Topics in this article: Intro | Ethics | Coffins | RUT | The Round Ball | Q&A
A Short Introduction: First of Its Kind
Ignore the title because by "first of its kind", it means not at all. While I'll attempt to make myself believe I'm being original, I already failed with the title of this column - and the headline of its first edition. Normally one will find a column, especially a football one, discusses an important issue at the beginning and then works its way to the lighter topics of the day. I intend to do the exact opposite for this first edition; ignoring the fact that I'm being original, of course, with how this first column is structured. Why not discuss sports in the context of why I'm being so unoriginal.
The largest obstacle to starting to write a column was not actually writing the column. It was, in fact, what to name it. I've had a problem of being able to finish writing an article but never know how to aptly wrap it up title wise. Even in the past when I was an editor on my school newspaper, I couldn't seem to find that finishing touch when it came to layout. Alas, what is the point of writing anything if it won't garner views/reads because its title isn't enticing enough. I can tell you that more than one of my high school articles was all but lost because of such a circumstance. Before I get so off track that I can't find my way back to the rails, let me jump back onto the train. I promise in future editions to give some sort of proper lead story, if you all will be so kind to just run with me on this one.
Todd Pinkston via www.blogcdn.com
To answer my own question, of why this column is unoriginal due to the title, it comes from where I took the title. "Heard the Footsteps" is not a well known or well used column/blog title. Rather, it is something that should be well known to Eagles fans from past seasons. I'm sure most, if not all, Eagles fans on this blog will remember a certain game against the Washington Redskins when the almighty receiving threat Todd Pinkston had a ball thrown deep to him, by Donovan McNabb. He said he got "lost in the lights" when he missed the ball. However, it has been assumed (rightly so in my mind) that he just simply "heard the footsteps" with Sean Talor coming to clobber him. When the phrase showed up on a list of football cliches, I couldn't resist using it. Don't worry, I won't be cliche or unoriginal any longer. This space in all future columns will be reserved for some sort of personal interest story. For now I'm just going to set up the structure of the column to come and provide all of you some teasers for the future. Don't worry about the lack of direct talk about the Eagles, it'll come in the next edition of this column. I'm trying to ease my way into that.
Lack of Class and Professionalism (Part I)
At first this part of my column was going to be about DeSean Jackson's recent media attention and his upcoming contract negotiations/discussions. However, as I began to write about the subject, I realized a better story, hiding under the surface. It's something that is discussed almost as an aside on this and other sites. It's not seen as a plague so much as an annoying pest. That, to me, is the problem with the situation. The story hiding under a lot of "stories" in professional sports is the lack of professionalism by those who cover it. I realize that with the new age of internet journalism, anyone has the ability to place his or her voice to be heard by those who choose to access or read it.
Some of you may shrug because the word blog is normally associated with an average person on the street and you have the right to be unconcerned about the state of affairs with the coverage of sports by blogs. But that does not excuse the fact that there is a distinct lack of journalistic standards being held by those who wish to cover sports. If I was to open a normal American newspaper, I am most likely to believe that what I am reading is written by a writer who is not only paid to write about sports, but has gone to school and learned the ethics and cannons of journalism. I'm not going to harp on people for not taking journalism in college, but there are things you learn beyond just grammar, mechanics and structure for writing.
I can't describe the level of annoyance I have whenever I see an instance of incorrect journalism. I've grown to basically despise sites like PFT because they are the reasons why blogs have yet to gain true acceptance by the journalistic community. There are writers who do not have legitimacy with professional writers lucky enough to write for the AP or publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer for the sole reason that they are bloggers. I don't think anyone who reads an article by JasonB or JimmyK can state that their writing isn't interesting or new. For example, while there has been plenty of talk about how Kolb projects to be as a quarterback in the NFL, I had yet to see a drive-by-drive breakdown of his professional throws. Yet, JimmyK's analysis would be scoffed at by a good amount of writers or scouts because of one word: blog. Does the platform of JimmyK's writing require him to be diminished to nothing more than a crazy guy on a soapbox? No, it does not. His analysis of Kolb's NFL ability is just as qualified as an Inquirer writer, but because of the status of each, JimmyK loses out. I don't think that JimmyK would state that he is as qualified as someone like Ray Didinger, but the fact that his analysis was solely upon game film and was just simply a breakdown of that game film shows that he has a propensity to analyze in the same fashion as the greats of journalism. Now the problem for people like us is that it takes a miracle to be recognized as an accepted source of opinion or news on sports (i.e. the writers from sbnation that have been hired by professional teams or media outlets). The reason that it takes a miracle is because of the lack of professionalism on many blog sites from their main writers.
