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Friday, December 30, 2016

Wrapping up the Blog for 2016: Posts I hope you read

It’s the time of year when radio stations will be cranking out the best songs of the year. At least that’s what they used to do when I was still listening to Top 40 stations. I was thinking I’d take a cue from them, and post a few links to what I think were my best posts of the year. But the more I thought about it, I decided to add a list of what I think are my best posts from the blog since I published the first book. It’s a shorter list than I anticipated! But that might be a good thing. Consider it a big #ICYMI (“in case you missed it,” for the non-social media enthusiasts) . . . and a really easy post to finish off the year. I’m thinking of it as stuff I hope people have read if they have read my work at all. Of course, the book and the novel come first, followed by these posts:

From 2016

Remembering a Great Day with Dad: If I keep blogging, I’m thinking of doing more of this type of personal writing in the future. This was actually a large excerpt from an older piece, but it was hardly read at all upon its original posting, and it received some of the most reaction on Facebook of anything I posted from the blog this year.

Rob’s Rants: Donald Trump and “The Hand Thing:” I’m certainly not looking to revisit anything from the election from hell, but this post got plenty of Twitter love.

Rob’s Rants on Disability: The Cure Question; Daydreamin’ of an Online Publication; A Few Good Blogs; Competition: I chose this post mostly for the first item, though I think there’s some decent stuff in the rest of it. I’d been wanting to address some of the noise I’ve heard about people with disabilities claiming not to want a cure even if one existed, and, after struggling to write a longer piece, I hope the shorter format worked.  

From the entire blog
Here’s a few posts that are a little older, posted after I’m Not Here to Inspire You. I recently reread the book before giving a copy to a friend. Though at times my delivery might be a bit softer now, I still hope there are some positive messages in the book. In my opinion, “From the Heart, About the Heart” and, at least the story about the guy selling Christmas cards in the essay, “A Christmas Memory,” are the best parts of the book. (I wish I knew more about him!) Perhaps the below posts would have worked well in the book.

We Said Hello, Goodbye: Thoughts on interaction among people with disabilities: I’d keep it shorter these days, but the opening story, I think, is a good one.

A Moment of Not Dealing with Disability: One of my more personal posts.

Thinking Big: Not a particularly great article, but in the post I detail my lifetime goal of creating a rec center geared toward people with disabilities. The concept is far from perfect, but I think of it often, especially this time of year when resolutions abound.
Just Play: A little more on why I think, despite the importance of inclusion, people with disabilities need opportunities to simply play together. (Written as a guest post for disABLE, the article also ran on Huffington Post.)

Finally, readers may have noticed that I haven’t blogged much in December. I’m not sure what I’ll do in 2017. I’m thinking of doing the occasional post, and, as I mentioned, writing more about personal experiences. If I can manage to get some creative juices flowing, I may post some fiction as well. I’m not sure how I will do future posts on sports, but I haven’t completely abandoned them. It’s still possible to subscribe to receive automated e-mails, which will be delivered whenever there is a new post on the blog. I’d recommend subscribing to the entire blog as opposed to specific categories if you’re interested in the types of posts I just mentioned. Please remember to confirm your subscription via the e-mail you will be sent from the service upon registering. (Check your “Junk Mail.”) Following me on Facebook and Twitter works, too.

Happy new year! At the risk of sounding trite, I think my resolution will be to try to keep good people close and focus on the positive.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Fans not spreading any holiday joy

The holiday spirit certainly hasn’t descended on Philadelphia sports fans. Is it just me? People seem overly PO’d about everything lately. Here’s my latest Rob’s Rants on sports:

    Rob's Rants on Sports logo featuring various stadiums and jerseys from the area and Rob
  • Nelson Agholor appeared to be on the verge of being waived by the Eagles after confessing, for lack of a better term, that he was struggling with the game mentally. He admitted things like fan criticism were getting to him, and that he needed to do a better job. Are we really ripping a guy for that? I get it. It’s not what anyone wants to hear from an NFL wide receiver. He’s been terrible. And he cost the Eagles a touchdown two weeks ago because he didn’t get lined up properly, while his head coach was screaming at him to get on the line. If you want to rip him, rip him for that. The fact that he was a first round draft pick isn’t something I add to the equation, though many people do. If Chip Kelly was dumb enough to pick him as a first rounder, that’s on Kelly and the organization. But I don’t understand the venom directed at Agholor for his comments. At least he admitted he’s not getting the job done.

  • I’ve actually heard people screaming for Doug Pederson to be fired after the loss to the Packers. Seriously? First of all, Jeff Lurie doesn’t have the stones to fire Pederson one year removed from giving Kelly the boot. So, it’s not going to happen. I’m certainly not defending Pederson. I said he was reaching Rich Kotite levels before the last two weeks. Challenging a two-yard reception by the Packers doesn’t exactly move me off that position. And maybe calling a timeout instead of screaming at Agholor when he’s lined up off the line instead of wasting a play that could really work would have been a good idea. But Pederson’s not getting fired. Lurie’s goal in life as an NFL owner is to be viewed as the sage, brooding, well-respected brains building a winner from behind the scenes (while getting all the accolades, of course). I know . . . never going to happen. But firing coaches in back-to-back years just doesn’t fit the self-appointed profile of this owner. He’s not firing Pederson this season.

  • Expect the calls for Pederson’s head to get louder, anyway. For a while, I was incredibly relieved that the trade of Sam Bradford caused me to skip my game-by-game predictions post. I thought the season was going to get at least as ugly as the recent 2-6 stretch suggests. I admit, I was way off. But looking ahead, I honestly think it is going to get ugly. If they don’t beat the Bengals, and the Cowboys care about the final game, I’m not sure the Birds win another game this season. Of course, my “predictions” . . . e’hm . . . have sucked all season. So, the Birds will probably win out.

  • I don’t think fans were too upset that the Sixers had to postpone their game on Wednesday night because the court was slick, but the media seemed pretty ticked—at least, Michael Barkann did. He was going after the Sixers on Philly Sports Talk the next day. I’ve already heard that the Sixers are offering fans complimentary tickets to any other game. I hope they figure out some way to reimburse people who payed for parking. And, again, from what I heard on television, it was pretty dumb that someone apparently forgot to turn down the thermostat so the ice under the court wouldn’t melt. But . . . eh. I’m sure fans who went down were not pleased, and they should have been told the game was cancelled sooner. This isn’t much of a rant, but I don’t put too much on the Sixers for this one.

  • I’ll finish on an “up” note that I don’t think anyone is grumbling about. It was a good news / bad news situation for Phillies fans when Matt Stairs became the hitting coach. I think it could be a good move for the team on the field, but I was going to miss him as an analyst in the TV broadcast booth for games. But the Phils are reportedly bringing in John Kruk to replace Stairs for a good portion of the games. “Krukker” was great in the same role on ESPN.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Giving Thanks in Philly Sports

It’s that time of year that we gather together to watch football . . . I mean, give thanks. Depending on your viewpoint, that might be a tough task at the moment. Leaving real world concerns aside, here’s what I think Philly sports fans should be thankful for this year.
Rob's Rants on Sports logo featuring various stadiums and jerseys from the area and Rob
Carson Wentz: I’m not 100% sold that he’s going to be “the guy” for the next 10 to 15 years, and there’s obviously no guarantee he brings the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia at long last. But at the very least, he’s the Eagles quarterback for the next 5 years. He is the guy they need to build around. They don’t even have to think about drafting a starting QB for quite a while.

“The process” is, essentially, over: It seemed endless. It was stupid. And it never should have happened. But it is, finally, over. Sam Hinkie’s process of tanking, and tanking, and tanking, and tanking, to acquire talent . . . because Sammy couldn’t pick his nose, let alone NBA players, without making the process absolutely mistake-free . . . is in the past. It might not seem like it, since the team is still struggling to win a game a week, but that’s the result of Hinkie’s absurd plan. It’s actually necessary to see if the talent that has been acquired can play together.

Joel Embiid:
Again, the wait seemed endless, and the frustration with his limited minutes . . . which is quickly getting old, not to mention questionable, especially since Embiid seems unhappy with it . . . is building. But this is a guy who you stop what you’re doing to watch. If he can stay healthy . . . ohhhh, yeah.

The pending return of Ben Simmons:
I just keep thinking, if only Simmons was playing, if only Simmons was playing, if only Simmons was playing. Is it January yet? I know, the anticipation is largely based on his college career and summer league play, but watching Simmons play with Embiiid should be, and, I think, will be, the reward for Sixers fans suffering through Hinkie’s time as general manager. (No, this doesn’t prove him right; there are ways to build a team without sacrificing multiple years to get the number one pick in the draft.) The Sixers cannot put Simmons on ice all year—if he’s healthy.

The Phillies have “turned the page:”
So far, there’s been nothing overly exciting coming from the Phillies this off-season, but they seem to have made some nice moves already. I like the trade to acquire a veteran bat in Howie Kendrick, even though at 33 he’s a stopgap. But, as I’ve said before, at least they’ve completely moved on from the teams of 2008 and 2009.

Ron Hextall is running the Flyers: I’ll admit, I’m struggling to pick up hockey. But I still say having Hextall at the helm, and getting rid of the “win now at all cost” mentality is a plus. It seemed like every spring they’d make wholesale changes, bringing in big names who were passed their prime at the expense of young talent, and it never worked.

Chip Kelly’s not here:
I’m not quite ready to say that Eagles fans should be thankful for Doug Pederson. In fact, I’m not even close. But at least he’s not that fraud of a coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers are 1-9 under Chip, having only beaten the lowly Rams opening week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Remembering a Great Day with Dad

My mom just happened to be cleaning out the storage area last week, and wanted to throw out the frame that held pictures from a day that my dad and I got into a Philadelphia 76ers practice. (We kept the pictures, of course.) I think of this day from time to time, and it seemed apropos to post the pictures as I think of him this week, especially. It was 19 years ago that he passed. I don’t post this to dwell on the sadness, but to remember one of my last great memories with him.

Johnny Dawkins shooting; Rob in foreground
Action shot of Johnny Dawkins
I originally wrote the below in a post on my old sports blog. It was called “Remembering Charles Barkley.”

Dad and I were out for a weekend drive just to get out of the house, when he suddenly asked if I wanted to go to the Sixers’ practice. It was closed even to the press, I said, egging him on. We had been to the one win the 76ers managed against the Chicago Bulls in the 1990 playoffs the night before. Of course I wanted to go, and I knew that on rare occasions dad could be an impulsive guy who liked to do things he was told he couldn’t.

So, when we pulled up at the St. Joseph’s University field house, where the Sixers practiced, I asked dad where we were headed after they tossed us out. He laughed, and headed in. Ten minutes later, he ran out to grab my wheelchair from the trunk and get me. We were in.

Hersey Hawkins and Rob
My dad was impressed (as was I) when Hersey Hawkins asked, “Is this ok?” while we took the picture. “Hawk” was one of my favorites on the team.
Watching guys like Mike Gminsky, Johnny Dawkins, and Hersey Hawkins, warm-up just feet from me was amazing enough. Then Barkley came in . . . loudly.

Entering the field house on the opposite end, Barkley was yelling, “Front runner!” It turned out he was teasing the son of SJU’s Athletic Director Don DiJulia and nephew of Jim Lynam. (Coincidentally, Chris was a former schoolmate of mine, and, apparently, often attended practice.) Without any prompting, Barkley spoke to my father and I, and even thanked me for wearing a shirt with his likeness. Then he posed for a picture with me.

Watching Lynam run practice was a treat for a high school junior who loved the Sixers. He didn’t mince words — or spare his players’ ribs — as he demonstrated how to split defenders when caught by the Bulls’ trap. At one point, I had to stifle a laugh as Barkley’s slap of a teammate’s head echoed through the gym, reminiscent of a high school kid caught horsing around during class. True to his frequent refrain, “That’s Charles being Charles,” Lynam just kept going.

Rick Mahorn and Rob

Rick Mahorn shot around after practice for a while. His response to the equipment manager who wanted to leave was pretty funny. And I think I’ll keep it to myself. Afterwards, he was cool enough to take a picture with me.
Later, Lynam talked hoops with my dad. (They had gone to the same high school.) Rick Mahorn and Hawkins posed for pictures with me after practice. Assistant coach Fred Carter, the man who gave dad permission for us to watch practice without any knowledge of my disability (dad swore), shook my hand and playfully asked if I had picked up anything they should know. And “Charles being Charles,” he made a point to say goodbye, remembering my name.

I never did write the thank you note mom rightfully said I should to Fred Carter. There’s no excuse, but the way things turned out, a prompt thank you may not have gotten the job done.

Charles Barkley and Rob; a little blurry as they start to get in position for a picture
Not sure what happened, but I don’t think I was the only one who was star struck. If he were here, I’d tell dad he choked! With love, of course. Never did find out what dad was doing after Charles Barkley and I actually got in position for the picture!
The day’s significance has changed for me over the years. It turned out to be one of, if not the, last great memory I had with my dad. Not long after, Alzheimer’s disease began taking him from us at an all too young age. In fact, I believe the previous night’s game was the last sporting event I ever got to attend with my dad.

I wish I had some profound words to finish this post. I don’t. I’m just glad I have this memory of a day with my dad.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Mid-season Grades for the Eagles; NFL “Pretenders and Contenders”

I thought I’d try something a bit different this week as the NFL hits the halfway point of the season. I have a few mid-term grades for the Eagles, and some thoughts on which teams are “pretenders” and who are the actual “contenders” in what has been a confounding year so far in the NFL. Here’s my latest Rob’s Rants on Sports:

Rob's Rants on Sports logo; collage of jerseys and arenas from the area, and RobCarson Wentz: C+. He started out looking like he was already a veteran franchise quarterback, but has shown that he really is a rookie lately. I think perception would actually be better if he didn’t start 3-0, and, I admit, the grade would be a little higher. But with 4 interceptions in the last two games and the team having lost 4 of 5, it’s time to wonder if teams finally having video on him is a problem. To be fair, he has absolutely no weapons around him.

Doug Pederson: C-. I’m being generous. Twice, he punted games away, and apparently tried to make up for it last week by “going for it” on a couple occasions where doing so was just ridiculous. Seriously, he was approaching Rich Kotite depths of bad decision making last week. He is dealing with a rookie quarterback—though he didn’t have to be—and Darren Sproles is apparently his best running back based on how he’s using guys. But he’s not even making basic decisions correctly right now.

Wide Receivers: F. They stink. None of them scare defenses by going deep, and they constantly drop passes. Jordan Matthews is the best of the bunch, and he’s a slot receiver. Dorial Green-Beckham is showing why Tennessee gave up on him. Even the tight ends, previously thought of as pretty good, have done little.

Running Backs: D. This could be higher, I think, if Pederson played Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood more. Sproles can’t be the main running back with 285 rushing yards. Ryan Matthews only has two more yards on 17 more carries. Play the young guys.

Defense: B+. They won at least a game or two, and kept them in others, but they coughed up the Dallas game. I don’t think they are as good as people thought, but they are definitely the best unit on the team.

Special Teams: B. This is very tough to judge. They’ve made some plays and given up a couple. Except for a blocked field goal, I don’t think they have really cost the team, and they have had at least two big returns.

Contenders and Pretenders
I only looked at teams .500 or better, which would seem to be the minimum requirement for being viewed as pretending to be contending for the Super Bowl. By the way, 18 teams fit that description. Parity is ugly.

Patriots: Despite Tom Brady’s suspension, New England is 7-1 and they look unbeatable. Things change quickly in the NFL, and, trust me, my “predictions” have been horrible this season, but they may be the only real contender.

Cowboys: If Dak Prescott wasn’t a rookie, they would be everybody’s choice to win it all—at least everyone in the national media. I don’t think even Jerry Jones would go back to Tony Romo . . . unless they lose a couple in a row. I’d say they’re a contender.

Broncos: Can they really be considered a dark horse as defending champions? If Trevor Siemian get his shoulder fully healthy, maybe not. I’d say contenders with an asterisk.

Raiders: I haven’t seen them play, but they’re leading the best division record-wise in football. They have to be a contender.

Chiefs: If their current injury situation doesn’t linger, I’d say contender. They beat the Raiders, and won a game with Nick Foles replacing the injured Alex Smith, albeit against Jacksonville.

Steelers: It’s killing me, but with Ben Roethlisberger not 100% (again) and a shaky secondary, I think they’re pretenders.

Ravens: They lost 4 straight before they beat the Steelers. Pretenders, if that, even with the win against Cleveland last night.

Houston: I haven’t seen them much. They did beat the Chiefs and Colts, but got slammed by the Patriots, Vikings, and Broncos. Pretenders, if that.

Dolphins: With only one win over a team currently .500 or better, they are pretenders. Probably not even that good.

Giants: I’m saying contender because they could still win the division against Dallas, and they do what they do in the playoffs. They have some offensive weapons.

Washington: They’re barely on this list at 4-3-1, and are about to face the Vikings, Cowboys, Cardinals, and Eagles. I only have Dallas as contenders from that list, and I still think they will struggle. Pretenders.

Vikings: I defended Sam Bradford, and he let me down. After what I saw against the Eagles, Minnesota may be the biggest pretender.

Lions: They are in a surprisingly weak division, and I just saw that John Clayton reported several GMs have Matthew Stafford in the mix for MVP. But true contenders? Eh, I’ll say no. Pretenders.

Falcons: Three tough games coming up starting with the Eagles, then what should be a walk to the playoffs. Matt Ryan is playing well. They could still get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Contenders.

Seahawks: They’ve looked putrid at times,, but if Russell Wilson can get going . . . maybe. I’ll flip a coin and say pretenders.

Saints: Winning 4 of 5 has salvaged their season, and they only play 3 teams currently above .500 the rest of the way. Two of them are at home, and Atlanta is also in a dome, where New Orleans traditionally thrives. I still say pretenders.

Packers: I keep waiting for them to get rolling, and they just don’t. Without a running game, I don’t think they’ll be anything but pretenders.

Eagles: I write about them every week, so there’s not much to add. This season? Pretenders.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Rob’s Rants: Donald Trump and “The Hand Thing”

I had no intention of writing an election rant. I’m as tired of Donald, and Hillary, and, locally, Katie McGinty and Pat Toomey, and the commercials, and the e-mails, and the rest of the nonsense, as anyone else.

Then my phone rang on Saturday morning.

Someone from the Republican party asked, “Will you be able to make it to the polls, and will you be supporting Donald Trump?”

I don’t know why I didn’t just hang-up, but, instead, I replied, “I’ll be voting, but certainly not for Trump.”

“You will be voting for Trump?” the woman asked.

I do have a speech disability, so I could understand why she might not have heard me correctly. But then I thought, I do have a disability that the woman had clearly picked up on. And, well, I couldn’t resist. “I have a disability,” I said. “Why would I possibly vote for him?”

“Ohhh, the hand thing,” came the response.

The hand thing? Really?

She presumably was referring to the campaign rally in which Trump stood in front of a podium, speaking to a large audience of supporters with TV cameras trained on him, and imitated a reporter who lives with a disability. Trump shook his hands and body, and sort of drew out his words, in imitation of the effects the disability has on the man.

Trump used a story written by Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who lives with arthrogryposis, which affects the movement in his arm, to substantiate his claims that Muslims celebrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The reporter said he wrote about allegations of celebrations, and that he never heard anything about the level of celebration Trump claimed.

Bottom line, Trump didn’t like what Kovaleski said, so in typical bully fashion, he mocked the guy.

Trump wasn’t caught on an unseen mic. He wasn’t speaking to friends in a private moment.

The Republican nominee for President of the United States deliberately mocked someone’s disability in front of an audience because he didn’t like something the man said.

It was nothing short of the “cool kid” in high school doing the exact same thing to get some laughs from his buddies.

To my knowledge, Trump’s never apologized. In fact, again in typical bully fashion, he denied what was obvious to see and hear. He claimed that he wasn’t mocking the reporter’s disability, and demanded an apology from the New York Times, which criticized him for his actions. At one point, in defending his record on disability issues, I suppose, he made a point to say that his buildings were accessible, as if that was some grand gesture instead of what it actually is—a legal requirement.

I’m not voting against Trump tomorrow because of this one issue. There are plenty of reasons I won’t be voting for him.

However, I did think it was telling when Republican officials and candidates lined up to revoke their endorsements of Trump after his disgusting comments about coming on to women were made public.

Why, exactly, did these people need to withdraw their support at that point? Why were they supporting him after he mocked a person with a disability?

Because for many of them, and certainly for Trump, it was just that hand thing.

There is still a mentality among many that says, yeah, yeah, we’ll be nice to the handicapped, but we don’t want to hear from them, and, if we crack a joke or two at their expense, well, too bad.

Don’t agree? I knew that some Republicans expressed outrage at Trump’s actions in mocking the reporter. So, I googled the subject because I wanted to be fair and mention them. Instead, I learned that, according to the New York Times, not one official from the party actually withdrew support from the nominee over the issue.

I don’t vote based on my party. I never have. In fact, I was hoping to vote for John Kasich in the general election if given the chance. Yet, Trump’s actions and the lack of substantive response from Republicans, say a ton about how they regard the disability community, not to mention our vote, in this election.

It was different with Trump’s comments about women. Republicans had to distance themselves from Trump after video was released of him saying, basically, that he could force himself on women. Women are seen as a voting bloc. They can sway elections. Besides, many Republican men have a wife and daughters, as they kept telling everybody when they withdrew their support. (Although, apparently, some Republicans were only kidding about not supporting Trump.)

The disability community doesn’t get the same respect. We’re not a voting bloc, nor do I think we should be. We are too diverse. Cable networks don’t talk about how candidates can get our vote. Very few, if any, of us have the power to influence votes enough for candidates to care about our opinions.

But, tomorrow, I at least have the power of one vote. Tomorrow, I get to confront a bully who treats people with disabilities, and pretty much everybody else, as little more than a nuisance.

On Election Day, I’m going to do my own hand thing—maybe I’ll even use my middle finger—and not vote for Donald Trump.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Huff Released; Bad Losses for Eagles, Sixers; Plenty of Dumb Comments

Bad losses for the Eagles and Sixers marked the week until Josh Huff got arrested. Time for a sports rant:

John Clark’s tweet showed Fletcher Cox looking stunned after the loss

  • Josh Huff was waived by the Eagles, but not just because he’s a bad wide receiver. On Tuesday, he was “charged with speeding, possession of a small amount of marijuana, unlawful possession of a weapon” and more, according to and other outlets. Writing on Thursday afternoon, I haven’t heard any specific reason for why Huff was released—Eagles GM Howie Roseman called it “the right decision for the Philadelphia Eagles”—but clearly they didn’t want to deal with the distraction. The official reason ought to be stupidity. Huff initially said, “What professional athlete don’t have a gun? I have a wife and I have a son at home. My job is to protect them at all costs.” I’m not going to get into a gun debate in a sports post. We all make mistakes. But I am tired of athletes screwing up and then talking about taking care of their family. Don’t break the law—especially a law involving guns—and then blame circumstances and talk about what everybody else does.

  • As for the Eagles game . . . I don’t usually buy into the “dink and dunk” complaints about an NFL offense, but it was very noticeable with the Eagles in their loss to Dallas on Sunday. Carson Wentz completed 32 of 43 passing attempts for just 202 yards. The longest reception was for 14 yards. Fourteen.

  • I saw this on, and it’s already a mildly troubling stat: Wentz has had the ball with a chance to win a game three times, and the Eagles are 0-3 in those games.

    • What the hell is Doug Pederson doing punting from the Dallas 36-yard line in the fourth quarter? This is the second time he’s punted a game away. This week there was 7:17 left in the game with the Birds up 7. It would have been a 53-yard field goal attempt in basically a domed stadium, and, oh, by the way, their kicker already made a 55-yarder in the first half. (Psst, Doug, that’s longer.) If Caleb Sturgis hits it, they’re up 10—two possessions. The game might not be over, but it’s damn close.

    • The defense wasn’t blameless. The punt put the Cowboys on their own 10. They were in the end zone 3:22 later. And the Eagles never saw the ball in overtime because Dallas won the coin flip to start overtime and scored a touchdown on the first possession. Give Dallas and Dak Prescott credit, especially the quarterback on the last play of the game where he scrambled and found Jason Witten wide open for a touchdown. But the defense needs to make a play. The Eagles were up by 10 points twice in the fourth quarter and lost. That’s on the “D.”

    • Tuesday night we saw a bit of what the Sixers hope to be. They were playing another (previously) winless team, but playing a bad team can sometimes let fans see how things should work. Joel Embiid continues to look like the guy we’ve all been waiting for, and Dario Saric shot the ball well. It was a brutal loss as they gave the game away late, and it’s disheartening that they got crushed the next night without Embiid. But I’ll take a “process” of watching a team jell over stockpiling draft picks any day.

    • I’m liking what I see out of Sixers point guard Sergio Rodriguez. He looks like he can be a distributing point guard who can shoot when needed. He’s in the top 10 in assists (7.5 per game) in the young season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and scoring 12.0 points per game (stats as of Thursday morning). Sixers fans couldn’t even discuss a player like Rodriguez for years because the team had no chance to win, making evaluating role players impossible.

    • Huff wasn’t the only Philadelphia athlete found saying stupid things this week. ESPN quoted Sixers point-forward Ben Simmons bemoaning the fact that he had to go to class in college. “The NCAA is really f---ed up. . . . Everybody’s making money except the players. We’re the ones waking up early as hell to be the best teams and do everything they want us to do and then the players get nothing. They say education, but if I’m there for a year, I can’t get much education.” Besides being wrong—the fact that a player can’t be drafted until a year after his class graduates high school is an NBA rule—he sounds like a spoiled brat. He had to wake-up early? That’s rough. And being that he clearly had no intention of having a sophomore year of college, I’m guessing he wasn’t a regular in class after December. Besides, no one is forced to play college sports nor leave after a year. Don’t play in college if you don’t want to. Go overseas, as NCAA president Mark Emmert pointed out. I know he’s still a kid, and I can’t wait to watch him to play again. But someone needs to teach him when to shut up.

    • It was the week to say something stupid in Philadelphia sports. The NFL Network suspended analyst Brian Baldinger for six months after he said on 97.5 The Fanatic that the Eagles should hurt Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. “There’s got to be 10 guys that want to hurt him every single play,” Baldinger said. “In fact, we may even put a little bounty on [him].” Again, know when to shut up.

    • Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning their first World Series since 1908. Despite Joe Maddon micromanaging the final two games and overusing his closer, the Cubs came back from a 3-1 series deficit. Of course, it would have been nice if the deciding Game 7 ended before midnight on the east coast—and to have “October baseball” end, you know, in October.

    Thursday, October 27, 2016

    Rob’s Rants on Sports: Eagles Win Ugly; Embiid Shines in Debut; Flyers Comeback Win Impressive; Sports Talk Moves; more

    The Eagles got an ugly win against previously undefeated Minnesota, and Joel Embiid’s long awaited debut may have been the highlight of the week. Here’s my Rob’s Rants:
    Embiids tweet featured a pic of his own fist-pump

    • Five turnovers on five consecutive possessions in the first quarter marred the Eagles game. I’ll admit when I’m wrong, and, at least for a week, I was way off about Sam Bradford. More on that in a second. Carson Wentz is the concern in Philadelphia, and he looked predictably bad against one of the best defenses in the league. Yes, the Eagles won the game, but with his 2 interceptions and 3 fumbles—2 of which the Eagles recovered—there wasn’t much reason to give Wentz credit. He did have one TD pass, but his QBR was an anemic 13 as he passed for just 138 yards, completing 16 of 28 attempts.

    • Last night we finally got to see Embiid on the court in an NBA game that meant something, and he didn’t disappoint. It’s hard not to gush over his performance. He moves with a smoothness that is hard to believe for a 7’ 2” guy, can score down low, and even showed a shooting touch that apparently includes 3-point range—though I wonder if that’s what the Sixers want. In just 22 minutes, Embiid shot 6 for 16, 1 of 3 from beyond the arc, and 7 of 8 from the free throw line, which I always think is a good indicator of a guy’s shooting ability. The center helped the Sixers almost pull off the upset win over the Thunder. The best part may have been seeing other guys already starting to fall into roles in which they actually look capable by playing alongside the best player on the team—a concept lost on the organization for years under Sam Hinkie. I’ll still be holding my breath a little every time Embiid’s on the court fearing the next injury, but Sixers fans can only hope to watch this guy for the next decade.

    • The Flyers rallied from a 3-goal deficit against Buffalo on Tuesday night to force overtime. I’m sure hockey purists hate hearing this from guys like me, but the 3-on-3 format in overtime was the most enjoyable hockey I’ve watched in ages. It’s a wide open game with plenty of scoring chances. I was almost disappointed by the shootout, which gave the Flyers the win, because I wanted more of the 3-on-3.

    • Bradford flat out choked in his return to Philadelphia. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if a defense shut down an offense or if the offense just stunk. The Eagles defense is looking very good, but I just can’t get to the point of saying they were responsible for Bradford’s performance. The end zone interception he threw on Minnesota’s second possession—after the defense gave him the ball on the Eagles’ 2-yard line—was ridiculous. It looked like Bradford just threw it up for grabs because he had no idea what else to do. He was eventually sacked 6 times, but he wasn’t sacked once to that point. I have no idea how that team was 5-0.

    • I’ve laid off the topic of the comings and goings of sports talk hosts a bit for various reasons, but the move of Joe Decamera from 97.5 to 94.1 is potentially interesting. Decamera’s teaming with Jon Ritchie to replace Michael Barkann and Ike Reese in the midday slot. Somehow, Reese survived, moving to drive time with Joe Giglio, though I’m guessing it’s a short-term situation. I was hanging in with Anthony Gargano’s morning show on 97.5 until Jon Marks left. I felt like Marks made Gargano OK, and, I had such an aversion to Barkann and Reese, I didn’t want to risk hearing them even for a minute after Angelo Cataldi signed off in the morning for WIP. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed 97.5’s Harry Mayes with most of his various partners, including current co-host Rob Ellis. Before the change, I had been leaving the radio off until Mayes and Ellis came on. Now, I could see going back to Cataldi in the morning on WIP, and possibly staying there at times. Afternoon drive-time is still going to be dominated by Mike Missanelli.

    • On Sunday, I watched about 8 hours of the worst football I’ve ever seen. Now that I got my analysis out of the way, the Eagles game sucked. Five turnovers in a row is just disgraceful. Anticipation for Steelers-Patriots in the late afternoon game was dampened by Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, but the Steelers basically treated the game like an extra bye week, sitting several players as they headed into their actual bye. Despite that, they sort of hung around with a Patriots team that was blowing teams out since Tom Brady’s return. And the night game ended 6-6. Enough said.

    • The World Series is underway, and I really wish I cared more. Playing the most important games of the summer sport in cold weather has to change somehow. But my main thought is that I hope the Cubs beat the Indians so Steve Bartman can just move on.

    • ESPN recently aired an Outside The Lines focused on the Lakers, called A dynasty derailed. It unwittingly reminded viewers (at least this one) of the farce that the NBA can be at times, pushing glamour franchises over others. It’s obvious every time the league sits by while a young superstar forces his way to L.A. or New York. But somehow it’s even more disgusting when a network airing NBA games treats the failures of one of these franchises as a national story.

    • Aside from watching the Sixers finally try to develop, the NBA season is potentially 7 games long this year—the maximum length of a Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors. It’s such a foregone conclusion that they meet for the championship, the only way the season becomes interesting is if that doesn’t happen.

    Thursday, October 20, 2016

    Rob’s Rants on Sports: Eagles Drop Second Straight; Pederson’s “Andy Reid” Moment; Bradford Returns; Looking Ahead to the Vikings; more

    It was an ugly week for Philadelphia sports, and, as always, it starts with the Eagles.

    • The long awaited suspension of Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson finally took effect this week, and the result was as ugly as fans feared.  The first play from scrimmage saw Carson Wentz sacked with a torn jersey. It was an omen of things to come as he was sacked a total of 5 times on Sunday. He was sacked a total of 7 times in the previous 4 games. Potentially worse news came from Ron Jaworski. Talking to Mike Missanelli on 97.5, “Jaws” said that of the 27 times Carson Wentz dropped back to pass, Johnson’s replacement, rookie offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai, was left on his own only 8 times. In other words, the Eagles were already giving him help, and, well, it didn’t help.

    • Earlier in the interview, Jaworski may have offered the stat of the week to illustrate the ugliness of the Eagles’ loss. He said that teams that have a kickoff return and interception return for a touchdown in the same game—which the Birds had on Sunday—have “about a 99 percent win percentage.” He did not site a source, but it didn’t sound like he was using hyperbole.

    • I didn’t think Wentz was horrible or even bad, throwing 11 of 22 for 179 yards. Obviously, they aren’t great numbers, but he didn’t turn the ball over and he was pressured all game.

    • No one is “worried” that Jim Schwartz will soon be leaving for a head coaching job this week. Yes, the defense scored a touchdown, but giving up 135 yards rushing to Matt Jones—the second-year player has topped 65 yards only two other times, against St. Louis and Cleveland—was ugly.

    • Doug Pederson had his first Andy Reid-esque moment, punting the ball from about midfield despite being down 7 with less than 2 minutes left in the game and 2 timeouts. I understand it was 4th-and-24 and Freddie Mitchell wasn’t in the stadium. But you can’t punt the ball there. You’re not getting it back. They punted from their own 40-yard line with 1:38 left. Best case scenario, the Eagles get the ball back about where they started with a fresh set of downs and 40 seconds left. And no timeouts. It was the New Orleans playoff game all over (albeit, in a less important game). You have the ball, you have control on some level. Take the shot.

    • With Minnesota coming to town, it’s impossible not to think about the Eagles trade of Sam Bradford. It’s far too early to evaluate it, and, obviously, it wasn’t a trade involving Wentz. But, let’s face reality, the trade will be judged based on the performance of the two quarterbacks. People suddenly seem to want to call it a “win-win,” when just six weeks ago they were saying Minnesota got fleeced. With the Vikings 5-0, getting 4 wins with Bradford at QB, the adjustment isn’t surprising. I said all along that it was the right move given that the Eagles drafted Wentz, but the idea that Minnesota got robbed never made sense. According to ESPN, entering this week, Bradford is 5th in the league in quarterback rankings. His numbers aren’t stellar, but he has 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and, again, his team is undefeated. He’s also 1st in completion percentage. Yes, Minnesota’s got a great defense. But Bradford is still young. The biggest knock on him, besides being injury prone, is that he’s “Check-down Charlie.” (He’s actually 6th in passing yards per attempt.) At 5-0, I don’t think Minnesota cares. The first round draft pick they gave up next year for Bradford isn’t looking quite as good as Eagles fans thought it would be, and the conditional fourth rounder the following year is hit or miss. I still say Minnesota could end up with the better end of this trade.

    • Once again, I don’t understand the confidence about the Eagles going into this game. Even factoring in the 3 points given to home teams, Minnesota being favored by 3 seems low. I think the final score from last week is deceiving, and the Eagles hot start is still lingering. The Vikings defense is ranked 2nd in the league—the Eagles are 3rd—and they’re only giving up 12.6 points per game, which should be concerning for Philadelphia after last week.

    • The Sixers finally open up next week. Injuries and little TV coverage has made it tough to build excitement recently, but at least Joel Embiid has increased his minutes. Jahlil Okafor will reportedly play in the opener, though Nerlens Noel apparently will not. The injuries are frustrating, but I’m just ready to finally care about NBA basketball again.

    • The NHL schedule didn’t help a newbie like me get into the game, starting the Flyers on the West coast. I imagine they get some credit for rallying from a 4-0 deficit in Chicago to tie it up before they dropped the game, 7-4. I heard Steve Coats say they have two good goalies, which usually means they don’t have one. Hopefully, he’s right.

    • Sean McDonough admitted on Monday Night Football that the game was unwatchable (because of penalties). Experts struggle to understand TV ratings, but they’re down for football. I think Thursday night games are the culprit. Sunday used to be all about football, and the Monday night games capped off the gluttony. Then they added Sunday night games, and Thursdays were a nice bonus for a few weeks at the end of the season when most shows go to reruns around the holidays. Now, for me at least, Thursday night games are irrelevant unless a team I specifically care about is playing, because I’ve already given two nights to the NFL if I even watch MNF since the league drives the best match-ups to Sunday night, leaving terrible games on Monday.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2016

    The Birth of Super Crip: Chapter 1

    Red closed his locker, the clang of the metal door being slammed shut coming just before the bell signaling the end of lunch for juniors. He stopped at his locker once a day after lunch because he knew he could steal a little extra time in between periods. Kids with disabilities were always allowed to leave class a minute or two early to try to get a head start on reaching their next class before the halls filled with students at the bell. Some teachers were sticklers about them not leaving too early even if the lesson ended a few minutes before the bell. But lunch monitors rarely said anything even if they left as much as five minutes early, and even then a request to use the restroom always sufficed. He pushed the lock up, pressing the shackle against the inside of the hole in the handle of the locker to clamp it down, and he used his thumb to move the dial away from the final digit of his combination. He put his book bag over the back of the seat of his power wheelchair, which most people referred to as a scooter despite his protests, and turned to head for his next class only to find Chuck Groslin blocking his way.

    “Where do you think you’re going?” Chuck asked. The football player towered over Red. Chuck’s stocky build was imposing to most of the kids in school.

    Looking up at the familiar crew cut and lettered jacket that Chuck would wear even on the hottest days of the year, Red rolled his eyes. “It’s fifth period, Chuck,” he said. “Try to keep up. I’m going to the same place every time you do this. Social studies. It’s high school. Pretty much the same schedule every day.”

    “What?” Chuck said again, adding a look of disgust. “I can’t even understand you when you talk.”

    Red felt himself tense up, even feeling slightly light-headed for a second. Cracks about his speech disability always got under his skin the most. “So maybe you shouldn’t keep asking me questions, Einstein,” Red said, dismissing any thoughts of making light of the daily ritual. The hallways started to fill, and Red noticed Chuck’s girlfriend approaching him from behind. Red slowly started to steer his wheelchair past him.

    “C’mon, Chuck,” Tara said, trying to gently push him on his way. “Just go to class.”

    Instead, he took a step to his left to block Red’s path. “Did I give you permission to leave yet?”

    Red glared at him, tempted to take a swing at the football player. “Move,” he growled.

    When Chuck just stood there, Red made another attempt at steering around him. Suddenly, he felt the bully’s hand on his chest. “Where do you think you’re going?” Chuck asked again, standing right next to him and leaning down into his face.

    A wave of energy surged through Red as he reached out to grab Chuck’s jacket, but he caught nothing but air. Blinded by darkness that came and went so fast that he wasn’t sure it happened, Red suddenly felt light-headed and saw dots everywhere. He heard a loud bang as if someone had slammed a locker. He caught a jumbled glimpse of Tara’s bulging eyes as she covered her mouth. Grabbing the armrest and handlebars of his power chair to steady himself, he wondered if he was having a seizure, though he’d only ever seen a couple of his friends have them. Other kids were pushing against him, a small crowd gathering to see what had happened.

    Finally, his eyes started to focus. Chuck was lying on the floor with his head against a locker, and Tara was on her knees beside him trying to offer comfort. Did he slip? Red wondered. How did he get on the ground? He looked up again and noticed the other kids were starting to head to class.

    Red took the opportunity to finally make his way around Chuck. His head felt as though it was swirling, almost like the momentary dizziness he often felt after getting out of a pool, but it wasn’t going away as fast. He purposely tried to take a deep breath, getting a good inhale on the second try. Exhaling, he was pretty sure that whatever he’d just experienced was starting to pass. It felt as though something was receding from his head. He didn’t look back at Chuck until he was several feet down the hall. His tormentor’s eyes looked up at him, seemingly as confused as he was. Feeling a couple pats on the back, Red vaguely heard kids say, “Nice job” and “Way to go.” He looked up at them, wondering why they were congratulating him.

    Keep reading by getting the novel on SmashWords, Amazon, or other sites.

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    Friday, October 14, 2016

    Rob’s Rants on Sports: Eagles Finally Falter; Expectations Too Great? Doubting “DJax” Returns; Utley, Ruiz Give Phillies Fans a Playoff Interest; Remembering the Ickey Shuffle

    No one thought Carson Wentz would go the entire season without experiencing a loss or throwing an interception. They also didn’t think it would be October before he did both. Here’s my latest Rob’s Rants on sports:

    • Let’s start at the finish. The Eagles lost 24-23 in Detroit, a loss that wasn’t sealed until Wentz threw his first career interception on a long pass to Nelson Agholor in the final minute of the game. Wentz blew it. There was 1:28 left in the game. In that situation, defenses are generally going to play somewhat of a “prevent defense”—keeping everything in front of them. He needed to get his feet wet in his first end-of-game 2-minute drill with some easy passes over the middle. It’s a tough way to get your first pick—he actually got away with a couple bad passes earlier—but this is what the Eagles signed up for when they handed the reigns to a rookie. The question is how he responds this week.

    • There’s really no reason to think the Wentz Wagon isn’t still rolling. Wentz was 25 of 33 for 238 yards passing and two touchdowns. He even had a couple opportunistic runs and protected himself. He doesn’t exactly look fleet of foot, but if he can grab some yards when he has the chance it will be a plus. More importantly, he took a baby step toward answering the question of how he would react to adversity. The Eagles were down 14-0 early in the game, and there was no sign of panic from Wentz.

    • The only real concern coming from the game should be about the defense. Detroit had the ball three times in the first half, and scored three touchdowns. They went 75, 80, and 75 yards. That’s a butt whuppin’. The one turnover the Eagles got in the game was a fumble Mathew Stafford of the Lions just let slip out of his hands. The “D” halted things pretty well in the second half, but they were supposedly geared up for Jim Schwartz’s return to Detroit and came out flat.

    • I love all the coaching experts on sports radio ripping Ryan Matthews for carrying the ball in the wrong hand when he fumbled late in the fourth quarter as if he’s now a bum. I think Jon Marks calls the day after a loss “Overreaction Monday,” and this was a perfect example. It’s tough the first turnover of the season setup Detroit’s game-winning field goal. But it was the first turnover of the season, and a defender put his helmet on the ball. It was going to happen eventually.

    • Expectations for the Eagles continue to be off the charts. I actually heard a guy call Sunday’s game the worst gut punch ever. If he started watching Philadelphia sports on Saturday night, he has a point. Five weeks ago this season was all about developing Carson Wentz. It still is, people! Quite frankly, I thought it was crazy that they were favored going into Detroit, and I don’t understand how they’re favored going to Washington. It’s their second road game in a row, and a lot of people thought Washington would be very good this year. With three straight wins, they’re starting to show signs of living up to expectations. I tried picking games on my old sports blog, and it’s brutally difficult. Suffice it to say, I think expectations for the Eagles for this season need to be lowered.

    • Since the Birds are playing in D.C., bringing back DeSean Jackson when he’s a free agent next off-season has been a hot topic. I’m sure Jackson’s teammates were thrilled that he didn’t exactly shy away from talking about it this week. My guess? It won’t happen. Jeff Lurie hates drama, which Jackson brings with him, and the Eagles are known for getting rid of players too soon instead of too late. Jackson will be 30 by the end of the season. And he’s not exactly lighting it up, with 18 catches for 278 yards—102 of which came in a blowout loss to the Steelers opening week—and 1 touchdown.

    • Phillies fans still have a rooting interest in the MLB Playoffs as Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley helped the Dodgers send the Nationals packing for the season last night. Ruiz pinch hit for Utley in the 7th inning, driving in the go-ahead run and keeping a 4-run inning going that ultimately won the game. (The fact that the inning took over an hour with 7 pitching changes is an issue baseball needs to figure out.) Fun fact—Jason I-hope-Philadelphia-never-wins-another-championship Werth got thrown out at the plate by a mile in the bottom of the 6th. Utley did his part in Game 4 with a 2-out solo home run in the bottom of the 8th to break a 5-5 tie. Even Joe Blanton pitched in, earning the win in Game 4. Unfortunately, I think the Dodgers have burned ace Clayton Kershaw for the early part of the NLCS against the Cubs (who I think win the series), pitching him on short rest in Game 4 and in relief in Game 5. I thought the latter was overkill.

    • I’m hoping Browns receiver Andrew Hawkings started a trend last week when he scored a touchdown against the Patriots and didn’t celebrate. He simply put the ball down, and, almost in military fashion, walked away. Hawkings was clearly mocking the absurdity of the NFL cracking down on any sort of taunting, otherwise known as celebrating. Of all the dumb things Roger Goodell has done to the NFL, this is by far the dumbest. People like touchdown celebrations. Thank God Roger wasn’t around earlier. We never would have had the Ickey Shuffle. Or Billy “White Shoes” Johnson’s celebrations. Or Washington’s “Fun Bunch.”

    The Ickey Shuffle
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