Saturday, January 13, 2018

Can Eagles fly without Carson Wentz?

Foles (L) replaces Wentz (R) for NFL playoffs
This afternoon for the first time since the 2013 season the Philadelphia Eagles will take part in an NFL playoff game.

For my fellow Eagles fans, if it seems that we've suffered through a long drought without a postseason appearance, that's because we have.

In the last 30 years there has only been one other stretch, from 1997-99 prior to the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era, where the Eagles missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

The turnaround from the recent downturn for the franchise can easily be traced to one event, and basically to one person. That would be the selection of quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Wentz somewhat unexpectedly became the starting quarterback immediately. He led the Eagles to a 3-0 start as a rookie that fall, demonstrating the talent and leadership that had inspired team management to make him such a high draft selection.

After the defense collapsed during a five-game late season losing streak, Wentz orchestrated a pair of 2016 season-closing victories over the division rival New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

Those late wins and his overall play buoyed the hopes and dreams of the Eagles rabid fan base for the 2017 season. Wentz and the team did not disappoint. He passed for over 3,200 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the team to an 11-2 record this fall.

But the 13th game would prove to be unlucky in the extreme. Wentz was matched up against the quarterback chosen ahead of him with the top pick in that 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff, as the Eagles visited the Los Angeles Rams.

Wentz would throw four touchdown passes to out-duel Goff at the Los Angeles Colosseum in a 43-35 thrilling shootout. With four minutes to go in the third quarter, Wentz was hit awkwardly as he tried to score on a keeper from the Rams two-yard line.

Four plays later, Wentz passed to Alshon Jeffery to put the Eagles up by 31-28. However, on that earlier keeper play, Wentz had injured his leg. He would leave the game following the TD pass, replaced by backup Nick Foles for the first time all season.

A rusty Foles would go just 6-10 for 42 yards, but the Eagles defense took over. The 'D' forced a pair of fumbles, one setting up a Jake Elliott field goal and another returned for a touchdown by Brandon Graham.

It was learned following the game that Wentz had suffered major injuries. He would require surgery to repair a torn ACL and a partially torn IT band, as well as some meniscus damage. Not only would Wentz miss the rest of the 2017 season, but he is likely to miss much of the 2018 season as well.



With their NFL MVP candidate leader out, the Eagles turned the reigns of a playoff team over to Foles. The team won their first two games with the backup under center, but those victories over the Giants and the LA Raiders were marked by inconsistent play against inferior opponents.

Those two victories did allow the Eagles to clinch the top overall record in the NFC, and thus home field advantage for however long they last in the playoffs.

A season-closing 6-0 loss to the hated rival Cowboys continued the inconsistent play, with Foles seeing just limited action. Coach Doug Pederson took the meaningless contest as a chance to rest his regulars and get some game action for the new backup quarterback, Nate Sudfeld.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Sermon: the Epiphany of the three Magi

The Magi, as presented in "The Nativity Story"
Any number of times over the years the inspiration for these "Sunday Sermon" pieces has been drawn from some idea put forward by the priests at my church.

Today, Father Sean English provided that inspiration with his sermon in which he spoke of the "Three Kings" in relation to today's celebration of the Epiphany.

The Epiphany goes by a few other names as well, depending on your cultural background or the specific church to which you may belong. The most frequent are for "Little Christmas" or "Three Kings Day" celebrations.

In today's world, when someone is said to have an "epiphany" it means that some sudden realization has come upon them. A moment of clarity in which something fundamental is revealed to them.

The "three kings" or "three wise men" or even the "Magi" as they have alternately been known through history are credited with both having and passing on such an epiphany following the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago.

The word "Magi" is an ancient one. It referred to those who practiced what was known as magic, usually including incorporation and study of alchemy and astrology. These were extremely learned men, bordering on what today would be called scientists more than true magicians.

As Father Sean explained today, the Magi of Jesus' time were not necessarily aligned with any particular religion. However, they were acquainted with all faith systems, including Judaism.

The Magi may have been followers or even priests of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. No matter, they certainly would know of the ancient Jewish prophecy regarding the coming of a Savior.

The western Christian churches, including the Catholic Church founded by Jesus himself, believe and teach that there were three of these wise Magi men. That theory was drawn from writings showing that three gifts were brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

One thing is almost certain, they were not "kings" in the classic sense of the word. The reference to "three kings" is almost certainly drawn from prophecies such as Psalm 72 which said "all kings shall fall down before him" in the Jewish Torah, or Old Testament.

The three were said to have come "from the east", drawn by a star in the sky which their calculations led them to believe would lead to the Savior foretold in the Jewish prophetic writings.


In the western tradition, they went by the names Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, and hailed originally from Persia, India, and Babylonia respectively. Some claim that they actually are meant to represent Europe, Asia, and Africa.

As the Magi neared the end of their long journey, possibly from a home base in the Parthian Empire, the three received word that King Herod, the ruler of Judea, wished an audience with them.

At this meeting, Herod asked that when the Magi found this newborn future "King of the Jews", that they return and let him know the location of the child. Herod alleged that this was so that he too could go and worship the child. However, his later actions revealed that Herod was actually plotting to kill the child, thus defeating the prophecy and a snuff out a future threat to his rule.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Two books, one POTUS

Insiders on the unlikely election upset
Two books penned by folks with access to the White House in the early days of the Trump administration have begun to fly off book shelves and online stores.

Each paints a picture of, at least in the early transitional weeks and months, a top-level staff surrounding the President that, while intelligent and talented, was seriously flawed and certainly not functioning as a team.

Sitting in the #8 slot (with a bullet) on the current New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller book list is "Let Trump Be Trump" by Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

Released today, "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff is sure to quickly enter and rise towards the top of that list as well. The two books deal with the same subject matter - Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Lewandowski and Bossie were two of Trump's most intimate campaign advisors as he captured first the Republican nomination and then won the general election in 2016. Their respect and admiration for the man, at least as a candidate and as a leader, appears to be beyond doubt, as revealed in this snippet from their tome:
"...Donald J. Trump is the greatest big-game player in American political history. Period. There is no second. None. Not in modern times. No one is even close. If you disagree, show us someone who has never run for office before, and watch him become the leader of the free world in spite of the media, some of the Republican establishment, and the Democratic Party all being against him. We'll argue with you any day of the week."
There was volatility in the early months of the Trump administration as top officials came and went with alarming regularity. This was with the notable exception of the fiercely loyal Kellyanne Conway, who always had the trust of the President.
"In the coming months, we would watch as the fundamental flaw in the Trump White House made it shake and crumble, until the whole thing split in two with the American people watching. First out  of the White House was General Mike Flynn, followed by Katie Walsh and shortly thereafter Sean Spicer. They were followed closely by Reince Preibus. Sebastian Gorka has left...We watched Anthony Scaramucci flame out...and now, (Steve) Bannon, too, is gone."


But as Lewandowski and Bossie point out, that volatility was mostly a by-product of a man who was not a politician, who was not used to putting together a political team, being suddenly thrust into such a role.
"He's not, nor will he ever be, a politician in the traditional sense of that word. And he is not someone who goes back on his word. For Donald Trump loyalty is the currency of the realm, and nothing hurts him deeper than when someone he trusts is disloyal."
Wolff is a columnist and author who, thanks to a series of pro-Trump pieces during the campaign, was able to gain the confidence of enough staffers that he could frequently camp out in the West Wing during the first year of the Trump presidency.

The liberal news media have been parading Wolff out for interviews at any opportunity, as his book paints the President in a far less favorable light. This is, as we have all learned by now, in lock-step with their own anti-Trump agenda.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Duffy opens 2018 with a bittersweet Mummers tear-jerker

Captain Jake Kudrick and the Duffy String Band
On New Year's Day, we welcomed in 2018 with the usual pomp and celebration here in the United States and around the world.

In my hometown of Philadelphia, PA welcoming in the New Year means one thing above all others. That would be the annual Mummers Parade.

For the uninitiated, the Mummers Parade is one of the greatest spectacles of color, music, dancing, and merriment that you could ever enjoy. The vast majority of it, and the most fun, takes place right out on the streets of Philadelphia.

Mumming, a form of colorful costumed performance, is a tradition that dates at least back to England in the 13th century. In both England and Ireland in the mid-1700's, costumed Mummer's plays were put on, and this custom spread to America when we were still just a colony.

The following is from an article for the old Riverfront Mummers written by John Francis Marion back in 2007:
"Local tradition has it that as early as the 1620s the Swedes and Finns in Tinicum - now a southwestern section of the city - celebrated the New Year by shooting off guns (they were often called "the shooters"), banging pots and pans, and making a clamor as they visited neighbors after Christmas."
By the 18th century, Mummery had come to Philadelphia in the form of street parties and parading around Christmas time. These would merge with other working class celebrations over the next century or so, becoming a celebration of the arrival of the new year.

By the 19th century, city leaders were looking to organize the rowdy New Year's Day street celebrations. The city pushed for the marchers to organize into groups, each with leaders who would be held responsible for the actions of their individual group.

The first official Mummer's Parade was held on January 1, 1901. Over the next few decades the costuming and musical presentations became much more elaborate and sophisticated. For the longest time it was racially and sexually segregated, but those traditions (prejudices?) were dropped decades ago.



The parade has grown into an annual signature New Year's Day celebration on the streets of downtown and South Philly. Part of the celebration, the Fancy Brigades, have even been moved indoors. This allows more intricate and artistic presentations, and also guarantees a show for tourists on January 1, just in case poor weather postpones the rest of the day-long parading.

Many who marched in the Mummer's Parade passed down the marching tradition to their children. Those traditions have many times resulted in generations of a particular family not only taking part in the parade, but also remaining as staples within a particular organization.

Into this backdrop stepped Jake Kudrick on New Year's Day. In many ways, Jake is a typical 6th grader. Family, friends, school, video games, TV, music - you know the lifestyle.

His family story is also one that is familiar to many Philly Mummer families. Jake's dad, Teddy Kudrick, was Captain of the Duffy String Band for the last 32 years. Before that, it was Teddy's dad, Henry Kunzig, who had captained Duffy for 26 years. Jake has been marching alongside his dad since his first parade, when he was just 11 months old.

On October 19, tragedy struck Duffy and the Kudrick clan when Teddy died suddenly of a massive heart attack at home in Nether Providence Township, Delaware County. He was just 52 years old. You can imagine the emotional devastation that this brought to young Jake and his family.