Tag Archives: philadelphia eagles

I Predict a Riot

The NFL playoffs are here.  I was thinking about what I should write for my final non-“what did I learn here?” post of the year, and I thought playoff predictions would be perfect.  I’ve done it throughout the year, and I have to make them anyway, so why not?

I’ll give my predictions for each round of the playoffs, along with a score for no good reason.  I’d like to tell you all that I usually do pretty well in my annual playoff pick ’em, but that would be a lie.

One thing I know will be true, though: these should be some really good games.

AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFS

#6 San Diego Chargers at #3 Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are a really good home team, while the Chargers got into the playoffs despite needing about 38 different things to happen.  Yet, for some reason, I sense a Chargers upset here.  Why?  Well, there is a quirky little thing involving the team that plays the Philadelphia Eagles in the Eagles’ home opener: in each of the last three seasons, that team has won the Super Bowl.  That team has also lost to Washington and defeated Dallas and the New York Giants.  Only one team meets that standard in 2013: San Diego.

Chargers 23, Bengals 21

#5 Kansas City Chiefs at #4 Indianapolis Colts – These two met a couple weeks ago, and the Colts cruised.  The Chiefs started the season 9-0, then lost four of the next six.  With their seed locked in before Week 17, they sent their reserves out onto the field and almost (maybe should have) beat the Chargers.  Of course, those guys won’t be playing in this game.

Colts 20, Chiefs 16

NFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFS

#6 New Orleans Saints at #3 Philadelphia Eagles – Yes, I’m a homer.  But Drew Brees and the Saints really struggle on the road, and this game will be played on a Saturday night with a raucous (read: probably drunk) crowd and temperatures in the 20s.  There may be snow on the ground from a storm earlier in the week.  Just saying.

Eagles 35, Saints 31

#5 San Francisco 49ers at #4 Green Bay Packers – The 49ers went 12-4 this year.  The Packers went 8-7-1.  However, because the Packers won their division, they get to host this game.  That seems unfair, but hey, the Saints won one more game than the Eagles and they have to go on the road as well.  Normally I would look at how good the 49ers are and say it doesn’t matter, but Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone in Week 17 and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to put Green Bay into the tournament, and if there’s anyone who can swing a game like this, it’s Rodgers.  But he won’t.

49ers 24, Packers 13

AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

#6 San Diego Chargers at #1 Denver Broncos –  I just have one thing to say about this game: the Chargers beat the Broncos a few weeks back.  It won’t happen again.

Broncos 42, Chargers 20

#4 Indianapolis Colts at #2 New England Patriots – These two franchises used to meet in the playoffs all the time, but while Tom Brady still runs the show in New England, it’s Andrew Luck at the helm of the Colts offense.  I want to pick an upset here, but I don’t see it.  Not in what will surely be a night game in Foxboro.

Patriots 28, Colts 20

NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

#5 San Francisco 49ers at #1 Seattle Seahawks – This could be the best game of the entire playoffs.  Divisional rivals that really don’t like each other, they split their two games this season, with each team team winning at home.  The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the league, maybe even all of sports, and that will be the difference here.  Make sure you watch this one.

Seahawks 17, 49ers 14

#3 Philadelphia Eagles at #2 Carolina Panthers – It’s strength against strength if these two get together, as the Eagles’ dynamic offense battles the Panthers’ stalwart defense.  On the other side of the ball, while Cam Newton is tough to handle, the Panthers have struggled on offense at times, and are hoping Steve Smith returns from a knee injury in time for the game.  If he doesn’t, I don’t think the Panthers will win.  If he does…I still don’t think they win.  Yes, I’m a homer.

Eagles 26, Panthers 17

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

#2 New England Patriots at #1 Denver Broncos – Ah, there it is.  Manning vs, Brady, Episode #3,907.  The Patriots seem to be missing all of their key guys, but keep winning.  You expect the shoe to drop at some point, and this is that point.

