January 22, 2012
Once upon a time in the Valley called Happy, there lived a man with monarch powers. And with these powers he bestowed upon the Valley great wealth and fame and philanthropy and enviable reputation, and buildings for football warriors and diligent scholars. And as the Valley prospered, so did the monarch's authority grow, until whenever someone sought to inquire about the monolithic football program, the monarch would snarl: "It's nobody's business. " But maybe it should have been.
January 22, 2012 |
Stewardess, crisply: "Fasten your seat belt, Mr. Ali. " Muhammad Ali, eyes twinkling: "Superman don't need no seat belt. " Stewardess, sweetly: "Superman don't need no airplane, either. " He just turned 70. And what were the odds of that? All those punches, those cruel left hooks, those sledgehammer rights, the awful toll taken by rope-a-dope, that thunderous trilogy with Joe Frazier, and then Parkinson's syndrome to boot.
January 15, 2012 |
Thirty-eight Philadelphia winters ago I asked a 76ers rookie from where he drew what seemed like an inexhaustible supply of energy. This kid was rawhide, wolf-pack lean, and he would run so hard, cut so sharply, that he would rip the soles off the bottoms of his sneakers. And he never, ever, slowed down. So what was his secret? "Bee pollen," said Doug Collins. Pardon? "Here, try some. " I didn't sleep for what seemed like three days. (Full disclosure: Relax, it was not a banned or illegal substance.
January 8, 2012 |
The one got assigned the dirty work, the job everyone else ran away from, the shovel behind the elephants in the circus parade. Darkness and despair descended on the Valley of Happy, and it will be a long, long time before the aftershocks cease, and in the interim someone had to hold things together. Volunteers? Any one? Thank you, Tom Bradley. The other got crammed into a position of utter hopelessness. He was guaranteed to fail because what they were asking him to do hadn't been done ever and why do you suppose that was?
January 1, 2012 |
Sports in the early '70s in Philadelphia was a toxic wasteland. In the nuclear winter of 1972-73, your 1-2-3-4-5-6ers played 82 games and managed to lose 73 of them, on merit. It is a record for futility that stands today. In 1972, your E-A-G . . . went 2-11-1. It was part of a run of seven straight losing seasons. In 1972, your Fightin's were about 20 games under .500 and also were enduring a run of seven straight losing seasons. (A certain writer, ahem, picked this precise time in history to move here.
December 25, 2011 |
Jason Babin is locked and loaded, flattened out in that quirky sprinter's crouch, a helmet-tipped missile ready for launch. He appears to be positioned roughly two zip codes away from the ball, almost as though he is playing in another game, but then that is the very crux of the wide nine, the controversial defensive alignment that is, depending on your viewpoint, a stroke of blinding genius or of sheer idiocy. What it has done is help transform a heretofore ordinary player into a quarterback-inhaling beast.
December 18, 2011 |
Back in those grainy black-and-white days, back in the late 1940s, you could still get up and run if you'd been tackled. So naturally, piling on was a commonplace tactic, like pinning butterflies to a board. And where you never, ever wanted to be was on the bottom of one of those piles, where everyone was busily gouging, pinching, biting, and otherwise committing all manner of indignities. You'd look down and there would be a tackler gnawing on your ankle like a berserk beaver.
December 11, 2011 |
This is courtesy of my favorite football curmudgeon and press box crony, Paul Zimmerman, a.k.a. Dr. Z, who shared our belief that no one - no one - could conjure up two-minute magic quite like Johnny Unitas. So the following is respectfully submitted, and is not for the squeamish: The Bears and Colts duke it out, before the reassuring protection of elaborate face masks. Doug Atkins of Chicago breaks through the Baltimore pocket and clubs Johnny Unitas with a sledgehammer of a forearm.
December 4, 2011 |
A cold, early-December day in South Philadelphia, yo. The camera pans and pivots and finally points toward a stern, sterile edifice. And there, up there on the ramparts, see that? Something white, fluttering in the wind. First reporter: "Are we getting a new pope?" Second reporter: "I think the Eagles are surrendering. " Third reporter: "We should be so lucky. " Fade in . . . The Eagles war room, deep in the bowels of Fortress NovaCare. Three small men and one large walrus stand in a semicircle looking with baleful and puzzled eyes at sheaves of data.
November 8, 2011 |
Forever 'Champ' Joe Frazier relished the role he played. Bill Lyon, D1.