Thinking Positive Thoughts – Just This Once

    Why are you so negative?

I get this response to my work everywhere – on radio, podcasts, in the newspapers and right here on this blog. It is a valid complaint. I was trained as a journalist to ask the toughest questions and to deal mostly with controversies. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess. Many people see the blue sky. I see the dark clouds.

But over the years I have had some moments of joy, and there are definitely some sports figures who have escaped my wrath. In a few cases, I have even gushed over these chosen ones.

For example, my boyhood hero, Wilt Chamberlain, is still getting my praise at every opportunity, more than a generation after his passing. Doug Pederson is my all-time favorite Philadelphia coach/manager, both because of his honesty and – no small thing – his Super Bowl win. I was a big fan of Cole Hamels, Allen Iverson, Nick Foles, Brian Dawkins and many others. I didn’t rip every sports figure, every week. It just seemed that way.

So, in the hope of balancing the scales amid all of my growling, here are the people in sports I really like right now:


Howie Roseman – Yup. A guy I have criticized for most of his 24 years in the Eagles organization, Howie is still the best GM who has worked in this city over the past 40 years. That’s right. Even better than Phillies legend Pat Gillick.

What I like the most about Roseman is his relentless effort to improve the roster, in good years and bad. This off-season is a great example. He brought in a small army of new, talented players (starting with Saquon Barkley) to raise fan hopes after a historic collapse last season.

I don’t agree with some of Howie’s maneuvers this winter, but I remain in constant admiration of his ability to manipulate the roster and salary cap with more aggressiveness than any GM in any sport. Howie is not always right, we all know, but he is always trying. I really admire that quality. I wish our other GMs had it.

John Middleton – I reserve the right to erase this item if the Phillies owner gives in and provides more years to the already-too-long contract of his greedy superstar, Bryce Harper. It would surprise no one if Middleton gave in because, in a snake pit of billionaire owners encompassing all sports, Middleton is a genuinely nice guy.

The Phillies didn’t do nearly enough to close the gap against the two National League superpowers, the Dodgers and Braves, in the most recent off-season, but Middleton would have reached much higher if Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto had accepted his $325-million offer.

John Middleton checks the most important box for an owner in any city, and especially ours. He really cares. Bravo for that.

A.J. Brown – The only thing stopping this elite player from earning the title of the best wide receiver in Eagles history is his boneheaded coaches. Will they ever wake up and use Brown’s elusiveness and power to its full advantage? With Nick Sirianni still around, I doubt it.

What do CeeDee Lamb, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Garrett Wilson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Stefon Diggs and Puka Nacua have in common? They are all NFL wide receivers who were targeted more than Brown last season. For a team as desperate as the Eagles became, that fact is unacceptable.

So many times, the Eagles brain trust dialed up stiffs like Quez Watkins or Olamide Zaccheaus for big third-down plays instead of the best third-down option in the league. I’d rather throw a 50-50 ball to Brown than pass to a wide-open hack like Watkins or Zaccheaus.

Yes, Brown is a diva. You would be, too, if your prime years were being diminished by the stupidity of the coaches. I love A.J. Brown. I will love him even more if Sirianni and his staff figure out how to use him.

Tyreese Maxey – How good is Maxey? So good that the morons running the Sixers knew enough not to include him in any trades while they were unloading all of the other players (except Joel Embiid) who were part of The Process. If dummies like Elton Brand and Daryl Morey knew enough to keep Maxey, it had to be obvious he was extraordinary.

The crime right now is that Maxey still hasn’t fully blended his skills with Embiid to form the foundation of a championship contender. This is not Maxey’s fault. He is talented and smart, good on and off the court. If his time isn’t now, when will it be?

Lane Johnson and Jake Elliott – Huh? Why put together a hulk of an offensive lineman with a wisp of a placekicker? It’s simple. These two men do something better than anyone else on this list. They win.

When Jeffrey Lurie finally got around to explaining why he kept Sirianni, the Eagles owner made much of the coach’s 31-7 record before the historic collapse last season. What would that record have been without these two clutch performers?

Basically, the Eagles rarely lose when Johnson is at right tackle, and if the game is still in doubt, Elliott can be counted on to make an improbable field goal to save it. Johnson, 34, is at the end of his prime years, especially now that his pal Jason Kelce has bowed out. Ellliott, 29, has another decade of big kicks ahead.

Without them, Sirianni would be preparing his resume right now.

Keith Jones – Regardless of how this season ends, my old partner deserves consideration for executive of the year. The new Flyers president did exactly what he was hired to do; he make the Flyers a better team on the ice and far more likeable off it.

I know how much Keith helped the culture of our show in his 20 years at WIP, so I’m not shocked by his early success. What will shock me is if the other Philadelphia teams study what he has done and apply it to their own organizations. All of our Philadelphia franchises would do well to become more fan-friendly. In his very first year, Jonesy has shown them all how to do it.


Amid thus flurry of positive words, I have left out some obvious names. Jason Kelce is my all-time favorite Philadelphia sports figure. John Tortorella is my kind of coach, aggressive and honest. Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham should never have to buy another meal in our city. Bryce Harper plays baseball the right way. (I left him off the list because of his insane request for a contract extension.) Zack Wheeler is a great starting pitcher. And the Phillie Phanatic is the best mascot in the history of sports.

I hope this post satisfies the critics who think (accurately) that I’m too negative. Of course, next time, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.


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