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.

Weak end at Bernie’s

I cannot stand hype, especially when the beneficiaries brandish brash opinions of themselves as athletic gods. The buildup often comes from the media yet often derives from forlorn fans desperate to have their team or country matter on a national or global scale.

Australia is experiencing summer now, and I feel many Aussies may be suffering from heat exhaustion, as so many feel that a native will capture the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam on the tennis calendar. Please note they reside in a land with a tremendous tennis history, but no Australian has won the singles title since Christine O’Neil secured the ladies’ singles crown in 1978. I am using context to have you appreciate how long ago that is, as your humble author, who often speaks of being old, was a few months away from conception.

Bernard Tomic won the 2008 boys’ singles tournament, and that propaganda machine began spewing plaudits for a player with an unorthodox game and supposedly boundless talent. Fast forward to today. The 19-year-old, already having to deal with accusations that he cheated in his third round match, faced four-time Aussie Open champion and my idol (yes, I have a tennis idol) Roger Federer on Rod Laver Arena, the tournament’s top court.

I read plenty of chatter that said the match could signal a changing of the guard, as Aussies noted that Federer achieved his breakthrough as a 19-year-old by eliminating seven-time champion Pete Sampras in Wimbledon’s 2001 fourth round. Sampras, the all-time leader in major championships until Federer, 30, now with 16, scored his 15th at the 2009 Wimbledon championships, was 29 when suffering a five-set loss to the Swiss forehand machine, so I could see the age parallels. What differed? The fact that Federer hails from a land sans hype.

Australia is 16 hours ahead of us on the East Coast, so the scheduled 7 p.m. start meant I would need a 3 a.m. wakeup if I wished to see a definite great against a presumed one. I figured sleeping until 5 would still give me a chance to catch the third set and on, but I found a women’s match delighting the crowd. Fairly calm, I went online to learn that Federer had thumped Tomic, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in under two hours. The teenager awed his mates over three matches, but Federer has attained legendary status for breaking tons of hearts. Highlights showed Tomic way out of place on many shots and feeling resigned to say at least he played Federer in the marksman’s 999th career match.

With his exit, the hype monster must pine for Bernie to regroup and mature quickly, as Federer did in collecting his first major two months shy of turning 22. The latter marches on to yet another quarterfinal and engineered a weak end at Bernie’s. Pardon the pun, as I could not resist using it, much like the Aussies cannot refrain from advocating even marginal chances.

Opportunity shocks

Having just celebrated my son’s six-month birthday one week ago, I must admit I have slacked a bit in analyzing the sports world. Instead of singing the praises of athletes, I have become quite the troubadour of the tunes from The Disney Channel. “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Little Einsteins” have dominated my brain just like the Green Bay Packers have ruled the NFL. See, I still pay attention! I even know the lauded Wisconsin juggernauts lost their chance at an undefeated season today against Kansas City.

My time away from intense study of baseballs, footballs and pucks (Sorry, basketballs, your bouncers and shooters deserve as much attention as a Rick Santorum campaign speech.) has helped me to realize how fickle the nation’s athletic heroes can be. It seems as if opportunity shocks as often as it knocks for stars, and my recent run of casual observance offers no rebuttal to my views.

Take Ryan Braun. How strange that a man whose last name is a homophone  for a term indicating strength would have to combat allegations that he used a performance-enhancing drug. If Braun unsuccessfully battles to clear his name, “The Hebrew Hammer” will likely be striking himself over receiving a suspension. I am a fan of the Milwaukee Brewer and reigning National League Most Valuable Player, yet I idolized Roger Clemens for years, too.

I am glad to see Jimmy Rollins will remain a Phillie. I cannot wait to see how that new contract will increase his walk totals and willingness to leg out grounders.

As for the old pigskin, I see the Eagles are teasing their fans again with two straight wins. What a sad division the Birds find themselves in that an 8-8 record could clinch the NFC East for the perpetual teasers! The temperatures have grown quite cold, fellow Philadelphians. Allow Andy Reid to pull the wool over your eyes and the rest of your bodies.

The Flyers are impressing me, yet the loss of defenseman Chris Pronger has me fearing Paul Holmgren will make a foolish trade (the Flyers have made a few of those, just so you know.) to sure up his bunch. I worry that young talent will be the bait for oldheads whom he will praise as solid veterans, a synonym for hacks.

Ah, basketball. Aside from a passing interest in the college game, I have taken only immature joy in the failure of Kobe Bryant’s marriage. Bryant has never won my favor, but his wife certainly gained her own share of my interest by booting him. Here is to a fruitless season for the Lakers, too. I sense a Dallas dynasty.

Only a few hours separate me from another morning with Mickey House and the gang. I am tempted to think DeSean Jackson, showboater extraordinaire, devised their “Hot Dog Dance.” I am sure he will be able to perform his moves in early January at a dance club instead of during a playoff game. Ah, an opportunity to rag Jackson, how could I resist? It is an opportunity whose knock I will always answer.

Old man autumn

I have never given gobs of time to the nature versus nurture debate, but the Flyers and the Phillies have rendered me ponderous. My cynicism can prove disastrous when I discuss sports, and I blame it on the local players and their penchant for sadism. Philadelphia’s teams are to my sanity what air is to a sliced apple, instant alteration. I see them as cruel examples of life’s ability to give and take with impunity.

However, I am going to stop knocking oldtimers, as my bones will one day be as creaky as theirs courtesy of my throwing my arms in disgust and needing long walks to shake off defeats. (Note: I hate the Blackhawks, I hate the Blackhawks.) Jaromir Jagr has shown that along with possessing one of the worst hairstyles in sports history, he owns a resilient body. He is defying me and a greater source of vitriol, Father Time. I hope the Czech keeps age in check until the middle of next year, as he will finally be able to look forward to his days of prunes and Depends with joy instead of consternation.

He will not don a uniform until late winter, but Jim Thome provides another example of an older man choosing autumn to prove his resolve. The Phillies have never won my ultimate favor and likely never will, but I dig class acts regardless of the shirts they wear. Thome, after all, kept me from witnessing hundreds of Ryan Howard strikeouts by being a great performer from 2003-’05. He whiffs often, too, but something about his personality makes me overlook many of his failures. Just call me the baseball wing of the athletic administration at Penn State University.

I told someone the 41-year-old might hit 15 home runs and drive in 45 runs. In actuality, I would take 15 hits and 45 at-bats. His presence alone will help the squad to shake off the sting of falling nine victories short of the World Series crown and if he proves successful, he might consider taking hacks until the AARP comes calling at age 50. Stranger things, dear friends, stranger things.