Yes, the Eagles have a Snapchat account

Yes, the Eagles have a Snapchat account

In an overcrowded, constantly changing media landscape, Snapchat is here to stay.  Alright, I don’t really know that for sure.  But my friends and I like Snapchat.  So hopefully that counts for something.

If you don’t know about Snapchat, here are the basics: You can send pictures or short videos, and friends can see them on their phone for 10 seconds before they disappear forever.  You can also enhance photos with captions and colorful doodles.

If I haven’t convinced you it’s more fun than texting, consult Buzzfeed’s 35 Most Powerful Snapchats of 2013 [and then rejoin us for the conclusion of this story].

The best thing about Snapchat is that you can use it for anything— like sending pictures of burritos to your cousin every time you’re at Chipotle (maybe), or taking video of yourself singing in the car (only at red lights, Nana), or drawing inappropriate body parts on the skeleton in the doctor’s waiting room (uhhh… I think that was somebody else).

And Snapchat is gaining traction.  Did you know the Eagles have an official account?  I was floored the first company I had heard of using a corporate Snapchat account happened to be the NFL team in my own backyard.

— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 24, 2013

I had to find out more, so I called up Linda Thomas, the Eagles’ digital and social media director.

It turns out the Eagles’ social media department was just like most offices, with coworkers using Snapchat for important matters like sending each other funny faces.  Then somebody came up with the idea to add the app to the team’s portfolio of social media platforms.

“Our team thinks that social media is a great way to connect with our fans,” Thomas said.  “People can connect with us and have a conversation with us.”

Sure, but people use Snapchat to take selfies in the club.  Do fans enjoy getting snaps from the Eagles?

As a matter of fact, they do.

“We didn’t do a great big media blitz,” Thomas said of the Snapchat launch.  They just posted about it on the team’s other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.  The response was immediate.

About 1,000 fans signed up within five hours, and the number grew to 7,000 in the first week.  Fortunately for the Eagles, signing up is easy.  Just search “eagles” and add the team.

Thomas said the following obviously doesn’t compare to the team’s 2 million Facebook fans, but the numbers are still surging.  And she said she’s been struck by the “intensity” of the fans who have added the Eagles on Snapchat.  “What’s funny is when we’re not Snapchatting regularly, we hear about it.  ‘Where are the Snapchats?’”

This shouldn’t be a surprise, Thomas is used to catering to Philly fans.

“We find with our Philadelphia Eagles fans, they are particularly passionate,” Thomas said.  “When we’ve lost a game they’ll tell us what we did wrong.  When we win, they’re very supportive.  These are fans that don’t go away.  Other markets— the fans— if you’re losing, they go away.  Our fans stay with us.”

So Thomas’s department feels an obligation to experiment with whatever the hot new medium is.  “We want to meet them where they are,” she said.

The Eagles Snapchat account is different from the ones you might have used to send me pictures of your dog wearing a Happy New Year party hat.  It mostly utilizes the My Story function, which enables users to combine photos and videos for a longer message.

Another key difference is that Eagles have opted not to receive pictures from followers.

So if you’re lying in bed striking a sexy pose in your Eagles Santa hat, you’ll have to keep it to yourself or your significant other(s).  Your picture won’t be opened by Swoop or DeSean Jackson or an intern in the communications department.

The Eagles are an early adopter when it comes to pro teams using Snapchat, but they are hardly alone in thinking about it.  The New Orleans Saints, for one, started an account earlier in the season than the Eagles.

And teams in other leagues are intrigued by the possibility too.

My friend Whitney Holtzman is a social media producer for MLB.com, so she develops social media strategies for the league itself and all 30 teams.

She said she expects MLB teams to start using Snapchat within the next few months.

“You don’t want to get left behind,” Holtzman said.  “With any emerging technology, you can’t bury your head in the sand.  You have to embrace it.”

She said her coworkers saw some early Snapchats from the Saints and have already started thinking about ways MLB teams could use the app too.

Holtzman said one team in particular reached out to MLB about starting to use it, and that she expects Snapchat to be a topic of conversation at an upcoming meeting with representatives from every big league club.

The Eagles are now Snapchatting everything from a video of the players singing “What Does the Fox Say?” after practice, to photos of gear you can buy at the online store.

So get used to the newest toy at the Eagles’ social media team’s disposal.  The photos may disappear faster than Chip Kelly calls in a play, but the use of Snapchat looks like it may last a while.

Mitch Goldich is a freelance sports writer originally from Philadelphia.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich, mostly for ramblings about Philadelphia sports.

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

There are seemingly countless metrics one can use to detail Joel Embiid's supremacy as a Sixer, but perhaps no stats more clearly tell the story of how indefatigable the rookie has been this season than those of his free-throw shooting. Despite ranking just eighth on the team in total minutes, he's already gotten to the line 215 times this season and made 169 of them, about 250% more than the second-most made FTs on the team (Ersan Ilyasova, 65). What's more, his seven games with ten or more free throws attempted is already more than Thaddeus Young (six), Evan Turner (three) or Jrue Holiday (zero) ever had as a Liberty Baller. 

But yesterday against the Bucks saw JoJo hit a new level with his foul drawing. Despite essentially being shut down by the Bucks in the first half -- I can't remember if he even had a single bucket at the break -- The Process eventually imposed his will in Milwaukee in a major way, parading to the line in the second half, ending with 22 points (as well as 12 rebounds and five blocks) on 4-9 shooting, getting to the line an astounding 18 times. 

Who was the last Sixers giant to accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well... 

Yes, it's been an impressive season for our double-redshirt rookie, and every game he seems to add another immortal name to his list of historical analogues. But not until now could we afford to mention him alongside the great Henry "Lickface" Sims, two-year Process legend whose 18 trips to the free-throw line on April 4, 2014 totally helped us win that random late-season game against the then-rebuilding Boston Celtics. As impossible as it once seemed, it now appears that soon, Embiid's folk herodom will be as self-evident and undeniable to the Sons of Sam as that of Hammerin' Hank himself. 

Get this guy to the All-Star team already.

Difficult to see now, but remember: Flyers’ window just starting to open

Difficult to see now, but remember: Flyers’ window just starting to open

They can’t win away from the Wells Fargo Center. They’ve seen a nine-point cushion in the wild-card standings vanish and when they resume play, they’ll be out of the playoff picture.

The Flyers are who we thought they were. A fringe playoff team lacking in too many areas to be considered a serious contender, despite the overachievement of last season.

When the Flyers entered their bye week, they sat one point ahead of Carolina for the final wild-card spot and two points ahead of Florida and Ottawa. They are 3-8-3 in 14 games since their 10-game winning streak was snapped, and were blown out in back-to-back games in Boston and Washington by a combined score of 11-3.

Yet, they’re still on the brink of the postseason — for now. Perhaps it’s time for a trade from the front office to send a shockwave through the locker room? Not so fast.

“If we can make our team better, we will,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. “But we’re staying on course.

“I don’t care if we win every game the rest of the year or lose every game, we’re staying on course. We set out on a course two and a half years ago — we’re not deviating from what we planned. I’m not going to make a trade to send a message.”

It’s easy to get carried away in win streaks and unexpected playoff appearances, especially in Philadelphia, where the four major sports teams are rebuilding. It’s even easier to scream for a team to go for it when it shows a glimpse into its full potential.

That is what makes sports fun. It’s what makes for good sports debate programs and entertaining talking heads. But it’s not how organizations should run their operations.

It’s certainly not how Hextall runs his regime with the Flyers. Hextall has a clear vision, and time and time again has shown no signs of expediting his plan for immediate help. He has made it a purpose to build through the draft. We have to remember that, and realize that the Flyers’ front office is playing the long game here, not the short game.

“Right now, we’re gonna stick with what we’ve got here and move forward,” Hextall said Sunday in Washington. “But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better, and if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it.

“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not gonna happen. But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”

Let’s take a step back and make some sense of the Flyers’ current state. They are seventh in the Eastern Conference with 50 points as of Tuesday morning. They are 8-12-3 on the road, with nine straight defeats away from South Philadelphia. They are a top-10 scoring team, with 127 goals, but have allowed a league-high 144 goals against.

Steve Mason’s confidence is completely shook. Michal Neuvirth hasn’t been much better, if at all. Claude Giroux hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games and has just one marker in his last 17 games. (To be fair, he does have seven assists in his last eight games.)

Shayne Gostisbehere has been a healthy scratch twice this season, with his latest coming last Saturday in Boston. He’s struggled with his gap defense, among other areas, and is enduring growing pains in his second NHL season — as expected.

While the Flyers’ defense has scored 102 points, second most in the NHL, it struggles with gaps, turnovers and has too many breakdowns. Ivan Provorov, 20, has been the lone bright spot among the group of eight defensemen.

Head coach Dave Hakstol has juggled his lines and defensive pairs in attempts to find something that works. Some of the moves have worked, others have not. Questioning some of Hakstol’s lineup decisions is fair, but there’s no question his systems work.

There is only so much Hakstol can do with what he has to work with. Part of the blame can be placed on Hextall because this team, as currently constructed, is not there yet. It is, however, unfair to put every decision Hakstol makes under a microscope.

“Hak has tried a lot of things,” Hextall said. “In the end, it’s a group and we win together, we lose together. We have to react as a group better when something doesn’t go our way. That’s bottom line. … Line changes, different D combinations, flipping Mase, Neuvy. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens.”

One of the reasons Hextall opted to hire Hakstol, who came directly from college with no prior NHL coaching experience, is development. Growth takes time, and there is rhyme or reason behind each Hakstol benching, whether we see it or not.

The Flyers’ play the last few weeks has been dumbfounding because a lot of the same mistakes that plagued the team in the beginning of the season — lax team defensive coverage, bad decisions with the puck, letting opponents enter the zone too easily, among others — are reappearing and that’s a fair criticism on the current coaching staff.

But, when we put things in perspective, there are positives. Provorov has proven he’s the real deal before he turned 20 last Friday. Travis Konecny is here, and while he’s been the victim of a Hakstol benching, he’s shown glimpses of what’s to come. Jakub Voracek (41 points) has bounced back, Wayne Simmonds is an All-Star and added penalty kill to his résumé. Brayden Schenn leads the NHL in power-play goals with 11, though his 5-on-5 scoring could improve. And there’s a lot of upside on the farm system, with the potential of seeing an influx of kids joining the Flyers as early as next season. 

“The window is actually starting to open, the way I see it,” Hextall said last week. “The kids we have on our team. The kids we have coming. There’s things happening here that are good. We’re going to get better here. We’re not going to get worse.”

And Hextall is right — the window is just opening and will only open wider. Patience remains key here, and don’t trust the process with the Flyers. Just enjoy the course.