We’ve All Been Sucker-Punched… by the Knockout Game Myth

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Unless you spent the whole month of November on vacation, you’ve probably been hearing about the “Knockout Game.” According to the news of the last few weeks, it’s a brand new game, spreading all over the country, in which young, African-American teenagers — sometimes alone, sometimes in groups — come up to innocent, unsuspecting people and try to knock them out with one punch.

This has been happening all over the place — including dozens of times right here in Philly — and no one in safe. But Barack Obama won’t condemn it. Neither will Al Sharpton.

Right?

In fact, the prevailing media narrative of the Knockout Game is starting to look completely wrong.

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Ruben Amaro Says the Phils Might Hire a Stats Czar. Don’t Get Too Excited.

Ruben Amaro

This past July, during an audience Q&A following his address to the national convention of  the Society of American Baseball Research here in Philadelphia, Phillies team president Dave Montgomery was asked whether, in light of the Phils’ second straight subpar season, it might be time for the organization to take a look at something it has long resisted: advanced statistical analysis.

Montgomery, in the Q&A and an interview afterward, replied that contrary to the belief of many, the team does actually give some consideration to advanced stats. He said the Phillies’ front office has three employees in its player personnel department who have statistical evaluation as part of their portfolio, although no one employee does the work full-time. Montgomery added, however, that “character” plays a major role in the team’s personnel decisions.
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Eight Philadelphia Athletes Who Said “F— You, Fans”

University of Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini is under fire this week after a nearly 2-year-old audio recording of him bashing the team’s fans surfaced.

The tape, obtained, as such things usually are, by Deadspin, quoted the coach as saying, “It took everything in my power to not say, ‘F— you, fans. F— all of you.’ F— ‘em,” after Nebraska fans left a game early en masse. He later added “Our crowd. What a bunch of f—ing fair-weather fucking—they can all kiss my ass out the f—ing door.”

First of all, it sounds like the Eagles hired the right college coach.
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UPDATE: All About That Awesome New Eagles Commercial

Since this was originally posted, we’ve received comment from Eagles SVP of media and communications, Anne Gordon.

The new Eagles season, which kicks off tonight with with the Birds taking on the Redskins in Maryland, arrives with much uncertainty. Nobody knows if Chip Kelly can coach in the NFL, if Michael Vick can thrive or even remain upright, or if this defense can stop anybody. We even get to relive the McNabb Wars, when Donovan comes to town to get his jersey retired in Week 3.

And that’s to say nothing of Riley Cooper, Cary Williams or last week’s scuffle between Riley Cooper and Cary Williams. In Deadspin’s fantastic “Why Your Team Sucks” series, the Eagles entry was the most entertaining, probably because there was so much material.

But there was one development in the last week that got Eagles fans spectacularly fired up about the Birds’ return to the field. It was the debut of a new TV commercial called “What Brotherly Love Truly Means.” The two-minute ad surfaced online early last week, before making its TV debut Thursday night during the Broncos-Ravens kickoff game:

What Brotherly Love Truly Means. from Philadelphia Eagles on Vimeo.

Why do I love the video, which is also hosted on the Eagles’ new FlyEaglesFly.com social media site? Aside from its mixture of historical game footage with  first-rate production values and soaring music, the video takes every cliche about Philadelphia, the Eagles and TV sports promos, and utterly transcends them.

Philly is tough? Philly is passionate? References to cheesesteaks, the Italian market, 4th and 26th, and snowballs and Santa Claus? If you’ve ever watched a network broadcast of an Eagles game, you’ve heard them all a million times. But the new ad presents those things in a way that’s true, and not cliched. It could have been so cheesy and fake, but it’s neither. And when the spot debuted Thursday, reaction on social media was all positive.

“We wanted to put together a video that would truly capture the spirit and energy of this city, especially with the excitement of the season starting tonight. We wanted the video to show what our fans and what Philadelphia is really about—the passion, the history and the connection between team and city that is timeless,” Anne Gordon, the Eagles’ senior vice president of media and communications, said in an email when I reached out to the team about the campaign.

“We wanted to call-out all those people who don’t understand us and choose to see us through the lens of snowballs and Santa Claus. That’s not who Philadelphians are. They are football-smart, they demand greatness, and they will accept nothing but your best effort. We want our fans to know that we feel the same way they do and hopefully that came across in the video.”

The ad was produced by a local branding agency, 160over90, retained by the Eagles starting this season. You could call it the  anti-“Stronger Than the Storm”—a TV campaign-based call to regional pride that, rather than cheesy, annoying, and inauthentic, both rings true and works to fire up Eagles fans. And it even references the “snowballs and Santa Claus” issue without the tone often associated with that particular topic.

Gordon said that the campaign has been in the works since April, and will soon expand to include billboards and bus, train, and subway ads. She described it as “a full campaign with the goal of expressing how the Philadelphia Eagles [feel] about the city and how the city feels about the team.”

She added that it was important to the Eagles that they use a Philly-based branding firm for the campaign, and that Neighborhood Film Company, another local concern, did production work on the video.

There are plenty of other things to like about the spot. The voiceover? Despite Twitter speculation that the ad was voiced by Mike from Breaking Bad, it’s actually John Doman, the stage and character actor with local ties who is perhaps best known for playing Deputy Commissioner Rawls on The Wire.

“We’re all fans of John’s work,” Gordon said. “We watched a couple of clips from The Wire and were impressed with his ability to deliver emotion. But then we found out he grew up in Philly and played football at Northeast Catholic and University of Pennsylvania. At that point, we knew we had to work with him.”

It’s a combination of football footage and soaring music that should remind Friday Night Lights devotees of some of the best moments of that program. And that music—as pointed out by someone on 160over90’s Facebook page, is the instrumental track of the song “It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning” by the Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks. I’ll be downloading that for my next jogging playlist.

There aren’t a lot of original ways to promote football. So kudos to the Eagles, and 160over90, for finding a good one, just in time for the season.

Now, can we talk about the other commercial, with the tailgating Eagles fan and veggie burger?

Twerk, Emoji, Phablet and Other Signs of the Impending Apocalypse

It’s a big news story a couple of times each year: Merriam-Webster or the Oxford Dictionary announces the addition of a few new words, and everybody promptly freaks the hell out.

It happened again last week, when Oxford Dictionaries Online announced the addition of a slew of words, including “selfie,” “phablet,” “food baby,” “emoji” and, of course “twerking.” The inclusion of that last one also provided an opportunity for seemingly every television news organization on Earth to talk about the new words while running “controversial” b-roll of Miley Cyrus, in order to milk that particular story for a few more days.

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No, Martin Luther King Was Not a Conservative Republican

This afternoon, America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Another march is scheduled to be held in Washington, and in the days leading up, politicians and commentators have weighed in Dr. King’s tremendous legacy, the American civil rights tradition, and what lessons from the great man’s life can be applied to modern-day politics.

Oh, and it turns out that King was actually a political conservative, one who, were he alive today, would be totally appalled at the actions of liberals and African-Americans in general, especially the first black president.

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Why Philly Needs an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

It’s no secret that, for all its cinematic traditions, from The Philadelphia Story to Rocky to Bradley Cooper jogging while wearing a garbage bag, Philadelphia isn’t exactly the world’s greatest moviegoing city.

I’ve been a film critic in this city for eight years now, and a hardcore cinephile for even longer than that, and I know I’d love it if there were more and easier options to see movies here in town.

But you don’t have to be critic to see there’s a problem here. There are way fewer screens in Center City—only 14— than in just about any major U.S. city of its size. There’s not a single movie theater that’s in any way centrally located in the city, and with the Roxy still not open and the Boyd no closer to restoration, it doesn’t look like there will be one anytime soon. Philly very much lacks a signature movie house.

But I have an idea for solving this problem: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema needs to come to Philadelphia.
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3 Reasons Not to Hate the Sixers’ Owner for Buying the Devils

For a team that’s supposedly irrelevant in this town, the Philadelphia 76ers sure have made a lot of news the last couple of months. Philly’s NBA team has been such an afterthought in the local consciousness for so long that their motto might as well be “a distant fourth,” but all of sudden they’re all over Philly sports discussion.

There was the arrival of statistically oriented general manager Sam Hinkie, the subsequent media freakout about Hinkie’s low profile, the team’s dramatic draft-night makeover, the strangely drawn-out departure of much-maligned CEO Adam Aron, and the seemingly never-ending coaching search that at last concluded with the hiring this week of Brett Brown.

But all that was nothing compared to the news earlier this week, first reported by Fox 29’s Howard Eskin, that the team’s ownership group, led by Josh Harris, was in talks to buy the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
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Statheads and Old-Timers Agree: The Phillies Are Toast

You’ve heard of sabermetrics, right? To some, it’s the baseball statistics philosophy of the nerd geniuses who gave us Moneyball, the World champion Boston Red Sox and Nate Silver. To others, sabermetricians are the numbers-obsessed killjoys who take all the grit, hustle and fun out of baseball, and will never TRULY understand the game, because they didn’t play, dammit.

Last Thursday, I spent the day at the annual convention of SABR — the Society of American Baseball Research and the organization that gave sabermetrics its name — which was held at the Marriott on Market Street and continued through the weekend. If I took away anything from the day, it’s just how outdated and dead the whole “stats vs. old school” narrative is. SABR is actually about a lot more than just stats, and what’s commonly referred to “advanced statistical analysis” was actually a very small part of what was discussed there.
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