Chris Bosh Kills Skip Bayless with Kindness, Teaches Us a Lesson

Chris Bosh Kills Skip Bayless with Kindness, Teaches Us a Lesson

I know this isn't a "Philadelphia story," but it's nonetheless worth your consideration, especially if you have strong feelings for either of the two men in the above title.

As many of you know, Skip Bayless is the star of the ESPN program 1st & 10. A writer for the Dallas Morning News for nearly two decades, Bayless claimed national prominence at ESPN thanks to his wildly outspoken, sometimes controversial views on the world of sport.

To many, Bayless is a loudmouthed, nonsensical, caricature of a pundit. His audacious comments frequently fly in the face of basic logic and human understanding. When challenged to support his views with evidence, Bayless frequently repeats his prior claims, becomes frustratingly evasive and grows increasingly belligerent. This 2009 interview with Mike Missanelli—where Missanelli asks Bayless to provide specific examples of illicit fan behavior in the stands of a Philadelphia sporting event since the implosion of the Vet—hits every one of those notes.
I'm not bringing this up because I necessarily have it out for Bayless, or 100% of the time disagree with him; instead, it's because Skip Bayless has willfully chosen to rob himself of his own basic humanity.

I'll clarify right now that this post is not to meant to be one long bitch session about some guy I don't like. If it was, I could turn on 1st & 10 on almost any day and be moved to write a diatribe about why I think "Skip Bayless is the antichrist" and how he should, in the parlance of a certain Facebook group, "Shut the F*** up."

Instead, this is meant to show how someone generally detested can become instantly likeable by evidencing even the smallest bit of vulnerability.

In November 2010, Chris Bosh "sucked." He "sucked" because he played for the Miami Heat. He "sucked" because he wasn't playing up the standards of winning "not 5, not 6, not 7..." NBA titles. He "sucked" because he took part in this. He "sucked" because he parlayed great stats on a bad team into a fat contract and media attention he didn't deserve. He also "sucked" because he at times physically resembled an actual Raptor.

But sometime last spring, Chris Bosh stopped "sucking." Sometime last spring, Chris Bosh proved that he wasn't just a "great stats, bad team" kind of player; he proved that he did deserve the media attention he received when he stood next to two of the top five players in the NBA; he proved that with his play, the Heat might be even be capable of winning all those "not..." titles; he even proved to look less like an actual Raptor.

Still, at the end of 2011 NBA Finals, I continued to label myself as "anti-Chris Bosh." He screamed and pounded his chest every time he made a play, and I could see his obnoxiously colored mouth guards all too often and it just wasn't happening for me, even in spite of his dramatically improved play. I remember remarking at least nineteen times throughout the playoffs, "I'd tell Chris Bosh to act like he's been there before, but I know he hasn't." I had it in for Chris Bosh, and I was really excited about it.

In this way, I was absolutely no different than Skip Bayless.

Fast forward to September 2011 and we find out that Chris Bosh has had enough. We find out that the 6'11 power forward is not going to tolerate being called "Bosh Spice" any longer. So what does this supposedly unlikable, overrated, calculating and callous member of the NBA's most-hated franchise decide to do? He decides to go on 1st & 10, sit directly across from his harshest critic, and respond to accusations about his "manhood" with dignity and class.

In the twelve minutes of video below, Chris Bosh made me a fan of Chris Bosh. And maybe it says something about me that this turn was so rapid and so easy, but all it took to change my mind was the realization that this guy is aware that he exists in a larger world.

Chris Bosh isn't affected, he's effected. And this is what separates him from someone like Bayless.

While Bayless admits to hearing the barrage of criticism he so earns on a daily basis, he also admits to ignoring it—fully. Chris Bosh, on the other hand, listens to all the criticism he likewise earns, and processes it. He hears it, understands it, contemplates it, acts on it.

This is how evolved human beings behave. They realize that they exist in a world that includes consciousness outside their own and they adapt to their changing environments. Nothing is static. Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray, and moving, and shifting. Everything is subject to change, including my opinion of Chris Bosh.

In the twelve minutes below, Chris Bosh calmly sits across from Skip Bayless, defends his family name, politely responds to Skip's criticism, and takes full responsibility for his poor play at the beginning of the last season. Chris Bosh resembles a real human being offering his real thoughts on real events.

On the opposite side of the table, Bayless continues to evince his hyper-aggressive, hyper-judgmental, hyper-affected persona. He resembles more of a caricature, more of an actor playing a part, than a individual with a legitimate investment in his own sense of self.

For nearly the entire video, I find it impossible to actually listen to Skip. All I can focus on is a jittery, upset, irritated, overworked, probably over-caffeinated cartoon. And that cartoon is ranting and raving across from a secure and confident man.

I realize Bayless is, to an extent, playing a character, and that the show's producers encourage him to act in the manner in which does. That's reality and that's television. And that's fine. But there is nothing preventing him from softening his stance on the rare occasion to reveal a more genuine side to his personality.

Sadly, in the one instance it's possible that Skip will lay down his guard for even just a moment, he immediately quashes all hope of redemption by telling Bosh "that he respects Chris for having the courage" to sit across from himself, as if he, Skip Bayless, were the end all and be all of Chris Bosh's fragile emotional psyche.

Chris Bosh showed me in just a few minutes that underneath all the screaming and the chest-beating and the exposed mouth-guards that he is a real person capable of contemplating both his public perception and own self-perception.

Skip Bayless, on the other hand, even when offered the chance to behave like a real human being, even when away from the provocative flame-throwing of the Stephen A. Smiths and Two Live Stus, even when faced with what appears to be a highly likeable, non-threatening individual, he showed the world that maintaining his affected personality is more important than evidencing any form of an effected response.

I said at the beginning that this isn't about the ways in which I currently detest Skip Bayless, and I maintain that it isn't. This is about the ways in which we judge public figures, and the ways in which we unfairly treat them as absolutes. Yes, Chris Bosh once was this monolith of a soft forward I found to physically resemble a Raptor. But, now I see him as a complicated person with a genuine interest in his own public perception.

But Bayless, Bayless remains an absolute. He is a monolith of an individual and he exists in this way because it is how he willfully chooses to present himself.

Moving forward, I am fully prepared to make a leap of faith on Skip Bayless. I am prepared to change my opinion. And I'm prepared to do it on the day he shows me that beneath his affected exterior exists a self-aware and vulnerable
interior. But until that day comes, I will continue to view him as the absolute he wants me to see. I will continue to believe that his affected personality is really in line with authentic perspective. And, thanks to his own actions, I will continue to believe he lacks the basic functions of his own humanity.

Congratulations, Skip. You've succeeded. You are alone.

Flyers skate update: Matt Read's 400th game; Andrew MacDonald scratched

Flyers skate update: Matt Read's 400th game; Andrew MacDonald scratched

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Matt Read did not have to worry about being an NHL draft bust.

He did not impress scouts enough to be drafted at all while playing collegiate hockey at Bemidji State in Minnesota. Instead, the Flyers' winger had to make the NHL the hard way — as a free agent.

“Out of college, I signed with the Flyers and was just doing everything I could to get an opportunity to make the team,” Read, 30, recalled after the team’s morning skate before the Flyers take on the Vancouver Canucks.

His hard work and determination were rewarded here as he drew into the Flyers lineup for his 400th NHL career game.

“If you told me as a 12-year-old self I was playing 400 games in the NHL, I’d be pretty happy, obviously,” Read said. “I don’t have enough words to describe (what the accomplishment means.) Every day in the NHL is a blessing, I guess. You show up every day, work hard and have fun. As a kid, I wanted to be a professional hockey player, and I get to live it out everyday, which is amazing.”

Read originally signed as a free agent with the Flyers in 2011. Unlike many other NHLers, he has played his entire career with the same organization.

“The opportunity to play for the same team for six years is almost unheard of in the National Hockey League these days, so (I) take advantage of it and enjoy it,” Read said.

What has enabled him to stick?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just showing up at the rink every day to work hard, have fun, be a team guy and do as much as I can to make this team better.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he has a “solid level of trust” in Read.

“There’s a lot of different pathways towards the NHL,” Hakstol said. “I think what you see in that guys that are able to hit a milestone like 400 is, there’s a level of dedication and consistency in terms of work habits to get there. Obviously, Matt has demonstrated those. It’s a hell of a milestone. (But) probably first and foremost on his mind, I would think, tonight is playing a good hockey game and helping our team.”

MacDonald gets night off
Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald received the night off as Hakstol made him a healthy scratch. The move was somewhat surprising, because MacDonald has played every game since he was scratched Nov. 19 against Tampa Bay.

Hakstol said MacDonald needed a rest. As a result, Brandon Manning was shifted to the right side from the left and paired with Ivan Provorov.

According to the coach, Manning has not had trouble switching sides this season.

“He’s done a pretty good job,” Hakstol said. “If you look at it, particularly this year, he’s been pretty efficient in making that transition. Is it easy? No.”

Neuvy gets the nod again
Hakstol did not think goaltender Michal Neuvirth needed a rest. He got the nod for his fourth straight start and sixth in the last seven games overall.

“He’s been the guy that’s been in a rhythm for us and he’s done a pretty good job and he’ll go back tonight,” Hakstol said.

Neuvirth was not complaining about the heavy workload.

“It’s good to be playing,” Neuvirth said. “The more I play, the more comfortable I feel. It’s been good.”

He also prepared to be comfortable with the risk of added fatigue.

“It is what it is — you’ve gotta be ready anytime, any day,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s gonna be a good challenge.”

Former Flyers coach enshrined
Late former Flyers coach Pat Quinn has been honored with a life-sized statue outside the home of the Canucks. The monument, funded by a group of Quinn’s friends and business partners, was unveiled over the weekend.

Quinn began his coaching career with the Flyers in 1977-78 before holding coaching and managing positions with the AHL Phantoms and four other NHL clubs, including the Canucks. He guided the Flyers to a 35-game unbeaten streak — a record for North American sports — in 1979-80, when they reached the Stanley Cup finals.

Loose pucks
• The Flyers’ .667 winning percentage in Vancouver ranks as their best in any current NHL city. 

• Despite outshooting their opponents in 15 of 20 games dating to Jan. 1, the Flyers are 5-8-2 in the 15 contests.

Scratches: Defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz

Lineup
F: Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds

Weise-Couturier-Voracek

Raffl-Cousins-Read

VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning

Gostisbehere-Streit

Del  Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The dew on the infield grass had barely dried when Andrew Knapp was marched out to the firing squad at Phillies camp early Sunday morning.
 
He took his position at first base and looked across the diamond where Phillies instructors Doug Mansolino, Chris Truby and Larry Bowa were lined up at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively. Armed with fungo bats and a dozens baseballs each, the trio of sharpshooters proceeded to smash bullet one- and two-hoppers at Knapp, who was tasked with pulling them out of the dirt to complete the putout.
 
“Good job,” shouted Bowa, a tough grader when it comes to infield work, as Knapp finished up the hellacious early-morning drill.
 
Knapp is a catcher by trade, but he will continue these intense individual sessions at first base throughout the spring — in addition to his regular defensive work behind the plate.
 
A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Knapp was the Phillies’ second-round selection in the 2013 draft. He’s getting a lot attention in this camp because he has a shot to make the club as a reserve player. The Phils are in need of a backup catcher and a backup first baseman and Knapp, in big-league camp for the second time, is trying to show he can handle both assignments in one package.
 
“Last year it was more of a happy-to-be-here thing,” he said. “I was just trying to pick as many brains as I could and take in as much knowledge as I could.
 
“But this year it’s more of a let’s-go-win-a-job kind of deal.”
 
General manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin first floated the idea of carrying Knapp as a two-position reserve at the winter meetings.
 
Of course, it came with a lot of qualifiers. Knapp is still considered a developing player and team decision-makers would have to consider what impact a reserve role would have on his development. Also, the prototypical backup catcher in the majors is a plus defender who has experience handling a big-league pitching staff. Knapp has never played in the majors and his defense is considered a work in progress. Later in the winter, the Phillies signed two big-league veteran catchers (Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan) to minor-league deals and they are very much in the mix for the job.
 
“I kind of understand there’s a definite value in having a veteran guy as a backup, but I think I can do the job on the field,” Knapp said.
 
A potential separator for Knapp could be his bat and his versatility if he can continue to develop it. He is not a novice at first base. He played there as a sophomore at the University of California. Knapp also has this going for him: He’s on the 40-man roster and with so many young prospects on it and the probable need to add an outfielder like Chris Coughlan later in camp, that could work in Knapp’s favor.
 
Another factor that could held Knapp’s chances: The Phillies’ development blueprint calls for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro to get the bulk of the playing time at first base and catcher, respectively, at Triple A.
 
“You’d like to see him get 500 at-bats, but it’s not a perfect world,” Bowa said. “Our Triple A team is loaded. He might find himself in the same role at Triple A. if that’s the case, it might be best if he came here if he swings the bat like he can and he can provide versatility.
 
“A guy like him can give you some options and flexibility. When you face the Mets and they have three stud right-handers throwing 95, it might be nice to have a guy like that to give (first baseman) Tommy Joseph a blow.”
 
Knapp had a brilliant season with the bat at Double A in 2015. He hit .360 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS in 55 games, earning him the franchise’s Paul Owens Award as minor-league player of the year.
 
Knapp tapered off at Triple A last season. He hit .266 with eight homers, 46 RBIs and a .719 OPS over a full season. Knapp’s day last summer typically started with defensive work at 1:30 in the afternoon.
 
“I would get my hitting in, but I don’t think there was as much of a focus on it as there was the year before,” he said. “I do think last year I took a real step forward defensively, especially in the second half of the year. I kind of had a tough first half, but the second half I really honed in on the defensive part, blocking and throwing mostly, just kind of keeping everything in front and shutting down the running game.”

A lot of eyes will be on Knapp when the exhibition games start next week.
 
“We need to find out if he’s capable of doing it,” Mackanin said. “Catching is a defensive-oriented position. We need good defense. We need good game calling, a catcher who can handle pitchers, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at from a guy like Knapp as well as the other guys. We’re going to take a good long look at that.
 
“He’s definitely in the mix. I want to play him a lot to see him. We all want to see what he can do offensively and defensively. From what I’ve been told he’s shown a lot of improvement and we’re going to look for that. We’re looking for the 25 best men. There’s a good chance he might be one of them.”
 
Knapp is determined to show that he is.
 
“It’s open for someone to go take it and I want to be that guy,” he said.