CLEARWATER, Fla. - They assemble each day in the predawn dark, crowding into the Paul Owens Clubhouse of the Phillies' minor league complex. Many eat their breakfast on the stools or floor in front of their lockers, the seats and tables in the small kitchen already filled with players.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - It's an old joke, an old line: Nobody beats up my brother - except for me. If you're an older brother, you know the phrase by heart. If you're the younger brother, you know that its true meaning has less to do with violence than it has to do with love.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - "Bwooosh," Cameron Rupp said, skimming the palm of one hand just over the top of his head. "When I got drafted they had another kid ahead of me that I had to play in front of. And then when they traded Hunter Pence, they brought Tommy Joseph over . . . "
THE STORY is no longer of potential, of the future, of a few more pieces. The story is of now, now, NOW, a hairy 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night the latest evidence that this edition of the Flyers can handle mounting adversity, emerge from it, be strengthened by it even.
AT TIMES, he played brilliantly. At times, he acted badly. Jahlil Okafor was 19 when his NBA season began, 20 by the time a slight tear of his right meniscus abruptly ended his rookie season and interrupted "the process" of both improving his defense and figuring out how - or even whether - he fits into the oversized and underaged Sixers going forward.
THERE WAS a time once when Doug Pederson was a little miffed at Andy Reid. A career backup tutored by Don Shula in Miami and Mike Holmgren in Green Bay, understudy to Dan Marino and Brett Favre, Pederson was lured to Philadelphia by his old Packers quarterbacks coach with the assurance that he would finally get a chance to start a full season.
Sam Donnellon is a Flyers beat writer for the Daily News and Inquirer. His career has spanned four decades and has taken him all over the world. Prior to joining the Daily News in 1992, he worked as a national writer for the short-lived but highly acclaimed National Sports Daily. He has received state and national awards at each stop and has been honored repeatedly by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Associated Press Managing Editors.