Requiem for a team

How vivid are my memories of those summers when professional baseball captivated the residents of South Philly! I gained a sense of the dwindled glory Friday when watching the Phillies defeat the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, especially pondering the glory years as Jimmy Rollins smoked two home runs and orchestrated a first-inning double play with his fellow 2008 World Series-winning peers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. All champions eventually go through mental and/or physical distress as their gifts wane, and the last two seasons in our proud city have been filled with anguish for the local nine’s supporters, as also-ran status has begun to creep in for a franchise that had really begun to become not only relevant but dominant.

I have summer sports staples and used to count on the Phillies to wow me. Despite their winning on Friday and making my $65 ticket worthwhile, I do not expect much from them. To be honest, I have always expected them to plummet because, hey, I am a Philadelphian, but they have hit a point where I do not even care about their record or their roster. Speaking of the latter, I looked at Friday’s program and had no clue who some of their players are. If management is truly considering parting with mainstays, I fear lean days will become copious and the fan base furious. I know time waits for no man, so I will not expect it to spare the Phillies from their decline. I just hope they take the steps to start a new countdown for capable players. In the meantime, mindful of my minutes, I thank them for their hard work. Age is cruel, gentlemen.

“To Embiid or not to Embiid”

South Philly Review Intern Joey Fontanazza weighs in with his NBA Draft analysis:

The daze of another noontime wake up time greets me. I shake off the “sleep” in my eyes and look outside. Clear skies but the appeal of the air conditioner is too much to pass up. I lazily check my phone hoping that I passed somebody’s mind throughout the night: no messages. Twitter is next on my agenda. “Don’t Care, Don’t Care, Don’t Care and Shut up”, but the next 150-character dagger fills my heart with the anxiety of a junior prom. “Joel Embiid injures foot”. “No, this can’t be,” I scream, yet this is very real. The draft was going to be so perfect. “Embiid, Parker, Wiggins” was all that played through my mind for the previous days. The Cavaliers get the big man that every team desires. The Bucks get the scorer they desperately need, and the 76ers get the long and athletic wing that would be so ideal for their up-tempo style. All of the past anticipations were erased in a haze of Greg Oden and Sam Bowie comparisons.

Then the worst of all, “Andrew Wiggins takes over as favorite for 1st overall pick”. Why does God or whatever controls this crazy universe hate the 76ers so much? The Sixers have been cursed every step of the way through these past years. “Oh, you get a center that you think can finally be the guy well he is not going to play a game as a Sixer. “You lose 25 straight games but guess what; the Sixers still aren’t the worst team. And last but not least “The Sixers have the second highest chance of the first pick, but we are going to give that pick to the worst franchise in the NBA that lost the best player of a generation”. The Basketball Gremlin’s power in Philadelphia is all encompassing.

I have to take a step back, for a minute I forgot there are people in the world with real problems. But how dare he, how dare Embiid get hurt before the draft. How selfish of him.

I passed through the first four stages of grief in about five minutes. Yes, I know, I take sports too seriously but this is what happens when you have no other hobbies, damn it. It was now time for the fifth stage, “The Upward Turn” (thanks recover-from-grief.com). Scenarios flashed through my subconscious. “Well, I do really like Exum, or maybe we could trade up”. They were comforting but Sam Hinkie is the radical behind the Sixers’ iron curtain. Anything that he does will likely come completely out of nowhere. His silent but powerful manner could spawn a whole new set of “Chuck Norris Joke” rip-offs. Hinkie was the last factor that soothed my sports’ anxiety attack. This is the first time in my life that I trust the people in the 76ers’ front office to make the right decisions. So when the June 26th draft happens, I will sit with my newly-legal-for-me beer and let Mr.Hinkie do his job. Let the players fall where they may yet have visions of the 2019 NBA Champion, Philadelphia 76ers.

Their (Carpenter) Cup runneth over!

