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.

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6 1/2 to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.