Must See TV - Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life

Must See TV - Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life

Tonight at 10PM the NFL Network will air “Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life." Tonight at 10PM you should be in front of your television watching “Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life."

As an Eagles fan that grew up during the Buddy Ryan era, both Reggie and Jerome were larger than life. They combined to form the most devastating defensive end/defensive tackle combination I’ve ever seen.

The front four of White, Brown, Mike Pitts, and Clyde Simmons was relentless. I can still picture the four of them -- #92, #99, #74, and #96 -- down in their stance ready to unleash hell on the opposing offensive line and quarterback. It was plain to see though, that Reggie and Jerome were the most talented of the four.

The two were an unlikely pair. Reggie was a god-fearing man of faith who spoke in a distinctive raspy voice. His tone always measured, befitting his status as an ordained minister. Jerome was a loud anti-authoritarian who would tell you he was going to kick your ass, proceed to kick your ass, and then remind you how thoroughly your ass had just been kicked.

Reggie arrived in Philly in 1985, fresh off a stint with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL. He recorded 31 sacks over his first two seasons in Philly. Two years later, Jerome Brown arrived as a first round pick out of Miami. It was no coincidence that Reggie recorded the highest single season sack total of his career, 21 in just 13 games, during Jerome’s rookie year.

Opposing offenses had to pick their poison. They could double-team Reggie with a tackle and guard, and leave Jerome Brown to work against the center, or they could leave their tackle on an island against Reggie and slide their protection inside to deal with Jerome. Either way, the quarterback was going to get hit.

Buddy Ryan’s defense was predicated on pressure and hitting. Reggie and Jerome were ideally suited to carry out those two tasks. Looking back now, I think I was captivated by the degree and manner in which that defense destroyed people. To put it simply, I was in awe of how badass they were.
 
I was too young to remember the Broad Street Bullies wreaking havoc on the NHL. The Buddy Ryan Eagles were my Broad Street Bullies. It was the first time I’d ever rooted for the gang of pillaging marauders to win. They’d punch you in the mouth, strip the football, lateral it a few times, and then dance in the end zone while you were wiping the blood off your face. It was exhilarating.

That attitude came from Jerome Brown. Reggie was the superstar, but J.B. was the heart and soul. Mix those two All-Pro talents with the athleticism of Byron Evans, the perpetual scowl and attitude of Seth Joyner (aka Uncle Seth),  the cover ability of Eric Allen, the range of Wes Hopkins, and the nastiness of Andre Waters and you had one of the all-time greatest, hardest hitting, shit talking defenses in NFL history.

Ultimately, Buddy Ryan was unable to win a playoff game as the Eagles head coach. He was replaced by Rich Kotite prior to the 1991 season. The offense was as mismanaged as ever, but Bud Carson stepped into the defensive coordinator position and fine-tuned the defense.

Reggie and Jerome combined for 24 sacks that season, as the Birds became just the fifth team in NFL history to finish #1 in overall defense, #1 against the run, and #1 against the pass. They were set up for years of future success.

That all changed on June 25, 1992 when Jerome Brown was killed in a single car crash in his hometown of Brooksville, Florida. I remember being on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ when I heard the news. I felt the same pit in my stomach as I did when I learned Pelle Lindbergh died. Athletes weren’t supposed to die like that.

The entire 1992 season was a tribute to Jerome Brown. The Eagles wore #99 J.B. patches on their jerseys. Seth Joyner shaved #99 into the back of his flat-top fade. For one of the few times his tenure as owner of the Eagles Norman Braman actually did the right thing and retired Jerome’s #99 prior to the home opener. The Eagles would break their pregame huddle with “1, 2, 3, J.B.!” The rallying cry for the season became “Bring it home for Jerome."

They managed to go 11-5 and actually win a playoff game before falling to Dallas in the Divisional Playoffs. The loss to Dallas marked the final time Reggie White wore an Eagles uniform.

1993 was the first year of NFL Free Agency. Norman Braman wanted no parts of spending any money and, bit by bit, the Eagles were dismantled. Reggie White signed with Green Bay, apparently never having received an offer from the Eagles.

I suppose it was somewhat fitting that Reggie left Philadelphia just one year removed from Jerome Brown’s death. He mourned and honored his friend here, in the city where they meet, before moving on and ultimately winning a Super Bowl with the Packers.

Like Jerome Brown, Reggie White died way too young. White, who was just 43 years old, passed away in 2004.

For Philadelphia fans the two men will always be linked. They are fondly remembered for ushering in an era of dominating defensive football.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”