this is an actual case study I did at Wharton about fifteen years ago for Steve Sammut’s class on advanced patent portfolio management theory. This case is of interest because it concerns a biotech company, and because, re-reading it after a long time, it actually reads very well. Even before I had all the experience I do now, I actually had a good feel for what to do with the management of a biotech company even back then, so here it is. And yes, I did get an “A” in the class, of course. Dr. Sammut used to run the tech transfer office for Penn during the 1990s.

–art k

ps enjoy!

T-CELL SCIENCES, INC. CASE

by Arthur J. Kyriazis

MGMT 898 – PROF. SAMMUT

Wharton School (WEMBA)
University of Pennsylvania

April 22, 1994

Issues

T-Cell Sciences, Inc. (“T-Cell”) is a 1983 Cambridge, MA biotech/pharmaceutical startup sired by Patrick Kung, a “recognized pioneer in immunological research.” The main issue appears to be defining T-Cell’s ultimate market niche even as it undergoes the process of transition from a venture-funded start-up to a more mature publicly held corporation. Specifically, in the coming months and years, should T-Cell (1) concentrate upon basic across the board immunological R&D; (2) concentrate upon basic immunological R&D with a focus on diagnostic drugs and product(s); or (3) focus upon strategic alliances with large pharmaceutical companies with an eye cast towards the development and delivery of therapeutic pharmaceutical drugs?

It would appear that until the arrival of James D. Grant as CEO in November of 1986, the main issue might well have been a different one altogether, namely whether T-Cell would reorganize or liquidate. In early 1986, T-Cell was a company in trouble and one which was not being particularly well-run or well-managed, even though it had brilliant scientists and innovative technologies full of commercial promise. Even though startups might be expected to lose money at the outset, T-Cell’s losses in 1985 and 1986 totalled nearly $2 million, compared with $5.5 million capitalization from December of 1983 throught January of 1986. This apparently necessitated a public offering in May of 1986, which raised $11.1 million, followed by the hiring of Mr. Grant in November of 1986, and his hiring of a well-heeled financial CFO immediately thereafter.

In addition, up through Grant’s arrival, T-Cell had only developed two products of any consequence, ACT-T-SET, and CELLFREE, and only two joint venture/research alliances/R&D contracts of any consequence, the Syntex USA contract and the Pfizer contract, and had failed to show any revenue from product sales through 1986, and only $13 million in revenue from contracts in 1986.

In brief, one may surmise from the case study that a great deal of money was spent at T-Cell, until Grant’s arrival, on basic immunological research, without a very well defined sense of where the research was going, or how it would be profitable or generate a return to the company and to the investors. This might have been a result of Dr. Kung’s diffuse vision of the company’s market niche as somehow doing R&D better or faster, and perhaps a touch of the academic fondness for the intrinsic value of broad based academic research as opposed to targeted research and strategic alliances directed to product development and ultimate profit.

Grant’s arrival placed T-Cell on a radically different footing and he appears to have turned the company around. Losses were reduced by nearly a million dolars from 1986 to 1987, and for the year ending in April of 1987, T-Cell reported positive product sales revenue of nearly $400,000 together with contract revenues of nearly $2 million. In addition, Grant apparently negotiated the deal with Yamanouchi Parmaceutical, which as he characterizes it places T-Cell on a sound cash flow footing for the foreseeable future. In addition, Grant has introduced a sound line of command and professionalized the management of the company by hiring a financial officer and a regulatory affairs officer, paying attention to patent management issues, and spending time painting a sound, attractive picture to shareholders, potential investors and to regulators. Finally, Grant’s status an a former FDA head bodes well for the regulatory hurdles awaiting T-Cell’s products.

T-Cell’s Strengths

T-Cell’s strengths are many. First, it has a distinguished corps of researchers led off by Dr. Kung, who appears to be a leader in the field of T cell research. It is situated in Cambridge, MA, in the heart of the Harvard-MIT research community, and can be expected to easily draw upon an outstanding technical scientific staff for its research needs. Also, the scientific advisory board includes people like Dr. Mark Davis and others who are world-recognized scientific leaders.

Second, T-Cell has introduced two product lines in 1986, the ACT-T-SET and CELLFREE technologies, which assuming patent protection and FDA approval, are potentially product mainstays for the company. These two products are expected to have applicability in the diagnosis of various stages of immune system stimulation and white blood cell activity. Dr. Kung and Mr. Grant expect R&D to eventually identify other new products in the same T cell related vein with applicability in the diagnostic field.

Third, T-Cell has two joint ventures, with Syntex and Pfizer, and now a third, with Yamanouchi, which promise to focus on specific product development, with the obvious potential of delivering a drug to market which can be of wide therapeutic applicability and therefore be a cash mainstay for the company. The Syntex and Pfizer ventures aim to produce therapeutic drugs targeted at common medical ailments, including breast cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cytomegalovirus. The Yamanouchi venture aims to develop products to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer. An added benefit is the global ability to develop and market products and drugs in Japan and the rest of the world while awaiting FDA approval for their sale in the United States.

Fourth, T-Cell now has James D. Grant, who must be reckoned as an important asset of the company at this juncture. His management skills have put T-Cell on a sound business footing; his contacts have resulted in new joint venture(s); and his FDA expertise should translate into FDA product approvals.

Which Fields or Options are Most Attractive for T-Cell?

The basic R&D approach is wrong for this size company. What the company needs to do is ultimately make a decision between developing diagnostic products/drugs on its own, or on developing them with partners. Grant appears to be committed to a strategy of hedging his bets by pursuing both options. He is willing to commit some money to R&D and to diagnostics, while courting and signing deals with large pharmaceuticals for strategic alliance(s) aimed at delivering specific types of therapeutic products/drugs. Grant also feels that the diagnostic(s) division, once profitable, should be spun off because of the competition in that field.

Recommendations

Grant probably has it right. The therapeutic emphasis is the best way for T-Cell to go right now. The joint venture/strategic alliance approach is a sound one. If successful, the development of even one drug marketed to a patient population as widespread as the breast cancer or lung cancer populations promises immediate payoff for T-Cell’s efforts and a handsome reward for its investors.

With diagnostic drugs on the other hand, even if approved and even if proprietary, it is hard to see how T-Cell will be able to exploit the discoveries, so that Grant is probably correct when he surmises that this division or these proprietary discoveries will ultimately be spun off. Of course, licensing and franchising are options we have discussed which absent from Grant’s discussion(s).

The best way for T-Cell to go would be to continue to solicity these contracts and joint ventures. T-Cell has recognized, proven scientific talent and recognized expertise in this very specific area of immunological research.

One specific recommendation is that the company hire a patent portfolio manager and begin to concentrate on patenting more of its discoveries, as well as concentrate on getting products to FDA submission stage. This manager must also concentrate on getting the researchers to recognize when a discovery may or might be patentable or commerciable in some respect. These two steps will make the company attractive to investors and a steady stream of patent application(s) and FDA approval applications are evidence that a company has been doing its homework.

These steps, if followed, should result in a successful new round of equity financing and/or an invitation to buy the company out altogether. In either event, the company will have attained a substantial goal. Finally, T-Cell should keep Grant around. Given the company’s history, investors could get extremely nervous if he were to depart suddenly or unexpectedly.

–Arthur J Kyriazis, 1994

THIS WAS AN ACTUAL CASE STUDY I WROTE FOR THE WHARTON SCHOOL IN THE SPRING OF 1994.

–art kyriazis
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This is a letter to the editor I wrote back in 1997 debunking an article someone had written praising attorney general Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who notoriously served under President James Buchanan.

The author had said the Black was a nice fellow from Pennsylvania who had brought credit to his state.

I pointed out that Black was notorious in the history books for conspiring with Buchanan and Chief Justice Roger Taney to bring about the awful ruling in Dred Scott, which helped bring about the Civil War and the secession of the Southern States.

It’s important to note that as late as 1857, prior to Dred Scott, the Civil War might still have been avoided.

But Buchanan, Black and Taney, with the awful Dred Scott decision, pretty much made sure that the US was plunged into what one Republican of the day called “the irrepressible conflict.”

So here’s what I wrote back in 1997 on the subject. It’s of interest today, of course, since we now have our first African-American President, to consider Dred Scott in retrospect, since everyone agrees it was the single worst decision of the United States Supreme Court.

April 6, 1997

To the Editor:

Regretfully I must take issue with my colleague ____________________ article praising James Buchanan’s Attorney General/Secretary of State and former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Jeremiah Sullivan Black for his role in “saving” the United States during the secession crisis of November 1860-March 1861.

To preface, why must we care about this critical aspect of United States history? The answer is simple. Racism is, was and continues to be the predominant issue of our society. To paraphrase W.E.B. DuBois, the color line has been the dividing line of the 20th century.

One of the most shocking aspects of this society is the extent to which racism still permeates and soaks our society in its noxious fumes. Without an understanding of the historical context of the civil war, the end of slavery and of the events immediately preceding the civil war, we fall victim to fooling ourselves into thinking that lawyerly compromisers like Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who were prepared to accept slavery, accept Dred Scott, and accept the extension of slavery all the way to California south of Missouri as called for in the Crittenden compromise, were the moral or ethical equivalent of real heroes like Garrison, Sumner, Seward and Lincoln. The fact is that all the historical revisionism in the world cannot make a Sumner or a Lincoln of a man as limited and narrow in his views as was Jeremiah Sullivan Black.

