Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 31

The Daily Numbers: 300 tickets to the Final Four games that went off in a lottery for Villanova students last night.
200 bucks, what one of those ducats set the students back.
3,995 dollars, what one online outlet was asking for tickets to Saturday’s Villanova-North Carolina Final Four faceoff.
1,400 orders that came into the Villanova University Shop on campus for Wildcats merchandise as they head for the Final Four.
0 fare hike or services cuts included in the $1.13 billion operating budget OK’d by SEPTA.
108,413 dollars, how much a Broomall man is believed to have bilked from an Upper Darby company by putting bogus friends and family on the firm’s payroll.
2 more elementary schools – one in Philadelphia and one in Bristol – that will be closed by the archdiocese because of declining enrollment.
18, age of suspect charged in the graffiti rampage against 15 homes in Newark, Del., over the weekend. Police now believe he was targeting the homes of some fellow high school students.
3 armed robberies on the streets of West Chester that are causing alarm both in town and on the campus of West Chester University. No one was injured in the gunpoint attacks.
10 minutes, how long a tornado stayed on the ground Sunday in Lancaster County packing winds of 85 to 95 mph. It caused an estimated $2 million in damages.
2 suspects under arrest in the break-in and theft spree that targeted a Catholic school in Delaware six times since September 2008.
15,000 rooms that have been booked in Philly for the On Demand Conference and Expo, being called the largest convention in city history.
21, where Chester County ranks on the list of wealthiest U.S. counties, according to date tracked down by Syracuse University.
2 more colleges that are now battling incidents of meningitis. Both the Penn State main campus and East Stroudsburg University are reporting students with the bacteria.
6 months, age of baby in western Pa. that died of alcohol poisoning. A prosecutor says he plans to file charges against the parents.
3 cent hike in the price of gasoline over the weekend. Average price in the Philly region now is $2.06.
2 runs on six hits allowed by Chan Ho Park as he pitched almost six innings yesterday for the Phils.
3 runs on 10 hits give up by Cole Hamels as he threw in a minor league game in Clearwater.
4.9 rating for Sunday’s final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational won by Tiger Woods. It was the highest rated golf telecast since last June’s U.S. Open, also won by Woods. He was off the golf radar screen since just after the Open after undergoing surgery on his knee.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I suppose we will just have to learn to deal with the fact that the “ace” of the Phillies staff does not always translate into the Opening Day pitcher. The team confirmed yesterday that Cole Hamels will not be available for Sunday night’s opener on national TV vs. the Braves. He is not, however, expected to miss a turn in the rotation.
I Don’t Get It: It’s enough to drive you nuts. First it was peanuts and peanut butter. Now it’s pistachios. There’s another huge recall today over concerns about possibly contaminated pistachios.
Today’s Upper: The Philadelphia district attorney yesterday announced a new program to target adults who buy guns and then turn them over to teens. It’s called being a straw buyer.
Quote Box: “Whatever we bring in is right out the door.”
-- Jane Del Grippo, assistant director of merchandising and marketing at the Villanova University Shop, on the sale of Wildcats’ gear now that the team is headed to the Final Four.

About those Springfield kids & teachers

UPDATE: This fundraiser managed to raise $110,336.85 cents for cancer
research. That is not a misprint. The students and staff at Springfield High raised more than $110,000.

May hat is off to them!


This newspaper has had its issues with the good folks in the Springfield School District recently.

Specifically, a lot of teachers did not like the way we characterized their position in ongoing contract negotiations with the school district.

I wrote about it in my Monday column. You can read it here.

So I was more than happy to get a call from a woman yesterday to inform me of something that happened at the high school. While I was glad to hear about it, I was chagrined when she noted that it did not get any coverage from the newspaper. And she then offered a familiar complaint. It’s easy for kids to get in the newspaper. All they have to do is something wrong.

She was right.

The event was the high school’s annual dance marathon that was held Friday night into Saturday to raise money for charity. Specifically, kids are on their feet all night dancing to help the Four Diamonds Fund, which raises money for kids battling Pediatric Cancer.

The kids raised thousands of dollars. I asked the woman to send me some information so we can do a story on their efforts. We run a page every Saturday we refer to as Good News and this certainly seems like a perfect candidate.

And yes, I’m informed many teachers also take part in the fundraiser.

As someone who posted a comment on my column pointed out, “Did you see what the kids at Springfield High did this last weekend? The word ‘greedy’ can never be used when talking about Springfield teachers or students. Success like this takes a lot of work. It is just one of those things teachers do with students above and beyond 'education’ that teaches children true lessons about life. How much is that teacher’s time worth?"”

Point taken.

Nuts to you

Here we go again. First it was bad peanuts. Then we were told not to eat any number of products containing peanuts or peanut butter.

Now it’s pistachios.

Yesterday federal officials warned consumers not to eat any food product containing pistachios in still another salmonella scare.

The nation’s second-largest pistachio producer, Terra Bella Inc., of California, is voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of the roasted nuts.

The feds aren’t telling people to throw anything out just yet, simply that they don’t eat them. They’re checking to see if the pistachios have been contaminated with the same bacteria that fouled the peanut crop.

Sure, we’ll just put them aside and then wolf them down as soon as the feds give the green light. How do you think that is going to work out? Yeah, that’s what I thought. In my house, all the peanut butter and my favorite peanut butter crackers went directly into the trash can as soon as that scare went public.

It can only spark one response: NUTS!!!

A sports weekend to remember

Buckle your seat belts, sports fans. This promises to be a weekend to remember.

It starts on Saturday with the Villanova Wildcats tangling with North Carolina in the Final Four for the right to advance to Monday night’s NCAA basketball championship. Tip-off time is 8:47 p.m.

You have to figure bars and restaurants on the Main Line are big fans of the Wildcats. The places are packed for every game.

If that’s not enough, squeezed in between will be the Phillies kicking off their defense of their World Series title. The Phillies and Braves will pull back the curtain on the 2009 baseball season Sunday night in a nationally telecast game from Citizens Bank Park.

Don’t look for Cole Hamels though. The ace of the staff has been scratched as the Opening Day pitcher as he works the kinks out of his cranky elbow. Hamels got banged around yesterday in throwing 69 pitches during a minor league outing in Clearwater. He is not expected to miss a turn in the rotation, but he’s not pitching the opener. Look for either Brett Myers or Joe Blanton to get the call vs. the Braves.

By the way, make sure you pick up a copy of the print edition of Thursday’s Daily Times for a special color centerspread with the Phils’ complete 2009 schedule.

The Tiger Woods Show

This is pretty much everything you need to know about Tiger Woods’ stature in sports, and in particular what he means to golf.

Simply put, Woods is golf, at least in terms of how the average sports fan relates to it.

Me? I’m a die-hard. I’ll likely tune in every weekend to check the leader board of that weekend’s event. But I’m just as likely to keep right on clicking when Woods is not involved.

So you can imagine what happens when Woods is not on the radar screen. Of course, Woods was off the golf landscape for months after his near miraculous win on one leg in last June’s U.S. Open, which he won in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.

Tiger went under the knife shortly after taking another Major title, and was not heard from until a few weeks back.

But on Sunday that familiar red shirt was back on the prowl. Woods came from five shots off the pace to overtake Sean O’Hair and win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by a stroke. And of course he did with a flair that is Woods’ signature, with a birdie putt on 18 that hit nothing cut the center of the cup.

NBC Sports reports Woods’ victory notched a 4.9 overnight rating and a 10 share. That’s the highest TV audience for a golf tournament since last June’s Open. That’s right, the last time Woods was on the leader board on Sunday. Sunday’s telecast drew more viewers than the two majors – the British Open and PGA – held after Woods’ surgery last summer.

Two weeks from now, Woods will continue seeking his destiny as he tries to hunt down Jack Nicklaus’ record for wins in a major. It was once thought unthinkable. Now most believe it is simply a matter of when, not if.

As our old pal Terrell Owens used to say, get your popcorn ready. It figures to be quite a show.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 30

The Daily Numbers: .5 seconds left when Scottie Reynolds sank that driving bucket to send Villanova to the Final Four.
1985, the last time the ‘Cats made the Final Four. That year Rollie Massimino’s team won the national title.
3 brutal attacks on women charged to a Chester man, who is a convicted Megan’s Law offender.
3 families forced from their homes yesterday when flames roared through a series of row homes on Crosby Street in Chester.
22 people who fled flames that roared through an apartment complex in Wilmington, Del.
46 Yorkshire Terriers recovered from a home in Upper Makefield, Bucks County, that authorities suspect may have been operating as a puppy mill.
15 homes in Newark, Del., damaged by vandals who went on a spray-painting rampage over the weekend. Many of the houses were hit with vulgar slurs.
2,500 people who showed up to apply for 550 job openings at the opening of a new Wegmans supermarket in Collegeville.
3.3 percent increase in SEPTA budget, up to $1.1 billion. It does not contain any fare hikes or service cuts.
2 women and 1 girl killed in an overnight fire that raced through a home in North Philadelphia.
5 trailers destroyed by what residents suspect may have been a tornado that struck Clay Township in Lancaster County Sunday afternoon.
11,000 dollars in campaign donations that Philly D.A. candidate Seth Williams failed to note on his financial disclosure forms. He has been booted off the primary ballot, but says the judge was wrong and vows to appeal.
40, age of Delaware man who is a pastor at a Philadelphia church who is now charged with abusing a boy over several years.
30-7 for the Villanova Wildcats, who are headed to the Final Four this weekend in Detroit.
2 goals for Milan Lucic to lead the Bruins over the Flyers last night, 4-3.
8 points in 21 minutes for Allen Iverson last night in his return to the lineup for the Pistons, as they beat the Sixers, 101-97.
10 wins in 28 games this spring for the Phils. They fell yesterday to the Red Sox, 3-1.
25 dollar fine OK’d by city council in Philly to be slapped on parents of kids who skip school. That’s for the first offense. The next one will set you back $300.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Tell me it has not been 24 years since Villanova shocked the basketball world by beating a heavily favored Georgetown team to twin the national title. Yes, time marches on, and the Wildcats are marching to Detroit this weekend as they return to the Final Four.
I Don’t Get It: How many times between now and Saturday night do you think we’ll hear Villanova referred to as the Cinderella team in this year’s NCAA Final Four?
Today’s Upper: March Madness is alive and well on the Main Line, and all of Delaware County. Go, Wildcats!
Quote Box: “We’ve got nothing to lose. We’re already in Detroit fin the Final Four. Anything from here on out is gravy.”
-- Villanova junior Bianca Hernandez, at ceremony to welcome the Wildcats back to campus on Sunday.

The Greatest

I have for a long time subscribed to the theory that Muhammad Ali was good to his word.

He was, as he often would remind us, “The Greatest.”

He has company.

If there is a more mesmerizing figure in the sports world than Tiger Woods, I have not yet met his or her acquaintance.

Very simply put, Woods is the most compelling figure in sports.

He was at it again yesterday. Just a few weeks into his comeback from knee surgery that had put him on the shelf since he won the U.S. Open last June on one leg, Woods was again in the hunt on Sunday.

Woods opened the day trailing Sean O’Hair by five strokes. O’Hair has local connections. He married a local girl, former All-Delco Sun Valley standout Jackie Lucas, herself a standout golfer. O’Hair played out of Concord Country Club. Usually that would mean our rooting loyalty would fall with him.

But there is something other-worldly about Woods, especially when he is on the leader board Sunday afternoon.

Slowly, inexorably, Woods took dead aim at O’Hair’s lead. In a heartbeat, O’Hair’s margin was whittled to a single stroke.

The stage was set. Woods was in his element. You pretty much knew what was coming, you just didn’t know how.

With darkness descending on Bay Hill Country Club, site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, both men stood on the 18th tee dead even. Both hit the green in regulation. But it was Woods who had the legitimate birdie opportunity.

O’Hair tapped in for his par, then left the stage for the master.

Did anyone doubt that Woods was going to make that birdie putt? Nothing but the middle of the cup.

Move over Muhammad. Tiger is now “The Greatest.”

He is the greatest athlete of our time, and maybe of all time.

What he does, and the way he does it, is simply unmatched in sports.

In two weeks, Woods will again take up his personal mission, Jack Nicklaus’ record for wins in a major, at The Masters.

He will be the favorite to win. He almost always is. He has undergone major knee surgery. And returned to the winner’s circle.

Woods does something that transcends his game, in fact goes beyond sports. It is almost impossible to turn away when he is on the stage.

They call that greatness. Or in this case, “The Greatest.”

Literacy Council has ‘write’ stuff

I was the featured speaker Sunday at the annual luncheon of the Delaware County Literacy Council.

It was an honor for me as this crucial organization honored their volunteers, although I joked that our critics might suggest otherwise. Many of them would love to tell the Council they very often see little if any connection between the newspaper and literacy.

But I showed up, in part to salute the priceless work these volunteers do to increase basic reading and writing skills. Judging by some of the e-mails I receive every day, they have their work cut out for them.

I am an admitted dinosaur, someone whose skills were honed utilizing “Palmer Penmanship” under the firm – some would suggest ruthless –hand of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I have many concerns about technology, and what it is doing to us as a society. I happen to believe that all this communication, which in theory is supposed to make us closer, more connected, more wired into each other’s lives, is instead making us more solitary, less likely to deal with each other one on one, and utterly incapable of communicating a cogent thought, especially in its written form.

My son – and I suppose many of his generation – no longer feels the need to actually talk on his ever-present cell phone. He now simply “texts” his thoughts.

We now believe something called a “tweet” – the message delivered by Twitter – is fine literature, with its limit of 140 characters.


I know that some of the people who e-mail me every day have something very compelling they are trying to communicate. But for the life of me I have no idea what they are saying, aside from the fact that it is often in all caps, which I am told translates into them yelling at me. I get lots of those each day.

I have something in common with the people at the Delco Literacy Council, and the volunteers who carry out their work.

We are both in search of readers, and stressing the importance of reading and writing in our daily lives.

I believe the newspaper is one of the building blocks in that foundation. I became a newspaper reader in part because of the home I grew up in, where my mother and father would never consider starting a day without first perusing the daily newspaper.

Besides, where else would I have learned how to read the horse racing entries than other than at my father’s side as he caressed those very special pages in the sports section.

I will continue pushing to increase literacy and writing in my own way. I hope the newspaper will always be a part of that mission. I am beginning to have my doubts.

That is not a good thing. Either for me, or for or society.

A sign of the times

Want a feel for just how bad things are out there in this brutal economy?

They are opening a new Wegmans supermarket in Collegeville, and they need to fill 500 job openings.

They accepted applications and did interviews recently. More than 2,500 people showed up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 27

The Daily Numbers: 8, as in Elite Eight, where Villanova now sits after thrashing Duke last night.
250,000 dollar cash bail for a mother in Sharon Hill charged with stabbing her daughter to death. She is trying to have that bail reduced.
4 people charged in a series of violent armed robberies that targeted Asian business owners; 2 of the jobs were committed in Delco.
3 men under arrest in Upper Chichester on charges they ripped off more than $500 in infant formula from the local Pathmark and Wal-Mart.
100 people who showed up at a Springfield zoning hearing board last night to voice their displeasure at plans for a series of huge billboards to be erected on Baltimore Pike.
62 feet, the height of the proposed billboards.
5 billboards on West Chester Pike in in Haverford, and 7 on Sproul Road and West Chester Pike in Marple, also in the works by Bartkowski Investment Group.
4 year, $23 million new contract awarded to Community Transit by SEPTA to provide rides for disabled in Delaware County.
1 more Philly police officer injured in still another crash involving a police cruiser.
475,000 dollars believed ripped off from a blind 90-year-old man in Delaware by a man who was hired to be his caretaker.
10, age of boy snatched off his bicycle on a Philadelphia street, dragged into a house and sexually assaulted. A 19-year-old is in custody.
54 million dollar conservation program in the works by Philadelphia Gas Works.
40, age of Delaware man who is a pastor at a Philadelphia church who is now charged with abusing a boy over several years.
30 lawyers losing their jobs with the closure of the WolfBlock law firm in Philly who are hooking on with Cozen O’Connor.
125 lawyers getting pink slips from the Dechert law firm.
24,000 dollar fine slapped on Philadelphia Park Casino by state regulators for a couple of instances where minors were allowed to gamble.
2 bucks, what SEPTA is charging for a special new 1-day pass that they’re hoping to use to boost tourism. It can be used for unlimited rides on any SEPTA vehicle.
25 dollar fine OK’d by city council in Philly to be slapped on parents of kids who skip school. That’s for the first offense. The next one will set you back $300.
65 mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the middle of the state that will be closed this weekend for repairs.
23 point win for Villanova as they blew away Duke in the second half last night en route to a 77-54 victory.
14 points, 11 rebounds for Dante Cunningham to lead the ‘Cats.
2 home runs for the Phils yesterday as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard went yard.
7 home runs this spring for Howard, who looks ready to unleash a monter year.
10 runs for the Yankees. Unfortunately, the two homers is all the offense the Phils got as they fell.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.We can sleep later. Right now we’re dealing with a case of ‘Cat Scratch Fever. Go ‘Nova!
I Don’t Get It: There are now two cases involving kids sending nude or racy pictures of themselves over the Internet. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: We won’t have to wait until 10 o’clock again on Saturday night. The Villanova-Pitt game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.
Quote Box: “It just shows what kind of program and tradition we have here.”
-- Villanova star guard Scottie Reynolds, after the Wildcats throttled the legendary Duke program.

Who needs sleep?

OK, I admit it. Sleep is overrated.

Yesterday in this space I bemoaned the idea of starting a key Sweet Sixteen NCAA Tournament game at the absurd time of 10 p.m.

Of course, that was before Villanova crushed Coach K and his legendary Duke program.

This morning, ‘Nova nation is floating to class, work or going about their daily duties on the bubbles of an intoxicating 77-54 thrashing of Duke.

Local hoops fans can sleep when it’s over. For now, we’re all infected with a serious case of ‘Cat Scratch Fever.

Next up, Pitt in a matchup of Big East heavyweights.

And guess what? Saturday night’s game is set for a 7 p.m. start.

Just call us Hoops Heaven.

Beasts of the Big East

Anybody care to argue the supremacy of Big East basketball? Didn’t think so.

There were three Big East teams playing in last night’s first round of Sweet 16 games. All three won to advance to the Elite Eight. Syracuse will look to make it an even foursome tonight.

Pitt stopped Xavier, 60-55. UConn was 12 points better than Purdue. And maybe most impressive of all was the Villanova Wildcats, who blew out the prestigious Duke program in the second half in rolling to a 77-54 win.

Just call them the Beasts of the Big East. If Syracuse can hold their own against Oklahoma tonight, that will give the Big East an even half of the Elite Eight.

Not too shabby.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why they call it madness

People who start their daily newspaper "fix" with the back of the paper refer to this time of year as "March Madness."

That certainly wold apply to the person who dreamed up the starting time of tonight's Villanova-Duke contest.

The two teams meet on the hardwood with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line.

And they will likely tip off sometime arond 10 p.m. That's not a misprint. The game will start about the same time the early news is starting.

I guess for students it won't much matter. The Main Line area around the Villanova campus wil certainly be buzzing. But for a lot of people a 10 p.m. start means they very likely will not be seeing the end of the game, or ecen the second half. A lot of people likely will hit the sack tonight without knowing who won the game.

And that is the best possibility. The NCAA indicates only the Villanova game will start 30 minutes after the end of the first game, Pitt vs. Xavier. Should that game go to, say, 6 overtimes like that recent Syracuse-UConn affair? Well, the Wildcats will tip off a half hour after that game eventually ends.

Then there's the possibility that the Villanova-Duke game also needs extra stanzas.

The best guess is that the game will probably end sometime between midnight and 12:30. But that's only if nothing weird happens and overtime does not interviene.

If you have an hour or two, I will tell you what kind of problems that creates for newspapers.

Not that it matters much. Big-time sports stopped paying attention to newspapers - and more importantly their fans - a long time ago. They dance to the tune called by TV. Maybe that's why they call it The Big Dance.

If TV told them they wanted a game to start at 3 a.m., that's when they would play. That's why there are such things as Monday Night Football, which now has morphed into Thursday and Sunday night editions. That's why the notion of a World Series game being played in daylight is a quaint - and distant - memory.

The fans - and their sleep patterns - really don't figure into that equation.

Enjoy the game, especialy the ending, if you happen to still be awake.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 25

The Daily Numbers: 40, age of Lower Chichester woman held for trial yesterday after two teen boys testified they had sex with her.
1, as in No. 1, which would apply to both the Saint Katharine Drexel CYO team, as well as the Neumann College ice hockey team. Both held celebrations at their schools yesterday.
468 counts of computer spying on which a brother and sister of a slain Middletown man were held for trial yesterday. No charges have been filed in the murder of Arunkumar Ingle.
5,000 dollar grant awarded to the Broomall Fire Co.
2 killed, 4 missing after a fishing boat sank about 65 miles off the coast of Cape May, N.J.
1 Philadelphia police officer injured in another accident involving a cop car yesterday at Seventh and Market streets.
7 incidents in which a man is believed to have preyed on elderly residents in Philadelphia now believed to be the work of a 33-year-old man. The suspect has 23 prior arrests.
2 Delaware state troopers injured and 1 suspect shot after an altercation overnight on Newport Pike.
21, age of Marine from Oxford, Chester County, killed in action in Afghanistan.
400 employees who will be laid off by the Trenton School Board in New Jersey. Almost 200 of them will be teachers.
8.4 percent dip in home sale prices in the Philadelphia region, according to Prudential Fox & Roach. That’s in February 2009 compared to the same month last year.
71 percent of Pennsylvanians who say they are ready for more gun control, according to Franklin & Marshall poll.
73 percent who are in favor of expanding small games of chance.
73 percent who support making it illegal to use handheld cell phone while driving.
52 percent who believe Sen. Arlen Specter is doing a good job.
14 percentage point lead for Pat Toomey, who may challenge Specter in the Republican primary, in a Quinnipiac University poll.
700,000 dollars now raised by former Delco D.A. Pat Meehan, who is mulling a run for governor in 2010.
25 more employees getting laid off by Mack Trucks in Allentown, along with 3 more production shutdowns.
11, age of boy in western Pa. who was held for trial yesterday in the shooting death of his father’s pregnant fiancee.
3 to 23 months in jail for former police officer in Bristol, Bucks County, on charges he intimidated woman into having sex with him.
57 Irish immigrants whose remains are believed to have been found in a mass grave site near Malvern, Chester County, known as Duffy’s Cut.
1 home run for Chase Utley, who went long yesterday for the first time since undergoing hip surgery in the offseason.
3 earned runs off 4 hits over 4 innings for Phillies starter Chan Ho Park, who continues to push for the fifth starter’s job.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Cole Hamels says he “felt great” after throwing for first time yesterday since he got an injection to ease his cranky left elbow. It’s reason for Phillies fans to feel great as well.
I Don’t Get It: Philadelphia is mulling a move to ban driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. It’s about time.
Today’s Upper: A salute to the Saint Katherine Drexel CYO hoops team, which won a statewide title. Seems to be catchy in these parts.
Quote Box: “I was certainly shocked. I was also concerned for the fire department as far as the fire department’s image.
-- West End Fire Co. Chief Robert Pacana, after the arrest of one of his own in two of the arson fires that have terrorized the city of Coatesville.

A special night in Springfield

Much has been made of the four Delco high school hoops teams that convened in Harrisburg over the weekend in search in search of hoops heaven – and state titles.

All four teams – the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls in AAA, the Penn Wood boys in AAAA, and the O’Hara girls in AAA did just that. But only three captured championships.

O’Hara came up agonizingly short, but only after losing their most valuable player, center Stephanie Holzer, when the ankle that had bothered her most of the season simply gave out in the third quarter. When Holzer exited, O’Hara was up. Without her their dream of a state title slowly, agonizingly slipped away.

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining why I was at Springfield Country Club Tuesday night.

I was seated at a table for a meeting of the Springfield Lions Club. On my left were O’Hara Principal George Stratts and school President Dr. William McCusker. On my right were Springfield High Principal Dr. Chris Fulco and Springfield Superintendent Dr. Jim Capolupo.

I was surrounded.

I congratulated the gentlemen from O’Hara and told them how badly I felt for the school and team. The truth of the matter is that I was pulling for O’Hara. There are those who believe we have something against the school, that we never miss an opportunity to portray them in a negative light.

That comes mostly from their supporters. I will tell you I’ve never heard that kind of complaint from either Stratts or McCusker. They could not have been nicer, or more grateful for the coverage we offered the O’Hara girls this year.

Which brings me to Springfield. To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to be greeted, either by school officials or members of the community. Both Fulco and Capolupo could not have been nicer, even as we discussed some of the coverage the newspaper has offered Springfield in recent days.

Which brings me to the real reason I was there. Last fall I was speaking to a group of retired educators. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Tim Folkimer, a longtime educator in the William Penn District.

I told him of one of my goals as editor of the newspaper, something I have to credit to my wife. One of the hallmarks of this newspaper is the coverage we offer to high school athletes. Certainly the way we handled last weekend’s high school hoops extravaganza is proof of that.

But a long time ago, when I was bragging to my wife of the way we treated these high school athletes, she caught me off guard with a retort she has often repeated since: What do you do for kids who excel academically?

Good question. And one I’ve been working on ever since.

Last night Folkimer and the Springfield Lions honored 12 kids – six each from Springfield High and Cardinal O’Hara. Folkimer invited me and I gladly accepted. It was an evening worth savoring.

As I listened to Stratts and Fulco describe the activities of each group of their seniors, I realized how lucky these kids were to be in such enriching environments.

That environment of course starts at home. It is further cultivated in the classroom, by caring teachers and a positive administration.

This newspaper has had our differences with teachers, including those at Springfield. Bit there is no arguing with the fruits of their labors. I saw proof of that first hand last night.

Here are the names of the 12 kids honored:

Springfield High: Val Broussard, Julia Correnti, Ian Ferguson, Zia Islam, Ashley Kaminski, Kim Klaniecki, Jeremy Methven, Sarah Pelkofsky, Madison Poplawski, Michael Russom, Shannon Sell and Amelia Washington.

Cardinal O’Hara: Anup K. Bhattacharya, Stephen Bracconier, Caitlin Rose Galvin, Stephen Hackett, Peter Kane, Drew McGehrin, Mindsay McMenamin, Jamie Marie Peak, Robyn Oakley, Joseph Sacchetti, Carl Unger and Alysha Womack.

Listening to their achievements and activities in high school was reassuring to someone who often wonders about the world we are leaving to our children.

These 24 kids stand out in almost every endeavor they tackle, in the classroom, on athletic fields, and in the community.

They are a mirror of the way they have been brought up, and the way they have been educated.

And I was honored to be in their presence.

Phoning it in

Looks like the city of Philadelphia is trying to catch up to Lower Chichester.

A Philadelphia City Council committee yesterday gave the green light to an ordinance that would ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in the city. The measure will now go to the full council and could be voted on as early as next week.

The city has nothing on Lower Chi. The Delco township has had a law on its books now for a couple of years outlawing the very same thing.

Lower Chi commissioners have had such a ban on their books since 2003.

No one argues the danger of mixing driving and yakking on a cell phone. Thanks to technology, we can now add texting and surfing the Internet to the distractions our cell-phone addicted society brings with them when they get behind the wheel.

What has always been at issue is if the issue can and should be addressed locally. Most point to state laws that seem to restrict regulations on driving to the state, not local municipalities.

If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time for Harrisburg to do something other than accept another pay raise.

Just about every study and organization we’ve seen are united in the dangers posed by drivers using hand-held cell phones. AAA goes even farther, noting that it’s the conversation that is distracting, leaving open the idea of also targeting hands-free devices.

It’s time to take action to make our increasingly crowded highways a little bit safer. And making sure people are not talking on their phone while behind the wheel would do just that.

Miracle in Aston

Who knew we were going to be up to our neck in championship teams over the weekend?

You know all about the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls teams, as well as the Penn Wood boys.

But in all that excitement you might have missed the fact that we have an NCAA champion right here in our midst. And no, we’re not jumping the gun and anointing the Villanova Wildcats as they seek an NCAA men’s basketball title.

We refer instead to the Neumann College men’s ice hockey team.

When no one was looking, these guys decided to pull off their own version of “Miracle on Ice.”

No, they did not beat the Russians as the U.S. Olympians did in 1980 in Lake Placid. But what they accomplished was no less of a long shot.

The kids from the small school in Aston went up against the big dogs in college hockey last weekend in the very same town where almost 30 years ago a bunch of scruffy U.S. kids shocked the hockey universe.

Neumann’s Knights decided to pattern themselves after that U.S. Olympic team. It’s the stuff of movies. Only this time the miracle was real.

Neumann topped Gustavus Adolphus 4-1 to capture the NCAA Division II ice hockey crown. They won nine straight games to end the season, finishing with a 21-9-2 mark.

Yesterday they were welcomed home on the Aston campus and delivered their championship trophy to school President Dr. Rosalie Mirenda.

“The whole experience was unbelievable,” said Dominic Dawes, who coached Neumann to a national title in his first year behind the bench.

You might even call it a miracle.

A reason to 'feel great'

Cole Hamels was doing his best Pat Croce imitation.

“I felt great,” was the way the Phils’ ace described his cranky left elbow after throwing 48 pitches yesterday in his first outing since having the elbow checked out and getting an anti-inflammatory shot. Hamels threw 35 of those pitches for strikes in allowing just one hit and no runs in three and two-thirds innings.

Of course that is the mantra of the Delco native, turned fitness guru, turned Sixers exec, turned pirate-loving entrepreneur.

Croce once penned a book titled, “I Feel Great, and You Will Too.”

Phillies fans certainly feel better this morning knowing that the MVP of last fall’s National League Championship Series and World Series is on target to be the leading cog in the Phils’ rotation.

Still, pitching coach Rich Dubee is preaching caution, and warning that Hamels is not exactly a lock to be on the hill on opening day. He called it a “long shot.”

Which is exactly what the Phillies’ chances of defending their World Series title will be if they are without Hamels for any extended period of time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 24

The Daily Numbers: 6.4 percent, unemployment rate in Delaware County in January, according to the state Department of Labor. That’s almost a point higher than December.
12 employees laid off by the Chester Upland School District.
497 point jump in the Dow yesterday, reaction to plan by feds to take over the “toxic assets” of troubled banks.
1 state title in the history of Penn Wood High basketball. The AAAA champion team was saluted at Monday night’s school board.
2001, the last time one school had both boys and girls state champions, as Archbishop Carroll did this year in taking both AAA hoops crowns. It’s only happened 5 other times.
2 people found dead inside a home in Haverford. Police are describing it as a murder-suicide.
20 percent less being kicked into the Delaware County Intermediate Unit this year by the county’s 15 school districts.
26 million dollars flowing into the county via various PennDOT road projects, all stemming from federal stimulus funds.
12 people charged in three different check-cashing scams busted up by county investigators.
100 million dollars a year, how much a New Jersey politician says the state could rake in by legalizing sports gambling. He’s suing to allow the state to do just that.
2 arson fires in fire-ravaged Coatesville last Friday night that police now believe were the work of a paid city firefighter.
29 arson fires in the Coatesville area since the first of the year.
7 arrests in the series of arsons, but the fires don’t stop.
3 Philadelphia police officers injured when two police cruisers collided at 50th and Haverford yesterday afternoon.
100 years of practicing law at Wolf Block LLP in Philly. The firm announced yesterday it was disbanding.
15 of 20 top AIG execs who now say they will return those controversial bonuses. They were set to receive more than $165 million.
1 million dollar gift to West Chester University from retired Army Brtigadier Gen. Richard D. Merion. A science building will be named in honor of the distinguished alum.
64, age of priest removed from service by the archdiocese of Philadelphia after an allegation of child sexual abuse was substantiated.
11 percent decline in toll revenue in January on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, another sign that we are driving less.
29, age of suspect identified in shooting of security guard in Philadelphia supermarket Sunday afternoon.
2 missing snowmobilers from Pen Argyl, Pa., whose bodies were recovered from a lake in Maine.
27 points for Andre Miller as the Sixers won their 2nd straight road game over the Portland Trailblazers.
40 goals for Jeff Carter, as he scored a key goal last night as the Flyers dumped Martin Brodeus and the Devils.
1 earned run surrendered by J.A. Happ as he continues his push for the fifth spot in the Phils’ starting rotation. Kyle Kendrick is out of the running. He was sent to the minors yesterday.
3 World Series rings for former Phil Curt Schilling, who announced his retirement yesterday.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Don’t look now but the Flyers are starting to look like serious Stanley Cup contenders. The last two nights they have dumped two key rivals, the Penguins and last night the hated Devils and that noted Flyers killer, goalie Martin Brodeur.
I Don’t Get It: A paid city firefighter has been arrested in the latest two arsons to terrorize the city of Coatesville. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission boss Mitchell Rubin voluntarily took a leave of absence after he was given a target letter in the Fumo probe. Gov. Ed Rendell had other ideas. Rendell yesterday showed his turnpike boss the exit, firing him. Good for Rendell.
Quote Box: “I would love to say that this is the end, but it is not.”
-- Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll, after announcing the arrest of a city firefighter in the latest two arson fires in the city.

A betrayal in Coatesville

In 2004 Robert F. Tracey Jr. was hailed as Officer of the Year as a firefighter in Coatesville.

Today Tracey, a paid city firefighter who was an assistant chief until earlier this month, is under arrest in the most recent arson fires that have had residents living in fear, wondering if their house would be next.

It gets worse. Tracey, 37, was quoted in earlier news stories about the wave of arson fires that have terrorized the region. And finally there is this: Tracey’s mother was displaced by one of the fires two days before Christmas.

Authorities say Tracey has been identified by witnesses who placed him at the scene of the two latest fires, which broke out Friday night.

He is charged with arson and related offenses in the fires, the 28th and 29th in the city since the first of the year. The fires broke out just a few bloocks from Tracey’s home.

Since February 2008, federal law enforcement authorities heading a task force on the situation in Coatesville have identified 70 arsons in the Coatesville region.

There have been seven arrests, including charges in a fire that claimed the life of a woman who had survived a Nazi work camp.

With each arrest has come hope that the fires would stop. And seemingly with each weekend there comes word of more arsons.

Now a firefighter has been charged in the most recent fires. Tracey had been affiliated with the fire company as a volunteer for years. He started a paid position last month.

Someone will have to explain this to me. What could possibly drive a person to do this, someone who has seen first-hand, both personally and professionally, of the devastation these fires have wrought?

Tracey apparently did not respond to the blazes Friday night. But the Chester County D.A. indicated he had responded to some of the previous fires.

Right now he is not charged in any of those, only the two Friday night.

In the meantime, a city continues to live in fear, with a gnawing in its gut every time there is an arrest or a report of another fire. When will it stop?

Tracey’s arrest is a betrayal to both the citizens of Coatesville and to the overwhelming majority of dedicated paid and volunteer firefighters that put their lives on the line every time they answer that call.

They don’t make headlines. People like Tracey do.

The rest of us simply shake our heads and wonder why.

A salute to the champions

William Penn School Board meetings in recent years have not exactly been the most joyous of occasions.

School board members routinely have their hands full with a never-ending budget dilemma, railing about the inequities of the archaic way the state funds education, specifically the reliance on property taxes, which puts their district at a distinct disadvantage.

Board members routinely face the kind of question that’s simply not an issue in many more affluent districts: Why do our students have to do without?

Last night the shoe was on the other foot. The rest of the state was looking up at William Penn.

The school board took time to honor the Penn Wood High School boys basketball team, fresh off their crowning victory in the state PIAA AAAA basketball tourney over the weekend.

It is the first time Penn Wood High has won a state hoops title.

School board members Jennifer Hoff and Charlotte Hummel, who routinely appear in the newspaper as they grapple with the numbers that usually challenge the district, had another number on their mind Monday night.

No 1.

It is sometimes suggested that schools spend entirely too much money on athletics, that perhaps such efforts would be better utilized in the classroom.

But you can’t put a number on what sports has done for Penn Wood High School in the last couple of weeks.

“All I want is the sports section,” Hummel told the crowd at Monday night’s meeting. “You have given me the gift of so much excitement.”

It’s likely they are saying much the same at Archbishop Carroll, which is celebrating a double-dip. Both their boys and girls teams captured state AAA hoops titles.

Both Penn Wood and Archbishop Carroll will honor their student-athletes on Friday.

In capturing state titles, these young men and women have brought respect and honor to their schools, their towns, and the county.

Yes, they are champions. On and off the court.

The definition of toxic

In Washington, they are referred to as “toxic assets.”

In my house, we refer to them as bills. You know, those pesky notices you get each month from your mortgage company, utility, phone service and cable TV outlet.

They expect you to pay them every month. When you don’t they have a tendency to stop offering you their services.

The nation’s banking industry has about a $1 trillion in so-called “toxic assets” hanging around their necks like an albatross. They are bad mortgages, many of them given to people with little shot of ever repaying the money.

That anchor played a big part in sinking the economy. Now the feds have a plan to rid the banking industry of much of their bad debt.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to do the same for you. Not that your bills are any less toxic to your monthly budget. But if you go under, the economy will survive. Many experts fear the same can not be said if these items are not cleared from the banks’ books.

Hey, what do I know? Obviously Wall Street liked the idea. The markets had their best day in years yesterday, jumping 497 points.

Look at it this way. Maybe it means you’ll recover some of the money that has evaporated from your 401K in recent months.

That’s been pretty toxic as well.

Rolling dice on sports

Here’s something to ponder as you try to figure out what you were thinking when you picked Chattanooga to upset UConn in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It is one of the favorite pastimes in offices all across the country. No, not trying to figure out if you will survive the next wave of layoffs.

I’m talking about bracket madness. Just thinking about how much money changes hands in connection to the NCAA tournament is enough to take your breath away.

Now a New Jersey state legislator is looking to give something back. At least to the state’s coffers.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County, is filing suit to overturn a ban on sports betting. Right now you can make a legal wager on sports events only in four states: Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware. And even though Delaware has the green light, they have not yet used it, although there are proposals to do just that.

Lesniak reasons that people are gambling anyhow, why shouldn’t the state step in, regulate it, and tax some of the proceeds.

It could be just the tonic New Jersey’s ailing casino industry needs.

Of course, sports leagues are not all that thrilled with the idea of having legalized betting hanging over their games.

Lesniak believes the move could raise as much as $100 million a year in revenue, while at the same time protecting existing jobs and creating some new ones.

Yeah, but does he have Villanova in the Final Four?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 23

The Daily Numbers: 3 PIAA state basketball titles that now reside in Delco after the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls, and Penn Wood boys all captured crowns this weekend.
1 person shot after leaving a bar early this morning in Chester Township.
10,000 population, above which towns that rely on state police instead of their own police force would have to pay a fee, under proposed legislation.
8 million dollars in federal stimulus funds that will make its way to Upper Darby School District, tops in the county. Coming in 2nd is Chester Upland with $7 million.
2 runway expansion plans at Philadelphia International Airport that are being closely scrutinized by neighboring Tinicum Township.
30 years, how long Cherie Bank has been a fixture on local TV news. She’s retiring as she battles a degenerative eye disease.
1 security guard shot by a suspected shoplifter he had stopped at a Pathmark store in Wynnefield Heights Sunday afternoon.
2 people hurt in center city Philadelphia Sunday night when an SUV jumped the curb and rammed into them at 16th and Walnut streets.
2 brothers in Delaware that are wanted in connection with an assault on their parents in their Newark home.
4 stores in a New Castle, Del., strip mall damaged by fire Sunday night.
1 person shot by Philadelphia police during a traffic stop when he allegedly reached for a revolver in his pants.
100,000 dollar contract for a public relations consultant by Gov. Ed Rendell at a time when he is considering furloughing state employees and cutting programs.
7.5 million dollars being paid by TV shopping channel QVC in a settlement with the FTC over false claims made on air concerning some products.
4 Catholic schools being closed in Pittsburgh.
5.5 percent tuition hike announced earlier by officials at Penn State. The school now says it is looking to lower the increase.
5,000 people evacuated from their homes in Wind Gap, Pa., Saturday when a tanker carrying 33,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid overturned.
1.98 a gallon, what we’re paying for gas in the Philadelphia area. A year ago it was at $3.23.
218 million dollar makeover for the Cherry Hill Mall, including a brand new Nordstrom’s store.
2 wins for Villanova in the NCAA hoops tourney. They now play Duke.
10 p.m., start time for the ‘Nova-Duke contest in Boston Thursday night.
27 points for Andre Iguodala as the Sixers beat the Sacramento Kings last night.
5 scoreless innings for Red Sox ace Josh Beckett as Boston shut out the Phils yesterday.
1 goal surrendered by Marty Biron as the Flyers topped the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Not only does Delaware County now hold three PIAA basketball titles, courtesy of the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls, and Penn Wood boys, but we also sport an NCAA Division III ice hockey crown, won by the men at Neumann College. Bravo!
I Don’t Get It: A 13-year-old is under arrest in Delaware for a copycat threat in which she texted a message to school authorities saying a bomb would go off in the school. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Our front page Sunday pretty much sums its up when it comes to PIAA basketball titles. Just call us Title Town.
Quote Box: “The whole experience was unbelievable. We watched ‘Miracle’ on the way up to get a feel for the history of the building.”
-- Neumann College ice hockey coach Dominick Dawes, on his team winning the NCAA Division III title at Lake Placid, scene of Team USA stunning the Soviets and winning the gold in 1980.

Home of Champions

The verdict is in: Delaware County is guilty – of an unparalleled basketball excellence.

On our front page on Friday, we summed up the situation involving our local high school hoops teams fairly simply. We used photos of four members of the four Delaware County high schools that were playing for state titles over the weekend. We titled it with a simple headline: Hoops Heaven.

On Friday night and Saturday night, those teams turned it into heaven on Earth. Or at least on the hardwood.

We went three-for-four, and likely would have made it a clean sweep if not for an unfortunate injury.

Today Delaware County is home to three PIAA basketball champions.

The Archbishop Carroll boys started it Friday night when they captured the AAA crown by rolling over Greensburg Salem, 75-54.

On Saturday night, the Carroll girls made it a double-dip for the Patriots when they obliterated Lampeter-Strasburg, 68-45. It is only the fifth time in PIAA history that the same school has captured both boys’ and girl’s titles. And Carroll did it in their first shot, with this being the first year Catholic League teams have competed in the PIAA tourney.

Penn Wood High put a fitting capper on the weekend in the final game Saturday night, when they took the boys AAAA crown with a huge win over William Penn of York, 72-53.

The only thing standing between a clean sweep for Delco schools likely was Stephanie Holzer’s ankle.

The Cardinal O’Hara star re-injured the ankle that has bothered her much of the season and was forced out of the girls’ AAAA final in the third period. When she left, O’Hara was leading. But their lean slowly, agonizingly slipped awday and they fell to Mount Lebanon, 67-50.

It says here that Delaware County is king – and queen – when it comes to roundball.

Three state champions, further proof of an unparalleled excellence when it comes to high school basketball.

Now I suppose Villanova will just have to win the NCAA men’s hoops tournament to prove the same holds true at the college level.

But if they do, they will not be the first local college team to win a national title.

When not many people were looking, the Neumann College ice hockey team won an NCAA Division III national title over the weekend.

Three high school titles and a college crown. Not a bad sports weekend.

Delaware County, home of champions!

A free pass for Obama?

I got an interesting e-mail over the weekend. It was from a longtime reader and county political leader who wanted to take the newspaper to task.

This time it was not for something that we had done, but rather for something we had not done.

He pointed out that from time to time he had said and done some outrageous things, and was promptly – and correctly – taken to task for them.

But he noticed that our new president for the most part got a pass from us for his gaffe on the Leno show when he made a crack about his bowling skills and referred to them as being like Special Olympics.

It was one of those comments that, if you speak in public at all, or cover those who do, makes you wince as soon as you hear it. Do I think Obama meant to denigrate Special Olympics? Of course not. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be called on the carpet for it, either.

Specifically, I was left with this thought. If President George Bush had made the same comment, what do you think the reaction would have been? Exactly.

It proves that no one is immune to saying dumb things in public. I sometimes manage to write dumb things that get widespread dissemination. We say and do things in print and online every day that raise more than a few eyebrows.

But in this instance I think my critic had a legitimate point. It wasn’t that Obama meant to say something harmful about the Special Olympics. In this instance I really do think it was an innocent slip of the tongue, something we’re all susceptible to do, although I will go on record saying that he seems to be making a habit of treading on dangerous ground when he speaks off the cuff.

It was more the reaction to the statement – or specifically the lack of reaction – that had gotten under this politician’s skin.

In this case I think he was right. I’m thinking if the shoe had been on the other foot, if President Bush had uttered such a comment, we would have pounced on it and been all over him.

I had actually meant to offer President Obama a “dart” in our Saturday Darts & Laurels column, but it slipped my mind.

I’ll give him one now. It was a dumb thing to say. I don’t think he mean anything by it; it was politically incorrect at worse.

And one final thing, which I pointed out to my critic as well. I noticed that Obama actually called the president of Special Olympics before the show aired to apologize for his comment.

Smart guy.

But even smart guys sometimes say dumb things.

Late night for 'Nova fans

Rest up, Villanova fans. You’re going to need it.

The Wildcats’ faithful will be burning the midnight oil this week. Villanova will take the next step in their mission to hit the Elite Eight Thursday night, when they meet perennial ACC power Duke.

And what time will they tip off? That would be 10 p.m.

That’s not a typo. The Villanova game will not start until 10, meaning it likely will end sometime around 12:30. And that’s if the first game goes according to plan and does not go into overtime. Not like that’s ever happened.

The first game in Boston will feature Pittsburgh and Xavier tipping off at 7:30. The Villanova-Duke game will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.

It means a late night for the Main Line faithful. If you’ve got an hour or two, I will tell you about what kind of headaches they creates for newspapers. Suffice it to say it will be a late night.

But it will be worth it if the Wildcats play the way they did Saturday in dismantling a pretty good UCLA team.

It was abundantly clear after the first time a Bruin was flattened while thinking he was on his way to an uncontested trip to the basket that the Californians were not prepared for Big East-style basketball.

Now it’s on to Bean Town and Duke. At 10 p.m.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 20

The Daily Numbers: 4 Delco high school teams seeking state PIAA basketball titles this weekend. Just call us Hoops Heaven.
750 salaried jobs being eliminated by Sunoco. Gov. Ed Rendell yesterday termed the move “unconscionable.”
776 million dollar profit, what Sunoco posted last year. The company says they need to make the move to remain profitable because of the economic downturn.
47 full-time nursing positions recently eliminated at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, sparking a protest and rally at the hospital yesterday against the increased use of temporary workers.
41,000 more jobs lost in Pennsylvania in February.
7.5 percent unemployment rate in Pa., up a half point from January. It’s still below the national rate of 8.1 percent.
89 milllion dollars, how much Gov. Rendell thinks the state could save by ordering temporary furloughs of workers. They could have to take 2 unpaid days off a month.
24 cities in New Jersey that now sport unemployment rates in double digits, topped by Trenton at 17.5 percent.
12.2 million dollars, total compensation package for the CEO of Exelon Corp., the parent company of Peco Energy.
19 percent temporary hike in property tax in Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget in Philadelphia, to go with a 14.5 hike in year two.
9 million dollar deficit staring at city of Wilmington.
10 years in prison, what could be the future for a former Delco teacher who pleaded guilty to possession of child porn.
19, age of man killed inside a Chester pizza parlor.
9 candidates booted off ballot after challenges to their nominating petitions were heard yesterday in Delaware County court.
350 million fewer miles racked up by Pennsylvania drivers last year. That’s down 4.5 percent.
9 Philadelphia firefighters injured when two fire trucks collided in Center City yesterday.
27, age of woman in Delaware charged with having sex with a 15-year-old boy. Cops now believe she also was involved with two other teen boys.
14 seed American, which put a serious scare into Villanova before falling last night.
14-point deficit staring at Villanova early in second half before they rallied for the win.
6 shutout innings for Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton yesterday as he continues strong spring showing.
50 goals for Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, tops in the NHL.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Villanova lives to play another day, actually on Saturday. Now it’s Temple’s turn. The Owls play this afternoon in Miami against Arizona State.
I Don’t Get It: A 76-year-old woman on oxygen died in a house fire in Hydetown, Pa. Officials say the fire was started when she lit up a cigarette that ignited the gas. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Four high school teams seeking state basketball titles. Just call us title town.
Quote Box: “It’s crazy here. With the two teams, it’s ridiculous.”
-- Archbishop Carroll senior Chris Donnelly, on both boys and girls teams playing for state titles this weekend.

