We have HIGH Hopes, we have HIGH Hopes, we have, eye in the sky, apple pie hopes….
Somewhere, former Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas must be singing his favorite song, but not for his beloved Fightin’ Phils, who’s hopes for a successful 2014 season were in tatters even before July 4th had arrived…
Unlike the Phillies, who’ve been, and will continue to be, in rebuilding mode for the next few years, the Eagles took a detour on that path and turned a 4-12 season just two years ago into a ten win NFC East championship in 2013.
The start of football season in these parts always brings with it a sense of optimism and excitement, but that has been heightened considerably this year.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s first training camp was viewed almost like a circus act. Most of us were curious to see what tricks he had up his sleeve, if only for the fact that he was considered a novelty, but an unproven novelty.
This year, there is a sense that not only does Chip know what he is doing, but that he has his team on board as well, no easy feat when you consider that he is dealing with athletes who are getting paid to do a job and are no longer college students as was the case at his previous job in Oregon.
On top of that, the NFC East is ripe for the taking just as it was in Andy Reid’s first few seasons at the helm in the early 2000’s.
The Giants seem to be an older team on the path to mediocrity. The Cowboys needed to resort to signing Michael Sam just to get any publicity, since their season seems to be over before it even starts. And the Redskins? Can you say OVERRATED boys and girls? And that goes for their quarterback (RG3) as well. Look for Kirk Cousins to eventually take over that team.
Not only did the Eagles quick turnaround last year raise the fans hopes, but the sad truth is that they are the only game in town.
The Phillies treat their older veteran players as if they were professors with “tenure”, refusing to acknowledge even the thought that perhaps starting over with young and fresh blood is the best strategy. And while some of the bad decisions fall at the feet of Phils GM Ruben Amaro, firing Amaro would be nothing more than a band-aid approach when cutting off the head of the dragon is really what is needed.
Phillies president David Montgomery, while a decent businessman and a model human being, seems to refuse to believe that he has a lousy scouting department, lousy farm system, etc., always implying that he’s happy with the people he has in place. If Montgomery was the captain of the Titanic, he would probably tell you that the ship’s not sinking when half of it was already submerged under water.
Across the street, Flyers chairman Ed Snider, growing impatient with his team’s lack of a Stanley Cup since the 1970’s, has allowed his front office to sign players who, while not as “over the hill” as the Phillies current core, were a year away from being past their prime (can you say Vinny Lecavalier anyone?). This misguided strategy has resulted in one too many first and second round playoff exits, and while the arrival of new general manager (and former Flyers goalie) Ron Hextall should change that, the rebuilding process could still take a few years.
While the Flyers Wells Fargo counterparts, the Sixers, aren’t looking to get older, they seem to be looking strictly for young and INJURED players, with the hope that one day all of them will exit the infirmary at the same time and start playing basketball together as if they were the second coming of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
This strategy is sadly, exactly what is required in a screwed-up NBA, and it unfortunately took the Sixers too long to figure this out, so now they, just like the Phillies, are light years away from contention. Look for these two clubs to start contending just around the time that the first Walmart or McDonalds opens on Mars.
The fans in Philadelphia have been eagerly waiting for any sign of possible sports success, and this town is now the Eagles to lose. The offense should still be a potent force even with the departure of DeSean Jackson, and the defense looks to be improved. But the “elephant in the room” for most of training camp was the field goal kicker…
Alex Henery, during his three years as the placekicker, became the “Bobby Abreu” of the Eagles – he had great stats, but never seemed to deliver in the clutch. But with so few experienced kickers out there, his job seemed relatively safe until rookie Cody Parkey, who’s name sounds more like he’s the main character in an upcoming FOX show about the wild west, kicked two field goals from 50+ yards in the final preseason game, prompting the Eagles to send Henery out the door with a case of Tastykakes as a parting gift.
The message to Parkey from coach Chip Kelly basically was ‘Congrats kid, the job is yours. We have Superbowl aspirations…no pressure though.’
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have this uneasy feeling that at some point in January/February 2015, the Eagles hopes of ending their 54-year-old championship drought will rest on Parkey’s right leg. That could end up being his “Matt Stairs” moment…or his Scott Norwood/Bill Buckner moment, depending on the outcome.
So what happens this Sunday against Jacksonville? This could be the first time in years where I’m leaving a game midway through the 4th quarter since the outcome is no longer in doubt. The first time in years where I get to Broad & Pattison and the express trains haven’t started running since the game is still not officially over. The first time in years where I get to my car in center city and the coach’s postgame news conference hasn’t even started yet.
Birds win easily, 38-17, and get their season started on the right foot. Whether they have the right “foot” for making clutch field goals still remains to be seen…
The Last Word:
Congrats to the Taney Dragons for a successful season. While they did not win the Little League World Series, the fact that they made it to the tournament and went as far as they did is a testament in itself. Even more impressive is the fact that they are actually from Philadelphia. Not Bucks or Montgomery County, not Voorhees, Cherry Hill, or Moorestown, NJ but PHILADELPHIA.
The team as a whole seems quite humble, and their star pitcher, Mone Davis, displays the maturity of one who is a veteran MLB pitcher and not a thirteen year old.
When the Phillies recently honored the Taney Dragons before one of their games, it was ironic that Mone’s designated “partner” to throw out the first pitch to was Phillies closer Jonathon Papelbon. If Papelbon displayed even a quarter of the maturity that Mone Davis does, he might actually be considered likeable…
Amit’s Marquee Matchups for Week #1 (all times in EST and on Sunday unless stated otherwise):
Packers at Seahawks 8:30 PM NBC (Thurs)
Patriots at Dolphins 1:00 PM CBS
Colts at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC
Chargers at Cardinals 10:20 PM ESPN (Mon)