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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the dramatic change that can occur in a draft lottery, why rooting for Sidney Crosby — yes, Sidney Crosby — is OK under certain circumstances, and the impact of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement.

Carson Wentz throws four touchdown passes as the Eagles make an emphatic statement with a 51-23 domination of the Broncos, taking an NFL-best 8-1 record into their bye week.

In his first news conference as Nittany Lions head coach, James Franklin made it clear that he’s committed to Penn State for the long haul. Following Bill O’Brien’s short reign, Franklin is exactly what Penn State needs.

Archive for the ‘Philly Filly’ Category

10 reasons to cheer Vick

Posted by Joan Dowlin On January - 5 - 2011 6 COMMENTS

As an animal lover, Joan Dowlin once thought she could never forgive Michael Vick. But she’s had a change of heart. Read Dowlin’s Top 10 reasons she’s rooting for the Eagles starting quarterback as the Birds begin their playoff quest.

*****

Michael Vick has been in the national spotlight a lot recently, for both his stunning comeback on the football field and his off-the-field past criminal activities of running a dog fighting business that included killing dogs.

President Obama highlighted this national debate last week by phoning the Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie, congratulating him on taking the risk of hiring Vick, an ex-con.  The President said Lurie was setting a good example by giving a second chance to someone who has served his time.

Never mind that President Obama’s main purpose in calling was to thank Lurie for making future plans to install solar panels and wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field, thus supporting the President’s “green initiatives.”  The second half of the conversation got all the attention and Internet hits. In fact, Obama’s support of Vick went viral. It was a hot topic on twitter, talk radio, and cable news for several days.  It seems everyone wanted to weigh in.

One Fox News host (Tucker Carlson, filling in for Sean Hannity) even went so far as to say he thought Vick should have been executed for what he did.  Even most of Vick’s critics would agree that Carlson’s position is a little too extreme.

But not all the anger over the signing of Vick has disappeared. I have a dog trainer friend who refuses to watch the Eagles or support them in any way as long as Vick is the quarterback.

Since this has become such a hot topic and the playoffs are looming, I decided to add my two cents in the form of a Top Ten list.  I was, I believe, one of the first to address the issue of Vick’s redemption, explaining how at first I thought it was a mistake to hire him.  I am an animal lover who felt at the time I could never forgive him.  I have since changed my mind on the matter.  The following list explains why.

The Top Ten Reasons To Root For Michael Vick (that show he has truly repented):

10. He is respected by his teammates.  To judge the character of any person, you need to look at the opinions of those they work with.  The Eagles’ players and staff admire and respect him.  In 2009, they voted Vick the most courageous player of the year (Ed Block Courage Award.)

9. He has an incredible work ethic.  Everyone he works with is impressed with how hard he works at practices and in games. (His reputation was the opposite when he was with the Falcons.) 

8. He speaks out against dog fighting.  He goes to schools or youth groups and tells students about the sins of animal abuse.  This is a volunteer project, not mandated by the courts.  Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society, has become Vick’s partner in trying to right the wrong of animal fighting and has said Vick has never turned him down when asked about speaking anywhere on the subject.

7. He is playing football out of his mind.  Only someone truly repentant and thankful for a second chance – and who is at peace with one’s self – could be performing at such a phenomenal level.

6. He has broken ties with his old, corrupting influences.  After the shooting incident outside his birthday party in Virginia Beach last June, Vick said the event “scared him straight.”  He is quoted as saying:  “Right then and there I told myself, I am changing my life.  I’m going to do everything they ask me to do.  I’m getting myself away from this madness.”  He has kept his word.  A lesson that perhaps Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers never learned.

5. He is accountable for his actions.  This was evident at his news conference after the Vikings loss last week.  He said he was responsible for the Eagles losing because he fumbled twice and was intercepted once.  He refused to make excuses even though he was injured on the first play with a quadriceps contusion (thigh bruise) and was limping terribly by the end of the game.  It was refreshing to hear a quarterback take the blame instead of looking for scapegoats. 

4. He is committed to helping the team win.  At the same news conference, when asked how he felt about being named starting  quarterback for the Pro Bowl, Vick said he didn’t care about the Pro Bowl.  His focus was on now and the Eagles and the playoffs.  He gave a similar answer when asked about a potential contract extension after his spectacular performance in the Nov. 15 destruction of the Redskins.  Vick said the contract hadn’t even crossed his mind.

3. He is humble.  After his otherworldly performance in the 59-28 rout of the Redskins, Vick in his press conference refused to take credit for the win, instead praising his teammates and coaches for the support they gave him.

2. He is a spiritual leader for his team.  Two weeks ago when the Eagles were losing to the Giants in NY by 21 points in a game to determine first place in the NFC East, Vick encouraged his teammates to “play for pride” and not give up, thus sparking a miraculous 28-point comeback in the last 8 minutes of the fourth quarter.

1. He is repentant in his own words.  When speaking to students from Wilbur Cross High in New Haven, Ct., Vick told them:  “I know that there are people who will never forgive me and I understand that. What I did was inhumane.  I can’t change people’s minds, I can’t change that – if I could, I would.  All I can do is what I am doing, to try to help more animals than I hurt, to try to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.” 

Ironically, the last time Michael Vick started a playoff game as quarterback was at Lincoln Financial Field on Jan. 23, 2005, when his Atlanta Falcons battled the Eagles for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.  The Eagles won 27-10 (then lost in the Super Bowl to New England).

When Vick leads the Eagles into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the NFC playoffs, he will truly have come full circle in his quest for redemption.  A dream matchup would be having the Eagles once again play Atlanta for the NFC championship in Atlanta, where Vick’s career took off and collapsed.  However, a lot of things will have to fall into place for that to happen.

No matter how this remarkable Eagles season ends, one thing is clear to me: Michael Vick has made the most out of his second chance and he deserves our support and respect.


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Brother-Lee love

Posted by Joan Dowlin On December - 16 - 2010 2 COMMENTS

Cliff Lee’s Return to the Phillies Shines Spotlight on Philadelphia’s Sports and Cultural Treasures

*****

Everyone in the sports world was shocked early Tuesday by the announcement that pitcher Cliff Lee, the most sought after free agent pitcher this off-season, is going back to the Philadelphia Phillies. That is everyone except for those that have played for the Phils for the last four or five years.

The Phillies players love it here. They love it because of the ballpark, the manager and coaching staff, the Philadelphia city and community and the die hard, passionate Phillies fans.

Lee turned down more money and a chance to play for the 2009 world champion New York Yankees, whom some have called “America’s team” as well as the ballclub he took to the 2010 World Series, the Texas Rangers.

According to Ruben Amaro Jr., General Manager of the Phillies in a 610 WIP-AM radio interview: “Cliff Lee’s here because he wanted to be in Philly.” He’s returned because he has experienced first hand the Philadelphia experience for four months in 2009 and he and his family became hooked.

Even after Lee was shocked about being traded to Seattle after beating the Yankees twice in the 2009 World Series, he forgave the Phillies management and came back. Amaro took a lot of heat from Philly fans at the time of the deal. Acquiring pitching ace Roy Halladay and extending Halladay’s contract through 2013 may have taken some of the sting away, but many never forgot it. Now after bringing Lee back through 2015, Amaro is the talk of the town and the man of the hour.

*****

Let’s take a closer look at Lee’s historic decision. He didn’t come for the money or length of contract, because he could have gotten more from both the Rangers and the Yankees. He didn’t come just because he wanted to be with a contender. The Yanks in 2009 and Rangers in 2010 went further in the postseason than the Phillies did those years. He didn’t come because he was in love with the Phillies’ brass after they traded him without warning in 2009. So what were the reasons Lee chose the Phils?

Scott Boras, perhaps the top player agent in baseball, says “The four primary factors (for signing) are winning, family, the geographical, and economics….only 20, 25 percent of players take the biggest deal. They often take the secondary offer.”

Boras left out one factor: the fan base. At Lee’s press conference when speaking of the ballpark atmosphere he confided that “it feels different everywhere else. [Here, y]ou can feel the volume. Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else. I don’t know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it’s definitely something extra here.” He called the fans here intense, informed, exciting and passionate. Lee ought to know, being the first Cy Young Award winner to have 4 different home ballparks over the 2 seasons following his award. Fellow Phils pitcher Cole Hamels, who has only known major league baseball as a Phillie, also appreciates his professional life here – saying “it is special being on the mound in front of the Phillies fans.”

It was not that long ago that Philadelphia sports fans were considered the rudest in the country. Sure Eagles fans have booed Santa Claus and thrown snowballs on the field, while Phillies fans have run around the outfield, only to be tased or tripped by Atlanta Braves players. But times have changed. We are enthusiastic fans, and when things don’t go our way we may get a little rowdy, but that is the nature of sports.

