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.

Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

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Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

Brian Dawkins, one of the most beloved Eagles off all time and a guy who clearly still hits the gym, was in Philadelphia on Thursday and was spotted at the NovaCare Complex to watch the team practice.

As you can see, Dawkins still has biceps as big as your waist. The team sharing a simple photo of Dawkins got fans all in a tizzy.

Was it a coincidence that Weapon X appeared just days before "X-Men: Apocalypse" is set to hit theaters? Only he knows.

For his part, Dawkins acknowledged that it's better to stay in shape than become a fat old man.

 

Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

In the final installment of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Today, we begin with R.J. Umberger.

R.J. Umberger
2015-16 stats: 39 GP, 2 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.6 mm cap hit

Dougherty: At the end-of-the-season media availability, Umberger said he expects to be bought out. And he will, unless general manager Ron Hextall can work some magic. He’s a goner.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Umberger expects to be bought out. It seems imminent at this point. Either way, the Flyers need to move on from Umberger.

Verdict: GO

Paone: To his credit, Umberger was a total pro as he went through his immense struggles this season. But to say the writing is on the wall for Umberger in Philadelphia is an understatement. It's like he sees a skywriter spelling it out in the clouds above him everywhere he goes. He even said himself that he expects the final year of his contract to be bought out sooner rather than later. His premonition will come true and the Flyers will take the $1.6 million cap hit that comes with it for next season.

Verdict: GO

Chris VandeVelde
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 2 G, 12 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $712,500 cap hit

Dougherty: VandeVelde is a Dave Hakstol disciple. He played for him at North Dakota and he played for him here. He was a cog on the fourth line, playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White all season long. But while VandeVelde kills penalties, he doesn’t do anything else. He has no offensive ability and, simply stated, is an AHL player playing in the NHL. The Flyers want to add scoring and to do that, someone has to go. And VandeVelde should be that guy.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Debating a fourth-liner’s status shouldn’t be one of the harder decisions, but it is in this case. That’s because Dave Hakstol adored his final unit of VandeVelde, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. However, the Flyers need better depth and VandeVelde is super cheap, so sending him to the AHL to clear a roster spot wouldn’t be a stomach-churning move. With a tiny cap hit, even an offseason trade is conceivable.

Verdict: GO

Paone: This is a tougher call than one would think for a role player of VandeVelde's ilk. On one hand, he, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare formed one of the most effective fourth lines in the entire league this season and an effective fourth line can be such a valuable weapon in today's NHL. There's chemistry there that you shouldn't want to mess with. On the other hand, VandeVelde is probably the most expendable and interchangeable of that trio. And with the Flyers needing as many roster spots as they can create, another younger and more effective player may be able to fit in there (Scott Laughton to start, possibly). That's why I lean toward saying VandeVelde won't be with the big club to start the season, despite his longstanding ties to Dave Hakstol. Roster spots are becoming more and more valuable in Philadelphia.

Verdict: GO

Jakub Voracek
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 44 A; Contract: Signed through 2023-24, $8.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: This is a no-brainer. He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer, and that kicks in July 1. He had confidence issues this season and battled injury, but there’s nothing of concern there. He should be healthy and back to his productive self next season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Obviously, this isn’t really a question. What is, though, are Voracek’s health and rebound.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: It's no secret the Flyers' star winger struggled with both production and injury this season, a year removed from his spectacular 81-point campaign that earned him a massive eight-year, $66 million extension. That extension just so happens to kick in this year, by the way. You're crazy if you don't think a motivated Voracek will be back in orange and black next season.

Verdict: STAY

Jordan Weal
2015-16 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Weal was basically a throw-in in the Vinny Lecavalier trade. Los Angeles didn’t want him because there was no room for him on its NHL roster, but the Kings would have lost him for nothing had they placed him on waivers. He came to Philly and didn’t do anything to impress. He’s a restricted free agent. He’ll probably get qualified, but shouldn’t. Let him go.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Ron Hextall knows a lot about Weal. The 24-year-old was often the first player on the ice for extra work before practice. I think there was more than one reason why Weal was included in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings. I say he’s back at a minimum rate but will head to the minors.

Verdict: GO

Paone: What exactly is Weal capable of at the NHL level? That's a really good question and one we don't have an answer to considering his lack of playing time with in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia this season. His injury after becoming a Flyer did him no favors, either. As I mentioned above when talking about VandeVelde, roster spots in Philadelphia are becoming more and more precious as the influx of talented prospects begins. Weal is really going to have to prove himself during camp to earn one of those spots. But, for right now, starting the season with the big club is a hazy picture for him.

Verdict: GO

Ryan White
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 5 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: White is everything the Flyers thought Zac Rinaldo would be. He brings energy, he’s physical and he can even score. He displayed the ability to play on the power play, which is a plus with a player in a fourth-line role. White should be back at least for another season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: White epitomizes what you want. He cares more about the Flyers than money. He’s a terrific teammate willing to do anything. And he’s understanding more and more how to score ugly. A perfect fourth-liner for the Flyers who will be re-signed.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: You want to talk about an almost-perfect fit? That's what White has been with the Flyers over the last season and a half. In 107 games as a Flyer, White has recorded 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. In his first five seasons in the league with Montreal, the 28-year-old forward had just five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 117 games. Even in a mostly fourth-line role, he's made an impact to the point he's earned Hakstol's trust enough to be the net-front presence on the Flyers' second power-play unit. He's a UFA who'll be due a bit of a raise, but White just meshes way too well to not bring back. He knows it, too, saying in his end-of-season media availability that money is necessarily the determining factor in negotiations with the Flyers. He'll be back in his familiar roles next season.

Verdict: STAY

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

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USA Today Sports

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.

Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.

It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.

Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.

Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.

“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.

Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.

“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”

There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.

Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.

“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”

Miss you and your dirt, Chase.

>>After The Slide, Chase Utley returns to New York prepared to face the vitriol of Mets fans [L.A. Times]