Archive | January, 2013

No Ordinary Joe: Flacco Wants to Prove He’s Among the NFL’s Best QBs

31 Jan

By Chris Murray

There are some NFL observers who believe that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl win a way from being one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

There are some NFL observers who believe that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl win a way from being one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.

For the Chris Murray Report

About 30 seconds after the NFL Network played highlights of the Baltimore Ravens win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Hall-of Fame cornerback and network analyst Deion Sanders was asked if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was among the league’s elite signal-callers.SB47_Primary_National_RGB

Sanders answered by saying that Flacco would have to win a Super Bowl in order to be mentioned in the same company as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Aaron Rogers.

Flacco will certainly have that opportunity this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

“It will mean a lot if we can go win this game on Sunday,” said Flacco, who has led the Ravens to the playoffs in every year of his pro career, which started back in 2008. “I think when you talk about winning as quarterbacks in the playoffs, I would think that all of them have Super Bowl victories so that’s really the only one that matters and that’s what we’re trying to get.”

But when you look at his performance late in the season, one could argue that Flacco has played well enough to prove that he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL even before winning what could be the biggest game of his career.

“Listen, I am a little biased when it comes to Joe, because you are talking about somebody who has, right now, the best playoff winning percentage ever in NFL history. So, this guy has been proven since day one,” said Ray Lewis, the Ravens legendary middle linebacker.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has outplayed both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the 2012 playoffs. Photo by  Webster Riddick.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has outplayed both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the 2012 playoffs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught a pair of touchdown passes from Flacco in the AFC title game, said he and his teammates feel that their quarterback is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, especially after the former University of Delaware star said it himself earlier in the season.

“We backed him up. We all feel that way,” Boldin told reporters on Tuesday. “The perspective that we have is that we get a chance to see him every day. You guys, obviously you don’t. We know what he’s capable of doing. We’ve been in games where he’s won games for us. We know what he’s capable of doing, so we all back him.”

Ever since Jim Caldwell was promoted from the Ravens quarterback coach to the team’s offensive coordinator, Flacco has been the driving force behind Baltimore’s run to the Super Bowl aside from Lewis’ retirement hoopla.

More importantly, Flacco has beaten some of the league’s best quarterbacks in four of his last five games.  He defeated two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning in the Ravens 33-14 win over the N.Y. Giants in December. In that game, he completed 25-of-36 passes for 309 yards and threw two touchdown passes.

Two weeks later in the opening round of the playoffs, Flacco outplayed Indianapolis Colts rookie sensation Andrew Luck in the Ravens 24-9 win.  In that game, Flacco was an efficient 12-of-23 for 282 yards and two touchdown passes.

The last two games leading up to the Super Bowl, Flacco simply outgunned two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in a span of eight days. In the double-overtime divisional playoff win over Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos, he passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns including the big 70-yard TD strike to Jacoby Jones that sent the game to overtime.

Against Brady and New England in the AFC title game, Flacco threw three second-half touchdown passes while passing for 240 yards.

“He’s one of the elite quarterbacks and I think he’s proven that,” said tight end Dennis Pitta. “We’ve known that about him all along. We’ve got a ton of confidence in him and he’s finally able to showcase that. Who are the other quarterbacks in the league? I only know Joe.”

Never mind that Flacco has won six playoff games on the road, has the best winning percentage in postseason history, led the Ravens to some clutch wins in the  last couple of years and was one dropped pass away from going to last year’s Super Bowl, he will have to show he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game by beating the 49ers on Sunday.

 

In Spite of Success, Black Coaches Still Snubbed for NFL Head Coaching Spots

23 Jan

By Chris Murray

 Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is the mastermind behind Baltimore's offensive resurgence in the playoffs.

Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is the mastermind behind Baltimore’s offensive resurgence in the playoffs.

For the Chris Murray and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

To the NFL owners and general managers who passed on qualified African-American coaches during this last round of coaching vacancies, I hope you guys have been paying close attention to the Baltimore Ravens run to the Super Bowl.

