Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Justice for Faith Sinclair

They gathered yesterday at Sharon Hill District Court seeking justice for Faith Sinclair.

They came to be sure she is not forgotten, that the man charged with snuffing out her life realizes what has been lost.

Lemuel Payne was held for trial after a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Edward Gannon. He faces charges related to the fatal hit-run accident on Aug. 3 that took the life of the 16-year-old Ridley High student as she was crossing Chester Pike in Sharon Hill.

If Payne, who remains free on bail on electronic home monitoring, has no idea what kind of pain he is believed to have inflicted on Sinclair's family and friends, he does now.

He was met in district court yesterday by a legion of her supporters, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with her smiling countenance and a simple message: "Gotta Have Faith” or “Our Faith.”

It is something they will be doing today at Ridley High School, where they will hold a pep rally in her honor and announce the results of a fundraiser in her memory.

Lemuel Payne is charged with taking Faith Sinclair's life when police believe he slammed into her in his black Mercedes, then fled the scene. But he could not extinguish her spirit.

Her friends and family are making sure of that.

A final thank you for Donovan

Saying it has not been a great year for Donovan McNabb is a little like saying it hasn't been such a hot year for the economy either.

Both are in a shambles.

Still, you've got to admire the guy. McNabb met the media yesterday for the first time since being pulled at halftime of Sunday's Ravens debacle by Andy Reid.

Reid and McNabb have been inseparable for 10 years, so it was a little hard to believe Reid's explanation for why he did not bother to seek out McNabb at halftime and tell him in person of his decision that he was being benched. Instead, he dumped that little bit of unpleasantness on quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur.

To his credit, McNabb simply soldiers on, and he clearly has not lost his sense of humor. Most of the time, I don't get McNabb's act. Maybe it's a Midwestern thing, but his smarmy, goofy smiling act doesn't play all that well here.

But McNabb got off the line of the day yesterday when asked how he found out he was named the starter for the Thanksgiving night game.

"The janitor told me," McNabb quipped.

Game, set and match. Just like that McNabb had people back in his corner again.

I'll be rooting for him. I hope he lights up the Cardinals in a national TV game. Do I think it's going to happen? No.

But how about this for a suggestion. When McNabb and the offense trot onto the field for the first time, why not stand and offer an ovation for what has been a pretty remarkable 10-year run as the Eagles quarterback.

It just might be the ultimate in joining in the spirit of the day. And we might not have too many more opportunities to deliver it.

It's been a decade. It's pretty clear the Donovan McNabb era in Philadelphia is coming to an end.

There's really only one thing left to say.

Thanks, Donovan.

Check back tomorrow for an early, special version of the "Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 25

The Daily Numbers: 1 hour, actually less than that. How long it took a jury to agree that William Smithson should spend the rest of his life in jail, not be put to death for the murder of 23-year-old intern Jason Shephard.
2 alarm fire that roared through a home in Chester overnight. Luckily, no injuries were reported.
1.91 the price of gas at a local station as prices continue to plummet at the pump. There’s a reason for thanks.
18.8 percent cut in home heating rates announced yesterday by PECO.
484,000 PECO natural gas heating customers in the Philadelphia suburbs who just got another reason for thanks.
7-11, as in the convenience store chain, which announced it will open a new outlet in the University Crossing retail center near Widener University in Chester.
6 to 23 months on home monitoring for a former ACORN worker from Chester who entered a guilty plea on charges he submitted bogus names on voter registration petitions.
120,000 square feet of space in the former Value City building at Route 420 and 320 in Springfield. It will be replaced by a 66,000 square foot supermarket.
0 tax hike in the budget being considered by Media Borough.
6 months of house arrest for former anchor Larry Mendte for his snooping into the e-mail of co-anchor Alycia Lane.
3 years probation, 250 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine tacked on to Mendte.
15 age of girl who authorities in Montgomery County say was involved in a sexual relationship with her volleyball coach. William Gordon III, 38, faces charges he was having sex with the girl four to five times a week.
4 percent decline in earnings reported by Campbell Soup Co. Even in the soup line they’re going to be standing in a soup line.
2 seats gained by Democrats in the state House of Representatives. They now hold a 104-99 majority.
18 hours, about how long Kevin Kolb remained the Eagles quarterback. Coach Andy Reid is going back to Donovan McNabb for the Thursday night Thanksgiving game vs. the Cardinals.
15 goals for the Flyers Jeff Carter. That’s tops in the NHL. He scored again last night to lead the Flyers to a 4-3 win over the Stars.
9 point loss for the Sixers, who fell to their former coach, Larry Brown, and the Bobcats.
7 million dollars a year, the value of the endorsement deal with Tiger Woods being dropped by struggling automaker GM.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Donovan McNabb? Kevin Kolb? Does it really matter? They’re not the problem, at least not all of it. The team’s big problem is not even on the field. He stands on the sidelines. How many more times will we have to stomach the idea of Reid throwing the ball on third and inches?
I Don’t Get It: Bill Smithson’s lawyer, G. Guy Smith, encouraged the jury mulling his fate to “let him live.” They did just that, deciding Smithson should spend the rest of his life in jail for the murder of 23-year-old intern Jason Shephard. They let him live, which is a lot more than Smithson did for a kid from North Dakota who was simply here on a business trip.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the jury in the Smithson case. It was a horrific ordeal. They performed their civic duty well.

Quote Box: “We are grateful that Jason was able to have a voice in this and that he was understood. Now, we are able to focus on how he lived and what he’s done for our family, and not how he died.”
-- Statement released by the Shepard family after jury returned with a sentence of life in jail for his killer.

Justice for the Shephard family

The long nightmare is over for the family members of Jason Shephard.

They came to Delaware County more than two years after they first arrived here in hopes of finding their missing son. Two years ago they heard the crushing news that their son, 23-year-old intern Jason Shephard, had been murdered.

In a saga that almost defies belief, they quickly learned police had arrested the man who picked them up at the airport. According to what was spelled out in heart-rending detail at his trial, Smithson took a fancy to the young intern who was going to be at the Edgmont firm where he worked for a few days. He lured the 23-year-old to his Thornbury home, drugged him and attempted to rape him in some kind of rape fantasy gone bad. Shephard apparently awoke during the assault and tried to fend Smithson off. He paid for that with his life, with Smithson strangling the life out of him.

Smithson filed a missing person report and then went to the airport to pick up Shephard’s parents.

On their arrival, they asked him if there was anything new in their son’s disappearance. He responded, “No.” At the time, Jason Shephard’s dead body was wrapped in sheets in his basement.

The Shephard family spent the last week in search of justice for their son. It was delivered by a Delaware County jury.

First they convicted Smithson of all charges against him, including first-degree murder.

Yesterday, they wasted little time in delivering their sentence – life in jail as opposed to the death penalty.

Among those they heard from in the sentencing phase of the trial was Smithson himself, who had not taken the stand during his trial.

The Shephard family will now return to their North Dakota home. On Thursday they likely will sit together to share a Thanksgiving dinner. There will be an empty spot at that table, just as there is now an empty spot in the lives. It will always be there. It will never go away.

The Shephards came to Delaware County for justice. They got it, but they did not get what they undoubtedly really wanted. They did not get their son back.

Bill Smithson will have the rest of his life to think about why.

Final chapter in the Mendte saga

Larry Mendte is sorry. He’s really sorry.

The disgraced former anchorman, a Lansdowne native who graduated from Monsignor Bonner High School, was in court yesterday to hear his sentence for snooping in the e-mail of his Channel 3 co-anchor, Alycia Lane.

Mendte won’t be going to jail. No surprise there.

No, this media circus was all about who was going to show up in court and what they were going to say.

Lane, the so-called Latina anchor bombshell, was there, but she did not speak. Instead she submitted a written statement to the court.

Mendte was there, and he had plenty to say in way of explaining what exactly he was thinking of as he accessed Lane’s e-mail hundreds of time, and then leaked damaging information about her to the media.

Mendte apparently thought his anchorman’s crown was tarnished by the new rising star at the station, the lovely Lane.

At the time, Mendte was being paid something in the vicinity of $700,000 as the male half of this anchor duo. Lane reportedly was making more. She also was making it pretty clear to Mendte that she was the rising star and he was on the decline, as he put it, “that I was 50 and on my way out.”

I know how he feels. I’m 53, and employed in an industry that is shedding jobs left and right. Maybe I’m on my way out as well. Of course I get paid decidedly less than Mendte did.

There was another person in the courtroom yesterday, a person I genuinely felt bad for. Her name is Dawn Stensland. She is married to Mendte. She also is an anchor, at Fox-29.

For the most part, I toil in anonymity. Occasionally, I am recognized on the street. A person will approach and ask me, “Hey, aren’t you the editor of the Daily Times?” I offer a standard response: “That depends on who wants to know.”

It’s one of the perks of the newspaper. My face is not beamed into your house every night. The TV folks have no such shield. They become familiar to us, almost like members of the family sharing dinners and other family gatherings.

Maybe that’s why we turn them into celebrities.

Stensland took the stand yesterday in her husband’s defense. She offered a tearful, heartfelt apology to Lane and said the entire incident had caused her family “nothing but pain.”

My question is this: Why did Dawn Stensland have to apologize? She did nothing wrong. If anything, she’s another victim in this sorry affair.

Maybe she wanted to be there for her husband, standing by her man as it were.

You had to admire her for her stint on the other end of the camera, walking into court under the full glare of the coverage she usually only sees from the other side.

Larry Mendte is not going to jail. Alycia Lane is still awaiting her day in court; she has filed a civil suit against Mendte and Channel 3. Dawn Stensland now must return home to try to put her life back together. At the same time, she must sit in front of that camera every night and deliver the news.

Hopefully most of those headlines will not involve her.

There’s very little to feel sympathy toward in this saga. Dawn Stensland is one of them.

Reid it and weep

Andy Reid has changed his mind. Again.

The Eagles coach who pulled the guy he’s been joined at the hip to for the last 10 years strode to the microphones at the Nova Care center yesterday and indicated McNabb would again be the starter Thursday night when the Birds meet the Cardinals.

It was not Reid’s finest moment. Reid has always barely tolerated the media. Apparently he does not grasp the concept that – love us or hate us – the media is the gateway for many fans’ allegiance to the team.

Instead Reid shows nothing but contempt, dismissing any questions about his move on Sunday to lift McNabb and throw an untested Kevin Kolb to the wolves – and the Ravens’ defense.

Reid made it pretty clear he simply does not care what the media, the fans, or anyone else thinks about his coaching moves.

That kind of arrogance is tolerable when your team is 12-4 and rolling toward a Super Bowl appearance.

It’s another altogether when you’re a less than mediocre 5-5-1 and your team is in full meltdown mode.

Maybe the bigger question here is why we have not heard a single word from the Eagles brass – the so-called masters of their self-proclaimed NFL gold standard.

They are now the owners of fools’ gold. Their team is fast becoming an afterthought. Fans are turning their attention to a young and improving Sixers team; Flyers fans are finally seeing the orange and black play the way they were expected to at the start of the season.

The Eagles have a special Thanksgiving night edition this week, a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals at the Linc. There was a buzz when the game first appeared on the schedule. It was expected the Eagles would be at or near the top of the NFC East and beginning their playoff push. Now they are playing out the string. Anyone really think this team is capable of reeling off five straight wins to finish at 10-5-1? Didn’t think so.

It will be interesting to see how many empty seats are in evidence at the Linc. And it will be equally interesting to see how fans react to an Eagles team that is in freefall.

A reason for thanks? There aren’t many for Eagles fans. Another season is going down the drain. And Andy Reid does not care what you think about it.

Talk about your Thanksgiving turkey.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 24

The Daily Numbers: 10 years as a team for Eagles coach Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. That came to a fairly bleak end Sunday when Reid pulled his starting QB.
2 times in less than a year that production has been shut down at Boeing’s Ridley plant for investigation of damage to a helicopter being worked on there.
80, age of former Lower Merion High School Principal Jay C. Smith, who continues to try to clear his name in connection with the murder of schoolteacher Susan Reinert and the suspected killings of her two children.
29 years since Reinert’s body was found in the trunk of a car in Harrisburg.
100 women, including a strong contingent from Delaware County, seeking 10 spots as Phillies ballgirls next year.
1 count of illegally accessing a protected computer. That’s what former TV anchor Larry Mendte pleaded guilty to in August. He will be in court to be sentenced today.
2 people killed late Sunday night in a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Downingtown exit.
3 story home at 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue in Wynnefield section of Philadelphia going up in flames this morning.
15, age of suspect charged in rape and sexual assault of a woman in the Northern Liberties section of Philly.
1 killed, 2 injured when a man turned a gun on his wife and others at a North Jersey church in Clifton Sunday morning.
500,000 dollar fine being paid by furniture retailer IKEA for being too slow in recalling defective outdoor candles.
200 million dollar fund-raising campaign announced by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to refurbish several structures and build two new high schools in the suburbs.
.500 where the Eagles stand after being blown out by the Ravens yesterday, 36-7. The Birds are now 5-5-1.
2 quarterbacks used by the Birds. Donovan McNabb was pulled at halftime in favor of Kevin Kolb.
8 for 18, with two interceptions and a fumble for McNabb.
10 for 23 with two picks for Kolb. Those 10 completions accounted for a total of 73 yards.
108 yards for a touchdown, what Ravens Ed Reed went for after picking off a Kolb pass in the end zone.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I don’t know what’s more egregious, Andy Reid’s decision to throw Kevin Kolb to the wolves against one of the NFL’s best defenses, or the fact that he did not even bother to inform McNabb of the decision in person. He had one of his coaches tell him.
I Don’t Get It: I have to admit I was taken aback by the verdict in the Bill Smithson murder trial. I was beginning to have some “reasonable doubts” myself. It’s pretty clear the jury saw it otherwise.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Caitlin E. Mullarkey, the Wilmington, Del., student at Swarthmore College has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

Quote Box: “It was something that I thought needed to be done at the time.”
-- Eagles coach Andy Reid, on his decision to bench Donovan McNabb at halftime of yesterday’s loss against the Ravens.

The Smithson aftermath

Last week I wrote that I had never known anyone who was on trial for murder.

Now I suppose I can say I have never known anyone convicted of murder.

Until Friday.

A Delaware County jury came back Friday afternoon and promptly read off a series of guilty verdicts against Bill Smithson, including first-degree murder.

Today the jury will be back in a Media courtroom to hear arguments on whether Smithson should spend the rest of his life in jail, or be put to death for his crime.

Smithson was convicted of all charges in connection with the horrific murder of intern Jason Shephard, who was in the area on a business trip from South Dakota.

The picture painted of Smithson is now a pretty one. Assistant District Attorney Tom Lawrie indicated Smithson apparently plotted against Shephard, lured him to his Thornbury home, then slipped him a date-rape drug in order to have sex with him.

But Smithson apparently did not deliver enough of the drug to the 23-year-old intern. He woke up during the attack and tried to fend off his attacker. He paid for it with his life. Shephard was strangled. His body stayed in the Smithson house for several days, wrapped in sheets and bound with several belts. The body was moved to a basement door, giving every indication that Smithson was planning to dispose of the corpse.

But Smithson did a couple of other things between the time that he snuffed out Shephard’s life and when he was arrested. Police caught up with him sitting beside his grandmother’s grave in a local cemetery.

For one he filed a missing person report on the young intern. Maybe he panicked. Maybe he was trying to figure out just what had happened in his house that night and how it managed to go that far.

But he did something else that almost defies description, and certainly any explanation. The parents of Jason Shephard, after learning their son was reported as missing, flew to Philadelphia to join the frantic hunt.

They were picked up at the airport.

By Bill Smithson.

They apparently inquired if there was any news on their son. Smithson responded “no,” knowing full well that his lifeless body was sitting in the basement of his home.

I have never really been able to get past that.

I knew Smithson. He was a co-worker here. Nobody called him William. Or even Bill. He was always “Billy.”

He was an outgoing guy, always with a quick smile.

In retrospect, I guess I didn’t know him at all.

End of an era for Eagles

The Donovan McNabb Era ended Sunday.

And the Andy Reid Era may not be far behind.

Reid pulled the plug on his starting quarterback at halftime of Sunday’s implosion against the Ravens.

But after being joined at the hip for 10 years, Reid could not bring himself to tell his starter in person he was making the move. The move was an exclamation point on another ugly day in Eagles-land, with the disorganized Birds embarrassed by the Ravens, 36-7.

You could make an argument in favor of lifting McNabb; he was once again horrendous in the first half. No. 5 managed to complete only eight of 18 attempts. He also threw two picks and coughed up a fumble. He failed to put any points on the board. The Eagles’ lone touchdown came courtesy of a 100-yard kickoff return by Quentin Demps.

Oddly enough, even with as miserably as they played offensively, the Birds were only down 10-7 at the half, in large part because of a fairly solid effort on the part of their defense.

Reid made the move anyhow, pulling the plug on McNabb and throwing untested Kevin Kolb to the wolves – or rather the Ravens. There are probably a lot of defenses you would consider making that kind of move against. The Ravens are not one of them. They are one the best defenses in the NFL. And it showed. Kolb looked equally as confused as McNabb had been.

Reid might have made a quarterback change, but he clearly did not have a change of heart in terms of his play-calling.

With the Eagles trailing by just two scores, Kolb managed to put together a solid drive. He led the Birds down the field, arriving at the Ravens’ 1-yard-line. As has been the norm for the Eagles this year, trouble quickly ensued.

The Eagles tried a quarterback sneak on first down. They made it to about the half-yard line. You know what was coming next. Yep, Reid abandoned the run. He had Kolb drop back and try to throw for a TD. Instead, Ed Reed picked off the pass deep in the end zone and promptly motored 108 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.

It is Reid’s – and Eagles fans – own personal version of “Groundhog Day,” as they do the same thing again and again.

Faced with a third-and-one in the first half, Reid had McNabb throw deep, a ball that also was promptly picked off.

But perhaps Reid’s most egregious offense yesterday was his halftime decision to dump McNabb and throw Kolb in against one of the best defenses in the NFL. And maybe more importantly, not having the intestinal fortitude to inform your starter of that in person.

Reid admitted after the game he had not talked to McNabb. The quarterback indicated he got the word from quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur.

Forget the economy. It’s the Eagles who are now in meltdown mode. This is an implosion.

The guess here is that Reid goes back to McNabb for Thursday’s Thanksgiving night game against the Cardinals.

But make no mistake that the Reid-McNabb Era is over. And it didn’t end pretty.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Ready to tie another one on?

I'm joking. I'm joking. I think we've all had more than our fill of ties.

Having said that, the Eagles, in no small part because of the absolute mediocrity of the NFL, are clinging to hopes of the playoffs as they travel down I-95 to play the Ravens in Baltimore.

Don't expect a lot of points from either side. The Ravenss defense is among the best in the league.

But this game will come down to the Eagles' defense against Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco, the pride of the University of Delaware.

Jim Johnson usually is adept in putting together blitz packages that totally befuddle young quarterbacks. That will be the key on Sunday.

Don't ask me why but I see a David Akers kick bailing out the Birds in the waning minutes. Of course that could change if Brian Westbrook is not available. He's doubtful with a myriad of ills, from banged-up ribs, to a tender ankle, to swelling in his knee.

Make it Eagles 17, Ravens 16. Another reason for thanks.

And the Birds stay alive for another week. Speaking of Birds - and thanks - remember that the Eagles play a Thanksgiving night game against the Cardinals.

Having said that, here's the down side. Brian Westbrook was unable to practice all week. If he manages to suit up against the Ravens, what do you think the odds are that he'll be ready to go again in a short week against the Cardinals Thursday night?

But that's for next week. For now, the Eagles have a date with their old pal John Harbaugh, the former Reid assistant who is in his first year as the head man in Baltimore. Harbaugh has the Ravens in the playoff hunt.

He was a special teams guru here, and his old kicker, Akers, will provide a kick in the teeth on Sunday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 20

The Daily Numbers: 2 jurors who were in tears yesterday as the father of murder victim Jason Shephard testified at the trial of his suspected killer.
9 suspects on Chester’s Most Wanted list that have now been corraled by police since their photos started appearing in the newspaper.
20, age of suspected drug dealer Ronald James ‘Big R’ Collins, the latest Most Wanted suspect busted by police. He’s wanted in connection with a murder probe.
92,500 dollars in scholarships handed out yesterday by the Bridge Educational Foundation to Delco students.
42 bucks, how much more Upper Providence residents could be paying under the township’s proposed budget hike.
103 glorious years celebrated yesterday by Mamie Smith of Darby Borough. She was feted by friends.
10 days since the brutal home invasion and murder of Hoa Pham in Upper Darby. Police continue to investigate and are preparing a safety program for those in the Vietnamese community.
1 year contract approved yesterday by the Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors with Community Education Centers Inc., of New Jersey, to run the Delco jail. They’ll take over for GEO Group Inc., which is getting out of its contract early.
2 car accidents in 2 days involving Philadelphia police officers. Luckily, the latest one was not fatal, but it did result in injuries to an officer and the other driver facing DUI charges.
16 pounds of pot and more than $12,000 in cash seized by police during a raid on a home near the Temple University campus in North Philly.
2 Philly firefighters injured battling a blaze at an automotive shop in Holmesburg.
3 students at Philadelphia University who were tied up in their off-campus residence in East Falls. The intruders made off with a lot of electronics.
5 to 10 years in prison for a former University of Pennsylvania prof for the fatal beating of his wife in their Mongtomery County home.
53 bucks, price per barrel for crude oil yesterday, as prices continue to plummet.
1.4 percent dip in holiday travel expected this Thanksgiving holiday by AAA, despite the decrease in gas prices.
3 more days, before we can talk about a game again and stop talking about who knows what when it comes to OT.
3 straight wins to start the season for the Villanova Wildcats, who topped Niagara last night, 77-62.
3 game winning streak snapped last night as the Sixers fell to the T-Wolves, who had lost 8 straight games.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I think we can put the great Donovan McNabb overtime debate behind us now. In fact, you might say the debate itself is now in OT, and just like the Eagles-Bengals game, there isn’t going to be a winner in this one either.
I Don’t Get It: Can someone explain to me how that guy was still on the street, let alone behind the wheel, when he slammed into a Philadelphia police officer’s cruiser, killing him? I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Tom Bruder, who last night was honored by the Delaware County Community Foundation for his leadership in the area of philanthropy. And to Gary Papa, the evening’s keynote speaker, who electrified the audience.

Quote Box: “I think 100 percent of everybody in the league knows now. So I’m kind of a trend-setter.”
-- Donovan McNabb, speaking yesterday for the first time about his admission after Sunday’s game that he did not know the rules for overtime in regular season games.

An inspirational night

I went to the Springfield Country Club last night expecting to pick up an award for the newspaper.

I left with something else.

An inspiration.

I was there on behalf of the Daily Times to accept an award from the Delaware County Community Foundation for the newspaper’s support of philanthropic efforts in the county. Both the Daily Times and our sister publication, the News of Delaware County, were so honored.

I never miss an opportunity to get into a room filled with several hundred people who have nice things to say about the newspaper. It doesn’t happen all that often. Usually the comments I hear directed at the newspaper fall on the other side of the spectrum.

The Delaware County Community Foundation is one of those organizations that embody that single word in their name: Community. They, and a multitude of others such as the Salvation Army, Community Action Agency, and CityTeam Ministries, are the glue that holds our increasingly frazzled community together.

In accepting the award, I offered a few thoughts about what I believe the newspaper’s role in the community is, and how it is my hope that organizations such as the Foundation take full advantage of us to get their word out to the people.

We are preparing to enter the season of thanks, and the season of need. This year the need is greater than ever. Organizations like the Foundation are there to fill that need. It is a daunting task.

To help them out, they turn to men like Thomas Bruder. If that name sounds familiar, it should. I used the term icon in addressing the audience last night, and I think the word certainly fits in considering Tom Bruder.

You might know him better by his initials. Not actually his, but the company he founded and ran for years. MAB. That’s right. That “B” stands for Bruder.

Last night Bruder was named as the recipient of the 2008 Award for Leadership in Philanthropy by the Foundation. The Bruder name has basically become synonymous with fund-raising, charitable giving, and community service.

It was quite a night, but I still was not prepared for what came next.

I don’t know if you have ever had the opportunity to meet Gary Papa. He’s one of the most familiar faces in the Delaware Valley.

Unlike me, who toils for the most part in the anonymity of the newspaper, Papa’s face comes into our homes every night as the sports anchor on the top-rated Channel 6 Action News broadcast.

The truth is I’ve never been all that big a fan of the way sports is handled on local TV. They give it too little time, and have a tendency to “cheer” a bit too much.

Last night I got a different glimpse of Gary Papa, one I’m not sure that many people get a chance to see, or are even aware of. If that’s the case, let me assure you that you don’t know Gary Papa.

I don’t know him either. But I left that room last night inspired because of him.

For the past couple of years, Papa has been battling prostate cancer. It’s a tough fight. He’s been through several bouts with chemotherapy and radiation, and is doing so again now.

But Papa stood in front of that room last night and told them how much he was in awe of them, of the work they do, of the positive aspects they promote in the community.

He was electric. Maybe it was the chemo. Papa held the room in his hand. Choking back tears, he offered a view of life – and the battle to hang on to it – that more of us should adopt.

He admitted to having been through the wringer, to how tough the fight against cancer has been, the effects on his body, and then astounded the audience by saying he was drawing inspiration from them.

“And you look great,” a voice in the crowd boomed a couple of times. He was right. Papa still has that youthful look he first demonstrated when he came into our homes so long ago.

Papa, a Delco resident, is now a leader in the fight against cancer.

The truth is Gary Papa is in the fight of life. Last night he added a lot of people to his corner.

He told them he was in awe of them, that he was drawing strength and inspiration from them.

I assure you the feeling is mutual, Gary.

The McNabb saga

It’s nice to see some things don’t change.

Donovan McNabb still doesn’t get it.

The Eagles embattled quarterback met the media yesterday for the first time since his embarrassing admission after the Eagles-Bengals game ended in a tie Sunday that he was not aware that regular-season games could end deadlocked.

Yesterday Donovan approached the microphone and quickly did what he usually does: Dig the hole a little deeper.

I’ll give him this: McNabb did clearly admit he should have known the rule. But he just wasn’t content to simply do that and move on. Instead, in that smarmy, half-joking way of his, he tried to offer another explanation.

It didn’t work.

McNabb unveiled an image of himself in this debacle that I clearly had not considered. Trend-setter.

That’s right, the Eagles QB now apparently thinks he has done the NFL a service by bringing the issue to light. In a way, there might be a grain of truth to what he says. All sorts of NFL players are now coming forward to admit that, like McNabb and many of his teammates, they also did not know a regular season game could end in a tie if no one scored in the overtime period.

McNabb wants to put the whole issue behind him and move ahead. Ditto for Andy Reid. He believes the whole thing is a non-issue.

Me? I’m just a fan. And I’m still shaking my head over this whole thing.

There’s just something about McNabb that rubs me the wrong way. He seems all too quick, for a guy who plays quarterback in the NFL, and in Philadelphia no less, to paint himself as the victim.

Has he endured more than his share of criticism? Sure. But maybe he should talk to Ron Jaworski or Randall Cunningham about that.

Has some of the flak been unfair? Probably.

But it goes with the territory. McNabb never seemed to grasp that. I’m surprised he didn’t drudge up the fact that some fans booed when he was selected by the Eagles with their first pick in that draft so long ago.

McNabb gave a glimpse into his persona as he entered the room yesterday. He was grinning. Then he made a point of noting that he’s probably going to get in trouble for smiling, that being because some fans have jabbed at him for his habit of smiling after a miscue.

Now it’s on to Sunday and the Ravens in Baltimore. Amazingly, the Eagles remain alive in the Wild Card race.

Even if so many of their fans are still fit to be tied.

A four-letter word (non-Chase Utley division)

Let’s get this out of the way quickly.

If you’ve turned on your TV this morning, you’ve probably already heard it.

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow morning.

For the TV folks, it’s “Joy to the World.” For the rest of us, it’s merely the first in what will be a seemingly endless three months of drudgery. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were cheering on those boys of summer, listening to the Phils on the radio out on the porch on another steamy summer night.

Even the thrill of the World Series is now just a distant memory, replaced by a single word: Winter. And another one: Cold. And this one: Miserable. And of course our favorite four-letter word (non-Chase Utley division): Snow.

They say we might actually get a coating out of this “so-called” storm. I haven’t heard anyone calling for the “Storm of the Century” as yet. I’m sure we likely will before the winter is over.

For now, we will be deluged all day with the TV folks in a tizzy over a dusting of snow. I’m not sure if it will accumulate to be able to stick a ruler in it, but I have no doubt some enterprising reporter will do just that, or at least try to.

Is it spring yet?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 19

The Daily Numbers: 43, age of suspected killer William Smithson, on trial for strangling intern Jason Shephard, who was 23.
21 Chester police officers honored at the city’s annual police award ceremony.
20 kids taken into custody after a brawl at Chester High School.
11.37 percent tax hike looming in Nether Providence. Supervisors are looking to cut costs in order to reduce the hike, including axing summer rec programs and reducing police patrols.
20 arrests for the Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty. Still another officer died Monday night after his cruiser collided with another car.
2 suspects now in custody for the $700,000 heist of an armored car in South Philadelphia.
125,000 dollar fine that could be dropped on a Main Line dentist who was indicted yesterday on charges he dumped medical waste at the Jersey shore that wound up washing up on local beaches, forcing several closures.
12, age of suspect, a student at Dimner Beeber Middle School in Overbrook, charged with sexually assaulting a 24-year-old teacher at the school.
1 person killed when flames roared through a home in Woodbury, N.J., overnight.
120 bank heists reported in Philadelphia since the first of the year.
41 million Americans expected to travel more than 50 miles this Thanksgiving holiday. That’s down from 41.6 million last year. It’s the first dip in holiday travel reported in six years.
1,500 feet, height of skyscraper planned for Center City at 16th and Arch streets. It would eclipse the new Comcast Center as the tallest building in the city.
1.84 price of gas at a station in Marshalls Creek, Pa., in the Poconos. The station is involved in a gas war with a new station that opened up across the street.
2 cent dip in price of gasoline as prices continue to fall. Average price in Philly region is now $2.22.
12 noon, when Donovan McNabb will stride to the microphones to talk to the media, the first time since his admission after the Bengals’ debacle that he didn’t know the rules concerning overtime.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.It’s gotten to this point. Do you root for the Eagles, who incredibly are still just a half-game out of the Wild Card spot, or hope they lose so that they’ll finally make some changes? How ‘bout that Joe Flacco!
I Don’t Get It: A 12-year-old has been charged with trying to sexually assault his teacher in Philadelphia. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the 21 Chester officers honored yesterday in the city. They do a tough job in a tough city. They don’t get thanked enough.

Quote Box: “He was very conservative. He was what we would call homophobic.”
-- Former girlfriend of murder victim Jason Shephard, testifying at trial of Bill Smithson, who is charged in the intern’s killing.

A family's honorable vigil

We routinely cover vigils, which are usually held to memorialize someone taken from us all too soon.

Just this past Sunday night we joined those outside the Pham home in Upper Darby as they huddled in the dark and cold to remember the victim of the horrific home invasion, torture and killing of Hoa Pham.

There is another type of vigil being held this week in a courtroom in Media. It is no less sad.

The family and friends of Jason Shephard have traveled from South Dakota here to Delaware County to pay tribute to the young intern who was murdered here more than two years ago.

They must sit every day in a courtroom and hear the brutal details of the last moments of their loved one’s life.

Shephard was a college student and intern who was here on business for an electronic sign company. Authorities believe he was drugged and killed inside the home of a Thornbury man. As the trial opened this week, the district attorney’s office spelled out the grim outline of what they think happened. They allege that Bill Smithson slipped Shephard the date-rape drug GHB in a plot to have sex with him. When the young intern awoke during the attack and tried to fend Smithson off, he was strangled.

It is a lurid case, one that no doubt is likely to get more lurid in the days ahead. Bill Smithson is on trial for his life. Jason Shephard has already lost his.

And those who remain, who knew him and loved him best, now sit and hold an honorable vigil as they hear the gruesome details of the last few hours of Jason’s life.

It is something you wouldn’t wish on anyone. But it also reminds us of the basic dignity and honor of people who traveled across the country here to Delaware County to make sure we all do not lose sight of what was lost inside that Thornbury home.

Why was he free?

It’s almost unfathomable to think that Philadelphia has lost still another police officer in the line of duty. Sgt. Timothy Simpson became the became the fourth cop to die in the line of duty in less than seven months when his cruiser was rammed by another car Monday night.

But what is even more galling about this case is what we are learning about the person who was driving that other car.

William Allen Foster, 41, of Levittown, is being described as a career criminal. Police say he came into the city to buy drugs and was fleeing police when his car slammed into Foster’s police car in the city’s Port Richmond section.

After his arrest, Foster apparently bragged to police that he often eluded arrest.

He’s had enough practice at it. Foster has a lengthy arrest record. And one thing stands out: Why exactly was this guy still out on the streets?

It’s a question that is often asked in such incidents. For once it would be nice to get an answer.

In the meantime, Philadelphia police again will prepare to bury one of their own. You begin to wonder just how much the department can take.

Simpson leaves behind a wife and three kids, including teenage twins.

And Foster? He’s safe and sound back behind bars. Where he likely should have been in the first place.

We’re all ears, Donovan

Get ready for a big day in the NovaCare nation. For those of you who actually have lives outside Philly sports, let me translate: Donovan McNabb is expected to meet the media today.

It is the first time the Eagles quarterback will speak since his dumbfounding admission after the Birds’ tie with the Bengals on Sunday that he was unaware that the rules allowed for a tie in regular season games.

McNabb was not the only Eagle who was so misinformed. But he was the only one who was the team’s starting quarterback.

What exactly McNabb will have to say today is kind of interesting.

I suppose he could try the old sarcasm route, saying he can’t believe the media fell for that ruse he put on about not knowing the rules. I don’t think that one will fly.

Or he simply could refuse to talk about it any more, saying he’s moving on and looking forward to Sunday’s game against the Ravens, hopefully one that ends in regulation.

Here’s my suggestion. Simply admit it. Everybody makes mistakes. Donovan simply should come clean, admit again he did not know the rule and say the fault lies with him, and that it won’t happen again.

Will he do that? It’s debatable. One thing’s for sure, he should not follow the lead of his coach. Too often the smug, pompous attitude that pours out of Andy Reid rubs people the wrong way. That’s OK when you’re going 12-4, and rolling into the playoffs as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

It’s another altogether when you’re a struggling 5-4-1 team that might not make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Notice that 1 on the end of the Eagles’ record, Donovan. Yep, regular season NFL games absolutely can end in a tie if neither team scores in the overtime period.

And no, the rule is not the same in the playoffs and Super Bowl, when they play until someone wins. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one, when you compounded your misunderstanding of the rules by indicating that a playoff game or Super Bowl also could end in a tie.

You were joking about that, weren’t you? Donovan? Donovan?

See you at noon.

Sno' fooling

What happened to autumn?

I woke up this morning to find that winter had arrived.

Unless I was delusional (and that’s not outside the realm of possibility), that was a dusting of snow that was on my car this morning.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Making matters that much more invigorating, the temperatures were in the 20s this morning, with a “real feel” index (whatever that is) that made it feel like it was in the teens. Let me boil this down just a tad for you. It was damn cold.

Now it’s not enough to drive to work in the dark, and drive home in the dark in these days of Eastern Standard Time, we now can do so with our teeth chattering.


How many days until spring?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 18

The Daily Numbers: 23, age of Jason Shephard, the intern from South Dakota whose body was found in the basement of a home in Thornbury. William Smithson is on trial on first-degree murder charges.
260,000 dollars, how much former Thornbury treasurer Deborah Perry is believed to have ripped off from township funds.
3 to 6 years in prison, the prison term she received in court yesterday after entering a guilty plea.
85 years in prison, along with a $4.75 million fine, what a Broomall businessman could face if he’s convicted of charges that he an a co-conspirator illegally sold equipment to Iran.
5 Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty. Still another officer died Monday night after his cruiser collided with another car.
3 children and a wife left behind by Officer Timothy Simpson, 46, a 20-year veteran of the force.
1,000 families in Philadelphia and Delaware County, who ex-boxer Paul “Earthquake” Moore hopes to benefit via his annual Turkey Run down Broad Street on Saturday.
8 budget meetings that will be held by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to explain his severe budget cuts.
1 arrested and 1 still being sought in the $700,000 heist from an armored car in South Philly last week.
66, age of former Penn prof charged with making child pornography.
33, the frosty temperature as you head out this morning. We’ll get our first taste of the 20s overnight as autumn begins to ebb and winter moves in. We also have a chance of flurries.
1,500 feet, height of skyscraper planned for Center City at 16th and Arch streets. It would eclipse the new Comcast Center as the tallest building in the city.
31 people arrested for underage drinking in Newark, Del., just a week after a University of Delaware student died in what is believed to have been a case of alcohol poisoning at an off-campus frat party.
7 cent dip in price of gasoline as the pain at the pump continues to ease.
2, as in second place, where Ryan Howard finished in the MVP voting.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.It’s Day 2 of the Great Rules Debate. The Eagles will play another game on Sunday against the Ravens. Does anyone care?
I Don’t Get It: In case you missed it, they’re still talking in Springfield as teachers and the school district continue to try to reach a new labor pact. It only seems like they’ve been at it forever.
Today’s Upper: Our best to Bethel Police Chief David Houser, who is stepping down at the end of the month. Best wishes to his successor, Officer John Cairo, as well.

Quote Box: “This defendant killed Jason Shephard over his desire to have sex with this young man.”
-- Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lawrie, in his opening statement in the murder trial of William Smithson.

The Smithson case

I can honestly say I have never personally known anyone on trial for murder.

Until yesterday.

Bill Smithson went on trial Monday in the strangulation death of a young intern from South Dakota. Jason Shephard’s body was found wrapped in sheets in the basement of Bill’s home in Thornbury Township.

Bill used to work for this newspaper. He was an ad representative. I considered him a friend. We didn’t socialize together. We didn’t hang out together. But he was one of those people that you would see every day.

It was hard to miss Bill. He was an outgoing guy with a quick smile who always seemed like the most upbeat guy in the room.

Bill left the newspaper to pursue other interests and I lost track of him.

Right up until they found the body of Jason Shephard in his basement.

The lurid details will play out this week in a Media courtroom. It is not a pretty picture.

Jason Shephard’s parents are in the courtroom, holding a picture of their son. I cannot imagine their grief, their loss, and the emptiness they have felt for more than two years waiting for this week to come.

Also in that courtroom are supporter’s of Bill Smithson.

I’ll leave the details of what is alleged to have happened inside that house to other parts of the newspaper.

Suffice it to say it is not pretty. It has left lives in tatters.

And it makes you wonder about things you take for granted every day.

City loses another officer

It’s kind of hard to explain what is happening in the city of Philadelphia today.

Incredibly, mind-numbingly, they are mourning the loss of still another police officer.

Sgt. Timothy Simpson, 46, a 20-year veteran of the force, was killed when his police cruiser collided with another vehicle at an intersection during a pursuit involving a suspected DUI driver.

Simpson is the fifth Philadelphia police officer to die in the line of duty in just the past year.

He leaves behind a wife and three children. And a police force and city once again wearing its heart on its sleeve.

If you see a police officer today, no matter where, why not offer a simple thank you for the job they do every day.

A daily double of infamy

For the most part, Thornbury Township is a sleepy little community in the booming western edge of Delaware County.

It’s the home of Cheyney University and the county prison.

It does not often find itself – or its citizens – splattered all over the front page.

So you can imagine just how odd today must seem in that little burg.

The township is dealing with the glare of not one, but two big stories, neither of which will exactly add to the Currier & Ives postcard image of the place.

A brutal strangulation murder that occurred in a township residence is playing out in a Media courtroom. The lurid details of the case likely will keep Thornbury in the headlines all week.

Ironicially, the same day the murder trial of William Smithson started, the former Thornbury Township treasurer was in another courtroom in the same building to enter a guilty plea to ripping off the township to the tune of more than $230,000.

Deborah Perry, a longtime trusted employee, was sentenced to three to six years in prison. She also will have to repay the township the entire amount she stole, as well as the cost of the investigation of the township books after authorities got tipped off to what she was doing.

Police say that Perry, over a span of about six years, was basically using township funds as her own bank account.

No doubt this daily double gives a false, and incomplete picture of the township.

Eventually things will return to normal, and the township will once again operate for the most part in blissful anonymity.

What happened in those two Media courtrooms yesterday was anything but what usually happens in Thornbury.

Why Jon Runyan gets it

Unlike his coach and many of his teammates, Jon Runyan gets it.

He seems to understand his role as a pro athlete, and the often contentious relationship with the media and fans that go with it.

You never get the feeling that Runyan is anything other than honest. He doesn’t fawn over reporters and give puffy answers to questions. He also doesn’t simply blow them off, dripping with arrogance as the head coach of his team too often does.

Maybe it’s because Runyan seems to have aspirations of one day joining the media when his playing days are over. His answers actually show some thought, an attempt to peel back the covers on the life of a pro athlete and offer the fans – through the media – a look from the inside.

That was never more apparent than during his radio show on 610-WIP Monday night. The Delaware Valley sports community had been ablaze for the previous 24 hours, since the team’s star quarterback stood in front of a bank of microphones and admitted he didn’t know the rules of his own game when it came to overtime.

McNabb stumbled when he bumbled the initial question, saying he was not aware the game would end in a tie if no one scored in the overtime period. But in classic McNabb fashion, he then promptly dug the hole just a little bit deeper. McNabb went on to wonder what would happen should something similar occur in the Super Bowl or the playoffs. Uh, Donovan, the rules are different in the playoffs. They actually play until someone wins.

To me, Runyan put the story in a little different light. He seemed stunned not so much that McNabb didn’t know the rules (hey, my guess is there’s a lot of rules that players don’t actually know. The same goes for newspaper editors. Quizzed on the rules, I would likely embarrass myself. But I certainly did know the basics of overtime, as I am guessing just about every serious fan watching that game did) but by something that went unsaid.

McNabb certainly was not alone on the Eagles team in being unaware of the rules.

What stood out to Runyan is not that McNabb didn’t know the rule, but that he would so cavalierly admit it during a live post-game TV interview that would soon be the talk of the league.

Exactly. Donovan didn’t seem to understand that his not knowing the rule was a big deal, or at least that it was going to be perceived that way.

It merely reinforced one of my beliefs about pro athletes. Increasingly they are not like you and me. We live and die with the games. They simply play them. Their lives could not be more different than ours. They live and toil in another world, one that we only occasionally are allowed a glimpse of, including those few precious hours on Sunday afternoons.

They make millions of dollars to play a kid’s game.

They used to be our neighbors. Not anymore. They don’t live in our neighborhoods. They are part of the athletic aristocracy, entitled because of the amazing feats their bodies allow them to perform.

Jon Runyan didn’t say it. He didn’t have to. Reading between the lines, you could see that he simply could not comprehend McNabb’s gaffe.

He gets it. It’s a shame more of his teammates – and his coach – do not.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 17

The Daily Numbers: 500 people who braved the chill to take part in a vigil on Copley Street in Upper Darby last night to honor the memory of murder victim Hoa Pham.
2 years since the body of an intern from South Dakota was found in the basement of a home in Thornbury. William Smithson goes on trial today on first-degree murder charges.
27 dollar tax hike that could be facing residents of Prospect Park under their proposed budget.
11, age of pianist from Ardmore who will perform tonight at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia at the annual Marian Anderson Award Gala.
35 passengers who were on a US Airways Express flight that took off from Allentown but was forced to make an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport Sunday.
30 days, how long the smoking ban lasted in Atlantic City casinos. You can light up again while losing money at the slots after council rescinded the ban.
30 percent increase in revenues being reported by casinos in Pennsylvania, including Harrah’s, another reason why business is so lousy in A.C.
20 seconds, how often new signs going up along some Chester County highways will be refreshed to give motorists updates on traffic and travel times. 8 signs debut today along Routes 202, 30 and 100.
70 million dollars racked up in its opening weekend by 'Quantum of Solace,' the new James Bond flick. It's a record opening for the Bond series.
18 third downs for the Eagles yesterday, and 0 runs. That’s right they ran the ball 18 straight times on third down.
13 points for the Birds, matching the 13 put up by the Bengals.
1 overtime period played in regular-season NFL games. If no one scores in the OT session, the game ends in a tie, which apparently came as news to a bunch of Eagles.
11 years to the day since the last Eagles tie, a 10-10 affair against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 16, 1997
58 pass attempts for Donovan McNabb against the Bengals, that’s a personal record.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I still find it hard to believe that Donovan McNabb did not know that the game could end in a tie. It makes your head spin.
I Don’t Get It: What is it that would drive someone to fire a pellet gun in the direction of a helpless animal?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Girl Scouts, who took the wraps off their new service headquarters in Springfield Sunday.

Quote Box: “No, I didn’t know that.”
-- Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, when informed that an NFL regular-season game could end in a tie.

Birds' gold standard now tarnished

It’s over.

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have been paired for 10 years. They had a pretty good run. Dominated the NFC East for a good chunk of that decade. Made it to three consecutive NFC title games, then finally got over the hump with a big boost from a wide receiver named T.O. and made it to a Super Bowl.

And lost.

They’ve been in decline ever since.

Yesterday they hit bottom. They settled for a tie with the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. Before yesterday the Bengals had managed to win exactly one of their nine games. They didn’t win yesterday. But they didn’t lose, either. Neither did the Eagles.

The two teams tied, 13-13.

That in itself is galling enough. But for Eagles fans, there would be insult added to injury. And it had nothing to do with kissing your sister. It would come from the mouths of the Eagles themselves after the game.

It became apparent after the game that Donovan McNabb, who has been a top-flight quarterback in the league for 10 years, did not know one of the basic rules of the game. I don’t think he was the only one. And his coach might be on that list.

In answering questions at the post-game press conference, McNabb admitted he did not know that the game would end at a tie if no one scored in the single overtime period.

It is one of my many pet peeves with pro athletes. They get paid millions of dollars and don’t know the basic rules of the game.

That McNabb, perhaps his coach and many of his teammates did not know that the game could end in a tie borders on the unbelievable.

Maybe that explains why Andy Reid decided to punt the ball away on fourth-and-one. Either that or he was willing to settle for a tie when his team desperately needed a win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

For years now Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner have talked bout the Eagles as the gold standard of the NFL. Today their franchise is tarnished.

Or maybe it’s just Fool’s Gold.

Then again, maybe we fans are the fools. We have invested our time and passion in this franchise, only to be kicked in the teeth by their arrogance and pomposity.

Today the shoe is on the other foot. The Eagles are the ones who look foolish.

They didn’t know the game could end in a tie. I repeat: The star quarterback didn’t know the game could end in a tie.

Jeff Lurie’s gold standard has been reduced to a plugged nickel. No. 5 didn’t know the rules. Apparently it never occurred to his coach to bring this to his attention.

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have been together for 10 years. They shouldn’t be together, not with this franchise, for another day.

Drawing a line in the sand in Upper Darby

They stood huddled in the cold, holding candles, declaring themselves a beacon against the darkness.

They were white, black and Asian, men, women and children. They came from many backgrounds, putting a face to the melting pot image of America.

Increasingly, this is the face of Upper Darby, as diverse a municipality as can be seen in Delaware County.

They braved the sting of one of the first really cold nights to pay tribute to Hoa Pham and his family, and to let the person responsible for his death know that they are not going away.

The image could not be more clear. They drew a line in the sand on Copley Road in Upper Darby last night.

It has now been almost a week since Pham and his wife were brutally tortured and beaten inside their home by an intruder who was seeking money.

Pham did not survive the attack. Even in his last moments, his concern was for his wife, encouraging her to run to flee the “house of horrors.” She made it next door and alerted authorities.

It was left to Vietnam veteran Dave McCracken to add the final irony of the ordeal that snuffed out Pham’s life.

McCracken noted that Pham was a member of the South Vietnam army who fought alongside U.S. soldiers. After the fall of Saigon, he was taken captive and held as a POW in North Vietnam.

“We left him over there,” McCracken said last night as he joined the vigil outside the Pham residence. “He was a patriot and we lost him over there. I just wanted to come and honor him because he was a patriot. Twice he got the bad end of the stick.”

Hoa Pham survived the brutality of the war in Vietnam. He survived years as a POW. He could not, however, survive the mean streets of Upper Darby.

Forty years ago, this country was ripped apart by the conflict in Vietnam. Today we are being ripped apart from within, by violence that makes us unsafe even inside our homes.

Maybe Pham’s death can be the beginning of changing that process.

They gathered, from all neighborhoods and all nationalities, last night in Upper Darby to say enough is enough.

I think Hoa Pham would agree.

Murder in Thornbury

What happened inside the Pham house in Upper Darby almost defies explanation.

Today we will learn more about another Delaware County “house of horrors.”

In the process we will relive the tragic final hours of Jason Shephard and what happened to him inside the Thornbury home of Bill Smithson.

It was more than two years ago that Shephard’s body was found wrapped in sheets in the basement of Smithson’s home on Tanguy Road.

Shephard was an intern with the same firm that employed Smithson. He was from a little town in North Dakota and was here on a business trip. He never made it back home.

The prosecution says Smithson drugged Shephard, then strangled him when he rejected his sexual advances.

A third man, F. Bruce Covington, a former administrator at Saint Joseph’s University, has been charged with delivering drugs to the house, as well as lying to police, in connection with the case.

Smithson goes on trial on first-degree murder charges today in Media. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

A gag order has limited what both the prosecution and defense has been able to say about the case.

That will begin to change this morning when both sides make their opening arguments.

We will finally learn what actually happened inside that Tanguy Road home. It is not going to be pretty. And it is not going to change the heartache that Shephard’s friends and family have lived with for two years.

They will make the long, lonely journey today to sit in a courtroom and hear the excruciating details of the final moments of their loved one’s life.

Jason Shephard was 23 years old. He came to Delaware County on business and in hopes of seeing the historic sites of Philadelphia.

He made only as a far as Thornbury. Today we will learn the truth about why.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

This one shuld be a breeze, right?

You relax in the barcolounger for that rarest of breeds these days, the 1 o'clock Sunday Eagles game, and by 1:45 the Birds are on cruise control, putting away the hapless Bengals.

In your dreams.

This team refuses to do anything the way you think they would. You put teams away by building a lead, then running the football, controlling the clock. That's not Andy Reid's M.O.

For some reason, I see this as another epic struggle, putting us all to sleep before David Akers bails the Birds out with a late field goal.

Makes it Eagles 19, Bengals 17.

And the anti-Reid, McNabb drumbeat just gets that much louder.

After last week's win, I'm 5-4 on the year, same as the Eagles.

Except I don't think I'm better than that. The Eagles keep telling us how much better they are than their record, how they should have won 2 or 3 more games.

Yeah, right.

And I should be their next coach. Neither one of them is going to happen.

I'm picking the Birds to win this game, but I would not be in the least bit surprised to see them go belly-up and come up on the short end of the scoreboard.

Then we could all be regaled with Andy Reid telling us "that's on me" and "I have to put them in a better position to make plays."

Oh, and don't forget the inimitable, "We're going to take a look at that and get it done."

Any week now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Daily Numbers - November 14

The Daily Numbers: 108,580 dollars, amount Yeadon Councilman Terry McGirth is alleged to have deposited into his account from the company he worked for, resulting in theft charges in Chester County in 2003.
1, as in Dec. 1. That’s the date for the groundbreaking for the new stadium in Chester that will be home to the city’s Major League Soccer franchise.
3 suspected robbers who got more than they bargained for when the allegedly decided to hold up patrons of a Claymont tavern. The customers turned the tables on them and held one until police arrived.
61 years of the Delco Hi-Q Tournament. The new season kicked off this week, pitting Delco high school students in the nation’s oldest continuous academic competition.
80 dollars, the tax hike that residents in Collingdale are facing.
0 tax hike forecast in the Aldan budget.
4 percent hike staring at residents in Swarthmore. That could cost the average resident about $46.
3 to 23 months on the other side of the bars for a former Delco prison guard convicted of having sex with a female inmate.
102 suspects rounded up in one day during a crackdown on drug-dealing and gang activity in the West Kensington section of Philadelphia. Police seized 21 guns and $370,000 in cash.
2,250 workers employed by the 545-mile Pennsylvania Turnpike. Turnpike Commission officials say job cuts are coming.
160 employees losing their jobs at QVC in West Chester, part of a move that eventually will see the company shed 700 workers, most in the West Chester operation.
15 year cable deal being offered to Verizon for its new Fios service in Philadelphia, providing a challenger to home-grown cable king Comcast.
10 bucks, increase in the price of the most expensive seats in Citizens Bank Park next year. They go from $50 to $60.
2 bucks, what most Phillies tickets will go up in the wake of their World Series title.
4 second period goals for the Flyers to take a lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, but they still fell in a shootout, 5-4.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anyone else feeling just a bit uneasy about the Eagles as they head into Sunday’s game against the lowly Bengals? This is a game the Birds should dominate. The Bengals are 1-8. Something tells me they’ll struggle.

I Don’t Get It: Bad economic news is everywhere. They’re even laying off at QVC.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to the patrons at George’s Bar in Claymont, who took matters into their own hands when a robber entered the tavern and held the place up. They whacked him with a pool cue and held him until police arrived.

Quote Box: “I think this is really sad for Terry and his family, and even sadder for the community.”
-- Yeadon Councilwoman Jacquelynn Puriefoy-Brinkley, on the latest trouble for borough Councilman Terry McGirth.

About those comments

If you’re reading this blog, then you have found your way to our Web site.

Since we made the change in our format, readership has been growing through the roof. So has the number of comments posted on stories.

Both of those are good things. Up to a point. But there is a down side.

Look, I’m a print guy, but I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into this new world of technology, the Internet and Web-savvy readers.

I love the options that the Internet gives us in terms of being able to deliver breaking news and updates to readers. The truth is we only print the newspaper once a day. But news now is a 24-hour process, and we’re moving steadily in that direction.

I also like the ability to have readers more involved in the news operation. One of the options they now have is the ability to comment on stories posted on the site.

Up until now, readers have been free to say pretty much whatever they want in terms of comments.

And that’s causing some problems.

I know all about the tradition of the Internet, the free-wheeling exchange of ideas, and the ability to push the edge of what is usually considered acceptable.

The problem is that many of the comments are not pushing the edge. They’re barging right over it.

I have been dismayed at the general tone of so many comments posted online. Instead of being part of a useful discussion, the forums too often quickly descend into name-calling, unsubstantiated claims, slurs and racial invective.

In the print edition, we make a person sign their name and list their town of residence that appear with every letter to the editor. We also ask for a phone number to verify the person who submitted it actually wrote it and gives us permission to run it.

For those who do not want their names attached we offer our Sound Off column, in which readers can offer their rant anonymously. I will tell you there are many readers (and some staffers) who do not believe we should offer such a forum to anyone who is not willing to have their name attached to their beliefs.

The Internet, obviously, is a different animal. I will be the first to admit there are things we can get away with online that we would never be able to do in print.

Up to a point.

Until now, our online readers have been able to say pretty much whatever they want in response to stories posted online. If someone finds the material objectionable, they can alert us by clicking on a link and sending us an e-mail. We then review the comment and have the ability to remove it if we also deem it objectionable. Not every objection is well-founded. Some people simply disagree with what is being said. That is not enough to have the comment removed. But the truth is much of what is appearing is objectionable.

That’s why this weekend we are changing the rules when it comes to posting comments.

Readers now will have to register with the site in order to post comments. The registration will require e-mail verification, along with clicking on a link that will allow us to detect that the e-mail is real and does not simply bounce back. Then the user also must click a link to verify they received the e-mail before they can begin posting comments.

We will continue to monitor comments and remove those we find objectionable. Readers also will still be able to alert us to material they find offensive and we’ll review those comments as well.

I love the way readers are interacting with the site. It is my hope that will continue. The last thing I want to do is see the comments suddenly come to a halt.

But I also don’t want to be in the position of hosting what amounts to a collection or slurs, name-calling and racial invective.

Feel free to comment on the change, and other suggestions for the site. We want you to become part of the process. We just don’t want to offend people along the way.

Howard Beale has nothing on the patrons at George’s Bar in Claymont.

You might remember Beale, as played by the late Peter Finch, as the mad newscaster in the movie “Network,” who urged fed-up citizens to go to the window and proclaim, “I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!”

The good folks at George’s didn’t have to go the window. They were just sitting at the bar.

When a Chester man and a couple of accomplices invaded their peaceful watering hole in the Darley Road Shopping Center, they must have figured they’d had enough.

Police say an armed Darin Shelton was working his way down the bar, taking money off customers, when he allegedly started accosting the bartender. At that point the customers decided to draw their own little line in the sand.

In the ensuing scuffle, Shelton apparently was whacked with a pool cue. Police say his two accomplices, who had chased a customer outside, fled when they saw the commotion inside.

The bar patrons held Shelton down until police arrived. The other two were picked up later when their car was stopped on I-95.

All three are now being held.

I don’t know if they were made as hell or not, but clearly the patrons at George’s decided they were not going to take it anymore.

Good for them.

We’ve had our dance (actually it was a parade), now it’s time to pay the band.

We’re about to learn the downside of winning a World Series title.

Yep, tickets at Citizens Bank Park for next season are going up.

You’re shocked, I know.

The hikes will affect both season-ticket packages as well as individual tickets, although they are not across the board. The hikes range from $2 to $10 per seat.

The cheapest seats to see the new world champions will remain $16. Same goes for standing-room ducats, which will continue to set you back just $13.

The most expensive, in sections 115 to 132 in the lower bowl along the first and third base lines and behind home plate, go up 10 bucks, from $50 to $60.

Most other sections are going up $2. But $32 and $22 seats will remain unchanged.

The Phils set an attendance record last year en route to their historic World Series win. But Citizens Bank Park has become more than just a place to watch a ball game. It’s become a hot spot, sort of “the place to be” in the summer.

Having a winning team helps, but a lot of people are simply there for the party. It will just cost a little more next year.

Mad as hell?

Howard Beale has nothing on the patrons at George’s Bar in Claymont.

You might remember Beale, as played by the late Peter Finch, as the mad newscaster in the movie “Network,” who urged fed-up citizens to go to the window and proclaim, “I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!”

The good folks at George’s didn’t have to go the window. They were just sitting at the bar.

When a Chester man and a couple of accomplices invaded their peaceful watering hole in the Darley Road Shopping Center, they must have figured they’d had enough.

Police say an armed Darin Shelton was working his way down the bar, taking money off customers, when he allegedly started accosting the bartender. At that point the customers decided to draw their own little line in the sand.

In the ensuing scuffle, Shelton apparently was whacked with a pool cue. Police say his two accomplices, who had chased a customer outside, fled when they saw the commotion inside.

The bar patrons held Shelton down until police arrived. The other two were picked up later when their car was stopped on I-95.

All three are now being held.

I don’t know if they were made as hell or not, but clearly the patrons at George’s decided they were not going to take it anymore.

Good for them.

That's the (more expensive) ticket!

We’ve had our dance (actually it was a parade), now it’s time to pay the band.

We’re about to learn the downside of winning a World Series title.

Yep, tickets at Citizens Bank Park for next season are going up.

You’re shocked, I know.

The hikes will affect both season-ticket packages as well as individual tickets, although they are not across the board. The hikes range from $2 to $10 per seat.

The cheapest seats to see the new world champions will remain $16. Same goes for standing-room ducats, which will continue to set you back just $13.

The most expensive, in sections 115 to 132 in the lower bowl along the first and third base lines and behind home plate, go up 10 bucks, from $50 to $60.

Most other sections are going up $2. But $32 and $22 seats will remain unchanged.

The Phils set an attendance record last year en route to their historic World Series win. But Citizens Bank Park has become more than just a place to watch a ball game. It’s become a hot spot, sort of “the place to be” in the summer.

Having a winning team helps, but a lot of people are simply there for the party. It will just cost a little more next year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The melting pot

A new report out yesterday reinforces the belief that America, in particular the Philadelphia region, remains a destination point for those looking to make a new start in America.

According to a Brookings Institution report based on U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the foreign population in Delaware County in 2006 was 42,847. That’s an increase of 59 percent from 1970, when there were just 26,923. The numbers jumped by more than 6,000 just since 2000, when 36,635 foreign-born residents were listed in the county.

Ironically, among those seeking a new life in Delaware County was Hoa Pham. He left behind the turmoil in his native South Vietnam, including his honorable service in the South Vietnamese Army when he fought beside American troops, and seven years as a POW in North Vietnam, to start over in America.

He landed in Upper Darby 17 years ago, where he eventually relocated his family.

Pham’s version of the American Dream ended nightmarishly Monday night, when an unknown intruder invaded his home, beat, tortured and terrorized him and his wife, and then left him to die.

A manhunt is now on for his killer. A $5,000 reward has been posted for information in the case.

Maybe as much as anyplace in the county, Upper Darby increasingly is becoming a melting pot of diversity.

Pham was part of a vibrant Vietnamese community and active in St. Alice’s Church, directly across the street from his home.

Members of the Vietnamese community, along with family and friends, will gather there Saturday morning to bury Pham.

But they will not bury the dream that Pham sought out in Upper Darby.

No matter how heinous the individual responsible for this horrific crime, people will continue to come here seeking a new start, a new life, a new opportunity.

Pham’s legacy is that all people are welcome here, and all things are possible.

A cloud of mourning today shrouds the diverse neighborhood where Pham lived.

But what he embodied, and the reasons he came here, remain as vibrant as ever.

Daily dose of grim economic news

You know the economy is going bad when casinos are losing money. Times are tough everywhere, and that includes Atlantic City.

Last week the Borgata announced it was laying off 400 people. Just about all of the shore casinos are reporting earnings are off. They’re blaming increased competition from Pennsylvania’s new slots as well as the unpopular smoking ban.

Every day we get hit with more bad news on the economic front. Yesterday two more mainstays reported things are not good. Electronics giant Best Buy reported lousy sales. That follows the move by Circuit City to declare bankruptcy. Sales were even worse at department store giant Macy’s.

But now you know things are bad. QVC is laying off people. The television sales giant located in West Chester announced it would ax 160 workers at their West Chester headquarters and operations center. It’s part of a move that eventually will see the TV retailer shed 900 jobs. Its West Chester sales center will be shuttered.

That’s a huge hit for the region’s economy. QVC started in West Chester. Its operation is actually a popular tourist destination, with people who visit the area wanting to see in person the joint they spend so much time checking out on the tube.

Guess there just isn’t much of a market for Diamonique when things are this tough.

This has all the makings of one grim holiday shopping season.

Race-ing Barack to the Future

Much was said about how far the nation has come in terms of race relations in the wake of the election of our first African-American president.

It’s pretty clear we still have a ways to go. I have received a series of phone calls disputing the emphasis on Obama as being African-American. Most trot out the argument that all of us are a mix of ethnicity, but that first and foremost we’re Americans. I don’t dispute that. I also don’t dispute just how historic Obama’s election is.

There’s something else I don’t dispute. There is no shortage of knuckleheads who simply can’t come to grips with Obama’s victory. They lash out in the same tired, old ways.

Three college campuses are now investigating racial incidents in the wake of Obama’s election.

At La Salle, a white student is alleged to have used a racial slur about Obama as a way to insult a group of black students. A brawl just off the La Salle campus in which a group of white male students is believed to have attacked a group of black students, as well as chanting racial slurs and criticizing the Obama victory, is also being scrutinized.

Saint Joseph’s is looking into a drawing of a stick figure in a noose found in a classroom and residence hall.

And at Lehigh University in Allentown, a campus meeting was held to address racial epithets and fliers that popped up on the campus.

We’ve been dealing with race issues since the Civil War. The election of Obama was a watershed moment for race relations in this country. But don’t kid yourself. It is not going to resolve the simmering racial tensions that exist in this country.

Not by a long shot.

Hey, kids: We've got the goods on Robert Pattinson

OK, I get it. I’m old. But can someone please tell who Robert Pattinson is? And why would anyone stand in line outside in the cold all night to see him?

Turns out Pattinson is the latest ‘tween heartthrob. He played Cedric in the “Harry Potter” flicks. He is going to star in the much-anticipated new movie “Twilight,” which opens Nov. 21.

Pattinson will play Edward Cullen, who happens to be a vampire.

The movie stems from the best-selling series of “Twilight” books from author Stephenie Meyer. They’ve only sold something like 17 million copies.

“Twilight” is the latest teen phenomenon. Yes, Cullen is a vampire. But he also goes to school, plays sports and drives cool cars.

Now back to the mall. Young girls started lining up last night to the chance to see the man of their dreams. There were 500 of them in line when police finally cut off the line. And Pattinson isn’t even going to get to the Hot Topic store at the King of Prussia Plaza until 6 p.m.

This morning the store will be selling “Twilight” T-shirts for $30 a pop. When you buy a T-shirt, you get a wristband, which will allow you to meet the star of the movie.

But if you were unable either to get in line at midnight or can’t afford to spend $30 for a T-shirt, never fear, kids. Your local newspaper is coming to the rescue.

You can get your very own Pattinson keepsake in your Delaware County Sunday Times this weekend.

A special full-page color print poster of Pattinson and a special preview of the much-anticipated flick will be featured in this Sunday’s edition of USA Weekend magazine, which will be included in our Sunday newspaper.

You’ll also get an exclusive interview with the author of the vampire saga and movie, Stephenie Meyer. The movie opens Nov. 21. The book about the dashing teen vampire has sold nearly 17 million copies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An unspeakable horror

Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood has seen just about everything in a lifetime of fighting crime.

But he still wasn’t prepared for what officers found inside a home on Copley Street Monday night.

Chitwood described the brutality as “savage” and the crime scene as a “house of horrors.”

Cops don’t often think of themselves as having much in common with us ink-stained wretches in the media. But the truth is we find ourselves at many of the same scenes. They investigate crime; we report on it.

After a while, we both have a tendency to build up a fairly thick skin. It’s a bit of a defense mechanism.

But some times you just have to shake your head.

That’s about the only thing I can do when I contemplate the horror that unfolded Monday night inside the neat, quiet home on a residential street in Upper Darby.

Hoa Pham and his wife were getting ready for bed when their little piece of the American dream was turned into a nightmare. A heartless intruder disturbed their tranquility. He broke a front window, then confronted the couple in their upstairs bedroom.

What happened over the next few hours is unspeakable. They couple was savagely beaten again and again. The man wanted money. He got some. He wanted more. The couple didn’t have anything left to give.

Pham ended up giving his life. He died of injuries suffered in the ordeal. His wife was brutally assaulted.

A neighborhood, and in fact an entire community, is now reeling. The close-knit Vietnamese community is rallying around the family, and the church. Pham was a leader in the Vietnamese Catholic community and active in St. Alice’s Church, which ironically is located right next door.

Last night family members gathered there for a memorial. They will do so again tonight, and for the next several nights.

Chitwood has assigned 10 detectives to solving the case. Police have posted a $5,000 reward for information in the case. Anyone who believes they may have seen or heard anything Monday night is urged to call police at 610-734-7677.

Chitwood is confident police will find this savage killer. Restoring the void created by Pham’s death, and the feeling of unease that has settled over a community, will take a little longer.

Never forget

Lest we forget, yesterday was not just another holiday.

That’s why it was so good to see the turnout along State Street in Media.

Young, old, men, women, black, white and just about every other ethnicity gathered as Americans.

They were there to salute those who don a uniform in service to their country.

Media Mayor Bob McMahon noted that the crowds were bigger this year, as was the parade. There were more participants, more bands, and more people lining the street.

Last week record numbers took part in one of the basic tenets of our democracy. They went to their polling place and cast their ballots.

On Tuesday a lot of people took the time to honor those who protect that sacred rite.

We’d like to add our salute.

Never forget.

A snub for Phils, Lidge

There’s no sense denying it any more. We can’t celebrate the Phillies forever. And the winter sports scene in these parts is less than appealing.

The Eagles continue to lose close games. The Flyers are looking like they’re going nowhere fast, and the Sixers are in the process of throwing cold water all over everyone’s high hopes for them with a horrendous start.

So let’s talk some more about the Phillies instead.

They announced the winner of the National League Cy Young Award yesterday. It went to Tim Lincecum, the ace of the San Francisco Giants.

Guess you could argue that, but Lincecum did have a great year.

So where do you think Lidge came in? After all, all he did was achieve perfection, going 48-for-48 in save opportunities through the regular season and playoffs in leading the Phils to their first World Series championship in 28 years.

Incredibly, Lidge finished a distant fourth in the voting. Maybe even more astounding, he did not receive a single first-place vote.

What else does the guy have to do? How many big games did Lincecum appear in for a lousy Giants team.

One thing to remember is that baseball’s post-season awards, including the Cy Young, are voted on solely on the regular season performance. The votes are cast and tabulated before the playoffs.

Doesn’t seem quite right.

Maybe things will get better today, when the National League Manager of the Year is named.

We’re pulling for Charlie Manuel. If he doesn’t get any first-place votes, they need to hold an investigation.

A bad forecast

Mark down the date: Nov. 12.

This morning I heard the single word most likely to instill fear in our hearts. No, not third-and-one. Besides, that’s three words separated by hyphens.


They’re in the forecast for next week. Or so I am told my the friendly folks on TV.

Why is it they seem so happy about the possibility of snow.

Let me say this one more time. I hate winter. I hate snow. I hate it a little more each year.

Bring back summer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An early holiday gift for the county

Last week Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled a brutal economic reality. After painting the town red with the Phillies, the city now was drowning in red ink.
Philadelphia faced a $1 billion budget deficit. To stop the flow of red ink, Nutter took out his ax and started chopping. City workers are being laid off; services are being reduced; libraries are closing and hours reduced. It was a cold, economic slap in the face.
This week it’s Delaware County’s turn. They are unveiling a budget for next year. Guess what? They aren’t raising taxes.
The county will spend less next year, as much as $13 million less under the $303 million budget. But county taxes will remain the same, based on a millage rate of 4.825, despite rising costs tied to the court system and criminal justice.
Last year taxes went up, about $49 for the average taxpayer.
County Executive Director Marianne Grace said the county has managed to avoid a tax hike – even as the economy appears to be in a full-blown meltdown – by carefully monitoring expenses and debt refunding.
I’m not sure how they did it, but it certainly comes as an early Christmas gift to most in the county who are facing some very tough economic times.
Well done!

The case against the Eagles

Here’s pretty much all you need to know about the Eagles:
They don’t run the ball. And they don’t stop the run.
Case closed.
Andy Reid had made it abundantly clear that he likes to throw the ball. Too often that is to the detriment of a running game. The team’s best weapon is Brian Westbrook. Yet they insist on starting every game throwing the ball, even though quarterback Donovan McNabb is beginning to show a disturbing trend toward being erratic at the start of games.
Then the coach wonders why the team consistently has trouble in short-yardage situations. Yep, they failed again with the game on the line Sunday night against the Giants. Fourth-and-1? Not this team. Westbrook was hit in the backfield and came up short.
Running the ball is as much an attitude as it is execution. Just ask the Giants. Or the Redskins. Those are two teams that actually believe in a rushing offense. And they ran it right down the throats of the Eagles’ defense. Both teams racked up 200 yards on the ground against the Birds’ so-called vaunted defense.
The Eagles now sit a thoroughly mediocre 5-4. Are the playoffs out of the question? No. I learned my lesson with the Phillies. As Yogi Berra once said: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
But this team is in trouble. Big trouble. And it starts at the top. Andy Reid’s team too often does not run the ball. And has trouble with teams that do.
Tough to win big games in the NFL with that albatross hanging around your team’s neck.

The Daily Numbers - November 11

The Daily Numbers: 30 rounds, how much ammo police say they found in an AK-47 rifle seized during a raid of an Upper Darby house where police say they found a pot-growing operation as well as police and Nazi uniforms.
10 years in jail, what a Ridley man could face for killing his estranged wife’s pet dog by plunging a sword into its chest.
2 more months before motions will be heard in the case against a Drexel Hill woman in the death of her newborn, which was found in a duffel bag in the trunk of her mother’s car.
303 million dollar budget being considered by Delaware County Council.
13,143,000 dollars less than this year’s county spending plan.
0 percent tax hike in the budget, with the millage rate remaining at 4.825.
7,000 dollars in damage to a Philadelphia fire truck that became the focus of a crowd in the rowdy celebration and vandalism that broke out after the Phillies won the World Series.
28, age of Upper Darby volunteer firefighter who has been charged in the vandalism to the vehicle.
10 percent plunge in revenue for Atlantic City casinos in October. And they say that is actually better than they expected.
2 years, how long the South Street Bridge will be closed for a rebuilding project. Price tag? $67 million.
6 people killed in fiery crash Monday afternoon in Frederica, Del.
2 bucks, what it might cost to use a parking meter in Philadelphia under a plan being proposed by Mayor Michael Nutter.
2 brothers convicted of third-degree murder for their part in the beating death of a Kutztown University student in September 2007.
2 new stores being opened in South Jersey by Sports Authority. Guess they’re going to be selling more Phillies gear.
1 million dollars, that’s the price tag the city is picking up for the Phabulous Phillies parade.
1 year deal for Phillies reliever Scott Eyre. He’ll make $2 million. Doesn’t every ballplayer these days?
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
The glow of the Phillies season is now over. And we’re stuck with Andy Reid and the Eagles. How many days until pitchers and catchers report?

I Don’t Get It: Isn’t the last person you think would be involved in vandalism to a fire truck a volunteeer firefighter? I don’t get it.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to all those athletes who took part in the Special Olympics over the weekend. They show us what true athletic competition is all about.

Quote Box: “I guess you would have to put them in the realm of some of the world’s dumbest criminals.”
-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, after they were called to a township home on a report of a burglary, only to find inside a cache of weapons, pot and police uniforms.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The baby in the trunk

Not a week goes by that I do not receive a phone call, e-mail or voice-mail asking me about the status of the case involving the baby in the trunk.

Back on Jan. 22, 2007, almost two years ago, police discovered a newborn in a duffel bag in the trunk of a car parked in the driveway of a home in Drexel Hill.

Eventually, Mia Sardella was charged in the case. Initially the teen was charged with first-degree murder. Those charges were later reduced to third-degree murder and abuse of corpse.

The delay between the discovery of the baby and the charges being filed led many to believe Sardella was being given special treatment because of her family’s status and connections. Some people go so far as to say the newspaper is not covering the case because we’re somehow intimidated by the family.

On the other hand, every time an item appears in the paper about the case, I get a phone call from a supporter saying we don’t know the full story of what happened.

I don’t pretend to know what happened in this case. I also reject any belief that we are somehow covering up what happened, or being unfair to the family.

We are reporting what has transpired in the case.

But some of the mystery involving what actually happened in this case should start to dissolve today when Sardella goes on trial in Media.

Her trial is expected to begin before Judge Patricia Jenkins.

I am guessing that no matter what happens in this tragedy, I am not going to change the opinion of participants on both sides.

A gag order issued in the case has meant very little new information, except what has transpired in court, has been revealed. Neither police, nor the prosecutors, nor the defense and Sardella family, have been allowed to comment.

That will change today in a Media courtroom.

Not ready for prime time

We can now officially put away the glow we’ve been reveling in since the Phils’ magical run to a World Series title.

The Eagles played a very important prime-time game against their arch-rival and NFC East neighbor the Giants last night. It was not pretty.

Spare me all the complaints about Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid.

Yes, it looked like Donovan was winded and was on the verge of a repeat of his Super Bowl on-field regurgitation.

And yes, the Eagles continue to be unable to convert in short-yardage situations. Last night it was a fourth-and-one with the game in the balance under a minute left in the fourth quarter. Gee, what a surprise. The Eagles don’t run all game, start off the game by ignoring their best weapon, Brian Westbrook, then expect to be able to convert at crunch time. This team is not built for short yardage. Hell, Reid did not even think it important enough to have a legitimate fullback on his squad.

And Coach Andy certainly seems to be puzzled as to when to offer a challenge. He did it twice last night and came up snake-eyes, costing his team two very important time outs. Contrast that with Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who correctly challenged a call against his QB Eli Manning when it seemed certain that he had gone past the line of scrimmage before completing a key pass.

None of the above is what bothered me most about last night’s game. Here’s what is stuck in my craw: The Eagles defense is a fraud.

Did they stop anyone last night? They built some stats against lousy teams and those who do not attempt to run the ball. But when a team decides to attack them head-on (can you say the Redskins’ Clinton Portis?) they get blow out.

Last night it was the Giants running the ball down the Eagles’ throats.

That’s the way you win in the NFC East. Always has been, always will be. When it comes to smash-mouth football, the Eagles have become the smash-ee.

They simply got physically dominated at the line of scrimmage.

Now they find themselves in a serious hole. Winning the NFC East seems like a reach. At this point, just winning a Wild Card spot would seem to be a tall order for this squad.

One other thing we can count on. How long at Reid’s post-mortem today before he trots out the fact that this is his responsibility and he has to put players in a better position to make plays.

Try starting with finding a real fullback so that when you pin you ears back on fourth-and-one, you have a chance of actually getting it.

Santa works a little OT

You could pretty much see this one coming. Business is down just about everywhere. People are pulling back on their purchases. Stores are increasingly concerned about the holidays and what is shaping up to be a bleak holiday shopping season.

They are looking to ways to create some interest and get people in the holiday mood.

So we have radio stations playing Christmas carols 24 hours a day before we had a chance to take down the Halloween displays. Even the local all-news radio station is piping Chrismtas music through its Web site.

Malls are increasingly fearful of a distinct lack of shoppers. They need to get people into the malls, and into the mood, then into the stores, then reaching into their wallets.

And who better to turn to than jolly old St. Nick. That’s right. It used to be the guy with the red outfit and white beard was a staple of the Thanksgiving holiday, arriving – often in a parade – to officially usher in the holiday shopping season.

But with all the bad news, store can no longer afford to wait for Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, not with many experts saying we could be facing the worst holiday shopping season in 17 years.

That’s why the store decorations have been up for weeks. That’s why Santa arrived in several stores this weekend.

It’s time to give the heave-ho, ho, ho to the Thanksgiving tradition. Remember the magic of Santa arriving in the Turkey Day parade?

Now the guy is working overtime. Hey, if it recharges the economic doldrums we’re swimming in, maybe it’s worth it.

But it no doubt will draw a tear from traditionalists who see it as one more long-held practice going by the boards.


Speaking of things you saw coming, tell me if you saw this one coming.

The group representing Pennsylvania taverns says the new smoking ban is having a definite effect on its members.

It’s pretty simple. The bars that qualified for an exception and thus were able to continue to allow patrons to light up are seeing an increase in business. Those that are now smoke-free have seen business fall off. And that is now translating into layoffs.

State officials indicate that there have been 3,200 exemptions requested. Of those, more than 1,700 have been granted.

None of which will help the joints where business is off. Talk about smoke getting in your eyes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Anybody remember the Eagles?

While we've been painting the town red with the Phillies historic run to a World Series title, the Birds have been green with envy.

Now they have a chance to regain the spotlight in a prime-time Sunday matchup with their arch-rival, the New York Giants.

This is a statement game for the Eagles. Win this one and you have to include them in talk about Super Bowl contenders. Lose and they simply are another middle-of-the-pack team in the mediocre world of NFL parity.

I'd love to say I'm confident of an Eagles win. I'm not. This team is maddening in its inconsistency.

I remain unconvinced that a team that consistently fails to convert on third-and-one is a legitimate Super Bowl team.

There's one other matter that does not bode well for the Birds tomorrow night. They talk about their prowess in stopping the run, but most of that came at the expense of lousy teams or teams that simply did not run the ball.

The one team that came right at them, the Redskins, jammed the ball right down their throat to the tune of more than 200 yards on the ground and a career day for Clinton Portis. The Giants are bigger and better, with massive running back Brandon Jacobs posing a huge hurdle for the Birds. I'll believe it when I see it.

My record sits at 4-4 as I look to climb above the .500 mark.

Make it Giants 23, Eagles 16.

How many days 'til pitchers and catchers report?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Race-ing away from the polls

The first phone call I got Wednesday morning was from a reader who wanted to challenge the assertion we made on Page One.

I was a bit puzzled. Wednesday’s front page was dominated by a picture of Barack Obama and a single word: History.

That’s not what was causing him problems. He questioned the subhed, which declared “Obama elected nation’s first African-American president.”

“It’s misleading and false advertising,” he proclaimed.

The man, who seemed completely rational, calmly explained to me his belief that Obama was simply American, born in Hawaii.

I offered to him that Obama was of mixed race, with a black Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas. Still, I stressed, there is no real doubt that he is in fact African-American.

He wasn’t buying. He made it clear he doesn’t like this emphasis on African-American.’

“He’s American,” the man said. “My background is Scottish, but I don’t refer to myself as Scottish-American.”

I told him it wouldn’t bother me a bit if he did, that I often refer to myself as Irish-American.

Furthermore I offered to him that this was an event similar to John F. Kennedy being elected the nation’s first Roman Catholic president.

This didn’t sit real well with him.

I explained that I grew up in a house that revered Kennedy, and we celebrated when he beat Richard Nixon in the White House. I told him that we long believed a Roman Catholic would never be elected president.

Fifty-eight years later, we faced a similar choice in electing the nation’s first black commander-in-chief.

I don’t think I convinced him.

The second call I got was even more troubling.

A man said he was driving first thing Wednesday morning when he saw what appeared to him to be a lawn sign of Obama with what looked like a red target on it.

He was upset. I don’t blame him.

The election of the nation’s first African-American president says much about us as a nation. It reaffirms the United States as the land of opportunity, where every child, regardless of their skin color, background or religious persuasion, can aspire to be president.

It also marks a seminal moment in this country’s troubled race relations. We’ve come a long way.

Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go.

Change you can count on

Barack Obama campaigned relentlessly on a single notion: Change. In fact, he called it “Change you can count on.”

In his first action yesterday, it was revealed Obama is looking at Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff.

Emanuel is a fierce political partisan and friend of Obama’s who also served in the Clinton Administration.

Yeah, you could pretty much count on that.

Painting the town red

It was just a few days ago that a couple million people descended on the city to celebrate the Phillies World Series championship.

The region was on Cloud 9. We painted the town red.

Today Mayor Michael Nutter will again paint the town red. Only this time he’ll be using red ink.

After a giddy month of heart-pumping excitement supplied by the Phillies, the mood will turn decidedly more somber today.

The economic meltdown will arrive in Philadelphia. With a thud. Nutter is expected to announce a series of budgets cuts as the city faces its most serious fiscal crisis since then-Mayor Ed Rendell threatened to declare bankruptcy.

It’s not going to be pretty. Nutter, looking to close a $1 billion deficit gap, is expected to swing the ax on city jobs and services. How bad will it be? The city will close the book on as many as 11 of its 54 library branches; dozens of city pools will be shut down; side streets will not be plowed unless we get a snow storm of at least a foot. There will be layoffs, cuts at firehouses, hours and programs at rec centers will be reduced, collection of bulk trash items will be curtailed, and the expected cuts in some taxes will have to be delayed.

The city is not alone. Towns and school districts across the region are looking at some fairly bleak budget numbers, as is the state.

Nutter is expected to announce his planned cuts during a noon press conference. We’ll keep you posted, and also make checks around the county to see how officials here are dealing with the economic tailspin.

Welcome back to the football season

The football season starts on Sunday.

Remember those guys in the green uniforms? No, not the Phillie Phanatic. I know we’re all still glowing in the aftermath of the Phightin’s winning a World Series championship, but it’s time to snap back to reality.

In November, that means football. And the Eagles. Remember them?

For the first half of the season, the Birds have flown pretty much under the radar, in the background while the Phillies made their heart-stopping march to a title.

That’s over. The Eagles are back on the Back Page. And they face a huge test Sunday night. You might even call it a “Giant” test.

Yes, the New York Giants are in town for a prime-time affair at the Linc.

On the surface, the Eagles have done all the right things when it comes to the Phils. They took out a full-page ad in the city papers to offer their congratulations. They allowed the use of Lincoln Financial Field to host part of the celebration. But I think it still galls Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner that the Phils are the toast of the town, that it was those guys across the street in pinstripes who broke the city’s 25-year title drought.

It’s not that the Eagles didn’t have their chances. They got to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Andy Reid and his brain trust decided to run an 8-minute 2-minute drill in the fourth quarter and they came up short against the Pats.

The Eagles should probably get down on their knees and offer hosannas that the Phillies have for the most part kept the scrutiny off them.

They’re 5-3 at the midpoint, and trail both the Giants and Redskins in the NFC East. In other words, they’re right in the thick of it. But the truth is they’ve played pretty mediocre football, and literally gave away a couple of games.

They could conceivably be 7-1, and everyone from Reid to Banner to Donovan McNabb would tell you just that. I prefer to look at it the way former Giants’ coach Bill Parcells always did. “You are what your record says you are,” Parcells famously said.

In other words, the Birds are middle of the road. They still can’t convert a third-and-1 to save their behinds, and they struggle in the red zone. Yes, they won easily against the Seahawks Sunday. But they also got nothing but field goals from David Akers in the second half. That won’t cut it against the Giants.

The second half of the season starts Sunday night. For the Eagles, it might as well be their opener.

We’ve already painted the town red. Now it’s time for Gang Green. Let’s just hope the Giants don’t leave us all feeling blue.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A historic day

There is really only one word to describe what happened to us as a nation on Tuesday.
And it’s plastered all over the front page of our print edition today.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of electing Barack Obama as the country’s first African-American president.
Up until Tuesday we all too often talked a good game when it comes to race relations, but failed to put it into action.
We liked to consider ourselves an inclusive, colorblind society. But the truth told us something different.
Having said that, simply voting for Obama because of the color of his skin would have been equally as backward as voting against him for the wrong reason.
Obama presented a compelling case for change in America. On Tuesday voters delivered that change.
The move did not come without doubts, and without challengers.
Even some elected officials, from Gov. Ed Rendell to U.S. Rep. John Murtha, voiced doubts as to whether we were ready to cast our votes for a black man for president.
Those beliefs were shattered Tuesday. In towns, big and small all across this region and country.
In Chester. And in Radnor. In Darby Borough. And in Thornbury Township.
Delaware County backed the Democrat in his historic bid for the White House. So did Pennsylvania, becoming the first of the crucial swing states to break for Obama early in the night.
Undoubtedly, the hard work for the president-elect is just starting. The country faces huge issues, from a faltering economy teetering on the brink of a recession, the inability of many of its citizens to get access to basic health care, the soaring cost of education, and the constant threat of terror that lurks in the background.
But we would be remiss if we did not take a moment to savor what happened on Tuesday.
This is not the same country it was on Monday.
Change has come to America.
History, indeed.

An early tip on Obama

I still remember the first person who told me Barack Obama was going to be president. It may surprise you.
It was shortly after Obama announced his candidacy, then stunned everyone by winning the Iowa Caucus.
Suddenly, this little-known junior senator from Illinois who had a moment in the spotlight with a speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004, was on the map.
He also captured the attention of someone here in Delaware County.
Charlie Sexton knows a little something about politics, and how to win campaigns.
So when he told me how much he was impressed with Obama, and that he had never seen anyone have that kind of effect on voters, I listened.
Turns out Charlie, as usual, was right on the money.

Pileggi survives the Obama wave

A very interesting dichotomy played out in one of the key races in the county on Tuesday.
Barack Obama rolled to a big win, and along the way he was backed by the Philadelphia suburbs. Delaware County went for the Democrat. That’s now five straight presidential races the county has gone blue.
Not surprisingly, the city of Chester also went big time for the Democrat.
State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, swamped his Republican foe, Parkside borough council president Tom Deitman.
So some people wondered what this would portend for state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9. The powerful leader of Senate Republicans faced a challenge from Chester activist and longtime educator John Linder.
The 9th District, for so long the home turf of the legendary Clarence Bell, is odd in itself. It stretches from Chester west across the exploding communities of the western edges of Delaware County, then spills across county lines into Chester County, rolling across the southern Chester County farmland before ending at the Lancaster County line.
Could Pileggi be in trouble if Chester residents, fueled by the Obama candidacy, simply went into the polling place and pulled the ‘D’ lever for a straight party ticket? And would that be enough to overtake his advantage in the rest of the district?
Didn’t happen.
Pileggi beat Linder by 11,000 votes, racking up 44,409 votes to Linder’s 33,750, according to unofficial tallies.
Pileggi lost in the city of Chester, but was buoyed by voters in other parts of Chester and Delaware counties.
Last night even Pileggi admitted it was tough sledding in what was a “hostile environment” for incumbent Republicans.
In the city, where Pileggi served as mayor before filling the seat created by the death of Bell, it was Linder on top, 9,547 to 4,662.
Pileggi pointed out that even though he did not carry the city, it’s clear a lot of residents split their tickets. He managed to win more votes in the city than Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Pileggi now will turn his sights on the serious problems facing the state, including a massive budget deficit that will have an effect on every other issue in the state.

Signs of the times

The presidential campaign started almost two years ago.
About the same time it likely will take for all those political signs to disappear from yards and intersections all over the county.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Live-blogging the election


It's over. Except for one small thing - the results. Yep, that's fairly important.

Me? I'm off to vote. How long do you think I will have to wait in line. I am guessing at least an hour.

I'll try to check back later when the results start coming in.

It's been a great day, a historic day.

Now let's start counting all those votes.


There's a huge turnout in Yeadon. There are 550 voters eligible to cast ballots in the 2nd precinct. Just after 4 p.m., 401 voters had already visited the polling place to make their votes count.

One of the things that caused tempers to rise a bit in several polling places is the tradition of having separate lines depending on the first letter of your last name.
In some places that meant the line for those with names starting with A-L got a lot more traffic than the one for M-Z.
At one polling place, voices were raised by those who were waiting in a fairly lengthy A-L line when new arrivals walked right up to the voting booths in the less-crowded M-Z lines.
Similar confrontations were reported in a couple of Chester County towns.
Can’t say as that I blame them.
Apparently cooler heads prevailed. There were no fisticuffs. At least none that were reported to us.


Here's an afternoon update on election day problems from the watchdog group the Committee of Seventy, including a bizarre complaint of snakes at a polling place in Brookhaven:

A little more than half-way through the day, there seems to be high

turnout and a modest number of complaints across the region. We hope the

positive results, so far, are a result of the strong signals regarding

Election Day behavior that were sent by Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter,

D.A. Lynne Abraham and the massive non-partisan field force of close to

1,000 Committee of Seventy volunteers.

We continue to look into several incidents, including minority polling

officials being ousted by Democratic Judges of Elections in

Philadelphia. We are also watching the now-36 City divisions (compared

with 16 for the primary) with over the permitted 1,200 voters.

Here are some other matters that merited attention:

* We received calls from several hospitals asking about voting

procedures for patients who did not anticipate a hospital stay,

including one new mother from Emmaus, PA who was "desperate to vote." A

voter who becomes physically disabled or ill between 5 p.m. on Friday,

October 31st and 8 p.m. today is entitled to vote by emergency absentee

ballot. The voter must complete an emergency ballot application and

deliver it to the Court of Common Pleas in his or her county no later

than 8 p.m. today in order to receive a ballot. Since personal delivery

is not possible for hospitalized patients, the patient/voter can

designate, in writing, a representative to deliver the emergency ballot

to him or her and return the completed ballot to the county Board of

Elections. If this isn't possible, a judge can direct a county deputy

sheriff to deliver an emergency absentee ballot. Please advise anyone in

this situation to go to to

download the necessary forms. Voters who are uncertain about what to do

should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

* We are still receiving isolated calls about machine breakdowns

in Philadelphia, including both machines at 52nd and Chestnut Streets.

However, these reports have slowed down considerably since this morning.

Our volunteers are reporting that some committeepeople are nervous about

running out of emergency paper ballots during the evening crunch should

half of the machines break down. As in the April primary, the City

Commissioners are saying that these fears are unfounded.

* At 11:30 a.m., Seventy's volunteers followed up on a call that

the Judge of Elections in the 5th Ward (225 N. 10th Street) was

(improperly) requesting current drivers' licenses with addresses from

all voters. They found this report to be true, and also found that the

line was being separated by last name as in many other divisions.

However, this "line separation" was not explained to the many

Chinese-speaking voters waiting in line. Our volunteers found that many

voters were confused about why they were being pulled out of line and

left the polling place. Seventy reported both of these problems to the

City's Law Department.

* Voters are facing a fair number of registration issues,

including names not appearing in the poll book. In Philadelphia's 58th

ward, 40th division, the book was missing all last names from "Aa" to

Aj." There is also some confusion about voter identification,

specifically whether or not a voter needs identification to cast a

provisional ballot. The answer to that is "no."

* Some voters are confused about straight party voting. A

Philadelphia voter who wants to vote a straight party ticket can hit the

party button at the top of the ballot and then the "vote" button. A

voter wants to split his or her ticket should vote individually for

their favored candidates and then hit the "vote" button.

* Be glad that you don't vote in Brookhaven, Delaware County.

There were snakes reported at the polling place at the Athletic

Association (Powell and Albert Roads), along with broken lights. There also was a collapsed ceiling at a polling place in Chester Township. A voter also reported (although our volunteers did not see

this) that constables were riding up on horses and threatening voters.


It's becoming increasingly clear that one of the major issues of the day is just how many voter machines were polling places supposed to have. If they got the same amount they always did and were simply overwhelmed by the numbers, that's one thing. But if they got fewer machines than they normally got, that's another thing altogether.

One report indicated many senior citizens had to wait in line for 2 hours. They said there for the only voting machine in each of three different polling locations. You'd think there would be more machines available, especially in light of what everyone was expecting to be a huge turnout.


Just how high is the voter turnout in Delaware County? Consider this. By late afternoon it was believed that as much as 65 percent of the vote had already visited the polls in Haverford. Pretty impressive.


Hold the presses! Ed Rendell thinks Barack Obama is going to win the election.

Not exactly earth-shattering news, I know. The governor told reporters he's "optimistic but not overconfident."

Rendell showed up where all serious Philly pols wind up on election day - the Famous Deli - in a huge bus bearing the words "On the Road to Change."

Rendell's not sure he believes Obama will win by the margin many polls are indicating. Instead, the governor predicted Obama will take the state by maybe 5 or 6 points.


Joe Biden did not simply head back to his Greenville estate after casting his vote at Tatnall School in Wilmington this morning. Instead he went right back out on the campaign trail.

The Democratic VP candidate headed for the crucial battleground of Virginia to work the polls and encourage supporters in the Southern swing state.
Biden visited a polling place at a school in a modest Richmond suburb Tuesday morning, shaking hands and hugging voters. He was accompanied by his wife, Jill, and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
Biden signed autographs and posed for photos with enthusiastic voters and their children.
In the school parking lot, Biden had a private conversation with 19-year-old Wayne Phillips, a first-time voter. Phillips suffers from sickle-cell anemia, and poll workers helped him cast his ballot from the back seat of his car.
Biden told Phillips, “Thank you, man.”


Someone forgot to tell John McCain and Barack Obama that their job is now done. Both men went right back out on the campaign trail after casting their votes Tuesday.

Obama, bidding to become the first African-American president, greeted voters in Indiana. McCain held rallies in Colorado and New Mexico.

Whoa, fellas. This one is in the hands of the voters now.


There's been a resolution in a bit of a hissing match over poll watchers in Philly. Here's how AP detailed it:

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office says it has restored Republican election observers who were kicked out of polling places.
Spokeswoman Cathie Abookire said Tuesday that the partisan disputes were compounded by a misunderstanding about the rules that govern certified election observers.
The McCain-Palin campaign complained of intimidation by Democratic election officials who were kicking Republican officials out of polling places.
Abookire said the GOP observers were allowed to go back in after a district attorney’s team arrived.
She said a certified observer can go inside any polling place in Philadelphia and stay, as long as there are no more than two watchers in any polling place.


Delaware County Election Bureau Solicitor Frank Catania confirms that today's turnout appears to be blowing away the levels seen in the 2004 presidential race. Catania added that no major problems have popped up as yet. The county has 427 polling places.

Catania added that the county has issued nearly 4,000 "watcher" certificates to groups – mostly Democrats – who want to monitor polling place activity. That's about double the amount that usually sign up for such duties.

The Associated Press has an interactive national map to keep tabs on the presidential race.
Click here to check it out.


John McCain has cast his ballot in Arizona: Here is how the AP detailed it:

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican John McCain has cast his ballot at a church near his central Phoenix home.
McCain stepped out of a sport-utility vehicle Tuesday morning with wife Cindy as a small crowd cheered “Go, John, go!” and “We love you!” One person carried a sign that read, “Use your brain, vote McCain!”
They walked into the church, cast their ballots and left within minutes, avoiding any lines.
McCain signed a poster and gave the thumbs-up sign before leaving without speaking to reporters.
Earlier, McCain could be seen on the patio of his high-rise condo, pacing with a cell phone and a large cup of coffee.
McCain was heading to a rally in Grand Junction, Colo., and a volunteer site in New Mexico before returning to Phoenix.

This just in. The rain has arrived. A fine drizzle started falling on Delaware County around noon. That means if you have not headed out to the polls as yet, and won’t be able to get there until after work, you better pack an umbrella with you because you might find yourself standing outside in the rain.

The drizzle is expected to give way to more substantial rain this afternoon and into tonight.


Things are certainly jammed at polling places in Aston. A co-worker reports standing in line for 90 minutes at her polling place at the Aston Vo-Tech Center, only to be told she was likely still another 90 minutes from voting. She got there around 11 a.m.

Lines were long at the site from the get-go, with as many as 100 people in line when the polls opened at 7 a.m.


Another co-worker arrived and reported waiting in line for an hour and a half in the Allentown area.


Our friend Rod Powell checks in with a problem voting in Chester. Rod is blind and works at the Delco Blind Sight Center in the city. He reports that when he got to his polling place in the 1st Ward, 1st Precinct, there was a long line and only two machines available. One of them was an accessible machine for the disabled, and one was set for non-handicapped voters. Powell says poll workers at Chestnut Ridge asked him if he would use the accessible machine with an assist from poll workers because of the long lines.

He declined, saying he instead wanted to vote independently. After a discussion, a poll worker checked with Media and learned that Powell was indeed entitled to vote that way if he so desired.

One key issue in the city seems to be the lack of machines at polling places.


Reader Jim Savoia chimes in from Norwood, where voting was a breeze. "My wife and I voted in Norwood at 9:45 am. No wait, no line, only 1 other person was there while we were."

And that's in the heart of one of the hottest, nastiest state legislative races in recent memory, which has pitted Republican Nick Miccarelli and Democrat John DeFrancisco in a battle royal for the 162nd seat being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Ron Raymond.


The civic watchdog group Committee of Seventy reports a 'reasonable' number of election machine breakdowns and other problems scattered around Philadelphia. the biggest complain continues to be long lines and waiting to cast ballots. Some polling places are reporting one-hour waits before voters can get into the booth. Committee of Seventh boss Zach Stalberg said the group has 1,000 volunteers across the region monitoring the vote. Some cranky machines caused problems in some areas of the city, coupled with the idea that poll workers were not aware that they needed to have backup emergency paper ballots on hand for such instances.

Stalberg reports some of the long lines have dissipated, but that he expects they will again build later this afternoon and right up to the 8 p.m. poll close. Again, anyone who is in line at 8 will be allowed to cast a ballot, but you will not be able to get in line after 8 p.m.

Report from Delaware where a huge line winds its way out of the 1st District polling place at the Wilmington Music School. That’s Biden country, and a voter calls it the longest line she’s ever stood in to cast her ballot.


Another problem reported, this time in the city of Chester. Caller reports that he arrived at the polling place around 6:30 a.m. and there already were 100 people in line and the number was growing. Unfortunately when he got inside the polling place in the 2400 block of East 24th Street, there was only one voting machine.


About 60 people were in line at the Rachel Kohl Library to vote early this morning, but the line moved quickly and also thinned out a bit after the early rush. Craig Williams, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, arrived with his family to cast his vote just after 9 a.m.


Joe Biden walks into the polling place at Tatnall High School in Wilmington holding his mother's hand. His wife, Jill, accompanies them.

Hope there weren't people waiting in line. Biden walked right in. He exited and quickly was whisked away without making any comment.

It’s easy to focus on the race for the White House. That would ignore some fairly important races, both here in Delaware County and across the state.
Most of Delaware County will be electing a new congressman, with Republican challenger Craig Williams trying to dump first-time incumbent Democrat Joe Sestak in the 7th District Congressional race.

The county also will be voting on a state senator. Republican Dominic Pileggi will face Democrat John Linder in the 9th District. Two new faces will look to replace Sen. Connie Williams in the 17th District. Democrat State Rep. Daylin Leach is facing off with Republican Lower Merion Councilman Lance Rogers.
We also elect the entire state House, along with statewide row offices, attorney general, auditor general and treasurer.

You can’t say you weren’t warned. No less an authority than Gov. Ed Rendell indicated during a stop at 69th Street Terminal yesterday that voters should be prepared to stand in long lines.
He wasn’t kidding.

Across the state, long lines are being reported this morning.
At First Presbyterian Church in Allentown, 160 people were lined up to vote by the time polls opened at 7 a.m. — the largest early turnout that church officials could remember.

At the other end of the state, about 20 people were lined up at the Dormont Presbyterian Church in suburban Pittsburgh when the polls opened.
In a couple of other congressional races, three longtime Pennsylvania incumbents from blue-collar districts were fighting for re-election.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a 12-term Democrat from northeastern Pennsylvania, faced a GOP rising star in Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who has made a national name in his opposition to illegal immigration.

At the other end of the state, in northwestern Pennsylvania, Rep. Phil English, a seven-term Republican, was challenged by Kathy Dahlkemper, an anti-abortion Democrat and business owner.

Also in western Pennsylvania, powerful House Democrat John Murtha, a 17-term member, was in a tougher-than-expected race after making controversial comments about his constituents.
Murtha described western Pennsylvania as racist, apologized for the remark, then told another interviewer the area had been “really redneck” in years past. He’s challenged by William Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who moved to the district to run against Murtha.

In the state House of Representatives, Republicans were hoping to regain control while Democrats sought to expand the 102-101 majority they won in 2006. The Democratic caucus was so fractured after the last election that it was forced to accept a Republican as House speaker.
Control of the Senate was not in question.

Also on Tuesday’s statewide ballot was a single referendum question seeking voter approval for a $400 million bond issue to help pay for repairs to local water and sewer systems.

A report out of New York City indicated many people began lining up as early as 4 a.m. at some polling places to avoid long lines, leading to erroneous reports that some sites were not opening on time. Unbelievable.

Everyone is waiting for a bus carrying the Biden family to pull up at Tatnall School in Wilmington. There's already a crowd waiting in line to cast their vote. It will be interesting to see if the Democratic vice president waits in line, or if they move him to the front of the line.

There's an image of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama arriving to vote in his home precinct in Chicago.

More Delco sites reporting: 100 people in line at the Lansdowne Fire House at 7:45. That’s interesting because it also has a hot state legislative race where Democratic challenger Kevin Lee, a Lansdowne city councilman, is challenging longtime 163rd District Republican Rep. Nick Micozzie.

An odd anomaly. A candidate is battling steep uphill odds. He is a challenger, facing a fairly well-known incumbent. Name recognition leans heavily in favor of his opponent. And that’s not all. He also faces a daunting challenge in terms of fund-raising. His opponent has a huge war chest adding to his advantage.
Sounds like the classic dilemma of so many Delaware County Democrats. Except for one thing. He’s not a Democrat. That is the uphill battle being waged by Republican Craig Williams, who is facing first-term incumbent Joe Sestak in the 7th District Congressional race.
Who would ever have thought that would happen? Then again, who would have thought Curt Weldon would have been shown the door after 20 years representing the 7th District?
Williams is a good candidate. He’s already indicated he will challenge Sestak again in two years if he’s unsuccessful today. Good for him.
There should be a place among our elected officials for a guy like Craig Williams.
Some interesting numbers to ponder: Experts indicate 6 million people are expected to vote in Pennsylvania a crucial swing state in the presidential election. That is 65 percent of those eligible. If those numbers hold, it would be the second-highest turnout in history, second only to the 1960 presidential race between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

This is not good. Report of a ceiling collapse at a polling place on Adair Road in the Toby Farms section of Chester Township.

Co-worker who voted at Highland Park Elementary School in Upper Darby reports being No. 48 and standing in a line at 7:05.

Another report in from Delco. Out in Havertown, poll workers were greeted by about 40 prospective voters already in line at the Brookline Fire Co.

7:45: Here’s the word for the day: Lines. Very long lines. First report in from Delco is from Holy Sprit Church on Franklin Street in the Secane section of Ridley, where long lines were formed even before the polls opened.

7:20 a.m. Weather is always an issue on election day. Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, if you vote before mid-afternoon, you’ll likely be in better shape than if you vote later.

It should be cloudy but fairly mild through the afternoon. But around 2 to 3 o’clock, we are looking at an increasing chance of showers.

Better pack an umbrella. If you’re voting after work, you might find yourself standing in a lone line waiting to get into a polling place in the rain.
7:00 a.m.: We’re off. The Pennsylvania polls are now open. They will remain open until 8 p.m. Remember that the lines are going to be long, especially first thing, as people try to cast their ballots before heading off to work.

They will build again after dinner tonight.

If you can vote at mid-day, that’s probably your best bet to avoid a long line.

Also, remember if you are voting tonight, so long as you are in line at 8 p.m. you will be able to cast your vote, regardless of how long the line is. However, the line will be halted at 8. Meaning you will not be able to get in the line after 8 p.m.

Vote early, just don’t vote often!


6:45 a.m.: This just in … Barack Obama wins … in Dixville Notch.

I have never quite understood all the hoopla that surrounds the little town in New Hampshire that is traditionally the first to vote just after midnight. But it remains something of an election day tradition.

Actually this year even more of the luster of this vote is diminished because so many states have allowed early voting. Polls indicate Obama also is well ahead among early voters.

In Dixville Notch, Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6.

No, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to bother to cast our ballots.


6:30 a.m.: On your mark, get set … and wait!

The polls are open in New Jersey, and people already are waiting in line.

And in some areas of Pennsylvania, people also are standing in lines, a half hour before the polls are even set to open. One report in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia already indicates there are 100 people waiting in line to cast their ballot.

We will turn over the Heron’s Nest today to keep a running tab on how things are going on this historic election day.

If you have a story you want to share, give us a call at 610-622-8818. Or you can can send us an e-mail at Or you can simply post a comment at the bottom of this blog.

It’s likely going to be a long day. Patience no doubt will be stretched thin. Let’s be careful out there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dropping the 'ph' bomb

Back in 1993, I was the associate editor of this newspaper. In that position you run the night news desk and have primary responsibility for actually putting the newspaper together. That includes our front-page presentation.

Maybe the most important decision we make around here each day is what is going to appear on our front page and how we are going to display it.

That’s in part because we are dependent each day on single-copy sales of the newspaper, literally people who pick it up at the store or from one of our honor boxes.

Back then we had just started to plunge into the pagination process that we use routinely today. Now the entire newspaper is actually made up on computer screens. The old production paste-up process is a thing of the past. In 1993, as we started the pagination process, we were only doing the front and back pages on computers.

As you might recall, that also was the last time the Phillies appeared in a World Series, before this year’s team that won the whole shooting match.

Which brings me to Game 4, Oct. 20, 1993. Maybe you remember it. It was a miserable rainy night at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies scored five runs in the fifth inning to wipe out a Toronto lead. From that point the game went back and forth. The Blue Jays scored six times in the top of the eighth for a wild, wacky, come-from-behind 15-14 win.

I lost track of how many times I redid that front page. At one point, while the Blue Jays were mounting their furious rally, my emotions got the better of me. I designed a page with a single word, starting with the “Ph” that all things Phillies even to this day mimic. Except this word showed the exasperation of one news editor and the idea that the Phillies were throwing a game away in the World Series. The word that appeared on the screen rhymed with duck, albeit with its Ph opening. Obviously, that page never saw the light of day.

I was thinking of that Friday afternoon as we recorded one of the great days in Philadelphia sports history. More than 2 million people crowded the streets of the city to salute our World Series champions. The parade made its way down Broad Street to the stadium complex, first making a stop at Lincoln Financial Field, then ending at the Phillies home, Citizens Bank Park.

Players took turns approaching the microphone. I was half listening to the TV, half working when Chase Utley took center stage. We all know what happened next.

Part of me immediately winced. Then I said to myself, “Did he just say that?” I walked out into the newsroom. Yep, I hadn’t just dreamed it up. Chase Utley had dropped the F-bomb on live TV.

Utley wanted to make a point. He started by declaring, “World Champions.” Then I guess he wanted to add an exclamation point. Her certainly did that, adding a variation of the world’s most commonly used four-letter word between “World” and “Champions.”

At first I thought it was simply a matter of Utley getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. But the more times I heard it over the weekend, the more I got the sense that maybe that wasn’t the case.

Look, I’m no prude. I routinely use precisely that word right here in my office. But I try to reserve that kind of salty dialog for when I’m alone. I’m not proud of the fact that I sometimes fail to check my tongue, but I try to keep it to myself.

Almost as interesting as Utley’s choice of words is the reaction to it. Many people e-mailed the newspaper and our Web site taking us to task for trying to make something out of nothing.

One reader said we were “making a mountain out of a mole hill,” and castigated the media for bashing Utley. I’m not sure I’d call it bashing. It certainly did raise a few eyebrows, however. The reader did not want to hear it

“It’s idiots like you that really make things worse than they really are! After FINALLY (shouldn’t that be PHINALLY?) making it to where they are, winning a championship that no other major Philly sports team has been able to do in over 25 years, THIS is what you’re going to focus on?

“The media is the major cause for all the bad things that happen in this country, because they continually blow things out of proportion.”

He then went on to point out the errors we routinely make. All of which is true.

And none of which will change my mind. Utley was wrong. And what he said is wrong. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that it was an unplanned slip of the tongue. It is not, however, his first trip down this road. He was caught on a microphone using the same word after fans booed him at this year’s All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

The danger I see in all this is as much with the reaction to what Utley said as his verbal meltdown.

People are now willing to accept as part of our daily conversation what was once unthinkable. It contributes to the general coarsening of our society. Go ahead, call me old-fashioned. I plead guilty. Yes, I know kids hear worse on a daily basis.

But you don’t do what Utley did in that setting. Not in front of that many people. Not reaching that many people on TV.

I’m not going to condemn him for it. But I’m not going to excuse it either.

What do you think the reaction would be if that word appeared on the front page of the newspaper? For some reason I do not think the public would be nearly as forgiving.

After the initial shock of hearing it, then dealing with some of the reaction, I wondered how long it would take for someone to think about marketing it. Sure enough, T-shirts showed up online declaring “World Ph-ing Champions.”

Cute, huh?

True confession here. I bought a Phillies T-shirt over the weekend. It was a red one with Phillies emblazoned on the front. On the back? A No. 26 and Utley. He remains my favorite Phillie, in part because he plays the same position I did so many years ago.

I love the Phillies, and Utley. That’s not going to change. Neither is my belief that what he said and much of the reaction to it was simply wrong.

One more day

One more day.

Delaware County, Pennsylvania and the nation head to the polls Tuesday for a historic election.

You’d think maybe a Phillies parade was being held at polling places.

This is going to take some patience. Turnout is expected to set records. Patience likely will be in short supply.

Think of the positive. No more campaign ads.

No more robo-calls in the middle of an Eagles game. I stopped answering the phone Sunday after the fourth call.

There’s a lot at stake.

Make sure you use your basic right as a citizen. Don’t be left on the sidelines.

Oh What a Feeling!

Could you feel it? Everywhere you went this weekend, you could literally feel the vibe.

People were wearing red, and those who weren’t were looking to buy anything with a red Phillies logo on it, in the process probably putting themselves a little farther into the red in these troubled economic times.

They also were doing something else. They were smiling.

I guess that’s what happens when you break a curse, a drought that saw 25 pro sports seasons come and go without winning a championship.

When the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night to win their first World Series championship in 28 years, it snapped a quarter century of losing.

It didn’t take long for years and years of pent-up emotion to spill over into the streets. We partied into the morning on Thursday.

On Friday we showed the world how to throw a parade.

All weekend people bounced along, riding a wave of Phillies eu-ph-oria.

Even the Eagles got into the act. Remember them? They beat the Seahawks, 26-7, setting the stage for a critical NFC East showdown with the Giants next Sunday night.

The baton is passed. It was quite a weekend. Now the real world beckons.

Tomorrow we vote in a historic presidential election. Turnout is supposed to be huge. Expect to stand in line to cast your ballot.

Try to keep that feeling we had all weekend. And maybe most importantly, keep that smile on your face.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Anybody remember the Eagles?

They will emerge from their shadow (actually the shadow the Phillies placed them in) tomorrow, when they appear on the Left Coast for a 4:15 tilt with Seattle.

The Seahawks will be without their starting quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. Somebody named Seneca Wallace will be behidn center for the 'Hawks.

This should be an easy win for the Birds. But they rarely ever do things easily.

Still, they should have enough in the tank to take this one.

I see it Eagles 27, Seattle 17.

Now that we have the Phillies in the rear-view mirror, we can again focus our attention on the Birds. I have a feeling we aren't going to like what we see. I'll be honest. I don't see this team making the playoffs. And coming off the glow of the Phillies World Champinship, that is going to certainly tarnish the so-called "gold standard" of Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner.

Is that the rumblings of change we heart down at NovaCare Nation?

Somehow, even though they allowed the Linc to be used as part of the celebration, there's a part of me that sees Lurie and Banner just seething at the adulation being heaped on the Phillies. They're used to be kings of the hill. That torch has passed, fellas.

That's what happens when you actually win something.

The Birds record is 4-3, while mine as prognosticator is an equally middling 3-4. Doesn't sound like either one of us is headed for post-season glory.