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YWT: The Philadelphia Flyers Podcast - YWT #66 - All-Star Break

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The Flyers are in the middle of the All-Star break and bye week, so it's been a lighter week. That doesn't leave the You Would Think team with any less to talk about.

The Flyers entered the break with a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and the guys will break down the victory in the lone game of the week. They also take a look at the All-Star Game festivities from this weekend. Join co-hosts Kyle Collington and Mike Giletto Sr. for another week of Flyers talk.

Follow You Would Think on Twitter @YWTpodcast
Follow Mike Sr. on Twitter @MikeFromSJersey
Follow producer Mike Giletto Jr. on Twitter @Mike_Giletto

Subscribe to YWT: A Philadelphia Flyers Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube.


Morgan Murphy, Pearce Chiles and the Phillies Sign Stealing Schemes

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The 1900 Phillies, from the 1901 Spalding Base Ball Guide. Pearce Chiles is seated second from the left in the second row
By Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist 
 
A baseball scandal has once again captured sporting headlines nationwide as the depth of the 2017 Houston Astros sign stealing process continues to unwrap like an onion. MLB investigated the situation and delivered a harsh reprimand of the organization, banning GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a full year, while stripping the club's first and second round amateur draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts. A $5 million fine was also levied against the organization. Twitter sleuths then uncovered, they believe, to be players wearing wires, a more technically savvy way of tipping pitches than the officially documented trash can banging method. The Houston scandal reverberated around the league and resulted in the firing of former Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who managed the Boston Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title and former player Carlos Beltran, who this offseason was named the New York Mets manager. Both are now unemployed. Suggestions of similar schemes have been been brought forth, including techniques used by Tony La Russa while manager of the White Sox in the 1980s. The depth and truth of these other allegations is unknown, but one thing is for certain - baseball has a history of clubs stealing signs to gain an upper hand. Some schemes might be rudimentary. I remember sitting in Citizen Bank Park's section 145 on April 10, 2018 when I noticed Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera moving his arms in the direction of upcoming pitches while he was on second base with Rhys Hoskins at the plate. Is that a scheme, per se? No, and it's really probably that Herrera did that on his own accord. But the Astros' scandal shows how deep and ingenious some schemes can be. Complex schemes likely require some sort of technological involvement, which was the case with the Phillies' sign stealing scheme at the turn of the 20th century.
 
The Phillies employed a not-so-good backup catcher named Morgan Murphy who was near the end of his career. He joined the Phillies in 1898 but for unknown reasons did not play the following season. His sister died in March so it's possible he returned home to take care of family business instead of playing baseball. However, his name surfaces in the October 21, 1899 Sporting Life which provided an account of a sign stealing scheme with Murphy at its core. Bill Magee pitched nine unremarkable games for the Phillies in 1899 before being released by the club. He was subsequently picked up by the Senators later in the year and became a whistleblower when he detailed the scheme to the Washington Post. (The Post story is reprinted in the Sporting Life). 
 
Morgan's 1899 scheme goes like this. He bought a $75 pair of binoculars and sat in Manager Shettsline's suite, which was situated above the clubhouses in deep center field. It typically took two innings before he matched the signs to pitches. "Whenever the catcher signaled his pitcher for a curveball Murphy pulled the rope of the left side of the awning outside of the window. When the signal was given for a straight ball the foxy Morgan would yank the rope on the other side."  Ingenious and rudimentary. While the article in the Post and Sporting Life marked the first time the scheme was publicized, the scheme was evidently known throughout the league as both Louisville and Baltimore, at least, knew of Morgan's plot. They attempted to switch up their typical signs but to no avail. The most interesting part might be that Morgan carried on the scheme when the club was on the road. During a series in Brooklyn, Morgan rented a room across the street from the right field fences. No awnings were available, so instead, he waved a newspaper with his left hand for a fastball and on the right hand for a breaking ball. The most damning allegation in the story is that Morgan cleared his plot with Phillies co-owner John Rogers. 
 
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A turn of the century picture of Philadelphia Ballpark. The clubhouses are located in deep center field
There were no consequences for neither Murphy nor the Phillies for what was evidently a season-long endeavor. Nothing is mentioned at the National League meeting at the end of the year. So what happens when you tip the scales without repercussion? Do it again, of course.
 
In 1900, Murphy included his teammate Pearce Chiles in an ingenious new and improved scheme. Chiles is a baseball enigma, which is not a surprise considering he was a mediocre player of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He bounced around from minor league club to minor club until finally landing a major league roster spot with the Phillies in 1899. He carried with him a rough-and-tumble, lawless reputation. A poster child of 1890's baseball.. He left home likely in his teen years and appears on minor league rosters throughout the country. Mention of his lawless extracurricular exploits were not uncommon and help trace his path through baseball and to the Phillies. Chiles SABR bio helps explain how such a man would be desired by a major league club.

"Although seven out of nine players on the diamond might have felt like calling him a jackass on a good day, Chiles’ lawlessness on the field was considered leadership in those days. Thus, Chiles served a stint as the player-manager of the 1898 Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League — a money-losing team, but a winner with a record of 82-50 — before going to New Orleans for the winter. (The year before, he had played for Scranton, and in 1897 back in Texas for the Denison-Sherman Twins/Waco Tigers.)

So it was that the Philadelphia Phillies probably thought they had someone who was future coaching material coming when Pearce "What’s the Use" Chiles joined the Phillies’ camp in Charlotte, North Carolina as a 33-year-old rookie during the spring of 1899."

Unfortunately for Chiles, the 1899 Phillies were very good. The team bolstered three future Hall of Famers - Ed Delahanty, Elmer Flick, and Nap Lajoie - and lead the National League in numerous offensive categories such as runs, hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. The team finished the season with 94-58 (.618) record which was only good enough for third place. To this day, the 1899 Phillies have the fifth highest winning percentage in club history. Chiles slashed .320/.352/.462 in only 356 plate appearances (he was a bench player thanks to Nap Lajoie being the regular second baseman.) The Phillies led the 12 team league in attendance in 1899 and fans hoped the club might win the league in 1900, when the National League contracted from 12 to 8 teams.  
 
The Phillies faced the Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Ball Park in the midst of a 17 game home stand, where the Phils racked up an 8-4-1 record to that point. On September 17, 1900 the two clubs played a Monday doubleheader (brutal). Chiles, a bench player, commonly acted as third base coach during home games when he wasn't playing.  The Sporting Life published an interview with Reds manager Bob Allen the following week where Allen explained that they were tipped off to a sign stealing scheme in Philadelphia. During the second inning of game one, Reds player Tommy Corcoran walked over to the third bases coaches box and started to dig in a muddy puddle with his cleats. The Sporting Life narrated what happened next. "In fact, [Corcoran's] actions caused consternation on the bench which is held down by the genial Shettsline, for, while Corcoran was in the midst of his energetic endeavors, Groundkeeper Schroeder, accompanied by a sergeant of police, swooped down upon the Cincinnati generalissimo, but not before he had lifted a board, disclosing a nicely prepared hole, in which was snugly fitted an electric apparatus." Umpire Tim Hurst walked down the third baseline to see what all the commotion was about. After looking at what Corcoran uncovered, he told everyone to return to their positions and play ball. The game resumed and Phillies swept both games of the double header. 
 
But how did the buzzer scheme work?
 
Morgan Murphy again posted himself on battery watch duty in manager Shettsline's suite above the centerfield clubhouse. With a pair of binoculars, Murphy decoded the catcher's signal and pressed a button that was in the suite. The button was connected to wires that ran down the outside of the suite and clubhouse to the 3rd base coaches box where they were connected to a battery inside a wooden box. The exposed wires protruded from the ground but were "hidden" by a puddle. Chiles kept his foot in the puddle and waited for a shock before each pitch. When he received the shock, he'd relay the signal to the batter. Pretty ingenious! 
 
ShettslinePhillies manager Bill Shettsline
Chiles then took it upon himself to play a practical joke on Reds by burying a wooden plank in the first base coaches box. Newspapers for months noticed that Chiles foot jerked randomly during games when he coached third base but thought nothing of it. On September 20, Chiles coached first base and faked his unmistakable jerking motion. A few Reds players charged won to first place, started digging around, and found the empty plank which he buried earlier that morning to their confused dismay. 
 
Newspaper reports on the scandal chilled until September 27 when the Inquirer printed a postgame conversation between Phillies manager Shettlsine and Brooklyn manager Hanlon. Hanlon accused Shettsline's club sign stealing after the buzzer scheme was uncovered. While in Brooklyn, Murphy rented a room across the street from the Dodgers' Washington Park and employed a sign stealing system similar to the one he conducted in 1899. Hanlon prevented Murphy from accessing the apartment during the game on September 26 and the Dodgers won the game decidedly 12-0. 
 
 
The Phillies finished the year in 3rd place again but this time with a 75-63 record. Their home and road splits are like night and day. They were 45-23 (.662) at home but just 30-40 (429) on the road. They scored 434 runs at home compared to just 376 on the road. Some researchers have taken these splits as proof that the sign stealing scheme was the reason why the Phillies had a successful season. However, consider that the club gave up 353 runs at home compared to 438 at home. Remember that the Phillies were proven to use a sign stealing method during one away contest and a previous one was suggested in June against the Cubs. Given Murphy's proficiency at sign stealing during away games in 1899, we might assume that he continued the scheme in 1900. While sign stealing may have assisted the Phillies on the road, it certainly did nothing to help their pitching staff. 
 
There are similarities between the 2017 Astros scandal and the 1899-1900 Phillies scheme. In both cases, hitters were notified by very basic signals, the Astros with banging trash cans and the Phillies by either newspaper waving or signs from the third base coach. Technology also played a part, the Astros using their video room and televisions and the Phillies using a buzzer system at home. Unconfirmed rumors exist that Astros players wore buzzers that notified them about incoming pitches, as well. Both were also successful in that the schemes helped the respective teams win games. While the Astros led the majors in nearly every offensive category, the Phillies only led the league in hits but they were in the top 3 in many other categories. 
 
Colonel RogersPhillies part-owner and co-founder Colonel John I. Rogers
A glaring difference between the 2017 Astros scandal and the 1899-1900 Phillies scandal was how the teams and league responded to the evidence. The Astros were heavily penalized by the league and took internal action by firing the General Manager and the Manager. Phillies owner John I. Rogers finally broke his silence about the scandal a week after the season ended. Rogers wrote a four page letter about the allegations levied against his club by Brooklyn's Ned Hanlon but only briefly touched on the buzzer scheme from the Cincinnati series. Rogers explained that the buzzer was not active, that a circus that used the grounds earlier in the year had buried wires for their electric lights and forgot to remove them. "This was known at first only to our groundskeeper, but the players finally 'got on to' it and gave out, as a joke, that it was to give Chiles, our usual coacher, electric shocks through his feet as signals from Murphy...it is absolutely too silly to further discuss the subject, and I therefore dismiss it." This defense is absolutely preposterous and it is likely that Rogers knew of the 1900 scheme as he had the 1899 scheme. No mention of the scandal - home or away - was made at the league's winter meetings that December. The scandal was wiped under the rug and business continued as usual. 

Sixers Spoil LeBron's Historic Night In Prime Time Win

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Saturday night the Sixers had their second big test of the year, hosting the Los Angeles Lakers in prime time. All eyes were on this game as LeBron James was set to make history. 

In this game, LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant to become the third all-time scorer in NBA history. The Sixers spoiled his historic night in the process, as the Sixers would go on to win the game by a final score of 108-91.

This was easily the biggest win on the year for the Sixers. Facing the top team in the Western Conference and being down two starters. From the opening tip, the Sixers were energetic and did a great job frustrating the Lakers. 

Ben Simmons added another All-Star performance to the recent run he has been on. He led the charge for the Sixers racking up 41 minutes in the win. Simmons’ night ended with 28 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and four steals. 

Tobias Harris also came out and showed the national audience why his name should be in the All-Star conversation. He finished the night was 29 points and eight rebounds. Harris was a great running mate with Simmons helping carry the Sixers to victory in this game. 

Al Horford also deserves a lot of credit in this game. His final stat-line was 16 points, six rebounds, and one assist. But his play was much bigger. Horford had the task of guarding Antony Davis and did a nice job slowing him down with almost no help. On top of that, he scored seven straight points late in the fourth quarter to help get the lead back out of reach. 

The supporting cast also helped in this win. Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, and Raul Neto all gave quality minutes on the court and gave small scoring efforts when needed. 

Wins like this are a huge confidence boost moving forward. The Sixers will enjoy two days off, and then look to keep rolling on Tuesday when they will face off against the Golden State Warriors. 


Konecny Picks Up 3 Assists in Loss, Pacific Wins All-Star Game

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Travis Konecny's first trip to an All-Star Game was certainly successful, with his line generating a lot of the scoring, but it was also short. The Metropolitan Division took a 9-5 loss to the Atlantic Division in the opening game of the All-Star Game 3-on-3 tournament, eliminating them from the final, but Konecny finished with three assists.

In the other semi-final game, the Pacific Division defeated the Central Division, 10-5. The Pacific, captained by Connor McDavid, claimed the title with a 5-4 win over the Atlantic in the final game of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis.

Continue reading "Konecny Picks Up 3 Assists in Loss, Pacific Wins All-Star Game" »


Marquand Manuel To Be Eagles Next Defensive Backs Coach

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The first news of a new coaching hire for the Eagles was heard on Saturday night and it is no small news.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports that the Eagles will be hiring Marquand Manuel, a coach from the "Legion of Boom", to be their defensive backs coach.

Continue reading "Marquand Manuel To Be Eagles Next Defensive Backs Coach" »


BASEBALL’S ORIGINAL SIN

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

It seems as if every few years baseball finds itself in some sort of existential crisis.  Today it’s sign stealing, a generation ago it was performance-enhancing drugs, before that it was Pete Rose and gambling, before that it was the fixing of the 1919 World Series.  In each instance, turmoil tarnishing America’s National Pastime.

The thing is, none of these crises are or were unique to baseball.  Football’s New England Patriots essentially did a few years earlier what the Astros seem to have perfected over the past three seasons, PEDs are right now to the NFL what Gatorade was in the sixties, and gambling and game-fixing have been a part of college basketball seemingly as long as there’s been college basketball.  So why is it so much worse when it happens in baseball?

In fact, it’s not worse.  At least objectively speaking.  But it feels worse because even though baseball has long abandoned its perch as America’s most popular sport it is still, curiously enough, intertwined with our national identity more tightly than all the other sports combined. 

The metaphor of baseball as America can be strained and overused but when it shows up in the impeachment trial of an American president, as it did Thursday when New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries listed baseball, along with apple pie and the Constitution as the three most American things he could think of, you know it’s not based on nothing.  And it’s because there’s something to the synergy between baseball and America that everything bad becomes more pronounced and awful when it happens in baseball.

In the late 1940s and early ‘50s the mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden, was home to some of the crookedest games in the history of organized sports.  At least seven schools were implicated in a multi-year point shaving scandal, including perennial power Kentucky and the only double national champion (NIT and NCAA) in the history of the sport – City College of New York.  The scandal was, well, scandalous, and reported breathlessly at the time, with programs and lives ruined in the fallout.  Here’s betting you never heard of it.  Here’s also betting that you’re not only acutely aware of the 1919 Black Sox scandal but that you can name at least one of the players involved.  And here’s also betting that you probably know at least one person who can name several.

The “steroid era” of the ‘90s and early 2000s is a now generally agreed-upon black stain on baseball, its perpetrators shamed, destined to be forever shunned for how they soiled the game.  But the same fans who even today can’t stomach Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens don’t seem to mind it at all when their football team’s offensive lineman quietly accepts his four-game suspension for ingesting a similar cocktail.  PEDs in football have always been, if not accepted, then tolerated as one might a groin pull.  Unfortunate when they occur, requiring a few weeks on the sidelines for rehabilitation, and then it’s back on the field as if nothing ever happened. 

 Why, then, is baseball singularly judged?  Turns out, ironically enough, it’s not because it is different.  It’s because it is not.

Baseball’s original sin resides in the chasm between what we want it to be and what it in fact is.  When it fails it’s not that it fails differently but that it fails in ways that demonstrate that it in fact is no different than any other institution in American life.  And there is a special place in Hell for those who so reminds us of this reality (which explains the reaction to Mike Fiers).  We castigate baseball for being no different than, say, football; for failing to be better than everything around it.  Its sin, then, is America’s: not that it’s the worst but that it failed in its promise to be the best. 

Returning to the Black Sox scandal, when he banned the Black Sox from baseball despite their just having been acquitted in a court of law, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis positioned baseball where he believed it to justifiably reside: above and apart from the scrum of ordinary life.  Baseball, Landis was convinced, was better and would conduct itself according to a higher standard. “Regardless of the verdict of juries,” he wrote, “no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball again.” 

And there you have it.  The dirty business of litigation, the side deals, the prejudices of juries wouldn’t be permitted under Landis’s watch to tarnish a game that stood above and apart from all that.  Implicit in his words was an acknowledgement of a purity of spirit in baseball that was foreign to boxing, basketball, football, what have you.  Baseball was different.  Baseball was better. 

Of course, it hasn’t lived up to this standard, not by a longshot.  How could it?  It is, after all, just a game, played by flawed individuals and run by those similarly flawed.  No different, really, than boxing, basketball, or football.  But baseball’s failures seem bigger and more dispiriting because of the pedestal it claimed for itself and so often lectured from. 

The concept of American exceptionalism has taken a similar beating for some time now.  The founding document of the nation set it up for spectacular failure, declaring not only that all men were created equal but that everyone was entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Good luck with that.  When America fails it’s usually not because it is uncommonly abhorrent but because it shows itself to be no different than its sister nations.  All men might have been created equal but they sure as hell weren’t treated that way for centuries.  In this, America isn’t unique.  It’s just not better.

Baseball will, of course, survive its current moment of crisis just as America will no doubt survive its present calamity.  And then we’ll all return to expecting more from both and being profoundly outraged when they reveal themselves to be ordinary once again.


Breakout Season Has Konecny in National Spotlight

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Travis Konecny was the last order of business this offseason for the Flyers, the deal that didn’t come together until three days into training camp. It certainly all seemed confusing leading up to that day. Many assumed that Ivan Provorov and not Konecny would put up the bigger battle in negotiations. He signed the night before training camp began. 

As the first days of camp wore on, Konecny’s absence was not only noticeable, but it was being brought up by the new head coach. It felt like it was creating tension. Again, that was put to bed once Konecny signed and got right into drills and workouts with the rest of the team.

Konecny had reached 24 goals in each of the last two seasons, so it’s not like the production wasn’t there. But with a team-leading 17 goals and tied for the team lead with 43 points, there has been a passing of the torch. For years, a key member of the core of the team would represent the Flyers at the All-Star Game -- usually Claude Giroux and occasionally Jake Voracek or Wayne Simmonds. At 22, Konecny enters the national spotlight with his first All-Star appearance, perhaps only scratching the surface of his potential.

Continue reading "Breakout Season Has Konecny in National Spotlight" »


Phillies Announce Spring Training Guest Instructors

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in just two and a half weeks.

Not long after that, position players report and the Phillies will begin to play their first games to prove who will make the 26-man roster.

With team activities just around the corner, the Phillies announced their 2020 Spring Training guest instructors.

Pitchers Dan Plesac and Brad Lidge with first baseman Ryan Howard and manager Pete Mackanin are the four alumni that will join the team next month.

Continue reading "Phillies Announce Spring Training Guest Instructors" »


Sixers Trade Rumors: Could We See A Process Reunion?

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

We are closing in on the end of trade season in the NBA, as the February 6th deadline is just under two weeks away. Although the Sixers have yet to make a move yet the team has been tied to multiple trade targets. Here is a breakdown of three potential targets that the Sixers have been tied to.


Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings 

Bogdanovic is a name that has been thrown around all season as there is a good chance that the Kings move him before the deadline. In terms of fit and what the team needs right now, Bogdanovic should be a top target for the Sixers right now. 

Right now Bogdanovic is averaging 14.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.5 APGbon the season. On top of that, he is shooting 37.6 from three. His skill-set is what the team needs to upgrade. He is a ball-handling guard who can create his own shot and can knock down shots from deep consistently. Acquiring Bogdan would drastically upgrade this Sixers bench. 

Another thing that makes Bogdanovic a favorable trade target is his deal. His 8.5 million dollars owed this season will make it easy for the Sixers to salary match in a potential deal. The Sixers could also retain Bogdanovic if they wanted to, as he has a 10.6 million dollar qualifying offer the team could match. 

Bogdanovic is arguably the best player the Sixers could acquire at the deadline based on fit. He can be a solidified sixth man and proven scorer off the bench. He is the kind of guard this team will need off the bench to fill out the playoff rotation.


Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder   

The Sixers have been reported of showing interest in Gallinari, but acquiring the OKC forward is going to be tough. 

Adding another scorer like Gallinari could be big for the Sixers. He is currently averaging 19.0 PPG and shooting just under 41% from three. On top of that, he is serviceable on the defensive end so he could also fit in with the image of this team. 

Gallinari could be another scorer on the wing who can create their own shot in small samples and be a consistent go-to option from deep. But I do not see this deal happening. 

He is in the final year of his contract and is making 22.6 million dollars this season. This might be too high of a price tag for the Sixers to match salary-wise. To match that salary it would have to involve trade a core piece like Josh Richardson or Al Horford. 

 This is a trade that I do not see happening. Gallinari is a good player and would provide a nice boost to this Sixers roster, but I don’t see Elton Brand trading away a key piece that under contract for a player that would be a rental.


Robert Covington, Minnesota Timberwolves 

The last player on the list is a familiar face. Reports have come out that the Sixers are one of the teams in the mix to acquire Covington from the Timberwolves. 

Although this would be a nice feel-good moment for Sixers fans, the Sixers might be better off exploring other avenues with their trade assets. 

Covington is having a good season and is on a favorable deal in terms of salary matching to acquire him, but his skill-set isn’t really what the team needs at the moment. 

The Sixers need scorers who are good at creating their own shots, and Covington would just be another catch and shoot three-point shooter to throw out on the wing. 

Adding Covington would make the Sixers' defense even stronger. But with Ben Simmons becoming a top defender in the league, and the Sixers adding guys like Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle there isn’t a necessity to go and get a defender like Covington.


Elton Brand has a couple of different avenues he can go to bolster this roster before the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if he does small below the radar moves, or tries to go out and make a big splash like he did last year. 


Are Your Rooting For Andy...

One More Shot for Andy! Plus Eagles OC Search & Baseball Troubles

The Doc & Watkins discuss the triumph of Philadelphia's (NOW) favorite son Andy Reid & the Kansas City Chiefs & ask will the Eagles hire an OC anytime soon?!? Plus - #GymTime2020 - Super Sunday is Set! A Look Back at Championship Sunday - Chiefs/Titans - Niners/Pack - Boyz II Men drama (apparently) - Jason Kelce...#SchmuckOfTheWeek?! - Sign Stealing Goes Wild - Oh baby (blue)!!! Powder Blue Uni's Making a Comeback & More!