The Phillies open spring training this week in Clearwater, Fla., for the 70th consecutive season. As long as the weather is warm and the Danish are still free in Lenny's, thousands of local fans will observe the annual rite with a journey south. Maybe the attraction is to sit beneath the high Florida sky and savor the beauty of a perfect hop, or maybe to sit beneath the thatched roof of Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion and savor an entire pint of hops. Maybe both.
Now that the calendar has flipped to February, aside from that little football game to be played Sunday in Santa Clara, the sports landscape is tilting, at least locally, toward Feb. 18 and the mystery about what, if anything, the 76ers will do with the upcoming NBA trade deadline.
Villanova is 20 games into the regular season with 11 more to go, and the Wildcats will tick off another beginning noon Sunday in Madison Square Garden against St. John's. On Monday, the calendar flips to February, and the quick slide toward the madness of March will have begun.
The Philadelphia Eagles team that Chip Kelly took over three years ago was coming off a 4-12 season, but it really wasn't as bad as all that. The San Francisco 49ers team that just hired Kelly on the rebound was 5-11 this past season, and it might not even be that good.
There weren't a whole lot of Eagles entering this dismal, uncertain offseason who looked back on 2015 and said, "Gee, that went pretty well." But there were a few. The ill wind that blew through the organization as it fell from high expectation to low performance did manage to fill the sails of some lucky players.
Elton Brand, 36 years old and five months into retirement from the NBA, rejoined the 76ers on Monday as part of Jerry Colangelo's plan to settle down a situation that had gotten badly out of hand. On Wednesday, Brand took part in a full practice for the first time since last May. On Thursday afternoon, coach Brett Brown sidled up to him.
The last game Buddy Ryan coached for the Philadelphia Eagles was a 14-point loss to the Washington Redskins that ended a season of great promise in humbling fashion. A quarter-century later, here we are again, with the agonizing end of an arrogant era sending the team into an uncertain future, and still without a championship to disturb the dust in the trophy case.
They have accumulated again, like old traffic tickets stuffed into the glove compartment. Despite the best intentions and resolutions of each new year, a large number of corrections and clarifications that should have been published throughout 2015 did not appear because of the diligent effort of the author.
Bob Ford is an award-winning sports columnist for the Inquirer. He is a four-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year, as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. His work has been cited numerous times by Associated Press Sports Editors judges, and he won an Eclipse Award for outstanding coverage of horse racing. Prior to becoming a columnist at the Inquirer, Ford was the 76ers beat writer for six seasons and then a general assignment feature writer with a specialty in Olympic sports. In 1995, he was designated a fellow of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. Ford has written sports in the Philadelphia area since 1981, when he served as the Phillies beat writer and later as a general sports columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times.