Category Archives: Features
[Note from Vince: This is the first article from Mark Whited here at the Cooler, he'll be giving us a special look into anything and everything sports. He's also known for his famous invention: the Can You Smell What the Rock is Cookin'? Scratch and Sniff game!]
Sunday night marked the 30th installment of the yearly World Wrestling Entertainment spectacle known as Wrestlemania. Writing the final chapter of a controversial year for the company – a year which saw fan favorite CM Punk leave – the biggest controversy of all may have been when Brock Lesnar pinned the Undertaker in front of 75,167 fans in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ending his legendary Wrestlemania win streak at 21 consecutive victories.
With that moment, fans of the wrestling industry were left shocked. Whether you were at the Superdome or in your living room, you could hear a pin drop. The unexpected, the impossible, the unbelievable had happened. Social media exploded as fans took to Twitter, making the event the No.1 trending topic worldwide.
Though it was scripted, the reaction could not be. You didn’t even need to have been a fan. Somehow, someway, you came across news of the Undertaker’s defeat and understood the awesome circumstances of what had happened.
Like myself, you’ll never forget where you were when the Undertaker’s streak came to an end.
I was headed eastbound on the Market-Frankford Line, leaving York-Dauphin Station in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. I spent most of the night at an Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous clubhouse. I was there doing research and interviewing recovering drug addicts for an article that I was writing on the neighborhood’s drug culture.
While Daniel Bryan was busy beating Triple H in his first of two matches, I was listening to someone tell me about the worst moments of his life – about being homeless, losing his entire family, ending up in prison and eventually ending up at The Last Stop, an outreach clubhouse which acts as a rehabilitation program for those struggling to break their addictive habits.
The class for the 2014 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was released yesterday. The group is headlined by NBA greats Alonzo Mourning and Mitch Richmond, former outspoken Alabama Head Coach and National Champion Nolan Richardson and recently retired NBA commissioner David Stern.
The list of 2014 honorees also has its own sense of local flavor.
Going into the hall this year will be former Temple basketball great, Guy Rodgers and the 1972-74 Immaculata Women’s Basketball team.
Rodgers was elected into the hall via the Veterans Committee. Rodgers led Temple University to two Final Four appearances in 1956 and 1958. Rodgers was a unanimous First Team All American in 1958 and made the All-Tournament team that year.
The year has turned, snow is in the air and the music of the playoffs is in our hearts. Our Birds will be making the push to a Superbowl and we decided to chat with our pals over at 3DPhillySports about what could be a cinderella story. Joining us to break down Saturday’s game as well as the league-wide goodness are Derrick Alvarez, Dave Bennett, Randy Jobst. Hank and I give our take as well.
First, the Birds!
The Eagles are in the playoffs! Does this make Chip Kelly Coach of the Year?
Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?
Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?
How far do you expect the Eagles to go?
Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?
Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?
Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?
You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?
I’ll stick with my preseason pick, the Seahawks, because of the home-field advantage and their defense, but I’m not very confident in that pick. Hell I’m almost inclined to pick the Eagles here because they protect the football, run the ball well and the
Vince: Seattle. The best complete team in the league with the best home field advantage will likely play in a cold Super Bowl. Not to know Peyton in the cold, but rather I’m knocking the reliance on the passing game in the cold. Seahawks win. The Peyton legacy takes a tough hit. And Marshawn Lynch lives in a house made of skittles.
Going into this week one of the major stories will be (as always) LeSean McCoy. Shady is set to break a couple of the Eagles franchise records on Sunday. One of which will be Brian Westbrook’s 2,104 all-purpose yards en route to the league rushing title. Simply put, he’s having a hell of a season.
Now while all the love will be going to Shady I just wanted to take the time to go back and give my man B-West his props.
Westbrook, a native of Fort Washington, Maryland, was recruited to Villanova and turned into a walking (but hobbled) record book. He had 41 school records, 13 A-10 records, five NCAA records and the I-AA record for all-purpose yards with 9,885.
I was actually fortunate enough to see him play Millersville when I was a kid and it was comical how good he was. Check the box score for yourself it’s incredible. And after that game I was positive Westbrook was going to be a stud. As history would have it, he moved down the main line and into midnight green.
