Thursday, March 30, 2006

World Series Failure

By Tim McManus

1980 ruined everything.

Just imagine, for a moment, life without the Phillies' lone World Series title. Remove Michael Jack's swing; Steve Carlton's windup; and (here's the hardest part) Tug McGraw's leap into midair.

Extract that speck of euphoria and that one march down Broad Street. Cork the champagne and erase the city-wide celebration.

Why on Earth should you want to give back the lone championship in an otherwise tortured existence?

For the fact alone that the Phillies' existence has been otherwise tortured.

Consider: The Fightin's are the losingest franchise in all of sports history. Sitting at an astounding 9,879 defeats, your boys are just two seasons away from becoming the first organization to crack the five-figure loss mark.

Here's another fun one: The club has been around since 1883, and played the majority of its first 80 years in an eight-team league. Care to guess how many World Series appearances they've had? How about five.

Here's the point -- the Phillies stink. I mean they not only stink, they stink on a legendary level.
They are far worse than the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, who have both built their identity and grossed an endless amount of income based on their failures.

They were proclaimed cursed by fat men and equally unkempt farm animals because they hadn't won since 1918 and 1908, respectively. Dozens of books and countless movies/television segments/magazines/newspaper articles have thoroughly investigated this grand "mystery" surrounding the teams and fans' plight.

Well how cursed would you be if you hadn't won since 19-O-ever, despite being around since Chester Arthur was President? (Yes, there was a President named Chester Arthur. I didn't know either; I just Googled it).

In a city and media market this size, the story of Philadelphia's 123-year 0-fer would have become monstrous by now -- especially in the Internet age. Last season's one-game shortcoming would not have faded to the back page in a blink, but rather would have prompted ESPN to run a collage of all the near-misses in Philadelphia history. David Bell's error, the infield single and Billy Wagner's subsequent blown save against Houston would be analyzed over and over by media outlets across the country, many of whom would blame a metaphysical force.

And think of the weight that the 1993 World Series loss would hold now. Bottom of the ninth, Phillies holding the lead and about to head home for a title-clinching Game 7, Joe Carter steps in...

Would Dent, Buckner or Bartman be nearly as captivating?

Take away our one championship, and the lore would be all ours now. There would be stories of old men who dedicated their lives to Phillies baseball, but died before seeing a title. A tale of a Shaman who hexed the team because the original stadium was being built on sacred Indian land. There would be a coalition dedicated to elevating William Penn above all skyscrapers.

Players, like Curt Schilling said he did for Boston, would choose Philly with the mission of restoring hope to the city. And as one failure piled upon the next the anticipation would grow; the seats would fill up more and more to see if this is the year; and the nation's eye would focus in even closer.

In short, this would be one of the best baseball towns in America. Instead it is a mediocre baseball town who happens to host the worst team -- literally -- in the history of the world.

Truth is, with the World Series win, we're just not all that interesting. And that's worse than being bad.

-You can reach Tim McManus at

Copy Cat

By John McMullen

Cheer up Eagles fans...At least you don’t have to deal with Brad Childress any longer.

Wrestlemania may still be a few days away but Minnesota already had its steel cage death match.

It pitted the crazy quarterback against the egomaniacal head coach.

And Minnesota fans had to take sides.

Of course, in the end -- The fans had nothing to do with the outcome and, for that matter, neither did Brad Childress.

Just like famed mob boss Vincent ‘The Chin” Gigante, who used to walk around the streets of New York mumbling to keep the feds off his back, Daunte Culpepper invented his little crazy streak.


To get away from the town that turned on him and the novices running the laughable “Triangle of Authority” in Minneapolis. Culpepper wanted out of Minnesota in a bad way. He wasn’t happy with the fans embracing Brad Johnson after he suffered a terrible knee injury, he wasn’t happy that the authorities were after him for groping a stripper’s posterior and he wasn’t happy that the Vikings were the only team in the NFL about to enter the season with greenhorns in every major coaching position.

At the same time, Daunte knew Childress made the woefully misinformed Zygi Wilf swoon like a schoolgirl. He also knew Childress was desperately trying to broaden his already sizeable power base in Minnesota.

