Yeah, I know that the NFL playoff race will come into clearer focus after this weekend's games, but I really don't care. There is only one game that matters, the rest of the slate is nothing more than a filling bunch of Hors d’oeuvres that look nice but really have no nutritional value. Kind of like a little piece of melon wrapped in bacon.
And though everyone loves bacon (and melon), it's better to focus on the main course. It is the holiday season, after all, and it's common for folks to put on a few unwanted pounds from talking themselves into having that bowl of sugary treats at a party.
"Well, it is dark chocolate. That's supposed to be good for you like red wine... right?"
Sure, whatever works.
Anyway, to keep slim and trim as the new year approaches, let's get to the feast:
Eagles plus 7 over Cowboys Seven points? It's like stealing candy from a baby... and I know you have stolen candy from a baby. Shame on you!
ESPN.com's Gare Joyce wrote a really interesting story about long-time Phillies scout Tony Lucadello. Based in Ohio, Lucadello was responsible for signing Mike Schmidt, as well as Ernie Banks for the Cubs during a long career that ended when he mysteriously (and apparently) killed himself in 1989.
It's a fascinating story about a baseball lifer who was unceremoniously dropped by the Phillies when he was 76, which led to his demise.
I would liked to have seen comment from the Phillies in the story, but aside from a few hangers on most of the people from Lucadello's time are gone.
Vacation time. It’s use-the-days-or-lose-them time. It’s also recover from a 16-hour day that was Tuesday when Allen Iverson was finally traded away from the 76ers. Needless to say, there is a bunch of server space that has been impeded upon in the name of delving into the intricacies of the trade.
I’d say trees were killed, too, but we all know that newspapers, in their hardcopy form, are irrelevant.
Apparently, Iverson said he never asked to be traded, which is a unique spin after being inactive for the 76ers for six games. Unless Iverson lives in a cocoon or cave he surely heard the stories saying that he did, indeed, ask for a trade. It’s a wonder he didn’t say anything sooner.
Meanwhile, as a regular traveler to Colorado and parts of the Denver metro area, I’m going to make an easy prediction in saying that Allen Iverson will take over the sporting landscape of that area unlike any other athlete, excluding John Elway, Dan Issel and Frank Shorter. Iverson immediately makes the Nuggets viable in Colorado, which is something. Afterall, the big events out there are Broncos games, track or cycling Olympic Trials when half of Boulder empties out, and the annual Colorado vs. Colorado St. game.
The hard part, as everyone has been writing, will be to get shots for Iverson and leading-scorer Carmelo Anthony. Who knows, perhaps the new dynamic duo will just start playing one-on-one against each other in the middle of games.
Another concern is getting Iverson to practice in the medium altitude in Denver. Then again, he likely won’t have the same distractions in Colorado that he had in Philadelphia. Atlantic City won’t be 45-minutes away, though there are the low-stakes gambling halls in Central City and Blackhawk.
Better yet, forget about Friday’s and Dave & Busters. Just try to keep Iverson off the slopes in Aspen, Vail, Crested Butte or Telluride.
Powder, man… we’re talkin’ ‘bout packed powder.
Of course he can always go up to Boulder and play hacky sack on the Pearl Street Mall, too. Who cares that the team is now being re-nicknamed from Nugs to Thugs… personally, I prefer Carmelo and the Super Sucker (punchers), but that’s me.
So with Iverson gone what are the 76ers going to do to remain in the news? How about an encore for Larry Brown? That’s definitely a unique one. Has Brown ever returned to any of the 274 teams he’s been with during his career? I don’t think so.
Other stuff Apparently there is a big football game on Monday night. What intrigues me the most about the game – other than the fact that it could determine whether the Lancaster Crackers are the PSFL champion or merely the runner-up – is what if it were to be played in Philadelphia like the NFL originally wanted?
Goofin’ off So what does a vacation mean around here? Well, yesterday it meant a 20-mile run that beat me up a little bit. To recover I ate a half gallon of mint chocolate cookie frozen yogurt on top of a chili sauce and tofu with rice dish my wife makes.
Tonight I plan on a modest recovery run since I struggled to run 6:45 pace during the 20-miler, followed by a trip to the haircuttery with our 2-year-old boy and dinner at one of the Japanese restaurants here in town.
Yeah, it’s pretty wild around here.
Later in the week some traveling, movie-viewing and other domesticated tomfoolery is on the agenda. Plus, since a lot of my friends work at home or in offices nearby, I might stop in and bother them.
It seems so long ago that Donovan McNabb went down with his knee injury. Along those lines it seems kind of funny that there was actually a debate over whether or not Jeff Garcia should be the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
It’s funny what a couple of big victories do, huh?
With Garcia at the helm, the Eagles have gone from a team simply playing out the string to one that controls its own destiny in the NFC East. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Christmas night and the Falcons in South Philly on New Year’s Eve, they win the division.
Who would have guessed?
If the Eagles win both of those games and get some help (the Saints lose two games and the Seahawks lose one), they will get a first-round bye in the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. In fact, the Eagles’ PR staff has even e-mailed out the NFC playoff scenarios:
(Before 12/18 Cincinnati-Indianapolis Monday night game) For Week 16
NFC EAST DIVISION Dallas has clinched playoff berth. Dallas can clinch division with: 1DAL win.
Philadelphia can clinch playoff berth with: 1) PHI win, OR 2) PHI tie + NYG loss or tie, OR 3) PHI tie + ATL loss.
New York can clinch playoff berth with: 1) NYG win + MIN loss or tie + ATL loss + PHI win or tie + SEA win or tie, OR 2) NYG win + MIN loss or tie + ATL loss + PHI win or tie + SF loss or tie.
NFC NORTH DIVISION Chicago has clinched homefield advantage.
NFC SOUTH DIVISION New Orleans has clinched division. New Orleans can clinch first-round bye with: 1) NO win + DAL loss.
NFC WEST DIVISION Seattle can clinch division with: 1) SEA win or tie, OR 2) SF loss or tie.
One thing that no one is talking about is the Eagles not making the playoffs even though that possibility is realistic. How goofy is that? Based on the results of the next two games the Eagles could be the divisional champions, a No. 2 seed with a first-round bye in the playoffs, or on the outside looking in.
That's with Jeff Garcia, not Donovan McNabb as the quarterback.
Now here’s the big question:
How in the world did we get here? Didn’t the season end a month ago during that nasty loss to the Titans?
After the crucial victory over the Giants on Sunday, Brian Dawkins said the Eagles’ resurgence was a matter of the team clicking at the right time. Certainly there is no doubt about that. But perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles’ dash for the playoffs has been the team clicking as Dawkins suggested along with Garcia handling the offense.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions I am not suggesting that the Eagles are a better team with Garcia at quarterback instead of McNabb. I’m not smart enough to make that argument. However, I took the time to ask certain folks who spend a lot of their time with the Eagles and other NFL teams whether or not the team’s changed fortunes are simply a matter of the offense doing what it’s supposed to do or if Garcia is playing well.
The consensus is that it’s both with an emphasis on the latter. The Eagles, I’m told (including by CSN.com’s bulldog Eagles’ scribe Andy Schwartz), always had the players to fit the offense. But Garcia, they say, has been really good.
In that regard the numbers don’t lie – Garcia has thrown just one interception (yeah, it was a big one) with nine touchdown passes and nearly a 62 percent completion percentage. Statistically, Garcia compares quite favorably with McNabb excluding the rushing.
In another regard, Garcia lived up to some minor hype in rallying the Eagles past the Giants. Prior to the game, the 36-year-old veteran was the subject of a small feature in The New York Times and just may have resurrected a career that even Garcia thought was on the doorstep of fading into oblivion after uninspiring stops in Cleveland and Detroit.
“I'd started to lose faith in football and having fun like I've been having the last three or four weeks, just making plays and letting loose like I used to when I was younger,” Garcia said after his solid 237-yard performance against the Giants. “A year ago, I wasn't thinking this would happen again. But it's starting to come for us.”
But better than good stats and a feature in the paper of record, Garcia’s teammates have full confidence in him. On Daily News Live, Monday, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter heaped praise on the quarterback noting that he prepared every week as if he was going to start the game even though McNabb was off to a Pro Bowl-caliber start to the season. That’s especially important following a lost 2005 season when McNabb went out with an injury and Mike McMahon was asked to guide the ship. Mix that with the Terrell Owens debacle and the difference between last season and 2006 is as different as night and day, noted sure-bet Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook.
“Last year, we were a team divided. We weren’t together at all. We didn't have a hope,” Westbrook said after Sunday’s game. “This year, when Donovan went down, we rallied. This team is real resilient. Garcia comes in, he doesn't make many mistakes, he runs this offense, he leads the team, and with him back there, we have a chance of winning. That's what we need.”
Garcia, of course, wasn’t around last season. Instead he was playing out the string in Detroit at this time a year ago. Needless to say, the situation in Philadelphia is much better.
“It's just exciting to be able to fight for another week,” Garcia said. “We're just glad to be in a place where we all can live another week.”
Now here’s the craziest part…
Maybe – just maybe – the Eagles can wiggle through the ever-fickle NFC playoffs and get all the way to Miami for a game in early February.
One thing at a time, of course, but then again, crazier things have happened.
This is a big weekend for the NFL. Not only are playoff berths on the line and the balance of power in every division and conference teetering on a thin, fickle line, but also all around the country regular folks like you and me are involved in their fantasy football playoffs.
Here’s an admission – I was never a regular viewer of the NFL until fantasy football came around. In fact, I’m not even a regular watcher now. I follow the stats as they pertain to my fantasy football team, which I’m sure bothers people. The hand wringing and drawback in this, according to some football fans, is that people end up rooting for certain players against their favorite team.
Perhaps I have the luxury of not having a favorite team. Oh sure, I suppose I follow the Eagles closer than the other teams, and I definitely rooted for them when we moved back to Pennsylvania in 1981, but I also liked the Washington Redskins when they had John Riggins and Joe Washington with his single bar helmet. I also liked Mark Moseley’s straight on, toe kicks, though they weren’t as cool as Tony Franklin’s barefoot boots.
The same thing went for baseball, too. When we lived in the D.C. area, we followed the Orioles very closely and rooted for them to win the 1979 World Series. In fact, I was at Memorial Stadium for the final game of the 1982 season in which Robin Yount slugged two homers off Jim Palmer to send the Brewers into the playoffs. Don Sutton pitched for the Brewers that day, and Ben Ogilivie made a tough, sliding catch near us in the left-field corner to ruin an Orioles’ rally and shove the momentum the Brewers’ way.
In 1983, though, we lived in Lancaster and followed the Phillies closely on TV, but when it came time to actually go to a game we opted for Baltimore over the Vet.
Can anyone blame us?
Unfortunately, after ’83 the Phillies and the Orioles started to decline in the standings, which meant I began to follow individual players even more. Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Roger Clemens were big names through the ‘80s.
As a side note, I really liked Larry Bowa and Eddie Murray when I was a kid and was excited to talk to my childhood favorites when I started writing about baseball... and then I met them.
In the 1990s I went to college and don’t recall following any athletes very close at all. Well, I watched every game of the 1993 baseball season, but who didn’t?
Anyway, here’s which teams are going to win this weekend:
Falcons plus 3 ½ over the Cowboys I have the Falcons defense in my fantasy league playoffs. Does it matter that I can’t name a single player on the Falcons other than the quarterback who can’t throw?
Colts minus 3½ over the Bengals Hey! This could be a good game.
Eagles plus 6 over the Giants Initially I thought the Giants would win. But the only reports I’ve seen (or paid attention to) from New York have the Giants talking and bickering too much. Good teams don’t do that.
Panthers PICK Steelers Take the Panthers. Why not?
Whenever I want a good laugh I read my horoscope. Better yet, the astrology stuff that attempts to pinpoint my personality and future based on my birthday are the best. Because I was born on December 10 – like Emily Dickinson, Susan Dey and that big dude from The Green Mile – I’m supposed to be inscrutable and philosophical… or something like that.
Be that as it may, there are a lot of people who take their astrological sign and star charts seriously. In fact, some people treat it as a religion.
Anyway, new Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is a warrior who can face down any difficult situation – like facing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez with no outs and the bases loaded – because his blood type is O.
On another note, I happened to hear former Phillies manager and current Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona, on Dan Patrick’s radio show this afternoon while driving home with my son from his school. During the show, Patrick asked Tito if he anticipates and communication problems with the new, $52 million man who is set to pitch for the Red Sox.
No, Francona, said, adding, “If he wants to go out and pitch seven, eight or nine innings every night, I can pat him on the butt in any language.”
Factoid This is from sometime ComcastSportsNet.com contributor and former “Best Damn Sports Show, Period” researcher, Bill Sudell:
Here's how things are going at the Wachovia Center: The Flyers have won eight games, the 76ers only five. There are 31 teams - 23 in the NHL, which has played more of its schedule, and eight in the NBA - with as many or more wins than the 13 the Flyers and Sixers have combined.
Here’s the money quotes via Philadelphia Will Do, via the Inquirer’s police blog:
“"He's a hoodlum, a thug" proclaimed one police officer. Another one of Philly's finest said, "He doesn't make our lives any easier as cops. He thinks he can drive a thousand miles an hour down City Avenue and that no one is supposed to say anything to him." Another officer commented how disgusted she was when he allegedly turned down a young fan looking to get his autograph at TGI Fridays.”
Just for the sake of nothing, I decided to look up all of the 76ers’ coaches during Allen Iverson’s time in Philadelphia. They are:
Johnny Davis 1997 Larry Brown 1998-2003 Randy Ayers 2003-2004 Chris Ford 2004 Jim O’Brien 2004-2005 Maurice Cheeks 2005- present
Meanwhile, just for fun, I decided to look up the managers Scott Rolen has played for during his career. Like Iverson, Rolen was the Rookie of the Year in 1997.
Jim Fregosi 1996 Terry Francona 1997-2000 Larry Bowa 2000-2002 Tony La Russa 2002- present
As one can tell from the list, Iverson really didn’t become a coach killer until Larry Brown bolted for Detroit. Meanwhile, Brown has been in and out of two organizations since leaving Philadelphia.
Downloaded playbook Apparently, Eagles' rookie Jeremy Bloom is resourceful. How resourceful? Well, instead of using his iPod to listen to music or watch movies, Bloom uses his handy-dandy little computer to learn the Eagles playbook.
There are 11 days to go before Christmas, it’s 60 degrees, humid and sunny here in Lancaster, Pa. and my thoughts are on running and today’s workout instead of the melting polar icecaps, global warming and our consumer culture.
Then again, it could be 60 below and my thoughts would be on running and how to complete the day’s workout.
Nevertheless, I stumbled upon a great site this afternoon that is sure to keep me motivated during the next year of training. The site? Flotrack, described by the publishers as:
An extensive video collection of the greatest Track and Field athletes from all over the country. Who you want, what you want, when you want it. Learn about the greatest athletes, their life stories, training styles, opinions, and philosophies. Get to know past legends, present stars, and the future faces of running. Follow coaches to practice and learn their strategies. View athletes before, during and after competitions. Listen to the sports most influential figures and be inspired by their stories.
There are also interviews with Alberto Salazar, Jorge Torres and Ed Eyestone.
For running geeks, Flotrack will quickly become the go-to site.
Anyway, last night I did 15-to-20 minutes of light yoga as a recovery aid and to help my all-around fitness. We'll see how it goes. I'm hardly the most flexible person, nor am I very adept at the poses. Right now the emphasis is on the form and getting a nice stretch.
However, if it gets in the way of the high-mileage training (if 100-110 miles per week can even be called high mileage anymore) I have planned for the next 10 months, then the yoga has to go-a. I feel a little trashed today, but we're going to try and get in 13 to 15 anyway.
I love running on grass. In fact, since running in the Harrisburg Marathon last Nov. 12 approximately 75 percent of my runs have taken place on the grassy and relatively flat Baker Field just beyond my front door.
The reason is simple: grass is easier on my legs than the roads or sidewalks. Though I have no poof to the contrary, I imagine that running circles around the grass field (three loops equals 5 miles) helps my recovery from day to day than if I ran on the roads day in and out.
My theory is based on the golf ball test that I read on some running web site that escapes me at the moment. Anyway, the idea is if one bounces a golf ball on a road or sidewalk, it will bounce like crazy, thus indicating how hard the surface is. However, drop a golf ball on a grass field and it probably won’t bounce all that much.
So just imagine what the pounding of running on a road as opposed to grass does to one’s legs.
On top of that – and again, I have no scientific proof – running on grass is generally slower with more resistance. It should make a runner stronger, especially if the grass hasn’t been mowed in a little while.
What I like about running on my grass field is that I know the distance and what time I should be running for a particular workout. Though it can be a little monotonous, it’s fun keeping track of my splits. Sometimes it helps give me incentive to run a workout faster than the last one.
Today, however, wasn’t one of those days. Actually, I tried to take it easy today after running 20 miles on Monday and 14 with a few 5:30 mile loops on Tuesday. I was definitely dragging through the first five miles in 33, but somehow I ran the next five in 32:17. I pushed the pace a bit for a kilometer so that’s probably where the speedier split comes from, but it dipped back down when I ran the last five on the field in 33:23.
A loop through the neighborhood adjacent to F&M gave me 17 miles in 1:52:21.
That’s not too bad, and I recall struggling to do 17-milers in 2-hours back when I came out of retirement, but now my hamstrings are a little achy. Perhaps some light yoga will iron out those kinks?
Anyway, this week’s helpful tip is to get off the roads. Go run on the grass, especially if you want to be running when you get old.