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The Eagles win it all

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Usually when a quarterback passes for over 500 yards, shattering his own Super Bowl record in the process, you expect his team to win. Alas, it was not to be for the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles secured their first world championship in team history. Defense was at a premium in the game as the teams combined for an NFL-record 1,155 total yards of offense. But in the end, it was a monstrous defensive play that sealed the game for the Eagles.

The narratives leading into this game certainly built up much of the hype around it. It was Philadelphia’s third shot at a Super Bowl, their most recent loss being at the hands of the Patriots in 2005. On the other side, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were seeking their record-breaking sixth Super Bowl championship . The Eagles had lost their seeming franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, near the end of the regular season, and were forced to turn to former starter Nick Foles, who struggled in the regular season before stunning spectators and opposing teams in the playoffs. Wentz had been putting up MVP-caliber numbers while healthy. Tom Brady, meanwhile, won his third MVP award on Saturday night and was leading the defending Super Bowl champs, who had completed a 13-3 regular season. Both teams had featured high-flying offenses during the regular season, the Eagles being the highest and Patriots the second-highest scoring offenses. Both teams featured top 10 scoring defenses, though the Eagles were consistently more highly regarded as there were concerns of the Patriots giving up big plays.

The game began in rather slow fashion as both teams traded field goals during the opening frame. But it was on the Eagles’ next drive that they set the tone for the game, with quarterback Nick Foles delivering a perfect bomb to Alshon Jeffrey in the endzone. Jeffrey, who had Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe all over him, managed to extend to make a beautiful catch and held onto the ball for an Eagles touchdown. Such big plays became commonplace as neither defense could maintain consistent coverage. Patriots starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, best known for his heroic goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX, did not play a single defensive snap for reasons that remain unclear. Neither team’s pass rush could generate consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.

A scary moment for the Patriots came near the beginning of the second quarter, as Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks looked to extend his run through the open field. Malcolm Jenkins delivered an absolutely massive blindside to Cooks, after which he immediately crumpled to the ground and remained motionless. Thankfully Cooks was able to make it off the field under his own power, but he was ruled out of the game with a head injury.

The Eagles took over after a fourth down stop, and their next drive saw a couple of highlight reel plays. The first was a perfect lob from Foles to Jeffrey again, which Jeffrey managed to track down while falling towards the sideline. From there, former Patriot LeGarrette Blount, more known for his power running than his speed, burst through the Patriots secondary to give the Eagles a 12-point lead.

New England’s next drive ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, and the Eagles saw a chance to break the 20 point mark and put up a 16-point lead on the Patriots. Foles once again went deep down the sideline looking for Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffrey almost pulled off an insane one-handed catch but instead batted the ball into the hands of New England safety Duron Harmon, thus averting a potential crisis for the New England defense. It was time for some Patriots big plays as Tom Brady delivered a beautiful 40+ yard strike to Chris Hogan and James White broke a number of tackles on a rousing 26-yard run to the endzone.

With two minutes left in the half, the Eagles had plenty of time to march down the field, and they capped the final drive of the half with a trick play that got every Eagles fan on their feets. Quarterback Nick Foles lined up as a receiver and, completely unmarked, caught a two yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead going into the half. Tom Brady had been slightly overthrown on a similar trick play earlier in the half. At halftime, Brady had already thrown for 276 yards and the offenses had combined for 673 yards.

The Patriots started the second half with possession, looking to cut it to a one possession game. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski had been quiet during the first half, but he came out with a vengeance on this drive, catching five passes for 68 yards, including the five yard touchdown strike from Brady.

The Patriots defense looked to get a stop and put the ball back in the hands of Brady to potentially take their first lead of the game on the next drive. Instead, the Eagles were unstoppable, marching easily down the field, before Foles delivered on a controversial touchdown with another perfect pass. Eagles running back Corey Clement appeared to juggle the ball after the catch, thus preventing him from getting two feet down while in control of the ball. However, the touchdown call stood after review.

Once again, Brady faced a ten point deficit, but he led the Patriots offense calmly down the field, capping the drive off with another strike to former college lacrosse player Chris Hogan. The Eagles got the ball back, and the Patriots defense managed to get a stop of sorts, holding the Birds to a field goal. Brady was presented with an opportunity to deliver the Patriots their first lead of the game and he delivered, throwing a beautiful back corner fade to Rob Gronkowski who had been unstoppable on such routes all year.

The Eagles, now facing their first deficit of the gain, marched down to their own 45, before the Patriots managed to force a 4th-and-1. The Eagles went for it and, in one of the most crucial plays of the game, Foles managed to convert with a pass to tight end Zach Ertz right at the first down marker in spite of the Patriots bringing blitz. The Eagles then continued their march down the field before Foles delivered another controversial touchdown. Tight end Zach Ertz caught the ball about five yards short of the endzone and then dove in as he crossed the goal line to avoid a tackle. He lost possession of the ball when he hit the ground but managed to regain possession while the ball was still in the air. The play was reviewed for almost five minutes by the officiating crew before the touchdown call was confirmed. The Eagles failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt, thus giving them only a five point lead.

Brady got the ball back with over two minutes to play, which he has traditionally demonstrated is plenty of time for him to orchestrate a game-winning drive. Instead, it was the Eagles who delivered possibly the signature play of the game. With Brady dropping back to pass on second down, the Eagles brought a four-man rush. Defensive end Brandon Graham beat his blocker and stripped Brady of the ball as he attempted to clutch the ball. Eagles rookie Derek Barnett recovered and the Eagles kicked a field goal to seemingly clinch the victory. Brady got the ball back with under a minute left with a touchdown and two-point conversion being required to tie the game. The Patriots drove down to around the 50 before a last gasp Hail Mary in the vicinity of Gronkowski fell harmlessly to the ground. Victory Eagles.

But perhaps the most notable occurrence of the night was the celebration that occurred in Philadelphia afterwards. Hundreds of thousands of fans took to the streets to raucously celebrate, celebrations that included the climbing and tearing down of lampposts and even the destruction of the awning outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel. In a more organized celebration, the Eagles victory parade will be held this Thursday.

In one of the most exciting and record-setting Super Bowls ever, the Philadelphia Eagles held on to win with a clutch defensive play in a game where defense was an afterthought. It was a fitting cap to a season of great resiliency for the Eagles, as they faced a slew of high-profile injuries. Ultimately, it will be a game remembered in Philadelphia sports folklore for years to come.

Why Does Everyone Hate the Patriots?

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I grew up 15 minutes from Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Since I can remember, my giddiness on those Sunday afternoons was unmatched; fans from all over New England descended on Foxboro like a cult gathering. The highways around the stadium would be jam packed with cars; anyone and everyone knew not to get on the roads the day of a home game at Gillette. Since I could form my first memory, the Patriots were champions.  It all started in 2001, then 2003, 2004, 2015, and now 2017. With five Super Bowl titles and countless AFC championship appearances, we were, and consistently have been the best.

My friends and I would play football at recess every day. I would be Randy Moss, the all-star wide receiver, my best friend Joe got to be Tom Brady, and everyone else would pick a player on the team to emulate according to the position they played. We were infatuated with all things Patriots. We collected everything from jerseys, hats, and memorabilia to our virtual players in Madden career mode.

Even though my dreams of running routes as a Patriots wide receiver in Gillette Stadium faded as I grew older, I never lost that Sunday gameday feeling. From the exuding confidence that dripped off of everything that Tom Brady touched, to the steely, arrogant countenance of Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots were the first sports team I truly loved.

As I packed for college, I made sure to bring my replica Patriots helmet, a present that my little brother had given to me for my 15th birthday. On the day that I left, I enthusiastically donned my Patriots t-shirt — a symbol to remind me that I would never forget my New England roots, no matter how much the allure of Philadelphia sports twisted at my heart.

During one of my very first days here, I remember having some friends over in my room. I had proudly set up my helmet on the top of my desk, where everyone walking into Willets 125 could see it. When my roommate Henry Han ’20 moved in, I remember distinctly him scoffing at the helmet.

“Dude, I can’t even describe how much I hate the Patriots. You guys suck.”

Although it was friendly banter, the comment really got me thinking. I had really lived in a Patriots bubble my entire life; my home friends, my family, my teachers, quite literally everyone I had any meaningful interactions with growing up had worshipped Brady and Co. Swarthmore was my first real experience meeting people who had genuine disdain for all things Patriots. I distinctly remember pondering the question, “Why do they hate us?”

I spoke with Max Rogow ’20, a lifelong Steelers fan and Pittsburgh native in hopes of getting an answer to this question.

“I hate the Patriots. For one, they always beat us! It’s hard to combine ethics and sports, but the Patriots definitely do some questionable things… I think of when they picked up Michael Floyd after he was arrested for a DUI, or LeGarrette Blount after his marijuana incident, or Deflategate, and really all the cheating scandals,” he said

To be perfectly honest, I never found the Michael Floyd, nor the LeGarrette Blount acquisitions to be all that bad. Bill Belichick was known for giving troubled stars second chances; everyone from Randy Moss to Chad Ochocinco. As a Patriots fan, I had never really seen how much people questioned the team’s ethics and morality until I got to Swarthmore.

Frank Sammartino ‘20, a Washington football fan and a D.C native echoed some of those sentiments.

“I hate Bill Belichick, I hate Tom Brady, but I damn respect him,” he said. “For me, their fans are why I hate them so much … they win and they let you know! They’re the New York Yankees of football,” he said.

Growing up in Patriots country has had a massive effect on how I perceive the occasionally questionable ethics that the Patriots sometimes engage in. From Spygate, to Deflategate, I had always thought the football gods had aligned against us, rather than ever assigning any blame to the Patriots organization. And honestly, I love Patriots fans! We hate to lose, and we’ll fault everything from the referees, to Roger Goodell if we do. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a good loser. Those are losers.” I like to believe that while we might be bad losers, it’s the competitive attitude of Patriots fans that separates us from everyone else.

The 2016-17 season has concluded, and the Patriots have come out on top again. They are Super Bowl champions for the fifth time in my lifetime. Five times. I’m incredibly lucky to have grown up in the renaissance of Patriots football. My seventy year old high school science teacher likes to joke that, “There used to be a time where we could sneak into Patriots games. No one would even care because they were so bad!” Season tickets now, have an average waiting list time of around 50 years.

The greatest thing about the Patriots is that the trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady will always find a way to win. After a four game suspension to start the year, Brady came out guns blazing and proved to the world why he will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. I will always cherish my childhood, where winning was ingrained in my DNA by the greatest combination of owner, coach, and quarterback that I believe the NFL has ever seen. The experience of being a Patriots fan outside of New England has been eye-opening. Swarthmore has taught me that you either love the Patriots or hate them; and if you’re from outside of New England, you probably hate them!

The top four stories in sports this summer

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While we all enjoyed a relaxing summer away from our beloved Swarthmore, the world of sports continued to rage on. It was difficult, but I decided it’d be best to pick out the four stories in sports this summer that were, in my opinion, the most important to be aware of.

 

4. The Sepp Blatter saga continues: Although FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, have made it clear that they will continue to make headlines in the foreseeable future for their corrupt ways, there were a few notable events that took us on quite a ride. The first was Blatter’s re-election on May 29th, 2015. He originally did not receive enough votes to win against opponent Prince Ali ibn Hussein. However, Hussein dropped out before a proposed second round of voting. This on its own was enough for the public to dwell on, but, three days later, Blatter stunned the world with an announcement that soccer fans had only dreamt of until that point: he would resign as president. He then called for an extraordinary congress to be put together to pick his successor. A month later, he added to the mayhem by saying he had not resigned but rather “put his mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress.” Confused? You’re not the only one.

I thought I would be glad that Blatter gave in to the pressures of the ongoing corruption scandals by stepping down. Unfortunately, his statements regarding his resignation are so vague that the only clear thing is his adamant refusal to acknowledge the problems that have led to all this trouble. This was affirmed by his statement only a few days ago that he is an “honest” and “clean” man and that FIFA is not corrupt. Based on a couple of decades under his control where FIFA was best characterized by words like “financial mismanagement” and “bribery”, it’s fair to say most soccer fans would disagree with him. For adding fuel to a raging fire of universal hate towards him, Sepp Blatter’s antics earned the fourth spot on my list.

 

3. Tom Brady breaks his phone, screws up big time: This is another story that has stayed strong for months on end. It began with the Deflategate scandal, which emerged after Tom Brady and the Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs used in the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Colts to give themselves an advantage in a game which they ultimately won. As a result, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015-2016 season. Before the summer, everything that followed consisted mainly of a battle between those who believed Brady was innocent and those who did not. All of a sudden, a stream of articles debating things like the science of footballs and deflation were published and began to trivialize the issue. The most one could say was that Brady was generally aware about the deflation, but even that wasn’t fully certain. After the initial escalation, the whole issue lurked in the background while Brady fought out the decision in court.

On July 28th, however, we learned that Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension after Tom Brady had destroyed his cell phone, which was believed to potentially have had communications with the crew and others regarding the deflation. Although Brady still pronounced his innocence, he lost quite a bit of credibility. The ensuing suspicion was inevitable, and all that Brady’s actions did was escalate the issue. Some argued that the decision was harsh, but, if he was innocent, he should not have destroyed his phone knowing that he was being investigated. I normally have immense respect for Brady (even though he regularly tears up my team, the Jets) because of how he started off as an underdog but worked his way up to being a favorite in every game he plays, serving as an inspiration for almost everyone. Unfortunately, this phone business makes the vitriol directed towards him much more reasonable. His ruling is expected to arrive this week, and, unlike before, I would not have anything against his suspension being upheld. This story has been dragged out to ridiculous lengths; it has earned this spot because of how it has polarized public opinion of Brady, who is otherwise one of the greatest athletes currently active.

 

2. Ronda Rousey: Unlike the other two stories, this one was quite new. As a matter of fact, before this summer, I had never heard of Rousey at all. Now, she regularly shows up on any sports-related media outlet. How did this rapid rise to fame happen, and why is it so important?

Truthfully, I don’t know. She had done plenty of notable things in the past to cement herself into professional fighting history. She was the first female fighter to sign with the UFC back in 2012 and became famous over the years for ending her fights in record times. The only highlight of her fighting career this summer was her awe-inspiring 34 second rout of Bethe Correia at the beginning of August. Regardless, it’s clear now that she’s well on her way to becoming a household name.

This development with Rousey is so high up on my list because she successfully rivaled the media hype that Pacquiao vs. Mayweather received just before the summer in May, which is probably the biggest fighting-related sports story of the year. I’m personally not a big fan of Mayweather because, although he is the highest paid athlete in the world, he is an extremely unlikeable character. He is known for violent behavior outside the ring, and also just isn’t very nice in his interactions with reporters, fellow fighters, etc. Rousey, on the other hand, became a media darling not just for her fighting success but also her personality; she quickly gained a reputation as a loveable geek in her daily life (she became one of my favorites when she cited Dragon Ball Z, my favorite show, as one of the things that inspired her to fight and that she follows fanatically to this day.) She’s even staved off shots from Mayweather, who’s claimed to not know who she is and disputed her ESPY awards a month ago for best fighter and female athlete. Unfortunately, she’s started getting a bit too wrapped up in Mayweather’s stupidity and informally challenged him to a fight. Despite this recent spat with Mayweather, Rousey is still so high up on my list for adding a clean, genuinely likeable personality to the otherwise bleak media surrounding fighters. I simply hope she doesn’t ruin it by stooping down to Mayweather’s level, and I’m sure she won’t disappoint.

 

1. The rise of U.S. women’s soccer: Many might disagree with this choice, but this unexpected trend was, in my opinion, the most notable story of the summer for American sports. The U.S. women’s national soccer team had always been known for being among the best worldwide, unlike their dismal male counterparts.  However, their path to winning the World Cup this summer, their first since 1999, received more excitement from the public than anyone had foreseen. To put it in perspective, the final against Japan was the most viewed English-language US broadcast of any soccer match ever. However, the team’s popularity throughout their campaign also had strong roots in social media, with numerous celebrities reaching out and declaring their support for the team. This comes close to rivaling the phenomenon that Tim Howard’s heroics last summer developed into and definitely generated a more pronounced following than anything the men’s team had received. The team especially captured the hearts of those who normally weren’t fans of women’s sports or sports in general. There isn’t much more I can say to capture the sheer magnitude of the support and encouragement that the team received; for the surprise factor and for providing women’s sports in the U.S. with a tremendous boost, I believe that the women’s soccer team resoundingly earned the rights to top sports story of the summer. Here’s to hoping that the year to come will have more stories just as intriguing!

The Top 4 Stories of the Summer in Professional Sports

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