Journalism classes may preach against yellow journalism or misinformation but that does not prevent people like Mike Florio from ruining chances for the rest of us. I would give an educated guess that the vast majority of the readers and commentators on BGN either enjoy communicating with other Eagles fans or are looking for a way to write and have people read and comment on their writing. For a smaller portion of our community, like me, this blog may be an avenue for a future career. It makes me shut my eyes and shake my head whenever I see my attempts to improve my writing and move towards a career blocked every second by people like Florio, who give all of us bad names. So where is my angry ramble going? I'm heading like a cruise missile towards "news" blogs like PFT. The best example I can think of just so happens to be one of the more recent examples of PFT's outlandish forms of journalism. Jackson made some noise nationally when he was extremely misquoted by online football sources such as ProFootballTalk.com (the ultimate misquoting source of all time). Donovan McNabb was informed of Jackson's assertion that "I don't think we lost anything, even without McNabb" and the national media created an artificial war of the words between the two players. All of a sudden, a non-issue from a very good interview in Sporting News turned into an attention grabber for various media outlets. Some sites (I'm looking at you ProFootballTalk and its King, Mike Florio) decided it was a great idea to start a media movement to declare Jackson the span of Satan Terrell Owens, with titles along the lines of: "DeSean Jackson could become TO". Then the attention started to fade because Sporting News' actual interview began to flow freely amongst journalists and soon the context of the Jackson quotes was pointed out to all involved. I don't call people out unless they deserve it, and in this case Florio and company deserve all the criticism they can get. PFT does not deserve the light of day, yet it currently holds the attention of some notable sports news institutions, like ESPN. All the while, a quality blog like http://www.runofplay.com/, one of the most well written soccer, nay, sports blogs out there is only well known to the select few who are privileged enough to have found it online (I recommend the blog to even non-soccer fans, it's one of the best pieces of writing you'll find anywhere on anything).
In Part II, I'll continue my discussion of blogs in the professional sports journalism world and break down how sites like PFT and Deadspin ignore the longtime foundations of journalism, the cannons of journalism.
Some of you may remember my fanpost from early in the offseason on punters. For those of you that don't, the summary of it is the following: Sav Rocca is not consistent enough and there are options on the market. I listed the options and how they played in 2009 and found that there were at least a couple of quality options already in the NFL that were available for the Eagles to sign. Adding to my worst fears about our special teams, the Eagles proceeded to retain Sav Rocca. However, they did provide him with some competition in Durant Brooks, one of the best punters in collegiate history. While Brooks has not found much success in the NFL so far into his short career, his ability speaks for itself from college. Without going too far into the past, I'd like to re-present something I posted as a fanshot a bit ago, because I think the exposure from this column will do it more justice.
Rugby has some great athletes, as we've seen from movies like "Invictus" and the ability to translate into the NFL game (Ben Graham). The video that follows shows off one of the best kicking legs in the entire world today:
This show of amazing power and accuracy is a follow up to his ridiculous bomb from the 2008-2009 season in France:
I'll let the film speak for itself. The guy is young and only makes 750,000 euros a year playing a sport where his position undergoes more strain and physicality than a punter in the NFL. I think we'll be seeing him at some point punting for a team - hopefully for the Eagles. A guy can dream, right?
The Jersey Connection: Rutgers
Can't leave out a mention of my current school, can I? A quick three things to note about Rutgers:
(1) A move to the Big Ten could benefit the school by at least $30 million dollars. The speculation currently is that if Rutgers and three other "proper" fit schools are selected for expansion, the Big Ten could increase revenue for each team to about $40 million (possibly even make profit that much). For a public school like Rutgers, which just lost over $45 million from its state funding, that money could be too much to ignore. The possibility of the Big East dying seems more and more likely every day, no matter that the rumors of Big Ten expansion have been 'quelled.' Big Ten expansion will happen and Rutgers will be one of the teams chosen for the expansion.
(2) Could Rutgers go private? Considering the State funding for the school has dipped below 30%, I would recommend Rutgers look into privatizing. Rising tuition costs have already forced the school into the position of being one of the highest in-state public school tuition colleges in the country. Since Rutgers is considered a public Ivy, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to consider becoming a private school. But the effect of this move on athletics will most likely prohibit an actual privatization of the university.
