Some of Sports’ Most Heated Rivalries: A look at two of the biggest rivalries in professional sports.

Rivalries are part of what makes sports so entertaining. Whether you follow a professional sports team or you rep your school spirit as they take on a heated rival, rivalry games always bring an extra flare. Some rivalries are born out of being placed in the same division, others are from playoff losses or off-field history between players and coaches. Regardless, rivalries can bring out the very best in teams, and two of the best examples of this are the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics and the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. 

One of the most legendary rivalries is the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The two teams have faced off in the NBA Finals on 12 occasions dating back to 1959, when the Lakers were the then “Minneapolis Lakers.”  There was a gap between 1969 and 1984 where the Lakers and Celtics didn’t meet in the Finals, but they have since played five series against each other. The Lakers have won three of the five matchups beginning in 1984, including the 2010 Finals, which went the distance of seven games. The 2010 NBA Finals was the last championship that the late Kobe Bryant won, and he put up 28.6 points per game. 

In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are two divisional rivals with a back-and-forth history. The two teams are generally competitive and usually in the playoff race, but the Steelers currently lead the all-time series 30-24. The Steelers have won the last two matchups in 2020, but the Ravens swept the series in 2019, including an overtime victory on a walk-off 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 15-10 in the regular season and 2-1 in the postseason in his career against the Ravens. Despite having a winning record against the Ravens, his statistics take a dip against the same team. In his career, Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 93.9 while posting a rating of 85.3 against the Ravens. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is technically 2-2 thus far into his short career as the Baltimore signal-caller, though he has only started two of those games and is 1-1. The Steelers and the Ravens don’t face off this year until Week 13 before they close out their seasons in Baltimore for their second matchup. Knowing the AFC North, the Week 18 game could have the teams’ playoff hopes up for grabs. 

With the NFL season in full swing, the MLB postseason coming up and the NBA starting up again soon, get ready to sit back and watch some great rivalry games unfold.

Sources: Basketball Reference, The Football Database, Land of Basketball, Pro Football Reference

Concert Spotlight: Phoebe Bridgers on her “Reunion Tour.”

Phoebe Bridgers’ “Reunion Tour” came to the Skyline Stage at the Mann in Philadelphia on September 22. The “Reunion Tour” is a support tour for Bridgers’ newest album, “Punisher,” which was released during last year while touring was not possible. It marked her second studio album, and was nominated for four Grammys in 2020 (Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance (“Kyoto”), Best Rock Song (“Kyoto”), Best Alternative Music Album (“Punisher”). 

After two opening acts including duo Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill and MUNA, Bridgers finally made her way to the stage, opening with “Motion Sickness,” a song off of her first album “Stranger in the Alps.” Despite being a relatively slow song, the audience went crazy for it and were dancing along. After the instrumental “DVD Menu,” Bridgers segued right into “Garden Song” as heard on the “Punisher” album. Then came “Kyoto,” perhaps the most up-beat song about having an identity crisis. Audience members were having a blast bopping along to a song that talks about payphones in Japan.

The momentum of the concert takes a slow turn after “Kyoto,” as the titular track off of “Punisher” was played, followed by “Halloween,” and “Smoke Signals.” The middle of the section of the set is far more ambient, thus the crowd was standing still but was very much into her music. It’s important to note that Bridgers’ music is not for everyone; the ambient and occasionally depressing tracks don’t make for a party-like atmosphere in a live setting, but her voice and backing band make up for the lack of excitement in her set. Most of the audience seemed content, filled with skeleton outfits like the ones being worn on stage by Bridgers and her band. 

The finale of the main set came with “I Know The End,” a track that features Bridgers belting out a blood-curdling scream at the peak of the crescendo. A fitting end to the main set, and the crashing crescendo had fans screaming in unison like it was a heavy metal concert. After a few moments, Bridgers and her band came out to play “Georgia,” a song from “A Stranger in the Alps,” and then ended the show with two covers, one was Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling,” from his Emmy-winning pandemic comedy special “Inside.” The second cover was “Here Comes a Regular” by The Replacements. A set consisting of the “Punisher” album in full, five songs from her debut solo album, and two covers is a great start to a blossoming touring career. 

Bridgers’ current “Reunion Tour” is set to make stops all throughout the country before commencing in Atlanta on October 24. This is far from the end for Bridgers; in fact, this is only the beginning for the young star. It was a reported sold-out crowd by the Mann Center’s official Twitter, so let’s hope that Bridgers makes another stop in Philadelphia the next time she is making her rounds on tour. 

(Emmys.com, Grammy.com, The Mann Center)

Remembering “Songs of Innocence”: A look back at the U2 album that appeared on iTunes accounts everywhere.

September 9 marked the seventh anniversary of the release of U2’s “Songs of Innocence,” an album that had a unique release plan. The Irish rock band teamed with Apple in a move that saw the album placed into the “purchased” section of iTunes libraries. A reported 81 million people downloaded the album, but that did not mean everyone was happy with the move. New York Magazine compiled social media reactions that included: “My disdain for the band U2 is making me contemplate switching to a Samsung Galaxy phone.” While it can be argued that the release plan for the album was invasive, “Songs of Innocence” is one of the band’s most unique albums.

“Songs of Innocence” is the closest U2 has come making to a concept album. It’s a semi-autobiographical album, mainly focusing on the childhood of lead singer Bono. It balances throwbacks to the early days of U2, such as the opening song, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” an ode to the late lead singer of The Ramones. “I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred,” belts Bono in the chorus of the song. The song brings the band back to their punk-rock early days in a tribute to one of the biggest punk bands ever. “Song for Someone” is a tender love song for Bono’s wife Ali, and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” is a touching tribute to the singer’s mother who passed away in his teenage years. 

It wouldn’t be a U2 album without some politics, and there are references to the politics of Ireland in the 1970’s, as seen in heavy-hitting songs such as “The Troubles” and “Raised By Wolves.” The latter of which being about the car bombings in Ireland. “Cedarwood Road” takes listeners to Bono’s neighborhood and has a dedication to Bono’s childhood friend Guggi in the official lyrics. It opens with the lines: “I was running down the road/The fear was all I knew/I was looking for a soul that’s real/Then I ran into you.” The intensity of the song builds to a crashing crescendo where Bono croons “Sometimes fear is the only place we can call our home/Cedarwood Road.”

 “Every Breaking Wave” serves as this generation’s “With or Without You,” as a twisted love song about the metaphorical waves that serve as the troubles in any relationship. The band had a particularly emotional stripped-down rendition at the 2014 MTV EMA’s that is a must-watch.

Another standout from “Songs of Innocence” comes on the deluxe edition as a bonus track. “The Crystal Ballroom” features a thumping bass line that is a cross between The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” and the theme from “The Munsters.” The song serves as a way to transport us to an old nightclub in Dublin. While it did not make the final album, it was played twice live. 

Let’s face it, U2 is far from the days of being “cool.” After all, their lead singer wears sunglass everywhere he goes and the guitarist wears a black beanie, but “Songs of Innocence” is one of U2’s most mature projects to date, and spawned one of their biggest tours, the “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour.” U2 once again pioneered a concept in the music industry with the idea of telling a narrative in their shows. Just look at what Bruce Springsteen did with “Springsteen on Broadway.” The journey that the band has been on for the last seven years can be traced back to that tumultuous Apple release. “Songs of Innocence” may not always resonate with all fans of music, but it was an attempt to branch out their fanbase to a younger generation.  Perhaps it is worth a listen, as maybe a miracle will occur.

Sources: Billboard, New York Magazine, Setlist.fm, The Verge, U2.com

People of Eastern: Dr. Bittenbender: A conversation with Eastern’s longest-tenured English professor.

Dr. Christopher Bittenbender has been a part of Eastern’s staff since 1998, making him the longest-tenured English professor currently on the staff. Bittenbender grew up in Northeastern PA, close to the Wilkes-Barre area, and was raised on a farm. “I do miss it,” said Dr. Bittenbender when asked about the farm life. He now resides in Center City Philadelphia, a far cry from the country, though he finds that the city lifestyle also has its perks. He loves going to museums in the city—he specifically noted the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his fiancé works—and enjoys the fact that they showcase local artists. 

Art is obviously a big part of who Bittenbener is, as he has an appreciation of film, music, and literature. “Art has an ability to tap into the world in creative and innovative ways,” said Bittenbender. His love for literature stemmed from professors he had back in college. He was originally a history major, and while he still does have a lot of passion for history, his love for literature overtook that. 

For seniors out there beginning their thesis project, Dr. Bittenbender was also once in the same position. His thesis was focused on David Jones, who wrote In Parenthesis, a World War I epic poem that drops readers right into the trenches. His graduate school program took him all the way to Scotland, where he spent four years. He studied Irish and Scottish literature at the University of St. Andrews, which was founded in 1413. After coming back to the United States, Dr. Bittenbender worked as an adjunct professor at Villanova before taking a job at Eastern. The rest is history, and he is now coming up on his 25th year here. He cites the community, environment, and the students as reasons for his love of Eastern. 

For those who only know Bittenbender as an English professor, he has two children of his own that are in college and is also an outdoorsman. He loves hiking, canoeing, and skiing, which stemmed from his time studying at Middlebury College in Vermont. In between his undergraduate program and graduate school, he helped his father and brother build a log cabin in the Poconos. 

While the beginning of the year can be stressful, Bittenbender wanted to remind students to take risks. While college is a time where it can be easy to stay content, Bittenbender said that students should jump on opportunities such as internships, jobs, and clubs on campus—words of wisdom from a professor like Bittenbender who has been at Eastern for nearly a quarter of a decade. 

Previewing Eastern’s Fall/Winter Sports: A look at the Eagles’ upcoming seasons.

The wait is finally over, as many of Eastern’s fall sports are gearing up to begin their seasons.

Eastern’s soccer team started off their season 4-0, including an exciting game with a game-winner by junior Emmanuel Hewitt against Farmingdale State College. They follow up with a three-game away stretch against Cairn University, Cabrini University and Swarthmore College, which is their longest stretch away from St. Davids for the rest of the regular season. They return to St. Davids on Sept. 25 for a game against Lycoming College before taking on Catholic University on Sept. 29.

The men’s cross country team opens the season with four straight away events in Lebanon, La Plume, Philadelphia and Frederick, Md. before the MAC Championships in Center Valley, Pa. Returning team members include Billy Dykes, Solomon Rios and senior Milan Sharma, and they are welcoming first-year student William Housworth to the team.

For fans of the lacrosse team, the maroon-white scrimmage game will take place on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The men’s basketball team also looks to have a great season, and their season kicks off with a scrimmage on Friday, Nov. 20. There is a slew of first-year players on the team, with only ten out of twenty-four players being upperclassmen. 

Eastern’s women’s volleyball team may be made up of mostly first-year students, but that has not stopped them from a red-hot start to the year, beginning 8-1. After a game at Stevenson, they return to St. Davids for a four-game homestand against Franklin and Marshall College, Rowan University, Goucher College and Albright College respectively.

The women’s golf team began their season on Sept. 24 at the Arcadia Invitational. They will then have five invitationals in the next month following that. Marin Dremock and Elaina McGarrigle return, with Julia Leo joining the team as a first-year student.

The women’s field hockey team had two road games against Swarthmore College and Alvernia University before they returned back to St. Davids on Sept. 22 to take on Elizabethtown College. While much of the team is made up of upperclassmen, Joel Groff, Grace Wise and Rebecca Webb all join the team as first-year students.

The women’s cross country team will have two meets to prepare for their MAC Championships, one on Oct. 9 and another on Oct. 16. These come awhile after their Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 contests at Lebanon, Pa and La Plume, Pa., respectively. While four of the six team members are upperclassmen, there are two first-year students on the team in Madison Moylan and Hailey Shreffler.

It will be another great year of sports for Eastern University’s Eagles. For each team’s full schedule, visit Eastern University’s athletics website.

Source: Eastern University Athletics

The “Before” Trilogy: A look back at Richard Linklater’s underappreciated postmodern and unique romantic drama trilogy.

When thinking of the greatest movie trilogies of all time, what comes to mind? It could be the groundbreaking “Dark Knight” superhero trilogy from Christopher Nolan, the epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” the original three films in the “Star Wars” saga, or maybe even “The Godfather” trilogy even despite its lackluster third entry. One trilogy that isn’t recognized enough in these conversations is Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy of dramas, which consists of “Before Sunrise” (1995), “Before Sunset” (2004), and “Before Midnight” (2013). The Oscar-nominated director has a knack for telling stories that take long periods of time to make. 2014’s “Boyhood” was filmed over the course of 12 years, and the “Before” trilogy took nine years in-between sequels. All three of the films end on a  cliffhanger, and the long periods of time between the films create a greater sense of anticipation than superhero movies.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke need to be lauded for their stellar performances in the trilogy, especially considering the amount of time that passes in between each film. It can be hard to come back and play the same character years later; just take Harrison Ford in the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie or Al Pacino in “The Godfather Part: 3” as prime examples of that. Delpy and Hawke break the mold and remain consistent in their portrayals of Celine and Jesse throughout each entry of the trilogy. Their characters grow and age in the nine-year gaps between movies, but they never feel like impersonations of younger versions of the characters. The two have an impeccable rapport, which is needed in films that are very dialogue heavy. They make it so easy to believe that they meet spontaneously in the first installment, and their chemistry keeps you bought in throughout the entire series. There’s an argument that lasts for about thirty minutes in “Before Midnight” that
will be enjoyed by anyone who liked “Marriage Story.” The weight of the entire series is placed on the shoulders of the two leads, and they did more than their fair share to carry it.

As mentioned, all three “Before” movies are very dialogue-heavy and lack any sort of action or fast-paced scenes. They’re simple stories by nature but take advantage of every minute of their runtimes. It’s a tightwire act to try and keep conversations engaging, and it’s a trial that Linklater, Delpy and Hawke all pass
with flying colors. Twenty-minute scenes at dinner tables or on boats fly by and the relationship between the two leads blossoms with each conversation.

All three films in the “Before” trilogy are superb and deserve more recognition when the greatest movie trilogies of all time are talked about. The latter two movies each received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Adapted Screenplay,” but they still feel underappreciated. They’re not as big as “The Lord of the Rings,” or as culturally significant as “Star Wars,” but they provide a romance arc that takes eighteen years to complete. The trio of films were recognized and released in a beautiful box set for The Criterion Collection in 2017, becoming Linklater’s fourth, fifth and sixth entries in the esteemed physical media company. The trilogy puts a different twist on romance movies and offers something completely different with endings that are more contemplative and don’t always offer the resolutions the audience expects. All of that being said, the third entry in the trilogy, “Before Midnight”, was released in 2013 and here’s hoping for a surprise fourth entry in 2022.

Sources: The Criterion Collection, IMDB

A Timely Project: Senior Courtney Schrom studies the impacts of mask-wearing during the pandemic for her senior thesis.

Courtney Schrom is a senior who is prepping for her last couple of weeks on-campus at Eastern. That means she is in the home stretch of her senior thesis, and that is a true light at the end of the tunnel at this point for the senior. Schrom is a Communications major with a Digital/Emerging Media concentration and chances are, you’ve seen her photos of Eastern’s athletic teams as she is a student photographer as well.

There aren’t many more topics that could be timelier as Schrom’s senior thesis is on the impact facemasks have had on people during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, her research focused on the impacts of relationship development, mental health, and communication. Mental health is a topic that is very important to Schrom though not her original idea for a topic. She had a few other proposal ideas before honing in on the impacts of facemasks, but the idea for researching facemasks came after a conversation with a friend. After the conversation, she heard numerous different stances on facemasks which helped give her interest in further research.

Once she got her topic proposal approved, Schrom began her research which was difficult at first. Even if the pandemic has felt like it has gone on for a long time,
there wasn’t a whole lot of published work on it when Schrom began doing her research for the senior thesis. Obviously, it was a relatively new topic at the time, but
by the time last semester was winding down there was a lot more research done and that helped get the ball rolling.

A couple of the interesting findings Schrom shared with me are that masks actually make people less anxious in public settings, and that drug use has gone up since people began wearing them. The first tidbit was especially interesting to me as someone from a family of introverts, and her research showed that the masks provide a sense of “protection” which helps reduce anxiety.

Another important tidbit Schrom gave me applies to any students that have taken COMM 280: Communication Theory and are Communications majors. You may want to keep your textbooks handy from the class as Schrom said that she ended up having to use a couple of those theories from the class into her thesis, so make sure to freshen up on the “Social Penetration Theory” and the “Narrative Paradigm” going into senior seminar.

While Schrom doesn’t have any immediate plans to continue her academic career by going on to getting her Master’s or PhD right after her time at Eastern, she
would be interested in doing further research down the line once the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have settled a little bit more. Her senior thesis was a
qualitative study, which required a lot of second-hand research, but she would also like to do a quantitative study someday that would focus on the socio-economic
impacts the pandemic has had. Schrom also has the hope that her thesis can be a stepping stone for other scholars who will continue studying effects of the pandemic for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a subject that is still “too soon” for some, but Schrom took on the tall task of focusing her senior thesis on the current pandemic. While it was a long and very tedious journey that has taken up most of her senior year, the finish line is now truly in sight and it is a rewarding feeling to see it all
coming together. The paper itself should be wrapped up over the next few days, and then it’s on to presenting her thesis for the department before finally being done with her senior thesis.

Make It or Break It: Do superstitions affect performance? A look at some athletes’ routine rituals.

A lot of athletes have habits that they have had since their early years. Whether it’s a simple ritual that they believe enhances their performance, or a certain type of music they listen to before a game, it’s not uncommon for athletes to
have something specific they have to do before their games. Before writing this article, I never knew that the legendary Michael Jordan wore his UNC Tar Heels shorts under his NBA shorts. Or that one of the fiercest linebackers in the history of the NFL in Brian Urlacher ate two chocolate chip cookies before games. Speaking to some of Eastern’s athletes, I was enlightened to some of the routines our players have.

Pitcher for Eastern’s baseball team Riley Kiebach said that he used to play with his fly down. While all players have their distinct types of music they enjoy listening to, it was surprising when Riley said he listens to Gregorian Chants to get himself in the right mindset to go out and play.

Pitcher Michael Gray has adopted a simple routine leading up to his games since coming to college. On his way to the mound, he does a little jump over the baseline. He also has a playlist of rap music that hypes him up and gets him in the right mindset to play. As simple as his routine may sound, his high school regimen consisted of always eating a peanut butter sandwich, making two lines in the dirt, and counting the “two” times table. He would also always shake his bat the same way. “Just something that worked,” Gray said after I asked why he stuck to such a specific routine before his games. When talking to Gray, he also mentioned that he has
become less superstitious since coming to college. As he mentioned, he had an actual routine that he followed in high school but has become freer since coming to college. Now, his main concern is with actually getting out onto the mound and playing and not focusing on superstition. He has become less obsessed with the mental games and wants to just go in and do it.

Midfielder for Eastern’s Men’s Lacrosse team, Connor Gill, also shared his routine. The chapel services before his games is one thing he noted about gamedays. Showering before games has also become a habit, and he also listens to relaxing music to get himself ready for games. When you attend sports games, you’ll usually hear rap or rock music on the PA systems that create an energetic atmosphere. Gill prefers to listen to EDM music along with remixes found on SoundCloud to get
into the right mindset almost like the calm before the storm.

Getting to hear some of our athletes’ routines and habits before games was eye-opening. A lot of what was said came as a surprise, but it gives a peek into the mental preparation athletes go through so that they can go out and do what they do best.

Source: Business Insider

Image description: NBA legend, Michael Jordan, is famously superstitious for wearing his UNC Tar Heels shorts under his Chicago Bulls ones.

The Big Goodbye: China and the Last Years of Hollywood.

The book I’ve been chipping away at this semester is “The Big Goodbye: China and the Last Years of Hollywood”. It’s a historical look back at the 1974 noir film, Chinatown. It was one of the last films in the golden age of Hollywood, and the final line “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” remains one of the most iconic lines in all of cinema. It’s also a film that launched the career of Jack Nicholson into stardom. The book details the process of casting Nicholson, a tough choice as “Jack had had his share of big roles in small movies and small roles in big movies, but he never played a big part” says author Sam Wasson. The studio took a chance on Nicholson similarly to the way Paramount took a chance on Al Pacino in “The Godfather” just a couple of years before “Chinatown” released. Suffice to say, the risk paid off.

Another thing the book covers is the story of Roman Polanski. The legendary director had a rough stretch after his 1968 hit, “Rosemary’s Baby”. His wife, Sharon Tate, was unfortunately killed which cast quite a shadow on the filmmaker. His resilience to continue making the film that became “Chinatown” is all the more impressive after reading this in-depth look at that period of Polanski’s life.

What makes ‘The Big Goodbye” different from other film books is that it gives you a full history on the important people who had a role in the making of Chinatown. Sam Wasson is able to capture a moment in a time of the world of film that we are so far away from with the rise of franchises. I highly recommend ‘The Big Goodbye” to anyone interested in the history of films.

Movie of the Month: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”

After four long years in the making, Zack Snyder’s original vision for 2017’s “Justice League” finally released on HBO Max this month. The 2017 version was so utterly disappointing, and a lot of it can be traced back to the turmoil that happened behind the scenes on the production.

Zack Snyder has confessed to not seeing the 2017 version, but according to the people who worked on both productions, they only used about an hour of his footage. That means that about half of the film, to our knowledge, was what he originally intended. It was a mixed bag of forced humor, clunky CGI and a story that was clearly trimmed down and rushed. Now, the director of “300” gets to share his version of the film.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” follows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), as he tries to recruit a team to combat earth’s biggest foe yet: Steppenwolf. The events of the film take place after
2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” so the world
is still without a Superman heading into this film.

One of the biggest things 2017’s “Justice League” wasted was a stacked cast. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is able to redeem Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Ezra Miller’s Flash. Those are two characters that got pushed off to the side in the 2017 counterpart in favor of heavy-hitters Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman.

That being said, it’s very much still Ben Affleck’s film for the most part. Batman is the leader of the group, and it’s him that assembles and leads the team into battle.

Does a superhero film really need to be longer than “The Godfather Part 2,” “Seven Samurai,” or “The Irishman?” In short, no, but don’t be intimidated by the four-hour runtime. The story moves at a swift pace for the most part, and the film is also split into six chapters, making it much more digestible as a miniseries if desired.

Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller got their dues in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” but another character that gets redemption is the villain, Steppenwolf. The 2017 “Justice League” film featured a watered down and overly simplified version of the character. The CGI of the character in the 2017 film lacked any sort of emotion and looked straight out of a PS3 video game.

Zack Snyder’s film rejuvenates the character aesthetically and story-wise, making him a much more formidable foe to go against the Justice League. He also gets a backstory, so the
audience understands his motives to an extent. The 2021 version of the villain is much closer to Thanos from the Avengers films than Malekith from “Thor: The Dark World.”

Whether you liked 2017’s “Justice League” or absolutely hated it, it’s hard to argue that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” isn’t an improvement in some way. The story still has the bones of the original, but this feels like an entirely different film as the stories are fully fleshed out in the four-hour runtime.

Where the 2017 film fumbled, the 2021 version picks it up and runs it into the end zone. Sadly, it ends with cliffhangers that may never be paid off, but it also offers one last glance at Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill sharing the screen as Batman and Superman. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is an anomaly in film history where the stars are perfectly aligned, and it will continue to be looked at for years to come.

Source: MovieWeb