is 6-5, can shoot and distribute the ball, which is why they traded Michael Carter-Williams, who wasn’t very good at either.
Not since Maurice Cheeks in the 1970s and ‘80s have the Sixers had a great point guard who can shoot — his career percentage from the floor is 52.3%!
Now I am not comparing Russell to the great Mo, but he does have a sense of the court that is comparable, and the Sixers need someone in charge not named Ish.
My beef today is with two guys who have been wrong so often it is amazing that anyone takes them seriously on the subject of projecting what a player has done in college into the NBA:
Larry Brown and Dick Jerardi.
I have been watching basketball since the Philadelphia Warriors in the late 1950s, but I am the first to admit I have no ability to project a player from college into the NBA accurately.
Although I was certain that Evan Turner was the wrong pick at No. 2 for the Sixers in 2010 and DeMarcus Cousins was the right pick.
Jerardi is a great college basketball and horseracing writer for the Daily News, but he was in the Amen Corner when the in-over-his-head Sixers GM Ed Stefanski opted for Turner, who had won the John Wooden Award, whatever that means.
Today Turner, whom the Sixers traded to Indiana in 2014, is an in-and-out bench-warmer for the Celtics while Cousins has had a stellar NBA career in Sacremento: 19 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and he is still only 24! And, BTW, the Lakers are trying to trade for him.
Jerardi was also singing Stefanski’s praises when Ed Snider, the worst owner in team history, made him Sixers GM.
“He’s a Philly guy,” was how Jerardi described Stefanski.
Right. A Philly guy who failed wherever he has been GM.
Last year Jerardi was certain that Doug McDermott — “Dougie McBuckets” to the butt boy media around here — was a lock to make it in the NBA. Even though he is 6-8, has no inside game and plays no defense. He lit up Villanova twice, so that was enough for Jerardi.
How’d that turn out?
McBuckets was a McBust, averaging 3 ppg in an injury-plagued first season for the Bulls. other restrictions. He tore down the house before he started rebuilding, and he is doing nicely. Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid are here and Russell will probably come Thursday — a solid core to build on.
The shameless Snider admitted when Comcast sold the team to Josh Harris four years ago that he would never do what was necessary to restore the Sixers to greatness:
Tear them down and then build them up. Because that’s what the NBA’s arcane cap system requires. But, of course, Snider wanted to show Comcast that he could fill the arena rather than play by the NBA rules. Because that’s what Ayn Rand would have done.
Brown is one of the greatest coaches of all-time. He won an NBA title in Detroit in 2004 and an NCAA title in Kansas in 1988. Not to mention taking the overachieving Allen Iverson-led Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2001.
But Larry Brown has absolutely no ability to project a kid’s talent in college into the pros.
That’s why in 1998 he passed up Paul Pierce, who exactly five years after he retires will make the Hall of Fame, in favor of Larry Hughes.
“I made a commitment to the kid,” is the way Brown explained this massive miscalculation that set the Sixers back for a long time.
With Brown, it’s all about the “kids,” and not about business.
That’s why he is flacking for Emmanuel Mudiay, who virtually no one has seen play, and who had committed to play for Brown at SMU and then reneged.
Brown thinks Sam Hinkie’s methods won’t work. That is his right.
But when Brown came to Philly from Indy in 1997 he brought along Billy King, who after Brown quit in 2004 became Sixers GM. How did that work out?
It’s rare to find someone who can accurately judge talent and project it into the NBA:
Jerry West has it. Red Auerbach had it. The Sixers’ Jack McMahon, who found Mo Cheeks and Andrew Toney, had it.
Dick Jerardi and Larry Brown do not, and Sixers fans should ignore everything they say.
And now Jerardi calls Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie a “fraud” because he has done what any sane person would do, given the NBA’s arcane salary cap and
Last Monday was a blur in Eagles Nation.
The Eagles signed Tim Tebow and the whole world was commenting on it, criticizing it, drinking it all in and, of course, making money on it.
The fine people at Philly Pretzel Factory confected one of their delights in the shape of Tebow doing what he evidently does best:
It is an article of faith that, even among those of us who think Tebow will not contribute much to the Eagles in 2015, he has certainly dominated the dialogue when it comes to the intersection of football and religion.
And since the NFL has become so popular that it is a secular religion to millions, Tebow is a lightning rod for controversy.
Check out the blogs for some of the most bizarre comments going about Tebow. And blogs tend to generate some of the most bizarre imaginable.
Haters can hate, as Taylor Swift says. But even the demure and talented pop star doesn’t generate the garbage that Tebow does:
“He can’t play in the NFL.”
“He has a candy arm.”
“His mechanics are all wrong.”
“Why does the media fixate on him when there are so many others who deserve the attention?”
“What’s up with that prayerful pose after he does something right?”
That’s what really pisses off a lot of fans:
Why in God’s name does Tebow have to make such a big deal about praying?
And why do the TV cameras have to ram it down out throats?
I get that Tebow is a marginal player at best, but so much of the antipathy toward him is based on the fact that religion plays a major part in his life, on and off the field.
Lots of people are torqued off when athletes thank God or Jesus after they score a touchdown. Atheist Bill Maher, for example, asks the question, “If they thank God and Jesus when they do well, why don’t they curse God and Jesus when they fail?”
Seems a logical question.
I was thinking about Tebow when my phone rang, and it was Rev. Herb Lusk, who has thought long and hard about that question.
Rev. Lusk was calling from Memphis, where he was burying his sister Reola, who had died at the awfully young age of 57.
Herb Lusk knows whereof he speaks by virtue of his play as a running back for the Eagles in the late 1970s, his ministry at Greater Exodus Baptist Church and Broad and Fairmount, and also by virtue of the fact that he currently serves as the Eagles’ team chaplain.
Herb wasn’t calling to discuss the nexus between football and God, but to point out that, although Tebow is the latest and greatest in the Taking a Knee for God game, he — Lusk — was the first.
Of course, he is right.