This blog has not seen any activity in a small eternity, so my eager interns have convinced me to end this hiatus. For your viewing and cerebral pleasure, I present the musings of Joe Tressa and Joey Fontanazza, who took in some great Carpenter Cup action. Look for an upcoming post from me concerning the NBA Finals (Thank you, San Antonio!!!) and the World Cup. For now, though, I am letting the young bucks have their say.

*** Joe Tressa

The Philadelphia Catholic League played its first game in the 29th annual Carpenter Cup Classic this past Saturday against Tri/Cape. This game was originally scheduled for Thursday, June 12, but was pushed to Saturday due to inclement weather. The game was played at Ashburn Field inside of FDR Park in South Philadelphia.

Speaking of South Philadelphia, five Neumann-Goretti players were picked to play for the Catholic League in this game. Charlie Jerla, Justin Curtin, Nick D’Amore, Bay To and Ethan Pritchett were in uniform, with Cardinal O’Hara, Bonner/Prendie, Lansdale Catholic, LaSalle, Archbishop Wood, St. Joe’s Prep, and Archbishop Carroll having representatives, as well.

Jerla had the honor of starting this game. He had a solid outing, going three innings and allowing one run. This was the maximum that the lefty could have pitched, as the Carpenter Cup rules restrict a pitcher to pitch more than three innings per game. To also got the start for the team, as he was the starting right fielder. He went 1-3 with a double and scored a run on a Tri/Cape error in the sixth inning.

D’Amore did not start this game, but he did contribute by driving in a run on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the ninth inning. He also reached base on a single in the seventh inning. Curtin did not start this game either, but got an at-bat in the seventh, in which he was retired on a flyout. Pritchett, who is a pitcher, did not get a chance to make a relief appearance in this game.

Although Tri/Cape won this game, the Catholic League was in contention for most of the contest. It would have had a decent chance if it hadn’t given up two runs in the top of the ninth on an error made by the catcher attempting to throw out the runner at second base and then a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 6-2. The Catholic League boys added two more runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough for the win. One thing to take away from this game was the Catholic League’s failure to take advantage of Tri/Cape’s bad defense, which led to six errors throughout the contest.

The Carpenter Cup is a single-elimination tournament, so the Catholic League was officially eliminated with the loss. The Philadelphia Public League was also eliminated from this tournament when it was defeated by Delaware County on Sunday afternoon. It was a tough Carpenter Cup for the two Philly teams, but hey, there’s always next year.

*** Joey Fontanazza

The Philadelphia Public League entered the 2014 Carpenter Cup with an embarrassing record of 1-29 since the Philadelphia Phillies’-run series began. A .034 winning percentage greeted the Pub All Stars with the draw as the Delaware County, but past statistics meant little to the players participating. A second Carpenter Cup win was what the Public league strove for yet history would repeat itself.

Delco’s starting pitcher, Rob Brown from Penn Crest made quick work of the top of the Public League lineup retiring South Philadelphia natives and Prep Charter juniors, Keegan McKoskey and Joe Suppa then Science Leadership Academy’s Kevin Courtney. GAMP’s Jacob Kurtz looked to keep pace with his counterpart but surrendered a run on a Ben Faso fielder’s choice RBI knocking in Ryne Orgen.

Brown continued to impress through his three innings of allotted play. He bobbed and weaved pitches within the strike zone and mixed velocities. Prep Charter’s Christian Coppola supplied the only hit on Penn Crest’s all- star pitcher on a ground ball up the middle.

While Brown frustrated the Public League’s hitters, Kurtz valiantly tried to keep the game close. He worked through some defensive miscues to only allow two runs on two hits. The second run coming from Kevin Mohollen’s RBI groundout that sent Liam Bender home.

Delco started to pull away in the 4th inning, locking into the Public League’s new pitcher, Colin Yeager. Three hits from them began to chip away from the collective confidence of the players and two errors followed. Yeager was able to escape the inning with only three runs surrendered, though the damage was done.

Ashton Rains led off where Brown left as he entered the game and quickly retired his opponents’ hopes of gaining any ground. Heading into the top of the fifth, Yeager again ran into trouble. He retired the first two batters of the inning; however he would be unable to secure the third out in the fifth.

