15

Rebounds in season opener by Ben Simmons, who also scores 19 points

Eagles training camp and the Democratic National Convention both began in South Philadelphia on Monday, but that isn’t where the similarity between these two events ends.

Media reports that Mike Babcock was likely to be the Flyers’ next coach were as inaccurate and irresponsible as the multitude of stories suggesting the Eagles were likely to acquire Marcus Mariota during the NFL Draft.

The time for talking about promise and potential is over. The Sixers’ progress should be measured in wins next season, and anything less than contending for a playoff berth should be deemed unacceptable.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Heel Turns: Busy times in Philly

Posted by Achilles Heel On October - 14 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

 With no Eagles game this weekend, professional wrestling takes center stage in Philadelphia, with Ring of Honor and WWE hosting events in the city.

Ring of Honor is hosting “Glory by Honor,” a set of television tapings Sunday at 2300 Arena. WWE comes to town on Monday for Raw at Wells Fargo Center.

Ring of Honor will hold a meet-and-greet session at 4 p.m. The tapings officially get underway at 6 p.m.

The main event is a triple-threat match for the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship. The match features three of Ring of Honor’s most highly decorated teams. Mark and Jay Briscoe defended the titles against The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian).

The other announced matches include a pair of non-title matches, with NWA World Heavyweight champion Cody Rhodes facing Kenny King, and Ring of Honor Television champion Jeff Cobb battling Shane Taylor. Ring of Honor World champion Jay Lethal will team up with Jonathan Gresham and a mystery partner to face The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia). There also will be a seven-woman tag team match, with Women of Honor World champion Sumie Sakai teaming Madison Rayne and Jenny Rose to face Kelly Klein, Dr. Britt Baker, DMD and Karen Q. Shane “Hurricane” Helms, Adam Page and Marty Scurll are also scheduled to appear.

There only match announced for Raw on Monday is a six-man tag team match pitting The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose) against Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, but that match only being promoted locally, so it could be a dark match – or it might not happen at all. WWE is teasing that Undertaker and Kane will respond to the challenge from Triple H and Shawn Michaels for a tag team match at WWE’s Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2. Other storylines to watch include Nikki and Brie Bella turning on Ronda Rousey, as well as Dean Ambrose feeling uncomfortable as a member of The Shield. There also should be qualifying matches for the World Cup Tournament at Crown Jewel. WWE is simultaneously building toward Crown Jewel and Evolution, the all-women’s event that will take place on Oct. 28.

As always, if you spot the Greek God of Wrestling at one of these events, please do not approach me for autographs and don’t touch me. In fact, don’t even speak to me. Basking in the glory of my presence should be enough of a reward for you.

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GLORY DAYS: Bound for Glory, which takes place Monday at the sold-out Melrose Ballroom in Manhattan, doesn’t seem like an overly impressive card. The lack of depth on the Impact Wrestling roster is brought to the forefront at major events. On the other hand, Impact Wrestling overcame the same situation to put on an impressive event at Slammiversary earlier this year, so we shouldn’t prejudge the quality of Bound for Glory.

The main event, which features Austin Aries defending the Impact Wrestling World Championship against Johnny Impact, should be terrific. Aries made the right move by leaving WWE for Impact Wrestling, where his talent is at center stage. Impact (the former Johnny Morrison) has always been good in the ring, so expect a fast-moving match. Achilles Heel has a feeling that Impact may capture the title.

The match that received the main event slot Thursday on the final Impact Wrestling show before Bound for Glory was the LAX vs. OGz match, which is now going to be a Concrete Jungle match, which supposedly means it will be held on concrete, with no ropes or ring. Perhaps Impact Wrestling put them in the Thursday’s main event slot because the television tapings were in Mexico, but this old and tired feud doesn’t feel like main event material.

