Are You Even a Fan, Bro?

Are You Even a Fan, Bro?

Twigs crunch under the Timbos on my toes, and this is how it goes.

Blindfolded, I’m following. Following forever. For years, for decades. And then, just when I start to think, when I really start to think about why I’m wearing a blindfold in the first place, and why I’m following someone that I didn’t even choose as the leader, a person who has led me into a number of trees already, I tumble off the cliff.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Yesterday on Twitter, Fran and I were giving the Flyers front office a good old-fashioned ribbing as the natural result of a pending contract that is largely perceived as a joke by everyone outside of Philadelphia. No official poll has been undertaken by the mayor’s office, but I would venture to guess that most of Philadelphia met the news of Mark Streit’s impending signing with an exacerbated groan. He has a great offensive upside but our defense is not good defensively, and he’s not good defensively. Throw that in a pot with the fact that he’s 35 and mix in $22 million and you’ve got a stew, baby.

So it was in the middle of a streak of some clever and some not so clever 140 character odes to Paul Holmgren that a masked avenger felt the urge to share his own commonplace, knee-jerk retort to someone making fun of his team. I honestly don’t feel like scrolling back to Ctrl+V it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of “are you even a fan? shut up jerk.”

Back when we used to publish what Philadelphia Magazine never called One of the Top 100 Flyers Blogs of 2008, this kind of stuff used to really get under my skin. Am I a fan??? I write 1,000 words about this flipping team every flipping day and then spend 2 hours photoshopping Handzus hair on Patrik Thorensen!! Are you flipping kidding me?!?! But now I’m old and my balls are old and I prefer Dadspin to the Funbag and ain’t nobody got time for that. But from a more philosophical point of view, it is an interesting question.

When I was younger, growing up in South Jersey, dry humping my bed while staring at my Legion of Doom poster, I used to italics-hate when my dad would criticize the Flyers. He was an idiot, he wasn’t a true fan, and what did he know about hockey anyway. But time always proves the youths ignorant, or at the very least naïve. And I’m not reaching into the Pedestrian Complaint Box to let you know that “I’m paying good money to watch this product” or that I think I personally could do a better job. The simple fact of the matter is that I am a fan and, like Will Smiff but certainly not his long jacket wearing son, was born in Philadelphia and have rooted for the Flyers my entire life – living in MA, then ME, then NY and now back in MA. I want the Flyers to be good so that in the tiny escapism opportunities I actually partake in, I can feel a sense of reserved pride. I can wear a Flyers cap while I steer my riding mower around (never grow up) my 30k feet of America, and when my neighbor Masshole Paul comes over to tell me about the Bruins he knows that like Wu-tang, I am nothing to F with, as indicated by the Flyers logo on my forehead. And for 30 years this has not been possible.

And now that I look at the club with a more critical eye it is disconcerting that the ONLY consistency in the organization since 2007 is the front office – specifically Paul Holmgren. That doesn’t smell right. That smells like a double beef Doritos Loco fart in the mouth. And while we’re on the subject of beef and beefing, my main beefs with Holmgren all result from his failed strategic vision. Please note the following comedy of errors:

-       Holmgren brought in Pronger with too little concern for the current chemistry of the room, or otherwise understanding of the possible repercussions this move would have

-       Holmgren then dug that hole a little deeper by off-loading Mike Richards to right his own wrong

-       Which was tied to bringing in Bryzgalov, who we are now going to pay 10’s of millions of dollars to not play for us.

Paul Holmgren brought in two captains that lived on polar opposites of the Captain Spectrum, and when it caused a rift in the locker room he chose a horse that marked a dramatic shift in the long-term outlook of this team. And I already know where you’re going with this, but Marc Savard averaged 83 points per season before his career was ended and the Bruins still moved forward. Do you want a GM that hasn’t won because of injuries or one who has built such a strong organization that he has won in spite of them?

All the other Modrys, Emingers, Parents, Alberts, Boyntons, Fritsches, Sloanes, Fitzpatricks, Krajiceks, Liljas, Bartuliseseses, and Shelleys, I can forgive. All the silly “low risk, high reward” signings that have turned out to be “low risk, no reward” don’t bother me.

Shoot, I can even forgive the Bobrovsky thing. Holmgren chose a strategy again. It was wrong. Again.

And that is the point, exactly. Paul Holmgren has been holding the reins for almost 6 years, and the Flyers are not discernibly better than they were on July 2, 2007. If anything, their bell-curved success over this time period proves that Holmgren’s time is over – he built a supernova and now none of it remains. Holmgren had his miracle run and now the sun is set. But everyone in that front office is just too busy basking in the warm glow of the Bullies’ Cups to notice.

The Flyers are broken. Paul Holmgren had a strategy and it didn’t work out. And the wake continues to grow more dangerous, by the day apparently. The residual impact is leaving us the laughing stock of the league. Every $5M piece of duct tape this guy buys sets us that much further back. We don’t need a short-term fix anymore. We need a new architect and a new engineer.