As documented in the Washington Post in a 2007 article:
The play was 48 Toss, and 30 years later, Dick Vermeil remembers it as if he called it last Sunday. Herb Lusk took a pitch from Ron Jaworski, headed around left end and breezed unscathed 70 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Four steps over the goal line at Giants Stadium, the Philadelphia Eagles’ running back rewrote the playbook. Alone in the end zone, with a crowd of 48,824 looking on, he celebrated with a gesture in what has since become a watershed moment in American sports.
With little ceremony and no advance warning, Lusk kept his eyes straight, dropped to his left knee and bowed his head in prayer. A few seconds later, he stood back up and returned to the sideline, his legacy sealed.
“Herb Lusk was the first NFL player to kneel in the end zone and pray,” said Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, which has footage of more than 9,000 games played since 1894.
It was Lusk’s second touchdown of the day. His first was a one-yard score in the first quarter. He went to one knee on that one as well, but in a pack of celebrating teammates, few noticed what he was doing. His second score, which put the wraps on a 28-10 Eagles win, was a clear public display.
The gestures went unremarked upon, for the most part, that Sunday, Oct. 9, 1977. A couple of reporters asked Lusk about it after the game, but didn’t make mention of it in their stories, instead focusing on how Lusk’s 117 rushing yards helped the Eagles win. Nobody, not even Lusk himself, thought such a seemingly quiet, personal moment would eventually become apparent today at every level of competitive sports, whether it be a pitcher pointing skyward after a save, a hitter offering thanks to a higher power after a home run, or a basketball team joining for a prayer at midcourt after a game.
While historians have pointed to prayer being fused with spectator sports as far back as the early 20th century, Lusk was the one credited with making on-field prayer a mainstream act 30 years ago, so much so, it earned him the nickname “The Praying Tailback,” according to Sabol and Lusk’s former Eagles teammates.
“That day is pretty much a blur to me,” said Lusk, speaking from his office at People for People, the social service arm of Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where he is pastor. Lusk founded People for People in 1993. “I’m very proud of when I look and see guys praying in the end zone or praying after [a game]. I see these guys as my sons. I gave birth to them. I see that as my purpose for playing in the NFL”.
Teams and players had long conducted prayer before and after games, but out of the public eye. What historians believe Lusk’s act did was show athletes that a highly personal action could be shared publicly.
“I don’t know if there was hesitancy to do it back then, but [athletes] weren’t as impulsive as they are today,” said Vermeil, Lusk’s coach at the time, who added that he noticed a huge increase in on-field prayer during his broadcasting career in the 1980s. “He kind of initiated this movement. . . . It freed a lot of people to express themselves.”
Richard Lapchick, founder of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University and now the director of the DeVos Sport Business Management program at the University of Central Florida, said Lusk put religion in a new light for athletes.
“It added macho credibility to it,” Lapchick said. “Up to that point, it was, ‘Is this guy really serious’ ” about religion?
So, if Tim Tebow makes the 53-man squad and scores a touchdown, followed by his famous Tebowing kneel to God, remember that Herb Lusk did it first!
The Flyers’ 2014-15 season was anything but typical.
They started slowly, won only 10 road games, performed horribly in shootouts — that NHL bizarre way of settling close games — and missed the playoffs for the second time.
But the postseason has begun predictably.
It was clear that Craig Berube was in over his head as a coach. In fact, his only qualification was that he had once played for the Flyers. So he was fired.
Owner Ed Snider has this statement because he was at his real home in Santa Barbara:
“It’s always difficult to let somebody go that has worked so hard and has particularly been such a good member of our organization.”
Snider said general manager Ron Hextall “agonized over making this decision. . .. Obviously, he is the general manger and I support him in what he does.
“I’m looking forward to whoever he hires and hoping we can have a much better season next year than we did this season.”
First of all, why did Hextall agonize over this decision?
Berube was in the soup from Day One, and his public comments after games and at practices showed he had no answers:
“We have to show more character.”
“The players have to work harder every night.”
“It’s great that we beat the good teams but we have to also beat the weak teams too.
That’s right, Chief, and that’s why you and your hostage-tape-video look are gone.
The bottom line on the Flyers is that the players on the roster weren’t good enough.
And even an uninformed observer could see that.
Scott Hartnall was traded last June because, Hartnell believes, Berube wanted him gone. So a 20-goal scorer and fan fave was sent packing for R. J. Umberger who should call himself:
- J. Underachiever.
Then in September, the Flyers discovered that 39-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen would be out indefinitely because of blood clots.
So, two of the team’s best players and leaders were gone.
Who would replace them?
There wasn’t enough money under the salary cap to do that — thank you Paul Holmgren, the former GM who doles out contracts like it would never come back to bite him.
Does Ilya Bryzgalov ring a bell?
The Flyers will still be paying the whack-job goalie $1.6 million annually until 2027 thanks to the ridiculous contract Holmgren handed the joke of a goalie.
And the butt boy media is to blame for raising expectations about how well this team would do.
None other than Tim Panaccio, the Comcast SportsNet “insider,” said the other day that, “I said at the beginning of the regular season that the Flyers weren’t good enough to make the playoffs.”
He must have done it on his Twitter account, because I can’t remember him saying or doing anything but cheering for the team from his amen corner in the press box.
The media consensus is that the Flyers are onlt two or three players away from being a real Stanley Cup contender.
I agree, but only if those players are Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.
The Flyers are actually worse than the Sixers from a fan’s point of view.
The Sixers were bad all year and the fans knew it.
The Flyers were bad all year and the media led them to believe that they were actually much better on paper.
Too bad the games are played on ice.
Stan Hochman had high standards
For the teams he was covering, for the restaurants he reviewed.
And especially for his writing and reporting.
When he died this week at the age of 86, he got a wonderful and deserved send-off by those who worked with him at the Daily News and on radio and TV.
Hochman came to Philly in 1959 to cover the awful Phillies for the Daily News, and he went on to become a great columnist, maybe the greatest ever in this greatest of all sports and newspaper towns.
His only real competitor as a columnist was the Bulletin’s Sandy Grady, who was hired away from the Daily News. Together, they made up the Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton of Philly journalism — Grady’s elegant prose up against Hochman’s succinct and poignant style helping to make the Philly in the 1960s a wonderland of newspapering:
Hochman and Grady, the Inquirer’s Frank Dolson and Sandy Padwe, the Bulletin’s Joe McGinniss and George Kiseda, the Daily News’ Bill Conlin and Jack Kiser.
It was the golden age in a town where even the great Red Smith had toiled back in the 1930s for the Record.
For those too young to remember, it may surprise you that before bloggers and TMZ and talk radio, newspapers were the only source of information for a sports junkie hungering for news and commentary.
The man who can be called the Godfather of the Golden Age of Newspapering now lives in Santa Monica, within jogging distance of the Pacific and always within shouting distance of a boxing ring.
Most sports fans know Larry Merchant as the HBO boxing commentator who told Floyd Mayweather that, “If I were 50 years younger I would kick your ass” after the boxer disrespected Merchant (they have since made up). But in 1959 he was sports editor of the Philly Daily News.
Stan Hochman’s death hit Merchant, who had hired him in 1959, especially hard.
In 1957, the Daily News was a bare-bones operation that Merchant, then 26, was hired to improve.
He did. Right away. Hiring Grady out of North Carolina to cover the Phillies and Kiser out of North Carolina to cover the ponies and the Warriors.
When the haughty Bulletin offered Grady more money and, most importantly, a column, he left and Merchant thought about how to replace him.
“A friend of mine from OU (the University of Oklahoma, where Merchant was a scrub on Bud Wilkinson’s great teams) who worked with Stan in San Bernadino sent me a couple of columns he wrote,” Merchant recalled in an email.
“And a year or so later when the Bulletin stole my first hire, Sandy Grady, I reached out to him. He stayed in my pad on Spruce Street for a couple of weeks, while covering the Phillies, and doing it seamlessly.
“And then out of the blue he wrote me a letter of resignation, saying he felt like a Triple-A guy. I literally begged him to stay on (though not in my pad) and he did for 55 years.
“He was as good as it gets, and I loved him.”
Stan was also something of a foodie. He loved to eat and especially to write about it.
After he and his bride Gloria visited the French Laundry in northern California’s wine country, where it takes six months to get a reservation, I asked him how it was.
“Worth the wait.”
That was his style, succinct and to the point.
Stan reviewed restaurants for REAL PHILLY, and when he went to a new steak house in town he told me that it was terrible and asked if he should write the review because they were an advertiser.
I said sure, and he and I visited again.
His review was even more negative, I suspect, than if he hadn’t revisited.
Stan was also a very penetrating interviewer. Tough questions were his middle name.
When Jerry Wolman came out with a book detailing his life as Eagles owner and Ed Snider’s role in bringing Wolman down with a stunning act of disloyalty, Stan had no compunction about teeing up tough questions for the Flyers owner.
Here is an excerpt of Stan’s piece from 2009:
Ed Snider tells people that the Spectrum is his “baby” and that he will be heartsick when they implode it before the end of the year.
In Potomac, Md., Jerry Wolman gnashes his teeth and snarls, “Ed Snider didn’t put a dime into the Spectrum.”
Whose fingerprints are on the blueprints? Whose DNA is in the design? Can we put the Spectrum on the Maury Povich show and have him yelp at the doomed 41-year-old arena, “Who’s your daddy?”
Wolman says he borrowed the money to build the Spectrum, picked the architects, hired the construction company that brought the project in ahead of schedule and under budget. That’s him, alongside the mayor, James Tate, at the groundbreaking, wielding hockey sticks instead of shovels, because the project was inspired by Snider’s quest for a National Hockey League franchise.
Wolman is 81, still porcupine-sharp. Agile, mobile, at times hostile. Could get to South Philly in less than 3 hours. He has not been invited to any of the “closing” events. Will he be invited to the implosion?
“Yeah,” Snider grumbles, “if he’s inside the building!”
Wolman is working on a book and a movie script about his life and turbulent times. He says it makes him sick to hear Snider talk about the building as his “baby.” He says, bitterly, “I took him out of the gutter and then he fucked me.”
And Stan was also stingy with his praise, so when I exposed Snider for his disloyalty in PHILLY SPORT, I was honored to have gotten this email from him:
Ted, that was an outstanding piece on the Snider-Wolman history….well- researched, well-reported, well-written.
sincerely, stan hochman
I was a kid when I first met Stan, who was covering the 1966 Quaker City Festival college basketball tourney at the Palestra.
Louisville had a great team, led by Westley Unseld, the Barkley-before-there-was-a-Barkley 6-6, 250 dynamo who was averaging 19 points and 19 rebounds a game.
The Cardinals beat Princeton in the finals of that Quaker City, though Unseld didn’t play very well.
The next day in the Daily News, Stan gave his appraisal:
“Westley Unseld may be Louisville’s ticket to an NCAA title, but as far as I am concerned his name should be:
Rest in peace, Stan. You were one of the greats.
Julius Erving came back to Philly yesterday from Atlanta, where he is living now.
He didn’t come back for a Sixers game or event, though he is listed as a strategic advisor on the team’s web site.
No, he came back to pay his respects and say good-bye to his old friend Craig Drake, who died last week.
Doc and Craig met back in the 1970s, when Doc was lighting up the sky for the Sixers and when Craig was lighting up the town. He was a very successful jewelry manufacturer on Walnut St. but he was best known to many of us as the life of the party.
Holy Trinity, the old church on Rittenhouse Square, was packed with many of his old chums — the denizens of the night.
It was a nice service, sort of like a class reunion, and it was great to see old faces, even if it was to mark Craig’s sad passing.
Craig was a blue collar kid who went to Penn Charter and then Penn in the last days of its big-time football teams, so it was natural for him to hang around with Reds Bagnell and Skippy Minisi, great Quaker players under the legendary coach George Munger.
Craig gravitated to sports and athletes, which is probably why he and Dr. J. were buddies.
So were the politicians for whom he raised boatloads of money, and who were strangely absent at Holy Trinity.
But Doc was there, showing what kind of a man and friend he is. And so was Rev. Herb Lusk, the fine Eagles running back from the 1970s who has done so much good work in his church at Broad and Fairmount, Greater Exodus Baptist.
They all came to celebrate Craig, who was successful and a great friend to many of us. Plus, he was generous with his heart and his wallet, hosting an annual Christmas party downstairs at Le Bec-Fin that raised a six-figure amount every year for a worthy cause.
And as the service ended and we headed for the exit, there was the 6-feet-7-inchDoc, looking elegant as always with his white hair where an Afro once captivated us.
You could almost hear Craig Drake’s unique laugh, a cackle really.
They broke the mold when they made Craig.
Philly needs more like him.
Who are the boneheads who think Jay Wright is the reason Villanova got bounced from March Madness again in the Round of 32?
Ed Rendell wrote a column last Saturday in the Daily News that referenced some folks are suggesting that Wright should go because the Cats lost, as a No. 1 seed.
In my view, Wright is the second best coach in the history of the Big 5, after the late, great Jack Ramsay of St. Joseph’s.
And evidently the University of Texas also thinks quite highly of Wright, according to Seth Davis’ Twitter feed:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops · 18h18 hours ago
I’ve learned that Texas’ search firm reached out to representatives of Jay Wright to gauge his interest. Was told thanks but no thanks.
The fact is that Villanova got beat by a better team — N. C. State — just like last year when UConn took them out and went on to win the national championship.
And that’s the rub.
North Carolina’s Dean Smith went to 11 Final Fours — 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 — falling short in the first four to John Wooden-coached UCLA teams with Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, finally winning in 1982 when he started a freshman named Jordan.
Smith crafted his Tar Heels to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, which in those days were played with rules out of the Tong Wars. Even if Carolina won the ACC tournament, they were in no shape to win a national title.
UCLA was simply better.
Smith also had an aversion to starting freshmen, until Michael Jordan came along, and hit what turned out to be the game-winning jumper to beat Georgetown for the national title in 1982.
Wright has some of Smith’s problems.
Villanova has won 62 games and lost 8 over the last two season but have come up short in the post-season.
And the reason is that the post-season is where athleticism comes into play. Games and titles are won by quick, strong, well-condition teams, with a go-to guy that Villanova lacks.
And let me suggest the unthinkable:
Villanova will never be a true contender for the national championship until Wright comes to the following realization:
Ryan Arcidiacono is not good enough, quick enough or reliable enough to be the point guard on a national contender.
How do I know?
The eye test.
Yes, I know the eye test is what the NCAA selection committee gave as the reason for passing over Temple in this year’s Big Dance.
That was bogus, of course. The committee simply didn’t believe that the American Athletic Conference was good enough, so it loaded up on power conferences like the Pac-12, where UCLA was an underachiever all year.
My eye test consists of watching Ryan A. for three years in which he:
Tries a head fake and fails to lose his defender.
Drives into traffic, gets stopped and has to make a bad pass at someone’s feet.
Pivots to beat the band and still can’t break free.
Which means he is not capable of running an offense on a national champion.
It works in the Big 5, and it works in the Big East, which as we all know is nothing like the old Big East of Villanova, Syracuse, St. John’s, Georgetown and Boston College.
It’s wonderful that Ryan A. stuck up for the Cats after they lost to N. C. State:
“Three times, three games this year, we just weren’t able to do it,” guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. “The other team was better that day. You just have to credit N.C. State for the way they played. But that doesn’t define our whole season. Yes, this hurts. It hurts everyone that we’re not making the second weekend. But I think we battled down to the very last second. We did what we do.”
He’s right about N. C. State being better.
So when the Cats congregate next October for their first practice, Ryan A. should take a back seat to Jalen Brunson, a Villanova freshman who is a real point guard and was the apple of a hundred national programs’ eye.
Two days ago he won the Powerade Jam Fest Skills Competition, clearing the course of dribbling, passing and shooting in 30.6 seconds at University of Chicago.
Brunson beat out Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Cleveland, Ohio) forward Carlton Bragg (32.8 seconds) and Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) point guard Isaiah Briscoe (45.5 seconds) to earn the hardware.
No disrespect to Ryan A., who has been Wright’s coach on the floor for three years and was voted co-Big East player of the year.
But he is too slow and predictable to run the offense for a prospective national champion. Wright should take a page from Dean Smith and start the freshman Brunson.
When Smith started Michael Jordan it won him the 1982 title. And while Brunson will not be like Mike in many area, he needs to be on the point for the Cats in 2015-16.
Maybe you noticed that every talking head from sea to shining sea has dumped on the Nick Foles for Sam Bradford trade.
You know, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
He should go back to college.
Nobody who is any good wants to play for him and razzle-dazzle offense.
To me, that criticism is sort of like judging a brain surgeon one hour into a seven-hour operation.
There are 50 days between now and the April 30 draft.
Why don’t we wait to see what Kelly does between now and then before we send him back to academia?
But the criticism will not abate.
Take your pick.
Tedy Bruschi: This [Eagles] system is predicated on getting the defense to play 11-on-11 football, counting the quarterback in the defensive equation as far as run and pass. You don’t have that here. If I’m [defending the] backside, I have no threat whatsoever with him at quarterback. You want him to at least get us 5 yards and get down. I don’t see that happening with Sam Bradford.
Mark Schlereth: Even Nick Fioles, who is not a great athlete, still ran and was a threat on that back end and made some plays running that read-option and boot-keep stuff. That’s something that’s out of your option right now. It’s really perplexing.
Bruschi: Nick Foles made those plays and took a lot of hits. This guy was beat up and took the shots and kept getting up. Is Sam Bradford the guy who can take those hits and keep getting up?
Matt Hasselbeck: I’m not sure when camp opens that [Bradford] is [the Eagles’ starter]. Torn ACL two years in a row. Don’t know how long he can stay healthy. Mark Sanchez wanted to be back in Philadelphia. Based on the deal he got, it’s a good backup deal. I’m not so sure Mark Sanchez won’t enter training camp as the starting quarterback. Nick Foles is a winner. Jeff Fisher significantly improved his football team and settled the quarterback situation.
And the local “experts” were equally tough:
CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank wrote that “it is hard for me to believe in Chip Kelly anymore.”
Only Ron Jaworski had the good sense to keep his powder dry. The reason? Because it is obvious that Eagles Supreme Leader Kelly is just getting started.
Maybe Sam Bradford is Kelly’s idea of the perfect QB for his system. Or maybe he is just a Sam Hinkie-type asset to be dealt on April 30 for the right to pick Marcus Mariota.
I have no idea, but this much I do know.
Criticizing Kelly over this trade is like criticizing a brain surgeon one hour after a seven-hour operation.
It’s ridiculous, and I still believe in Kelly.
I was racing around doing errands last Saturday when I tuned in to WIP to get my Ray Didinger fix.
It is doubtful that anyone who lives in the Philly region has more respect for Didinger than I do. I worked with him at the late, great Bulletin in the late-1960s when he became the youngest beat writer on the Eagles, and I have respected him ever since.
So you will excuse me when I say:
When did Ray, who now writes for CSNPhilly.com, become Jimmy Kempski, who regularly posts stories without even one source, let alone two, which is what we were taught by Bulletin sports editor Jackie Wilson?
Ray was co-hosting with Reuben Frank, another respected reporter who also writes for CSNPhilly.com, and they were musing about the news that Eagles Supreme Leader Chip Kelly was making — trading Shady McCoy, cutting Todd Herremans and Trent Cole, and more.
You know this is not like Andy Reid. When he came here you knew he was invested in staying a good long time. Chip Kelly, on the other hand, has made no investment in the Eagles!
Really, Ray? Where is the evidence of that, or have you adopting the Sam Donnellon Body Language School of Chipology?
I pay pretty close attention to this stuff, and I have never heard, read or seen anything that supports the notion that Kelly wants out and will go back to college.
Didinger and Frank repeated their tag-team approach on Comcast SportsNet Sunday evening, with Frank taking us down memory lane. I am paraphrasing:
I remember four years ago up at Lehigh when the Eagles signed a new free agent seemingly every hour, and Howie Roseman and Joe Banner were basking in the glory of the Dream Team signings. And I am just afraid that Kelly is doing the same thing — signing an old running back like Frank Gore and who knows who else. Then he’ll give up a bushel of draft picks for Marcus Mariota. What it Mariota turns out to be a bust? Chip goes back to Texas and we are left holding the bag that doesn’t include Shady McCoy, rent Cole and Todd Herremans.
That is spectacularly flawed thinking on many levels:
Howie Boy Roseman and Joe Banner and Andy Reid gave us Vince Young, Nnamdi What’s His Name and all those other overrated losers on the Dream Team. Plus, they gave us Brandon Graham, he of the high motor, when safety Earl Wollf was on the board. And can we ever forget Reid drafting Danny Watkins, a 28-year-old firefighter?
Chip Kelly knows more about evaluating talent than all three — Howie Boy and Banner were fantasy footballers on steroids.
Secondly, I trust Chip Kelly’s judgment a hell of a lot more than Andy Reid’s. Remember, he was the guy who took an offensive line coach and made him defensive coordinator!
Hey guys, free agency doesn’t even start until tomorrow, March 10. You might want to wait a while before you declare Kelly a failure.
You might be right, but there is no evidence of that to date.
Last night I listened and watched “Philly Sports Scream”/aka “Philly Sports Talk” but the moderator Michael Barkann rarely just talks — he bellows and screams as if there were no microphones.
From the boo-hooing and mewling that Barkann and “Insider” Dei Lynam were exhibiting about the Sixers’ trade of Michael Carter-Williams, I thought they must have been talking about Maurice Cheeks or Wally Jones, two of the great point guards in team history.
Please get real.
Here is MCW’s stat line after 111 NBA games
39.6% from the field, 26.1% from downtown and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.7-to-3.8, less than 2-to-1.
Here’s Maurice Cheeks’ line:
52.3% from the field, 25.5 from 3-point land, 7,392 assists, 2,258 turnovers, a ratio of 3.3-to-1.
Magic Johnson, the greatest point guard in history, shot 52% from the field, 30% from downtown and had an A-to-T ratio of 3.5-to-1.
You think those comparisons are unfair?
Sorry, MCW is a nice player who just isn’t good enough.
Lynam yesterday brought up that he could improve his shot like his new coach Jason Kidd did. Good luck with that. Kidd was a very good player who played the point at Cal before becoming a very good NBA player. Very few players improve their jump shot, even if they have the great Herb Magee as a tutor. Just ask Evan Turner.
There is a tendency in Philly to settle for second best, and that perfectly describes MCW.
Perhaps his foulest mistake was spoiling us with his first game as a rookie.
Remember October 31, 2013?
22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals and 7 rebounds in the Sixers’ stunning opening night win over defending NBA champion Miami
On the basis of that performance, MCW essentially won rookie of the year against a field of nobodies.
His stat page is filled with the same empty calories that Turner had before he was shipped a year ago.
On a team of rookies and no-hopers, someone has to get the stats.
I am rooting for Sam Hinkie to be wildly successful in his method that has inspired madness among the Angelo Cataldi set.
I love basketball, and I am tired of settling for second-best, as we so often do in Philly.
I wish MCW great, good luck in Milwaukee.
But I want a real point guard, and I trust Hinkie to find one.
Has anyone anywhere ever had a worse month than Howie Boy Roseman did in January?
The only people that come to my mind are the dopes in the local media who are still under the impression that Roseman is a Boy Genius and that he and he alone was responsible for the hiring two years ago of Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly ran up a 46-7 record in four years at Oregon and transformed a middling, West Coast school into a national power.
Stevie Wonder could have seen what Kelly had wrought and realized that he was the perfect antidote for slow-walking, slow-talking, predictable-as-hell Andy Reid.
Jeff Lurie made that hire. And if John Clark or anyone else has evidence to the contrary he should produce it.
Or he should shut up.
Howie Boy has had Lurie’s ear ever since he arrived in Philly with no coaching or scouting experience in 2000 as the Eagles’ salary cap expert and staff counsel. He was promoted up the chain regularly to director of football administration — whatever that is — VP of football administration, VP of player personnel and general manager.
And as he climbed, others fell or disappeared: Tom Heckert, Louis Riddick, Ryan Grigson, Tom Gamble last Dec. 30, as Roseman tried to consolidate his power once more.
What all these men had in common was that they had football experience, either as players, coaches or scouts — some with all three.
