The biggest game of the season so far is coming up for the Eagles on Sunday. And you, unfortunately, have no idea why it matters. Billy Penn understands. We want you to sound smart. We want you to be able to talk sportsball without knowing anything about it. Welcome to our monthly explainer of Philadelphia sports. So buckle up as we go through Sunday’s Iggles game, the #LOLSixers’ decision to light money on fire and the trade of a Phillies great.
Note: The Flyers will not be covered this month. They recently wrapped up a six-game losing streak and are right where we thought they would be: trapped so deep in the pit of insignificance that the city almost forgets it has a hockey team.
Update: Big effing game this Sunday. Say those five words wherever you are on Friday/Saturday night because the hated Dallas Cowboys are coming to town. How despicable are the Cowboys? People’s hate for Cowboys is greater than leathery Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ appreciation for Johnnie Walker Blue. Even Texans hate them more than any other NFL team.
What You Can Praise: The Eagles are having a damn good season. People have been complaining about their weak schedule, last week’s loss to Seattle and quarterback Mark Sanchez’s consistently sucky play, but it’s time for some perspective with these guys. They are 9-4 and in control of their own fate. If they beat Dallas and win one of two games against either awful Washington or the awful New York Giants, they win the division and make the playoffs.
What You Can Criticize: The Eagles have been kind of boring lately, so boring that the days of Nick Foles, the still-injured and never all that beloved quarterback, seem like the greatest times of our lives. No one knows for sure when Foles returns from a broken collarbone — maybe in a week, maybe not until the end of the regular season. Without Foles, the Eagles have been playing Sanchez, who has not thrown for a touchdown of longer than 20 yards in over a month. That means he’s basically a liability and making the offense predictable. Philly Mag delved into his suckitude a bit deeper and found that Sanchez is throwing passes longer than 20 yards just 13 percent of the time. Foles was doing so 19 percent of the time. We want the long ball. Give us the damn long ball, Mark!
What You Should Worry About: Seriously, let’s just not worry right now. The Eagles are the only thing right with this city when it comes to sportsball. Let’s believe they’ll beat the Cowboys. And if they don’t…well, talk radio will be fun on Monday morning.
Learn Something Cool About a Player: The Eagles have a defensive lineman who goes by the nickname Swamp Thing, just like the cartoon character. His real name is Cedric Thornton, and he was raised by two Baptist ministers in Arkansas. Here’s what the Eagles’ Swamp Thing looks like compared to the Swamp Thing from the movies. Yay cool nicknames!
How to really impress somebody: Tell them you expect this Cowboys game will end just like last year’s December game against the Cowboys. Tell them the Eagles’ offense will be just good enough, and then Brandon Boykin or some other cornerback will seal the game and likely the playoffs with an INT.
Update: Hey look at that! The #LOLSixers actually won. After losing their first 17 games, they’ve now won two of their last four. That’s 50 percent and infinite percent more than anyone believed they would win this year. And get this: The New York Knicks are 4-20 and the Detroit Pistons 3-19. Not-last-place is within striking distance.
What You Can Praise: These tickets, you guys. We’ve already gone over how #LOLSixers tickets are the lukewarmest in town and thus less expensive than a burrito and drink at Chipotle. But because it’s the #LOLSixers we can’t even fully praise them without making a joke at their expense. Though the tickets may be a great deal, the basketball almost certainly won’t be. The #LOLSixers are so terrible that some teams have been bringing in their JV squads to Philadelphia and resting their stars. In other words, you won’t be seeing much, if any, quality pro basketball in Philly this year.
What You Can Criticize: Other than everything? Let’s go with the most-recent headscratcher. On Wednesday, the #LOLSixers traded Brandon Davies (during the middle of a game while he was sitting on the bench) to the Brooklyn Nets for former All Star Andrei Kirilenko and a second round draft pick. Kirilenko probs won’t even play for the #LOLSixers. They plan on cutting him, and that second round pick will be the #LOLSixers’ in 2020!!!. We’ll probably have another three Star Wars movies by that time.
Why did they do this? Well, part of the reason is because the #LOLSixers are so mind-bogglingly stingy that their $38 million team payroll isn’t high enough. To reach the NBA’s salary cap floor they actually need to spend another $18 million this year or give bonuses to players at the end of the season. By trading and waiving Kirilenko they’ll absorb his $3.3 million salary. In one view, the #LOLSixers are earning a second round pick for money they’d have to pay out as a bonus anyway. In another view, the #LOLSixers are basically lighting money on fire now because they didn’t spend enough buying actual productive players before the season started. It’s really confusing so it must be quality economics!
What You Should Worry About: Tony Wroten, one of maybe five #LOLSixers who are good enough to make another team’s roster, has been injured the last six games with a knee sprain and could miss Friday’s game. Sad thing is the #LOLSixers have won their only games of the season without him.
Learn Something Cool About a Player: K.J. McDaniels recently hit a fan in the head so hard with one his blocked shots that she had a concussion. Not good. So McDaniels sent her some flowers! Good for him.
How to really impress somebody: Tell someone the Sixers are the athletic equivalent of an investment bank. It’s the truth. Also be sure to note that investment banks are really boring and sometimes cause global catastrophes. Here’s how experts are describing the #LOLSixers (keep in mind these are supposed to be compliments).
- “They’re tearing it down from a performance standpoint while building it up on the management side.”
- “The best route to the top just might be through the subbasement.”
- “They let the operators operate.”
Update: Baseball’s winter meetings were in full stride this week. These are when baseball teams’ general managers walk between the lobby, the conference room, the breakfast buffet and mostly the bar of a snazzy hotel and stare at their smart phones while they wait to hear if someone else has had the balls to make a trade. The Phillies have actually made one of these trades. So the city says goodbye to Jimmy Rollins, who was on the 2008 World Series team, and an awesome yet painful reminder of how the Phillies used to not suck before the person who made the trade, general manager Ruben Amaro, arrived.
What You Can Praise: The career of Jimmy Rollins. He is Philadelphia’s all-time leader in hits, at-bats and doubles. Rollins was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor league pitching prospects, and it’s sad to see him go. But he needed to go. Keeping him on the team would have been like keeping that oversized yellow lab that has grown too big for your backyard, which has become a terrible backyard after your dad spent millions on fruitless, ill-advised landscaping projects. You want to see him roam around the countryside (aka make the playoffs) instead of wither away here for a couple more years. Enjoy these GIFs of Rollins from Philly Mag’s Dan McQuade.
What You Can Criticize: The Phillies have not traded pitcher Cole Hamels. On the one hand, Hamels was one of the Phillies’ only reliable pitchers last year. On the other, the Phillies are going to suck with him anyway, so they might as well try to trade him for good, young talent. And the general manager, Amaro, has reportedly been overvaluing his the players like Hamels that he intends to trade. Translation: Amaro is scared he’s going to screw up.
What You Should Worry About: Spring training is only about two months away, and it’s hard to see how the Phillies have gotten any better, or really any different from the team they were last year.
Learn Something Cool About a Player: The Phillies just picked up pitcher Andy Oliver this week. Oliver sort of made history by suing the NCAA a couple years ago. The NCAA got pissed at him for talking to an advisor about his MLB Draft status while he was still in school and suspended him. Oliver sued, and the NCAA settled. The NCAA almost never settles. Oliver won $750K.
How to really impress somebody: Buy this Phillies ugly Christmas sweater and wear it to Christmas Eve/Day Church.