Now things are going our way and the Phillies and their phanatics are enjoying a six-year romance that began with the building of their new home, Citizens Bank Park, in 2004. It is a marvelous venue, a throwback to the old-fashioned baseball parks of decades past with its natural grass and an intimate feel. It is almost as if someone said: “If you build it, they will come.” They did, thanks in large part to the vision of Phillies chairman Bill Giles, the maturing of prospects into all-stars and MVP’s, and the hiring of Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick and his successor Amaro as well as current manager Charlie Manuel, all of which created the perfect storm for Phillies Phever to blossom.

Ironically, at the time it was built, Citizens Bank Park was considered a hitter’s ballpark, being a haven for home runs with its close dimensions (which were even pushed back in left field going into the park’s second season). Braves’ pitcher Tom Glavine (#2 on PhillyPhanatics.com’s Top 10 Braves We Love to Hate) is quoted as then saying: “The Phils will have to slug their way into a World Series.” They did do that – twice – but the truth is that now they have one of the most potent pitching rotations in all of baseball, put together in large part to overcome the challenge of pitching in a hitters’ park.

That is another reason Cliff Lee came back to Philly. The best want to play with the best. Cliff Lee loved the club atmosphere and support the players have for one another as well as the strong, steady leadership of Charlie Manuel and his staff.

It makes me wonder how Jayson Werth, Phillies former right fielder who just signed a 7 year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals, will feel next year. Sure he got more money than the Phils were going to offer him, but what will it be like to play for a last place team with a stadium full of empty seats after being a part of the Phillies magic these last few years? He didn’t seem to be smiling when he donned the Nats jersey when being introduced on the same day that Cliff Lee was beaming at his Philadelphia press conference.

Werth’s departure was a cloud with a silver lining for the Phillies; if Werth hadn’t left the Phillies would not have had the money to offer to Lee. Everything happens for a reason, they say.

Success breeds success. Even with an economic recession, the Phillies organization had a team-record 123 consecutive home sellouts over the last 3 seasons. The day the Lee deal was announced, 40,000 tickets were sold for next year. These ticket sales create the revenue that allows management to sign great players. These great players bring post seasons and world championships to Philadelphia, which creates more revenue through merchandising and higher advertising fees.

Having lived in the Philadelphia suburbs most of my life, I can testify that this region is a great place to live and work. I believe that is what Cliff Lee discovered the first time he was a Phillie. At his recent press conference, Lee stated that his family likes it here and that it is an interesting and historic city. According to Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lee’s wife, Kristen has said: “It’s just a good fit for our family…It’s a fun city. If you want to go out and have fun for a few hours, you can do that. The cultural experiences for our kids. I just think it’s easy to live here…when we got traded from Philly[, t]here were some tears over that for me.”

I know what she means. I always look forward to several weeks a year of pet sitting for friends in Center City. Walking the dogs around town, there is a palpable energy in the air. You don’t need a car because you can walk anywhere and it’s fun to explore all the great restaurants and cultural events happening all the time.

Caroline Bean of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation informed me that: “The success of the Phillies (and any of our pro sports teams) is a major confidence booster for the Philadelphia region. Our residents and fans are major ‘ambassadors’ for Philadelphia, and we love when they are excited about where they live. They spread the excitement to potential visitors. Additionally, the positive attention and goodwill the Phillies’ success brings to Philadelphia is immeasurable. We just couldn’t pay for that type of good publicity.”

Philadelphians have a great deal of civic pride, which is demonstrated with such cultural and sport icons as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (with the Rocky statue outside and the treasures inside), the Avenue of the Arts, the Opera Company of Philadelphia (recently gone viral on YouTube with over 6 million views of singing the Hallelujah Chorus at Macy’s), the Philadelphia Zoo (nation’s first), the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Army-Navy game, the Penn Relays, the Philadelphia Marathon, the Dad Vail Regatta, the International Cycling Championship, the 2000 Republican National Convention, the 2001 and 2002 Summer X Games, the return of the Philadelphia Soul (Arena Football League’s reigning champions from 2008), the Eagles (with re-emerging superstar Michael Vick at quarterback), the Flyers (who made it to the Stanley Cup finals last year), and the youth-infused 76ers all joining the Phillies in celebrating this region’s treasures.

Yes, it’s a good time to be a Philadelphia sports’ fan and the area is rejoicing this holiday season by welcoming back a favorite son. For Cliff Lee and his family, the feeling is mutual.


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Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie