Did any of you happen to see a 6-foot long iguana around the Spectrum or roaming the streets of South Philadelphia sometime back in the '80s? If you did, WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat would probably like to speak with you. Fellow WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (HOOOOOOOOOOO!) was interviewed by Brian Haddad on WIP last night and shared yet another tale of Spectrum lore, this one about the time Steamboat lost his pet iguana somewhere in the arena and never saw it again. The building was a stronghold of the then-WWF during pro wrestling’s territory era of the 1970s and 80s and the organization would hold shows multiple times a year there during that time period. During last night’s interview, Duggan told Haddad that Steamboat let the iguana loose during one of the WWF’s stops at the Spectrum back in the day and never saw the lizard ever again. “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat lost his iguana,” Duggan said. “He had a big, giant iguana that he used to carry and it got loose in the Spectrum and disappeared. So the big rumor in the old Philly Spectrum was that the thing grew to six feet long eating grass in the Spectrum.” Grass, spiders, rats, ticket stubs, decades-old stale popcorn – you name it and that runaway iguana probably ate it in the Spectrum. Despite the fact they each no longer exist, old-school WWF and the Spectrum are gifts that just keep on giving.
Ah, was it only a month ago that we feared signing up for $60-$80 million worth of Dion Waiters, a player who has barely (and rarely) scraped the surface of "good" over his four-year NBA career? A classic "Philly Guy" — which really makes you hope for an eventual reevaluation of our home city's cultural priorities — the perennially over-confident Syracuse swingman had been regularly (if erroneously) linked to the Sixers for the majority of his pro career, and the rumor mill began churning again this offseason, with the Sixers one of several teams linked to the free agent. Chances seemed at least decent that we would wake up to an Instagram of Waiters at Geno's signing his new contract in cheese wiz — one of those four-year, $70 million-type deals NBA teams seem to be giving out to middling players like complementary after-dinner mints this summer.
Well, turns out the Sixers didn't have any interest in giving Dion Waiters that kind of money, and neither did anybody else. Neon Dion ended up signing with the Miami Heat for a blockbusting two years and $6 million dollars, and Sixers nation breathed a collective typhoon of relief. Short of trading Jahlil Okafor for every Boston Celtic under the age of 25, this was just about the best news the Colangelos could offer us at this point in the offseason.
And speaking of: It might — might — now finally be safe to say that the Colangelos aren't as dumb as we feared. With Dion off the board, there just aren't any free agents left to worry about the Sixers overpaying. Well, J.R. Smith technically, but the chances of him leaving Cleveland for Philadelphia under any circumstances are even worse than him being the starting two-guard on a championship team to begin with. (And technically of technicalliest, LeBron James too, but we could give him all our remaining cap space and half the Liberty Bell to boot and he'd still be dramatically underpaid.)
Anyway, point is: We've worried since the Colangelo clan took over that they would make one dramatically dumb move to hamstring this team in the name of Winning Now-ish, and it would look silly in the short term and be absolutely befuddling in the long-term. The Sixers have even been attached to a couple such deals in reports from NBA experts, deals that had them offering Nerlens Noel and further bounty for the No. 5 pick, or offering absurd free-agent dollars to Jamal Crawford, or being in the mix for ol' DW. Maybe there was truth to some or all of it, but the more rumored deals that sizzle-then-fizzle, the less likely it seems that any of them were ever actually going to come to fruition.
Dion may represent the smoking gun. Here's a player, that as final evidence would suggest, the Sixers could have had virtually uncontested at any point this offseason — a player that ended up signing a two-year make-good deal for what essentially amounts to the veteran's minimum. Forget four years, $80 million, the Sixers could've offered eight mil for one and Dion probably woulda lunged at the opportunity. (Sure, there are market benefits that might've given Miami a competitive edge, but South Beach ain't what it used to be: With Dwyane Wade gone to Chicago and Chris Bosh unsure to ever even play again, the Heat are only predicted by ESPN to finish two spots ahead of Philly in the East next season.) There's really no conclusion to be reached except that the Sixers were never actually that interested in signing Waiters in the first place.
So, offseason crisis averted, time to rest easy as we count the days to most exciting Sixers training camp in franchise history? Perhaps, but there is still one shoe left to drop: The Sixers are all but pot-committed to trading one of Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor before the season proper finally tips off. It's mostly encouraging that the Colangelos have waited this long; they said that they weren't going to jump at an early deal that wasn't the right deal, and so far their patience has borne their words out. But as the summer begins to peter out and teams begin talking themselves into the roster they already have — while urgency increases for Philly to make a deal before their opening-night lineup is bottlenecked with blue-chip bigs — a desperation trade certainly isn't out of the question just yet.
Still, after a month of respectable draft choices, measured free-agent signings, and zero totally thoughtless panic moves (even if they tried unsuccessfully to make one or two) it's getting on time to start giving the Sixers' new front office the benefit of the doubt. It'll never feel quite as safe as we did with Our Once and Future Dark Lord — and the overflow of assets Hinkie equipped Jerry and Bryan with will be all the body armor they really need anyway — but we need no longer fear for our lives with every passing Woj Bomb, and we just might be able to root for the Sons of Sam next year without being constantly interrupted by pangs of crippling regret. Not having to watch Dion Waiters jump and shout for the ball so he can jack a contested 20-foot fadeaway is a pretty good start.
