Category Archives: Sports

CBS, NFL Take Wrong Turn

Medical Grass

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So here we are.

The national holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday.

But there is not much to celebrate here in the mythical town of Gordonville, where Main Street has been gentrified with used record stores and all-night diners.

Last year? Yes. This year? No.

When the game ends, and the Lombardi Trophy is handed to the winning team (my prediction is the Patriots in a walk), it will officially end the reign as champions for our Eagles.

A year ago, and unlike Super Bowl 39 (I don’t believe in Roman numerals, as we are not in Rome, although the fall of that empire and our own is eerily similar), I didn’t attend in person.

I was at the best place in the world. A house of a friend with a roomful of diehards totally fixated on the game (with the local broadcast on the radio and the volume of the TV, with the irksome network crew, turned down).

I get chills now – I am, right now – thinking about how the room erupted when Brandon Graham stripped Tom Brady and Derek Barnett fell on the ball.

When Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell to the ground, I made my way out of the room and sat by myself and cried like a baby for a good five minutes.

What can top that?

Not much, not even another Eagles’ title – although they are more than welcome to win it all again whenever they’d like before I am in my rocking chair with two or three marbles rattling around upstairs.

So here we are.

The following year.

There will still be plenty of those Super Bowl parties, which I abhor almost as much people who make snide global warming remarks whenever it’s below freezing where they happen to be drawing air that particular day.

These are really the polar opposite of what I experienced last year, as barely anyone in those rooms will give two hoots about the game while dipping their chips in guacamole dip.

There will be men – I’ll let women slide on this – who barely know who is playing, and couldn’t name you more than 5-10 players on either team.

Everyone will drink their foreign lagers and play their block pools and only shut up to watch the commercials.

And they will see commercials for all kinds of nonsense, like people buying each other $50K vehicles for Valentine’s Day. There will be ads for beer and online sports gambling, while some sort of nonsense scrolls under the screen about drinking – and gambling — responsibly.

It seems like anything and everything is fair game.

But it’s not.

CBS, the network broadcasting the game this year, rejected a 60-second ad for medical marijuana.

Read that again, and let that sink in.

There will be ads for ailments such as adult acne and leg pain, with side effects so severe that that they may led to any of the 21 conditions approved for the use of medical marijuana in our state (and 29 others, including the District of Columbia).

Puritanical much?

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th), who teamed with State Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48th) in a successful bipartisan effort to legalize the use of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, couldn’t help but note the irony.

“Preventing people from hearing about the benefits of medical marijuana, while at the same time happily advertising booze, dangerous drugs and fast food is a strange and disturbing choice,” said Leach. “Apparently the network doesn’t think their viewers are smart enough to handle a simple message responsibly, which is truly sad.”

Again, to make it clear, this has nothing to do with recreational use – although an entertaining one with Grateful Dead fans would be a hoot – but for medical marijuana.

The ad reportedly featured three patients whose suffering has been eased by medical marijuana.

The 60-second PSA-style ad (CBS is charging $3.2 million for 30 seconds) reportedly shows some uncomfortable stuff:

-A Colorado boy who suffers from Dravet syndrome (his mother says her son would have dozens to hundreds of seizures a day and medical marijuana saved his life).

-A Buffalo man says he was on opioids for 15 years after three back surgeries and that medical marijuana gave him his life back (even though he lives in Buffalo, where shoveling snow is not ideal for back health).

-An Oakland man who lost part of his leg in military service says his pain was unbearable until medical marijuana.

Funny how the NFL, which is surely the neck that turns the head that is the network in these final decisions, hoists the pomp and circumstance of the military but backs off from the other side of the story.

This is the same circuit that is on the precipice from allowing the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, which is in the only state where prostitution is somehow legal.

So here we are.

The Eagles are no longer World Champions and a major network – with a league where officials are borderline incompetent — can’t get over itself.

I’ll watch again, because that’s what I do.

It’s wired in my DNA.

But there are no tears of joy this year.

There is no joy in Gordonville.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 3, 2014.

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Missing My Missed Opportunities

SingleBullet

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — And there I was, in the VIP Room at Presidential Caterers, acting like a 12-year-old kid in the presence of Dick Vermeil.

The guest speaker for the 17th Annual Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet was holding court with many willing sycophants, and I was among the jesters hanging on every word and hoping my laugh track was synched up with the guy talk that strayed into activities that are against the law in Gordonville: Hunting, golfing and feeling sorrowful if Penn State chokes away a game.

I never got Vermeil alone – except briefly by the cheese and crackers to tell him that John Pergine gives his regards – but I had ample opportunities to let him know I was no ersatz Eagles fan.

And I refrained from saying two words that may have sent him on an infamous tirade and out the door.

Those words: Mike Michel.

Who? Sigh, let’s go through the past darkly.

While the Eagles steadily improved through the 1970s, particularly with Vermeil’s arrival, their kicking game remained atrocious.

Until it was solidified by drafting a kicker (Tony Franklin) and a punter (Max Runager) after the 1978 season, one which saw Vermeil guide the Birds to the playoffs for the first time since their championship season of 1960, it was a litany of no-leg names: Kickers like Happy Feller (no lie), Horst Muhlmann (as awful as his name) and Ove Johansson (made a 69-yarder in college and couldn’t make a 69-footer in the pros) and punters like Spike Jones (the band leader would have been an upgrade) and Rick Engles.

After Engles proved no better than Jones, Michel was brought off the street corner halfway through the 1978 season to take his place.

He had been a draft pick of the Dolphins, and punters aren’t drafted that often, so there was anticipation in the air when Michel dropped back for his first punt at the Vet.

Whiff City.

I don’t mean shank.

I mean whiff.

He did something we were beyond as young teens in the schoolyard. He missed the ball altogether.

At that point, you could even boo – or look for Santa Claus to accost with snowballs or beer bottles. We just laughed as Michel averaged 3 yards on his first three punts.

He became mediocre enough as a punter to ride out the season, but Vermeil made the fateful choice to have Michel – an OK college kicker at Stanford — also serve as a placekicker when Nick Mick-Mayer was injured.

In the playoffs against Atlanta, the Eagles built a 13-0 lead – despite a missed extra-point and field goal by Michel that would have made it 17-0 – and fell behind, 14-13, before Ron Jaworski drove them into field goal range (and some guy named Oren Middelbrook almost made a diving one-handed catch for a touchdown). With time running out, Michel missed a 34-yarder that would have made everyone’s Christmas merry (the game was played on Christmas Eve).

Not asking Vermeil about Michel was not the first time I chose discretion over valor, and it put me in mind of my handful of chances with Sen. Arlen Specter, as it just so happened that two days after the banquet, Nov. 22, was the 55th anniversary of the assassination of then-President John F. Kennedy Jr. in Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

In a past lifetime, in the more isolated atmosphere of editorial board meetings, I had more than one chance to go a few rounds with the late – and occasionally great – Specter.

We talked current events, and he decried gridlock inside the beltway and gerrymandering, but we kept the past buried.

Here in Gordonville, it was only fitting that a turkey shoot on Nov. 22, 1963 took place on Turkey Day 55 years later.

While we only display Festivus poles in public, it is taught in our schools that the assassination remains unsolved.

The official story – one that Specter, then an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia with wide-eyed ambitions, helped sell for the Warren Report — is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone by hitting JFK with pinpoint accuracy with two shots after missing the car with the first.

Instead of Mike Michel, I could have gone with “single bullet.”

The problem with the theory was that one of the two connecting bullets zigzagged up and down and in and out and all around in order to do all the damage it did – all while emerging in nearly pristine condition on a stretcher at the hospital.

With witnesses hearing shots fired from other directions, including the grassy knoll that would have provided ideal cover for a gunman to fire the kill shot, there had to be an explanation to tie it all up in a neat little bow.

And as the years passed, and in spite of a multiplicity of theories that get shut down, the damage to the truth was permanent.

Specter was able to carve a solid career for himself as a politician – Philadelphia DA from 1966-74 and US Senator from 1981-2011 — and was one of the few Republicans, which he was for most of his career, I voted for on a regular basis.

But he still lost points for being a willing participant in this trail gone as a cold as the current president’s heart.

Football coaches, like Vermeil, can learn as they go about saving a roster spot and hoping to get by with a punter as a placekicker, as he never treated the kicking game as an afterthought again.

There appears to be no such contrition from Specter, who passed away in the fall of 2012.

If I had questioned him on it, my only satisfaction would be to have a story to tell while in my rocking chair.

While Specter would have reverted to the form that made him captain of the Yale Law School debating team, I would have reverted to the form that made me an oft-penalized captain of my street hockey team.

But that wouldn’t have made him right, or me wrong.

It would just make me part of the 61 percent of Americans, as compared to 33 percent, who believe “others were involved” in the assassination.

The explanation from those who don’t want us to believe it in a conspiracy is that we can’t handle the truth, with that truth being that a loser and loner like Oswald could kill such a powerful and wonderful man.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not even living in that galaxy, let alone zip code.

If a total dingbat can become president – witness Exhibit A on the news every day – it is more than conceivable that a doofus like Oswald could kill the president in a time when security was a lot more lackadaisical.

The problem is that the evidence, despite the efforts of the likes of Specter, is as shaky as a kick off the foot of Mike Michel.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 2

Finland Is A Fine Land

Norther_lights_Konsta_Punkka_VisitFinland-1524828443696

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I’m all for challenging myself and going after that Holy Grail.

But, sometimes, you just have to grab the low-hanging fruit and gorge upon it.

Such was the case a few days – and 1,606 news cycles — ago when your president (#notmypresident) decided to pull the toilet paper off his shoe and visit the devastation caused by wildfires in his least favorite state, California, for a photo op of feigned caring.

But it was just more bungle in the jungle for your president (I’m going to act like an 8-year-old on this name thing for as long as he does on his Twitter feed) tried to do two things that are out his wheelhouse: He tried sounding both empathetic (an impossible task for a sociopath), and intelligent.

Pres. Bone Spurs (as so dubbed by presidential candidate Richard Ojeda) pulled Finland out of his baseball cap, citing it as a shining example of wildfire management because of something to do with leaves – raking too much, not enough, whatever.

And Mr. Science attributed the source of this knowledge to Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto.

The response from Finland was quick.

Amid a flurry of #RakeAmericaGreatAgain hashtags – along with some hilarious pictures — from the small Nordic beacon of light that plays some big-time ice hockey, Niinisto made no mention of “raking” anything in a brief generic conversation on the topic.

Somebody is fibbing, and I don’t need to wait on the fact-checkers to know who.

Without getting too in depth here, let’s just say that Finland and the US, especially California, are vastly different climates.

You may as well compare Hawaii and the North Pole, or Earth and Vulcan.

Chalk it up to yet another in an assembly line of ignorant statements, any of which would have had White Nationalists surrounding the White House if said by Barrack Obama.

But since Pres. Bone Spurs went there, comparing the U.S. to Finland, let’s stay there.

Please.

This is low-hanging fruit at its sweetest (well, maybe second to the first daughter using private e-mails, Hillary-style).

If Pres. Bone Spurs wants to rip pages out of the Finnish playbook, instead of that of Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, consider the following as we move from gibberish about Finland’s raking acumen to its actual world rankings, which include No. 7 in Quality of Life Index (U.S. News & World Report) as compared to No. 17 for us in U.S.

Here is a good one, considering the constant labeling of the free press as the “enemy of the people.” Finland is currently No. 4 in the world (Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Freedom of the Press Index). This means the Finns are doing the First Amendment thing better than we are, as the same index has the US ranked a pathetic 45th (behind the likes of Jamaica, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobego and Taiwan).

What’s next? Countries beating us at our games, like baseball and basketball? Oh, wait, never mind.

Had enough? No? Good. In the immortal words of Clubber Lang in Rocky III (one movie before the series jumped the shark), “I got a lotta more.”

Here we go. Finland has these notches in its belt:

-Best environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index) and cleanest environment (World Health Organization).

-Most Technologically advanced (UN’s Technology Achievement Index). Funny how that works, while not selling their souls in terms of being environmentally conscious.

-Most Olympic medals per capita (population is only 5.5 million, and yet they whip our butts).

If you recall the mumbo jumbo from the campaign season, Pres. Bone Spurs talked a lot about “law and order.” Guess he meant the TV show.

So far, we have averaged about a mass shooting per game since his reign of error began.

Finland? Thanks for asking.

Consider the following:

-Finland is the safest country in the world (Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report) and ranks a second in police and internal security (World Internal Security and Police Index).

Pres. Bone Spurs might be enlightened to learn that Finland is second to only Denmark in free and most reliable elections (Electoral Integrity Project of the University of Sydney and our own Harvard), and has the third least corruption in the world (Corruption Perceptions Index).

And before you start with the typical angry white male responses of “if you like Finland so much, go move there, you Commie-Pinko,” consider that one of Finland’s most powerful political parties is the Democratic Socialist party.

What does that type of Bernie Sanders governance do to the economy?

Well, Finland, with the soundest banks in the world (Global Competiveness Report), has one of the best performing economies in the EU.

And yet, it blows us away more than the Saints did to the Eagles in terms of health and wellness rankings across the board.

Publicly funded, with universal healthcare available to all, Finland ranks in the top five in the world in satisfaction.

So, why don’t I move there? Aside from not enough Bruce Springsteen on the radio (or Taylor Swift for Sofia) and “real” football on TV (assuming the Eagles ever play “real football” again), Finland leads the world in milk and coffee consumption (my sensitive liberal system can’t handle either).

Besides, it’s not a question of loving it or leaving it, is it?

I don’t want to move to New Orleans just because the Eagles got destroyed, do I?

In order to be heartbroken by something, you have to love it. I love my country, which is why I’m so heartbroken by it right now.

As for those leaves, Pres. Bone Spurs, I have an idea. There are some Honduran refugees who would be willing to rake them – probably while the embers are still burning — in exchange for asylum.

I’m sure Finland would approve.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald

Vermeil Had Long Reach

Vermeil

 

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When you’re born in 1965, you really can’t say you were at Woodstock hearing Jimi Hendrix play the national anthem or protesting the 1968 Democratic Convention alongside Abbie Hoffman and keep a straight face.

I am, for better or worse, a Brady Bunch-watching child of the 1970s.

As a sign of the times, my relationship with my dad – who I saw only on weekends as an interloper with his new family (the anti-Brady Bunch) — was a bit … odd.

Even though we shared the same birthday (March 23), we did not share the same wavelength.

Some of it was gender-related, as fathers and sons kept those stiff upper lips and “acted like men.” Some of it was just because, I don’t know, it was just … odd.

English was our second language. To really communicate, we had to press 1 for sports.

And if something was on my mind, or his, it was woven into a sports-related conversation.

Better than nothing, as far as conversation starters go, but there was still an issue not even a family counselor could solve.

The decade began with the Philadelphia teams we both loved so deeply were all pretty much pitiful, meaning most conversations were in the context of sub-.500 teams.

Yeah, by the middle of the decade, the Flyers were the talk of the town – and in my dad’s car when he would pick me up on Friday after school for the weekend – but he really wasn’t a hockey guy (even though it was, far and away, my best sport).

“I don’t give a damn about Rick MacLeish,” I remember him bellowing, while almost getting into an accident (a common occurrence, as he was the world’s worst driver).

The reality is that the sun rose and set with the Eagles.

For most of the 1970s, the NFL season was just 14 games (as opposed to 16 now). That was a lot of excitement for just a few Sundays of the 52 in a year.

There were some exciting moments, like when my father jumped up and banged his head on the ceiling of our den when Roman Gabriel found Don Zimmerman for a game-winning touchdown, but it was mostly as painful to watch as it was to listen to us try to talk to each like normal people (for example, that pass was the first win of a 1973 season that began 0-4).

Our relationship improved through the latter part of the 1970s and we able to connect better – not perfectly, but better – as the 70s morphed into the 1980s and beyond.

I can credit a lot of people for that, including myself for learning how to make use of defense mechanisms and to sometimes just be the bigger person.

The list of those who unknowingly helped would include Dick Vermeil, who Bridgeport’s Leonard Tose took a gamble on – pun intended – and hired in 1976 after Vermeil led UCLA to a 23-10 upset win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl (future Eagle John Sciarra was the MVP of the game, throwing two touchdown passes to another future Eagle, Wally Henry).

Vermeil’s Eagles were not better right away, going 4-10 that first season, but there was a totally different vibe.

By 1977, the Vermeil’s Birds were more competitive than their 5-9 record indicated, as they scored more total points for the season than they gave up while enduring agonizing losses to the kind of teams that used to blow them away. They made the playoffs in 1978 and won a playoff game in 1979, both firsts since the NFL championship of 1960.

And we all know – or should – about the 1980 season, when the Eagles won the NFC title (only to lose in the Super Bowl, during which I saw my father drink a beer for the first – and last — time ever).

During that stretch of glory years, we cheered more than jeered and a lot of tension was lifted. While the other Philadelphia teams matched the pace (the Phillies won it all in 1980 and the Sixers in 1983), the Eagles were the main course.

We enjoyed each other’s company, laughed and shared inside jokes.

And English – not sports – became our first language.

Being in Veterans Stadium with my father on Jan. 11, 1981 – the 20-7 dismantling of the same Dallas team we had watch annihilate us so many times (like the fist-ever game there, a 42-6 shellacking) — was one of the best father-son experiences of my lifetime.

It was 17 degrees – with a wind-chill factor of about minus-114 — that day at the Vet, but hearts were permanently warmed.

That’s the kind of ripple effect a perfectionist/workaholic football coach, who came here with no draft picks and coached who he had until he cultivated some tangible talent to coach, can have on complete strangers.

And, with all due respect to Doug Pederson, Vermeil will always be the “coach” of the Eagles in Gordonville.

A young boy – broken home or not — only has one set of formative years, and Vermeil was the coach who showed us that Sundays don’t have to be as bitter as the weather.

What brings me back here from exile to share this? Well, it just so happens Vermeil will be at Presidential Caterers Nov. 20 for the 17th Annual Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet (call 610-279-9220 for tickets) as the guest speaker.

As a longtime board member and chairman of the selection committee, I may have some access to Vermeil, but not as much as one would think. I certainly won’t be able to tell him all he did for me. At best, I’ll get in a handshake and a quick selfie (and I take the world’s worst selfies, so it will probably be of our shoes).

So, I’m saying what I have to say now.

Thank you, coach.

From both of us.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Nov. 4.

Our Five: Rare Birds with Wings

Sullivan

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It happens every August.

Eagles fans – even in the afterglow of the ultimate prize – are ready for some football, even if it comes in the form of a messy version of the real thing that is preseason.

Excitement often turns to disappointment, as starters – and even familiar names further down the depth chart – don’t get much meaningful playing time.

But before you threw up your hands during Thursday’s preseason opener (7 p.m.) against the Steelers and send your bowl of pretzel sticks tumbling to the floor, wondering who these guys are up on your TV screens, take it from this guy that all is not lost.

In the midst of the madness and chaos, where yellow penalty flags go flying by like beach chairs in a tornado, there are some players in Eagle green who are not just dressed up for Halloween.

You need not re-watch the movie “Invincible” about the ultimate story of an undrafted free agent, Vince Papale, for inspiration. As recently as 2014, I picked an undrafted free agent – an undersized tight end from Florida named Trey Burton – out of the chorus and predicted he would be pegged for a solo. With the “Philly Special” – and a lot of other clutch catches and special teams efforts – in our heads, we know how that worked out. Burton has parlayed that success into greener pastures – literally and figuratively – as he signed with the Chicago Bears in the offseason to a contract that will made him the eighth highest paid tight end in the league.

Last year, as a public service, I provided a list of five players to watch in preseason. My only mistake – one that will not be repeated – was not doing it alphabetically, as Corey Clement would have been listed first instead of fourth (behind David Watford, Aaron Grymes and Joe Walker and in front of Randall Goforth).

A year later, Walker is still on the team as a backup middle linebacker after starting a handful a games last year. Goforth was released just before training camp began.

Clement, meanwhile, was a vital role player in the offense all season and saved his best for last, with four catches out of the backfield for 100 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

A good portion of the 53-man roster seems locked down with returnees, offseason signees and draft picks. Still, there a spots – even of the developmental variety on the practice squad – to be had.

Let’s take a look – in alphabetical look – at some candidates to catch your wandering August eye:

Josh Adams, RB: The Eagles have a crowded backfield picture, and the top three – Jay Ajayi, Clement and Darren Sproles – are roster locks who are likely to see much action. For what may be just one active roster spot behind them, there is a posse of Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones and last year’s draft bust, Donnel Pumphrey. Adams, as an undrafted free agent (despite being considered a mid-round pick going into the annual cattle call), would seem to be fodder. However, the Bucks County native has some pedigree. He had a strong senior year at Notre Dame (1,430 yards to give him a fifth-best of 3,198 for his Irish career) and, at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, strikes a noticeable pose. While he may have to wait it out a year on the practice squad, the Central Bucks South grad will get plenty of touches in the first two preseason games.

Rashard Davis, WR: After posting insane punt return numbers at FCS James Madison as a senior, the diminutive Davis (5-9, 175) was waiting tables in Charlottesville, Va. – right before the tragedy there – when the Eagles called after Sproles went down for the year. He was on and off the practice squad, but will get plenty of chances to field punts – and turn heads – while Sproles sits out the preseason. His time on the back end of the roster likely means Davis was schooled on the nuances of playing the slot, so he could make inroads as the fifth or sixth receiver there. A lot a guys – from last year’s fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson to converted quarterback Greg Ward Jr. to frequent Eagle Bryce Treggs – will be battling for one or two spots behind a locked in top four (Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins) and maybe another one or two on the practice squad. Don’t be surprised if the shortest guy is left standing.

Joe Ostman , DE: It is not an exaggeration to say that Ostman, despite not having projectable NFL athleticism, was one of the best defensive players in college football. Just last year, Ostman (6-3, 255) had 19½ tackles for a loss (45½ for his career) and 13 sacks (26 career). He was considered a Day 3 pick who might be best suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Here, with a wide-9 attack, he is a low-risk/high-reward longshot for the active roster at one of team’s deepest positions, but he will get a long look and could earn training time on the practice squad (and a second I-told-you-so mentioned here next year). Without much raw athletic ability, his high motor clearly runs on a lot of fuel, and Philly rightfully loves that as much as mustard on a soft pretzel.

Tre Sullivan, S: Even with Corey Graham back in the fold and Chris Maragos returning from injury, don’t be surprised if a safety you never heard of before lands on the final 53-man roster and another on the practice squad. Despite playing at Division III Shepherd, Sullivan was in camp last year, hit everything that moved and was promptly brought back for another chance to refine his game. Two other rookie free agent safeties – Jeremy Reaves and Stephen Roberts – are in the mix, but Sullivan may have an edge in his second camp.

Toby Weathersby, OT: Two guarantees. One, the media focus will be on seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata, who never played a snap of football before being drafted. Two, the more prepared player for right now will be Weathersby (6-4, 317), who played big-time college football at LSU. What that will mean when the final cuts come is hard to say, but if you look who is plowing holes for the likes of Adams to run through, it just might be No. 74.

This article originally appeared at phillyphanatics.com.

Part of a Bigger Situation

trump-james

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Everything is a situation.

That phrase comes up from time to time during NYPD Blue, an all-time favorite television program of mine that was the subject of a recent binge-watching session.

And my life experience is that the phrase holds true to form – certainly much better that what it is or is not the hard truth or who is or is not right or wrong at any given moment.

In an interview on CNN, LeBron James accused Pres. David Dennison – aka John Barron, aka John Miller — of trying to use sports to divide the country, and Mr. Thin Skin couldn’t help but respond.

In a hissy-fit response on Twitter (yeah, that’s what we’ve come to in this ongoing situation in our broken nation) stating that James is wrong – kind of like how he rudely bellowed wrong, repeatedly, when Hillary Clinton was trying to speak in a debate – he is not wrong.

Not 100 percent anyway.

Everything is a situation.

And in this situation – sadly – it seems like it was a much larger umbrella under which sports falls.

It is joined there with other forms of red meat that Dennison/Barron/Miller throws to his rabid base – from supporting the Second Amendment to saying “Merry Christmas” is vital to combat a contrived war on Christianity to being inhumane to other humans seeking asylum here (just like so many of our ancestors did back in the days of alleged greatness).

Dennison/Barron/Miller pulls out this well-worn stunt when putting himself on tour in friendly Deplorable terrain in a blatant — and pathetic — act of self-affirmation.

This is all coded language, and it’s meant to divide – not unite – at its rotted core.

The sports part of it predates the regrettable results of election, where the perfect storm of the arcane Electoral College and an uninspiring Democratic candidate with a virtual mannequin as her running mate led to the surprising outcome, as it goes to back to the summer of 2016, back when his election seemed unthinkable. That’s when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began not standing (he sat the first time and then kneeled, out of respect to veterans) for the national anthem.

My personal feeling — other than that “This Land Is Your Land” should be the national anthem — was that Kaepernick was probably protesting the fact that then-49er coach Chip Kelly was starting a middling white quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, over him for the third preseason game (a sign that Gabbert had won the job) than he was any major injustice to people of his race. (Kaepernick is actually biracial and was raised, middle class, by white adoptive parents).

But everything is a situation.

And, whether intended for not, the situation turned into something bigger than what it was probably intended, which was the way people of color are treated by police and the criminal justice system as a whole.

For a while, it caught on. The louder the outcry, the more other players knelt.

And then, like a dance craze, it seemed to fade.

While the issue at hand became more enmeshed into the national debate, NFL players either moved on or – like Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins – took it to another level, being constructive in addressing the issue instead of symbolic.

So when Pres. Dennison/Barron/Miller stood up in front of a crowd of trained seals in Alabama (where else?) during the heart of last football season and talked about players (“sons of bitches”) not standing for the national anthem, he was a day late and a dollar short.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a dead issue.

But what’s the difference when tossing chum to chumps, right?

And when you need to pump up those approval ratings and divert attention away from the crisis du jour, well, everything is a situation.

There were an estimated 10-15 players – league-wide – still kneeling at the time of the Alabama diatribe. Kaepernick, no longer in the NFL, was not even among them.

The next Sunday, approximately 250 players of the nearly 1,500 in uniform engaged in forms of protest that including kneeling.

They made it clear why they were kneeling, and it had nothing to do with disrespecting the flag or the troops (that job is left to White House policies that send home spouses of servicemen because they are not “legal” immigrants).

In addition to criminal justice reform and how they perceive racial bias by police in the streets, they were protesting the occupant of the highest office for dealing low blows and saying they were “sons of bitches” (meaning he was, technically, referring to all their mothers as “bitches”) who should be “fired” from the profession that they scratched and clawed to buck extreme odds to join just for choosing a form of legal free speech during the national anthem.

Turns out, just for a point of reference, that the national anthem was never a big show that required players on the field until after the NFL and the military struck a deal on a mutually lucrative ad campaign in 2009.

From my experience of going to NFL games since 1970, most people pay little to no attention during the national anthem. They are late to stand, and early to sit. They continue to talk, take gulps from their warm overpriced beers and struggle to pull up their pants to cover the cracks of their asses. If I had to guess how much thought was going into the meaning of the national anthem and the flag, I’d say very little – certainly as compared to the players who followed Kaepernick’s lead and protested.

Some may argue it’s a respectful protest; others the opposite. A healthy debate would be welcomed, but that can’t happen without leadership, both from inside the Beltway and in NFL owner’s boxes, can it?

Since 2009, we see a bit more of a dog-and-pony show – complete with military jet flyovers to elicit “U-S-A, U-S-A” chants before games — after which players of multiple races and creeds bleed side by side for fans who are not divided.

If only it could last beyond the end of the game, huh?

Instead, the players shake hands and kneel together in prayer. Everyone else goes back to their little corners in this ongoing battle.

Everything is a situation.

A regrettable one.

In this ongoing situation, which has grown to include teams in those sports dominated by players of color exercising their rights as free citizens and not accepting invitations to the White House after winning championships, the broader national divide continues.

Is it just sports? No.

Are sports part of it? Yes, they are.

It has led to many of the president’s supporters going to the old fallback of saying James should just “shut up and dribble.” They may not realize that when they are going on record with such bombastic commentary, they are opening themselves up to anyone saying to them “just shut up and adjust insurance policies” or “just shut up and change the oil in that car,” etc.

We are divided – perhaps to the point of a cold Civil War – because it is beneficial for a president elected by virtue of self-made division and who will only get re-elected if he can keep it that way.

The list of divisive acts include funding the “birther” movement to prove previous president, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States (to be fair, Dennison/Barron/Miller may not have realized that Hawaii is part of the U.S.) and to saying there are “fine people on both sides” after the national disgrace that was Charlottesville.

How much more divisive can you get than that?

James, on the other hand, has the following quote attributed to him: “You have to accept failure to get better.”

That’s certainly a major difference between these two, as the one charged with the task of acting presidential never accepts failure for anything. Instead, he doubles down on it.

Hence, the lashing out at James (no comment on CNN host Don Lemon).

Fair? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

In addition to being mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest basketball player of all time, James came off the streets of Akron and went straight from high school to the NBA to be paid more than $400K per week at the age of 18.

He was clearly born with amazing natural talent, but we all know – or should know – how the “Bronx Tale” axiom about the saddest thing in life being wasted talent. City playgrounds are full of guys in pickup games who were born with NBA talent who are not earning a paycheck to put a ball through a hoop.

James worked for everything he got.

But there is more.

James, who has been with the same woman for 15 years, has always been a solid citizen. He doesn’t even have a parking ticket on his record.

It would have been nice if he came to the 76ers as a free agent, positioning our hometown team for a title run, but this situation is bigger than that.

He wields as much, if not more, sway in this country as the president.

There is one difference, though. James has sent more than 1,100 kids to college. The president was busted for starting a university that proved to be, like many of his other ventures, a sham.

Yes, we are divided. Yes, sports is a part of it. Hard for anything not to be a part of it these days. Just the way you cut and chew your food or walk your dog is part of it.

Guess we just have to pick a side and ride the storm out until we’re rescued by the return of sanity.

While I personally would not kneel during the national anthem, I know which side I’m on.

Everything is a situation.

This column also appeared at phillyphanatics.com