(3) Rutgers football will be a ranked team this upcoming season - mark it down. Returning starter Tom Savage will be one of the best QBs in the Big East and will lead an offense that will be overcoming the losses of key starters Anthony Davis and Tim Brown. My hope is that the defense will be able to overcome a poor 2009 season and provide Savage with the foundation necessary to win games in 2010.
Sport of the Round Ball
For my next column I'll be doing a World Cup preview. Right now, for those of you that may be watching but aren't soccer regulars, I'll list the roster and point out the key players for a possible USA run this summer.
(Thanks to ESPN.com for the roster list)
|-||Brad Guzan||Goalkeeper||6'4"||207 lbs||September 9, 1984|
|-||Marcus Hahnemann||Goalkeeper||6'3"||227 lbs||June 15, 1972|
|-||Tim Howard||Goalkeeper||6'3"||194 lbs||June 3, 1979|
|-||Carlos Bocanegra||Defender||6'0"||172 lbs||May 25, 1979|
|-||Jonathan Bornstein||Defender||5'9"||146 lbs||November 7, 1984|
|-||Steve Cherundolo||Defender||5'6"||146 lbs||February 19, 1979|
|-||Jay Demerit||Defender||5'11"||181 lbs||January 25, 1980|
|-||Clarence Goodson||Defender||6'4"||170 lbs||May 17, 1982|
|-||Chad Marshall||Defender||6'3"||190 lbs||August 22, 1984|
|-||Oguchi Onyewu||Defender||6'5"||201 lbs||May 13, 1982|
|-||Heath Pearce||Defender||5'11"||174 lbs||August 13, 1984|
|-||Jonathan Spector||Defender||5'11"||168 lbs||March 1, 1986|
|-||DaMarcus Beasley||Midfielder||5'7"||137 lbs||May 24, 1982|
|-||Alejandro Bedoya||Midfielder||5'10"||161 lbs||April 20, 1987|
|-||Michael Bradley||Midfielder||5'11"||174 lbs||July 31, 1987|
|-||Ricardo Clark||Midfielder||5'10"||161 lbs||February 10, 1983|
|-||Clint Dempsey||Midfielder||5'11"||170 lbs||March 9, 1983|
|-||Maurice Edu||Midfielder||6'0"||165 lbs||April 18, 1986|
|-||Benny Feilhaber||Midfielder||5'7"||165 lbs||January 19, 1985|
|-||Stuart Holden||Midfielder||5'10"||161 lbs||August 1, 1985|
|-||Sacha Kljestan||Midfielder||6'1"||150 lbs||September 9, 1985|
|-||Robbie Rogers||Midfielder||5'10"||165 lbs||May 12, 1987|
|-||José Francisco Torres||Midfielder||5'5"||135 lbs||October 29, 1987|
|-||Jozy Altidore||Forward||5'11"||159 lbs||November 6, 1989|
|-||Edson Buddle||Forward||6'1"||170 lbs||May 21, 1981|
|-||Brian Ching||Forward||6'1"||194 lbs||May 24, 1978|
|-||Landon Donovan||Forward||5'8"||158 lbs||March 4, 1982|
|-||Robbie Findley||Forward||5'9"||165 lbs||August 4, 1985|
|-||Herculez Gomez||Forward||5'10"||165 lbs||April 6, 1982|
|-||Eddie Johnson||Forward||6'0"||180 lbs||March 31, 1984|
-Tim Howard, starting goalie: His play will dictate whether or not the US can withstand European offensive assaults from the likes of England and teams thereafter.
-Landon Donovan, starting left winger/possible striker: If Donovan gets hot and plays up to how he played with Everton in the English Premier League, there's no question that the US will have plenty of chances to score.
-Clint Dempsey, starting right midfielder: Dempsey's play over the last two seasons for Fulham has shown why he's moving towards being one of the best Americans to ever play abroad. His play will dictate much of how the midfield responds to world class talent such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
-Whomever ends up playing at left back: Whether it be experience or speed, neither answer may be the proper answer at left back. This is the one position where no one really made a name for himself prior to the last friendlies to the World Cup and no one will most likely solidify his starting spot until the World Cup itself.
Last But Not Least: Q&A with JasonB
(This is an edited interview, due to the length of the interview. The full interview will be posted later today.)
me: For the preliminaries, how long have you been blogging/writing about the Eagles (including prior to BGN)?
JasonB: I believe since March of 2006, right before the draft.
After probably the worst Eagles season of the past decade, 2005
JasonB: That was such a miserable year, that I spent so much time researching and looking into the draft... I just figured I should try to use of all that time I spent on something.
me: Interestingly enough, that is the answer to what I was going to follow up with.