Welcome America! The 2016 Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia today and that means the national media's spotlight is squarely on our beautiful and angry city.
It also means thousands of media types will descend onto Philadelphia to sample our cheesesteaks and ... I'm not sure what else, maybe check out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
The Daily Show took this opportunity to show their love -- and totally normal obsession - with the Phillie Phanatic.
So kudos to the Daily Show for being the leader in the clubhouse of DNC peeps pandering to Philadelphians. This is solid.
If optimism for the Eagles in 2016 is a little lacking, that's certainly understandable. A lot of people got their hopes up the past few years, only to be let down hard. This feels like a franchise in transition now, with an inexperienced head coach — even as first-timers go — entirely different schemes and a bunch of new staff members. And the quarterback is still Sam Bradford, who has never taken a team to the playoffs, while the organization made it clear he has no future here when they moved up to the No. 2 pick in the draft and selected Carson Wentz. In fact, the only thing that might get some fans excited is the prospect of Wentz playing, which seemingly isn't going to happen as long as Doug Pederson has his way.
Yet while 2016 isn't exactly going to be Super Bowl or bust, and it could be awhile before we see the quarterback of the future play a regular season game, expectations might be a little too low. People are acting and talking as if the Eagles were one of the worst teams in the NFL last year, when actually they won seven games. Obviously that's nothing to brag about, but when we go through position by position and determine the personnel has improved almost across the board, it's a little strange to hear the majority of fans and media talk as if this is still just a seven- or eight-win squad.
In fairness, that might be the case. Bradford has never won more than seven games in a season, while Wentz and backup Chase Daniel own one NFL victory between them. Pederson didn't even start coaching in the NFL until 2010, and has just three years experience as an offensive coordinator, under an offensive coach mind you, one who has never shown a great mastery of game management at that. On the flip side, Jim Schwartz has been successful at every stop, but is tasked with taking a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 alignment, and a group that's formed one of the worst units in the league. A tough schedule does the Eagles no favors either, and did we mention Bradford?!?!
So yeah, pessimism hangs over the Eagles appropriately and for a reason. But is this team not better than last year's? Bradford or not, is he not more likely to succeed after a healthy offseason and some familiar faces among the supporting cast? Will Schwartz and his proven scheme not immediately restore some credibility to this defense? Did Pederson not learn from one of the most successful NFL coaches of the free-agency era, but also the best head coach in Eagles history in Andy Reid?
We're not yet prepared to go so far as to say the Eagles will win their division, which should also be better in 2016, or that they're going to the playoffs. Then again, it's July and the first day of training camp, so why not? We've already established that they are better. Now here are three key reasons why that might manifest itself in the team's record.
1. The offensive line is upgraded and deeper
What was the biggest reason for the Eagles' quick turnaround under Chip Kelly in 2013, when the club went from 4-12 in its final season under Reid to 10-6 and division champions? All five members of the offensive line started all 17 games, and it was a stellar unit that paved the way for a LeSean McCoy rushing championship.
With the anchor of the group, Jason Peters, now 33 and coming off a dismal, injury-plagued season, the O-line's ceiling may not be so high, while injuries are impossible to predict. That being said, the unit should be vastly improved. Even if Peters is half the player he once was, the guard situation has been resolved, with Brandon Brooks taking over at right, and a battle between veterans Allen Barbre and Stefan Wisniewski and rookie Isaac Seumalo on the left. It's a much deeper group overall as well, which means unlike in past years, they might even be able to withstand an injury or two. Ryan Mathews isn't likely to lead the NFL in rushing or anything, but with an improved interior and sane offensive philosophy, the offense should be stronger up front.
2. The defense won't be on the field all the time
Schwartz could easily turn the Eagles defense into a middle-of-the-pack unit in just one season on the job. Of course, the fact that a constant inefficient uptempo offense won't constantly have them out of the field might be the biggest factor of all.
There are questions about the personnel. Is there a feared pass-rusher coming off the edge? Who are the starting cornerbacks? What happens if the injury prone linebackers start dropping like flies? Fletcher Cox is irreplaceable. And all of that being said, the Eagles' defense almost has to be better, simply by virtue of they aren't guaranteed to lead the NFL in opponents' time of possession for the fourth season in a row. It's no coincidence they would fall apart late in games and in seasons. They were gassed from playing 40 minutes every week. Add the Schwartz effect, which should be huge, and we might not be talking merely a jump to league average. This could become a top-10 defense overnight.
3. The coaching will better
Pederson may be a total unknown, but he would have to work pretty hard to mess things up any worse than Chip. Kelly had lost half the locker room by about midway through last season, maybe sooner, and judging by how bitter most of the players who left beforehand were, perhaps never had the full support of a team. He could be petty and infantile, and not only that, but his "innovative" offense and philosophies were eventually exposed. Non-stop tempo was in many ways problematic, and opponents routinely pointed out he would only call about 15-to-20 unique plays a game. The staff is better too, at least the guys they replaced, primarily in that you'll take Schwartz over Bill Davis all day.
The Eagles managed to win seven games last season, and that was with a rift in the locker room, a rift in the front office, a basic college offense, a defense that was always on the field and guiding philosophies that it's become apparent simply do not work in the NFL. That suggests that maybe, just maybe, the talent level is a little bit better than their record suggests, and that if Pederson is any kind of NFL coach at all, could perhaps improve quite a bit.