The 2014 Philadelphia Eagles: We Have a Winner… But No Super Bowl Champ Yet

The Eagles will win a Super Bowl with Chip Kelly as their head coach. This I am certain.

I am also certain it won’t be this year, and possibly not until 2016.

So what does that leave us in the meantime? A talented, if incomplete team that’s still figuring out how to be a contender.

BTW: This is my season preview/Week 1 recap which is late, but kind of apropos since most weeks I’ll be watching Eagles games after they already happened. 

I’m all in on Big Chip,( a certain former receiver who wore #10 called him that and it stuck.) I’ve bought all his stock. Everyone likes to make him out as this mad football scientist, but really he’s just the king of common sense. Take this sports science initiative. Why the hell haven’t teams been doing this before? With all the money they sink into these players, shouldn’t they always be trying to keep them in pristine playing condition?

Football is always made out to be this hugely complex sport with complicated offenses and defenses and foreign verbiage. Yet as Chip has repeatedly said, “It’s just football.” That’s why he wanted to prove he could coach at this level.  He already proved his offense can work (second in total offense, first in rushing in 2013) and it’s no gimmick. Heck most of the league is already copying some of his tendencies, whether it’s music at practice or sports science.

Like James Franklin has made me more interested in recruiting, Chip has made me interested in how NFL offenses work. That, and the fantastic All-22 work done by Birds 247.

His desire to run the heck out of the ball is a refreshing change from the pass first, second third and fourth down tendencies of the Andy Reid era.

Is he without flaws? Of course not. I need to see him properly close out a game this year, as well as improve on his challenges. And oh, look, he’s already looking to get better at replay.

But while the Eagles have the coaching staff in place to win a championship, the roster is still not at a Super Bowl caliber yet.

Quarterback: I’m 75 percent in on Nick Foles, who after Sunday’s Jacksonville performance clearly is experiencing the regression that was undoubtedly going to come. I’m not going to panic. Yet. Foles doesn’t need to be elite, he just needs to be good enough (as he was last year). Eli Manning was good enough(twice, somehow) Joe Flacco was good enough as well.

This offense came easy enough to Foles last year, so not sure why it would be any different this year. Just don’t hold on to the ball as long, Nick. The offense is made to get rid of the ball quickly, that’s why there isn’t any necessity to have a running quarterback in this offense. Foles is slow as molasses but he ran it better than Mike Vick did last year, and everyone knows Foles keeping and running the ball on the read option doesn’t scare defenses one bit.

Wide Receivers: This is the most obvious position where Chip is trying to build the team as he desires. He cut his most productive receiver for “football reasons” and went out and spent high draft picks on two receivers who he believes to be better fits.

I’m 90 percent sold on the wide receivers. Yes, Jeremy Maclin is healthy but for how long? Still, even if he misses a few games, I trust that Foles will make good use of Riley Cooper and promising rookie Jordan Matthews. Matthews is a smart guy and a great talent. I have no worries about him getting off to a slow start. Especially when he’s not being asked to do a whole lot.

Still, this is a unit that I need to see play together for awhile, before I can erase some of my durability or productivity concerns.

Defense: I think the entire defense is still a year away, and there’s a couple square pegs trying to fit into round holes. Namely Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham. If those guys were better suited for this defense and could stay on the field longer it would be a significant difference. But even though they’re productive when they play, they just don’t stay on the field enough. But

The cornerback situation is odd too. Their best corner, Brando Boykin, sees almost all of his playing time in the nickle formation. Yet, this guy had 6 interceptions in 2013, second most in the league, and has proven he can be a big time playmaker. I know he lacks the requistie height they want in their corners, but it just seems silly to keep him sidelined for a better chunk of the game.

The way I see it, tight end and running back are the only positions that in no way, shape or form, need to be tinkered with.

My comparison with Chip and the Eagles is Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, another college coach who moved up to the NFL level. Of course, their coaching tendencies are different, Chip is an offense guy, while Pete is a defensive guy. And Carroll had two previous NFL coaching stints, and won national championships at USC while Chip has neither such items to put on his resume.

Still, different coaching backgrounds aside, I believe that Kelly’s NFL arc will follow Carroll’s.

Both made the playoffs in their first year, even if their regular seasons weren’t very good. Both have unique practice styles that allow their players maximum performance on gamedays and throughout the rigors of an NFL season.

Now in his 5th season, Carroll has his Super Bowl title, but also the best defensive unit in the league. He relies on his offense to be good, but not carry the team.

The Eagles are engineered the opposite as the Pacific Northwest birds, with an offense first, defense second identity. But Chip already has arguably the NFL’s best offense in just his second year. So is he ahead of Carroll’s pace? Too hard to determine right now.

Of course, Seattle has done a great job finding hidden gems in the draft like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, who were both fifth round selections. (They also took the novel approach of making a slam dunk pick in Earl Thomas in the first round of the 2010 draft).

The bottom line of all this drivel is this: With another year or two of on-field success, albeit not of the Super Bowl variety, and getting the right pieces to fit the defensive puzzle, the Eagles should be definite Super Bowl contenders in two years.

Patience and Eagles fans do not go hand in hand, this is not news.

But when you can buy a ticket and take the ride on the Chip Kelly express, it makes the wait for a Super Bowl a little more palatable.

Week 2 NFL Selections

In Week 1, I went 8-7-1 which is better than I anticipated especially for the hard to predict opening week of the season. Looking back at it, I’m fine with all of my picks…minus the Cowbys -5 over San Fran. Oh Boy.

On to Week 2

Steelers at Ravens The Pick: Ravens -2.5  I hate this matchup and wish the NFL would stop forcing this rivalry on us. Neither of these teams is very good. But I think the Ravnes, prevail despite the Ray Rice controversy. Plus, the Steelers almost choked that game away versus the Browns, while the Ravnes lost to a good Bengals squad. And I hate taking road teams on Thursday night. 

Patriots at Vikings  The Pick: Pats -3  I’m in wait and see mode on the Vikings, and while this is cliche, it’s hard to pick the Pats to lose two in a row. 

Lions at Panthers  The Pick: Lions -2.5  I think the Lions can be really good this year and still need to see more from Carolina. Beating the Bucs doesn’t change some of the questions I have about that offense.

Dolphins at Bills  The Pick: Dolphins -1 Both are coming off surprise wins, and the Bills have the momentum of a new owner who will keep them in their beloved city for the foreseeable future.  I just think the Dolphins are a tad better. 

Jaguars at Redskins  The Pick: Jaguars +5.5 While the Eagles were brutal in that first half, the Jags played well and are definitely better than last year. The Redskins look lost, as expected. Gimme the Jags to win this one outright. 

Cowboys at Titans  The Pick: Titans -3.5  Man, I would be stunned if Dallas won this game. 

Cardinals at Giants  The Pick: Cardinals -2.5 Tough travel week for the Cards coming off the Monday nighter and flying East, but I need to see the Giants win a game an look competent before I pick them to win. Plus, the Cardinals defense was better than expected. 

Saints at Browns  The Pick: Browns +6.5 The Browns are feisty, and while I believe the Saints will win, this will not be a cakewalk. 

Falcons at Bengals  The Pick: Bengals -5.5 Oh my, this is tough. Almost a toss up, but I’m gonna go with the home team. 

Rams at Buccaneers: The Pick: Bucs-6 Not only did the Rams lose 34-6 last week, AT HOME but now Chris Long is out for extended period of time, weakening the best unit on that squad. At least there’s Marcus Mariota to look forward to Rams fans. 

Seahawks at Chargers  The Pick: Seahawks -6  The best team in football keeps rolling. 

Chiefs at Broncos  The Pick: Broncos -12  The Chiefs are not good and they won’t get any better if Andy plays keep-the-football-away-from Jamaal Charles. 

Bears at 49ers  The Pick: 49ers -7  So much for the 49ers taking a huge step back and the Bears being a chic sleeper pick for the Super Bowl. 

Eagles at Colts  The Pick: -3.5  I trust Foles to rebound and even though the Birds’ offensive line is banged up, the Colts are missing Robert Mathis. Andrew Luck does frighten me, however, and this game will likely be decided in the final minutes. 

 

 

 

 

NFL Season Predictions

Here are some predictions for this upcoming(actually it’s pretty much here, kickoff in Seattle is less than an hour away) season. While in my mind, I always have the Eagles winning the Big Game, that’s usually not the case. Although I like their chances this year, as usual, they’re probably a year or two away. Here’s a slightly more plausible outcome.

NFC Division Winners

Eagles (3)

Packers (4)

Saints (1)

Seahawks (2)

Wildcards:

Bears (5)

49ers (6)

Quick thoughts here: I’m pretty much sold on all of these teams as playoff teams except the 49ers. I could definitely see them missing out and a team like Atlanta or Detroit sneaking into that last playoff spot.

NFC Wildcard Round

(3)Eagles over 49ers (6)

(4) Packers over Bears (5)

NFC Divisional Round 

(2) Seahawks over Eagles (3)

(1) Saints over Packers (4)

NFC Championship Game

Saints over Seahawks

Now to the AFC…

AFC Division Winners

Patriots (1)

Bengals (3)

Colts (4)

Broncos (2)

Wildcards

Chargers (5)

Texans (6)

Quick thoughts: This conference bores the shit out of me, so I wanted to spice it up with a surprise playoff team in Houston. They could definitely be this year’s Chiefs.

AFC Wildcard Round

(3) Bengals over Texans (6)

(4) Colts over Chargers (5)

AFC Divisional Round 

(4) Colts over Pats (1)

(2) Broncos over Bengals (3)

AFC Championship Game

(4) Colts over Broncos (1)

And the winner of Super Bowl 49 is…

Saints over Colts

Can’t wait to see how hilariously wrong I am in February. Football is here! Go Birds!

Week 1 NFL Picks

FOOTBALL IS BACK…. and I’m wildly uneducated this year. With my new job, I really haven’t followed the league as closely as I did last year. My fantasy drafts were pretty much done, with one eye closed and the occasional flip of a coin.

Of course, I’ve done some reading, but I still feel pretty behind. Plu, I work on Sundays, so I really won’t get to see many games at all this year. Basically what I’m saying is if my week to week picks are going down the toilet, I probably will stop making guesses selections.

Anyway, here’s my picks for Week 1. Quick reminder, I use the lines from Sportsbook.com and these are always done on Thursday. I’d throw in a quick point about my record last year, but it probably sucked and I’m too lazy to go back and add it all up. Honesty is good, people.

Green Bay at Seattle  The Pick: Seattle – 6  The Reason: Defending champs are almost enitrely intact from last year and have the best homefield in the league. They rarely lose at home and won’t tonight. 

Saints at Falcons  The Pick: Falcons +3  The Saints are the chic NFC Super Bowl selection, I think they stumble out of the gates as the Falcons try to reestablish themselves as contenders. 

Vikings at Rams  The Pick: Rams-3.5   Don’t like any of these teams this year, but I’ll go with the Rams and that defensive line. 

Browns at Steelers The Pick: Browns +7  Both of these teams stink as well. The Browns should make this a game, even without Josh Gordon. I still like the Steelers to win by three though. 

Jaguars at Eagles  The Pick: Eagles -11  The Jags should be improved, but there’s no way they have enough to slow down the Eagles offense. Unless Foles just has a meltdown which is hugely unlikely. I could see this being a 23-10 24-7 type of score. 

Raiders at Jets The Pick: Jets -5.5  David Carr making his debut against Rex Ryan defense is not optimal. But you gotta start somewhere. 

Bengals at Ravens The Pick: Bengals +1.5  No Ray Rice for the Ravens is a difference for me here. I think Andy Dalton steps up and silences critics this year as well. That might seem silly, but is it as silly as Eli Manning and Joe Flacco winning Super Bowls?

Bills at Bears  The Pick: Bears -7  Everyone seems to love the Bears this year and offensively I can see why. But defense has question marks for me. They should have no problem against the Bills this week though. 

Redskins at Texans The Pick: Texans +3  Obviously a big Bill O’Brien fan, I think he’ll do a nice job in Houston. I’m not sold on RG3 or Jay Gruden. Both of these teams are recent playoff contenders, but I see Houston returning to competitive form before the Redskins. 

Titans at Chiefs  The Pick: Titans +3.5 I think the Chiefs take a step back this year and the Titans take a step forward with the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt. Titans outright. 