It was Dante who said that the lowest places in hell are reserved for those who fail to take an ethical stand in times of crisis.

The truth is that the real heroes of those times were Garrison, Sumner, Seward and the so-called “radicals” who understood that law books and laws meant nothing when dealing with the moral wrongness of slavery and men in chains, sold as chattels. And yet, those individuals were vilified in their day, seen as extremists, radicals, far-left wingers–simply because they advocated the political and legal freedom and equality of African-Americans with all other Americans guaranteed to them in the Declaration of Independence, a position most eloquently argued by Lincoln in his debates with Douglas in 1858 and one which is clearly accepted today by the vast majority of law-abiding and freedom-loving Americans.

But what were those men but heroes taking an ethical and moral stand in a time of crisis? Isn’t this why we celebrate Lincoln, while James Buchanan is all but forgotten?

Unfortunately, there must be a historical litmus test applied to persons alive and practicing law and holding high office in the years when slavery was the law of this land. Simply because Black corresponded to the so-called safe middle and the racist, legalistic tenor of his times, exemplified in Dred Scott and in the subsequent 1858-59 prosecution of John Brown, Attorneys General like Jeremiah Sullivan Black can never be praiseworthy or praised historically, legally or ethically in retrospect. His actions were by and large wrong, they contributed to the death and suffering of millions of African-Americans, and they helped bring on the Dred Scott decision, the Harpers Ferry incident, the secession crisis and the Civil War, which in turn lead to the enormous bloodshed of the American Civil War.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was hardly a Charles Sumner or William Seward to begin with. He was appointed Attorney General almost simultaneously with the announcement on March 6, 1857 of the Dred Scott decision, a decision which many historians agree was the product in part of direct and improper solicitations by Buchanan of individual justices constituting the Southern majority on the court, in order to persuade them to come up with a broader decision expanding slavery beyond its current territorial bounds. In those days, the Presidential inauguration was held on March 4, and therefore Dred Scott was announced just two days after Buchanan took office on March 4, 1857.

Was this timing mere coincidence? The best research suggests that it was not so.

Buchanan’s role, and by implication Black’s role, in doing nothing to criticize Dred Scott, and doing everything to bring about Dred Scott and to broaden its applicability, are reprehensible in historical hindsight. Moreover, the best evidence suggests that President-Elect Buchanan solicited the Southern Judges on the Supreme Court in early 1857 to deliver the broad Dred Scott decision in a deliberate effort to broaden the reach of slavery to a constitutionally protected level beyond the power of the legislative enactments such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850 and Kansas-Nebraska of 1854.

Historian Allan Nevins in his landmark work The Emergence of Lincoln 1950) advances strong proof of evidence of impropriety in communications between Buchanan and members of the Supreme Court in the days before the decision was announced; and the decision was announced on March 6, 1857, two days after Buchanan was inaugurated.

The evidence as marshalled by Nevins and many other prominent historians suggests that Buchanan asked the Southern majority on the Court to decide Dred Scott broadly. The Oxford Guide to the Supreme Court specifically notes that Buchanan used an intermediary associate justice of the Supreme Court to convey his wishes to Chief Justice Taney that the Court rule broadly in Dred Scott, and that if they did so, the Buchanan Administration was prepared to enforce the decision legally and if necessary, by force.

As the attorney general appointed directly in the wake of Dred Scott, it was Black’s role specifically to defend and uphold Dred Scott, particularly in jurisdictions which up to that point had been considered “free” under the Missouri compromise and other laws separating free from slave.

As a defender of Dred Scott, and indeed, as Attorney General during the implementation of Dred Scott, Black’s historical role is nothing less than despicable. No just-thinking person in today’s world should have anything good to say about a man like Black given his actions from 1857 on in defending the Dred Scott decision. Black did everything in his power as Attorney General to defend Dred Scott, broaden the reach of slavery and thereby delay the emancipation of African-Americans in the United States.

It was this interference of Buchanan directly with the Supreme Court’s Southern wing which wrote the Dred Scott ruling which triggered William Seward’s famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict,” delivered October 25, 1858 in Rochester, New York. Incidentally, ____________________ incorrectly cites the speech to 1850 at p. 66 of his article, a gross historical inaccuracy since the speech clearly post-dates and is in response to the Dred Scott decision.

In this brilliant speech, William Seward, a great man of history, sets out to demonstrate that “[t]he history of the Democratic party commits it to the policy of slavery. It has been the Democratic party, and no other agency, which has carried that policy up to its present alarming culmination.” William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973) at 295-96. After a historical exegesis, Seward continues;

“The Democratic party, finally, has procured from a supreme judiciary, fixed in its interest, a decree that slavery exists by force of the constitution in every territory of the United States, paramount to all legislative authority, either within the territory or residing in Congress. Such is the Democratic party….It is positive and uncompromising in the interest of slavery….” David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960) at 180-81.

The direct solicitation of Dred Scott by Buchanan was a charge made and repeated often in the days following Dred Scott, and in reading the primary sources today buttressed by historical research done more recently, there is no reason to doubt the contemporary conclusions that Buchanan wanted Dred Scott and sought it out. The charge was made at the time, the charge is made today, and frankly, the charges are true. If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, chances are, it’s a duck.

Seward’s speech should be read and re-read 100 times by all american citizens.

Black was no more and no less than a legalistic defender of slavery in his time. Given the chance to do something historically important, he chose to do nothing at all good and lots of things bad. Nothing he did or said can ever render him a hero.

Black was the kind of gutless wonder that belongs in those lower pits of Dante’s Inferno.

Nor can we allow to pass ____________________’s incomprehensible conclusion that “Buchanan and Black were right–abolitionist pressure did bring on the Civil War.” Buchanan was the key instigator of the secession crisis because Buchanan solicited the Dred Scott decision and then went out of his way (together with Black) to defend it and urge it on all Americans. Moreover, in historical hindsight, everything which the abolitionists did and said was completely and 100% correct and morally and legally justified.

The arguments and moral force of Sumner and Garrison and Seward are the only words from that period which ring true today. In dealing with slavery and comparable morally compelling situations (the German Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s comes to mind) there is no room for compromise or for hugging the middle.

What was needed was Lincoln’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s man of action. Instead, what we got in Buchanan and Black were a pair of Pennsylvania apologists for the Southern slavery regime.

Worse, Buchanan appears to have secretly intrigued to bring about Dred Scott and to secretly help his Southern Democratic slaveholding backers. By attacking the abolitionists, Buchanan and Black revealed themselves only to be apologists for a system of slavery which was inhuman, immoral and unconscionable.

Compared to the noble and dignified campaign of men like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who struggled from day one against all odds to do the right thing and campaign for the freedom, dignity and human rights of African-Americans in this country, Black was a moral midget.

Senator Sumner in 1849 attacked the legality of segregated schools in Boston and coined the phrase “equality before the law.” Although Sumner lost the Roberts case, six years later the Massachusetts legislature outlawed racial segregation in all schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Senator Sumner’s statue dominates the entrance to Harvard University at Johnston Gate even today, across from Mt. Auburn cemetary. It should. Senator Sumner is and was a great man.

For those who believe that a man like Black can be excused by the times and by the thoughts of his fellow man for being unenlightened, a short time reading Sumner’s works and speeches should disabuse anyone of such apologias. Unrestrained by the times or by the thoughts of his fellow men, Sumner, a practicing attorney and Harvard law school graduate, saw the truth for what it was and spoke directly and clearly about what he saw as the moral and ethical quicksand of any legal regime supporting slavery. To his eternal credit, Sumner opposed not only slavery but also segregation. Consequently, if Sumner could come to those views in the midst of his century, then a man like Black cannot be excused for failing to do so.

Indeed, Buchanan’s (and Black’s) celebration of Dred Scott, and their defense of it on the grounds that it was the “law” was what drove Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates to derive that there was a natural law, a law from a higher source, that in times like these had to substitute for the corrupt and improper judgment of a few men on an individual Supreme Court acting in concert with what they perceived to be a corrupt President (and Attorney General) openly siding with the forces of slavery.

This appeal to natural law, too, is the central argument of John Brown in his final speech before the Court before receiving sentence–“This Court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done, in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right.” See John Brown, “On Being Sentenced to Death,” The World’s Great Speeches. (Dover 1973) at pp. 298-99.

We all know what John Brown was talking about. We know why he went to Harper’s Ferry on a virtual suicide mission, to liberate the slaves of the United States by force. John Brown’s death was a stirring call to action to many who had previously resisted force, and it scared the South deeply.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black as Attorney General also presided over the John Brown/Harpers Ferry incident of October-November 1859 and he did nothing during his Attorney Generalship to suggest that he possessed anything like the principled opposition to slavery which characterized Sumner, Garrison, Whittier, Garrett and other activists of the day. Nor did he ever evidence any understanding of the existence of a moral or natural law superior to the man-made law of his day.

Moreover, turning to the secession crisis period of December 1860-March 1861 which is the subject of _______________________’s piece, Black’s role during the secession crisis is not particularly worthy of praise.

In the first instance, Black’s views during these matters is a matter of public knowledge, since he carried on a virtually daily communication with the incoming Secretary of State William Seward, from December of 1860 to March of 1861. Seward visited Black freely during this time.

President Buchanan actually refused to meet with Seward, who was in charge of transition for Lincoln, and therefore Black played a go-between role between the incoming and outgoing administrations. The evidence suggests that Black’s main concern, far from saving the Union, was to avoid being prosecuted for treason by the incoming administration for the crime of cooperating too closely with the Southern states and particularly of conspiring with South Carolina to surrender Federal property in furtherance of a treasonous conspiracy.

Had Buchanan actually surrendered the forts and not followed Black’s advice, there is little doubt but that such a prosecution would have occurred upon Lincoln’s accession to power.

Compare this with modern Presidential transitions, and you readily see what the problem is.

Moreover, Black’s ideas on averting the secession crisis as expressed directly to Seward were less than praiseworthy. He spent one of their meetings asking Seward to compromise by having Seward accept, as a basis of settlement, simply the Constitution and laws as interpreted by the judiciary, a position which meant acceptance of Dred Scott.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Seward’s and Lincoln’s views on the subject could not possibly have expected them to agree to such a “cave-in” of principle. It shows that Black assumed implicitly that no politician (even Seward or Lincoln) could possibly elevate moral principle over political expedience and thus highlights his true indifference to the moral enormity of his (and the South’s) crimes in carrying on and defending the institution of slavery.

In other words, even after the Southern states had announced secession, Black was still attempting to evangelize Republicans committed to the end of slavery on behalf of upholding Dred Scott.

Black also supported the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended slavery to the area below the latitude of 36o30′ permanently in exchange for the Southern states returning to the Union fold, a policy which would have permanently institutionalized slavery in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California well into the 20th century.

The real hero in the Buchanan cabinet was not Jeremiah Black, a Dred Scott apologist and party hack who does not even merit a mention in the notes to David Donald’s landmark study of Sumner. David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960).

Rather, the real hero was Edwin Stanton, who after becoming Attorney General and succeeding the inactive and pro-Southern Black, started meeting with Seward and advising him almost daily of the “treasons” being perpetrated in the Buchanan cabinet meetings.

It was Stanton who “leaked” to Seward the intent of Buchanan to essentially surrender the Southern forts (and specifically Ft. Sumter) over to the seceding South Carolinians, and by advising Lincoln through Seward, made it virtually impossible for Buchanan (and Black) to do anything other than the right thing and stand up for the Union. Henry Wilson, “Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton,” Atlantic Monthly (1870) at pp. 464-65.

Stanton, through his friend Peter H. Watson, kept Seward apprised daily of events in the Buchanan cabinet meetings. Stanton also met with Sen. Sumner and kept other apprised secretly as well.

Incidently, Black after the Civil War attempted to prove that Stanton had never discussed Cabinet meetings with Seward, but was later forced to admit that it was so. See David M. Potter, Lincoln and his Party in the Secession Crisis (Yale University Press, 1942) (5th printing 1967) at 252 et seq.

As a consequence, Seward was able to ask several congressmen to convene a Congressional select committee to look into the allegations of whether anyone in the Buchanan administration had improper connections with the South Carolina secessionists.

There is little question but that one of the implicit threats of convening the committee was to look into evidence for a possible criminal prosecution of Black, Buchanan and other pro-Southern members of the Cabinet in the event that Sumter and other forts were surrendered or less than vigorously defended. As such, Black in urging Buchanan to defend the forts from South Carolina acted not out of principle or out of devotion to the Union, but rather, out of calculated self-interest.

In short, Black wanted to save his own skin realizing that a new President and new Administration were coming into power and that wartime justice would soon be a reality. Trial and hanging for treason cannot have been far from Black’s mind in taking whatever actions he did to preserve the status quo of the South Carolina forts pending Lincoln’s accession to power.

Through this select committee and through the press Seward was able to circumscribe the Buchanan cabinet with a limited range of policy options so as to maintain the status quo until Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861.

It was this committee, together with the other actions of Seward and Stanton and others, which probably had the greatest influence on Black to persuade Buchanan to take actions to preserve the status quo. Buchanan’s (and Black’s) natural inclinations, as indeed he was accused of by the Republicans at the time, was to side with the South.

By contrast, in 1832, when faced with the nullification/secession crisis, also involving South Carolina, Andrew Jackson acted swiftly and decisively to muzzle and neuter the rebellion. Historians generally agree that there were many Southerners who did not wish to secede. The border states were still undecided on what to do and North Carolina and Virginia were not particularly willing to secede from the Union.

Strong action by Buchanan in December of 1860 and January of 1861 could have rallied the anti-secessionist forces in the Confederate states and stilled or stopped the secession crisis in its tracks. However, Buchanan did nothing of the kind, and but for the actions of Seward, Stanton and others which essentially orchestrated Black’s counsel, Buchanan would gladly have handed over all federal property to the South willingly.

Black did not like Seward and did not agree with any of the programs or plans of the Republicans. He saw nothing immoral or wrong about slavery. He also referred to Seward as the “Wolsey of the new administration” (a sarcastic referral to the Cardinal Wolsey of historical England) and later penned a famous work in part critical of Seward. See “The Character of Mr. Seward. Reply to C.F.Adams, Sr.” C.F. Black, Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (New York, 1886).

Obviously the fact that Black continued to engage in debates with the New England liberals for years after the war demonstrates that Black was a man of limited moral and ethical sense who never understood the basic issue at hand, namely the moral and ethical wrongness of slavery.

Seward concluded his famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict”, delivered October 25, 1858, as follows;

“I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty senators and a hundred representatives proclaim boldly in Congress today sentiments and opinions and principles of freedom which hardly so many men, even in this free state [New York], dared to utter in their own homes twenty years ago. While the government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the constitution and freedom forever.”

See William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973), at pp.297-98.

One can not imagine Attorney General Black or Secretary of State Black uttering those words of Seward, and indeed, Seward himself viewed Black together with Buchanan as “betrayers of the constitution and freedom”.

Nor can we forget Charles Sumner’s vigorous reply to Buchanan’s request that Massachusetts adopt the so-called Crittenden compromise;

“Massachusetts has not yet spoken directly on these propositions; but…such are the unalterable convictions of her people, they would see their state sink below the sea and become a sandbank before they would adopt those propositions acknowledging property in man.”

See Donald, cited supra, at p. 371.

Obviously, by contrast, Mr. Black celebrated Dred Scott, defended the Crittenden compromise, and as Attorney General and as ultimate prosecutor of John Brown, saw no problem morally, ethically or legally with the enforcement of laws and institutions designed solely to enslave others and keep them in a condition of slavery. That he counselled Buchanan to keep the South Carolina forts in American hands at the same time that he knew that William Seward (and Edwin Stanton), a Congressional select committee and others were looking directly over their shoulders and threatening to prosecute them after March of 1861 for treason, explains to a greater and more precise degree Black’s actions than any feelings of Black that the Union should be preserved.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was presented a rare gift in life, the opportunity to be act rightly, to act moral, to be William Seward or Charles Sumner or Abraham Lincoln.

Given this opportunity, he chose to simply be Jeremiah Sullivan Black, just another Pennsylvania lawyer content to muddle through the middle rather than take a principled stand against what anyone could plainly see was wrong.

In his time, and in his day, Black was seen as a “betrayer” of freedom and of the constitution, and nothing advanced in ____________________’s article should lead us astray from Mr. William Seward’s well-developed and fully articulated conclusions of 1858 in that regard.

In his day, Black was derided and despised for his warm embrace of Dred Scott and Crittenden’s compromise, and it would be a waste of authorial energies to attempt to exhume his well-deserved historical internment.

In searching for Pennsylvanians to emulate, it would be wiser and better to dwell on the flower of Pennsylvania, our abolitionists and leaders of freedom like Garrett and Longwood and others who worked tirelessly for the end of slavery and for the equality before the law of African-Americans.

We have a proud and noble history of abolitionism and of many historical figures who risked their lives working on the underground railroad in the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey regions.

Those are the local men and women whose works should be praised and discussed today. We cannot remind ourselves too many times of those great men and women who came before us. They were our Sumners and our Garrisons, our Lincolns and our Sewards. And that Martin Luther King studied seminary right here outside Philadelphia in the early 1950s.

If you have any questions, please kindly contact the undersigned.

Very truly yours,

By:
Arthur J. Kyriazis

AJK/vm
Enc.

Art Kyriazis
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This is an oldie but a goodie from when I used to write for an underground bob dylan fanzine back in the 80s and 90s, a review of a classic bob dylan 3CD set from when it was originally released in 1991. Enjoy.

BOB DYLAN: THE BOOTLEG SERIES [RARE AND UNRELEASED] 1961-1991 COLUMBIA 47382 (THREE-CD SET)
Reviewed by Art Kyriazis
April 12, 1991

Bob Dylan turns fifty this year. Watching him nowadays, as a mumbling rocker at the Grammys, as an aging hippie touring with the Grateful Dead or as a semi-clowning “Traveling Wilbury,” it is difficult to explain or even to remember why this raspy-voiced college dropout from Hibbing, Minnesota was once officially awarded an honorary degree by Princeton University for being the voice of his generation or why he used to be such a favorite subject of countless english doctoral theses and late-night arguments.

Fortunately, Columbia, which issued the magnificent Biograph a few years ago, has issued additional compelling proof of the genius that was once Bob Dylan in its new 3-CD boxed set Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. Import collectors for some years have had access to these tracks from sources known only to them. However, there is no comparision between the pristine, remastered sound quality on this official release and hissy secondary import sources. What’s more, this set only scratches the surface of the mountain of outstanding unreleased Dylan material from the 1960s and 1970s, and apparently Columbia promises to put out more in the future. For further research, consult Paul Cable’s excellent Bob Dylan: His Unreleased Recordings (Schirmer Books, New York, 1978) for an excellent review of all unreleased Dylan material.