Not so sunny at Sunoco

The brutal economic drumbeat continues to pound away at American workers.

Punxsutawney Phil might just as well have predicted six more weeks of job cuts.

The February unemployment numbers for Pennsylvania were rolled out yesterday. They weren’t pretty.

The state’s economic nosedive translated into some of the steepest job losses since the downturn started. Pennsylvania lost 41,000 jobs in February. That comes to about one in every 140 jobs in the state.

The state unemployment rate now stands at 7.5 percent, that’s up a half percentage point from January. Looking for a sliver of good news? We’re still below the national average, which now tops 8 percent at a robust 8.1 percent.

It was awash in that kind of economic morass that Gov. Ed Rendell stepped to a microphone yesterday and tried to stick his finger in the dike, to plug the sieve that is Pennsylvania leaking jobs at a record pace.

Rendell took a jab at Sunoco, the oil giant that runs refineries in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook. The company, which posted a $776 million profit last year, recently announced it would cut 750 salaried positions, most of them in the Philadelphia region where it is headquartered. The firm also indicated they would offer buyout packages to refinery workers, just days after reaching new contracts with unions that failed to address the company’s desire to shave costs – and jobs.

Rendell termed the company’s layoff plans “unconscionable,” especially in light of the profits the firm posted last year. Sunoco doesn’t see it that way. They call it the prudent thing to do to keep the company competitive, profitable and attractive to investors amid a steep economic downturn. They said they have no intention of rescinding the layoffs.

In other words, last year is in the rear-view mirror. That was then, this is now. And now is not looking so rosy.

Rendell likely can sympathize with them there. The governor yesterday indicated he might consider temporarily furloughing workers as the state deals with a massive budget deficit. Thousands of state workers could be asked to take two unpaid days off a month to save the state $89 million.

The news was similarly bleak in Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled a budget that includes temporary hikes in both the property and sales taxes.

Of course, everything remains sunny at Sunoco. Unless you happen to be one of those 750 execs who is about to hit the bricks.

Your career was just eclipsed by a company that you helped to post profits of $1.6 billion over the past two years.

The TV show says “it’s always sunny in Philadelphia.”

Not at Sunoco.

County of Champions!

We’ll get to Villanova in a minute. Yes, you can exhale now, Wildcat fans.

But first I draw your attention to what will be a very special weekend of basketball, even in a county with a tradition as long and deep as Delaware County.

While Temple looks to join Villanova in the second round of the NCAA Tournament tonight, we remain focused on another roundball extravaganza. That would be the PIAA Championships. They will be contested Friday and Saturday nights at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State.

Too bad. They games should be played at Penn State Delco. Er, excuse me, Penn State Brandywine. After all, Delco has four teams seeking state titles.

Count ‘em: Penn Wood boys and Cardinal O’Hara girls in AAAA competition, and both the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls in AAA. Can another county claim such a dominant display of roundball excellence?

I think the front page of today’s print edition pretty much sums it up: Hoops Heaven!

Delaware County has long claimed a tradition of basketball excellence that is unmatched. From the CYO leagues of Drexel Hill to the playgrounds of Chester, Delco has proven itself worthy of being listed among the elites of basketball.

That crown is likely to add a few more jewels this weekend.

Just call us the county of champions!

'Cats meow? Late growl leads to win

They are the three words no high seed in the NCAA hoops tourney wants to hear: One and done.

Villanova came perilously close to doing just that Thursday night as they struggled to put away a pesky American team. The final score was 80-67.

Don’t believe it. The Wildcats had to claw their way out of a 14-point hole before taking control late in the game.

It wasn’t clawing but a gnawing feeling in the pit of their stomach that Villanova’s faithful had to deal with much of the night. Would the No. 3 seed Wildcats fall victim to this year’s Cinderella story, at the hands of the No. 14 seed American?

The Wildcats went into the locker room down 10 at the half. When they came out and promptly fell behind by even more, those were some seriously worried looks on faces that stretched from the Wachovia Center to the Main Line.

Never fear. Eventually the ‘Cats recovered and won going away. Now it’s on to Saturday and a date with UCLA.

But these Wildcats have used up several of their nine lives.

Welcome spring

Congratulations, you have survived another winter.

If you’re like me, and hate winter just a little more each passing year, then today is a day to celebrate. And not just because it is Friday.

Today is the first day of spring.

So of course we are having snow showers. Patience, folks, patience.

Eventually it has to get warm again, doesn’t it?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 19

The Daily Numbers: 1 more day of winter before spring arrives tomorrow. We made it!
2 murders in Delaware County believed to be the handiwork of Jermaine Burgess. Police now consider him a suspect in two more homicides.
1 person killed overnight in what appears to be an execution during a robbery overnight in Chester.
1.89 percent dip in revenues during February at Harrah’s Chester Casino. It’s the only casino in Pa. where the “take” is down.
1.50 a pop, what police believe an Upper Darby man was fencing deodorant for in Philly that he had allegedly ripped off from the Woodlyn CVS. He’s now under arrest.
30,000 dollars in the hole, where the Darby Free Library remains despite a fundraising campaign that saw $8,000 come in.
2,300 dollars, value of two rings stolen from a Kmart store in Claymont. Police believe the man is the same guy who pulled a similar heist at the store in Ridley last week.
75 million dollars, amount now believed to be involved in the Ponzi scheme authorities say was run by Broomall investment manager Joseph Forte.
19 percent hike in the property tax and 1 percent increase in the sales tax in Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget, which he will unveil today. Both are temporary measures.
25 percent hike in taxes being eyed in New Castle County, Del., as officials there deal with a $40 million deficit.
300,000 dollars more than expected raised from the parking meters in West Chester.
300,000 people who used the Washington Crossing visitors center last year. It might be closed for budget and safety reasons.
25 million dollars more in emergency LIHEAP funding still available to help pay utility bills in Pa.
3 hours, how long a shooting suspect held cops at bay in Philly yesterday before shooting himself. He’s hospitalzed.
58 percent cut in pay for the boss at Bank of America in 2008. He’s now getting by on $10 million.
125 million dollars in cuts being eyes by Charming Shoppes, including closing some stores, as sales fall.
70 million dollars available in the Powerball jackpot Saturday night. Kind of like your own personal bailout plan.
335,850 deer harvested this year by hunters in Pennsylvania.
4 homes owned by former Sen. Vince Fumo that federal prosecutors are looking to seize after his conviction on fraud charges.
700 pot plants seized during a raid by Philly cops in a city apartment. Some of the plants were 5 feet tall. They also found $13,000 in cash.
4 game winning streak snapped as the Sixers fell last night in Phoenix, 126-116.
15 miles, how far Villanova will travel for their first-round NCAA games at the Wachovia Center in South Philly.
3 runs and 3 hits given up by J.A. Happ for Phillies yesterday. That won’t help his chances of snagging that No. 5 spot in the Phils rotation.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Four Delco teams play for state hoops titles this weekend, including two from the same school, the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls. That’s what you call March Madness.
I Don’t Get It: A man is being sought in North Philadelphia after he allegedly placed 19-month-old twins in scalding bath water. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let the madness being. And be sure you fill out that NCAA bracket pool before noon.
Quote Box: “He is the prime suspect in the Izzo murder.”
-- Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood, on Jermaine Burgess and his possible involvement in the 2001 murder of Tara Izzo.

Throw away the key

Some politicians, law enforcement authorities and crime victims will gather today in Philadelphia to deal with the problem of repeat violent offenders, and the carnage that so many of them leave in their wake.

The forum is being hosted by the state House Judiciary Committee. Two Delco reps, Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore,and Mario Civera, R-164, will be on hand.

There is growing outrage in the state – especially in the Philadelphia region – over the release of repeat violent offenders. The hearing will focus on the state’s system of probation and parole.

They won’t have to look far for examples. In Philadelphia, it seems like it is open season on cops. And seemingly each time a suspect has the handcuffs of a slain officer placed on his wrists, we learn he has a long criminal record.

Here in Delaware County, we have our own example of why this system is broken and needs to be dressed.

His face is plastered on the front of today’s print edition.

Meet Jermaine Burgess.

The Upper Darby man is already facing the death penalty after being charged in two vicious Delco murders, both involving home invasions. Burgess, 37, has been charged in the sadistic killings of Hoa Pham in his Upper Darby home, and six months before that the equally savage killing of Marie Ott in her Ridley residence.

But police are not done with Burgess. They now believe he is the prime suspect in the murder of a Drexel Hill woman whose body was found in Philadelphia in April 2001. And Upper Darby cops think he just might be their man in the killing of Jane Morgan in her Long Lane apartment.

Burgess is no stranger to the law. He has a long criminal record, one that started when he was 11. He has the words “lawless hoodlum” tattoed on his arm. He has convictions for robbery, aggravated assault and firearms offenses.

He would routinely serve some time, be paroled, and then promptly violate his parole in returning to his life of crime.

Burgess may not get that chance again. He could be executed if convicted of the Pham or Ott murders.

All of which comes as little consolation to the families who have lost loved ones, and the others still seeking closure, to see someone charged in their loved one’s death.

Here’s a novel concept. Lock some of these repeat offenders up and throw away the key.

It comes too late for Hoa Pham or Marie Ott.

But maybe it will save another family from a similar agony.

Tragedy on the slopes

Tragedy on the slopes

Back in another lifetime, I spent three and a half years living in Colorado.

It’s a long story. Suffice it to say that I got my degree from the University of Colorado.

I will always remember my dismay the first time I made the drive from Pennsylvania, including the moment I crossed the border from Kansas into Colorado.

Yes, I survived Kansas. For those who have never done it, Kansas is pretty much one day of driving. You can look out and almost see where you’re going to be tomorrow.

So exiting Kansas and entering Colorado is something to celebrate. Which quickly ebbs when you notice that you don’t see any mountains. Sorry, they’re still a few more hours of driving away.

I always wondered why Colorado did not give everything east of the Denver airport to Kansas. The terrain is pretty much the same: Flat.

Eventually, I arrived in the Mile High City. And took in one of the truly amazing sights in this country. The Rocky Mountains. Driving is fairly easy in Denver because you can’t get lost. You always know where west is. All you have to do is look at that solid wall that looms west of the city.

Before I arrived in Colorado, I had never been on a pair of skis. But for those three years, I skied my brains out. Actually got to be a fairly accomplished skier.

In August of 1978, I packed all my earthly belongings in the back of a pickup truck, pointed it back toward I-70, and headed east again.

Unfortunately, I have not been back since. I have promised my wife and kids that sometime I will take them out there and show them the sights. Even more incredible, I have not been on skis since either.

Don’t ask me why. I’m not really sure. Maybe I just got spoiled by skiiing in Colorado. One year when I returned to Pennsylvania for Christmas, some friends who were ski bums insisted they take me to the Poconos. After what I thought was a drive akin to cruising Kansas, I finally asked, “When are we going to get to the slopes?”

“The parking lot is right up here on the right,” they told me. I was expecting mountains. These were more like hills.

I told them of a place in Colorado called A-Basin. The parking lot there is above the timber line. It’s always the first place to open and the last to close. They hold a spring fling there for their final weekend where guys ski in shorts and some girls hit the slopes in bikinis.

Then there’s the weather. People don’t understand the weather in Colorado. The winters aren’t that bad. You get sun every day. One of the worst sunburns I ever got was on my face after a weekend in Vail. The dryness of the atmosphere also makes for a complete different kind of snow. It’s like soap powder. When I skied in the Poconos, it was raining. There was as much ice as snow.

Or maybe I’m just too cheap. When I was in Colorado, a lift ticket was $10. I’m astounded at what people fork over now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about skiing since word came out of the accident involving the actress Natasha Richardson.

Of the hundreds of times I hit the slopes in Colorado, I can remember some serious tumbles. Not once did I ever wear a helmet. Most of the times I didn’t even wear a hat.

Maybe I was just lucky. Clearly Richardson was not. After taking what seemed like a not especially serious fall, she declined any medical attention. But an hour later she was dealing with a throbbing headache. She wound up on life-support. This morning she’s dead.

Most of the really serious accidents I saw in Colorado involved people skiing like a bat out of hell, sometimes slamming into other skiers, or smashing into trees while going out of control. Although I also saw a guy break his leg once while standing in the line for the lift.

These days I’m not much of a winter person. I make like a hermit for four months. I’ve often thought about giving skiiing another shot.

This morning I think I can live without it.

Hoops Heaven

Now this is what I call March Madness.

No, not Villanova or Temple.

In Delaware County, that means high school hoops. And we’re about to enter unchartered water when it comes to excellent in high school basketball.

This weekend Delco will be represented by no less than four high school teams seeking state titles – including two from the same school.

Both the Archbishop Carroll boys and girls teams will be seeking AAA titles. The boys will face Greensburg Salem Friday night; the girls tangle with Lampeter Strasburg Saturday night.

Then there’s the O’Hara girls, who will seek a AAAA crown Friday night when they face off with Mount Lebanon.

The crowning moment of the weekend could come Saturday night when Penn Wood looks to keep the AAAA title in Delco (Chester won it last year) when they play Wiliam Penn at 8 p.m.

All games will be played at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State.

I’ve been scratching my head trying to recall if the same school has ever won both boys and girls titles. You would think maybe one of the powerful Pittsburgh schools such as Schenley High might have done it at some point.

Also of note is that this marks the first year Philadelphia Catholic League teams have competed in the PIAA Tournament. All they managed to do is put three teams in the state finals, between the two Carroll teams and the O’Hara girls.

Finally, there is this. Has one county ever had four teams seeking state titles? It just might be an unmatched level of high school excellence. But it comes as no real surprise here in Delaware County, where hoops roots run deep, from the playgrounds and CYO Leagues of Drexel Hill to the unmatched excellence of the roundball played in Chester.

If you can answer any of these questions, feel free to post a response.

In the meantime, the NCAA will have to wait. For this weekend, Delaware County is in high school hoops heaven.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 18

The Daily Numbers: 15 months in Iraq, length of tour by Army Spc. Andrew Lebold, who arrived back home in Iraq last night.
4 police departments that took part in a pursuit yesterday that ended with the arrest of a suspect in an armed holdup in Upper Darby.
16 and 47, age of father and son who are on trial in connection with the stabbing of a neighbor during a confrontation.
4 bartenders and 4 underage drinkers cited after a raid on Dino’s Bar in Glenolden.
3 people now facing criminal charges in connection with a fatal truck crash on the Schuylkill Expressway back in January. The driver and owner of the rig, which police say never should have been on the road, are charged.
3 people rescued off a fishing trawler off the Cape May coast when it started taking on water. It eventually burst into flames.
7.68 million dollars, sale price for a condo on the 46th floor of the Residences at Two Liberty Place, in downtown Philadelphia.
6 Philadelphia row offices that the Committee of Seventy is suggesting be eliminated in order to save money.
30,000 dollars a year, how much the chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was paid as a taxpayer-financed consultant to Sen. Vince Fumo. His turnpike job is now being reviewed in the wake of Fumo’s corruption convictions.
3 days before her 66th birthday, when a West Chester woman was found smothered to death in her home. Her son, 39, has been charged.
1 person found beaten to death slumped over wheel of car in parking lot of shopping center in Newark, Del.
72,000 dollars, how much the feds say an Amtrak consultant stole from the transit agency while working in Philadelphia.
3 parked cars damaged when an SUV went out of control and slammed into them on West Oak Lane. The driver did not stop.
2.687 rate on low-interest loans being made available to arson-plagued residents in Coatesville.
40,000 dollar grants being handed out to nonprofits in the region by drug giant Glaxo Smith Kline. Family and Community Service of Delco is in line for an award.
30 years in jail for a Reading man convicted of going to New York to have sex with a 2-year-old girl.
1 penny hike in price of gasoline in the region. We’re now paying an average of $1.98 a gallon.
9 percent surge in Cephalon stock after the Frazer drugmaker announced positive results from testing on a new drug that will battle bipolar depression.
2 Delco high school teams that will play for state hoops titles Friday night. The Carroll boys and O’Hara girls both won last night. Tonight Penn Wood and the Carroll girls will look to join the party.
1988, the last time the Flyers won a game in Detroit. They blew a lead last night and lost, 3-2.
552 wins for Devils’ netminder Martin Brodeur, setting the all-time NHL record.
7 strikeouts and no runs allowed in 5 sparkling innings for Phils pitcher Brett Myers yesterday.
25 points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, for Andre Iguodala as the Sixers stunned the Los Angeles Lakers on their home floor.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Cole Hamels is back in Phillies training camp after having his elbow examined yesterday in Philadelphia. The team is not saying whether he will be available to take the mound opening night. He will not throw for 48 hours. Swell.
I Don’t Get It: People are more than willing to plunk down their hard-earned money on an NCAA bracket pool without the slightest scintilla of knowledge about most of the teams involved. I think you call that madness.
Today’s Upper: Speaking of madness, you can indulge your hoops passion at the Wachovia Center today with free practices involving the six teams that will play their opening round games there, including Villanova.
Quote Box: “It was a 74,000-pound death machine.”
-- Montco District Attorney Risa Ferman on the big rig with faulty brakes that was involved in fatal crash on Schuylkill in Janauary. Three people, including the driver and owner, now face charges.