Patriots at Dolphins The Pick: Patriots -5 The Dolphins are a solid team, but will have to see how that new offensive line looks. The Patriots are too good. 

Panthers at Buccaneers  The Pick: Bucs -2.5 Panthers take a MAJOR step back this season. That wide receiving core. Yikes. 

49ers at Cowboys The Pick: Cowboys +5 My upset pick. Both of these teams are a mess, but the 49ers have too much of a negative aura around them right now. Cowboys win this in a shootout. 

Colts at Broncos The Pick: Colts +7.5 Aside from the Thursday night game, this is probably the best game of the weekend(hence the Sunday night showcase). The Colts will make this a game, but Denver is on a mission and won’t stumble out of the gate. 

Giants at Lions  The Pick: Lions -6 Don’t like either team’s defense and from what I’ve read, the Giants are struggling with the new offense. 

Chargers at Cardinals  The Pick: Cardinals -3 Honestly a toss up here. I think the Chargers will get off to a slow start this year, but will get back on the playoff track by midseason. 

 

 

 

2014 Penn State Football: The Dawn of A(nother) New Era

For the second time in three years, the Penn State football team finds itself under new leadership.

Out is Bill O’Brien, the rugged New Englander, the coach the program so desperately needed when it reached its nadir after the Sandusky scandal and NCAA sanctions. In is James Franklin, a self-described “Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart” who brings an unrivaled(see what I did there) enthusiasm to the program.

O’Brien did everything asked of him and more during his brief tenure in State College, and there’s no question he deserves the opportunity to serve as a coach at the highest level. Would it have been nice to have him here longer? Yes, but when the NFL comes calling, you’d better take that chance.

At the same time, it’s pretty clear now who is more suited for the college game and who isn’t. And I don’t mean coaching, because BOB clearly can coach. No, I mean being a CEO of the team, recruiting, glad-handing with boosters and alumni, showing up at a variety of university functions, there’s much more than coaching in a major college football coach’s responsibilities.

Franklin just seems to have an energy that’s more appropriate for the college level than BOB. I mean, can you ever see O’Brien doing this after a random spring practice? If I ever wanted to create an energy drink, I’d name it after Franklin because he simply never stops working, whether it’s by coaching, recruiting, or selling the future of the program to media members and alumni.

Franklin a native of my hometown, (Langhorne, PA) has been ubiquitous since he took the job, throwing out the first pitch at little league games, speaking at his alma mater’s commencement , helping new students move in as well as take time to speak to the Blue Band during one of their practices. Just where does this guy find the time?

He’s proved to be a dominant force on the recruiting trail, nabbing six of the top ten recruits in the 2015 recruiting class and finally putting an end to other top programs simply coming into PA and having their pick of the litter. From now on, programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan will have to work harder to get the PA prospects the want(and likely won’t get).

Currently the program is poised to land a top-ten class for the first time in forever and the staff’s promotion of the program is reaching top recruits all throughout the country, not just in the mid-Atlantic.

The recruiting success has made me follow recruiting websites closer than ever before, as well as stay up to date with the program throughout the off season, when previously be inclined to read as much.

Basically, Franklin’s energy is infectious and he’s brought out the inner die-hard in me, where as in the last several years, I would just show up for football season and start remembering everyone’s name.

So far he’s been worth every penny as a spokesperson and recruiter for a program. The only thing left for him to do is coach and I can’t wait to see how this staff’s energy translates to Saturday afternoons.

Here are some key things I’ll be looking for with the 2014 Penn State Nittany Lions:

Does Christian Hackenberg take the next step? 

The Big Ten’s freshman of the year in 2013, Hackenberg started from day one and while he looked like a true freshman at points throughout the year, but by season’s end, there was no question he was one of the top young talents in college football. The buzz around Hackenberg continues as not only is he the face of the program, but a likely high draft choice in 2016, should he continue to progress.

Losing Allen Robinson will hurt, but it will also make him better as he will need to prove that he can work with a stable of young receivers and make them better.  Plus, the team is loaded at tight end, with Jesse James, Kyle Carter, Brent Wilkerson and true freshman Mike Gesicki. That doesn’t even include Adam Breneman, the top recruit in last year’s class who will likely redshirt this year. (Tough luck for Adam, but this is probably a blessing for him in the long run.)

