Answer Me This: The Mailbag.

Aw, Hell No.

Aw, Hell No.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly and who has a memory for odd bits of trivia probably remembers my preference for restaurants to stay in their areas of “expertise.”  Tuna at Dunkin’ Donuts?  NO.  The pulled pork that has returned to Subway?  Absolutely not.  Just because you like Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t mean you have to eat there all the time.  You can get lunch somewhere else.  Another restaurant, and I’m using the term loosely, has entered this realm.  Not only with the meal, but with the ridiculous claim attached.  Panera has made the claim their new salad contains the best shrimp on Earth.  They scoured the globe for this shrimp.  Who exactly did the scouring?  Who decided it was the best shrimp?  Not Important. What’s important is that you go to Panera (subtitle Bread) for shrimp.  Think about that while we go in for a mailbag…

Q:  Would you rather be the parent who makes the best grilled cheeses and have that glory but also the obligation of making the grilled cheese, or the parent who makes the worst grilled cheeses–freeing you from lunch duty but also saddling you with tremendous shame?  Char Loaf, Clearwater, FL.

A:  I can’t come up with a scenario where I would want to be the one who cannot make a grilled cheese.  And, really the whole concept of someone making a grilled cheese better than me is absurd.  I laugh at the MERE NOTION.  I don’t routinely make grilled cheese sandwiches for young people, but if I did I imagine my popularity would know no bounds.  I can make any kind of grilled cheese you want.  Fancy, ghetto, with ham, bacon–it doesn’t matter.  The key to making a good grilled cheese is pan control.  Grilled Cheese Prospectus lists 90% of all grilled cheese errors being due to pan temperature.  So, there you go.  I also don’t really see myself tiring of making grilled cheeses.  Every time you make grilled cheese you can eat a piece of cheese.  That seems like a fair wage for the work required.  Even if I had to make 20 a week for a kid who ate no other food and barely gleaned enough nutrients from his diet to survive, I think I can handle the burden.  It’s got to be better than serving up a mess that tastes like last night’s burnt pork chop and have the kid look at you funny or worse yet throw a tantrum.  I imagine the graver scenario is you make the inferior grilled cheese and yet you have to do all the cooking.  I picture some stay at home dad butchering meal after meal, a little tyke laments, “Mommy’s grilled cheeses aren’t black.”  That’s when the Dad screams, “Mommy’s NOT HERE.”  And, throws the pan across the kitchen.  Things just got interesting.  

Q:  Have you ever not bought something because it was buy one get one free?  Like, you only wanted one, but you’d feel like an idiot paying full price so you just don’t get any at all?  Phil Price, Meadowlands, NJ.

A:  Thankfully we live in an era where refrigeration has been invented.  Are you aware of this?  Or that most products have very long shelf lives?  Is this buy one, get one tuna tartare?  I think I know what you mean though, it’d probably apply to unhealthy foods. Ice Cream?  When Turkey Hill Ice Cream went buy one/get one back in the day our freezer turned into a REAL PARTY.  Entenmann’s is known to run a buy one/get one special as well.  That’s dangerous.  Especially if it is across the full line of products.  I’ve fell victim to that, and YES, I do feel guilty about that second box, but never enough to leave it on the shelf and certainly not enough to not get any danish.  If something is pretty cheap, I will occasionally ignore the free second item if I REALLY only want one, but again, I’ve never changed my mind completely.  Don’t let a sale deter you from getting what you actually want.  

Q:  I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I’ve contemplated buying something with PENN on it, maybe a hat?  It’s a nice straightforward navy blue, nothing garish.  My question is, does this make me an Ivy League poseur?  Anyone in Alabama can wear a Crimson Tide shirt without incident, but I feel like if I get this hat, it will lead to a lot of “Did you go to Penn?”  Then the person frowns and walks away.  D.C. Cubed, Joplin, MO.

A:  Are you sure you didn’t go to Penn?  Surely you are smart enough if you know how to spell poseur.  Is Penn a good school by the way?  I was not aware of that.  I thought Penn was where you went when you couldn’t get into Bucknell.  But seriously, I understand your dilemma.  Most Ivy League schools, deservedly or not, still have enough cache that you are bound to get questions about your Penn gear.  Or Yale gear.  Or whatever.  The person will expect you to be an alumni, to have sired or bore an alumni, be closely related to an alumni–something.  If you walk down the street in a shirt from a state school no one is going to ask, or care, if you went there, are just a fan of the football team, or go the shirt out of a dumpster.  No offense to state schools, it’s just the way it is–they don’t inspire curiosity.  What you are asking me is, can I wear a Penn hat because I like the color?  That’s a question in its own right, and then there is the Penn subplot.  I am not for any school getting special treatment, so Penn or Penn State Delco we’re going to treat this as one question.  Can you wear a hat because you just like the color?  SURE.  You just have to be prepared that you may be questioned about the hat and then people will make judgments based on what you have to say.  People are so JUDGE-Y.  

Q:  It’s fantasy football drafting time.  Any great pearls of wisdom this year?  Anita Hundcuff, Houston, TX.

A:  Well, I did win my league last year, so I’m speaking from a position of advanced authority when I tell you, YES, I do have plenty of fantasy football advice.  The tip that is really going to put you over the top is this–you need a QB on your team that runs the ball. Not everyone is going to get Cam Newton, or RG3, or Colin Kaepernick, but if you can, it’s time to bail on the pocket passer.  Fantasy football is wildly skewed in the favor of QBs who run.  Newton won a million leagues two years ago, RG3 was a revelation, even Michael Vick has his moments.  At their best, running QBs are like having an extra player on your starting roster.  Want to know how crazy am I about this?  I’d consider drafting, or closely monitoring Terrelle Pryor* as backup.  Pryor is not a good quarterback.  He throws the ball very poorly.  But, he’s big and he can run.  He knocked off a 25 yard TD run last night, and that’s 8.5 points right there.  ON ONE PLAY.  Who cares if he goes 7-23 for 84 yards if he runs for 100 and two scores?  The Raiders have Matt Flynn as their starter–that feels tenuous.  All I’m saying is, if you need a spot start late in the season, or your guy goes down with an injury, Pryor the running QB might be the choice over Carson Palmer and his maybe 2 points, maybe 20 points weeks.  I think he’s going to be the starter before the end of the year, and it’ll only take one big game on the ground and he’ll be gone.  Keep your eyes open.  So, that’s the tip.  Get a running QB as a starter or a stowaway, and always take the best player available for the first 5-7 rounds of your draft.  A winning fantasy team doesn’t need balance, it needs about 5 or 6 guys that can blow up at any time.  Depth means horsebleep in the playoffs.  Good luck out there.

*Wrote this a few days ago, had my draft last night.  Took Terrelle Pryor (who may be in line to start now) in the final round.  May cut him next week, but for now–he’s there.  

Q: Have you ever given yourself a nickname?  Or tried to get one to stick? Bub Mack, Richmond, VA.

A:  I don’t think I have ever given myself a nickname.  Or gone Constanza and tried to trick people into calling me “T-Bone.”  You can’t give yourself nicknames.  I think I’ve talked about this, but that doesn’t mean people still don’t do it.  ALL THE TIME.  You know what’s weird?  When people come back from college and they have a new nickname.  Do they really?  Sometimes you WONDER.  The closest I got, I think, was maybe when I was like 11 years old I had a three or four hour stretch where I wished my last name was Mc-Something.  OR, could be easily shortened into something catchy.  I didn’t really have a nickname, so I wanted to force one? I eventually got over it.  I’ve failed to get nicknames to stick on other people, but never myself.  I’ve really only ever had two nicknames. There are people now who call me, “Grossy,” something I was not called in my youth–though I would have EMBRACED it.  And, during my freshmen year of college, there was a brief period where I was known as “Crafty.”  Let your imaginations RUN WILD.  

Q:  Any ideas or thoughts about what’s going on here?  Can we get some sample dialog?  

Arnie's Collar Isn't The Only Thing That's...Nevermind.

Arnie’s Collar Isn’t The Only Thing That’s…Nevermind.

A:  Well, as I’m sure everyone knows, Kate Upton had a golf lesson from Arnie today.  I believe it’s a Golf Digest venture.  Golf Digest put a team of thousands together and thought, “How do we sell more Golf Digests?”  So, Kate Upton, accomplished equestrian, and Arnie have a bit of history.  They rubbed elbows during Bay Hill and Arnie remains a sucker for the ladies, although his trademark confidence may be waning a bit in this shot.  Perhaps Kate was knocking it by him.  I DON’T KNOW.  Do I think they made chit-chat? Perhaps.  I don’t know if I have the heart to fully lampoon The King.  My guess is during the entire encounter, Arnie was probably thinking, “If it were 30 years ago, I would have given it an honest shot.  Now, I’ll settle for a hug.”  And from Kate I’m getting a lot of, “Oh, Grandpa.”  Good for Arnie though, and bonus points if he sidled up behind her to work on tempo.  That stuff doesn’t teach itself.  



Jean Short Open 2013–I Lost the Belt.

Your New Champions.

Your New Champions.

What can you say about the JSO that hasn’t already been said?  It’s pure sporting spectacle.  But in the past couple of years, we’ve also realized that it may be the most evenly matched golf contest in all the land.  It took 20 holes to decide the historic 2012 version, and this year it seemed like extra holes were possible again until Stars & Stripes up there made the putt of his loving life on the 18th green.  It was a well-deserved and emotional win, especially for Haas, who takes ownership of the championship belt buckle for the 1st time.  You could say he was born to wear it, and his general intoxication–with life, with Coors Light, with the result–on the 18th green made it hard for the losing team to feel too bad about themselves.  But, it still stings.  The accessories closet is a bit barren.  Speaking of which…

Second Place (of Two).

Second Place (of Two).

Before we get into the rundown (I think I’ll do hole-by-hole this year), it’s important to note that Pickering is in uncommonly bad shape.  You really should never, ever go play that golf course.  It’s not in “HAHA bad shape,” it’s borderline unplayable. The rumor that “The Pick,” is about to be shutdown was denied in the clubhouse, but the course conditions could lead you to believe otherwise.  Scary day for the JSO, and a sad day for those with deep-rooted feelings of Chester County golf nostalgia.

1st Hole–The first hole is a spot for ceremonial pictures, we usually get our weirdest looks as well.  The course was certainly more crowded this year.  More eyes took in the show.  A single college player asked us right before we went off, “Mind if I go ahead–you guys look…pretty serious.”  Fire away young man!  Team 3PT/Rando would win the 1st when Stars and Stripes 3 putted from about 12 feet.  Not foreshadowing.

2nd Hole–The 2nd Hole is closest to the pin/furthest to the pin must drink a beer.  The winning team drank, there was another 3-putt, this one for a halve and we moved to the 3rd tee still 1-up.

3rd Hole–Three is where the modified shamble really takes hold.  Haas hit the green in “1” and proceeded to make birdie to square the match.  Walking off the green I said, “We’ve got a horserace with 15 holes to go.”  I was dead-on.

4th Hole–I panic when i realize I haven’t put on any sunscreen and I’m playing golf without a hat on for the first time in maybe 30 years.  That’s just an aside.  But, on the 4th hole we try to get a perfect shot of everyone at impact on the tee.  This has never worked.  Until…

245 Right Down the Middle.

245 Right Down the Middle.

5th Hole–I think we halved the 4th?  It’s not important.  The 5th hole is long drive/short drive drinks a beer.  The 5th is also where Haas hit a car last year (on the bounce/no injuries), but at 375 yards, dead downhill–you don’t want to leave the driver in the bag.  Everyone missed safely left off the tee.  Then Haas’ shot from the left rough went sailing toward the street. I calmly said, “That’s over the road.”  The ball then hit the street about 2 inches from a car.  We lost the hole–I probably 3 putted.

6th Hole–Putters only Par-3.  Sounds fun, and it is.  At almost 200 yards, it’s a long putt.  Rando lasered one down there to about 40 yards and we easily made four from there.  Cakewalk city.  Back to all square.

7th Hole–High water mark for Team Rando/3PT.  After a big drive I coaxed in a 40 foot birdie putt which set off a wild celebration on the green.  Rando, “Was that the longest putt you’ve ever made.”  Me:  “No.  Maybe.”

8th Hole–Let’s just say we followed up that putt with the quote, “I think that’s the worst shot I’ve ever seen Gross hit.”  It was also my first “negative one” for a truly horrible shot.  Pretty embarrassing.  In my defense, it’s not that easy to play golf in suspenders.  Of course, Haas was in overalls.   We lose the hole–back to all square.

9th Hole–Don’t really remember.  We halved it.  Just a race to get to the clubhouse at this point, get some calories back in the system.  Non-liquid calories, that is.

10th Hole–Reverse Shamble.  Playing from the worst ball, both teams have to re-tee after hitting the ball out of play.  From the JSO approved drop zone, I hit one to 4 feet, then miss the putt.  We’re still tied.  I’m starting to think about missed opportunities?  No, still confident.

11th Hole–We lose control of the JSO thanks to another bogey from the middle of the fairway.  Somewhere around this point, Stars & Stripes finds the zone, the perfect BAL?  Whatever it is, he starts playing steady performer to Haas’ erratic greatness.

12th Hole–One down, Rando and I both miss the green from 60? 50? 38 yards?  And, we begin arguing with each other.  I’m not sure about what.  Who was playing worse?  I think I said, “My partner can’t hit a chip shot.”  Then he said, “Whose drive got us down there?”  Then we were fine.  Somehow the hole was halved.

13th Hole–We get back to even after the winners can’t locate either of their tee shots.

14 Hole–We go right back to one behind thanks to a 7 (net 4 birdie) from Haas.  This included two swings and misses, the 1st of which was rewarded a (-1) great shot point.  It may be of note that at this point, Haas’ posture has started to noticeably change.  He’s really getting down there with his ball at this point.  Getting personal….

Not Textbook, but Effective.

Not Textbook, but Effective.

15th Hole–One club only.  Last year on this hole I made a par with just my 7-iron.  For some reason I switch to 8-iron this year, but still manage to hit the green in 2 shots.  We have a decided edge until Stars & Bars knocks one in for the halve from about 12 feet with his something-iron.  Is there destiny involved in this?  Still one down.

16th Hole–Beer Par.  Haas is the only player who has ever successfully tried or completed a beer par (three beers) on the Par 3 sixteenth hole.  But, as we drove to the tee, both teams plotted their strategy.  Not willing to go dormie two, we decided we at least needed to threaten Beer Par.  Somehow I got nominated for this.  I actually got off to a good start before Rando knocked it to about 10 feet with his damn driver from 145.  Shot of the Day!  I scaled off of beer par, Haas completed it easily and the hole was tied in threes.

17th Hole–Down one, I decide it’s time to put a tee through the cap of a water bottle and hit off that.  There is some discussion over whether this is wise, considering the situation, but it feels like the only thing to do.  17 is pretty generous off the tee, an embarrassing, short par-5 and we managed to get one down there and win the hole.  ALL SQUARE.

*Unfortunately I was not able to upload the video of this shot, or any of our other fine videos.  I will work on that.

18th Hole–Here we go.  For the record, I still feel like we’re going to win, but there is no hard evidence to support that feeling.  Eighteen, contrary to some other holes at Pickering is ALMOST a real hole.  It’s probably 400 yards.  A bit uphill.  Both teams were fine off the tee, but true to the day’s form, Rando and I both missed the green while Stars and Stripes connected.  No offense, but this was one of the 13 most unlikely GIRs in golf history.  This is what we were up against.  So, I go up there and chip to about 20 feet (terrible).  Rando’s in his pocket, because remember–he can’t chip at all and it looks like Kev, there I said it, his name is Kev has two comfortable putts for the win.  Until he rolls the first one 12 FEET PAST.  New life?  Nope, he calmly drained it.  Everyone fought back tears.  I took off the belt and another JSO was in the books…

Few More Shots…

From The Payne Stewart Denim Collection.

From The Payne Stewart Denim Collection.

Textbook Ball Position

Textbook Ball Position

I Wonder How the Crops Are Doing?

I Wonder How the Crops Are Doing?

Phils Cut the Tail off the Monster.

Ruben Is Down to His Last Life.

Ruben Is Down to His Last Life.

Being a General Manager is a little bit like starting a level of Super Mario Bros. fully powered up.  You have the fireballs, the raccoon tail–whatever you want.  There are several layers of protection you have to peel through before you are ever in any real danger.  The GM has the players, the coaches and ultimately the manager to pin the blame on before he no longer has an excuse for the owners.  When Ruben Amaro took the job as the Phillies’ GM in 2009, he was uncommonly protected. Great team, huge payroll, he was invincible.  It’s taken four years, but with the dismissal of Charlie Manuel on Friday, Ruben is out there on a limb just like small Mario.  One more mistake–and it’s curtains.  Right?

Charlie Manuel’s relationship with the fans of Philadelphia has always been in a state of flux.  Through the first couple years, when Manuel tested the limits of his own job security, Charlie spent much of the time as a punchline.  With a team that spent most of a twenty year stretch near the basement of the NL East, the Phillies were better in Manuel’s early years, but the expectations were still low.  Sure, Charlie wasn’t a great strategist, but the team had made one playoff appearance in 25 years.  How could that really be his fault?  He was just another in a long line of uninspiring managers.

Then, 2007 happened.  The year that changed the arc of Phillies history.  They ran down the collapsing Mets.  A dominant offense was born, and the fans starting coming to the ballpark by the millions.  If the Phillies hadn’t caught the Mets, there’s a good chance Charlie could have been ushered out-of-town after that 2007 season.  What would have happened over the next 3 years would be up for debate, but a hot September saved Charlie’s job and allowed him to go on to become the most successful manager in Phillies history and preside over the city’s 1st World Championship in a quarter-century.  

By 2009, most fans had forgotten they ever had any distaste for Manuel and he was the lovable leader of the NL champs with his own T-Shirts, the fans chanted his name–things could not have been better.  But, while the fans overlooked Charlie maybe (definitely?) getting out-managed in a few post-season series, the Phillies passed control of the team from Pat Gillick to Ruben Amaro, Jr.  It was a move that hardly caused a ripple at the time.  The team was a juggernaut.  It would take a buffoon to mess things up–Ruben practically said so himself.  

Then, he proceeded to mess things up–royally.  In a move that belied his later loyalties to current Phillies Ruben set about to remedy the Phillies’ problems by acquiring a REAL ACE pitcher, because Cole Hamels wasn’t going to live up to 2008’s standard.  This was phase one in turning a team of young mashers into a team built on “pitching and defense,”  I’ve said it a hundred times, Ruben felt better pitching would have won in 2009, when that was a year that things simply didn’t break their way.  Hamels and Lidge implode, the Yankees are a very good team, etc.  

After this change in philosophy the Phillies validated Ruben with stellar regular season play.  They went 41-14 after the All-Star Break in 2010.  They won 102 games in 2011.  Pitching and defense went from a philosophy to an obsession.  At least the pitching part of the equation.  Ruben’s quest for one true ace, turned into The FOUR ACES, all the while his aging core was allowed to erode, while he patched it together with another starting pitcher.  Essentially offering a man dying of thirst a package of saltines.  

Along with commitment to his philosophy, the inability to adapt has long defined Amaro’s tenure.  There’s always been a failure to see the fine details.  He doesn’t notice how a team loses a playoff series, because he’s blinded by 102 wins.  He says and believes things like, “I don’t care about walks, I care about production,” because he’s stubborn and doesn’t know any better.  How do you take a 102 win team and turn it into a 75 (70?) win team?  You keep it together.  If you rounded up the Big Red Machine in 1984 they would have been horsebleep.  That’s what happens.  Ruben still hasn’t figured that out.  He’s still signing players that were in their prime five years ago.  

Through this transition of leadership, Charlie has remained at the helm.  He’s taken more and more criticism as the Phillies’ record have plummeted back to earth and he’s been unable or unwilling to protect some of his coaches as Ruben starts peeling away the layers of blame–Charlie himself being the last piece tossed away.  

This brings me back to the fans’ relationship with Manuel.  In his departure, there has been nothing but sympathy and warm feelings.  Perhaps everyone has finally realized that Manuel is remarkably consistent as a manager.  He’s the same guy who almost got fired after 2006, the same that won the World Series in 2008, and the same who captained this particularly hideous 25 game stretch that resulted in his ouster.  The talent on the field has waxed and waned, but Charlie’s been the same.  This year, this that everyone hopes will be rock bottom is hardly his fault.  

But, a change had to be made.  It’s one of those things in sports that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it had to be done. Perhaps it could have been done better, or with better timing, but there was no point in Manuel managing out the string. His time is up and the team appears to be cooked as well.  

The other reason the firing is essential is because the Phillies will continue to be a bad team with Ryne Sandberg leading the way.  They were jolted into a 3-hit shutout in his debut and will likely face Clayton Kershaw today with similar results.  Bad teams lose and the Phillies are bad.  It’s not the “voice.”  Ryne Sandberg, who has been pining for a big league managerial job for years, might not know what he’s gotten himself into.  He called the team lackadaisical without realizing that could be a reflection on the team’s coaches as well as its manager.  

The change that will dislodge the Phillies from their current trajectory will not occur with a man wearing a uniform.  One player, or a manager is not going to turn this thing around.  The Phillies need a philosophical overhaul.  Their GM, the guy who once preached pitching and defense has spent so much money that his only requirement left for signing supplemental players is– are they CHEAP?  

It makes you wonder how a GM with this track record can be so safe in his job, even after he’s jettisoned players, coaches and a manager.  The answer is likely that Ruben Amaro is the product of his organization.  An organization that prides itself on loyalty and a keen awareness of the past.  So, when evaluating Ruben the GM, the Phillies’ management probably looks at him the same way he looks at a player.  What’s the best case scenario?  How long has he been part of the Phillies family? Like Amaro sees 2008 Chase Utley, the managing partners of the Phillies see a GM who put together a 102-win team.  

The Phillies only make the biggest and toughest decisions when they absolutely have to, and it’s usually too late.  They fire Manuel to try to stave off an empty stadium for the team’s last twenty home dates.  What will it take to rid themselves of Amaro?  I’m sorry to say we don’t know the answer to that yet.  

The Eagles’ QB Race: All That’s Missing is Hope.

At Least Barkley Can't Wear 34.

At Least Barkley Can’t Wear 34.

The Eagles finished a week-long rendezvous with New England last Friday by getting drubbed by the Patriots in the opening pre-season game.  The over/under, set at just above 40 points, was probably the easiest money ever made.  If you have the courage, I highly suggest running it back on Thursday against Carolina where the number sits at 42.  You know Chip wants to get their all on his own, and the Birds certainly won’t be stopping anyone.  Not this year.  

One preseason game is hardly something to get bogged down with, but the results already have Eagles’ fans nervously looking for reassurance.  The newness of the coach, the excitement of the offense are going to wear off quickly if the Eagles can’t field a competitive team.  In terms of viability, the place to look on most NFL teams is the QB position.  Can you win with this guy?  For too many teams the answer is a definitive “no.”  In the midst of a race to name the starting QB, the Eagles should be trying to identify if not a franchise QB, at least the best guy to lead them through this season, but is Philadelphia the rare NFL team where the QB choice won’t make much difference?  Can any of these guys be winners?  Will the Eagles be so bad on defense it won’t matter?  

With all do respect to Matt Barkley, I’m going to leave him out of this particular discussion.  Barkley has the kind of arm that keeps cut-off men in business, and I don’t know one person who thinks he’s a viable option as a starter this year.  It’s not going to happen, and if does then things have already turned ugly.  That leaves us with Nick Foles and Michael Vick.  It’s a QB controversy that lacks an identity.  

Some basic types of QB controversies:  

1.  Established/Popular veteran vs. Young Gun.  Here’s one where fans and even pundits will be split.  Think Favre/Rodgers, or way back in the day for a Philly example Jaworski/Cunningham.  Teams will sometimes try to avoid this (Indy trading Manning for example), because once that young guy comes in (Unless he’s Tommy Maddox) he’s going to get a shot.  Why divide the fan base or locker room?  But, Vick isn’t established enough and Foles isn’t prospect enough to fit this category.  

2. Place Holder vs. Rookie/Young QB.  Pederson vs. McNabb.  Warner vs. Eli.  Maybe even Smith vs. Kaepernick?  In this case the ascension of the young QB is inevitable and there is no remorse about losing the veteran starter.  It’s just a question of, is the team ready for the rookie to start?  Will we stunt his growth?  But, Foles is certainly not promised the job at some point and Vick has enough support still that some would protest his benching or dismissal.  

3. Slop vs. Slop.  When teams are really bad why not give everyone a chance?  Gabbert vs. Henne.  The Cardinals.  Colt McCoy vs. Anyone.  This is the nightmare scenario for a fan–your team forcing you to have an opinion on two terrible QBs.  But, Vick and Foles certainly aren’t this bad.  They could MAYBE be starters in the NFL.  

You get the sense that Foles and Vick are battling to be the Place Holder.  At some point down the road the Eagles are going to acquire their next starting quarterback, but it’s not certain he’s currently on the roster.  If that’s the case, does it really matter if Vick beats out Foles or vice versa?  

Michael Vick is a known commodity.  He’s almost Jeff George-like in his ability to have people rave about his potential well into his 30s.  His ceiling for an individual play is probably without peer.  But over the course of a full season, Vick will do those other things he’s known for–turning the ball over, getting injured, etc.  If you had to win one game, you’d probably choose Vick, but you have to win a lot more than one game.  I

It’s no secret that I don’t care for Nick Foles.  Or “Poles,” as I call him.  When I intentionally call a player by the wrong name, it’s meant as disrespect.  When I state it so boldly, it seems irrational and mean-spirited, but it happens.  It happened with Kevin Coal-buh, and Ashanti Samuel, and it will continue through the Nick Poles era.  Foles is the only QB on the roster with a real chance to be the long-term QB it seems, but I don’t sense there is much of a chance and there’s almost no support for this in the fan base.  Obviously if Foles turns the corner and becomes a star people will claim they knew it all along, but if he was cut today, or traded away for a conditional 5th round pick.  I don’t think you’d hear a whimper.  

That’s because I’m sensing a diminished level of hope among Eagles’ fans and those who are optimistic seem to be more general in their prognostications.  “The offense will be good.”  Rather than, “Foles will develop into a front-line starter.”  And, it’s easy to see why this is happening.  First, because the fans have been sold on Chip Kelly’s system.  That’s what will be different.  Kelly’s innovation and technique will allow the Eagles to score points regardless of the QB.  The second reason is because the Eagles defense looks like it could be particularly terrible.  

The Eagles gave up 27.75 points a game last year (2nd worst in the NFC) and it’s hard to imagine them being significantly better on that side of the ball this year.  Factor in a new scheme, which they may or may not have the personnel for and Chip Kelly’s fast pace possibly having them on the field even more and the 31 points the Eagles surrendered on Friday might end up being par for the course.  

The bottom line is, with a defense this bad, or at best this unproven, Eagles fans are going to have to wait until the season starts to see if they have a chance at anything resembling a winning season.  Because, in the end, the fate of the Eagles might not rest with the quarterback, regardless of who wins the job.  Welcome to Philadelphia where hope isn’t in the hands of the signal caller.


To Your Letters:

The Accord: Come for The Reputation, Stay For the Ground Clearance.

The Accord: Come for The Reputation, Stay For the Ground Clearance.

This photo was sent to me the other day.  It was pretty much a live action shot.  A developing situation.  The question I have is what is more embarrassing?  Actually trying to take your car (on purpose or otherwise) over a curb, or having people stop what they are doing to take a photo of your situation.  In the past maybe your embarrassment was limited to the tow truck driver who will give you a less than genuine, “Oh yeah, Happens ALL THE TIME,” but now you’ve got people snapping photos, passing them along and they end up on a blog in front of dozens of eyes.  Rough.  And, do you ask if you can help before or after you take the picture here?   Your mailbag…

Q: Is there a bigger take-out food nightmare than the french fry?  What’s the consumption window on a fry–94 seconds? Spud Fry, Galveston, TX.

A:  Yeah, I think probably more than 1/2 the fries we eat in our life aren’t great, we’re just shoveling them in trying to remember what a good fry tastes like.  There can be several frustrating fry scenarios.  Getting mediocre fries at a fast food place is terrible, because that’s likely most of the reason you were there in first place.  When your waffle fries are “luke” it’s harder to justify the 1.3 million calories.  I’ve contemplated asking for fresh fries in a fast food establishment, but you know that every fast food employee is one complaint away from TAINTING the whole kitchen.  So, it’s best to just pipe down and eat your gummy potato sticks.  Take out fries are a whole other animal.  Some food is fairly conducive to being carried out–pizzas, hot sandwiches, but french fries are not.  AT ALL.  The most important thing is that fries are not transported in styrofoam.  I thought we had banished this from earth, but it’s still around.  All fries should be served in a bag.  Keeping the heat in is secondary to texture preservation.  Styrofoam is great if you want steam something, throw some rice in there–go crazy–but it’s the fry’s mortal enemy.  Your best fries can’t survive more than a minute or two in styrofoam, where they may cool off in a bag, but will maintain their integrity.  Any fry can be salvaged in the oven (an important thing to note, and another reason to own a toaster oven), but timing is key in take out.  The last thing you want to do is wait for your food and then wait for your fries to crisp back up.  So, I agree that the fry is a takeout nightmare, but as an American it’s on you to know about good and bad fry takeout spots and if necessary do something to enact change.  

Q:  I saw recently that residents of North Dakota down the most beer per capita and Pennsylvania was nowhere to be found in the top-10.  How does this make you feel about your home state?  Purdie Wasted, Bismarck, ND.

A:  I don’t feel great about it.  The fine residents of North Dakota put away an average of almost 46 gallons of beer a year.  That sounds like a pretty shocking number, but let’s break that down. (gets out calculator) OK, that’s 500 beers a year.  That’s a nice, round number.  Back in college, I would have called that “A Light Semester,” but now I don’t get anywhere near that number in one year.  And, I’m a beer drinker.  So, I guess I have to take a moment and congratulate North Dakota on their THIRST FOR LIFE.  People in all states like to drink, so I guess it depends on what you think being a beer drinker says about you.  I imagine in North Dakota they drink the full compliment of heavys (Bud, High Life, Coors Banquet) without a hint  of irony.  They probably don’t go much for wine bars or tequila shooters.  They certainly aren’t worried about gluten sensitivity.  So, am I jealous of that?  MAYBE.  A little bit.  But, I’d rather be from a state that has its share of breweries, its share of places to get random beer on tap, and things of that nature, because if life is a drinking contest it certainly isn’t a case race.  It has to be something with a little more craft than that.  I’m not sure if PA is a top-10 beer state, in general, I think it is–but I know it’s got to be better than North Dakota not matter how much they drink.  

Q: If A-Rod gets banned from baseball for life, ala Pete Rose, how would you compare their two transgressions?  Peter Rows, Cincinnati, OH.

A:  What the two really have in common is the lying.  And the ego, and the belief that they somehow would never have to be held accountable for what they did.  Alex Rodriguez has done players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa a huge favor. Those players may never get into the Hall of Fame, but A-Rod is now the clear poster boy for baseball’s struggle against PED use. The guy was not liked before all this happened.  He always seemed uncomfortable with his talent and the fans were uncomfortable with giving him credit for being a great player.  Now, hating A-Rod is the easy thing to do, the only thing to do and everyone from the fans to his fellow players are embracing it.  Pete Rose is a different story, mostly because he was so popular with the fans, but also because most of his teammates will begrudgingly say something nice about him even though they know he bet on baseball. Pete Rose was a great teammate, it seems beyond dispute, and so he’ll always have that and A-Rod won’t.  Rose is starting from a position cushioned with a lot more sympathy than A-Rod.  A-Rod’s sins were and are part of an “era.”  He hardly stands alone.  The enticement of huge contracts and the pressure to live up to them has tempted probably hundreds of players to use PEDs.  Rose was acting alone and as a manager.  Rose, had he bet against his own team, certainly would have been in a better position to “taint” the outcome of a game.  We can’t quantify the impact of steroid use, especially when we don’t know who is using and who is not.  I personally don’t believe Rose against his own team, not that this pardons him in any way, but let’s also remember that Pete Rose clearly has a gambling addiction.  If he was addicted to alcohol, he likely would be in the Hall of Fame.  But, betting on the game has always been a clear rule.  While steroids and other PEDs were at times overlooked and ignored, it’s never been OK to bet on baseball and so I have to say that Pete’s transgression is slightly worse, but I would still put him in the Hall of Fame.  I wouldn’t allow him to work for a MLB team, but I’d lift his ban for the Hall.  A-Rod will have to live his life and that will be his punishment after his suspension ends.  He ruined his legacy–something Rose did not do.  

Q: If you were given one skill, say you could putt as well as Luke Donald, or drive the ball like Keegan Bradley do you think the rest of your game would ever catch up to the point where you could play on tour?  And, which skill would be the best to have “given” to you?  

A:  I think I would have to take the putting, or if I could expand that to an entire short game?  Please?  For me, putting and the short game is such a separator in terms of class.  I don’t want to belittle great ball-striking, but the mini-tours are full of guys that hit it so pure you’d cry.  And, if you ever putted for one week like the worst guy on tour putts you’d probably thank your lucky stars and quit the game while you were ahead.  If I hit every drive 315, mostly down the middle with the rest of my game in its current state I’d probably be somewhere between a scratch and a 4 handicap? Just because I’d be able to overpower most courses and mix in a few birdies to offset my 35 putts a round.  That would still leave me ten miles from the Tour with no chance of ever getting there.  I suppose I could spend countless hours and months on my short game, but it’s very unlikely it’d ever get me to Tour caliber.  The same goes for the other way, though.  If I had a Tour level short game right now, my handicap would probably dip a bit lower.  I once was a 1-handicap with a pretty dreadful short game, but even if I became a short-game wizard I’d still never sniff the tour.  Which is the best skill to have?  I think if you asked most guys already out there, they’d take the short game or the putting.  I think great short games keep guys around better than the ball-striking.  A guy like Boo Weekley, for example, who is always one week away from his next missed cut probably hits the ball each week than Ian Poulter and Luke Donald, but no one is picking him to win the PGA–if you know what I mean.  

Q: I was at a BBQ last weekend and things were going pretty normal, the usual, until suddenly a ruckus (can you describe the ruckus, Sir?) broke out around the grill.  Apparently another guest was uncomfortable with how the host was grilling and attempted to take over the responsibility.  I asked around, and apparently, the host was yanking the skins off the chicken breasts before putting them on the grill.  Was the other guest in the wrong, or are their times when you just have to do what you have to do?  Weber Handsov, Houston, TX.

A:  That is BOLD AS F*CK on both their parts.  I don’t know anyone who has the stones to walk over to a grill and just TAKE the tongs from someone, and at the same time you have to be a particular kind of moron to take the skin off of a bone-in chicken breast before you grill it.  I mean, COME ON.  What’s next, microwaved hot dogs?  Grilling is one of those things that everyone likes to think they can do, especially men, but some people have no idea.  It does look easy.  Fire.  Meat.  Combine.  Sometimes a grilling novice will ask for help, and then you swoop in and do what is necessary to try to SALVAGE THE DAY, but I don’t think you can do something like this without permission.  Unless the guy was about to blow up the propane tank accidentally, you have to keep your distance.  It’s his BBQ.  The food isn’t going to be great, but hopefully it will still be a decent piece of grilled chicken.  Little dry, but hey, that’s what the Sweet Baby Ray’s is for, right?  RIGHT?  So, yeah, at the end of the day, I commend the boldness, but you’ve got to stay back, quietly belittle the chef and never return to his place for a BBQ (unless you bring your own tray of Ribs–surprise!).  That’s the only play.  

Q: What if your mother offered to buy you a couple new outfits, but in order to get them you had to go through the whole process of selecting clothes as if you were six years old.  Meaning she mostly picks the stores, gives you a bunch of crap to try on, you have to come out and show her everything–anyway is this worth it?  Buster Brown, Exton, PA.

A:  I guess it depends on how badly you need clothes.  I don’t really want to try on anything–for anyone–at this point in my life.  I’ve graduated.  Much like taking the driver’s exam–NEVER AGAIN.  No matter how dicey things get.  There was a point in my life when I would happily try on clothes for people.  My mom, relatives, people who just HAPPENED BY–it didn’t matter.  On Christmas, I’d respectfully put on each pair of sweat pants, come out, do a little TWIRL, then move on to the next outfit.  I imagine I liked the attention.  “Oh, blue sweat pants with a grey sweatshirt instead of grey sweatpants with a blue sweatshirt.  INSPIRED.”  But, I outgrew that.  Sometime around middle school when my mother had to wait around for me to roll up my jeans before emerging from the dressing room, I think the dynamic changed a little bit.  Let’s not forget that malls, in general, are also a bit dicey for me.  I once fell in a fountain.  So, unless I was tapped out, and my two short rotation was down to about a 1/2 pair, then I think I’ve got to keep Mom in the bullpen for now.  

The PGA Championship.

What a Dump.

What a Dump.

I know not too much time has passed since the Open Championship, because Phil is still ear-to-ear, but the PGA Championship is upon us–back at venerable Oak Hill.  The storylines for the PGA are often dictated by what happens earlier in the golf season.  Long the major without a true identity, the PGA has tried to latch onto, “Glory’s Last Shot,” and there is some truth in that corniness, especially for a player like Tiger Woods who is judged solely on his performance in the major championships.  

With Phil and Tiger back at numbers 1&2 in the World, this is definitely has the feel of a head-to-head battle.  While Tiger vs. Phil rarely plays out on the course, it certainly plays well in the media and there is plenty of debate leading up to this tournament about who owns the better season to this point and whether or not either should be considered the odds on favorite to win this week.  

It’s funny that you have to defend the honor of regular PGA Tour events for a player with 14 majors, but that is the case for Woods, who probably trails Mickelson’s year in some polls despite rolling off five wins–most in convincing fashion.  Are five regular wins better than 3 worldwide wins including the Open Championship?  Most people would say no, and Tiger might be among them.  He’s done so much to downplay the significance of the non-majors through his career that we hardly even take notice when Tiger obliterates the field at Firestone.  

I equate Tiger’s dominance in his “pet” events–Bay Hill, Torrey Pines, Memorial, Firestone, etc to the NBA Dunk contest.  No matter what you see, you will eventually get bored with it over time, and for the most part we are bored with Tiger’s regular tour conquests.  The only way Tiger will recapture our attention is by translating his dominance back to the majors.  When Tiger makes the putts and holds up on a major Sunday we will finally know that he is “back,” though we still may not be impressed.  

Phil is lucky to not face such an overwhelming burden of proof.  He’s already done the unexpected this year, and so while he enters the event as the favorite, or co-favorite, the expectation for him doesn’t carry as much weight.  Phil’s great year has already been sealed, while Tiger has been searching for his own since 2009.  So, we’re back to Phil vs. Tiger, but the stakes for each player are vastly different.  

Other stories of Note:

The Defending Champion–It was a year ago that Rory McIlroy cruised to his second major championship runaway.  In the interim, he’s switched to Nike equipment and seen some rust on his game develop into a legitimate mental rut.  I don’t know anyone who expects Rory to salvage his year this week and if it weren’t for Tiger and Phil, we’d probably still be digesting a lot of “what is wrong with Rory,” stories.  I still think Rory is a streak player, a better one with higher peaks than we’ve possibly seen, but streaky nonetheless.  I don’t think we’re going to see his best golf for the remainder of this year, and beyond that, I’m not sure where his career is heading.  

The First Time Major Winner–The PGA has always been associated with the 1st time major winner.  Deep fields, perhaps the choice of courses, has allowed for some unexpected champions.  Some have gone on to great careers, others have just been a blip on the screen.  The last time the PGA was at Oak Hill, Shaun Micheel hit one of the great 7-iron shots ever, but he’s rarely been heard from since.  In recent years, the event has been the domain of the young gun.  Kaymer, Bradley and McIlroy all in their 20s, two world #1s and close calls for other rising stars like Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney. Will the PGA be someone’s first major this week?  Will it be a young player, or will someone’s career finally get that signature moment like Azinger in ’93, Love in ’97, or Toms in ’01?

The Course–Oak Hill is a brute.  Only three players (Micheel, Chad Campbell and Tim Clark) broke par in ’03, and the course is known as an exacting test of ball-striking and precision.  The players will need to be accurate, and length plus accuracy could be a real advantage.  I’d expect the great drivers of the ball (Dustin Johnson, Mahan, Sergio, Keegan Bradley, Rose, Stenson) to populate the leaderboards this week.  Of course, most majors eventually come down to the greens–just listen to Tiger–so it should be noted that it was a pretty harsh summer for Oak Hill.  Tiger was critical of the greens on a pre-tournament visit, but apparently they are in better shape as we get ready to start things off tomorrow.  If the greens aren’t up to speed, or are especially bumpy, this is even better news for the ball-strikers.  

The Five Best Pairings:  

5.  Mickelson/Rose/Scott–The traditional PGA pairing of the year’s 1st three major winners.  Doesn’t show a lot of creativity, but all three of these players could contend.  We saw Mickelson harness the energy of a disappointment at Merion, how will he handle coming off a win?  I think he runs out of steam.  

4. Beem/Brooks/Micheel–A bit cruel, but amusing enough to make the list.  Here the PGA groups three guys who “accidentally” won the tournament.  Why tarnish three groups when you can just lump them together?  

3. Dustin Johnson/Charl Schwartzel/Henrik Stenson–If I could pick one group the winner might come out of, this would likely be my pick.  A lot of talk about Oak Hill being tailor-made for DJ, but he’s yet to show he can close a major.  Will his talent eventually allow him to win one by accident?

2. Tiger/Davis Love III/Keegan Bradley–I’m not sure how Davis got in this group, but Tiger and Keegan finished 1/2 last week and are both serious contenders.  For Tiger, away from the friendly confines of Firestone, it’ll be about his putting.  The first time he complains about getting the speed the down, you can probably write him off.  Bradley needs a win to cap what’s been a very consistent year. 

1. Dufner/Stricker/Matsuyama–Wait, what?  Allow me to explain….

The Definitive (No-Longer Arbitrary after nailing the Open) Top-10:

  1. Jason Dufner
  2. Henrik Stenson
  3. Dustin Johnson
  4. TIger Woods
  5. Zach Johnson
  6. Brandt Snedeker
  7. Gary Woodland
  8. Sergio Garcia
  9. Angel Cabrera 
  10. Martin Laird