Happy Festivus: The700Level Airs its Grievances

Happy Festivus: The700Level Airs its Grievances

"I got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about them!"

Not that you—our loyal readers and commenters—need any extra encouragement when it comes to the airing of grievances, but today is as good as any to let your friends and family members absolutely "have it."

A reminder also that Festivus will not be over for those on staff until Nick can manage to pin Enrico during the "feats of strength" later this evening.

And now, in honor of this the Day of our Pole, we submit to you the ways in which we have been disappointed by those whom we have so supported over the last year.

Let's rumble.
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Rev:
I’ll get into my Festivus-inspired Philly sports disappointment in a moment. Let me first admire my completely unadorned Festivus aluminum pole. Allow me a moment to marvel at the strength-to-weight ratio of it. It is beautifully cold and devoid of even a hint of commercialization.

Ok, on to my disappointment. I’ll take a bit of a different tact here and not select a local player, coach, general manager, or owner. No, my disappointment relates to a disturbing trend that has developed over the last few years.

I am disappointed that our local teams keep on losing to the eventual champion. The last three World Series Champions? The Cardinals, the Giants, and the Yankees. The last three teams to knock the Phillies out of playoffs? The Cardinals, the Giants, and the Yankees.
The last three Stanley Cup Champions? The Bruins, the Blackhawks, and the Penguins. The last three teams to knock the Flyers out of the playoffs? The Bruins, the Blackhawks, and the Penguins.

This disappointing trend extended to the NFL this past season when the Packers beat the Eagles en route to claiming yet another Lombardi Trophy.

I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Yes, I understand that some people take solace in the fact that our teams lost to the eventual winner. To some extent I can see the logic in that. I suppose it could soften the blow just a bit, in a “yeah, we lost, but at least we lost to the best team” sort of way.

Me? Mostly I just find it disappointing in a “had we beaten them we could’ve won the whole thing” sort of way. Ending this run of championships at our expense would be a Festivus miracle.

Now where’s my checkbook? I need to make a donation to The Human Fund.

Enrico:
Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS had all the makings of a perfect Philadelphia sports memory. It was a decisive playoff game and we had one of the greatest pitchers of his generation on the mound pitching for the Phillies. I scored tickets to sit with my dad in almost the exact same spot our 17-game partial plan tickets are located during the regular season. We were in our comfort zone. We expected an epic Friday night that would be a story we could tell for decades to come -- the night the Phillies kept their World Series run alive.

I could air my grievance with Rafael Furcal or Skip Schumaker for generating the one and only run of the game, but they were just doing their job. Can't really get overly angry at a guy for simply doing his job. So the same can be said for Chris Carpenter. I actually admire the guy's effort.

The Phillies bats certainly caused severe disappointment, but I found it hard to be angry at them after such an enjoyable ride up to that point. I don't really think you can have a grievance for being disappointed. Perhaps you can, but that's not my style.

My grievance is with the Baseball Gods on October 7th, 2011. It was supposed to be a night to remember. It was supposed to be epic. It was supposed to be up there with Shane Victorino's grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia or Chooch's dribbler in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series. Instead, I walked out of Citizens Bank Park as depressed as I've ever been about a sporting event.

You let me down, Baseball Gods. That night truly sucked. Now you owe me one.

Kulp:
It's funny sometimes who gets a pass and who doesn't from the fans.
Cliff Lee is absolutely adored in Philadelphia, and for good reason, but
only a smattering of people seemed to dwell on his collapse in Game 2
of the NLDS -- arguably the game that cost the Phillies the series. A
pitcher of Lee's caliber needs to lock down a post-season game when he's
given a four-run lead after the second inning, but the Cardinals came
roaring back with three in the fourth, one in the sixth, and the game
winner in the seventh. If the Phils win that game, they likely go on to
take the series, then perhaps the whole damn thing. There certainly is
plenty of blame to go around -- it's a team sport, after all -- but
where was Cliff Lee's killer instinct?

Nick:
I've been working on a theory to explain my level of disappointment as related to the performance of one Nnamdi Asmougha. I mean, how could someone go (seemingly overnight) from being so apparently excellent to looking so stupefyingly overwhelmed by the likes of a Victor Cruz—a receiver I once confused for a New York Mets minor league prospect?

Anyway, here's the theory: whoever the hell was playing in the rest of the secondary with Nnamdi in Oakland was just so bad that no one ever bothered to throw at him because all the options were just that much better. This theory is, of course, intended as a joke (I think...)

With that out on the table, my broader grievance is with, as you might be able to tell, the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles. From the Desean Jackson fiasco to the triple cornerback monster to the firing of Sean McDermott and the hiring of Juan Castillo, the organization has bungled far too many of its major personnel decisions.

This, to borrow from a previously unpopular phrase, which by no coincidence will actually work to further my point, is not fantasy football. Not only are professional athletes actual people with actual concerns and actual feelings, but they're also individuals with widely different skill sets.

In the first case, shame on Andy, Howie, Joe(y) and Jeffrey for not acknowledging the inevitable problems that would come from not paying nor dealing Desean Jackson and for retaining an all-too-unhappy-to-be-on-borrowed-time Asante Samuel. I'm plenty sympathetic to the position that athletes sign contracts and should act in accordance with the deals to which they agreed, but that doesn't mean it isn't on the front office to anticipate plainly obvious problems stemming from the mental and emotional baggage that comes with each member of team.

