Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pen Still Mightier than the Sword?

There's a whole lot going on in the Philly sports scene right now, so I figured why not give the people what they want - my opinions. Here it goes.

I think the Phillies are in SERIOUS trouble if they continue to trot Brad "Lights OFF" Lidge out in any type of save situation. The guy is toast. After running his record to an impressive 0-8, blowing his 11th save and upping (i think) his ERA to an absolutely unheard of 7.48 in Tuesday night's loss to the Marlins, Lidge should only be used if we are up or down by 6 runs or more. This is clear (and has been) to anyone who regularly watches the Phils. I personally think Uncle Cholie realizes it too, but he also feels a sense of loyaly to Lidge. Let's be honest, if Lidge were able to right his ship he would be a huge boost, but as the leaves begin to change colors and baseball games suddenly become meaningful, it's clear Lidge is totally unreliable and largely ineffective. What we need is to get back some of the injured guys from our pen. Scott Eyre our best lefty this year has been out for about 6 weeks. He's pitched some rehab, so I'm hoping he gets back in time for the playoffs. JC Romero, Brett Meyers and Chan Ho Park are also on the shelf and rehabbing their injuries. We need these guys if we want to make another run at a World Series title. The good news: they will all be well rested. The not so good news: they haven't faced major league pitching in weeks (or month's in Romero's case). Bottom line, a weak bullpen puts TREMENDOUS pressure on our starters. I think our starters are good enough, but only time will tell. Keep in mind, when last year's playoff series began, I don't think any of us believed the Phillies would end the curse. Stay tuned.

As far as the Eagles go, I fully expect a tighter-than-should-be game on Sunday against the punchless Chiefs. I'm thinking a 27-23 type of score sounds about right. I think Vick will be in for about 20-25 snaps and I think he will be responsible for one of the Birds touchdowns. By the way, Eagles fans - you miss #5 yet?

Did you hear the news that Jeremiah Trotter had a "good tryout" with the Birds yesterday? What does it say about Omar Gaither that he was first replaced by an undrafted free agent in Akeem Jordan, then he was passed by a guy who didn't play a snap on defense last year (Joe Mays). Gaither eventually "won" the starting job back, when Mays hurt his shoulder. The Birds are now bringing in a 32-year old Trotter, whose knees they said were shot 3 years ago? I'm guessing this is more of a loyatly gesture from Andy Reid, but signing Trotter will be a very curious about that move.

Sixers unveiled some new unis, which have that sorta throwback look, mixed in with the elementary-blue collar. Personally I like them. Here's a picture for those of you who missed it.

That would be Thad Young, Elton Brand and the guy who looks like his eyes have sunken into his head is our new "wonder coach" Eddie Jordan. At the uniform announcement, our GM Ed Stefanski made the following proclamation about 2008 FA signee Elton Brand. "All I know is he wants to show everybody who Elton Brand is," Stefanski said. "I don't know if he's putting pressure on himself or not; I hope he isn't because he doesn't have to be our savior or carry us."

Hey Ed, you signed this guy to an $82 MILLION DOLLAR contract. Not only do we need him to carry us, he better collect tickets and sell popcorn too!

Looks like The Flyers are facing a tough decision with finalizing their roster as 2007 first round pick James van Riemsdyk starting to show his promise. JVR as we like to call him, is a 20-year old kid who is still trying to grow into his 6'3 frame. Here's a vote for keeping JVR up in Philly this season. The kid has been lights out in the preseason and when you invest so much in a player (second overall pick), you push them, unless of course you are Sixers GM, Ed Stefanski.

As for the Dawgs, I like our chances on Saturday against the Sun Devils. I expect another offensive show (b/c our defense sucks), but the Dawgs just have too much speed and offensive firepower. I'm psyched to be going to my first Dawgs game of the season and Summer, well she's excited to tailgate. I'll take it! Good to see Joe Cox bounce back in a HUGE way against Arkansas. Again, I think the key is for the playmakers (AJ Green, Richard Samuel, Orson Charles) to make plays and for Cox to manage the game and not try to do too much. Tremendous effort by Cox in Arkansas. Let's hope he can keep it up.

Things You Should Know:
*Today in a conversation with my friend Neal, I compared going to Milwaukee to getting a prostate exam. "Neither is as bad as you think it would be - it's all about expectations."
*My fiance informed me that I hit a touchdown when I landed her. Clearly my sports fanaticism has rubbed off on her.
*I used to think the biggest waste of police/state resources could be found every morning on Roxborough Road. Yesterday, I discovered that the biggest waste was the four, count em', F-O-U-R cops sitting in Brookhaven pulling over soccer Mom's and golfing foursomes at 10:30 in the morning. Unbelievable.
*Can someone explain to me the commercialization of Mangos? I remember 10 years ago this fruit was a hidden gem, best enjoyed as a special treat on a hot summer day. Now they put mango in EVERYTHING. Are you kidding me? What next pomegranate? Oh, yeah, too late. Who decides this?
*If you are into Pearl Jam (and you should be), their newest CD "Back Spacer" is a phenomenal CD. This is their best work since the wildly underrated Yield. Go buy it.
*Think I'm getting tired of facebook. I was thinking of ending things, but figured if nothing else - it's always a good tool to help remember birthdays (and pimp my blog). But seriously, I don't need to hear about what you ate for lunch or if you were a gay superhero, what your name would be.
*Muammar Gaddafi - seriously, what hole did this guy crawl out of? I figured I'd have a better chance of seeing a Sasquatch then see this clown. But wouldn't he make for a great villain in the new Batman movie? Seriously he could be the evil Mr.Bill figure. You shoot him and he just rearranges his claymation-injured face.
*And if you haven't had Whole Foods BBQ'd Turkey Meatloaf, you are missing out. And thank G-d there's no mango flavoring.
*I think goodness = Free WiFi. Support these places & their free Wifi: Village Pizza (Cabbage Town), Panera and Volvo. Tell them Ross J sent you -- and they will stare at you blankly.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And now the lights come on...

This morning as I woke up way too early on a Sunday morning (as puppy ownership often forces you to do), my saving grace is that today is NFL opening weekend! What will today bring for the Birds? Will it be the absolutely shellacking we laid upon the Rams last season or the complete unraveling of the birds during their road loss to Green Bay in 2007 when no one seemed able to catch a punt. Perhaps something else? In a mere 7 hours, our questions will be answered.

In my groggy state this morning, I thought - how great is it to be a college and pro football fan? Yes the Eagles have never won a Championship in my lifetime and yes, the Georgia Bulldogs last title came when I was 6, but I still look forward to every season with foolish optimism.

As you all know, I'm a huge college football fan. Simply stated, there is absolutely nothing like the pageantry that accompanies the college game. That being said, at the NFL level everything is just experienced on a different level. The grass feels a little greener, the hitting more ferocious, the speed more elite, the rivalries more intense and the execution more flawless (unless of course you are watching a Raiders game). Fantasy football teams aside (and you know that's not easy for me to say), there is something so exciting about the NFL kick-off weekend -- and folks, it's here!

Looking at my beloved Philadelphia Eagles I see I giant entree of uncertainty, topped with a scoop of hope and a side of doubt. Lets first view the positives and the offense should be the most positive spot on this team early on.

It all starts with #5. Donovan looks primed to have a big year. He just signed an extension, he looked sharp during his limited pre-season role and I think he wants to win now, more than ever. Like any athlete entering the back-half of his/her career - the realization that "the window" is closing becomes very, very real. I think Donovan has the best year of his career. I think DeSean Jackson becomes an elite WR, I think Jason Avant becomes one of the best slot WR's in the league (a Bobby Engram type), I think Westbrook fights through injuries and has a nice bounce-back season and Shady McCoy shows we might okay platooning Westbrook. I am worried about the cohesiveness (is that a word, Mom) of the offensive line. I don't believe Stacy Andrews played a live down during the pre-season and I don't believe Shawn Andrews will play more than 3 games for the birds this year (Jon Runyan, please pick-up the white courtesy phone). Will Jason Peters be the pro-bowl tackle he was in Buffalo or the guy who looked a 2-steps behind during the pre-season? Many, many questions on offensive line -- and we haven't even gotten to Michael Vick. From a football perspective, I never liked the Vick signing and I'm not sure how much he contributes. I think he'll get some plays called here and there, but if this guy is getting more than 5 snaps a game, I'm not real happy (and I can't imagine Donovan will be either). Bottom line is that if the offensive line doesn't come together, it doesn't matter who our QB is. Offense begins with your line and the fact that our O-line has not played together and is injury-riddled, leads me to believe this team starts off slow. My two surprise offensive players: Jason Avant & Leonard Weaver.

If you think we have questions on the offensive side of the ball let me introduce you to Sean McDermott, our new defensive coordinator. The passing of Jim Johnson is very sad and cannot be overcome. He was a mastermind and if McDermott is half the coach JJ was, we should be thrilled. Letting Brian Dawkins leave to go to Denver was a horrendous move. Horrendous. I know his skills were eroding, but he still made plays in the run game, he was still a ferocious hitter, a great blitzer and the unquestioned team leader. Thirdly, losing Steward Bradley to a torn ACL completes a horrible off-season for the defense. These three losses are enormous. There is no sugar-coating these. The good news, I think our D-line will be better. I love our front four and believe Chris Clemons, Ty Laws, Jason Babin and Victor Abiamiri (IF he stays healthy) will make our rotation very strong. I think our LB's will be the weakest part of our defense. The loss of Bradly here is crucial. Omar Gaither steps into the middle. Gaither played there two years ago and did a nice job. He's a playmaker, but he's not as big and he can't cover like Bradley can. The secondary looks strong, if you are okay with a 5th round rookie filling Brian Dawkins spot. I applaud the Eagles for going against their beliefs that either Quintin Demps or Sean Jones would be the guy here. This tells me either those guys underperformed or my man Victor "Macho" Harris was too good to keep out of the starting line-up. I'll go with the former. That being said, I think this defense will struggle early and round into shape at the beginning of November. My surprise players: Chris Clemons and Macho Harris.

Special Teams
I think our Special Teams should improve under the tutelage of Ted Dashier who has always been a good ST coach. I'm hoping Sav Rocca continues to improve and David Akers gets back to being the near-automatic kicker he was a few years ago. Our return teams are good. Rookie Jeremy Maclin showed me ZILCH in the preseason as a returner and I really hope we don't use DeSean Jackson back there to further expose him to injury. He's too important to the offense.

Okay, so that's my September view on the Birds. I think we struggle early, play up and down in the middle of the season and come on strong late. I think we finish 10-6, get into the playoffs and lose in the second round. The NFC East is going to be dogfight (insert your poor Michael Vick joke here) and I think the Giants will take the division in a tie breaker. I just believe the losses we've suffered already, along with a HUGE questionmarks on the offensive line are too big to overcome.

The best thing about today is that everyone begins the season with the goal to be playing in the last game of the season. Today, everyone is 0-0 and at 1:00 PM a new journey, a new season, a new story will unfold. E-A-G-L-E-S....EAGLES!!!!

And a special shot of southerfried love to my northeast folks:
B-Train: appreciate the cheesesteak but who stiffed you w/the drinks; the A misses you, man
D-Nice: keep rockin' the Euro fashion; it's gotta be the shoes
E-Rock: wasn't it way past your married man curfew
Laurie: thanks for being our GPS and for putting up with us; did those pics ever come out?
Lev: chew your food thoroughly; wish I could replay your "run" with Chariots of Fire music playing in the background
DA: classic time, classic drive home, appreciate the Foo CD. did they get in touch with you yet???
Balls: I would pay for a ticket to watch a film about a day in your life. I'd probably watch it twice
Money & Feil: sorry we missed ya'll

FYI, Pat's cannot hold Jim's jock...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

An Ode to College Football...

The first Saturday every September is a feeling like none other. No it's not Labor Day, or the rising of the tides, or the smell of my Mom's cooking before a jewish holiday (though that's pretty damn good too). It's the beautiful aroma of college football returning. Hope springs eternal through college campuses around America (at least the 80% of those who give a damn about their football). It's the sound of engines running as the cars start pouring into campus. It's the sound of the crickets chirping as another beautiful morning awakens. It's the smell of portable grills being fired up for the first time in 8-9 months. The sight of the perfectly green grass from a summer's worth of inactivity. It's the scent of Jack & Coke at 10 in the morning (I'm getting frothy mouth just thinking about this). It's seeing the parade of colors to support your team and the optimism that defies reality, yet feels 100% justified. It's the sight of thousands setting up their tents, tailgates, TV's, chairs, packing the coolers, blaring their "fire me up" CDs. It's the band! It's the face of kids younger than you -- and you remarking to your buddies, "man remember when that was us, life was so easy then." It's the throngs of thousands of strangers who suddenly feel like your best friend or your worst enemy. There is absolutely NOTHING in the world like the pageantry & revelry that is college football. And the beauty of opening day is that EVERYONE is undefeated. I love you, college football and I welcome you back with open arms.

As far as my Georgia Bulldogs, we will find out a lot about this team today as we travel to Stillwater to play the gunslingin' Oklahoma State Cowboys, led by Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson. Joe Cox, will finally get his chance, as a Senior, to lead this team to a place that Matthew Stafford never could. Mark Richt will again get the chance to show why his teams play best and he does his best coaching when the odds are stacked against him. First game of the season, on the road, new QB, young team, inexperience on the line, playing an absolutely insane offense -- no wonder everyone thinks the Cowboys are gonna crush us. Not I, said the Southernfried Guy. The Cowboys are explosive, there is no doubt about that. They will get their points, but we will score ours too. Joe Cox has been waiting for this moment for FOUR, long years. He's a better leader than anyone we had last year and I think his skills are good enough. He doesn't have the same gifts as Stafford (the cannon arm, his size) but I think Cox can read a defense better and he will use what he does have to help make the offense better this year. Our O-line is healthy, young and experienced, which is key for any team's offensive success. Part of the problem last year was that Stafford was constantly under pressure and running for his life. Our WR's are all back, with a year of experience under their belts. AJ Green could become an All-American this year. We have added two potential stud WRs in Marlon Brown and Orson Charles. I think Richard Samuel will lead our running backs, and as long as he can hold onto the football we should be fine with him, Carlton Thomas and Caleb King. Honestly, Joe Cox & our offense are the least of my worries.

I worry most about our ability to consistently get pressure on the QB and our secondary. I'm not a big fan of Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez and I'm hoping he can improve dramatically from last season, bc this defense was horrible last year. Getting Justin Houston back is crucial (though it won't be until the 3rd game) and hopefully Rod Battle can continue to show what he showed in Summer camps. Hopefully converted LB Marcus Washington can bring some speed off the edge. The return of Jeff Owens in the middle is key, and I think we have some young talent in the secondary, but Bryan Evans, Prince Miller & Rashard "I'm not 1/2 as good as I thought was last year" Jones concern me.

Time will tell, but for this Saturday in September my friends I have HOPE and OPTIMISM. Not so much that we'll be national title hunt or playing for a national championship (relax, Summer I won't be making our new year's plans in Pasadena yet). However, I do think the Dawgs will win 10 games this year and compete for the SEC title. Again, we have a good mix of vets and young guys who can play, and a coach who thrives on doing what people say he and his team cannot do.

Crazy? Maybe. Optimistic? Absolutely. Ready for college football? I can smell the grills and bourbon now! How bout' dem Dawgs!