There is a quiet elation in the streets of Philadelphia this week because the sports figure we hate the most has failed again. Bill Belichick was denied an NFL championship when his New England Patriots were eliminated by Denver on Sunday. The cheater lost. Justice was served.
Our deep disaffection for the grumpy coach is one of the least acknowledged local sports stories because few media people ever actually speak with the fans. These misguided writers and broadcasters just assume Philadelphia has forgotten that Belichick was caught cheating in the Eagles’ only Super Bowl appearance in the past 33 years. Not a chance.
With failure after failure since Spygate – nine in a row now – our resentment builds over what happened in 2005. Ultimately, Belichick paid a fine of $500,000 and lost a first-round draft pick for snooping on opponents’ practices with surveillance cameras, but he kept the three rings that he stole.
On my WIP radio show last Friday, co-host Hollis Thomas – a member of that 2005 Super Bowl team – said he would always root hard against Belichick. More fans than I could hope to get on the air were quick to add their bitterness to the conversation. Nine years later, Belichick is a bigger villain than ever here.
“We could have won that year,” Thomas said. “We should have won. He cheated.”
According to the former nose tackle, the Patriots clearly knew the Eagles’ signals in that game, and they used them to great advantage throughout a 24-21 victory. Yes, the Eagles screwed up the final quarter with a plodding offense and indecisive coaching, but Thomas believes Spygate helped to create that confusion.
Is it just a coincidence that the Patriots – after winning three Super Bowls in four seasons before getting caught – have won none in the nine years since then? Is it odd that the NFL, faced with a scandal that challenged the results of several seasons, destroyed the tapes rather than fuel the debate?
Before his passing two years ago, Sen. Arlen Specter understood how deep the frustration had become as he tried, several times, to gain approval for a Senate investigation into Spygate. Understandably, his fellow lawmakers felt the country had higher priorities.
No higher power will ever make right what went wrong in the three Super Bowls that Belichick won, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us when Peyton Manning calls Belichick the greatest coach in NFL history, as he did last week. No clear-thinking Eagle fan will ever make a similar claim, not after Spygate.
So if people seem to have a little extra bounce in their step this week, now you know why. Bill Belichick lost again. Justice was served. Amen.
Eagles have snatched spotlight back from Phillies
How desperate are the Phillies to revive interest in their declining franchise? They turned last week to their most admired – but least likely – spokesman when Chase Utley did an elaborate media tour preaching the hopes and dreams of the 2014 team.
In his typically understated way, Utley spoke about the potential of a club still filled with big names, even if most of them appear well past their primes because of injuries and age. Hope springs eternal, and Utley was nothing if not optimistic in his message to Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, the truth is far more sobering than Utley’s rosy assessment. Not only are the Phils coming off a brutal 73-89 season, but their underwhelming winter is inspiring no one. When the boldest transaction is firing Chris Wheeler, an announcer who has tortured fans for 37 years, how can anyone buy Utley’s pledge of allegiance?
The real story here is not just the steady dissolution of interest in the Phillies since 2008, but also the sudden resurgence of their primary sports rival in Philadelphia, the Eagles. Just a year ago, the Birds were in upheaval after the 14-year Andy Reid era, and the Phils were a year younger and a year closer to their glory days.
Now, the Eagles are back in their customary position of power, while the Phils are chasing far-fetched dreams. What Utley did last week was commendable, a reflection of his class and commitment. But his words changed nothing.
The Phillies are quickly becoming yesterday’s news – and will continue to be so until they find a new direction the way the Eagles did. Even Chase Utley cannot change that sad reality.
Eagles fans see what could have been with safety Thomas
Almost four years later, Earl Thomas still receives messages on Twitter from Eagles fans wishing he were on their team rather than heading to the Super Bowl with Seattle. Remember, the Birds traded up in the 2010 draft to select defensive end Brandon Graham. Thomas, an elite safety, went to the Seahawks with the very next pick.
That idiotic decision continues to haunt the Eagles today, as Graham has never risen above mediocrity while Thomas is developing into a modern version of Brian Dawkins. It became an even bigger issue in the past few weeks as the Eagles had to endure a dreadful season by Patrick Chung.
Why did the Eagles rate Graham higher than Thomas? The answer to that question is really more about their positions than the players. Even now, many self-proclaimed football experts think a great defensive end is more important than a game-changing safety.
Seattle is a compelling example of how wrong-headed and outdated that thinking truly is. The Seahawks are the No. 1 defense in the league because they have two safeties, Thomas and Kam Chancellor, who are equally effective against the run or pass. They dominate. They win.
In the months ahead, Eagles fans are going to have to endure cocksure analyses suggesting that an elite pass rusher is the Holy Grail, the team’s prevailing need in the draft. Only one question is required in response to this foolishness: Are you suggesting that Brian Dawkins wasn’t as important to the Eagles as Trent Cole or Jevon Kearse or Juque Parker? Really?
He who ignores the past is doomed to repeat it. If Patrick Chung performed any service this season, it is the painful lesson that the safety position is an important as any on an NFL team. The No. 1 priority of this off-season is to find a player who is much, much better than Chung.
- Richard Sherman’s tirade after his game-saving play won the NFC championship for Seattle Sunday was completely insane. Instead of being heralded for his work, he is being reviled for his words. From a hero to a zero in one boastful, classless rant. Shame on him.
- Former manager Charlie Manuel is back in the Phillies organization, along with ousted broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews. Then there’s another ex-skipper, Dallas Green, drawing a check, along with ex-GM Ed Wade. Is there a more loyal boss in pro sports than president Dave Montgomery?
- The Eagles are already having an amazing off-season. They added three Pro Bowlers to the roster of elite players in the past week alone – Nick Foles, Evan Mathis and DeSean Jackson. In the original voting, the Birds only got two players, LeSean McCoy and Jason Peters, on the team.
- Sam Hinkie is trying to rewrite the job definition for a GM in Philadelphia. The socially awkward Sixers boss emerges once or twice a month to offer terse, wooden remarks, and then scurries back undercover. When he took the job last year, he did know what city he was coming to, didn’t he?
- Major League Baseball has approved an expanded replay system that will allow up to four major delays in the first six innings, and an unlimited number after that. This should shut up all the fans who have been complaining that the games are way too fast.