The Homecoming

The nation will pause this week to mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

The occasion will no doubt rekindle bitter debates about the basis used by the Bush Administration to enter the conflict and the run-up to our involvement in the war.

There will be disagreements about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. That was the key element used by the Bush team to go into Iraq and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. We now know that intelligence information was faulty. We still haven’t found significant WMD there.

Others will argue that Hussein had to go, that he posed a threat to national security regardless and that removing him was justified in lessening the terror threat against the U.S. and our allies.

The debate has been going on for six years; it will not end this week.

The cost to the nation has been staggering, both to our psyche and our image in the world. And the human toll, the loss of life, is incalculable, regardless of what the numbers are.

But it would be a mistake to confuse the mission with those charged with carrying it out.

Which brings me to the front page of today’s newspaper. If there is a positive image connected to the war it is this: A soldier in the embrace of a loved one on his return to Philadelphia International Airport.

It is an almost universal image of the other side of the war, one that does not always make headlines.

There is only one word to describe the look on the face of Spc. Andrew Lebold of Rutledge: Priceless.

Lebold spent 15 months in Iraq with the I-8 Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.

Last night a good portion of the tiny borough turned out as he got out of a car at borough hall.

Let us be the first to offer similar thoughts: Welcome home, soldier. Congratuations on a job well done.

The debate about the war will go on for some time. There is no debate over Lebold and thousands of men and women like him who traveled to the other side of the world to defend our way of life.

They deserve our respect and admiration. And a simple thank you wouldn’t hurt either.


File this one under March Madness as you scramble to determine whether Stephen F. Austin has a prayer against Syracuse.

Here’s a couple of questions to mull over as you pore over those precious brackets, the backbone of all this “madness” surrounding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Name me one player on the Stephen F. Austin team? In lieu of that, how about telling me where Stephen F. Austin is located?

Thought so.

Doesn’t much matter. Until noon Thursday, when the tournament actually starts, there will likely be just as much attention paid to filling out NCAA brackets as to the question of whether AIG executives should return those bonuses.

And the money that changes hands is about the same.

It is believed that 25 to 37 million Americans filled out a bracket pool last year. And in general those who study such things tell us that each time a pool player checks their brackets or a new score, it amounts to 13.5 minutes. Of course, a lot of that time occurs at the office. Not exactly contributing to the bottom line, unless you’re talking about your own checkbook.

The total financial impact of the NCAA Tournament, both in money spent and productivity lost, is in the billions.

Talk about madness.

And it’s about to get even wilder.

Both New Jersey and Delaware are toying with the idea of legalizing sports gambling. It’s a sure-fire remedy every time the economy has a hiccup.

Of course what is going on now is a bit more than a hiccup, this is more like a full-throated belch. Even New Jersey casinos have been affected. Their “take” is down, in no small part because of the bad economy and competition from new slots parlors in Pennsylvania.

New Jersey officials are toying with legalized sports betting as a way to prop up those ailing casinos.

Delaware also is looking at adding sports wagering to its array of legalized gambling.

You have to wonder how long before our own gambling guru here in the Keystone State, Gov. Ed Rendell, jumps on the sports gambling bandwagon.

Hey, he’s already pushed slots betting through. Now he’s proposing legalized video poker in bars.

Sports betting? You’d think it would be a slam dunk.

Madness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish off my brackets.

By the way, Stephen F. Austin is located in Nacogdoches, Texas. And I have them upsetting Syracuse.

Cole Case: What's Hamels status?

That giant exhale you just heard was thousands of Phillies fans breathing a sigh of relief.

That twinge Phillies Phanatics got in their gut about the same time Cole Hamels was reporting a twinge in his elbow is easing.

Hamels flew to Philly to have the ouchy elbow on his throwing arm examined. Here’s the result: There is no significant damage, but Hamels is suffering from some inflammation. He was given a shot and will not throw for 48 hours.

So let’s cut to the chase, and we’re not talking about Utley. Will Hamels be on the mound when the Phils and Braves kick off the baseball season in a special Sunday night ESPN game on April 5?

The Phillies are being characteristally coy about the injury, saying little other than Hamels will not throw for 48 hours.

But pitching coach Rich Dubee didn’t sound especially optimistic.

“I think it would be a long shot,” Dubee told reporters in Clearwater yesterday.

Gee, thanks Rich.

If Hamels can’t go, at least the Phils have a viable option. And it happens to be the same guy who was on the hill opening day last year.

Brett Myers threw five and two-thirds scoreless innings, giving up just four hits, walking none and striking out seven.

You have to think the Phils would love to have Hamels, the MVP of both the National League Championship Series and World Series, in that starter’s role. But not if it means exposing him to any chance of further aggravating his problem elbow.

Think of it this way. Remember last spring. The Phils started their season without the services of Brad Lidge. How did that turn out?

They can only hope things go the same way with Hamels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 17

The Daily Numbers: 115 million dollars, the expected pricetag of that soccer stadium in Chester that will be home to the region’s Major League Soccer franchise. The first pilings are now in the ground at the site.
63 million dollars in repairs slated for Chester’s Lamokin Street train station, with the money coming from federal stimulus funds.
178,000 dollars believed stolen from the Surgery Center at Brinton Lake by a former business manager.
1 firefighter injured battling a morning blaze that chased an Upper Darby family from their home Monday morning.
23, age of Upper Darby cabbie charged with assault in a neighborhood feud that ended with him under arrest for beating up a 74-year-old neighbor. He has been held for trial.
137 times Vince Fumo heard the word “guilty” proclaimed yesterday as he was convicted on all counts in his federal corruption trial.
45 times his cohort, Ruth Arnao, heard the same verdict.
2 million dollars bail for the powerful former state senator, who is now looking at the likelihood of spending 20 years in jail.
14, age of female student a music teacher in Montco is charged with having a sexual relationship with. He is 27.
2 candidates now taking aim at the Republican nomination for governor in Pennsylvania in 2010. Ex-Delco D.A. Pat Meehan is likely going to be joined by Attorney General Tom Corbett. Neither man has formally announced.
19 percent temporary property tax hike being sought by Philly Mayor Michael Nutter. The second year would be scaled back to 14.5 percent, then the rate would be returned to its current level.
34 million dollars in federal stimulus funds that will be used to rebuild a 4-mile section of the Blue Route from the Turnpike interchange to the Schuylkill River crossing.
1 person killed following a pursuit by police in East Mount Airy. The suspect reached for an officer’s gun during a struggle.
4 pizza shops in South Philly that have now been targeted in a string of armed robberies.
146 years of publishing at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that comes to an end today. The newspaper is going to an online-only version.
165 million dollars in bonuses that insurance giant AIG will pay to its executives, after it received billions in federal bailout money.
1.97 and holding, price for gasoline in the Philly region.
3 women’s teams in the NCAA Women’s Hoops Tourney. Villanova, Drexel and Temple are all dancing.
22 and 11, final record for Temple Owls, who head to Miami for a first-round game with Arizona State.
262 innings pitched last year by Phils’ ace Cole Hamels, who is having soreness in his elbow.
12 runs surrendered by the Phils yesterday to the Yankees, who shut out the guys in red.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Cole Hamels has a twinge in his elbow. Millions of Phillies fans just got a twinge in their gut.
I Don’t Get It: You might say that Vince Fumo didn’t get it. Yesterday he heard the word guilty pronounced 137 times at his corruption trial. Maybe he gets it now.
Today’s Upper: Our roads, bridges, and mass transit are about to get a serious boost, thanks for federal stimulus funds.
Quote Box: “Just heartbroken.”
-- Former Sen. Vince Fumo, after his conviction yesterday on all counts.

A great day to be Irish

No one was more fiercely Irish than my mother. And I mean that literally. She was not hesitant to let you know where she stood. Sometimes with her tongue. And sometimes with the back her hand.

Today is the day reserved to celebrate all things Irish. There will be green everywhere you look.

This used to amuse my mother. She would often remind us as kids that the origin of St. Patrick’s Day is in faith and the deep religious background of the Irish people, not drunken hooliganism.

She used to snicker that St. Patrick’s Day was the day when people who are not Irish wear green. Never seemed to stop her from piling on the shamrocks come March 17.

In general, I’m inclined to concur with her on this most Irish of holidays. I won’t be swilling green beer today. I don’t drink beer during Lent. And yes, it gets tougher every year. Only someone with an Irish sense of humor could manage to place St. Patrick’s Day in Lent every year.

I will think today of my mother and father, whose parents came to this country from Ireland. They loved their heritage; they just didn’t wear it on their sleeves.

Of course, not everyone celebrates in the same way. Me? I’m content to watch “The Quiet Man” again.

But a lot of people like to party in a bit more public manner. To that extent last Friday we listed the various events our local watering holes have set up to help us celebrate the holiday.

It wasn’t the listings that got me into trouble. Instead it was the headline that accompanied the story.

I winced as soon as I saw it. While I personally don’t necessarily subscribe to it, as I was first informed a few years back, some people believe that referring to “St. Paddy’s Day” is an ethnic slur.

And one son of the auld sod took the time to e-mail me and remind of just that. He first was effusive in his praise for the paper and the way we covered St. Patrick’s Day events in the county, including the annual parade in Springfield on Saturday.

While many simply use “Paddy” as an Irish version of Patrick, to others it conjures up images of the paddywagon, a slap at the image of the Irish as drunken carousers.

I once again assured him no harm was meant. And I will remind myself to make this point to my editors.

No doubt my mom would agree.

Pat Meehan has company in GOP race

Looks like Pat Meehan is going to have company in his run for governor in 2010.

Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney, has not yet formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nod. But most believe it is only a matter of time before he does. Last week he was raising money at the Drexelbrook and was boosted by two Delco legends – Pat Croce and Vince Papale.

But Meehan is not the only candidate testing the waters. And the challenge is coming from his own party.

State Attorney General Tom Corbett Monday filed paperwork with the state after he set up an exploratory committee, Tom Corbett for Governor. Like Meehan, he also has put up a Web site.

Both guys likely will paint themselves as crime- and corruption-busters.

Instead of beating up on crime, these two law and order guys might stage a battle royal for the Republican nomination.

End of the Fumo saga

Vince Fumo was once believed to be the most powerful politician in Pennsylvania.

Today he has a new title – convicted felon.

A federal jury yesterday convicted the former state senator from South Philadelphia of all 137 corruption counts filed against him. One after another, the single word guilty rang out in a federal courtroom. It took about 13 minutes for all of them to be proclaimed.

Fumo’s trial stretched last month, starting last October. But it must have seemed like a heartbeat as opposed to those 13 minutes that likely stopped Fumo’s heart with each audible declaration.

His co-hort, Ruth Arnao, also was convicted of all 45 counts against her.

They both are looking at some serious jail time. For Fumo, the fall is almost unfathomable. And maybe that’s the enduring lesson for our public servants.

You are elected to serve your constituents, not yourself. And if you ignore that basic concept, you do so at your own risk.

Very little happened in Harrisburg over the past two decades without gaining the imprimatur of Vince Fumo. He was one of the state’s ultimate power brokers.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Never does that ring truer than in the case of Fumo.

Did he do a lot of good along the way? Unquestionably. That does not remove the stain left on his name, as well as his tenure in public service.

Vince Fumo helped a lot of people, but he helped himself even more.

The gravy train is over. Fumo is likely going to jail.

The man once referred to as “the Vince of Darkness” for the way he wielded power in the state Capitol, has been brought down by his own actions.

He is certainly not the first public servant to be so tainted. He very likely will not be the last.

But his case should serve as a wake-up call to those so tempted. Eventually, you will get caught.

After his conviction yesterday, a broken Fumo offered only this comment: Heartbroken.

I don’t know how much heart is involved, but Fumo certainly is broken, as was the system he abused for so long.

The real heartbreak in this case should be reserved for the people Fumo was elected to serve. Instead he decided all too often to serve himself.

The heartbroken Fumo is due for a transplant. From a life of opulence and power to a barren existence behind bars.

Vince Fumo is guilty. One hundred and thirty-seven times guilty. To many – maybe even himself – Vince Fumo was considered not only someone who made the laws, but somehow above it.

Not anymore.

Ace in the hole

They are the most feared words in spring training:

Just a precaution.

Cole Hamels has a twinge in his elbow.

The ace of the Phillies staff, the MVP of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series, is back in Philadelphia today to have the elbow on his throwing arm examined and get an MRI.

Hamels and the Phillies are downplaying it. They always do. In the meantime, fans are holding their breath.

Hamels is the epitome of Southern California cool. That includes his work as an amateur doctor. He’s had lots of practice. Last year was the first Hamels managed to play without an injury keeping him out of the rotation.

Unfortunately, as he became the horse on the hill last year for the Phils, he also was entering unchartered territory. Hamels pitched 279 innings last year, that’s more than any other year in his career and tops in baseball.

“It’s not a big deal,” Hamels insisted in Florida yesterday before flying north. I think I am fine. I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

Hamels takes pains to indicate he deals with tightness in his elbow just about every year, but that it’s been a bit more persistenr this spring. He says this is not a situation where he can’t throw, but that he has tightness between starts that is usually gone by this time of the spring. Maybe that’s tied to the number of innings he logged last year. Then again, the Phils delayed Hamels’ spring debut about as long as they could.

There was a time when you could just about count on hearing the following sentence at some point during Phillies camp. “We’re just going to shut him down for a few weeks. We don’t think it’s anything serious.” And the Phils promptly would see a pitcher they were counting on go on the shelf.

Hopefully, we won’t be hearing those words later this afternoon.

Hamels is vowing to be on the mound for opening night.

