Friday, January 30, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 30

The Daily Numbers: 26 vehicle break-ins reported in Aston Township since Jan. 23.
50 car break-ins in nearby Thornbury now believed to be the work of 3 Wilmington men.
10 percent of $50,000 bail posted for former Haverford High teacher Curtis Key, who is charged with corruption of minors in an alleged sexual affair with a student.
2 times in a month an Upper Darby woman has failed to show up in court in Montgomery County to be sentenced on charges she beat an elderly Alzheimer’s patient.
2 Delco schools that are getting in on the fun today by holding Wing Bowls of their own.
37, age of police officer in Middletown Township, Bucks County, who was struck and killed by a car while writing a ticket on the side of the road. Officer Chris Jones was a 10-year veteran and father of 3.
1,500 people who packed a Barnes & Noble store in Willow Grove for an appearance by comedian Steve Harvey.
3,600 dollars in unpaid bridge tolls for a New Castle, Del., woman who had apparently violated the toll 132 times. Police have now booted her car.
268 million dollars in unspent money in the state budget that Republicans are calling on Gov. Ed Rendell to use to balance the books.
0 dollars, what it will cost to get into the Brandywine River Museum Saturday to see a special exhibit of works by late Chadds Ford icon Andrew Wyeth.
1 million Pennsylvanians who do not have health care coverage, according to a new study.
230,000 dollar settlement between the state and Peoples Benefit Services Inc. of Chester County over claims connected to a discount prescription card.
6,000 positions being cut by AstraZeneca, the drug giant with a HQ in Wilmington. There are 4,500 workers at the Wilmington office. It’s not know how many cuts will hit there.
2.5 billion dollar loss reported by Wells Fargo.
18 billion dollars in bonuses doled out by Wall Street execs last year even as they were seeking federal bailout funds.
400 jobs being cut by Walt Disney Co.’s TV division. Nothing Goofy about that.
45.2 billion dollars in profits reported last year by oil giant Exxon-Mobil.
82 percent dip in earnings for SEI Investments, based in Oaks, Pa.
6 children back at home for the California mom who delivered octuplets. That makes a brood of 14.
12 minutes, how long Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are expected to play at Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
27, age of Havertown native and Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen, who says he will take a break from the sport.
4 Olympic medals and 13 more from World Championships for Hansen.
67, age of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who announced yesterday he is battling a recurrence of melanoma and a tumor on his spine.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Who needs the Super Bowl. We have Wing Bowl. We’ll take our wing-ding any day.
I Don’t Get It: Police say 2 kids in Downingtown, Chester County, are in custody for setting car fires. They say the teens, 15 and 17, wanted “the attention and excitement” surrounding the series of arson fires that is plaguing nearby Coatesville. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Do yourself a favor on Saturday. Head to the Brandywine River Museum and check out the special exhibit featuring the work of the late renowned Chadds Ford artist Andrew Wyeth. On display will be one of his most famous works, “Christina’s World,” on loan from Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here’s the best part. It’s free all day on Saturday.
Quote Box: “He was the core of our family.”
-- Kyle Shephard, talking about his murdered son Jason. William Smithson will be sentenced for the murder today.

A wing and no prayer

There are some things that simply scream Philadelphia.

First and foremost, of course, are the Mummers. Nothing quite says Philly like men in sequins and feathers.

Not everyone is a fan, but no one doubts that the annual strut up Broad Street is one of the city’s icons. Just look at the fallout when the city cut funding for the parade.

New Year’s without Mummers? It would be like a cheesesteak without fried onions.

Today is the Friday before Super Bowl. Which in this area can mean only one thing.

Yes, it’s time for Wing Bowl.

Trying to explain to people outside this region the appeal of obese men wolfing down chicken wings, all the while being cheered on by 20,000 beer-guzzling fans, has its challenges.

It’s a good thing we’ve had 17 years to work on our story.

Started almost two decades ago by WIP Morning Show hosts Al Morganti and Angelo Cataldi, this gluttonous gala now routinely attracts national attention.

The idea was that since our beloved Eagles almost never graced us with a Super Bowl appearance, maybe the city could provide another calling card to usher in what has become one of the biggest party weekends of the year.

Enter Wing Bowl. It’s not for the prudish. The chicken wings are not the only flesh on full display. Each competitor is usually accompanied by a band of Wingettes, scantily clad women. Many of the female fans in attendance have been known to join in the spirit of the occasion, if you catch my drift. The breasts usually give the wings a run for their money.

It is raucous. It is passionate. It is politically incorrect. It is unhealthy. It is often R-rated.

In other words, it is pure Philly.

Count me as a fan.

Shameful? Yeah, that's one word for it

President Barack Obama is mad. That gives him something in common with the rest of us.

He’s been in office for only about a week, but Obama already is showing he’s not above showing a little emotion.

Yesterday the new president was clearly aggravated as he unleashed his anger on Wall Street after learning that executives handed out $18 billion in bonuses with one hand while holding the out the other, seeking billions more in federal bailout money.

Obama called it “shameful” and “the height of irresponibility.”

This in a week when upwards of 80,000 Americans learned they were losing their jobs.

The economy is in meltdown mode. And yet these barons of Wall Street continue to line their pockets.

Shameful? These guys are beyond shame.

Obama called on them to show some discipline and responsibility.

I hope he’s not holding his breath.

A Super halftime show

Most fans use halftime of a football game to make a quick bathroom pit stop, grab another beverage and restock the snacks.

Not this Sunday.

This, of course, is Super Sunday, the day when the nation – fans and non-fans alike – gathers around the TV to watch the culmination of the NFL season. They call it the Super Bowl. Yeah, kind of pretentious, especially when you consider the fact that most of the previous 42 games have been anything but Super.

At times the telecast has gotten as much attention for the ads as for the action on the field.

Then a few years back, something happened at halftime that caused an uproar, and added a whole new element of intrigue to intermission. A new term was introduced into the lexicon.

Wardrobe malfunction.

Thank you, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Nice nipple ring, by the way.

Jackson’s momentary over-exposure caused shock waves across the nation. And it brought the Super Bowl halftime show to a new level. Or some would say a new low.

Some big acts have taken the stage for that compressed show. The Rolling Stones, U2, Prince have all performed. Last year it was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

But this year they are rolling out the big guns. At least for me.

Let’s just say it will be a “Boss” show. Yes, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform.

A confession here. I am an unabashed Springsteen fan. I know a lot of people have issues with his politics. I don’t care. I love him for the music. I grew up in a small town, where we sat around on the hood of cars, drinking warm beer on summer nights. Yes, I get Springsteen.

That’s why I’ll be glued to the tube at halftime Sunday night. I know there is a lot of marketing schtick involved in this. Springsteen’s new CD, “Working on a Dream,” hit stores this week. What a coincidence, huh? He also announced a new tour this week. He will be at the Spectrum April 28 and 29. Tickets for the shows go on sale Monday morning.

I can’t imagine how Springsteen will pack the “Magic” of one his legendary shows into a 12-minute halftime set. Some of his songs have lasted longer during live appearances.

I am guessing we’ll hear a couple of songs from the new CD. Maybe one from “The Rising.” That probably leaves one or two slots for his hallmark songs. So long as it’s not “Hungry Heart” or “Dancing in the Dark” I’ll be OK with it. I never actually much cared for the songs that gave Bruce commercial success.

I’d take “Incident on 57th Street” or “Rosalita,” but I doubt they’d fit into that tight window.

Maybe it will be “Born to Run.”

Or how about this, as a paean to all those deflated Eagles fans, maybe Bruce could do “Streets of Philadelphia.”

The game may or may not be Super. But I’m betting the halftime show will be all that and more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 29

The Daily Numbers: 5,500 jobs being eliminated at Boeing. That’s in addition to 4,500 already announced. It is not yet known if the cuts will affect the Ridley plant.
5,000 workers at Boeing’s Ridley facility, making it one of the county’s biggest employers.
3,000 jobs being cut by German software maker SAP. Some of them will hit at its North American HQ in Newtown Square.
2,000 state workers who could be laid off as the state wrestles with a widening budget deficit. That’s out of 78,000 workers.
400 people laid off at the new Atlantic City casino being built by Revel Entertainment Group, which also halted construction.
95 percent decline in net profits reported by Sony.
400 people who packed a town meeting in Coatesville last night to discuss how to attack the wave of arsons that has many in the Chester County city living in fear.
38, age of former Haverford High teacher now facing corruption of minors charges after he admitted having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.
8, age of boy hit by an SUV after he rode his sled down a ramp in his driveway while playing in the snow yesterday in Gloucester Township, N.J. He tumbled off the sled, out into the road and into the path of the SUV.
40 arrests on the rap sheet of a Philly man now facing charges in connection with a theft from a convent in Northeast Philly. He was picked up on a DUI charge in Tinicum.
3 nights in Phoenix or Pittsburgh, what’s at stake in a Super Bowl between Gov. Ed Rendell and Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer.
5 days of mail delivery instead of 6, being considered by the U.S. Postal Service to fight a funding crisis.
0 House Republicans who backed the $819 billion stimulus package pushed by President Barack Obama. Only 11 Democrats voted against the plan, which passed 244-188.
50,000 dollars being donated to Youth Service Inc., a Philly-based non-profit that helps troubled kids, by Wal-Mart.
2-1 odds that say Damaging Doug Canavin will win tomorrow’s Wing Bowl. “Gentleman Jerry” Coughlan of Clifton Heights is at 3-1.
1 year of free chicken, what lured more than 100 people to camp out all night in the cold outside a new Chick-fil-A in Camden County.
1.2 million dollar gift to the Widener Law School by an anonymous alum.
700 shiny new cars on display from 40 manufacturers at the Philly International Auto Show.
1.2 million homes across the Midwest and Northeast without power after yesterday’s nasty winter storm packing snow and ice.
11 libraries targeted for closure in Philly that now appear as if they will get a reprieve.
18 points for Reggie Redding as No. 21 Villanova provided a fitting swansong for college hoops at the Spectrum by knocking off No. 3 Pitt.
14 point deficit overcome by the Sixers last night as they rallied to beat Houston, 95-93.
4 straight wins for the Sixers over the Rockets.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Donovan McNabb is talking again. He’s not playing in the Super Bowl; he’s analyzing it for ESPN. He also has scheduled a media availability tonight with the Philly media. Stay tuned.
I Don’t Get It: A 93-year-old World War II veteran in Michigan died inside his freezing home after his heat was cut off because of more than $1,000 in unpaid bills. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Congratulations, you survived the first big storm of the winter. That’s enough. Spring can show up any day now.
Quote Box: “I always thought of Joe as being a very honest individual.”
-- Ralph Lawrence, owner of Arch Associates Corp., a Lansdowne firm where accused Ponzi scammer Joseph Forte once worked.

Year of the Ax

The drumbeat continues. Has there ever been a week like this in terms of job losses? The number of workers being slashed by major corporations is pushing 80,000 this week alone.

We heard from Sony, Home Depot, Caterpillar, DuPont and others earlier this week.

Yesterday a couple of very familiar names in Delaware County were among those added to the roll call.

Both Boeing and SAP indicated they are looking at some very big cuts. Nationally, Boeing indicated it will drop an additional 5,000 jobs, bringing their total to 10,000. Boeing is one of the county’s biggest employers and has 5,000 workers at its Ridley plant. It’s still too early to tell if cuts will affect Delco workers.

At SAP, it was the same story. The German-based software maker said it would lay off 3,000 workers. Some of those cuts will hit their North American headquarters, which is on West Chester Pike in Newtown.

It’s the state of the state as well. Gov. Ed Rendell alerted state unions that Pennsylvania workers will be subject to furloughs. Rendell has indicated as many as 2,000 workers may be laid off, or the state could implement rolling furloughs, shutting down different departments on different days.

Just how bad are things?

Remember the old yard about neither rain, nor snow nor sleet keeping the mailman from his or here appointed rounds? That apparently did not take into account an economic meltdown.

The Postal Service yesterday floated the idea of cutting one day of delivery, going from service on six days to five.

And then there’s Starbucks. The ailing Seattle coffee icon announced it would close more under-performing stores. It also is telling stores not to brew decaf coffee after noon. You’ll still be able to get it, but it will done by the serving, not as part of the routine.

Who needs decaf in these harrowing times? It’s going the same was as the $4 latte.

The Chinese this week are ushering in their new year, the Year of the Ox.

For the rest of us, it just might be the Year of the Ax.

Stimulating the same old politics

Barack Obama captured the White House on a message of hope and change.

Not sure if we have hope. But it looks like little has changed.

The House yesterday passed that $891 billion stimulus bill he’s been pushing. Obama wanted widespread, bi-partisan support. He didn’t get it.

Not one Republican crossed party lines to support the package.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats like Joe Sestak and Bob Brady lined up behind the president; Republicans like Jim Gerlach took up the opposition. Across the state, the breakdown was the same as it was nationally, although one Democrat, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-11, of Luzerne County, also opposed the plan. In total 11 Democrats in the House voted thumbs down.

Like just about everything else in Washington, this package was loaded with pork. I guess they just can’t help themselves. There’s a billion dollars thrown in there to help fund the next census. Not sure how that’s going to create jobs or provide much stimulus now.

Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, indicated he voted for it because he feared we could lose another 2.7 million jobs in the next five months without it.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

Don’t expect much to change there either. This is strictly politics as usual.

Donovan at the Super Bowl

Donovan McNabb is going to the Super Bowl.

No, he didn’t buy a ticket. But he’s not playing, either. He’s talking.

McNabb was a guest analyst on ESPN last night. He will pop up tonight and Friday night as well. Tonight he also is planning to sit down with the Philly media. It’s expected that he could shed some light on what he wants in terms of a contract.

He’s also making it clear that he would not be opposed to a few more weapons in his arsenal. He didn’t come right out and say it – he never does – but it sounds like he’s again making a pitch for a true No. 1 stud wide receiver.

Hope he’s not holding his breath. I don’t think that’s real high on the “to-do” list of Joe Banner and Andy Reid.

In the meantime, as we shiver through bitter cold, snow, sleet, freezing rain and slush, it’s certainly encouraging to see our quarterback enjoying the sun in beautiful Tampa.

Of couse we’d be enjoying it even more if Donovan was in Eagles green, and not that blue suit he had on last night.

Maybe next year. That’s right, Donovan made it clear he expects to be back for another shot at that elusive “gold standard” gold ring.

Of course, I suppose that is subject to change once he has his infamous sit-down with the Eagles brass.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 28

The Daily Numbers: 80 clients who lost as much as $50 million to Broomall investment manager Joseph Forte, who the feds say was running a classic Ponzi scheme.
0 dollars, how much money Forte says he has left. He says the bulk of the money went back to investors; the feds say he used $15 to $20 million to pay other investors; and paid himself as much as $12 million.
4, age of daughter Angel Reyes was convicted of throwing off a bridge into the murky waters of Ridley Creek. He faces the death penalty after his latest appeal was turned down.
15, age of teen shot in back in Chester Monday night.
27 local eaters who will compete in the 17th Wing Bowl at the Wachovia Center Friday morning. Among them are two from Delaware County.
1-3 inches of snow that covered the region overnight. That is now being followed by sleet and freezing rain. Anything that was shoveled or plowed is now freezing over into a solid sheet of ice.
2,000 jobs that could be cut as Gov. Ed Rendell struggles with a slumping state economy.
5.6 billion dollar budget shortfall now staring at Pa. officials, according to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Phila.
13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits now available for Pa. residents. As many as 50,000 out-of-work residents could be in line for more help.
17,000 dollar reward now being offered for information on who is setting arson fires in Coatesville.
15 arson fires in the Chester County city so far this month, including another one last night when someone set a trash can on fire on the front porch of a home. It was quickly extinguished.
9, age of youth, one of two people struck by stray bullets in South Philadelphia Tuesday night.
629 million dollar loss announced by DuPont Tuesday, including a 20 percent drop in demand for its products.
9 percent of its work force being laid off by Ashland, which bought Hercules in Delaware. It lost $119 million in the first quarter and is looking at cost cuts.
22, age of man charged with raping a 13-year-old girl and assaulting three other teen girls in Philadelphia.
1 Philadelphia police officer injured in Grays Ferry when a driver put his car in reverse and deliberately slammed into his police cruiser.
9 people treated for minor injuries after a work train collided with a commuter train in the Fern Rock SEPTA yard. Officials cited human error as the cause.
70 cats, plus geese, chickens, ferrets and other animals found in house without food, water or heat in Pine Grove, Pa.
1 goal, 2 assists for Michael Frolik in leading the Florida Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Flyers last night.
1 goal for the Flyers Claude Giroux, the first of his NHL career.
3, as in No. 3 Pitt vs No. 21 Villanova tonight in the last college hoops game every to be played in the legendary Spectrum.
26 points for Tyree Johnson to lead Penn Wood over Chester last night, 53-52.
0, how many times Chester had lost a Del Val game in the last four years, until last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Is there a better high school rivalry than Chester vs. Penn Wood in boys hoops? Penn Wood did something last night that no Del-Val team had been able to do the past four years. That would be hang a loss on the powerful Clippers. Penn Wood won a 53-52 classic on its home floor.
I Don’t Get It: The driver who is believed to have caused a fatal crash that claimed three lives on I-95 in Delaware Saturday had a previous conviction for aggressive driving. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: It will be another momentous night in the final victory lap of the legendary Spectrum in South Philly tonight. The old sports palace is holding a serious of special events to mark its final year. Bruce Springsteen will play two final shows there in April. Tonight will mark the final college basketball game to be played on the Spectrum hardwood when No. 21 Villanova tangles with No. 3 Pitt.
Quote Box: “I made a mistake years ago and I thought I could just get out of it. I didn’t set out to do this.”
-- Marple investment manager Joseph Forte outside court yesterday, where he was answering charges that he ran a $50 million Ponzi scheme that fleeced as many as 80 investors.

Glory Days

I don’t really need any more reasons to feel old, but I got another one Wednesday. If you’re like me, a Bruce Springsteen fan in his early 50s, allow me to remind you just how old we are.

Monday afternoon I posted a story on our Web site with the announcement that “The Boss” was bringing the E Street Band back to one of his favorite local haunts, the Spectrum. The two shows on April 28-29 are part of something of a Farewell Tour for the legendary South Philly sports palace. It is due to be torn down sometime after the Phantoms finish their season to make way for a new entertainment and retail complex called “Philly Live.”

Springsteen, who kicked off sales of his new CD, “Working on a Dream,” yesterday, will appear at halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday. Tickets for the two Philly shows go on sale Monday morning.

Wednesday morning I got an e-mail from a serious Bruce fan saying I had mistated the date Springsteen first appeared at the Spectrum. He was right. The Boss first headlined at the Spectrum in 1976. But his first appearance there was the infamous night in 1973 when he opened for Chicago and was actually booed by the crowd.

I know because I had a ticket for the show that night, but couldn't make it. I certainly would not have been booing. One of my buddies who was at the show told me about it. I was incredulous.

I have since become a serious Springsteen-file. But in his e-mail the guy indicated that show was in early June. For some reason, I had it in my mind it was more like late winter, maybe February or March.

My online reader promptly e-mailed me back. He was right. The date was Wednesday June.

Here’s the killer. He included a snapshot of the ad that ran for the show.

There was that familiar script that announced Chicago. Underneath it: Special Guest, Bruce Springsteen.
Then it listed the prices: $4.50, $5.50, $6.50.

Can you believe it? At the time it seemed like a lot of money.

What a great time to grow up, or at least be a high school senior who was a regular at Spectrum concerts. Glory Days, I guess you could call them. If you’ll pardon me for bringing up one of the worst songs Bruce ever recorded.

Exactly why is it that some of his most popular songs, like “Glory Days” and “Hungry Heart,” are among the very few I dislike.

Give me “Incident on 57th Street” or “New York City Serenade” anytime.

But $6.50? I’m not sure what tickets for the two April shows are going to go for, but my guess is you can’t buy a beer for $6.50 in the Spectrum these days.

Say it ain’t snow

Snow, sleet, freezing rain, followed by rain.

Are we having fun yet?

Maybe it’s me, because I have come to have a thorough dislike for all things winter, but I gritted my teeth even more than usual this morning as I made my way into the office.

The source of my angst was not the sloppy going. Yes, the roads were a mess. As usual, the biggest challenge was just getting out of the driveway, followed by an adventurous trip out of the development to the main roads. Once there, while the roads were messy, they were certainly driveable.

That’s not what was bothering me. Like I said, maybe it’s just me, but I could almost detect a sense of glee in the woman’s voice on the radio as she informed me how bad it was going to be.

It’s always a bit deceiving when I look out the window of my house. That’s because it usually looks like the end of the world in my development. As usual, once I cleared off the car and slogged my way out to the main roads, the driving was not horrible. It wasn’t great, but it was certainly doable. About the biggest delay, other than the normal reduced speed, was encountering a plow train on West Chester Pike that had traffic backed up behind it.

A confession here. In this kind of weather I always head into the office early, so I don’t have to deal with a lot of the rush-hour drivers who have no clue how to drive in snow. I know this is going to sound like heresy, but there is such a thing as driving too slow in the snow, especially when heading up hills.

By the time I hit the roads before 5 a.m., the snow had stopped and it was actually raining. A wintry mix, as we’ve heard about a milion times since yesterday.

Of course, any kind of “winter weather event” means the radio and TV folks roll out the heavy artillery. I almost feel bad for them. They haven’t had a real winter storm yet this year to get worked up about, so I pretty much knew what to expect this morning.

Most schools are closed. Delays are being reported at the airport. The TV and radio folks are approaching something close to nirvana. At any second now I expect to see someone sticking a ruler into the snow.

Spring can’t come fast enough.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 27

The Daily Numbers: 34 years, how long Tom Judge Sr. has been the head of the county Republican Party. He has indicated he will step down later this year.
23 of February, date set for the trial of Lemuel Payne in the hit-run accident that took the life of Faith Sinclair last August in Sharon Hill.
10, age of girl whom clinical psychologist Dr. Jerry Lazaroff admitted to “inadvertently inappropriately” touching. He now faces charges.
12,000 dollars, amount of reward now being offered for information that leads to the arrest of a suspect in the wave of arsons that has terrorized Coatesville, in Chester County.
14 arson fires so far this year in Coatesville, after 15 were reported all of last year.
1-3 inches of snow, followed by sleet, freezing rain and then just rain. It’s supposed to start after rush hour tonight, and should make for an adventurous drive to work tomorrow morning.
4 SEPTA workers who suffered minor injuries this morning when a worker train bumped a commuter train at Fern Rock Station.
30 minute delays on most of the regional rail lines in the wake of the accident.
12, age of student struck and killed by a school bus near Allentown. The death has been ruled a homicide. Officials believe the boy may have been pushed before the accident.
200 dead birds found in one yard in Griggstown, N.J. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to cull the bird flock in the area.
6.8 percent dip in median selling price for homes in the Philadelphia area. That knocked prices from $220,000 to $205,000.
21.4 percent decline in number of homes sold in 12-country region in December 2008, as opposed to December 2007. They went from 4,606 to 3,621.
540 jobs being cut by Lincoln Financial Corp. of Radnor. The firm says it’s lost money the last 5 quarters. Yes, they are the people with the naming rights to Lincoln Financial Field.
7 foot tall man among the suspects being sought in a home invasion in Laurel, Del. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot.
2 judges in northeastern Pa. charged with public corruption tied to $2.6 million in kickbacks for placing juvenile offenders into certain facilities.
1, as in No. 1, that would be where Pa. ranks in terms of black homicides. That’s 37 murders per every 100,000 black residents.
4 month delay OK’d by the Senate in that mandatory switch to digital broadcasting. It now goes to the House.
7,000 jobs being slashed by Home Depot.
68,000 jobs axed by firms across the nation yesterday, as Pfizer, Caterpillar and Sprint Nextel joined the list of firms cutting back.
27 points for Chris Paul in leading the New Orleans Hornets over the Sixers last night, 101-86.
15 assists and 10 rebounds for the triple-double for Paul. And 7 steals just for good measure.
18 minutes and 0 points for the Sixers Elton Brand.
22 points for Thaddeus Young to lead the Sixers.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Blame it on that old Tampa karma. Or in this case the Tampa curse. Or maybe just flat-out payback. Remember Joe Maddon? He’s the guy who managed the Tampa Bay Rays, who the Phils beat to end our curse and win the World Series championship. He’s a longtime Cardinals fan, first in St. Louis, then in Arizona. Now he’s seeing them play in the Super Bowl right there in Tampa. And of course they eliminated the Eagles along the way.
I Don’t Get It: People in Coatesville are living in terror under a rash of arson fires. One resident said he is “too scared to sleep.”
Today’s Upper: After yesterday about the only way the economy can go is up. Is there anyone else still working? It seems like everyone is getting laid off. It has to get better. We hope.
Quote Box: “He was a better man than me.”
-- John Williamson Sr., on the death of his son and another Drexel University student in a car crash in Lycoming County.

Tom Judge Sr., the gentleman pol

I have met Tom Judge Sr. on any number of occasions.

Very often they would be at some type of public function. And yes, many times they would have political overtones. Maybe a debate, or a special dinner.

I will always remember two things about Judge. They were invariably the very first things he would do when our paths crossed.

He would extend his hand. And he would smile.

I think the single word that best described Tom Judge Sr. is gentleman.

I imagine we were not always his favorite newspaper. After all, Judge has spent the last three decades as the leader of the county Republican Party.

In some county political circles, there is a belief that this newspaper is anti-Republican, that we will do anything to knock local Republicans from their longtime perch of power in the county.

I never heard that from Judge. Instead, what I invariably got was the calm demeanor of what can only be described as a decent man.

I think it is telling that in the story we wrote last Saturday describing the fact that Judge has decided to step down as the leader of the party, some of the most glowing comments came from what might be considered an odd source.

That would be Cliff Wilson, Judge’s counterpart with the county Democrats.

“Big shoes to fill for anyone who fills them,” Wilson commented. “I admire him very much. He comes from … an ‘old school’ of politics that is sorely going to be missed.”

Politics can be a tough, bruising and sometimes dirty racket.

Tom Judge never gave me that impression.

Cliff Wilson is right. He’s going to be missed. Count me among those who will miss him.

For Eagles fans, some things don't change

Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie are making their annual postseason appearance.

No, not in Tampa. That’s where the Cardinals and Steelers arrived yesterday to start the week of hype and hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl. The Eagles aren’t making the trip again this year.

Instead the Birds’ brain trust is doing a little damage control, giving interviews, showing up on TV and radio. They’re saying all the right things. They’re pushing the idea that while many NFL franchises would consider the Eagles’ season a success, with an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, they do not.

That gives them something in common with their legions of fans. The much-heralded “gold standard” has yet to deliver a Super Bowl title to Philly.

But both Lurie and Banner seem to be solidly in the camp of head coach Andy Reid and starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. It’s been the one constant of the last 10 years. The Eagles dynamic duo as it were.

So here’s a question. If Reid is your guy, and you’re buying into his pass-first philosophy, wouldn’t wide receiver be fairly high up on your list of things to address?

The Eagles have played in one Super Bowl during Reid’s reign. You might remember that charmed season of 2004. The Eagles had a guy playing wide receiver that year named Terrell Owens. It all went south the following season.

In the wake of the Eagles’ incredibly frustrating loss to the Cardinals, you could almost hear McNabb begging for some weapons, although he didn’t actually come out and say it.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Reid to say it. Remember, it’s all about the system. You can pretty much plug in any wide receivers and the system will still function flawlessly.

How’s that been working for the past decade?

Oh, one other thing. That guy who torched your secondary and almost single-handedly led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl? His name is Larry Fitzgerald. He’s a No. 1 draft pick. A big, physical, sure-handed receiver.

Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson are good wide receivers. But I don’t think either one of them is a threat to put this team on their back and carry it to a Super Bowl.

And I don’t think that’s going to change one bit next year, so long as that axis of Lurie-Banner-Reid is running the show.’

In fact, I’ll tell you my prediction right now. It’s the same one I make every year. 10-6. A playoff appearance. And another crushing loss.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 26

The Daily Numbers: 6 people who escaped injury when flames engulfed a home in Nether Providence late Saturday.
2 Drexel University students – including one from Haverford – killed and 4 others injured in a car crash in north-central Pennsylvania.
3 people killed on I-95 just over the border in Delaware Saturday. Police now say the crash was caused by speeding and aggressive driving.
15 homes in Coatesville, Chester County, destroyed in the latest suspicious fire to hit the city late Saturday.
30 arson fires reported in the city since the start of 2008.
15 people facing charges in connection with what police are calling a cockfighting ring in Philadelphia.
58 birds seized in a police raid of a home in the Juniata Park section of the city in connection with the operation.
9, age of boy recovering after being attacked by pitbulls while walking down a street in Wilmington, Del.
4 hours, how long some Claymont residents were without power Friday night after power lines were knocked down.
75, age of woman in Montgomery County suffering from dementia who has had charges against her reduced in connection with the stabbing of her sleeping housemate, 81. Police in Audubon say the woman has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
1.86 a gallon, what AAA says we’re paying on the average at the pumps in the Philadelphia region. They also say that despite the cheaper gas, the numbers indicate we are still driving substantially less than we did last year.
8,700 season tickets sold for the Philadelphia Soul. The Arena Football League has cancelled the season, and now the team’s former director of sales is suing for the commissions he believes he earned on those sales. The team is refunding money to fans who bought tickets.
17, age of youth gunned down in North Philadelphia as he was walking to pick up dinner for his family.
100 to zip. That was the score of a high school girls basketball game in Texas. The winning school has now apologized for the score. But the coach has refused to apologize and has been fired by the team.
0 points for Jeff Carter, the sole member of the Flyers to play in last night’s NHL All-Star Game.
12-11 win for the Eastern Stars. The goaltenders must just love these games.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Yeah, we herald the arrival of Super Bowl week. Both teams will arrive in Tampa Bay today. Not among them will be the Philadelphia Eagles. You didn’t hear? They lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the game everyone said was a lock.
I Don’t Get It: A new study is urging teens to hang up their cell phones before they cross the street, noting a spike in problems involving kids crossing the street while talking or texting on their cell phones. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up for Shane Victorino. The Phillies outfielder granted the “wish” for young cancer patient Brandon Crosby during a recent visit to Citizens Bank Park. Victorino talked with Crosby, gave him a special Phils jersey and even tossed some pitches to the youth as he dug into the batting cage. Nice.
Quote Box: “It made us see the good work, hard and professional work of our policemen, who are standing before us today. Through their tireless work in the murder case of Mr. Pham, through their concern about our worry and anxiety, they brought to justice the man who allegedly committed the crime.”
-- Commendation read yesterday to Upper Darby police from the Vietnamese community.

A visit to my past

I took a ride back to my past yesterday.

After seeing our daughter off as she heads back to college (someone please tell me this is not her final semester; where does the time go?), my wife and I decided to go out for a ride.

Actually, she was just Jones-ing for her Dunkin Donuts fix.

I don’t think either one of us wanted to go back to an empty house and look at each other, so we decided to ride around.

I’m not sure why, but I found myself driving into my past.

A long time ago, I used to work in Coatesville. A lot of things have changed since then.

For one, the newspaper I toiled at, the Record, has something in common with another paper many of you might have read at one time, The Evening Bulletin. Neither of them is still being published.

So it was that I found myself dealing with a lot of memories as I drove over the Carlson Bridge and into what is usually referred to as the East End.

Coatesville has been in the news recently. In fact, I was stunned to tune into CNN yesterday and see “The Ville” being featured. Of course, it was not exactly being painted in a good light. The graphic on the screen screamed, “City Under Siege.”

Coatesville, a city of about 11,000 in Chester County, has been battling what can best be described as a wave of domestic terrorism.

Someone, or some group of people, has been setting fires in the city.

Since the start of the year new, there have been 13 unsolved arsons. In 2008 there were 15, including one that killed an 83-year-old woman who had survived the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps. There were three people charged in the fires. The hope was that would end the wave of terror. The hope was wrong.

Saturday night a fire being labeled as “suspicious” roared through a series of row homes in the city. Fifteen homes went up in flames. Luckily there were no serious injuries. If you can possibly refer to what is going on in the city as “lucky.”

A state of emergency now exists in Coatesville, which gives city officials new authority to battle the problem. More than 100 people jammed City Hall for a special meeting of city council.

As I drove west on Lincoln Highway into the city, I was overcome with a sense of sadness.

I took a left on Pennsylvania Avenue, then climbed the long hill that has forever been one of the marks of the city.

At the top, I took a left, and headed back out of town. What’s happening in Coatesville is unbelievably sad. People simply trying to live their lives are now cowering in their homes, unable to sleep, wondering when the next fire will break out.

I hope they find the person or persons responsible for this before anyone else is forced to huddle outside and watch much of their life go up in flames.

A life has already been lost. Damage is in the millions. People are on edge. And they’re getting angry.

They say you can’t go home again. That’s not always a bad thing.

A ‘winter weather event’

Just what we need. Have you heard the forecast? Yes, there is a chance of snow coming Tuesday.

Of course, we can’t simply refer to it as snow. That would be too mundane. The TV forecasters now have labeled it as a “winter weather event.”

Yes, folks it is the last week of January. That means it is cold out. And there is a chance of snow.

Stop the presses!

A weekend without football

I hope you enjoyed the first weekend of the rest of your life.

Or as Eagles fans have come to glumly acknowledge, the first football-less weekend since August.

Of course, there is one more game to be played this season. That will be next Sunday in Tampa Bay. Maybe you’ve heard of it. They call it the Super Bowl.

The two teams will arrive in Tampa today for a week of hype and hoopla. We were assured that the Eagles would be one of the two teams in the Florida sunshine, meaning a week of unbridled passion, stories about fans selling their souls for tickets to the game, green-faced fans invading Florida in planes, trains and automobiles.

Instead, we sit and shiver, with snow in the forecast, and count the days until spring training arrives.

That’s right. The Eagles are not playing in the Super Bowl. Instead of punching their ticket by throttling the Arizona Cardinals, they got their punched out in the desert. No Super Bowl this year, Philly fans.

Hey, at least we have Wing Bowl. Yes, that annual pre-Super Bowl bash of beer, wings and breasts will once again be held Friday morning at the Wachovia Center.

Eagles fans also can be comforted with this thought. Jeff Lurie feels our pain. The Eagles owner gave an interview Sunday and told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he needs an Ambien to get to sleep as he replays the nightmare of the Arizona game over and over in his mind.

That gives him something in common with the rest of us. Now if only we felt that his players cared nearly as much as the rest of us do.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 23

The Daily Numbers: 45 days in jail for Mia Sardella of Drexel Hill in the death of her newborn son.
22 weekends on which she’ll be allowed to serve her sentence.
9 months to 2 years in jail, Sardella’s full sentence. She’ll be allowed to serve the remainder of the 9 months on house arrest, followed by 15 months probation. She also will do 2 years of community service.
5,000 dollars stolen from an ATM machine in Upper Darby by a woman using the card of a 75-year-old man. It is believed the card was stolen.
4,000 dollars given to the Salvation Army by Kimberly-Clark Corp. to make up for a shortfall in the group’s annual Red Kettle Campaign. The fund drive raised $63,000; the goal was $73,000.
69,382 dollars raised this year for the Salvation Army by our annual Merry Christmas Fund.
5 million dollar obligation note that has been delayed in Haverford. The money would be used for new township facilities.
1743, when the Darby Free Library was established. It is believed to be the oldest in the U.S., but it might be closed if more funding is not found to keep it open.
2.3 billion dollar budget deficit now facing Pennsylvnia. Gov. Ed Rendell has indicated layoffs are coming for state workers, but is vowing to avoid any tax hikes.
76,000 jobs that were lost in Pennsylvania in 1008, 1 percent of the state’s workforce.
5,000 dollar reward now being offered for information into the rash of 28 arsons in the past year that have plagued Coatesville, in Chester County.
63, age of man, a financial analyst in Philadelphia, charged with sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in South Jersey.
50 degrees, today’s expected high temperature. Don’t get used to it. It will turn colder tomorrow and we’re expected to be back in the mid 20s for our high on Sunday.
22,000 applications for the Class of 2013 received at Princeton. That’s up 2 percent from last year.
37, age of man charged in Bridgeville, Del., with taking a video while a 14-year-old girl was in the shower without her knowledge.
350 people losing their jobs when fashion designer Liz Claiborne closes a distribution center in Mount Pocono.
2 people charged in Allentown with marketing pierced kittens as “gothic.” They’re charged with cruelty to animals.
1 cent hike in the price of gas overnight. Our average at the pump has now risen to $1.85, 67 centers higher than a week ago.
10 million dollars for two years in the new deal for Jayson Werth and the Phillies.
9 games played this year for the Flyers by star winger Danny Briere.
4 more weeks the Flyers likely will be without Briere, who underwent surgery yesterday.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Bad news for the Phillies. Just pay Ryan Howard the money. The guy is doing things and putting up numbers in his first three years that are just unheard of. Does he strike out a lot? Yes. Does he have issues in the field? Obviously. Is he an undeniable force in the middle of that lineup? Oh, yeah.
I Don’t Get It: Two people showed up for court out in New Holland to pay a fine for public drunkenness. They were observed to be under the influence. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: A thumb’s up to Kimberly-Clark Corp., which is helping close a gap in the annual Red Kettle Fund Drive by the Chester Salvation Army with a $4,000 check.
Quote Box: “I will never get over the loss of my child. There are no words to express how deeply sorry I am and I realize there is no apology great enough to change what happened.”
-- Mia Sardella, at her sentencing yesterday in connection with the death of her newborn son.

Justice and Mia Sardella

Justice was meted out in a Delaware County courtroom yesterday to Mia Sardella.

Judge Patricia Jenkins sentenced the 20-year-old Drexel Hill woman to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, in connection with the death of her newborn son. Sardella had entered a no contest plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Actually, the full sentence was a bit more complicated than that. Jenkins sentenced Sardella to nine months to two years in jail, less one day on the felony count. What it boils down to is that starting next weekend Sardella will report to Delaware County Prison for the next 22 consecutive weekends. She’ll do 45 days, less the two days she has already served. The remainder of the nine months will be served on house arrest, followed by the 15 months of probation. Sardella has been on electronic home monitoring for the bulk of the two years since she was initially charged, ironically the exact date of yesterday’s sentencing.

Jenkins also has one unusual ingredient as part of the sentence. She ordered Sardella to do two years of community service, specifically with a California agency called Project Cuddle, which works with young mothers to reduce cases of baby abandonment.

I’m sure it struck Judge Jenkins as a perfectly just sentence. It seems that way to me, too. And to Mike Galantino, who prosecuted the case. The assistant district attorney indicated after the sentence that it appeared Sardella’s actions were “more reckless than malicious.” Defense attorney Art Donato concurred.

The sentence was announced late yesterday morning. We posted our first story on our Web site around noon.

And I knew what was coming.

I will call it “The Bonfire of the Inanities.”

There are many things about the technology that we are dealing with in the newspaper business that I like. First and foremost, it allows us to deliver news 24 hours a day to our readers. There was a time not all that long ago when we would have been forced to sit here with what has been a very controversial story in this county and listen to TV and radio stations deliver news of the Sardella sentencing. We would not hit the streets with our next print edition until the next morning.

Those days are over. We posted a quick bulletin with the details of the arrest. Then we updated with information on the other aspects of the sentence. And we udpated the story again with a full report from our courthouse reporter.

Our Web site also does something else. It allows us to be much more of an interactive venue. We have always solicited readers’ opinions in print, asking them to write letters to the editor and even phone in their beliefs to Sound Off.

Now readers can post comments to the stories that appear online.

On this story, there have been no shortage of opinions. And people have turned to the Web site to make their feelings known in some very strong, plain language.

Shortly after we posted our first story yesterday, the comments section of the site exploded.

From the beginning of this case, there have been those who have complained that it was treated differently than other cases. They believe the delay in bringing charges offered evidence that there was two different sets of justice dispensed in Delaware County, one for people of means, and one for everyone else.

I don’t think that argument holds water. I still don’t. Mia Sardella initially was charged with first-degree murder in this case. Eventually that charge was dropped. Then a third-degree murder charge was slapped on her. Her plea agreement also saw that charge disappear. Eventually she pleaded no-contest to charges of involuntary manslaughter, which happens to be a felony, abuse of a corpse, and concealing the death of a child.

I have received more phone calls and e-mails connected to this case than just about any story I can remember. As usual, I’m the guy in the middle. Those in Sardella’s corner insist we’ve been unfair in our coverage; those against her believe we also are cowering because of the status of her family.

I am not going to convince those who believe that Mia Sardella got preferential treatment otherwise. They will continue to bombard the Web site with their comments. We will review them and remove those that we feel cross the line. And lots of them do.

Mia Sardella’s sentence strikes me as just about exactly what I expected, very similar to the sentence handed out a few years back to a young woman in Ridley in similar circumstances.

Had this case gone to trial, it likely would have boiled down to a battle of legal experts as to whether or not the baby was alive at the time of birth, or as the prosecution was ready to argue, “that this child was born alive and that he died as a result of asphyxiation.”

It strikes me that Sardella would have had a very good chance of beating these charges if she had gone to trial. But she did not go that route. She entered a plea. In effect, she was admitting that her actions were wrong.

That argument is now moot.

A contrite Sardella appeared before Judge Jenkins and sobbed.

“I will never get over the loss of my child, nor will I ever forgive myself for what I did,” she said.

Clearly there are a lot of people in the county who agree with her.

Pa. singing budget blues

This is not going to come as shocking news to anyone, but just in case you still had any doubt, Gov. Ed Rendell yesterday issued this economic update to Pennsylvania residents:

We’re in trouble.

The state’s economic outlook continues to get worse. That budget deficit, which started out at about a billion dollars, is growing.

The red ink in Harrisburg is now flowing to the tune of $2.3 billion. That’s up from the $2 billion figure the governor announced last week.

Let me put this bluntly: This is an economic train wreck. The state is now rivaling the city of Philadelphia in terms of economic unease.

Rendell yesterday had glum news for state employees. The economic nosedive likely will cost some of them their jobs. Not sure if that will include the former state rep that landed a $95,000 new post despite a hiring freeze.

The governor talked plainly about what is coming, and he had a warning for workers.

“There will be some layoffs and there will be universal pain,” he said at a press conference in Harrisburg. “I don’t want to hear whining. I think everyone has to tighten the belts.”

I guess the governor hears enough whining from Eagles fans on his duties as a guest analyst on the post-game shows on Comcast SportsNet.

Rendell did offer one bit of good news for state residents.

He is vowing to avoid hiking the state’s sales or personal income taxes. At least for now.

Of course no one is really sure where the bottom is in this economic morass. The budget deficit grew by $700 million in just the last month.

Rendell will present a budget to the Legislature the first week in February. Here’s a prediction: It won’t be pretty. And here’s another one. State law requires that the budget be approved by June 30 at midnight.

Better stock up on midnight oil, legislators. And don’t make any plans for the Fourth of July, either.

Byte-ing the bullet

OK, now I know the economy is in the tank.

Microsoft is cutting jobs. I guess you can call this byte-ing the bullet.

The high-tech giant announced its profits fell 11 percent in the second quarter. They responded by saying they would ax 5,000 jobs.

The markets responded by immediately going into the tank.

Something to note here. Microsoft is still making huge amounts of money, just not as much as they once did. The company whose software runs so many of our PCs said profits dipped to $4.17 billion, down from $4.71 billion for the same quarter last year.

And they don’t like what they see down the road. So they’re tightening their belt.

Isn’t everybody?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 22

The Daily Numbers: 30 years, that’s how long Ralph Garzia served as mayor of Brookhaven.
60 reprieve against a teachers strike in Springfield after the teachers union and school board agreed to non-binding arbitration in the matter.
9,400 dollars in lingerie police was stolen by a former worker at the Victoria’s Secret store in Concord Mall. Looks like that worker had a secret, too.
100 mph, what police say a driver was doing on Main Street in Upland before striking several cars and then crashing his car.
100,000 to 300,000 people who will gather in Washington, D.C., today for the annual March for Life on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Several busloads from Delco also are making the trip.
2.4 billion kilowatt hours delivered in December by PECO. That’s 1 percent lower than December 2007. PECO noted use of natural gas also was down by 1.4 percent in the suburbs.
20 suspicious fires that have terrorized the town of Coatesville, in Chester County. Many have been labeled arson. The latest occurred just after midnight this morning.
8 dogs seized as authorities raided a suspected dog-fighting operation in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city.
45, age of South Jersey teacher charged with having sexual contact with a female student.
25,000 dollar donation from TD Bank to the food bank Philabundance.
43, age of woman in New Castle, Del., charged with deliberately veering her car into another vehicle in what police are calling a case of road rage.
17, age of youth gunned down in North Philadelphia as he was walking to pick up dinner for his family.
2,500 jobs in North America being slashed by Tyco Electronics Ltd.
19 cases of salmonella in New Jersey that are being linked to the national outbreaks tied to tainted peanut butter.
18 straight years that the Labrador retriever has been king of the dog world, ranked as the most popular breed of pooch, according to the American Kennel Club.
1.8 million people, the official body count for the crowd that jammed the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Obama inauguration.
38 million people who are believed to have watched the festivities on TV.
10 million dollar, two-year deal for outfielder Jayson Werth with the Phillies.
1.635 million dollar contract for Phillies reliever Chad Durbin.
12 wins and 0 defeats for Flyers goaltender Antero Niitymaki against the Thrashers. The Flyers beat them again last night, 5-3.
2 more weeks the Flyers likely will be without Danny Briere, who will undergo exploratory surgery for the cause of his groin and stomach pain.
3, as in No. 3 UConn, which topped Villanova last night, 89-83.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I never should have hung up my old baseball glove. Is it just me, or does every ballplayer now sign a contract for several million dollars?
I Don’t Get It: A man out in Bloomsburg, Pa., who says a bank’s error was a “gift from God” is now sitting in a county prison. Randy Pratt and his wife deposited $1,772.50 in their account. The bank credited them with $177,250. He says it was God’s work. Yeah, right.
Today’s Upper: Good news out of Springfield, where teachers and the school board have averted a strike, at least for now, by agreeing to submit their offers to non-binding arbitration.
Quote Box: “He was Mr. Brookhaven. Ralph attended everything and he was a huge support to the fire company and every other organization in town. He will be missed beyond words.”
-- Brookhaven Fire Chief Rob Montella, on the passing of longtime Mayor Ralph Garzia.

Sentencing day for Mia Sardella

There is a certain irony that the long, drawn-out, sad saga of Mia Sardella will conclude today in a Media courtroom.

Sardella is due in Media to be sentenced after entering a no-contest plea to charges of involuntary manslaughter, as well as abuse of a corpse and concealing the death of a child.

It was exactly two years ago today, Jan. 22, that Sardella’s mother discovered the remains of a baby in a duffel bag in the trunk of her car in Drexel Hill.

It took four months before charges were filed against her by the district attorney’s office. But when they came, they rumbled across the county.

Based on the findings of county medical examiner Dr. Fred Hellman, D.A. Mike Green charged Sardella, then 19, with first-degree murder.

The case has sparked controversy from the outset, with some questioning how long it took for charges to be filed, and many insisting it showed the stark differences in our judicial system. They argued that Sardella was being treated differently because she came from a family of means.

I’m not really sure that’s true. Yes, there is no doubt that Sardella’s family was able to afford a good defense. That is her right.

But she will still be standing in front of a judge this morning as a felon. She very likely will be looking at some jail time.

The original first-degree murder charges were withdrawn, replaced with a third-degree charge. That was dropped as part of her plea agreement.

Sardella has been free on electronic home monitoring for the past two years. That could change this morning.

I might make the argument that Sardella has been in another kind of jail for much of that time. That likely won’t satisfy the critics who think she continues to get off easy.

I don’t think what happens this morning will end the debate over the Sardella case and how it has been handled.

And it certainly won’t end one other thing. It won’t end the incredible sadness that has been at the root of this case for more than two years.

Brookhaven loses an icon

I have been to several events that were held in the Brookhaven Municipal Building.

And I have spoken to several senior citizen organizations in the borough.

There was always one constant: Ralph Garzia.

He was always there. To many, Garzia was the face of Brookhaven.

That’s why I was not surprised at the throng that showed up last night for his service.

Hundreds waited patiently in bitter cold conditions to pay their respects to the beloved longtime mayor.

Garzia died last week at 87. He had been the mayor for 30 years. He also was a former state representative.

If there was an event in Brookhaven, Garzia would be there. Every time I spoke to a group, he made a point of coming up to me afterward and talking about the newspaper.

Very simply, it is hard to think of Brookhaven without him.

But if it is difficult to envision a Brookhaven without Ralph Garzia, it is impossible to estimate the loss to the community. It is rare today to find people with the kind of civic involvement and public dedication that Garzia offered so easily to the town he loved. We all lead busy lives. Our time is precious. Less and less of it is available to offer in civic involvement.

Brookhaven has lost an icon. I will miss his familiar face. And I mourn for a loss to the community that will be impossible to replace.

Rest well, Mayor Garzia.

The price of a World Championship

In our continuing attempt to erase the bitter memory of still another crushing loss by the Eagles in an NFC Championship game, we offer this reminder. The Phillies are World Champions. I repeat, the Phillies are still World Champions. Or, as Chase Utley might say, World Bleeping Champions.

And the team is learning that winning championships comes with a price. Literally.

The Phils yesterday reached a deal with still another of their free agents. Outfielder Jayson Werth, who blossomed into the regular right-fielder last year while belting 24 home runs and hitting .273, is getting a two-year deal. So how much is Jayson Werth worth? About $10 million.

He’s the latest in what has been a parade of players cashing in this week. Reliever Chad Durbin has signed on for $1.6 million.

Earlier it was Ryan Madson getting a $12 million deal, Shane Victorino getting $3.125 million and pitcher Joe Blanton ringing the cash register for $5.475 million.

The Phils had eight players who were either restricted or unrestricted free agents file for salary arbitration. They have now settled with seven of them.

Only slugger Ryan Howard remains. It appears likely that, as they did last year, the slugger and the team will go to arbitration. Howard wants $18 million; the team is offering $14 million. He made $10 million last year.

Winning world championships is expensive. That’s the great thing about being a fan. It’s not our money. We urge the team to go ahead and do what it takes to sign the best players. Of course, eventually some of that cost will trickle down to the prices of tickets, concessions, T-shirts and everything else.

But remember that feeling as we watched that avalanche of red move down Broad Street last October.

Millions for free agents. Higher prices for tickets. More ads in the stadium and on broadcasts.

A world championship? Priceless.

Isn’t that right, Eagles fans?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Daily Numbers - january 21

The Daily Numbers: 2 million people who are believed to have been on the mall in Washington, D.C., to witness Barack Obama take the oath of office as president.
44, as in the 44th president of the United States.
1, as in the number of African Americans ever to hold the office.
18 minutes, how long Obama spoke in his inaugural address.
10 inaugural gala balls the new first couple visited during a night of partying in D.C.
200 people jammed into a room at Cheyney University to watch the historic event.
0, how many tickets are available for Amtrak trains returning to Philly today from D.C. Every seat is sold.
20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine facing Broomall investment manager Joseph Forte after the feds filed a complaint against him accusing him of defrauding as many as 80 investors out of as much as $50 million.
12 people chased out of their home in Chester after a fire that authorities believe may have been started by a child playing with a lighter.
19 reports of car break-ins and thefts reported to police in the Brandywine Hundred area just over the border in Delaware.
1 billion dollars that Verizon says it will sink into a fiber-optic network if they are allowed to bring their service into Philadelphia.
200,000 dollars in counterfeit checks believed cashed by a car dealer in Erie who also faked military honors. He’s now looking at 2 years in jail.
18 million dollars, what slugger Ryan Howard wants to be paid by the Phillies next year.
14 million, what the Phillies are offering him.
10 million, what Howard made this year. Even if he loses at arbitration, Howard still stands to be a winner, getting a $4 million raise.
3,125,000 dollar, one-year deal for outfielder Shane Victorino.
5,475,000 dollar, one-year deal for pitcher Joe Blanton.
2 men charged in Arizona with burning messages into the lawn of the home owned by Donovan McNabb in Chandler, Az. They say they are Cardinals fans. Figures.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.How can Ryan Howard lose? Even if an arbitrator rules against him, he’s still in line to get a $4 million raise. He wants $18 million; the team is offering $14 million. He made $10 million this year. Nice racket, huh?
I Don’t Get It: Some knuckleheads have already responded to our Web site with a bunch of racial invective about the world coming to an end because Barack Obama has been sworn in as president. We take it down as soon as they post it. I get it, but I really don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Good news. The Girls Scouts say none of their cookies is affected by the scare involving some peanut butter products and cases of salmonella. Calories, on the other hand, may be a different matter.
Quote Box: “There was so much joy, tears of joy, and not only joy, but those tears represented hope.
-- Bernice Warren, director of Eastside Ministries in Chester, who was on hand in Washington, D.C., to witness the historic inauguration of Barack Obama.

At last

Some days stay with you longer than others.

Sept. 11, 2001 had that kind of effect on a lot of people. We now refer to it simply as 9/11. It took its place beside Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963. Those who lived through them will always remember where they were and what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and again when word was received that shots had been fired at the presidential motorcade in Dallas.

I don’t know if Jan. 20, 2009, will have that kind of staying power. But it was something to behold.

I sit in an office all day, usually with KYW-1060 playing on the radio in one ear and the TV on tuned to local news or CNN in the other.

Yesterday I was joined by a phalanx of Web sites, including our own, providing live streaming video and audio of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

It is hard to minimize the seismic shift that the nation underwent yesterday. You could see it in people’s eyes, all two million of them who made their way to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to witness history.

You could see it in the eyes of students and faculty at the nation’s oldest historically black college. The room at Cheyney University was jammed to witness the first African American take the oath of office as president.

I found I could not take my eyes off the TV and the video yesterday.

There were any number of moments that will stay with me for a long time. Just the scene of all those people who gathered peacefully in the mall was mesmerizing.

There was the image of President-Elect Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle, arm in arm with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush as they arrived at the White House.

There were the sparkling words delivered by Obama in his inaugural address, reminding the nation of the steep challenge that lies ahead and urging everyone to take up their share of the burden.

There is a single classic photo of Obama’s 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, giving him a thumb’s up after he was sworn in.

And there was the moving scene of the Obamas getting out of their limo to walk part of the route and greet the crowds during the Inaugural Parade.

But there is one moment that will stay with me more than any of the others. It happened last night, after I got home, and of course immediately flipped on the TV to check out the latest coverage.

The new president and his bride had arrived at the first of the many balls they would grace during the evening.

After a few remarks, the Obamas, the nation’s new first couple, he looking dazzling in his tux, white shirt and white bow tie, she looking elegant in an off-the-shoulder gown.

It was a scene the nation has viewed many times. But we’ve never seen it this way. The eyes of the nation were fixed on a black couple, the new face of the nation.

As the Obamas stood on the dance floor, Beyonce delivered their song. The familiar Etta James tune rolled over the room – and the nation.

“At Last.”

Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Ryan's Hope

When’s the last time this happened to you?

You and your boss disagree on raising your salary. You have one number in mind. He has another one, a lot less than what you think you’re worth.

You wind up getting the lower number. You lose, right? Not if you’re Ryan Howard.

If you’re the Phillies slugger, it means you’re getting a $4 million raise.

The Phils and Howard appear headed to an instant replay of last spring’s arbitration. If you remember, Howard emerged the winner in that stare-down, getting a $10 million deal for his services for the year.

This year Howard wants $18 million. The Phillies have offered $14 million. There is no middle ground here. The arbitrator picks either one number or the other.

Either way, Howard is looking at either a $4 million or $8 million a year raise.

Happens to me all the time.

Barack to Andy: Lots of work to do

Barack Obama wasn’t talking to Andy Reid, but he could have been.

In his inauguration address Tuesday, Obama warned the nation that there is a lot of work to do.

Eagles Nation believes the same thing. But is Andy Reid listening?

Reid has a slew of problems on his plate, from a long list of veteran free agents, including both of his starting offensive tackles and the spiritual leader of his defense, to a looming sit-down with Donovan McNabb. At that meeting McNabb is expected to ask for some clarification about his infamous benching in Baltimore, as well as his desire for a new contract.

Today the party is over for Obama. He gets down to the nitty-gritty of leading a nation in crisis.

Andy Reid could say the same thing. And he did not even get to the big party.

Now that’s being a fan

I have been thinking about three particular Eagles fans since the end of Sunday’s deflating loss to Arizona.

I was running errands on Saturday, listening to sports radio as I usually do, when I heard a call from three guys who decided at the last minute to go to Phoenix for the game.

They called the WIP show from their car. But they weren’t driving their rental from the airport. They were calling from the road. Actually, they were in Oklahoma City. They were driving to Phoenix.

Amazingly, early Sunday afternoon they called in again. They were in the parking lot of the stadium, noting how there didn’t appear to be very many Cardinals fans tailgating. Maybe they don’t party in 75-degree weather, under a brilliant blue sky, in Arizona.

None of this is the real kicker to the story, however. The guys made their snap decision late in the week. They hopped in their car and pointed it west, destination the Valley of the Sun.

Here’s the kicker: All three guys indicated they worked at Circuit City. Late in the week the electronics giant indicated it was closing all 567 of its stores, liquidating its inventory and laying off 30,000 workers.

Think you had it bad on Monday? At least you didn’t have to drive all the way back from Phoenix, with no job waiting for you when you got there.

That could only happen to Eagles fans.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 20

The Daily Numbers: 0, number of African Americans to take the oath of office as president of the United States. That changes today.
2,000,000 people expected to be on hand in the nation’s capital for today’s inaugural festivities.
44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.
140 miles from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Every bus, car and train will be jam-packed in an effort to get to witness history today.
1929, when they opened to door to Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park. The school will close its doors forever at the end of the current school year because of declining enrollment.
100 students per class, what jammed the archdiocesan school during its heyday. It had 121 students total this year.
3,700 dollars a year, how much it cost to send a child to Our Lady of Peace this year.
3 police-involved shootings of suspects recorded in Philadelphia in just the past two weeks.
5 suspects being sought in a fatal home invasion in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia.
23 vehicles involved in a crash after a tractor-trailer jackknifed on I-78 near Hamburg, Pa., yesterday. The interstate was closed for 6 hours yesterday afternoon.
1 of 2 controversial slots casinos planned for downtown Philadelphia. The Foxwoods resort said it is moving ahead with a plan to put the facility in the Gallery at Market East shopping center. It is being opposed by Chinatown residents.
37, age of woman suing Jet Blue Airways, claiming a male employee denied her a work-related flight because she wasn’t dressed provocatively enough.
95,000 a year, state salary for former state rep in job set up by Gov. Rendell at a time of a state hiring freeze.
2 key members of the Eagles staff that Joe Banner says will be back next year. Those would be Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.
12 million dollar, 3-year deal for key Phillies relief setup man Ryan Madson.
7 game winning streak of the Sixers snapped with yesterday’s buzzer-beater by Mavericks’ star Dirk Nowitzki.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
They are the two words that lurk in the head of every Eagles fan crying in their beers over still another loss in an NFC Championship Game. Now what?
I Don’t Get It: Philly fans get a bad rap. Consider this story from Phoenix. Donovan McNabb’s front yard at his home in Chandler, Az., last week had a message burned into it that said, “Go Cards.” That probably won’t make the national news. Can you imagine the hue and cry if that had happened here?
Today’s Upper: There really is only one word for what is going to happen today: History. Enjoy it.
Quote Box: “His dream is coming true. This is our opportunity to give back in appreciation of that.”
-- Penn Wood High School senior Dominque Grasty, taking part in day of service activities yesterday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

United we stand - witnesses to history

January 20, 2009.

There are very few days when we can say we will see something that literally has never happened before.

Today will be one of them.

Right around noon, in front of a crowd estimated to be in excess of 2 million people, Barack Obama will place his hand on a Bible and be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

It is a familiar routine, something we have gotten used to. There is the image of John F. Kennedy urging the nation to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

It is a day of pomp and history, an unbroken chain from Washington, Lincoln, to FDR and Eisenhower. In recent years we’ve seen Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and two members of the Bush family.

Of varied backgrounds, they all share one thing. They were all white men.

That changes today.

Barack Obama will literally change the face of the nation when he assumes the office as commander-in-chief.

He becomes the first African American to be elected president.

It is hard to imagine the importance of today’s event. As a person who looks in the mirror every morning and sees a white face staring back at him, the truth is that I probably don’t come close to understanding what this means.

But I know this. Yesterday we celebrated the dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. It was, as he said, “a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.”

But the truth is that dream was unfulfilled for all too many Americans, simply because of the color of their skin.

King called on the nation to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.

That starts today.

In the sometimes bitter, divisive debate over race relations in this country, many likely thought this day would never come.

It says something very special about this grand experiment, this United States of America, that we mark this occasion today.

It was a country founded on a simple belief, that all men are created equal.

Never more so than today.

There is much to do, both in fixing the daunting problems the nation faces, and continuing to address the issue of race in America.

The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United State won’t change that.

But it damn sure will go a long way toward changing not only our image of ourselves – but the world’s image of us as well.

We remain a beacon, a destination for many, believing it is a country where you can accomplish anything you want.

It is a day to feel good about being an American. Not a white American, not a black American, not any other ethnic denominations that have settled into this melting pot we call the United States of America.

Note that name. United. Never more so than today.

The Eagles post-mortem

They are the two words pounding inside the throbbing heads of Eagles fans still recovering from the hangover of another agonizing loss in an NFC Championship Game.

Now what?

Part of that murky picture started to emerge seconds after the game, and even more so during the painful “morning after” on Monday. Or I suppose you could call that the “mourning after.”

Eagles exec Joe Banner, looking to put out a brush fire started by some of his comments after the game about the definition of insanity and thinking that you are doomed to keep doing the same things if you don’t make any changes, issued a formal statement Monday morning.

The bottom line? Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb are coming back. At least that’s the team’s plan. Of course, things could happen to change that. Maybe Reid decides to move on, or at least shift some of his duties. Or it’s entirely possible the team may not be able to reach a contract agreement with McNabb.

With all of that, here are a few unsolicited suggestions for the Eagles brain trust.

No. 1: What happened to you Sunday was not a mirage in the desert. It was Larry Fitzgerald. He is a game-changer at wide receiver. He’s someone you have to account for on every play. He is, by any definition of the word, a No. 1 receiver. That is something the Eagles still lack. The Birds’ receiving corps was much-improved this year, especially with the selection of rookie Desean Jackson. He is a good receiver now and could possibly become great. But his diminutive status will never allow him to take over a game the way Fitzgerald does. The Eagles need that kind of presence.

If there was one thing that stood out from McNabb’s comments after the game, it was almost an unsaid belief that he is tired of everyone expecting him to win games by himself. There is some truth to that and it’s something the Eagles need to address.

No. 2: Going into the season without an established fullback was a disaster. Let’s not go that route again. And realize that, as good as Brian Westbrook is, using him as your every-down back will mean he gets beat up during the regular season. Westbrook’s effectiveness diminished greatly during the playoffs due to the toll injuries took on him during the year, plus having teams deciding to make sure he does not beat them. A big, bruising running back should be a must for the team to take some of the load off Westbrook.

No. 3: The Eagles will face some very delicate decisions with key players, including both of their longtime starting offensive tackles, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Then there is safety Brian Dawkins, the emotional backbone of the team. Reid and the Eagles would do best not to let these issues linger.

The pain of still another loss in an NFC title game will not ease for some time. It’s the fourth time they’ve done so in five appearances. But the Eagles could help themselves – and their long-suffering fans – by taking a close look at the issues that consistently cropped up this season and vowing they won’t happen again.

Then again, maybe Joe Banner was right. Maybe we really are all insane. Why else would this keep happening to Gang Green year after year?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 19

The Daily Numbers: 2:53, how much time was left in the NFC Championship game when the Eagles got the ball back, down by seven. You know what happened next. Nothing.
14 kids from Chester who are in Washington, D.C., to observe the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
11 students from Springfield High also in the nation’s capital as part of a school project to cover the historic event.
121 students enrolled this year at Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park. The archdiocese announced the school will close at the end of the year.
1 suspect shot by police in Philadelphia who were responding to a domestic incident.
50-foot fall survived by an ice climber in Bucks County.
30, age of resident who was killed during a home invasion in West Philadelphia.
1 resident dead and 1 firefighter injured in a blaze in a South Philadelphia row home.
19, age of suspect charged with killing a 15-year-old girl with a fatal gunshot wound to the head inside a home in New Castle, Del.
60 years, how long Circuit City has been in business. The electronics giant announced it would close all 567 of its stores, liquidate its inventory and lay off 30,000 workers.
13 Circuit City stores in the Philadelphia region that will be closed, including one in the Marple Crossroads Shopping Center.
1,500 people who showed up to mourn the 7 victims of a fire that swept through a house in Southwest Philly on Dec. 26. The crowd included many members of the Liberian community.
3 more fires in Coatesville, which has been under siege while investigating a series of arson fires.
225 jobs being eliminted by Charming Shoppes. The clothing chain has its HQ in Bensalem.
3 year, $20.5 million dollar deal for Cole Hamels, the ace of the Phillies staff.
5 NFC Championship games for the tandem of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. They have now lost 4 of them.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Raise your hand if you thought Donovan McNabb was going to march the Eagles down the field when he got the ball back with 2:53 left in the game, down by 7. Thought so. Sure, McNabb rallied the team in the third quarter to erase a 25-6 deficit and take the lead. But with the money on the table, he again didn’t get it done.
I Don’t Get It: I still think the Obama campaign could have somehow managed to acknowledge the crowd that gathered in Chester during Saturday’s Whistle Stop Tour. Instead, they slowed in Claymont before stopping in Wilmington to pick up Vice-president Elect Joe Biden. But nothing for Chester.
Today’s Upper: Hey, it could be worse. There was a call to the local sports radio station on Saturday from a group of guys who were driving to Phoenix. On Saturday they called from Oklahoma City. On Sunday they checked in after they arrived in Phoenix. It gets better. These guys all worked at Circuit City, meaning they are also out of jobs. That should be a great ride home.
Quote Box: “It falls on the defense. We didn’t get it done when we had to. At the end of the game we couldn’t get off the field.”
-- Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley, after the Eagles blew a 1-point lead and lost to the Cardinals in Sunday’s NFC title game.

Eagles fans have seen this act before

The Eagles were not content to stab us in the heart once. They decided to rip out our guts three different times during Sunday’s excruciating loss to the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.

First, they forgot to show up for the first half. Maybe they thought game time was 5 p.m., instead of 3. They certainly played like it.

The Eagles sleep-walked through the first half on both sides of the ball. As they trudged into the locker room, they were down 24-6. The hissing sound was the air going out of the balloon at all those playoff parties around the Delaware Valley.

We had seen this act before, but certainly they wouldn’t do it again, not against the Arizona Cardinals. The oddsmakers installed the Birds as 4-point favorites.

The offense sputtered, managing just two David Akers field goals. It had all the earmarks of classic Eagles. Donovan McNabb missing wide open receivers, throwing balls into the ground, or behind receivers who if hit in stride were looking at nothing but wide open spaces. The run game again appeared to be non-existent.

All that we’ve seen before, and have become accustomed to. What no one was expecting was for Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals to thoroughly filet the Eagles’ vaunted defense.

The defense has been the team’s backbone, spurring this remarkable playoff run. But it was nowhere in sight in the first half. It was believed the Eagles had to put pressure on Warner and contain dangerous wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. They did neither.

The Eagles walked off the field at halftime with their tails between their legs. I don’t know who it was that came out for the third quarter, but it bore no resemblance to the team that fumbled through that first half.

The Eagles reeled off three consecutive touchdown drives while throttling the Cards’ offense. Incredibly, just a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Eagles were sitting on a one-point lead, 26-25. There were a few ominous signs along the way, most of them supplied by kicker David Akers. He missed a field goal, and an extra point, then managed to dunk a kickoff out of bounds, setting up the Cardinals at the 35-yard line.

Time for heartbreak Number Two. After looking thoroughly befuddled and almost overmatched by the Eagles suddenly fired-up defense, Warner gets the ball back with about 9 minutes left in the game. Slowly, torturously, he starts moving the Cardinals down the field. The Eagles defense folds its tent, unable to protect the Eagles tenuous 2-point lead. The drive consumes 7:46. The successful two-point conversion means the Cards now lead by seven, 32-25.

Then came the coup de grace.

The Eagles get the ball back with 2:53 left to play, ball on their own 20. Eighty yards to go, almost three minutes to do it.

Raise your hand if you thought the Donovan McNabb was going to do something he has never done before, drive the Eagles the length of the field as the clock expired to win a game in which they were trailing.

Thought so. Another bitter defeat.

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have now played in five NFC Championship games. They have won one of them.

They have been favored in all but their first visit, when they fell to the same Kurt Warner who bedeviled them yesterday.

Sadly, we’ve seen it before.

There will be no all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. The Steelers did their part, winning a slugfest against the Ravens.

The Eagles? They merely managed to stab their loyal fans in the heart.

And this time they did it three times in the same game.

The dream becomes reality

I pointed out today in my print column that today’s marking of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday could not be more appropriate.

King spoke of a dream, of a United States where people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Tomorrow the dream becomes reality.

One of the things I always think about today is King’s mesmerizing speech that he delivered on a sweltering Aug. 28, 1963, on the mall in Washington, D.C.

We didn’t have space to run it in its entirety this year, but that’s the great thing about the Internet, space is not an issue.

Here is the full text of King’s speech. Close your eyes and you can almost seen and hear him standing before that bank of microphones in the nation's capital:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the
greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand
today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a
great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared
in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end
the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years
later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of
segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the
Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of
material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing
in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own
land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the
steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)In a sense we have
come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our
republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration
of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American
was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as
well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note
insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this
sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check
which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe
that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are
insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we
have come to cash this check - a check that will give us upon demand the
riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this
hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no
time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing
drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to
the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from
the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is
the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This
sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until
there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen
sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro
needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening
if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor
tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our
nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm
threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining
our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek
to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and
discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into
physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of
meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which
has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white
people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here
today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our
freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We
cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil
rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as
the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We
can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of
travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of
the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is
from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as
our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by
signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro
in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing
for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be
satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a
mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and
tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of
you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by
the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.
You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the
faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go
back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of
our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be
changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of
today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the
American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true
meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men
are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former
slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together
at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of
oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content
of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with
its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and
nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black
girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as
sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and
mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the
crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With
this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of
hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of
our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will
be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to
jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be
free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a
new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I
sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every
mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom
ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from
the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening
Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every
mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring
from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we
will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and
white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to
join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last!
free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Living history

It is one of the those moments that comes along once in a lifetime.

Ironically, over the weekend, and in the next two days, we will be presented with several of them.

The first came on Saturday. On an almost indescribably cold day, people waited outside for hours in places like Chester, Claymont and Wilmington.

Some of them shivered for hours in single-digit temperatures because they wanted to see history with their own eyes.

Others simply had to be there to see something they thought they would never see in their lifetime.

Barack Obama, an African American, boarded a train in Philly and then rolled through Delaware County on his way to Washington, D.C., to be installed as the 44th president of the United States.

The train did not slow down as it rolled through Chester. It did not make the occasion any less special.

Elaine Corbin was among those frozen believers in Chester. She sounded a familiar theme.

“I never thought I’d see a black president,” Corbin said. “Martin Luther King, he had a dream, and this is is dream.”

The Rev. Ronald Hughes of Community Baptist Church also was among the throng in Chester. He had his 12 year-old son and 14-year-old nephew in tow.

“It’s history in the making, and I wanted my son to be a part of history,” Hughes said.

I think back to the front page of the newspaper we created for the morning after the election last November. It was dominated by a single word: History.

Today you might call it living history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

The long, winding, highly improbable road to Tampa continues for the Eagles.

Let's hear from all the experts who picked the Eagles and Cardinals to be facing off in the NFC Championship game? Especially after the Eagles dreadful late-season effort in Baltimore, which saw them sink to 5-5-1 and their fabled QB, Donovan McNabb, sink to a spot on the bench, yanked at halftime by head coach Andy Reid.

Reid and McNabb have resurfaced, most aptly this week like the inimitable Phoenix.

But once again this week, it's the other side of the ball that dominates in this Battle of the Birds.

Cards' QB Kurt Warner struggles against Jim Johnson's defense. He is a stationary target, and the Eagles will tee off on him.

Johnson's confounding blitz packages will be the difference, as Warner is forced to hurry his throws, leading to turnovers.

In the playoffs, it's the team that wins the turnover battle that enters the winner's circle.

Donovan McNabb doesn't have to win this game for the Eagles; he just doesn't have to lose it.

Make it Eagles 29, Cards 13.

Tampa, here we come. You might remember us from the World Series. This time we'll be dressed in green.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 18

The Daily Numbers: 15 incidents of violence targeting members of the Asian community that sparked a forum by the D.A.’s office yesterday to push safety measures.
12 degrees as you head outside this morning. Yes, it’s seriously cold.
77, expected high today in Phoenix. It will be about the same at game time Sunday for the Eagles and Cardinals. Stay warm by the TV. Or just grit those chattering teeth while you’re outside today.
185,000 dollars a year, what Lou DeVlieger will make as the new superintendent of schools in Upper Darby.
30 million in bonds sold on the market yesterday by the county to cover its share of the $115 million price tag on the proposed soccer stadium in Chester.
1 vote against the bond issue expected when Council holds a special meeting this morning. Councilman Andy Lewis remains opposed.
20 years of service to Aldan borough coming to an end with the resignation of longtime Councilman John McBlain.
1 billion dollars in additional red ink now staring at the city of Philadelphia. That’s in addition to what was already noted, bringing the total to about $2 billion. Mayor Michael Nutter warns more cuts are coming.
1.9 billion budget shortfall now being predicted at the state level by Gov. Ed Rendell.
8.5 to 17 months in jail, the sentence for a Bucks County woman who cavorted with several teens at a wild sleepover that got out of control.
155 people on a US Airways jet that plunged into the Hudson River in New York City shortly after takeoff.
50 bucks, what it could cost you for a parking violation on the campus of one of the 14 state-owned universities under new fees approved.
2 men arrested after they held customers and workers hostage during an attempted robbery of a pharmacy in the Oxford Circle section of Philly.
2 days before the Eagles and Cardinals face off for the NFC championship.
3 p.m., kickoff time at University of Phoenix in Glendale.
3 goals in the second period for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they rolled to a 4-1 win over the Flyers last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s the waiting that really hurts. We’re looking at 48 hours before kickoff. Geez, we might actually have to sit down and watch those red-hot Sixers tonight.
I Don’t Get It: What is it about a plane crash, especially when the jet goes into the water, that makes impossible to ignore?
Today’s Upper: Keep thinking about Phoenix, and temperatures in the mid-70s. No, most of us will not be there in person. But Eagles spirit can keep us warm as our teeth chatter with a high temperature in the teens today.
Quote Box: “This is outrageous behavior. All of us recognize that as a factor in these cases and that is why we are here today.”
-- Delco D.A. Mike Green, at forum yesterday addressing a spike in crimes targeting members of the Asian community.

Another story of the Eagles in the desert

In my 27 years here at the Daily Times, it’s still one of the favorite front pages I ever created.

And one of the saddest.

That is because I am nothing if not a die-hard Eagles fan. At one time, seemingly another lifetime ago, I was a season-ticket holder. Back then I was single. Going to the Vet was an all-day affair, starting with an early-morning tailgate and ending at a local watering hole.

Then I got married. And I started working on Sundays. I gave up the season tickets. But not the “Gang Green” that beats inside my heart.

So it was with a heavy heart that created the front page of the Daily Times that hit the streets on Dec. 12, 1984.

It was dominated by three words: Bye, Bye, Birds.

And a face. That visage would belong to one Leonard Tose.

Tose was the Radnor trucking magnate who owned the Eagles. Tose liked to do everything first-class. He also liked to gamble, especially at Atlantic City casinos.

Eventually, the odds caught up with him. And the Eagles. Tose, desperate for funding, cut a deal to sell part of the team and move the franchise out of Philadelphia.

Imagine, Philadelphia without the Eagles. It would be like the city without the Mummers. Oh, we came close to doing that, too? Like the city without cheesesteaks, then. Or without Rocky. Just unthinkable.

I’ve been thinking about that week, now more than two decades in the rear-view mirror, because on Sunday the Eagles will play for the NFC Championship.

In Arizona. That’s where Tose had visions of moving the team. Only some hard-core negotiating by then-Mayor Wilson Goode, which included construction of luxury boxes at Veterans Stadium to increase the team’s revenue flow, saved the franchise.

Tose changed his mind, decided to keep the team here.

I will think about that on Sunday. That could be the Eagles representing the city of Phoenix and state of Arizona.

Maybe another franchise would have moved to Philly. If not the NFL likely would have awarded the city an expansion franchise.

But they wouldn’t have been the Eagles. Yes, they’ve given us a lot more misery than joy over the years.

That could change on Sunday. The Eagles can deliver their fans from the desert by winning in the Arizona desert.

And wouldn’t it be fitting payback for the city that once came so close to stealing our hearts.

A miracle in New York City

It’s one of those scenes that you simply cannot ignore. It’s like a car crash, where every driver slows down as they go by to take a gander at the carnage.

If you were anywhere near a TV yesterday, or a computer with Internet access for that matter, you were mesmerized by what you saw on the screen.

A plane was sitting in the Hudson River in New York City. Passengers were standing on the wing as the jet slowly sank into the frigid waters.

The flight of US Airways Flight 1549 is accurately being termed “Miracle on the Hudson.”

The jet apparently went through a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. It took birds in both engines, knocking out both of them. Shortly thereafter, New Yorkers were stunned as they watched the plane descend into the Hudson River.

It must have been something akin to seeing those jumbo jets slam into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. It simply can’t be happening.

But it did. The pilot of the crippled jet is being hailed as a hero. He expertly put the plane down on the water.

At that point, the crew reacted quickly and got everyone out of the plane safely.

All 150 people on board survived. Yes, about as close to a miracle as you can get.

And something you just can’t take your eyes off.

Who's picking whom:

Here in Philadelphia, we’re all pumped up for Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

Long gone are the memories of a team that at one point was 5-5-1.

That’s why I always like to check on the national writers for their take on the game. Here’s a hint: This does not seem like a lock. Writers are evenly split. Here’s a look at who’s picking whom:

Jay Novaceck, MSNBC: Cardinals
Dave Goldberg, Associated Press: Eagles

You might want to skip over Sports Their NFL writer, Adam Duerson, likes the Cardinals, big time. He sees them laying a 30-014 whipping on the Birds. Ouch!

Here’s how the panel at CBS sees the game:
The Harmon Forecast: Cardinals
Pete Prisco: Cardinals
Clark Judge: Eagles
Peter Madden: Eagles
Dave Richard: Eagles

Here’s the rundown from the gang at
Mike Ditka: Eagles
Keyshawn Johnson: Cardinals
Cris Carter: Cardinals
Tom Jackson: Eagles

Me? You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for “The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 15

The Daily Numbers: 28.8 million dollars in general obligation bonds expected to go out today. County Council will use the money for the county’s chunk of the cost of building a $115 million soccer stadium in Chester.
24 degrees, your lovely temperature as you head out this morning. Enjoy it. Tomorrow morning it’s expected to be in the teens, and stay there most of the day.
87, age of longtime Brookhaven Mayor Ralph Garzia, who died Wednesday. Rest well, mayor.
3 men charged in a recent home invasion in the Stonehurst section of Upper Darby.
2 puppies snatched by 2 heavyset men from a pet store in Springfield.
1,000 bucks a piece, what the dogs, a pug and a Maltipom, were believed to be worth.
2 billion dollar budget deficit now staring at Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. He plans to address the crisis this afternoon.
370,000 dollars, how much authorities believe a Radnor contractor ripped off from a Jenkintown church that hired him to do a major project.
5 people arrested during a protest Wednesday at Colosimo’s Gun Center in North Philadelphia.
1,772.50, what a Bloomsburg couple deposited in their bank. They were mistakenly credited with $177,250. They promptly withdrew the money, quit their jobs and moved to Florida. Now they’re facing charges.
10:05 a.m. on Saturday, when President-elect Barack Obama is expected to kick off his Whistle Stop Tour at 30th Street Station in Philly.
1 p.m., expected arrival time in Wilmington. There are no events slated for Delco, even though the train will roll right through the heart of the county, as well as through the city of Chester.
200 to 300 special invitees who will take part in a reception at 30th Street Station to kick off the trip.
10 percent spike in gonorrhea in Pennsylvania in 2007, according to the state Department of Health. Chlamydia was up 7 percent.
30 cats found living in a house in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. The home was filled with trash. The woman who lived there has been taken to a mental hospital.
4 times the legal limit for DUI. That’s what police allege the driver of a car that slammed into one driven by state Sen. James Rhoades was. Rhoades was killed in the crash. The other driver now faces charges of vehicular homicide while DUI.
600 Eagles fans who are expected to pack the Desert Eagles Nest Club. That’s a bar in Scottsdale, Az., in the heart of Cardinals country, that is the hangout for local Eagles fans. Most are people who have moved to the Valley of the Sun.
5 straight wins for the Sixers, who posted an impressive win last night in stopping Portland, 100-79.
3.5 point favorite, what the Vegas oddsmakers now are making the Eagles for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. That’s up a half point.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Don’t look now, but there’s another red hot pro team playing in this town. The Sixers have now won five in a row, including last night’s impressive win over Portland. First the Phillies, now the Eagles. The Flyers are battling for first place and the Sixers are now on a roll. What curse?
I Don’t Get It: You walk into a store, pick out two puppies worth $1,000 a piece. Then you exit. You only forgot one thing. You forgot to pay for them. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Look, everyone is trying to heat up with Eagles fever, in part because it’s unbelievably cold outside. Go ahead, admit it. Every day you see these shots of Phoenix. Sunny and 70 degrees. Tempting, huh?
Quote Box: “The rating is still pretty good and that’s what determines the rate at which you borrow.”
-- County Councilman Andy Lewis, on questions raised by the Standard & Poors Agency, which questioned the county’s depletion of its reserve funds.

Dog day afternoon

They say every dog has its day.

Today James Jones will have his.

The 47-year-old Ridley man is due in court in Media to be sentenced for killing his estranged wife’s dog.

“Baby” met an untimely demise at the hands of Jones, who at the time was wielding a 30-inch sword.

Jones apparently stabbed “Baby” during an argument with his ex. He pleaded “no contest” to charges of cruelty to animals, as well as a weapons offense, in November.

The District Attorney’s Office is expected to seek a prison sentence for Jones. The charges carry a maximum of 10 years in jail, but that is rarely ever imposed.

When he entered his plea, Jones’ attorney indicated his client “was not agreeing” with everything that was spelled out in the affidavit for his arrest. Jones is expected to explain his actions today.

I guess it will be something of a dog day afternoon, or morning as the case may be.

I wonder exactly what kind of explanation you can have for killing a dog with a sword.

We might find out today.

One more thing to prove for Eagles

Eagles fans are famous for sporting green.

Gang Green.

Believe in Green.

Big Green Machine.

You’re not really an Eagles fan unless you’re done up head to toe in green, whether it be an official jersey, a painted face, or even a green wig.

But what do you do if you’re an Arizona Cardinal? Well, they’ve had people doubting them all year. No one expected them to fly east last week and whip the powerful Carolina Panthers.

Now the team is pushing their underdog role. When Cardinals’ team members returned to practice this week, they found red T-shirts tucked into their lockers with a simple saying emblazoned on them: “Prove It.”

It’s the classic Us vs. Them strategy. Put the wagons in a circle.

There is a danger in all this for the Eagles. They find themselves in a position that no NFC team has been in, a road favorite in the NFC Championship Game.

The truth is, the pressure in this game is all on the Eagles. This despite the fact that many people think the Birds are now playing “with house money.” Yes, no one expected the Eagles to make the playoffs. Then the stars aligned for them to get in, and they promptly kicked the door down.

The belief is that now everything else is gravy. That may have been true at one time. But that changed once the Cardinals beat the Panthers.

The truth is the Eagles should win this game. The people who set the line in Vegas are not dummies. In fact, they are uncanny in how often they get it exactly right. The Eagles are three-point road favorites.

The problem for the Birds is not to get too confident, not to put too much stock in the Thanksgiving game in which they demolished the Cards, 48-20.

The Eagles will say all the right things this week. What they are not saying is that nagging feeling in the stomach of their fans.

Win, and the Eagles will be the toast of the town, setting off a two-week orgy of anticipation leading up to the Super Bowl.

Lose out there in the desert, and Eagles fans will continue their 48-year journey in a desert of their own, a scorched earth that has not seen the paradise of a championship.

It’s not a pretty sight.

Gang Green vs. Prove It.

Actually, it might be the Eagles who still have one more thing to prove to their fans.

A thought about Ricardo Montalban

Some names, some lines just stay with you.

I was thinking about that yesterday when word first started moving about the death of actor Ricardo Montalban.

The guy had a great career, appearing in any number of serious movie and TV roles.

But what is he remembered for? That’s right, he was Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island.”

Actually, that is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the name of Ricardo Montalban.

And what is?

Well, I was wondering if his coffin was going to be lined in “rich Corinthian leather.”

If you just smiled, welcome to my world. I would say we’re about the same age. That’s a nice way of saying we’re getting older.

Rest well, Ricardo.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 14

The Daily Numbers: 137 miles, from Philly to D.C., the train route that President-elect Barack Obama will take on Saturday, right through the heart of Delco.
40 different jurisdictions and 58 law enforcement agencies that will be on hand for some of the inaugural activities.
5 people arrested in connection with a string of car break-ins in the parking lots of country club across the region.
4 golf clubs in Delco that were targeted, including Aronimink, Edgmont, Concord and Paxon Hollow.
100,000 dollars in stolen goods that was believed fenced by the ring.
5,100 dollars, tuition at archdiocesan high schools, starting next fall. That’s a $240 hike.
300 greetings for our troops overseas gathered during the county’s annual Festival of Lights at Rose Tree Park. They will be sent to the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division as a way to honor the memory of Pfc. Christopher Lotter. The Chester Heights soldier, who served with that unit, was killed in action on New Year’s Eve.
30 million dollar bond issue, to cover the county’s cost of the $115 million proposed soccer stadium in Chester, that will be voted on by County Council on Friday.
40 homes in Colingdale believed to be without water this morning after a main broke in the cold, shutting off service and closing MacDade Boulevard.
200,000 dollars worth of furs stolen by 3 suspects from a store in Elkins Park.
50 cats found roaming inside a home in Hammonton, N.J. The homeowner says she feeds the cats.
6 people who suffered minor injuries when 2 trolleys collided in Darby Borough yesterday morning.
3 Acme supermarkets in the region that will shut their doors, including one in West Chester. None of the stores is in Delco.
400 million pounds of polypropylene produced a year at a Sunoco plant in Bayport, Texas. The company will close the plant and hopes to increase production at other facilities, including Marcus Hook.
2 months probation for the Bucks County mother who held the sleepover that degenerated into a sex show involving another woman and some underage boys.
12 laptop computers ripped off by vandals who broke into Overbrook High School Tuesday.
1 person killed in a fatal fire in a West Philadelphia home overnight.
240,000 tickets that were issued for the Barack Obama inauguration in Washington next week.
1,000 bucks, what a seat in the lower level for the Eagles- Cardinals NFC title game in Phoenix game is going for online.
490 dollars, the highest face value of tickets for the game.
74, the high temperature yesterday in Phoenix
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Let the sun shine in. The University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Eagles and Cardinals clash Sunday in the NFC title game, has a retractable roof. But it likely will be closed Sunday despite all that gorgeous sunshine in the desert because the Cardinals want the joint as loud as possible for the Eagles.
I Don’t Get It: Golf is tough enough. Now there’s insult being added to the high scores. Imagine hacking it around for 18 holes, then returning to your car in the parking lot only to find it has been broken into.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the citizens of Chester, who are seeking to have the train carrying President-elect Barack Obama slow down as it rolls through the city on Saturday on the way to Washington, D.C.
Quote Box: “If he slows down everywhere, he may never get there.”
-- State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, on pleas to the Obama camp to have the presidential train slow down in Chester.

The O-train

The president-elect is coming to Chester.

Sort of.

Actually, Barack Obama will be zipping through the city on a special high-speed train on Saturday.

Obama is kicking off his inauguration festivities by taking the train from 30th Street in Philadelphia straight through the heart of Delaware County. He’ll be following the route of the R2 Marcus Hook line.

It is expected that thousands of well-wishers could line the route. What isn’t known is whether the president-elect will make any stops before he hits Wilmington, where he is expected to pick up Vice President-to-be Joe Biden on their way to D.C. There is one other stop planned, in Baltimore.

As you might surmise, security surrounding just about everything involving the inauguration is very tight.

No one is saying if the Obama train will even slow down, let alone stop, anywhere along the route in the county.

But what would be more appropriate than a stop in Chester? Obama was in the city back during the campaign with a visit to Widener.

There was a huge turnout in Chester for the Democratic ticket.

Some residents and officials are taking the offensive. Chester Upland School District officials are pushing for some kind of recognition in the city. Maybe at least slowing the train down as it glides through the city, if not a stop.

Regardless, a big crowd is expected to cram the train station in Chester as the Obama train rolls by.

It’s a chance to witness history. Whether or not it goes by in a blur is still to be determined.

Driving for show, ripping off for dough?

I’ve never been much of a country club guy.

My golfing (in those increasingly rare times when I actually get a chance to get out) is done strictly on public links.

So I was a bit amused yesterday when the state attorney general announced the arrest of five people in connection with a series of car break-ins. They apparently targeted cars in the parking lots of some swanky country clubs.

The list would include Aronimink Country Club in Newtown Square. You don’t get much more exclusive than that in this area. Other country clubs in the county that were hit were Concord and Edgmont Country Clubs.

But the thieves were not beyond hitting a few public courses as well. Paxon Hollow Country Club in Marple was a victim. As was Loch Nairn out in Chester County.

Hell, I’ve even soiled the turf at those two places.

But I had to chuckle at the thought of the fine folks at Aronimink being lumped in with the hackers at some of the area’s “munis.”

It’s enough to get your argyle sweater in a bunch.

Raising the roof in Arizona

There are a couple of interesting angles to the field where the Eagles will play the Cardinals in Phoenix Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

And I mean that literally.

The University of Phoenix Stadium sports a retractable field. They literally roll the field up and move it outside in the sun all week. Then on game day they roll it back inside the stadium.

The idea is that the Bermuda turf needs as much sunshine as possible. That’s why it stays outside all week in the Valley of the Sun.

Of course, the field is not the only thing that’s retractable at the stadium. So is the roof. Which poses an interesting question.

One of the lures of Phoenix at this time of year (yes, there are reasons to go there besides a football game), is its glorious weather. Especially at this time of year. Yesterday the high in Phoenix was 74 under glorious sunshine. The high here is not expected to get out of the 20s.

So you would think that come Sunday afternoon the roof would be open to let in some of that lovely sunshine, right? I’m thinking not.

I am guessing that the call on the roof belongs to the team, not the NFL. And if that’s the case, I would think the Cardinals would keep the roof closed. Just as in Minnesota, the sound inside domed stadiums can be a serious factor for opposing teams.

Look for the Arizona fans to raise the roof on Sunday. Just don’t look for the Cardinals to open it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 13

The Daily Numbers: 499 to 699 dollars, what Eagles fans can expect to shell out for a package to the Eagles game Sunday in Phoenix. And that does not include air fare.
1,229 dollars, what it will cost you if you want to fly to the desert as well.
600 to 700 bucks, what game tickets are going for on the Craigslist Web site.
6 minutes, how long it took the Cardinals to sell out all remaining tickets Sunday after it became apparent they would host the NFC title game.
35 years of tradition with the Delco Fair, which is in jeopardy because of a dispute between a neighbor and Linvilla Orchards, where the fair was held last year.
10,000 dollars, what an Upper Darby senior citizen was scammed out of by a man who befriended her. Police say while he was running errands for her, he also was helping himself to her accounts.
1,000 dollars in damages done by vandals to the Old Central School in Springfield.
2 bank heists just over the border in Delaware believed to be the work of a man who was captured by state police after a chase that ended up in Chadds Ford.
2 more fires believed to be arsons that are now under investigation in Coatesville, Chester County.
6-2 vote by the Lower Merion School board for a controversial redistricting plan to coincide with opening of a new high school Some kids who now live within walking distance of Lower Merion High will now be bused to the new school.
3 waterfront condos in Sea Isle City, N.J., that have been condemned after a bulkhead gave way, causing parts of them including decks to collapse into the water.
1,000 dollars, what police allege an Abington woman paid her boyfriend to kill her father, with whom she had been arguing.
25,000 dollars, what computer giant Dell Inc. will pay New Jersey customers to settle a complaint over the firm’s financing promotions and rebate deals.
5 million dollars in penalties that will be paid by the pharmacy chain Rite Aid in penalties for violations concerning drugs prone to abuse.
40 million dollars, estimated cost of the parade, balls and other events tied to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
5 of the last eight years the Eagles under Andy Reid have played in the NFC championship game.
5-5-1, what the Eagles record was at one point earlier this season.
48-20, score by which the Eagles smoked the Cardinals at the Linc on Thanksgiving night.
3 point favorites, what the Eagles are over the Cardinals.
9 wins, what one team in the Super Bowl will sport. First time that has happened since 1979, when the Rams pulled it off.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
You almost have to take a breath at this point. Everyone is talking Super Bowl, as if the NFC title game against the Cardinals is a given. With this Eagles team, there is no such thing as a given. Still, they have to beat the Cardinals, don’t they?
I Don’t Get It: A 22-year-old woman in Abington apparently argued with her father. He may have yelled at her on the phone. What did she do? According to police she gave her boyfriend $1,000 to kill her father, chop up his body, and dump it in the Pinelands near the Jersey shore. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: As we prepare to descend into the coldest weather in a couple of years, which is supposed to be here for the weekend, we are warmed by a serious case of Eagles fever.
Quote Box: “They’ve ruined my whole year.”
-- Delco resident John Casey, a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, on the Eagles advancing to the NFC title game.

A staggering loss in Chester

The last thing the city of Chester needed was another murder. The city has been making strides in terms of turning around its image. There have been huge advances in the city’s economy, much of it centered along the waterfront.

But crime remains a concern. The new year was little more than a day old when Chester suffered its first homicide of the year. It was also the first in the county.

Now comes word of another murder in Chester, and this one has struck a nerve in the community.

Sometime Friday night, gunmen entered the bus run by a very familiar face in the community.

Abe Farkas didn’t have to be on the streets of Chester selling groceries out of a converted bus. He wanted to be there. He thought he was making a difference in a city that does not have a major supermarket.

Farkas paid a steep price for that kind of commitment. He was shot several times by gunmen inside his bus. He never made it to the hospital.

Some people refer to Farkas as “Good Samaritan.” He was much more than that.

Farkas was a former cop. He and his wife also were members of the Peace Corps.

He was a well-known, beloved member of the community. That became obvious Saturday evening, when a crowd braved frigid temperatures and snow showers to attend a vigil in the city near the spot where police believe Farkas was shot and killed inside his bus.

Chester continues to have its problems. Farkas was one of the solutions.

He will be deeply missed, and almost impossible to replace.

His widow probably said it best.

“He just had the Peace Corps mentality,” said Maureen Beail-Farkas. “He was always going to save everybody.”

It’s a mentality Chester could use a lot more of.

Let it roll

It turns out there is at least one growth industry in Pennsylvania.


The legal kind.

State officials report that the lottery, as well as the state’s new slots casinos, are booming.

You would think that with money tight, one of the first things to go would be spending on things such as gambling. Not so, apparently.

Maybe the thinking is just the opposite, that with the economy in shambles, maybe this is the time to let it roll on a chance at getting rich.

State records indicate that for the last six months of 2008, lottery sales are up about 1 percent. They believe changes in instant tickets and the Cash 5 game are behind the spurt. Hey, don’t downplay the work of “the world’s second most famous groundhog,” who has been pushing the games in an ad campaign.

In terms of the slots, the six casinos that are in operation are showing gains of 7 percent in December 2008, as compared to the same month the year before.

Ironically, for one of the few times since it opened, gambling revenue at Harrah’s Casino & Racetrack is Chester is down. The numbers from December were off 7 percent from the year before.

Not sure why that is. I guess they could blame the smoking ban.

Cars, Eagles make a little history

The Eagles can now claim something that no other NFC team has ever been able to say.

The only thing that stands between them and the Super Bowl is the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s right, those guys from the desert are treading on new turf. The Cardinals, either the Phoenix version or their predecessor, the long-suffering St. Louis Cardinals, have ever played in the NFC Championship game.

The same certainly cannot be said for Andy Reid’s Eagles.

Reid has now been the boss of the Birds for 10 years. After struggling the first two seasons, Reid turned the team around dramatically and has been a perennial visitor to the playoffs.

The fact is that in the last eight years, the Eagles will have played in the NFC title game five times.

Not a bad record.

Last week I wrote that all would be forgotten if Reid and his right-hand man, quarterback Donovan McNabb, beat the New York Giants and advanced to the championship game. Their season, during which they have struggled mightily at times, including one point where they sat at a thoroughly mediocre 5-5-1, would then be deemed a success.

But that was before the Cardinals did the unthinkable, before they flew east and stood the oddsmakers on their head by defeating the heavily favored Carolina Panthers.

That changes everything. The Eagles should beat the Cardinals. It’s that simple. They are favored by three points. It’s the first time in anyone’s memory a road team has been favored in the NFC title game.

The Eagles torched the Cardinals back on Thansgiving night, harassing Kurt Warner into a miserable night. It was in fact that game that provided the springboard to the Eagles turnaround. Just a few days before, McNabb had been benched at halftime as the Eagles hit bottom in a dreadful effort against the Ravens.

They should emerge victorious in this date in the desert. Do so and everything at that point will be gravy. They will face a stiff test in the Super Bowl against either AFC opponent, the Ravens or Steelers. They fell flat on their face earlier this year against Baltimore, but had one of the early season high points in dominating Pittsburgh.

Go to Phoenix, however, and come up empty, losing as they have done in three of those other NFC title games, and all the familiar questions will resurface.

Is it fair? Not really. Reid and the Eagles for the most part have achieved a standard of excellence. A gold standard? Not exactly. But one a lot of teams – and their fans – would love to have.

But it doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles should win on Sunday.

Should. Where have we heard that before?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Karma continues for Eagles fans

This is all about karma now. Or maybe it’s Billy Penn.

How else can you explain what is happening with the Philadelphia Eagles?

The “Good Vibrations” continued yesterday in a chilled Meadowlands, where the Birds swamped the defending Super Bowl Giants to earn a date in the desert.

That will come next Sunday at 3 p.m., when the Eagles face off with the Arizona Cardinals for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Don’t look now, but the Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Eagles as 3-point favorites. I’m not sure that has ever happened, the road team being the favorite in an NFC title game.

It’s hard to believe, but here it is: The Eagles are one win away from a trip to Tampa.

And that would simply continue the karma. How so? Well, consider that Eagles fans are still licking their wounds from the last game played at Veterans Stadium. Remember? Joe Jurevicius? Ronde Barber?

The Eagles hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC title game. The Bucs had a reputation of folding their tent in cold weather, in fact they had never won a game when the temperature was in the 30s, or something to that effect.

So of course they brought down the curtain in the Birds’ crusty old home with one of the most painful defeats in Eagles history.

We gained a bit of revenge last fall when the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series.

Oh, by the way, that came after the builders of the new Comcast Center did their little bit of magic involving Mr. Penn. The legend has it that the city’s founder had cursed its athletic teams ever since the city fathers changed their minds and allowed buildings to be erected taller than his perch on top of City Hall. But when they capped off the new Comcast Center, now the tallest structure in the city, they stuck a miniature Billly Penn up there to top off the building.

Voila! No more curse.

First the Phillies. Then the Buccaneers eerily lost their last four games, including coughing up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter on the last day of the season to lose to the lowly Raiders, thus opening the door for the Eagles.

The Birds then kicked it in by demolishing the Cowboys.

They are a team on a mission. And guess where they’re headed? Yes, first this weekend they have a little trip to the Arizona desert. And if they win there? The Super Bowl, which is being played where? That would be Tampa Bay. The circle is complete.

Oh, and one other thing. The halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl? That would be another Philly favorite, “The Boss.” Yes, Bruce Springsteen will perform.

Maybe he should kick off his set with “Streets of Philadelphia.”


Saturday, January 10, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick, playoff edition

Welcome to the field goal bowl.

The Eagles-Giants clash in a frigid Meadowlands Sunday is likely to come down to the strong legs of David Akers and John Carney. They're the team's field goal kickers. I see a lot of field goal attempts and not a lot of touchdowns in what should be a very cold, windy stadium.

With an all-day snow believed to be in the area on Saturday, it will be interesting to see what kind of shape the stadium is actually in on Sunday. The field should be fine. Getting all that snow out of the seats might be more of a challenge.

The challenge for Akers will be clear. The Meadowlands is not his favorite stadium. He has had his struggles there. Sunday is not the day for him to continue that pattern.

Here are the keys to the game:

Your winner is the team that controls the line of scrimmage. Simple really. Whoever runs the ball better, and stops the other team's run game, should win this one.

That and whichever team can force a turnover or two. That's where the touchdowns should come from. I don't see either team reeling off a lot of long drives. Both Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning will be challenged by the elements.

So it will come down to Akers and Carney.

Here's my scenario. The Eagles are down by three and driving into Giants territory. Andy Reid manages not to waste all his timeouts, and stops the clock with :05 seconds left. Akers trots out to try a 43-yarder.

He pulls it wide right.

Make it Giants 19, Eagles 16.

Then there's the cruel and unusual punishment version. The Birds are down 4 and driving deep into Giants territory with the seconds ticking off the clock. They have the ball at the Giants 15 with no timeouts left. Donovan drops back and completes a pass to Kevin Curtis - in the middle of the field at the 5-yard-line.

Game, set and match as time expires.

First question to Reid after the game is about the timeout he used in the first drive of the third quarter and the failed challenge that cost him a timeout early in the fourth.

That couldn't really happen, could it?

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 9

The Daily Numbers: 50 million dollars believed swindled from local investors by a Broomall man, according to SEC complaints.
10 to 12 million dollars the feds believe Joseph Forte took for himself.
14, age of girl police say a 41-year-old Folcroft man gave alcohol to, then sexually assaulted. He’s now charged with assault.
17 million dollars believed scammed out of several Catholic organizations by an 82-year-old man in Buffalo, N.Y.
1 to 3 inches of snow expected across the region starting tomorrow morning. I’ll believe it when I see it.
1 Delaware state trooper injured in a brawl outside a high school basketball game in New Castle, Del. One student also was shot in an unrelated shooting.
5,000 dollar reward posted by ATF for information leading to conviction of burglars who stole 19 guns from a hunting goods store in Franklin County.
900 bucks for a vacuum, $25,000 yacht trips and a $50,000 vehicle all being alleged that ex-state Sen. Vince Fumo purchased with money he received from charity groups.
34, age of Chester County man who has pleaded guilty to seeking sex with a Maryland girl minutes after meeting her online.
50 bucks, what was in a charity jar ripped off by a man who stuck the jar under his coat in Phoenixville.
11 Macy’s stores that will shut their doors. Two of them are in western Pa., but none in this area. The Springfield Mall Macy’s store will not be affected.
9 percent increase in sales in November and December reported by Urban Outfitters. So that’s where everyone was doing their holiday shopping.
3 members of the “New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense” being targeted by a federal lawsuit claiming voter intimidation on election day at a polling place in Philadelphia.
17 of February, the day networks are expected to throw the switch to all-digital TV. Barack Obama wants to delay the move, saying the feds already have run out of coupons to help people buy digital converter boxes they will need to get reception.
340 victims on a cruise ship sickened with severe vomiting and diarrhea. The Swiss-owned MSC Sinfonia is now docked in Bahia.
524,000 jobs slashed in December. The nation’s jobless rate spiked to 7.2 percent.
79-67-2, that’s the series record between the Giants and Eagles, in favor of the New Yorkers.
0 sacks for the Giants against Donovan McNabb in their two meetings this year.
12 sacks for the season for Giants DE Justin Tuck.
1 Flyer, Jeff Carter, who will be headed for the NHL All-Star Game. He shares the lead in goals scored in the league.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Don’t look to the national experts for a boost, Eagles fans. A quick glimpse across the Internet shows a lopsided tilt to those picking the Giants to win Sunday.
I Don’t Get It: What kind of person goes up to a cash register at a convenience store, notices a jar for donations to help kids fighting brain tumors, then tucks it under his jacket and walks out? That’s what happened in Phoenixville, all captured on the store’s video surveillance camera. Hope they track this crumb down quick.
Today’s Upper: Just two more days to wait before the Giants and Eagles take the field in the Meadowlands. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to deal with non-stop weather forecasts before we get there.
Quote Box: “Ponzi schemers succeed by creating an illusion of profitability through lies and deceit to lure investors to part with their money.”
-- Stephen J. Obie, acting director of enforcement for the federal Commodities Futures Trading Commsision.

Delco's own Bernard Madoff

It turns out Delaware County has its own version of Bernard Madoff.

Madoff of course is the New York financial wizard whom authorities allege actually was the architect of a $50 billion fraud.

Bernard Madoff, meet Joseph S. Forte.

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday filed civil charges against the 53-year-old Broomall investment manager, painting the picture of a swindler who ripped off friends and clients for years. The feds believe Forte ran a $50 million Ponzi scheme. They claim he accepted funds from a wide array of people and local institutions, all of whom believed they were getting a very good bang for their buck. Then it all blew up in their face.

Apparently in the wake of the Madoff scandal, one local investor began to question Forte’s actions. That’s when the alleged scam started to unravel.

It was laid bare yesterday, when the SEC and the federal Commodities Futures Trading Commission painted an ugly picture of a financial con game.

The feds allege a classic Ponzi ruse, with Forte shuffling large amounts of money from investors to pay off others. They believe that amounted to somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $20 million. Nice neighorhood.

Of course along the way, they also claim he was helping himself to the good life – with other people’s money. They claim he took as much as $10 to $12 million for himself.

On Sept. 30 Forte reported to his investors that the fund’s value was more than $154 million. Actually, the balance in his accounts stood at $146,814, according to the SEC.

Among his victims are some very prominent local people and investors, including the Hooper Foundation, named for Main Line stalwarts Thornton D. and Elizabeth S. Hooper of Radnor. Their foundation donated money to places like the Independence Seaport Museum, Bryn Mawr Hospital, and even Cardinal O’Hara High School in Marple. The foundation was believed to have had as much as $15.2 million invested with Forte. Hill Top Preparatory School in Rosemont was believed to have almost $1.5 million invested with the man who ran the business out of his Broomall home.

I’m left with the same question I had in the wake of the Madoff affair. Namely, how can this happen? How can so many people allow themselves to be taken in? And how can it go on for so long? The SEC filings indicate Forte apparently had been doing this for years.

Forte was not registered with the SEC. He apparently admitted the whole thing to the feds.

Now I guess the question is why? Why did he do it, and what did he do with the money?

And how long is it going to take the friends and family that made up his client list to put their lives back together again.

A defining moment for Reid, McNabb

We are approaching a defining moment.

Not the inauguration of Barack Obama. We’re talking Eagles. Specifically the Andy Reid era.

This is pretty simple. If Reid and his trusty sidekick of 10 years, starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, can march into the Meadowlands Sunday, defeat the Giants, and advance to the NFC title game, all will be forgotten.

All the pass-happy West Coast offense. All the smugness. All the arrogance. All the talk of gold standards. All the balls thrown into the ground or over the heads of open receivers.

The truth is this Eagles team has no business being in this game. They got a miracle – actually several of them – just to get into the playoffs. Last week they showed they know what to do once they get there.

So it doesn’t matter what else they do this season, if they win on Sunday. They can lose to Carolina, or lose in the Super Bowl, and this bizarre will still be a success.

All they have to do is something they have already accomplished this season, beat the Giants in North Jersey.

Lose, especially if they lose badly, or via one of those agonizing fourth quarters where they appear to have no sense of urgency as the game ticks away, and all the questions will rise up, only louder. And heaven help us should they squader timeouts and then have time expire on them as they drive toward a potential game-tying or winning score.

It’s in their hands.

Actually, it’s not. It’s in the foot of David Akers. I’ll talk about that tomorrow with my “dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.” Make sure you stop back and check it out.

A real snow job

Brace yourself.

No, not for Eagles Fever. The region is already suffering a serious case of that.

No, we’re back on the storm watch. In other words, if you’re anywhere near a TV or radio, it’s going to be a long day.

Let me try to break this down for you as painlessly as I can.

The weather is going to be fine today. Cold, but OK. Go about your business. Whatever happens is not going to get here until tonight and into tomorrow.

Here’s what we know. Some kind of precipitation, very likely starting as snow, is going to arrive tomorrow morning. Just how much, and just how fast it changes over to rain and/or freezing rain, is going to be the crucial factor.

Here’s one unsolicited tip. The reality is, and I don’t care how many fancy radar systems say otherwise, at this point no one is really sure what the system is going to do. It all depends on how the storm moves, and as we have already seen this winter, these storms can be anything but predictable. Of course that won’t stop the forecasters from talking non-stop about it all day. Suffice it to say, as far as TV is concerned, there really won’t be any other news today. There will only be weather.

This is not one of those monster storms that rolls up the East Coast, packed with moisture off the ocean. This one is coming from the Great Lakes. How much snow we get will likely depend on just how far south the storm drifts.

The farther north you are, as in Montgomery and Bucks counties, the more snow you’re likely to get. And if you’re in Allentown, which apparently now is a Philadelphia suburb, you’re going to get a fairly significant snowfall. Maybe.

Right now the “experts” are indicating the Philadelphia region likely get some kind of appreciable snow, which would be the first of the season. They’re saying 1-3 inches. I’ll believe it when I see it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we only get rain. Just don’t bet the house on it. Even if we do get snow, it is expected to change over to snow during the day on Saturday.

But here’s the much more important weather forecast. That of course would be the conditions at the Meadowlands on Sunday, where the Eagles and Giants have a little football game they’re planning to play.

It’s going to be cold, with a game-time temperature of 34 degrees and a wind child of 17. Wind also will be a factor, at 15-30 mph.

Hopefully just enough to make Eli Manning start throwing those butterfly balls he sometimes uncorks. But not enough to unnerve Eagles kicker David Akers, who has been known to struggle in the Meadowlands.

In the meantime, I suggest earmuffs today. Not for the cold, but to block out the non-stop “here it comes” forecasting that will snow us under all day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 8

The Daily Numbers: 400 jobs being eliminated at the Crozer-Keystone Health System, the county’s largest employer. Not good.
5.9 percent unemployment rate in the Philadelphia region in November. That’s up from 5.6 percent in October.
40 percent of Pa. hospitals that report the economic crisis is affecting their bottom line. Yeah, talk to the people at Crozer.
2.8 percent cost-of-living pay hike for members of Congress that Rep. Joe Sestak is looking to block because of the country’s economic crisis.
1.72, average price of gas in the Philly region, after the first hike since Sept. 16. Does anyone else think the spikes show up a lot faster than the price cuts?
15 million dollars missing from a Main Line Foundation that some local investors fear could turn into our own local version of the Bernard Madoff financial scandal.
166,348 workers across the country who received layoff notices in December.
25 million dollars set by the feds for a cleanup project on the Delaware River to ease the damage from an oil spill from the Athos 1 tanker, including work on Darby Creek and Little Tinicum Island.
3,500 grams of heroin worth $1.3 million dollars seized by drugbusters who raided a house in Northeast Philadelphia.
18.4 million dollars in amusement taxes raised in Philly for the fiscal year, this while most other tax collections are sinking. The reason? How ‘bout those World “Bleeping” Champion Phillies!
65,000 volunteers expected to take part in the celebration of the Martin Luther King Day of Service in Philadelphia.
331,000 families in Pennsylvania who are getting aid from the state’s LIHEAP program that helps people pay their heating bills. That’s an all-time high.
8 to 10 percent reduction in flights expected this year at US Airlines, the biggest airline at Philly International.
51, age of woman in Pottstown who now faces charges tied to a teen’s plot for a shooting rampage at Pottstown High. Police say she helped get rid of the stolen guns he was going to use instead of going to authorities. She’s charged with evidence tampering.
3,000 more slot machines expected to go on line at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem expected to open Memorial Day weekend.
3 more intersections in Philadelphia that are being outfitted with red light surveillance cameras.
1,200,000,000,000, that stands for more than a trillion bucks, what the federal deficit is expected to look like in the 2009 budget year.
400 people in 42 states that have come down with Salmonella poisoning. The CDC is trying to determine what caused the outbreak.
23.7 percent hike in real estate activity in the region in November, according to a survey done by Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors. In Delco business was up 22.6 percent, going from 54.1 percent in October to 66.3 percent in November. The index is based on signed contracts for real estate transactions.
2 stores at the Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach that are closing their doors. Pfaltzgraff and Geoffrey Beene are calling it quits.
28 points for Andre Miller in leading the Sixers to a big road win last night in Milwaukee.
5 wins and 1 loss for the Eagles over the past 6 weeks. They only need to reel off 3 more wins.
18 Phillies exhibition games at Bright House Field in Clearwater this spring. Tickets go on sale today.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.We don’t understand Donovan McNabb? We don’t appreciate him? Spare me. We know exactly what’s up with Donovan. He’s the Eagles quarterback. That means he’s under the microscope, starting with his first throw at Lehigh.
I Don’t Get It: A New Jersey mayor is stepping down because he’s tired of the racial threats directed at him and his family. Sad.
Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up for U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who wants to nix Congress’ automatic cost-of-living increases.
Quote Box: “To address the issues created by the very difficult economic environment, we will need to reduce our expense structure.”
-- Crozer-Keystone Health System spokesperson Kathy Scullin, on layoffs announced yesterday by the county’s biggest employer.

We're sorry, Donovan

Altogether now, Philly fans:

We’re sorry, Donovan.

The national media is at it again. They think we’re being mean to our starting quarterback. They believe we don’t appreciate No. 5, and will rue the day if and when he leaves.

Jumping on the bandwagon now is Michael Strahan. Ironically, the former Giants star defensive end is a guy who used to bedevil McNabb in their twice-a-year confrontations.

Strahan now toils on TV. Don’t all former NFL stars and ex-coaches?

He’s puzzled by the way Philly fans treat the Birds’ starting quarterback. He’s not alone. It’s the same old refrain. You know it by rote now. They’re still fixating on the caravan that went to the NFL Draft 10 years ago and booed the selection of McNabb when we lusted for running back Ricky Williams. We’ve atoned for that one, but the national experts – and of course McNabb - have not forgotten.

And of course no discussion of Philly fans would be complete without an in-depth examination of our booing of Santa Claus. Nowhere is it usually mentioned that it was a lousy, rag-tag Kris Kringle who deserved to be booed.

Strahan and the other pundits puzzled by the McNabb treatment in Philly also never get around to mentioning the fan poll that was done to coincide with the team’s 75th anniversary. They were asked to pick their favorite at each position.

And the winning quarterback? Norm Van Brocklin, you know, that guy who actually won a title? Maybe Ron Jaworski, who heard the wrath of the fans cascade down on him from the 700 Level almost every Sunday? How about Randall Cunningham, dubbed the “Ultimate Weapon,” a man who single-handedly changed the way the QB position in the NFL was viewed?

How about none of the above. The winner is the same guy who will be behind center in the Meadowlands on Sunday. And it wasn’t even close. McNabb won in a runaway.

He’s our favorite Eagles quarterback of all time. But that’s just it. He’s the Eagles quarterback. That means, in this town, he’s under the microscope every Sunday. Hell, even every practice, starting at Lehigh in August.

There’s nothing new about that. McNabb has never received the kind of surly symphony that routinely rained down on Jaworski.

And one other thing. Last time I looked, Donovan made a cool $120 million. Maybe he could afford to buy some ear plugs.

Nothing has changed. We’ll cheer Donovan when he’s on, and we’ll ride his back when he’s off. And make no doubt, there are times when Donovan is off. Way off. When he sails throws over receivers’ heads. When he now opts to throw when valuable first downs he used to get with his legs are lying in front of him.

He’ll be the hero if the Eagles beat the Giants Sunday in the Meadowlands. But fans will be screaming at TVs all over the Delaware Valley the first time he short-hops a throw to a wide-open receiver just a few yards away.

That hasn’t changed. It’s always been that way. And it likely always will be.

Michael Strahan ought to talk to Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham. Or maybe old Giants such as Frank Gifford and Sam Huff.

In this town, the quarterback is the focus of the most knowledgeable, passionate fans in the country.

They are fans who have not celebrated a world championship since 1960. They joined in the Phillies celebration last fall, now they want a parade of their own.

If McNabb delivers one, he will be a hero in this town forever. But if he throws up all over the Meadowlands, as he did in a losing effort in that Super Bowl appearance in Jacksonville in 2004, he’s likely going to hear about it.

Nothing’s changed about that.

3 more signs we're getting older

Excuse me if I’m feeling especially old today.

Here’s a name for you: Larry Storch. If you grew up in the ’60s, that name should bring a smile to your face.

Don’t remember him? Here’s a hint: Cpl. Agarn. That’s right, “F Troop.” No, it didn’t win a lot of Emmys. But it was laugh out loud funny. They don’t make TV shows like that any more. I guess some people would argue that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Storch’s birthday is today. Here’s the tough part. He’s 86. Yes, boomers, we’re getting old.

Speaking of shows they don’t make any more, here’s another name guaranteed to bring a smile to your face if you ever sat in front of a black and white TV as a kid.

Soup Sales. Remember Blacktooth? White Fang?

The kids’ show star also is celebrating a birthday today. OK, if you must know, Soupy is turning 83. Ouch!

Here’s one more. David Bowie, the Thin White Duke, is turning 62 today. Of course, Bowie has a famous Delco connection.

Raise your hand if you were in the Tower Theater in Upper Darby the night they were recording Bowie’s live album there? Wasn’t everybody?

Bleeping budget champions

Need another reason to love the Phillies and their magical run to a World Series title?

How about 400,000 of them?

City officials, who find themselves swimming in red ink these days, announced one economic bright spot yesterday. Revenue from the amusement tax is up. Actually, it’s higher than it’s been in five years.

The city levies a 5 percent surcharge on admission for entertainment events such as concerts and athletic events. For the current fiscal year, the amusement tax is expected to add up to $18.4 million, that’s up from $18 million the year before. And this comes while other tax revenues, such as the wage tax, are taking a nosedive.

And guess who’s getting the credit? Yep, those guys in the red pinstripes with the big, furry green mascot. Citizens Bank Park was packed to the rafters for the Phils’ post-season party. And the city’s coffers are among those who benefited from October baseball.

World “Bleeping” Champions indeed.

Maybe “Bleeping” Budget Champions as well.

A brutal axing at BC

So you think your boss is tough?

Just be glad you don’t work for Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo.

Maybe you’ve heard of this story. BC Head Football Coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who has led the Eagles to two ACC Atlantic Division titles in his two years at the helm, was in line to interview for the open head coaching spot with the New York Jets of the NFL.

It’s usually a logical progression. Hot college coaches are always in the running when a job opens up with an NFL team.

But when word got back to DeFilippo, he was less than thrilled. In fact, he threatened to fire Jagodzinski if went through with the interview.

Unfazed, Jagodzinski sat down with the Jets. And DeFilippo made good on his promise. He axed his head coach Wednesday.

And of course, the story has a local angle. DeFilippo once was the athletic director at Villanova. He left the Main Line for the opportunity at a bigger school, Boston College.

Imagine that, a guy looking to better his career?

I hope Jagodzinski gets the Jets job. But even if he doesn’t, he likely won’t have much trouble landing another college gig.

As for BC, good luck getting someone to take that spot with those kinds of edicts. Right now they’re looking at promoting one of Jagodzinski’s assistants.

Hope they never want to move on for a better position.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 7

The Daily Numbers: 400 people who attended a memorial service in Iraq to honor Pfc. Christopher Lotter, of Chester Heights, who was killed in action on New Year’s Eve.
9 soldiers with ties to Delaware County that have now fallen on the battlefields of Iraq.
2 persons arrested in the latest home invasion case in the county, this time in Collingdale.
31 minutes, how long it took for Collingdale police to take the 2 Philadelphia man into custody in the case.
3 recent incidents in Springfield in which thieves have removed items from unlocked cars.
8 teens cited for underage drinking after police were called to a Springfield home for reports of a loud party.
1 murder in the county already reported in 2009, and police are on the trail of a suspect. Brandon Staley is wanted in the fatal shooting of a man in a Chester deli last Friday.
1 more name crossed off Chester Police’s most wanted list with the capture of Jerome Johnson, who was wanted in a September shooting.
15 new Democrats and 12 new Republicans in the state House sworn in yesterday. That includes new state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162.
104 to 99 Democratic edge in the Pa. House.
29 to 20 GOP edge in the Pa. Senate. There are 5 new GOP members and 2 new Dems in the Senate.
105 million dollars up for grabs in tonight’s Powerball jackpot. Lottery officials also are touting changes in the game that will allow the prizes to build up faster.
93,000 dollars believed ripped off from the Philadelphia Home and School Council by its former president. He now faces trial.
8 people injured when fire ripped through an apartment building in North Philadelphia overnight.
70 weapons, including machine guns and rifles, in two recent heists in which the weapons were stolen from vehicles after two gun shows in the King of Prussia region. There is a $10,000 reward for information on the weapons being posted by the ATF.
225 workers who are not coming to Philadelphia after Unisys announced it would not move its HQ into the city from Blue Bell. Although they have been involved in a flap with the city over putting its logo on a building, company officials say the decision was sparked by the bad economy.
25 million donation to Drexel University that will allow them to buy two properties in West Philly. The money is from an anonymous alum.
40,000 dollars in donations to the campaign committee of Gov. Ed Rendell from the same donor who is a target of a federal investigation and who caused Bill Richardson to withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary.
2 men charged with arson after the fireworks they set off started a fire that burned down a garage at a Doylestown car rental business.
13,500 jobs being eliminated by aluminum biggie Alcoa. That will be a big hit in the Pittsburgh area.
65,000 dollar fine against Exelon Nuclear by the NRC for the case involving guards who were found napping at their Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Chester County.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Is the wear and tear catching up with Brian Westbrook? He averaged only 1.9 yards per carry against the Vikings. The Eagles need Westbrook to be better than that against the Giants Sunday. Last time he burned the G-Men for 131 yards on the ground, allowing the Eagles to control the clock and keep the Giants’ offense off the field.
I Don’t Get It: In New Jersey they are searching garbage dumps after a hospital accidentally threw out the body of a newborn baby. The hospital says the baby was stillborn. They have apologized to the family.
Today’s Upper: So much for the party in Harrisburg. That was Tuesday, when new members were sworn in. Now it’s time to get down to work. The state is swimming in red ink.
Quote Box: “With the amount of violence in Iraq down dramatically, you are always hoping it will all wind down without having to bury any more of our young men and women.”
-- Pa. Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, on learning that Pfc. Christopher Lotter, killed in Iraq, was a resident of his district.

Cover-ing all the Eagles issues


The new Sports Illustrated is out. And there’s good news and bad news in it.

The good news is that is making a big splash about the Eagles and their improbable run to the NFL playoffs, with them now prepping for a showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sunday in the Meadowlands.

The bad news is on the cover. Yep, that’s DeSean Jackson, the Eagles hot new rookie wide receiver, newly minted cover stud.

A lot of people believe there is a curse affixed to appearing on the SI cover.

It will now be up the Eagles – and Jackson – to break that curse. A big game against the G-Men, maybe a punt return for a TD, would suffice nicely.

Or I guess we could all just ignore the magazine, at least until the Swimsuit Issue comes out.

The odd case of J.C. Romero

A week of unadulterated Eagles fever has been interrupted by the bizarre case of Phillies reliever J.C. Romero.

The guy who expertly manned the eighth inning for the Phils, providing the so-called “Bridge to Lidge,” and winning two games in the World Series, will not be with the team for the first third of the upcoming season.

Romero has been slapped with a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a banned substance.

But it’s Romero who is the one crying foul. The reliever says he didn’t do anything illegal, that he asked several people about the substance before using it, and that he resents the label of “cheater” that is now being hung around his neck.

Here’s what happened. Romero bought the substance, some concoction called 6-OXO Extreme, at a store in Cherry Hill. It’s a testosterone builder. He went to the Phillies trainers and inquired if there was anything in it that that would get him in trouble with Major League Baseball’s testing program to crack down on steroid use. He also checked with his own nutritionist. Romero also checked the label for any banned substance.

Apparently the Phillies trainer was not sure. But Romero went ahead and ingested the substance. He subsequently failed two MLB drug tests. At that point he immediately stopped taking the substance.

A lot of people appear to have come up small in this instance. Romero likely should not have taken the stuff until he was absolutely sure it would not cause him a problem.

The union didn’t really do Romero any favors. Romero says he got a letter from players’ union on Nov. 21 indicating that their earlier indication that a supplement bought over the counter at stores in the U.S. would not cause any problems was in error.

No kidding. Romero is paying a hefty price for that now. He’ll miss 50 games, at a cost to him of more than $1 million.

The Phillies didn’t exactly provide a stout defense of Romero yesterday. New GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tried his best to straddle a fine line, saying the team was standing behind Romero, but also backing Major League Baseball’s testing program.

And so the Phils will be without a key component to the best bullpen in baseball until somewhere around June 1. Romero can take part in spring training, and pitch in Grapefruit League games, but he will not be able to appear in any regular season games.

I hope that testosterone boost was worth it.

A winter non-event

I’m only going to say this one more time.

Today we complete the first full week of January. It’s winter. No doubt at some point in the next three months we will struggle with a major winter storm.

Yesterday was not that day. Not that you would know that if you per chance flipped on your television at any point during the day. Morning, noon and night, we were serenaded with the “big story,” something just short of armageddon involving snow, changing to sleet and freezing rain, finally ending as rain.

Well, they got the rain part right. That’s about all we got. The roads were wet. Yes, there were some slick spots on side roads, but for the most part we survived. Same thing this morning. I drove in from the infamous “northern and western” suburbs, as I do every day. I encountered a couple slick spots in my development. Once out on the main arteries, however, it was smooth sailing.

Last night I had to chuckle as I chipped off the ice from the windshield and windows of my car in the parking lot as I prepared to head home. It was not that I was amused by the weather. Admittedly, I hate winter. Hate it just a little more each year. But a few minutes before, I actually had heard one local TV forecaster warning people that if there was ice on their windshield, they could expect ice on the roads as well.

That may have come as news to the legions of PennDOT workers who had clearly been working diligently treating the roads. I encountered no ice as I made my way home.

I’m not going to fool anyone by saying I don’t get it. I know exactly what this is about. It’s about ratings, and our endless fascination with weather, especially bad weather.

That’s why even the remotest threat of bad weather becomes big news. Yesterday it seemed like it was the only news.

This morning they’re right back on it. Apparently there are icy spots in some places. There are schools in Bucks and Montgomery counties that have delayed the opening of schools.

SEPTA is having some problems. They are reporting 40-minute delays on their busy R5 Paoli-Thorndale commuter line. They say it’s an Amtrak issue.

There also are delays being reported at Philadelphia International Airport.

Gone are the reports of doom that cascaded down on us yesterday. I don’t know exactly where all that snow and ice wound up, but it didn’t come here. Did anyone else hear reports yesterday of 1-3 inches in some areas?

Just keep repeating, northern and western suburbs …. northern and western suburbs …. northern and western suburbs ….

Some day I may even determine where those are.

Right now I will simply grit my teeth and wait for the next winter “event.”

My guess is we won’t have to wait long.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 6

The Daily Numbers: 20, age of Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter, of Chester Heights, who was killed in action in Iraq on New Year’s Eve.
9 soldiers with ties to Delaware County that have now fallen on the battlefields of Iraq.
39 years spent as the top cop in Lower Merion. On Monday Joseph Daly became chief of police in Springfield.
5 months in prison and 5 months home confinement for the Bucks County man who admitted sabotaging a Chinook helicopter being assembled at the Boeing plant in Ridley Township.
110,000 dollars in restitution that Matthew Montgomery also needs to pay. He told the court he was not cut out for factory work.
3 sections of Haverford Township that have been targeted by thieves during daylight break-ins in recent weeks.
5 people hospitalized in a suspected case of carbon monoxide poisoning in Darby Borough Monday.
34 years in local government coming to an end with the resignation of Upper Darby Mayor Raymond Shay.
250 bucks, what Eagles fans can expect to shell out if they want a ticket to Sunday’s NFC playoff game between the Giants and Eagles at the Meadowlands.
1,100 jobs being slashed by health insurer Cigna Corp. That’s 4 percent of the workforce for the firm, which has its HQ in Philadelphia.
370 million dollars, what Endo Pharmaceuticals of Chadds Ford will pay to acquire Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
5 recent blazes in Coatesville that are being investigated in a recent series of suspected arson fires.
7 fire companies in Philly that have now been disbanded after a judge refused to block the move.
50 million dollars, what a former exec at Verizon claims Sen. Vince Fumo demanded during negotiations tied to phone-industry regulations.
40 years in prison for a Bucks County man who pleaded guilty to raping a 9-year-old girl at his home.
7 people killed in holiday crashes in Pennsylvania during the New Year’s holiday period, according to state police.
4, age of boy who police say shot his babysitter after the 18-year-old accidentally stepped on the boy’s foot.
32 percent sales drop reported by Ford Monday. For Toyota the news also was bad, with sales off 37 percent. Meanwhile, Subaru said its sales were actually up 0.3 percent.
50 games, the suspension facing Phillies reliever J.C. Romero after he tested positive for a banned supplement. Romero says he was told it was OK and vows to fight the suspension.
16 million dollar deal for two years for Pat Burrell to be the DH for the Phils’ World Series foe, the Tampa Bay Rays.
4 for 4 on field goal tries to Eagles kicker David Akers Sunday vs. the Vikings.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
One of the unsung heroes of the Eagles’ win Sunday over the Vikings was placekicker David Akers. In the comfy confines inside the Metrodome, Akers rocketed four consecutive kicks through the uprights, one from 51 yards out. Things aren’t likely to be as conducive this Sunday, when the Eagles visit the Meadowlands. The place, and its swirling winds, has bedeviled Akers for years.
I Don’t Get It: A 4-year-old kid apparently threw a tantrum in Jackson, Ohio, when his 18-year-old babysitter accidentally stepped on his foot. So what did he do? Cry? Stamp his feet. No, the tyke shot his babysitter in the arm. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Tell me that we’re one day closer to spring. In the meantime, we will have to deal with a “wintry mix” today. Swell.
Quote Box: “I am deeply saddened by the loss in action in Iraq of Private First Class Christopher Warren Lotter. Every good American is humbled and honored to know that young men and women like Pfc. Lotter will stand in our defense thousands of miles from our shores with courage and the determination to represent the best of our national character.”
-- U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, on learning of the death of a Delco soldier in Iraq.

A grim task

It is one of the tasks I dread each day.

One of the first things I do when I arrive at the office each day is go as fast as our aging computer system will carry me through a series of about 20 Web sites. I will grudgingly admit it is something good about the Internet. It’s something that has proven invaluable in the news-gathering process.

But what it often leads to is something we’d rather not have to deal with.

Most of the sites are news sites. Sometimes I indulge myself with a couple of sports sites.

But every morning I dread going to one particular site.

It is the official media Web site of the United States Department of Defense.

Each morning I check it. I clink on the link for Press. Then on News Releases.

Then I hold my breath as I click on each new story that has been added to the tragic toll. They carry a simple headline: “Department of Defense identifies Army casualty.”

I wince as the short story appears, listing the name, town and circumstances involving the latest death connected to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I look at the names, but especially zero in on the towns. The reason is obvious. I want to know if any soldiers from our area, Delaware County, have been killed in action.

Yesterday morning I breathed a sigh of relief when the towns – Bronx, N.Y.; Concord, Calif.; Newman, Calif.; Central Point, Ore.; - did not include a Delaware County dateline.

I’m not sure why, as if that fact makes the loss of that service member any less of a tragedy. But it is a tragedy that is happening somewhere else, to some other town, to some other grieving family, covered by some other newspaper.

I checked the Web site yesterday morning, grimaced at the newest entries, and then went about my business, knowing that Delaware County had again escaped unscathed.

But only for a few hours.

About 6:30 last night, after our final Page One meeting of the day, after we had decided what would dominate the front and back pages of today’s print edition, Associate Editor Joe Hart stuck his head in my office and said, “We’ve lost a soldier in Iraq.”

I knew exactly what I had to do. I pointed my computer back to that DOD Web site. Then clicked on the new entry, headlined, “Department of Defense identifies Army casualty.”

The news release is brief, almost cold, as if that somehow will ease the waves of grief that will emanate from it:

“The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter, 20, of Chester Heights, Pa., died Dec. 31, 2008, in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot by enemy forces in Tikrit. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

“For more information the media may contact U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, public affairs office at (808) 656-3159 or (808) 656-3157.”

That’s it. It doesn’t tell you much about who Christopher W. Lotter was, only that he was the latest hero to fall on the battlefields of Iraq. Today we will go about the sad job of describing just who Christopher Lotter was.

The news concerning Lotter arrived the same day as the region bid goodbye to Army Maj. John Pryor, a doctor who was the director of the trauma program at the University of Penn Hospital.

This morning I printed out the list of other soldiers with ties to Delaware County who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are eight other soldiers who have been killed in action in Iraq.

According to the Military Times Honor the Fallen Web site, as of Dec. 31, 4,831 men and women have been killed supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Today we will go about the sad business of reporting the details of one of the latest to fall, Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter.

He hailed from Chester Heights. He was 20 years old.

Some days I hate this job.

Messing with our Tampa karma

Pat Burrell is messing with our Tampa karma.

Let me translate. This “Tampa effect” has its roots back on the final Eagles game played in Veterans Stadium.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in town for the NFC title game. It was exactly what Eagles’ fans had been salivating for.

The Bucs were notorious for being unable to function when the temperature was below 32 degrees. So it was expected they would shiver through a humiliating farewell to the Vet.

It turns out the Eagles – not just their stadium - were the ones sent to an icy grave.

I won’t bother with the particulars, other than to wonder if Joe Jurevicius and Ronde Barber are still running.

We gained a measure of revenge last fall the Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays to end our championship drought at 25 years, a quarter century of fans’ frustration.

The Tampa karma continued for the Eagles when the Buccaneers played an integral part in the Birds’ improbable – some might say miraculous – entry into this year’s playoffs.

The Eagles needed about 1,000 things to happen on the final Sunday of the regular season just to have the opportunity to get into the post-season. But most of all they needed Tampa to lose to the hapless Raiders. Yeah, sure, the Raiders were going to fly across the country, then top the Buccaneers, who desperately needed a win to stamp their own entry into the post-season.

Yes, miracles do happen. Jon Gruden and the Bucs went belly-up, losing their fourth straight game by blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and falling to the Raiders. Then the Bears joined the party by losing to the Texans, and the Eagles kicked in the door to the playoffs by dismantling the Cowboys.

That’s when people noticed where this year’s Super Bowl is being played. That’s right. Tampa. Our old pals. The Eagles took the first step to that goal Sunday by whipping the Vikings in the climate-controlled comfort of the Metrodome.

But there’s been a hiccup on the road to Tampa. The karma has been messed with. And by the guy who led that glorious parade in October.

Pat Burrell will take the field next year for a team that played in this year’s World Series.

It just won’t be the Phillies.

Burrell yesterday signed a free agent offer with the Phils’ World Series foes, the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s a two-year deal worth $16 million. He’ll likely be the Rays’ designated hitter, meaning he won’t have to patrol left field for them.

You can’t blame Burrell. It became fairly obvious after the Phils signed Raul Ibanez that he didn’t fit in their plans.

But it does put a chink in the Tampa karma that’s been floating around the city.

So if the Eagles don’t make it to the Super Bowl, in that certain Florida city, we know who to blame.

Of course, that would be the “Pat” answer.

A 'wintry mix'

Christmas, wrapped neatly in a nice New Year’s package, arrived Monday afternoon for local weather forecasters.

I can sum it up in two words: Wintry mix.

Get used to hearing them this morning and throughout the day.

That’s right, we’re about to deal with another winter weather event.

First things first. As we’re being breathlessly told by local TV types this morning, it’s doing absolutely nothing right now. Schools will be open. The roads actually are dry. So far, no harm, no foul.

Later in the day is what is – literally – up in the air.

We’re expecting to get a shot of snow, freezing rain, sleet and finally rain.

Just how big a problem this is going to be remains to be determined. It could be nothing; it could wind up like the Christmas Eve conditions that turned roads into ice rinks.

Whatever happens is supposed to arrive here around lunch time. For Delco it could start as snow or sleet. It will eventually turn over to rain tonight. But the drive home could be an adventure.

Then again, if you live in the infamous “northern and western suburbs” (and by all means call me if you can tell me exactly where these ’burbs are), it could be a lot different. Just realize that Allentown, the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos are now apparently part of the northern and western suburbs.

There you have it. What do you think the over/under might be on hearing this word tonight on TV: Treacherous.

It has become the buzzword when describing any kind of winter weather event’s effect on driving.

Then again, you might also hear this one: If you don’t have to go out, don’t.

Of course, that might not help you get home from the office.

Yep, the holidays are behind us. Now we get 90 days of dealing with these kinds of “winter weather events” every couple of days.

Don’t worry, if this one doesn’t develop, there will be another one a few days off in the extended forecast.

Wake me when spring arrives.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 5

The Daily Numbers: 20 carries for 38 yards on the ground yesterday for Eagles running back Brian Westbrook.
71 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass in the fourth quarter for Westbrook, sealing the Eagles wild-card win over the Vikings.
1 day, how long it took Delco to record its first homicide of the year, when a man was found shot to death in a Chester deli Friday afternoon.
1 person from Darby Borough charged in the region’s first homicide of the year, a fatal shooting in Philadelphia.
3 persons charged with firing guns in Upper Darby on New Year’s Eve as the clock struck midnight to welcome in the new year.
25 percent hike in tolls facing all those who drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
4 victims who were bound with tape during a convenience store robbery in Claymont, Del., Saturday night.
6 days a week Pennsylvania residents can now get help from state unemployment offices. You can now dial unemployment offices at 1-888-313-7284 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday to get unemployment compensation help.
0, what it will cost to enter the African American History Museum in Philadelphia during the Martin Luther King Weekend.
7 Philly fire companies and 11 libraries that are still in the crosshairs as Mayor Michael Nutter looks for ways to cut spending and shrink a growing deficit.
10,000 dollars won by a 70-year-old man at a blackjack table at the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. He was held up on his way to to his car.
10 million dollar winning lottery ticket cashed in by a widow in Connecticut. Her husband had purchased the ticket as part of his daily ritual. He suffered a fatal heart attack later in the day.
3 young pit bulls whose emaciated bodies had been thrown in trash bags and dumped in a rural part of Cumberland County, N.J.
500,000 dollar fine to be paid by the West Chester firm Lasko Products after they were cited by the feds for problems caused by defective fans.
4 career post-season interception returns for touchdowns for Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. That’s an NFL record.
3, as in the third meeting of the year for the Eagles and Giants Sunday in the Meadowlands.
3 times the two teams have played in the post-season. The Giants hold a 2-1 advantage.
1 p.m. kickoff for the NFC Divisional playoff game in the swamps of Jersey.
4.5 point favorite, what the Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Giants over the Birds.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Did anyone else spend most of their day yelling at their TV and the antics of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, only to wind up smiling, in large part because of the Birds’ defense and Brian Westbrook?
I Don’t Get It: Some people just insist on shooting off guns to celebrate the new year. It happened again this year in Upper Darby. And several people now have criminal charges filed against them to show for it.
Today’s Upper: Maybe there’s something to all this karma and the idea of lifting the curse of Billy Penn. All I know is that the Eagles are alive for another week, meaning we’ve got something to cheer about for another week, and we’re another week closer to spring.
Quote Box: “I mean, this is the time to step your game up.”
-- Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, who returned an interception for a TD against the Vikes. It was the fourth time he has done so in the post-season in his career.

For Eagles fans, the life of Brian

Brian Westbrook is a little bit like fireworks. You’re never quite sure when he’s going to go off.

For more than three quarters yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings did what they conceded they must do to beat the Eagles. They smothered Westbrook.

But like a bottle of champagne left over from New Year’s Eve, it was just a matter of time. Westbrook did almost nothing on the ground yesterday. The Vikings vaunted defensive front proved every bit as good as advertised. Westbrook wound up with 38 yards on the ground on 20 carries.

But with just a handful of minutes left in a gut-wrenching afternoon, with the Eagles clinging to a slim 16-14 lead, McNabb lofted the ball over the furiously charging Vikings defense on one of those signature Eagles plays.

It landed in the soft hands of Westbrook, who had been waiting all afternoon to get the ball with some space between him and the purple people eaters that had harassed him all day.

With a convoy of protectors, Westbrook took off on a 71-yard sprint to the end zone.

Game, set and match.

The entire Delaware Valley breathed a sigh of relief.

The magic surrounding Philadelphia sports would continue for at least one more week. Seven days after the most improbable combination of events opened the door to the playoffs, with the Eagles kicking it down by dismantling the hated Cowboys, the Birds cashed their ticket yesterday by gutting out a win in Minnesota.

Now it’s on to the Meadowlands. The scene of so many classic Eagles-Giants clashes now will brace for one more, with a spot in the NFC championship game on the line.

The Eagles should be credited with dismissing much of the gloom that normally hangs over the region today. It’s a gray, drab Monday. Schoolkids are returning to the classroom. Their parents, another holiday season now in the rear-view mirror, are trudging back to the office.

But there is joy in Philly. The Eagles are still alive.

Bring on the Giants.

A prime-time player

This is why the Eagles went out and dumped all that money in the lap of Asante Samuel.

And this is what makes him so different than Sheldon Brown and a long list of Eagles who have had the opportunity to shine on a national stage, and instead shied away.

Make no mistake, Sheldon Brown played a very good game yesterday, consistently breaking up passes and providing a menacing, physical presence to Vikings’ receivers.

But Samuel is a difference maker. The playoffs are his stage. And he relishes in the moment.

Samuel did not practice on Friday, having tweaked his hip. Not that his presence during Sunday’s wild-card matchup with the Vikings was ever in doubt.

Early in the game, it appeared Samuel had tweaked that bum hip, lying on the turf inside the Metrodome, then limping to the sideline.

That was shortly before he stepped in front of an ill-advised throw from Tarvaris Jackson and headed for the end zone. His touchdown deflated the Vikings and provided the Eagles with an advantage they never relinquished.

Late in the second half, with the Vikings desperate to make a play, Jackson threw another pass directly into the hands of an Eagle defender. It clanked off Sheldon Brown’s hands.

Samuel set an NFL record yesterday. His 44-yard return for a TD was his fourth career postseason touchdown.

Jackson signed with the Eagles in the off-season when they dangled a six-year, $57 million deal in his face.

Anyone want to argue whether he’s worth the money?

Deadly start to new year

That didn’t take long.

A little more than 24 hours to be exact. That’s how long it took for the first murder of the new year to occur in Delaware County.

Michael Jackson, 29, was found shot on the floor of the New Chester Deli in the first block of West Ninth Street. Police responded to the deli and found Jackson’s body around 3:30 p.m. Friday. His death likely will be ruled the county’s first homicide.

Jackson’s death came on the same day we noted the grim total from 2008, when the county racked up 38 homicides in 2008. Actually those “killer” numbers, both in the county and Chester, were down from the levels of 2007.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to learn of the first murder of 2008 less than two days into the new year. Last year the county did not record its first homicide until nearly halfway through January.

Delco also had a part in the first murder in the region in the new year. A Darby man, Jalim Robinson, was charged in the first homicide in Philadelphia, which occurred just hours into the new year.

Robinson turned himself into Philadelphia police.

So much for goodwill toward men. I guess now we’re back to business as usual.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Go ahead, admit it. You never thought we'd be here.

Wild Card Weekend and where are the Eagles? Safely tucked into their barcoloungers? Not exactly. They're in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to play the Vikings.

Christmas came late this year. On Sunday, the stars aligned in a holiday miracle to deliver the Eagles to the threshold of the playoffs. Then the Birds dismantled the Dallas Cowboys to punch their ticket to the frozen northland.

Now they have to stop the Vikings. More specifically, they have to stop one man. that would be Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the NFL. On the other side of the line, they will be hard-pressed to run the ball against a very good Vikings' front four.

On the other hand, the Vikes do not defend the pass very well. Yes, that was a shudder that just went through your system. We could very well spend much of late Sunday afternoon screaming at the TV for Andy Reid to run the ball. Save your breath. To win this game, the Eagles will need to ride the right arm of Donovan McNabb. If he's on, the Birds should prevail, so long as they don't allow Peterson to treat them the way Brandon Jacobs and Clinton Portis did this year.

In the matchup of Andy Reid vs. his old protege Brad Childress, I'll go with Reid. It will be a low-scoring affair, dominated by field goals.

Makes it Eagles 23, Vikings 13.

Then it's on the Meadowlands.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Daily Numbers - January 2

The Daily Numbers: 38 homicides reported in Delaware County in 2008.
12 percent decline in murders from 2007.
28, that’s the average number of homicides over the past 15 years, so we’re still above average.
19 of those 38 homicides took place in Chester, and that’s also down by 8 from 2007.
1:04 a.m., that’s when the county’s first baby of 2009 arrived. Kudos to mom and dad, Wendeh and Gordon Jenkins of Darby Borough.
28 degrees, the temperature when the Mummers kicked off their annual strut up Broad Street.
300,000 dollars, cap for costs that will be paid for the parade by the city amid a budget crunch.
0 dollars in prize money put up by the city.
7 minutes into the new year, 1 person was killed fire roared through an apartment complex in Northeast Philly.
1 man shot early this morning by police in Camden, N.J., after a street altercation. It’s believed to have stemmed from a domestic dispute.
50 percent hike in the gas tax now being pushed in D.C. Great, just when we were starting to enjoy those low prices at the pump.
1 cent dip in gas prices across the region. We’re now paying an average of $1.68 at the pump.
8,000 tickets still available this morning in Minnesota for Sunday’s game with the Eagles vs. the Vikings.
38-24 loss hung on Penn State by a clearly superior USC team. At one point before halftime it was 31-7.
6 wins and no losses for Eagles Coach Andy Reid in the first game of the playoffs. Not a bad record.
7 of the last 8 meetings with the Vikings have seen the Eagles come out on top.
7 wins and 5 losses for Donovan McNabb as a starter in the playoffs.

Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
8,000 tickets remaining for a playoff game? It’s heresy. What ever happened to those dedicated fans who used to sit outside at old Municipal Stadium in Minneapolis. Eagles fans will be glad to fill those seats in the comfy Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
I Don’t Get It: Now apparently you can’t talk or laugh in the movie theater without risking getting shot.
Today’s Upper: A huge thumb’s up for the Cahill Fancy Brigade Mummers troupe, which put in an appearance in Eddystone last night to see off one of their own. Eric Sprague is a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard and is being deployed to Iraq with the 56th Stryker Brigade.

Quote Box: “One of the things I’m trying to do is promote this great tradition and let people know what we’ve got here.”
-- Eric Sprague, talking about bring his Cahill Brigade pals to Eddystone to spread the word about the Mummers Parade.

Mum's the word on library closings

If it’s New Year’s Day, that means Mummers.

It was good to see all those sequins and feathers making their way up Broad Street. You don’t need a calendar in Philly to mark the new year. All you need to hear is that familiar banjo. The sight of men in sequins can mean only one thing: Time to strut.

This year’s parade was not without its issues. A city budget crunch almost put the tradition on the shelf. Talk about your ruffled feathers.

Eventually the Mummers agreed to pick up the cost for anything over a city-imposed cap of $300,000. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady came up big as well, finding private donors to cover some of the additional costs.

Now here’s a suggestion. No, no one asked for one. I’m going to give it anyhow.

I love the Mummers. I believe the parade is one of the region’s treasured icons. I realize that opinion is not unanimous.

Here’s my problem. In a city that is looking to close 11 library branches and slashing other city services as well as cutting jobs, why can’t a similar fund-raising effort focus on keeping those libraries open?

The Mummers are one of our proud traditions. But should children who depend on those library branches cause any less concern?

All those ruffled feathers should be just as upset at the fate of those libraries.

Certainly a fund drive could come up with the money to keep them open.

How about the city’s vaunted sports franchises? They didn’t mind holding out their hand for public money when they built those palaces their millionaire players strut their stuff in.

Maybe now they’d like to answer the bell and help keep the libraries open.

Just one man’s opinion. I love the Mummers. But I love libraries, too. And I think the idea of closing them should at least spark the same the kind of concern as the notion of New Year’s without the Mummers.

Neither should ever happen.

Road trip for Eagles fans

Pity the poor Minnesota Vikings. They are about to get a taste of Gang Green.

Remember when a playoff game in the northland meant a steely Bud Grant in that old Vikings sweatshirt, and behemoth players emitting huge gasps of steam from their frozen lips?

Things are a bit more comfy these days in Minnesota. Oh, it’s still plenty cold outside. But the Vikings now play their games in the comfy confines of the Metrodome.

Apparently it’s still not comfy enough for a lot of Vikes’ fans. They are staying away in droves.

At the beginning of the week, the Vikings reported they had 20,000 tickets remaining for Sunday’s NFC Wild Card battle with the Eagles.

There is something like 8,000 remaining this morning. The team has to sell the tickets by 4:30 this afternoon or face the prospect of having the game blacked out in the local market. They’ve already received an extension from the league.

Vikings players are actually taking to the airwaves urging their fans to buy tickets.

A lot of tickets have been snapped up – but not by Vikings fans. You guessed it. The Twin Cities is about to learn of the legendary travel habits of Eagles fans. Gang Green will be invading the Metrodome on Sunday. It will be interesting to hear just how many chants of E-A-G-L-E-S are booming through the indoor facility.

If you’re headed for Minnesota, we’d love to talk to you. Give the newsroom a call at 610-622-8803. Ask for reporter Scott Ware.

Minnesota is about to turn green with envy.

A blue streak for 2009

So much for resolutions.

Every year I make the same one, and every year it goes up in flames hours into the new year.

My goal? I want to curse less. Oh, I’m usually pretty good in public. In fact, I’m on my best behavior. But little things have a tendency to drive me over the edge, with a resultant blue streak emanating from my mouth.

I should be better than that, and I will vow to work on it in 2009.

Unfortunately, I also work at a newspaper, and I find myself up to my neck each day in technology. It gets a bit more complicated every day, juggling between print and online work. What used to be a single deadline each day now is a never-ending series of races to get information to our readers online.

Sometimes I feel like roadkill on the information superhighway.

And when the technology we depend on to pull off these daily miracles – both online and in print – act up, well, let’s just say I can make a sailor blush.

This morning for whatever reason I could not get a story I wanted to post to display properly on our Web site. You’d have thought the world was ending.

I vow to do better this year.

Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.