Crosby to Golf Course Today
The Flyers did more than defy the odds when they ousted Sidney Crosby and his pack of Pittsburgh Penguin weasels on Sunday, they righted a wrong. The good guys won. For once, virtue triumphed over evil.
And the best part was watching Crosby plummet to the ice in the first few seconds of Game 6, the victim of a check by Claude Giroux that delivered a clear message to a Pittsburgh team favored to win the Stanley Cup this year. Giroux’s wrist shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seconds later punctuated the point. Not today, Penguins. Not this season.
It would be so easy to spend this entire column crowing over the many unexpected performances by these surprising Flyers – the exceptional work of seven different rookies, the clutch scoring of Danny Briere, the amazing success of the power play or the single-minded efforts of the incomparable Giroux. But I’ll leave those testimonials to writers far more suited to that sort of thing.
What I want to bask in today is the demise of a contemptible group of star players who acted like bullies – until they got a much-deserved punch in the mouth. The Penguins are exactly where they belong right now, home, their championship dream in tatters. They may have Stanley Cup talent, but they are strictly bottom-feeders when it comes to character.
If Crosby is indeed the face of the NHL these days, then the sport should find a good plastic surgeon. He is a crybaby on the ice and a brat off it. Long after the outcome of this series is forgotten, his embarrassing response when asked why he mindlessly swept Jakub Voracek’s glove down the ice in Game 3 will remain etched in our memories.
“I don’t like him,” Crosby said. “I don’t like anybody on that team.”
And then there was the classless response by James Neal to the 8-5 trouncing in Game 3, a dual cheap-shot shift that earned him a one-game suspension and the contempt of Philadelphia forever. First, he head-hunted Sean Couturier with an illegal check, and then he swung an elbow at Giroux’s cranium. The only injury, fortunately, was to Neal’s reputation.
This collection of social misfits was led by Dan Bylsma, a coach who tried to thug up a meeting between the teams just before the playoffs, to no avail. When Bylsma and his worms oozed out to a 10-3 lead in Game 4, the coach thought it would be a sweet gesture to call a timeout in the final moments. And then, even after his team was laid to rest, Bylsma said he couldn’t bring himself to wish the Flyers good luck.
Well, in the end, the Penguins all got what was coming to them, didn’t they? Crosby can go home now, a squawking jackal right to the end. Neal can find out just how sore a loser he really is. And Bylsma can call a five-month timeout until he begins screwing up another season.
The Flyers beat the Penguins. All is right with the world. The good guys won.
Charlie Manuel is many things to many people. He is charming, in a homespun country way. He is endearing, a quirky old guy just like Gramps. And he is even entertaining, with his folksy wisdom delivered in a halting style. But the truth behind his lovable veneer is hard for people to accept. He is a horrendous game manager.
In fact, I can’t recall a baseball lifer like Manuel who was worse at reacting to unique situations with creative solutions. If it’s not already in his dog-eared Managing for Dummies book, don’t expect Manuel to figure it out for himself.
The latest example of his boneheaded strategy came last week in a brutal loss to San Francisco, when the skipper kept an ancient Jim Thome up at the plate to face a tough lefthander, Javier Lopez, needing merely to make contact to give the Phillies a lead. Thome struck out – of course – and the Giants prevailed soon thereafter.
Eventually, Philadelphia is going to have to accept the reality of a deteriorating situation. Manuel may be a maestro of personalities in a clubhouse, but he is no master manipulator of personnel on the field. And his shortcomings are going to become increasingly apparent on a weak-hitting team that requires a mind in the dugout to manufacture runs.
The debate over how good a manager Manuel really is will continue long beyond his tenure here, but one issue will soon become painfully clear even to his loudest defenders. He is the wrong manager for this team, this year.
Now that they have made the playoffs (yawn), I have an ultimatum for the Sixers and their fan-friendly – but increasingly clueless – new owners. If Andre Iguodala is a member of the team next year, I will end a half century of rooting for their team. If he’s here, I’m done.
For me and many others, Iguodala has become the new Donovan McNabb, a puzzle on the court and an insult off it. There are more civil ways to say it, but they don’t capture the essence of Andre Iguodala. He is a loser. It’s that simple. He is terrible in the closing moments of a tight game, and he is even worse when required to explain his latest failure after it.
Last week, in the midst of a hideous run highlighted by a 3-17 record in games decided by seven or fewer points, Iguodala took some time out to praise himself. He said he was especially impressed by his recent shooting, and by his overall play. The Sixers had lost three of the previous four games when he issued this tone-deaf testimonial.
Well, I’ve had enough of him. I need the new owners to stop talking about changing the culture of the team and start doing it. CEO Adam Aron actually went on Twitter the other day and asked fans what roster moves they would recommend. Maybe Aron should ask his do-nothing president, Rod Thorn, that question.
I have loved the Sixers since the days of the greatest player ever, Wilt Chamberlain. I have embraced Dr. J and Allen Iverson, just as I have endured 9-73 and Eddie Jordan. But this is the end of the line. It’s either Iguodala or me. I’ve had enough.
Idle thoughts . . . .
• A great man ended his extraordinary career yesterday. Brian Dawkins, at 38, announced his retirement after 16 years in the NFL. He was the ultimate Eagle, brilliant on the field and dignified off it. In a city of the harshest critics in sports, absolutely everybody loved Brian Dawkins.
• Donovan McNabb named himself to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last week. He said the “big game” is the NFL conference championship, not the Super Bowl. He also said he was better than Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly. Other than these comments, there is no evidence he is using hallucinogens.
• John Mayberry Jr. was going to be the next Jayson Werth, a talented young outfielder who just needed a chance to play every day. Well, so far the only thing he has mastered is the pop-up with runners in scoring position. The Phillies need a new talented young outfielder. Mayberry is definitely not it.
• The one thing the Phillies cannot afford right now is an injury to any of their top three starting pitchers. What’s that? Cliff Lee just went on the disabled list with an oblique injury? Uh, oh.
• Asante Samuel’s me-first tenure as an Eagle is about to end. The team awaits an offer – any offer – to unload his bloated contract and ego. The Birds can always find another decent cornerback, but who’s going to replace his locker-room presence? Hey, when is Freddie Mitchell getting out of jail?