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Completions this season by Carson Wentz and Eli Manning

Three-time world champion and worldwide icon Muhammad Ali, who proclaimed himself the greatest boxer of all-time (and often lived up to the hype), dies at age 74 after an amazing career and influential life.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on who will be to blame if “Big V” starting leads to an injury to Carson Wentz injury, the Sixers’ lack of a starting point guard, and Bernard Hopkins’ decision to fight again at age 51.

Almost any NFL team can beat any other NFL team on any given Sunday (or Monday … or Thursday). The NFL’s off-the-field problems are pushed to the sidelines every week by entertaining games with unpredictable outcomes. That’s why we keep watching.

Archive for the ‘Union’ Category

The Philly fan quiz

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2With the NFL Draft coming to Philadelphia next week, we are certain to be reminded of the 1999 NFL Draft, when Eagles fans traveled to New York to boo the selection of quarterback Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick because the fans preferred running back Ricky Williams. (In fact, you might even find that video right here at PhillyPhanatics.com.)

The booing of the McNabb selection joins the booing of Mike Schmidt and the throwing of snowballs at Santa Claus, as well as at Jimmy Johnson, in the folklore reinforcing the negative image of Philadelphia fans.

But there is a difference between booing and being a pessimist. Philadelphia fans are proud of booing the opposition. Ask any Philadelphia fan if they are embarrassed about booing Sidney Crosby, Kobe Bryant or the Dallas Cowboy of your choice.

The last time a major professional sport held its draft in Philadelphia, Flyers fans proudly attracted international attention (Canada makes it international) with deafening boos for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the Pittsburgh Penguins – as well as booing every other team – during the NHL Draft. We may have a repeat performance at the NFL Draft with the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Patriots and any of the former Cowboys-turned-broadcasters who has the misfortune of taking the public stage.

But are we truly that negative? I prefer to think of Philly sports fans as incredibly passionate. The optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin, which is why I sometimes consult Joe Optimist and Joe Pessimist, whom I created to represent the two conflicting views that often co-exist within the brain of the Philly sports fan, in my columns.

Are you more Joe Optimist or Joe Pessimist? Let’s find out by taking the following quiz.

1. With the 14th selection in the NFL Draft (in Philly!), the Eagles will draft:

A) a terrific starting defensive player. The draft is deep in corners. The Eagles can’t miss.

B) a solid contributor, but they won’t get an elite starter.

C) an average player … and they’ll pass up a player who will become a star.

D) a mistake. I don’t know whom they’ll pick, but I know it will be a mistake.

2. When you hear the phrase “Trust the Process,” your first reaction is to:

A) bow down in front of your Sam Hinkie poster.

B) get excited about two lottery picks in this year’s draft joining Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric on the court next season

C) worry that Joel Embiid’s and Ben Simmons’ careers will be hindered by injuries.

D) try not to throw up from the bile rising in your throat.

3. The Phillies’ bullpen will be:

A) good once Hector Neris becomes the closer and everyone settles into their new roles.

B) decent, but it doesn’t really matter right now because the Phillies are rebuilding.

C) a problem until they can find a reliable closer.

D) lit up all summer like a charcoal grill.

4. Flyers captain Claude Giroux:

A) wasn’t fully recovered from surgery this year. He will be much better next season.

B) will bounce back next season, but will never regain his peak form.

C) should be stripped of his captaincy because he’s not a good leader.

D) is on an irreversible downward spiral. The window to trade him has already passed.

5. Carson Wentz is:

A) the quarterback who will lead the Eagles to multiple Super Bowl victories.

B) going to be a long-time starting quarterback, but he won’t be an elite quarterback.

C) vastly overrated by Eagles fans desperate for a winner.

D) a flash in the pan who will be replaced by Nick Foles by midseason.

6. Maikel Franco batting .160 through the first 13 games is:

A) not important. Once he’s warmed up, he’ll be the team’s best hitter again. It’s early!

B) mildly concerning, but nothing to worry about.

C) a sign that he might not be as much of an impact player as Phillies fans had hoped.

D) a sign that he doesn’t know how to hit. Trade Franco now while you can still get something for him.

7. Ivan Provorov, Carson Wentz, Joel Embiid and J.P. Crawford are:

A) destined to usher in a new golden era in Philadelphia sports.

B) future superstars who will help make their respective teams championship contenders.

C) overrated because Philadelphia fans are so desperate for a winner.

D) destined to leave via free agency as soon as they can get out of this cursed city.

8. The Union’s next win will be:

A) this weekend

B) in May

C) after head coach Jim Curtin is fired

D) before Christmas

9. The best general manager (or equivalent front office position) is:

A) Ron Hextall

B) Matt Klentak

C) Howie Roseman

D) Bryan Colangelo

E) There a “best” general manager in this town? Really?

10. The next of Philadelphia’s major sports teams to win a championship will be:

A) the Eagles. E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!!!

B) the Sixers. Trust the process!

C) the Flyers. Look at all those young defensemen!

D) the Phillies. Wait until all the kids arrive!

E) Championship? Don’t talk about championships. Let’s try to get a team into the playoffs before we talk about winning a championship. And let’s get a team over .500 before we talk about the playoffs. A championship? That’s a long, long way away.

Union preview: Revamped midfield holds key

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 4 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Union took a big step last season by making the playoffs for the first time since 2011. However, the Union are still seeking the first playoff victory in franchise history. Will this be the year?

There always seems to be substantial turnover during the offseason for the Union, and this offseason fit that pattern. The Union brought in a new striker, a new starting midfielder and a new starting center back.

The Union appear to have plenty of depth, but you can’t put all of the players on the field at the same time. It’s up to manager Jim Curtin to make smart decisions regarding playing time and make the parts fit together.

Will the Union be better than the sum of its parts or will the parts fail to mesh? Let’s examine the 2017 Union.

GOALIE

This is the position of stability. Andre Blake was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year last season. Barring an injury to Blake, keeper should be a position of strength this season.

DEFENSE

The Union’s young defense received a jolt of experience with the addition of 34-year-old Oguchi Onyewu at center back. The question is whether Onyewu can remain healthy through the long season. Richie Marquez returns for his third season as a starter.

Keegan Rosenberry, who played every minute of every game last season, did not disappoint after being selected third overall in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The runner-up for rookie of the year, Rosenberry returns as a starter this season. However, Josh Yaro, who was selected second overall in the last year’s draft, is expected to miss several months due to a dislocated shoulder. Fabinho, who made 29 starts last season, or Ken Tribett, who started 19 games last season as a rookie, could play important roles.

If Onyewu provides stability on the back line and young players such as Rosenberry and Marquez continue to develop – and if Yaro returns in top form – the Union’s defense could solid this season. If age catches up to Onyewu, though, the defense could unravel, putting more pressure on Blake to keep the score down.

MIDFIELD

Add Tranquillo Barnetta and Vincent Nogueira to the long list of supposed midfield saviors for the Union. Barnetta returned to Switzerland after the season. Nogueira left in the middle of the season, and his departure was a major factor in the Union’s decline during the latter part of the season. Maurice Edu was supposed to be another midfield savior, but the 30-year-old starts 2017 on the sidelines, not fully recovered from the injuries that caused him to miss the entire 2016 season.

The Union is counting on Alejandro Bedoya to elevate the midfield this season. He should receive some assistance from Haris Medunjanin. Bedoya, who will turn 30 in April, only produced one goal (and no assists) in 10 games after being added to the roster last season. The Union is hoping that a full training camp will translate to improved production from Bedoya, who will serve as team captain.

Medunjanin, 31, is being counted upon to bring experience and quality to midfield. But, as we’ve seen in recent years, sometimes it’s difficult for a new midfielder to make a smooth transition into a new system for a new team.

Isinho and 20-year-old Derrick Jones could make important contributions, and veteran Brian Carroll always seems to resurface in a key situation every season. The challenge for Curtin is finding playing time for Roland Alberg, who scored nine goals last season despite making just 13 starters. How willing will Curtin be to pull a starter in order to get Alberg on the field to produce a spark?

FORWARD

C.J. Sapong scored seven goal last season, but he may be challenged for playing time at striker by newcomer Jay Simpson, who comes to the Union from England. Chris Pontious led the Union in scoring last season with 12 goals. Fabian Herbers, who registers three goals and seven assists last season despite making just 13 starts, could provide a spark, as could Fafa Picault.

OUTLOOK

The Union appear to have more scoring potential than it has in recent seasons, but there are major questions at midfield and on defense. The Union are developing young defenders such as Rosenberry, Marquez and the injured Yaro, but there could be growing pains, especially if Onyewu’s health doesn’t hold up. Blake can’t be expected to bail out the defense on a regular basis.

The key to the Union’s season may be the midfield. Will Bedoya be more comfortable than he seemed during the 10 games he played last season? Will Medunjanin make a difference or will he become the latest in the long line of promising midfielders who come through the Union’s revolving door and depart after one or two seasons.

The midfield provides the transition from defense to offense. How well the midfield controls the game and provides that transition could be the crucial element with regard to the Union’s chances of returning to the playoffs and notching the franchise’s first Major League Soccer playoff victory. It would be helpful if the Union jump out to a fast start, as they did last season, while avoiding the late-season slump they endured last season.

Prediction: The Union return to the playoffs for the second straight season, but fail to secure the franchise’s first postseason win.

 

R.I.P. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan