Penn Charter’s Reece Whitley May Be America’s Next Olympic Star

Whitley (with Coach Keelan) is fast enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials. Photograph by Jared Castaldi

Whitley (with Coach Keelan) is fast enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials. Photograph by Jared Castaldi

When the grueling pace of kindergarten life overwhelmed him, Reece Whitley would escape to the bathtub. Two hours of soaking soothed his tired mind and prepared him for another tough day of coloring and story time. Even if the water cooled or his skin pruned, Whitley stayed in. “I just liked the feel of the water,” he says.

Whitley still loves the life aquatic, although those restorative soaks have been replaced by punishing swimming workouts. The Penn Charter freshman is one of the hottest young swimmers in the nation, owning a stack of age-group records and already posting fast enough times in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke to qualify him for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha. At this past summer’s Junior (18-and-under) National Championships, 14-year-old Whitley finished third in the 200 and won the 100-meter “B” final.

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Philadelphia Is Full of Winter Weather Wimps

Photo | Matt Rourke, AP

Photo | Matt Rourke, AP

There is a scene in The Ten Commandments in which Anne Baxter’s scheming Nefretiri slinks around Yul Brynner’s Rameses II and ridicules him for letting the Israelites — and her beloved Moses — leave Egypt.

“Do you hear laughter, Pharaoh?” she hisses. “Not the laughter of kings, but the laughter of slaves on the desert.”

After Tuesday’s small burst of powdery precipitation and the region’s accompanying hysteria, a similar tableau could have unfolded in many area homes, as local denizens trembled under a two-inch swaddle of snow.

“Do you hear laughter, Philadelphia? Not the laughter of major cities, but the laughter of Buffalo, Milwaukee and Providence.”

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St. Joe’s Basketball in Limbo: The Hawk Will Never Die?

Nov 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Saint Joseph's Hawks mascot. The Hawk, during the second half against the LSU Tigers at ESPN Wide World of Sports. LSU Tigers defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 82-65. Photo | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You see them at St. Joe’s hoops games: old-guard fans who go by names like Owen, Ernie and Dr. Ed. Rich the CPA. The Twins. Hilf and T. They remember John Smith’s last-second game-winning layup against top-ranked DePaul in the 1981 NCAA tournament. The great ’85-’86 campaign, when Saint Joseph’s went 26-6. And, of course, Jameer Nelson and the magical 2003-’04 run to an undefeated regular season, a number-one ranking, and a trip to the Elite Eight.
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Great Job, Birds. Now Get to Work: A Guide to the Eagles Postseason

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Photo | Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how disappointing Saturday’s 26-24 loss to New Orleans might have been, there is absolutely no denying the fact that the 2013 Eagles were successful, exciting and fun to watch. As much as it will pain fans to see the Saints travel to Seattle Saturday, they will look back on this season fondly — once the grief subsides.

The NFC East champions were a juggernaut in the second half of the season, winning seven of their last eight. They found a quarterback around whom they can build, received an historic performance from LeSean McCoy and learned that good health — particularly on the offensive line — can be pretty valuable as the season goes on.

Now comes the real work. Despite posting a 10-6 record, the Birds were a highly imperfect team and enter the off-season with considerable work to do if they want to have playoff success in 2014. Failure to improve could lead to the type of collapse that occurred in Houston, where the Texans went from division champs to the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Here, by position group, is an Eagles postseason breakdown of what’s needed to allow the team to become a true Super Bowl contender.

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All the Pressure Sunday Will Be on Cowboys

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

Anyone who says that at mid-season — when the Eagles were staggering around at 3-5 — they knew the December 29th game in Dallas would be a winner-take-all scrap for the NFC East title is a big fat liar. Back then, the Birds had just managed 10 total points in two ugly losses to Dallas and New York. They appeared rudderless. The idea of a title game in False Face Jones’s North Dallas palace was laughable.

But something happened over the ensuing two months. The Eagles’ offense blossomed under Nick Foles, and the D grew up, too — last week’s matador display against Minnesota notwithstanding. Now, the team stands on the precipice of completing a remarkable turnaround after last season’s desultory 4-12 curtain-closer to the Big Red era. All it will take is a win in Dallas next Sunday.

The beautiful part of this matchup is that all the pressure will be on the Cowboys.

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How the Sixers Learned to Stop Winning and Love the Tank

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Turner battles for a loose ball. Photo | Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Things were pretty scary in Sixerland there for a while. The home team was sitting at 6-8 and in first place (gasp!) in the NBA Atlantic. The Eastern Conference looked like a bad CYO league (Indiana and Miami excepted), and the idea of a prime spot in the 2014 draft was disappearing faster than the Bucks’ dignity.

When the Sixers dropped a 106-98 decision to Indiana on November 23rd, nobody could have figured that it would be the beginning of a glorious stretch that would see the team lose 10 of 11 and collapse into the lower depths of the NBA. As of Monday morning, the Sixers owned the third worst record in the league and seemed to be heading for even more misery and despair — kind of like the Cowboys.

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Temple Sports Cuts Sure Seem to Be About Football

shutterstock_temple-football-Richard-Paul-Kane-Shutterstock-com

Let’s start with Temple’s premise that the cutting of seven sports from the athletic department roster had nothing to do with football. That’s what the folks on North Broad Street are saying, and there might be some truth to that. The Owls’ program is not an example of opulence gone wild, even though it is most certainly not a profitable enterprise. There are some other issues at work, too, most notably Title IX considerations.

The argument breaks down — falls apart completely, actually — when one considers the company Temple is keeping. That’s where the influence of football and its damaging effects come into play. Because the Owls fought so hard to join the pre-implosion Big East, and because the old Big East’s current football iteration only exists in a version that appears more like a Conference USA spinoff than a major confederation, the Owls doomed their other sports (even, to an extent, the men’s basketball program) to membership in a league that doesn’t suit and actually hurts them.

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Sunday Was Huge Test for Eagles

Photo | John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Photo | John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tempting to look at the various missteps taken by the Eagles in Sunday’s highly imperfect win over Arizona and worry that their recent prosperity could be in jeopardy. Doing that would be a mistake. It’s true that almost giving away a 24-7 lead and needing a couple generous calls by the officials to maintain order are not the best ways to continue an assault on the post-season. But the end result, a three-point victory that maintained a tie with Dallas atop the NFC Island of Misfit Toys Division, is all that matters.

At this time of year, there is no need to earn style points. It’s about winning. Just ask Chicago, which dropped an overtime decision to Minnesota and hurt its NFC North title chances, about that. Or New England, which won’t care one bit that it snuck past lowly Houston to maintain a grip on the second AFC playoff seed. After Sunday’s triumph over Arizona, the Eagles are now 7-5, and that’s what counts.

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Hey Ruben Amaro: It’s Called a Plan. Look Into One.

Ruben Amaro

That was quite a smile Carlos Ruiz was sporting during the celebratory press conference that announced his re-signing with the Phillies. He should have been grinning. Any time a soon-to-be 35-year-old catcher can get $26 million for three years, especially after sporting a pedestrian .268 average, a mediocre .320 on base percentage and an uninspiring .688 OPS, it’s reason for big happiness.

Phillies fans, at least those who pay attention to performance over sentiment, were not lapping up the bubbly. Committing to Chooch for three more years, particularly at his advanced age, is hardly good news for supporters of a team that seems to think 35 is the new 25.

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The Education of Chip Kelly

Photo | Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Photo | Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday was a good day for the only two purely college-to-pro coaches in the NFL. Both Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano and the Eagles’ Chip Kelly notched wins, and though it remains unlikely the Bucs’ boss will survive the season, Kelly continues to grow in his role with the Home Team. No one can predict whether he will ever win a Super Bowl, but Kelly has shown the ability to grow into the job and has the Birds in a great position, even if that spot is first place in the NFC Island of Misfit Toys Division.

It’s impossible to give Kelly all A’s on his report card, since his decision Sunday to go into the four corners early in the final quarter allowed Washington to sneak back into the game. He has yet to grasp the nuances of clock management, something that was never much of a concern while he was at Oregon and blowing out most opponents.

One would imagine Kelly will develop a better touch in that regard as he spends more time in the NFL and has to protect leads in close games. When it comes to the more important stuff, however, he has improved considerably since the beginning of the season.

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