Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson attended a VIP screening on June 14 for his new documentary about his father, Bill, and his path to the NFL called “The Making of a Father’s Dream.” The movie is a collection of footage taken by older brother Byron of DeSean over a period of eighteen years, from the age five through to his time with the Eagles, documenting the wideout’s career from Pop Warner through to the pros. Byron Jackson worked with producer Kip Konwiser and Director Kern Konwiser to present a compelling message about dreams, determination, fatherhood, family and love to the screen. The screening was also attended by DeSean’s mother, Gayle, who spoke about the work of the DeSean Jackson Foundation and the importance of raising awareness and research funding for pancreatic cancer, the disease that ultimately took Bill Jackson’s life soon after DeSean’s rookie year.
One of the greatest quarterbacks in Philadelphia history is set to officially call it quits after a year out of the National Football League. Donovan McNabb will officially retire with the Philadelphia Eagles and will officially announce his retirement at an Eagles home game in September.
McNabb will retire with the official following stat line: 92-49-1 as a starter for the Eagles over 11 seasons from 1999-2009. He will retire holding the franchise records for passing yards (32,873), touchdown passes (216), completions (2801) and attempts (4746). The Eagles with Donovan as quarterback won six NFC East division titles, appeared in the NFC Championship game five times and played in Super Bowl XXXIX.
According to Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer, McNabb said the Eagles have suggested the date to be the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs and McNabb’s former head coach Andy Reid, who will also be returning to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since being let go by the organization.
Having to wake up at 3:00 AM doesn’t sound appealing to most, but it’s standard operating procedure for Rhea Hughes, co-host of the WIP Morning Show. Hughes, a graduate of Temple University, had to put in long hours on her way up the ladder to prove that she belonged in the male-dominated world of sports-talk radio, and she continues to clock in well before the sun comes up to prepare for her 5:30-10:00 AM shift at 94WIP. Hughes has held many jobs in the sports industry (producer, engineer, play-by-by announcer and sideline reporter, among others) and that wealth of experience ultimately landed her one of the most coveted jobs in the world of sports (working with Angelo Cataldi is regarded as an acceptable occupational hazard).
As the first subject in our “A Day in the Life” series, Hughes invited a couple of members of two.one.five magazine to shadow her for a day at the WIP studios in mid-December. What follows is an unfiltered, blow-by-blow account of a typical day behind the scenes of the Morning Show.
4:05 – While waiting for Rhea to arrive, Morning Show producer Joe Weachter escorts us up to the WIP studios, which are located on the 9th floor of the 400 Market St. building. Weachter warns that it won’t take long for the mystique to wear off once we take a peek behind the curtain. He was right.
4:11 – WIP actually has six separate studios in their area of the building. In the central hallway, there’s an extremely inviting black leather couch emblazoned with the xfinity logo. However, if you happen to ever visit the WIP studios during one of Big Daddy Graham’s shifts, it would be in your best interests to avoid the couch at all costs.
If you don’t, you’ll be subjected to the unrelenting glare of Mr. Graham as he makes it clear that you have invaded his personal space. The couch is his domain during breaks – it’s where he relaxes and reads magazines, using a yellow highlighter to note important passages in articles. When it’s time to go back on the air, he merely gets up from the couch, leaves the highlighter and magazine in the middle of the floor, and goes about his business.
Graham – an accomplished comedian and WIP’s overnight host – is a dichotomy of sorts: If you know him personally, he’s probably the funniest and smartest person in your circle. If you were to walk by him on the street however, he’s that strange guy in the black trench coat whom you pray doesn’t sit next to you on the bus.
4:15 – Angelo Cataldi strolls into the studios dressed like he has a date with the District Attorney. Rarely is Cataldi this nattily attired, so he’s more boastful than usual (“When you got it, you use it,” says Cataldi). In reality, he’s actually shooting a car commercial later in the day, but that doesn’t stop Weachter from asking a general question to the room: “Does he have a job interview that we don’t know about?”
4:19 – Hughes arrives, and more than an hour before going on the air, she puts together the text for her first update while Graham works his magic in the main studio (Studio 4).
Cataldi offers to give us the goods on Hughes: “If you want some really nasty quotes about her, I’m the guy. I don’t like working with her – no respect.”
