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Stephen A. Smith hilariously surprises West Philly graduation Zoom

Stephen A. Smith hilariously surprises West Philly graduation Zoom

Even in the most uncertain and trying times, former Philadelphia sportswriter-turned-TV personality Stephen A. Smith remains perfectly Stephen A.

Smith, the enigmatic talking head who spent the better part of two decades writing in Philly, is known best for his high-energy exclamations on ESPN's First Take.

Turns out, Smith will bring that same energy anywhere, including an online West Philly high school graduation ceremony.

That's exactly what happened this week, per WHYY education report Avi Wolfman-Arent, when Smith made a surprise appearance on Paul Robeson High School's graduation Zoom call.

Here's how Stephen A. (virtually) kicked in the door:

I can't imagine anything more confusing (and amazing? and maybe slightly terrifying?) than being jolted to attention by Stephen A. virtually bounding into your Zoom.

His entrance is reminiscent of this iconic Stephen A. clip:

It's so great that Smith brought the same energy to his speech.

And then Smith delivered a positive and encouraging message to the students:


Didn't know someone was gonna sneak up on you for your graduation, did you? Did you? Well guess what: somebody who loves you very, very dearly happens to be a personal friend of mine. Y'all call her Kimmy. 

My point is, I'm here, just to wish y'all luck in your future endeavors, and congratulate y'all on your graduation. Very, very proud of y'all. Y'all put in the work, y'all made the necessary sacrifices, y'all did what you needed to do. And now college is in front of your face, and your future is looking bright as ever. 

I know this coronavirus pandemic has stalled a lot of things, and it's messed a lot of things up for a lot of people. Our heart goes out to those who've been suffering and what have you, we wish nothing but the best for everybody, because we're human beings first. So our love for one another definitely needs to resonate. 

But I wanted to take a moment to say to y'all, congratulations, and I'm proud of y'all. Where I'm standing today, in terms of the success that I've been able to achieve, I hope for each and every one of you that you achieve even better than me. Remember: the people that came before you weren't there to be better than you, they were there to provide shoulders that you can stand on, to stand taller than we could ever hope to. That's the potential that you have. Recognize that, remember that, and go for it. All the best to you.

Good stuff.

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ESPN unveils new 2020 projections with Super Bowl chances, playoff predictions

ESPN unveils new 2020 projections with Super Bowl chances, playoff predictions

With June almost here, we're a little more than three months away from the start of football, which means it's time to fire up the arguments about which teams will dominate the 2020 regular season.

ESPN unveiled its 2020 Football Power Index rankings on Tuesday, an analytics-based look at all 32 teams, and no one should be surprised by the No. 1 team, defending champion Kansas City. Good for Andy Reid.

But outside the top two teams - the Chiefs and the No. 2 Ravens - it's clear ESPN's rankings believe the NFC is the stronger conference, with six of the top eight teams hailing from the NFC.

Including, you guessed it, the Eagles.

The Eagles rank No. 6 in the league, according to ESPN, one year after they won the NFC East despite a rash of injuries and setbacks. It feels fair: the Birds didn't even reach the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but this year they'll (hopefully) be healthy and ready to make some noise.

The problem for Eagles fans, however, comes when you look one spot above the Eagles to No. 5 and find... the Cowboys.

Rough.

ESPN's projections basically have the Eagles and Cowboys in a dead heat - which is fair - but they give Dallas the slight advantage instead of the Birds, an interesting decision considering the ways both teams finished their respective seasons last year.

Here's a look at a few of ESPN's more interesting projected stats:

5. Dallas Cowboys
Projected wins: 9.3
Chance to reach playoffs: 69%
Chance to win NFC East: 48%
Chance to win Super Bowl: 4.8%

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Projected wins: 9.1
Chance to reach playoffs: 66%
Chance to win NFC East: 44.7%
Chance to win Super Bowl: 4.3%

ESPN's Seth Walden explained Tuesday that the relative consistency in Dallas's offensive personnel, plus the addition of Mike McCarthy as the team's new head coach, gives the Cowboys the advantage.

It's certainly an explanation. 

One might imagine that, given the teams' fairly even offseasons, these projections would take recent history into account and give the Eagles the slight upper hand. Alas, it's the other way around.

I know I'll gladly take the coach with a more recent Super Bowl win, and the team with the more recent division championship, until proven otherwise.

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Stephen A. Smith thinks Bryce Harper should 'shut the hell up' about reduced pay

Stephen A. Smith thinks Bryce Harper should 'shut the hell up' about reduced pay

Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper gave some brief thoughts Thursday night on a pressing topic. He, a baseball player, weighed in on the discussions between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association about reduced pay during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For his troubles, he received on Friday the full wrath of ESPN's Professional Screaming Man Stephen A. Smith.

Harper said during a Twitch stream Thursday night that Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell — who said he wouldn't play in 2020 if his salary was further reduced — was "right," and that Snell was "speaking the truth."

Smith apparently didn't appreciate Harper taking that stance.

"What are you doing? Shut the hell up, and let the Players Association speak," Smith shouted during a segment Friday, targeting Harper.

"You can't tell people, at a time when 33 million people plus are on unemployment at this time, you can't sit up there, 'Oh, I've got to get mine. I can't accept half of $7 million.' Shut up. That's just dumb. Period."

When Max Kellerman tried to argue that Snell, who hasn't yet signed a lucrative deal, might be in the right, Smith brought things back to Harper.

"Bryce Harper said something, Max. Bryce Harper said something. Bryce Harper agreed with him, publicly," Smith continued. "You just signed for 300 million-plus dollars. A 13-year, guaranteed contract. Why are you opening your mouth? Shut up."

Kellerman tried to remind Smith that the team owners are worth significantly more than players, but Smith reiterated his stance that Harper should leave the arguing to the Players Association.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Corey Seidman helped illustrate the current situation this week:

The initial agreement guaranteed players a full year of service time, 4% of their 2020 salaries through the end of May, and then the prorated amount of their salary based on the number of games played this season. 

However, owners have since pushed for a 50-50 revenue split with players because of the extraordinary circumstances, and are seeking a further reduction of the prorated pay because of the steep financial losses of playing out a season without fans in the stands. Ticket sales accounted for approximately $4-5 billion last season.

The players' association, led by executive director Tony Clark, has countered that the owners are taking advantage of the global pandemic to institute a salary cap.

A global pandemic putting professional sports on indefinite pause isn't normal, so it's hard to say if anyone is handling this situation incorrectly. Harper spoke up about what he feels is right and fair, and it's hard to blame him for doing so. 

Hopefully we can see actual games this summer and move on.

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