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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Best of NFL: Matthew Stafford's late TD pass leads Lions past Redskins

Best of NFL: Matthew Stafford's late TD pass leads Lions past Redskins

DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford threw a go-ahead, 18-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 16 seconds left.

The Lions (4-3) extended their winning streak to three games. The Redskins (4-3) had won four straight.

Stafford, who set up game-winning kicks in the previous two games, led his team to another win in the 100th game of his career. He was 18 of 29 for 266 yards, one TD and no turnovers.

Kirk Cousins scored a go-ahead TD on a 19-yard run with 1:05 left (see full recap).

4 interceptions power Giants past Rams in London
LONDON -- The Giants capitalized on four interceptions of Case Keenum in the first NFL game played at London's home of English rugby, a sold-out and raucous Twickenham Stadium.

Keenum, coming off the best start of his career, had the Rams at the Giants' 15-yard line with 50 seconds left when he lobbed a pass in the left corner of the end zone that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie easily picked off. Keenum's intended target, Brian Quick, failed to get the quarterback's audible and cut off his route early.

Keenum, who finished 32 of 53 for 291 yards and one touchdown, has thrown an interception on the Rams' final offensive play of the last three games. That likely will fuel debate on a potential quarterback change to overall No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff.

Landon Collins returned his first of two picks 44 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had two interceptions (see full recap).

Fitzpatrick relieves Smith, propels Jets to comeback win over Ravens
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced an injured Geno Smith and led the Jets on three scoring drives, and a rejuvenated defense came up with two rare interceptions.

Fitzpatrick came in for Smith in the second quarter and led the Jets on a go-ahead drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown catch by Matt Forte. Fitzpatrick finished 9 of 14 for 120 yards and a touchdown as the Jets (2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Smith injured his right knee while taking a sack from Baltimore's Matthew Judon. Fitzpatrick was efficient after losing his job earlier in the week.

Joe Flacco started for Baltimore (3-4), loser of four in a row, after being questionable with a sore shoulder. He went a team-record 176 consecutive throws without an interception before Buster Skrine picked off his pass in the third quarter (see full recap).

Ajayi rushes for 200 yards in second straight game as Dolphins top  Bills
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Jay Ajayi tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing for the second game in a row. Ajayi rushed for 214 yards in 29 carries after totaling 204 yards a week earlier in a win over Pittsburgh. He scored on a 4-yard run, and busted a 53-yarder when the Dolphins were pinned at their 3 and trailing in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins (3-4) used an extra lineman much of the time to clear big holes for Ajayi, who tied the NFL record for consecutive 200-yard games held by O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.

Miami overcame an 11-point deficit with 16 minutes left to end a four-game winning streak by the Bills (4-3) and beat them for only the second time in their past seven meetings.

Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy, ranked second in the NFL in rushing, started, but totaled only 11 yards in eight carries before departing with a hamstring problem (see full recap).

Luck improves to 8-0 vs. Titans in Colts' 34-26 win
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Andrew Luck threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle with 1:55 left to put Indianapolis ahead to stay, and the Colts rallied to beat the Titans for their 10th straight win against their AFC South rival.

The Colts (3-4) came in having lost two of three, including blowing a 14-point lead in an overtime loss last week at Houston. But Luck he improved to 8-0 against the Titans with yet another comeback win. He finished with 353 yards passing and three TDs, the last after Tennessee went up 23-20.

T.Y. Hilton caught seven passes for 133 yards, including a 37-yard TD. The Colts shook off 12 penalties for 131 yards in pulling out their 15th win in 16 games against Tennessee.

The Titans (3-4) saw their two-game winning string end.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of field goals, and the second, a 33-yarder with 3:46 left in the third quarter gave him an NFL record 43 consecutive field goals made (see full recap).

Eagles 21, Vikings 10: Evaluating Carson Wentz

Eagles 21, Vikings 10: Evaluating Carson Wentz

Sunday was by far the ugliest game of Carson Wentz's young career.
But it was also a gutsy effort by the rookie quarterback in a 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).
It's not too surprising that Wentz struggled against a Minnesota defense that has been among the best in the NFL this season. Wentz finished 16 of 28 for 138 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Wentz against the Vikings.
1st quarter, 9:46, 2nd-and-12, PHI 9 — Eagles 0, Vikings 0
Starting with the ugly, Wentz has no business throwing this football. There was no pressure on the play. Wentz has time and throws to Brent Celek, who was smothered by linebacker Eric Kendricks. There was no window to throw into and Wentz, as he does from time to time, misses high and hits safety Andrew Sendejo.
1st quarter, 5:28, 3rd-and-11, PHI 38 — Eagles 0, Vikings 0
Another throw that just made no sense to try to make. Wentz does get some early pressure to his right, but he dances around it pretty easily and has plenty of time to reset and make a better read. Sure, Mike Zimmer is a defensive wiz and does an excellent job disguising coverages, but there's no excuse for Wentz here. Nelson Agholor is double covered and this is an easy pick for Xavier Rhodes.
2nd quarter, 0:55, 1st-and-10, MIN 38 — Eagles 8, Vikings 3
Love the play call here. The Eagles just converted a huge fourth down. With time running down in the half, Doug Pederson elects to take a shot down the field. It sort of looked like Rhodes fell asleep while Dorial Green-Beckham shifted gears and started to run by him on a stutter go route. The ball looks like it's leading Green-Beckham perfectly, but Rhodes has an elbow in DGB's gut and a fist full of jersey. If Rhodes doesn't grab Green-Beckham, it's likely a touchdown. Ultimately, it's an incompletion. The refs were really letting the defensive backs be physical on both sides.
3rd quarter, 8:25, 1st-and-10, MIN 28 — Eagles 11, Vikings 3
This play sort of typified Wentz's day: It was almost disastrous but the kid found a way to get it done. Wentz, who had issues all day simply hanging on to the football, fumbled the snap. It didn't appear to be a great snap by Jason Kelce, but it also appeared that Wentz took his eyes off it. It's probably one he should've handled. What is so impressive about Wentz is that there isn't an ounce of panic in his game. He simply picks up the loose ball, rolls to his right and hits Darren Sproles for 19 yards. Similar to the big play against the Steelers, Wentz drew the linebacker Kendricks with the threat of running, leaving Sproles wide open for an easy pitch and catch.
3rd quarter, 5:45, 3rd-and-goal, MIN 5 — Eagles 11, Vikings 3
We've been hearing about Green-Beckham's role possibly expanding, but it hasn't quite come to fruition. Pederson pointed out earlier in the week that he'd like to get DGB involved in the red zone and that he excelled at running slants and using his big body. That's exactly what happened on this play. Wentz put the ball right on the money on the slant and Green-Beckham bullied his way into the end zone. The stats aren't impressive (two catches on four targets for eight yards and a touchdown), but it's clear Wentz is starting to look for Green-Beckham more.
Overall analysis
After forcing the issue in the first half against an elite defense, Wentz settled in and let the game come to him. The protection held up for the most part and Wentz just took what the Vikings were giving him. What you have to love is that Wentz found a way to get it done on a day when it looked like he couldn't. He played game manager and let his defense dominate in the second half. The ball security issues — the two picks, a couple bobbled snaps — are troubling, but really a gutsy performance by the kid.