The term "Hope and Change" may have a polarizing effect, but, in Philadelphia sports, it's the best thing we've got going.
You glimpsed it in the Eagles 40-17 win Saturday night over the Ravens, at least if you arrived on time to the practice game. In new QB Sam Bradford's only drive, the offense pushed the Ravens stout defense 84 yards in four minutes and could have shoved them right into the Delaware River if Chip Kelly wasn't satisfied with Ryan Mathews' 14-yard TD scamper.
Call it a preview of what a sports-science-healthy green offense should provide. In a dozen plays, Kelly featured all three of his flashy running backs, plus passes to Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews -- three wideouts with a combined experience of two seasons.
There were four separate personnel packages, and plays designed for seven different targets. The closest Baltimore got to stopping the parade came when Terrell Suggs laid a cheap shot on Bradford's knee. That dirty play, of course, could have ended the show before opening night, and may have contributed to Chip signaling in the second-teamers as soon as Ryan Mathews broke the goal line.
Bottom line: That first drive -- even with a rusty Bradford -- is exactly what the Eagles plan to be this season. I never take too much out of a pre-season game, but that was a damned impressive four minutes.
Phillies future looking brighter
The Phils' hope is more distant, but change is finally occurring. Aaron Nola threw a gem of a three-hitter Sunday. It capped a week in which newcomer Aaron Altherr cranked two homers, Darnell Sweeney added one and pitcher Jerad Eickhoff won a game before Cole Hamels -- the guy he was traded for.
It's way too early to say which, if any, of these youngsters becomes part of the Phils future, (well, Nola seems a sure bet). But at least now there are players you can follow who may be here when the Phils climb back into the first division. Another half-dozen or so are ripening in the system.
So there's hope.
So long Chase...
Two final thoughts on the departed Chase Utley, to show his grit and his popularity:
1) Utley finished his Phillies career getting plunked by 173 pitches, nearly twice as many as the next guy in franchise history. Those weren't just accident, it was a strategy. Utley crowded the plate and when a fastball sailed in, he would simply turn his back and take one in the ribs. Silently, stoically, of course. All those bruises added an amazing 21 points to his career on-base percentage. Even as it sent trainers scouring for Tylenol, it brought much more value to his great career.
2) I know three couples who named their son Chase in the past decade. None was a family legacy. You probably know as many. Did I miss the birth announcements for all the baby Donovans and Coles and Bubba Chucks?
Yes, this is an unscientific poll, but if a measure of popularity is how well a man's name endures after he's gone, my straw poll says Chase Utley is the winner.