Don’t Buy What Terrell Owens Is Selling

Tim Reilly - August 8, 2018

“My favorite quote’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Terrell Owens asserted during his Hall of Fame speech, which he delivered at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “It says, ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'”

It was an ironic choice from a wide receiver who, during his stellar career and even in retirement, has seemed most comfortable when he was courting controversy. Owens’ decision to exile himself from the ceremony at Canton in favor of a celebration on the campus of his alma mater was unprecedented. Then again, Owens is a man so accustomed to burning bridges that he probably doesn’t mind living on an island.

A cynic would label the entire spectacle a publicity stunt, one last dash by Owens to seize a rapidly dimming spotlight. But Owens didn’t see it that way. You see, T.O’s quest was righteous, a principled stand against a flawed process. Just ask T.O. –

“There has been a lot of speculation and false reports as to why I chose not to be there. I would like to set the record straight. It’s not because [of] how many times it took for me to be voted into the Hall,” Owens explained, before revealing that his delayed induction was precisely the reason why he skipped the event.

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What Can We Learn From The Ken Giles Trade?

Tim Reilly - July 19, 2018

Last week, as Vince Velasquez took the mound for the Phillies in their series finale against the Mets, Ken Giles was packing his bags for Fresno. Giles, the erstwhile Phillies closer who was shipped to Houston prior to the 2016 season for a package of pitchers that included Velasquez, had been demoted to the minor leagues by the Astros organization.

Astros brass had cited Giles’ lackluster performance as the reason for the roster move, but the fiery reliever’s temper may have been his most unforgivable sin. In his last outing before the demotion, Giles had entered a 4-0 game and promptly conceded three consecutive hits. With a run across and the lead evaporating, Houston manager A.J. Hinch walked to the mound to remove Giles. Giles was less than thrilled with his skipper’s decision:

While Giles was doing his best to burn his bridges in Houston, Velasquez was lighting up the Mets. The Phillies righthander returned from a short stint on the disabled list to toss six shutout innings of two-hit baseball. He left the game after throwing just 85 pitches.

From today’s vantage point, it certainly seems that the Phillies have emerged as the clear winner of the Ken Giles trade. Yet, I am reminded of something that I told the students in my history class back in my teaching days: hindsight is a powerful tool. The light it provides can blind just as easily as it can illuminate.

Besides, I am more interested in the lessons we can learn from the transaction while the Phillies approach the trade deadline as potential buyers for the first time in five seasons. Although Philadelphia lost the Manny Machado sweepstakes, Matt Klentak and company have signaled their willingness to pursue high-impact rental players for a potential postseason push.

The front office has the support of an aggressive owner looking to make a splash. Moreover, the organization can exploit the financial flexibility afforded to it courtesy of a lucrative television rights deal with Comcast. The Phillies have methodically rebuilt their once-barren farm system, which is now ranked the fifth best in the league. Most importantly, the team sits in first place in the National League East as the unofficial second half of the season is set to begin.

The Phillies have played solid baseball, but the roster has holes that, at this point in the season, only an astute general manager can fix. Thanks to an overachieving club and a deep prospect pool, Klentak has the motive and the means, but should he seize the opportunity? Although an analysis of one trade will not provide all the answers, it can produce some insights.

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Malcolm Jenkins Has Spoken. Will Anyone Listen?

Tim Reilly - June 7, 2018

“If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation,” Don Draper once quipped on Mad Men. On Wednesday, Malcolm Jenkins took the advice.

As the local press surrounded Jenkins’ locker, fishing for a quote to color their stories about the Eagles’ scuttled White House trip, the Eagles safety and social activist tried a different mode of communication.

“Are you surprised that you guys eventually decided not to go to the White House?” Derrick Gunn asked. In response, Jenkins held up a poster board that read, “You Aren’t Listening.”

“More than 60% of people in prison are people of color,” read the ensuing slide in the presentation.

6 ABC reporter Jeff Skversky was the next to try to cull a sound bite from Jenkins. “Are you surprised you guys are embroiled in this controversy with the White House?”

“Nearly 200,000 juveniles enter the adult criminal system each year, most for non-violent crime. #stopschoolpipelinetoprison” was the written reply.

“Are you not going to say anything, or are you just going to use these posters?” Skversky inquired. It was a fair question in light of the unconventional display taking place.

“You aren’t listening,” came the silent retort.

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It’s Time for Josh Harris and the 76ers Ownership Group to Get on with it

Tim Reilly - June 6, 2018

After the bizarre turn of events involving the Philadelphia Eagles and the White House-trip-that-wasn’t, it’s only fitting that the city turns its attention to the resolution of the Bryan Colangelo “Woodergate” scandal.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers’ owners convened in New York to discuss the fate of their president of basketball operations. According to Wojnarowksi, the decision to terminate or retain Colangelo could be announced today.

Thanks to the relentless sleuthing of various internet detectives, including Crossing Broad’s own Kyle Scott, it has become painfully clear that the man behind the curtain of the various Colangelo-linked Twitter burner accounts first investigated by The Ringer’s Ben Detrick is actually a woman: Barbara Bottini, the wife of the embattled Sixers executive.

Wojnarowski’s deeply-sourced reporting has corroborated the evidence gathered on social media; he asserted that the law firm that the 76ers hired to investigate the issue has interviewed Colangelo and Bottini during their own information-gathering process.

Given the deep embarrassment that this entire situation has caused the franchise, it appears imminent that Colangelo will be handed his walking papers.

There is simply too much at stake for the 76ers, who have only recently emerged from a painful rebuilding process that saw the team become something of a laughingstock. Armed with a talented, playoff-tested core, a lottery selection, and the cap space needed to reel in a prime free agent, now was not the time for the Sixers to once again become the butt of the joke. But the indiscretions of the Colangelo camp have eroded much of the hard-earned credibility the 76ers regained with their 52-win regular season campaign.

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Remembering Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game

Tim Reilly - May 29, 2018

Eight years ago today, there was no doubt in my mind the game I was watching would emerge as another chapter in Philadelphia sports history.

The contest in question was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers were in the midst of a miracle postseason run, which commenced when they punched their playoff ticket on the last day of the regular season with a shootout victory over the New York Rangers. After dispatching the New Jersey Devils in 5 games, the Orange and Black overcame a 3-0 series deficit to knock off the Boston Bruins in 7 games. Peter Laviolette’s squad skated past the upstart Montreal Canadiens in five games (never forget the shift), leaving the Blackhawks as the only team standing between the Flyers and the Cup.

It wasn’t meant to be on that night or in that series for the Flyers. But something special was brewing on a baseball diamond in Miami.

Roy Halladay, the Phillies’ prize acquisition of the offseason, was on the mound facing the Florida Marlins. The Marlins countered with Josh Johnson, a righthanded flamethrower whom the Phillies never seemed to hit. It was likely to be a low-scoring pitcher’s duel, but otherwise a nondescript baseball game in May. When the alternative is a Stanley Cup game featuring the hometown Flyers, there wasn’t much of a decision in terms of what to watch.

That calculus changed at some point during the first or second intermission, when it became clear that the Phillies’ ace had a chance at perfection. Philadelphia’s regulars had spotted Halladay a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the 3rd, and that’s all he would need:

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Trust the Process

Tim Reilly - May 10, 2018

After four years of watching the Philadelphia 76ers step backward in order to leap forward, I forgot how frustrating it feels to witness your team lose when it is actually trying to win.

Sixers fans have endured multiple seasons of strategic tanking while the franchise positioned itself for long term contention. They told themselves and each other to “Trust the Process,” an affirmation coined by former general manager Sam Hinkie that became an homage to the exiled architect of the Sixers’ controversial rebuilding plan.

The 199 defeats compiled during Hinkie’s three-year reign in Philadelphia were much easier to swallow than the bitter pill the fan base was forced to ingest Wednesday night when the Boston Celtics eliminated the Sixers in five games. It’s easy to accept failure when you convince yourself there’s a master plan in place. For four seasons, Sixers fans stopped looking at the standings and started counting ping pong balls. Each loss got the team closer to landing an elite, franchise-altering prospect in the draft.

What happens, though, when the plan evolves from the abstract to the tangible? How do things change when a lottery selection morphs into an actual player? Will Sixers fans practice the same patience they showed during the Process years that will be required as the young talent coalesces into a formidable unit?

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The “Philly Fan” Myth Will Never Die, Will It?

Tim Reilly - April 26, 2018

Toward the end of the Flyers’ dispiriting Game 6 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a number of fans saw the looming specter of another premature playoff exit and decided they had enough – to drink. As Penguins winger Bryan Rust slid the puck into the Flyers’ empty net to put his team up by a score of 8-5, beer cans rained down on the Wells Fargo Center Ice.

“There’s heavy artillery flying all over down here,” analyst Pierre McGuire reported. A lengthy delay ensued as the Flyers ice crew worked quickly to clear the playing surface.

It didn’t take long for the criticisms to roll in from the social media universe. “Flyers fans throwing things on the ice: a playoff tradition like no other,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski tweeted. Even Pittsburgh radio host and columnist Mark Madden, who is a big fan of Crossing Broad, took a shot at the Flyers’ fan base:

Madden’s assessment was more or less in line with other Twitter reactions to the scene. And then there were the media takes, like this offering from Pittsburgh 97.3 The Fan’s Colin Dunlap. “Flyers fans are trash. Philadelphia fans, by and large, are trash,” Dunlap declared in a piece that could have used an editor. The Washington Post‘s Cindy Boren called the display “one of the most Philly fan things ever.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Jason Mackey reported that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was incensed by the antics of the crowd.

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The Flyers Gift Their Fans (At Least) One More Home Playoff Game

Tim Reilly - April 21, 2018

It was all but over.

After two listless performances on home ice, the Flyers limped into Pittsburgh facing a 3-1 series deficit against a Penguins team looking to hoist the Stanley Cup for the third straight season.

The patient clung to life – barely. All that remained was for Sidney Crosby to administer last rites, Evgeni Malkin to drive the final nail into the coffin, and the local beat writers to shovel dirt on the grave that would serve as the final resting place of the 2017-18 campaign.

And then something unexpected happened. The Flyers showed a pulse.

They didn’t deserve to win. The Penguins dominated large stretches of the 2nd and 3rd periods while the Flyers took bad penalties and relied on Michal Neuvirth to cover for poor play in the defensive zone. Pittsburgh claimed a big advantage in the faceoff circle, possessed the puck for much of the contest, and consequently had the Flyers chasing the game instead of dictating it.

Neuvirth was spectacular, except when he wasn’t. The two goals he conceded were incredibly soft. The first came after Neuvirth carelessly turned over the puck, leading to extended offensive zone time and a wraparound goal delivered by Penguins forward Bryan Rust. Neuvirth was able to get to the post to stop the shot, but somehow the puck squeaked through his pads.

The second goal was equally inexcusable given the situation. Jake Guentzel took a pass from Crosby, depositing the puck through the five-hole and into the back of the net. Neuvirth’s second period nadir put the orange and black in a 2-1 deficit. If they had put forth the effort they exhibited in Games 3 and 4, the series would have ended.

Instead, the Flyers battled back. A short-handed tally from Valtteri Filppula tied the game late in the second, while a Sean Couturier blast from the blue line late in the third pulled the Flyers ahead. Matt Read sealed the victory with an empty net goal, and the Flyers lived to play another day.

Given the evidence of the past week, the result seemed improbable, but in the context of the longer arc of the Flyers’ season, the Game 5 triumph was not unusual.

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