The set is arranged chronologically, and comes in a nicely packaged box supplemented by a long sixty-six page booklet containing rare photographs, outstanding liner notes and exhaustive session documentation. “Volume I” and the first 6 tracks of “Volume II” deal with Dylan’s “acoustic” period 1961-64, and represent the political and idealistic Dylan. There is an embarrassment of riches here. “He Was a Friend of Mine” and “Man on the Street” speak to Dylan’s early concern with the poor and the homeless. “No More Auction Block,” a rare early live track, reminds us of Dylan’s commitment to civil rights. “Talkin Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” “Talkin John Birch Paranoid Blues,” and “Who Killed Davy Moore,” all pulled off his second album and barred from the Ed Sullivan Show for political and censorship reasons, are all here officially for the first time. There are a number of other gems, including “Walls of Red Wing,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” and “When the Ship Comes In.” Turning to Volume II, more acoustic treasures abound. “Seven Curses” and “Farewell Angelina” are excellent outtakes from the 1964 period, and there is a heretofore-unknown solo version of “Mama You Been on My Mind.”

The bulk of Volume II and the first few tracks of Volume III is taken up with outtakes from Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, Blood on the Tracks and Desire, which by general consensus are Dylan’s finest albums. Basically, this material is indispensable to any modern rock collection. “She’s Your Lover Now” is the best song never released by Dylan and the Band, recorded at the famous 1965-1966 unfinished Band sessions cut short by Dylan’s world tour and motorcycle accident. The alternate autobiographical take of “Tangled Up in Blue” is here, along with the first recorded version of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and an alternate take of “Idiot Wind.”

The long-rumoured session with Dylan and the Beatles also shows up here, in the form of an outtake recorded with George Harrison on guitar, “If Not for You,” which is far superior to the released version. “Call Letter Blues,” a haunting Blood on the Tracks outtake, is outstanding. There are a number of other Highway 61 Revisited outtakes long known to collectors but now available for the first time officially, all of them featuring the backup sound that made Dylan famous as a rock star with “Like a Rolling Stone,” including the late Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and members of the Band. Turning to Volume III, an alternate take of “If You See Her Say Hello,” followed by an outstanding unreleased Desire outtake, “Golden Loom,” open the set. “Seven Days,” a live Rolling Thunder track, is likewise excellent.

The balance of Volume III is taken up with outtakes and unreleased materials from Dylan’s born-again period through to his 80s material. This later Dylan material, consisting largely of Slow Train, Infidels and Empire Burlesque outtakes, is less consistent and consequently less compelling than the earlier Dylan material in Volumes I and II, but there are interesting tracks, including “Angelina,” Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell.”

A brief rundown of material which is already available on European import which Columbia may consider releasing in future sets includes the famous Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, 1966 with the Band; the 1964 Halloween Concert in New York with Joan Baez; Live with the Butterfield Blues Band at the Newport Folk Festival 1965; and a large amount of 1961-66 live acoustic material, some of which was released on Biograph. There is also plenty of Rolling Thunder material, including duet material with Joan Baez, which deserves to be released as well.

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes I-III unleashes one instant classic after another, and the impression it leaves this reviewer with is a staggering, unpredictable virtuosity which reminds us of Dylan’s importance on musical, historical, literary and cultural grounds. This set is an indispensible addition to any popular music collection.

[historical note: the Royal Albert Hall 1996 concert, 1964 Halloween Live concert from NYC and Newport Folk Festival material were all eventually released. The film of the Newport Folk Festival appearance material from 1965 was part of the core of the Scorcese documentary on dylan that was released to PBS and DVD last year in 2008, which was released to critical acclaim. Bob Dylan is now 67 and still tours the world. You can check on his progress on http://www.bobdylan.com].

The Philly Seventy-Sixers, deprived of the services of Elton Brand the last month, promptly re-adjusted almost all of their problems and went on a big winning streak recently, reclaiming the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, and getting themselves back to .500.

In the process, Andre Iguodala has elevated his game immensely, scoring many more points per game, handing out assists, collecting rebounds, cutting down his turnovers, and also improving his three-point scoring percentage to 35%, which is much better than the 20% he was shooting earlier in the year.

Andre Miller also has been scoring, issuing assists, and shooting 35% or better from the three point line.

Some unsung heroes of the revival are Royal Ivey, who has played excellent defense and shot the three ball very well at guard; Reggie Evans, who continues this year to do what he did last year, namely play defense and rebound well; Theo Ratliff, who at nearly 40 can still block shots, play defense and rebound, and spell Sammy Dalembert to rest him or replace him when he’s in foul trouble; Sammy Dalembert, who’s improved immensely his defensive, blocking and rebound play; Mareese Speights, who has demonstrated outstanding defensive skills, blocking shots, rebounding and also offensive skills, good shooting percentage and very mobile in the open court–he shows promise of being an outstanding power forward in this league.

The fact is, the Sixers have played much, much better without Elton Brand in the lineup. They don’t need Elton Brand and when Elton Brand plays with them, he slows them down into a half-court game that they can’t and shouldn’t play. The only way this team can play and win is to go uptempo and run, run, run.

Elton Brand might be useful in the playoffs, where you need sometimes to play the half-court set, but he’s awfully expensive for such limited use.

The Sixers should simply deal Brand. He’s not a good fit and they should cut their losses now.

What the Sixers do need is not a power forward, but a tall three point shooter who can also play the low post, who is very, very mobile and can run. Vladimir Radmanovic of the Lakers or Peja Stojakovic of the Hornets both fit the bill, as do Kyle Korver and Mehmet Okur of Utah. Raja Bell of the Hornets also can shoot the three and plays good defense at guard.

A three team trade would trade Brand and bring two three point shooters the same cap room currently occupied by Brand to the Sixers. Ideally, the Sixers would move Lou Williams or Willie Green, one of their less productive guards, along with Brand, and get back Korver and Radmanovic, or Korver and Stojakovic, two good three point shooters, who can complement the inside driving and fast paced running game of the sixers current group.

Brand is slow, injury prone and given his medical history of an achilles tendon and this year’s injury, plus the fact that he’s somewhat overweight with a poor body-mass index for his age and height, is very much likely to spend the majority of the next few years on the disabled list. He’s not wafer thin like Iverson or Dr. J, players who played well into their 30s. Heavy guys don’t usually age well in the NBA. The pounding on their knees and ankles is just too much for them. Shaq is a perfect example of a guy whose weight has destroyed his game even though he’s just 35 years old. No matter how tall and talented he is, at 35 Shaq is just fat and slow now compared with the 20 year old kids around him like Howard of Orlando. Shaq can’t play them, and neither can Brand, to be honest.

Eddie Stefanski should end his infatuation with Elton Brand now and ship him out.

The impact that a superior three point shooter can have on a team is illustrated by the Atlanta Hawks, who are now a big winner and a playoff team in the NBA East, with Mike Bibby hammering home threes at a .450 clip and averaging 16 points a game. Even though Bibby seems to have been around forever, he’s just 30 years old (he’s turning 31 this year) and still have mileage left, plus he’s got loads of playoff and winning experience with the Kings.

There used to be a great TV show in the 1950s or 1960s called “Branded”. The link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKmJPnAGUJk. Chuck Connors was in it, and it starts with Connors being an army officer in some fort in the west in the 1800s, and his having all of his insignia ripped off, his being defrocked and his sword cutoff, while the theme song says, ‘what do you do when you’re branded”.

This is now the sixers’ problem–what do they do now that they’re “branded”? They need to move a good player and keep the chemistry that took them to the playoffs last year intact.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champions phillies
happy new year 2009

The Arizona Cardinals, one of the worst franchises in recent NFL memory, shocked me and perhaps the entire world yesterday, by upsetting the battle-tested and road-tested NFC East worthy Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship Game yesterday. I simply cannot believe that the Cardinals managed to win this game, even though it was a trap game in many respects–a road game after two tough road games, a revenge game for the Cards, and a warm weather game for a warm weather team, as well as an emotional let down game for the Eagles coming off a big win against the Giants. Nonetheless, the Eagles should have won this game, for many reasons. The Eagles nonetheless had a terrific season, and for me the high points of the season will still be crushing the Giants last week at the Meadowlands, as well as Donovan McNabb’s incredible double fake roll out and 80 yard throw to DeSean Jackson to take the lead in the NFC Championship Game in the 4th Quarter on a 62-yard bomb that was magnificent in execution and brilliantly thrown. It was everything and more that we as fans could ever have hoped for from our Eagles.

Nonetheless, the Eagles, as well as they played, came up short. I see three main factors.

Factor one – The NFL’s System for Assigning Home Games is Faulty When it Comes to Back-End Division Chapions with Poor Records and Easy Schedules vs. Wild Cards with Better Records and Harder Schedules

First thing, this game had no business being played in Arizona. Arizona was 9-7 in the regular season, the Eagles were 9-6-1. The Eagles had the better regular season record. Second, the Eagles trouced the Cards 48-20 in the only game between the two clubs. Third, the Eagles were 4-0 against the NFC West. Fourth, the Cards were 0-4 against the NFC East. The NFL’s official explanation for the seeding was that the Cardinals, as NFC West Division champs, were official the 4th seed in the playoffs, while the Eagles were the sixth seed as the wild-card.

However, it seems to me, that once you get to a head to head match-up between two teams where one team clearly has a better record, a stronger schedule and has beaten the other team head to head as well as beaten the common opponent, you have to throw out the brackets and assign the home game based on record and head to head competition.

The proper thing to do here would have been to break brackets and give the Eagles the home game. After all, Arizona did not really earn their home game in any sense of the word. Nor did they earn their bye week with a weak 9-7 record. While I give Arizona credit for beating Carolina on the road last week, there is simply no way that Arizona as NFC West Division champs deserved a home game with a weak 9-7 record.

The NFL playoff rules need to be amended such that division winners should only get home games if 1) they are division winners and 2) of the remaining two teams playing, the division winner has the better record of the remaining two teams playing, taking strength of schedule into account.

i know this is a loser’s beef, but a fair one. If this game had been played in Philly, the Eagles could have played more their style of ball.

Factor Two – David Akers cost the Eagles lots and lots of Points

David Akers came up small in the biggest game of the year. With the score 7-3 in the first half, Akers shanked a 45-yard field goal attempt badly to the right. Akers had the shanks all game long–he shanked a kickoff, an extra point, and the 45 yard FG attempt to the right during the game–all to the detriment of the Eagles.

If Akers makes that FG, the Eagles are at 7-6, one point down, and they kick off and pin the Cards deep. Instead, the Cards took over at about their own 30, and immediately they did the flea-flicker play to Larry Fitzgerald that went for 70 yards and a TD, making it 14-6. That’s a ten point swing right there.

So that sequence cost the Eagles ten points, maximum, three points minimum, and Akers was kicking in a dome, remember.

Next, Akers missed an extra point in the second half, costing the team another point, and forcing them to go for two on another TD, which the team didn’t make, costing them another two points, which in essence cost them three points. If Akers makes the first extra point, they kick another, so really it’s two points.

So Akers cost the team another two points in the second half.

As I see it, Akers cost the team six points, and possibly ten. So on account of Akers, and only Akers, the final score could have been 32-30 Cards, or better yet, 30-25 Eagles, which is what I think the score would have been if Akers had simply done his job.

Moreover, if Akers kicks the field goal in the first half and kicks his two extra points in the second half, and even assuming that the Cards score 32 points, the score is only 32-30 with three minutes to go, and the Eagles are on the 47 of Phoenix needing only about 20 yards to kick a game winning FG, instead of needing to go 47 yards to get a TD. As I see it, that changes the whole complexion of the game.

David Akers needs either to be replaced, or supplemented by a long-distance kicker. He no longer has the range or distance from past 40 yards.

Akers, and Akers alone, arguably cost the Eagles this football game.

Factor Three – The Eagles came out Flat in the First Half

The Eagles were thoroughly out played in the first half of the NFC Championship game, and obviously came out very flat. Most surprisingly the defense played badly and allowed 24 points, probably the most number of points allowed by the Eagles in a half in many a week.

The Eagles offense actually did not play so badly in the first half. While they didn’t score TDs, they played well enough to get in position for three FG’s, but Akers missed one, so they should have had 9 points, and arguably one of the Card’s TDs came about because of the FG miss, so the score could have been 17-9 at half.

However, to the Eagles everlasting credit, and quite unlike the Tampa Bay and Carolina NFC Championship Games, where they basically lay down and gave up, the Eagles mounted a ferocious comeback in the third quarter and second half of this game to come all the way back and actually take the lead, 25-24, in the fourth quarter, and make this and exciting and truly great NFC championship game.

During that third/fourth quarter stretch, the Eagles scored three straight TDs, stopped the Cards on every offensive possesion and stifled them defensively, and looked every bit like the Eagles of the last two weeks. I had given the Eagles up for dead after the first half, personally. I was surprised to see their comeback. It was the comeback of a great team with great character and a great will to win.

This years Eagles were nothing like the Eagles of other years. They were a great team that had a great will to win, even until the end.

Even Arizona’s final drive (and I suspect the home team was shaving time off the clock, incidentally), which consumed 7 minutes and went for a game winning TD and two point conversion, did not mask the greatness of the Eagles defense, which resisted them every step of the way, and pushed them to 3d and 4th down repeatedly, and nearly made a big goal line stand to force them to a Field Goal.

And McNabb made a great run at a final two minute drive to win the game and just came up a couple of passes short.

The final stats show that the Eagles actually outplayed the Cards–McNabb threw for many more yards, and was a terrific passer on the day. McNabb’s second half was far better than the Card’s Kurt Warner’s first half.

Edgerrin James, though, did have a great day, and was a big factor in the Cards’ final drive.

This game was quite reminiscent of the Rams-Eagles game of 2001 where Warner and McCutcheon came back to beat the Eagles in the second half. that was a great game, too.

People will say that this tarnishes McNabb’s and/or Reid’s legacy. No, no, no.

The Eagles are truly a great team. Five NFC Title games in eight years, and a terrific performance in this last one, an exciting performance, and nearly a win against all odds.

Only the 1990s San Francisco 49ers appeared in five NFC championship games in one decade, and I would remind everyone that that team, also, made it to just one Super Bowl appearance in those five games under coach George Seifert, were 1-4 in NFC championship games, and thought they won the Super Bowl they appeared in, their record of accomplishments in the 1990s is not dissimilar from the Eagles. Also, the Niners were up against a powerful Dallas Cowboys team piloted by Troy Aikman in those years. The Eagles have faced similarly talented teams within their own conference.

The Eagles have been playing with house money the whole way through. They nearly made it to another super bowl in a year that no one expected anything of them.

Now, they are in a position to sign a kicker and a running back (LaDainian Tomlinson?) and make another run next year at the title.

The dynasty continues. Another great year of pro football comes to a close in philly.

Oh, and by the way, GO STEELERS! (hey, we love PA teams).

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The NFL, FOX and other major media claim that the Arizona Cardinals have never hosted an NFC Conference Championship Game. Technically, that is correct, because the NFC and AFC only came into existence after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, but the NFL existed and had playoffs and championships and divisional playoff games for forty years or more before that date.

Before they were the Arizona Cardinals, they were the St. Louis Cardinals, and before they were the St. Louis Cardinals, they were the Chicago Cardinals.

And in 1947, 61 years ago, on December 28, 1947, the Chicago Cardinals hosted the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL Championhip. The box score of that game can be found at http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/194712280crd.htm. The Cardinals beat the Eagles 28-21. The Cardinals boasted Charlie Trippi at halfback and Ray Mallouf at QB.

That was a great Eagles team. It boasted Steve Van Buren, a 1000 yard rusher; Tommy Thompson at QB; Pete Pihos at end; Allie Sherman and Bill Mackrides at backup QB; and Bosh Pritchard at the other running back. It came back to win the NFL title in 1948 and 1949.

On December 19, 1948, the Eagles hosted the Chicago Cardinals in a rematch of the previous years title game, only this time at Philadelphia, and the Eagles defeated the Cardinals for the NFL title 7-0.

The Cardinals after 1948 never made the playoffs again while they were in Chicago. In 1960, they departed to St. Louis. In 1964, they had a 9-3 season, but finished second and missed the playoffs. But in 1974-75, they did finally make the playoffs again after a 26 year drought, under Don “Air” Coryell as their coach, with Jim Hart at QB and Terry Metcalf in the backfield and the outstanding Jackie Smith at tight end. Although they lost their opening round playoff games both years to the Vikings and Rams, those were two outstanding Cardinals playoff teams. Unfortunately, that was it for that team. The St. Louis Cards got in again in 1982, a strike year, but again lost the opening round playoff game.

In 1988 the Cards moved to Phoenix. In 1998, the Cards with Jake “the Snake” Plummer at QB went 9-7, made the wild card, and beat Troy Aikman and the Cowboys on the road in the wild card round, 20-7. Even though they lost to the Vikings in the Divisional Round, that would have to be counted as a very succesful season for the Cards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t repeated, and Plummer would soon make his way to Denver. It would take until this year for the Cards to again make the playoffs.

In 1925, the Chicago Cardinals won the NFL Championship, although this is disputed by some, since the Pottsville, PA Maroons had nearly the same record and defeated the Cardinals 21-7 in head to head play. There is a long ongoing controversy as to whether the Maroons or the Cardinals were the 1925 NFL Champions and I can’t get into the details of that here, except to say that both claim the championship, and the NFL record books apparently give it to Chicago’s Cardinals.

Suffice it to say that the Cardinals won at least one undisputed NFL championship on the field, and it was in December, 1947 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The same two teams played each other the next year and in December 1948, the Eagles beat the Cardinals for the NFL championship.

So actually, there’s a little bit of history between these two clubs, although you have to dust it all off to find it. And this coming weekend’s game is in fact a rematch of the 1947 and 1948 NFL championship games. It’s old school. These are two ancient franchises locking horns for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Even though the game is in Phoenix, which didn’t have an NFL franchise in 1947 or 1948, the history of the game is clearly there nonetheless. These two teams have both been in the NFL a long, long time and they have some history of losing to go along with their winning records.

Throw in the fact that Kurt Warner faced the Eagles as a St. Louis Ram in the NFC Championship Game not so long ago (2001) and the fact that Arizona was humbled and schooled 48-20 on Thanksgiving day by the Eagles, and you definitely have some rivalry issues on both sides for these clubs.

The Eagles, to justify their entire existence as a truly great team of the decade, must make it to the Super Bowl, and indeed, must win the Super Bowl.

The Cards, and Kurt Warner in particular, need to win to save face from the humiliation of thanksgiving day, though to lose in a close game would be enough.

On the whole, the synergies are such that I like the Eagles to win in a close, hard fought game.

The Eagles have the better defense, and on the whole, the better offense as well.

Warner is a very immobile QB,and will be a good target for the Eagles defensive blitz packages.

McNabb is healthy, can run his way out of trouble, and the Eagles have had success running the ball as well as passing.

I look for an Eagles win, though in many respects it’s a trap game on the road.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
happy new year 2009

The Baseball Writers of America have spoken, and this year Rickey Henderson, in his first year of eligibility, and Jim Rice, in his fifteenth and final year of eligibility, were elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Part One – Rickey Henderson

Right off the bat, the greatness of Rickey Henderson is established by the fact that he hit 297 career home runs playing in cavernous home parks like Oakland and Yankee Stadium, while Rice hit 382 career home runs playing in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. We don’t think of Rickey Henderson as a home run hitter, yet there he is, 122nd overall in career home runs among all players who ever played the game. Rice is 55th on the same list, but then again, just about the only thing Rice did was hit homers and extra base hits–it’s not as if he could run or field.

Rickey Henderson like Lenny Dykstra was not a big guy. He was 5’10”. He batted RH, but threw left. Here’s his career line: .279 BA/.401 OBA/.419 SA. Think about that–a .400 career On Base Average. For twenty five seasons in the bigs. That’s an unimaginable number. In fact, it’s 56th all-time, and many of the top 50 are from the 1st half of the 20th century. In 1990, Henderson was the MVP of the American League, leading Oakland to a 103 win season and the AL Pennant, one of the greatest seasons in the great history of the As franchise. Although they lost the series to a very good Cincinnati Reds franchise, Henderson had a marquee season for Oakland, swatting 28 homers, 33 doubles, 97 walks, stealing 65 bases, scoring 119 runs and registering a staggering park adjusted ops+ of 182 over league average.

Rickey Henderson, in short, was baseball’s greatest leadoff man. He was a force of chaos and destruction at the top of the order. He was in our era what Ty Cobb must have been in his era–a force of nature that could not and would not be contained. Henderson could beat you with the long ball–he had more leadoff home runs than just about anyone–he could beat you with the walk–and then stretch it to a double or triple with stolen bases–he could score almost at will. He broke Ty Cobb’s and Lou Brock’s records for stolen bases in a season, and eventually, for stolen bases in a career. With 1406 stolen bases for his career, Henderson has a record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon.

Henderson ranks first in career runs scored with 2295. With 3055 hits, he is 21st in career hits. 4,588 career bases give him 35th on the career list. 510 doubles put him 40th on the career list. 2190 walks are second all time on the career list. He led the league in stolen bases twelve different times along the way to his 1406 career stolen bases, which is of course first in the career record books. And his 297 home runs are 122d on the career list. His runs created of 2164 are 10th all time. He has the second highest career power-speed number of all time.

Rickey Henderson was born in December of 1958. He was at the tail end of the baby boomers. His impact on the sport of baseball was immediate and continuing, and to the end of his days as a ballplayer, he was a dangerous hitter and baserunner. He was always a hall of famer all the way. And he will always be an Oakland Athletic in my opinion, that’s how I will always remember him, as part of the rebuilding A’s of the early 80s, and then again as part of the 1990 three-peat dynasty. I know he spent some time as a Yankee, and played with Mattingly, but it never seemed those clubs got anywhere, for some reason.

Part Two – Jim Rice

Jim Rice’s election to the Hall of Fame is significant in two major ways.

First, Jim Rice is the first African-American ever inducted from the Boston Red Sox into the Hall of Fame. Now I recognize in the age of Obama, we aren’t looking at race the same way we once did, but there has been published a well-known book on the Red Sox and their past ways of racism, and the issue must be dealt with. For years, Jim Rice was just about the only African-American star of any magnitude on the Boston Red Sox. The Boston Red Sox were the last team in the AL to integrate (remember Pumpsie Green?) and it was widely rumored they traded Don Wilson to the Detroit Tigers because there was an unwritten rule they couldn’t have more than two blacks on the team at any one time after Reggie Smith came up with them in the mid-60s. Of course, Reggie Smith also eventually was shipped out. Don Wilson helped Detroit beat Boston in the 68 pennant race and win the 68 world series, and Reggie Smith helped the LA Dodgers win a series of pennants in the 1970s.

One often wonders what an outfield of Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Reggie Smith might have been like, but we’ll never know because the Red Sox preferred white guys like Dwight Evans back in those days.

This is not to diminish the 1970s Red Sox, or the 1975 World Series, or the accomplishments of Jim Rice. But Jim Rice’s main accomplishment, to be fair, was to break the color line in a racist ballclub playing in a racist town during the 1970s. A lot of the troubles he had with the media could be directly traced to racism and racial issues. More was expected of him than of Fred Lynn or Carlton Fisk.

Perhaps with the advent of David Ortiz and others, this issue has gone away. Ellis Burks was widely quoted as saying there were still racial problems on the Red Sox as late as the 1990s, a major factor in his going to Colorado. And it remains true that the Red Sox did not sign a major african american free agent for a long period of time during the 20th century. All these issue were raised in the book I referenced above.

One thing now is sure and certain–the Red Sox have an African-American Hall of Famer, and his name is Jim Rice, and he will always represent them in the Hall of Fame. No matter what the circumstances of his own day, Jim Rice will now be a shining beacon every spring training and every season to the younger african american or latin players on the Red Sox roster coming up.

The second significant aspect of Rice’s election is it’s recognition of the 70s Red Sox team as a great team worth honoring–the team that won just the one pennant in 1975, and the playoff for a pennant in 1978–with Rice, Lynn, Fisk, Tiant, et al. Rice was the best player of that group in the offensive sense, and his election to the Hall of Fame more or less validates that group as a great group of players. I myself think that Fred Lynn and Luis Tiant have Hall of Fame credentials, as did Carton Fisk, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2000. With Fisk and Rice now in the Hall, that team now has two major position players in the Hall of Fame.

Part Three – the Players left out of the Hall of Fame

Of the players left out of the hall of fame, Andre Dawson had the next highest number of votes. I myself would not vote for Andre Dawson for the Hall of Fame. I think that his power numbers were somewhat inflated by the parks he played in, and his on base averages were horrible, his strikeout numbers very high, and he just didn’t do that much offensively to help his team.

The next three are pitchers, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith and Jack Morris, and all three, I believe, belong in the Hall of Fame. Blyleven and Morris were exceptional starters, Morris had more wins than anyone else in the 1980s, making him a dominant pitcher for a long period of time, and Morris was a winner on multiple World Series squads; Blyleven won 286 games and won them with terrible teams. Lee Smith was a feared reliever for a long time.

I am shocked that Tommy John, a truly great pitcher, failed to gain admission to the Hall of Fame. He is deserving.

Next is Tim Raines. When you look at Tim Raines on baseball-reference.com, his most similar player is Rickey Henderson, and vice versa. The fact is that Tim “Rock” Raines is and was a tremendous player and hitter. His career line is .294/.385/.425, quite similar really, to Henderson’s. In time, I think the voters will see that Raines, who is fifth all time in career steals, belongs in the Hall.

Next is Mark McGwire, who finished very low in the voting, probably because of the “juice” issue. Nonetheless, he was a key member of three Oakland As’ pennant winning clubs and one world championship club; he was a nine time all star; in his rookie year he hit 49 homers and was rookie of the year, in cavernous Oakland-Alameda Stadium; he also hit 42 and 52 homers in other seasons in the same park. He walked more than 100 times a year, sometimes 150 times a year. His park-adjusted ops+ numbers are astonishing–in some cases 200+ for some seasons. His career ops+ is 162 over league, which is phenomenal. His career line is .263/.394/.588, which means he had a lifetime on base average of almost .400, even separate and apart from his home run hitting, and then a lifetime slugging average of nearly .600.

Here I have to disagree with the writers. The numbers speak too loudly. Mark McGwire was not a great player, he was a player for the ages. He is a clear, bona fide Hall of Famer. He hit 583 homers, nearly 600, and he spent half of his career in a poor hitter’s park in Oakland, where it is impossible to hit a homer, but he hit them anyway. It’s safe to say that he probably lost ten homers for every year he played in Oakland, which means that McGwire would be closer to 700 career if he’d spent his whole career in St. Louis.

I would argue that his jump to 65 and 70 was not juice, but a park effect due to his leaving Oakland and going to St. Louis. He was hitting 40, 50 homers a year in Oakland, a poor hitting park, and then went to St. Louis, a good homer park. Now he was going from losing ten homers a year to perhaps gaining ten–consequently he went from 40 to 70 homers in a season. The park effects explain everything.

Just to prove this, take his 1992 season in Oakland, where he hit 42 homers. His park adjusted ops+ is 177. Now look at his 1999 season in St. Louis, where he hit 65 homers. His park adjusted ops+ is 177. He has the same park adjusted offensive output over league–it’s just that the fences are friendlier in St. Louis, so he gets 65 bombs instead of 42 bombs in St. Louis.

Is McGwire really that good that it took a move to St. Louis to show his greatness? In a word, yes. Remember Reggie Jackson? He was hitting 47 homers, 35 homers, 37 homers in Oakland–but when he moved to the rightfield porch in Yankee Stadium, everyone woke up to the fact that he was a superstar. Again, park effects.

McGwire’s adjusted career OPS number of +162 is twelfth highest in history. His home run number of 583 is 8th overall, but i’m suggested that he was robbed of about a hundred homers by Oakland’s park, and so should rank much higher. And McGwire was a winner–he helped St. Louis get to the Playoffs in 2000 and 2001 as well as capture a division crown–making him part of five playoff teams in his career, three pennant winners and a world series winner.

Going down the rest of the list of players on the HOF ballot, I give a slight nod to Alan Trammell.

But the one player who really belongs in the Hall of Fame, who has been slighted by the voters, is Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball was a lifetime .300 hitter, with a career line of .307/.358/.471, batting in Yankee Stadium all of his career. He was the 1985 AL MVP and finished 2d in the MVP voting another year, in the top 5 in MVP voting another year, and in the top 10 in MVP voting another year. In 1986, he had 238 hits, 31 homers, 53 doubles, 113 RBI and batted .353 in one of the most spectacular seasons ever in Yankee history. He was a six time all star, and a three time silver slugger award winner. He won the AL batting title in 1984, batting .343. He led the AL in slugging percentage in 1986 at .573. He led the AL in hits in 1984 with 207 and in 1986 with 238. He led the AL in total bases in 1985 with 370 and in 1986 with 388. He led the AL with RBI with 145 in 1985. He won nine consecutive AL gold gloves at first base.

I recognize that Donnie Baseball was limited in his later career by back and other injuries, and maybe he didn’t get some of the career numbers that some others got. But during his peak years, Donnie Baseball dominated the AL like no other Yankee player had since Joe Gordon or Lou Gehrig or Babe Ruth–and he was a pure hitter, a guy who could really lay the bat on the ball. And he could field. And, most beautifully, he struck out about 30 times a year. All year. Don Mattingly’s career strikeout total is 444 in 14 seasons played. The man has 442 career doubles, 222 career homers, 20 career triples. He has more career extra base hits than he has career strikeouts. Consider that for a moment. Ryan Howard, who we all know and love, has struck out about 500 times the past three seasons alone. Bobby Abreu, who we all celebrate as a great sabrmetric player, strikes out 100 times a year. Don Mattingly, in 1985-1986, struck out 33, 41 and 35 times while getting more than 200 hits each of those seasons.

Not since Joe Sewell have we ever seen a player get so many hits while striking out so little.

Consider this a ringing endorsement of Don Mattingly aka Donnie Baseball for the Hall of Fame. Few like him shall pass his way again.

And, as much as I might like Jim Rice, I’d rather field a team of nine career peak Don Mattinglys against your nine career peak Jim Rices any day of the week, and I bet I’d beat you 99 of 100 times. The fact is, at their respective peaks, Jim Rice wasn’t even half the player Don Mattingly was.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles continue to shock the world. Yesterday they did what no one thought was possible—they marched into the Meadowlands and defeated the defending Super Bowl New York Giants in a divisional playoff round game 23-11. The game was close, hard-hitting and was up for grabs as late as the fourth quarter. The two teams went into the halftime with Philly up 10-8 after McNabb engineered a two-minute drive for a field goal by Akers. The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter and Philly was up 13-11 when the Eagles finally put together a touchdown drive to go ahead 20-11. Then the Giants stalled out at fourth and inches and the Eagles made a big defensive stop. The Eagles went three and out but the Giants again got to their own forty and got to fourth and around two and went for it again—and the Eagles stopped them again. This time the Eagles offense converted a long pass play to DeSean Jackson and while they didn’t make the TD, they converted another Akers FG to go up 23-11 with a little over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. This pretty much iced it. Manning on his next series threw a pick and Philly again wasted clock with another offensive possession.

The Eagles won by controlling the second half with defense, by running the football about as often as they passed, and by controlling the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. After a while, with the Giants defense out there so long, you could see the Giants defense getting tired, as great and awesome as they are. The Eagles had a 2-1 edge in time of possession in the second half. They simply dominated the Giants in the second half.

This was a terrific win for the Eagles, one of the finest wins in the playoffs in the Andy Reid era, perhaps the finest. A win over an NFC East rival on the road in the opponents stadium as a wild card having played the week before is a tall order, but Andy Reid dialed up a good game plan and won with it. Again, the keys to the game were a sound McNabb, a healthy Westbrook, a great DeSean Jackson and an awesome Eagles defense.

We should stop for a moment and appreciate what Andy Reid has now accomplished—five NFC Championship round appearances in eight years. The chance of doing this randomly in anyone year is the chance of making the playoffs (six out of 16) or .375 (37.5%) times the chance of winning at least one more playoff games (.5 or 50%) which aggregates to .1875 or 18.75% in any single season randomly. Leaving out the combinatorics of doing it five out of eight seasons (56 ways), assuming you had to do this five straight seasons would be .1875 times itself five times would would be .00023 or .023% chance of this happening randomly. That’s 23 chances in 10,000 seasons. The odds improve a bit when you stretch it over eight seasons, but still, it’s an impressive accomplishment. Andy Reid is clearly staking his claim for the Hall of Fame among NFL Coaches.

Of course, I’ve already gone out on that limb and said the Eagles would go to the Super Bowl this year. That prediction is looking better after Arizona knocked Carolina out of the playoffs. The Eagles knocked the stuffing out of Arizona on Thanksgiving day. Not that Arizona will lay down and die at home during the NFC championship game. Kurt Warner is an experienced quarterback who has won the Super Bowl, and who has defeated the Eagles in the NFC Championship round with St. Louis back in 2001, though he had Marshall Faulk back then to do it with and a pretty good defense. But he does have a renewed Edgerrin James, who has been enjoying a renaissance in the playoffs, and the Cardinals running game has been respectable enough to give their passing game some respectability. Moreover, the Eagles may have a letdown after their emotional win over the Giants. They may underestimate the Cardinals.

A historical note: The Eagles last met the Cardinals in a playoff game in 1947, for the NFL title. The Chicago Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL title in that game. The Eagles came back to win the NFL title in 1948 and 1949. It’s taken 61 years, but this is the Eagles time for revenge and payback. Besides, what kind of crazy person would leave a great town like Chicago for St. Louis or Arizona?

The keys to this upcoming game are that Warner is a stationary QB vulnerable to the blitz; and the Cardinals weak defense. Also the Eagles good secondary has to maintain coverage on the fleet-footed Arizona receivers. The Eagles must maintain the same kind of game plan that resulted in a blowout from Thanksgiving while making adjustments in light of Arizona’s last two big wins.

I believe the Eagles will win at Arizona, though it will not be a blowout as before. I also think that the Steelers will finally knock Baltimore out of the playoffs, though Baltimore is playing very, very well. And we will finally have an all-PA Super Bowl of Steelers v. Eagles in Tampa, where there are a lot of ex-PA people living as snowbirds.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The Sixers’ problems with the three ball have finally surfaced big time in the mainstream media, prompting a number of articles in the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer. Of course, I noted this problem quite a long ways back in this blog. The Sixers’ problem with the three ball is essentially this; they’re shooting about 20-30% of their 3s, and only attempting 8-10 a game. Their opposition is making 40% or more a game, and shooting about 15-20 a game.

If you work out the math, you’ll quickly see the point differential is .25 (10) (3) = 7.5 points a game for the sixers, while the other side is getting .40 (20) (3) = 24 points a game for the opposition. That’s an enormous difference. Even if the opposition is shooting only ten threes a game, they’ll be getting .40(10)(3) = 12 points a game to 7.5 for the sixers, which is a 4.5 point differential. Again, in the NBA, that’s the difference between winning and losing.

The mainstream media has noted that the Sixers are currently LAST in the NBA in shooting threes. When asked to remark on this fact, Sixers GM Eddie Stefanski stated, or stated to the effect that, if the Sixers practiced shooting the three more, they would improve their three shooting. Let’s think about that statement for a second. Does anyone think if Shaquille O’Neal practiced more he would be able to sink free throws? Does anyone think if Pat Burrell practiced more he would be able to bunt the ball and fly down the first base line like a fleet deer?

To paraphrase Allen Iverson, “PRACTICE? ARE WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE????” The point is, practice is not much help to professional NBA players. NBA players come to the NBA to DISPLAY their skills, not to DEVELOP their skills. If a player can’t shoot the three by the time he’s come to the NBA, practicing shooting the three ball isn’t going to develop that skill substantially at the pro level, unless he’s a kid out of high school, a young kid that’s 18 or 19. That would be the only exception to that rule. Otherwise, most NBA players coming out of college are pretty fixed in what they can and can’t do by the time they reach the pros.

The point is, some athletes have certain abilities, and some do not. Some can drain the long jumper, and some can’t. Some are perimeter players who can drain the long jumper, while others are penetration players and bangers who make their living drawing fouls, making slams and passing the ball when they draw double teams. Iguodala and Brand are inside bangers, not three shooters. Andre Miller has nice 15 foot jumper, but he’s not a three shooter either. The only true three shooter on the Sixers’ roster is Donyell Marshall.

We had a pure three point shooter on this roster one year ago today, and his name was Kyle Korver. Eddie Stefanski’s first act as General Manager was to trade Korver to Utah for virtually nothing. Stefanski did that without thinking too hard about Korver or what he meant to the team in terms of shooting the three. Maybe Stefanski didn’t understand that the modern NBA, like the international game, is played at the three line. Whatever the reason, Korver is now playing for Utah, where he continues to score 16 points per 36 minutes played, almost all of it shooting from the three point line. Korver’s typical line is 2 for 3, or 3 for 5, each and every night from the three point line. Korver is helping Utah win.

Are other three point shooters helping other teams win in the East? You bet they are. When star guard Bibby went from Sacramento to Atlanta, he brought with him his ability to stick the three ball at a 40% clip. Well, guess what? With Atlanta’s inside young bangers and Bibby bombing from the three line, Atlanta now is a 20-11 team as good as Cleveland, Detroit or Boston. Which suggests that what the Sixers needed in the offseason was not Elton Brand, a low post player, but a Bibby or similar perimeter player, who could stick the three. Someone who could play high post-low post with Iguodala, who clearly is an inside banger-low post player.

Again, if I’m suggesting that Stefanski made a mistake in acquiring Elton Brand, that would be entirely correct. I think the Elton Brand acqusition was a mistake. The fact that the Sixers are currently winning without Elton Brand proves this. They can win by running the ball and by interior defense with Dalembert, Young, Speights, Evans and Ratliff, and making baskets in transition–playing uptempo all the way. Brand slows the team down way too much. He’s old, he’s slow and he’s a half-court dinosaur.

Brand reminds me of what happened to the sixers after 2001 when they switched from Theo Ratliff, who could run then, to Dikembe Mutumbo, who was a half-court slow guy. They went from being one of the fast uptempo teams playing defense and running, to being a slow half-court team. To solve that they eventually unloaded Mutumbo, but never solved the defensive void they created in doing that.

Boston is another example of a team that benefits by shooting the three. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce can really stick the three ball. Pierce always could, but Ray Allen is one of the finest pure shooters in the game. He used to torture Philly when he was with the Bucks, and he and Iverson used to go on scorefests when they played each other. With Garnet on the inside, and Allen and Pierce playing the perimeter, you have instant offense. What’s even cooler about Boston’s offense is that Garnett can also post up on the outside and shoot the jumper, allowing Pierce or Allen to penetrate and/or dish off to one of the others for the two or three ball. And what of Cleveland? LeBron James clearly has the three ball in his arsenal, as do several of his teammates.

The bottom line is that the Sixers need to make a move to acquire a proficient three shooter. Rasheed Wallace is a free agent after the season, and he is ideal. He is a big man who also posts up low or high, and can drop the three ball with impunity. He’s also an enforcer and a philly guy who played his high school ball here. Iverson is also potentially a free agent. Bringing back both of them would improve the Sixers three ball capacity immensely. A lineup with Brand, Wallace, Iguodala, Iverson and Miller, with everyone else coming off the bench, would be terrific, because then the second unit of Young et al. would be playing second stringers, or could be blended in with the veterans. At this point, you’d have a playoff team, and a good one. Brand, Wallace, Iguodala, Iverson or Miller could all score 20 and Wallace and Iverson could give you the three ball while Iguodala and Brand are banging and slashing down low.

In the short run, the Sixers should re-acquire Kyle Korver. He liked playing here and would probably welcome a trade back. He doesn’t play as much in Utah as he would play here and he would welcome coming back. Failing that, they Sixers should get another three shooter who is a deadeye from three point land. Unless the Sixers make these changes, they are starting each game essentially five to ten points in the hole every night. That’s an unfair burden to put on such a fine, talented young squad as this one. The Sixers have an essentially good and gifted team. They just need to fill one gap in their arsenal. It’s up to the GM, Stefanski to fix it. Unfortunately, so far, by trading Korver, he’s only weakened them in this one critical spot.

I hate to be the one to say it this early, but the Billy King/Maurice Cheeks regime is starting to look better and better in retrospect. I for one cannot see what is so good about Ed Stefanski or the incredibly undeserving DiLeo as coach of this team. Mo Cheeks coached this team into the playoffs last year and was rewarded with an incredibly disloyal firing. Mo Cheeks was a loyal Sixer. DiLeo is a team flak who once coached german girls basketball.

These are the Philadelphia Sixers, who once boasted Wilt Chamberlain, Dr. J. and Charles Barkeley, and were coached by Alex Hannum, Dr. Jack Ramsay, Billy Cunningham and Jimmy Lynam. DiLeo doesn’t belong in that vaunted group of outstanding basketball coaches. He doesn’t belong at all. Mo Cheeks was a good coach and he belonged in that group of great coaches. He was one of the great Sixers coaches.

–Art Kyriazis philly/south jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The Horrible BCS

January 12, 2009

Florida defeated Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS National Championship Game last week to win the BCS National Championship for this past 2008-2009 season. The game was pretty even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, Tim Tebow and the Gators pretty much took control of the game as did the Gators’ defense. I’m certainly happy for Florida and for the good people of Gator Country.

Which reminds me of a funny story. I was interviewing for some positions early in my career in the Jacksonville, Florida region. This was a while back. I was I had flown in from the North that very morning. I was pretty young and naïve. Everywhere I went, I noticed that everyone had a certain lapel pin on. Finally, my third or fourth interview through, I asked, pretty stupidly, what is that pin y’all have on?

“Why son, THIS HEAH IS A GATAH PIN. WE HEAH ARE ALL GATAHS!!!”
In other words, they all were wearing Florida Gator pins. I knew right then and there, I was toast. There was no way they were hiring a Northerner in that or any other related office. Just to complete the story, I ran into some friends of friends some years later in LA who were Gator alums, and they assured me that U Florida was one of the best universities ever, both in terms of courses and in terms of social fun, ever. Apparently a lot of celebrities and actors send their kids there. But they, too, were Gators.

I’m actually happy for Florida and the Gators. Maybe it took Steve Spurrier leaving for them to get a national championship, or maybe just a Tim Tebow to put them over the top. Whatever, they’ve now won two BCS national championships in three years, which is a signal accomplishment.

But this is about the horrible BCS, which this year served up a couple of one loss teams in Florida and Oklahoma in the BCS Bowl. This year, other schools which have a reasonable claim to the national championship include Utah, which finished undefeated, won a BCS Bowl and destroyed their BCS opponent in that Bowl. Why wasn’t Utah in the BCS Final? Frankly, they looked pretty compelling in destroying Alabama.

Then you have the USC Trojans—who did a pretty good job of destroying the Penn State Nittany Lions, and a very good Nittany Lion team at that, one which was a one point loss from being undefeated. It’s hard to believe that USC lost a game to anyone this season. Even so, watching them in the Rose Bowl, USC certainly looked like a national champion. Why wasn’t USC playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

Then you have Texas, which defeated Ohio State in another BCS Bowl, though it was a close game and not a decisive win. Texas didn’t really make out the case for a national championship, but certainly they belong in the mix of elite teams. Why wasn’t Texas playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

So what this controversy builds up to is the compelling need for a national playoff system in BCS/NCAA football. Why this is so difficult escapes me. The top eight ranked teams in the BCS should be eligible for the playoffs, and should be seeded in the BCS bowls; in fact, to be REALLY fair, the BCS/NCAA should put in the top sixteen teams and seed them accordingly. They certainly have enough teams. After all, if you’re ranked first, you should have a creampuff first round opponent, eh? Meanwhile, you can get some interesting 8-9 matchups, etc.

Sixteen playoff teams will result in eight bowls in the first round, four bowls in the second round, two bowls in the third round and a final championship bowl in the penultimate round. That makes fifteen bowl games over four weeks to decide a national champion. There would be plenty of advertising money and plenty of TV rights all around. As for the remainder of the bowl games, obviously there should be a pool to allow all of the bowls to be playoff/BCS bowls from year to year—but due to regional and conference matchups other bowls will still have appeal, e.g. Penn State, Notre Dame, the service academies, even if they’re not for the playoffs or national championship.

Many, many persons have spoken out for a national playoff system in NCAA/BCS football, including our President-Elect, who is in favor. The team that has been most hurt by the lack of a national playoff system in NCAA football, without any doubt, has been Penn State. Four times in NCAA history, Penn State has had an undefeated system without being ranked #1 or having an opportunity to play for the #1 ranking in a bowl game at the end of the season. By my reckoning, Joe Paterno and Penn State should have six, not two national championships. Paterno and Penn State have been shamelessly deprived of numerous national championships by both the polling systems and by the lack of a national championship playoff system, starting in 1969 and most recently in 1993.

The other team that has been systematically discriminated against even with the BCS system is Utah, which the BCS/NCAA feels for some reason can’t play football, even though Utah churns out pro quarterbacks and pro coaches with astounding regularity. I don’t even know who the Utah quarterback is, but I bet even now he’s more likely to end up on an NFL roster than Bradford the so-called cant miss prospect from Oklahoma (who looked hopelessly confused during the fourth quarter of the BCS bowl).

Meanwhile, Tebow, who the NFL scouts say won’t make it in the NFL, there’s a guy I’d certainly draft if I was GM for an NFL team. Tebow is a born leader. I’ve only ever seen one guy do that jump pass thing—the star quarterback of our prep school football team—and all he did was play for BC four years and play for the Giants until he messed up his ankle. He’s a professional sports announcer now. I say Tebow can play pro—he’s got the desire.

But the horrible BCS has to be overhauled. We need a playoff system. I’m pretty sure Tebow and Florida would still win such a system, and the final game would probably be Florida and USC. But what a game that would be.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009