Now we all remember his highlights…hell you may remember where you were for some of them. But the reason I want to give Westbrook his love is because he’s what I consider to be the perfect Philadelphia player. He was an undersized, underrated overachiever that played with a ton of heart (and no drama).
While the 2000′s will always be remembered as Donvan McNabb’s era Westbrook was the heart of those teams. The Eagles were 3-7 without Westbrook in the lineup from 2004-2008 (the pre Shady Era) and 43-26-1 with him in playing in the regular season. Now part of what makes Westbrook so special was that when he was in a game, it was really the only time he played football. He was always so beat up that he was never able to practice, yet he always performed on Sundays. He was a really special player.
All of this isn’t to take anything away from McCoy. He’s the best back in the league and could very well have a Hall of Fame career. However, it’s important to understand that despite all of the madness and the wild success of Shady and the Eagles, Westbrook was just as valuable to the Eagles back in the day.
Much love, B-West.
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Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart will not play in this game. I know that you’re not supposed to look ahead, but screw it. I’m chalking this win up now. Eagles 84-Vikings 6. A real “glued to your seat” game.
So instead, we’ll do five things to watch for around the NFL this week as the playoff race becomes more thrilling by the minute.
1. Jay Cutler. Cutler makes his return to the Bears after missing four games with a high ankle sprain. In the meantime, Josh McCown set the world on fire in a glorious 45-28 thrashing of the Cowboys on national TV. The Bears will be in a bit of a snoozer this week against the 4-9 Browns, but the game means a lot to the Eagles. The Browns have a good defense despite their record and can hopefully slow the Bears offense down before meeting in Philly for Sunday Night Football.
Like I said in the podcast, this offense of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey scares me. Consider it the Eagles first playoff game.
2. Packers Cowboys. This is a match-up between two teams still in the hunt. Injuries have made the Packers more of a lame duck (Rodgers, Finley, Bulaga, Harris, Heyward, probably the team bus driver) but since they can still win the NFC North they shouldn’t roll over on Sunday. If they can upset Dallas, week 17 could be nothing more than a playoff party in Dallas with a strong tinge of a Jason Garrett firing. In other words: the best day ever.
The game is on at 4:25 so you can watch it yourself after a you watch the purple people eaters get a taste of their own medicine.
It’s week 15, the average teams are dropping dead by the minute and the Eagles seem destined for the playoffs. Feel free to smack the person next to you because you’re dreaming and you can get away with whatever the hell you want! The Eagles could make the playoffs, bitch!
So since I can’t contain my enthusiasm I decided to take a peek at the upcoming schedules for every team in the playoff race in an attempt to predict the teams and seeding.
First, let’s take a look at the schedules and my prediction of record:
*Projected losses in red
|Team||Record||Week 15||Week 16||Week 17||Final projection|
|Seahawks||11-2||@ Giants||vs Cardinals||vs Rams||14-2|
|Saints||10-3||@ Rams||@ Panthers||vs Buccaneers||13-3|
|Eagles||8-5||@ Vikings||vs Bears||@ Cowboys||10-6|
|Lions||7-6||vs Ravens||vs Giants||@ Vikings||10-6|
|49ers||9-4||@ Buccaneers||vs Falcons||@ Cardinals||12-4|
|Panthers||9-4||vs Jets||vs Saints||@ Falcons||11-5|
|Cardinals||8-5||@ Titans||@ Seahawks||vs 49ers||9-7|
|Bears||7-6||@ Browns||@ Eagles||vs Packers||9-7|
|Cowboys||7-6||vs Packers||@ Redskins||vs Eagles||9-7|
|Packers||6-6-1||@ Cowboys||vs Steelers||@ Bears||6-9-1|
Let’s start with the wild card teams “in the hunt” before getting into the playoff picture as it stands.
This news has been a whirlwind for the last few days as Jonathan Martin left the Dolphins because of “bullying”.
Now before I get much into it this event was a bit of a perfect storm. First, Richie Incognito is a bad dude. The list of fines, incidents and whatnot is long and ugly. However, despite all of that Incognito had a job with the Dolphins.
Why? Because he’s good obviously. Incognito was a Pro Bowl caliber player last year and is considered one of the top 12 guards in the league this year by Pro Football Focus.
On the other hand there’s Jonathan Martin. Martin is a second year player (note: not a rookie) who was expected to play a pivotal role at left tackle after letting Pro Bowler Jake Long leave as a free agent.
How is he playing? Like crap. Martin is the 63rd best tackle in the league as rated by PFF allowing seven sacks and another seven QB hits during the seven games he played. A second round draft pick a year ago, he’s a complete failure thus far.
Now what can make this pairing any worse? The fact that they played next to each other on the line.
Now as someone who is a football obsessive and a former lineman myself, there’s something that needs to be understood: toughness is an essential part of the game. Sure you can be the world’s biggest, fastest, and strongest man, but if you’re not mentally tough odds are you won’t be successful in the NFL.
Consider the case of Vince Young. Young was a top class athlete coming out of college and played one of the single greatest college performances of all time in the Rose Bowl of his senior year. When he came out of college the success bled into his rookie year. He was Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowler, and the Madden cover player. Life was good.
After 7 games, Chip Kelly’s Eagles are 3-4. Incidentally, through 7 last season, Reid had also earned a 3-4 record. This parallel shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise: Despite a massive overhaul of the defense, the Eagles still can’t stop anybody. We expected this. DC Billy Davis has a long history of putting together middling to bad defenses, and he has very little talent to work with. On the other hand, there are few new faces on offense. Jason Peters returned from injury, Lane Johnson was drafted, and Jeremy Maclin tore up his knee (and nobody sane can call Riley Cooper an upgrade at that spot). All told, 8 of this year’s starters on offense also started last year, and 9 were active on last year’s squad.
So the defense still stinks, the offense is comprised of the same stiffs, and their W-L records are identical. Sounds like a perfect time to compare the two groups! And since we know both defenses were/are crap this deep into the season, I’d rather just focus on the offense. The raw numbers are after the jump, but this graph really says it all.
(A quick explanation of what you’re looking at: For every stat above, 0 represents the NFL average after 7 games. If you’re not familiar with standard deviations and z-scores, just know that in general a score greater than 0 is above average, greater than 1 is good, and greater than 1.5 is close to the top of the league. The reverse is true for negative numbers.*)
“We sittin’ in here, I suppose to be the franchise player, we in here talkin’ about practice. I mean listen, we talkin’ about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game…WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE.” -Allen Iverson, 2002
That particular line has lived on in Philadelphia sports lore for the last 11 years and at the time no one expected a typical end of the year press conference to produce a line that still to this day is used by a number of people.
That was the power that Allen Iverson had. He took the ordinary and made it unforgettable. On that day he showed it at the podium, but he displayed that same skill on the basketball court every night.
On October 30th, the Sixers will take on the Miami Heat in their season opener. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that on that night, Allen Iverson will officially announce his retirement from the NBA. Iverson, 38, has not played in the NBA in 3 years and the former MVP seems ready to come to grips with the fact that he never will again.
If you’ve been following our podcasts for the last few months, you’ve heard our spring optimism fade into depressed summer resignation: The Phillies aren’t good, won’t get better, and should start to sacrifice their immediate assets in hopes of building a brighter (long-term) future.
I routinely cited their dismal run differential as evidence that their true talent level was far below their middling record, and suggested that it was nearly inconceivable that they could continue to hold on to their mediocrity, much less make a legitimate run at winning the division.
But last week I read an article by Joecatz of The Good Phight that piqued my interest and had me challenging my assumptions. If you didn’t click over there, here are some of the money quotes:
- At the 90 game mark, the 2012 Phillies had a run differential of -23. Over the remainder of the season, without Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, and later Joe Blanton, They went 42-30 with a run differential of +29. Must be an anomaly, right?
- Well, of the remaining 8 teams that at the 90 game point had – run differentials, 4 of those teams (5 total) went on to have positive run differentials the rest of the way. The Phillies +29 was the lowest total of any of those teams.
- There were 7 teams with positive run differentials in the first 90 games of 2012. 3 of those teams showed a negative run differential the rest of the way
The reason run differential swings so dramatically at the mid point of the season, league wide, is because of the trade deadline. Teams change. Rosters change, people change.
– Joecatz, TheGoodPhight.com
Joe makes some valid points here. But while Joe was mostly arguing thats using run differential to predict 2nd half results with certainty was ill-advised — and I’m never, ever a proponent of certainty — I didn’t really believe that you could just write off run differential as a midseason predictor of 2nd-half results either. And so, the following…