Broncos 34, Patriots 24

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

#3 Philadelphia Eagles at #1 Seattle Seahawks – I know the Seahawks don’t lose at home.  Except they did, just last Sunday, to the Arizona Cardinals.  And that’s with Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throwing four interceptions.  How do you pick a guy off four times and lose?  Nick Foles won’t throw four interceptions.  And the Eagles also have LeSean McCoy, who led the league in rushing yards.  Add in that the Seahawks have a weakened offensive line, and don’t really have a healthy playmaking receiver to capitalize on the Eagles’ weak pass defense…it doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?

Seahawks 23, Eagles 20 (OT)

(I’m a homer, but I also know how to hedge my bets.)

SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks – It’s going to be cold in New York, er, New Jersey, on Super Bowl Sunday.  That might be a factor.  It might not.  Look, I don’t know, and I don’t know why you’re still reading this after I tried to talk you into the Eagles winning in Seattle.

Broncos 27, Seahawks 13

Enjoy the playoffs!

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How Can I Measure Up to Anyone Now?

Who are you indeed, Nick Foles?

Only an NFL record-holder, apparently.

Throughout the first half of the NFL season, the major concern in Philadelphia has been whether or not new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense can be successful at the highest level or if it’s a gimmick that will be figured out by the rest of the league in due time.  Hand in hand with that is the issue of who should play quarterback for the Eagles.

The last two weeks, the Eagles have failed to score an offensive touchdown.  After playing well in relief of Michael Vick a few weeks earlier, Foles laid a spectacular egg against the rival Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago.  He put the cherry on top of his crap sundae by getting knocked out of the game after three quarters with a concussion.  Rookie Matt Barkley came into the game and promptly lit Foles’ bag of poop on fire and smothered it all over everyone’s doorstep.

Last week against the lowly New York Giants, Vick returned from his hamstring injury and lasted about a quarter before re-injuring himself, which literally everyone saw coming.  With Foles ruled out, Barkley came in once again and impressed absolutely nobody.

The bellyaching became annoying right away.  “This team has no quarterback!”  “We need a ‘quarterback of the future’!”  “What a waste of a draft pick!”  Et cetera, et cetera.

Obviously, Kelly’s offense needs the right quarterback to function properly.  But is the right quarterback a guy like Vick, who, when healthy, is a threat to take off and score from anywhere on the field?  Or is it someone like Foles, a guy who can move around to escape trouble, but whose legs don’t really scare you?  One thing is for sure: as of now, it’s probably not Barkley.

With Vick out again, Foles returned to the lineup this afternoon in Oakland.  All he did was throw seven touchdown passes.  In three quarters.

Granted, the Raiders aren’t very good.  Maybe they aren’t any good.  But still.  Seven touchdowns is a LOT of touchdowns.  Foles is the seventh player in history to do this; Peyton Manning became the sixth on the first night of the season.  No one has thrown eight.

As a sports fan, I wanted him to go for the record.  As an Eagles fan, the thought of Foles getting hurt and Barkley being forced to start was less than ideal.  Kelly split the difference: Foles went out for the next two series, despite the Eagles leading by 30-plus points.  After a pair of three-and-outs, Foles was taken out of the game.

Aw, man.  But also, whew.

So of course, as they are wont to do, the local sports media is wondering if Foles is the man Kelly’s been looking for.  Two weeks ago, he was terrible and was clearly not the answer.  Seven touchdowns later, maybe he is?  Ugh.  Just stop.

I think that Nick Foles should be the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the next two months.  Beyond that, I don’t know if he’s the Eagles’ quarterback of the future.  I do know that Michael Vick is not.  Why bother going through the charade of picking the quarterback every week?  Sure, health is the number one concern, as Kelly has stated.  But so long as he’s able to stand, and knows where he is, give Foles the job.

Kelly has to consider the fact that a number of guys in the locker room are friends, allies, and supporters of Vick.  He’s their guy, and to relegate him to a backup role could cause some trouble in the ranks.  But at some point, performance speaks for itself, regardless of its effect  on locker room harmony.  Vick hasn’t been able to finish his last two games.  Foles finished off an NFL record-tying performance, and did it in three quarters.

If there’s a guy in the locker room who doesn’t feel that Foles deserves to start next week, maybe that guy is the one who should be holding a clipboard.

We Are the Champions of the World

On May 31, 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA championship.  Philadelphia was in a period of great sports success: the 76ers had reached the NBA Finals three times in the previous six years before winning in 1983; the Phillies won five division championships in eight years, a pair of National League pennants, and the 1980 World Series; the Eagles reached the Super Bowl for the first time in January of 1981; and the Flyers had won a pair of Stanley Cups in the mid-70s before making multiple finals appearances over the next decade-plus.

That was May.  Four months later, in October, I was born.  For 25 years, and a hundred combined seasons, none of Philadelphia’s four major sports teams won a championship.  For a while, I wasn’t sure those two events weren’t connected.

Five years ago tonight, that changed.  In the years to come, hundreds of thousands of people will talk about that night, claiming to have been at Citizens Bank Park the night the Phillies won the World Series.  Only 45,940 of them will be telling the truth.

I’m one of them.

* * *

Looking back, it still seems unfathomable that the Phillies were, for half a decade, the cream of the baseball crop.  Five consecutive division titles.  The best record in baseball two years in a row.  Two straight National League championships.  A World Series title.  Considering how bad things had been in the past, it’s still preposterous to think about.

My sister had “won the lottery,” so to speak, and had her name pulled from the proverbial hat to purchase ticket for the second home game of the Division Series in 2008.  And so there we were as C.C. Sabathia melted down and gave up a grand slam to Shane Victorino in Game 2.  The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the series that night, and had a chance to sweep the Brewers on my 25th birthday.  Of course, in a postseason where they only lost three games, one of them came on my birthday.  But the next day, with me at work and unable to watch, they finished the job and moved on to the NLCS a year after getting swept in the first round.

The 2008 NLCS was the first of two in a row between the Phillies and Dodgers.  With the Phillies leading two games to one, but with the Dodgers on top late in Game 4 in Los Angeles, Victorino tied the game in the eighth inning with a two-run home run before Matt Stairs tagged Jonathan Broxton for another two-run shot three batters later to put the Phillies on top for good.  Incidentally, Broxton would again give up the winning hit in Game 4 of the NLCS one year later, this time a double to Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia.  Both hits sealed the Dodgers’ fate, as in both cases the Phillies cruised to a series victory in Game 5.

I remember being nervous and excited and feeling like a little kid on the first day of the World Series, but everything went away in the first inning when Chase Utley hit a two-run home run to give the Phillies an early lead.  They went on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2, for a 1-0 series lead.

They lost Game 2 when their inability to hit with runners in scoring position – a problem that still plagues the franchise five years later – reared its ugly head.  I remember being worried at work the next day until one of my coworkers pointed out that the loss guaranteed a Game 5, which was a good thing for me.  That was because my family had once again lucked out in the ticket drawing; we were selected for the opportunity to purchase tickets for a game, and it happened to be Game 5.

The Phillies won Game 3 on a walk-off infield single, the first in World Series history.  The next night (actually, due to rain delaying the start of Game 3, it was technically later the same day), the Phillies jumped out to an early lead, and while Tampa Bay answered, Joe Blanton hit the first home run by a pitcher in a World Series game since 1974 to keep the Rays at bay.  In the eighth inning, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard added a pair of two-run home runs to give the home team a 10-2 win and a 3-1 series lead.

As I watched Werth pump his fist as he rounded the bases, I had a feeling that would encompass me and everything around me for three days.  It was a combination of excitement, nervousness, wonder, and dread: after all this time, my favorite team was one win away from a championship.  And I might get to see it in person.

* * *

Rain was in the forecast for Monday, October 27, 2008, but by game time, it was just drizzling.  And cold.  Oh, it was so cold.

I made sure we arrived plenty early; my mother had recently had foot surgery, so she had a temporary handicapped parking placard, which meant we were parked very close to the stadium.  This was nice getting into the game; leaving, however, was often tough.

I wasn’t thinking about that, however.  I wanted to make sure I took it all in before the game started, so before I went to my seat – Section 305, Row 2, Seat 13 – I took a walk around the ballpark.  The buzz was palpable.  Everyone was ready.

So were the Phillies.  For the fourth time in five games, they scored in the first inning as Victorino’s two-out single scored Werth and Utley to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

Tampa Bay cut it to 2-1 in fourth before tying it in the top of the sixth inning.  By then, puddles were forming on the infield, and the umpires took the players off the field.  Soon after, the announcement came down – Game 5 was suspended.  It would resume when conditions were deemed “appropriate.”

Remember that dread I’d been feeling, along with those other things?  It took over right around then.  Cole Hamels had been dominating throughout the postseason, but had just given up the tying run and after six innings on a cold, rainy night, was probably done.  With the team on the cusp of glory, now the game itself was done for an indeterminate amount of time.  Why was everyone and everything conspiring against the us?  Against me?  Why couldn’t they just let us have this?

Of course they weren’t going to win that night.  Not with me there.  They would probably lose the next two games, too.  It was the only thing that made sense.  God, sports, and Mother Nature were joining forces to finish me off for good.

The next day was dark and dreary and filled with more rain.  No baseball, just agony.

Finally, by Wednesday, things had cleared up.  It had been announced the day before that Game 5 would resume in the bottom of the sixth inning at 8:00 p.m.  We once again arrived plenty early, and I once again took a walk around the park before play resumed, but my feeling of nervous excitement was replaced with nervous sickness.  And, once again, freezing cold.

And once again, the home nine came out of the gate right away, allaying those fears after three batters.  Geoff Jenkins led off the resumption of play with a pinch-hit double, and Werth singled him in two batters later.  Unfortunately, Rocco Baldelli homered for the Rays in the top half of the seventh to tie things up again.  Of course.

Pat Burrell led off the bottom of the seventh for the Phillies.  Burrell had always been a lightning rod for criticism in Philadelphia; while no doubt a very productive player, he seemed to have a penchant for striking out – usually looking – in big spots.  But as his career began to wind down, he became more of a fan favorite.  I had always liked Burrell; I appreciated his production, and always liked players that I felt people unfairly maligned.  My mother really liked him.  When people said mean things about him, I think it actually hurt her.

Burrell had a terrible World Series.  He was 0-for-13, and if it’s possible to look even worse than that, he did.  It was the final year of his contract, and it was kind of an unspoken understanding that these were his last games in a Phillies uniform.  The Phillies knew.  He knew.  We all knew.

So when Burrell stepped to the plate, with no hits in his last 13 at bats, in what we all knew was his final game in this ballpark in this uniform, it occurred to me that this might be his last at bat as a Phillie.  It was late in the game; ideally, they would take the lead and not bat in the ninth, so time was running out.

With the count at 1-1, J.P. Howell hung a curveball.  Burrell did not miss.  Up and out it went, deep to left center field…and it hit the top of the highest wall in the park.

As was customary late in games, due to his history of foot injuries, Burrell was lifted for a pinch-runner; in this case, Eric Bruntlett.  Burrell received the standard ovation, but because of the stakes, we kind of hoped it was a goodbye.

Two batters later, Pedro Feliz, brought to town more for his glove than his bat, singled home Bruntlett for a 4-3 lead.

The game moved to the top of the ninth.  Brad Lidge had converted all 41 of his save opportunities during the season – his only loss coming in the All-Star Game – and was six-for-six in the playoffs, and he came on to cap off his perfect season with a World Series title.

He didn’t make it easy.  After a one-out single by Dioner Navarro, pinch runner Fernando Perez stole second base.  Ben Zobrist then hit a sinking line drive to right field.  Our seats were in right field, and for a second, we didn’t know if Werth had caught it.

He did.  I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.  Two outs.

Eric Hinske came to the plate.  A power threat from the left side of the plate, he was up there looking to put Tampa Bay on top.

Strike one.

I kept staring at Perez on second base.  A ground ball through the infield and the game was tied.  That’s all it took.

Strike two.

God, that guy is fast.  Look how easily he stole that base!  Lidge puts a lot of two-strike sliders into the dirt; Christ, if he does it again and he gets to third?  Oh man.  Ohhhh man.

Slider.  Swung on.  Missed.  Strike three.

Screams.  Dogpile.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Joy.  Pure, unadulterated joy.

Relief.

* * *

You always hear people say that the happiest moment of their lives is when their child is born.  Maybe it’s true, but I often wonder if some people are saying that just because it’s the answer they think they’re supposed to give.

Regardless, if I ever have a child, that kid is going to be hard-pressed to top that moment.

I was only 25, but with the Eagles being on the doorstep for half a decade and never winning the Super Bowl, and the Phillies building up to success but not quite reaching it, and the Flyers choking in so many playoff series, and the Sixers being so uninspiring, I had had more than my share of sports suffering.  I was battered, nearly beaten; losing this Series after that rain delay with me in the building would have destroyed me.  I don’t think I would have ever bounced back.

It’s ironic that the Phillies ended the city’s drought in a game delayed two days by too much rain, but no matter how they’d done it, they’d done it.  Obviously, I will never forget that run, or that night.  To be there, in person, to see it…to have the moment be shared with thousands of people and yet be so intimately personal…to remember it through my own eyes and words, and not through the call of an announcer…I mean, I’ve spent two thousand words trying, but I can’t describe it.  As important as sports are to me, it’s not a stretch to say it changed my life.

No longer was I a long-suffering fan.  I was a fan of a champion.  I don’t like to use personal pronouns to describe the teams I root for, but in this instance, it was acceptable: we won.  The Phillies, the city, the suburbs, the people.

We were the champions.

It’s been a long five years, but it also went by in a flash.  Sure, the past couple baseball seasons have been disappointing, but I’d like to think that I have some perspective.  We were spoiled for a while there; never more so than on October 29, 2008: a bitterly cold night that will warm our hearts forever.

Who Says You Can’t Go Back?

Former Eagles coach Andy Reid brings his Kansas City Chiefs into Philadelphia tonight for a prime time nationally-televised game.  On the same night, Reid’s first draft choice with the Eagles and the player to which he will always be inextricably linked, Donovan McNabb, will have his number retired as he joins the team’s Hall of Fame.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I always liked Andy Reid, and I feel that he is far and away the greatest coach in franchise history.  I also believed before last season that the time had come for both Reid and the club to move on.  Sometimes the message just gets a little stale, and change is necessary.

I also always liked McNabb, starting from the time that he handled himself about as well as possible when a large group of Eagles fans booed his selection at the 1999 NFL Draft.  They wanted running back Ricky Williams instead.  The sad thing is, there is a sizable contingent of Eagles fans who, if given the chance – despite all the wins, despite the five conference championship game appearances, despite reaching the Super Bowl, all with him under center – would still rather have had Williams.

And while McNabb handled the embarrassing display incredibly well in ’99, I can’t help but think that that incident stayed with him throughout his career here and led to the sense of bitterness that surrounded the later years on his tenure.

I have no idea whatsoever how people are going to react tonight, but I know that the team is bringing recent Eagles Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins back to emcee McNabb’s retirement ceremony, no doubt partially because nobody would dare boo while he’s on stage.

There will be no feting of Reid; that will have to come down the road, as he’s only in town tonight on business.  But I certainly think it’s apropos that two men whose careers in this town began together, and eventually began to run aground together (and possibly in some ways because of one another), will both be in the building tonight as the number 5 gets retired.

No matter what some Eagles fans may tell you, Donovan McNabb is the franchise’s greatest quarterback, and he deserves to be in the team’s Hall of Fame and have his number retired.  And hopefully, the day after Andy Reid decides to stop coaching, the franchise’s greatest coach will get that very same honor.

Speed Kills

A few days ago, I wrote about how I didn’t really like football anymore.  I alluded to the struggles of my hometown Eagles possibly playing a role in it, but the truth is that I have no problem whatsoever rooting for a crappy team.  Case in point: I just came home from a Phillies game.  And paid for tickets.  So yeah.

Well, the new-look Eagles took the field for the first time last night, and they took the football world by storm.  Head coach Chip Kelly – who I briefly wrote about in January, which feels like a decade ago – brought his fast-paced offense…okay, fine, his maniacally-paced offense to the NFL, and the players on the sidelines weren’t the only ones who needed oxygen at halftime.

It was certainly a change of pace (in many ways) from what we were used to seeing out of the Eagles, but another funny thing happened: I cared again.

I loved Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb and Brians Dawkins and Westbrook.  The Eagles of the 2000s were my Eagles; every generation has its legends, and they were mine.  Reid is the best coach this franchise has ever had, and McNabb is the club’s greatest quarterback, but unfortunately, here in Philadelphia, almost anything or anyone that has success gets beaten and broken down and eventually run out of town.  It’s why we can’t have nice things; we just break them.

So when the Eagles struggled to remain competitive and kept coming up short of the Super Bowl, Reid was eventually let go.  The celebrations across the area were second only to a championship parade.

More than a coaching situation, there was a general malaise around the franchise, a staleness.  As much as I liked Reid, even I admitted before the 2012 season that regardless of its result, it should be Reid’s last season in Philadelphia.  The Eagles needed more than a few breaths of fresh air, and we hoped Kelly would provide them.

Grantland’s Chris Ryan is a native of this area and is an Eagles fan.  He wrote a piece today in reaction to last night’s game that I really related to.  In it, he writes that “the late Andy Reid era just felt bad all the time.”  He acknowledges that this wasn’t a great preseason either, with all the injuries and the Riley Cooper situation, among other things.

And yet, as the game approached, and as it unfolded, it became clear that the guys on the team liked each other, and they liked their coach.  Lo and behold, when a team likes each other and seems to actually enjoy playing the game, it makes it a lot easier to watch them and root for them.

That closing part of Ryan’s column hit the nail on the head for me.  There was just so much other crap associated with being an Eagles fan that by the time the games rolled around, they almost felt irrelevant.  Watching the Eagles play just felt like a three-hour break from talking about and hating and hand-wringing over the Eagles.

It was exhausting.  And with my work schedule sometimes preventing me from seeing those early Sunday games, I didn’t even get that brief respite.  It was like riding on a hot, miserable bus for 12 hours to get to the beach, only for it to rain when you finally get there.

Watching these Eagles run around like kids on the sandlot and make the scoreboard light up every two minutes, it was like I was watching a group of scrappy young unknowns getting a taste of the big time and impressing everyone along the way.  Except a lot of these players are Pro Bowlers.  These aren’t nobodies; they are some of the most skilled players in the game, and their talents are being unleashed.

And it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

No matter how I felt a week ago, if this offensive insanity keeps up (Kelly has been quoted as calling the offense “too slow” last night), it might be all I need to get pulled back in.

Hey, I never said I was tough to please.

He Was Long Gone When He Met Me

Wednesday was a busy day in sports lies.  The Lance Armstrong story is about to crest tomorrow when his confession to Oprah Winfrey airs and we all finally get to hear what he told her.  Spoiler alert: it may involve his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Then it came out that Oregon football coach Chip Kelly, who seemingly turned down a pair of NFL teams a week and a half ago, had changed his mind and decided to take the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles.

But that was just the appetizer for one of the more salacious main courses we’ve seen in a while: the revelation that the late ex-girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who famously passed away from leukemia this past September and inspired her boyfriend and the Fighting Irish as they completed a 12-0 regular season and earned a berth in the BCS Championship game, did not, in fact die, because she did not, in fact, ever exist.

Whoo boy.

I’ll write more on the Te’o story tomorrow, but all of these stories tie in nicely, so I figured I’d address them together tonight.

* * *

For some reason, we always seemed to believe Lance Armstrong.  He reminded every challenger that he never tested positive for drugs.  All those who came after him were just jealous of his success, just trying to bring him down.

