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.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).