Sportsattitudes NFL Power Rankings Not At The Quarter Pole

Finishing Post

Since all NFL squads have played a quarter of their scheduled games aside from the Patriots and Titans who had last week off… and admittedly there are fans in Miami who will tell you the Dolphins took last week off as well (but I digress)…we are now at the quarter pole of the season.

Or not.

“Nobody knows what the quarter pole is. Unless the people who are said to have reached the quarter pole are standing next to an individual who has somehow determined that he or she is exactly 25 percent Polish than I’m afraid these common quarter pole references are 100 percent inaccurate. It’s a borrowed and abused horse-racing term, the quarter pole, describing an actual, physical, vertical post sometimes painted red or purple at the top, signifying the spot on the race track at which two furlongs remain before the finish line, two furlongs being a quarter mile. If there were a figurative quarter pole to the NFL season it wouldn’t be now, it would be somewhere in December.” – Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Rankings:

  1. New England – People talking about Belichick/Brady’s team-on-a-mission running the table. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s worst scenario.
  2. Green Bay – If they just had a defense to match the offense…well, we say that every year about these Packers don’t we?
  3. Denver – Flip the script from Green Bay. Peyton’s new offense is really struggling…but the Broncos defense is ferocious.
  4. Seattle – Russell Wilson may very well need to be the leading rusher but with Kam Chancellor’s return defense is stout again.
  5. Arizona – If Carson Palmer stays upright these Cardinals are going to be all right out in the land of “God’s Waiting Room.”
  6. Atlanta – The problems in Atlanta in recent years have been at running back and on defense. Consider these problems solved.
  7. Cincinnati – It doesn’t matter where I rank the Bengals because Marvin Lewis will eventually find a way to screw them up.
  8. Carolina – Cam Newton can’t keep playing all eleven positions on offense forever can he?
  9. New York Jets – I can’t explain this.
  10. New York Giants – I can’t explain this either.
  11. Pittsburgh – Defense obviously has to heal before Roethlisberger does…but the offense/special teams were the culprit last week.
  12. St. Louis – Jeff Fisher may very well save his job for another season even if he can’t save the Rams from moving out to L.A.
  13. Indianapolis – Andrew Luck has to heal quick and then stop giving the ball away at every turn. D needs to start getting turnovers.
  14. Dallas – Their ranking probably is a little bit high but I do feel a need to give so many kudos to the best M.A.S.H. unit in the NFL.
  15. Buffalo – If Rex Ryan ever, ever learns that penalties hurt your football team the Bills might very well be on to something.
  16. Oakland – Flashes of life coming from the other side of the Bay. That Golden State Warriors vibe is rubbing off on them.
  17. Minnesota – Adrian Peterson has finally answered the call. Paging Teddy Bridgewater. Purple courtesy phone.
  18. San Diego – Philip Rivers has the biggest heart of any quarterback in the game. He is worth a couple wins a year himself. They’ll need those for sure this season.
  19. Baltimore – The Ravens were gifted by Pittsburgh last week. In the next two weeks…a shot to get back to .500…best take advantage.
  20. Washington – They apparently aren’t changing either the nickname or their starting quarterback. Win over Eagles showed some grit.
  21. Philadelphia – Andy Reid could never make adjustments here. Chip Kelly better start or he’ll be elsewhere also.
  22. Kansas City –  Defense has taken a leave-of-absence and now Andy Reid needs to adjust. Uh-oh.
  23. New Orleans – They barely won a game against a banged-up Dallas and everyone thinks they’re OK? Really?
  24. Houston – Arian Foster has to heal and heal fast. If not…J.J. Watt is their best option to play quarterback.
  25. Tennessee – Marcus Mariota making Chip Kelly weep at night. Philadelphians picture him in an Eagles uni daily.
  26. Detroit – This team should not be winless. America only asks that each year the Lions are competitive on Thanksgiving Day.
  27. Jacksonville – Gus Bradley is the head coach I wanted here in Philly. I still do. I am not alone.
  28. Cleveland – I like the new uniforms. My wife does not. She still demands a logo. Honey, they’re the BROWNS.
  29. Chicago – It’s all in Jay Cutler’s hands now. (Dear God what did I just type…?)
  30. Tampa Bay – Will they ever win another game in Tampa? Note to those Saint-lovers – do you recall the Bucs beating you?
  31. Miami – Potential is the most dreaded word in sports. Miami has potential. That’s why Joe Philbin was fired this week.
  32. San Francisco – We knew it would be bad when just about everyone on last year’s team retired or relocated. It is. Bad.
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The 2015 Joe Shlabotnik Award – Major League Baseball’s Bad, Worse And Worst

(Image Credit

Back in 2012 I first invoked the name here of one Joe Shlabotnik.

For the uninitiated Joe is a fictional baseball player who is Charlie Brown’s favorite.

