World AIDS Day – There Really is “Hope Through Health”

Monday, December 1 is World AIDS Day.  This awful, awful disease has been a big part of my life, as much of my work in Africa was with AIDS victims and their families.  There are a lot of opinions out there about the disease and the only real truth is that it is a devastating illness that cripples families, communities, and even entire continents.  One thing that most people do not realize is that it is not very expensive to live a mostly normal life with the disease.  Another thing that many people do not know is how much most charities charge for “administrative expenses.”  There are even charities where only a quarter out of every dollar they collect actually go to their “programs.” 

Well, if you ever wanted to help and wanted all of your money to go to the people who needed it, I implore you to please give to Hope Through Health, at  Every little bit helps (a cliche that truly means what it says in this case), and if you wanted to really help, you can join the “Stand With Us Campaign,” in which you set up a regular donation.  Please contact me or go right to their website, if you have any desire to help people who truly need it.  Trust me, it is something worth doing–please.

Baseball Preview: BSB-Style

 FINAL:  Catching up on past BSB stuff, we decided to update our 2008 MLB Competition.  The regular print was the original preview.  The italicized portion was the midseason update (during the All-Star Break), and this italicized and underlined portion is the final assessment. 

UPDATE:   As many of you know, BSB runs its season previews a little differently than most.  We have a little game in which Doogan and Bry pick teams, like a draft, and whether they think that they will be better or worse than they were a year ago.  The baseball preview was done about a week into the season, and is reference below.  In italics, are the updates to this picks, as of the All-Star break.  All “projections” are based strictly on winning percentage at the All-Star break.  The scores after each one represent how it would play out if the second half mirrored the first (with the “locks” in parentheses).  So, without further ado, here is the update to our Baseball Preview.  If you have already read the preview, just skip through to the parts in italics.

As some of you may know, the way we do season previews is a little different than the norm (shocking, huh?).  Instead of just writing who we think will win their division or the MVP or who we think will be a “sleeper,” we like to make it a little competition between the two of us.  What we do is a draft.  Since Bry went first in the NBA preview, Doogan will have the first pick for MLB.  He will pick any team and then choose the over/under on their total wins this year, with the line being last year’s win total.  He can pick any team and either over or under for any team.  It involves a little strategy, a little knowledge, and a little je ne sais quoi.  Okay, well, maybe it doesn’t take any of them, but it’s still a somewhat fun way to do a season preview.  So, without further intro, Doogan is on the clock…

DOOGAN 1. Colorado Rockies – UNDER 90 wins: Admittedly, we’re kind of cheating by doing this over a week into the season but, honestly, I would have picked the Rockies here even if we had done this before the season started.  Their slow start only makes it easier.  I don’t see their pitching staff repeating what they did last season, and I certainly don’t see them winning 21 out of 22 games at any point.  Especially in a fairly tough division, this looks like a .500 team to me, not a 90-win team.

UPDATE:  Doogan is on his way to grabbing an easy victory with his #1 pick, as the Rockies have been rather terrible this year, and project to no where near the 90 wins that they had last year.  They currently project to only 66 wins, and are actively shopping Matt Holliday (to teams like the Phillies, by the way).  Even if, as some are predicting, they get red-hot again in the second half and win the division, I do not see any way that they can hit the 90-win mark.

FINAL:  An easy opening win for Doogan, as the Rockies, despite a strong August, finished 16 games worse this year than last at 74-88

BRY 2. Tampa Bay Rays – OVER 66 wins: 
There is real hope in Tampa Bay this year about a potential .500 season.  Honestly, I do not see 81 wins out of this team, in this incredible division, but I also do not think they will be the worst team in baseball again this year.  I like Matt Garza and they have a true stud at the top of the rotation, in Kazmir.  Plus, they just exercised their option on Carl Crawford, so he is probably going to stick around for the whole season.  66 wins is a tiny number.  They will probably hit the 70-mark, at least.

UPDATE:  Bry also seems to be well on his way to hitting with his #1 pick.  The surprise story of the year was predicted here first (well, unless you count the part that says “I do not see 81 wins out of this team.”  But, it is nice to be right, even when you are very wrong).  The Rays project to an astronomical 95 wins for the season.