In the second case, just as these players are not robots between their ears, neither are they random parts capable of being inserted into just any scheme. Sure, I absolutely concede that, over time, a player like Nnamdi can adapt and fit in to a different style of play, and that the fault is potentially on us—the fans—for thinking Super Bowl before it was perhaps time; but, I also maintain that the Eagles' front office has not been as attentive as it should in treating its players as a diverse group of individuals. For them, each Eagle is just another cog in the system, save, of course, for the head coach. That guy doesn't seem so easily replaceable.

Andrew:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Sixers coach Doug Collins and do-almost-everything swingman Andre Iguodala were on about their 17th "try, try" when it came down to the final minute of the Ballers' '10-'11 season, down three against the Heat in Miami. The entire season, the Sixers had experienced crushing defeats in the closing seconds of games due to their inability to put ball in basket when the game hung in the balance. Despite essentially going 0-fer the season in such moments, Coach Collins continued to trust Andre Iguodala with the ball in his hands at the top of the key at crunch time, resulting in a lot of clanged jumpers, thwarted layup drives and confused turnovers. Even in Utah, when 'Dre had a 14-point 4th to seemingly put the game out of reach, the Sixers still missed some free throws, the Jazz tied it up, and Iguodala missed a jumper that could've ended it in regulation. (Needless to say, the team lost in OT.)

When the situation came up again in Game Five against Miami, and once again, 'Dre put up a brick (which would've only cut the lead to one, anyway), I wasn't even mad. They were going to lose to the Heat in time anyway, and it may as well have been in a way representative of the season up until that point. But this upcoming season, I will not be so forgiving—at this point, I'd rather our final possession be a play designed to get Tony Battie a clear look at a corner three than another clear-out iso for 'Dre. At least defenses will never see the Battie Three coming.

Matt (We saved Matt for the end because decided to just go to town on everybody):
Phillies—We still have blue balls in December for your feeble folding in
October. We were assured you hadn't lost that passion to win, but the
Cardinals had way more of it, and that was pretty disappointing. Can you
regain that in 2012?

Flyers—Hard to go negative on a team currently in first place, but
that's in this half of 2011. Mother of Festivus did you crap the bed in
the first half of this cursed year. We've had to endure lifetimes of
criticisms from other NHL teams' fans over your annual packing it in
early, but this year might have set a new mark for collapse. Over the
summer, you made it apparent that you'd aired your own grievances
though, blowing up the team, and so far, with fairly good results, so
we're OK.

Sixers—Made national headlines for two reasons—a promising new direction
under new ownership, and... laughably poor mascot choices. I have high
hopes for a new regime that seems very much on the right track in terms
of energizing a dormant fan base. But this is about grievances, and
those mascots made me wonder about your future choices in personnel.
Yes, I am that shallow.

Eagles—You likely pissed away an incredibly winnable division. There's a
lot of blame to go around, but today, I'm picking the offensive skill
players not named Shady McCoy. Your turnovers, more than anything,
likely cost us the playoffs, but they also highlighted the away game I
went to this year (Buffalo). Second grievance (and you're lucky there
are only two from me)—I've never seen better weather for the home
schedule. Nearly every week was picture perfect in the lots before the
game, and the Birds were the favorite as we entered the gates. Then you
lost almost every one of them.

Union—An overall impressive season couldn't obscure the frequently
maddening lineup choices of Peter Nowak. I love the coach, and he can
put a great team together, but seemed to struggle putting the ideal 11
on the pitch.

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And now, with our grievances aired, we turn to the rest of you at our Festivus dinner table. What say you people? Who and what has disappointed you in the last year?

We have the feeling that avoiding some incidents will require nothing short of a Festivus miracle.

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

The Phillies are loading up with right-handed hitters for Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon.

Odubel Herrera is out of the lineup and Aaron Altherr takes his place in center field. Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel are in the outfield corners. 

Carlos Ruiz serves as the designated hitter against Rodon, who has huge platoon splits. Righties have hit .305/.365/.484 against Rodon; lefties have hit .220/.268/.286.

Rodon has a changeup to stave off right-handed hitters, but he's used it only eight percent of the time this season. He's thrown his 94 mph fastball, sinker or slider with 92 percent frequency (see game notes).

Emmanuel Burris gets a start at second base.

Ryan Howard is out of the lineup. U.S. Cellular Field is the only active stadium in which he's never played. The Phillies haven't been there since 2004.

1. Peter Bourjos, RF
2. Aaron Altherr, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Emmanuel Burris, 2B

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia will host the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 30.

USA Hockey on Tuesday announced that the Flyers will host the event for the first time.

The 2016 Hall of Fame class includes legendary high school coach Bill Belisle, former NHL forward Craig Janney, and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team. 

That team featured Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Abington native Mike Richter. It also has a special connection with Philly. The 1996 World Cup of Hockey was the first sporting event played at the CoreStates Center (now the Wells Fargo Center). The U.S. would go on to win the tournament.

“We’re excited to bring the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration to Philadelphia,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “It’s one of our nation’s very top hockey cities, thanks in large part to the decades-long efforts of the late Ed Snider, and fans in the area will enjoy being part of enshrining the Class of 2016. This is always one of the most anticipated events on the calendar each year and we’re grateful for the advance support we’ve received from the Flyers and our Atlantic Affiliate.”

Tuesday also marks 50 days until the Flyers begin their 50th anniversary season.