This year I’ve decided to give out an Award to a Major League Baseball team, player, situation, etc. best reflecting the “achievements” of Joe Shlabotnik. Some of which I highlight below:

  1. Joe was demoted to the minors after hitting .004 over an entire season. The one hit was a bloop single…with his team comfortably ahead.
  2. Joe once promised to hit a homer in the bottom of the ninth. He popped out…but circled the bases anyway.
  3. Joe had a unique knack for making routine flies into spectacular catches as well as throwing out base runners…that had fallen between first and second.
  4. Joe retired as an active player and took a job managing the Waffletown Syrups. He was fired after one game for calling a squeeze play…with no one on.

Charlie Brown never has gotten to meet his hero Joe Shlabotnik. He was supposed to meet Joe at a sports banquet where kids met their idols but Joe had unfortunately marked the day, city…and even the event…incorrectly on his calendar. And when Joe was invited to a testimonial dinner for Charlie Brown…he got lost on the way there.

Every year in Major League Baseball someone or something screws up badly. Without further delay let me introduce my three finalists for the 2015 Shlabotnik…

The Philadelphia Phillies. They are on the verge of achieving 100 losses. This would be Philadelphia’s first 100-loss campaign since 1961. Keep in mind the Phils are still the ONLY franchise in American sports with more than 10,000 losses…so it is unusual they’ve only had fourteen seasons with that many defeats. They can’t even get to the century mark consistently. In any event you have a squad this season that collectively has certainly been a roster full of…Joes. Enough said.

The Washington Nationals.  An organization melting down like the candle you once left burning and almost burnt your house down. Entering the season as a favorite for the World Series your lasting image of the Nationals from this year will be their closer choking their MVP-candidate in their dugout. Interestingly the choker, closer Jonathan Papelbon, started the year with the above-mentioned star-crossed Phillies. After spending the entire season openly asking for a trade and then using the forum of a national press at the All-Star Game to completely humiliate the Phillies further (if that is even possible)…the Phillies found a taker for this human plague…the Nationals. Washington promptly demoted their effective incumbent closer Drew Storen to a set-up role…which apparently splintered their clubhouse (the Nationals were leading the NL East when Jonathan arrived)…their play plummeted and the curtain came down with Papelbon trying to strangle the life out of fan-favorite Bryce Harper because that’s just what Jonathan Papelbon does. Whatever the hell he feels like. On top of all this Manager Matt Williams inexplicably put Jonathan back in the game after his choke hold and Papelbon promptly choked away the game…to of all teams…the Phillies.

Oh. It was Fan Appreciation Day in Washington.

The Win-Or-Go-Home Wild Card Games.  There is no topic that sends me screaming into the streets like this one. I will rant about it every year until it goes away and teams deemed to have made the post-season get to play in a series…like the whole freaking sport is set up for. These one-and-done Wild Card Games…yeah, let’s play 162 over half a year and then say four teams make the post-season…then eliminate two before game programs can be printed up. The fallout from these frantic four setting up their pitching rotations and then burning through their rosters just to win one game…then leaving themselves exposed going into an actual series a day or two later? Really? I don’t want to hear how well Wild Card teams have done because then you bring forth the even bigger question of bringing more and more teams into contention. Is there true importance in those six months of regular season or not? How true a Major League Baseball champion do you desire? Baseball purists let armored trucks carrying all that TV dough responsible for these atrocities run right over them. It would be my pleasure to serve as a run-over martyr if the end result was all teams that make the post-season get to experience it for more than a few hours. I’ll gladly trade the expanded number of teams as long as they get a chance to play a series…even a best-of-three. These all-or-nothing games are absurd and their very existence is a long fly ball against the wind carrying the spirit and soul of baseball itself.

All of the candidates are truly worthy but the winner of the 2015 Shlabotnik is The Win-Or-Go-Home Wild Card Games. I don’t know if anyone or anything can ever top them…but the best of luck to all teams entering post-season play regardless.

I’ll try not to blink and miss two of ya.


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7 Things NFL Fans Might Consider With London Calling (Including Pitch For Premier League)

As the National Football League continues to make noise about housing a full-time team in London and indeed begins another round of “road games” there this weekend…while recently becoming a Premier League fan as well…a few things come to mind if you plan to follow both. Keep in mind it is entirely possible if the NFL lands in London for keeps some of these items might become the lay of the land for fans.