FINAL:  Bry’s first pick proved…uh…a pretty good one.  You all know the stories of this turnaround, so I won’t bore you with more.

Continue reading “Baseball Preview: BSB-Style”

Thank You, Tony

I hate the Dallas Cowboys, but I am quickly learning to love the Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

I am going to try hard not to get on a soapbox here, but I am not very good at avoiding that, especially in situations like this.  I believe that the one thing that our culture lacks more than anything else is compassion for one another.  And, though I do not believe professional athletes exemplify it any more than anyone else, they are often the poster children for a lack of compassion because they are rich, they are famous, and they play games for a living, and are therefore held to a higher standard of compassion.  So, to compensate for this, many of them write large checks to various charities.  They play golf tournaments to raise money or spend a day with the United Way.  And, believe me, I am not in any way degrading these actions.  I think it is fantastic for these people to use their fame and fortune to give back–I just think that these things are easy.  How hard is it to write a $1,000 check when you’re making one hundred times that?  Again, not degrading, just commenting on the ease of this–and the benefits of it (public image, tax breaks, etc.).  One more time–this is NOT a bad thing, I just want to call it what it is–easy.

And, with easy, often comes a subtle, yet profound separation from the why.  Why is it important to give to charitable organizations or to raise money for cancer research or to grant wishes to children with terminal illnesses?  And, the answer to this has nothing to do with the public or the IRS.  It is oneself and one’s place in a larger society.  One should do philanthropic actions because you care about your fellow man.  And, it ought to be a selfish act–selflessness is best expressed selfishly.

That brings us back to the Cowboys’ quarterback.  Back in early September, the Cowboys defeated the Cleveland Browns 28-10.  During the game, their quarterback, Tony Romo, took a big hit that split his chin.  So, after the game, he went to the hospital and received 13 stitches.  On his way home, he spotted a couple broken down on the side of the road.  The couple, whose broken air compressor was prohibiting them from repairing a flat tire, watched as more than 100 cars passed by and did not stop.  Finally, a car stopped, a man got out and helped them fix their tire.  This man had a large bandage on his chin, but refused to confirm who he was at first.  Finally, he admitted that, yes, he was the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Now, as reported in the Dallas Morning News, Romo’s compassion is not limited just to those with large cars and bad luck.  It extends to those with no cars and bad luck.  Apparently, Romo was going to see the new movie Role Model, when he saw a homeless man doing day labor handing out fliers for a consignment store across the street.  Not only did Romo buy the man a ticket to the movie, but he insisted that he sit with him and his friend during it.  The man, who goes by Doc, was embarrassed that he had not showered in a couple days, but Romo brushed it off, saying “Don’t worry about that.  I’m used to locker rooms.”

These two acts, and possibly others that may have not been reported, show a sense of character that transcends arm strength or red zone touchdowns.  These are not the usual pro athlete acts of charity because all evidence points to the fact that Romo was most certainly not doing this for publicity or fame.  Though it is easy to change a tire or watch a movie, these acts of kindness are not easy because they require stopping on the side of the road and making the effort to insist that Doc sits with him.  As a social worker who works predominantly with the homeless, the one thing that makes me happier than anything to see in fellow human beings is compassion.  Tony Romo has that, and Tony Romo truly “gets it.”  He seems to recognize that his fame and his fortune are powerful and, when used for good, can be incredibly rewarding.  As Doc said, “It was a blessing.  It gave me some encouragement and faith in mankind.  I just wanted to say thank you.”

I, too, just want say thank you, Tony, though I am sure that the feeling of personal satisfaction that you get from these acts is more than enough gratitude for 20 minutes on the side of a road or watching a movie with an extra friend.

Everyone Has a Breaking Point…Even Me

According to the all-mighty source, wikipedia, “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” is an idiom derived from an Arabic proverb that spoke of a fully-loaded camel’s back being broken by a single piece of straw.  It is against all logic that a powerful camel’s back could be broken by a single piece of straw, but the proverb shows that everything has a breaking point, and it doesn’t matter how large or significant that “final straw” may be, the back will break.

I have, on numerous occasions, been staunch defenders of the current Eagles’ quarterback and head coach.  My defense of them is like a camel’s back–and even after this Sunday, the back has not been broken.  But, let me just say that this season, especially this Sunday, has added several VERY heavy bags to my camel, and now we may just be waiting for that piece of straw. 

Let us start with the head coach.  I am getting sick and tired of many, many things that has to do with Andy Reid.  I am not going to kill him for drafting Jerome MacDougle, Freddy Mitchell, or Winston Justice (probably because I liked all three picks), but it doesn’t help his cause.  I am not going to kill him for being far too loyal to guys like Matt McCoy and Sean Considine and not nearly loyal enough to guys like Ike Reese and Roderick Hood, but that doesn’t help either.  I am not going to go down the oft-traveled roads of ignoring gaping weaknesses in personnel (wide receiver, short-yardage running back) and blatant stubbornness in playcalling (though, it is very tempting after SIXTY f’ing passing plays compared to 18 running plays against a team with a terrible run defense and a mediocre pass defense).  There are some new things that are weighing down my camel.

Let us start by combining the two aforementioned weaknesses–his tendency to ignore gaping weaknesses in personnel and his blatant stubbornness to his “methods” regardless of the personnel on either side of the ball.  And some of this is going to go back to last year because one game may have been the difference between a disappointing 8-8 and being the New York Giants (a moderately talented team who got RED HOT at just the right time–and then had a parade).  It is completely irrespondible that Reid entered last season without a punt returner–costing them the game week 1.  I think it is completely unacceptable that Reid decided not to give Winston Justice help in a Sunday night game against the Giants, when Osi Umenyiora registered 6 sacks in a Giants win that could have been the difference between the Giants getting the Wild Card and not the Eagles.  And, this year’s egregious belief that a career defensive tackle could be signed as a fullback, only to realize that he couldn’t play fullback (after losing 40 pounds), trying him at defensive tackle, only to realize that they had a bigger hole at fullback now and made his change back (and put the 40 pounds back on).

I have never seen a coach be as completely out-coached as Reid was last Sunday against the Giants.  Coughlin strategized circles around our “genius” coach, resulting in another potentially playoff-costing loss to the hated G-men.  And, let us not even start with the two-minute offense that is STILL blatantly non-existent.  Which is the perfect segue to…

The quarterback.  I honestly cannot even wrap my head around the fact that a professional quarterback did not know…oh, never mind. 

Okay, I am scared that this is heading the direction that I did not want it to go.  The point of this was to say that the “straw” has not come yet.  The camel’s back is not yet broken (though he is heavily-laden).  Andy Reid has more wins, playoff wins, and a higher winning percentage than any other coach in team history.  Since he was hired, no NFL team has reached the divisional playoff round more than the Eagles.  He has sent more players to the Pro Bowl than any other team in that period–and none of them had made a Pro Bowl before his arrival.  Reid ranks 11th all-time in winning percentage among coaches who have coached at least 100 games–and is third among active coaches, behind Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick.  So, he rides a pretty strong camel–which, as this season is going, is a good thing.  But, for now, I do not agree with John Smallwood’s column today advocating the firing of the best Eagles coach ever.

And, the quarterback takes far too much criticism.  He is clearly the best quarterback to ever don an Eagles jersey and his birthday next week will only be his 32nd.  And, look around the league and see what quarterbacks have starting jobs in this league–it is too important of a position to run a someone in the top third of the league out of town.  And for whom?  A guy whose last start was at the University of Houston?  Not me…not yet. 

Though I do not completely agree with Rich Hoffman’s defense of him earlier this year.  I do think that in quarters two and three, he may be the best quarterback to ever play.  Unfortunately, those other two quarters count too.  Either way, let us wait and see how this season plays out.  They are not out of it, yet this year, and let us give that camel one more chance to make it through the desert.

I REALLY Hate the Giants

There is no team in any sport that I despise more than the New York Giants.  If the Giants were in a game against North Korea, I would be wearing a North Korea #1 jersey with “Jong-Il” on the back.  And, tonight is not just a huge game for me and my hatred of the Giants, but for the race in the NFC East.  If the Eagles lose and fall 3 games back plus a loss head-to-head, it’s bad.  Plus, it will make the Eagles 0-3 in the division, including two home losses.  Big game.  So, after talking to the resident BSB Giants fan, Stri, I have come up with my keys to the game.

  1. Stop Brandon Jacobs:  Stri made the good point about his burly running back.  He said that it isn’t even about the yards that Jacobs gains, but he is just as important in making the opposing defense tired.  I like this for the Eagles because of the long rotation of defensive linemen, but I worry if Jacobs has a couple runs into the secondary and forces the DBs to make tackles.
  2. Protect McNabb:  Obviously, the Giants’ defense is predicated upon getting pressure on the quarterback.  It is imperative, tonight, that the Eagles protect McNabb, so that he can work the below-average Giants’ secondary.
  3. Use Westbrook early and often in the passing game, including as a decoy:  The Giants linebackers are relatively slow–they are great run-stopping linebackers, but they do not cover that well.  Which means that the Giants will probably have to use a safety to cover Westbrook–still a mismatch–which should open it up for the now-healthy receiving corps.
  4. Stop Plaxico:  The eternal malcontent, Plaxico Burress, absolutely destroys the Eagles.  Hopefully, Asante Samuel will be the difference this time around, but no matter how it’s done, the Eagles have to contain Plax.
  5. Score touchdowns in the red zone:  This could be a key to any game the Eagles play, but especially in a game between two evenly-matched teams that despise each other.  Momentum may be the difference tonight, so when you have the team down, you’ve got to finish them off.

Either way, I hate the Giants so much, and everyone on ESPN Sunday Countdown just picked the Giants, except Chris Berman–uh oh, it might be an angry night for Yours Truly.

The Hot Stove

Tim Malcolm, who runs, by far, the best pure Phillies blog that I have found on the web has thrown out several interesting tidbits about the upcoming offseason for the World Champions (and, yes, I will be writing that as often as possible). 

Most of them revolve around the potential hole in leftfield, once Pat Burrell jets for an American League designated hitter role.  The most interesting names, in my opinion, that have been thrown out there are Magglio Ordonez, Matt Holliday, Milton Bradley, and of course, Manny Ramirez. 

Bradley is a free agent and probably is looking for a 4- or 5-year deal.  Given his past (I know he was a model citizen and a bonafied all-star this year), I would be a bit scared to offer Bradley that long of a deal.

Ordonez is due to make $18 million this year and it seems as if the Tigers are just looking to move that salary, which means that acquiring Ordonez might be relatively cheap in the context of what the Phils would need to give Detroit in exchange for Ordonez.

Holliday, on the other hand, would not be cheap, baseball-wise.  The Rockies asked for JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco last year, though now that they see their time with Holliday nearing its end, they may settle for just one of them.  Plus, if you throw in the fact that resigning Holliday will be difficult after this year, it is a pretty big risk for the Phillies.  Though, I am not one of those people who disparage Holliday’s ability simply because he plays in Coors Field, the difference between his numbers in Denver and those on the road are startling.

Then, there’s Manny.  If you could guarantee me the Manny that we saw this year in August, September, and October, I would say back up the truck and give him a blank check.  But, if you told me that we would be getting the Manny from April through July, I would say:  “STAY AWAY.”  (And, I think that the fans of every single baseball team in America feels that exact same way, even those in Boston).

Of the three, I think–dare I say it–Milton Bradley might be the best option, if the Phillies can talk him down to 2-3 years.  But, then again, I would not mind seeing Matt Holliday or Magglio Ordonez hitting 3rd, sandwiched between Utley and Howard.  And, as far as Manny goes, I think they should probably get involved to test the market, but let us remember that chemistry went as far as talent in bringing Philadelphia the first championship in 100 professional seasons, and Manny is, at best, a clubhouse shakeup, and at worst, a clubhouse cancer.

With the risk of “burying the lead” in this column, I also need to mention that Mr. Malcolm has also uncovered a story in the San Jose Mercury News that reports the Phillies may be listening to trade offers for Jimmy Rollins.  With Jason Donald flying through the minors and not feeling totally comfortable at thirdbase, this might be something that the Phillies have talked about, internally, though it scares me to death to think of raising a banner without Jimmy Rollins in uniform.