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.
---------------------

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.

---------------------

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.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

usa-brandon-bell-james-franklin.jpg
USA Today Images

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.