Voice of Philly Sports Fan: No one can shake Vick’s confidence

Mike Vick doesn’t care what this column says. To him, it’s just one more voice in the din of criticism, one more dissenter in a world of naysayers. Vick’s exact words last week were: “I spent two years in prison. You think I care what somebody says?”

That comment proved especially meaningful at the end of another improbable finish Sunday, the second fourth-quarter drive in two weeks that produced a one-point victory. This time the opponent was an elite team with a fearsome defense, the Ravens. This time there was no dropped interception to raise questions about Vick’s ability to deliver under pressure.

And the secret of his success this season is really no secret. It is Vick’s absolute confidence even when evidence is mounting that he has reverted to the erratic form of his early days in Atlanta. Vick and his offense have turned the ball over nine times in the first two games. The Eagles are 2-0. How are these two things possible?

Vick makes them possible. Just as his legs and arm have placed him in a category separate from any other quarterback, so, too, has his attitude. He is the flip side of Donovan McNabb, who labored for 11 years caring desperately about what people were saying and thinking. Vick doesn’t care at all.

There was 4:43 remaining Sunday with 80 yards and an elite defense standing between Vick and the goal line. Just like the week before, the Eagles were six points behind. Nothing less than a touchdown would be good enough. Adding to the drama at Lincoln Financial Field were the two backup linemen in front of Vick and the atrocious officiating crew surrounding him.

Vick had everything working against him at that critical juncture, and he was fine with it. In succession, Vick hit DeSean Jackson with a pass for 14 yards, then Brent Celek for 24 and then ran eight yards himself. In 53 seconds, he led his team 46 yards downfield.

Moments later, after two more completions, Vick survived an embarrassing call by the scab refs and plunged into the end zone himself for the game-winner. That quickly, none of Vick’s baggage mattered — not the controversial book, not the propensity for turnovers, not the many injuries, and not even his outrageous past.

Vick has been successful under pressure these past two weeks because he doesn’t care about failing. It is why he refuses to slide when there are three extra yards to get, why he tries to thread throws between defenders when it would be smarter to toss the ball into the stands, and why he is willing to try anything, any time, that he thinks will deliver a victory.

Given his past and his attitude, Vick has earned all of the criticism he has received in his controversial career. But after the past two weeks, he has earned the grudging respect of a city that has waited a long time for a quarterback, a leader, to bring the joy he has brought to all of us.

Vote for Sandberg in 2013

Ruben Amaro Jr. spent $51 million on the best closer available, but there was one fatal flaw in his thinking. Even at that salary, Jonathan Papelbon is useless if Charlie Manuel doesn’t put him in the game.

The bumbling manager did it again last Thursday, handing the hideous Houston Astros a victory when he refused to use Papelbon for a four-out save. Instead, Manuel went with the third-best left-hander in his unreliable bullpen, Jake Diekman, with the tying and winning runs on base.

Diekman gave up a devastating two-run double to Jed Lowrie, ending the Phils’ seven-game winning streak and leading to three losses in four days and the end of all hope for 2012. It was — ready for this? — the seventh time this season that the Phils lost a game they were leading with two outs in the eighth inning.

Manuel is the worst strategist in the game today. He is unable to adjust. If he doesn’t employ a formula, he is lost. Yes, he is great in the clubhouse. Yes, the team didn’t quit after a horrible first four months. But what good is any of that if he can’t make the logical in-game decisions with an

entire season at stake?

Amaro has already said Manuel will “absolutely” be back for a ninth season with the Phillies, while Ryne Sandberg continues to wait for his much-deserved chance. The fans are split right down the middle. Manuel supporters apparently want him to make these same stupid decisions next year. Sandberg backers know the truth. It’s time for a change.

Lockout may help hockey

In the days and weeks ahead, you will read many grave forecasts for the future of hockey. Believe none of them. The NHL will be just fine. In fact, the lockout is actually a good idea.

If history is any indication, the NHL will come back stronger than ever after the two sides figure out who deserves to be more disgustingly rich, the players or the owners. A shortened season will eliminate the boring first few months and do what the league should have done decades ago: compress the 82-game schedule.

If the NHL is out for the whole year like it was in ’04-’05, well, there’s every reason to believe hockey will be just fine then, too. Remember, after an entire lost season seven years ago, the NHL experienced an era of growth and prosperity unlike any in its history. The only thing hurt by the last lockout was the feelings of the owners, who convinced themselves they got a bad deal.

For what it’s worth — not much, really — here’s one vote of support for the players in this silly dispute. Believe it or not, the mega-wealthy owners are trying to slam through a plan that would diminish the value of existing contracts.

They agreed to these deals, like the Shea Weber bonanza in Nashville, and now they want a percentage of that money kicked back into their already stuffed pockets.

But let’s be honest.

No one really cares about who wins these greed wars. All the fans worry about is getting to see their sport again. And rest assured, hockey will be back soon, bigger and better than ever.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.

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