Howie Boy has none, just a burning desire to be an NFL general manager the way a homely girl wants to be the high school hero’s date at the prom.
When Howie Boy went after Gamble’s job he forgot to factor in what Kelly’s reaction would be. He evidently went to Lurie and said something like, “It’s him or me.”
Lurie may like Howie Boy but he loves what Kelly has done for the Birds — turned them around, provided some excitement in town, making it easier for Lurie to show his face in public restaurants without getting the stares that a 4-12 2012 team engendered.
Memo to Howie Boy:
When you go after the king you better take him out. Shakespeare said it and you can look it up.
So on Jan. 2 Howie got stripped of his GM-ship and got a fancy new title and more money, which allowed him to hide in Turks and Caicos for a week or two.
Kelly got all the power short of Lurie’s, making him the Eagles’ Supreme Leader — sort of like Kim Jong Un in North Korea, but with a better haircut.
Kelly then elevated Ed Marynowitz to VP of player personnel, essentially the job Howie Boy had.
Marynowitz is 30 and has football props. Howie Boy is 39 and will never be a GM here.
He probably feels lousy about that.
So my advice to Howie Boy is to find another job. Some sucker NFL owner will fall for your resume just the way the idiot Browns owner fell for Joe Banner’s.
There won’t be any tension if you stay because you have become a non-event.
I bet you are glad it’s February!
I don’t want to say I told you so, but I did.
Two days ago on this site I wrote:
“(Howie) Roseman may feel like the winner on this 2015 New Year’s day, but he is destined to lose just like Banner did. And remember, Banner and Lurie were chums from childhood.”
What you readers may be asking yourselves is why were the rest of what passes for the media in this town so convinced that Kelly had lost out, he was on thin ice and he was headed out the door, just like the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh.
That was what bubbleheaded Sam Donnellon of the Daily News wrote on Friday in a Daily News column. Really, does any editor ever read his stuff or does it just published unexpurgated?
Skippy was trying to make the case that Harbaugh leaving the Niners was a trend and that Kelly — perhaps because, like Harbaugh, he also coached in the Pac 12 so it must be in the left coast water — would flee the tyranny of Howie Boy.
“ … we still don’t know how Kelly will ultimately translate as an NFL head coach: Whether he will win enough to solidify his reputation but not enough to keep him from fleeing back to college, the way Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and now Jim Harbaugh have, to name just a few.”
Skippy is right. No one knows how Kelly will translate long-term in the NFL, though short-term he is 20-12 in two seasons, way better than Saban and Spurrier did.
With respect to a comparison to Harbaugh’s situation in San Francisco, there are two big differences:
- Harbaugh had the reputation as a hard-case with the players — a thundering asshole, really — and they tuned him out; and
- The Niners have a real general manager, not a trumped office boy like Roseman. Before he became GM four years ago, Trent Baalke made his bones as the team’s player personnel director; four years as the Redskins’ college scouting coordinator; three seasons as a scout for the Jets; a defensive coach at South Dakota State and athletic director at Shanley High in Fargo, N. D.
Oh, and he was voted 2011 NFL executive of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
By comparison, Roseman is just an office boy and he couldn’t possibly have the same clout with Lurie as Baalke has with Niners CEO Jed York.
It’s not surprising that Donnellon would make such a ridiculous comparison. He has been pawning himself as a Kelly Whisperer for two years, reading his body language to come to stupid conclusions.
What is surprising is that so many people — including the level-head Rhea Hughes and solid-as-a-rock Ray Didinger, who were agreeing with Skippy as late as 6:30 on Friday on CSN — bought into the meme.
If the psychodrama being played out in the Eagles front offices seems eerily reminiscent of one that took place four years ago, you have a good memory.
In that one, pencil-necked geek Joe Banner did battle with fat boy football coach Andy Reid for control of the franchise. Banner lost and got fired.
In this one, pencil-necked geek Howie Roseman is pushing coach Chip Kelly’s buttons, and evidently persuaded owner Jeff Lurie to fire Kelly BFF Harry Gamble.
Roseman may feel like the winner on this 2015 New Year’s day, but he is destined to lose just like Banner did. And remember, Banner and Lurie were chums from childhood.
The facts as stated above are not in dispute.
But the details of the how and why are difficult to discern because most NFL teams — and especially the Eagles — are run like the old Soviet Union:
No public statements; no denials; nothing to explain because it is no one’s business; no regrets; only reprisals.
And, like the old Soviet Union, the premier, if you will — Stalin in those days, Jeffrey Lurie today — owes nothing to anyone. He plays employees and fans as if they were pawns, and he moves the pieces around at his will.
Lurie is a not an atypical NFL owner. Born to wealth like the Maras of the Giants and Woody Johnson of the Jets, he was looking to buy an NFL franchise 20 years ago and struck out on his hometown Patriots, settling for the Eagles at $185 million.
Prior to moving here, he made a movie or two that barely made a ripple, having been drawn into the business because his grandfather founded General Cinema.
Lurie, in other words, had never done anything on his own in his life, and had no skills as an executive or a manager.
He still doesn’t.
With rare exception, the owner of an NFL team cannot lose money.
Because of pro football’s immense popularity, which is growing faster than the national debt, and Pete Rozelle’s genius to share the TV wealth — in 2014 the average take for each of the 32 teams was $187 million, and that is only growing — it is virtually impossible to lose money as an owner.
The exception, of course, was Leonard Tose, who owned the Birds from 1969 through 1985 and pissed his money away in Atlantic City and through his excessive spending.
As one of the 32 potentates who own NFL franchises, Lurie rarely speaks. He usually has nothing of import to say anyway, but when he felt compelled to announced last Sunday that Roseman would be back as Eagles GM you knew something was up.
Jeff McLane of the Inquirer is the best Kremlinologist on the Eagles beat, and he reported today that, “Gamble was collateral damage in the power struggle between Kelly and Roseman that the general manager apparently has won for the time being. Their relationship had been strained since almost the start of Kelly’s tenure as head coach but had become acrimonious over the last year, according to several sources within the Eagles and around the NFL.
“It’s unclear whether Roseman would have been driven to the point of leaving, but the 39-year-old GM had conversations about the New York Jets’ vacancy, according to two NFL sources.
“The Jets didn’t put in a formal interview request, but it is believed that Roseman or his agent, Bob LaMonte, had informal talks with either consultant Charlie Casserly or owner Woody Johnson. The Jets’ level of interest was unknown.”
I can tell you what the Jets’ level of interest in a trmped up fantasy football guy like Roseman is:
They just fired a true football man, John Idzik, who had terrible judgment and made too many mistakes.
Roseman undoubtedly used the Jets ploy to get leverage with Lurie.
My advice to Howie Boy is:
Don’t try that one again.
Lurie doesn’t know anything more than you about evaluating NFL talent, and when your push comes to Kelly’s shove, you will be fired.
Just like Joe Banner was.
Lurie hired Kelly from Oregon, and he undoubtedly held out for full control. If Kelly feels that he is losing in the boardroom to a numbers guy like you he will leave, and then Lurie will have egg on his face.
Trust funders don’t like having egg on their faces.
Lance Bachmann’s business card doesn’t list his job title.
His office is small and sparse.
There is no reception room, befitting the president of a successful company.
But on the wall opposite his desk is a classic photo of Muhammad Ali tattooing Floyd Patterson with a stiff left jab during their 1965 heavyweight championship fight, with the headline:
“When a man says I cannot, he has made a suggestion to himself. He has weakened his power of accomplishing that which otherwise would have been accomplished.”
Right there is the organizing principle of 1SEO, the six-year old company the 40-year-old Bachmann founded that employs 45 techies — project managers, web developers, strategists, writers, social media experts — in a boiler-room-like space on Bristol Pike in Levittown.
Bachmann is not an athlete but he is a millionaire, thanks to 1SEO’s status as the regional champion in the ever-more-important business of search engine optimization.
If the Internet and the web are the modern-day version of Gutenberg’s printing press, think of search engine optimization as the trucks that deliver newspapers every day — less and less, sad to say — to people who pay to read them.
As of the end of September 2014, there were more than 1 billion web sites in the world, more than 750 million in the United States and more than 500 million live sites.
But who knows who looks at them? And what are their ages, financial status, sex, color, buying habits? More importantly, how do you get people in this ADD world to notice your site?
You hire a search engine optimization firm.
And virtually every business that hires 1SEO or any other firm has one thing at the top of their wish list:
GET US ON THE FIRST PAGE OF GOOGLE SEARCHES!!!!
Ever since its founding in 1997, Google has been the place everyone goes to discover information, accurate or otherwise, that can be found on the web.
It is so ubiquitous that it has even become a verb.
I just Googled how much a Cadillac cost in 1957.
But Google’s most important feature for businesses has been its ability to track how many people look at websites, especially the ads, and what their buying habits, etc., are.
Legendary Philly department store owner John Wanamaker, whose flagship store at 13th and Market defined this town for more than 100 years, spent a boatload of cash on advertising; his lament:
“Fifty percent of my advertising works and 50 percent doesn’t. The problem is I don’t know which is which.”
When Mal Karmazin, who was then the president of Viacom, visited Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus in 2003, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin explained the process.
And how, through use of algorithms, Google can tell an advertiser almost everything — who clicked on an ad, what their buying habits and financial status are. In other words, everything Karmazin and other ad exec were keeping advertisers in the dark about, however unintentially.
As Ken Auletta wrote in a terrific 2009 New Yorker magazine profile of Page and Brin:
“By then, Karmazin knew there was probably little that he and Google could do for each other. ‘I was selling twenty-five billion dollars’ worth of advertising,’ he recalled. ‘Did I want someone to know what worked and what didn’t?’ Karmazin looked at his Google hosts and proclaimed, only half in jest, ‘You’re fucking with the magic!’ ”
What the techies at 1SEO do doesn’t qualify as magic, per se, but, as Bachmann relates something Google’s Matt Cutts, who is head of its Webspam team, emphasizes:
“Back links are the still the No. 1 reason sites get ranked [highly] by Google.”
Bachmann isn’t a techie —“You don’t have to be one to be a good SEO,” he says. “Rather, you have to understand on-page, off-page, back links and especially marketing.”
Bachmann understands all of it. He grew up the son of a truck driver for Rohm & Haas in Bucks County, went to Council Rock High, where he wrestled, boxed and played soccer; then it was on to Temple undergrad and an executive MBA.
He started in business as a sales rep in the Bala office of R. R. Donnelly, which in those ancient days produced the Donnelly Directory, a thick book that categorized local businesses. For four years, Bachmann walked up and down the street, selling space.
Then he shifted to sales management for Verizon. Six years later it was on to AT&T, where he founded SuperPages.com and he led the nation in sales.
“Then,” he says proudly, “one day six years ago I founded 1SEO — me, my sister and two other people.”
Their first office was in a two-bedroom apartment at 18th and JFK, and Lance made a cold call to Five-Star Painting and Leasing in Princeton. He had a nice chat with its owner, Lisa Dunlevy, and made an appointment.
“I knew I was going to be successful,” Bachmann says, “the minute I left that meeting.”
Soon 1SEO grew faster than a two-bedroom in Philly could handle, which precipitated the move to Bucks County.
Word of mouth followed, and so did clients like Belfor, Holt’s Cigars, martial arts firm AWMA, Cox Media, Safian Rudolph, Spike’s Trophies, Peruzzi Auto Group and Barb’s Harley Davidson.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, FASTPHILLYSPORTS.COM.)
Next came the awards from Google, Smart CEO, the Inquirer and Yahoo.
There are hundreds of SEOs in the Philly region, and Bachmann counts Seer Interactive in Center City and Web Max in Jersey as two who theoretically compete with his firm for business.
“But,” Bachmann avers, channeling Ali, “you’d be hard-pressed to find 10 people in the country who know SEO better than me.”
And you won’t find any other SEO with two billboards on I-95.
“It was a f— you to everyone,” he says. “We didn’t get a lot of leads but it lends credibility.”
His success has bought him creature comforts — a nice house in Ivyland for his family, another in Wildwood Crest “and some other investments,” he adds.
He has a fierce work ethic and sermonizes:
“There are hundreds of people in this sector that have talent but the ones who succeed work their asses off.”
1SEO did $6 million in revenue last year, and expansion is in the works — “we’re buying the building next door, but the most we’ll have is 75 employees.”
How does it feel to be a millionaire?
“It was great when I was single.”
What qualities does he look for in a prospective employee?
“People who have the will. They’re hungry. A cultural fit. People that care.”
Muhammad Ali couldn’t have said it any better.
As the man said, “the definition of a gaffe in Washington is when someone inadvertently tells the truth.”
Bill Simmons didn’t inadvertently call Roger Goodell a liar on one of his podcasts. It was quite advertent.
Here is the offending of Simmons’ podcast:
“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. … And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.”
So it was not surprising that ESPN suspended its talented star — maybe its most talented writer and commentator — for three weeks.
And it was also not surprising that many in what passes for the mainstream media pointed out that others on ESPN have seriously questioned Goodell’s version of what really happened in the Ray Rice affair, for want of a better word.
It is true that Keith Olbermann and Mark Schlereth have come down hard on Goodell’s veracity, such as it is.
But no one on the Worldwide Leader used the “L” word, which has almost become the parallel of the “N” word in civilized society.
The Bush administration made us afraid of instant annihilation if we didn’t go to war in Iraq, and it completely fabricated threats — “mushroom cloud in the form of a smoking gun” — to get the Senate votes to go to a preposterous war.
But one ever called Bush or Dick Cheney a “liar.”
Maybe they should have.
Rarely is Cheney ever even called a draft dodger even though he sought and received five deferments in the 1960s to avoid going to Vietnam.
It must be obvious to everyone not on the NFL payroll that Goodell is not telling the whole truth about his ridiculous two-game suspension of Rice for decking his girlfriend in an elevator, and when Goodell actually saw the second tape that actually shows the left hook.
And even Stevie Wonder could see that Goodell’s 44-minute sermonette before the press a couple of weeks ago was an exercise in spin control.
But when Simmons actually uttered the word “liar” it was too much for the lords at ESPN, which by the way pays the NFL $1.9 billion a year as a rights fee for Monday Night Football.
Seems a bit high to me, but I am not selling beer. Though it is absurd that ESPN suspended the Sports Guy because he offended their corporate partner on Park Avenue.
Actually, suspending him elevates ESPN for coming down on one of its stars.
ESPN has done a superb reporting job on the Rice story and its sorry cousins — Adrian Peterson, et al.
Don Van Atta’s story on ESPN.com and its version on “Outside the Lines” were exceptional journalism — well-written, well-documented and very persuasive.
So it is obvious the lords in Bristol — John Walsh and John Skipper — must secretly agree with Simmons.
There may be no better journalist working today than ESPN managing editor Walsh — whom I am proud to say hired me as a senior editor at Rolling Stone 40 years ago and then at Inside Sports in 1980. And ESPN president Skipper is that rare businessman who appreciates the journalistic ethic.
The legendary journalist Robert Lipsyte, ESPN’s ombudsman — a fancy word for a conscience — wrote last Friday:
“Simmons is, in my opinion, ESPN’s franchise player but by no stretch a leading journalist. On his 45th birthday Thursday, my gift to him was recounting my favorite quote from basketball coach Butch van Breda Kolff: ‘Everyone’s strength is their weakness.’ He said he liked it.”
Simmons got set down because he dared his bosses to do so. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In Bristol, CT. or in Washington, D. C.
And also because of what Lipsyte said in the lead of his Friday blog:
Roger Goodell is the sports world’s villain du jour, but until the NFL’s elevator of investigation reaches the top — or ESPN delivers a smoking gun that proves when the NFL viewed the Ray Rice video — the commissioner is not a certified liar.
And Bill Simmons has no license to call him one without more justification than “I’m just saying it.”
There’s something’s happening here. But what it is ain’t exactly clear.
“For What It’s Worth,” Buffalo Springfield, 1966
Something is happening here between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon every day on the radio.
And it is perfectly clear.
The lame and awful WIP tag-team of Michael Barkann and Ike Reese, who carries the witless and superficial Barkann, are being unmasked for the frauds that they are by 97.5, the Fanatic.
Beginning five weeks ago, Eagles legend Brian Westbrook sits in on Monday and Friday on the Fanatic, and Tuesdays through Thursdays Brian Baldinger adds his expertise.
Westbrook is smart and unafraid to tell the truth about his former team, and he retired after the eight seasons as a stellar running back for the Eagles and one year for the Niners. So he is still close to the game, and his comments are trenchant and on the money.
But it is on Tuesdays, when Baldinger co-hosts with Harry Mayes, that the battle becomes one-sided.
Take today, Oct. 7, two days after the Birds’ 34-28 victory over the Rams.
The first 10 minutes on WIP were dedicated to the death of broadcasting great Bill Campbell, a deserving subject.
However, Barkann and Reese admitted that they never heard the great broadcaster call a game. And still they talked about him!
Then they opened the phones for callers and Mike and Ike were regurgitating Sunday’s game as if it were Monday and not Tuesday.
While on the Fanatic, Baldinger, who broadcasts games for the NFL Network, had spent Monday watching the coach’s tape over at NFL Films. That is the version that allows experts who watch — like Baldinger and Ray Didinger — to discover what really happened and why.
Tape don’t lie!
Baldinger immediately said that the way the Eagles are playing, both NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, who come to the Linc Sunday night, are playing better than the Eagles.
And as far as what the problem is with Shady McCoy, which Mike and Ike are speculating about without having seen the tape? Baldinger admits that he really doesn’t know but that Darren Sproles played on the final drive on Sunday because McCoy already had toted the ball 28 times.
And, Baldinger said, “And Darren Sproles got a whole bigger than anything McCoy has gotten all year” on his 25-yard scamper that salted away the game.
Clear, concise and definitive.
While on WIP a caller wanted to talk about how great Sonny Hill is on the radio, and Mike and Ike concurred, with Barkann adding:
“I never saw the man play, but he could play!”
How does Barkann know?
He doesn’t, and it is pathetic that he is hosting a sports talk show in a major American market, let alone one as smart as Philly.