Or better yet, go back through the various archives and look at the job that Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has been doing over the last four weeks.  You can also look at his track record as a head coach. Isn’t he the same guy who guided the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl as a head coach?

Then ask yourselves if you can explain to people why a guy like Caldwell is not hired for a head coaching position where guys who’ve never coached in the NFL can get head coaching jobs.  How come guys like Norv Turner, whose teams haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl, can get jobs easier than African-American assistant coaches who have done well as coordinators and head coaches.

Caldwell’s skills coaching the Ravens offense is the main reason why Baltimore is headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens offense was struggling in early December and so the team fired former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted Caldwell, the team’s quarterback coach, to run the Baltimore offense.

Since the Ravens regular-season home loss to the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16, Caldwell has transformed Baltimore’s offense into a scoring juggernaut. They have averaged 452 yards of total offense and 31 points per game. In Cameron’s last nine games as the offensive coordinator, the Ravens averaged just 309 yards per game.

Caldwell was named the team’s permanent offensive coordinator on Monday.

“Like I’ve said before, he’s a really a solid football coach, first of all. He’s been around. He’s coached both sides of the ball,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during his Monday press conference. “He’s been a head coach. He’s done it all. But, he’s mainly a really good guy. He’s a good person, and he’s genuine. He’s to the point [where] he doesn’t mince words, and he coaches football from the beginning of the day until the end of the day, and the guys appreciate that.”

The biggest beneficiary of Caldwell’s coaching prowess has been quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been playing like the second coming of the quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Tom Brady) he has beaten in the last two weeks.  In the four games since losing to the Broncos, Flacco has thrown 10 touchdown passes, zero interceptions and has averaged 291 yards per game.

Flacco said he credits Caldwell’s guidance for helping him to become a better quarterback and giving him the opportunity to do more for the Ravens in the passing game.

“Our relationship has been great all year,” Flacco said. “It was awesome to have him in the room as a QB coach and have the talks and be around each other a lot, so you can have honest conversations and grow your relationship.

“He has been great. He is a great guy, so it has been easy to talk to him about certain things and make changes, make adjustments and things like that.”

With a proven track record as a head coach and what he’s done lately during this playoff run, you would think that we would be touting him as this hot assistant coach in line for a head coaching spot.

But then again did anyone think to look at New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for a head coaching job. Didn’t he lead a defense that beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last season? I guess he wasn’t qualified enough either.

Even with the Rooney Rule and Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin leading teams to Super Bowl wins in the last seven years, it’s still the same old story for Black coaches in the NFL.

Apparently, some league owners are still uncomfortable with the idea of an African-American head coach guiding their franchises in spite of all the evidence of their success leading teams at the top spot and as coordinators.

When head coaching vacancies come open next year, what’s going to be the excuse for not hiring African-American assistants like Caldwell to head coaching spots? To tell you the truth, I don’t want to hear it.

The problem lies not with the Rooney Rule, but with team executives whose mindset is stuck somewhere in the 1950s.

How Will Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman Rebuild the Eagles?

21 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

The Eagles will likely be rebuilt in Chip Kelly's image, but will it lead the Birds to a Super Bowl title. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Eagles will likely be rebuilt in Chip Kelly’s image, but will it lead the Birds to a Super Bowl title. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-At some point the newness of having Chip Kelly as the Eagles latest head coach is going to settle into what kind of team he and general manager Howie Roseman plan to put on the field.

That means the Eagles—namely Kelly and Roseman are going to be evaluating how guys like quarterbacks Nick Foles and Michael Vick will fit in the team’s plans for 2013 and beyond.

“I don’t want to have a preconceived notion when I turn the tape on. I want to see what the tape says,” Kelly said. “Not I know this about them because sometimes that can cloud your judgment. I think you’ve got to make a legitimate judgment of watching the film. There’s enough film of the guys on our roster to evaluate where we are.”

In Vick’s case, the team has until Feb. 6 or they will have to pay him $15.5 million. Considering his injury history and his penchant for turnovers, the Eagles will likely release Vick or get him to renegotiate his deal if they want him to stay.

According to the NFL Network, Vick has reportedly said he wants to stay in Philadelphia and would be willing to take a pay cut.

Meanwhile, Roseman said Kelly will be involved in the personnel process and the players they keep on the current roster and players selected through free agency or the draft will be defined by what the head coach deems as important to what he wants to do on the field.

“It’s very important for all of us to get a clear definition of what (Kelly) is looking for at every position,” Roseman said. “The more time we spend together and the more time we educate our staff, our scouts and our coaches about it, the easier it will be for us to do that.”

At this point, Roseman said he wants Kelly to go through the current roster to get a better idea of what he thinks about the personnel before he shares his perspective. The Birds general management made it clear that personnel decisions have to be defined by the needs of the head coach.

The one thing that Kelly was quick to make clear during his confabs with reporters this week about his offensive scheme was that whoever is under center for the Birds, they will not be running the ball from scrimmage as much as the running backs.

“That’s perception versus reality,” Kelly told reporters last Thursday. “My quarterback last year, Darron Thomas, who’s up in the CFL, he played in 14 games, he ran for 20 yards. But everybody is like well you run a running offense. Look at the statistics, we don’t run designed quarterback runs where we’re snapping the ball to him in the running quarterback power.

“We’ve run zone-read concepts, man-read concepts where it’s a mathematical game if there’s an extra defender in the box, the quarterback can control him by reading him. He’s basically blocking him.”

In Thomas’ last year (2011) at Oregon running Kelly’s offense, he ran the ball 56 times for 206 yards (3.7 yards per game) and three touchdowns.  Back in 2010, the year the Ducks played for the national championship, Thomas ran the ball 93 times for 486 yards and five touchdowns.

Thomas’ and Marcus Mariota’s passing numbers were more impressive than their rushing numbers in Kelly’s offense.  In his final year with the Ducks, Thomas completed 62. 7 percent of his passes and threw for 2,761 yards with 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

In Oregon’s loss to Auburn in the 2010 BCS National Championship game, Thomas completed 27-of-40 passes for 363 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mariota, who started as a freshman, ran the ball 106 times for 752 yards and five touchdowns. As a passer, he threw the ball over 300 times and completed 68 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns. He passed for 2,677 yards.

When Kelly was asked if he would bring in the 6-3, 215-pound Thomas for a tryout with the Eagles, his answer was non-committal, saying he had to evaluate the roster  He said he believes that Thomas would make a good quarterback in the NFL.

Perhaps the most important thing that Kelly will have to shore up with the Eagles is the defense. Last season, the defense was often the reason the Eagles lost games. There were definite weaknesses at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.

Kelly recently interviewed Giants linebacker coach Jim Herrmann for the defensive coordinator position. The new Eagles head coach made it clear that he wants the Eagles to be aggressive on his defense—something they haven’t been for the last couple of years.

“In terms of what we want to be, we’re going to be an attacking style defense. It’s going to be a group of people who dictates the tempo of the game,” Kelly said. “What that spacing is in terms of is it a 4-3 spacing or 3-4 spacing, I think it’s, again, looking at our roster and understanding who I have the opportunity to bring here.”

Nevermore: For an old Baltimore Colts Fan, Ravens Dramatic Win Exorcises Demons of Ghost to the Post

18 Jan

By Chris Murray

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker jumps for joy after booting the game-winning field goal to beat Denver in overtime in the AFC Divisional  Playoff.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker jumps for joy after booting the game-winning field goal to beat Denver in double overtime in last Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff.

For the Chris Murray Report

As I watched Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field  goal that put the Baltimore Ravens into this Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, there were plenty of reasons for me as a native Baltimorean to be overjoyed.

Growing up as a fan of Baltimore’s storied sports franchises—the Colts and the Orioles—and now the Ravens, I have a special reverence for the lore and history of those franchises and certainly last Saturday’s thrilling win by the Ravens will be an indelible part of that history when it’s said and done.

For me, the Ravens double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos was eerily similar to the 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff between the Baltimore Colts and the Oakland Raiders. That game, played on Dec. 24,  1977, went into double-overtime with the same plot turns and twists as Saturday’s game.  Unfortunately, the Baltimore squad was on the short end of a heart-breaking loss.

Raiders wide receiver Dave Casper get congrats from teammates and head coach John Madde n after catching winning pass to beat the Baltimore Colts in overtime in the 1977 AFC Divisional Playoffs.

Raiders wide receiver Dave Casper get congrats from teammates and head coach John Madden after catching winning pass to beat the Baltimore Colts in overtime in the 1977 AFC Divisional Playoffs.

At 15-years-old, I was among those fans in Memorial Stadium that watched in stunned silence as Oakland’s Kenny Stabler hit Dave Casper for the winning TD pass in the north endzone facing 36th Street as the evening shadows descended upon a disappointed crowd;

As filled up with joy as I was this past Saturday, I remember the disappointment of seeing the Raiders celebrate on the turf of Memorial Stadium to end a game what was a playoff classic. The Ravens win last Saturday, for me personally, forever exorcised the demons of Christmas Eve 1977.

Both games went back and forth like a Russian novel. The Raiders would jump out to a lead only to have the Colts move back out in front.  The Ravens-Broncos this past Saturday was just as hairy, full of big plays, kick returns, and pick sixes. The game was tied five times with four lead changes.

In the game against the Raiders, the Colts got points on a pick-six by Bruce Laird and an 87-yard kickoff return by Marshall Johnson. They also got a pair of touchdowns from a backup running back named Ronnie Lee.

With about four minutes left in the game, Baltimore had a 31-28 lead and appeared ready to put the defending Super Bowl champion Raiders away. But for some reason, Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda got conservative and tried to run the clock out, but it didn’t work. That would be something that Colts running back Lydell Mitchell would question in the years after the game.

Dave Casper 44-yard heave from Ken Stabler that put the Raiders in position to kick game-tying field to send their AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Colts into overtime.

Dave Casper’s catches a  44-yard heave from Ken Stabler that put the Raiders in position to kick game-tying field to send their 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Colts into overtime.

The Raiders got the ball back with a little over three minutes left.  The big play that put Oakland in position to tie the game was the famed “Ghost to the Post,” play in which Stabler hit Casper for a 44-yard gain to the Baltimore 14 with two minutes left.  The Raiders would tie the game on an Erroll Mann field goal and send it into overtime.

Flashing forward to last Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens were down 35-28 with no timeouts and had the ball at their own 30 yard line with under a minute left.

The odds of scoring the game-tying touchdown seemed to be somewhere between slim and none. But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, facing a fierce rush from the Broncos defense , stepped up and launched a long pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who somehow got behind two Denver defenders, and raced to a 70-yard touchdown that tied the game.In the same way the Ghost to the Post took the air out of Baltimore fans and led to overtime in 1977, Flacco’s miracle fling to Jones deflated Broncos fans while Baltimore fans in bars and taverns throughout central Maryland were no doubt in the throes of euphoria as the game headed to overtime—I wonder how many of those fans were at Memorial Stadium Christmas Eve 1977.

After a defensive stalemate dominated play for much of the first overtime, Baltimore finally got its big break late in the period when Corey Graham intercepted a Peyton Manning pass. It took the Ravens five plays to move within field goal range for Tucker’s game-winning kick.

Jacoby Jones catches game-tying TD pass from Joe Flacco that sent last weekend's divisional playoff game against Denver into overtime.

Jacoby Jones catches the game-tying TD pass from Joe Flacco that sent last weekend’s divisional playoff game against Denver into overtime.

When the ball sailed through the uprights, I could hear that same deafening, stunned silence from Denver fans that we experienced in Memorial Stadium back in 1977. But this time it was the Baltimore players celebrating a classic playoff victory on enemy turf and even though I was thousands of miles away, I was celebrating the way we were hoping to against the Raiders.

I watched the game at Champs Restaurant in South Philadelphia. I leaped from my seat with my fists pumped in the air when Tucker’s kick was ruled good. I blurted out an old Baltimore battle cry made famous by Colts and Orioles play-by-play announcer Chuck Thompson, “Go to War, Ms Agnes!” “Ain’t the Beer Cold!”

In the storied history of the Baltimore experience in the NFL, the Ravens double overtime win over the Denver Broncos will go down as an all-time great like the Colts famous overtime win over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game  that was dubbed, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

Some in Baltimore are calling the Ravens win over the Broncos, “The Second Greatest Game Ever Played.”

As for Christmas Eve 1977 and the Ghost to the Post, all I need to say is over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, quoth the Ravens, “Nevermore.”

Rolling the Dice: Can the Eagles Win A Super Bowl with Chip Kelly?

17 Jan
Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and The Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—Perhaps the one question Eagles fans  have for Chip Kelly, the  Birds new head coach, is will his fast-paced, no-huddle, spread-option offense will be good enough to bring the franchise its first Super Bowl title?

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie is hoping that Kelly can turn the Birds fortune’s around as quickly as he did during his four seasons at Oregon.  While with the Ducks, Kelly compiled a 46-7 record, which included a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship game. He also served as the team’s offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job.

“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” said Lurie in a statement released by the team. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”

Kelly does have a tough act to follow after former Birds head coach Andy Reid, who finished his 14-year tenure as the winningest coach in Eagles history with nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five trips to the NFC title game and one conference title.

After interviewing with the Eagles for over nine hours in Arizona shortly after his team’s victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl two weeks ago, Kelly had originally opted to stay at Oregon. Why he apparently changed his mind is not known.

There is speculation that Oregon maybe facing NCAA sanctions because Kelly used a recruiting service. According to ESPN.com, Kelly said he wasn’t running away from anything and had been cooperating with the NCAA.

In four seasons at Oregon, Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense averaged 44 points per game. Last season, the Ducks rolled up 49.6 points per game. The Oregon offense is run exclusively from the shotgun formation with the quarterback opting to run, pass or hand it off to a running back usually up the middle of a defense.

It is an offense that requires the quarterback to be mobile and would put him in situations where he would be hit by the defense.  Kelly’s challenge will be to make that offense work in a league where the defensive linemen and linebackers are as fast as some running backs. It’s not like the Eagles are going to be playing Washington State or Cal every week.

Several teams around the league use a version of the spread option offense including the Washington Redskins, the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s starting to form more toward that offense. Anytime you have dual threat quarterback, it puts pressure on the defense that they can do numerous things throwing or running the ball,” said San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James, who played for Kelly at Oregon.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he’s even learned a thing or two from Kelly’s uptempo offense.

“I was interested to hear how he did it. I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing,” Belichick said.  “Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”

Perhaps the ideal quarterback to run Kelly’s version of the spread option could be Michael Vick, the Eagles starting quarterback until late in the season. The only problem is that Vick, while he is still a good runner, has been injury-prone and has committed a large amount of turnovers over the last two seasons.

It’s highly unlikely that the team will bring the 33-yea r-old Vick back simply because they would have to pay him $16 million. The former Virginia Tech’s age and history of injuries is definitely not an incentive for the team to shell out that kind of money.

Meanwhile, Nick Foles, who is your requisite NFL-style drop back quarterback, said he has never played in a read option-spread offense and would prefer to play in a more conventional style. Can Kelly adjust his coaching style to suit what Foles can do as a quarterback?  We’ll see.

“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country,” Kelly told a Tucson, Ariz. newspaper after his Ducks beat Arizona in 2011.

One quarterback from the collegiate ranks that could possibly fit Kelly’s system is West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who played in a spread-option offense. He has a strong arm and completed 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,205 yards and a career-high 42 touchdown passes during his senior year.

Another thing to consider here is will Kelly be smart enough to surround himself with a coaching staff that’s familiar with the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball? For the last two seasons, the Eagles defense has been from mediocre at best to downright awful, especially in the secondary.

Eagles players, via Twitter and the team’s website, are saying they are excited to have Kelly as the new head mentor.

“He’s a brilliant mind. We have a lot of weapons on the Eagles that kind of assimilates to what he was doing at Oregon,” Eagles center Jason Kelce.

If anything, Eagles fans are hoping Kelly can be as successful as a Jimmy Johnson who went from winning national championships at the collegiate level to winning Super Bowls as a pro coach.

The biggest fear is that he could flame out like collegiate coaches Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban, who had their shot in the NFL, but came up miserably short.

 

ESPN.com and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Give Smokin’ Joe a Bronze

16 Jan

 

Jackie Frazier Lyde, the daughter of legendary fighter Joe Frazier, is hoping the city will erect a statue of her father. Photo by Webster Riddick

Jackie Frazier Lyde, the daughter of legendary fighter Joe Frazier, is hoping the city will erect a statue of her father. Photo by Webster Riddick

It’s time that one of Philadelphia’s greatest boxing legends got the statue he deserves

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA –If the statue of the fictional character Rocky Balboa is supposed to somehow symbolize the gritty spirit of Philadelphia, the late Joe Frazier was that spirit’s actual embodiment.

As part of an effort to get a statue erected to Frazier, who represented Philadelphia as the Heavyweight Champion of the World and was known in boxing circles as a knockout artist, the Champ’s Family came together with his closest friends in the boxing and political worlds and young boxers representing his legacy to celebrate his birthday last weekend at the African-American Art Museum on Seventh and Arch Streets in Center City.

While the boxing world and the political world have only fighting as a common link, these groups had a common message during the celebration. That message: It’s time that Joe Frazier’s boxing home showed one of the greatest heavyweights to lace up a pair of boxing gloves the respect that comes with a statue in his honor.

“It’s taken too long … It’s a major shortcoming on the city of Philadelphia and we have to rectify that,” said Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa. “We should have done this a long time ago. He’s a true champion. (Frazier) was a true Philadelphia champion, a Philadelphia icon. He was a world champion when there was one world champion, not like this alphabet of world champions. He was a great man outside the ring. He helped anybody. He was there for the kids, he was a great human being.”

As of now, everything in the planning stages because the family or the city has yet to commission a sculptor or a location, but the hearts are definitely in the right direction for something that should have been done a long time ago.

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said a statue for Joe Frazier is long overdue. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said a statue for Joe Frazier is long overdue. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“You can go anywhere around the country and everybody knows Joe,” said former World Boxing Council Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. “Philadelphia is a rich city and has a lot of going on and they don’t have a statue of Joe Frazier and you put in a ‘Rocky”? That picture don’t work like that.”

We all know the tale of Frazier’s legendary feats inside the ring, especially the story of March 8, 1971 in what was billed as the Fight of the Century.

In his legendary first fight against Muhammad Ali, it was Fraizer’s straight left hook that knocked Ali off his feet in the 15th round and cleared the path to a unanimous decision over the man who is considered “The Greatest.”

Frazier would lose the third fight with Ali, “The Thrilla in Manilla, but Frazier pushed him to the point where he considered quitting at around the same time Frazier’s corner stopped the fight after the 14th round.

“There wouldn’t be a Muhammad Ali, if it wasn’t for a Joe Frazier,” said Holmes, who once worked as a sparring partner for both fighters. “Those two made each other.”

The thing that makes Frazier such a beloved figure here in Philadelphia was his love for the community, especially those who lived near his gym on North Broad Street and West Glennwood Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Neighborhood kids and adults not only learned how to box, but they also found a safe haven from the streets. There are not too many places in this city they can ever say they have a secure space for young people.

Unfortunately, the Frazier family would ultimately lose the gym to a discount furniture store, but there are organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation that are trying to get the gym preserved as a historic landmark.

Frazier’s hometown of Beaufort, S.C. is planning to build a bridge on Highway 21 and name it after him.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier deserves a statue in this city not just because he was one of the greatest fighters of all time, but because he was one of the greatest Philadelphians of all time. Frazier was our work ethic, our toughness, our heart and our soul.

 

 

 

Hall of Sham: Why The Exclusion of Bonds and Clemens from the Hall of Fame is Wrong

10 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

ing

Barry Bonds was denied entry into the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility because of alleged steroids use.

After hearing about the decision not to select anyone for the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, I have come to the conclusion that the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. is fast becoming a very bad joke.

It has become a shameful laughing stock because those who are charged with making the selections, the Baseball Writers Association of America have taken the stage and become the story, something we were trained never to do as journalists.

I’ve always felt that the Hall of Fame selection was biased on many levels having nothing to do with the game such as some players not getting along with sports writers or political reasons like the case of Curt Flood and Marvin Miller who both changed the game by advocating for the rights of the player.

I wonder why those guys aren’t in Cooperstown, yet?

On this year’s ballot, you had Barry Bonds, your all-time leader in homeruns; Roger Clemens, winner of the most Cy Young awards; Sammy Sosa, a man who had multiple 60-homerun seasons; Rafael Palmeiro, one of four players with 500 home-runs and 3,000 hits and Mike Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers ever.

And none of them got in. Not even Piazza who was never among those accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

The guys from the Steroids Era warrant the most attention here because I find it utterly fascinating that baseball writers have become obnoxiously self righteous about denying these guys entrance into the Hall of Fame of a sport where the rules have often been bent. Just ask guys like Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, who did things to doctor baseballs or players who used amphetamines to gain a competitive edge.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a motley crew of cheaters, virulent racists, gamblers and disreputable men and there’s even an accused child molester in the writer’s wing. It’s not necessarily a hallowed sanctuary for good behavior.

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, but was denied entry into the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, but was denied entry into the 2013 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There was a Steroids Era in baseball because Major League Baseball was the only sports league in the world that had no rules against performance enhancing drugs. There were no testing procedures.  The union that’s supposed to look out for the player’s health and the league that’s supposed to maintain the integrity of the game did nothing about it, except to reap the billions of dollars in revenue.

Even though the drugs are against the law, everyone associated with the sport, including those writers who vote for the Hall of Fame, looked the other way while aging players late into their careers were putting up astronomical numbers.

And now those who vote for the Hall of Fame believe they are preserving the integrity of the game by denying Bonds, Clemens or Sosa entry into the Hall of Fame. Everybody wants to be an avenging angel after the fact.

Since PEDs in baseball were as pervasive as the Mitchell Report stated, the records will stand with no asterisks, teams will not be giving back pennants or World Series rings and owners definitely aren’t going to give money back to the fans who spent millions of dollars to see juiced up players.

Like it or not, Bonds and Clemens were the best players of their era even before they allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. Denying them entry into the Hall of Fame amounts to nothing more than pettiness on the part of the writers.

If the Hall of Fame is supposed to be a keeper of the history of the game, there needs to be some honesty here. You can mention their deeds and the conditions under which they excelled and that baseball did not have a policy prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs and everyone in the sport deserves a share of the responsibility.

I say put the steroids users in the Hall of Fame because if nothing else they were at least competing against a level playing field given the pervasiveness of PEDs in the sport.

As it stands now, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a monument to the terminally self-righteous considering that you don’t have the all-time hits leader, the all-time home run king, it’s most successful pitcher, one of the greatest hitting catchers and two men who laid the foundation for baseball free agency.

There’s something wrong with that picture.