Behind the Mic: …Had a Great Fall

Tiger Woods played at the Memorial this past weekend.  He just made the cut on the very last hole.  This was a man who did not miss a cut for seven years!  On Saturday, he shot the worst score of his competitive career, an 85!  He hit seven fairways, nine greens in regulation, hit four balls into the water, and missed three putts inside of five feet.  Zac Blair (who?) played with Tiger on Saturday and beat him by 15 shots!

And, perhaps, that was not the most embarrassing part of the weekend for Tiger.  Because there were an odd number of players who made the cut, Tiger played the final round as the first one out for the day and he had to play by himself!!  He shot a 74 and finished in last place.  I know there are “Tiger-haters” out there and they are probably happy to see him fail.  I, for one, thought that this was a sad moment for one of the greatest ever in his profession.

This got me to thinking about some of the great “falls” in professional sports.

Pete Rose
I just loved watching the way he played the game of baseball.  He just exuded energy and enthusiasm for the game, became the career hits leader, and was destined for the Hall of Fame.  And then, there was the betting scandal, tax evasion, and imprisonment.  And still no Hall of Fame.

Lenny Dykstra
All his problems began after his baseball career – there was bankruptcy, concealing baseball gloves and other souvenirs that were supposed to be part of the bankruptcy, imprisonment, grand theft auto, and filing a false financial statement.  He was never able to “hustle” his way to success after baseball.

Lance Armstrong
He won the Tour de France seven times.  He beat cancer.  He was an American icon.  Turns out, he was a cheater who finally admitted to doping.

Marion Jones
She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and an NCAA basketball championship at North Carolina, but she used performance-enhancing drugs.  She spent six months in jail for lying to a grand jury.

Michael Vick
Football was not enough competition for him.  He decided to finance a dog fighting group.  That turned out to be a serious crime and a public relations nightmare.  He, too, went to prison.

These are just a few of the great falls from grace.  There are plenty of others – baseball’s Ryan Braun, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, remember Tonya Harding, Oscar Pistorius, etc.

After thinking about these infamous athletes, I come away thinking Tiger’s problems with the “sticks” are not so bad.  Let’s hope that he thrills us a few more times in his career.

When I have a bad round of golf, I always use the excuse that “I’m working on things.”  At least, Tiger can continue to “work on things”.  You can’t say that for the others.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. As everyone knows, American Pharoah broke the 37-year Triple Crown jinx by winning the Belmont Stakes. The race took two minutes and 26 seconds.  The broadcast took two hours and 45 minutes!  NBC did an outstanding job with all the back stories, the atmosphere, and the actual race.  Jockey Victor Espinoza became extremely likable as the story unfolded and I’m sure was forgiven for his expletive right after winning.  Great story!
  2. Since this blog talks about the demise of some of the greatest athletes, how about the amazing success of Serena Williams. She won the French Open even though she was not physically at full strength.  This was her 20th Grand Slam singles victory of her career.  She, arguably, is the best women’s player ever.
  3. For the first time in NBA history, the first two games in the finals went overtime. Two great teams with great players.  I actually watched both and was thoroughly entertained and awed by the talent.  And both teams played defense!
  4. On Saturday night, the NHL playoffs continued and Tampa beat Chicago 4-3 to even that series at 1-1. There was an allowed goal that should not have been, a goaltender who left the game twice, a rookie goaltender who had five saves on five shots, and hockey at its best.
  5. The RCN-TV crew will be heading to Penn State and Labrano Park for the PIAA state baseball championships to be played on Friday. The broadcasts will be LIVE on PCN beginning at 10:00 AM.

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Eagles Season Recap

One of my pet peeves in the sports broadcasting industry is commentators who make dozens of ridiculous predictions each sports season for the sole purpose of claiming “victory” once one of his/her inane insights happen to come true. These same people will quietly forget or ignore the other, incorrect guesses they made in an effort to make themselves look smarter than they may actually be.

We made our own predictions on an Eagles preview edition of RCN SportsTalk and, in the interest of full disclosure, I went back to see how we did. Here’s the good…and the bad…predictions we made about the Eagles 2013 season, keeping in mind these were made by our panelists and myself several weeks prior to the start of the season.

Preseason prediction #1: The Eagles will end the year with a .500 record or better.
When the team started the year 1-3 and their defense had more holes than Gruyére Swiss, this prediction wasn’t looking too solid. Even when the Eagles lost to the Giants—giving New York their first win of the season—not many people thought this team would break even record-wise, led alone win the division. Between fate (you couldn’t have ask for more opposing teams’ number-one players to go down with injuries), an improved defensive scheme, and an offense that learned to trust new starting quarterback Nick Foles, the team won seven of its last eight games. Despite a frustrating loss to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs, this year’s 10-7 season was a success and built a solid foundation for 2014.

Preseason prediction #2: Michael Vick will start 10-12 games this year.
WRONG! Not one of us on the panel thought that Vick had the slightest chance to go the entire season without missing at least a few games due to injury and/or ineffectiveness. However, Vick went down with debilitating injuries early and often and Nick Foles took full advantage of the increased playing time, turning in a performance for the record books. For a time, he had the highest quarterback passer rating in the HISTORY of the game. Despite a lackluster finish, he ended the year third on the all-time list sandwiched by future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Foles’ rapid ascension to the starting quarterback spot made Vick—even after recovering from injuries–an afterthought by season’s end.

Preseason prediction #3: Nick Foles will finish the year as the starting quarterback.
Correct—but….
Most of our panel believed that Foles would eventually win the job anyway, or he’s be the last QB standing by default. Matt Barkley never did anything to indicate that he would be a signal-caller to run this offense in training camp, and the limited times we saw him during the season suggests he’ll only return next year as a third-stringer at best. I know people don’t want to hear any possibility that Foles DOESN’T return as the starter next year, and I still highly doubt that the team will seriously look to move him. However, there’s a few well-respected Eagles’ journalists that I’ve spoken with that insist the team will at least venture into the possibility of “selling high” and getting a bundle in return for him—or at least, ASKING for a king’s ransom, and keeping Foles if no team bites.

Preseason prediction #4: Mychal Kendricks will emerge as a star.
This prediction came true very early in the season as the second-year, 23-year-old out of California established himself as the top-notch middle linebacker this team has sorely needed since the first departure of Jeremiah Trotter. But what we didn’t foresee back in early August was the way the players around Kendricks would step up their games. Connor Barwin also become a force on defense for the Eagles, disrupting passing lanes and rarely allowing a ball carrier to break free in his territory. By season’s end, Trent Cole looked extremely comfortable after adjusting to his “hybrid” position in the Eagles new 3-4 alignment. Really, there weren’t too many weaknesses in this defense overall—with the exception of depth, especially at outside linebacker and safety. Improving on the core with Kendricks at the center of it all will be the Eagles number one priority this offseason. Adding bigger, taller and stronger players into the fold was a focus of Chip Kelly’s post-season analysis and will be the main mission of the front office this offseason.

Preseason prediction #5: Jeremy Maclin will return next year.
At the time this prediction was made and contrary to many other players like him in the last year of a contract, Maclin had made the classy decision to NOT sit-out of training camp. Perceived as a critical piece of the puzzle in Kelly’s new offense, Maclin participated in preseason drills for the betterment of the team, only to tear his ACL, and lose all negotiating leverage he had when trying to extend his contract.

This will be a key issue for the team to address in the coming months. With the emergence of Riley Cooper as a solid number two receiver (despite that dropped pass over the middle in the Saints game), and another steady season by slot receiver Jason Avant, it appears that Maclin will not have a place on next year’s team. The Eagles have dropped the public relations ball on previous players who gave their heart-and-soul to the team (i.e., Reggie Brown, Brian Dawkins) only to be spurned a respectable offer to return. I know Maclin is not in that group’s class of all-time greats, but if the team is truly looking to embark on a new year, it should bite a small financial bullet and bring Jeremy back. It still remains to be seen if one of the top-skilled position players from a year ago will be back this fall.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Eagles season and on what steps the team needs to take this offseason to further its playoff drive for next season. Post a comment below or email your sports opinions to us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune in on Thursdays at 6pm for the latest local, regional and national sports conversations.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Nick or Vick?

 

NICK OR VICK?

The most frequently asked question over the next week will not be about the government shutdown. It will have nothing to do with The Voice, Breaking Bad, or any kind of regular television show. And the most frequently asked question will have nothing to do with the NHL, the MLB playoffs or even the Halloween season. No, the most frequently discussed–and debated– question over the next several days in Eastern Pennsylvania will be: Who should be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles–Michael Vick or Nick Foles?

The question is an old one, posed by fans in many NFL cities each year, every year, in the modern football era. It’s sometimes even discussed with regards to your favorite collegiate or scholastic teams. But Philadelphia is not your ordinary sports town, and sports fans in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys are the most passionate fans in the world. The fact that the Eagles find themselves tied with their NFC East rival Cowboys with a 2-0 division record, combined with Nick Foles’ solid play in Vick’s medically-induced absence this past Sunday against Tampa Bay, will push this question to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

While I’m not going to try to persuade you to root for one player over the other, there is a very important decision you have to first make before arriving at your pick:

“What should be the Eagles’ goal this season?”

There’s many reasons why people choose one quarterback or the other, but you first must answer that question before you consider whom Chip Kelly should select for this Sunday’s key game against another division opponent.

When a high school or college coach takes over a program, I usually encourage fans to give a new head coach at least three to four years to implement a system, and to establish their “type” of players. In the NFL, there’s not as much room for patience. However, Eagles fans must have expected 2013 to be a honeymoon year for Kelly, with no realistic expectations better than seven or eight wins–even in the incredibly inept NFC East. That being said, there is absolutely NO SHOT the Birds win more than one playoff game this year–AT BEST.

If you think this team, with its pathetic defense and insufficient wide receiving corp (without Jeremy Maclin), has any shot of exceeding that goal, your thoughts on the quarterbacks shouldn’t even be considered. The team could resign Vick at season’s end, so simply naming Foles as the guy because he’s younger and under contract for next season does not give you the best answer.

The Eagles have to worry about who will be the best signal caller for 2014 and beyond, and that’s what you need to consider. It’s not about winning this Sunday, or next Sunday, or the week after that. It’s not about dog-fighting, money or race. Foles’ age, his decision making, and his accuracy should be factored into your decision. For Vick, his dynamic presence, laser-arm, his favorable relationship with his teammates and his mobility are his assets. But which of these attributes will best lead this team a year or two from now? That should determine who you want to see start the rest of this season.

Unless you want the Birds to lose–and lose often–to enhance their draft selections in the offseason. A deficiency in this year’s quarterback could actually help Philadelphia’s rebuilding process by giving them the ability to draft a blue chip prospect–maybe even a quarterback–for next year and beyond.

But this constant battle that will be stimulating talk shows (and yes, we’ll be addressing this–briefly–on Thursday’s RCN SportsTalk at 6pm) over the coming days and weeks, will largely be a waste of time.

Besides, whichever quarterback doesn’t start for the Eagles this season could always play shooting guard for the 76ers.