  1. One thing NFL fans should look for if they locate a team in London is the NFL Players Union bargaining for getting those ultra-cool seats the Premier League players sit in during matches (games). While NFL subs are relegated to the most uncomfortable of benches these Premier reserves sit in “chairs” nicer than anything you’ll ever find in first class of Qatar Airways. If I was a sub on a Premier League team and it was late in the action…with the result not in doubt…my coaches would be prying my hands and arms off my seat to try and get me into that match.
  2. One thing all NFL fans should demand of all games in London is to have both teams…and by extension of course their Head Coaches…on the same sideline (touchline). Many a Premier League match has been livened up by the Managers physically having at it…shoving and cursing each other out in full view of a national audience. It makes for great television. My mind reels at the possibilities of potential NFL dust-ups between Head Coaches within a few feet of each other…let alone the players.
  3. One thing all NFL fans need to understand if sampling the Premier League is your bathroom timing needs to be spot-on. Americans make fun of round-ball football not having a lot of goals but it is a known fact when Americans try to take a bathroom break during Premier League play a goal will be scored. Remember the NFL has a penalty or a commercial every fifteen seconds or so and the pace…of play…is…sluggish. The Premier League requires you maintain a full bladder for at least forty-five minutes in a half…and don’t forget there’s stoppage time added on too. (I wonder if they call it stoppage time because…nah.)
  4. One thing all NFL fans will quickly recognize is our “catch” is the Premier League’s “offside.” Which is a politically correct way of saying even after all these decades of playing both sports the NFL still does not know what a catch is…and the Premier League doesn’t know what offside is. Don’t get me wrong. This makes for great, spirited conversation in bars and pubs as fans see the same play happen…yet two different verdicts are determined. You just need to be aware it is not unique for the NFL after all of these seasons to not know what one of the most basic calls in their sport should be…the Premier League alas suffers the same fate.
  5. One thing all NFL fans should harass their TV partners to provide is a studio host who knows their sport as well as NBC’s Rebecca Lowe knows hers. It’s like an extra analyst on the set when she’s managing the daily Premier League coverage. The NFL should have studio hosts who don’t insist on concentrating to appear clever while not concentrating on their cues, mangling game highlights and adding absolutely nothing to the analysis of anything. Lowe should get paid twice her salary because she not only manages the flow of the pre, mid and post-match Premier League shows but actually contributes strategy and stories effortlessly. And at that her studio analysts are former players who sound way, way more dialed-in to their sport’s strategy than the talking head former players the NFL networks trot out.
  6. One thing all NFL fans should get used to is electronic messaging along the touchlines at Premier League games. In one of the first games I saw this season it was very, very early in the morning (you do know there’s a bit of a time zone issue…) and I was still groggy. The next thing you know I’m yelling to my wife (who at that point woke up)…“there’s a deer on the pitch! (field).” Turned out it was only the electric signage surrounding the playing area and within the ad currently playing for Vitality Life Insurance was a dachshund. I swore it was a deer. These messages are very close to the action and you’ll see them changing regularly. And at eight in the morning…you might mistake a dog for a deer…for real.
  7. One thing all NFL fans should know is as quickly as we like to talk about firing our Head Coaches the fans of the Premier League jump at the opportunity even faster to sack (fire) their Managers. The NFL fan seems to rise and fall pretty hard from one week to the next but tends to give the team’s Head Coach a quarter of a season to sort things out. It seems Premier League fans are ready to remove Managers at halftime. The season in the Premier League is twice as long but the patience of the fans seems to be twice as short. The pressure to win is high in pro sports but perhaps these two Leagues lead the way in sending Head Coaches/Managers on their way.

To all NFL fans I say this…do give the Premier League a go whether or not a London franchise is a go. Their season runs into mid-May and once the Super Bowl is over you’ll likely find it habit-forming in the morning.

Just make sure you’re fully awake before watching (my wife made me put that disclaimer in…).

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2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers Season Preview – Another Year Of Waiting Awaits

The new 3-on-3 overtime format being used by the NHL this upcoming season is dramatically going to reduce the number of shootouts.

My idea to reduce them would be to eliminate the damn things. I’m so old-school. I like ties. I wear them.

That old-school mentality has been challenged as well by my hometown Philadelphia Flyers as they begin preparation for the 2015-16 campaign. New Head Coach Dave Hakstol takes the reins of a team forty years removed from their last Stanley Cup. The 47-year-old Hakstol comes to Philly after a wildly successful stint as head coach at the University of North Dakota, reaching the Frozen Four in seven of his eleven years. Definitely not an old-school hire like we’re used to seeing in the NHL…a guy who has already been a HC elsewhere in the League…maybe even more than one stop at that.

Dave inherits perhaps the league’s best winger, Jakub Voracek (resigned in the summer for 8 years, $66 million) as well as star center Claude Giroux (Captain) and winger Wayne Simmonds.

But the Flyers finished 14 points outside the playoffs last year. And they have not missed a Cup run in consecutive seasons since a period of five absences from 1989 to 1994. So there is an immediate sense of urgency for Hakstol to not only prove he can make the transition to coaching pro skaters but also skate the team back into the post-season.

Philadelphia actually has missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons. What they aren’t missing is fans. One thing that may have helped Hakstol in deciding to accept the HC job here is the supportive, patient to a fault fan base (including yours truly). The Flyers have sold over 16,000 seats for each game already. Philadelphia averaged 19,271 fans per home game last year which placed them fourth overall of the thirty NHL teams.

