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There was something in the air – covering the angles of the Phillies win

(Editor’s note: The Pundit is back from his unexplained and lengthy hiatus. He offered absolutely no explanation for his lack of material. I offer sincere apologies to the 10-15 people who actually read his work.)

After last night’s win, I know that one moment will be discussed and praised more than any other from the Phils 5-2 win over C.C. Sabathia and that team he has been carrying on his back for the past two weeks. The Brewers, right? Yeah, that’s it, the Brewers.

The moment I am talking about, of course, was the Brett Myers nine-pitch walk in the second inning. The walk that preceded another walk to J-Roll and then the Grand Salami by Sugar Shane Victorino (Editor’s note: He earned a second nickname after the swing he put on Sabathia to hit the grand slam – he’s always flying, but that swing was oh so sweet). The walk that almost literally catapulted the Phillies to what seems to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead on the Brewers (Editor’s note: As everyone reading this instantly knocks on wood and curses The Pundit).

Every angle of this will be covered, and for good reason. Brett Myers was down 0-2 in the count against the guy who was the best pitcher in the National League after getting traded from the Indians. Myers is terrible behind the plate. And yet, he started fouling off pitches he had no business getting his bat on. He took the balls just off the plate. Suddenly, there was something in the air.

Next angle – the crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park sensed it. They sensed a chink in the armour of Super Sabathia, exposed by the least likely of protagonists. And as Myers took pitches and began fouling off others, they became louder and louder. They saw Sabathia grow frustrated and began to wildly implore Myers to keep on fighting, keep on scrapping, to continue to channel Tony Gwynn or whoever it was that in the moment had possessed him. They changed the stakes – they made Sabathia painfully aware of the fact that he was in a dogfight with a terrible hitter, one he had no business being in, and after every pitch, they roared to let Myers know that he could do it, he could crack the ace. Brett Myers, the often maligned head case, had done the impossible – he had gotten into C.C. Sabathia’s dome. And everyone in the stadium knew it, because they had facilitated it. One of the truly great moments in the history of Philadelphia fans, and one far more indicative of the type of fans we have in this city than that of the negative rap we always are given by outsiders who just don’t get us.

Sabathia was in trouble. Four straight balls to Jimmy Rollins, and the fans could suddenly smell blood. And then, Mr. Victorino blew the whole thing wide open. The moment was so surreal, and yet, as I watched it happen, I wasn’t even surprised, at least not as much as I would have expected to be. I don’t know what it was, but I’m fairly sure I stood as he made contact and only was able to say “Oh man, he just did it.” There was just something in the air.

Next angle – Charlie Manuel, the visionary. Manuel decided to flip Victorino and Werth in the order, putting Sugar Shane second and Werth sixth. The result – Victorino finished the game 3-4 with arguably the biggest hit of his career, and Werth went 2-4 with two doubles. Was this another one of Charlie’s famous baseball hunches? I mean, honestly, what are the odds that this moment happens? It’s just unreal.

Another angle, and one covered by Jayson Stark here – baseball is a funny sport. Sometimes, the baseball universe turns everything on its head without feeling the need to let its inhabitants know it just changed the rules. It’s like the old philosophical mind twist about God – if God had created all of the rules and principles that ran the universe, what was stopping Him or Her from suddenly reversing them? Would we even know what had happened? Well, it seems as though the baseball universe did just that tonight. C.C. Sabathia was the savior of the Brewers; surely, he would turn water into Miller Lite one more time and even the series. Surely, he wouldn’t lose his composure against the opposing team’s pitcher, the pitcher who was infamous for his own meltdowns, and fall victim to such painful irony. And yet, there was Sabathia, shaking his head in disgust from the dugout after four paltry and ineffective innings. Baseball is cruel and it is giving, and what makes it such a fantastic sport is how unpredictably and delicately that balance tips from night to night.

Final angle – There is something in the air (Editor’s note: The Pundit has made that abundantly clear, no?) It’s more than the Victorino grand slam, or the Brett Myer’s at-bat. It was in the air the final weekend against the Nationals, and it was in the air during the rather subdued celebration after the NL East had been clinched. This team is focused and confident, and the fans have sensed it. The ballpark is electric, and the players are absorbing the energy. Last year, we were all so damn happy to be in this position; this year, we aren’t satisfied. And I don’t think we will be now unless this team makes it to the World Series. The experience of last year has been priceless for this team. I don’t mean to get ahead of myself; after all, this series isn’t over yet. But unless something drastic happens, the Phillies are going to beat the Brewers. I’ll take my chances against the Cubs or the suddenly torrid Dodgers, especially if we can get the kind of gems we’ve gotten from Cole Hamels and Myers, and if Jamie Moyer continues to sip from the fountain of youth, and if Brad Lidge keeps on being so damn perfect, and if unlikely heroes keep getting timely hits, and if we continue to play solid in the field, and if the fans keep knowing exactly when to cheer, and keep cheering with such unbelievable energy, and if Charlie Manuel keeps playing the part of visionary. I believe. I’m not just saying that in spirit of fake optimism that so many fans employ despite the fact that they actually doubt that their team can win – this team has the look. We’ll wait to fry up the chicken until the eggs have hatched, but I’m feeling good, and the Phils seem to be as well.

Maybe this time, when the baseball universe turns everything upside down, it won’t crush our city in the process. Maybe this time, the baseball universe will throw us a big ol’ hanging slider.

And maybe, just maybe, our Phils will hit that sucker so hard it won’t land until it falls into a throng of people dancing and singing on Broad Street.

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Monday Night Football Liveblogging

8:32 PM – First edition of the Monday Night Football liveblogging. This game is intriguing for three reasons: I didn’t expect the Chargers to start 0-2, Brett Favre is playing, and the game has huge fantasy implications for me. I have a 25 point lead, and LT is on my team. My opponent has Favre, Thomas Jones and the San Diego defense. I’m figuring he’s going to cancel some points out. Hopefully, Favre will throw 3 interceptions but no touchdowns, Jones will have a few fumbles and barely any yards, but a bunch of other Jets will step up and they’ll put 30 up on the Chargers D. Meanwhile, LT will rush for over 100 yards and two TD’s, and I’ll go 2-1 on the season.

8:36 PM – Oh god, I think Kornheiser is attempting to do Howard Cosell while performing a montage of Brett Favre MNF football moments. Uggggghhhhhh.

8:38 PM – I’ll be throwing some Phils coverage into the mix, as well. 2-2 in the 7th. Let’s go, boys.

8:42 PM – A nice screen pass to Thomas Jones. That hurts me twice in fantasy. According to Jaws, tonight is going to be Brett Favre’s “coming out party” with the Jets. I wonder when Kornheiser will have his coming out party. (Editor’s note: That’s not right).

8:46 PM – Rudy Seanez coming into the game for J.A. Happ. Wrap it up, Rudy.

8:47 PM – I am praying that LT’s toe feels nice tonight. Inject that bad boy with Lidocaine or whatever the hell they use.

8:54 PM – Rivers is looking a bit shaky right now. Almost threw another pick. Hey, Rivers – knock it off. I need LT with the ball in his hands, not the friggin’ Jets.

8:56 PM – Oh no. LT’s wife had a bad feeling about this game for the Chargers. Guess this one is a foregone conclusion.

9:04 PM – Braves had a man on third, Jeff Francoeur hit a chopper to third, J-Roll made a great play, jumping for the ball and making a perfect throw to home, getting the runner easily. Game stays tied 2-2.

9:09 PM – Fumble by Thomas Jones! And the Chargers D doesn’t return it for a touchdown! I’m a huge fantasy geek!

9:13 PM – Chargers score, but it isn’t LT, so I’m pissed. Then, with Greg Golson pinch-running for Greg Dobbs, a pick-off attempt went past the first basemen and Golson ends up on third. No outs, Phillies need to capitalize here.

9:18 PM – Golson scores on a ground ball to third, speeding down the line and getting underneath the tag. Phillies take the lead, 3-2. God, I love this team.

9:20 PM – Antonio Cromartie returns an interception for a touchdown. Hurts Favre, but helps the Chargers defense. This has to be unbelievably frustrating for the guy I’m playing against.

9:24 PM – Worst possible scenario for me. I thought Leon Washington was going to return the kick for a touchdown, thereby hurting the Chargers D in points and preventing Favre or Jones from getting a touchdown. Instead, he gets tackled at the five, and Favre gets the touchdown pass. Still hurts the Chargers D, but Favre gets them back. My 25 point lead has been shaved to 8.

9:28 PM – Suddenly, the Phillies are up 6-2. Pat Burrell with a 3-run homer. Booyah!

9:33 PM – Chris Chambers with a long TD reception. Stop stealing TD’s from LT, Chargers!

9:42 PM – Phillies win. Magic number for a playoff spot now down to two. And another interception by the Chargers D, though it really didn’t hurt me, as I’m still leading by 8.

9:51 PM – Touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. If you would have told me that the Chargers would score 31 points in the first half, and that LT wouldn’t have any of those touchdowns, I would have laughed in your face. Guess the joke is on me, huh?

10:03 PM – At the half, Chargers up 31-14. In fantasy, I lead 106.1 – 98.9. Oh man, gonna be a wild finish, at least in my fantasy match-up. I need LT to start grinding out some yards to keep the clock moving, maybe get a TD in here somewhere.

10:24 PM – So, LT scores a touchdown and I miss it taking a break on my roof. That’s fitting, isn’t it? You know what – I’m out. Back to the roof. I’ll leave you with one final thought: fantasy football is both a great thing, and a distracting thing. Truthfully, watching this game, I could have given two shits who actually won this game. I was paying attention to fantasy points, and fantasy points alone. Granted, it gets countless fans into football, and I pay much more attention to the rest of the league because of my fantasy guys. But football purists surely must complain that it negatively affects the way people analyze and value football. Whatever. I consider myself a football purist, and I love fantasy football. Now, enough of my soapbox, its back to the roof. Let’s go LT!

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The Pundit List presents: Essential Picnic Games

So, after a lengthy argument with my secretary Lucy about the most engaging number of candidates for a list (she argued five, while your Pundit valiantly made the case for ten), I have decided that every week, the list will be as short or as long as I damn please. If I come up with a list that has multiple worthy candidates, the list will be long. If, however, the list has a few candidates that stand above and beyond the rest, the list will be more concise. No longer will I be constrained by society’s need for a fixed list limit; I refuse to live by the whims of dominant culture. I have made my stand, and I shall not waver (Editor’s note: For Chrissakes, just shut the hell up already and get to the list).

Honorable Mention:

Frisbee – The difficulty with frisbee is that, while it is an essential item to any picnic, it is normally not an essential picnic game. You’re more likely to see a couple of people lazily flicking the frisbee back and forth to one another. But you’re less likely to see Uncle Frank, who hasn’t run since Vietnam and seems to be hiding a small child in his stomach, out in the field playing Ultimate Frisbee. See trampoline and slip-and-slide.

Number 7

Sack-0 – Aka bean bag toss, tailgate toss, baggo, sacks and holes (Editor’s note: heh), cornhole (Editor’s note: heh heh), and tea bagging (Editor’s note: Ahahahahahahahaha). Seriously, these are all of the different names Wikipedia has for what I know to be Sack-O. This game is essential for several reasons: anybody can play, it is cheap and easy, and it involves minimal effort. Some may be more likely to include this as a tailgating game, but I think it definitely falls under picnic game status as well.

Number 6

Wiffle Ball – Everyone has played themselves a little wiffle ball. It is a frustrating game, as that darn ball can fly all over the place, but wiffle ball is the closest, and safest (Editor’s note: At least for Mom’s windows) alternative to baseball. The great part about picnic wiffle ball is that, while the men will bring their beers and act casually in the beginning of the game to allow the younger kids to shine, by the end of the game, they’re swinging hard and wipping the wiffle ball all over the place. Cheap, and you can play as long as you have a couple of people.

Number 5

Bocce Ball – This Italian game has seemed to increase in popularity in the past few years. Bocce ball is great, because you only need some balls, an open field, and a few people (Editor’s note: Um, maybe he could have worded that differently). I have to be honest here – I’ve never played. It looks fun, but it was never really played in my family, so I’m not sure if this ranking would be higher were I more experienced in the game. That being said, Bocce Ball is certainly a riser in the picnic world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it crack the top three in the next couple of years (Editor’s note: Oh brother).

Number 4

Quoits – Prounounced quates, quoits is a classic game that apparently has its roots in ancient Greece. I got that from Wikipedia, so you know its written in stone (Editor’s note: I understand that this phrase probably dates back to Moses and The Ten Commandments being etched in stone, I get that. But, if we were to update the implication of this saying, the only time we now write in stone is for gravestones. So, essentially, the modern translation of this phrase means not that something is sacred and irrefutable, but rather that it is dead. Who wants to ride in my new soapbox?). Check out the bottom of the article on quoits, it says that nowadays, it is most widely played in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Booyah! Quoits is simple, relaxing, anybody can play, and its often hours of fun. It drops to four because its cousin, horseshoes, is just a bit more popular.

Number 3

Kickball – Is there a game on this list more fun than kickball? Obviously up for debate, but I love kickball. You can play with a large group of people, or with a few scattered all over the field. It can be played casually, or can become a serious battle. It’s fun seeing the older folks get out there, especially when they realize that every kick could be their last. Simple enough for supplies, and nature will often supply the bases, though for kickball aficionados, the ball itself must be just right (Editor’s note: By the way, if you are a kickball aficionado, it may be time to do a bit of soul-searching). Every child, at some point or another, has played kickball. From recess and right on to this list on essential picnic games, kickball is as American as baseball, apple pie and the addictive reliance on oil.

Number 2

Horseshoes – You can always tell the difference between someone who is a regular picnic host, and someone who just throw one now and again. Check out the size of the grill – that’s always a hint (Editor’s note: It’s not the size of the grill that matters…its the BBQ sauce you use). Do they have a pool? How about tiki torches? And do they have a horseshoe pit? Without a doubt, horseshoes is an essential picnic game. Though many will argue that quoits, or even Sack-O, are acceptable replacements for Horseshoes, I firmly believe that most will first think horseshoes if you ask them to think of a picnic game that involves object-throwing. That, and like quoits, it goes back to ancient Greece, though it is less likely they played it at picnics, and more likely that they played it during grown men/young boy mixers. (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just messed up). Who doesn’t have fond memories of uncles and grandpa’s and fathers out throwing horseshoes, drinking beer and smoking cigars and making jokes the women and children weren’t supposed to hear, all while somehow making sure lil’ Tommy didn’t run into the middle of the game and take a horseshoe to the eye? Two stakes, some sand, a couple of horseshoes, a few beers and a hot afternoon – does life get better?

Drum roll please. Without further ado, here’s……….

Number 1

Volleyball – I knew that horseshoes and volleyball were going to wage war for the top spot, and it was an extremely difficult decision. While horseshoes have a more distinct picnic game feel to them, volleyball involves more people and is just a bit more fun. What makes picnic volleyball great is the dynamic between the people who enjoy playing seriously and the people who either aren’t very good or who are lazy and/or old. In my family, games end up becoming mildly competitive affairs where anybody making a mistake will quickly fall prey to an entire picnic of hecklers. Seriously, at our last family picnic, everybody not playing pulled up their chairs and made fun of everyone after they made a mistake. I felt like I was at a friggin’ Eagles game. The games always end up being a mix of younger kids and older folks, with breaks for beer replenishment and the occasional run to the slip-and-slide. In my opinion, more than any other game on this list, volleyball is a must for any gathering that dares to call itself a picnic.

Obviously, the list is up for debate. Feel free to send your thoughts, everybody picnics a bit differently, I’m interested to hear how you roll.

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NFL Preview Part One: The AFC West

For the next 8 days, I’ll be doing an overview of each team, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, question marks and their fantasy outlook. On day 9, I’ll offer a full prediction for the upcoming season, including each team’s record, playoff predictions and the Superbowl champ.

Denver Broncos

Strengths: Their offense should produce, though not having Brandon Marshall early (suspended for at least 2 games Actual Editor’s note: only suspended for one, first game back will be without pay) will hurt. All indications are that Jay Cutler is primed for a big year. They’ll run the ball well, even if Andre Hall somehow ends up as their starter by year’s end. The secondary is solid, and Champ Bailey is arguably the best corner in football. D.J. Williams is a stud at LB.

Weaknesses: Basically, the defensive line. They gave up 142.6 rushing yards per game last year, 3rd worst in the league. The only real bright spot was Elvis Dumervil, who posted 12.5 sacks. Can recently added DT Dewayne Robertson (Jets) shore up the middle? Will anybody on this unit step up? If the defense can’t get stops and get off the field, the offense, which is expected to be solid, will suffer.

The question marks: The offensive and defensive lines. Can the O-line protect Cutler? Can the D-line stop anybody’s running attack and generate a pass rush?

Fantasy Forecast: He may be out for two one week, but Brandon Marshall is worth keeping in your back pocket. Keep your eye on the R situation, and work the waiver wire. My money says Selvin Young won’t be the only guy getting significant carries this season. Tony Scheffler may surprise you. As for Mr. Cutler – take him as your second QB, and see what he does. Don’t bother with their defense.

Overview: The Broncos are a tough call. They’ve got solid players at key positions: Champ Baily and Dre’ Bly at corner, D.J. Williams at LB, Brandon Marshall when he returns at WR, Jay Cutler (if he’s ready to explode as being predicted) at QB. They always run the ball well, and expect Cutler to spread the ball around a bit better than last year (Marshall led the team with 102 catches, and Scheffler was next with 49). But can the defense, and specifically, the D-line, step up? I don’t think so, and it will be their Achilles heel all season long. Their schedule before their bye in week 8 is absolutely brutal, with games against San Diego (week 2), New Orleans (week 3), Tampa Bay (week 5), Jacksonville (week 6) and New England (week 7). If they can start the season at 4-3 or better, they may have a shot for one of the wildcards.

Kansas City Chiefs

Strengths: Um, I’ll list them individually. Larry Johnson (if he can get any sort of blocking), Tony Gonzalez (if Brodie Croyle can get the ball to him), Dwayne Bowe has a lot of potential, Glenn Dorsey is going to be a beast, and all indications are that Derrick Johnson is primed for a break-out year. Their overall linebacking corps (Johnson, Donnie Edwards, Demorrio Williams, Napolean Harris, Pat Thomas) is solid.

Weaknesses: (Editor’s note: The Pundit just took a deep breath, as though this may take a while). Is Brodie Croyle really the long-term solution for this team at QB? Because it’s doubtful he’s a short term fix. After Gonzalez and Bowe, I’m not sure who he’ll throw to. The offensive line will likely struggle to get a push in the running game, even with the addition of rookie Branden Albert. Doesn’t help that LJ has probably lost a step anyway. Losing Jared Allen (Vikings) will significantly hurt their pass rush, unless Tamba Hali can have a career year. Their secondary is suspect. They should be stout against the run, unless Glenn Dorsey is a bust (Editor’s note: Highly doubtful). They are very young, and as excited as Herm Edwards is pretending to be about that, they will lose games due to mental mistakes. They are still forming their identity – not a formula for success.

The question marks: Brodie Croyle and the pass rush. Croyle is a gigantic, enormous, monumental, colassal, gargantuan (Editor’s note: He’ll keep going unless I stop him) question mark. If he comes out and manages the game well, occasionally connecting with Bowe for big plays, he may be able to keep the defense off-balance. Doubtful, though. If the D can’t generate a pass rush, it doesn’t matter how they defend the run: their secondary simply isn’t good enough to cover for extended periods of time. No pass rush = a long season for Chiefs fans.

Fantasy forecast: Obviously, Larry Johnson will be a guy taken in the top two rounds. Which I think may be a bit high, but he’ll get his touches. Tony Gonzalez will be a top five TE. Dwayne Bowe has Greg Jennings break-out potential, if Croyle cooperates, of course.

Overview: This team will struggle. When the question marks on your offense are the quarterback and the offensive line, you won’t strike fear in the hearts of many defenses. Their own defense will probably appear to overachieve, given the mediocrity of their offense, but will most likely get picked apart by solid passing attacks. Their youth and inexperience will plague them in close games. They will very likely have another top ten pick in next year’s draft, if not top five.

Oakland Raiders

Strengths: Solid defensively, with an excellent secondary bolstered by the offseason additions of DeAngelo Hall (Falcons) and Gibril Wilson (Giants). Very good core of running backs, with Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. TE Zach Miller showing promise, quickly becoming a favorite target of JaMarcus Russell.

Weaknesses: Pretty much their entire passing attack. The offensive line is better at blocking for the run, and has a few serious question marks of its own. The receiving group is thin after a season ending injury to Drew Carter. Russell is still developing at the QB position.

The question marks: JaMarcus Russell and Tommy Kelly. If Russell can competently manage the offense, and minimalize his mistakes, the Raiders may be able to replicate the Vikings offense of last year and beat teams on the ground. Can Tommy Kelly improve his play and improve a defense that allowed 145.9 rushing yards per game, second worst in the NFL? If he does (and early indications are that he is), along with the rest of the front seven, this will be a defense to be reckoned with.

Fantasy forecast: McFadden and Fargas are both worth owning. I don’t trust Javon Walker, but Ronald Curry could be a sleeper. Avoid Russell. Keep an eye on Zach Miller and their defense – each could become viable options down the line.

Overview: They have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Darren McFadden could be a star, and Justin Fargas is darn good insurance if he isn’t. If the Raiders can improve their run defense, create turnovers, control the clock and wear down defenses with their run game, they will surprise people (Editor’s note: Oh, is that all?). I believe the key for their season is the development of JaMarcus Russell – if he can make just enough throws to keep the defense off-balance, their running attack (6th in the NFL last year) will do the rest. But if he’s throwing picks, and keeping the D out on the field, they don’t stand a chance. They don’t have a terribly difficult schedule – I project them as a middle of the road team that could hover around the .500 mark.

San Diego Chargers

Strengths: Their entire defense, basically. They led the NFL in turnovers last year with 48, and they shouldn’t regress much from that. Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie make up one of the best cornerback pairs in football. Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo are excellent run-stuffers. Their linebackers get constant pressure on the quarterback, led by a guy you may have heard of named Shawne Merriman. Right, their defense is good. Oh, they also have this pretty good running back named LaDainian Tomlinson, i.e. the best running back in the NFL. The offensive line is steady. Antonio Gates, when healthy, is an impossible mismatch for defenses. The Chargers, on paper, are very, very good.

Weaknesses: Shawne Merriman’s knee ligaments. The potential that Antonio Gates is not 100 percent healthy. The wide receivers, though really I’m nitpicking, because Chris Chambers has now had a full training camp to get acclimated with Philip Rivers, and Vincent Jackson showed marked improvement in the second half of the season last year. Oh, wait, I’ve got one – Norv Turner. Yeah, Norv Turner. And the nice weather, because maybe instead of practicing, they’d rather be enjoying the weather. Or something like that.

The question marks: Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman. Their offense will always be most effective when LT has the ball, but an efficient passing attack could make them almost indefensible. A big year for Rivers and this team is Superbowl bound; a mediocre one, and a brief playoff visit is likely. Then, there’s Mr. Merriman and his knee. Merriman at 75 percent is still a better option than a lot of OLB’s out there, and that’s assuming that he won’t play at a higher level than that. He may, but I don’t know if he lasts the season. If he doesn’t, the defense will not only lose effectiveness, but swagger as well. They are talented enough across the board to survive without him, but he makes them special.

Fantasy forecast: If you had the first overall pick, and you didn’t select LaDainian Tomlinson, you’re an idiot. (Editor’s note: Easy there, Pun). Antonio Gates is in the top tier of tight ends along with Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Tony Gonzalez. The defense should be one of the first ones of the board, if not the first. Their receivers could be late round steals.

Overview: They should be very, very good. But, I predicted them to win the Superbowl last year, and though they didn’t accomplish that, they at least made the AFC Championship game. Expect them to better last season ‘s dismal 1-3 start, and remain steady throughout the year. In my mind, they are one of four legitimate Superbowl contenders in the AFC.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for the AFC South.

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Olympic Liveblogging part deux

So, my initial goal for the Olympics was to do at least 8 liveblogs, setting the word record for each. Sadly, I fear I will be falling painfully short of my goal (Editor’s note: Surely the masses will mourn). Anyway, enough of my Preramble (Editor’s note: Oh, he’s so punny) and on to the liveblogging.

8:13 PM: So we’re starting out the evening with hurdles, which are kind of like car racing: you’re into the race, but secretly you’re hoping for an epic crash. (Editor’s note: My last epic crash involved Atlantic City, approxiametly 7 Red Bull and vodka’s, and a nightcap with a woman named Trixie).

8:19 PM: Early candidate for name of the night: Lolo “Rolo” Jones, US Women’s 110M hurdler. Okay, so I gave her the nickname, but she’s smooth and milk chocolatey, so I think it fits. (Editor’s note: Whiteboy’s got jokes).

8:21 PM: “Rolo” Jones kicks butt in the first semifinal heat. She just made a new fan.

8:25 PM: A crash on the first hurdle in the second semifinal for Susanna Kallur of Sweden. Luckily, she seems alright. So, the hurdles were excellent: one great name, all three Americans moved to the finals, and one crash (albeit not epic, but also without serious injury). What else could you ask for from hurdles?

8:31 PM: The “experts” are weighing in on Mr. Bolt’s celebration at the end his 100M victory. You know, when he hit his chest once and put out his arms. Was it unsportsmanlike? Was he mocking his opponents? Or did he have some mucous in his lungs he was trying to loosen? Who gives a crap?

8:33 PM: My God, Bolt is fast. He looked like he could have won his 200M semifinal by a few seconds had he kept his throttle up. Dude can jet. Oh, and Usain Bolt is definitely in the running for name of the night. (Editor’s note: A sprinter with the last name of Bolt – he automatically gets the award).

8:38 PM: The announcer just said, “Dix has got something inside of him.” Heh heh. (Editor’s note: Sad. And it doesn’t even really make sense if you think about it).

8:39 PM: Dix qualified for the final. I guess you could say he rose for the occasion. (Editor’s note: Oh, I bet he totally just came up with that).

8:43 PM: Good grief, an Irish dude just won a 200M semifinal. And in other news, a basketball player from Great Britain is favored in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest.

8:49 PM: Pole vaulting is so cool. Sure, they look a bit silly while running with the pole, but you would look ridiculous hoisting around a huge pole too (Editor’s note: Speak for yourself, buddy).

9:00 PM: It’s beach volleyball! With Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh! I’m excited! Don’t you want to murder the person who invented exclamation points?!

9:04 PM: Kerri Walsh doesn’t have her kinesiology tape on. I can’t believe the broadcasters haven’t educated us with an elaborate conversation as to why she’s gone away from the tape. Is her shoulder better? Did she think it became uncool after all of the other players started posing off of her style? (Editor’s note: We need answers, people!).

9:09 PM: LeBron and Kobe are taking in the action. What’s with the two of them showing up everywhere together? They were watching Phelps together. They interviewed together. Now, it’s beach volleyball together. I mean, I understand team cohesion and all, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them taking in a steeplechase race, holding hands and smiling at each other’s corny jokes. (Editor’s note: Alright, let’s not get carried away).

9:16 PM: May/Walsh are up 18-7. In an Olympic semifinal against a highly touted Brazilian team. They’re ridiculous.

9:20 PM: May/Walsh win their first set 21-12. A bit disappointing has been the lack of terrible nicknames involved in the match, such as “thin beast.” That’s right, Dalhausser, I didn’t forget about your maniacal moniker (Editor’s note: I would have gone with “asinine alias”).

9:24 PM: A kinesiology tape reference! I knew the coverage couldn’t last without mentioning it at least once.

9:30 PM: I don’t understand why anyone would try to spike on Walsh. She blocks just about every spike attempt, but seems susceptible to finesse shots lifted above her or to her side. (Editor’s note: This scouting report brought to you by The Pattison Pundit, pretending to be an expert in beach volleyball since 10 minutes ago).

9:41 PM: May and Walsh win again. Same old, same old.

9:46 PM: Okay, so apparentely there is a Woman’s Trampoline final (Editor’s note: Does anyone know what time the slip-and-slide race is being broadcast?).

9:47: Right, so this whole trampoline thing is actually pretty sick. The woman who just went, Karen Cockburn (Editor’s note: it’s prounounced Coh-burn, assholes) had a ridiculous routine. Much cooler than I anticipated.

9:58 PM: He Wenna takes home the Gold for China with a nasty display of flippant bravado (Editor’s note: Groan). China brought their game face to these games, at least in the acrobatic events.

10:10 PM: We’ve moved on to Men’s Rings. I think I see Vince Vaughn lighting a cigarette during his warm-up. He’s got to be the favorite here (Editor’s note: This super funny movie reference brought to you by The Pattison Pundit, an expert in making entertaining movie quips since never).

10:24 PM: Not too much to report on Men’s Rings. These guys are ridiculously jacked, I feel excessively lazy watching them perform their feats of strength, and the moves don’t have funny names. Except for the Victorian, an unbelievably difficult and rarely seen move in which the gymnast positions his body parallel to the ground with his chest up, as opposed to the more traditional back up parallel hold (Editor’s note: I know there’s a Victorian joke in there I’m missing).

10:37 PM: On to the semifinals of the Woman’s 400M Hurdles. Queen Harrison is my girl; she doesn’t take anyone’s flak, you can see it on her face. Represent, girl.

10:40 PM: Oh crap. Queen Harrison didn’t qualify for the final. I jinxed her. Queen – I’m sorry (Editor’s note: What a jerk).

10:44 PM: It’s a vault-off! It’s our own Jenn Stuczynski vs. Russian World Record holder Yelena Isinbayeva in the Women’s Pole Vault Final.

10:47 PM: So, after hyping the pole vaulting showdown, NBC goes to commercial break and returns with…the Men’s 400M Hurdles final. Um, okay.

10:50 PM: US sweeps the Hurdles! Booyah. Angleo Taylor wins Gold, Kerron Clement takes Silver, and Bershawn Jackson, nicknamed Batman (Editor’s note: The Dark Flight?), takes Bronze. Good work, fellas.

10:55 PM: And now to the Women’s Uneven Bars Final, where Nastia Liukin looks to continue her already stellar games with Gold.

10:59 PM: He Kexin of China, age 7 (Editor’s note: I mean, she’s listed at 16, but let’s be serious…) is first to go. Or at least be broadcast. Of course I already accidentally stumbled upon the results on the Internet this morning, which really pissed me off, but its still absurd watching these girls flip and fly all over the place.

11:07 PM: Kexin’s routine was absurd. Liukin’s routine was absurd. Why, I don’t even know how you could differentiate between the two of them…

11:09 PM: Wait a second – they’re tied at 16.725. How can this be? And how did Liukin end up in second? Well, I’m sure NBC and their crack staff of commentators will eventually explain how this could happen, other then the obvious “home-mat advantage.”

11:13 PM: So far, the only explanation has been that the IOC has a computer program that, in the event of a tie, automatically identifies the criteria to be used as the tiebreaker. Thankfully, that extremely vague explanation does absolutely nothing for anyone.

11:17 PM: China’s Yang Yilin, age 8 1/2, up next on the bars.

11:19 PM: She only gets a 16.65, and we’re still “tied” for Gold. Still no idea what the specific criteria for the tiebreaker is.

11:24 PM: Apparentely, Australia’s judge docked Liukin more points than she docked Kexin, which cost her the Gold. So, I guess a gymnast’s highest and lowest score is taken away. If it is still tied after that, they take away the next lowest. After that, Kexin had two 9.1’s and a 9.0, while Liukin had two 9.0’s and a 9.1. It’s something like that. Yeah, not a big fan of both the Olympic Gymnastics’ tiebreaking procedure and the Australian judge. (Editor’s note: Kexin and Liukin each earned a Gold, so do what’s right, and give them each what they deserve).

11:42: Ahhhhh, finally back to the Women’s Pole Vault Final, where Stuczynski can’t hold off Isinbayeva, who sets another world record. We get to see all of three vaults. Pretty anticlimactic coverage. And on another anticlimactic note, I think I’m just about liveblogged out. It’s been fun.

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Considering the Eagles’ Offensive Efficiency

(Editor’s note: Nerdy football article to follow).

Football is a tricky game to analyze. Unlike baseball, which can be acutely analyzed using statistics, football tends to be a bit tougher to pin down statistically, especially for certain positions (Editor’s note: Percent of missionary per attempt?). How does one accurately judge a safety, or a defensive tackle, statistically speaking? Can you fairly evaluate a wide receiver on a team with a running philosophy based purely on statistics? I don’t think so.

With that being said, I think that, when examining specific aspects of the game, certain statistics can provide valuable insight. One of these areas is Offensive Efficiency, both in the passing and running games. Since one of the gripes of many Eagles fans is that the running game is too infrequently used, I wanted to examine whether or not it would benefit the Eagles to run more. Using last season’s statistics, and taking into consideration that the offensive personnel has changed little, I think I can accurately say the Eagles should dedicate more plays to the run. Here’s why:

The Eagles threw the ball 577 times last year (7th most in NFL). Though their total yardage was good (3755 yards, 10th in NFL), the consistency with which they completed passes was just below average (60.7 %, 17th). They were slightly above average in touchdowns (24, tied 13th) and interceptions (15, tied for 11th), but allowed 49 sacks, the 5th most in the league. They averaged 6 yards per pass attempt (18th in NFL). Combining their yards per attempt with the fact that they threw the ball 577 times, and considering the fact that only 29.7% of their passes resulted in first downs (22nd in NFL), their passing offense certainly appears inefficient.

The problem with judging them on these stats alone is the style of offense they play. Andy Reid’s West Coast scheme is based on short timing routes mixed with deep strikes down the field. Thus, a high quantity of short passes indicates that the Eagles will be more likely to have a low percentage of passes resulting in first downs. However, it does not indicate that their completion percentage or sack totals should be below average. If anything, especially in the case of the sacks, the opposite should be true (Editor’s note: I’d wager Mr. McNabb would agree). Thus, the question is whether or not the right personnel to execute the offense are in place. I am a firm believer that the scheme should always facilitate the players on hand (and the personnel department should always carefully consider the scheme).

Meanwhile, the Birds only ran the ball 40.2% of the time. What a shame: their 421 attempts (20th in NFL) went for 1974 yards (8th in NFL). Their yards per carry average was 4.7, the second best average in the NFL last year! They ran the ball, when given the opportunity to do so, at an extremely efficient clip. As was the case with their passing offense, their touchdowns (12, tied 16th) and turnovers (12 fumbles lost, tied 15th) fell around the league average.

Two small points, then I will cease this lengthy and dry article (Editor’s note: Wrap it up, B!). The claim could be made that the running game has been efficient because it is used as a counterpoint to the passing game, and thus takes defenses off balance. However, the Eagles rushed for 991 yards on first and ten (8th in NFL), a traditional running down. Plus, the Eagles do incorporate a lot of screen passes and low-risk passes to Brian Westbrook, who is clearly their best player and most dangerous weapon. So I don’t think Andy Reid should dramatically alter his offense: I simply think utilizing a bit more balance between the run and the pass would make the Eagles much more efficient.

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Liveblogging (P-R-E-S-E-A-S-O-N Preseason!)

8:02 PM: Just turned on the TV, only to go immediately to commercial break. Luckily, I’m not missing the sideline reports. They should be asinine, at best.

8:05 PM: Eagles kicking off, and I’m pumped. I missed the Steelers contest, so this is my first taste of the year (Editor’s note: He hasn’t had a taste in 7 months. We’re all so proud).

8:07 PM: Asante Samuel breaks up a pass. Good to have you, man.

8:08 PM: Pretty excited to see DeSean Jackson return a punt…

8:09 PM: …and Jackson gets crushed after 5 yards.

8:11 PM: Eagles burn an early timeout. These are the kinks you always hope will be ironed out in the regular season but always seem to linger.

8:13 PM: What is wrong with Reggie Brown? Hopefully, just a slight hamstring tweak.

8:15 PM: It’s his hamstring, and Reggie’s done for the night. Not a good development early on, especially for a player who has a lot to prove this year. Hamstrings are ornery and tend to stick around (Editor’s note: Insert cheesy in-laws joke here).

8:20 PM: McNabb gets happy feet with plenty of time to throw in the pocket and overthrows Kevin Curtis badly, who didn’t have anybody within 10 yards of him. I’m not trying to get down on McNabb, because I’m a supporter, but he makes some hideous throws from time to time. I’m just going to refer to them as McDucks from now on (Editor’s Note: I just had one of those at McDonalds. Deeee-licious).

8:25 PM: The Eagles defense is looking stout right now. Two series, 6 plays, about 15 yards gained for the Panthers.

8:26 PM: Jackson on another punt. He makes one guy look silly, then gets hit pretty hard again. Seems to me like he’s a little tentative when he senses contact, which is something he’ll need to get over very quickly if he’s going to be effective.

8:30 PM: I was just about to comment that the Eagles offense was driving in a very methodical fashion this evening, and then they attempt a stop-and-go to DeSean Jackson. He had a step and was overthrown by McNabb. QUACK!

8:32 PM: Sonuvabitch. Weather delay due to lightning. Weeeeeeaaaaaaaaak.

8:33 PM: Over to the Olympics, where we have USA vs. Bulgaria in Men’s Volleyball.

8:43 PM: Hooray, USA wins! Ah, who am I kidding? I’m not pumped up at all. Real Volleyball is not that exciting. I need sand, bathing suits and outdated alternative songs during every break in the action. (Editor’s note: “Sixteen candles down the drain / WhoaOhhhhhh”)

8:47 PM: Bob Costas is using a gigantic microphone. It’s huge. Reminds me of the cell phones from Saved by the Bell. (Editor’s note: Insert “Do-you-think-he’s-compensating-for-something?” joke here).

8:54 PM: Good grief, Michael Phelps is getting water in his goggles! OHMIGOD! I don’t know how he’ll handle it! Wait, wait, hold on, I’m getting something here, what’s that, what’s that you’re saying, you say he’s won Gold in every race he’s been in so far? Oh, yeah, that’s true, isn’t it? Huh. Okay, I feel better now.

9:01 PM: Sweet, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Against Belgium, not be the first country that would come to mind when thinking about Beach Volleyball (Editor’s note: I’m still waiting for Greenland to show up).

9:03 PM: And, we’re talking about kinesiology tape, mostly because Walsh has it wrapped around her left shoulder, and apparently the other players are using it now. Interesting stuff, I know. Anytime tape comes up in a conversation, I go cross-eyed. Instantly.

9:23 PM: May and Walsh just completed a remarkable first set salvage by surviving a 20-17 deficit and multiple set points. They are out of this world.

9:29 PM: After a lengthy delay and several conversations about how Chris Myers (clear trash bag poncho) and Pam Oliver (hiding under tarp / using umbrella) are staying dry, we’re back to the football game. 3rd and 8 for the Eagles. And…a first down strike from McNabb to Curtis.

9:31 PM: Okay, we’ve got a wet cheerleader shot. This is an excellent development. (Editor’s Note: Hell, it’s just a preseason game – give the ladies some camera time, Fox).

9:36 PM: So, I just witnessed one of the stranger plays I’ve seen in awhile. The Eagles, in a preseason game, attempted a fake field goal. Akers ran off to his left to simulate receiving a pitch, and Rocca attempted a shovel pass, which was intercepted by Richard Marshall and returned for a touchdown. An odd set of circumstances for sure.

9:54 PM: The Panthers finally get a first down, right in the middle of the obligatory Lito Shepherd contract banter. Deangelo Williams rips off big run, the first big play for Carolina. The Panthers are driving, down to the 10.

9:58 PM: Touchdown, Panthers. Delhomme throws a pretty pass to Muhsin Muhammad who gets absolutely jacked by Brian Dawkins. Wait, wait, we have a challenge; looks like Dawkins knocked the ball out. I heart Brian Dawkins…there, I said it, and I meant it (Editor’s note: Yeah, I heart Dawkins too).

10:01 PM: No Touchdown. Brian Dawkins, you are the man! (Editor’s note: C’mon now, no Harry Kalas rip-offs during a football game). Field goal attempt successful by the Panthers, 10-0 for the bad guys.

10:05 PM: Has anybody seen L.J. Smith lately? Oh, he started? Hmmm. I’d like to see the Eagles try to get him involved on this drive – which has started with a facemask and an offsides penalty. Lock it up, Eagles (Editor’s note: You lock it up).

10:12 PM: The Eagles defense has really been swarming. They look athletic and hungry and have been tackling well. Granted, the Panthers aren’t to be confused with the Patriots, but the Eagles, with the exception of a few plays, have been dominant.

10:14 PM: Nice return by DeSean, who showed great speed around the corner and got some solid blocks. He did get blindsided by another jarring hit, however, and fumbled. Eagles recovered. I have a feeling DeSean is going to be exciting for both the right and wrong reasons on punt returns this year. You’ll be thinking, “Oh, he might take it to the house,” or “Oh no, is he going to get jacked up and fumble?”

10:18 PM: Akers misses a 45 yarder. A tough kick given the conditions, though a make there would have gone a long way to soothing the ever-increasing uneasiness I have when Akers is kicking. Can he return to form this year? A huge question for the Eagles.

10:22 PM: Lito gets a pick on an errant throw by Delhomme. Wait, I think that was some sort of creature with half of Lito’s body and half of Sheldon Brown’s. Hold on, are we checking on this? Can we get that? Oh, okay, nope, sorry, that was inaccurate information. Can we check on whether or not that will improve his YPA? (Editor’s note: Who is he talking to?)

10:28 PM: Halftime. First half grades:

Defense – A (a big play or two, but only allowed a field goal. Swarmed well, controlled the line of scrimmage with their front four and filling linebackers, were active and fired up. Yes, it was the Panthers, but I feel much more confident in this unit having watched them in action then I did before tonight)

Offense – C+ (looked methodical and precise early, moved ball well, McNabb did miss a few big play passes, rain seemed to really affect them, dropped 5 balls late, didn’t really establish the run, tough to read because obviously the play-calling is limited. They seem to have personnel that, if properly utilized, could form a solid offense. Receivers ran good routes, got open, too many drops)

Special Teams – C (not really angry at the strange fake field goal play, seemed odd to try it at the time, but I guess better now than in the regular season. DeSean Jackson showed promise though he was stuffed a few times and did fumble, Lorenzo Booker and the kick return team were anything but impressive, Akers missed the field goal, really tough conditions but would have gone a long way to easing concerns that he’s lost his mojo).

Alright, this ran a bit long, I’m going to call it quits on liveblogging. I’m always more interested in the starters during the preseason; besides, I’d like to flip to The Olympics and the Phillies game. Be sure to wake with The Pundit tomorrow morning.

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