Tomorrow marks a national treasure for me. Thanksgiving is egregiously overlooked in the modern era, as many are eager to move into December and get to the Christmas season. But give Thanksgiving its due. How often can you stay at home, be a glutton in the kitchen, and watch the Lions lose ceremoniously each year? Well, for some, including those in Detroit, it happens more than I’d like to admit. But, for me, Thanksgiving is a day unlike any other. The food, the drinks, the family, the football, it all works harmoniously to culminate in a criminally underrated holiday.
And on this holiday, we are supposed to inwardly reflect on the past year, and give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. We cheers to good health, good friends and good times, and hope that the coming year brings more to cherish than the one prior.
But what we don’t outwardly cherish, at least at the Thanksgiving dinner table, is perhaps the one thing that brings all Philadelphians together in a united front: our sports teams. Grandma likely doesn’t want to hear about how the Eagles are doing, and mom shoots you a dirty look if you go away from dinner to watch the opening kickoff of the 4 o’clock game. We should, however, take some time each year to thank whatever entity you call all-powerful and reflect on aspects of our sporting life that we can be thankful for, such as, not being Cleveland Browns fans. Those poor souls are trapped in an eternal damnation for the sins of the their fathers fathers father it seems. At least you have Lebron, Cleveland.
So what I’d like to do on the eve of my favorite holiday is look upon the sports teams in which we follow here in Philadelphia and find the things I am most thankful for. I know I traditionally stick to writing about the Phillies and Penn State football, but I’ll make an exception here, and I hope you will as well, on this holiday. Here are the top four Philadelphia sports blessings I could muster.
1. Carson Wentz Is The Eagles Quarterback For a Long Time
As if there was going to be anything else that topped a Philadelphia sports fan blessings list. Carson Wentz has invigorated an entire city with his play in just year number two under center. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for over 2400 yards through 10 games, an average that would give him over 3800 over the span of the entire season. He’s added 25 touchdowns, the most in the NFL thus far, and thrown just five interceptions. He’s far and away the top rated quarterback on third down, as well. when Wentz drops back to pass on third down, the Eagles convert over 51 percent of their attempts. Tom Brady is the only other quarterback in the league to be over 50 percent in that category. Compare that to Dak Prescott, who is completing just 39 percent of those same attempts. Did I mention that Wentz is still only 24-years-old and won’t turn 25 until the end of December?
Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott are going to do battle in the NFC East for a very long time. If you want to even the playing field, you could call that war Wentz versus Prescott and Ezekial Elliot. That’s how good Carson Wentz has become in year two. Concentrated solely on bringing a championship to Philadelphia, there’s no better player equipped to bring the city it’s first Super Bowl than Carson Wentz. With the Eagles flying high at 9-1, atop the NFC East by a four game margin, Wentz could be gearing up for a Super Bowl run in just his second season. While comparing statistics through 26 games may not necessarily be a just argument, the stars are aligning for Wentz to become the best quarterback this city has even seen. He’s that good.
2. The Process Is Nearing Completion
You could look at this two ways, honestly. Many believe that now that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are on the court together, with Markelle Fultz waiting in the wings while rehabbing his shoulder, that the process has come to a conclusion and it is now time to go into attack mode. And you’d likely be right on that assumption. Through 16 games this season, the Sixers are 9-7, putting them on pace for about 46 wins. That win increase of 18 games would be enough to get Sixers fans excited about the future centered around a nucleus of young talent that hasn’t even gotten to their full potential yet. Joel Embiid looks to be nearly unguardable on the low block this season. Ben Simmons doesn’t even look like he’s scratched the surface of his full potential yet and he’s already tearing apart the NBA. I hate to say something so impulsive 16 games into his NBA career, but Ben Simmons is playing like a young man who’s career will end in a plaque in Springfield.
I personally view the completion of the process as thankful moment. I was never for the process and I certainly was never for tanking in order to proceed with the process. The final outcome is an extremely favorable outcome of the process, but the means to the end weren’t justifiable to me. Losing simply isn’t acceptable where I come from, and I felt almost slighted by a team that outwardly said they were attempting to lose to win in the future. I’m sorry, but there is no future. Of course, the future will come, but what if it doesn’t. What if something catastrophic were to happen to the league and it ceased to exist? Do I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist yet? More importantly, do you understand my frustrations with a willingness to intentionally lose games?
This Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful that the team was able to find two studs to build around for years to come, but I’m more thankful that we’re finally out of the darkest days as Sixer fans. No more are the days of $4 tickets or “bring a box of mac n cheese, get a ticket for free” day, and I’m totally okay with that. I just want to see the teams I root for compete.
3. Help Is On The Way For Penn State’s Offensive Line
I have berated the Penn State offensive line all season long. They’ve been a key contributor to the lack of success of Saquon Barkley, who has been incredible in spite of his offensive line’s production. But they simply have not been good this season, pressuring Trace McSorley and Barkley to make their reads more quickly than necessary. I don’t wish to make excuses for McSorley’s inconsistencies, but the offensive line plays a major role in his progressions. But fret not, Nittany Lion faithful, as the scouting report on the future of the offensive line is bright.
Current freshmen C.J. Thorpe and Michael Miranda will continue to mature and get better as the season winds down and they head into their first offseason with the team. I’d expect both to pack on some muscles and add a ton of reps to their repertoire. Additionally, James Franklin has received commitments from four three-star or higher rated offensive lineman, including three tackles. That offensive line class is headlined by four-star tackle Nana Asiedu from Stafford, Virginia. Asiedu is the 67th rated high school player in the nation and seventh highest rated tackle coming out of high school. While recruits aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be (see Paris Palmer as prime example number one) the hype surrounding these players is enough to keep a Penn State fans hopes up for a promising offensive line of the future.
Penn State’s recruiting class is currently ranked third in the nation, behind just Ohio State and Texas. Currently, the highest rated recruit Penn State has presently locked in is New Jersey wide out Justin Shorter. Shorter is ranked the 12th best player in the country and best player in all of New Jersey. He’ll step into a wide receiver core that is set to lose both DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall, as well as tight end Mike Gesicki. The team will look for immedaite production from the remaining core, and Shorter may just avoid that freshman redshirt in order to perform right away.
4. The Phillies Are Not The Atlanta Braves
The Phillies and Braves have both struggled in recent years, as the teams retool and rebuild for the future. But the future has become murky for the Atlanta Braves, who have been slapped with an international signing pool death penalty this week. After being found to have “circumvented international signing rules,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said, the Braves have been hit with an intense international signing sanction for years to come. 12 of the Braves international prospects, including a top prospect in Venezuelan born shortstop Kevin Maitan, have been released of their contracts by the league and are now free agents to sign with any team they choose. The Braves will additionally lose a third round draft pick in 2018 and will be held to signing no international player for more than $10,000 from 2019-2020, a significant loss to the club’s future. They will also be hit with a sanction that decreases the team’s international bonus pool money by 50 percent in 2020 and 2021.
This is a significant loss for the organization, which was in the process of a rebuild and boasted the number one rated farm system in 2017. Maitain sat behind just shotstops Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies as the third highest rated Braves’ prospect in 2017, and the 32nd overall best prospect. With both Swanson and Albies gaining significant MLB experience in 2017, and likely again in 2018, they’ll soon be removed from the prospect list. This would have left Maitan as the Brave’ top prospect. Now, he’ll be within another organization to start 2018.
This will hurt the Braves for years to come, as the team will now be forced to almost exclusively operate through the amateur draft. They’ll have to be on top of their American scouting department and have drafts similar to the St. Louis Cardinals of years past. It will be very difficult to overcome this obstacle.
While things aren’t all sunshine and unicorns for the Phillies at the moment, the one thing we can all be thankful for is that at least the organization we pull for didn’t get caught in the act of international cheating.
Things may not be perfect here in Philadelphia, but they’re in much better shape than they were this time last year. Fret not, Philadelphia fans, our time is coming.
From all of us here at Philly Sports Network, I’d like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your continued support.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports