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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rob’s Rants: Eagles Hard to Analyze; Phillies Say Goodbye to Ruiz; Soul Win ArenaBowl

It’s a strange week when a fake sports talk caller is probably the biggest story in Philly sports, but I decided to keep my attention on the field.

  • I really planned to write most of this post about the Eagles “dress rehearsal,” a.k.a. the third preseason in which the starters play into the third quarter. But with the Colts resting most of their defensive starters, there was little to take from the game. The Colts did play starting quarterback Andrew Luck for the first half, and the Birds defense held Indianapolis to a field goal in the first two quarters. Overall, I continue to think Sam Bradford is underrated even though not much has changed in my expectations of a mediocre team.

  • The long goodbye to the 2008 Phillies World Series championship team—can’t believe it’s almost 8 years since they won it—continued as Carlos Ruiz was traded to the Dodgers. I’m surprised the Dodgers are reportedly looking for Ruiz to bolster their offense, as most people thought he would be dealt to a team looking for a sage catcher to guide a pitching staff through the playoffs. No doubt the Dodgers hope for that, too. At least Phillies fans have a potential rooting interest in the playoffs as the catcher joins Chase Utley in Los Angeles. (And Joe Blanton. Who knew?) Former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay summed up “Chooch,” as Ruiz is affectionately known, to CSNPhilly: “It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way that he did. He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball in the years I was with him.” See the link for the whole quote.

  • Once again, Philadelphia has a professional football champion—the Philadelphia Soul. With co-owner Ron Jaworski at the helm, the Soul won their second ArenaBowl title Friday night. I’m not about to compare the Soul’s victory to a major sports franchise winning a title. I used to click onto Arena League games on a Friday or Saturday night on a country music station, I think, and it was akin to finding a good, old movie to fill some time. I wish I could get into it as a major sport, but it just feels like a tease for real football. That said, I believe there’s a piece of every Eagles fan—maybe a big piece—that wishes Jaworski was running the NFL franchise in town. In fact, if it were possible to have a second NFL team move to Philadelphia along with the Birds—it’s not, but consider it a hypothetical—I bet a whole lotta Eagles fans would happily dawn new colors and leave Jeff Lurie behind.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Goodreads.com Review of The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life by Bill O’Reilly

I have been thinking for a while that I needed something to read other than the pop fiction that we have at the house. We have other types of books, too, but I’ve either read them or they don’t quite interest me. I’ve also been saying for a while that I’d like to read up on our presidents. So, I went to this building where they actually give away books—although you do have to return them—called a library.

I hadn’t done my research, and nothing on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, or the like, was jumping out at me. I know myself as a reader, and I need to ease into new areas. But I didn’t want to go home empty handed. Read my review on Goodreads.com or right here:

The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life by Bill O’Reilly


When I came across Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor, I decided to give it a shot. The book wasn’t that long, and O’Reilly talks about politics on his show of the same name. I thought maybe I’d get some insight on how things work in Washington, D.C., and I’d be broadening my horizons as I’m not a fan of Fox News.

Instead, except for some potshots at President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton (and others, including Republicans), the book offers O’Reilly’s view on . . . well, a lot. And that’s OK. He’s an intelligent guy, and he has every right to express his views. (Said the guy who writes a blog on pretty much whatever he feels like writing about.) He covers class (as in economics), sex, the media, drugs, raising kids, race, politics, of course, and plenty more. In fact, at the end he just starts listing things that he deems good or bad. Literally. Readers will be relieved to learn that Santa Claus is on the good list. I’m not kidding.

A few good, albeit potentially slanted-in-O’Reilly’s-favor stories about what it’s like to work in the media were the best part of the book. Otherwise, I didn’t think he said anything groundbreaking even when I agreed with him, and at one point I actually double-checked to make sure I wasn’t reading a self-help book. My guess is that his self-assured tone would definitely rub minorities the wrong way in his chapter on race, and the lecture he offers young women on keeping their virtue was odd . . . to put it nicely.

He managed to mostly ignore people with disabilities for which I’m actually grateful, considering a couple condescending comments he offered, including this nugget when urging parents to read to their children: “Unless your child has some type of physical problem or attention disorder, why wouldn’t he or she want to enter those exciting worlds that writers create for young imaginations.” (I’d need a whole other post to respond. I actually don’t think he meant to be that ignorant, but most people don’t mean to be ignorant.)

Obviously, the book (published in 2000) is a bit dated with some of his references about individuals. Even O’Reilly wouldn’t keep Bill Cosby on the “good” list these days. His comments about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are actually good for a chuckle given the current election. At times, in these comments and elsewhere, one might forget what station O’Reilly works for—but not for long.

(I’m not offering a starred rating because I don’t have a good sense of other books in this category.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Cheering Chase vs. the Phillies; Eagles Preseason Continues; Overestimating Saric

I went to the Phillies game Tuesday night to see Chase Utley. I helped give him the standing “O” when he leadoff for the Dodgers. And I was happy he struck out. I was done honoring Utley’s time as a Phillies player (for the night), and, though I didn’t expect it, I wanted the Phillies to win. Utley signed a bunch of autographs before the game and accepted the ovation well. I thought the Phillies handled his return with class, showing a short video tribute (in between an early half inning), and I thought Cameron Rupp stood out by stepping away from the plate when Utley first came up to bat.

Then things got a little awkward.

In his next at-bat, Utley got another standing ovation from a significant portion of the crowd. His home run in his third at-bat that gave the Dodgers a lead was met with more cheers. I gave a polite clap to both, feeling like I’d gone to see Utley and didn’t necessarily want to see him stink it up.

Why people continued to cheer each time he came to bat was beyond me, and when he hit a grand slam after the game was already getting ugly, I think the cheering was a little weird. I was also surprised to learn later—I didn’t see it at the game—that Utley gave a half-hearted curtain call after both homers. You just can’t do that. I’m guessing he didn’t really want to do it, and maybe he even did it to quiet the crowd out of embarrassment. But I just don’t think he should have done that.

I’m not ripping Utley. He’s an all-time Phillies player, and one of the best in the game at least in his time. I hope to be there when he’s enshrined on the Wall of Fame. I just think the Phillies fans gave him a bit too much love during the game Tuesday night.

  • Thursday night’s Eagles 17-0 win in a preseason game against the Steelers seemed to to leave some fans very impressed. I re-watched it on DVR—I mostly watched the Phillies—and I don’t understand the elation. The fact that the Steelers have yet to play their offensive stars in two preseason games shows how meaningless these games are. Yes, the Eagles picked off Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones 4 times, including a “pick-6.” Nelson Agholor made a nice catch, and rookie Paul Turner looked good a couple times. But, basically, the Steelers backups moved the ball pretty well against the Eagles defensive starters. I’m not sure how many starters played for the Steelers defense early on, but the Eagles scoring came directly from or was setup by the turnovers. The fact that these two teams play in Week 3—it’s ridiculous they even played in the preseason—no doubt kept things blander than usual, but I thought this game offered zero to get Birds fans excited.

  • I can’t believe how much talk there’s been on sports radio about Doug Pederson having Carson Wentz in “so late” during the first preseason game when he got hurt. He’s a football player. What’s Pederson supposed to do? Everyone knew Wentz was going to play the second half. People were joking that they might show up at halftime because they were more interested in watching Wentz than the starters. I didn’t hear anyone question the fact that the quarterback would be playing with backups for fear that he might get hurt before game. Pederson did nothing wrong.

  • I’m mildly confused by the Eagles trading Dennis Kelly for wide receiver Dorian Green-Beckham. I get that the Eagles desperately need help at receiver, and Green-Beckham supposedly has a huge upside, but apparently had a bad work ethic with the Titans. It’s a great low-risk gamble for the Eagles. But I question trading the offensive lineman who was backing up Lane Johnson, who is likely to be suspended for most of the season. Short-term, they could be sentencing their quarterbacks to serious damage. Overall, though, I think it was a good move.

  • After Croatia lost to Serbia in the quarterfinal of the Men’s Basketball competition in the Rio Summer Olympics, soon-to-be-Sixer Dario Saric said, “I don’t know what to say. We lost again, and I played like the last p---y.”* Sixers fans will love that type of talk. But I wonder if we should be concerned that Saric scored 7 points, isn’t listed as a “Key Player” in the game story, and, if I’m reading his Euroleague stats (and doing the math) properly, he averaged 11.7 points last season and 9.9 points in the previous season. Most people—myself included—thought Saric would light it up from 3-point range when he got to Philadelphia. I’m not sure that’s going to be the case. In fact, though I can’t remember enough to reference names, I’ve heard at least one, maybe two, NBA analysts call Saric a role player. Now that he’s going to be here, it’s not a huge deal. But, for me it’s just one more reason the Sam Hinkie “plan” was a joke. He was willing to use a first round pick and wait, at the time, an undetermined number of years, for a potential role player.


*Ready for sourcing hell? I heard this from Harry Mayes on 97.5, who retweeted it from @crosports_; then I googled the quote, finding it on talkbasket.net, which credited http://sportske.jutarnji.hr/.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rob’s Rants on A Story You Should Have Heard; Journalism from John Oliver; Winning the Olympics; A Comedian You May Know

Did you hear about the mass murder in Japan? See all the Facebook profile pictures change colors? Endless media coverage? No? A former employee of a residential complex killed 19 people, stabbing a total of 45, according to an article I found about the July murders. I forgot to mention—not really—that the complex was for people with disabilities. Could that be why the story didn’t get much attention? I only found out about it because one Facebook friend mentioned it. At the time, I expected it to be breaking news on CNN. Instead, I couldn’t even find it on their website until I used google. Today, searching “Sagamihara Japan knife attack” brings up a number of stories. Yet, I still haven’t heard a word about it without specifically looking for it online.

I call these posts “Rob’s Rants” because I think it sounds good, but I really don’t want to rant and rave about everything. I’m not going to feign emotion about this story. I don’t know if the amount of violence we’ve all heard about this summer has caused me to flip a switch somehow. Of course, some people tossed around the term ableism, a word I’m beginning to despise. But there really are legitimate reasons to wonder why, in a time when we are inundated with stories of mass killings from anywhere in the world that we can’t avoid if we wanted, this story went relatively unnoticed. My guess is news outlets just didn’t think it would bring the ratings or clicks.

The murderer told police, “It’s better that disabled people disappear,” according to the story I mentioned earlier. He wrote a letter to the Japan House of Representatives with the same basic message, warning them of his plan in February. I don’t know anything about Japan. But if black people, Muslims, Jews, or pretty much any other group had been targeted this way, we damn well wouldn’t have missed the story.

I want to call the lack of attention to this story horrifying, but that describes what happened to these people and I don’t want to trivialize that. But I’ve been saying for years that the way the media covers people with disabilities is a real problem with real consequences. If the fact that people could be murdered en mass because they are disabled without anyone really noticing doesn’t drive that point home, nothing will.

If you need more than that, check out a good post on the subject by Denise DiNoto.

  • John Oliver did a great story on not only why newspapers are dying—and taking journalism with them—but why it’s helping make us all a bit dumber. At the risk of adding to the problem as he describes it, here’s the YouTube link. (Why the hell does he have a YouTube channel if he thinks getting content for free contributes to the problem? Yeah, I know, just had to mention the irony.) I don’t think it’s hopeless that journalism survives. As Oliver makes clear, the problem isn’t entirely the changing format. It’s what we’re doing with it. If we were reading more journalism and watching less cat videos, maybe Donald Trump wouldn’t be the Republican presidential nominee.

  • I haven’t engulfed myself in the Olympics, but I’ve watched my fair share. To keep the media theme going, I do get a little tired of the American-centered coverage. Don’t get me wrong, I want to follow our athletes and see them do well. But when I constantly see the medal count with the U.S. dominating seemingly everything, I get the feeling that we’re hoping to “win the Olympics.” (There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing the U.S. Men’s Basketball team not win gold. The creation of the “Dream Team” seems symbolic of the “win the Olympics” mentality. It came about precisely because we weren’t dominating the sport anymore. And I realize it was college kids versus the rest of the world’s professionals—but that was OK until we lost.) It’s all about us, when the Olympics could be a great opportunity for television to show other cultures and actually have people watch. I was almost relieved to learn from a Facebook friend watching the Games through various streaming services from other countries that Canada and presumably other outlets do the same thing—focus heavily on their athletes. I’m not saying NBC should become National Geographic, but a little effort in that area wouldn’t hurt. Instead, I heard one commentator say the Men’s Gymnastics team would get a chance to redeem itself in individual competition after not medaling as a team. Note to NBC—we’re not actually supposed to win every medal.

  • I thought I’d end on a positive note. I have previously pointed out good writing on disability, so I figured why not a good video. Based on his popularity on social media, Drew Lynch doesn’t exactly need a boost from me. I’ve seen Lynch’s videos before, and he’s consistently funny. He confronts his speech disability—in his case, stuttering—head on, using humor to talk about his experiences. In this video, released July 28, he talks about people who tell him his stutter is improving. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but he says his stutter hasn’t improved. He turns it into a great message about accepting people as they are, even going into the first time he met a gay person. It’s one of those subtle areas in disability that I think a lot of able-bodied people struggle to understand—and a message many people with disabilities struggle to send. The idea is that when others constantly want to offer encouragement that we’re improving, it promotes the idea that we are focused on ridding ourselves of our disabilities instead of living our life. As I’ve said before, the focus of our lives isn’t some fantasy that our disabilities will disappear. Lynch sends that message in a great way.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: First Glimpse of the Eagles and Wentz; Thome on the Phillies Wall of Fame?; Flashes of old Ryan Howard; more

It was a busy weekend for Philadelphia sports, including the Eagles playing their first game Thursday against Tampa Bay. I guess if I’m calling Thursday part of the “weekend,” I can call the glorified practice that is preseason football a “game.” Since the Birds will dominate my sports Rants, I thought I’d shift gears and start  posting it on Mondays (or Tuesdays when they play on Monday night) after the game.

  • I don’t know what to make of Sam Bradford’s 3-play appearance in the preseason opener, which included his one pass for 3 yards. The drive started in the red zone after the Bucs fumbled the opening kickoff, and ended with a Ryan Matthews rushing touchdown. If Bradford was an established veteran starter, I’d assume head coach Doug Pederson was happy to get the quarterback’s feet wet and get him out on a positive note. But playing his first season last year after missing a season-and-a-half due to injuries, and having his team trade up to the second pick in the draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz, Bradford appears to be anything but the established starter. It only encouraged the “We Want Wentz” chants from the crowd and added to the head scratching about the Eagles quarterback situation. (The head scratching only increased with news breaking on Saturday that Wentz suffered a hairline fracture of his ribs.) Maybe Pederson has plenty of confidence in Bradford and wanted to see more of the backups. My two cents is the guy should have played more.

  • Doug Pederson surprised everyone and put Carson Wentz in for the last two minutes of the first half. He reportedly told the broadcast team that he wanted to get the jitters out of the rookie. I wonder if unexpectedly throwing Wentz into the first half is evidence that a touch of the “gambler” from early Andy Reid vintage has rubbed off on Pederson. (Remember the onside kick to open the season against Dallas?) I’m probably giving him too much credit, but I liked it and think it bodes well for fans who want to see Wentz play this season assuming his injury doesn’t linger.

  • Poised was the word of the night for Wentz. I don’t think the preseason reveals much about a player, especially after the starters are out. Wentz made some throws and missed some others playing with and against some guys who won’t be in the NFL. It’s also unclear how the rib injury impacted his play.

  • Overall, I saw nothing to excite Eagles fans for this season. The team seemed to have no depth on the offensive line, which might end up being a great reason to keep Wentz on the sideline. (Believe it or not, I noted this prior to news breaking that Wentz ended up with an injury in the game.)

  • Jim Thome is a class act by all accounts and was a great player. But there’s no way he should have been put on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He essentially played two seasons for the team in 2003 and 2004, being traded to Baltimore after playing sparingly in 2005, and finally returning in 2012 for 30 games to retire. Thome’s basically the guy in Philadelphia who delayed Ryan Howard’s career in the Majors. He had very good numbers with the Phillies (89 home runs in the first two years, batting .266 and .274, respectively) and played on decent teams (86-76 in both ’03 and ’04), but it was just before the Phillies run that culminated in the 2008 World Series Championship. Putting him on the Wall of Fame cheapens a pretty cool display at Citizens Bank Park, and proves they shouldn’t be adding new members every year.

  • Ryan Howard will rightly be on the Wall of Fame someday, and as painful as his final years have been to watch, I almost wish he had walked off into the sunset after the game Friday night. He hit a grand slam to break open 3-3 game against Colorado, and finished 3-for-5 at the plate with 5 RBI. He’s actually hitting .381 with 12 RBI and 4 HRs in the last 15 games, and .284 with 19 RBI and 7 HRs in the last 30 games. Is it possible a contender actually takes him in a waiver trade with his contract expiring? I doubt it. But I can’t believe it’s even a thought. In a way, I’m happy for him to go out on a little bit of a high note. But it also makes us all wonder what could have been.

  • Cody Asche was sent down to the minors and I wonder if he’s done as a Phillies player. He seemed to be doing OK in the outfield, but he’s really not hitting at all (.203), certainly not providing power (4 home runs since returning from the minors on June 2), and he was originally a third baseman. I don’t think Maikel Franco is going anywhere. I wasn’t sure why Asche came up from the minors after starting the season there due to a spring training injury. If memory serves, the rehab stint was extended because he wasn’t hitting in the minors, and he never actually gave the Phillies a reason to bring him up.

  • A higher voice has spoken? I can’t resist this national note from the weekend. The headline on espn.com (now changed) was beautiful—“Thunderstorm cuts short Yankees’ pregame ceremony for A-Rod.” According to the story, Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for the entire 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs, came out of the dugout at 7:02 PM for his pre-game We’re Releasing You ceremony (my words). By 7:07 PM he was heading for cover from a thunder and lightning storm. Don’t mess with Mother Nature.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Is it really better if Lane Johnson didn’t know? Mackanin and his young pitchers; Eflin’s knees; more

I don’t want to be another guy saying, “How stupid is Lane Johnson?” who reportedly faces a second suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. The Eagles lineman supposedly has a familiar excuse—he was using a substance approved by the league. If that’s true—though a guy whose already been suspended doesn’t have much credibility—it’s hard to comprehend how this keeps happening. Players can supposedly call the league to make sure they’re taking approved supplements. Johnson’s appeal of the suspension will likely be based on the supplement being “wrongly labeled.” Maybe the league needs a hotline for players to find out where they can buy supplements. Is it really that hard for a billion dollar industry to regulate, or maybe organize is a better word, how players get their supplements?

Again, with Johnson’s previous suspension, most people aren’t buying his apparent excuse. But I really think it brings up a bigger, or at least another, issue. We’ve all heard the stories about steroids being readily available in the locker room. I’m reading a book right now, Those Who Hit the Hardest, that mentions them being available “on our training table in cereal bowls,” quoting an anonymous player discussing the AFL in the 1960s. I think most fans, myself included, assume things are much cleaner now, at least in terms of league involvement.

But I begin to wonder how much sports organizations really care about the issue of PEDs.

I know I’m not saying anything new. But if by chance Johnson and others aren’t lying about mislabeled products, it seems almost worse than the expected reasons for PED use. Who are players buying from? Are they total frauds with their dealer on speed dial? Are guys going online ordering from Canada or wherever? I think I heard that scenario floated on sports talk this week. If it’s really this rampant, why are we even worried about off-the-field transgressions? Or Deflategate?

  • Besides the fact that Phillies pitchers are dropping like flies—Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin have gone to the disabled list, and Jeremy Hellickson left yesterday’s game with an apparent back problem—the most disturbing thing I saw came after Vince Velasquez’s last start. Manager Pete Mackanin questioned his pitch selection, and added that catcher Cameron Rupp told him that Velasquez “didn’t want to throw [his changeup] for whatever reason. . . . I don’t know, he gave up a hit to [Joc] Pederson early in the game [on a changeup] and then decided he didn’t want to use it.” According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the pitcher responded with a “pronounced roll of the eyes” when told of his manager’s comments. That’s great. It really gives fans confidence that the young guys want to learn.

  • Eflin, according to the Inquirer, has had bad knees for more than a decade. Not to worry, though, the Phillies knew about his knees when they traded for him, according to Matt Gelb’s article. Why? That’s all I want to know. Why do Philadelphia teams keep taking players who are injured? Is it working? Am I somehow missing championship parades up and down Broad Street? Hopefully this is a blip on the radar for Eflin, whose managed this problem for years. But, again, . . . why?

  • The Phillies turned their first triple play since 2009 on Sunday, and it was pretty cool to see it happen as I watched the game live instead of on replay. It was almost weird in that it looked so normal, going down as a 5-4-3 triple play. I think they mentioned on the game broadcast that the White Sox have 3 triple plays this year (at least that’s the number I found from googling). It’s makes me miss the days of This Week in Baseball. Somehow, instant highlights every night on SportsCenter isn’t the same.

  • Chris Berman and Tom Jackson have kind of become a punchline. But with Jackson retiring, I was surprised to read NFL Primetime ended 10 years ago. Time flies. Give ‘em credit. That show could be the best part of a football Sunday if the Eagles lost, and was a must watch for fantasy football players before the internet gave us instant stats. Berman’s rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ description of a lineman picking up a fumble and running for a touchdown had its day. They were having fun with highlights before writing quips was a requirement for anchors that was more important than knowing the game.

  • You gotta love ESPN. I think they’d literally like that to be a law. Remember when they had a contract to air NHL games? They covered hockey like it was the most popular sport in the country. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to know it still exists based on their coverage. Guess who doesn’t have the Olympics? On Sunday afternoon around 4:45 their main headline read, “Which are the worst Olympic sports?” It just struck me as odd timing. I barely browsed the article, and, to be fair, they seem to be covering the Games just fine. But that headline doesn’t run if they are airing the Games. You just gotta love ESPN.

  • Of all the jokes about the NFL canceling the Hall of Fame Game because paint caused the field to feel “like cement” at midfield, I thought the best one came from Randall Cobb. “The disappointing part is [fans] not getting a game from us,” he said. It almost sounded like he cared about playing a fifth preseason game.

  • I used to have “Golf is not a sport” as a topic label on my old sports blog. This week provided a perfect example of why I can’t stand the game. I first heard about this on 97.5’s Midday Show “Nooner.” Jim Furyk shot the lowest round in PGA history with a 58 at the Travelers Championship, but it almost didn’t count because his playing partner wrote down the wrong score for Furyk on a hole. That’s not integrity. It’s dumb.

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Goodreads.com Review of James Patterson’s The Beach House

After reading James Patterson’s The Beach House, I admit I need to diversify my reading. In the meantime, check out my thoughts on the book at Goodreads.com or right here:

The Beach House The Beach House by James Patterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I committed the sin of judging a book by its cover—or at least picking a book to read by its cover. The Beach House by James Patterson and Peter De Jonge looked like it might offer a little taste of being at the shore inside one of his typical “thrillers.” No such luck, but it was a fairly decent story, easy enough to read (mostly) when we went to the pool. Jack Mullen sets out to prove that his brother didn’t drown, but, in fact, was murdered. The book kind of sets up a battle between the middle class and the rich. It’s not until fairly late that the reader gets a sense—at least I did—that the novel is somewhat of a comment on the sensationalized trials of celebrities like O.J. Simpson, which didn’t quite work. And I was slightly confused by what started as small town justice eventually grabbing the attention of the nation.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Trade Deadline, Talk Shows, Former Eagles Coaches, Ejecting Fans, and a Note on Pete Rose

Sports is just starting to rev up again as we crawl through the dog days of the sports calendar. But there were a few things I found worth ranting about.

  • Though I seem to be alone in my opinion, I was happy the Phillies didn’t make a move at the deadline. All I heard for two weeks before the deadline when a Phillies pitcher had a good performance was that the guy was increasing his trade value. How about increasing the value of the product on the field? Jeremy Hellickson is 29 years old. Vince Velasquez is 24. Both guys were rumored in trades. Along with Jerad Eickhoff and Zac Eflin, the Phillies have a fairly young pitching staff with potential. Yes, it’s only potential. But this is what everybody wanted—the Phillies to get young. Why not play it out? Unless the Phillies were getting back players they could plug-in right away who were going to be here for years, there’s no way they should have traded either Hellickson or Velasquez. I understand Hellickson will probably become a free agent next off-season, and the Phillies are going to get a draft pick as compensation. And people are convinced Velasquez will get hurt because of his history. When did we adopt the Sam Hinkie mentality? Trade anybody with any value, and in 10 years we’ll win! Woo-hoo. No thanks.

  • I’m a big sports talk fan. I generally whenever it won’t be a distraction. It was always a popular topic in my previous attempt at sports blogging. The hosts are almost, as I think Mike Missanelli has said, like a part of the family. I’m sworn them off, had Twitter exchanges—good and bad—with a few, and had the thrill of doing a podcast with Jon Marks about my novel. Among other things, doing that interview was a real eye-opener on another topic I’ve heard Missanelli discuss—the prospect of actually meeting people I’ve criticized. I’m sure they don’t care about my blog, but it really made me think. I went overboard once or twice on the old blog. Nothing horrendous. I’m not throwing myself at their mercy for forgiveness. But I wanted to acknowledge it as I continue sports blogging here. Sports talk is too big of a topic to ignore, and it will no doubt be a regular part of the Rants. I still won’t hold back, but I think I have a better perspective on the topic.
With that disclaimer out of the way . . . I love it when sports talk guys question the lack of interest in the Eagles. This week I heard more than one host talking about the drop-off from last year compared to this year’s first open practice. There was a wonder in their voices as if they were completely befuddled. Whenever they bring up the topic, I can’t help thinking they’re scared to death. I’ve said for years that hosts direct conversation. The Eagles are the bread and butter of both local sports talk stations. Obviously, WIP has the games. But The Fanatic and WIP both have a ton of programming around the Eagles and the NFL. Their argument in defense of always talking Eagles is that everybody else stinks, and they’re not worth talking about. But hosts constantly scoff at people who call about other teams. Right after the trade deadline for baseball, the only talk I heard about the Phillies from hosts was a brief, well, I can’t get into it because the Phillies stink. If the Eagles stunk for years—and, by the way, they kinda have—do you really think they’d stop talking Birds? Not a chance.

  • I listened to chatter about how happy Eagles veterans are as they returned for training camp, and it occurred to me how odd it is that the franchise’s fired head coaches seem to get hired almost immediately. It’s always felt like a slap in the face to Philadelphia. The fact that Chip Kelly is coaching in the NFL this season is a joke. Andy Reid seemed to orchestrate going to Kansas City before he cleaned out his office in the NovaCare Complex. I can go all the way back to Rich Kotite getting a job, and the media practically laughing at Philadelphia for letting go of that genius. I understand the NFL recycles coaches like soda cans, but Kelly imploded here after about a half. He has the most blatant college, it-will-never-work-in-the-NFL, system I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait for the backtracking in San Francisco.

  • It’s rare to applaud an umpire, but give Bob Davidson a hand for ejecting a fan Tuesday night for “repeatedly yelling a sexual innuendo and telling the Giants players that they ‘suck.’” I get the adage that if you buy a ticket, you get to say what you want. But I’m so tired of some Philly fans wearing their reputation as a badge of honor. I’ve been stuck in front of these types of fans plenty of times—and many thanks to the Phillies for adding counters behind accessible sections so guys can get drunk much easier while standing right behind us. These idiots think people paid to hear there oh-so-witty commentary for three hours. Baseball is a slow game. Part of the enjoyment is often getting out—literally, outside—for a few hours and enjoying the fresh air. It’s about time somebody cracked down on the losers who think it’s all about them yelling loud enough to get their voices on the television broadcast.

  • I couldn’t quite fit this into my initial Rants, but I’m thrilled Pete Rose had his jersey number, 14, retired by the Cincinnati Reds. I was a huge Rose fan when he was with the Phillies. He exemplified how to play the game, he’s still the Hit King (not Ichiro Suzuki), and I can only hope this is a stepping stone for Rose getting into the Hall of Fame.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Two Weeks of Conventions—Part II: Democrats


Here’s Part II of Rob’s Rants on the last two weeks of political conventions. The Democrats were up close, having their party right in my area of Philadelphia.
  • Hillary Clinton gave a great speech to close out the Democratic National Convention, and pushed me toward voting in the presidential election in November. I didn’t say voting for her, because the only choice for me is to vote for Clinton or not at all. She crushed Trump, putting him in his place, especially in respect to his suggestion that he knows more than our military leaders, saying, “No, Donald, you don’t.” And she succinctly summed up the problem with his temperament, saying, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.” I thought there was genuineness in the way she talked about all of his prejudice. Finally, it didn’t feel like piling on—not that Trump’s nonsense doesn’t deserve some piling on—but she really put it on a non-political level. She laid out her history of working for people with disabilities in a way that I not only bought, but it was more than a sound bite. I really think she “gets it.” And this might sound superficial, but her demeanor finally seemed strong in terms of being a leader. Yes, she talked about the fact that her election would be important for little girls, and that’s great. I also liked the fact that she talked about her mom, and being a mom and a grandmom, in that speech. But she did it without just being the woman candidate. She did it within being the candidate.

  • The eve of the DNC had its own fireworks, only they didn’t need the media’s help. Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced she would resign after leaked e-mails showed staffers favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primary. Reports say they were asking how they could use Sanders’ faith against him with Southern voters and how to defend Clinton against Sanders’ claim that she didn’t “[live] up to a joint fundraising agreement.” Maybe these people should just text. Better yet, call each other. Of course, they could try not screwing with the system, but that doesn’t seem possible. Honestly, I was with Bernie when he blew off Hillary’s use of a private e-mail server as Secretary of State. Nothing resulted from it, so the issue seemed like Republicans blowing up a non-issue. But when Bill Clinton just sort of happened to meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport, then shortly thereafter this never-ending issue is suddenly resolved . . . it smells. Coupled with the latest e-mail scandal, it just reinforces that feeling I can’t shake about Clinton. I basically want to vote for, she certainly has the better temperament for the job, and I think a woman president would be a good thing. I understand she has the better resume in public service, and I even think she’d do a lot more for the middle class and people with disabilities. But, damn, she sure does seem to work the system.

  • Tim Kaine didn’t impress me anymore than Mike Pence. Everyone says no one votes for the VP candidate anyway. I’ll admit, I wasn’t comfortable with him speaking Spanish. In his “first greeting to voters as the vice presidential nominee,” he did it even more than at the DNC according to the video attached to the story on CNN. He also seemed to do it a lot without repeating himself in English. The story says he did it while talking about inclusion on a campus that is “more than half Hispanic.” I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Americans didn’t feel included. I think English is our language—by law or not—and should be the language used first in this country. Otherwise, he had a goofy Trump impersonation and pointed out that Trump doesn’t offer any actual plans, which was worth pointing out again, I suppose.

  • President Obama gave what will probably be his last national address, and he was pretty damn good. One of the ways I measure that is the fact that he’s one of those people from whom I feel like I’m learning something when he speaks. I’m certainly not a historian, but I have to think people will soon look back and decry the fact that Obama’s presidency took place with a Congress that simply said “no” to whatever he said just because he said it. What a shame.

  • Over the last year, I’ve grown to think the same thing about Bernie Sanders—I learn when he speaks. Yet, I feel like he wussed out a little. As I said in Part I of this post, it wasn’t that long ago that people were talking about a contested convention for both sides. And Sanders doesn’t slam the DNC chairwoman, who clearly tried to tilt the scales against him? I understand that what Sanders was going to say was negotiated with the Clinton camp, but I would’ve loved to “feel the Bern” one more time.

  • Elizabeth Warren has been pretty stellar at taking down Trump, but for my money she fell a little flat at the convention. Maybe it was just one time too many. I hate to compare her to Rudy Giuliani, but there seemed to be that beat from the crowd when she expected a reaction.

  • I missed Anastasia Somoza, a young woman with cerebral palsy who spoke on the opening night of the DNC, I believe in prime time. Seeing her speech on YouTube, I have to say she did a terrific job—I’m not patronizing, just admitting I don’t think I could have done it. More importantly, she offered a pretty strong rebuke of Trump for mocking a disabled reporter.



Read Part I: Republicans

Rob’s Rants on Two Weeks of Conventions—Part I: Republicans


This will be a rare political Rob’s Rants. After two weeks of conventions, I couldn’t resist. I don’t claim any political expertise. I’m just some guy who watches the shows. But, hey, that’s good enough for the Republican nominee, here are my thoughts:
  • I didn’t hate Donald Trump’s speech. I agree with some of his basic concepts—put America first, strengthen the borders, and create better policing. I kept thinking, “How?” “How?” “How?” But I think either candidate will have to deal with a Congress where the other party simply refuses to work with them. (That needs to stop—now.) I wondered about some of his facts, and I wasn’t surprised to read that he was often off-base. I also felt like the real Donald kept slipping out when he would stop and strut for a couple steps, or clap, or join the “USA” chant. His self-aggrandizement is never far away. And, as much as I don’t want to be that guy, I didn’t like the fact that in an hour-plus speech he didn’t mention issues of people with disabilities even once. As Trump might say, “Not good.” It’s not a make-or-break thing for me—we need more than a speech mention, anyway—but Trump has major work to do after mocking a reporter with a disability. Quite frankly, I thought that should have been the end of his campaign (along with several other moments). Bottom line, there was never a chance I’d vote for him, and he didn’t change that.

  • The “fun” really started the before the Republican National Convention. Dom Lemon’s disgraceful interview of Sheriff David Clarke, who was a scheduled to speak at the convention, showed how difficult it is to get unfiltered news today. Discussing the most recent shootings of police officers—and it’s sad I have to use the words most recent—Clarke suggested that the Black Lives Matter movement was a root cause. Lemon cut him off repeatedly, even going to commercial at one point to mute Clarke, stating that he was off topic. No, he wasn’t off topic. Whether Lemon agreed with Clarke or not that the rhetoric from BLM is helping create an anti-police sentiment, an interviewer has no business cutting someone off because they disagree with their opinions. Lemon even doubled-down the next night, suggesting Clarke’s speech at the RNC wasn’t well received, a statement refuted by an analyst on his own network minutes later. I was also surprised to see no coverage of Clarke’s speech in the Philadelphia Inquirer the morning after. Fox “News” pushes the Republican agenda, and critics say MSNBC does the same for Democrats. It’s sad and dangerous for the country if CNN and other news organizations are getting into the business of picking sides.

  • I wanted to like Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence. A lot. I didn’t. I had to google his name as I wrote after watching plenty of the RNC. He acted like he had just been invited to the cool kids’ table and didn’t want to mess it up, so he just kept saying how awesome they are. It’s just one speech, but it did nothing to excite me about him.

  • I was disappointed by the news that Governor John Kasich turned down the role of Vice President on the Republican ticket. I get it. He doesn’t like Trump and doesn’t want to be a hypocrite. And he probably doesn’t want the association with Trump to hurt his political future. If reports are true, Kasich was basically offered the presidency while Trump acts like an idiot . . . I mean, figurehead. This is naïvely idealistic of me, but take the job, Guv! Be the guy who actually puts serving your country first, instead of your ego, as president.

  • A few months ago, people were talking about contested conventions. Yet, the one note of unscripted party spin from Ted Cruz, who did all the usual party speak except to endorse Trump, was treated like treason. I realize conventions are nothing more than infomercials for the parties. But people on the floor booing Cruz for not going along with the program, is a perfect microcosm of everything that’s wrong with the way we elect leaders of this country.

  • Why was Rudy Giuliani yelling at us? I’m just curious. Did someone screw up his room service? No one else seemed to know either, since he had to resort to raising his voice on the last word of each sentence when people were supposed to clap. There was that awkward moment each time when it seemed like everyone in the audience looked at each other with the question in their eyes, “Now? Clap? We clap now, right?”

  • After the Trump speech, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played as the balloons fell at the RNC. Maybe he’s more in touch than he lets on.



Read Part II: Democrats
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