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Consecutive home runs for Phillies during 8th inning Sunday

A trio of transfers helped Temple win six straight games, but an injury to Will Cummings has reminded the Owls which player is the foundation of their success. In this edition of College Hoops Notebook, Eric Fisher also examines Penn’s effort against Villanova, the divergent experiences of a pair of former Saint Joseph’s guards in the NBA and looks back at one of La Salle’s greatest teams.

The Flyers face a pivotal 8-game road trip. Eric Fisher also notes recent streaks by Wayne Simmonds (pictured) and Sean Couturier, praises the Flyers for their tribute to Peter Forsberg and tells us how the Phantoms made history.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, Gordon Glantz fondly remembers how his father transformed him into a true Philadelphia sports fan.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 22 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

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!”)

Shop Legal Sea Foods Today!

Having the NFL Draft in Philadelphia is a reminder that the NFL is an unstoppable juggernaut.

Calling the NFL huge doesn’t do the league’s power justice. Not even ginormous, which is now an official word, adequately describes the NFL’s power.

Consider the NFL Draft. Believe it or not, there was a time when the NFL Draft seemed to be merely filler for ESPN, which was desperate for programming.

But then a funny thing happened. People started watching the draft. Lots of them. Mel Kiper Jr. (and his hair) became a star.

ESPN and the NFL caught on quickly to the popularity of the draft. The draft became a premier event. All seven rounds are now televised.

Today, just as the NFL stumbled onto the popularity of the draft, renovations at New York’s Radio City Music Hall may have caused the NFL to stumble on to another fantastic idea beyond its wildest imagination: taking the draft on the road.

Philadelphia is the second city to host the NFL Draft road show. The draft in Chicago was a big hit. Judging by the anticipation building in Philadelphia, this year’s draft might exceed the Chicago experience.

Even non-sports fans at a family gathering this week were asking me about the NFL Draft. Most of their questions centered on why the draft is such a major event that Philadelphia is willing to block off lanes for weeks for the construction of the massive NFL Draft set and close the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, one of the main arteries entering Center City, for the NFL Draft.

The answer defies explanation. There isn’t any real action at the NFL Draft. Every once in a while, a team representative has to run to get their draft card in before the time limit expires. Otherwise, the draft is a bunch of people sitting around and analyzing and debating the selections. But people watch it. Lots of them.

What’s the benefit for Philadelphia? Try to find a hotel room in Center City for the latter part of draft week. All of those guests will be eating at restaurants and shopping at stores – at least when they’re not studying their draft guides. In addition to the economic benefit, there will be a ton of free publicity for Philadelphia during the draft. There certainly will be lots of shots of the Philadelphia skyline, boathouse row and the Art Museum area during the national broadcasts.

The NFL Draft has outgrown Radio City Music Hall. It has become a prestigious event that attracts a lot of interest. The NFL should put the draft up for bids, as WWE does with WrestleMania. Hosting the NFL Draft would be considered a coup for the host city. The NFL could come back regularly to certain cities, like Philadelphia and Chicago, just it does with the Super Bowl, but fill in the other years with different cities.

Just as the NFL reached a new level when it began televising every round, it may have entered a new era by holding the draft outdoors in Chicago and Philadelphia.

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MOCKING MOCK DRAFTS: Before you put too much stock in anyone’s mock draft, realize that mock drafts are a crapshoot (except, of course, for Gordon Glantz’s mock draft at PhillyPhanatics.com). The six “experts” at nfl.com have five different players going to the Eagles. The projected selections for the Eagles at No. 14 are Washington receiver John Ross, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Gordon Glantz’s pick in his first two Eagles mock drafts), Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White.

Mock drafts are fun and can be interesting, as long as the creators acknowledge that these are, at best, educated guesses.

*****

CUP CRAZY: The Flyers missed the playoffs, but, hopefully, Flyers fans aren’t missing out on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The first round has been awesome, with many of the games going into overtime. Last Monday, all four games went overtime, and there’s nothing better in sports than overtime playoff hockey.

It also was rewarding to see Peter Laviolette finally avenge the Flyers’ Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Blackhawks in 2010. The Predators not only beat the Blackhawks, the top seeds in the Western Conference, but they swept them.

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FEEL LIKE A NUMBER: The first round of the NBA playoffs has also featured its share of excitement. The defending-champion Cavaliers rallied from a 25-point halftime deficit to defeat the Pacers in game 3. That’s the largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA playoff history.

The key number during the first round seems to be 32. A number of stars have led their team with 32 points, with the latest examples being the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (who had 51 points in his previous game) and the Wizards’ John Wall.

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UNION VS. VELASQUEZ: Union vs. Velasquez sounds like a court case. In this case, though, it’s a betting proposition. Who will register a win first, the Union or Phillies starter Vince Velasquez? The Union haven’t won since last August, a streak of 14 games. Velasquez hasn’t registered a win since last July.

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BACK ON TRACK: It will be overshadowed by the NFL Draft, but the Penn Relays, which kicks off early in the week but hits its peak from Thursday-Saturday, the same days as the NFL Draft, takes place in and around Franklin Field. If you’re a sports fan, the Penn Relays is something you should experience at least once. If you’re a football fan, go on Thursday or Friday during the day. You’ll still have time to watch the NFL Draft at night.

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SHRINKING LEAGUE: The Soul’s odds of repeating as Arena Football League champions seems pretty good. The folding of teams and the departure of perennial power Arizona and teams in Jacksonville and Orlando has left the AFL with only five teams, including two expansion teams (Washington and Baltimore).

You have to wonder if the Soul repeat at champions, will they also be the AFL’s last champions?

*****

NEW BLOOD: There are some new names at the top of the NASCAR standings. Young guns Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are in first and second place, respectively. Larson has won one race and seems to be in contention every week. Elliott is frequently in contention, but has yet to record the victory that almost certainly would assure him of a place in the NASCAR playoffs.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, thinks the Eagles should take the best available cornerback at No. 14 – unless receiver Mike Williams is available.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 15 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

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!”)

Shop Legal Sea Foods Today!

The dark days of spring continue. Wells Fargo Center is dark this spring, just as it has been in three of the past five years.

The Sixers missing the playoffs is almost taken for granted. They missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year. It used to be taken for granted that the Flyers would make the playoffs every season, but they missed the playoffs for the third time in five years and haven’t won a playoff series since 2012.

When will this situation change? Could it change next year? Possibly, but it’s equally possible that both the Flyers and Sixers miss the playoffs again.

The Sixers can argue that they’re on the upward swing. After four straight seasons of declining records, the Sixers reversed that trend this season. Of course, it’s difficult to get worse when you only win 10 games the previous season.

The Sixers improved by 18 wins this season after their nearly historically bad 10-72 record last season. But they were still 13 wins shy of being in a tie-breaker for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. They were 14 wins away from a winning record, which would have earned them a playoff berth.

The Sixers have only one winning record in their past 12 seasons. All of their young players will have to play well and remain healthy – a major “if” – in order for the Sixers to achieve that goal.

The Flyers have more pieces in place than the Sixers, yet they also are far from assured of returning to the playoffs next season. Their goalie situation is uncertain. Michal Neuvirth could be plucked away in the expansion draft, Anthony Stolarz was injured this week – and there’s no guarantee he’s ready to be a starting NHL goalie – and all signs indicate that Steve Mason will be permitted to walk away as an unrestricted free agent (unless Neuvirth is selected in the expansion draft, causing the Flyers to re-sign Mason).

Furthermore, the Flyers are committed to bringing up their young defensemen. The decision to let Michael Del Zotto, as well as veteran Nick Schultz, leave as unrestricted free agents, opens up two roster spots for next season. Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers are in contention for those roster spots. They are all promising players, but it’s tough to compete in the NHL with two rookies and second-year player (Ivan Provorov) on your back line.

Complicating matters further for the Flyers is they play in the best division in hockey. The Capitals, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers all exceeded 100 points this season The Flyers, at best, will once again be competing for a wild card berth next season.

It appears that the dark days of spring may continue for another year or two.

*****

DRAFT ANTICIPATION: Every time I drive past the Philadelphia Museum of Art and see the construction progressing, my excitement for the upcoming NFL Draft (April 27-29) grows stronger. At least that’s what happens after I’m done cursing at the traffic nightmare created by the reduced lanes due to the construction of the stands and set around the Art Museum’s famous “Rocky” steps and Eakins Oval.

*****

TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE: The Penn Relays and the NFL Draft will be held at the same time. This could cause a traffic nightmare in Philadelphia. With the Benjamin Franklin Parkway around the Art Museum and Eakins Circle closed, several entry points to Center City (Kelly Drive, Martin Luther King Drive, a bridge from the Drexel area) will be closed off, as will access to those roads and the Vine Street Expressway in the other direction. The Penn Relays will bring increased traffic to the Schuylkill Expressway and the bridges across the Schuylkill River from the University City area, especially on Sat., April 29.

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SOUL CHAMPIONS: The Philadelphia Soul begin defense of their Arena Football League title tonight (Saturday) at Tampa Bay. It’s not often that we have a defending champion from Philadelphia, so let’s savor the moment.

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UNION TROUBLES: Friday’s 2-0 loss to New York City FC extended the Union’s losing streak to four games. If we include the end of last season, including a playoff defeat, the Union (0-4-2) are winless in their last 14 games.

The Union only had two shots on goal – and none in the second half – during Friday’s defeat. A loss to Montreal, the only other winless team in MLS this season, next Saturday (1 p.m.) at home may seal the fate of head coach Jim Curtin.

*****

REMEMBERING HARDIN: What was interesting in the wake of Wayne Hardin’s death on Wednesday were the varying perspectives from around the country. In the Delaware Valley, Hardin, who died at age 91 after suffering a stroke, was lauded as the winningest coach in Temple football history, posting an 80-52-2 record in 13 seasons as head coach. The Owls lost close games to Penn State in 1976 (31-30) and 1978 (10-7) and defeated California, 28-17, in the 1979 Garden State Bowl.

Around the country, however, Hardin, who was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2013, was remembered for different reasons. He was memorialized as the “legendary” Navy coach in several publications. After four seasons as an assistant coach at Navy, Hardin become head coach in 1959. Navy finished the 1960 season ranked fourth in the nation and moved up to second in 1963. Hardin finished his tenure at Navy, where he coached Heisman Trophy winners   Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, with a 38-22-2 record in six seasons.

Other stories emphasized Hardin’s influence on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, widely considered the best coach in the NFL and one of the best in NFL history. Belichick’s father, Steve, was a member of Hardin’s staff at Navy. Matt Rhule, who left for Baylor in December after a successful tenure as Temple head coach, called Hardin a mentor and a friend in a statement released after Hardin’s death.

What’s clear, regardless of the perspective, is that, in addition to his accomplishments at Temple and Navy, Hardin had a tremendous influence on the lives of numerous players and coaches.

*****

MODRAK CHANGED EAGLES: Tom Modrak, who helped turn the Eagles’ fortunes around at the turn of the century, died Tuesday of a rare neurological disease, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Modrak was the Eagles’ director of football operations from 1998-2001, presiding over the end of the Ray Rhodes era and establishing the foundation for the Andy Reid era. In Modrak’s first draft (1999), the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick. They also drafted, in order, linebacker Barry Gardner, guard Doug Brzezinski, offensive lineman John Welbourn and safety Damon Moore, all of whom were starters at some point in their career.

The Eagles were 3-13 in Modrak’s first season, which was Rhodes’ last season. They were 11-5 in his final season in Philadelphia. Reid was put in charge of player personnel, and Modrak was dismissed among stories of tension with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and team president Joe Banner.

Prior to working for the Eagles, Modrak spent 19 years with the Steelers, moving from a scout to being in charge of the Steelers’ scouting department. After being forced out in Philadelphia, where the Eagles, with many players he acquired, became regulars in the NFC Championship Game and reached the Super Bowl in 2005, Modrak worked for the Bills for a decade. In 2012, he was hired to run the BLESTO scouting combine, which he continued to do for the rest of his life.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, is getting increasingly excited about the upcoming NFL Draft.

Eagles fans boo selection of Donovan McNabb