Again…a city forty years removed from their last Stanley Cup.

Based on input from those witnessing his practices now underway…welcome to “Camp Agony.” Dave has been working the boys very hard from all reports. That shows this writer Dave Hakstol has confidence in himself and also wants to establish a culture of competition from the jump.

(Independent Sports Blogger Dubsism knows more about college hockey than anyone I know and he released a podcast on Hakstol’s hiring which discusses Dave’s prospects for success at the NHL level…he also recently interviewed me about my history with the Flyers)

General Manager Ron Hextall has of course put his own future in play by not hiring a traditional type to steer the Flyers. Several pundits look for him to make an attempt for a major trade before the season gets well underway because the current roster looks very, very much like last season’s. They went 33-31-18 a year ago and if Ron thinks the same team can best that many believe he’s mistaken. There isn’t a lot of star-level talent…and even less depth.

The defense is the weakest part of this team in my view. Lots of prospects are in camp but potential doesn’t stop pucks.  There are young bodies vying for playing time but it remains to be seen if any of them rise to the occasion.  When your best defender is 38 years of age (Mark Streit) that’s an issue.

Steve Mason is fortunately a spectacular net minder and if he stays healthy they’re going to be in many games they otherwise wouldn’t be. Mason comes off the best season of his career. Not a single NHL goaltender posted a better 5-on-5 save percentage last season than Steve.

Bottom line – I think the Flyers will have a slippery skate trying to make the playoffs.  If they do they’re out in Round One. A full year under Hakstol will hopefully make next season more memorable providing Philly also shores up two D’s between now and then…defense…and depth.

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Cowboys 20, Eagles 10 – In Philadelphia Today It’s Cloudy With A 12% Chance For Chip

Dumpster fire

A metric that barely moves the needle as each year passes…but for all NFL fans gets re-hammered into our brains repeatedly as the leaves begin to turn color. So let me pull out the hammer from the tool belt…

Teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs 12% of the time.

Fox TV analyst Troy Aikman moments after the fourth quarter began of yesterday’s debacle:

“This is one of the most bizarre games I have ever watched.”

Aikman with just under ten minutes left:

“This has been a terrible game to watch.”

The phrase most often uttered in Philadelphia this morning is “dumpster fire.”

Dumpsters hold trash in place. Lincoln Financial Field is now officially in the Guinness Book Of World Records for being the largest one-day dumpster in history after the Eagles’ 20-10 loss to the arch-rival Cowboys.

They say even with the greatest football head coaches in place it really comes down to having players. After all head coaches aren’t giving up sacks, throwing balls over receiver’s heads, not blocking, covering or tackling, committing penalties, etc.

But head coaches who also demand responsibility for selecting the players on their roster as well as their subsequent placement on the field are indeed responsible for a great deal of the final product.

In a game where Dallas entered without Dez Bryant and left without Tony Romo…and did nothing particularly well except dominate the spirited committing of penalties competition…they also won.

I was tempted to just put an image of a hazmat label on this entry with no text at all but a couple of craptastic stats oozing from the Philadelphia offense (in some cases combined with the opener in Atlanta) are worth noting:

In the first half the Eagles offense gained twenty-one total yards. That is the lowest total in the first half by any NFL team since the St. Louis Rams in 2013. The quarterback? Sam Bradford.

For a running back with thirteen or more carries in a game DeMarco Murray tied for the fourth-worst performance of any NFL runner since 1960. Thirteen carries. Two yards.

The number of rushing yards Sam Bradford was credited with yesterday was nine. The number of rushing yards the three Eagles running backs was credited with yesterday was minus two.

Philadelphia has turned the ball over five times in their first two games now. A pace for forty. And that would be four more than last year when they led the NFL in giveaways.

On their first four possessions in their first two games this season the Eagles have gained 57 yards on 29 plays with three first downs. They converted only two of eleven third downs yesterday…five of twenty-three for the year.

The Eagles’ defense played hard. They were on the field for forty minutes.

The Eagles’ offense yesterday was as bad as any I recall…and that’s a half-a-century people.

This all lands at the desk of the alleged offensive guru Chip Kelly. Sam Bradford looks like every deer that has sadly ever faced a set of headlights. Once the ball is snapped for a run play the Eagles’ offensive line collectively looks like it has been run over by anything with headlights. The young receiving corps is playing…young. Maybe they are just in shock when Bradford gets the ball to them…but they are not only dropping passes but no one can make a clutch catch when needed.

You flipped the roster Chip. This team is in your image. And your image in this town will only survive this season because of the future prospectus of the NFC Least. The Giants refuse to accept victory at any cost. The Redskins are…the Redskins. And the Cowboys now have to find a way without both Bryant and Romo.

On the NBC TV pre-game show for Sunday Night Football both studio analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison were asked which 0-2 team do you still believe in?

They both said the Eagles.

Two guys lucky enough to not have seen this game.