So while chemistry will likely take time to develop between his wide outs, he’ll always have the security blankets of his tight ends, provided he stay’s upright which leads into my next question.

Will the offensive line be overmatched? 

With Miles Diffenbach out for a large chunk of this season, Donovan Smith is the only returning starter. He’ll be accompanied by the redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson at right ackle, junior Angelo Mangiro at center, redshirt sophomore Brian Gaia at right guard, and either Brandon Mahon or Derek Dowrey at left guard.

I can’t tell you much of anything about this guys, but let’s hope they’ve heard about how badly they’re predicted to perform this year and take it to heart. This unit is probably worth an additional one or two wins, depending on how they play.

Can Sam Ficken Become More Consistent? 

15 of 23 last year, 14 of 21 in 2012. There’s no doubt he was a bit overmatched his first season. but he’s made strides since then. Still, do you feel entirely comfortable with him kicking a 40 yarder with the game on the line? Please prove me wrong Sam.

How good can the defense be? 

I think they’ll be pretty damn good to be honest. I think they could finish in the top-5, maybe top-3, in the B1G this year.  Yes, depth is an issue at linebacker, especially with the loss of Ben Kline,  but the starting unit of senior Mike Hull and sophomores Nyeem Wartman, and Brandon Bell is already well seasoned. The secondary and defensive line and are in good shape. Overall, the bigger questions lie in offense and special teams for this year’s squad.

One thing I really want to see happen, Deion Barnes return to his Big Ten Freshman of the Year status from two years ago. If he can wreak havoc off the edge, I’m very comfortable with this unit.

Will Franklin show the same distain for punting as BOB? 

God, I sure hope so.

Bottom line, I think the program is in good, if not better shape with Franklin. He brings an SEC mentality to a Big Ten school, which is what this program needs if it ever wants to compete with said SEC for national championships. My wins and losses predictions is as follows, but it’s pretty much more of the same 8-4, 7-5 type of year.

August 30  vs. UCF* In Dublin, Ireland    W

September 6 vs. Akron  W

September 13 at Rutgers W

September 20 vs. UMass W

September 27 vs. Northwestern W

October 11 at Michigan L

October 25 vs. Ohio State (Really hope I’m wrong here)

November 1 vs. Maryland W

November 8 at Indiana (No way they lose two straight years to Indiana, right?)

November 15 vs. Temple W

November 22 at Illinois W

November 29 vs. Michigan State L

So because I’m a homer, I just put them down for 9-3, which is probably not gonna happen. But as long as they don’t have a downright miserable year (read 2-10 season) I really don’t care about wins and losses. Especially with no B1G title to play for.

It’s all about developing the younger players for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons, once the sanctions are long gone, and B1G titles are up for grabs. That’s when I’ll probably begin to care more about the program’s weekly results. For now, I’m just excited to see what this new coaching staff has up its blue and white sleeves.

 

Recapping My Trip Out West to San Francisco and Seattle – Part 1

It was a very fun and engaging trip, albeit a tiring one. But when you’re trying to see as much as we did in the span of five days (it was seven total but not gonna count two flying days) you have to sacrifice sleep.

Let’s begin with the first travel day, Thursday July 17

Our flight left at 2:55 pm and we had no trouble getting to the airport, thanks to my mom who drove and dropped us off. Once inside the airport, everything moved surprisingly smoothly as well. Even security, we didn’t have to take our shoes off or strip half-naked(kidding, sorta). The security offiicals also didn’t treat me like I was some moron for not exactly knowing every step of the process.

After coming out of security not agitated for the first time ever, we made our way to the gate where I was able to sit back relax and order overpriced McDonald’s. I was on vacation, I kept telling myself after dropping 8 bucks. This came one day after I unexpectedly spent $16 on Chinese at the State College Wegman’s ,after initially looking for a simple slice of pizza for about 2 bucks. But back to the McDonald’s, I decided on a chicken ranch wrap, if you care (you don’t).

After getting on the plane, I ended up stuck in a damn middle seat. Oh well, it ended up working out, after I got talking to the guy sitting to my right. Probably about my age, he was headed to Phoenix for a weekend of golf. Anyway, got to talking with the guy and he ended up giving me some tips, not that I’ll ever truly get to use them, but i appreciate it nonetheless.

After the five-hour flight to Phoenix, there was a bit of a layover for the connecting flight to San Francisco. The terminal we were in was BRUTALLY crowded and I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there. Split some softshell tacos at some burrito place, but they were no  Chipolte let me tell you. Plus it was too crowded, to actually find a place to sit.

Saw this in the airport though, was the first picture I took on the trip. Who knows maybe I’ll be returning to Arizona in February, if a certain Philadelphia professional football team that is called the Eagles has a good year.

az super bowl

The flight to San Francisco was a little over an hour landed shortly after 9 pm PDT and by the time we picked up our bags, and made it to the rental car service, it was even later.

Originally, we were given a Hybrid Ford Fusion. One problem, it was incredible tight with very limited trunk space, probably due to the battery built inside the car. After I got in the car and was squished next to my brother, I knew there was no way in hell we I was gonna ride in that thing all the way to Seattle a drive a little over 12 hours. Fortunately, my uncle was able to switch to a more spacious Dodge SUV.

I was starving by the time we had gotten to Comfort Inn and just wanted a quick snack or something, since the last full meal I ate was the McDonald’s at the Philly airport.

Walking down the street, in search of something to eat, a fat asian guy obnoxiously yelled out of his car window at us, HEY GUYS WE’RE GONNA GO GET SOME PUSSY!”

Welcome to San Francisco.

We all prepared for the San Francisco weather, but none of us was dressed properly at the time. I was wearing a stretched out Phillies t-shirt to make it even more obvious we were tourists.

Eventually after realizing there was no fast food joints around this part of the city, and other places were closed after 11, we settled for a convenience store and just grabbed chips salsa and queso dip.

I didn’t care by that point, I just wanted to sleep. Traveling days are the worst.

Friday July 18

As I alluded to in the beginning, we were at it early Friday morning, hitting the streets of San Francisco, while the town still woke up and the fog rolled in off the bay.

Cool and crisp, it had a much better fell then the previous night, when I was cold, cranky and hungry.

We first headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf, which was only about a ten minute walk from the hotel.

Even though it was really chilly out, people swam in the cove the adjoined one of the park areas, shoreline

Most of the park exhibits and park rangers were still setting up shop–this was about 9-9:30 a.m. mind you. So with nothing firm on our docket until the A’s game in Oakland at 7, we decided to grab tour tickets to explore the city.

The tour bus was a red double-decker, and our tour guide was kind, yet strangely terrifying man at the same time. At first he seemed like the typical tour guide, kind friendly, tried to hard to be funny. But it was also hard to hear him because it was drizzling and he had a sock over his microphone.

This may have come into play when he frequently YELLED at some tourists who stood up to move while the bus was still moving. Another factor may have been that the tourists (many of whom were European) simply didn’t understand his order to sit down while the buys was moving.

He also took the time to yell something random at a homeless guy and throw a quarter at him, but only to have it hit the guy right in his head. (I didn’t actually see this but my Dad did).

Peculiar tour guide aside, the tour was worth it, as I saw much more of the city then when I visited San Francisco back in 2006.

It was still early, meaning it was cloudy and cool still, but I couldn’t help but notice how many great restaurants there were and how many offered outdoor seating. On a warm, sunny afternoon there’s probably too many to choose from. It also seemed like much more than Philadelphia.

One of these places was a joint called Mama’s and there was a huge line, while most other places remained sparse. Apparently, the food is so good, people will wait up to three to four hours.

We got off right across the street from Mama’s and started walking towards Coit Tower, something I definitely didn’t get to see in 2006. To get the tower it required walking up this street, which is just one of many steep hikes in the city.

steep street

As you can see, the incline was no joke, and in fact, cars are required to park on a 90-degree angle.

While we didn’t go up to the top of the tour because it cost $7 it was still cool to see and we got some good views of the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge.

coit tower

After checking out the tower, we made our way back to the bus and headed for lunch at Pier 39 along Fisherman’s Wharf. By this time, the sun was out and it was jam packed with tourists. While there isn’t a ton of rides on the pier, in fact the only one is a carousel, there’s plenty of stores, restaurants and open areas for performers.

Before we ate, we walked around a pit, to see some of the stores and the Sea Lions, who napped comfortably in the sun aboard some floating docks.

sea lions

WE eventually grabbed food at the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, and reacuainted myself with their delicious New England Clam Chowder, generously proportioned inside a sourdough bread bowl. It also came with the ceasar salad. Here’s the photographic evidence.

clam chowder

After lunch, so we made our way back along to Wharf, seeing some of the shops, and fish stans along the way. But with a couple of hours left until the A’s game, we decided to simply go back to the hotel to rest for an hour.

We left for Oakland, around 4:45, knowing it’s only a twenty minute drive without traffic.  The problem? There was traffic. Lots of it. Getting out of San Francisco took us a half hour alone, because traffic was snarled trying to get onto the Bay Bridge. We didn’t end up getting to O.Co Coliseum until around 6, after a confusing GPS-lead drive through downtown Oakland, which was pretty depressing.

I recently saw that Oakland was voted the Second Unfriendliest City in the country. I was only there briefly, so I can’t say that it’s a fair nomination, but it certainly wasn’t the most glamorous.

Anyway, we arrived in the parking lot and it was a great nice for baseball and you could tell the fans were fired up for this one, hosting first place Baltimore. The tailgaters were out in full force, with loud music blaring and A’s flags flying.

It was reminiscent of a footbal tailgate scene, simialr to Kansas City, Milwaukee and Philly when the Phillies were the best ticket in town. Not coincidentally, those parks also have abundant parking spaces.

There wasn’t a ton to see around the stadium, other then the neighboring Oracle Arena, home to the NBA’s Warriors, so we went inside the stadium.

It was “Bark at the Park” night and there was no shortage of man’s best friend. The owners and their pets walked around the outfield warning track before eventually being seated in the outfield.

After walking around and talking pictures, we made our way to our seats in the second deck, just to the right of home plate and they were fantastic.

Oakland Seats

The second level was very low to the field;It’s probably the equivalent of sitting in the club section at CBP. With a sizable crowd, but not a jam-packed sell out, we didn’t be scrunched next to other people all night either, leaving plenty of room to relax and stretch out. While the lower level concourses had long lines and was crowded, there was an easy to access second level concourse. At first I didn’t think we couldn’t get in, because it was a restaurant area, but as it turns out, it’s open to anyone. There wasn’t as big of a food selection, but it wasn’t as crowded, meaning shorter bathroom lines which worked for me.

I’m not going to recap much of the game itself, but I will talk about the A’s fans and they were fantastic. Again, having a good team helps, but they were really into it from the first pitch on. The right field has a bunch of hard-core fanatics waving flags, chanting and dancing rhythmically to certain player’s walkup songs, notable Coco Crisp’s.  Considering the same stadium is home to the Black Hole, I wasn’t surprised.

They booed the hell out of Manny Machado all night long, as a result of this fracas back in June.  Here’s them greeting Machado in his first at bat:

The back and forth was great all night, Machado later homered in the 7th to give the O’s a two-run lead and he seemed to have the last laugh.

That deflated the crowd, but sure enough, the A’s made their way back, making quick work of the Orioles Zach Britton in the 9th after Josh Donaldson hit a three-run walk-off homer to give the A’s a wild 5-4 win.

Everyone, obviously, went nuts. More media to show!

Overall, I really enjoyed the game, the fans were great, we enjoyed great seats and saw two 1st place teams play a tightly-contested game.  Day two, save for the traffic getting the game, was a huge success.

 

Delayed Sixers Draft Reaction and Other General Thoughts

It’s been a month since my last post, and a ton has happened in that time. I would’ve written sooner about the Sixers draft, but due to heavy workload and vacation, just didn’t find enough time to properly share what I thought on certain matters.

I’ll have a write up coming soon about my recent baseball trip to San Francisco and Seattle (Spoiler: It was a great trip).  And by soon, I mean sometime in the next one to three months.

But let’s get to it, starting with the Sixers draft and summer league.

All year long, I thought the Sixers were going to end up with two very good young basketball players to watch on the court next season with their two lottery picks. And by all accounts, they did get two very talented players. One problem: they probably won’t take the floor this year.

I’m totally on board with the Sixers rebuilding plan and really believe in what Sam Hinkie is doing. But I won’t lie, to not get a Wiggins, Parker, Vonleh or even a Stauskus to watch next year is just disappointing.

Who knows, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, could become the best two picks from the 2014 Draft in the future. But these two won’t play together until 2016-2017 at the earliest.

I made my point before the draft when Embiid hurt his foot, and I made it clear I wanted no part of him. Now, that I’ve had time to reflect, there’s no point in being disappointed in the pick, I mean all signs had him going No.1 to Cleveland and Jay Bilas and other experts called him the best talent. I’m not even gonna look at the injury stuff, I’m just going to keep focusing on his unlimited potential and what he can do to help bring the Sixers back to relevance. The team is in no hurry to contend, so there’s not a lot of pressure for him to hurry back and get on the court. Take all the time you need, Joel. Plus the guy’s a hell of a tweeter and an absolute must follow.

I think I just really underestimated how long of a rebuilding process this will be, and how patient Sixers fans could be.

But on the bright side. Nerlens Noel looked great in his summer league stints from what I read. And yes, it’s summer league and not a ton can be gleaned to determine future NBA success, but it’s all we have right now. Jordan McRae and KJ McDaniels, two players I know next to nothing about, also proved to be players to monitor, due to their strong efforts.

While I’ll once again be rooting for the Sixers to finish in the bottom of the standings, I think it will be fun to root to watch all these young players develop as well as hoping Hinkie can turn his abundance of cap space into acquiring a future first round pick.

LeBron’s Return to Cleveland

lbj

A stunner. I couldn’t believe it when I read Zach Lowe’s tweet at work. I thought he was joking around or something. But man, I was captivated and had a hard time focusing on work the rest of the day. Good for Cleveland and now they can stop having the NBA rig lotteries winning the top pick in the draft every year.

Even if he was the only major free agent signing, after speculation had Melo to the Lakers and Bosh to the Rockets, it is a seismic shift in the NBA landscape.

Add in Pau Gasol to the Bulls, Luol Deng to the Heat and Lance Stephenson to the Hornets, and the Eastern Conference is wildly intriguing and wide open, even if it’s still miles away from the West.

The Professional Baseball Team that Players Home Games in Citizens Bank Park

What a sad mess. It shouldn’t have come to this point, there’s so much blame at fault, and while the general manager deserves a heavy burden, it’s a total organizational failure.

They had such a good thing going for a five year period, how could they screw it up so badly?

Two weeks ago, if you gave me the choice between a Sixers summer league game, WITHOUT Nerlens on the court and a Phillies regular season game(yeah I actually mentioned their name) I would go Sixers 10 times out of 10.

I’ll try to look into this more in the future to see how it went so terrible wrong.

 Flyers Off-Season Activity

If you blinked you must have missed it, just like I did. Other than trading Scott Hartnell and his bad contract for RJ Umberger and his slightly worse contract, there hasn’t been any significant moves. Sorry RJ but I don’t think you’re the missing piece that we we’re hoping would bring the Stanley Cup back to Philly.

Thanks for the Vinny contract, Homer and let me give you a sarcastic thanks in advance for the Andrew McDonald deal. You don’t have to be a NHL cap geek to know that won’t work out well.

Really looking forward to seeing what  Ron Hextell can do to regain some cap flexibility and hopefully bring the team closer to being a top contender. Unfortunately, it’s going to take awhile.

Oh yeah and the captain of the team and face of the franchise, a certain Claude Giroux, grabbed a cop’s buttocks(best word ever) and was arrested. So there’s that too.

At least Flyers fans booed the hell out of Gary Bettman at the draft.

James Franklin is a Recruiting Machine

I’ve never followed college football recruiting this closely before, probably because Penn State has never hasn’t had recruiting success like this in a long time. While the team is probably in store for another 7-5, 8-4 season, Franklin has me extremely excited for the long-term future. And he’s from Langhorne, which makes it even better.

While it will suck missing most of the games (I’m taking off for the Oct. 25 whiteout against Ohio State, no way I’m missing that bad boy) I’m really looking forward to seeing how Franklin’s first season plays out, and if he can maintain the stability BOB left behind.

 Eagles Training Camp Begins

My Thoughts