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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On February 27

The Fish ‘n Chips column is sponsored by Legal Sea Foods – Gourmet Gift Division … so much more than Fish ‘n Chips … “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!”)

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In case you weren’t aware, it’s football season.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins Tuesday and runs through next Monday (March 6). One day later, teams are allowed to begin contract negotiations with agents of players who will officially become unrestricted free agents on March 9.

Free agency, of course, will inspire days’ worth of sports talk. Whom should the Eagles sign? Which players should they release? Which position is their greatest area of need? Whom should they select in the NFL Draft?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the NFL Draft takes place in Philadelphia from April 27-29. That should crank up the draft talk even further – if that’s possible.

Somewhere in the middle of all of the NFL talk, the Phillies will open their season. But, even with spring training under way, it already feels like football season has arrived.

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UNION KICK OFF SEASON: The “other” football also kicks off its season. But, for the Philadelphia Union, this is the start of their regular season. The Union player their season opener Sunday (9:30 p.m.) at Vancouver.

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EXPENSIVE PROTECTION: Reports that Eagles left tackle Jason Peters won’t take a pay cut to remain with the Eagles caused some people to suggest the Eagles should have released him instead.

Although it’s true that Peters, who has declined in recent years, isn’t worth the $11.7 million the Eagles will pay him next season, it’s also true that the Eagles must do all they can to protect Carson Wentz. The second-year quarterback is the future of the franchise. The Eagles can’t pinch pennies when it comes to surrounding Wentz with the best possible protection.

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SPRING IN THEIR STEP: Before you get overly excited about the exploits of Brock Stassi or Cameron Perkins, repeat after me: Spring training statistics are nearly meaningless. Spring training statistics are nearly meaningless. Spring training statistics are nearly meaningless.

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REMEMBERING PETTINE: High school football lost a legend last Friday when Central Bucks West head coach Mike Pettine died in Florida at age 76. Pettine retired with a record of 326-42-4 during 33 seasons. His teams achieved victory in his final 45 games, winning three state championships along the way.

Although I covered a lot of high school football games in the northern Philadelphia suburbs, I don’t have a lot of Mike Pettine stories. CB West was not one of my primary schools. Generally, I only covered West when I tagged along to do sidebars during state playoff games.

Despite the fact that I didn’t cover West on a regular basis, I remember that Pettine was always professional and respectful when I spoke with him, both in person and on the telephone. On one occasion, after watching me negotiate the muddy field on crutches after a state playoff game, Pettine, before starting his postgame interview, inquired about my injury (torn ACL).

But you didn’t have to cover West in person to recognize Pettine’s impact. The influence he had on his players and Doylestown community is immeasurable. There may never be another coach like him.

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FINISHING WITH A FLOURISH: NASCAR got off to a terrific start with a down-to-the-wire Daytona 500. Actually, the race didn’t go so well for some of the better-known drivers. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all knocked out of the race by accidents.

But the final 20 laps were extremely exciting, with Kurt Busch shooting to the front as leaders Chase Elliott and then Kyle Larson ran out of fuel. It was the first Daytona 500 win for the veteran drive, which also gave Stewart-Haas car owner Tony Stewart his first victory in the Daytona 500 after failing to win the race during his storied driver career.

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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: This past weekend marked the 40th anniversary of the movie “Slap Shot.” For those unfamiliar with the on-and-off-ice exploits of the Johnstown Chiefs, Slap Shot became a cult classic. Paul Newman was excellent as player-coach Reggie Dunlop, and the (often raunchy) humor still holds up today.

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TRADING POST: This Fish ‘n Chips column is being written between the NBA and NHL trade deadlines. The 76ers made some waves by trading Ersan Ilyasova and Nerlens Noel. Will the Flyers make similar waves this week?

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STRIP CLUB: Shawn Stefani stripped down to his underwear to hit a shot from a playable lie in the water during the Honda Classic last Friday. Stefani, who was scrambling to make the cut, did not want to take a penalty stroke. Knowing he’d make a splash, literally as well as figuratively, Stefani removed his shirt, pants, socks and shoes before hitting out of the water. He later apologized if he offended anyone with his near-naked ambition.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, has never removed his pants while playing golf.

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