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SEAN RODRIGUEZ, BRET STEPHENS, AND THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE PUBLIC SQUARE

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

The last 24 hours haven’t been the best for the concept of free speech.  Moments after smacking a game-winning home run last night, Sean Rodriguez smacked that portion of the Phillie fan base with the temerity to boo him beforehand.  Those fans “seem[] pretty entitled,” he whined to the press. “You’re just making yourself look pretty bad as an individual, as a person, as a fan.”  Rodriguez was mired in a 1-21 slump before his game winner and is currently slashing .214/.316/.393.

This morning the Washington Post reported that New York Times columnist Bret Stephens took after a George Washington University professor who called him a bedbug in a tweet that generated all of nine “likes.”  Nobody cared, apparently, other than Stephens, who emailed the professor and essentially said “say it to my face, why dontcha.”  Stephens also cc’d the school’s provost in what seems to have been an attempt to bully and intimidate the professor.  To repeat, in case anybody missed it, the professor’s sin was a silly joke wherein he called Stephens a bedbug.  Not funny, perhaps, but nothing worse than that.

I had my own “Bret Stephens moment” last summer when I tweeted out to my empire of 91 followers a query wherein I wondered why Stephens just looked so different on television recently than I had remembered him.  Stephens has always struck me as something of a phony – something of a right wing bomb thrower when protected first by the Wall Street Journal’s masthead and then the Times’s, but a gentle, reasonable-seeming soul when parading himself on MSNBC, where the sometimes asinine remarks he prides himself on in his columns would no doubt receive immediate pushback from the other panelists.  His visage struck me, at least at the time, as emblematic of his personality, so I commented on it: "Is it me or has Bret Stephens gotten some face work recently? The guy looks younger each time he's on TV. Hair plugs, perhaps? Something's going on, though."  The post was in jest (I have no idea if he’d ever had any work done and, anyway, I think that in my twisted way I was actually paying him a compliment, at least on the surface) but, at least I hoped, suggestive of the idea that the guy we see on MSNBC is a less-than-authentic talking head who bears no resemblance to the guy we read in print.

Within an hour I was stunned to find an email from Stephens sitting in my in-box.  No, he wrote, he never had any cosmetic surgery.  In fact, he stressed, “I have no idea what hair plugs even are.”  Overlooking my suspicion that he was, at least in part, lying (who doesn’t know what hair plugs are?) was the oddity of his replying to my tweet at all. Why would he care?  How would he even know that I had tweeted anything in the first place?  Only an incredibly fragile person would search his name over and over, several times each day, to find the dandelions in the weeds that were my, and later the GWU prof’s, tweets. 

Or maybe it’s something more than that.  Maybe Stephens’s pique arose from the notion that someone other than Bret Stephens was making use of the public square.  He was the national columnist, he was the network talking head, his voice mattered.  Mine, not so much.  Or at all.

Sean Rodriguez’s comments last night struck the same chord.  He was the Major League ballplayer.  He was the guy on the field, in the spotlight.  His was the voice that counted.  The nobodies in the stands booing him?  Not only shouldn’t they boo, they didn’t deserve a voice at all.  Oh, they could cheer if they liked.  Otherwise, they should just shut up and watch.

Problem is, that’s not the way it works.  The public square is, well, public.  Some, like Stephens and Rodriguez, speak from a platform that’s permanently affixed; others have to shout from the crowd, when something in particular moves them to speak and be heard.  But they’re entitled to the air just as much as anybody else. 

I don’t know Bret Stephens but I have to assume that he’s sent a lot of emails like the ones he sent me and the GWU prof.  All of them attempts to tamp down what he considers dissonant, mocking voices.  Speech – banal as it may be – that he believes diminishes him as the public arbiter of what’s right and wrong with America.  Rodriguez, too, seemed to be taken aback when the ticketholders in the public square that is Citizens Bank Park let him know what they thought of him and his slash line. 

 Free speech doesn’t work the way Stephens and Rodriguez think it does.  We don’t elect, appoint or anoint anybody to speak in our place in the public square.  Of course, Stephens and Rodriguez can say whatever it is they like.  But so can everybody else.

The public square is big.  It’s got enough room for everyone.  Nobody, not even a New York Times columnist or a Major League ballplayer, gets to clear it at their whim.  No matter how badly it bruises their fragile egos. 

Hey Bret, hey Sean:  BOOOOOOO.


Eagles Sign Safety Jason Thompson, Waive Tre Sullivan

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Tuesday was a pretty busy day for the Eagles considering how close to roster cuts we are getting.

The day started out with the team switching out linebackers on the roster.

Later on, the Eagles got a scare with DeSean Jackson breaking a finger during a workout.

Now, the Eagles have made a change to the defensive backs room.

Continue reading "Eagles Sign Safety Jason Thompson, Waive Tre Sullivan" »


DeSean Jackson Reportedly Breaks Finger During Workout

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Earlier this offseason, Eagles GM Howie Roseman did what he does best and started making trades. One of the first was a deal to re-acquire wideout DeSean Jackson from Tampa Bay.

The idea was that the team would add a legitimate deep threat, arguably the best in the game. Roseman then extended Jackson to keep him around for a few seasons.

The Eagles have not had the best injury news this preseason with Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler leaving preseason games with injuries in back-to-back weeks. They received another scare on Tuesday as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that DeSean Jackson broke his ring finger on his left hand in practice.

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Eagles Swap Linebackers On Roster

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles made another roster move on Monday, making a switch at linebacker.

The Eagles added linebacker Chris Worley just last week, but Howie Roseman does not like to sit still and is always making moves.

After moving on from veteran Paul Worrilow earlier this week prior to his signing with the Ravens and subsequent retirement, the Eagles lacked some veterans in the linebacker room that is filled with a lot of young guys.

The Eagles addressed this by releasing Asantay Brown and replacing him with Hayes Pullard.

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Flyers F Tyler Pitlick Has Wrist Surgery, Out 4 Weeks

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It’s still nearly another three weeks until the Flyers take the ice for the start of training camp and already they have an injury to deal with. It comes to one of the newest members of the roster.

Tyler Pitlick, a forward acquired in the offseason in a trade with the Dallas Stars, suffered a tear in his left wrist during an offseason workout and had surgery last week. He will begin rehab on Monday, Sept. 2 and be out for approximately four weeks.

Continue reading "Flyers F Tyler Pitlick Has Wrist Surgery, Out 4 Weeks" »


Phillies Remain in Control of Postseason Fate with 5 Weeks Left in Season

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

It has been a long time since the Philadelphia Phillies qualified for the postseason eight years, in fact.

Since then, we have seen the departure and rearrival of 2008 World Series-winning manager Charlie Manuel to the coaching staff; a front office overhaul that included Matt Klentak replacing Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager; a new, analytics-based way of thinking throughout the organization you name it.

The Phillies have tried to shake things up, considering they have not finished better than third place in their division since the franchise-best, 102-win season in 2011 that resulted in a disappointing NLDS series defeat to the eventual-champion St. Louis Cardinals and a career-devastating injury to first baseman Ryan Howard.

One of the Phillies' more recent efforts to "right the ship" was signing a new left-handed slugger perennial All-Star and MVP-candidate Bryce Harper this past offseason to a then-record-breaking contract.

And while signing Harper at first appeared to not have "pushed the needle" any closer to a Phillies postseason berth, Harper and the team overall have completely turned things around in recent weeks  including winning seven of their last 10 games, scoring an average of 6.3 runs per game.

While the Phillies' chances to win the division title appear slim, being 10 1/2 games out with 34 games left to play, the Phillies continue to be right in the thick of a Wild Card race.

The only thing that remains in the Phillies' way of clinching their first postseason berth since 2011 considering their favorable remaining schedule is themselves.

Continue reading "Phillies Remain in Control of Postseason Fate with 5 Weeks Left in Season" »


Another Former Eagle Signs With New Team Less Than A Week After Being Cut

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Just a few days ago, the Cleveland Browns signed receiver Braxton Miller just days after his release by the Eagles.

On Friday, it was announced that another recently released Eagles is signing with a new team.

On Monday, the Eagles brought in linebacker Chris Worley and released Paul Worrilow, who had been continuing to deal with knee inflammation and was unable to play.

Despite fans rooting for the Delaware product to return to the team following his re-signing with the Eagles this offseason, Worrilow just never got enough time to practice and LJ Fort, Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards all moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

He was only out of a job for five days, however. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the Baltimore Ravens will be signing the recently cut Eagle.

Continue reading "Another Former Eagle Signs With New Team Less Than A Week After Being Cut" »


Eagles Armchair: Eagles Fall in Weather-Shortened Match-Up

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles had a lot of guys step up in the second preseason game against the Jaguars.

Their third preseason game against the Ravens did not go nearly as well.

The Eagles played a very ugly first half and saw some less-than-ideal plays from some young guys that had previously come up big for the team.

Just when it seemed the team put it all together and ready to erase a 26-point deficit, lightning forced a delay and the eventual cancellation of the game.

Continue reading "Eagles Armchair: Eagles Fall in Weather-Shortened Match-Up" »


Eagles Trade Bruce Hector To Cardinals

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Howie Roseman has struck a deal from a position of depth.

As I covered yesterday, the Eagles are already with a defensive line that really has six ends and five tackles worthy of making the roster.

That doesn't include DE Eli Harold, who the team acquired via trade a few weeks ago, or DT Bruce Hector who was turning some heads at camp.

The Eagles GM has struck another deal to make his own decisions on the line a bit easier.

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Week Three Preseason Preview: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Eagles will host the Baltimore Ravens for their third game of the preseason Thursday night. Through two games, we’ve seen some good play from younger players, some really ugly performances from other young players and next to nothing from the starters. After the injuries to both Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler, I’m starting to think that’s a good thing.

While the third game of the preseason is traditionally the game where the starters play the most during the preseason, I’m still not sure what to expect. Given the way that the coaching staff has handled playing starters this preseason, we probably won’t know the playing status of any starters until a couple hours prior to kickoff.

Continue reading "Week Three Preseason Preview: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles" »