The six-man tag team match between Brian Cage, Fenix and Pentagon Jr. against Sami Callihan and Dave and Jake Crist feels much fresher. So does the matchup between Eddie Edwards and Moose and the Knockouts Championship match between Tessa Blanchard and challenger Taya Valkyrie. There also will be a tag team match pitting Matt Sydal and Ethan Page against Rich Swann and Willie Mack.

Impact Wrestling will also be doing television tapings at Melrose Ballroom on Monday and Tuesday.

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TIME CHANGE: Beginning Oct. 25, Impact Wrestling will move from 8 p.m. to the 10 p.m.-midnight slot on Pop TV.

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WWE COMES TO ALLENTOWN: For those of you closer to the Lehigh Valley than Philadelphia, or if you prefer WWE to Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, WWE will present a house show at PPL Arena in Allentown on Sunday (7 p.m.).

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GRAND NIGHT FOR SMACKDOWN: This busy week of wrestling continues Tuesday with WWE presenting the 1,000th episode of Smackdown. WWE is bringing in some big names for the grand celebration. Edge will be hosting a Cutting Edge Segment, Evolution (Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Bautista) will reunite and the Undertaker is scheduled to appear.

Rey Mysterio will make his return on Tuesday, wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura for a berth in WWE’s World Cup Tournament, which is scheduled to take place on Nov. 2 as part of Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Orton and Jeff Hardy have already secured two of the four Smackdown spots in the World Cup Tournament.

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JONATHAN DIES AT 87: Don Leo Jonathan, one of professional wrestling’s greatest giants, died Saturday at age 87. Jonathan, who stood 6-foot-6-inches tall and weighed in the vicinity of 300 pounds, had incredible athletic ability.

A star in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Jonathan was actually past his prime by the time the Greek God of Wrestling first saw him, but even then he was an amazing talent. Despite his size, Johnson could pull off incredibly athletic maneuvers. Jonathan had a terrific feud with Andre the Giant and won several versions of the world title.

Jonathan would have been a star in any era. Achilles Heel extends his condolences to Jonathan’s friends and family.

*****

BIG CHANGES DOWN UNDER: The big news coming out of WWE’s Super-Showdown in Melbourne, Australia was Undertaker and Kane turning on Triple H and Shawn Michaels after Triple H defeated Undertaker in the main event. The four wrestlers were celebrating afterward, with all four raising their arms in the air, when the attack occurred.

This angle set up the tag team match scheduled to take place at Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2. The reformation of Degeneration X, with Shawn Michaels coming out of retirement, is the biggest surprise. It should be noted that Kane tore his Achilles tendon earlier this year.

The Triple H-Undertaker match was as good as can be expected from two stars well past their primes. In fact, it was a good match by any standard. The best matches were AJ Styles successfully defending the WWE Championship against Samoa Joe and the six-man match in which The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) defeated Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre.

The other big news from Australia was Buddy Murphy winning the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from Cedric Alexander. The Australian crowd was loudly behind Murphy, who is from Melbourne.

Other than the Cruiserweight match, the six-man tag team match, the main event and Ronda Rousey’s appearance in a six-woman match, the crowd was fairly quiet. It even took time for the crowd to warm up to the excellent Styles-Joe match. As we saw at the card earlier this year in Saudi Arabia, it seems as if foreign crowds react differently than American crowds.

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JEWEL IN JEOPARDY? The “Crown Jewel” event, part of a long-term deal between WWE and Saudi Arabia, is in jeopardy due to controversy surrounding the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist in Turkey. There are reports that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. WWE released a statement saying it is monitoring the situation, but there is already pressure on WWE to cancel the event.

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NXT UK READY TO ROLL: The long-awaited debut of NXT UK will take place on WWE Network beginning this Wednesday (3 p.m.). This is part of WWE’s extension as a global brand. The legendary Johnny Saint will serve as the on-air general manager.

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NEW JAPAN WATCH: If you have AXS on your cable or dish package, it’s worth checking out New Japan Wrestling. Jim Ross handles the play-by-play. The show features IWGP champion Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Kazuchika Okada and many more.

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CRAZY FOR CONQUISTADORS: Continuing our international theme (sort of), the Conquistador won the Worldwide Battle Royal on Raw. Set up by Raw interim general manager Baron Corbin to secure himself a spot in the World Cup Tournament, the battle royal ended in surprise when the Conquistador – after hiding outside the ring for most of this very short battle royal – re-entered the ring to deliver several textbook suplexes and an Angle slam on Corbin before throwing him over the top rope. The Conquistador then removed his mask to reveal himself as Kurt Angle.

The Greek God of Wrestling admits to having a soft spot for Conquistadors. He liked the original team, loved it when Edge and Christian wrestled as The Conquistadors (and then did commentary the following week while The Conquistadors wrestled to prove that they weren’t The Conquistadors), and enjoyed Angle’s Conquistador portrayal last week on Raw.

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EVOLUTION NEWS: Two matches were added to WWE’s Evolution, the all-women’s pay-per-view on Oct. 28. After Nikki and Brie Bella turned on Ronda Rousey on aw following their victory over the Riott Squad on Raw, it was announced that Nikki Bella will challenge Rousey for the Raw Women’s Championship at Evolution.

The following night, after a double countout in their match on Smackdown, it was announced that Becky Lynch will defend the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair at Evolution in a last woman standing match.

As if that weren’t enough, Trish Stratus and Lita will team up to face Alexa Bliss and Mickie James instead of what was expected to be a singles match between Bliss and Stratus.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 6 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Sunday’s game with the Vikings has a little more urgency for the Eagles than one might expect for a game this early in the season.

After a mediocre 2-2 start, the Eagles find themselves at a turning point in their season. If they defeat the Vikings on Sunday, they will remain in the thick of the NFC East race, and, pending the outcome of the Cowboys’ game at Houston and the Redskins’ Monday night game at New Orleans, might even find themselves in first place. On the other hand, a loss may put the Eagles in a more difficult predicament.

You can never tell what will happen in the NFL from week to week, but the Eagles appear to have a difficult schedule the next few weeks. The Vikings are seeking revenge for the embarrassing 38-7 loss in last season’s NFC Championship Game. Furthermore, at 1-2-1, the Vikings have their own sense of urgency this week.

The Eagles won’t have much time to recover after the Vikings game. They go up the New Jersey Turnpike on Thursday (8:20 p.m.) to battle the Giants. The Giants have problems on both the offensive and defensive lines, but a short week tends to favor the home team, so the Eagles certainly shouldn’t take that game lightly.

After visiting the Giants, the Eagles return home to face the Panthers, a good – if not great – team. You can scout the Giants and Panthers at the same time this Sunday (1 p.m.) when they meet in Charlotte.

The week after the Panthers game, the Eagles travel to London for a game with the Jaguars. In addition to having a terrific defense, the Jaguars have experience playing in London. The Eagles do not. That will definitely be a tough game.

If the Eagles lose to the Vikings, they will have to go 2-1 during the next three games simply to remain at .500 at the midpoint of the season. That’s pressure the Eagles don’t need.

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REMEMBERING HOPKINS: I haven’t written a Fish ‘n Chips since the death of former Eagles safety Wes Hopkins at age 57. For those too young to have seen the fierce-hitting Hopkins when he played with the Eagles, he helped set the tone for the dominant Eagles defenses of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Hopkins and the late Andre Waters formed the hardest hitting tandem in the NFL.

My PhillyPhanatics.com colleague Gordon Glantz described Hopkins as Brian Dawkins before there was a Brian Dawkins. Hopkins didn’t reach Dawkins’ level as a Hall of Fame player, but the analogy is accurate in the sense that Hopkins played a similar role during his Eagles career, which lasted from 1983-93. PhillyPhanatics.com extends our condolences to Hopkins’ family, friends and former teammates.

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CHANGING OF THE SEASONS: The color of the leaves isn’t the only thing that changes during this time of year. The Phillies’ season ended just as the Flyers’ season was about to begin and the Sixers were starting their preseason schedule.

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MASCOT CONTROVERSY: I guess I need to weigh in on the most controversial topic of the fall. No, not the Phillies’ collapse or the Eagles’ sluggish start. I’m talking about the introduction of Gritty, the Flyers’ mascot.

Gritty got off to a rough start. People made fun of the way he looked. “Made fun of” is probably too kind. Gritty was mocked, both locally and nationally.

I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like the idea of a mascot at NHL games. I do, however, understand that the Flyers are trying to connect with a younger fan base. A mascot will be an additional attraction for young fans in the arena, and, hopefully, will help them form a closer bond with the team. Gritty is a way to build loyalty with fans at a young age.

I can accept that – with a few conditions. Gritty should be entertaining during stoppages of play or in the concourse. Gritty should not be performing or doing anything that in any way would distract from action on the ice. That’s a general rule for all mascots during hockey games; it’s not just for gritty.

My other rule is more specific to Gritty. Some of Gritty’s Tweets and Facebook posts seem a bit snarky. I’m not sure a mascot should have a Twitter account. Part of the Phillie Phanatic’s magic is ability to communicate without using words. Instead of responding to criticism, Gritty should remain above the fray and knock off the snarky attitude.

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FRANKLIN’S DECISION: I have praised James Franklin for many reasons during his tenure as Penn State’s head coach. One aspect of coaching for which I haven’t praised Franklin is his play-calling. I think Franklin takes bad gambles and occasionally outsmarts himself.

One of the worst play-calling decisions Franklin has made came on fourth-and-5 on the Nittany Lions’ final possession during their 27-26 loss to Ohio State. After each team called timeout, Franklin somehow decided that a Miles Sanders run was the best play to call. The Buckeyes had been shutting down Sanders all game. What they hadn’t shut down was quarterback Trace McSorley.

McSorley had passed for 286 yards and rushed for 175 yards. The proper call was to put the ball in McSorley’s hands and give him the option to run or throw. Unfortunately, Franklin outsmarted himself by calling a running play. To his credit, after the game Franklin said, “We should have called something different there.”

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MCSORLEY’S CEILING: I used to think that Trace McSorley was a terrific college quarterback but had little shot to be an NFL quarterback. The more I see McSorley, the more I’m starting to change my mind. McSorley has a swagger that makes him a natural leader. He’ll have to stop lowering his shoulder and trying to bowl over defenders in the NFL, but he might have the ability to follow in Baker Mayfield’s footsteps as a smallish quarterback who can succeed at the NFL level.

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FULTZ WATCH: Markelle Fultz is an intriguing story. The first overall pick in the NBA Draft, Fultz endured a terrible rookie year. His first NBA campaign was plagued by injuries and rumors about mental blocks.

But the preseason has been filled with overreaction to everything Fultz does. He scored 12 points in the Sixers’ first preseason game, including a 3-pointer. That was good news, but it was hardly worthy of the overanalysis that followed. It was one preseason game. When Fultz makes shots during the regular season, that’s when we can start to get excited.

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BREWING SUCCESS: Even before the baseball playoffs started, I was a big fan of the Brewers. They added MVP candidate Christian Yelich during the offseason, acquiring him fron the Marlins. The following day, they signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain, adding two-thirds of their starting outfield.

When the non-waiver trade deadline came around at the end of July, the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals. And they didn’t stop there. On Aug. 31, the final day for acquiring players who could be eligible for the playoffs, they acquired starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez from the Nationals, reliever Xavier Cedeno from the White Sox and outfielder Curtis Granderson from the Blue Jays.

I’m not sure that the Brewers’ starting pitching matches that of some other playoff teams, but the tone the organization set by continuing to strive to get better right up to the final moment seems to have carried over to the players, whose never-say-die attitude has pushed them to the brink of postseason success.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, wonders how the number crunchers in the Phillies organization can explain why analytics didn’t predict their late-season collapse.  

Maurice Cheeks enters Hall of Fame