Guest Post: An Open Letter to SI and Tom Verducci

Guest Post: An Open Letter to SI and Tom Verducci

A lot of folks in Philly are less than thrilled with Sports Illustrated's decision to not give the Phillies' first World Series win in 28 years its own cover. Nationally, the win was but a post-it on a picture of upright citizen Albert Haynesworth. In the mid-Atlantic region, the prominences were reversed, but a text box sullies the great picture of our moment of moments. In the following letter to SI and Tom Verducci, who penned the cover-crowding letter to Bug Selig, Dan Roche sums what a lot of Philadelphians are feeling.

I am writing to you as a life-long fan of both the Phillies and your
magazine. Having experienced plenty of disappointment by the former,
the latest dose from your publication was no less severe.

The city of Philadelphia waited a quarter-century between major sports
championships. And for this reader, the anticipation of seeing how the
event would be immortalized by the photographers and wordsmiths at SI
is just as integral as the celebration in the streets on the night of
the clinching game and the subsequent parade that followed.

The last -- and only -- time the Phillies conquered Baseball's Mount
Olympus, back in 1980, they were passed over for the cover of the
subsequent SI issue by marathoner Alberto Salazar (take a second to
think about that). When I received the latest issue in the mail, I
hoped for retribution. I began at the photo of an enraptured Brad Lidge
and Carlos Ruiz, and making my way down the cover (which I imagined
framing in my unborn child's room), saw that the picture had been
sullied by a box filled with the beginning of a letter from columnist
Tom Verducci to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. (I now know by skimming
your website that the national cover went not to the Phillies, but to
Albert Haynesworth, who, at last check, hasn't won anything besides a
5-game suspension for stomping a helmetless foe 2 seasons ago.)

I immediately opened to the article, which only intensified my
apoplexy. Verducci mentions the Phillies only tangentially to make his
points to improve the World Series to make it more fan-friendly. Well,
sir, I am a fan, and friendly is not what I'm feeling right now.

Verducci manages to step off the soapbox long enough to give back story
on Charlie Manuel's journey through hardship. During this portion of
the article (paragraph 23), we stumble over the fact that yes, the
Phillies won the 2008 World Series. And only after the end of the 30th
paragraph (of 32) does Verducci stop to mention any of the players by
name. Maybe space-filler?

I've never written a letter like this to voice my displeasure. I
certainly hope Mr. Verducci got Commissioner Selig's attention with
this article, and elicited a response that is within a toll call of the
feelings I'm experiencing right now.

This article is self-serving, aimless drivel. And if folks weren't
interested in watching the World Series, as you imply, they certainly
wouldn't have wasted any time side-stepping the photos that bracketed
your pointless ramblings.

At the risk of prolonging a stereotype, Verducci, boo.

Note: SI also released a Commemorative Edition. Perhaps with the regular issue covers, they hoped to sell more of that? We're a little puzzled by the decision, with an obvious bias.

Sans Spellman, challenges face Villanova in run to repeat

Sans Spellman, challenges face Villanova in run to repeat

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.