Yeager’s day came to an end after two straight walks, as Anthony Devito from Central entered the game. Devito’s inherited base runner, Jimmy Pasini, took it upon himself to get into scoring position with a wild pitch then stealing third base. Delco’s Nick DiGregoiro would send Pasini home with a single earning his first of two RBIs. Devito was able to strike out the next hitter, James Kanter, to end the inning. Rains kept his dominating pitching from the forth inning as he went to mound for the fifth.

He swiftly retired the side, blanking the Public League for yet another inning. The Public League’s nemesis, Liam Bendo, did his last dose of damage against his adversaries, as he scored the last of his three runs and earned his last of three hits. Bendo’s run gave Delco a 7-0 led over Philly’s Public League and another wild pitch sent Kevin Mohollen home for an 8-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Delco’s trio of pitchers Tyler Knight, Sean Correli and Dave Moore would hold off any hope of a comeback from the Public League with a continued shutout through the pitchers. Delco’s offense also wasn’t finished, as Kanter collected his one RBI and his second hit on a single to right field that scored Andrew Turner. Hope dwindled for a come back but the Public League still would not silently take the loss. Its offense finally showed signs of life in the bottom of the ninth. Nick Houser from Abraham Lincoln worked that count to get a walk.

Delco’s closing pitcher, Will Carey, struggled with his command as he was substituted into the game. Carey lost control of a pitch and hit Xavier Sanchez giving the Public League two rare base runners. Carey’s woes continued as he threw a wild pitch to advance both runners then another to allow Nick Houser to cross home for the Public League’s first run.

Frankford’s Edgardo Bernard Jr. added two more runs, knocking in Alex Blanco and Xavier Sanchez scored. The Public League refused to give in but with two runners on base, Will Carey was able to get Thomas Edison’s Michael Garcia to pop out for the final out of the game.

While Philadelphia’s Public League lost, its roster members played commendably against a team that featured many college prospects, and seniors can be proud to say their final high school game was played at Ashburn Field for the Carpenter Cup. Delco will go on to face Philadelphia’s Inter-Ac on June 17, 2014.

These Birds are bird feed

People too often punish themselves for pondering what they chose not to do and rarely congratulate themselves for what they elect to execute. The latter serves as the inspiration for this entry, as I decided Sunday not to watch one second of the Eagles-Cowboys game. Upon seeing the 17-3 final score in favor of the Texas troupe, I nodded my head to applaud my decision, knowing I spared my eyes and brain a wretched display of football. I hear so many fans note that Chip Kelly will revamp the roster next season and that this one will definitely continue to have its share of frustration. I cannot comment on the first part, but the second shows sheer brilliance. Long live subpar efforts!

Speaking of futility, do the Flyers think they are playing soccer, where one-goal performances are often enough to win? I am celebrating my 25th season as a fan and am starting to fear they will score 25 goals the whole year to match my rooting tenure.

Never a huge fan of the Phillies, I have always valued individual performers, and Shane Victorino frequently won my praise for his play. I hated losing him last year but loved watching his grand slam help my Red Sox (yep, they are mine!) to reach the World Series. May the Flyin’ Hawaiian earn another ring this fall!

 

 

As the world Foles down

Numerous endeavors kept me from watching most of the latest failure by the miserable millionaires known as the Philadelphia Eagles. I have not subjected myself to a full contest since Donovan McNabb’s stomach ruined a fantastic run to Super Bowl XXXIX nearly eight LONG years ago. I know the team has never lacked talent, but it has wasted it, something I learned from viewing “The Bronx Tale” many times in its entirety is the worst thing in the word (Thank you, Robert De Niro).

I have become so sour on this squad that I rooted for rookie quarterback Nick Foles only because he and my one-year-old son share a first name. Talk about pathetic reasoning, though not as foolish as the defense’s thinking it would stifle fellow first-year signal caller Robert Griffin III and help Andy Reid to lift his rump off the hot seat with a win against the Redskins.

The Eagles’ 31-6 humiliation seals plenty. Say goodbye to a double-digit win total (laughing like me over people who actually believed they would run the table and end up 10-6?), prepare to say farewell to most of this year’s defense, and plan to give Andy Reid a Christmas gift synonymous with his fate, a well-done goose. As I refrain from eating meat, I cannot bring myself to duplicate that offering. Instead, I will send him chocolates sure to melt away as quickly as his future in the NFL.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Nick Foles. Produce or perish.  

Horsing around?!?!?!?!?!

I am through with asking forgiveness for scumbags like Jerry Sandusky. Having always deemed pedophiles the most vile pieces of garbage, I have valiantly tried to mask my hate by praying for their recovery. What an idiot! I hereby cast off any positive consideration of these reprehensible perverts and, yes, I am going to play “Holier than thou Joe,” condemn them. May Sandusky and his ilk become chummy with those who, in more ways than one, will show them what it means to horse around.

I loathe saying this, but congratulations to the Miami Heat. I usually accept greatness easily, but LeBron James has bothered me for years. I cannot say he ascends to the top of my Christmas gift-giving list (quite sparse anyway, so he should feel honored even to have me mention him), but I admire how easily he thrashed Oklahoma City. Talk that the Thunder were too young irked me. Kevin Durant and the gang possessed enough maturity to down the Lakers and Spurs, after all.

James Van Riemsdyk, we hardly knew you! Here is hoping that you make a deep playoff run, too, a la Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Because you play for Toronto, the league might have to go back to having only six teams, but, hey, anything is possible. Who had the Kings winning the Stanley Cup?

Freddy Galvis, I hardly want to know you. What a moron! Your lusty .226 average surely makes that 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs worthwhile, Freddy User. I hope you enjoy your nightmare on Broad Street. You play in a hardnosed town with fans who love natural effort. Good luck winning them to your side.  

 

Forgive me, Jagr, for I have sinned

As a Catholic and a husband, I have spent a great chunk of my life asking forgiveness for goofs. Having turned 33 last month and nearing one year as a father, I expect to have to explain away a ton of other matters quite soon. One such issue has troubled me lately, yet I cannot run to a priest or to my wife for this one. No, I need to go to Jaromir Jágr for absolution.

When the Flyers signed the 1999 Hart Trophy winner July 1, I had not even a goosegump (http://southphillysports.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/jaromir-youre-a-mere-shadow/). I had expected the once-brilliant playmaker to be an archaeologist’s dream come true, foreseeing achy bones’ attempts to reclaim glory. Hopes for a great year from his mates evolved quickly, but the Czech seemed like a liability and simply another example of his new franchise’s old habit of acquiring AARP members. Adam Oates, anyone?

Then I watched him intently. Wow! The moves still dazzled, the decisions still teamed with brilliance, and the goals still accumulated. When the Flyers sealed the fifth seed, worry stayed dormant, as I believed good old #68 would find even more magic against Pittsburgh, his first team.

I cannot say I had absolute certainty the local boys would come back Wednesday after falling behind 3-0 after 20 minutes, but I predicted last night’s rally with such ease that I did not mind going food shopping after the first period. I thought, “They have this!”

I returned just in time to catch rookie Sean Couturier’s first goal in the second session’s waning seconds. Tying the game at 4-4, the timely contribution hatched thoughts that Jágr would win the game.

After falling behind again, the Flyers evened the tally immediately, again thanks to Couturier. I rushed to Facebook to do what months ago might have seemed crazy, as I noted “Jágr will win this game.” Only three minutes later, he deposited the decisive goal and led me to declare myself a modern-day prophet. Eat your hearts out, Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  I cannot help anyone to win the lottery, but I just had a feeling that Jágr would show he is a fine wine and make my earlier whine that of a pessimist.

Bless me, Jágr, for I have sinned. I doubted your grit but never again. I read that you became an Orthodox Christian in 2001, so I ask you what sort of penance will you be handing me? I can manage most matters easily, but I would be inconsolable if you departed. Please continue to make me and arrogant defenders look foolish.