So Culpepper’s plan was simple -- Alienate Childress with his bizarre behavior and get a one-way ticket out of town.

Sound familiar?

So while Daunte now gets to bask in the sun on South Beach -- What's left in Minnesota?

Much like Philadelphia...Ruins...

Despite having over $30 million in cash on hand, Minnesota’s own three stooges have done little to improve their team.

Yes, they nabbed a great guard in Steve Hutchinson but last I looked, guards aren’t playmakers.

Hmmmmmmm...I wonder where Childress learned his management skills?

-You can reach John McMullen at

A Breeze of Opening Day Approaches

By Jared Trexler

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League East.

We at the Phanatic tackle every issue from every angle, so while my esteemed colleague loves Pat Gillick's sometimes justly acquired nickname (Stand "Pat"Gillick) and questions aloud why Phillies' fans blame all recent misfortunes on former general manager Ed Wade, yesterday was a perfect example of how things have changed in the City of Brotherly Love.

Yesterday, (for those who missed the line above or are still in shock that I actually uttered the words) the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League East.

Obviously this is not true in the most concrete sense of the word, because 162 games still need to be played. However, a change in team management philosophy, if not seen before, was evidently apparent yesterday.

Gillick cut ties with inconsistent relief pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez, dumping the pitcher the club received in return for enigmatic starter Vicente Padilla.

Wade never would have made this move. The former general manager was seldom straight forward or honest and never admitted a mistake. Yesterday, Gillick called the trade of Padilla addition by subtraction and said that the trade may not look great because Rodriguez never panned out.

Wade would have forced manager Charlie Manuel to trot Rodriguez out in meaningful situations early in the season, only to watch the righty cost the Phillies precious victories. Gillick told Manuel the guy isn't working out. And then he cut him.

A fresh light breeze just blew past me.

Then, after watching 23-year-old Gavin Floyd turn in a spectacular spring training -- 4-0 record and a 2.08 ERA -- Gillick looked at $2.6 million offseason acquisition Ryan Franklin and decided what was best for the team.
Floyd and equally impressive righty Ryan Madson will open the season in the rotation. Franklin will fill the much-needed seventh inning role.

The former Mariner actually was very successful as a reliever in 2002. The shuffling of arms is what's best for the team. Gillick had the brass to move his main offseason pitching acquisition to the bullpen after seeing a rejuvenated Floyd in the spring. Wade would have quivered at the thought.

Under Wade's watch, Franklin would be the fourth starter on Opening Day. Madson deservedly would man the rotation's fifth spot and Floyd would be pitching in Scranton.

The result would be a weaker starting rotation (Franklin instead of Floyd) and a weaker bullpen (any other serviceable arm instead of Franklin).

Baseball fans will soon realize it's not always the moves you make that end up being difference makers. It is how you utilize a 25-man roster.

Gillick obviously grasps that task. Wade never had a clue.

A feel a strong, lasting gust of wind blowing past me.

It's the Phillies moving past Atlanta and New York to the top of the division.

-You can reach Jared Trexler at

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Stand Pat" Lives Up to His Name

By John McMullen

I was recently asked to give my Major League Baseball predictions for another media outlet this week and as I looked at my crystal ball, one thing became clear.........The Atlanta Braves are DOA.

The streak of 14-straight division titles will end this year. The only question is --- Who will end it?

In my mind, the Phillies and the New York Mets are dead even but I picked the Mets to win Eastern Division crown -- I may have been in Minneapolis for a decade but I grew up here and have been around this town long enough to know good things just don't happen a lot.

That said, what if the Phils do win the division crown?

Will the town's faithful swallow their collective pride and admit the man responsible for building this team, by and large, was.....gulp....Ed Wade?

Yep, in case you haven't noticed. "Stand" Pat Gillick has done very little since taking over.

Sure he brought in Aaron Rowand, Tom Gordon and Ryan Franklin but if the Phillies do win this thing, it will because of names like Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell, Abreu, Lieber and Myers --- all players brought into the organization during Wade's watch.

I'm sure most will conveniently forget that Wade was responsible for garnering the majority of the talent on this team and just enjoy the playoffs.

But, behind closed doors, Gillick will be breathing a sigh of relief and thanking his predecessor.

John McMullen can be reached at

Shut yer five hole

By Steven Lienert

Robert Esche recently said the writing was on the wall -- Ken Hitchcock will choose Antero Niittymaki to be the Flyers playoff goaltender.

The coach didn't say that. In fact, he denied it.

This was a veteran whining in public -- which further illustrated his point.

Esche should not be the starting keeper for the Flyers' Cup run.

With his comments, he showed us why.

Since the Olympic break, the Flyers have stumbled out to a 7-6-1 record -- not exactly tearing it up heading into the final month of the season. Somehow, they have managed to claw within two points of the Atlantic Division-leading Rangers, meaning they may be able to move up as high as the third seed in the East heading into the playoffs.

Niittymaki is 4-4 over that stretch, compiling a 2.87 goals-against average.

Esche is 3-2-1 with a 2.16 GAA, including a shutout.

So why would Esche come out and say what he said? It seems he has been the better of the two, for one reason or another, since coming home from Torino.

He said it because he either feels it -- or knows outright -- that the team has more confidence in Niittymaki.

He said it because he knows, as a positional goalie, his approach to goaltending means staying in control. It means being in the correct position to stop a particular shot.

Niittymaki, however, reminds fans of Pelle Lindbergh. To us, he's another in a long line of youthful goalies the Flyers have ridden deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Pete Peeters in 1980. Lindbergh in 1985. Ron Hextall in 1987. Brian Boucher in 2000. Esche in 2004.

That's right. Esche led the Flyers within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals in his first career foray into the postseason. He won 11 of 18 playoff contests with a 2.32 GAA. So why the lack of confidence?

Niittymaki has proven -- for two years now -- that as the stakes rise, so does his game. Like Lindbergh, he led the Flyers' AHL affiliate to a Calder Cup crown.

Like Lindbergh, he piloted his country to medal in the Olympics. (Lindbergh led Sweden to the bronze at Lake Placid in 1980; Niittymaki was named MVP of the tournament after leading Finland to silver in Torino. Esche, on the other hand, played in one game for the good ol' U.S. of A., losing 5-4 to Russia).

As a hockey player, Esche should have kept his comments to himself. He should have been the solid veteran that, if the rookie's eyes get big in the playoffs, he would ride to the rescue and provide the Flyers with a quality back-up plan.

Instead, he came across as a selfish, petulant keeper that's jealous of the new guy. The last thing the Flyers need heading into their Cup run is a goalie with his own agenda.

Steve Lienert can be reached at

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Difference of Desperation

By Steven Lienert

To listen to Jeffrey Lurie or Joe Banner tell it, the Eagles want to win. But there's something missing in their voices and it's desperation. The Linc is already sold out for years, Eagles merchandise flies off the shelf and the team is in great financial shape.

But not spending more of that cash under the cap sends a message to the fans -- we want to win, but we're not going to mortgage the future to do it.

Eric Moulds wants, gulp, $5 million a year for three years? Why pay a 32-old receiver that much money? Because the Eagles have no choice. He's a big, true No. 1 receiver and $5M out of the $102M cap figure doesn't seem like that much to pay.

The Bills want a fourth-round pick in return. The Eagles will not get a player of Moulds' caliber with that pick. And the Birds always have the option of cutting him after the second year. So what's the problem?

Oh, the Eagles don't pay that kind of money to players over 30. The old man won't be able to learn Andy Reid's complicated version of the West Coast offense. Besides, Reid is fine with the fact that running back Brian Westbrook is the team's best wide receiver.

Yes, I believe the Eagles want to win. But the fans are desperate for a winner, and that's where the organization and its fans don't see eye-to-eye.

Not only is it time to mortgage the future, it might be time to make a different deal with another devil.

What if someone like Jimmy Johnson, the same guy Philly fans pelted with snowballs during the Buddy Ryan days, wanted to come the Eagles? What if the former architect of three Super Bowl champions wanted to leave his cush gig next to Howie and Terry to push the Birds over the top? Would you fire Andy Reid and bring in the Coiffed-One?

I would.

Under Reid, the players, namely Mr. McNabb, have become too comfortable. The offense has become too predictable. It seems to me that Reid is at the end of his infamous binder, and the league has caught up with him. Furthermore, players and teams are on to how the Eagles operate, and it hasn't sat well.

What Lurie and company doesn't understand is that we need to win -- now.

After that, the Eagles can go 1-15 for 10 years. They can have all the cap room they ever wanted and not spend a dime -- we won't care. One year, one Lombardi, one parade... then we'll get off your back.

We'll still show up, we'll still buy your DVDs and foam fingers, we'll even still boo while we're there. But the booing won't have that "are-we-gonna-win-once-in-my-lifetime" venom behind it. We won't boo like we're going to kill somebody.

I don't want the Birds to be Salary Cap Champions. I want the Eagles to be NFL Champions.

You want a kinder, gentler Eagles fan? Do whatever it takes to win a freakin' title.

-You can contact Steven Lienert at

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fraud Alert

By John McMullen

For true basketball fans, the NCAA tourney is a pleasure...Save the incessant fawning by everyone involved not named Billy Packer.

Packer is public enemy No. 1 among most college basketball devotees. Why? He's the only analyst with the testicular fortitude to criticize anything about the game.

As a card-carrying member of the vast negative media conspiracy, I applaud Packer for actually having a backbone and pointing out that every kid, every coach and every official in the nation may not be all that they are cracked upto be.

With that in mind, I offer you my first annual college basketball "Fraud Alert":

Coach K - Lord Krzyzewski doesn't hold up so well if he isn't getting those 10 extra whistles a game. And P.S. -- That doesn't bode well for USA Basketball.

Jim Calhoun - Nothing degrades the Basketball Hall of Fame more than this man's presence.

J.J. Redick - Vince McMahon might consider hiring this guy after he flames out in the NBA. His Jim Hellwig inspired nickname? "The Ultimate Fraud."

Allan Ray - Ray's got talent but Peyton Manning plays better in big games than this guy.

The Zebras - Where's Steve Javie when you need him?

-You can reach John McMullen at

George Mason Continues Improbable Journey

By Jared Trexler

Philadelphia, PA - A bonfire of brackets are burning in the heart of Fairfax, Virginia as we speak. And no one cares.

In a game indicative of the human spirit with an outcome that brought a nation to its feet, a proud group of Patriots from George Mason University stunned top-seeded and national power UConn, 86-84, in overtime on Sunday to become the first 11th seed to reach the Final Four since LSU in 1986.

The game, like so many in sports, was bigger than itself. People with hopes and ambitions nationwide will feel rejuvenated. The lottery will see an increase in ticket sales.

Dreams can come true.

There is really no other way to explain how a core group of five Maryland high school products returned within a commuter trip of home to reach college basketball's pinnacle.
The whole week was played with house money. Guard Lamar Butler asked after media day prior to the Sweet 16 victory over Wichita State if he could keep the name plate used to identify a player to the press.

Head coach Jim Larranaga picked up doughnuts on cable television. Before the Big Dance began, the Bronx, New York native ordered the sugar-coated sweets in relative obscurity.
Larranaga's high-pitched whistle became a national communication device. Guard Tony Skinn's below-the-belt punch to a Hofstra player in a Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinal game turned from a costly blow to a story about second chances.

Skinn sat right next to his head coach on Selection Sunday, hoping his transgression hadn't cost his team a place in the NCAA Tournament. When George Mason's name was called as a part of the Washington, D.C. bracket, Skinn breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Almost two weeks later and with three victories already in hand, Skinn stood during Sunday's pre-game shootaround with a ball pressed against his left side. He wasn't shooting or dribbling, just looking around at the sea of green and gold that had invaded the Verizon Center. He smiled, then dribbled twice and released a jumper. Nothing but net.

The Patriots used the raw emotion of the experience and a vocal sixth man to hang with the vaunted Huskies for the half's first 17 minutes, exhibiting the characteristics that had turned the controversial at-large selection into a mid-major darling.

Solid fundamental basketball highlighted by text book screening on the offensive end and tenacious ball pressure on the defensive side pushed George Mason to a 29-28 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the opening half.

Will Thomas drained two free throws to give the Patriots that slight edge, but how he got to the foul line typified a team-first approach.

Thomas received the ball on the left block off a secondary break and went ups trong before being fouled hard to the floor by UConn forward Hilton Armstrong. Three of Thomas' teammates sprinted to their fallen forward, picking him up off the deck without a second thought.

The Huskies seemingly stated their superiority late in the half, using a 15-2 spurt to grab a 43-31 edge.

But every time America thought George Mason was going away, Jai Lewis used his wide frame in the paint to convert a much-needed field goal or Folarin Campbell buried a long-distance shot.

Stephen Ames had the Players Championship on cruise control. Baseball was still playing meaningless games. The laundry could wait.

A story for the ages was in progress.

The lead and the momentum went back and forth over the game's final few minutes. With the Patriots holding a 71-67 lead, UConn point guard Marcus Williams sliced down the middle of the lane and banked in a shot while being fouled. The southpaw's free throw capped the three-point play with 47.1 ticks remaining.

Lewis then made 1-of-2 from the stripe and the exuberant Butler gathered are bound off a UConn miss with 17.6 seconds left, running toward coach Larrang like a giddy youngster.

Butler next made a pair from the free throw line to push the edge to 74-70. It was then that a partisan-Patriot crowd began to think the impossible might happen.

UConn dashed those hopes for the time being, as Williams darted to the basket for a quick score. Then, after Skinn missed the front end of a one-and-one, Denham Brown slashed along the left baseline and converted a reserve layup toforce overtime.

The late-game heroics, the second final-minute comeback to force overtime by the Huskies in as many games, only delayed the inevitable.

For sometimes fate overwhelms all else. When Campbell's rain-making fadeaway left his hand with about 1:15 to play in the extra session, it looked like a last-second heave to beat the shot clock.

The ball reached its apex at the doorstep of Heaven, and when it began its descent it had no where to go but through the net. 84-80 Patriots.

That's fate. That's destiny. But make no mistake about it, that's also talent.

"It's not about who we play or where we play," preached Larranaga. "It's about how we play."
Just over one minute and a Brown missed three at the buzzer later, Thomas and Skinn sprinted toward family. Larranaga almost on cue turned around and pointed his finger at the crowd, just like he had after the previous three victories.

The cameras fixed on Butler, who took in the NCAA Tournament's atmosphere more than any player in recent memory.

"When that final buzzer went off, that was just pure joy, indescribable joy,"said Butler. "It just overwhelmed me. I looked at my father, he was smiling, crying. My mother, they were all crying. It was like a dream come true. I used to dream about that when I was a little kid, in front of my hometown, homefans, my family, it's indescribable."

Any sports fan who reads that statement gets chills. Any sports fan who understands the journey might get lost in it.

After defeating Michigan State, people called the Patriots this year's Hampton. Then, after disposing of North Carolina, they became this year's Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A victory over Wichita State cemented this CAA team as a 2006 version of Kent State. Now, people are ready to label George Mason as theclosest resemblance to Larry Bird's 1979 Indiana State Sycamores.
The comparisons are unfair. This George Mason squad is a modern-day fairytale, battling pre-tournament distractions and defeating three power conference opponents on its way to Indianapolis.

Martin Scorsese couldn't have produced a better script. One of the lead directors, Skinn, won't argue with how the story has played out.

"I think we'll go stick to the script going into whoever we play," said Skinn."We don't mind being the Cinderella."

It's a story of human hope. A story of good things happening to great people. A story that makes grown men cry.

Pass the Kleenex.

-You can reach Jared Trexler at
-Photo courtesy of George Mason University

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Public Enemy No. 1

By Steve Lienert <>

Jim Johnson better find a way to keep T.O. out of the end zone when Dallas comes to the Linc this season.

If not, Mayor Street might have to call in the National Guard.

If T.O. scores, you know he is going to make a bee-line for the Eagle at midfield. Who on the Eagles is tough enough to stop him from desecrating the Bird? Jeremiah Trotter is his boy. The receiving corps would stand there giggling like schoolgirls. Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia wouldn't stand up to him when they had a chance.

B-Dawk is the only player on the team that would take umbrage, but how much support would he get? I have to think the chances of a few fans that would be really upset -- Tie Domi squirting water over the glass upset -- would love a shot at stopping that prick from celebrating at midfield.

That Eagle means more to us than it does to most players on the team. Wouldn't be sweet if Philly cops turned the other way for just a few seconds? For a little old-school street justice?

Let a few of us protect the Eagle. T.O. wouldn't get past the 30-yard line.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sixers Insider by John McMullen

There is a little bit of a running joke around the Phan offices about my perceived affection for the Sixers’ journeyman point guard Kevin Ollie. But, in my mind, Larry Brown gave Billy King a roadmap to build a successful team around Allen Iverson and it included acquiring tough, hard-nosed defenders who wouldn’t sulk or lose interest in the game if they didn’t get consistent looks at the basket (I’m looking at you John Salmons).

Well King got off exit 1A, probably to find the closest mirror, and evidently has no GPS system to help him get back on Larry’s carefully designed track. Think about it -- Brown’s Eastern Conference championship club had numerous players that fit the above definition (Eric Snow, Tyrone Hill, George Lynch, Aaron McKie, Dikembe Mutombo, Raja Bell....etc.). This Sixers team had one --- Ollie.

With yesterday’s win, the Sixers are now 7-4 when Ollie is in the starting lineup with Iverson. Those numbers may not sound impressive but this is a 32-35 team we are talking about. Project that 7-4 record out to 67 games and it looks pretty good.

Maybe now you will realize why I like seeing Ollie in the lineup.

A.I. Overrated?

Not that A.I. !

I know what you are saying -- Isn’t Andre Iguodala a hard-nosed defender? No -- not on a consistent basis.

I might be the first in town to broach this subject but Iguodala is overrated. His physical skills are beyond reproach but they have yet to translate to the floor on a nightly basis. Despite his athletic gifts, Iguodala has trouble finishing in traffic and fails to give an effort on defense some nights. Iguodala should be pattering his game after Scottie Pippen. He should be stuffing the stat sheet like an Andrei Kirilenko.

Consider this: With all the leaping ability, Iguodala has managed just 18 blocks in 2,501 minutes. Kyle Korver has 22 swats in 2,117 minutes.

Something is very wrong there.

Third Scorer:

Speaking of Iguodala and Korver, the one sure-fire guarantee to get a Sixers’ win is when one of these guys are hot on the offensive end. The Sixers are 7-0 when three players score 20-plus points in a game. Problem is, Iguodala, Korver and even Chris Webber are way too inconsistent for Mo Cheeks to count on that kind of offensive effort..


The Sixers woefully underachieving $64 million dollar man, Samuel Dalembert, is upset about being demoted and no longer has any desire to play under Maurice Cheeks.

Harvey Pollack:

Legendary Sixers stat man Harvey Pollack is on his way to history. The 84-year old Pollack has worn a t-shirt as his attire for 998 straight days and will be hitting No. 1000 on Friday. Pollack, the godfather of the NBA stats manual, hopes the Guinness Book of World Records will note his accomplishment. For the record, No. 998 was a Lou Bega Mambo No. 5 tee but Pollack is being tight-lipped on what number 1,000 will be. “It’s a surprise,” Pollack said.

Villanova's Worst Nightmare: Boston College's Craig Smith

By Jared Trexler

Wildcat fans, meet Boston College star forward Craig Smith now.

If not, you will surely see him in your nightmares later.

Smith is a physical specimen. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest during the regular season. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. And they are wide shoulders.

More importantly, Smith is everything that Villanova isn't. He is a bruiser who manhandles opponents on both ends of the floor. He has been even bigger, if that's possible, during the NCAA Tournament, posting 23.5 points and 14.5 rebounds per contest.

Those numbers will keep Villanova head coach Jay Wright up at night.

Wright could stay stubborn and stick to the run-and-gun attack that led the team to the Sweet 16. If he does, it will be a short stay in Minneapolis.

He could play a zone and pack the defense in on Smith, forcing the Eagles to win from the perimeter. The problem with that approach is it will slow the game down, not exactly the pace at which Wright wants the game played.

He could double-down on Smith, telling Will Sheridan to play behind and having one of the four guards hedge down once Smith touches the ball. That could workfor 20 minutes, but BC's guards are great at recognizing double teams and will start cutting toward the basket.

The Wildcats could be leading at halftime only to see Boston College run a layup drill in the second half.

Three perfectly sensible options with the same result: BC wins.

Not having a player like Smith within 100 miles of the Main Line is the reason why a talented group of guards will go home Friday night.

Smith scored 18 points against Michigan State's Paul Davis. Sixteen and 23 points in two meetings with National Freshman of the Year lock Tyler Hansbrough. Nineteen points and 10 rebounds the last time he saw Duke senior Shelden Williams.

Wright doesn't have any big men of that caliber on his roster.

Once Sheridan picks up his second foul, and everyone knows that will happen sooner rather than later, Wright will look down the bench. He'll see Jason Fraser, who can barely run after multiple knee surgeries. He'll glance at seven-foot senior Chris Charles, who will give up about 30 points to Smith. He'll quickly look at freshman Dante Cunningham, knowing full well that Smith would take the youngster to school on the block.

He'll then yell to the end of the bench at Curtis Sumpter. Coach, a player can't enter the game in street clothes and Dockers. They will mark up the floor.

Wright will then realize what I already know. It's been a great season for Villanova, a campaign that has re-energized the Philadelphia college basketball scene.

But, it is all about to end on Friday for one simple reason.

Craig Smith.

You can reach Jared Trexler at
-Photo courtesy of Boston College University

An Open Letter to T.O.

By Steve Lienert

He just couldn't wait to don that Cowboys jersey.

You could just tell after he had the audacity to sport a Michael Irvin throwback after the Eagles game in Dallas last year. And now it will never go away. Well, I got a message for him from the people in section 207.

Mr. Owens,

You have been a royal pain in the ass since breaking your leg in 2004 -- against Dallas no less -- and signing with the Cowboys has ripped open old, crusted-over scabs.

You made training camp miserable for all of us. You disrespected fans that loved you. You disrespected a coach that believed you, an owner that paid you and a team that was one step away from accomplishing the ultimate goal.

Your words are empty. You have proven to have no dignity, honor or loyalty.

Yeah, we've heard your silly rap about the Birds.

By the way, Mr. I-wonder-what-you'd-score-on-a-wonderlic, the Eagles' colors are green and silver with black trim. Dumbass.

And you'll never be mistaken for Tupac, that's for sure. Stick to your day job.

Yeah, we'll check out your tell-all book (at least from your point of view) in which you'll be as sincere as you were in your last literary foray when you pledged your allegiance to your now former agent.

And who's idea was it to have it come out in July? Because I know it wasn't yours. You're not that bright. And then we'll have to listen to you chirp the week before you come here and the week before we go there.

You're like a bad case of herpes. Here's hoping you infect the Cowboys.

-You can reach Steve Lienert at
-Photo courtesy of the NFL.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

King Sized Failure

By John McMullen

Today, Billy King is nothing more than a punch line.

Once upon a time, the smooth talking, impeccably dressed, would-be politician’s dazzling personality won over the area’s scribes in record time.

You see, sportswriters are an insecure group. Privy to the exhilarating world of the athlete but unable to attain it, King made this pathetic, self-doubting group of wannabes feel important and got a free pass because of it.

But those days are over. Larry Brown’s former yes man has been such a miserable failure as the leader of the Sixers that the National media has taken notice and even King’s groupies at the two metropolitan dailies can’t save him now.

The carnage has been historically bad -- If not for an even more incompetent fool two hours up the Jersey Turnpike, King would be universally regarded as the NBA‘s Matt Millen.

Let’s take a look at the fiasco King has lorded over:

Since the 2001 Finals:

-King gave Dikembe Mutombo a $68 million extension even though the Jeremy Steven’s like center reportedly attended the same high school as Moses (and I don’t mean Malone).

-He then gave $35.5 million to an injured, beaten down Aaron McKie.

-Next was $29 million to a role player in journeyman point guard Eric Snow.

-How about a big free agent splash? Try $18 million to lure Greg Buckner to the City of Brotherly Love.

-Next up. $40 million to keep 6-foot-7 power forward Kenny Thomas.

-$25 million to get Brian Skinner back to Philadelphia, a year after King could have had him for the league minimum.

-$25 million to the ultimate one-dimensional player in Kyle Korver

-$60 million to the disinterested and injury prone Samuel Dalembert.

-And last but not least, King tried to give $20 million to yet another one-dimensional player in Willie Green before a torn ACL nixed the deal. (You have to feel sorry for Green, who now must find an equal sized-sucker to King. )

The Sixers’ leader also traded for Keith Van Horn, Glenn Robinson and Chris Webber. (To call those players dogs, as many have, is an insult to one of the noblest creatures in the world.)

His final act of ineptitude will likely be jettisoning Allen Iverson in the off-season.

Sadly, instead of revolting, a lot of Sixers fans will sit back and let it happen.

You see, through it all, most Philadelphia fans seem to want to blame Iverson for the Sixers‘ woes.

Why? Simply put -- Philadelphia fans are, for the most part, frauds.

Look no further than Iverson’s current saga to document the above statement.

In Iverson, the City has been lucky enough to watch one of the game’s 50-best players and the best 6-feet or under player in history, night in and night out for a decade.

Yet, few realize it and the town’s penchant for turning on A.I. when things go bad is troubling to say the least.

The tag line for the Philly faithful goes something like this.......”This is a blue-collar town. If you bust your a**, people will love you.”

Of course, that’s nonsense -- Just across the street from the Wachovia Center stands Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The most disliked player on the current incarnation of the Phils is none other than the third baseman, David Bell. If you know baseball, that would make sense in most towns -- To be kind, let’s just say Bell is not very talented and leave it at that.

But, if you happen to come across a Phillies game on television, sit down and watch a few innings. You’ll likely notice that one player busts his hump like no other -- The player’s name? You guessed it --David Bell.

So now we know the Philly faithful’s credo should read..........”This is a blue-collar town. If you bust your a** and you‘re really, really talented we might like you..............or maybe not ”

No one in the NBA plays as hard as Iverson but, as the Sixers continue to struggle, more and more of the City’s fans are putting the blame on the game’s ultimate warrior.

“He shoots too much.”.........”He’s a liability on defense.”.......”He doesn’t get others involved.”

And so many of those same fans think getting the ball in the lands of the anti-thesis of blue collar, one of the game’s laziest and softest players, Webber, is the answer.

Way to reward all out hustle and desire Philly.

Let’s ignore the fact that Iverson has taken his team to the finals.

Let’s ignore the fact that Iverson averages less shots per game than when the team went to the finals.

Let’s ignore the fact that Iverson’s assist ratio has nearly doubled.

Let‘s ignore the fact that it’s Iverson who gives the better effort on defense than Webber, Korver, Steven Hunter and so many other defensive cardboard cutouts that King has amassed in Philadelphia.

Let’s ignore the fact that Iverson has given the City a decade of excellence while Webber has given you a season and a half of bitching.

Ignore it all..........

No wonder Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship since 1983.

-You can reach John McMullen at


Philadelphia sports fans have stayed loyal to their teams despite annual heartbreak.

That's passion.

And we at the Phanatic want to exude that same passion to our readers. In the coming months, a monthly magazine targeted to YOU the Philadelphia area sports fan will be hitting the market.

Inside, you'll find opinion pieces, in-depth features and a critical look at sports' major headlines. You also will find encompassing coverage of every major sport.

The Masters? We will walk you through the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, focus on key players and dissect the course and field.

Baseball Opening Day? We will lead you up to the beginning of the baseball season with breakdowns, predictions and comprehensive analysis.

But what sets us apart from the major national sports magazines?

Not only will we keep you up to speed on the major Philadelphia sports teams. Not only will we preview March Madness, the World Series, and horse racing's Triple Crown.We will be where your son plays baseball. We will be inside your high school gymnasiums or at a football game under the Friday night lights.

We will cover it all, from the very top to the starting block. And we are also online, bringing YOU excerpts from articles you can read in print, but also displaying a daily blog of editorials about current events happening throughout the sports world.

We thank you in advance for your readership, but we would expect no less from a Philadelphia sports fan. May we exude that same passion to you through our sport-to-sport coverage.

The Phanatic staff,

John McMullen, Steve Lienert, Tim McManus, Jared Trexler