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Falcons 26, Eagles 24 – 7 Stages Of Grief

Super Bowl ticket sales have admittedly slumped a bit this morning in Philly…

  1. Shock & Denial – Eagles fans are numb this morning. This was supposed to be a rout. This was put in the Win column during halftime of the third pre-season game in Green Bay when the Super Bowl was clearly where Philly was destined after a few series of ripping apart the Packers’ defense.
  2. Pain & Guilt – The reality is the Birds are now 0-1. If you are what your record is Philly is no better than the New York Giants or the Washington Redskins in their own division…and a game behind the dreaded Dallas Cowboys (who come to Philadelphia next week).
  3. Anger & Bargaining – There are so many things to be hissed off about it’s hard to know where to begin. Getting completely outplayed in the first half by a team with a patchwork offensive line…only part of a larger overhaul of their entire roster and a brand new coaching staff. Watching Sam Bradford drop back over fifty times with those frail legs while DeMarco Murray’s image was being readied for a milk carton. (It has been reported Bradford had a precautionary x-ray taken after the game for an ankle…Murray was eventually found safe) Falcons’ star WR Julio Jones being continually (not) covered one-on-one. The missed field goal attempt at game’s end by a kicker who HC Chip Kelly assured all was fine going into the season. Not. Fine.
  4. Depression – The Eagles called pass on 24 of their first 29 plays. This looks a little like last season. What doesn’t look as familiar is the offensive line couldn’t run or pass block Atlanta defenders very well. They did hold Falcons exceptionally well. Philly gave up over 70 plays last year of 20 yards or more. They’re on track to match that. Who’s going to kick this week?
  5. The Upward Turn – The Eagles looked at times in the second half like the Super Bowl contender we all thought they were. The play-calling was spot on on offense and the defense made some big plays to keep Atlanta from a much bigger win. NFL offenses often take a couple of games to settle in and, whether it was the right thing to do or not, Philly’s offense rarely was all on the field throughout the pre-season. They were working out the kinks in the first half.
  6. Reconstruction & Working Through – Dallas will not have Dez Bryant and they had their opening day gifted to them by the Giants. The fans in Philadelphia will be fired up for the home opener against their arch-rival.
  7. Acceptance & Hope – This is one of sixteen contests the Eagles will play this season. Disposing of the despised Cowboys gets them to .500. The clunker is out of the way and the flashes of brilliance in the second half are the real Eagles. Hopefully the offensive line and defensive secondary will improve as everyone continues to introduce themselves to one another. The Eagles’ roster was overhauled by Kelly in a big way in the off-season. This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Philly is still poised for a lengthy run.
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What Do Notre Dame, The St. Louis Rams And The Dallas Cowboys All Have in Common?


These football teams benefited greatly from decisions made – and not made – by opposing head coaches this past weekend.

In Charlottesville VA Saturday afternoon a gutsy Virginia Cavaliers squad had knocked ninth-ranked Notre Dame’s QB Malik Zaire from the game and stormed back to find themselves with the ball…first-and-goal just outside the Irish’s goal line…with less than two minutes remaining down only 26-21.

This writer has always felt in situations when you are playing a team you would lose to nine of ten times…if not all ten…and you have them on the ropes you do ANYTHING possible to give them the ball back with as little time possible. The Irish had timeouts on their side if not their starting signal-caller. Notre Dame has better athletes. Yet Virginia had played solid football and was blessed with an opportunity for a huge, program-defining upset.

And they scored a touchdown on the very next play.

Which of course meant Notre Dame eventually captured a 34-27 win.

If I’m running Virginia’s sideline instead of HC Mike London I’m snapping that ball and having my QB fall forward ever so slightly…not scoring. Clock running. Irish now face burning a timeout or letting precious time slip away. Make Notre Dame make a critical decision. Virginia would still have three downs to score a TD ultimately better served being scored as close to the final gun as possible. Maybe even run a second no-advance play. Never, ever give the better team the ball back with time outs and time no matter if their mascot is playing quarterback. The underdog has to manage the clock and manage to get as much time off of it…or force the favorite to lose some ability to stop it later. The gift of time and the ability to manage it better had been given to Notre Dame. And a leprechaun wasn’t playing quarterback for the Irish. DeShone Kizer was.

In St. Louis MO Sunday afternoon the Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks found themselves kicking off to start overtime after battling the upstart, inspired St, Louis Rams to a 31-all draw in regulation. Seattle decided to kick off the extra session…with an onside kick.

Seahawks HC Pete Carroll apparently is not satisfied with his current reputation of being the worst play-caller alive (you might recall the Super Bowl…).

And then Carroll had the nerve to gutlessly put the blame on kicker Steven Hauschka for mishitting it. He said he wanted the ball to go farther. Since you’re the superior team Pete…maybe kick it all the way down the field?  How about that for farther?

