Category Archives: Features

You’ll Never Forget Where You Were When Undertaker’s Streak Ended

Brock Lesnar defeated the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX, ending his Wreslemania win streak at 21.

Brock Lesnar defeated the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX, ending his Wrestlemania win streak at 21. (Credit: wwe.com)

[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.

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Naismith Basketball HOF Adding Some Local Flavor

Carla Gugino starred as Cathy Rush in 'The Mighty Macs.' (credit: IMDB.com)

Carla Gugino starred as Cathy Rush in ‘The Mighty Macs.’ (credit: IMDB.com)

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.

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Playoff Talk with 3D Philly Sports!

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 AlvarezDave BennettRandy 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?

Derrick: If I had the option, I’d probably split the vote up. One half for Bruce Arians, the other half for Chip Kelly. If I had to pick one though, I’ll go with the team that made the playoffs and beat Bruce Arians on their way there. Great season for the Birds.
 
Randy: It makes him a great candidate to win the award, but you can make a serious argument for several other coaches too. Andy Reid took a 2-14 team and turned them into an 11 win team in just one season. Ron Rivera went into the season as the coach we were all waiting to get fired. Fast forward a few months and he is watching the opening round of the playoffs from his couch, but only because his team earned a first round bye. You also have to consider how dominate Seattle was at times this season. Chip is very deserving, but so are those other three mentions as well. This award is a toss-up this year. I hope Chip gets it, but I wouldn’t be offended if he didn’t.
Hank: He has to be. He’s brought in a system that is, if not wholly unprecedented at the NFL level, at least a truly genuine attempt to rethink the formula that leads to success in the NFL. It’s a passing league, and the Eagles’ offense is putting up ridiculous numbers while leaning on the run.
Vince: I think there’s some good candidates but Chip has to be the guy. He’s doing some pretty wild and innovative stuff in what has been a league based on parity while shattering records along the way. If I had any money, I’d bet it on him.

Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?

Derrick: Desean Jackson. If a team is able to even hold him under 50-60 yards then they have an excellent chance at defeating the Eagles. He’s a home run hitter that has had one helluva season in 2013. 
Randy: Trent Cole. This defense depends on a good pass-rush and Cole is the most capable of wreaking havoc on an opposing backfield each week. When he gets shut down with just one blocker, this defense struggles to get much penetration. When he gets after the quarterback early, the defense appears to be a top-10 group, just ask the Bears.
Hank: I think it’s either Jason Peters or Evan Mathis. For all the success that Fletcher Cox or Brandon Boykin had on defense this year, none of this would be possible without stellar performances on the offensive side of the ball. That starts with the offensive line, specifically the left side. Mathis is a rock, and Peters is a monster. If you’re a DC trying to scheme against this team, good luck picking a player that matches up well against them. 
Vince: Fletcher Cox. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the defensive line is the true heart of our defense and when they’re not beating opposing lines, we’re sunk. That was the case in Dallas where I think we slipped away with an undeserved win. This week the Saints have two Pro Bowl guards protecting a Pro Bowl quarterback. It’s prime time, Fletcher. Get it done.

Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?

Derrick: Yes. I’ll take a team that is 3-5 on the road, who also struggled to beat the Bucs and Falcons mind you (this would have made them 1-7) over a team that has marched to two consecutive NFC Championships. Drews Brees always scares me, but force 2 turnovers from him and I think the Eagles have a first-round W.
Randy: This is the playoffs. I don’t care who you play, everybody is good at this point. The 49ers are a mediocre passing offense at best, but the Saints are a mediocre running offense at best. Both teams have their strengths and their weaknesses and either way you are going to face an elite receiving tight end. I’m happy with the Saints here because it means the 49ers and Seahawks could face-off next weekend. That’s a good thing for everyone in the playoffs who don’t reside in San Fran or Seatle.
Hank: No. Chip beat Harbaugh a couple of times in the college ranks, and frankly Kaepernick is two tiers below Brees right now. I think the Eagles’ passing D, which remains the team’s biggest weakness, would have a much easier time handling the 49ers. Look for a shootout next Sunday, and don’t get caught up in that in the dome / out of the dome crap. This Saints group is gonna show up in full force, weather be damned. Look for Jimmy Graham to go 18 catches for 200+ and at least one TD.
Vince: I think that this was the best possible thing that could happen. The Saints on the road makes the entire NFC picture a little weaker so at this point you hope a blind cinderella gets a nut. That’s the expression right?

How far do you expect the Eagles to go?

Derrick: I really have no expectations, just enjoying the ride from a team that I thought would win 8 games max. I’ve got high hopes though.
Randy: It’s ridiculous to expect the Eagles to win this week and be one of the final eight teams left. We all had this team pegged as a 8-win team at best. However, if they do come out of this weekend with a win I really like their chances against Carolina. Regardless of what happens, this has been a great season and everything the Eagles accomplish from here on out is like a bonus round in my mind.
Hank: I would not be surprised if they got bounced by the Saints in the first round. I WOULD be surprised if they got to the NFCCG.
Vince: I was a doubter on this team all season, but screw it. I’m all in. I think this team should be in the NFC Championship game. They’re good at putting up points and generating turnovers. Hell, if Seattle loses this team is a coin flip from the Super Bowl as they play at home for the Conference. Time to call up Tom Coughlin?

Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?

Derrick: Not at all, but I’m not sure I want to see him make it too far in the playoffs or the phone lines on Philly talk radio will be going nuts, and not in a good way.
Randy: You know it really doesn’t. I have nothing but love for Andy Reid. His work in the red zone is embarrassing at times and we all wished he would run the ball more, but at this point that is a Kansas City problem. Big Red tried to bring home a Lombardi Trophy to Philly, but he just couldn’t get it done. He’s still a class act who loves the people around him. Plus he is still the best interview on draft day. I will continue to root for him when it doesn’t affect the Eagles.
Hank: No. We knew he was still a decent coach, but he was past due for a change of scenery. He walks into a team that’d LOADED with talent, of course he could make it to the dance. Berry, Hali, Alberts, Charles. We’re talking explosive players there. Couple that with a more-or-less ideal quarterback for his system, and suddenly it would have been a surprise if Andy didn’t make it this year.
Vince: Yes. Yes it does. Not because he himself is in, but it’s the manner in which he’s done it. I feel like a crazy person for yelling at him to run the ball for years and now that he does it he’s coaching one of the best teams in the league. I say this in the name of Correll Buckhalter: Fuck you, Andy.

Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?

Derrick: Honestly, Riverboat Ron and the Panthers getting the 2 seed and bye week is probably the biggest shocker to me.
Randy: I had the Chiefs projected as the 6th seed in the AFC before the season started so I’d be lying if I said seeing Kansas City in the playoffs is surprising. I was also a huge Mike McCoy fan so I don’t think the Chargers season is a major shocker either. I would say the Panthers are the biggest shock to me. They came into the season with a nice front seven, but a terrible secondary and an average offense with one good target. Give credit to the job the offensive staff has done to turn this team into an efficient unit this season. I had them pegged as a 6-win team.
Hank: Has to be Carolina. Their defense improved dramatically, and it seems to have caught a lot of people off guard. I always thought Cam was gonna be a really, really good player at the NFL level but feared he would suffer from a lack of help. Not so for the Panthers this year. Credit to Rivera and *cough* Sean McDermott for engineering such an impressive turnaround. They’re making the most of their talent (did anybody know who Greg Hardy or Charles Johnson were before last year?) and still have room to grow.
Vince: I honestly have to say the Packers. Green Bay is decimated and they made the playoffs after starting Senece Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn for seven games. Remember when we made the playoffs on the back of Jeff Garcia? I think this is just as wild.

Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?

Derrick: San Fran/Green Bay. -5 degrees up in Lambeau is must-see TV.
Randy: This one is a no-brainer for me, it’s the 49ers-Packers game. They played a thriller in Week One, plus we saw the Colin Kapernick show take flight in last year’s postseason. Aaron Rodgers is back and has officially shaken off all the rust. Both teams are still pretty flawed, but I wouldn’t want any part of them either. I think this game tops even the Bears-Packers game from last week.
Hank: Saying it’s Eagles v. Saints would be a cop out, so I’m going with Green Bay and SF. Last year’s NFCCG was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen, and their regular season matchup this year was an offensive explosion. Look for fireworks at the tundra this Sunday.
Vince: I actually think that San Fran should beat Green Bay by a solid margin so I’m going to go with Kansas City and Indianapolis. Indy’s a team that has had some serious ups and downs, but if they show up this game will be a ton of fun. You’ll have the first Deacon Jones Award winner Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck trying to upset a very sturdy Chiefs team in Indy. I think it’s a down to the wire matchup.   

You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?

Derrick: Broncos, who is going to stop their offense? Peyton is long overdue for that 2nd ring. I think he evens things up with his brother in Eli’s home stadium.
Randy:  A lot has changed to make this a much more difficult answer. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski for the season and the Seahawks can’t seem to get Percy Harvin healthy. Both of those teams looked like obvious Super Bowl picks to me when all was well, but right now they are both very beatable.Really every team has its limitations right now. Can Peyton Manning deliver in the January cold? Can the Patriots score enough points to go on another playoff run? Are the Bengals good enough to win a Super Bowl without their two best defensive players(Atkins and Hall)? Do the Panthers have enough fire power to win in the postseason? Same goes for the Seahawks.This really is a season where you just try to survive each week. Nobody is dominant enough to expect to win any playoff game right now. Each game should be a dog fight and the most clutch offenses and defenses will come out on top.

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

Hank: Broncos

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.

Appreciating Brian Westbrook

BrianWestbrookGoing 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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What to Watch for: Eagles vs Vikings (But Not Really)

CousinsAdrian 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.

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Predicting the Playoff Picture and the Eagles Best Path

EaglesIt’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.

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Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito, and Not Giving a Shit

Martin_IncognitoThis 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.

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Comparing Offenses: Chip’s 2013 v. Reid’s 2012 through 7 Games

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.

Behold:

Offensive Efficiency Chart

Click Image to Enlarge

(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.*)

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‘The Answer’ Finally Ready to Call it a Career

“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

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com.

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com.

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.

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Can the Phillies really turn it around? A statistical defense of the run differential argument

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…

Click to enlargeData drawn from baseball-reference.com

Figure 1
Click to enlarge
Data drawn from baseball-reference.com

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