He is probably the one player the Phils cannot afford to lose. He is their ace. And right now he’s in the hole.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 16

The Daily Numbers: 750 exec jobs being slashed in the region by oil giant Sunoco.
450 union workers at the Marcus Hook refinery who approved a new, 3-year deal that protects jobs and offers 3 percent pay hikes each year.
700 members at the Philadelphia refinery who OK’d the same deal the next day, even as the company was announcing cuts in its 3,700-member workforce.
4,700 union members of SEPTA’s city division who remain on the job this morning, even though their contract expired Saturday night. Trains, buses and trolleys continue running.
12,000 to 87,000 dollars, bids received in Chester to construct a new rec center.
4 million dollar cut, about 12 percent, seen for the Philly D.A’s office.
3 dead, 3 wounded in another wicked weekend of violence in the city of Philadelphia.
2 homes badly damaged in still another arson fire early Saturday in the city of Coatesville.
20 arsons recorded in the Chester County city since the first of the year.
60 firefighters who responded to a blaze at a home this morning in South Coatesville. It is not believed to be part of the arson spree.
1 dead and 2 injured after car struck a tree in the Gray’s Ferry section of Philadelphia early today.
1 high school athlete killed and 6 other teens injured when a car struck a utility pole in Ocean County Sunday afternoon.
91, age of mother of Vice President Joe Biden, who is hospitalized in Philadelphia this morning after falling in her Delaware home over the weekend.
10 show dogs killed when fire roared through a home in western Pennsylvania town of Claysville.
1.96, average price at pumps in the region for gasoline. National average is $1.92.
46.25, price per barrel for crude oil, its highest point in 2 months.
4 local high school teams still alive in PIAA hoops playoffs. Penn Wood and Carroll boys, along with O’Hara and Carroll girls, will be seeking state titles this week.
3 seed for Villanova, who gets to play at home at the Wachovia Center in East bracket of NCAA tourney.
11 seed for Temple, which will play 6th ranked Arizona in Miami.
2 goals for Sean Avery to lead the Rangers over the Flyers the day after the Flyers beat the Blueshirts at home on Saturday.
10 points in 4th quarter for Donyell Marshall to lead the Sixers to big win over Miami.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let the madness begin, and we have two ways to scratch our hoops fever itch. Both Villanova and Temple are in the NCAA tourney.
I Don’t Get It: The federal corruption trial of former state Sen. Vince Fumo is now in jeopardy because it has been learned that a juror has been filing online updates on the panel’s deliberations. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Good news this morning for commuters. The SEPTA system – trains, trolleys and buses – is up and running despite the expiration of contract with city unions. They are continuing to work as negotiations go on.
Quote Box: “You’re not betting a mortgage payment, so everyone can play and have a vested interest in game sbetween teams hey know nothing about.
-- Steve Porter of Milmont Park, on the NCAA brackets mania that will take hold today.

Sun goes down on 750

Oil giant Sunoco had made it clear in recent months they were looking to reduce costs – and jobs.

A few weeks back, as they negotiated contracts with unions representing workers at both their Marcus Hook and Philadelphia refineries, the company floated the idea of laying off three of five union fire marshals at the Hook facility. That would have ended a longtime tradition of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week in-house fire coverage. The union blasted the idea as putting workers’ safety in jeopardy. The next day the company abandoned the idea.

But they did not abandon their desire to cut costs.

Thursday night the United Steelworkers approved their new deal at the Marcus Hook refinery. On Friday their counterparts in Philly did the same.

In both instances, the unions were successful in keeping language safeguarding jobs.

It was pretty clear management was going to need to look elsewhere for the cuts.

Friday morning, white-collar workers found out where. Those white collars were turning red, from the bloodletting in the company’s front offices.

Sunoco annouced Friday they would eliminate 750 salaried jobs from its management staff. Most of the jobs will be shed in the Philadelphia region. The company’s headquarters is in Center City. That’s 20 percent of their white collar force. The refineries will not escape cuts, but most of jobs lost will be suits. Sunoco did announce they also would be offering buyout packages to some union refinery workers.

The deal that union workers approved at the Hook refinery includes wage hikes of 3 percent in each of the three years, along with a $2,500 lump-sum payment and continuation of their health care packages.

White-collar workers got a different kind of lump sum. The lump you get in your throat when you realize you’re getting a pink slip.

Sunoco reported net income of $776 million last year. But the company insists the cuts are necessary as they move into “one of the down cycles where market conditions are challenging.”

Jim Savage is head of the union at Sunoco’s Philadelphia refinery. He is happy with the deal his workers got, but realizes it likely came at a price.

“In my opinion, Sunoco had a number they were going to get to, and they couldn’t get more from us, so they took from them – and it’s a shame,” Savage said.

He referred to the layoffs as “gluttony.”

Savage, you might say.

Still rolling

There are likely a lot of smiling faces across the Delaware Valley this morning.

And we are not referring merely to fans of Villanova and Temple hoops, as both teams prepare for first-round games in the NCAA Tournament later in the week.

It’s not merely a hangover from St. Pat’s Day parades over the weekend in Springfield and Philly, either. Yes, it was a great weekend to be Irish.

This morning, it’s also good to be a commuter in the region. Especially if you rely on mass transit to get into the city.

That’s because the trains, trolleys and buses are still rolling. That includes the Market-Frankford El, one of the true lifebloods of the region, which ferries people to and from center city from 69th Street in Upper Darby.

SEPTA’s contract with its city union expired Saturday night. As usual, many wondered if they needed to fear the “R-Ides of March,” whether they would wake up Sunday to find the region’s mass transit had ground to a halt. And if they would have to spend most of their day Sunday trying to figure out how to get to work on Monday.

No need to fear. That’s because SEPTA’s city union decided to remain on the job despite the fact that their deal had expired. Union officials made it clear they did not want to hurt riders when the economy is in such dire straits.

Willie Brown, the leader of Transport Workers Union Local 234 and its 4,700 city workers, stressed that there was no desire on the part of his team or the rank and file to force an impasse between the union and management onto the backs of students, businesses and commuters who depend on the system to get around.

So for now, the region’s trains, trolleys and buses continue to roll. Another negotiating session is set for Tuesday.

A SEPTA official indicated that the two sides remain far apart and that a deal could be well down the road.

But a work stoppage is not in the works. And for that riders, businesses and everyone else in the region should be thankful.

A strike would have taken today’s woeful economic climate and poured a little gas on the fire.

Both sides should be lauded for stepping away from another conflagration.

Thanks, Pat

I spend a lot of time complaining about athletes and the money they make.

Most of them strike me as overpaid jerks, whose compensation is out of whack with what the rest of us try to scrounge by on every day.

Then something happens to make you think about that depiction.

Pat Burrell played nine seasons with the Phillies. He arrived as a much-ballyhooed first-round draft pick. Burrell had his ups and downs during nearly a decade in Philly - at the plate, in the field, and with the fans. The last few years he had been routinely lifted in late innings for defensive purposes.

Burrell saw the highs and lows of Philly sports, including the full-throated opinions of its legendary supporters. He was cheered when he did well, and he often got an earful as he trudged back to the dugout after waving at another outside breaking ball.

Of course, all of that culminated last October, when Burrell led the parade celebrating a World Series championship.

In the offseason, the Phils decided to go in a different direction in left field. They signed free agent Raul Ibanez. That meant Burrell’s nine years in Philly were over. He signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team the Phils vanquished to touch off that manic celebration.

But Burrell was not quite done with Philly. On Friday, he took out a full-page ad in the Daily News and a half page in the Inky to thank the Phillies organization, and especially the fans.

We constantly complain about how so many athletes take the money and run. Not many did what Burrell did. He reached into his pocket.

You can argue all you want about Burrell’s performance, the Phils’ decision to let him go, and his interaction with the fans.

One thing you can’t argue now: He will be missed.

Burrell signed the bottom of the ads with these simple words: “All my best, Pat.”

The guy is a class act.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 13

The Daily Numbers: 250,000 raised by Republican Pat Meehan last night during a fundraiser at the Drexelbrook. He’s mulling a run for governor in 2010.
2 Delco legends who showed up to lend Meehan a hand. That would be Pat Croce and Mr. “Invincible,” Vince Papale.
3 weeks, how long the county’s new dog park at Kent Park in Upper Darby will be closed while a new mulch surface is installed to replace the grass now there.
20 years since SEPTA Transit Police Officer Sgt. Thomas Sewell was fatally stabbed. He was remembered at a memorial service at 69th Street Terminal yesterday.
6,500 feet, the length of the expanded 17-35 runway at Philadelphia International Airport that is now in use.
243 vehicles being taken out of the city of Philadelphia fleet and sold at auction in money-saving move by Mayor Michael Nutter.
2 woman from the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia charged with fraud in another auto registration scam.
2 people gunned down at a veterinary clinic in Mays Landing, N.J. It’s being investigated as a murder-suicide.
27 lawyers and 52 other staff members being laid off by the Philly firm of Blank Rome LLP.
55 lawyers and 161 other staffers laid off by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
9 arson fires believed to be the work of a West Chester teen. Roger Barlow faces a preliminary hearing this morning.
50 to 100 million dollars, how much annual revenue Delaware thinks it might be able to raise through sports betting. It is being considered in the Legislature.
2,000 gallons of fuel oil that spilled into the Christina River Thursday from a ship docked at the Port of Wilmington.
10 percent hike in pay for John Stumpf, the boss at Wells Fargo bank. That comes to a cool $13.8 million.
3 straight days of gains on Wall Street. They go for 4 in a row today.
10 seconds left and down by 1 point, where Villanova found themselves yesterday in their Big East Tourney debut. That’s after being up by 17 in the first half.
76-75 win for the ‘Cats over Marquette, to advance to the semifinals.
79-65 win for the Temple Owls over Saint Joe’s in the A10 Tourney.
6 overtime periods played last night by Syracuse and UConn before the Orange stunned the Huskies.
5 straight road wins for the Washington Caps, as they beat the Flyers last night, 2-1.
9 straight games with a point for Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin.
1967, the year the Spectrum opened in South Philly.
53 concerts by the Grateful Dead at the legendary hall, the most by any act.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Sixers return to their old home tonight to say goodbye to the Spectrum. Lots of their stars will be there. One will not. Maurice Cheeks will not be in attendance. And that’s a shame.
I Don’t Get It: Why is that we always think bigger is better. Maybe more expensive, maybe more seating, maybe more luxury boxes, maybe more pricey eats, but does anyone think the Wachovia Center can hold a candle to the Spectrum in terms of simply watching an athletic event?
Today’s Upper: Pat Meehan is not officially running for governor. But it seems all but a sure thing that he will be soon. The state could use a good dose of the kind of common sense, corruption-busting Meehan was known for, first as Delco D.A., then as U.S. attorney for eastern Pennsylvania.
Quote Box: “I’m here because my name is Pat. Pat Croce is for Pat Meehan and I don’t endorse anyone.”
-- Delco native Pat Croce at last night’s fundraiser for Pat Meehan.

Spectrum: Blowing the roof off one more time

They will blow the roof off the Spectrum tonight.

It won’t be the first time. But for basketball, it will be the last.

The Spectrum opened in 1968. It lost part of its roof a few months later. Then it happened again a few weeks after that. The place was shut down while repairs were made.

The slow passing of the legendary South Philly sports palace will mark another milestone tonight. The Sixers will return to the place where they won a world championship as part of the year-long farewell to the cozy building that now sits in the shadow of the cavernous Wachovia Center across the parking lot.

They will bring back a lot of the Sixers greats, including “Dr. J” Julius Erving, the man who resurrected the franchise when he arrived from the ABA, and Moses Malone, the stalwart in the center who proved the difference as the Sixers defeated the Lost Angeles Lakers in “fo” straight to win a world title, just as he had predicted.

The Flyers made their final visit to their old home – the place where they won back-to-back Stanley Cups, in the pre-season.

There is a year-long series of special concerts booked into the site, including two shows by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, in April. Just for old times, they should have Foghat open the show. It seems like they opened every show in the countless number of concerts I saw there.

Oddly enough, it’s the concerts I likely will remember most about the building. Everyone from Bruce to Blue Oyster Cult.

But it’s not the concert I will remember most. That honor remains with the show my wife and I attended some 25 years after the first time I walked into that building.

At our wedding, we danced to “All the Way,” by Frank Sinatra. A couple of decades later, we attended his silver jubilee show at the Spectrum. I had bought the tickets for Valentine’s Day.

I can describe the show in one word: Electric. The place was packed. When the lights went down and Sinatra, clad in his traditional black tux, strode out onto the stage, you could feel his presence in every corner of the building.

Was he at his best that night, touring on his 75th birthday. Maybe not. But he was still mesmerizing. This was a living legend. He knew it, the fans knew it. He didn’t disappoint.

That’s the thing about the building. It always seemed to provide one thing.


There will be more of those tonight.

The building will soon be gone. The goosebumps – and the memories that created them – will stay with us forever.


The Madness started early for Villanova. But the Big East was just getting started.

The Wildcats appeared headed to an easy win in their first game in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden Thursday.

Maybe too easy.

Up by 17 points in the first half, the Wildcats inexplicably frittered the lead away in the second stanza. With 10 seconds left in the game, they found themselves down by one and facing an agonizingly disappointing defeat.

But Dwayne Anderson pulled the ‘Cats out of the bag with a last-second layup that seemed to hang on the rim forever. In fact, the refs went to the videotape to be sure Anderson had released the ball before time had expired. He did, even if it likely did not fall through the twine until after the clock read all zeroes.

But that was only the beginning of the madness at Madison Square Garden.

The top two seeds in the tournament, Pitt and UConn, both fell last night. If you were not aware of the result of the UConn-Syracuse game, you likely are not alone this morning.

The teams played an epic 6-overtime game. The Orange stunned the Huskies, 127-117. The game began at 9:36. It ended 3 hours and 46 minutes later, just after 1 a.m. It was the second-longest game in Division I history.

And it opens the door for Villanova. With both Pittsburgh and UConn now on the sidelines, Villanova will battle Louisville tonight. The winner goes on to face the championship game to face the winner of the West Virginia-Syracuse game.

I guess that’s why the call it March Madness.

Almost deer-ly departed

Every morning I drive in through western Delaware County in the pre-dawn darkness.

But I know I am not alone.

This morning I had another close encounter with my morning “dance partners.”

As usual, it came out of nowhere, darting out literally from the darkness directly in front of my car.

Deer me.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Anyone who drives in this county has probably experienced something similar at one time or another.

I slammed on the brakes and yanked the steering wheel hard to the left. And closed my eyes. But I could still see those huge eyes of a large deer staring at me through the windshield.

I prepared for impact, but it never happened. I’m not exactly sure how I managed to miss my four-legged friend. Maybe it was more agile than I thought. It certainly wasn’t my defensive driving tactics.

I couldn’t stop because there was a car behind me. But I admit I was shaken. It takes a while before that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach subsides.

Then I continued on my way – admittedly at a slower pace.

The thing is I know this is not the last time I will do this tango with the deer who seem to be overrunning the roads in the western end of the county.

The question is not if, it’s merely when.

Be careful out there.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A threat close to home

Some days in this job you just shake your head and wonder.

At the same time the horror of still another mass school shooting was unfolding in Germany, a school plot was thwarted a lot closer to home.

Like in Drexel Hill.

And the suspect who was hauled out of school, who police believe hatched a plan to take over the school and shoot anybody who got in the way? He’s 13 years old. He can’t yet drive a car, but he can apparently be driven to what once would be unthinkable: A plot against his own school.

When police arrived at St. Andrew’s in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, the teen had already been pulled out of class. Officers found two pellet guns in his backpack.

I was tempted to say bookbag, but then I guess that would date me as en even bigger dinosaur than I already am.

We carried bookbags 40 years ago. We didn’t know what a backpack was. We also lived for the most part in mortal fear of the good sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who ran our parochial school.

Fidgeting in class would usually draw a withering stare from one of the sisters or mother superior. It was about as far as we dared to push that envelope.

Take over the school? Sure. Survive it is more likely. Looking back on it I am always astounded at what the nuns were able to get away with. And I’m not the least bit unsure that most of the people who went through that trial by fire are not better for it.

I guess things are different today.

Kids now apparently routinely entertain notions of such things as plotting against their schools, their teachers, even their schoolmates. What once was settled in a wrestling match after school now too often involves a gun, even if only a pellet gun.

There is one good thing to come out of what happened the past couple of days at St. Andrew’s. School officials as well as mental health officials are to be commended for taking quick action once they learned of the plot from another student.

Apparently the ringleader was looking for some henchmen. Along the way one of them blabbed to a counselor. The school and police were quickly notified. The student had already been pulled from the classroom when officers arrived.

I guess rapping his knuckles with a brass ruler is out of the question.

Things change. And all too often not for the better.

The Daily Numbers - March 12

The Daily Numbers: 13, age of eighth-grader arrested in a plot against his school, St. Andrew’s in Drexel Hill.
2 pellet guns that police say they confiscated from his backpack.
1 person shot in the 7100 block of Stockley Road in Upper Darby. The victim is in critical condition. Police are looking for the gunman.
25 percent decrease in the endowment at Villanova University, causing the Main Line school to announce a job freeze. The endowment is now worth $253 million.
2 more candidates, 1 Democrat and 1 Republican, who are throwing their hats into the race for 2 County Council seats in the May Primary.
4,700 union workers in SEPTA’s city transit division who will remain on the job this weekend even after their contract expires at midnight Saturday.
916,000 daily trips on SEPTA city buses, train and trolleys that will not be interrupted.
24, where Philly International now ranks in terms of its on-time performance, with 77.3 percent of departures and 72.9 percent of arrivals on time. Those numbers are down from last year.
2 men from Honduras charged in the murder of 2 farmhands at a Burlington County horse farm in New Jersey.
1 dead, 1 injured in a shooting in Northeast Philly Wednesday night.
5 arson fires in the long series that have terrorized Coatesville believed to be the work of one man who was held for trial after a hearing yesterday.
12 staff members being let go by the Philadelphia Orchestra; 6 other positions will be unfilled, making a 20 percent cut.
2 people, a husband and wife, found stabbed to death in a house in Southview, Del., last night.
0 winning tickets sold in last night’s Powerball drawing.
25, age of former female teacher in Laurel, Del., charged with having sex with a 14-year-old boy.
18 birds seized when police raided a cock-fighting operation in Berks County. A man is facing felony charges.
74 percent jump in foreclosure filings in Pennsylvania in February compared to the same month last year.
7.1 percent jobless rate in the region in January. Philadelphia was the worst, checking in at 8.9 percent.
17 percent property tax hike being eyed by Philly Mayor Michael Nutter in his budget plan.
5 million dollars being put up to aid the arts in the Philly region by PNC Bank Foundation.
14.6 million dollar total compensation in 2008 for PNC Bank boss James Rohr.
79 bucks, price tag on the latest iPod, which is about the size of a stick of gum. It holds 1,000 songs.
29 points for Thaddeus Young to lead the Sixers to a win over the Raptors, 115-106.
3 games this year for Saint Joe and Temple, who will hook up again today in the A10 Tourney.
1.06 billion dollars, the net worth of Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, landing him on the Forbes Magazine list of the richest people.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s get this out of the way now. Jeff Lurie joins the list of billionaires and Brian Dawkins joins the Denver Broncos. Something’s not right about that.
I Don’t Get It: Kids, guns (real or not) and school threats. I just don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the mental health officials and folks at St. Andrew’s School in Drexel Hill who took the appropriate, quick action to avert any danger at the school after word of a threat was received.
Quote Box: “He points this gun at a police officer and he’s going to get shot.”
-- Mike Chitwood, Upper Darby police boss, on one of the pellet guns found in the backpack of a student who is believed to be plotting against the school.

Meehan for governor?

Update: Pat Meehan is not going to announce for governor tonight. But it looks like a decent bet he will at some point in the future.

Pat Meehan is still mulling a run for governor.

The Republican from Drexel Hill and former U.S. attorney will make a stop at the Drexelbrook as he continues to mull his options.

Tonight he’s rolling out a couple of local luminaries to help him out.

Delco natives Pat Croce, who went from Lansdowne-Aldan to a sports fitness empire and president of the Sixers, will be joined by the pride of Interboro High, Mr. “Invincible” himself Vince Papale, in boosting Meehan.

When and if the announcement comes it wont' be a surprise. A couple of weeks ago Meehan, a former Delco district attorney, rolled out a “Meehan for Pennsylvania” Web site. He’s been traveling the state, meeting people and raising money. That’s a good idea. Maybe Meehan’s biggest challenge will be getting people from outside Philly and the suburbs to know who he is.

Ironically, just after assuming the position of district attorney, Meehan was in the national spotlight when his office handled the prosecution of eccentric millionaire John E. du Pont for murder. He was believed to be the richest person ever go to on trial for murder.

Meehan’s team won a conviction. Du Pont remains in jail.

Meehan is not a lock for the Republican nomination. But he’s got the pedigree. He’s not exactly a stranger to statewide politics. He ran successful campaigns for Sen. Arlen Specter.

His biggest competition would seem to be Attorney General Tom Corbett, who has not declared yet either. Conservative heavy-hitter Pat Toomey looks like he is now focusing on a primary rematch against Sen. Arlen Specter.

Go for it, Pat.

The gold standard

Eagles fans are going to love this one.

With the nation in the grips of the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression, and Eagles nation still seething over an increase in ticket prices at the same time the team is watching veteran players such as Brian Dawkins and Tra Thomas head for greener pastures, it is reassuring to know that someone is doing well in this daunting fiscal climate.

Er, maybe not.

There is a new name on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people.

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie is now a member of the billionaire club. He’s one of 20 new members to make the list. Meanwhile, the tanking economy has knocked 332 people from their vaulted perch. There are now 793 people in that enviable position. Including the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Lurie raised a lot of eyebrows when he paid what looked like a very steep price to buy the franchise from Norman Braman back in 1994. Lurie, who comes from a wealthy Boston family, had up to that point been best known as a Hollywood producer of such middling films as “V.I. Warshawski,” which starred Kathleen Turner. At the time that price tag was the steepest ever ponied up for a pro sports franchise.

The Eagles are now believed to be worth $1.116 billion. Looks like a pretty shrewd investment. Is your 401K showing that kind of growth? Never mind.

Good for Jeff Lurie. I’ll go against the grain here. I’m not going to rant or rave about the Eagles not re-signing Brian Dawkins. I’ve said it before, I’m not sure they didn’t do the right thing, they just handled it in a God-awful way, which is sort of becoming their m.o.

Jeff Lurie has proven himself a good owner. Helped in no small part by a fairly big chunk of public money, he built Lincoln Financial Field. He also built a state-of-the-art training facility in the NovaCare Center. He puts a good product on the field. The Eagles are a perennial playoff contender.

Of course, there is one thing he has not yet done, which the fans are more than willing to remind him at every turn. That would be win a Super Bowl.

Lurie and his right-hand man Joe Banner often talk of their operation in terms of the “gold standard.”

So far as Lurie’s personal wealth is involved, you can make that solid gold.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 11

The Daily Numbers: 250,000 dollars bail for a Sharon Hill mother charged in the stabbing death of her 17-year-old daughter. She remains in jail. A request to allow her out to attend the girls’ funeral was denied.
50,000 dollar bail for the 23-year-old suspect charged in the beating of a 74-year-old man in a long-simmering Upper Darby neighborhood feud.
13, age of eighth grader at St. Andrew School in Upper Darby charged in a plot to commit terrorist acts at the school.
17 to 35 years in jail for Quentin Johnson, the Chester man charged with strangling another man and then disposing his body like a “piece of trash.”
15 months of sleepless nights that ended yesterday for the Malley family when Army Pfc. John Malley IV was welcomed home at Philadelphia International Airport after a tour in Iraq. Welcome home, soldier.
0 percent wage hike in the first 2 years of a 4-year deal offered to their city union by SEPTA in contract talks. There are raises of 2 percent in each of the final 2 years.
3 percent, 4 percent, 4.5 percent and 5 percent raises, what the union is seeking in their counter-offer.
30,000 dollars in the hole, what the oldest free library in the U.S., which happens to be located in Darby Borough, finds itself. And that is despite $8,000 in donations that have come in since their plight first surfaced.
4.81 percent tax millage hike now being looked at in Rose Tree Media School District. That’s down from a 6.33 hike in their original budget plan.
2,400 candidates who filed nominating petitions at the county courthouse by yesterday’s deadline to be eligible for the May primary.
11 Delco businesses being cited by the state Department of Revenue for owing back taxes.
19.2 percent dip in revenue for Atlantic City casinos in February. That’s an all-time record decline in the state’s 30-year history of legalized gambling.
400 million dollars, what N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine wants to save through furloughs, wage freezes and possible layoffs. He’s also hiking taxes on those with incomes more than $500,000, and hiking taxes on liquor and cigarettes.
8,000 in electronics goods believed ripped off by a contractor who was working on the closeout at Circuit City stores. Police say the Florida contractor stole laptops and other goods from the Berwyn store.
1 winning ticket sold in the final drawing in the Match 6 Pennsylvnia lottery Tuesday night.
2 dollars a pop, what it will cost to play the new Super 7 drawing, which replaces Match 6. Tickets are on sale now, first drawing Friday night.
3 to 23 months of house arrest for a former assistant D.A. in Bucks County charged with corrupting teen boys.
9 dead, including 4 in one family, in a shooting rampage in Alabama.
10 people killed when a teen gunman dressed in black combat gear invaded a school in Germany this morning.
150 years in prison, what Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff is looking at when he enters a guilty plea to charges he swindled hundreds of investors out of billions.
379 point gain yesterday for the Dow, a ray of hope on a barren economic landscape.
11,600 jobs being slashed by helicopter maker United Technologies Corp in Connecticut.
2 goals each for Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell as the Flyers rolled to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
30 carries for 130 yards and 20 passes for 222 yards last year for fullback Harold Lewis with the Seahawks. The Eagles are talking to the free agent.
1 as in No. 1, coach of the year in the Big East is none other than Villanova’s Jay Wright.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Hey, how ’bout those Flyers? Anything to not talk about the Eagles. Well, La Salle and Temple kick off their A-10 Tournament play later today.
I Don’t Get It: Police in Philadelphia are on the hunt for a man who has been groping schoolgirls in the Germantown section. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Margery Good of Cochranville, Chester County, and her dog Charmin. The canine was named best in show at the prestigious “Crufts” show in Birmingham, England.
Quote Box: “Instead of fish, they sent us a dead person.”
-- Owner of Philadelphia pet shop that got a shipment yesterday that contained a human body, not the exotic fish they were expecting.

A roll of the dice

Atlantic City’s roll of the dice might just be turning out to be exactly that.

On a day when Gov. Jon Corzine rolled out an austere budget that contained nothing but bad news for most Garden State workers and taxpayers, the news wasn’t a lot better from the shore gambling mecca.

The losing streak that has shaken Atlantic City casinos isn’t getting any better; it’s getting worse.

Yesterday the A.C. gambling palaces reported a 19.2 percent drop in revenue in February. That’s the biggest monthly decline in the state’s 30-year history of legalized gambling.

There are a lot of reasons for that. The lousy economy is one. Pennsylvania is another. Specifically the competition the Keystone State now poses in the form of slots gambling at the swanky new gambling parlors that now dot the state, including Harrah’s in Chester.

Very simply, the new Pennsylvania casinos are eating Atlantic City’s lunch.

And all of this comes even though two proposed new slots parlors in the city of Philadelphia remain hopelessly mired in red tape. So frustrated is Gov. Ed Rendell with the situation in the city where he was once mayor, he is threatening the city with the possible loss of gambling funding in the state if they don’t get with the program.

But there is also a couple of curious angles in Pennsylvania gaming as well. While most of the state’s slots parlors continue to watch the money roll in, one is seeing a bit of a hiccup while riding the gravy train.

And that would be our pal right here in Delaware County, Harrah’s Chester. Their take was off again last month, a trend that started last summer and continues, despite a spike around the holidays.

No one is saying why. But one thing is sure. What they likely don’t need is more competition. And that’s just what they’ll get if Rendell gets his way and introduces legalized video poker at taverns.

Make no mistake, Harrah’s continues to be a very profitable operation. Just not as profitable as it once was.

Don’t wait for Atlantic City to shed any tears. Some of their casinos may be looking at going bust.

It used to be that only happened to the customers.


This morning two communities that are worlds apart are asking the same question.


It is one we have seen before. Tragically it has happened again. Incredibly, it’s likely just a matter of time before we’re reporting it still on more time.

A madman and a gun. With horrific results.

In an Alabama town near the border of the Florida panhandle yesterday afternoon, a man went on a shooting rampage. Before he was done, he had burned down his mother’s home – with her still inside – and fatally shot nine people. He then turned the gun on himself.

No one knows exactly what set off Michael McLendon in Kinston, Ala. After he set his mother’s house on fire McLendon drove 12 miles to the little town of Samson, where he started shooting people. In the process he killed nine people, including four members of his own family.

Then this morning, from across the globe, we are jarred by still another madman with a gun.

This time it was a familiar setting, a local school. The gunman was apparently dressed in a black combat uniform when he entered Albertville High School in Winnenden, Geremany, and opened fire. He then fled the scene, but he left a murderous scene of unthinkable carnage in his wake. The suspect is believed to be a teenager.

Two rampages, worlds apart. But really only one question.


I wish I had an answer. I don’t. And I don’t doubt for a moment it will happen again. That question is not a matter of why. It’s merely a matter of when and where.

As the Birds turn

The Madness continues.

Not the NCAA hoops hysteria that gets into full swing this week with conference tourneys, followed by Selection Sunday and then the NCAA Tournament itself. (By the way, what’s the over/under on how many times we’ll hear the phrases “on the bubble” and “Big Dance” in the next few days?)

No, we’re still talking about the Eagles.

Yesterday we wondered about how the guy who wears No. 5 was going to react to the continuing exit of several of his longtime teammates, including Tra Thomas, who guarded his blind side his entire career.

Now we’re starting to get a glimpse into how Donovan McNabb feels about the racuous state of Eagles-ville these days.

Remember, it was McNabb who fired the thunderbolt at Birds’ management during a meeting a few weeks back when he said he wanted to delay talking about a new deal until after he got a feel for what the team was going to do in the off-season, including getting him some more offensive weapons.

At this point, McNabb might need a weapon just to fend off defenders coming at him from the blind side. Thomas gave up all of two sacks last year, even though the pass-happy Eagles put it up more than 600 times.

On his blog, McNabb lamented the loss of both Thomas and the team’s “heart and soul,” safety Brian Dawkins.

“I have not played a game, attended a practice, sweated in training camp, built a playground or participated in a carnival, and more importantly dreamed of a championship parade without Brian Dawkins and Tra Thomas being part of it,” McNabb wrote.

McNabb often has been accused of opening his mouth and promptly sticking his foot in it. Not this time. The QB is right on the money.

As for the gold standard, the troika of Lurie, Banner and Reid continue to say little or nothing.

Maybe they really think it’s silence that’s golden.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 10

The Daily Numbers: 5 more guilty pleas entered yesterday in the probe into a gambling operation dubbed by authorities as Operation Delco Nostra.
5 years probation and a $50,000 fine for a lawyer who pleaded guilty to a perjury charge in connection with the case.
74, age of man beaten in a neighborhood altercation in Upper Darby that police say was sparked by an argument over a parking spot. The suspect is 23.
980 housing units in the latest plan for the old Franklin Mint site along Route 1 in Middletown. Residents are still unhappy with the proposal.
9 years, how long David Blake served as solicitor in Radnor. He submitted his resignation in part of the fallout from a probe into bonuses handed out by the township manager.
500 dollars bail for an Aston man who was charged in a violent domestic incident in which police say he threw his girlfriend from a moving car.
4,700 union members in SEPTA’s city division whose contract expires this weekend. Union officials say they do not want to strike in this economic climate.
2 Democrats now seeking seats on County Council. Nancy Baulis of Springfield indicated she also will try to break the GOP stranglehold on the county courthouse.
6 Delco schools that advanced to the state finals after yesterday’s Science Olympiad at Cabrini College.
28 years with the Radnor Police Department for Tom Flannery. This week he becomes top cop in Nether Providence.
600,000 dollars delivered to Chester by Sen. Bob Casey yesterday to help the city’s war on crime.
4 cases of meningitis now recorded among students at the University of Pennsylvania.
29 billion dollar budget being unveiled today by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. That’s $4 billion less than this year.
8 people charged in Norristown in a drug operation that included a 16-year-old and a huge cache of firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle with a bayonet attached to it.
12,775 dollars in jewelry believed stolen from several Delaware homes by a local heating and air conditioning technician. Police believe he was stealing the goods from homes where he was working and then trying to pawn the goods.
40 workers being added by Blinds to Go, which has 7 stores in the area, including one in Clifton Heights.
900,000 dollars believed stolen from Archbishop Ryan High School and the Franciscan Friars by the former school president, the Rev. Charles Newman. He pleaded guilty to felony theft counts.
14, where Pennsylvania ranks in terms of its efforts to combat child homelessness.
1 full day of deliberations under the belt of the jury mulling the fate of former powerful state Sen. Vince Fumo. They’ll continue trying to reach a verdict today.
1.98 and holding, what we’re paying for gas on average at the pumps in Philly region, according to AAA.
30 point loss for the Villanova women as they went down against the No. 1 UConn Huskies.
2 runs and 2 hits surrendered by Cole Hamels in his 2nd outing of the spring in Clearwater. He also struck out 3.
2 sacks surrendered last year by Eagles left tackle Tra Thomas, who signed with the Jaguars yesterday.
658 attempts for the pass-happy Eagles last season.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Eagles just can’t help themselves. Today they are again wiping egg off their face as the national media wonders what exactly they were thinking in firing a part-time employee who was critical of the team on his Facebook page.
I Don’t Get It: The victim in the Upper Darby parking dispute is 74. The suspect is 23. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Kinko’s. The office store chain is offering free printing today for anyone in need of resumes. With the national unemployment rate at 8.1 percent, it’s not like there is no need.
Quote Box: “What we know is that there has been an ongoing issue between the neighbors. This time it was over a double-parked car.”
-- Mike Chitwood, Upper Darby police superintendent, on dispute that wound up with elderly man in hospital after a nasty beating.

A familiar feud

There are a couple of ways to look at what happened on usually quiet Kent Road in Upper Darby Monday afternoon.

But here’s the one that stands out to me. Amir Sheikh is 23; George Mirzayan is 74.

They are neighbors. Police believe they have been involved in a longstanding feud. Over a parking spot.

It’s a familiar refrain in Delaware County, where you routinely can see lawn chairs left out to reserve a precious parking spot, especially after a snow storm. Is there anything more aggravating than digging out your car, running an errand, then returning home to find someone else’s car in your precious spot?

Police believe a parking spot was at the root of what happened yesterday between Sheikh and Mirzayan.

Police say an argument over Sheikh’s cab, which was double-parked, came to blows. It ended with Mirzayan hospitalized in critical condition and Sheikh in jail.

Authorities charge Sheikh first shoved a female relative of Mirzayan, which sparked the confrontation. Sheikh told police the woman spat at him.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood said Mirzayan was then “pummeled and severely beaten” in the ensuing brawl. Mirzayan suffered a fractured nose and jaw.

You think maybe we can all “park” our tempers here for a bit? A neighborhood dispute ends with one man hospitalized and another in the hospital.

We’ve reported worse. Luckily, neither of these two guys was armed at the time.

That doesn’t change what happened. And I guess it won’t stop it from happening again.

Eagles drink in another PR disaster

Maybe the Eagles should take a page out of the playbook being employed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

And it’s not because they’re both driving us to drink.

LCB workers are about to drink in some tips on manners. In fact, the state is going to spend $173,000 to help liquor clerks in their dealings with the public. They’ll get tips, such as saying “thank you” and “come again.”

Basically, it’s a public relations gimmick.

The Eagles have their hands full these days with furious fans who are still doing a slow burn about the loss of Brian Dawkins. Yesterday, the Eagles decided to throw a little gas on the fire by allowing Tra Thomas, another longtime veteran who protected Donovan McNabb’s blind side at left tackle, to walk away. Thomas signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But the latest furor involving the Eagles doesn’t have anything to do the loss of Brian Dawkins or Tra Thomas.

This one has to do with a guy named Dan Leone.

Leone’s saga was brought to light by a former Daily Times colleague, John Gonzalez, who now writes a column for the Inquirer.

Leone is a die-hard Eagles fan who grew up in the shadow of the stadium complex in South Philly. He’s also a part-time employee. For six years, Leone was a game-day worker who manned a gate at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Brian Dawkins signed with the Broncos, Leone made a posting on his Facebook page critical of the team’s decision.

This did not sit well with the Eagles’ brass. The famously paranoid “gold standard” learned about Leone’s posting and asked to speak to him about it. Leone immediately thought better of the posting and took it down.

Too late. The Eagles fired him. For their part, the Eagles are not talking about the situation, referring to it as a personnel move. It only seems like everyone else is. It was featured in an ESPN online poll.

The thing is, once again I find myself in the odd position of not really disagreeing with the Eagles. But it’s the way they go about things that just consistently rubs people the wrong way.

First off you would think they have more pressing concerns than the online postings of a part-time worker. Apparently not.

It serves as a reminder of the dangers about what people post on those popular Facebook and MySpace pages.

The Eagles certainly were within their rights to talk to Leone about his posting. Maybe they even could have offered some kind of discipline. But firing the guy?

Yes, the Eagles could argue they were within their rights. But once again they prove what so many of their fans already firmly believe: They don’t get it. They don’t truly understand the passion of the Eagles fans. Maybe more importantly, they don’t seem to care.

Right now they hunker down inside the bunker at the NovaCare Center. In the meantime, Leone is interviewed by media outlets across the region.

This didn’t have to happen. But the Eagles seem unable to do things in any way other than the heavy-handed, uncaring, unfeeling, un-PR savvy way their critics believe is their consistent modus operandi.

It’s enough to drive you to drink.

For Eagles, it's the dreaded R word

Here’s a word that Eagles fans have not heard in awhile – The Big R.

Not Recession.


The revolving door at Eagles Nation down at the NovaCare Center continues to spit out veteran players. It seems to be stuck on “exit.”

The firestorm over the loss of the “heart and soul” of the team, safety Brian Dawkins, had barely calmed down when word arrived Monday that Tra Thomas also was flying away from the nest. Thomas inked a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the meantime, the Eagles announced they had re-signed linebacker Tank Daniels to a one-year deal and claimed running back Eldra Buckley off waivers from the Chargers. Playoffs, here we come, right?

There is one person I am dying to hear from in all of this. And it’s not Andy Reid, Joe Banner or even owner Jeff Lurie. It’s the guy with the big “5” on his chest. That’s right, Donovan McNabb.

McNabb has been the starting quarterback for the Eagles for the last 10 years. For just about every one of those snaps, Tra Thomas has guarded his blind side at left tackle.

It can be safely said that a left tackle is an NFL quarterback’s best friend. At least for right-handers, he protects the signal-caller from the key side that he can’t see as he drops back.

The Eagles like to throw the ball. His critics say Andy Reid is pass-happy. The guy would basically throw the ball on every down if it was up to him. You might say that with that offensive philosophy – based predominantly on the pass - the left tackle is a fairly important cog.

Yet the Eagles took a pass on re-signing Thomas.

The stats say Thomas allowed two sacks last year. Think Donovan McNabb isn’t aware of that, and doesn’t appreciate Thomas’ constant presence on his blind side?

A couple weeks ago, it was learned that McNabb sat down with the Eagles to talk about his future. It is believed that he told them he would wait to see how they handled free agency and if they got him some more weapons before talking about a contract extension.

How do you feel about Eldra Buckley, Donovan?

More importantly, how do you believe about rebuilding?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Daily Numbers - March 9

The Daily Numbers: 32 million dollars, how much the Rose Tree Media School District is planning to spend to renovate Springton Lake Middle School. That number could go as high as $40 million.
6.33 percent hike in the RTM budget being proposed to pay for it. That number could be shaved down.
6 people nabbed inside what police are referring to as a crack den in Upper Darby.
19, age of man charged with sexually assaulting a 4-year-old boy whom he was baby sitting in Lansdowne.
70 million dollars in bonds being issued by the Marple Newtown School Board.
21, age of missing Swarthmore College student who has been found on a camping trip in French Creek State Park in Chester County.
2 men shot dead in Philadelphia over the weekend.
500 dollars stolen from a cabbie who was shot during an armed holdup inside his cab. He was wounded in the leg.
5 dollar weekly fee for trash collection that is being scrapped by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
7 young children injured in a crash involving a police cruiser Sunday night. The injuries are not believed to be serious.
328 years since the charter given to William Penn by King Charles II that led to the establishment of Pennsylvania.
1,600 dollars, what a puppy stolen from a Rehoboth Beach pet shop was worth. The Yorkshire terrier was recovered and 2 teens are under arrest.
16 dogs killed in a gas blast and fire at a kennel in Lehighton.
41.1 billion dollar deal announced between drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp.
567 Circuit City stores that are now dark. Sunday was the last day of business at the electronics giant.
35,000 people now out of work after Circuit City pulled the plug.
74 points, all the Sixers could muster as they fell meekly to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.
4 solid innings by Phils starter Joe Blanton against the Braves Sunday. Blanton was sharp, but the Phils fell, 7-2.
7 strikeouts in 4 innings for young Braves phenom Tommy Hanson.
21 points for Laura Kurz as the Villanova women beat No. 20 Notre Dame in the Big East tourney Sunday.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Cole Hamels goes to the mound for his second start of the Grapefruit League season this afternoon. With the exception of young pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who continues to get roughed up, the Phils pitching looks as good as it’s been in years.
I Don’t Get It: Barbie is celebrating her 50th birthday. If that isn’t enough to make you feel bad, consider a new edition to the doll lineup. “Totally Stylin’ Tattoo” Barbie comes complete with a set of tattoo stickers. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: All hail the return of Daylight Saving Time. Yes, we lost an hour sleep Sunday morning. And yes, it means it’s still dark when some kids head off to school in the morning. But it’s worth it for that lovely extra hour of light at the end of the day.
Quote Box: “The school board is writing checks on the taxpayer’s back … everyone’s financial situation is tanking and these people are just writing checks like no tomorrow. It just boggles my mind.
-- John Bartholomeo, Middletown resident, on plans by Rose Tree Media to renovate Springton Lake Middle School.

Seeing the light

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, I started a week off by shoveling 8 inches of snow from the driveway. Nice. Most of the week was miserably cold. Not exactly my idea of a vacation. I shivered through most of the week, dreams of Clearwater or some other exotic – and most importantly warm – locale dancing in my head.

Finally, on Friday, things managed to ease up. Temperatures burst into the 50s. The snow started melting.

Saturday was almost worth the wait. With temperatures in the low 70s, I ventured out into the yard for the first time since last fall.

But it was not the favorite thing I did all week. That would come last night. After dinner, I grabbed a cup of coffee, walked out onto the front porch, and stood in the still reasonable temperatures. In daylight.

Yes, we have returned to Daylight Saving Time. It cost us an hour sleep Sunday morning, but it’s worth every second.

Later today, I will (hopefully) exit the office, head for my car and drive home before it gets completely dark.

Spring can’t be far behind.

More on Dawkins

It has now been a little more than a week since the Eagles rewrote the public relations rule book. And not in a good way.

Brian Dawkins will not come crawling out of the tunnel next season, except for possibly one very special Sunday when the Broncos pay a visit to Lincoln Financial Field.

As I stated before, I was never the biggest Dawkins’ fan. That has nothing to do with the way he played the game. I think he was a very good safety. But I tired of some of his antics. Yes, that includes his now famous entrance to the field during the pre-game warmups, as well as his sometimes over-the-top reaction to making routine plays during the game.

I looked at the numbers the Broncos threw at him. Bottom line? There was no way the Eagles were ever going to match that offer. If Dawkins deigned to take the money, he was gone. And that’s exactly what happened.

I was disappointed; I was not apoplectic.

None of which is to diminish the palpable anger coarsing through Eagles Nation these days. And none of which does anything to lessen a longtime belief of mine when it comes to Lurie, Banner, Reid et al.

They don’t get it. They don’t understand, and apparently don’t fully appreciate, the Philadelphia fan. Same goes for Donovan McNabb, who incredibly still manages to take every opportunity to remind people he got booed when he was selected by the Birds in the NFL Draft.

You can hear it in the little smirks Banner offered during his radio interview with Howard Eskin on WIP. I am not going to disagree with Banner on the Dawkins’ issue. The team last week signed Sean Jones from the Browns to compete for the job.

But Banner and Lurie don’t understand that the “gold standard” they are constantly crowing about is not handed out for mastering the cap. It’s for winning Super Bowls. At last glance, their total of Super Bowl trophies would be zero.

Until that changes, and until the Eagles brain trust shows their fans they have a heart, that’s unlikely to change.

By the way, they have not as yet set the date for that visit by the Broncos to the Linc.

Anyone else think it would make a great Monday night opener for the NFL?

Road warriors? Not exactly

Maybe they should be called the 74ers.

The Sixers did not exactly live up to their name last night, managing just 74 points as they fell to lowly Oklahoma City. I didn’t even know they had an NBA franchise in the Sooner State. Apparently neither did the Sixers. They didn’t show up, getting trounced 89-74.

After starting the road trip with a solid win over the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Sixers were simply dreadful on the second half of back-to-back road contests.

Try this number out for size. It has now been five years since the Sixers won two straight road games. Half a decade. Not good.

They have now lost seven of 10 since the All-Star break.

This team has first-round exit written all over it. Of course that’s assuming they don’t completely implode and miss the playoffs altogether.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Say it ain't snow

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

No, I'm not going to sing the blues because Brian Dawkins is no longer an Eagle. I addressed that yesterday.

For a strange combination of reasons, I happen to be off this week. That's not usually the case. I don't like to use my time off until the weather turns. It's not exactly a secret that I hate winter. In fact, I hate it a little more each year.

So I suppose there is good news and bad news this morning. The good news is that I did not have to battle the elements to get into the office this morning. The bad news is that I'm now trying to figure out exactly what I'm going to do as I stare out the window at this new blanket of white that arrived overnight.

Hey, I'll give the forecasters this. They got this one right - at least partially,. It did snow overnight. But we certainly did not receive the Armageddon many were calling for.

Maybe I'll go sledding. But first I have to clear off the cars and the driveway. Swell. Every year I promise myself that I'm going to do something I've always wanted to do, take in spring training in Clearwater. Nope, not going to happen this year either.

And to think I gave up cursing for Lent this year. Lovely.

Have a great week.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dawkins makes his exit

It would be easy this morning to join the angry mob seeking the head of Andy Reid, Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie.

After all, the heart and soul of Gang Green delivered an Orange Crush to the solar plexus of Eagles nation yesterday.

Brian Dawkins, who provided the face of the organization for nearly 13 years, is no longer an Eagle. Dawkins yesterday signed with the Denver Broncos.

But here's what I am sure will be a minority opinion this morning as fans wander in the despair of watching still another star make a less than glorious exit from the Philly sports scene: Two sides made a decision in this afffair.

And that would include Brian Dawkins.

Bottom line? Dawkins did what pro athletes almost always do; he took the money. I don't blame him a bit. But let's not paint this as something that it's not.

The multi-year package Dawkins got from the Broncos - five years and $17 million - is a bit misleading. In reality it will be more like two years, and $9 million. And Dawkins was never going to get that from the Eagles.

You can argue that point all you want, maybe you think Dawkins earned that kind of offer from the Eagles after 13 stellar years. I'm not so sure. I have heard those saying the team consistently low-balled Dawkins over his career, but they did re-sign him two years ago when many already believe he was past his prime. That signing in itself went against the team's much-hated M.O. of not signing players after they blow past the mythical age barrier of 30.

At the beginning of this season, it appared as if Dawkins' reign as the much-feared leader of the Eagles' 'D" appeared over. Fans were calling for his head after a Week Two debacle in which he got undressed in a man-to-man situation against the Cowboys at the goal line. To his credit, Dawkins, as he always did, met his critics head-on. He vowed he was not done, that he had plenty left in his tank. Then he went out and proved it on the field, once again becoming the fulcrum of the defense as they excelled down the stretch, leading to an unexpected playoff push.

I will miss Dawskins as much as anyone. There are a few things I will not miss, however. A lot of people believe Dawkins was the emotional leader of the team, and they always point to his elaborate entrance onto the field during the team introductions. I've never been much of a rah-rah guy, and I tired of some of Dawk's antics - both before and during the game - a long time agao.

There is something else that needs to be said here as well. Dawkins always talked about the team, and about winning a Super Bowl. Does he believe he now has a better chance of accomplishing that goal in Denver?

It's interesting to contrast the way Dawkins is treated in this town, as opposed to a guy who has been his teammate for 10 of those 13 years.

Donovan McNabb has won exactly the same number of Super Bowls as Brian Dawkins. That would be zero. Yet Dawkins is loved; McNabb is often reviled.

McNabb has consistently been savaged for failing to take his team down the field in the final two minutes of the Birds' latest frustrating, disappointing playoff loss, in the Arizona desert. I was chief among them. But no one mentions that Dawkins and the defense also had a chance to win that game by shutting down Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' offense. Instead Warner calmly marched Arizona to the winning touchdown and two-point conversion.

I will miss Brian Dawkins. I am grateful for what he brought to this team, the emotion with which he played the game, and the way he went about his business on and off the field.

But in the end, he did what pro athletes almost always do: He took the money.

I'm not saying that's wrong, I'm just saying that shouldn't be overlooked.