The Rams proceeded to kick a field goal with the gift of a shortened field. They then held the Seahawks on their OT possession…ironically ending the game stuffing a play Carroll SHOULD have called at the end of the Super Bowl…a quick hand off to RB Marshawn Lynch. Then again…if the Rams stopped Lynch maybe the Patriots would have?


In Dallas TX Sunday night the New York Giants and their QB Eli Manning found themselves at the Dallas Cowboys’ goal line with less than two minutes left and the lead, 23-20.  The Giants’ checklist as follows…

Throw pass out of bounds to stop the clock on third down. Check.

Kick field goal on fourth down to go up 26-20. Check.

Lose game 27-26. Check.

Giants HC Tom Coughlin wasn’t the guy who threw the ball out of bounds on third down. But why pass…to put the game away? OK…then why not go for it on fourth down to either ice the game or force the Cowboys to start a final possession essentially from their end zone?

Another gridiron gift.

They say it’s not the gift that counts as much as all the thought behind it.

Not so much thought on these…

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NFL Week One – Sportsattitudes On Cheating, Coverage, Cheering And Chip

new direction

1, By now you have likely heard the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff had trouble hearing each other during the early part of last night’s NFL opener at New England. Yes, New England. The very last place the league needed to have a sidelines communications incident after seven months of cheating accusations against the Patriots. Many writers have correctly noted each game New England wins between now and say…the end of days…will be scrutinized and analyzed by conspiracy theorists world-wide. So be it. Each of us can choose to ignore or investigate. The only thing that annoys me at this point is the defense of some of the current and former Patriots who claim with success comes this kind of scrutiny. “People are just jealous when you’re as good as us.” Bull. There have been dynasties in football as well as other sports and I can’t recall the main focus of hating on them being cheating. Sure there’s jealousy. But because the teams were good. Period. This line of defense only serves to make the New England organization and its fans look worse. Maybe…MAYBE…you’d buy yourselves a hair less scrutiny if you were not so damn defensive and also kept throwing out this tired “we’re just so good it comes with the territory” line.

2. It really didn’t matter if Pittsburgh had issues with their communications during the game because they clearly had communication issues before the game. A couple of Steelers indicated earlier in the week they would “get hands” on Rob Gronkowski. Based on what I saw last night they meant shaking hands with him post-game after he torched them time and again. Rob wasn’t just open, he was uncovered. I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s plan was on defense but covering Gronkowski was not part of it. Five catches, 94 yards, three TD’s. Patriots, 28-21.

3. Fans here in Philadelphia are so crazed about the upcoming season it has reached epidemic proportions. If you cover the team and don’t predict at least ten wins torches and pitchforks are headed your way. The local media has capitulated but there are so many asterisks and disclaimers within. Locals are always fired up for the start of football here and the fire of optimism is always white-hot. But this is truly like nothing I’ve seen if you look at all the what could be’s ratio to the what if’s. John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News offered every offseason somebody in the NFL replaces a starting QB, others their star runner…and others their lead receiver. Who does that all at once when the goal is – the very next year – the Super Bowl? The new QB is coming off consecutive acronym tears…so shaky St. Louis wasn’t willing to roll the dice with him anymore. The new RB is coming off a great, workhorse season with the Eagles’ main division rival but also has an injury history. The receiving corps is now headed up by a second-year player and a rookie. Two vets on the offensive line were sent packing. The defense is in some ways more of an unknown than the offense. The front line is stout but the linebackers feature injury and wear-tear questions. It is the secondary that will likely be only as good as that front line getting to the QB. The nickel DB some thought was the best at his position last year was inexplicably sent away in the pre-season apparently because he wanted to play every down. You would think you’d want that kind of want. What you probably don’t want is a career corner learning how to play safety on the job…but that’s part of the plan here. Cautious optimism I have for the Eagles. Cheer I will.

4. Chip Kelly has – as noted above – played his hand not only on the 2015 Eagles season but future ones.  He was given the ability to bet the future of the franchise after deciding winning twenty games in two seasons was not making progress. Indeed it now isn’t enough to win another ten games this year. We’re championship-driven in this town and starving for a Super Bowl. All of these changes certainly mean that is Kelly’s lone goal also. Chip pushing so many chips to the center of the table at once is indeed as high-risk, high-reward as it gets in the NFL.

I try to stay out of the prediction biz but I can’t help myself here…call it 10-6 with an NFC East championship and a playoff win.

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ESPN On The Money This Week

ESPN has had quite the week with the National Football League, their “hometown” New England Patriots, the NCAA and the people who (for now) run college football…presidents and athletic directors.

I don’t like ESPN for many reasons. But in the last couple of days they’ve had a couple of moments worth mentioning…

Obviously the lead item is the Spygate bombshell our friends in Bristol dropped after we thought Deflategate was put to bed. The ink wasn’t even dry on the decree Tom Brady should serve no time for soft balls when the Worldwide Leader whipped out a telling tale of an NFL Commissioner who, if half of what is within the report is true, should be fired. The story also threw the bus in reverse just removed off the Patriots’ reputation and backed over them again…and again…and again.

What you may not have seen or heard is during ESPN’s coverage of college football this past weekend they talked about point spreads of games. A lot. So much so they made themselves newsworthy in a USA Today column this week titled “ESPN’s Betting-Friendly Tack Ruffles Feathers.”

The American Gaming Association issued a release Wednesday estimating America will bet $95 billion on NFL and college football games this year.

Less than four percent of the money will likely be bet legally.

A quote instantly headed for induction into the Understatement Hall Of Fame from the President/CEO of the Association, Geoff Freeman:

“Illegal sports betting is reaching new heights of popularity in America.  It’s clear that a federal ban on traditional sports betting outside of Nevada is failing.”

Somehow the courts have ruled betting on fantasy football is OK. I haven’t figured that out. Neither has anyone else apparently. ESPN’s parent (Walt Disney himself) agreed earlier in 2015 to invest $250 million in DraftKings, a fantasy sports site…but then backed out…presumably because it resembles gambling. That being said they had no problem taking several hundred million dollars from DraftKings for advertising over the next couple of years. And that may be a problem for some…

In the USA Today story the Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference said their TV contracts prohibit advertisements for gambling other than state lotteries. However…their television partners (cue ESPN) asserted fantasy sports are not gambling.


Meanwhile the NCAA (yes they’re still around) has “Don’t Bet On It” as one of their most prominent messages out there for colleges and universities to abide by.

But fantasy sports aside the bigger conundrum for schools right now is the reality of ESPN yelling “COVER ALERT” this past weekend when a team scored during a game and made the Vegas line on said game “more interesting.”

ESPN is a key driver of the NFL’s glitter and glamour but has to also periodically present some form of investigative integrity by showing how their sausage is made… and is almost big enough at this point they can control college football outright no matter who cries foul. This past week they threw their sizable weight around presenting a glimpse behind the scenes of the National Football League during a time when the Patriots actually admitted cheating…and also dealt both pro and college football leaders a heaping dose of gambling reality no matter how bitter the taste.

Americans have quite a taste for betting on sports.

And that’s no fantasy.

Posted in College Football, Fantasy Football, Football, Media, NCAA, News, NFL, Pro Football, Sports, Television, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

An Open (And Shut) Letter To Philadelphia Phillies Management

Dear Philadelphia Phillies Management:

First off I would have addressed this letter specifically to the decision-maker within the organization…if I could figure that out.

Even with the hiring of Andy MacPhail back on June 29th we fans remain uncertain who actually is calling the shots behind your shut curtain of secrecy Phillies fans have come to rely on much like you do…clutching it tighter than Linus van Pelt holds his blanket in the comic strip “Peanuts.”  

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(Image Credit

Linus has a younger brother…name of Rerun. That pretty much describes the current state of the franchise.  Four straight non-winning seasons.  And to top it off…the worst record in baseball as of this writing.

The management style of the organization has, since its World Championship back in 2008, been one of quiet contemplation from what we have all seen. That is…those of us still aiming for a view.

Last evening only 15,125 folks were allegedly viewing the team at Citizens Bank Park – the lowest announced attendance…ever.

The rest of this September portends to be much of the same.

Talk radio is suggesting more Phillies fans were at Fenway Park in Boston over the past weekend than at our park last night. We fans didn’t see that coming.

What we fans did see coming – shut curtain or not – was the combustible combination of an aging team with a farm system that never grew adequate replacements. What we fans all imagine seeing is you huddled behind that shut curtain with fingers and toes crossed…hoping somehow a handful of veterans in decline would turn back time…and buy you time…without buying any solutions.

My mother became a huge Phillies fan a few years ago after retirement.  Watched every game on TV.  She passed away last November. But I assure you she is still watching.

She, I…all of us…want to know if you have a plan yet.

We are just as curious who will be executing that plan.  A new GM?  A new Manager?

David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a brilliant piece in today’s edition titled “Inertia In Action.”

That sums it up.  Rock bottom hasn’t been hit yet on that attendance mark…but it has as far as our patience waiting for someone, anyone to fix this franchise.  Your silence is pompous. Your lack of visible concern is arrogant.

For Phillies fans near…and far…draw back the curtain and show us what you have drawn up towards this team once again being a winner.

Only one of you need reply…


Posted in Baseball, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Pro Baseball, Pro Sports, Sports | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

NFL “Concussion” Movie “Gift”…And The Gift Of Life


You likely have already heard Sony’s cinematic release of the football drama “Concussion” is scheduled to open on Christmas Day.

It is most certainly not a gift for the sport of football in general…and specifically for the National Football League. The Will Smith movie is billed as a fact-based film about the NFL’s attempts to cover up chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) being a potential epidemic among former and current players.