You know who else never tested positive?  Barry Bonds.  And yet we all just assumed he was guilty from the jump.  I think the fact that Lance Armstrong survived cancer and started “Livestrong” while Barry Bonds was an insufferable jerk had more to do with it than we’re willing to admit (even though it turns out Armstrong was also quite the jerk in his own right).

But lately it’s come to light that Armstrong did, in fact, cheat.  Why?  Simply because everyone else was doing it.  Funny; there’s another sport out there that had a drug problem, where steroid users claimed they just wanted to “level the playing field”…

(Baseball.  I’m talking about baseball.)

So what will Lance Armstrong’s legacy be?  He lied, of course, and he lied very loudly, very antagonistically, very frequently, and for a very long time.  Livestrong is in flux; no one knows what effect this ordeal will have on the charity.  It would be a shame if it suffers in any way; it may have been built on a lie, but that doesn’t undo all the good those ubiquitous yellow bracelets have done.  We haven’t seen the interview yet, but if Armstrong’s team is any good at what they do, then “building awareness and keeping Livestrong going” should be the top, if not only, reason he gives for doping.  His celebrity status is what built the organization, what kept the money coming in, and while the ends don’t necessarily justify the means…I mean, isn’t this as close as it gets?  Who is actually on cancer’s side here?

Personally, nothing surprises me about people anymore, so hearing that Lance Armstrong was a drug cheat, like everyone else in cycling, is no big deal.  How the public reacts, however, will certainly be interesting.

* * *

There are some in the media who like to assail college football and basketball coaches for bouncing around and taking new jobs while student-athletes must sit out a year if they wish to transfer.  I understand those arguments, but at the same time, I feel like they shouldn’t apply to a coach who moves to the professional ranks.

Players are allowed to leave school early for the NFL or NBA draft; they had a dream, and they are now pursuing it.  Why are we so critical of coaches who make the same jump?  If Chip Kelly’s dream is to coach in the NFL, who are we to deny him the opportunity?  “What about the kids?”  What about them?  They’d all do the same thing if they had the chance.  Plus, we’ve been telling kids for centuries to chase their dreams; at what point is that no longer an option?

I understand that in the recruiting process, players pick a coach as much as they pick a university, and when that coach leaves, it feels like a betrayal.  The truth is, no one aspires to remain in an entry-level position in their field for their entire careers.  No one says “hey, you know what, I want to be an accountant, but a mediocre one who is ninth on the totem pole at the local H&R Block office.”  Likewise, no coach gets into the business because his dream job is to go 8-4 every year at West Dakota Tech.

If Chip Kelly left Oregon to take the job at Arkansas, trading one group of 18-22 year olds that were promised the world by a coach for another group of 18-22 year olds that were promised the world, then I could see being upset with him.  But this is different.  He never released a statement saying that he was staying at Oregon like Bill O’Brien and Brian Kelly did at Penn State and Notre Dame, respectively.  We don’t even know if he turned down the offer from the Eagles when it first came; I guess we’ll find out at his press conference tomorrow.

Besides; he won’t even be the most famous Charles Kelly in Philadelphia.  Let’s cut him a break.

* * *

Remember when I said that nothing surprises me?  Okay, Manti, you surprised me.

Like I said, I’ll write more on this tomorrow in my first “Unpopular Opinion Alert” post (I think), but this whole “Manti’s dead girlfriend never existed” thing is kind of nuts.

He claims he was duped, but if you read the story linked above from Deadspin.com, it seems hard to believe that by the end of it, he wasn’t complicit.  Of course, Te’o doesn’t seem to have gained financially from it.  The kid’s a heck of a football player, and playing for Notre Dame, he was always going to get publicity.  So the motive at this point would be unclear.

This is one of those situations where we may never know more than we do right now, so we might not ever know if he was in on it from the beginning, or if he was simply duped like the rest of us.

But one thing’s for certain: after the ordeal with Brent Musberger and A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend during the BCS Championship Game, and now Manti Te’o’s not-dead not-girlfriend, maybe the dating life of college kids won’t be such an important part of our sports coverage.  One can only hope.