4:29 – While Hughes is busy scanning the local papers and websites looking for more stories, Cataldi and Weachter are in an adjacent room finding audio clips to use for the show. The day’s hot story is news that anabolic steroids were found in the Lehigh University dorm room where Garrett Reid died of an accidental heroin overdose during Eagles’ training camp this past summer.
Cataldi is searching the system for sound bites from Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who held a press conference about Reid the previous day. Instead, he mostly finds audio clips of Hughes and John Gonzalez discussing Andrew Bynum’s fragile knees on CSN Philly’s Lunch Break Web show. “Why did they put Lunch Break with the Bynum thing in there?” Cataldi asks Weachter.
“Because it’s a fine program!” Hughes bellows from the next room.
4:53 – Because she’s constantly watching TV, researching on the Web, fine-tuning updates and coordinating the show’s guests, Hughes actually sits in a separate studio (Studio 3) than the one that Angelo and Al inhabit (Studio 4). An eight-foot long glass window separates the two rooms, but Hughes is still far enough away from the debauchery and carnage that occurs on a daily basis.
If you were expecting the glamour of the “NewsRadio” studios, then you’d be highly disappointed. It’s clear that WIP is still settling into their new digs: A 35-pound dumbbell keeps the door to Studio 3 propped open, and numerous jelly containers and sugar canisters are strewn about the room. However, there’s plenty of sports memorabilia adorning the walls of the main area, and there are even old seats from Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum propped up in various places.
5:02 – Morning Show co-host Al Morganti shows up, reads the paper, and scrolls through some pictures of what appear to be Wingettes and/or potential Wingettes on the computer, completely oblivious by all of the action going on around him.
Morganti may say less than 700 words per show, but he’s always quick to offer (and vehemently defend) his opinion, and his comedic timing is impeccable. Cataldi is clearly the coach/ringleader of the Morning Show, and Hughes is the team’s star point guard, but Morganti is the wild card that brings it all together.
5:13 – “And now is when the fun starts…” says Hughes as she slides on a pair of Behringer headphones. There’s a palpable newsroom-like buzz in the air: Cataldi is livid about the Garrett Reid situation, thoroughly convinced that the Eagles are trying to keep the lid on an even bigger story. “There’s a cover-up,” says Cataldi. “A cover-up of epic proportions.”
The Morning Show has a tendency to push the envelope a bit, and when Cataldi and Co. go too far, it typically results in a call from the offended team (the Eagles apparently have WIP on speed dial) and a lecture from the higher-ups. “We’re going to get in trouble today,” Hughes says.
5:32 – Weachter brings Hughes her ad reads for the day’s show. One of the ads (mistakenly) was for Dollar Shave Club. That probably wasn’t going to end well if that actually made it to air.
5:43 – Hughes does her first update of the day: She covers the Garrett Reid situation (which included audio from Morganelli), recaps the results from Monday Night Football (Titans 14, Jets 10), previews the upcoming Sixers’ game vs. the Dallas Mavericks, relays the score of the previous night’s Temple basketball contest (a 63-46 win over Alcorn State), and gives a brief weather forecast, all in a relatively compact 60-second burst. Writing for radio is extraordinarily difficult, but Hughes rolls through her script with ease. It would be the first of nine updates she would do that morning.
6:01 – One minute after 6, and the show is already in full gear as Cataldi continues his full-throated rant against the Eagles. Cataldi: “When you can determine a cover-up, there’s always a great story behind it.”
Hughes chimes in when appropriate, but spends most of the time dealing with everything on her desk: newspapers, an iPhone, a stack full of updates/ad reads, and a dual-monitor computer setup.
6:14 – At the show’s first official break, Cataldi does a read for breast enhancement surgery. The new fad these days is something called “cohesive gel implants” which you can get from one Dr. Robert Skalicky, who, if nothing else, knows how to reach his target market.
“Yeah, how ’bout it?” says Hughes, as she puts her microphone on mute. “Let’s get some boobs for Christmas!”
6:37 – During the next break in the action, Hughes gives us a rundown of her usual day: radio show, post-show meeting, taping of CSN Philly’s Lunch Break, a brief pit stop at home to walk the dog, a trip to the gym, about an hour of “downtime” (which typically includes several phone calls to/from Cataldi as they prepare for the next day’s show), a run to pick up her son from daycare, and then more show prep/game watching before she calls it a night. There are probably a few spare minutes in there for meals, but not very many.
6:48 – Cataldi laments that he’s “socially awkward” and doesn’t know how to interact with people in today’s society.
Hughes: “You came up with ‘Leave It to Beaver.'”
Cataldi: “Do you know you can’t even have a TV show called that anymore?”
6:56 – Before the 7:00 update, Hughes mentions how keeping up with Twitter during breaks is vital to her job. “There are people who tweet you about every sentence you say,” says Hughes. “But it’s good… some of them let you know about breaking news.”
7:01 – As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk calls in to discuss possible replacements for Andy Reid, Hughes explains some of the quirks among their guests. Most notably, there are some who absolutely do not like to wait on hold. Hughes serves as the primary booker for the Morning Show, and it’s clearly a job where catering to each individual’s personal preferences is a must.
7:16 – If it wasn’t obvious that Hughes is treated just like everyone else in the testosterone-filled WIP studios, Morganti offers up this non-sequitur during a commercial break: “Did Rhea tell you about the radio show that she had in jail? It was awesome!”
7:31 – Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is set to call into the Morning Show in about 90 minutes, but he’s actually in studio across the street at Fox 29 talking about gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. Hughes explains the constant juggling act as she tries to get this gist of Rendell’s interview: “You listen to the caller, you listen to Angelo, you listen to the TV… you gotta have three ears.”
7:45 – Cataldi fishes for compliments because of the outfit that he’s wearing for the commercial shoot later. He claims that he’s too self-conscious to look at himself on TV, an assessment that Hughes can relate to as well. Cataldi is especially unnerved by seeing his face on an advertisement for Ponzio’s Diner that appears in bus shelters around the Cherry Hill area. He even noticed that someone took the time to deface one sign by drawing a penis near his open mouth.
Morganti: “That’s not on the menu!”
7:56 – Damaging Doug (who was 6’1″, 335 pounds as a 12-year-old) shows up with his entourage and pounds of random meat (beef, ribs, pulled pork, etc.) in an attempt to earn entry into WIP’s annual bacchanalia eating contest known as Wing Bowl. Doug and Morganti agree that eating 2.5 pounds of beef brisket and jalapeños is a worthy challenge, but they can’t seem to settle on a time.
7:58 – The topic of hate mail/tweets comes up during a break, and Hughes tells of a time where she once received an e-mail from someone who threatened Allen Iverson’s daughter. Hughes forwarded the message to the Sixers, who subsequently alerted the FBI. Hughes’ computer was seized, and the man who sent the threat – Jay Charles, a retired teacher from Leola, Pa. – received three years’ probation, was fined $5,000 and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
8:04 – After NFL analyst Ross Tucker calls in to the Morning Show to talk about Andy Reid, Doug and a few members of his entourage begin shooting a promo video in the hallway, and the rest engage in an impromptu foosball game. Random moments like these occur 58 times during the course of the Morning Show, yet listeners have no idea that they’re going on.
8:15 – Cataldi welcomes Damaging Doug into the studio, and then proceeds to call him a “has-been.” Morganti and Doug still haven’t decided on a time for the eating stunt – Doug says that he needs more time than usual since brisket is tougher than most meats. “I don’t know brisket,” says Morganti. “I’m not Jewish.”
8:23 – Before he begins, Doug boasts that he was up to 505 at one point, but he’s since lost 120 pounds. “He’s lost me (in body weight)!” says Hughes. Morganti reluctantly gives Doug 4.5 minutes, and multiple cameras and cell phones start recording a 385-pound man eating an obscene amount of food. I’m sure these videos will wind up in the archives of the Library of Congress at some point.
8:26 – On cue (read: when it becomes clear that he won’t make it), Doug complains that the brisket is too chewy. Meanwhile, award-winning columnist Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News is resigned to hanging around outside the studio while an obese semi-professional eater tries to valiantly stuff his face full of meat. When Doug fails to finish in time, he offers to eat ribs and jalapenos instead, but is quickly rebuffed.
8:32 – Bykofsky comes into the main studio and makes it a point to sit far away from the destruction left in Doug’s wake. Cataldi is almost apologetic, explaining that this is what happens during Wing Bowl season. “I know it’s Wing Bowl season,” Bykofsky replies. “There’s a stripper outside!”
8:37 – Hughes gets a call during a break that Lunch Break is canceled for the day: Eagles’ RB LeSean McCoy was scheduled to be a guest on the show, but he backed out at the last minute. (Later that morning, Hughes would be called in to host Lunch Break with CSN Philly’s John Boruk.)
8:42 – While Cataldi, Morganti and Bykofsky discuss the latter’s newest book, “Cats are Supermodels” (Morganti: “I had a cat… I don’t like animals that are pissed off when you come home”), Doug is just outside of the main studio, barking at anyone who will listen: “They’ve gotta put me in the f—ing Wing Bowl!”
8:49 – A woman named Bri (which is sort for Bridiculous… seriously) is now in the studio and is asked if she would date a guy who was into cats. “I’m 23 – I want to party!” says Bri, who apparently believes that’s a sufficient answer to the question. Much to everyone’s surprise, Bri (who is compared to a young Yasmine Bleeth by someone who is terrible at making comparisons) is actually not a Wingette, but merely the friend of a guy who is about to attempt an eating stunt in 20 minutes. Someone determines that having a Wing Bowl without her would be somewhat Bridiculous, so Bri gets an official invite as a Wingette.
9:02 – As Rendell calls in to explain how easy it is to acquire guns in America, Bri is now standing just outside of the studio wearing a military-themed outfit (with fake bullets!!) that covers less than Nnamdi Asomugha. Damaging Doug, meanwhile, is still roaming the hallways demanding one last audience with Angelo so that he can plead his case to be part of the Wing Bowl field.
9:16 – For the second eating stunt of the day, some guy who goes by the name Elmer Fudd (friend of Bridiculous) begins to eat three pounds of London Broil in 15 minutes. Sitting across from Fudd (and next to Cataldi) is a woman named Melinda, who won the first Wingette search contest at SugarHouse Casino (and, less importantly, a trip for two to Punta Cana).
Cataldi typically flirts with women in a way that would make Brent Musburger blush, but he tones it down quite a bit for Melinda, in part because he butchers her name by calling her Miranda on several occasions. “We don’t have Asian wingettes that often,” says Cataldi. “We’re very happy to have you.”
9:22 – Former Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker (and co-host of the WIP mid-day show) Ike Reese shows up to prepare for his shift. Despite the presence of both Bri and Melinda, Reese is intrigued only by Fudd’s attempt to put down the London Broil. Ike Reese: Radio professional.
9:26 – While Fudd struggles with the London Broil, Cataldi asks Bridiculous what she typically eats. Bri states that she’s only a fish and chicken girl, but she also makes it a point to note that she doesn’t have a boyfriend.
“Well, maybe you should start eating meat!” says Morganti.
9:27 – “I want to watch him either throw up or win,” says Melinda, who is still in the studio for some unknown reason. And after she explains why it’s important for Fudd to pour water on the London Broil (“sometimes, you need a lubricant”), Melinda effortlessly shifts into third-person mode when asked why she wants to be a Wingette: “This just seems to be next on the list of random things that Melinda does.”
9:32 – Fudd fails, but Morganti says that he’ll give Fudd 90 more seconds if Bri helps him finish the London Broil. She objects. “It’s covered in blood!”
(It’s important to note that there were no fewer than 15 people inside of the main studio while Fudd was attempting his eating stunt. Many were filming with video cameras and/or iPhones, but others were simply watching in amazement. There is an infinite level of “organized chaos” that goes on during the course of the Morning Show that simply can’t be transmitted over the radio airwaves.)
9:36 – During the break, Bri agrees, but ONLY if she has a beer first. She promptly shotguns a can of beer (don’t ask how or why she has one handy before 10:00 in the morning, but she did), but is still utterly disgusted at the thought at eating the meat.
9:44 – With the help of Bridiculous, Fudd finishes the London Broil and earns a spot in Wing Bowl. He’s probably the worst contestant ever, and his goal for Wing Bowl 21 is to finish second-to-last. Way to set the bar high, Elmer.
9:48 – Now that all of the updates are in the can, Hughes’ show-related duties are pretty much done for the day. She tells us to enjoy the rest of the show in the main area. But what would normally be a welcome invitation doesn’t seem terribly appealing today.
There’s a bloody tray sitting in front of one of the microphones, the remnants of Elmer Fudd’s eating stunt. So perhaps it was fitting that a ShopVac and a bottle of Fantastik were tucked away underneath one of the tables – one can only imagine the effort it takes to clean that studio every day.
Hughes has been a member of the Morning Show for the better part of 16 years now, and things that may seem crazy to others are just part of her daily routine. She’s known Morganti and Cataldi for so long that the three are “like family”, and the chemistry between the trio is completely natural.
Apart from the brutal waking hour, working on the WIP Morning Show seems like so much fun that it feels inherently unfair to those who hold traditional office jobs. Talking about sports all day for a few hours and yelling personal insults at your co-workers during the time in between? Not a bad gig, IF you can get it.
Of course, the job isn’t as easy as it may appear to be on the surface. There are plenty of hours of work that go on behind the scenes in order to create the finished product that is broadcast over the airwaves every weekday morning. And it’s because of the tireless efforts of Hughes and the rest of the Morning Show team that Sports Radio 94 WIP is consistently regarded as one of the best sports radio stations in America.
It’s been a rough few months for Eagles fans. Following a 4-12 season which saw a star-laden roster lose to the likes of the Panthers and the Cardinals, fans and management are still shaking their heads, wondering where exactly everything went so horribly wrong. As good as Andy Reid has been to the Eagles, it was clear that the team needed to find a new direction, and a new identity. Reid followed a very specific – and oftentimes successful – football philosophy during his tenure. But the reality for the Eagles is that they are a team in transition. They need a new direction, not just a new coach.
With that being said, here are four ways that the Eagles could vastly improve their chances of success in the future:
1. Sign Alex Smith
The guy is far less flashy than Mike Vick and a few years older than Nick Foles, but what he lacks in physical attributes he makes up for with veteran leadership and smart decision making – two qualities which would help the turnover-prone Eagles. In a sense, Smith is sort of the antithesis to Mike Vick: a guy who doesn’t turn the ball over, but will rarely carry the team on his back. Luckily for Smith, and the Eagles, they have a talented enough set of skill players on the roster that that type of bravado workmanship isn’t really a necessity. What they do need is a calm veteran presence on the field, who can dissect a defense and minimize turnovers.
I like Nick Foles, and I think he might one day develop into a good starting quarterback. But there’s no need to rush him onto the field, especially when you can pick up Smith for relatively low cost. What’s more, Foles can actually learn a lot from Smith, who himself can attest to the dangers of being thrown into action too early on in a career. (This is a guy who had seven different offensive coordinators in his first seven seasons.)
Foles is only 23; he has time to develop into a better quarterback. Why not sign Alex Smith, also only 28, to lead the team and help groom the next quarterback?
2. Trade DeSean Jackson
This one might get me into some trouble. I’m sure there are plenty of teams – the Bears, Dolphins, and Chiefs come to mind – who would offer a decent pick in the draft for Jackson. The truth is, while Jackson had some good years for the Eagles, he’s just not a true number one receiver.
While Jackson certainly has elite speed, he lacks the physicality that guys like Brandon Marshall or Dwayne Bowe possess. With Jeremy Maclin the Eagles have a solid number two receiver. Despite his hefty contract, it’s been two years since DeSean Jackson posted 1,000 yards. He might be able to fetch a decent draft round pick, with which the team could draft a good lineman.
A Desean Jackson trade would also allow the Eagles to take a longer look at Riley Cooper. Cooper is a bigger receiver at 6’3’’, and might be very well be the real red zone threat that this team so desperately needs. Cooper played well this season when he got a chance; it’s time that he saw more snaps.
3. Hire Gus Bradley
The Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator was the mastermind behind one of the league’s most ferocious secondaries. Sure, he’s relatively new to coaching, having only been with Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the turnaround that Bradley was able to key for Seattle’s defense – going from 25th in the league in points allowed in 2010 to first in 2012 – shows that this is a man who understands the nuances of a successful rebuilding project.
There are more well-known candidates out their like Brian Billick and Ken Whisenhunt. Billick’s overall record is 80-64; Whisenhunt’s is 45-51. There’s a reason these guys were fired by their former teams. Hiring Gus Bradley would bring an unproven commodity to Philadelphia, but I think he has more upside as a leader of the team.
4. Draft Luke Joeckel/Don’t Draft Geno Smtih
With the fourth pick in the draft, the Eagles need to draft the best offensive tackle on the board. Loeckel would instantly upgrade an offensive line that allowed the fifth-most sacks in the league.
The biggest mistake the Eagles can make is reaching for a quarterback. I like Geno Smith, but not enough to qualify the fourth overall pick. If things go south for the team this upcoming season, they’ll likely get another high draft pick, and have a shot at far more enticing quarterback prospect.
Less than three months ago, it was always sunny in Philadelphia.
The fact that the calendar read August at the time had something to do with it, but the cloud hanging over the city suddenly lifted when the Philadelphia 76ers acquired center Andrew Bynum in a four-team trade that – due in large part to Dwight Howard being sent to the Los Angeles Lakers – shifted the landscape of the entire NBA.
Included in the deal was Andre Iguodala: a brooding, mercurial talent who was never embraced by the city of Philadelphia. After Allen Iverson was traded by the Sixers in 2006, Iguodala was saddled with the (somewhat) unfair burden of being “the man.” We soon found out that he was unable (or unwilling) to meet those expectations, and neither he nor most fans of the team that he represented wanted the marriage between player and team to continue.
His time here had run its course: Iguodala knew it, the fans knew it, and most importantly, the Sixers’ front office knew it. So when the chance to acquire the 7-foot Bynum this past August presented itself, the team had no choice but to pull the trigger.
For a while after that, things were good. Roughly 1,500 people turned out at the National Constitution Center this summer to welcome Bynum and Jason Richardson (who was also acquired in the deal) to Philadelphia. At his introductory press conference, Bynum – the first premier center the Sixers have had since Moses Malone – even expressed a desire to sign a long-term deal once his current contract expires at the end of this year.
But after an entire preseason where Bynum hasn’t even been able to step on the practice court, we’ve all received a cold, sobering dose of reality: The Sixers traded for a 25-year-old with chronic knee issues.
This summer, we’ve become all too familiar with the words Orthokine and Synvisc-One. We’ve heard the word lubricant far more than we’re accustomed to on over-the-air television. The fate of the 2012-13 season rests on Andrew Bynum’s right knee, and much like Meek Mill, the next few months will be filled with dreams and nightmares for Sixers’ fans.
Now, to be fair, this team has looked relatively good in the preseason sans Bynum. The Sixers brought in three shooters this offseason (Richardson, Nick Young, Dorell Wright) who are all capable of going off for 20 points on any given night. Gone are the days when many of us cringed when Iguodala and Lou Williams used to let one fly from 23 feet out: Head coach Doug Collins is now blessed with more long-range threats on the roster than the franchise has had in recent memory.
Reserve forward Thaddeus Young has added about 20 pounds of muscle and settled into his niche as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none option off of the bench. Jrue Holiday appears ready to take the next step in his development as one of the NBA’s best young playmakers, while Evan Turner now has the chance to shine as the Sixers’ best wing player.
This team is more than capable of making the postseason even if Bynum spends most of the next six months in street clothes. But let’s not fool ourselves, either: If the Sixers have any chance of replicating (or even improving upon) their playoff success from last year, No. 33 needs to patrol the paint for a good portion of the season.
What portion of the season that ends up being is anyone’s guess. Opening Night is definitely out of the question, and it’ll take some time for him to get into game shape whenever he’s ready.
Bynum has the potential to turn this decent Sixers team into a very good squad, but more importantly, he’s the franchise-altering talent that has been missing in Philadelphia since Iverson’s first stint ended six years ago. His health is vital to the long-term health of the Sixers as a whole, so it makes little sense to rush him back onto the court until he’s 100 percent healthy.
In the interim, newly acquired center/former No. 1 draft pick bust Kwame Brown will get more burn than he deserves (read: more than none), and the Sixers will go with a undersized frontcourt of Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen.
The X-factor, of course, is Collins: A steady hand capable of weathering the storm of uncertainty surrounding Bynum. And because of their head coach, the Sixers will probably win somewhere in the neighborhood of 46-48 games this season, barring a catastrophic injury to one of the team’s key players.
So while dreams of an Eastern Conference title may need to be put on hold for now, this season will be far from a nightmare, regardless of what happens to the Sixers’ biggest star.
I found a dead squirrel in our backyard Saturday morning. I’m not sure of the cause of death, but at the time I was fairly certain it would be the only lifeless thing I’d see all weekend.
I was wrong. It was the only lifeless thing I saw on Saturday.
On Sunday, with endless blue skies and an unfortunately secretly powerful sun overhead, I saw something even more lifeless than that poor squirrel- the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.
It was an idyllic fall day and if we weren’t watching fake baseball then we’d probably be apple-picking or hob-nobbing our way around a pumpkin patch or corn maze. They just don’t make fall days any better. The weather was perfect, the tailgating delightful and the beers wonderfully tasty. Thanks to the team’s mostly lousy season, tickets to the game were cheap- like pre-2009 cheap. And thanks to the team’s unlikely resurgence and valiant attempt to sneak into the 2012 playoffs’ through the back door, the game had meaning- like pre-2009 meaning. It all harkened back to the good old days of a couple years ago, before each season came with the massive expectations of a World Series win and the regrettable accompaniment of disappointment when those wins didn’t happen. The 2012 Phillies had once again soaked themselves in the fountains of plucky, scrappiness, becoming the establishment-bucking upstarts that we had grown to love in the latter years of the previous decade. Things were fun again in South Philadelphia and it didn’t cost your first born to see it all happen. Giddy up!
But ah yes, this is baseball, where expectations are raised in the blink of an eye and the flames of hope are subsequently doused just as quickly. Expectations in general are a lousy son of a bitch. They always seem to lead to disappointment- a heavy-handed buzz kill version of disappointment, made worse by the fluffing up of whimsically engineered circumstances. Disappointment from expectations doesn’t stop there either. This specially-ordered, knife-twisting brand of disappointment is nice enough to incite merciless finger-pointing, because someone has to be at fault for this awful feeling.
On Sunday, it was the Phillies who were at fault. And no matter how many cold beers we drank or how many entertaining Phanatic appearances we witnessed; it wasn’t going to make it any easier for them or us.
Perhaps it was Saturday’s 8-2 lost to the visiting Atlanta Braves or maybe it was the pain of saying goodbye to long time Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones, but the Phillies were flat from the get go. They were flat from the middle go and they were flat from the end go. Just like in the early months of the season, they wasted a perfectly good pitching performance from Cliff Lee, who pitched eight innings, giving up only two runs while striking out eleven. The Phillies, who prior to Saturday, had shown actual and legitimate signs of life on offense, were held to only two hits- one by some dude named Kevin Frandsen, who I didn’t know existed until Sunday afternoon.
“Doesn’t Polanco play third?” My buddy asked, referring to apparently the former Phillies’ third baseman, Placido Polanco.
“He did,” I replied. “Maybe they finally did the right thing and put him out to stud.”
It was nice to see guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back in the lineup, but it was an all too familiar sight when Howard struck out to end the game. His batting average is currently .225. Just think, if he was only making $19 million this year instead of twenty, it might not even be that high.
Sunday’s loss was the death knell for the Phillies’ admittedly far-fetched playoff hopes, as it dropped them to five games back in the Wild Card race. With eight games left, their turn around is going to have come too late to mean anything more than simply creating some good will to carry with them into the off season. At this point, we should all just be routing for them to stay above five hundred- an accomplishment that would have seemed astronomically outlandish only a month ago. A losing streak at this point would just bring back the disturbing memories of the first few months of this season; memories that have been temporarily swept under the rug thanks to their late season surge. The best cure for the wretched sickness of bad memories, are good ones. It’s true that bad memories have more staying power than good ones, but that power is mitigated some if you leave on a good note. First impressions are important, but so are final impressions. For the 2012 Phillies, this next week should be all about creating a final impression that we can all feel good about- fans, the players, ownership, even the dudes outside Citizens Bank Park scalping tickets.
So we still have something to route for.
It may not be much and may not be what we wanted, but it’s still something. It’s not going to replace the sour patch taste of Sunday’s loss and it’s not going to put the money I spent on tickets to that worthless crap fest of an exhibition baseball game back in my wallet. But it’ll make the taste of the 2012 season go down that much smoother, making it taste better than it really should. It’s the life raft we need. We’d be fools to pass it up.
Fact number 1: as of July 1st, the Philadelphia Phillies, having just been swept by the Miami Marlins, were 36-45, in last place in the National League East and 7.5 games back in the National League Wild Card race.
Fact number 2: as of July 1st, Hunter Pence was in right field, Shane Victorino was in center field and Joe Blanton was the team’s fifth starter.
Fact number 3: a few weeks later Pence, Victorino and Blanton would be playing for teams in California.
Fast forward to last week, the second week of September.
The Phillies, now only 3 games back in the Wild Card race, had jumped to third place in their division and were harboring a realistic, albeit far-fetched chance to make the playoffs. Things had gotten so strange for the Fightin’s of South Broad Street that even after dropping 3 of 4 games this past weekend to the very dreadful, very bad and very much in last place Houston Astros, the Phillies remained in the playoff hunt. Somehow, the Phillies making the playoffs has become a very real possibility.
Fact number 4: you didn’t see this coming.
It’s okay. You can admit it. Everyone in the Delaware Valley should. No one could have predicted this was how, up until recently, an extremely disappointing and largely unwatchable 2012 season would end. Yes the Phillies just won seven games in a row and that makes things a little easier to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that the team was routinely showing less life than Mitt Romney at a rave; looking about as comfortable too. The Phillies had given no indication as of July 1st that such a turnaround was possible. They didn’t look capable of it.
Quite simply, as of July 1st, fresh off being swept by the Marlins, the idea that the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies would be in a position to make the playoffs by mid-September just wasn’t realistic. In fact, here are ten things that would have seemed more realistic on July 1st than the Phillies turning their season around and making the playoffs:
1. The United States switching to the Metric system.
2. The Loch Ness Monster being spotted at the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, awkwardly sporting an Oasis t-shirt during the Beady Eye performance while holding an “I Love Noel” sign above his head.
3. Justin Bieber growing facial hair.
4. Sarah Palin proving that you can in fact see Russia from her house (although she fails to mention that this is while watching Rocky IV on television.)
5. Cheesesteaks becoming the new, hip way to lose weight.
6. Andy Reid admitting that yes, he does frequently misuse timeouts. He also admits that he stores food for the winter months in his moustache.
7. Mayor Nutter spitting hot fire during Jay Z’s set at the Made in America festival.
8. Women finding farting attractive.
9. Everyone mutually agreeing that wearing socks with flip flops looks ridiculous.
10. Using a cellphone as a phone…to talk on…to a person.
Whether you thought so or not, it sort of, kind of maybe is possible that the Phillies make the Playoffs this year. How possible is it? Well I wouldn’t start wearing that Phillies t-shirt you packed away in early August yet- but I’d definitely make sure it’s clean. You might need it soon enough.
As of this morning, the Phillies were 74-74 and 3.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
The attire at The Hamels Foundation’s Diamonds and Demin Gala ranged from barely there — Tammy Jean “wore” denim overalls painted by body artist Kerry Ann — to a full assortment of denim donned with jewels. Event co-hostess Heidi Hamels donned a flowing cream-colored wrap top with designer skinny jeans accessorized with a simple yet elegant diamond necklace.
Attendees included several of Cole Hamels’ Phillies teammates, including Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Vance Worley. Athletes from other Philadelphia sports, past and present, also came out to show their support. The Flyers’ Scott Hartnell showed up decked out in denim, as did Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos, who paired his overalls with a denim cap. Offensive lineman Todd Herremans attended with a polished blazer cuffed at the sleeve, and former Eagle Ike Reese was decked in a denim button-down shirt, as was wife Renee.
Chase Utley was in attendance with wife Jennifer, whose beautiful necklace was from Jimmy Choo for H&M. But the blinged out couple award has to go to Jimmy Rolllins and wife Johari, who revealed to two.one.five that their diamonds were custom made courtesy of jeweler Isik in New York. Rollins rocked an attention getting “JR” necklace while Mrs. Rollins wore two brilliant layers of diamond necklaces that set off her wedding ring, also fashioned by the jeweler.
Entertainment for the night was provided courtesy of John Legend, who didn’t walk the red carpet but rocked the house in always stylish basic black.
Diamonds and Denim is the brainchild of Heidi Hamels. Every penny of the proceeds from ticket sales to the event, as well the silent auction, provides funding to low-income schools in Philadelphia. It also benefits a school currently being built in Malawi as well as programs to help the nation’s children impacted by the HIV/AIDS virus.