What you may not have heard is The Hollywood Reporter recently reported there was at least one full scene cut from the final version deemed too close to the line of liability. This news comes on the heels of some hacked internal studio emails suggesting Sony further softened the film to avoid conflicts with the league.

If Sony wanted to avoid a conflict with the NFL the only way would to not have made the film in the first place.  It is not a present the NFL wants unwrapped at all.

A present worth letting you know about is being given just down the road from me at Villanova University.  You may have heard of Villanova more for basketball than football because they do not participate in “big-time” college football.  One division down…but no less passionate in pursuit of perfection.  They often are in the hunt for the title at their level of competition.

Tonight the Wildcats open their season against the University of Connecticut.  One of their star players on the field will be 6-6, 300 pound junior offensive lineman Jake Prus.  He is a big man.  But the biggest part of him is his heart according to a story by Andrew Albert of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Villanova’s long-time head football coach Andy Talley has asked players coming into his program to participate in the bone-marrow registry program.  In 20 years only four players have matched.  Turns out Prus is one of them.  The last Wildcat to actually donate was multi-talented, MVP and current Chicago Cub Matt Szczur who had his procedure done after Villanova’s FCS national championship in 2009.  Szczur’s cells saved a young girl’s life in Israel.

Prus’ donation was originally planned for earlier in the year but the patient waiting for his cells was not healthy enough to receive them until now…during the football season.

Jake Prus will play football tonight and then begin the process to be ready for the procedure, which includes medications and injections each day.  He will likely miss at least three of the team’s games.

A pre-med student, Prus has an additional interest in pursuing giving this gift of life to another human being.  And that interest has obviously always been above playing the game of football…which he surely loves as well.

Indeed VIllanova’s pursuit of another national championship may be compromised by his absence.  But a life is currently compromised and something can be done to save it.

Football has its good moments too. Sony should make a movie about Jake Prus and all the good Villanova University is doing trying to give the gift of life.

I doubt you’d need to cut any scenes.

Posted in Entertainment, Health, Life, Movies, NFL, Sports, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry

Our title comes via the poet and lyricist Robert Burns (whom my father either was or was not named after).

I offer it in lieu of making predictions on the upcoming college and pro football seasons of our American football (I guess I have to qualify that now that I’ve come out of the closet as a fan of what the rest of the world knows as football).

Especially in our football…things go horribly wrong when said ball is kicked off and players start the sixty minute mash-up of brains and bodies. As former Philadelphia Eagle Hollis Thomas said on local radio yesterday success in the game comes down to one, highly-unpredictable word.  Health.

In Mixed Martial Arts you know who is coming at you and they blow the whistle once you cannot defend yourself.  In football you often don’t know where everyone is who is coming at you and the whistle blows after the play is deemed over…whether you are “over” or not depends on how fortunate you were.

This writer doesn’t have to make predictions because I can look foolish in many other ways to my readers. I don’t have to accelerate the process by trying to fortune-tell who will survive the weekly grind that is football.

So…for those brave enough to venture into the world of prognostication let me leave you with this true story of events eight miles from my home four months ago.  And…it should be noted no one was injured during this life lesson of how the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…

Some background.  Two years ago my wife and I were at the dentist for our six-month check-ups and noticed work had begun across the road (roughly 75 yards away) for an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station.  We had heard the local fire company had outgrown their existing facility in town and was relocating directly across the road from the strip mall shopping center our dentist works out of.  The station under construction already looked quite impressive.  The dentist and her personnel assured us we were far from unique in making jokes about what happens if someone is having a delicate procedure done when those sirens start wailing.  Trips to the dentist are nervy enough without wondering if your nerves…or the dentist’s…will be compromised by the sudden sound to service.  One thing we could all agree on was it was comforting to know if anything ever did happen in the immediate area help was so close you could throw a rock at it. The location in fact made it more flexible for the fire company to get to all the territory they normally cover instead of being in the center of town as currently located.

A great plan all the way around.

You know where this is going…don’t you?

On May 12th our dentist and her personnel stood outside with the other occupants and visitors of ten businesses as they burned. To the ground.

If that mall had an “evacuation area” like companies do it would have been the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station that had been in operation for some time at that point.

There was a fire that erupted across town.  The station dutifully responded to the call and raced its resources to that scene. And the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art fire station across the street from the shopping center was temporarily vacant…as a fire broke out within one of the businesses in the center. The structure was older and did not feature a sprinkler system.

I would suggest sending flowers to the business owners but the fire began in a flower shop.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I watch as much college and pro football as I can and I am fortunate my wife shares my passion for the game (unlike basketball…which is a post for another day). But I don’t claim to be able to predict outcomes…especially before seasons start.

Some of the businesses have already found new office space to relocate to. In fact the pizza shop that was forced to relocate found a great location that will allow them to expand their menu and even offer outdoor seating.

Our dentist is currently looking at a more-spacious property than she previously worked within also.

However…it is a little farther from the fire station.

Posted in Humor, Life, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments