September 26, 2012

How long can Michael Vick last?

If the Philadelphia Eagles want to compete for the Super Bowl in 2012, Michael Vick should be behind center for all 16 games.

But he won't, for two reasons:

He's not going to make it through the season alive. Vick's been sacked nine times in three games. According to Sheil Kapadia, he ended up on the ground 19 times on Sunday. There's no way he can hold up to that kind of punishment, not for three more months.

Vick already looks shaky. He's holding onto the ball too long, trying to force plays that aren't there. He's not sensing pressure and acting accordingly. He might be hurt already, or he's just trying too hard to be the kind of pocket passer that wins championships.

To me, he's overthinking things. Vick is known for making mistakes when he lets the game come naturally, but at least those errors go hand-in-hand with dazzling runs and monster throws. Lately his boners are of the backbreaking, unnecessary variety, and more often than not they're putting him on his ass.

The sad thing is, with no Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, things aren't getting any easier for whoever plays quarterback. At some point, I expect Vick to take a hit and not get up. Then it's Nick Foles time.

Andy Reid's job is on the line. 8-8 is unacceptable. That's what Jeffrey Lurie said before the season even started. And at this point, the Eagles will be lucky to hit midseason at anything better than 4-4.

That's not a slight on them; it's a tough early schedule. But if the Cowboys or the Giants are sitting in first place at 6-2, there will be plenty of negative chatter. In this very possible scenario, Reid's seat might be scorching.

And if Vick's play remains shaky at best? Enter the young savior, now with half-a-year's seasoning under his belt.

My dad's response to this theory was "A rookie QB is not typically a job saver," and he's right. But if the Eagles are floundering, why not? I know Reid loves Vick, but it's looking increasingly likely that what we saw in 2010 was an aberration. Vick may only be a flashy, occasionally competent quarterback, and Reid needs more than that to survive.

At that point, the Nick Foles lottery ticket may be his best bet.

Again, I hope Vick gets his mojo back and starts all 16 games. I don't think the team has a prayer without him.

But after three games, all of them shaky and one downright gross, it's looking more and more like the Nick Foles era will begin sooner than we expected.

September 20, 2012

A thing I wrote that most of you can ignore.

I still remember the first time I saw an episode of The Office.

Probably because it was also the only time I ever skipped out on a day of high school.

The memory is still vivid. It was the winter of 2003. I left my younger brother in the school parking lot -- being unnecessarily cagey the entire way -- and sped off in my big red pickup truck. I pulled into the local Starbucks and sat with the engine idling until I got a call from my friend.

"All clear," he said.

He and I and a few other people went to a girl's house. We watched British comedy. We drove into Philadelphia. We went to a vintage store. I bought a blue ruffled tuxedo shirt. There was probably consumption of hamburgers, or pizza, or some other delicious shit that young kids like to shove into their faces.

This was new ground. I was bustin' out of class. I'd never done anything "cool" like this before. Some of my friends were doing mushrooms and having sex. I was purchasing used clothes. I was behind, but in my mind ground was finally being gained.

In retrospect, this is sorta sad. But it's also beautiful, because I was there and I felt the exact opposite of sad. I bloomed late, which meant that around this time everything happened at once. I packed years into months, months into days. The littlest things were magnified, and the biggest inevitably blew my mind.

There was no immediate risk on that wintry morn, but there was very much an aura of wrongness. I hadn't yet been the type to do such. And maybe then I realized that there are certain types of "wrong" that don't hurt anybody. You can miss physics or gym and nobody notices. Your parents are flawed like everyone else. There is indeed a gray in between black and white, and it's an area you're occasionally allowed to inhabit. I think it's a good day when you learn that, late or otherwise.
 
To watch a recording of it now, you'd probably laugh at my seriousness. But this day, this event, was so all-encompassing at the time, so important to what I was and what I might become, that I can't imagine disparaging the memory with mockery. People were inviting me places. I was doing stuff. I've done other stuff since then, much of which has been more enjoyable. But very little has been anywhere near as exciting.

A few weeks later, my mom found the bag from the vintage store in my closet. We got into an argument. I told her that "I was gonna be doing things that she wasn't gonna like" from here on out.

My friends have made fun of me for that bit of dialogue ever since.

I was grounded for a few weeks. No harm, no foul...except it was harm, and foul. This was a day that mattered. A rare opportunity for me to experience a world outside of what I knew. I didn't always go to girls' houses. I didn't always watch foreign sitcoms. But I wanted to, very badly. To punish me for enjoying something so ultimately harmless seemed unnecessary. And hurtful. And remarkably out of touch with what I needed to live, and be normal.

This is no slight against my parents, who did a wonderful job raising me. But I do look occasionally to the future and hope that, when I have kids, I grow with them. I hope to recognize, in this hypothetical future world, that there are rules and regulations but also observations and understandings -- meaning none of the former must be ironclad -- and that the need for black and white dissipates over time. It's important to acknowledge the existence of the gray.

Most kids in high school are beyond lame. I've looked back at a few AIM conversations saved on my old computer, and they make me want to barf. But the emotions I felt that day, and what came before and after, those were real. To forget about them would be tragic; losing touch with a part of myself that isn't better or worse. It just is. I don't think of it as holding on so much as remembering a time when so little meant so much.

I own The Office on DVD now. Both seasons and the holiday specials. Unsurprisingly, I just can't get into it like I used to.

September 17, 2012

Ain't that pretty at all.

It wasn't pretty. But it doesn't have to be.

These days, Philadelphia football fans aren't worrying much about stats, accolades, or even "looking consistently good out there."

Wins are what count, and the Eagles have two of them.

Michael Vick's continued shakiness? Forgotten (for now) after another fourth-quarter comeback. LeSean McCoy's second fumble of the year? Shady's track record (only 7 fumbles in four years) still inspires confidence.

Jason Kelce is out for quite a while, and if Jeremy Maclin plays, it'll be through some pain.

But victories are victories. Last year's team couldn't pull out close games. The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles didn't take late leads; they blew them.

So far, these guys look like battlers. Maybe we can thank veteran savvy or chemistry or another one of those oft-applied intangibles. Or maybe all the talent that came onboard the last two offseasons, especially on the defensive end of the ball, has finally settled in.

Rookies Brandon Boykin and Mychal Kendricks have looked terrific. This draft class could end up being the finest in recent Eagles history. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might've been the best player on the field in Week 1. Asante who?

And DeMeco Ryans, well, he's just a dreamboat. An interception! A sack! Some tackles in the backfield! When was the last time an Eagles linebacker made one play, let alone three or four, that made you stand up and yelp? Paul Domowitch should check back in with his pessimistic anonymous scout sometime soon.

Perhaps it was wise to allow embattled defensive coordinator Juan Castillo a little time to simmer. Maybe a talented group of linebackers can learn to play in the now-famed wide-nine scheme. After beating up on lowly Cleveland, you could play the "wait and see" card. But with two straight gems in the books (fourth in yards allowed per game), I've seen enough. And I like it.

There's admittedly only so much praise you can heap on a team that's won two games by a total of two points. But there will also only be (after tonight) six 2-0 teams in the National Football League. And the Philadelphia Eagles are one of them.

September 14, 2012

Shot with his own gun.

When I left for Malaysia on the afternoon of June 27, the Philadelphia Phillies were 36-40.

When I got back to America late on July 8, they were 37-50. And they lost the next one, too.

That, and not the eighth-inning meltdown in last night's loss to the Houston Astros, is why this team won't make the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong. It was fun to believe again, if just for a little while. Overachievers like Erik Kratz (.848 OPS) and Kevin Frandsen (.787 OPS), career minor-leaguers who've been standing on their heads for months, are always easy to cheer for.

But when reality bites, it's usually hard. The Phillies have a 2.7% chance of making the playoffs. The best it's been in recent days is 5%.

That's pretty slim. To sneak into the dance, everything needed to go their way. Nothing could go wrong.

Well, something already did: they lost a very winnable game. Don't blame Phillippe Aumont; he's pitched in five of the last six games (and twice on Sunday). Don't blame Charlie Manuel's bullpen tactics (pick an unproven rookie, any unproven rookie) or the poor at-bats with runners in scoring position (2 for 9).

Blame the fact that they tanked in the summer. Because the reason they are backed up against this wall, the reason they have no margin for error, is because they played abhorrent baseball for two long, sad weeks.

A team that's barely holding onto a near-even record can't afford to lose 11 of 12 games. That's digging your own grave, a deep one you'll probably never escape from.

And they won't. They'll keep it interesting. They may even sneak to within a game or two.

But while I was gallivanting around Southeast Asia, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies were putting a bullet in their own heads. It just took a little longer than expected for them to bleed out.