Did you ever think that your writing would evolve into a blog the size of BGN?
JasonB: Not at all. I remember being excited when one person would comment on something I wrote or the first time 100 people visited my site in a day... But I had a lot to say so I've always wrote pretty often and that really gets people engaged.
One person commented on my draft post in that first year.
This year, it was like two or three thousand.
We're approaching 10 million views now...
me: Taking a look back at pre-SBnation.com BGN, did you expect your writing to get noticed and eventually picked up?
JasonB: I didn't. Back then I wasn't sure if anyone was reading my site let alone people out searching to recruit writers. Plus, back then the sports blogosphere was still basically in it's fledgling stages especially when it came to football. There were several great baseball blogs out there, but not a whole lot else. So, at the time I really didn't even conceive of someone trying to do a big sports blog network.
me: How did the transition from independent blog to sbnation.com occur? Were you given an offer by sbnation.com or did you contact their representatives? I know for some of your long time readers and commentators the transition was both a positive (larger exposure, access to other large blogs by rivals, etc) and a negative (loss of some accounts in the transition). How was it for you, the blog owner, to move to sbnation.com?
JasonB: They contacted me, but that was long before we moved to our newest platform.
I think you're referring to the pre BGN 2.0
me: I'm unfortunately too new to know of pre-BGN 2.0
JasonB: When I started blogging about the Eagles it was on a free blogspot site. Then we moved to an earlier incarnation of the SBNation platform
The site really took a leap technology wise when we transitioned to the 2.0 platform.
JasonB: For me, it's been great because of the technology. The usability of the site and the tools I have at my disposal are far better than anything I could have built on my own.
JasonB: The network is great too though. A lot of advice and what not gets passed around behind the scenes here that has made me better and the site better.
JasonB: Dave Halprin, our Cowboys blogger, is a guy I admire and have learned a ton of from... despite his obvious major character flaw.
me: So there's a sort of camaraderie amongst even the rival team bloggers?
JasonB: Definitely. I've got good relationships with all our rival bloggers. I may hate their teams... but I think all those guys do a great job and we all have a common goal of building a great place for fans to get together and talk about their team.
me: Now that you've gotten a little comfortable, I think it's time to get down and dirty with the questions. If I don't ask any, what's the point right? (laughs)
JasonB: Is "what are you wearing" next?
me: Damn internet and it's ruination of clichéd lines! I would hope it's something involving the Flyers (or Eagles).
JasonB: Funny enough it is an old school Bobby Clarke shirt!
me: Doesn't get much better than that in terms of the Orange and Black.
I thought it would be nice to have a little Flyers tie-in, considering what they've done in the past couple of weeks.
JasonB: It's been amazing.
me: What Eagles team in this past decade do you think the 2009-2010 Flyers parallel (if there are any)? I look to the 2008 Eagles for the closest.
JasonB: Yeah that team would seem to fit the bill. They followed the same kind of great early promise, followed by disappointment, with an improbable playoff run at the end. The week 17 "win and you're in" showdown with Dallas is almost identical to the Flyers "win and you're in" game with the Rangers this year. And the confluence of events that needed to occur on the final day to get the Eagles into the playoffs was probably as likely coming back from a 3-0 series deficit!
Of course, had they actually completed that epic comeback against Arizona... the comparison probably would have been even better.
me: Speaking of surprises, how surprised were you with the focus on linebackers and defensive ends in the Eagles' 2010 draft?
JasonB: Well, I'm not sure if I'd say there was a big focus on LB... Their first LB was with their 5th pick right? As for DE, that really shouldn't surprise anyone who follows this team closely. We know that the Eagles put a premium on that position and they've always invested heavily on the defensive line.
JasonB: In his tenure, Andy Reid has now spent his first pick in a draft on the defensive line 6 times!
JasonB: I was kind of amazed to see so many people initially down on the Brandon Graham pick in the open threads for the draft. I can't even count the number of times over the past two or three years that people have talked about the need for a legit threat opposite Trent Cole. I'm pretty happy to see that we've hopefully got that now.
me: To be more concise, the amount of picks spent on the two positions considering the amount of players at both positions already on the team. One could argue the Eagles drafted three DEs (Graham, Te'o and Sapp) and two LBs (Clayton and Chaney), when we were already carrying four DEs (Cole, Parker, Abiamiri and Howard) and six LBs (Bradley, Jordan, Sims, Fokou, Gaither, Hall).
JasonB: Yeah, but they also got rid of a lot of DEs this offseason.
JasonB: Howard was shipped out, Clemons out, Babin out, Abiamiri injured...
JasonB: If you include the trade for Tapp, they've only brought in as many DEs as they got rid of.
me: That is a reasonable analysis of the situation (in regards to the DE depth). My feeling was that the Eagles were more likely to look to veterans again, not address it so much in the draft.
JasonB: I get that people wanted Berry, but that was a pipe dream to be honest. I wrote about that before the draft. The only shot the Eagles had at him was if he somehow slipped to around 10. He wasn't even close to that.
JasonB: And defensive end was clearly a weakness on defense for me, so the Graham pick absolutely addressed a defensive need.
me: To be totally honest, I was one of those people who were emotionally attached to drafting Berry and
How do you see Graham impacting the Eagles in 2010? Will he start right away or just be a situational pass rusher?
JasonB: I'm not sure if we'll see him start right away. Juqua Parker and Daryl Tapp are both decent veteran options and probably the best bet to get the starting job opening day. Obviously a strong preseason from Graham could change that, but I think it's more likely that we see his role grow as the season goes on.
Defensive end is traditionally a position where it takes time for a rookie, even a top one, to develop.
me: Do you see the drafting of Graham as a reason for Eagles fans to have almost completely forgotten about the Eagles passing on Julius Peppers in the offseason? It has been months since barely a mention of his name has appeared on BGN.
JasonB: I suppose so. If anything, it certainly made the Eagles plan this offseason a lot more clear. Going into an offseason we can only guess as to what we think the "plan" looks like... but now that the draft has passed it seems pretty clear that they were looking to stock up on D-line in the draft. I think most people are willing to accept that as long as they see there is "a plan."
me: Something else that hasn't been discussed, most likely because of the lack of a salary cap, is the Eagles spending. Do you think that any of the Eagles moves this offseason were to position them for the 2011 (or 2012, depending on a possible lockout) capped season?
Normally this is a subject that Eagles fans love to discuss.
JasonB: I don't really think so. They gave Celek big money last year. Kolb will make big money in 2011. Brandon Graham is going to get big guaranteed money... Avant & Weaver got good long term money. I just think their subtractions this offseason have been "out with the old and in with the new." They've still got plenty of long term money locked up in the core of the team through 2011.
JasonB: If anything, getting rid of McNabb and his one year deal and extending Kolb with big guaranteed money for an extra year is the opposite of what they'd do if they were looking to shed salary for a lockout. They would have had McNabb off the books in any lockout year.
me: On another contract issue, how do you think the DeSean Jackson contract situation will be addressed by the Eagles? Will we see the Eagles present him with a large, long term contract or will they wait one more season and hope he doesn't turn it into a TO-like situation?
JasonB: I think they're going to wait until the CBA gets resolved. The fact is, that with the "30 percent" rule, a big long term deal really isn't a possibility. The Eagles, Jackson, and even Drew Rosenhaus have all acknowledged this.
Having been a second round pick, Jackson doesn't have a huge base salary which makes the situation particularly hard for him.
A guy like Patrick Willis, who got a big extension from the Niners was a top 15 pick and had a much higher base to work from. That made the "30 percent rule" easier to work around.
me: There has been speculation that a team like the Titans is going to circumvent the "30 percent rule" by presenting Chris Johnson with a sizable signing bonus. His salary is nearly comparable to Jackson's, though he does earn more because of his drafting at 24th overall.
JasonB: That is a possibility, but that's a giant risk for a team to take... especially when they have the player under contract now and there's a chance that the labor situation could still get resolved within the year. You'd feel pretty stupid if you gave a guy a near fully guaranteed deal this offseason only to see a new CBA done by next offseason.
JasonB: Players have so little leverage right now because the situation is the same for every team. I'm sure the Eagles and Titans would love to lock up guys like Jackson and Johnson. You know the Eagles would love to have done a new deal this offseason, that's been what they have done for many years now with their budding young stars... but they can't. No team really can.
^End of Part 1 of the JasonB interview. You can find the full interview here: http://www.bleedinggreennation.com/2010/5/18/1478181/full-interview-with-jasonb
I hope you enjoyed edition one of "Heard the Footsteps." Feel free to leave any comments you have, I'll definitely take suggestions into account for edition two. And like I said at the end of the intro, I'm going to start making this more Eagles orientated, but just remember it's the offseason and there isn't as much going on.