In the end, I think the organization’s lack of patience, embodied in the always-externally-praised “win now” mentality, has actually done the Flyers a disservice. Do you want to “always be in the discussion” or to have missed the playoffs 5 out of the last 10 years but also had a cup to show for it in that period? That’s the future of the game. Build the core. Keep the core. Add parts. Win one or two. Rinse and repeat.

No matter which of the above options you choose, as evidenced by last season and his continued incompetence, Paul Holmgren is not your man. And as a proud fan of the team and city, I believe they need a change. Someone in that organization needs to get it together, and see what’s happening.

You can follow FlyersGoalScoredBy on Twitter here.

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers set a record. The Chicago Bears lost another quarterback.

After a slow start in the red zone, the Green Bay Packers picked up the pace in the second half to overpower their offensively-challenged NFC North rivals.

Rodgers threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery emerged as playmakers in the second half and Packers beat the Bears 26-10 on Thursday night.

Rodgers was 39 of 56, setting a franchise mark for completions in a game. It was the Packers' first contest without injured running back Eddie Lacy .

"A lot of moving parts, a very satisfying victory at home," coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers (4-2) moved effectively on short gains most of the night, but couldn't break into the end zone until Adams caught the first of his two touchdown receptions with 9:11 left in the third quarter for a 13-10 lead.

Rodgers and Adams combined again for a 4-yard score on the first play of fourth quarter for a 10-point lead.

The Bears (1-6) lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken left arm in the second quarter. With Jay Cutler already out with a right thumb injury, Chicago turned to third-stringer Matt Barkley.

An offense that was already 31st in the league in scoring got worse. Barkley was 6 of 15 for 81 yards and two interceptions.

"Well, when you lose your starting quarterback it can be disruptive," Bears coach John Fox said. "It's not an excuse, it's just a reality,"

He tried to lean on the rush against the NFL's third-best run defense. It didn't work either.

Kadeem Carey had 48 yards on 10 carries, including a 24-yarder. Receiver Alshon Jeffery was held to three catches for 33 yards against a Packers secondary without its top three cornerbacks because of injuries.

It got so bad for the Bears that Rodgers had more completions (37) than the Bears had offensive plays (36) by 5:31 of the fourth quarter.

That 37th completion for Rodgers was a 2-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb for a 16-point lead.

Adams, Montgomery and Cobb each finished with at least 10 receptions.

Hoyer hurt
Hoyer left early in the second quarter after getting hit by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews on an incompletion on third-and-6 from midfield. The right-handed Hoyer looked as if he landed on his left arm . He was attended to by trainers on the field for a couple minutes before going to the locker room. Hoyer was 4 of 11 for 49 yards.

Triple threat
Adams had 13 catches for a career-high 132 yards, making Jordy Nelson-like moves to spin out of tackles for extra yards. Adams had just been cleared earlier Thursday from the NFL's concussion protocol after leaving the loss Sunday to Dallas.

Cobb finished with 11 catches for 95 yards.

Montgomery, who got the start in the backfield with running backs Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) out, finished with 10 catches for 66 yards, and nine carries for 60 yards.

"You do what you have to do, you play the way you have to play," McCarthy said.

Big Floyd
The Bears' only touchdown came from rookie pass-rushing linebacker Leonard Floyd, who forced Rodgers to fumble on third-and-10 from the 15 on a sack. Floyd recovered the ball in the end zone for a 10-6 lead, 30 seconds into the third quarter.

Floyd had been limited in practice this week with a calf injury.

"He's got those kind of abilities. It's been problematic a little bit having him out there, but it was good to have him back out there tonight," Fox said.

The Packers scored touchdowns on their next three drives.

Slow start
The Packers moved effectively with short passes in the first half but stalled on three drives inside the 22. Mason Crosby salvaged two series with field goals, but the Packers went scoreless on another drive when Montgomery was stopped on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1.

Green Bay, which led 6-3 at the half, exploited the Bears' underneath coverage. They also threw short passes as a substitute for the running game.

"It means we threw it a lot. But a lot of times records like these are achieved in losses when you're way behind," Rodgers about his completions record.

Injury report
Bears: Besides Hoyer, RG Kyle Long left in the second quarter with an arm injury.

Packers: RB Don Jackson, who was just activated from the practice squad Thursday to replace Lacy, left in the first quarter with a hand injury.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series


LOS ANGELES -- One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not going to run away from anything. It's within our reach right now."

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago -- heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

"We've heard the history," center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "but at the same time we're trying to make history."

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

"Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting," Russell said. "Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that."

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

"These guys won the game for us," Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. "I was just kind of along for the ride."

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell's shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

"Our confidence hasn't wavered," Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

"We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw," Gonzalez said. "We don't want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we'll feel real good."

Scully returns
Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.

Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.

Up next
Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.