Monday, March 31, 2008

Mayweather at Wrestlemania

Rambling Away

By Ian Sirota
The Phanatic Magazine

We are down to the Final Four in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and for the first time since the Tournament went to a field of 64, all four #1 seeds won their regionals, though Kansas was really pushed to the limit by underdog Davidson yesterday. Watching Stephen Curry shoot for Davidson was simply a joy -- he reminds me of a young Reggie Miller, and I can see him in the NBA someday. I went way out on a limb and picked North Carolina to win it all before the tournament began, and I see no reason to change that selection now. The Tar Heels are too deep to be beaten by anyone other than themselves. Maybe Memphis or UCLA could give UNC a game, but I doubt it...

I was up in Newark for the Flyers-Devils game on Friday night. First of all, that new arena is absolutely gorgeous. That team and both of its fans don't deserve it. As far as the game was concerned, Martin Biron plus shootouts equals disaster. He let in all three shots he faced, leaving the Flyers (who were the better team on the night), with an undeserved loss. That was particularly difficult to swallow because his opposite number, Martin Brodeur, was porous to say the least. At least three of the four goals the Flyers scored were stoppable shots, and when you have a shaky Martin Brodeur in between the pipes, that's a game the Flyers HAVE to win. It's on Biron that they didn't...

Opening Day is here, weather permitting. Normally, I would do a full blown preview, with projected records and the whole shebang, but there's no time for that. In short, I like the Mets (boo, hiss) to win the NL East. Acquiring Johan Santana for nothing of consequence gives them the best pitcher in Baseball and a decided edge over the Phillies. The Braves and Phillies should battle for second place, and be in the wild card hunt the whole season, but after Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, who I think will transition nicely back into a starter's role, the pitching staff is at best a series of question marks. In the NL Central, the pieces are there for the Cubs, but....they're still the Cubs. They'll find some way to screw it up. If they do, watch out for the Milwaukee Brewers. There's a lot of young talent on that team, and if it gels quickly, look out! In the AL West, all four teams could win the division. There really is no clear cut favorite. I would give Arizona a slight nod, because of that great 1-2 pitching combination of Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, but if Randy Johnson is finally able to come back and be somewhat effective, that edge will be even more pronounced. Over in the AL East, and much as it pains me to write this, it will be the New York Yankees reclaiming the division they have owned since the mid-1990s. Their young fireballers, Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, give them a decided advantage over a Boston Red Sox team that is simply not as deep. In the AL Central, I don't see how Detroit can lose, unless its pitching staff completely disintegrates. That lineup is completely stacked. Cleveland will battle it out with Boston for the wild card. In the AL West, Anaheim should repeat, but for the Angels it will all be a matter of keeping that pitching staff healthy. If you like dark horses, watch out for the Seattle Mariners, who acquired the best pitcher in Baseball not named Johan Santana when they picked up Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles during the off-season...

The NFL draft is coming up in a few weeks. I just wonder which obscure player the Eagles will take in the first round this year, and how they will tell us that we're all stupid for not realizing that that player will be a perennial All-Pro. Sure, just like Mike Mamula, Freddie Mitchell, Jon Harris, Michael Patterson, Tra Thomas, Jermaine Mayberry, etc., etc.

A Philadelphia Guarantee

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - There are no guarantees in life, save death, taxes and "The Undertaker" winning at Wrestlemania.

And I guess you can add the Philadelphia Phillies front office not going the extra mile to that list.

With opening day finally here, most Phils fans are in a frenzy and it's not all that hard to understand why. This is a playoff club that has three superstars (Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley) in their prime.

Of course, those same fans that are conjuring up dreams of a championship also haven't seen the bottom of the rotation pitch yet. So, if they sit down and are honest...really honest...they all know the Fightins have no shot at a World Series crown.

All that offense might get you to the Big Dance again but when you are actually there, who would you rather be -- North Carolina (a serious contender) or Maryland-Baltimore County (a product of a week league)?

Right now, the Phillies are more Retrievers (that's UMBC's nickname) then Tar Heels.

Even if you make a giant leap and assume Cole Hamels wins the Cy Young award and Brett Myers' 10-cent head finally catches up to his million dollar arm, the names that follow them in the rotation are 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton.

And that's just not good enough.

It's not like I'm advocating Pat Gillick...excuse me...Reuben Amaro go out and trade for Erik Bedard or Dan Haren and it's not like I want them to throw $100-plus million at the feet of Johan Santana.

That's pie in the sky type stuff and Phils ownership doesn't like baked goods.

But, what about bringing back a Kyle Lohse or, if you are taking a flyer on someone, how about the former ace like Bartolo Colon instead of the guy with the hot wife and nothing else (Kris Benson).

In other words...when your window is about trying to fit through?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Baseball season already? Time to get our Phil(s)

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

Where did the time go?

Just six months ago, fresh off a disappointing cameo in the postseason, Philadelphia fans quickly looked up and shivered a bit at the local sporting prospects they faced between then and the time that pitchers and catchers reported.

It didn’t look pretty.

On one hand, they had a hockey team coming off the worst season in its franchise history.

On the other hand, they had a maddening football team that, only a month into the season, already showed signs of being just good enough to be competitive and just mediocre enough to remain home in January.

On the third hand (yeah, I know - just work with me here), they had a basketball team that… wait, they still had a basketball team?

Anyhow, as we know, the winter wasn’t so cruel to us, after all. The latter two teams have made surprise showings to give us hope for the future and the former team… well, they are the Gold Standard, right?

But what was once a forgone conclusion that a large bulk of the sports conversation in the Delaware Valley between October and April would pertain to the Phils, the defending division champs have largely flown under the radar. Yes, the one team that has actually proven itself in the recent past was basically forgotten about!

Last year, The Phanatic provided you “35 Reasons to Believe,” and included names like Randall Simon(!) as one of them. Yes, the Tonya Harding/Jeff Gillooly of wiener races made the cut.

This year? Nada. A vast emptiness of baseball chatter.

Does that mean that we simply expect great things this year, and it’s not necessary for a build-up?

Or, maybe, is there an uncomfortable feeling inside of us that we care not to talk about, like a kind of jinx which may transform our fears into reality?

The perennial skeptic that I am, I responded last year’s reasons to believe with reasons to “be-leery.” Regardless of how many of my reasons came to fruition (and many, in fact, did), the Phillies somehow still made it to October, so yes, I know where I could stick those reasons of mine.

This year, I’ll just call them simply “concerns.” Not predictions. Not damnations. Just “concerns.”

For example:

- Our No. 1 starter has never pitched a full year in health. Our No. 2 was a reliever last season and was not as good a starter as many of us recall. Our No. 3 is old enough to have fathered our No. 1 and 2 starters. Our No. 4 hasn’t pitched a full season yet and every time I think of our No. 5, I vomit a little bit in my mouth.

- Uncle Charlie STILL fills out the cards! Does that not scare you a little bit?

- The Mets got Santana this offseason. The Braves quietly got a lot better, as well. Did the Phillies improve as much as they did?

Again, just “concerns.” But sometimes concerns can become truths – a la the 2007 Phillies – and it still doesn’t matter. Perhaps that’s what we’ll see this year in order to repeat the excitement once more.

And now for my picks. I was hoping to put them off until Kenny Lofton got signed (since whatever team he’s been on over the past seven seasons – excluding his stint with the Phils – has made the playoffs), but, to no avail, as he remains unsigned.

NL Division Winners: Mets, Cubs, Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Braves

AL Division Winners: Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners
NL Wild Card: Yankees

World Series: Dodgers over Tigers (The Tigers have a sick batting lineup. The Dodgers are simply solid across the board. In the end, a shutdown bullpen, a resurgence by Andruw Jones and the steady leadership of Joe Torre prevails.)

I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong. Especially from the National League side. But, you know, I have these concerns…

Flyers sign F Jon Kalinski to entry-level contract

The Philadelphia Flyers signed 6’1”, 180-pound forward Jon Kalinski to an entry-level contract Sunday. He will report to the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms.

"Jon (Kalinski) is a smart, hardworking kid," said GM Paul Holmgren. "We feel that he is ready to move to the next level in his hockey career."

Kalinski, 20, recorded eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points and 56 penalty minutes in 40 games for the Minnesota State University at Mankato Mavericks this past season. He was second on the team in shots (112) and third in penalty minutes (56).

In three seasons for Minnesota State (2005-06 through 2007-08), Kalinski registered 29 goals and 27 assists for 56 points and 201 penalty minutes in 107 games. A native of Lacorey, Alberta, Kalinski was selected by the Flyers in the sixth round (152nd overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

He posted 27 points (17G,10A) and 74 penalty minutes in 37 games for the Mavericks during the 2006-07 season. He tied for the team lead in goals with 17 and his four shorthanded goals led the team (tied for second in the NCAA and tied school single-season record). After registering 11 points (4G,7A) in 30 games during his freshman season, Kalinski was named MSU's Most Improved Player for the 2005-06 season.

Radio Ratings - WIP vs. WPEN

Here’s a look at the most recent ratings for WIP and WPEN February, courtesy of Radio Info.

WIP-AM AVG WK Cume - 17th overall in the market

Holiday 2007 545,000

January 2008 500,200

February 2008 479,000

WPEN-AM AVG WK Cume - 28th overall in the market

Holiday 2007 168,700

January 2008 180,700

February 2008 137,400

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Briere's shootout goal clinches Flyers' comeback win

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Danny Briere notched the lone goal of the shootout, sending the Philadelphia Flyers to a thrilling 4-3 win over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Briere made several stick moves as he skated slowly down the ice towards Isles netminder Wade Dubielewicz. He waited until the goalie went for the poke check at the left side of the crease before slipping a backhander into the net for the game-winner.

Briere, Joffrey Lupul and Mike Richards tallied in regulation for the Flyers, who blasted a season-high 54 shots on net and vaulted over Boston into a tie with the idle New York Rangers for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

In addition, the club moved within a point of fifth-place Ottawa, which lost to the Bruins earlier Saturday. Philadelphia, winners in five of its last six games, looks to further cement its playoff standing on Wednesday at Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh.

Antero Niittymaki, starting for the first time in 11 days, made 27 saves to record his 12th win of the season.

Richard Park, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau tallied for the Islanders, who have lost nine of their last 11 games.

Dubielewicz turned in a monster performance in defeat, stopping 51-of-54 shots in his first-ever loss against the Flyers.

The Islanders hit the scoreboard with 5:01 left in the first period. Niittymaki played a dump-in from the left wing off his stick, but the puck nicked his blade and rolled in front to Park, who deposited the disc just under the crossbar.

It was 2-0 for New York 7:43 into the second when Comeau finished off a nifty passing play with Kyle Okposo and Park, slamming the puck into an open net as Niittymaki failed to cover the net in time.

Dubielewicz was strong as iron, keeping the visitors at bay by making 14 saves through the first half of the second period alone, but the Flyers got untracked on a late power play.

Briere corralled a failed clear behind the net on the left wing, turned in front and slipped a wrister under the crossbar on the short side with 4:36 left in the middle stanza.

Despite a 23-shot barrage in the second and a 33-16 advantage after 40 minutes, Philly nonetheless went into the final period down a goal.

The Flyers rebounded to knot the game at the 3:22 mark of the third. Following a scramble in the slot, Dubielewicz made a kick save. An Islanders defender tried to clear the puck from the high slot, but Lupul intercepted in the left circle and fired off the right pipe for his 19th of the season.

However, Nielsen weaved through the Flyers' zone and slid a wrister from the left circle off Niittymaki's glove and through on the far side to give the home team a 3-2 edge with 9:41 to play.

Unbowed, the visitors kept working and drew even with 4:22 remaining as Richards one-timed a feed from Patrick Thoresen from the top of the crease.

Lupul was called for a slash with less than nine seconds left in regulation, then Jaroslav Modry was sent off 1:52 into overtime and the Flyers managed to kill off both short-handed situations.

Soul weather Storm, off to best start in club history

By Michael Rushton
The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia, PA - While fans in the City of Brother Love are gearing up for what is typically a slow start by the Phillies, at least one club in town is off to a hot start. The Philadelphia Soul, backed by seven touchdown passes from Matt D’Orazio, improved to its best start in franchise history by downing the Tampa Bay Storm, 59-51.

D’Orazio -- making his second straight start I place of the injured Tony Graziani (knee) -- threw for 296 yards on 25-of-35 throwing, while Larry Brackins and Chris Jackson each hauled in three scores apiece in the victory that improved Philadelphia to 5-0.

Playing in his first game since coming off of injured reserve due to an ankle injury, wide receiver Darius Watts added 66 yards through the air and a score. Anthony Dunn managed five total tackles, had two sacks and forced a key fumble late in the first half that swung the momentum Philadelphia’s way.

Though still undefeated, the Soul had to play from behind a few times in what was anything but a clean win.

“It’s good for us,” said head coach Bret Munsey. “A lot of stuff we can clean up as a staff.”

The Soul got off to a quick start when D’Orazio hit Brackins up the right side for a 37-yard touchdown catch on Philadelphia’s first offensive play from scrimmage. However, the Storm (2-2) quickly answered with a 15-yard TD strike by Brett Dietz to Lawrence Samuels to even things up.

A holding call on the Soul’s next possession negated a scoring catch by Jackson, and kicker Connor Hughes missed on a 29-yard field goal try. That opened the door for the Storm, who jumped in front after Brent Holmes lost Eddie Moten in the end zone en route to a 14-yard TD catch from Dietz.

Helped by a roughing the passed call, the Soul drove the field on their next possession, and D’Orazio, after a nine-yard pass to Watts, took the ball across the goal line himself from five yards out. Hughes missed the point after attempt, leaving the Soul with a 14-13 deficit.

Hughes struggled throughout the game, missing the field goal and three point after attempts.

“In fairness to Connor, we’ve had a different holder each game,” Munsey said.

The clubs then traded field goals before the Soul forced the Storm into a fourth-down situation with just over two minutes left in the first half. Dietz, though, found David Saunders in the back of the end zone from two yards away for a 23-16 edge after Seth Marler’s missed kick with 1:45 to go in the second.

A touchdown catch by Jackson got he Soul within one as Hughes again missed the kick after attempt before the defense changed the game’s momentum. With the Storm driving, Dunn forced a fumble while hitting Dietz and Rod Davis recovering with 10 ticks to go. Hughes sent Philly into the half up 25-23 courtesy of a 32-yard field goal as time expired.

Tampa Bay responded early in the third, going ahead by five on a 39-yard strike by Dietz to Hank Edwards on its first drive of the second half. However, the Soul extended their lead to 39-30 on two quick scores, helped again by the defense.

Philadelphia retook the lead just moments after Tampa’s TD on an eight-yard touchdown pass from D’Orazio to Brackins, and the defense forced its second turnover of the game after George Gause’s forced fumble that was recovered by Moten. D’Orazio promptly hit Jackson for the score and a nine-point edge.

The Soul backed the Storm into a 3rd-and-28 on their next defensive stand, but Samuels was able to maneuver through the defense to the end zone after taking a short pass from Dietz to make it a two-point game.

Touchdowns by Brackins and Watts sandwiched around a Tampa Bay TD gave the Soul an eight-point lead after Hughes had his kick deflected following Watts’ score.

“I knew if we just kept scoring, we would have a chance to put them away,” said D’Orazio, who has 15 touchdown passes in the last two games.

With just over three minutes to go, Samuels hauled in a 22-yard score to make it a 52-51 contest. Facing a 3rd-and-17 with 53.9 seconds left in the fourth, D’Orazio hit a slanting Brackins for a 22-yard gain and a first down with 47 seconds on the clock. Philly then iced the game on a six-yard TD pass from D’Orazio to Jackson 10 seconds later.

“He’s a talent,” Jackson said of Brackins. “If people don’t know about him now, then I guess they are not watching film.”

Soul Food: Jackson’s second-quarter TD catch put him over 12,000 receiving yards for his career. He is just the fourth WR in AFL history to break that mark. Brackins tied a career-high with eight catches…Hughes had made his first 21 point after attempts before missing one in the first quarter…The Soul activated defensive lineman George Gause and wide out Watts from injured reserve on Thursday and placed Tom Johnson on IR. The club also waived wide receiver Clif Dell on Tuesday.

Join us on the radio

Join The Phanatic Magazine's John Gottlieb and John McMullen Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (et) for another edition of Johns on Sports, coming to you live from the studios of WTBQ 99.1 FM in New York.

Davidson keeps on winning, which makes McMullen's small-conference argument stupid...but we already knew that. We've got a lot to cover as the Elite 8 tips off tonight with UCLA v. Xavier and UNC v. Louisville. Is tonight the night the first No. 1 seed gets knocked off? We'll breakdown the games and let you know what to expect tomorrow.

During the second hour of the program we'll do a baseball preview, taking you through each division, making predictions, and giving out awards.

Tell us what you expect from the Yankees, Mets, or any other team by joining the program on, calling in at (845) 651-1110, or writing an e-mail to

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sylvia out of UFC; joins new promotion

Former M-1 frontman Monte Cox announced the formation of a new promotion called "Adrenaline"
set to debut show on June 14 in Chicago.

Cox also announced that former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia and former IFL star Ben Rothwell signed with the promotion. Sylvia's contract is non-exclusive, however.

UFC has released Sylvia from the last fight on his contract.

Phils claim Lahey, sign Woodward

The Phillies made a number of transactions Friday as they get ready for the season opener.

The team claimed pitcher Tim Lahey off waivers from the Chicago Cubs; outrighted pitcher J.D. Durbin, infielder Ray Olmedo and outfielder Chris Snelling to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and signed infielder Chris Woodward to a Minor League deal.

Lahey, 26, went to spring training with Chicago after being selected in December's Rule 5 Draft from Minnesota and appeared in 11 spring games. He was originally drafted by Minnesota in 2004 as a catcher and was converted to a pitcher after that season. Last year between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, Lahey went 8-4 with 14 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 52 games.

Woodward, 31, hit .393 (11-28) in 15 games this spring for the Yankees. He spent last season with Atlanta and has also played for the New York Mets (2005-06) and Toronto (1999-2004), who originally drafted him in 1994. In 607 career games, Woodward has a .243 average with 33 home runs and 186 RBI. He has played every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher.

Shamrock set to face Le

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - Bay Area rivals Frank Shamrock and undefeated Cung Le finally face off Saturday when Shamrock (23-8-1) defends his Strikeforce world middleweight championship against the undefeated Le (21-0) in the main event of an EliteXC-Strikeforce co-promoted mixed martial arts event from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

The event airs on SHOWTIME at 9:00 p.m. (et).

"I have been training hard to beat up Cung Le," Shamrock said during the pre-fight press conference. "This is a dream come true to fight a guy like this in my hometown.

"I was doing MMA when there were no weight classes, no rounds, no athletic commission, no TV and no money. In my 11 years I have never been knocked out, submitted, choked out and never lost a championship match. That is what I am all about. "If Cung Le can achieve what others like Phil Baroni and Tito Ortiz failed to do, then he is truly the man to beat. I am going to come out ready to brawl and explode on Saturday night."

Le was more humble in his approach.

"I feel blessed and honored to be part of this big event," the kickboxing specialist said. "I want to thank Frank for giving me a shot at the title. I am really looking forward to it. This is a huge opportunity to fight a guy like Frank, and I am ready to rock and roll."

The card also features another Strikeforce world title fight, defending lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez (9-1) of San Francisco will risk his 170-pound belt against Gabe Lemley (11-6) of New London, Iowa.

Three more bouts are scheduled for SHOWTIME. In an EliteXC welterweight elimination fight, Drew Fickett (31-5) of Tucson, Arizona meets Korea’s Jae Suk Lim (9-3), Mike Kyle (9-5-1) of San Jose clashes with Wayne Cole (10-6) of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma., in a super heavyweight battle and EliteXC standout Joey Villasenor (24-6) of Albuquerque, New Mexico will battle Ryan Jensen (11-3) of Omaha, Nebraska in a middleweight scrap.

Non-televised bout for the live crown feature a group of local fighters: Jesse Jones (1-0) of Redwood City, California vs. Jesse Gillespie (1-0) of San Jose at 170 pounds; Darren Uyenoyama (3-1) of San Francisco vs. Anthony Figueroa (4-1) of Gilroy, California, at 135 pounds; and Tiki Ghosn (9-7) of Huntington Beach vs. Luke Stewart (5-0) of San Francisco at 170 pounds.

The cards comes on the heels of Strikeforce announcing a deal with NBC for a weekly MMA show at 2 a.m. (et) on Saturday nights. The 30 minute show will be called "Strikeforce on NBC," and begins on April 12.

Benoit 911 call raises questions

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Author Irvin Muchnick is raising new questions regarding the circumstances surrounding World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Benoit tribute show, which aired on the USA cable network on Monday night, June 25, 2007.

The company has defended the show by maintaining that it did not know Benoit had strangled his wife Nancy with a cord, before killing his seven-year-old Daniel with his "crippler crossface" wrestling maneuver sometime over the previous weekend. Benoit later committed suicide by hanging himself from his basement gym weight-machine.

Muchnick obtained the 911 call, placed just before the corpses of Benoit, his wife and son were discovered, through a public records request.

The recording of the call to the Fayette County (Georgia) 911 Communications Center shows that at 1:16 p.m. (et) on Monday, WWE’s Dennis Fagan requested a "welfare check" on the Benoit home. Benoit had missed WWE events in Beaumont, Texas, on Saturday night, and in Houston on Sunday. After missing his scheduled Saturday flight from Atlanta to Houston, he also failed to arrive on his re-booked Sunday morning flight.

The WWE issued timeline also notes that in the early morning hours on Sunday, Benoit left a series of text messages for two other wrestlers (Salvador "Chavo" Guerrero and Brad "Armstrong" James) giving them his street address in Fayetteville.

However, on the 911 audio, Fagan, a retired New York City Police Department detective who directs WWE security, gives a chronology that is off by 24 hours. He says, "At three o'clock this morning there was a message left for one of the other wrestlers. And basically it says, ‘The dogs are in the backyard. The back door is open. Goodbye.’ And that’s it."

"I have played the recording repeatedly to determine if Fagan spoke ambiguously or in confusion," Muchnick stated. "The fair conclusion is that he did not. For example, if the theory is that he meant Sunday morning rather than Monday morning, because he had just been referring to Benoit’s failure to show up for the Sunday pay-per-view, that theory is dispelled by Fagan’s repetition of the error a few seconds later. In a completely neutral context. Fagan emphatically says a second time, ‘That message was left at three o'clock this morning.'"

The audio, lasting a little less than three minutes, can be heard here.

"I reached Fagan by phone yesterday [Thursday]," Muchnick added. "He immediately told me that he would have nothing to say about the matter and that I would have to talk about it with Rich Hering, WWE’s vice president for governmental relations.

"I hesitate to say Fagan lied to 911, because the possibility exists that he did not willfully tell an untruth. But in that case, other disturbing questions arise. If WWE executives did not get their own chief of security faithfully briefed on the facts prior to his being assigned to call 911, then what does that tell us about how urgent an effort they were making to get to the bottom of what had happened to the Benoit family over the weekend?"

Critics, and Muchnick has been a vehement critic of WWE chairman Vince McMahon, have speculated that the famous promoter knew Benoit had committed a double homicide well before he went on the air for the tribute show,

In an email to Muchnick, Gary Davis, WWE’s vice president of corporate communications, did not dispute the author's reporting of the facts but questioned where he went with them.

"I'm unsure of the point you're trying to make," Davis wrote.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mac Man deserves better than 950

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine

Do me a favor, SR (ahem, ESPN) 950. Get a clue.

And when you get one of those, do me another favor (I know, I know. It is a lot to ask during the famed Friday afternoon drive time hour). Release Jody Mac from his misery. Afford him the opportunity to reunite with Glen Macnow to form an older, wiser version of "Mac & Mac Middays", a Philadelphia sports fan's wet dream for knowledgeable commentary and the perfect temperature of arrogance and intellect.

You see, arrogance isn't necessarily a bad thing in small doses. It isn't smart radio in the detriment of intelligent, informed commentary, but an edge is never a bad trait in radio. It drives (pisses off) callers, which in turn boosts rating and consequently breaks the bank on an advertising windfall.

Glen Macnow is an ornery old man. Jody Mac is a happy-go-lucky sports junkie. Together they mixed arrogance and intellect. They had the ability to tell a caller how ridiculous he or she was while making a coherent case at the same time.

SR 950 never understood (and still doesn't grasp) that this mix is possible. Instead, they have been hell bent on offering "an alternative" to radio waves juggernaut WIP.

And what an alternative they have provided. There is nothing like listening to a former New York pro athlete, a solid sports writer masquerading as a radio host and "Meredith" laugh, snort and giggle for three hours every morning. What was the Philadelphia connection? Ah yes, "Meredith" played collegiate volleyball at La Salle.

After listening to stories of side bets and Burger King masks for three hours, one has to wonder how the Phillies middle relief sets up to start the season. If I wanted to be strictly entertained in the morning, I would turn the dial to 102.1 and listen to Booker spout off about his relationship with cop-lover and Rich Eisen-worshipper Alycia Lane.

But at 950, it gets better. The management was too cheap to bridge the morning show mess and the mid-day crew, so they let Philly-bred Tony Bruno broadcast live from some Los Angeles golf Pro-Am then broadcast Dan Patrick talk about his old Sports Center days.

Total time discussing the revamped Eagles secondary from 9-12? Five, 10 minutes if you were lucky.

But at 950, it gets better. Harry Mayes -- a solid radio pro with bold opinions and an easy voice - - was teamed with the scum of the airwaves Jamie Yannacone -- a man more worried about stuffing his face with free food than taking a single glance at Donovan McNabb's stats (because obviously Donovan was horrible no matter how he played).

How Yannacone got the job is beyond me. Actually, strike that. He was cheap, perhaps even free on days the mid-day crew worked on location with the best free spread in the business. At least then, Yannacone wouldn't have to cook dinner in his mother's basement or wake up hungover and apologize to listeners for not being his jovial, bordering on ridiculous self.

Jody Mac's lead-in led many viewers to the cliff. The show following the Mac Man was largely a collection of radio misfits. Other than one solid voice, the cast included a bakery owner. A New York Yankees slugger. And a partridge and a pear tree.

Overnight? Forget it. Paying $12 or $13 bucks an hour to a hungry young sportscaster right out of Newhouse wasn't cost effective. Let's ship it out to Fox Sports Radio.

Management is getting out of it what they put in. Not a whole hell of a lot. The grand plan to surround a pro like Jody Mac with such a laughable bunch screams penny pincher, and while the move to ESPN has its pluses, it is too little, too late.

Mike Missanelli is very good at what he does, and he will team with Jody Mac to form an improvement in the mid-days and drive time. But shipping the ever-important Morning Show to national syndication is waving the red flag to loud-mouth Angelo Cataldi, who is ever vulnerable as he becomes louder and more idiotic in his views on a daily basis.

SR (ahem, ESPN) 950 also has mailed in the ever-important 1-3 time slot to Mike Tirico, another national name with no Philadelphia perspective. The bridge from the station's two top voices is the host of Monday Night Football. Good lord.

It truly is a shame. SR 950 could have been something, if only for competent leadership led by station manager Bob DeBlois. Philadelphia sports fans were dying for an alternative, and you gave us one.

Too bad it was the wrong one.
Jared Trexler can be reached at He listens to SR 950 on a daily basis. And hates WIP. So this commentary is sad.

Eagles draft update

Josh Buchanan of is reporting that the Eagles are showing interest in Central Washington FS Chris Hemphill and the team has scheduled a private workout with Eastern Kentucky CB Antwaun Molden.

Meanwhile, Next Level Scouting's J.J. Pesavento is reporting that Richmond RB Tim Hightower will visit the Eagles April 7-8 and Iowa CB Charles Godfrey is also scheduled to visit with the Birds.

Soul activate Watts; release Dell

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The Philadelphia Soul activated former NFL wide receiver Darius Watts and defensive lineman George Gause from injured reserve Thursday.

To make room on the roster; the club released veteran receiver Clif Dell and placed defensive lineman Tom Johnson on IR.

Watts, who was on the shelf with an ankle injury, is a three-time All-Conference selection from Marshall who has toiled for both the Denver Broncos and New York Giants.

Dell played two games with the Soul, recording five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown against the New York Dragons in Week 3 and tallying seven receptions for 64 yards with touchdown against the Los Angeles Avengers in Week 4.

Johnson, who is suffering from a groin injury, has 3 1/2 tackles and one sack this season, starting all four games a defensive end.

Streaking Sixers are UnbelievaBull

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Lou Williams poured in 23 points on 8- of-13 shooting off the bench as Philadelphia routed Chicago, 121-99, at the Wachovia Center.

Andre Iguodala added 21 points and nine assists for the red-hot Sixers, who remained in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, just one- half game behind Washington. The Wizards downed Seattle, 104-99, on Wednesday.

Rookie Thaddeus Young chipped in with 20 points and six rebounds, while Andre Miller has just nine points but dished out a season-high 18 helpers for Philadelphia.

"Well, that was a great game for us," said Sixers head coach Maurice Cheeks said. "The way we came out and defended, opened the game up a little bit, getting in the open court, things that we've been doing for the past month or two months. I just thought that everyone who stepped out on the court was very, very good."

Thabo Sefolosha finished with 20 points and five assists for the Bulls, who have dropped four of five games and fell three games behind the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff berth in the East. Kirk Hinrich netted 18 points and had six assists, while Andres Nocioni had 16 points.

The Sixers roared out of the blocks with a dominating fastbreak offense to seize control early. Iguodala stroked a three and followed that with a slam to give Philadelphia an early 14-4 edge.

The Sixers kept the pressure on from there and expanded their advantage to 15, 34-19, by the end of the opening frame.

A 12-0 Philadelphia run, capped by consecutive Iguodala dunks on the break, gave the Sixers a comfortable 20-point lead, 59-39, with under three minutes to go in the second quarter.

After a Young layup put Philly up by 22, the Bulls managed to close the quarter with consecutive threes by Hinrich and Nocioni to make it a 65-49 game heading to the locker room.

Chicago continued to chip away a bit in the third quarter and closed the deficit to nine, 86-77, after consecutive Nocioni buckets late in the frame.

But, Williams stemmed the tide by draining a three and Young followed with a slam to make it a 91-77 game heading to the fourth quarter.

The Sixers then opened the final stanza with a 13-3 run, featuring a Williams dunk and three, to put the final nail in the Bulls' coffin. Williams also capped the spurt with a pair of free throws to extend the Philadelphia advantage to 104-80 with 8:55 left.

The Sixers coasted to the finish line from there.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

LaSalle, Zoldy embrace Cup

By Steven Lienert

PHILADELPHIA – For Perkasie native Kyle Zoldy, what a difference a year makes.
On March 22, 2007, Zoldy and the top-seeded LaSalle ice-hockey team were stunned by Holy Ghost Prep in the Flyers Cup Tier AAA semifinals. Their once promising season had come to a crashing end.

A year to the day later, Zoldy and the top-seeded Explorers faced Holy Ghost Prep in Flyers Cup tournament again, only this time in the finals.

Zoldy and the other three seniors back from last year’s team made sure last year’s debacle wasn’t going to happen again.

Zoldy tallied a goal and two assists to help get the Explorers over the hump as LaSalle defeated Holy Ghost, 4-1 at the Spectrum on Saturday to win its first Flyers Cup championship since 1998.

“My first three years (on the team) we got knocked out in the semifinals,” Zoldy said. “It was the worst feeling in the world. To get it done my senior year, it feels great.”

LaSalle will skate against Pine Richland for the state championship at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown on Saturday

“(Zoldy’s) been the heart and soul of the team for the past two years,” LaSalle coach Wally Muehlbronner said. “They were a determined group this year. Fortunately, things worked out.”
Last year’s loss to Holy Ghost may have been terrible, but it became the catalyst for this season’s Flyers Cup run.

“I think our loss to them last year gave us a lot of incentive on how we played this year,” Muehlbronner said. “The guys have been determined throughout the year. I think they’ve proven they are one of the top teams in the area. I think they looked forward to playing Holy Ghost Prep again because of what happened last year.”

Muehlbronner put together a difficult schedule and, after the Explorers traveled to New England and Western Pennsylvania to test their mettle against stiff competition early in the season, LaSalle knew it was ready to win the Flyers Cup this season.

“That’s when we knew we could compete with the western teams,” Zoldy said.

In the Meadville Invitational tournament south of Erie, the Explorers took on some of the top teams from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Not only did LaSalle win the tournament for the third time in the past four years, it defeated North Allegheny, the defending state champions, by a 10-0 count.

“I think that gave the guys a lot of confidence,” Muehlbronner said. “And winning the Mount St. Charles tournament over Christmas really got the guys believing they can do good things this year.”

To the disappointment of some of the Explorers, however, Pine Richland attended a different tournament that same weekend. After hearing how good Pine Richland was in December, LaSalle can’t wait to finally see it in person.

“I think the state championship is the ultimate prize,” Muehlbronner said. “Winning the Flyers Cup is a tremendous accomplishment because you have to beat the best teams in the area. We’ve accomplished a lot of great things.

“Would it mean our season wasn’t successful if we don’t win the state championship? Absolutely not. Would it be icing on the cake? You better believe it.”

Rams trying to get over stunner

By Steven Lienert
The Phanatic Magazine

PHILADELPHIA – Following Saturday’s devastating triple-overtime loss to Conestoga in the finals of the Flyers Cup, several Pennridge ice-hockey players lingered on the bench in shock.

Coach Frank Reago had spoken openly about how this was a team of destiny, how their fate was already written and it was just playing itself out.

But none of the Rams expected their season to end so abruptly.

In the bowels of the Spectrum, after watching Conestoga hoist the Flyers Cup following its’ 3-2 win, the Rams sat quietly in their locker room and contemplated how to move on.

“It just doesn’t run through your head,” Pennridge forward A.J. Moyer said. “We had a lot of chances – two power plays we didn’t capitalize on. We didn’t finish.”

Pennridge clanged the puck off of metal twice in the first overtime period alone. With about seven minutes left in the stanza, Rams’ leading scorer Harrison Welch ripped a wrister from the slot that rang off the crossbar.

“I thought, ‘Couldn’t it have gone a little lower,” Welch said.

Just over a minute later, Moyer flipped a backhand on net from below the left circle. Somehow, the puck slid through a mosh pit of bodies in front of the Conestoga net and hit the far post before skittering harmlessly away.

Then, just over two minutes into the second overtime, Conestoga forward Alex Smith was called for a cross check, which put the Rams on the power play. Pennridge forward Tim Chubb had an opportunity to put the game away after a rebound sat on the doorstep in front of a gaping net but he couldn’t get his stick on the bouncing puck.

The Pioneers killed off that penalty but quickly went back on the disadvantage when Ryan Buttenbaum was whistled for boarding.

While on the second man advantage of the period, Moyer had a chance stopped by Conestoga goalie Wesley Mazda and Chubb chipped another rebound wide.

And considering Pennridge outshot Conestoga 11-1 in the second overtime, the Rams may have been getting a bit gassed.

“It didn’t hit me until after the game was over,” Moyer said. “We had to dump it in and catch our breath.”

Moyer, Welch, Chubb and defenseman Cody Lighthart played nearly every minute of the three overtimes.

“We rode our horses ‘til they dropped,” Reago said.

Meanwhile, Pennridge goalkeeper Steve Conolly kept the Rams in the game. In the first overtime, Conolly stoned Conestoga forward Rich Masciantonio’s wrister from the right circle and, later, he stopped Vince Masciantonio’s vicious one-timer from the slot.

Early in the third overtime, Smith tried to stuff one past Conolly and was denied.

Following the save, both Moyer and Welch each had chances to end the contest but came up empty. Moyer’s shot actually got through Mazda, but Buttenbaum swooped in and cleared the puck away before it crossed the goal line.

All of which set up the game-ending dramatics.

Rich Masciantonio controlled the puck in the right circle and he unleashed a wrister from the slot that beat Conolly glove side. Just like that, it was over.

“It happened kind of quick,” Conolly said. “I was expecting him to pass.”

Smith got the Pioneers on the scoreboard less than two minutes into the game after he crashed the net for a rebound and poked it past Conolly for a 1-0 lead.

Welch netted the equalizer just over five minutes later after he slipped a rebound past Mazda.

Moyer gave the Rams their only lead of the contest with 1:39 left in the opening stanza while on the power play. Moyer collected a flip pass at the blue line and deked to his forehand before depositing a backhand through Mazda’s five-hole.

Smith tied the game with 6:58 left in the second period after he beat Conolly stick side on a break.

Pennridge had three power plays through the rest of regulation but couldn’t slip another past Mazda. Moyer, Welch and Lighthart were each named to the Flyers Cup Tier AAA all-tournament team, and Moyer was named Most Valuable Player, but none of those accolades meant much on Saturday.

Rutgers hosts Pro Day

-Courtesy of Rutgers University

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (March 26, 2008) – Thirty scouts from 20 NFL teams attended the Rutgers Pro Combine Wednesday at the Hale Center and Indoor Practice Bubble in Piscataway. The scouts watched 12 former Scarlet Knights from the 2007 squad take part in the combine, along with four other former Scarlet Knights from past seasons.

Among the group of 2007 Scarlet Knights were: Jean Beljour, Marcus Daniels, Gaudhi DeSedas, Mike Fladell, Eric Foster, Ron Girault, Jeremy Ito, Brandon Renkart, Ray Rice, Pedro Sosa, James Townsend and Jeremy Zuttah. Sosa was the only individual not to take part in any testing due to a knee injury.

The players went through a variety of drills, including the 40-yard dash, 225-pound bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, three-cone drill, flexibility tests and individual position testing.

Rice and Zuttah elected to only perform in certain events after going through the entire combine process in Indianapolis in February at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Foster was only able to make it through three events before a pulled hamstring in the 40-yard dash ended his day prematurely. He did have the best day of any Scarlet Knight in the bench press, lifting 225 pounds 29 times.

Rice showed excellent hands during individual position testing for the scouts, including a one-handed grab down the sideline. He also had a 39.5-inch vertical jump and 4.17 20-yard shuttle time.

Girault had a strong all-around day, including 25 reps of 225, 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 4.46 40-yard dash.

Renkart also showed his skills for the scouts, including a 36-inch vertical, 4.59 40-yard dash and 4.10 20-yard shuttle time.

Some of the top marks of the day belonged to James Townsend. He had the best vertical jump (41.5 inches), 40-yard dash (4.39), and tied for the top 20-yard shuttle time with Renkart at 4.10.

Ito showed his kicking skills off for the scouts, connecting on 9-of-11 field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder. He showed excellent distance and placement on kickoffs as well.

Start the campaign; Burrell for 2009

By Michael Rushton
Phanatic Magazine

There are a host of different story lines that will follow the Phillies around this season.

Can Brett Myers effectively return to his role as a starter? Will Cole Hamels take another step forward this year? Can Jimmy Rollins repeat his MVP season? Will Ryan Howard earn his $10 million this year?

Another one has gotten some play this year as well, and personally I find it one of the most interesting things to watch this year. Simply put, is this Pat Burrell's last year in left field for the Phillies?

The ultimate tease, Burrell is entering the final year of his six-year, $50 million deal that went into effect for 2003. He is slated to make $14 million in 2008.

Burrell's timeline in Philadelphia has been discussed over and over again. The first overall pick of the 1998 draft had two solid years for the Phillies in 2000 and 2001, then exploded onto the scene the following season with a 37-homer, 116-RBI campaign that led to his big deal.

However, in 2003, he batted just .209 and hit 21 homers and 64 RBI. The following year wasn't much better -- .257, 24 HR, 84 RBI -- but he seemed to turn a corner in 2005. That season, he hit 32 homers and drove in 117 runs while upping his average to .281.

The damage had already been done by that point, though. Burrell was billed as a player who couldn't lead this team to postseason glory, and was undeserving of the contract he signed. He became a popular whipping boy and was largely blamed for the team's struggles.

Yet, Burrell never openly complained about it, never tried to get out of town. Still, given the Phillies inability to trade him before last season, would that have really mattered?

In his last two years, Burrell has been good. Not great and not mediocre, but good. He hasn't hit over .260 in either year, but 59 homers and 192 RBI are tough to argue against.

The problem that creates the perception of Burrell is his knack for going into streaks, both good and bad. How else could those said numbers be ignored so much.

Last year, Burrell hit just .215 before the break with 11 home runs and 37 RBI. However, as the Phillies completed an improbable run to the NL East title, "Pat the Bat" hit .295 with 19 homers and 60 RBI in 74 post All-Star games.

It was kind of the same in 2006. Burrell's second-half average was higher, but his home run and RBI total was better in the first half of the season. Still, it was a tale of two halves, and lets not forget his inability to hit with runners in scoring posting in 2006 (.222).

Logic says Burrell will not be back next year. His salary is best saved for the likes of Howard, Utley, Hamels and so on. However, let's not forget what Burrell has done for us.

He hustles to the best of his ability and as much as his nagging foot will let him. He never looks like he doesn't try or isn't hustling. And, after all, he straight-up kills the Mets, which is great.

For what it is worth, Burrell has already said he wants to stay.

"One hundred percent I want to stay," Burrell told the Phillies' official Web site in an article published on February 19. "I'd love to come back. It's really got more to do with the guys on the team. This group of guys is going to win for a long time."

If anyone is taking a vote, I vote for Burrell in left for 2009.

Birds have Wilson in the fold

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - (The Phanatic Magazine) - Harrisburg native Kris Wilson officially signed a three-year contract with the Eagles on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Wilson (6-2, 251) spent the last four seasons in Kansas City, where he caught 42 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns as a tight end, H-back, and fullback.

Rumors have swirled that the Eagles would like Wilson to be their new fullback but Wilson thinks otherwise.

"I'm coming in here to play tight end," Wilson said in his introductory press conference. "My strengths are stretching the field, catching the ball, beating defenders one-on-one, mixing it up, and blocking guys; a lot of the all-around things that tight ends do. I think, at the tight end position, you have to be a jack of all trades. I think that I can mix it up and do a number of things on the field."

Wilson, who visited with Green Bay and Tampa Bay before inking a deal with the Birds, cited the Eagles recent success when asked why he felt Philadelphia was the right choice for him.

"Number one is the winning tradition," Wilson said. "I definitely wanted to go somewhere where we're going to win games. Everybody knows that in this business, winning is everything. Also, being in a good offense, a balanced attack that can kill you with the run and kill you with the pass."

Growing up an Eagles fan probably didn't hurt either.

"I'm a Pennsylvania boy," said Wilson. "I grew up in the area, I still live in the area, although I live in New Jersey now. I grew up an Eagles fan.

"The biggest thing I remember is Randall Cunningham. That was the time I was getting into football. Watching Randall, watching Fred Barnett, watching Keith Byars. Those were guys I looked up to, those were guys that I aspired to play on a level with. I used to get up Sunday morning and watch Golic’s Got It."

Wilson, who is a product of J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster and was originally a second round draft choice of the Chiefs in 2004 out of Pitt, also has 15 career tackles on special teams and plans on helping there as well.

"I play punt team," Wilson said. "I blocked every wing on the punt team for the last two years. I protected our punter’s foot; I was the wing on the punter’s left side for a left-footed punter. I played everywhere on kickoff return, from every position on the front line to the wedge. I've been called upon to do everything. I've run down on kickoff teams and helped out there. I haven't been on punt return team, that’s one thing I haven't done."

In 2007 Wilson registered a career-high 24 receptions for 180 yards and one score and plans on competing with L.J. Smith and Brett Celek for playing time.

"I expect to compete," Wilson said. "In competing, that’s the goal. Just for a spot in the room and to be in there and contribute and help Philly win a championship."

ESPN's Last Man Standing - Episode 7

Henson fires back at 950

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - A series of lineup and schedule changes at WPEN (soon to be ESPN 950) ignited a number of passionate reactions around town last week. My own take created quite a firestorm in Bala Cynwyd but after a wide-ranging discussion with station management earlier this week, some of those concerns were tempered.

Not so for former program director and morning show host Gregg Henson, who claims he suggested similar changes when he was with the station and may have been fired because of his it.

"WPEN picked up ESPN, moved Jody MacDonald to midday and hired a Philly sports talk veteran, Mike Missnelli to host afternoon drive," Henson wrote in a recent blog post. "Odd, these were exactly the changes I outlined and fought for while I was the PD and in the end it cost me my job.

"When I went to my bosses with this exact plan, I was seen as a malcontent who wasn't willing to work with the staff I had inherited. I was told to shut up and give the current station a "positive spin."

Henson then took sharp aim at station manger Bob DeBlois.

"Here's the kicker, the guy responsible for all the various mistakes at the station is still unbelievably calling the shots at WPEN even though it continues to stagger to gain audience," Henson continued

"In hindsight my biggest mistake was letting this guy communicate my ideas to the GM, he made sure that everything I said was filtered through him which I am sure wasn't good news for me. He was the master at perpetuating his own job.

"If the general manager had just listened to me and allowed me to put a product on the air that would work, the radio station may have been making inroads by now."

Eagles on the verge of signing TE Wilson

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - (The Phanatic Magazine) - Harrisburg native Kris Wilson is visiting with the Eagles today and the veteran free agent tight end will likely sign a deal this afternoon.

The 26-year-old Wilson (6-2, 251) spent the last four seasons in Kansas City, where he caught 42 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns as a tight end, H-back, and fullback. Wilson also has 15 career tackles on special teams.

In 2007, Wilson registered a career-high 24 receptions for 180 yards and one score.

Wilson is a product of J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster and was originally a second round draft choice of the Chiefs in 2004 out of Pitt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Soul's Jackson is co-AFL Offensive Player of the Week

Philadelphia Soul WR Chris Jackson was named co-Offensive Player of the Week by the AFL Tuesday.

Jackson recorded 10 receptions for a game-high 167 yards and six touchdowns as the Soul (4-0) defeated the Los Angeles Avengers (2-2), 71-34, at STAPLES Center on Thursday.

Jackson posted receiving touchdowns of 23, 22, 28, five, 15 and 30 yards as Philadelphia’s offense scored on 10 of 12 possessions, including seven consecutive to begin the game. The Washington State product is the first player to post six receiving touchdowns in a game this season, and holds the AFL record for most games with six-or-more receiving touchdowns with five in his career.

BoSox top A's in MLB Opener

Manny Ramirez's two-run double in the top of the 10th inning lifted Boston over Oakland, 6-5, and made a winner out of Hideki Okajima in his return to Japan during Major League Baseball's season opener at the Tokyo Dome.

The A's were clinging to a 4-3 lead in the ninth and brought in Huston Street (0-1) to close things out but rookie Brandon Moss had other ideas, turning on an off-speed pitch and driving it over the wall in right for his first big league home run.

Oakland manager Bob Geren stuck with Street in the 10th and it came back to bite him. Street gave up an infield single to Julio Lugo before Dustin Pedroia moved the shortstop into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. The former University of Texas star managed to get Kevin Youkilis swinging but then intentionally walked David Ortiz, setting the stage for Ramirez. The Boston slugger roped a double off the wall in center to make it a 6-4 game.

Jonathan Papelbon managed to secure things for Boston from there but not without a struggle. The fireballer walked Daric Barton and, after Jack Cust struck out swinging, Emil Brown laced a RBI double into the gap in right- center.

Brown made a colossal baserunning mistake however, getting caught trying to advance to third on a throw home. Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan followed with consecutive singles that would have surely knotted the game had Brown not been gunned down. Instead, Papelbon got Kurt Suzuki to bounce out to first and end things for his first save of the season.

The game also featured the return of Red Sox star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to Japan. Matsuzaka struggled with his command early but settled down and grinded out five innings for the Red Sox. The former Seibu Lions star allowed two runs on just two hits but walked five, while striking out six en route to a no- decision.

Okajima (1-0), a former star with both the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, earned the win with a scoreless ninth.

Ramirez finished 2-for-5 with a pair of two-run doubles for Boston, which opened defense of its second World Series title in four years by winning just its second opener in eight seasons. Moss, who was playing after J.D. Drew was scratched with a balky back, was 2-for-5, with the home run and an RBI single.

Hannahan and Mark Ellis both homered for the Athletics, who lost their 11th opener in the past 15 seasons. Crosby was 2-for-5 with an RBI for Oakland.

Joe Blanton, making his first-ever opening day start, was solid early for the A's but imploded in the sixth. The big right-hander surrendered three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. . The A's jumped on top with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first as Matsuzaka struggled with his command. Ellis got things started by belting a one-out, solo homer to left. Matsuzaka then walked Barton before plunking Cust with a pitch. Another base on balls to Brown loaded the bases before Crosby chased Barton home with a grounder back to the box. Matsuzaka finally wiggled out of trouble by fanning Hannahan to end the frame.

The BoSox finally broke through off Blanton in the sixth. Pedroia slapped a double just out of the reach of Travis Buck in right and Youkilis followed by drawing a walk. Blanton managed to induce the dangerous Ortiz to foul out to third but Ramirez then ripped a double down the third base line to deadlock things. After Mike Lowell fanned, Moss grounded a two-out RBI single through the right side to give Boston its first lead of the season, 3-2.

Oakland bounced right back against the Red Sox bullpen. Crosby greeted Kyle Snyder with a single up the middle and Hannahan followed by drilling a low and inside fastball over the wall in right to put the A's back in front, 4-3.

Bills sign William James

The Buffalo Bills signed veteran cornerback William James Tuesday.

The 6-foot, 200-pound James spent the 2007 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, recording 30 tackles and one interception in 14 games.

James, 28, has played in 68 NFL games with the Eagles and New York Giants and has tallied six career interceptions but has struggled with chronic back problems.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lidge goes to DL

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The Phillies placed closer Brad Lidge on the 15-day disabled list Monday. The move is retroactive to March 21.

Lidge is still recovering from right knee surgery performed on February 25 and is eligible to be activated on April 5.

The 31-year-old fireballer has not appeared in any major league spring training games, but made two appearances in minor league intrasquad contests, hurling a scoreless inning in each appearance.

In other roster news, left-handed reliever Matt Smith was re-assigned to minor league camp. Smith is still rehabbing from reconstructive surgery on his left elbow performed in July of 2007.

Birds ink Boiman

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - We reported that it was likely earlier and the Philadelphia Eagles officially signed veteran linebacker Rocky Boiman to a one-year contract. The former Notre Dame star will add much-needed depth to the linebacking corps and is also an accomplished special teams player.

"I think it was a good situation," Boiman said of signing with the Eagles. "First of all, it’s a team that is always competitive and in the hunt every year. Winning has always been the most important thing to me. As far as the position at linebacker, there is a lot of youth. I think I can come in and bring some veteran capabilities to that. I think it’s going to be a really good fit."

The 6-foot-4, 236-pound Boiman has played in 86 career games (19 starts) and nine playoff contests with Indianapolis (2006-07) and Tennessee (2002-05). Last year, Boiman saw action in all 16 games (7 starts) for the Colts, registering 64 tackles and two interceptions. In 2006, he finished third on the Super Bowl champion Colts with 17 special teams tackles.

"I started eight games, but it was always special teams and things like that," Boiman said of his role in Indy. "It was kind of whatever they needed me to do, and that’s kind of what I look to do here, just play football and whatever they want me to do is what I’m going to do.

"I haven’t had much of a chance to go in depth about the defense here," Boiman said. "I imagine a lot of things will be similar. Being in the NFC East, which is kind of a tougher division, I imagine there will be a little bit more physicality to it [than in Indianapolis], which was also something that was very enticing to me in looking to come here."

For his career, Boiman has posted 194 tackles, 5 interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown at Pittsburgh in 2003), 1.5 sacks, and 91 special teams tackles.

The 28-year-old Boiman was a 4th-round draft choice of the Titans in 2002 and set a club record with 28 special teams tackles as a rookie. He was signed as unrestricted free agent by Dallas in 2006, but was released by the Cowboys on September 2 and signed by the Colts one day later.

"I think Indianapolis was a great place for me, but I think I needed a new opportunity," Boiman added. "I think the opportunity is here. It’s a very exciting city, an exciting town, and an exciting team. I think it’s going to be a good fit for me in going through my future. It’s a one-year deal, but if things work out, I could be here for a number of years."

Eagles gearing up for the draft; Boiman visits

-Complied by John McMullen

The Eagles are setting up a number of pre-draft workouts over the past few days.

My former boss at, J.J Pesavento, of Next Level Scouting, is reporting that the Birds have already worked out RB Albert Young of Iowa and have set up workouts for New Mexico State FB Nick Cleaver and North Carolina State WR Darrell Blackman. J.J. also reported that the Eagles were at Norfolk State's pro day.

Meanwhile, Andy Reid and Company had free agent LB Rocky Boimann for a visit today and have set up a meet-and-great with the media later this afternoon. That indicates a deal is likely to get done.

The former Notre Dame star has played in 86 career NFL games with Indianapolis (2006-07) and Tennessee (2002-05).

Last year, Boiman saw action in all 16 games (7 starts) for the Colts, registering 64 tackles and two interceptions.

Roy Jones to face Anderson Silva? is reporting that representatives of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world, and the former pound-for-pound king in the boxing world, Roy Jones Jr, are actively engaged in talks that would pit the two in a boxing match.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saints go marching out: 'Nova stomps Siena's cinderella story

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - Scottie Reynolds scored 25 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out five assists as Villanova stopped Siena, 84-72, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Corey Stokes added 20 points for the Wildcats (22-12), who upended Clemson, 75-69, in the first round on Friday and will now travel to Detroit's Ford Field to take on Kansas in a Midwest Regional semifinal.

"I just go out every game and play hard," Stokes said. "Me and my teammates, we get better each game. We just stay focused mentally, and we just go out and just play hard."

Dante Cunningham chipped in with 14 points and six boards for 12th-seeded Villanova, which reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years under head coach Jay Wright.

"I'm just thrilled. Thrilled to be here," Wright said. "I want to say I think Siena is very smart about the way they play. If that team gets a lead on with their guards and the way they can handle the ball and pass it, you're in big trouble. That's where I think our leadership of our junior class came in and Scottie. Once you get that lead, it's so hard to keep playing every possession and not take a break."

Alex Franklin finished with 18 points for the 13th-seeded Saints (23-11), who were coming off the tournament's biggest upset when they knocked off fourth- seeded Vanderbilt, 83-62, in convincing fashion. The 21-point margin of victory marked the second-largest ever by a No. 13 seed in this event.

"I just want to begin by congratulating Coach Wright on a tremendous accomplishment," Siena coach Fran McCaffery said. "He's done a phenomenal job with his team this year, and I certainly wish he and his team the best as they move into Detroit. This game for us was a struggle at the start. We got down early. I think the mistake we made was we tried to quit shooting the ball a little bit. But I thought we really battled."

Kenny Hasbrouck netted 17 points, while Edwin Ubiles had 12 points and 12 boards for Siena.

Villanova took control from the opening tip. Reynolds stroked a three to open the scoring and Stokes followed with a fastbreak layup.

A few minutes later, Stokes nailed a three to give the Wildcats their first 10-point cushion, 15-5, with 14:22 remaining in the opening frame.

Stokes stayed hot from there and buried a jumper with just under 12 minutes left to give Villanova its largest lead in the frame, 21-7.

The Saints finally settled down a bit from there but still trailed by 10, 42-32, heading to the locker room.

The Wildcats never let Siena off the deck in the final frame. Reynolds started things again by draining a three and 'Nova then took a more than comfortable 53-37 advantage when Cunningham deposited a layup with 16:25 left in the contest.

The Saints tried to make one last push and got within nine points, 67-58, after Franklin deposited a layup with 6:28 on the clock.

Reynolds missed a jumper at the other end and Hasbrouck pulled down the rebound but quickly turned it over, enabling Reynolds to swoop in for an easy layup.

Cunningham followed with another Wildcats layup and, after a Chris De La Rosa bucket for Siena, Dwayne Anderson hit a jumper before scoring on another lay- in to give Villanova an insurmountable 75-60 lead with 4:21 left.

"Coach always said from the beginning, you know, we want to be the best team at the end of the season," Reynolds said. "You know, we went through some ups and downs during the season, but we always stayed consistent about what we were trying to accomplish. Right now the last two or three weeks we've been playing our best basketball and we stuck together."

Phils place three pitchers on DL

The Phillies placed pitchers Scott Mathieson, Francisco Rosario and Mike Zagurski on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21.

Mathieson, 24, is recovering from an ulnar nerve transposition on his right arm performed on September 24, 2007. He spent all of last season on the major league disabled list recovering from ligament replacement surgery, performed in September of 2006.

Rosario, 27, has a right shoulder strain. He was 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in four appearances this spring, including one start.

Zagurski, 25, is recovering from right hamstring repair. He originally injured it last August at PNC Park.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Join us on the radio

Join The Phanatic Magazine's John Gottlieb and John McMullen Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (et) for another edition of Johns on Sports, coming to you live from the studios of WTBQ 99.1 FM in New York.

We're knee-deep in the middle of March Madness and we'll break down what's happened during the first two days of the tourney and keep you informed as to what's going on in Day 3.

Bob McClellan, Basketball Editor, will join us from Birmingham at 7:20 to talk upsets and what to expect during the next week of hoops.

Opening day is just over two days away (in Japan) and we'll talk to Mets beat writer John Delcos from The Journal News in the 6:00-hour, as he treks across the great state of Florida.

You can join the program by logging on to, calling in at (845) 651-1110, or writing an e-mail to

Denny wins by DQ

SANTA YNEZ, Calif. (March 22, 2008) – The rules are abundantly clear: in mixed martial arts, a fighter is not permitted to deliver an elbow in a downward motion (ceiling to floor). Nor is a fighter allowed to strike an opponent behind the back of the head.

Malaipet did both in the closing seconds of the first-round against Thomas “Wildman” Denny Friday in the main event of ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series on SHOWTIME, and was disqualified.

In other televised bouts, scheduled for three, 5-minute rounds, Conor Heun (7-2), of Hollywood, Calif., won an unpopular, unanimous decision over Marlon Mathias (5-2), of Brazil; Jaime Fletcher (9-3), of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., recorded an upset points victory over Aaron Rosa (10-2), of San Antonio, Texas; Shane Del Rosario (4-0), of Irvine, Calif., scored an opening-round knockout over Analu Brash (1-2), of Kula, Maui; and Mark Oshiro (10-1), of Honolulu, Hawaii, knocked out previously unbeaten Chris Cariaso (6-1), of San Francisco, in the first round.

Non-televised results: Crowd favorite Kenny “The Poet” Johnson (1-0), of Los Angeles, did all the right stuff in his pro debut as he manhandled Michael Penafiel (2-3), of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., en route to winning a unanimous decision by the scores of 30-27 three times; Steve Gable (1-0), of San Clemente, Calif., scored a 2:47, first-round TKO over Eric Jones (0-2), of Los Angeles; Lyle Beerbohm (5-0), of Spokane, Wash., submitted (rear naked choke) Vince Guzman (2-3), of Los Angeles, at 3:26 of the second; Devin Howard (1-0), of La Habra, Calif., impressively submitted (rear naked choke) Mark Kempthorne (1-5), of Vandenberg, Calif., at 2:53 of the first; and Brandon Tarn (1-1), of Los Angeles, submitted (rear naked choke) Jason Williams (0-1), of Rancho Cucamonga, at 1:05 of the second.

“I’m sorry because I came here to fight, but this is MMA and you have to follow the rules,’’ said Denny, who could not continue after he was nailed by three blatant elbows to the back of the head. “I may have been dazed but I wasn’t knocked out. One thing I could not do, however, was move my neck.’’

Knowing his advantage on the ground, Denny took Malaipet to the ground in the opening seconds and kept him there for more than four and a half minutes of the initial five-minute session.

At one point in the 160-pound fight, it appeared that Malaipet would get choked out, but he rallied to work his way out of it and managed to continue. Denny quickly locked him up again and tried to take matters back to the ground. A frustrated Malaipet then committed the three flagrant fouls.

Denny (26-16), of Victorville, Calif., was given a few minutes to recover, but when he couldn’t the fight was called at the 4:51 mark. “Malaipet was tough because I thought I had him with the rear naked choke,” Denny said. “But I will definitely fight him again. I was totally dominating.’’

A world-class superstar Muay Thai kickboxer with reportedly more than 300 Muay Thai fights, Malaipet (3-2), of Rancho Cucamonga, by way of Thailand, had a three-fight MMA winning streak end.

“I definitely want to fight him again,’’ Malaipet said. “If he wants to do it at 150 pounds, I’ll fight him any time, any place. This wasn’t my type of fight. But there was no way I was ever going to tap out.’’

In an excellent, crowd-pleasing, give-and-take battle at 160 pounds that appeared closer than the judges had it, Heun outpointed Mathias by the scores of 30-27 on all three scorecards.

“This was yet another hard, tough battle,” said Heun, who was cut above his left eye and may have had his jaw broken. “I didn’t expect to get hit like that and I don’t like bleeding. But I love to fight and look forward to doing it again.”

“I am very disappointed in the decision,’’ Mathias said. “I inflicted the most damage and landed the most punches. I definitely won two of the three rounds.”

In an action-packed fight at 205 pounds, Fletcher dealt Rosa a second consecutive defeat, scoring one knockdown en route to winning by the scores of 30-27 twice and 28-29. Rosa lost his previous start to unbeaten Jared Hamman on Oct. 26, 2007, on ShoXC on SHOWTIME at Chumash.

“This is by far the biggest win of my career,’’ Fletcher said. “It is unbelievable how great I feel. He was so tall and had a reach advantage on me so I knew I had to push the pace. I knew by the first round that it was going to be a long fight because I couldn’t get inside.

“I pretty much felt I won the decision with the knockdown. The biggest surprise to me was that he decided to stand and fight me. He played right into my hands.”

In a match-up of 265-pounders, Del Rosario humbled Brash. Fairly dominant from the outset, Del Rosario was pummeling Brash with punches to the head when the referee stepped in and stopped it at 3:16 of the opening stanza.

“He hit me a couple of times, but I felt I was in control the whole time,” Del Rosario said. “I expected to win, I just didn’t know how. I was a little nervous because there was a lot of pressure on me, but now I am very relieved and happy.

“I was surprised the referee let it go because I thought he was out. At one point I stopped because I thought I heard the ref say ‘stop.’ But when he didn’t, I just kept going.”

In a thrilling fight to open the telecast, both fighters went down before Oshiro knocked out the previously unbeaten Cariaso at 2:38 of the first.

“I knew I hurt him after I landed the right hand, but as long as the referee wasn’t going to stop it, I was going to keep throwing punches,’’ Oshiro said.

“He had me on the ground and I fought to get back up. He hit me pretty hard in the gut when we were on the mat, so when I got back up I really wanted to get him back.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Radio Free Philadelphia

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The bloodletting is over and on the surface, some of Greater Media's moves to save WPEN are encouraging.

The station jettisoned the radio-challenged Glenn Foley and the embarrassing Jamie Yannacone, moved Jody Mac to middays where he belongs, and brought back the one guy with the testicular fortitude (Mike Missanelli) to call Howard Eskin exactly what he is on the air -- a fraud.

Problem is, Jody and Mikey Miss are already behind the eight-ball. The new ESPN 950 is airing syndicated shows like Mike and Mike in the morning and Mike Tirico from 1 pm to 3 pm.

Anyone who has been here for five minutes can figure out Philadelphia fans are pretty provincial.

Hockey season is over when the Flyers skate for the last time.

Hoops are done when Andre Iguodala's final forced shot clangs off the iron.

The suns sets on baseball when Ryan Howard fans for the 199th time, and football rests in peace after Big Red clears his throat to tell you the Eagles are this (picture thumb and index finger an inch apart) close.

This town simply doesn't care about other teams and other cities.

So when Greater Media made the leap and announced WPEN was becoming an ESPN affiliate earlier this week, they may have well just raised a white flag.

The war with WIP is over. really was never a war. There are two camps in the radio world -- the haves and the have nots and its pretty easy to see which camp SR950 was in.

The station had a chance to dent the 500-pound gorilla in the room (WIP) but they have always lacked leadership at the top. Station manger Bob DeBlois has gone from Jason Barrett to Gregg Henson to Matt Nahigian, the three stooges of broadcast journalism.

Radio is not rocket science. Like any other business you have to spend money to make money but that was never in the SR950 playbook. Forget about hiring six-figure guys, SR950 never had the duckets to hire a $15 dollar an hour overnight guy to battle Paul Jolovich.

It was clear from the start that the people in charge in Bala Cynwyd had no imagination, no insight, no vision and worst of all no plan.

The morning show was atrocious...Michael Bradley is fine as a radio personality but beyond ridiculous as the amped up morning guy while Foley, although possessing an NFL pedigree and a Cherry Hill native, just didn't have it.

An amateur (Yannacone) that was hired by Nahigian's predecessors in a contest as a gimmick was cluttering the midday show.

The hackneyed Jody Mac was practicing cliche radio against "The King" (Marconi invented radio in the early 1900s and Jody was doing the "Do Me a Favor" segment an hour later).

And, something called Geoff Harbaugh was trying way too hard to sound relevant at night.

Simply put, the lineup was a clusterfuck of bad radio.

And yet, people all over the Delaware Valley were still tuning in and chipping away at WIP's audience.


Consider this...A couple of years ago, I wrote a column that included some of the things I "learned" by listening to Philadelphia's "top sports station:"

-The good-old USA has 11 billion illegal immigrants entering it every year. (This despite the fact there is, at last check, about seven billion people on the planet).

-Vince Young did very poorly in the "Wonderlink" test. (That may seem like a small mistake if it wasn't repeated a dozen or so times by a certain wannabe "King.")

-Rickey Henderson was a heck of a switch-hitter in his day. (An excellent point considering Ricky was one of the best....But, the fact he hits exclusively from the right side probably should have disqualified him.)

-That Gavin Floyd will be "the fifth in the rotation starting." for the Phillies. (That's an homage to a certain Yoda-ically challenged late night update hostess).

-The Cowboys "are stupid" since they didn't trade their seventh round pick to the Eagles to get T.O. under the terms of his old contract. (Maybe I'm dense but isn't that contract the reason T.O. was pissed off in the first place?).

And believe me, at WIP nothing changes. The same people that made those errors are still polluting the airwaves and making the same kind of mistakes.

So while many of us dream of a local sports world with no more "Chief"...No more "Cuz"...No more "Big Daddy," the door remains open.

Unfortunately, SR950 isn't going through it.

-You can reach John McMullen at

Soul stays perfect in LA

-Courtesy of the Philadelphia Soul

Los Angeles (March 20) -- Quarterback Matt D’Orazio tossed eight touchdown passes, including six to league leading scorer Chris Jackson as the Philadelphia Soul stayed undefeated with its fourth straight win, topping the Los Angeles Avengers, 71-34, Thursday night at the Staples Center. The Avengers dropped their second straight game and stand at 2-2 on the season.

Filling in capably for injured starter Tony Graziani, D’Orazio threw for 197 yards in the first half alone, leading the Soul to a 34-27 lead at intermission. Each of his first three TDs went to Jackson, who starred for the Avengers early in his career and is on pace to become the league’s all-time leading receiver during the 2008 regular season.

Behind quarterback Sonny Cumbie and wide receiver Kevin Ingram, the Avengers matched the Soul touchdown for touchdown into the second half, when Soul defensive players stepped up to make a difference.

First, defensive back Mike Brown returned a kickoff 45 yards to set up a four-yard shovel pass touchdown from D’Orazio to Clif Bell. Then, Gabe Nyenhuis recovered a Cumbie fumble in the end zone after Soul defenders combined for a sack that separated Cumbie from the ball. The defense also produced a safety, two interceptions and a second fumble recovery for a score.

D’Orazio’s fifth TD pass to Jackson with 5:48 remaining put the Soul in complete control, 57-34, and the visitors coasted from there.

The Soul, who will be without Graziani for several weeks, host the Tampa Bay Storm at the Wachovia Center on Sunday, March 29 at 2 p.m.