Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 30

The Daily Numbers: 6.3 percent of the population in Delaware County that is using food stamps in 2008. That’s up from 6.1 percent in 2007.
Statewide the number is 8.9 percent, up from 7.9 percent.
25 percent increase in clients reported by the Loaves and Fishes Pantry in Prospect Park.
14,000 dollars in charges racked up on his credit card that a blind lawyer from Broomall is fighting to make his credit card company pay. He says they got rung up by a prostitute. A judge tossed his claim.
39 weekends in jail for an Upper Darby woman who left her 2 kids home alone.
6.5 million dollars in savings expected to be achieved by the county in refinancing its general obligation bonds.
14 people busted as they protested at construction site for the Sugarhouse Casino on the waterfront in Philadelphia.
13.6 million dollars New Jersey says it is losing to those cheating the system on New Jersey Turnpike tolls.
3.8 million vehicles being recalled by Toyota to check floor mats that cause the accelerator pedal to stick.
1 person killed when an ATV slammed into a wall last night in West Philadelphia.
2 people busted at Philadelphia International Airport for attempting to smuggle drugs into the country by swallowing them wrapped inside pellets.
3 teens in Lehigh Valley killed in car crashes in just 4 days.
3 kittens believed tossed from the back of a bus parked on a street in Philly.
6 upscale homes that have been targeted by a burglar in neighborhoods north of Wilmington.
170 million dollar jackpot up for grabs in tonight’s Powerball drawing.
105 million dollars at stake in Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot.
12,496 votes for Republican Rep. Bob Mensch, who looks like the winner in the special election to fill the 24th District state Senate seat.
25 years in jail for a former Penn professor on child porn charges.
2.53, average price of gas in the region. That’s down 2 more cents.
1, Phillies Magic Number after they won and the Braves lost last night.
12 wins for J.A. Happ, first Phils’ rookie to do that since Jim Owens in 1959.
97 mph, what Ryan Madson’s fastball was clocked at in the ninth inning last night.
7 career grand slams for Pedro Feliz, who sent the crowd into a tizzy and the Phils up 5-1 when he went yard in the fifth with the bases jammed.
32, age of new Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Why does he seem older than that.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Maybe now we can finally dispel that curse of 1964. Repeat after me. The Phillies are headed to the playoffs.
I Don’t Get It: Maryland has now banned texting while driving. In D.C.
today the government will take up the issue of distracted driving. What is Pennsylvania waiting for?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the Phillies and Eagles, who are teaming up for a T-shirt featuring the city skyline and both teams’ logos to fight cancer.
Quote Box: “In a three-month period, we lost 120 families through evictions, foreclosures and people who moved in with family or friends.”
- Linda Freeman, director of the Loaves and Fishes Pantry in Prospect Park.

Hurricane Camille on budget

Only a cynic would point out that Gov. Ed Rendell’s call for the Legislature to quit playing around with the budget deal and get something on his desk to sign on Sunday coincides with the fact that the Eagles have a bye this weekend.

OK, call me a cynic.

The governor can spend the day in Harrisburg and not have to worry about missing a single play, or his spot as a talking head on the post-game show.

In the meantime, there are signs that the budget accord may be in trouble. And some of the sniping is coming from Rendell’s own party.

House Democrats huddled in caucus at the Capitol yesterday, and were scolded by one of their own.

Which is why I have a new hero today. No, not Rendell. Although I do envy him and his role on the Eagles post-game show. Hell, I spend enough time on this blog writing about the Iggles. But then, no one is asking me to offer my opinions on TV.

No, the guy I am gaining admiration for is state Rep. Camille “Bud”
George. He’s 81 and he’s been in Harrisburg since the ‘70s. That means, especially when it comes to the budget, George has seen just about anything.

Except the debacle that has been playing out since Rendell and the Legislature blew through the June 30 deadline and then began playing this game of cat and mouse that is now going on three months.

George has seen enough.

Yesterday, he let members of his own party have it, urging them to “quit hiding,” stop “shirking their responsibilities,” and pass the budget deal that was reached last week.

But George is not just blowing off steam. He’s actually demanding action and accountability from those in his own party. In Harrisburg? Good luck.

George isn’t the only one who’s seen enough.

Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton, is proposing two pieces of legislation looking to end these kind of budget shenanigans. He wants all 253 legislators and governor to stand for re-election in the next general election any time they fail to deliver a fiscal plan on time.

It’ll never happen, but it’s a good thought. The problem is the people who would have to vote to put it in place are the same people responsible for the problem.

He’s also got a bill that would force the chairmen of House and Senate committees to submit a report of budget recommendations to their respective appropriations chairmen.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that one to happen either.

As far as something landing on Rendell’s desk and ending this farce?

As they say down at Delaware Park as they mull over those NFL parlay tickets, I wouldn’t bet on it.

More animal abuse

I suppose the day just would not be complete without another story of animal abuse.

Enter a bus driver in Philadelphia. Witnesses indicate he was casually tossing kittens from the back door of his school bus after parking on a street in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.

SPCA officials now have filed three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty against the driver, identified as William Mitchell.

Apparently Mitchell told someone who was questioning what he was doing that the kittens had been left inside his van-sized bus.

So I suppose he decided to get rid of them.


Welcome back, Trotter

I have officially decided to stop trying to figure out what exactly it is the Eagles are up to this season.

Except for this thought. I keep getting this vision of Andy Reid sitting at a poker table with a big stack of chips in front of him. He surveys the other players, looks at the bets, then slowly pushes all his chips into the center of the table. “All in,” fellas, he grumbles. Time’s yours.

It wasn’t enough to part ways with both of his starting offensive tackles and rebuild an offensive line, all the while counting on Shawn Andrews to return to his All-Pro status.

It wasn’t enough to see the team’s reputation dragged through the mud in the Brian Dawkins’ debacle.

Then the team decided to roll the dice again in August when they stunned just about everyone by bringing in Michael Vick, who had been away from the game for two years while doing time for running a dog-fighting operation.

The Eagles may be 2-1, but they lead the league in signing guys who have been out of the game for two years.

First it was Vick, with visions of “Wildcat” formations dancing in Andy’s head.

Now it’s the other side of the ball.

Welcome back, Trotter.

Yes, the Eagles are bringing back Jeremiah Trotter. When last seen in these parts (not counting when he’s sitting behind a microphone on sports talk radio), Trotter was limping into the sunset (and to Tampa
Bay) after being released by the Eagles in training camp 2007.

The move stunned Eagles fans, and maybe Trotter as well. It was his second go-round with the Birds. He had left of his own accord once before when he and the team could not agree on salary. Trotter went to D.C., didn’t play especially well, then returned as the Prodigal Son.

This is an Instant Replay. Back in 2007, Trotter was basically shot. His chronically bad knees simply would not let him be the player he once was, especially when it came to pass protection. The Eagles decided to cut their losses, and dropped the ax on “The Ax Man.”

But Trotter, who somehow is only 32 even though it seems like he’s been around forever, had surgery on those knees and says he feels better than ever. The Eagles worked him out twice and seem to agree.

Reid also looked at a defense, already minus Dawkins, that saw starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley blow out a knee during a Linc practice in the summer, and sees a unit that might lack a bit of leadership, as well as a stud run-stuff in the middle.

Of course, I don’t think anyone has asked Omar Gaither his opinion on all this. Gaither happens to be the guy who started – and played very well – Sunday against the Chiefs.

Enter Trotter.

Hey, weirder things have happened. In the Eagles case they already have.
Trotter joins Vick in stories you never thought would happen.

It only reinforces one thing. When it comes to this season, Reid and the Eagles are “all in.”

They want to win. Now. And they’re apparently willing to do just about anything to reach that end.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Welcome back, Trotter.

The Herons' Nest: Kiss 1964 goodbye

Stick a fork in those nightmares of 1964.

It’s not going to happen. There will be no repeat of the Phillies’
monumental collapse.

Pedro Feliz made sure of that when, with the game deadlocked 1-1 in the fifth and tension slowly enveloping Citizens Bank Park, he launched a pitch into the left-field seats with the bases loaded.

Suddenly, all you saw were white rally towels waving everywhere. And the vision of 1964 being dispelled once and for all.

The Braves helped the party along, losing 5-4 to the Marlins.

That means the Phils’ Magic Number is now 1. All they have to do is win one of their remaining five games to collect their third consecutive NL East crown. Should they lose tonight to the Astros, but the Braves stumble, the Phils back into the title.

Simply put, the Phils are headed to the post-season.

What remains interesting now is who will fill what role once they get there. Charlie Manuel still has to figure out his starting rotation, as well as his closer.

Last night, even though he had Brad Lidge warming up in the bullpen, he allowed Ryan Madson, who entered the game in the eighth after Jamie Moyer tweaked his groin, to come back out and pitch the ninth. Madson blew away the Astros with some 97 mph heat.

Complicating Manuel’s roster decisions is the fact that even if they clinch tonight, the Phils are still battling for best overall record in the National League. Right now they sit one game better than the Cardinals, but one and a half games behind the Dodgers.

Pedro Martinez goes to the hill tonight to try to seal the NL East for the Phils.

Hey, it worked last night. Vote for Pedro!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 29

The Daily Numbers: 5,000 bucks now being offered by the state for information on dogfighting operations in the state.
2 years in prison and $1,000 fine, what a 19-year-old in Philly is facing after he admitted wrapping a cat in duct tape.
5 days in which fugitives will be able to turn themselves in at a church in Chester as part of Operation Safe Surrender. It starts Wednesday.
3 people shot in a drive-by shooting in Chester on Sunday. Police say the victims are not offering information on the possible shooter, who drove up in a car and opened fire.
123,000 doses of the first round of the H1N1 vaccine expected to be available in Pa. by mid-October.
15 people arrested as they attempted to block the construction site for the Sugarhouse Casino on the waterfront this morning in Philadelphia.
8, as in Oct. 8, the official groundbreaking for what is expected to be 1 of 2 casinos in the city.
15,000 workers at 4 Atlantic city casinos that have reached a contract agreement with their union.
1,500 union members who are threatening to walk off the job Friday if they don’t have a new deal with Temple University Hospital.
5 years in jail for a former Philadelphia sheriff’s deputy for a fatal shooting of her neighbor.
60 cars broken into and ransacked just over the state line in the parking lots of several nursing homes.
4 teen girls rescued after their boat got stuck in rapids on the Schuylkill River yesterday afternoon.
110 new jobs coming to the Brandywine Hundred area in Delaware with the arrival of a new auto insurer.
5,000 dollar reward posted in the search for the driver who struck a Philadelphia bicycle cop early Saturday.
6.3 percent of Delco households now using food stamps. That’s up 0.2 percent from a year ago.
8.9 percent of those in county living under the poverty level. That’s actually down 0.9 percent.
3 candidates vying in special election today for state Senate seat in 24th District. It was vacated by Sen. Rob Wonderling, who will become head of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
806 million dollar fraud being charged to former boss of Le-Nature Inc, a soft drink maker.
2.55, average price of gas in the region. That’s down 3 cents over the weekend.
3, where Phillies Magic Number continues to sit after they lost and Braves won again last night.
4 game lead for the Phils over the Braves, with 6 games left on the schedule.
6 runs on 9 hits surrendered by Cole Hamels in six innings and change last night.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Repeat after me: It’s not 1964 … It’s not 1964 .
I Don’t Get It: We have all kind of reward funds and information coming forward when an animal is abused. But people get shot and no one sees anything. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Reinforcements are on the way. With flu shot clinics for seasonal flu in full swing, reports indicate that vaccine for the H1N1 version of the flu should be here in a couple of weeks.
Quote Box: “Dogfighting is a part of a violent subculture that operates in the darkest shadows of our society.”
- Attorney General Tom Corbett, announcing $5,000 dollar reward fund for information on such operations in the state.

Deja vu all over again

They are the four ugliest numbers in Philadelphia sports history.


That’s why I’m here this morning to tell everyone to exhale. This is not 1964. The Phillies, despite their best effort to foist off a serious dose of déjà vu all over again on us, are not going to repeat the greatest collapse in baseball history.


Yes, the Phils lost again last night. And of course the foe was familiar. It was the Astros once again sticking the knife in their backs. Nothing new about that. The Phillies have yet to beat them this year.

The Magic Number remains three. But that distant image in the rear-view mirror is getting closer. The Braves won again last night. They are now just four back.

In 1964, the Phils were 6 and a half up with 12 to play when Chico Ruiz stole home and one of the great collapses in sports history unraveled – along with the Phillies’ World Series hopes.

Most people believe last year’s World Series victory shattered the curse. Then why do we have all these butterflies in our stomachs?

At one point about a week ago the Phils were eight and a half up with 13 to play.

They have six games to play. They must win three, or at least some combination of wins and Braves’ losses that adds up to three.

Cole Hamels did not exactly help last night. The ace could not contain the pesky Astros. He gave up six runs on nine hits in six and two-thirds innings.

Tonight J.A. Happ takes the hill. I’m not going to say it’s crucial, but a win tonight would certainly go a long way toward settling everyone’s nerves. A loss, coupled with another win by the Braves, could make things that much more dicey.

Repeat after me: It’s not 1964.


Another challenge for Harrah's

The clock is now ticking down to a new challenge to Harrah’s perch as the king of local legalized gambling.

Officials in Philadelphia announced that they will finally break ground for the Sugarhouse Casino on the waterfront along North Delaware Avenue on Oct. 8. It is the first of what will eventually be two slots parlors inside the city limits. And it no doubt will siphon off some customers who have been making the trek down I-95 to Chester to load their money into the slots at Harrah’s.

Couple that with the arrival of sports parlay betting just another 20 minutes south on I-95 in Delaware, and there are more storm clouds on the horizon for Harrah’s. The casino has consistently been No. 2 in the state in terms of revenue, trailing only Philadelphia Park. But in the last year revenue has been declining, mirroring something that has been going in both Atlantic City and across the nation in Las Vegas.

Of course, there is a silver lining to those storm clouds. As part of the recent deal to settle the nearly three-month state budget impasse, the Legislature is likely to OK the introduction of table games in the state’s new slots parlors, including Harrah’s.

Win some, lose some. It’s something Harrah’s customers are all too accustomed to.

Two more views of Chester

I could not help but notice the dueling visions of the city of Chester that appeared on Page 6 of Monday’s print edition.

Of course, that is where my print column appears each week.

This week I wrote about my visit with the top brass of the Philadelphia Union in their offices on the fifth floor of the refurbished Chester Power Station on the Chester waterfront. Just across the parking lot, work is proceeding feverishly on an 18,500-seat stadium that will be home for the Major League Soccer franchise.

It is a big part of the continuing story of Chester’s turnaround. But it is not the only aspect of the city that makes the paper. I sometimes refer to the city’s dilemma as the two faces of Chester.

You didn’t have to look far Monday to see the other side.

Directly below my column was a story detailing still another street shooting in the city. It came exactly one week after a gunman opened fire on a city playground, killing one person and injuring several others.

In the more recent incident, gunfire rang out near Fifth and Whittington Place near the William Penn development about 10 a.m. Sunday. Three people were wounded.

Police also are dealing with something they encountered with the previous shooting. It would appear there were no shortage of witnesses to the two incidents, but no one is coming forward with information.

That’s one more troubling aspect to the two faces of Chester.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 28

The Daily Numbers: 11 plays and 30 yards for Michael Vick in his return to the NFL as a Philadelphia Eagle.
3 people shot on a Chester street Sunday, just 1 week after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a playground.
2 suspects being sought for ripping off the poor box at St. John Fisher church in Upper Chichester.
19, age of man who has admitted to police that he duct-taped a cat from head to paws. He now faces charges.
2 teens killed in a 3-vehicle crash that left 2 other teens injured in Lehigh County.
40, age of man who was struck and killed as he tried to walk across Roosevelt Boulevard near Oxford Circle Sunday night.
100 million dollars in so-called “Walking Around Money” for pols’ pet projects believed to be stashed away in the Pa. budget deal.
1 person dead in an attempted robbery that went bad in Magnolia, Del., and 2 others injured.
40 foot fall from escalator at The Pier Shops at Caesars in Atlantic City that proved fatal to a 40-year-old man. Police are investigating how he fell.
5, as in Oct. 5, when the vaccine for swine flu is expected to arrive.
4 DUI offenses now racked up by a man in Felton, Del. He’s now in prison.
2.56, average price of gas across the Philly region.
34 points put up by the Eagles in rolling to an easy win over the Chiefs.
327 yards passing for Kevin Kolb. It’s the first time in NFL history that a rookie has thrown for more than 300 yards in his first 2 starts.
0 completions for Michael Vick, who ran the ball once for 7 yards.
3, the Phils’ Magic Number to win the NL East for the 3rd straight year.
5 runs on 7 hits surrendered by Joe Blanton in 5 innings and change.
15, as in No. 15, where Penn State now sits in rankings after they tumbled 10 spots after losing to Iowa Saturday night.
4 wins on the year on the Nascar circuit for Jimmie Johnson, who took Sunday’s race at Dover.
Call me a Phanatic
: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I feel a lot better about Kevin Kolb than I do about the Phillies bullpen.
I Don’t Get It: A 19-year-old is telling police in Philadelphia that he is responsible for wrapping a cat in duct tape from head to paws. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Thumb’s up to Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Corson, who is back home in Ridley after being wounded in action in Afghanistan.
Quote Box: “You can’t punish 55 other guys for what one guy did when he wasn’t even on the team.”
- Eagles fan Dave Carosella of Darby Township, on the controversy swirling around Michael Vick’s return to the NFL at the Linc Sunday with the Eagles.

All Vick all the Time

Here’s what I know after watching the Eagles for three weeks.

Not a hell of a lot.

They blew out a bad Carolina team, then got smoked by a pretty good Saints club, and rebounded yesterday by crushing a truly dreadful Chiefs team.

There are, however, a few things that I do know.

First and foremost, Michael Vick’s re-entry to the NFL proved to be the most over-hyped story of the week. Vick’s total output? He appeared for
11 plays, which gained a total of 30 yards. He did not complete a pass.

That did not stop the networks and everyone else from falling all over themselves to tell Vick’s story – both before and after the game.

And that’s a shame. Because it overshadowed a first-rate effort by Kevin Kolb in leading the Eagles to an easy win.

All Kolb did was become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two starts.

Kolb was filling in for an ailing Donovan McNabb, who was sidelined for a second straight week with a fractured rib. Kolb sparkled, completing
24 of 34 for 327 yards while compiling a QB rating of 120.6.

Something else I think we have learned about the Eagles. They have a very good core of young star players at the skill positions. In addition to Kolb, second-year wide receiver DeSean Jackson is taking on the unmistakable look of an All-Pro star wideout. Rookie Jeremy Maclin also grabbed several passes yesterday. Tight end Brent Celek suddenly looks like the second coming of Mike Ditka. With Brian Westbrook once again on the shelf with a bum ankle, rookie LeSean McCoy filled in more than ably.

Look at it this way. If someone had asked you before the season what the Eagles’ chances were in a game when they would be without both McNabb and Westbrook, their top two offensive weapons, how would you have responded? Exactly.

I’m thinking not many would predict a win, let alone a 34-14 blowout.

Yes, these were the Chiefs. They are, in a word, dreadful. Worse than the Panthers.

Guess what? After the bye, the Birds are looking at Tampa Bay, Oakland, Washington. Anyone have any trepidations about those three games? That would put the Birds at 5-1.

Then the real season begins. And I suppose that is when we find out how good this team is – or isn’t.

In the meantime, spare me the Vick coverage. I am guessing Andy Reid will continue to sprinkle any number of variations on his “Wildcat”
formations into the mix.

But yesterday, the Wildcat actually was more effective when the direct snap went to McCoy.

Oh, and one other thing, which I will freely admit. Yes, I grimace a bit every time Vick jogs onto the field. It still bothers me that the Eagles rolled the dice on this story in the first place. Why they felt the need to do so I have no idea.

It’s now clear this team is going to go exactly as far as McNabb carries them, and if he’s not available then Kolb looks more than capable of shouldering the load.

Vick is a sideshow, one that already has been given way too much attention.

With Vick at the helm yesterday, the Wildcat did little more than meow.
While the memory of those dogs continues to growl in the deep recesses of my memory.

Phils' bullpen could use some magic

The Phillies Magic Number is now 3.

Unfortunately there continues to be little magic in their bullpen.

Pressed into service again yesterday after Joe Blanton ran into trouble in the sixth, the bullpen again delivered a serious case of nail-biting to Philly fans who moved down the dial after watching a laugher with the Eagles blowing out the Chiefs.

It appeared for a while as if the Phils might do the same to the Brewers, rolling to a 6-1 lead, before Blanton faltered, and Charlie Manuel made the move to the ‘pen.

Four relievers later, it was left to Ryan Madson to record the final four outs as the Phils clung to a 6-5 lead.

Madson allowed a double to Cecil Fielder, who eventually reached third, putting the tying run just 90 feet away, before punching out Mike Cameron on a called third strike that looked low to me.

With the Eagles now out of the picture for the next two weeks courtesy of the bye week, the Phils get a chance to come home and paint the town red again.

They have four games with the Astros and three with the Marlins.

They need any combination of three Phillies wins or losses by the Braves to take their third straight NL East crown.

But that’s not really what they’re about any more. Everyone has expected this team to be in the post-season. What fans – and the Phils as well – could use right now is a little relief.

Hey, can Kevin Kolb pitch?

Justice for 'Sticky' the cat

How’s this for irony?

On the same day that Michael Vick makes his return to the NFL (in an Eagles uniform, no less), police announce they have solved the case of the duct-taped cat.

“Sticky” captured the region’s imagination last week when the kitty was discovered wrapped head to paws in duct tape. The picture of the cat is one of those that simply jarred your senses. All I could think about is what that cat went through in getting that tape off of its coat.

Just as I simply cannot watch Michael Vick trot out onto the field without thinking about what happened to those dogs as part of the dog-fighting operation he financed. If what happened to them in the actual fight was not barbarian enough for you, then what Vick and others are alleged to have done to some of the dogs who were so unfortunate as to prove not great fighters is almost beyond human.

Just a few hours after Vick made his return after doing two years in federal prison at Lincoln Financial Field yesterday, police announced a man had turned himself in to face charges in the case of “Sticky.”

James Davis, 19, of Philadelphia, surrendered to police after apparently giving a statement to the SPCA. Davis apparently was irked that the cat was in his back yard, and says he simply does not know what came over him next.

It is believed he snagged the cat, wrapped it head to paw in duct tape, stuck it in a bag and left it in his back yard. But the cat was making so much noise that he put it in a neighbor’s yard, where it was found the next day.

SPCA officials had posted a $2,000 reward and it appears as if that offer paid off, as someone came forward with information leading to Davis.

As for “Sticky,” as the cat was dubbed by SPCA officials, it was sedated before the hour-long process of cutting the duct tape away. The cat is now recovering.

My guess is that there is no lucrative NFL contract waiting for Davis.
He will face cruelty charges, officials said.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends.

Yes, the Eagles really are like a sideshow. All they need is a Big Top. But this Sunday is sure to take on a special significance the second Michael Vick trots out onto the field.

The Wildcat will turn Wild Dog on Sunday when Vick brings another demension to the Birds. Whether or not that is a good thing remains to be seen. Bottom line is that the Eagles win this game.

Only way I see them losing is via a bunch of stupid penalties, turnovers and special teams miscues. Oh, never mind.

The big question on this team likely will not be answered for two weeks, when Donovan McNabb returns after the Bye Week.

Tomorrow, look for Kevin Kolb to be under center, with Vick making more than a cameo as Andy Reid continues to play mad scientist with the offense. He better enjoy the gadgets and gimmicks now, because I do not see McNabb being nearly as entralled as his coach is with this style offense.

The Eagles should have more than enough to handle the Chiefs, even with a banged-up Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson.

One other note. The team is honoring Randall Cunningham at halftime, inducting him into the Eagles Honor Roll. Don't hit the concessions at the half. Stick around and offer a prolonged standing ovation to a guy who never really got his due here.

Then sit back and watch the Birds put away the Chiefs.

Make it Eagles 27, Chiefs 17.

Last Week: Yes, I picked the Saints to win, but I did not think they would get blown out. Sean McDermott's defense needs to turn things around, as does special teams.

Season Record: 1-1.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept 25

The Daily Numbers: 45 minutes, how long a jury deliberated in the case of Lisa Scott last night. They will be back at it this morning.
78,000 dollars ripped off from 335 customers by the owner of Springfield Auto Tags, according to police.
889,000 winning lottery ticket for a Upper Chichester resident, purchased at a township convenience store.
150 million dollars up for grabs in the Powerball drawing Saturday tomorrow night.
18, age of teen shot in the leg while walking along West Seventh Street in Chester.
2 burglaries and another attempted burglary that have Yeadon residents on edge.
20 percent tax on revenue from small games of chance that has volunteer fire companies burned up.
650 million dollars worth of reconstruction projects being done by PennDOT, why it seems like there are detours everywhere you turn.
6 people charged with running a violent drug-trafficking operation in Norristown and Plymouth Meeting.
2 times a man is believed to have run over a pregnant woman in Philadelphia. Police say he ran her over, then backed up over her again.
She died of her injuries. They are looking for the 23-year-old man
11 percent growth expected over next 25 years in the region, according to report from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
1 dead after 4 people shot in 3 incidents last night in Philadelphia.
20 students from a school in West Mount Airy who fanned out to help a woman after her purse was stolen. They recovered it.
2 Arcadia University students who were attacked as they walked near the Glenside campus in separate incidents.
810 billion dollars in holiday sales being predicted for the Christmas shopping season. That would match last year, which was down 2.4 percent.
21, age of man charged in arson at Claymont apartment complex.
10,000 dollars in damage done in a fire at the Brandywine Country Club last week. An employee has been charged with setting the blaze.
8 times in five months, how many times police say a Claymont man broke into an Italian eatery.
0.6 percent decline in existing home sales in eight-county Philadelphia region in August from same month last year.
5,000 dollar reward to be posted by Tom Corbett and Humane Society for info on dog fighting.
2,000 dollar reward now being offered in case of the duct-taped cat. The reward fund was doubled yesterday.
4 officers injured when a suspect opened fire on them in Lakewood, N.J.
The suspect also was shot.
2.60 a gallon, average price of gas in Philly region.
11 wins for rookie J.A. Happ as the Phillies won last night vs. the Brewers. Happ might be the answer to their bullpen and closer dilemmas.
133 runs batted in for Ryan Howard after knocking in 2 more last night.
He’s now passed Cecil Fielder for the NL lead.
20 home runs for Jimmy Rollins after he went yard last night to break the game open.
1 goal surrendered by Ray Emery as the Flyers won again last night in exhibition hockey play.
25, as in March 25, then the Philadelphia Union will kick off the new MLS season with the first game in team history.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I thought the Eagles and Andy Reid were desperate before. But offering a workout to Jeremiah Trotter, who they cut two years ago and has not played since 2007? Is Bill Bergey unavailable?
I Don’t Get It: Mackenzie Phillips. Way too much information. The truth is, I don’t want to know all the tawdry details of her life. And it’s just plain sad that so many people do.
Today’s Upper: Tonight is the annual vigil by Parents of Murdered Children, to be held at their Memorial Garden in Upper Chichester. It’s good that we never forget those wrested form us by acts of violence.
Quote Box: “Before they testified … when they put their hands on the Bible, I’m shocked it didn’t burst into flames.”
- Attorney Mark Much, on the tale being told about his client by several teen boys who say they had sex with the woman.

The case against Lisa Scott

Let me make this clear. I am not on the jury that is currently mulling the fate of Lisa Scott.

The D.A.’s office should be thankful for that.

If I were I would not be returning to the courthouse this morning. I would have returned my verdict last night.

The trial of the Linwood woman on charges she had sex with several teen boys is now in the hands of the jury. They deliberated about 90 minutes before calling it a night around 7:30.

They will be back at it this morning. A verdict is expected today.

If you’re asking me, I would tell you to put the house on an acquittal.

Scott took the stand in her own defense yesterday. She denied having sex with any of the boys.

The boys have offered differing versions of the events that led to the charges. One has admitted lying to the police about having sex with Scott.

Defense attorney Mark Much has savaged the prosecution’s case and the boys’ stories, saying he was surprised that when they placed their hands on the Bible before testifying, “I’m shocked it didn’t burst into flames.”


Here’s a couple of other thoughts. Scott has been in jail since she was charged in March. Her picture has been all over the paper. It’s on today’s front page because I wanted to be sure to give equal coverage to her denial of the charges as was given to when they were filed.

If there is a verdict, she likely will be on the front page again.

In the meantime, her accusers do so in anonymity. Their names are now known; their pictures not shown. Some of them have run afoul of the law themselves.

I wonder exactly how fair that is. I wonder about it a lot.

A major league debut for Union

It’s now official.

When Major League Soccer kicks off next spring, all eyes will be on the Philadelphia Union.

You know, the team that will play its home games in Chester. At least some of them.

In another busy day for the region’s latest entry on the professional sports scene, MLS announced the Union would take part in the league’s opening game on March 25 in Seattle against the Sounders.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes at 9:30 p.m. from Qwest Field.

The Union’s home opener will be April 10 against D.C. United.
Unfortunately, that game will not be played in Chester. It will be played at Lincoln Financial Field, after Union officials told the league they could not be sure the stadium would be ready for the opening of the season.

CEO Nick Sakiewicz said it is possible that more than one game will have to be played at the Linc, but was certain that a “majority” of Union games will be played in Chester.

Don’t forget to check back on Monday for a special update on the stadium construction taking place under the Commodore Barry Bridge, along with a video, and a Letter From the Editor column on my visit with team execs this week.

We’ll also put up a link to the Web cam the team is promising to have up and running that will keep tabs on the stadium construction from a perch atop the old Peco Power Station building just down the street, where the team’s offices are now housed.

More desperation from Eagles

I have taken the position that some of the actions of the Eagles and Andy Reid show an air of desperation.

They uncharacteristically focused on offense during the draft, using their top picks to take wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy.

They revamped their offensive line, bidding adieu to longtime bookend tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. They signed Stacy Andrews (Shawn’s
brother) to a big contract even though he was coming off knee surgery.
Then they flipped the brothers, moving Shawn outside to Runyan’s spot.
Of course, Shawn is now on the shelf for the year. They signed Jason Peters to man the other side, but were unable to get what they hoped would be their starting offensive line on the field for even one play in the preseason.

Then, in perhaps the most stunning move, the team announced it was signing convicted dog ring operator Michael Vick. He will make his debut Sunday as “mad scientist” Andy Reid continues to toy with the Wildcat offense.

But yesterday the idea of desperation hit a new high at the Nova Care Center. Or maybe a new low.

The Eagles confirmed they brought in former linebacker Jeremiah Trotter for a workout. He has not played since he hooked on with Tampa Bay after being released by the Eagles in 2007. That is two years ago, about the same amount of time Vick was out of the game.

Last seen, Trotter was behind a microphone doing talk radio on WIP.

I love Trotter. I love the way he played. OK, I never was a big fan of his “Ax Man” routine after every tackle, but the guy was a flat-out stud middle linebacker.

But that’s the whole point. The key word in that sentence is WAS.
Trotter played on bad wheels, with knees ravaged from years of NFL action, even when he was an All-Pro.

The move seems to be an admission that the Eagles believe they are still weak up the middle, especially against the run.

Of course, there’s a guy now wearing orange in Denver who likely would agree with them. But Brian Dawkins does not play here anymore.

Sean McDermott’s defense, one week after a sparkling debut against the Panthers, got blown out by Drew Brees and the Saints. Apparently neither Omar Gaither nor Joe Mays are the answer.

Still, the Eagles should win this game. You can check back here tomorrow for the dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.

There’s no truth to the rumor that Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey are coming in for workouts today.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 24

The Daily Numbers: 14 months, that’s how old the toddler was supposed to be that a suspected Internet pervert was coming to Delco to have a sexual liaison with. He instead got busted.
21, age of Sharon Hill man charged in the fatal shooting of a Darby Borough teen.
50 witnesses to a fatal shooting in Darby Borough, and just a couple of people who came forward with info that led to the arrest.
17 homicides so far this year in the county; 2 in Darby Borough.
5 people left homeless when flames raced through a home in Prospect Park.
10 years ago when Maria Procopio left her job at QVC in West Chester.
She has not been seen or heard from since.
8 percent sales tax in Philly, that’s up 1 percent and it goes into effect on Oct. 8. It will be in effect 5 years.
1,000 dollar reward being offered for information on who duct-taped that cat from head to paws in Philly.
160 million dollar budget gap still facing Philly schools.
13 message boards with travel times and other info about to be unveiled along the Schuylkill Expressway.
6 to 20 years in slammer for ringleader of theft ring that specialized in stealing guns and selling them to drug dealers.
150 million dollars up for grabs in the Powerball drawing Saturday after no one hit all the numbers against last night.
287,000 dollars in no-show work charged against a former aide to ex-Sen.
Vince Fumo.
110,000 dollars in cash and four kilos of cocaine in the ritzy apartment of woman who begged for her life before being shot to death in the Piazza Apartments in Northern Liberties.
28 billion dollar state budget deal that now is not expected to be finished before next week.
4 police officers wounded when a suspect opened fire as they attempted to serve a warrant in Lakewood, N.J.
2 dead, 3 wounded in a night of violence in Philly last night.
10, as in April 10, when Philadelphia Union will play their home opener.
It won’t be played in Chester, though. It will be at the Linc because their Chester stadium likely will not be done in time.
3 to 5 days on the shelf for Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has an inflamed wrist. An MRI showed no other damage.
11 blown saves for Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who was victimized again last night in a 7-6 Phils loss.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Can anybody close games? Hell, at this point maybe they should try Michael Vick. We once had the Wild Thing out of the ‘Pen. How about the Wildcat?
I Don’t Get It: Men are still being busted in undercover Internet sex stings. I don’t get it. What are these guys thinking?
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the residents who came forward with information that allowed police to make an arrest in the fatal shooting in Darby the other night.
Quote Box: “This is disturbing as it gets.”
- D.A. Mike Green, on information in the arrest of the latest suspect bagged by his Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Welcome to Delco

Welcome to Delaware County, Anthony Taylor.

We hope you like your accommodations … in Delaware County Prison.

Yes, it has happened again.

Mr. Taylor, who hails from Staten Island, N.Y., and is the married father of a 3-year-old son, is not just another tourist.

According to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office, he’s an Internet sex fiend.

Taylor is the latest to be stung by undercover officers of the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The charges filed against him indicate that after meeting a woman online, Taylor suggested a rendezvous, according to the D.A.

Taylor hopped in his car and headed for Delco, enticed by the thought of a sexual liaison with a mother and her 14-month-old daughter. That’s not a typo. 14 months old.

Taylor was busted in the parking lot of a business in Middletown when he showed up for his meeting.

D.A. Mike Green called the case “as disturbing as it gets.”

Hard to argue with him.

It’s also hard to argue with this, something I’ve said before but will repeat again here. What don’t these guys get? When are they going to catch on that they do not really know who is on the other end of that chat line.

And, finally this disturbing thought. Is their willingness to roll the dice merely a signal of how many of these type of encounters are going on that are not part of a sting, that involve real moms, real kids, and real perverts.

Maybe we need to hire more undercover officers.

More soccer news

I guess all it takes is a visit from the Daily Times to shake things up in the offices of the Philadelphia Union.

The new Major League Soccer team’s offices in Chester must have been buzzing yesterday.

The day before I had a sit-down with team boss Nick Sakiewicz, who confirmed that he did not think that the team would be able to play its home opener, set for next spring, in the stadium under construction on the Chester waterfront.

Less than 24 hours later the team made it official. Their first home game will be played April 10 against the club they hope will become one of their biggest rivals, D.C. United. But the game will not be played in Chester. Instead it will be played at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles.

As I was chatting with Sakiewicz, I offered the notion that this was not all bad. When the international CONCACAF matches were played at the Linc this summer, they drew as many as 30,000 soccer fans.

You would think the Union could get a similar turnout for what amounts to a historic first home game. Their Chester stadium will hold 18,500.
Attendance at the Linc could double that.

What’s the downside? Well, it certainly would be nice if the game was played in Chester, but that’s not going to happen. There also is this.
Even if they draw 30,000 to South Philly, they still will be playing in a stadium that is half-empty, instead of the atmosphere generated by a stadium in Chester that is packed to the rafters.

There is also the chance the team will have to play more than one game someplace other than Chester as they juggle a very tight construction timeline that is very much dependent on not getting hijacked by severe winter weather.

Look for the team to make a bit more news today. MLS is expected to announce that the Union, the 16th team to enter the MLS, will play in the season opener on March 25 in Seattle.

Here’s something you can count on. They could play their games on Neptune and the Sons of Ben would be there. These soccer zealots are getting their own section, and even their own entrance to the Chester Stadium.

I don’t think they’ll have any trouble finding their way up I-95 to the Linc.

The Mackenzie Phillips story

Some people just don’t know when to go away. Or shut up.

And of course, we in the media are more than happy to simply hand them a bigger megaphone, a bigger stage, another opportunity to stay in the spotlight.

That’s what so much of news is today. Nothing really shocks us anymore.
Everything is fair game. Put a camera on someone, or offer them a book deal, and they will pour out their souls, especially if it gets them five minutes on the sofa with Oprah. Or back on the cover of People magazine.

Today’s case involves Mackenzie Phillips. Maybe you remember her. She was the daughter of John Phillips, one of the founders of the ’60s pop group The Mamas and the Papas. Mackenzie starred on the popular ’70s sitcom “One Day at a Time,” older sister to Valerie Bertinelli.

She’s been down this road before, telling us all more than we ever needed to know about her drug use and multiple stabs at rehab.

She’s back with a new book offering. I won’t bother to tell you what she reveals. You won’t have much trouble finding it, if you’re so inclined.

If true, I don’t want to lessen what happened to Mackenzie Phillips. I’m just not sure we need to know all about it now, more than 20 years after it happened.

But that’s not the way this works anymore. We tell all, and ask questions later.

What was once our deepest, darkest secrets are now simply fodder for a best-seller, or for big ratings, or to sell magazines and newspapers.

I was shocked when I first heard Mackenzie Phillips’ saga.

But overall I was consumed with another feeling.

It’s just sad. For all of us.

More heartbreak from Lidge

We wanted to talk this morning in the blog about Michael Vick, and Andy Reid’s foolish charade yesterday that he had not yet decided if Vick will play on Sunday. Yeah, right.

But the truth of the matter is we have bigger fish to fry. Or I suppose that should be the Fish frying the Phils, or at least their bullpen.

When we lapsed into a coma last night, the Phils were comfortably ahead of the Marlins as a deluge descended on Land Shark Stadium.

The few fans who were there – aside from all the Phillies fans who had invaded South Florida – took cover. The sensible ones went home.

Too bad the umps didn’t decide to do the same. After a 45-minute rain delay, play resumed in the eighth inning. What happened next was even less pretty than the weather.

The Phils had gone out to a 6-3 lead in the seventh, powered by Ryan Howard’s two-run homer, his 42nd on the year.

But Cole Hamels got nicked for a run in the bottom of the inning to make it 6-4. Ryan Madson got touched for a run in the eighth, and you just had a bad feeling what was coming next.

Yep, Manager Charlie Manuel summoned Brad Lidge for the ninth, with the Phils clinging to a 6-5 lead.

Voila, another killer loss as Lidge surrendered his league-high 11th blown save. The Phils’ magic number remains 5, in large part because the magic Lidge showed last year in running the table with a perfect
48-for-48 in save situations has escaped him this year.

He’s been consistently inconsistent. The result too often has been what happened last night.

Exactly where Manuel goes from here no one is quite sure. Madson doesn’t seem to be suited for the closer role. Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers are both hurting. J.A. Happ, who is starting tonight, might get a shot at it. Even Pedro Martinez could get a look.

One thing is clear. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this is not Lidge’s year. As has been his habit over his career, he is following a great year with a sub-par one.

Right now the Phils can’t really afford to keep running him out there.
Unfortunately, Manuel doesn’t have a lot of options.

It might be the story of this season. Call it Heartbreak Lidge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 23

The Daily Numbers: 3 years to 18 and a half years in jail for a Ridley teen for his role in a DUI crash that left another Ridley teen paralyzed.
1 game for the new MLS team in Chester, the Philadelphia Union, that likely will be played somewhere else.
50 witnesses to a fatal shooting in Darby Borough, but police say no one is coming forward with information.
15, age of teen who was shot in Philadelphia last night after he lunged at police officers with a knife.
84, age of woman in Philly who was stabbed with scissors during a robbery attempt in her apartment in the Spring Garden section.
105 years and going strong for the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia.
5, age of rape victim in Delaware. A 16-year-old has been charged in the attack.
2 teen boys who were found to be carrying shotguns after they were stopped in connection with a burglary in New Jersey.
550 people that will be hired for a new Wegmans supermarket in Malvern.
It’s one of 3 new stores the chain will open in the area, along with Collegeville and King of Prussia.
75 million dollars up for grabs in the Mega Millions lottery jackpot Friday. Tonight’s Powerball drawing is already at $111 million.
3 young hikers being held in Iran, including one from Elkins Park.
11 swine flu-related deaths in Pennsylvania after a 27-year-old man succumbed to H1N1 in the Pittsburgh area.
186 million gallons of gas saved by use of public transit in 2008, according to new study.
5, that’s Phils Magic Number to claim another NL East title.
7 shutout innings from starter Joe Blanton as the Phils rolled in the first game of a double-header yesterday vs. the Marlins.
2 hits in 8 innings, all that Marlins’ starter Anibal Sanchez gave up in leading the Fish to a win in the nightcap.
3 goals in the preseason for Flyers’ rookie and top draft pick James Van Riemsdyk, who is making a big push to make the team
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Count the Phils in so far as the playoffs are concerned. The Magic Number is 5. They aren’t going to blow that lead. Now Charlie Manuel needs to get his bullpen healthy and figure out his starting rotation for the playoffs.
I Don’t Get It: How can anyone wrap a cat head to toe in duct tape. I just don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the usually placid, staid arts community. They’re ticked about the way the Legislature solved the state budget impasse, by slapping the state sales tax on tickets to shows and museums, and today they’re headed to Harrisburg to let them know it.
Quote Box: “Life’s just different. I wish that night had never happened.”
- Steven Jewell, the Ridley teen who was paralyzed when the car he was riding in was slammed by a DUI driver.

Take that, you SOBs

Nick Sakiewicz has a message for the die-hard band of soccer zealots who call themselves the Sons of Ben, SOBs for short.

He has heard your cries.

Sometime this weekend the boss of the Philadelphia Union, the region’s newest entry into professional sports via Major League Soccer, will unveil a web cam on the team’s Web site where fans can monitor the day-to-day development of the stadium being built under the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester.

And it is being built. I can now vouch for that personally. Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Sakiewicz and his team, and also get a first-hand look at the construction site. Yep, that’s a stadium all right.

I got the distinct feeling in talking to Sakiewicz that he was more than a little exasperated at how long it has taken to get the Web cam up and running at the Chester site. You get the distinct feeling in talking to him that Sakiewicz believes in dealing with issues head-on and that he’s not all that enamored of any hiccups along the way.

Speaking of glitches, there is one large one looming on the horizon, a bit of bad news that followed the welcome addition of the web cam.
Sakiewicz confirmed that he does not expect the team, which will begin play in the MLS next spring, to play its first game in the Chester stadium.

Last week the team announced it was considering alternate sites.
Basically it looks like the Union’s first home game will take place at either Franklin Field or Lincoln Financial Field in Philly.

The stadium project team is operating under an incredibly tight timeline through the winter and into next spring. They are still working out details with MLS officials in terms of possibly scheduling the team’s first few games on the road and a few other possibilities.

I’ll have much more on my visit with Sakiewicz – including another message he has – this one targeting all the naysayers who believe soccer will never make it in this area, in my Monday column.

For now, look for that web cam sometime this weekend at

Chaos in Colwyn

For a tiny little town, Colwyn Borough has more than its share of problems.

For more than a year, controversy has swirled around its volunteer fire company.

The borough council and police chief have been sniping at each other for months over the question of overtime.

Questions have been raised about work done on a borough police patrol car by a shop owned by a councilman and whether he has the proper license to do the work.

This all came to a head at a special meeting of Colwyn Borough Council last night.

And what did they decide to do? They fired Police Chief Bryan Hills. The chief vowed to appeal the ruling. Several of his officers are expected to stage a protest at borough hall this morning. Some may even resign from the force. Exactly who will be patrolling borough streets remains to be seen.

In the meantime, residents showed up at last night’s council meeting to ask their representatives what is going on.

No doubt they were less than thrilled with what they learned.

It shouldn't happen to a cat

This one simply makes you shake your head and wonder which is the animal and which is the human.

A humane official in Philadelphia reports that they found a cat that had been wrapped from head to toe in duct tape.

At first I had trouble believing it. Then I saw the photo of this poor little cat wrapped up like some kine of feline mummy.

I have just one question in this case: Exactly what kind of animal could possibly do this to a defenseless animal? And what does it say about our society that this could possibly happen?

Clearly we’re doing something wrong. The recent string of animal abuse just makes you shake your head and wonder, if people are capable of this, what else are they capable of?

I can only imagine what that cat went through as SPCA officials removed the duct tape, taking hunks of furr with it along the way. Officials say they were able to remove the tape, and the cat is recovering.

As for the rest of us shocked that this could happen, that might take a little longer.

And one final thought, and I know some people will undoubtedly believe this is a cheap shot.

Maybe in a society where we’re so eager to forgive people who do horrendous things to animals, including granting them status once again as a celebrity millionaire athlete, maybe we should not be all that taken aback that abuse of animals suddenly is not viewed as all that big a deal.

Some mid-week thoughts on the Birds

Here’s a few things to ponder while waiting for the Phillies to clinch the National League East.

By the way, the Magic Number is now 5 after they split a twin-bill with the Marlins in a nearly deserted Land Shark Stadium in Miami. Any combination of Phils wins and losses by either the Braves or Marlins (they flip-flopped positions yesterday, with the Braves now in second place), and the Phils capture their third straight crown.

In the meantime, across the street at Nova Care Nation, the pot continues to simmer for the Eagles.

A couple of early predictions: Donovan McNabb does not play this week. I know, Andy Reid will say every day that McNabb is feeling better and his rib is starting to get “sticky,” whatever that means. It says here Donovan is in street clothes Sunday when the Chiefs hit town, then gets the benefit of the bye week to fully recover.

He’ll have company on the sideline. I don’t think Brian Westbrook plays either. He may be in uniform, but the Birds would be wise to try to steal a win without putting their increasingly brittle lead running back back in harm’s way.

That gives you Kevin Kolb at quarterback, and LeSean McCoy as the lead back. Priority No. 1 for this duo will be to protect the ball. Another ill-advised pick from Kolb, coupled with something McCoy showed in the preseason, a propensity for fumbling, could lead to the unthinkable, a loss against K.C.

Then there’s the backup QB spot. Here’s where things get interesting. It would seem that Reid will need to make Michael Vick his No. 2 quarterback if he wants to get him on the field in his “Wildcat”
formations. That would make Jeff Garcia the emergency No. 3 clipboard holder.

Here’s the question of the week. What’s the over/under on the number of plays for Vick. Last week the Eagles featured 10 plays with the Wildcat formation. You have to think they’ll do at least as much now that they have Vick in their arsenal.

And here’s the bigger question. Say Reid goes hog-wild with Vick in his Wildcat gadgetry. Let’s say it’s successful, and the Eagles roll over the Chiefs, in large part because of the spark provided by Vick.

Then Reid, Vick and McNabb have two weeks to come to some kind of consensus on how this thing will work with Donovan back on the field.

This kind of thing could only happen to the Birds.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 22

The Daily Numbers: 100 people who were on and around a playground in Chester when gunfire erupted, killing 1 person and injuring 4 others.
19, age of Felix Pizarro, the teen killed in that drive-by shooting in Chester.
28 hours later, more gunshots, this time in Darby Borough, and another person killed.
50 people who were around the shooting scene at Third and Darby Terrrace in the borough last night who witnessed the shooting. Police say all stated they did not see anything or are unwilling to cooperate.
7 percent state sales tax that would now be applied to tickets for theatre and concerts, as well as admission to museums. Cultural groups are not thrilled at this last-second, out-of-the-blue method to balance the state budget in Harrisburg.
700 arts and cultural leaders who gathered in Philly last night to blast the proposal.
95 degrees, highest temperature we recorded this summer, back on Aug.
21. Autumn arrives at 5:18 this afternoon.
40,000 dollar legal dispute over a dog caught in the middle of a nasty divorce in Jersey. A judge has awarded shared custody with the pooch set to spend time with both the man and woman.
6 daring heists in Bucks County in which a cat burglar has entered homes while the residents were sleeping.
21, age of Montco man who now faces charges in a fatal motorcycle accident in which the woman riding on the back of his bike was thrown off, and over the side of the Dannehower Bridge over the Schuylkill. She was killed.
47, age of man in Newark, Del., charged with beating his estranged wife, her boyfriend and another man with a baseball bat.
3 different shootings last night in Philadelphia that left at least 5 people were shot.
1 beloved grocer who was shot and killed in Southwest Philly.
18, age of missing Penn State student who was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell on the State College campus.
8 cats killed when flames rage through a home in Chesapeake City, Del.
2.63 per gallon, what we’re paying for gasoline in the Philly region.
2 NFL starts for Kevin Kolb if he’s tabbed the guy this week by Andy Reid. The coach is waiting to see how Donovan McNabb and his ouchy rib feel.
2 games today for the Phils in South Florida vs. the Marlins. The first game is a makeup of a rainout earlier this season.
6, Magic Number of Phils wins and Marlins losses for the Phils to wrap up their 3rd straight NL East crown.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.This week should be a repeat of last week for Birds’ fans. Every day Andy Reid will say Donovan McNabb will go if he can. If not Kevin Kolb will go. And don’t forget Mr. Wildcat himself, Michael Vick, also is available this week.
I Don’t Get It: There’s nothing like a last-minute, blindside, out-of-the-blue fix to the state budget crisis. You’re probably not surprised that local cultural organizations are less than thrilled at the idea of slapping the state’s 6 percent sales tax on tickets and admissions to concerts, museums and other events.
Today’s Upper: Good call in having a big push set to pop music to remind kids how important it is to wash their hands. This is all tied to moves to prevent the spread of H1N1 virus. Get more info at
Quote Box: “This is absolutely senseless.”
- Chester Police Capt. Joe Massi, on the drive-by shooting that snuffed out the promising life of 19-year-old Felix Pizarro Sunday night.

The president does Letterman

Attention all conservatives and others of that stripe who believe the editor of this newspaper believes President Barack Obama walks on the water, who insist this editor would never utter a word of protest against the current commander-in-chief.

I am about to do something that might surprise you. I am going to criticize Obama.

The guy has been everywhere this weekend. You could not turn on your TV Sunday morning without seeing him on one of the morning talk shows, pushing his health-care reform plan. I’m surprised he didn’t show up beside Howie, Terry and Jimmy on the Fox NFL pregame show.

But that pretty much goes with the territory. The Sunday morning platform is meant to debate those kinds of issues.

What he did last night does not.

Obama became the first sitting president to appear on David Letterman’s late-night gabfest.

Count me out. I think it was a mistake, but I’m sure the president is not exactly waiting for me to weigh in.

The truth is I kind of expect the president to be presidential. I have nothing against Letterman. There was a time (seemingly another lifetime
ago) when I was a regular watcher.

It’s great for goofy skits, comedians, and other pop figures. But I don’t think the president should be sitting there on the couch. It just doesn’t look especially presidential.

And finally there’s this. I know it’s on a lot of minds, and it’s been on mine. I think it’s a fair criticism. In fact, it’s one I hear all the time.

Can you imagine the reaction if that had been George W. Bush sitting there next to Dave? Be honest. He would have gotten killed.

My guess is that Obama will pretty much get a pass on his late-night visit.

Not from me.

Come on Mr. President. You’re better than that.

Desperate times for Birds

There’s a word that keeps popping into my mind when it comes to this
2009 version of the Eagles.

It’s a word I have not associated with this team – and in particular with head coach Andy Reid – in the 10 years he’s been at the helm.

The word is desperation.

Starting back in the off-season, more and more of Reid’s moves have the smell of a guy who is desperate to get back to the Super Bowl.

Is Reid under a new and different pressure to win, to get the Birds back in the big game? No one is saying, although you can infer what you want from team President Joe Banner’s proclamation before the season that the team has put together the best roster in the NFL.

Reid decided to revamp his offensive line in the offseason. He brought in Stacy Andrews, who had undergone knee surgery, and planned to plop him down beside his brother Shawn. Now Shawn is on the shelf for the season, and Stacy is out of the lineup, apparently still having some problems with that knee.

Reid decided to bring in Michael Vick under the guise of offering him a second chance after the one-time All-Pro spent two years in jail on a dog-fighting conviction.

Reid immediately started dreaming up all sorts of versions of the “Wildcat” offense, no doubt with Vick in mind.

When he rolled this plan out in a preseason game, it clearly irked starting quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Then McNabb went down with a fractured rib. Kevin Kolb was pronounced the starter, but Jeff Garcia was brought in as a backup. Reid delved even further into his funky Wildcat offerings, apparently in the believe he might be able to take some pressure of Kolb in his debut as an NFL starter. He likely was less than thrilled with Garcia’s comments after the game, that he believed the gadget plays hindered Kolb’s ability to get into the flow of the game. It was the same argument against all the gimmicks and gadgets sounded by McNabb.

There are other warning signs surrounding this team. After a big first week in which they harassed Jake Delhomme into a turnover machine, the defense under new coordinator Sean McDermott was undressed by Drew Brees and the Saints. Even worse, they appeared to be something that would have been unthinkable while Brian Dawkins was here. They looked soft, routinely missing tackles and offering big cushions to the Saints receivers.

On the other side of the ball, when they weren’t running gadget plays, the Birds were looking for Brian Westbrook. In the second half they could find him sitting on the trainer’s table, getting his ankle taped.
Yes, it’s the ankle Westbrook had surgery on in the off-season. No, he says he doesn’t think it’s serious. He hopes to play this Sunday against the Chiefs. No doubt so does Reid. Am I the only one who wonders just how much Westbrook has left now that he’s reached that magic age for NFL running backs, 30?

We likely will go through another week of QB roulette down at the Nova Care Center. McNabb continues to rehab, but the team probably would just as soon get through this week without him, then get the luxury of the bye week to allow McNabb a full recovery.

Expect to hear Reid say all week that McNabb will try to play, but if he can’t go Kolb will be the man.

More interesting is who will be the backup. Michael Vick now enters the equation, and you can only imagine what kind of Wildcat formations Reid is dreaming up.

The truth is, the Eagles should win this week, when the Chiefs arrive at the Linc. They should be able to just line up and beat this team the old-fashioned way. Don’t count on it. Expect to see Vick in all manner of bizarre formations.

This will certainly become more of an issue when McNabb returns, and just how much he is willing to share the stage with Vick.

Of course, all this could blow up in Reid’s face. Should by some chance (not outside the realm of reason) Matt Cassell bring the Chiefs in and wins, then that air of desperation surrounding this team will become all too real.

Count the Marlins fans

Things kind of slow around the office? Here’s a game you might want to play this afternoon.

Kudos to Big Daddy Graham and his overnight show in WIP for giving me this thought.

The Phillies are playing a double-header in Florida against the Marlins.
The first game, scheduled to start at 4:10, is actually a makeup game from a rain-out earlier this season.

The Marlins are not exactly packing them in down there in South Florida.
They get maybe 8,000 on regular game nights.

How many people do you think are going to show up for that makeup game this afternoon?

Check out the TV broadcast on Comcast this afternoon. I’m guessing you will probably be able to count the people in some sections without using up all your digits.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 21

The Daily Numbers: 1 person killed and 3 others wounded when gunfire erupted at a Chester playground last night. More than 100 people were on the playground when the gunmen opened fire.
50 animal rights activists who protested outside Lincoln Financial Field yesterday for the Eagles home opener because of the Birds’ decision to sign Michael Vick.
14 months without a fire company in the tiny town of Colwyn. The borough is about to roll out a new fire company, but the controversy is not going away.
300,000 dollars in federal stimulus money for Cheyney University. It will be used to repair and preserve campus buildings.
600,000 dollars for Delco from the U.S. Justice Department to continue the work of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
52, age of woman who was killed when she ran into the path of a tractor-trailer on Route 13 in New Castle, Del., last night.
28 counts of rape lodged against a 24-year-old Del. man in connection with a sex assault on a juvenile.
2 percent hike in sales tax in the city of Philadelphia, under a deal to solve the city’s budget mess.
25 cent tax per pack slapped on cigarette smokers, under the state’s new budget.
8 people rescued from a sinking fishing boat off New Jersey.
3 people killed overnight in Philadelphia, including 1 suspect gunned down by an off-duty police officer.
23,000 Pennsylvanians who are about to lose their unemployment benefits.
391 yards passing for Kevin Kolb in his debut as a starter in the NFL.
Didn’t make much difference as the Birds got blown out.
311 yards for Saints QB Drew Brees in leading the Saints to a 48-22 rout.
3 interceptions thrown by Kolb, only 1 of which really affected the outcome of the game.
6, Magic Number of Phils wins and Marlins losses for the Phils to wrap up their 3rd straight NL East crown.
45 wins and 29 losses for the Phils on the road this year.
105,121 people jammed into that spanking new stadium built by Jerry Jones for the Cowboys home opener last night. The Cowboys lost to the Giants.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.If that effort by the Eagles’ defense and special teams was not enough to ruin a beautiful Sunday, try this. Brian Westbrook is hurt again.
You’re shocked, I know.
I Don’t Get It: Amazing that less than 24 hours after thousands converged safely on the Chester riverfront, gunfire was sprayed across a city basketball court, killing one and injuring three.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for all those people who took part in Saturday’s Riverfront Ramble, and for Mother Nature for providing such a gorgeous day.
Quote Box: “He’s going to win the game for them next week, baby.”
- Eagles fan to a crowd of protesters outside the stadium to show their disapproval of the team’s decision to sign Michael Vick.

No defense for this ugly home opener for Birds

There two big reasons why the Eagles got blown out in their home opener yesterday against the Saints.

Neither of them is named Kevin Kolb.

Guess what? That wasn’t the Panthers the Eagles were facing yesterday.
It was the Saints, with Drew Brees at quarterback, not Jake Delhomme.

Last week we wondered if the Eagles were that good or the Panthers were that bad. We started to get some answers yesterday.

Brees dissected Sean McDermott’s guys. Speaking of the Birds’ new defensive coordinator, Week 2 of the post-Jim Johnson era did not go nearly as well as Week 1. Too bad you can’t face Delhomme every week.

The Eagles’ defense, as is now their custom, did not show up for the first drive of the game. Just as the Panthers did last week, the Saints took the opening drive and marched right down the field. Kolb was in a 7-0 before he stepped on the field for his NFL starting debut. To his credit, Kolb responded, hitting DeSean Jackson with a 77-yard strike to even the score.

That’s the last time anything about this contest was even. The Eagles defense did not put nearly enough pressure on Brees. They didn’t tackle, they didn’t cover.

Starting cornerback Sheldon Brown, maybe looking to replace the emotional entrances of the departed leader of the defense Brian Dawkins, ran onto the field during the introductions wearing a “Jason”-style mask. What unfolded was a horror for Eagles fans.

Nearly as culpable in this fiasco were the Eagles special teams, which were anything but.

In maybe the key play of the day, kick returner Will Hobbs coughed up the second half kickoff. The Saints recovered and scored. Kevin Kolb made one of his few mistakes on the next possession, tossing a pick along the sidelines, and the rout was on.

After the game, Andy Reid described the Birds’ effort as “horrendous.”

The same might be said of Reid’s constant tinkering with Wildcat formations. The Eagles ran nine of them yesterday.

Finally, there is one more final troubling aspect to come out of the game. Those who were worried about the health of Brian Westbrook had good reason to be. Westbrook was held out the entire preseason. He looked fairly pedestrian last week, and yesterday he left the game, complaining of pain in that right ankle he had surgery on in the off-season.

Reid had one thing right yesterday. It was a horrendous showing.

First and foremost by the defense, followed closely by special teams.

Don’t blame Kevin Kolb for this one. And if Donovan McNabb can’t go next week (and it might be wise for the Eagles to hold him out, then get the luxury of the Bye Week to get him healthy), look for him, not Garcia or anyone else, to be under center.

Unless, of course, Reid wants to introduce Michael Vick and another host of Wildcat formations to what will likely be a fairly impatient home crowd.

Forget the offense, Andy. And while you’re at it, forget some of these gimmick gadget plays. The problem with this team is on defense.

Better get that fixed before throwing more gas on the fire.

It's a deal in Harrisburg

Stop the presses. The state of Pennsylvania has a new budget.

How can I tell? Yes, that was Gov. Ed Rendell back on the set of the Eagles “Post-Game Live” show on Comcast last night. Maybe the guv should have stayed in Harrisburg. The team played a lot better last week when he was hanging out in the middle of the state.

It only took 80 days past the July 1 deadline, but the state does indeed have a new fiscal plan.

It will not come without some pain. Especially if you’re a smoker. Yes, you’re about to get hit again. The state will slap another quarter-a-pack tax on butts. They’re also taking aim at small cigars.

The $27.9 billion spending plan also had a surprise for patrons of the arts, as well as the organizations that run them. The state for the first time will slap a tax on cultural performances and venues. That means if you want to go the Art Museum, or take in a show by the Philadelphia Orchestra, it’s going to cost you more. Movies and sports events are exempt. And isn’t it nice to know that not only are tax dollars used to build the multi-billion dollar playground for all these millionaire players and owners, but they also managed to work around any other new tax levy. At least fans won’t have to dig deeper for what are already outrageously priced tickets.

The same can’t be said for fans of the arts. They’re going to get hit every time they go to a museum, the theater or a concert.

Many cultural organizations already reeling from budget cuts see this as adding insult to injury.

Rendell wants to be known as the “education governor.” He’s vowing to make that his legacy.

This nasty budget fight shows just how far he is willing to go to keep it that way. Rendell stuck to his guns on education funding, and even his opponents are now admitting he got what he wanted. Funding for early education programs was for the most part not touched. Neither was the new program he unveiled last year that shifted the way the state allocates funds, with more money going to those districts most in need.

The budget also clears the way for table games to arrive in state casinos.

All of this has to be approved by the Legislature. But for now, it appears the state has a new budget. Finally.

As with any budget, there are winners and losers. Or, in the case of table games, both.

The 2 faces of Chester

They are the two faces of Chester.

On Saturday, thousands streamed into the city and enjoyed a picture-perfect day along the city’s waterfront as part of the county’s annual Riverfront Ramble.

Less than 24 hours later, another group of city residents are enjoying a late summer game of hoops on a playground at Eighth and Caldwell streets. A car rolls by. Gunfire erupts. When it is over, a 19-year-old is dead. At least three others are wounded.

In these situations I usually defer to Mayor Wendell Butler. I once heard him offer what I thought was the best explanation of the challenge Chester faces as it struggles to overcome an image of a place that is unsafe and should be avoided.

Butler said people need to know that they can come into the city, do whatever it is they need to do, and return home safely.

That certainly was the case on Saturday. It is perhaps the city’s biggest secret. From Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack near the Eddystone border, up and down Route 291, under the Commodore Barry Bridge and to the Wharf at Rivertown, the city is seeing the beginnings of a renaissance.

Under the Barry, the unmistakable vision of a stadium is beginning to reach for the sky. It will be the home of the region’s new Major League Soccer franchise, the Philadelphia Union. Chester, once a might industrial icon, once again will be a major league town.

But it’s not enough for visitors to enter the city, take advantage of its gorgeous natural resources as thousands did on Saturday at the Ramble, and return home safely.

Those who live in Chester must be free of the burden of street violence as well. Parents must know that their kids can visit a local playground to shoot some hoops and return home safely.

That did not happen Sunday night. There were about 100 people on that playground when gunshots rang out.

The rebirth of Chester is doomed to failure if it does not include those who live there.

That is the city’s challenge. Saturday’s Riverfront Ramble should go a long way to proving the city is not as it is so often portrayed. Sunday night’s gunfire was a step in the wrong direction.

Especially for those most affected, the residents who call Chester home.
They’re the ones in the line of fire.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

In honor of Andy Reid, I decided to get off to a slow start.

Let's just say my pick of the Panthers to win, 23-16, last week didn't exactly work out.

Yes, I was impressed. The normally slow-starting Birds came out on fire, especially on defense, even though they allowed the Panthers to use up half of the first period doing exactly what I had feared they would, running the ball right down the Eagles' throats.

For some reason, the Panthers then decided to put the game in the hands of Jake Delhomme. How'd that work out, John Fox?

From that point on, Sean McDermott's boys took over the game. McDermott, making his regular season debut as a coordinator, did Jim Johnson proud, throwing everything at Jake Delhomme but the kitchen sink.

The Eagles won going away.

Here's my problem: Are the Eagles that good, especially on defense, or are the Panthers that bad. As far as Jake Delhomme is concerned, I'm convinced he is exactly that bad.

The Eagles won't have that luxury this week, when Drew Brees and the Saints come marching in. This will give us a much better look at how good the Birds are.

An even bigger question looms on the other side of the ball. The Eagles likely lost Donovan McNabb, who fractured a rib in the third period against the Panthers and has been "doubtful" ever since.

I'll believe he's not playing when I see Kevin Kolb under center. The Eagles brought in Jeff Garcia to be a backup, just to add a little more intrigue to what is quickly turning into the QB follies.

If Kolb plays, I say he has a very short leash (with all apologies to Michael Vick).

Am I the only one who still believes Donovan McNabb is going to try to play in this game?

I see this game as a huge task for the Birds. Kolb starts, I don't have any idea who finishes. The Eagles' defense comes back to Earth a bit. Monday morning we awake to the Michael Vick era.

Make it Saints 29, Eagles 13.

RECORD: 0-1, after thinking the Panthers would roll over the Birds last week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 18

The Daily Numbers: 100 properties in Chester yesterday that got a visit from Peco crews looking for illegal hookups.
121 properties inspected a few weeks back in Upper Darby and 7 illegal taps disconnected 150,000 dollars lost in the first quarter of this year due to illegal hookups, according to the utility.
2 charges of harassment to which former Yeadon Councilman Terry McGirth pleaded guilty to yesterday.
200 survivors of suicide who gathered in Rose Tree Park last night for their annual vigil to remember those we’ve lost.
2 more Delco soldiers who returned home safe and sound from Iraq.
9 p.m. curfew enacted during a crackdown on violence in Darby Borough that is now being questioned by the ACLU.
12 students arrested at Chester High yesterday after 3 incidents at the school
15 unions that have thrown their backing to Rep. Bryan Lentz in the 7th District congressional race. Lentz has not even declared his candidacy yet.
52 gunshots fired during a street altercation in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia yesterday afternoon.
18, as in 18th District Police HQ in Philly, where a man was busted yesterday for impersonating an officer. He was nabbed going through women’s lockers.
1-800-347-3735. That’s the number to report suspected Section 8 housing fraud. The DA charged 4 people with cheating the system this week.
3,000 Philly employees who will not be laid off now that the state Senate has passed a rescue plan.
6 months to 24 years, the ages that health officials say should be getting a flu shot. Delco rolled out its preparedness plan yesterday.
4 firefighters suspended in Atlantic City amid a probe after several teen girls alleged they were lured into a fire house and then engaged in sex acts.
105 jobs being slashed in West Chester with the closing of a Men’s Wearhouse distribution center.
8.6 percent jobless rate in Pa. in August. That’s up .10, but is still lower than that national rate of 9.7 percent.
22 months in jail for a West Chester lawyer for conspiring with another lawyer to commit tax evasion.
79, age of retail giant Al Boscov, who was on hand yesterday in court as a judge approved his family stores’ exit from bankruptcy.
50,000 grant from the foundation founded by Phils’ pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, to John B. Stetson Middle School. They used it to buy computers and musical instruments.
15 straight batters retired by Hamels last night as he mowed down the Nationals and the Phils won, 4-2.
5 straight wins for the Phils, who are now 25 games over .500.
30 saves for Brad Lidge in 40 attempts. He got the save last night despite giving up a run.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Mr. October is back, a few weeks early. Cole Hamels certainly looks like he’s ready for the playoffs.
I Don’t Get It: Spare me all the hoopla. I don’t think there was ever a chance that officials were going to let that much-hyped Doomsday Budget go into effect in Philly. The cavalry arrived yesterday, just in the nick of time. I’m stunned, just stunned.
Today’s Upper: The Eagles will add Randall Cunningham to their honor roll at halftime of their Sept. 27 game against the Chiefs. Kind of fitting that “The Ultimate Weapon” be honored on the day Michael Vick returns to football.
Quote Box: “For me, this is a place where I can be real.”
- Linda Falasco, at last night’s Candlelight Vigil to Remember Those Lost to Suicide.

A Chester stadium update

This is no doubt not what the Sons of Ben wanted to hear.

I’m not talking about the announcement that Major League Soccer will take a break next year for the finals of the World Cup. That will include the Philadelphia Union, the newest entry into the MLS, which will play its home games in Chester.

At least some of them. Hopefully.

That’s the problem. The local entry in the MLS confirmed yesterday that they are at least making contingency plans should their new home under the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Chester waterfront not be ready to open the season.

The MLS season is expected to kick off on March 25.

Team officials stress this is merely a security net, something they needed to do, but hope they never have to implement.

Right now the stadium is on target to be ready for the start of the season, according to Tom Veit, president of the Philadelphia Union. And yes, it still bugs me a bit that the team is going with that Philly moniker, even though they just moved into offices at the Wharf at Rivertown in Chester, and will play their games here in Delaware County as well.

Bottom line is I need to get over it. Everyone knew the team would go with Philly as its banner, regardless where they actually ended up playing.

Something else everyone has been wondering about is the status of their 18,500-seat playground in Chester. Don’t look now, but the place is actually starting to resemble a stadium.

As to whether it will be ready by next spring, I’ll leave that to Veit.

Yesterday he told our Tim Logue that as of right now construction is right on schedule. Of course, that could change, depending on what kind of winter we have.

“We are on a very tight timeline,” Veit admitted. “With a project this big you have to be ready with another option in case the (construction) takes a little longer then you think.”

Under consideration are Lincoln Financial Field and Franklin Field on the Penn campus.

I am actually heading down to Chester next week for a tour of the team’s offices and the stadium site.

I’ll give you a full report on what I see.

Doomsday averted

“Doomsday” has been averted in Philadelphia. Cheers erupted among his key aides as Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the dreaded “Plan C”
was “terminated.”

Here’s my question: Is there one person out there who thought Plan C was ever going to be put into place?

I don’t know how much money the city spent printing up those 3,000 layoff notices, but they should have saved it and put it toward the daunting deficit they are looking at.

Bottom line here is that it was never going to happen. That is just the way things get done in Harrisburg. It’s a waltz, not a rumba. Or maybe it’s just a rumble. For weeks now Nutter has been doing his best “Chicken Little” act, telling everyone who will listen (which apparently does not include many people in Harrisburg) that the sky was falling.
Most people ignored him. And for good reason. Everyone knew that what happened yesterday was eventually going to happen. It was just a matter of when.

The mayor geared up his Doomsday Machine. He said the city would have to lay off 3,000 workers, including a big chunk of police and firefighters.

If it sounded dire, it’s because it was. But it was never going to happen.

Yesterday, the cavalry arrived, right on time, which of course means a few months late.

The state Senate passed a measure that will allow the city to step back from the abyss. It now goes to Gov. Rendell, who is likely to sign it today.

Cheers went up as Nutter informed his staff that Doomsday was off.

It’s a good thing. No one wants to see anybody lose his or her job.
Nobody wants to see services cut. Nobody wants to see libraries or parks close their doors.

Here’s another thing nobody wants: Higher taxes. But that’s what they’re going to get.

The deal allows the city to hike the sales tax from 7 to 8 percent over the next five years. That will make it 2 percent higher than most of the rest of the state. Hey, maybe city residents will suddenly start pouring into Delco to make their purposes.

And here’s something unions certainly don’t want: The city also gets the green light to defer payments into their pension plan for the next two years.

Nutter now faces negotiations with city unions who aren’t quite as thrilled by this deal as the mayor’s staff is.

Doomsday has been averted. That’s today’s headline. I could have written it months ago.

A coup for Rep. Lentz

State rep Bryan Lentz pulled off something of a coup Thursday.

He picked up a major union endorsement for a job he hasn’t even announced he’s running for yet.

Lentz, D-161, is expected to seek the Democratic nod and face Republican Pat Meehan in a heavyweight battle for the 7th District Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Sestak, who has decided to duke it out with Sen. Arlen Specter.

That’s if he is not challenged in the primary by his pal from the state House, Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166. Vitali likewise has not yet announced his intentions.

Lentz has not officially announced his candidacy just yet. But that didn’t stop the Delaware County Central Labor Council, an affiliate of the Southeastern Area Labor Federation of Pennsylvania, from offering him their endorsement.

The groups who were present at the labor meeting this week represent 15 or 20 unions. These are groups that routinely used to back longtime 7th District Republican Curt Weldon.

It’s not terribly surprising that unions would back a Democrat, even here in GOP-laden Delaware County.

It is a tad novel for them to do so when their favored candidate has not yet thrown his hat in the ring.

Mr. October is back

The weather is starting to chill out, so it must be time for Cole Hamels to heat up.

Mr. October is back.

Hamels took the mound for the Phillies last night and was perfect for five innings, quickly buzzing through the first 15 batters he faced.

Hamels struck out 10 as the Phils rolled to their fifth straight win, beating the hapless Nationals, 4-2.

Hamels even helped his own cause, driving in a run in the sixth by singling with the bases loaded.

The lefty entered the season as the unquestioned ace of the Phillies’
staff, coming off MVP efforts in both the NLCS and the World Series.

But he struggled much of the year, admitting he wasn’t really ready for spring training and at the beginning of the season.

He’s on fire now. Hamels is now 10-9 on the season after giving up just one run and five hits over eight innings.

Welcome back, Mr. October.

Meanwhile, across the street, the mystery over who will be Mr. Sept. 20 continues to swirl around the Eagles.

Will it be Kevin Kolb under center when the Eagles face the Saints in their home opener Sunday? Or will Donovan McNabb try to gut it out with a fractured rib. And if Andy Reid goes with Kolb, how long a leash (sorry about that, Mr. Vick) does he give him. Will he go to Jeff Garcia if Kolb struggles in the first half and continues his penchant for turning the ball over? Yesterday offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was saying that if Kolb starts, he will be the guy all day. Everyone who believes that raise your hand. Thought so.

This one sounds like a game day decision.

Has Hamels ever played quarterback?

Don't forget to stop back tomorrow for the Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick.! Play at your own risk

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept 17

The Daily Numbers: 3, age of Emily Monforto, who along with her dad, Steve, provided a memorable image of Philly fans Tuesday night when she tossed the foul ball he had just caught back onto the field.
4 people in Chester and Sharon Hill charged with ripping off the federal Section 8 housing program by failing to report employment and hiding their incomes.
52,400 dollars, how much the D.A. says the program lost in the scam.
10 percent of $250,000 cash bail posted by the woman who police believe may have been huffing prior to losing control of her car and striking two pedestrians, killing one of them in Drexel Hill.
4 years ago, when Gary Drais was found slain in his Aston home. The murder case remains unsolved.
2 new members appointed to the Penn-Delco School Board.
739 Philly police officers who will get pink slips on Friday if the state Legislature does not approve a budget rescue plan for the city.
3,000 city workers in total are facing layoffs under the so-called Doomsday Day budget of Mayor Michael Nutter. I still think it doesn’t happen, that a deal is cut before the deadline. It’s ludicrous that it could get to this point, however.
50 video poker machines seized as lawmen hit 13 locations, including 10 bars in South Philly.
111 million dollars up for grabs Saturday night in the Powerball drawing. No one hit again last night.
8 years in jail for a wealthy Bucks County car exporter for his role in a sex tourism trade in which he went to Russia to have sex with girls from local orphanages.
30, age of mom in Coatesville who was held for trial on charges of child endangerment after she let her daughter drive her car because she was “sleepy.” The girl is 6.
4 years in jail for a Montgomery County man who was the driver in a fatal DUI crash that killed his best friend, who was in the car with him.
700 tickets handed out in New Jersey towns as they crack down on crosswalk violations.
1 escapee caught and 1 still being sought after they bolted from the Plummer Community Corrections Center in Wilmington.
200 million dollars, how much state legislators say would be raised by allowing table games at the state’s slots parlors.
4, as in the 4th best-selling jersey for NFL players. That would be the Eagles No. 7 jersey belonging to Michael Vick.
6 innings for Phillies starter Joe Blanton as the Phils beat the Nationals again last night, 6-1.
34 home runs for Jayson Werth, including a grand slam last night.
34 straight sellouts for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. That makes 65 full houses this year.
1 goal for the Flyers last night as they lost their exhibition season opener to the Red Wings, 3-1. It was the first NHL goal for top pick James Van Riemsdyk.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Kevin Kolb is your starting quarterback Sunday against the Saints. At least for now. Why do I get the feeling Donovan McNabb still might wind up under center?
I Don’t Get It
: Two teens have been charged with spray-painting the front yard of a Buffalo Bills player who had a crucial fumble as the Bills blew a lead and the game to the Patriots Sunday. Knuckleheads.
Good thing that didn’t happen in Philly. We’d never hear the end of it.
Today’s Upper: Speaking of Philly fans, two huge thumbs up for Steve Monforto, the New Jersey dad who was with his daughter at the Phils game Tuesday night. He caught a foul ball, handed it to his 3-year-old daughter, who promptly tossed it back over the rail. Dad reassuringly hugged his daughter in an image now being beamed around the world
Quote Box: “She was also startled by the look on my face. I just wanted to let her know it was OK – that she didn’t do anything wrong.”
- Steve Monforto, on why he hugged his daughter after she tossed the foul ball he had just caught back onto the field at Phillies game.

The Philly fan

Yes, we booed Santa Claus. He was a pretty lousy Kris Kringle and deserved it, OK.

Yes, we may have thrown a few things at J.D. Drew. Hey, he not only snubbed us, then he rubbed our faces in it.

Yes, we booed Michael Irvin as he lay prone on the Veterans Stadium carpet with a serious injury. No excuses here, even though he was a Cowboy at the time.

Yes, we booed Donovan McNabb on Draft Day 11 years ago. Geez, get over it already.

We are Philly fans. Loud, proud, knowledgeable and passionate. And sometimes a little over the edge.

But it’s never our passion or knowledge that gets us national acclaim.
It’s the other stuff. And the networks never miss an opportunity to harpoon us. “Here’s those ugly Philly fans again.”

That’s why this morning I have a new hero.

His name is Steve Monforto. He, along with his adorable daughter, is changing the image of Philly fans. Not just here. And not just across the nation. But across the globe.

Monforto and his daughter Emily were at Tuesday night’s Phillies game along with his wife and other young daughter.

In the fifth inning, Jayson Werth fouled off a ball, and Monforto had one of those once-in-lifetime experiences. He leaned out over the rail and made a perfect two-hand catch. The stands erupted, and Monforto exchanged fist bumps with a couple of fans nearby.

Then he turned to his 3-year-old daughter Emily, high-fived her and handed her the ball.

Thetn, as the folks from Mastercard would say, his once-in-a-lifetime experience was about to become priceless.

Emily promptly took the ball and chucked it over the rail back toward the field. Monforto, and everyone else around him, was momentarily stunned. He raised his arms in momentary shock after his daughter threw away his souvenir.

That’s when Monforto the fan became Monforto the dad. In the process he did us all proud.

Monforto wrapped his arms around his daughter and gave her a big hug and kiss, assuring her she didn’t do anything wrong.

The whole thing was caught on camera. And if you’re a father – hell, even if you’re not – you’ve just got to love what Monforto did.

And as a Philly fan, it’s nice to know that image is now being beamed around the world on the Internet.

The Monforto family home became media central yesterday as every TV station in the region beat a path to his door to talk to him and Emily.

This morning they were booked on the “Today” show.

By the way, Monforto was part of something else on Tuesday night. He and his family were part of the 33rd straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park, the 64th of the season.

Last night made it 34 in a row.

That’s something else Philly fans do. They show up. Yes, we bring our passions with us, and we’re not shy about voicing them. But we’re there, night after night, week after week, year after year, good years, bad years, playoffs, losing streaks or Word Series games.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Steve Monforto. He’s a great dad.
And a Philly fan.

Sad sight for Birds' fans

OK, Eagles fans, if things weren't bad enough with Donovan McNabb banged up, here's an image guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

Look, I don't think Brian Dawkins was worth the money he wound up getting from the Broncos. I don't really hold it against the Eagles that they weren't willing to meet that price. I don't necessarily think Dawkins' absence in the Eagles' defensive secondary is going to be missed all that much.

I do hold it against them that they allowed the situation to get to that point in the first place. They should have gone to Dawkins and gotten something done early, before he ever had a chance to go out and see what some other team was willing to throw at him.

There's just something not right about looking at this picture of a flying Dawkins about to level an opposing receiver - and doing so in a uniform other than that familiar green.

Meet Nick DiFrancesco

Until Monday I had no idea who Nick DiFrancesco. Today I still can’t really say I know him a lot better, but I have met him.

And I can tell you this. I’m jealous.

DiFrancesco is running for lieutenant governor. That’s not why I’m jealous.

DiFrancesco is a Republican Dauphin County commissioner. That’s out near Harrisburg. He’s seeking the GOP nomination for the state’s No. 2 spot.
And to introduce himself to voters and others in the state he’s in the process of visiting every one of the state’s 67 counties.

Monday he was here in Delco to meet with elected officials and GOP leaders. Not sure if he bumped into Tom Killion, R-168. The state rep from Middletown (our Middletown, not the one DiFrancesco grew up in near
Harrisburg) is mulling a run of his own for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination.

DiFrancesco is calling it the “Roadtrip for Honest Government.” You say you’ve heard it before?

DiFrancesco is doing it on a motorcycle. Monday was a glorious late summer day. DiFrancesco and his wife stopped in the office for about 15 minutes to introduce himself. Then he was back on his Harley and headed for Chester County.

I wish him well. Actually I wish I was right beside him, tooling along the open road, soaking up the sun, the wind in my face.

Stay in touch, Nick.

Don't rule Donovan out just yet

Yes, I am aware of what it says on the Back Page of today’s Daily Times.

Every indication is that Kevin Kolb is going to be the starter on Sunday when the Eagles open at home against the New Orleans Saints.

I still have my doubts.

Why do I have this lingering feeling that the guy under center on Sunday might be the one QB of the four at the Nova Care Center yesterday who was not taking part in practice.

Maybe I’m just reading too much between the lines of the cryptic comments that we routinely get from Andy Reid.

Still, what I hear is that IF Donovan can’t go, Kolb will be the guy.

Yesterday, the Eagles top pick in the 2007 draft took all the snaps with the first-team offense. Newly activated Michael Vick and newly signed Jeff Garcia worked with the scout team.

So Kolb is the guy, right? Uh, sort of.

What I’m thinking is this comes down to a meeting between McNabb and Reid on Sunday morning. And I’m saying it’s not outside the realm of reason that McNabb might decide to give it a go.

I don’t think he should. I don’t think he should risk making those ouchy ribs, which could keep him out of the lineup for a week or two, and possibly turn them into something more serious, something that bothers him all season.

The scenarios in this Big Top of a QB controversy are endless.

Let’s say McNabb does try to give it a go, and is ineffective. Then what does Andy Reid do? Go to Kolb? Garcia? You can at least rule out Vick; he’s ineligible to play Sunday as he serves the second week of his suspension for his dog-fighting conviction.

There is a train of thought out there (straight out of the Grassy Knoll
file) that the Eagles brought in Garcia precisely to push McNabb to get back on the field ASAP. Talk about pushing a guy’s buttons. The feeling is that McNabb was so bothered about the accolades Garcia got in his last go-round here that he would do anything to prevent a repeat performance.

What if Garcia comes in for either McNabb or Kolb and proves to be the savior, plays well, leading the team to a big win? What happens on Monday, when Vick suddenly enters the picture?

Of course, all of this overlooks one other possibility. Kolb starts and lights the Saints up, throwing for 350 yards and 3 TDs as the Eagles win a shootout, 31-29.

Hey, stranger things have happened. After all, this is the Eagles we’re talking about.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 16

The Daily Numbers: 2 local soldiers who returned home safe and sound after tours in Iraq. Great news.
3 guilty verdicts on drug charges for F. Bruce Covington, the man who brought drugs to the Thornbury house where an intern was killed.
1.1 million dollars that Tinicum was looking to recoup by enacting a tax on incoming flights at Philadelphia International Airport. The tax was shot down in court.
10 a.m. today, when the hearing on Harrah’s request for a renewal of their slots license to operate in Chester gets underway in City Hall.
1 Web site set up by the state Department of Health to get the word out about swine flu. You can access it by going to
75, age of woman who waived her preliminary hearing and will go to trial on hit-run charges in an incident last summer in which a teen on a bike was struck by a car.
27, age of man who pleaded guilty yesterday to attacking a fellow rider on a SEPTA subway with a hammer.
22, age of minor league pro wrestler Matt “Riot” Lowry, who died in Philadelphia after a training exercise.
35 prison inmates in New Jersey who face new charges for being in possession of cell phones.
1 Philly officer who fired his gun at several suspects in the city’s Kensington section. Officer Richard DeCoatsworth was wounded by a shotgun blast in the fact in 2007. Tuesday night two suspects on a motorcycle apparently tried to run him down.
28 million dollar budget deal that just might end Pennsylvania’s two and a half month budget saga. It could get a vote today.
2.5 million dollars raised in Philly yesterday for Sen. Arlen Specter with the appearance of President Barack Obama.
1,500 jobs being cut by GE Transportation in northwestern Pa. near Erie.
0.7 hike in retail sales in August, the first gain posted in 6 months. Still the number was off 4.3 percent from the August 2008.
6 hits and 0 runs surrendered by Phils starter Cliff Lee as hurled a complete game shutout over the Nationals.
13 career complete games for Lee, including 4 shutouts.
33 straight sellouts for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. That makes
64 full houses this year.
27 wins at 10 losses for the Phils at home since July 1, after they struggled at home early in the season.
4 quarterbacks now on the active roster for the Eagles, after they signed Jeff Garcia and activated Michael Vick. They join Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
5, as in No. 5 in the nation for Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions of Penn State. They face Temple at Happy Valley on Saturday.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Thank God for Cliff Lee. No closer worries last night. Next thing someone will wonder if he can play quarterback, too.
I Don’t Get It: A woman in Coatesville faces a hearing today on charges she let her daughter drive the car because she was sleepy. The girl was 6. Police believe mom was under the influence.
Today’s Upper: Good news, all of you who wander around Philly International waiting for incoming flights. The airport is going to set up a new, more friendly and easier-to-find cell phone lot off Route 291.
Quote Box: “It feel great to be home. It’s indescribable.”
- Army Sgt. 1st Class James Mergott, on his return home to Ridley Township.

Welcome home

I have learned one thing in the decade and change that I have served as editor of this newspaper.

Ignore the accomplishments of our men and women in uniform at your own peril.

Don’t even consider the notion of allowing June 6 to go by without talking to those precious few remaining survivors of D-Day.

A lot of people have already put the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan behind them.

Not our readers.

They constantly call and complain that our soldiers are getting short shrift, that too often criminals dominate the front page, and the events taking place across the globe are shunted to the back of the paper.

When soldiers are killed in the line of duty, it is big news in this county. Readers want those stories to be given the kind of play and respect required for someone who has laid down their life in service of their country.

We have mercifully lost only a handful of local soldiers in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Recently, we have been able to offer another aspect of a soldier’s life.

The members of the Army’s 111th Infantry Regiment, 56th Strykjer Brigade Combat Team, have returned home after finishing their tour of duty in Iraq.

We featured two of them on today’s front page. Army Sgt. 1st Class James Mergott was reunited with his wife and family in Swarthmore.

Staff Sgt. John Dell, an Aston police officer, was given a hero’s welcome after doing a year in Iraq with his Army National Guard unit.

The truth is I have been trying to determine just how many of these stories we will do. I want to be sure to offer each saga equal treatment. Today we used photos of both soldiers on our front page. We will be there this weekend when another soldier returns home.

The stories are emotional, but I sometimes wonder if at some point they start to blend together, the same story with different names. I wonder if they should be played on Page One every day.

Then I watched this video. Staff photographer Julia Wilkinson captured it as Mergott returned home to surprise his kids.

I dare you to watch and not tear up a little.

Welcome home, soldiers. Your local newspaper salutes you.

As the Birds Turn

When last we left our favorite soap opera, the plot was thickening on the set of “As the Birds Turn.”

On Sunday in Carolina, the Eagles had two active quarterbacks on their roster. Donovan McNabb was playing quarterback; Kevin Kolb was holding a clipboard on the sideline. Michael Vick? He was ineligible, wearing a suit in the owner’s box.

Enter one 300-pound lineman who landed on McNabb in the end zone in the third period.

Exit Donovan. Enter Kolb. Yesterday, the plot thickened.

When the Birds convene for practice down at the Nova Care Center today, they will have four active quarterbacks on their roster.

Donovan McNabb is still nursing a fractured rib. His status for Sunday’s home opener against the Saints is doubtful. It appears Kevin Kolb will be the starter. But he’ll have company. The Eagles yesterday signed a former No. 7, Jeff Garcia, and also activated the current No. 7, Vick, even though he can’t play on Sunday.

Following this? That makes three of the four quarterbacks eligible to play on Sunday who have been to Pro Bowls. Guess which one is starting on Sunday? That’s right, the guy who has played all of one half in Baltimore last year after McNabb was unceremoniously pulled, and a quarter and a half of mop-up duty Sunday in Carolina. Kolb did not exactly distinguish himself in either.

All I can say is Kolb better not struggle. Garcia made it clear during an appearance yesterday on Mike Missanelli’s afternoon radio show on 950 ESPN that he was confident he could start with just a couple of days practice.

McNabb likely will sit out Sunday, although don’t hold your breath waiting for Andy Reid to tell anyone that. That makes Garcia the backup.
Even more interesting is the move to activate Vick, despite the fact that he can’t play Sunday while he serves the second week of his suspension for his dog-fighting conviction. It’s clear the Eagles want to get Vick another full week of practice before he is eligible to play Sept. 27 against the Chiefs at the Linc.

In order to make room for Vick, someone had to go. The ax fell on wide receiver Hank Baskett, who probably made as many headlines for his wife (Playboy playmate Kendra Wilksinson) than for his 72 catches in 48 games.

Want a worse-case scenario? Kolb struggles Sunday. Andy pulls the plug on his former top draft pick and goes to Garcia in the second half.
Garcia rallies the team to a come-from-behind win.

Now what does Andy do, with both Vick and Garcia available the following week? And how does Donovan react to another star turn for Garcia. Didn’t we go down this road once before?

Stay tuned.

One person who will not be staying tuned is former No. 1 draft pick Shawn Andrews.

To make room for Garcia, the Eagles placed Andrews and his balky back on injured reserve, thus ending his season.

It likely also ended Andrews’ career as an Eagle.

No one is saying it, but you get the idea the Eagles had basically reached the end of their rope with Andrews, who missed most of last season while battling depression, then injured his back and underwent season-ending surgery. This summer he missed the entire preseason after tweaking his back in a run on the first day of practice. Andews finally returned in the week before the opener, then begged off again saying he had aggravated his back.

If you read the Eagles’ statement, you will notice a distinct change of style from the way they usually handle injuries. The team made a point of saying Andrews had gained medical clearance to return, but was unable to get on the field to practice.

In the soap opera that has become the Philadelphia Eagles 2009, Shawn Andrews’ bubble just burst.

Stay tuned.

Go the Distance

“Go the distance.”

No, that was not the mysterious voice coming from the cornfield talking to Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams.”

That was Charlie Manuel speaking to Cliff Lee last night at Citizens Bank Park.

With questions about his closer swirling around the team and a bullpen that has gotten more than its share of work, Manuel was looking for Lee to “go the distance” last night.

Lee did just that, silencing the Nationals on just six hits as the Phils rolled to a 5-0 win.

It also brought to mind another line from the famous baseball movie.

“If you build it, they will come.”

Phillies fans came again last night to Citizens Bank Park. The packed house was their 33rd straight sellout and 64th overall this year.

Now that’s what I call a field of dreams. Or is it field of dream$?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 15

The Daily Numbers: 7, as in 7th District seat in Congress, which Pat Meehan yesterday formally announced he would seek.
161, state House seat held by Democrat Rep. Bryan Lentz, who is likely to see the Democratic nomination to run against Meehan.
1 motorcylcle rider killed in a crash on I-495 in Delaware. The rider was from Sharon Hill.
10 million dollar fee that would be paid by current slots casinos – including Harrah’s in Chester – for the right to introduce table games.
2 names that were spray painted, probably by teenagers, on the steeple of a church in Upper Darby.
55, age of man who was shot in a Chester garage yesterday. Police are looking for a suspect.
7 huge billboards that a developer wants to put up along Sproul Road and West Chester Pike in Marple. The developer is now suing the township in the fight over the signs.
85 year old church that is crumbling in Chester.
5 men on dirt bikes or ATVs who surrounded a motorist in Juniata Park section of Philadelphia last night in a road-rage incident.
70 to 80 lockers at a storage facility in Northeast Philly that were ransacked by burglars.
2.5 million dollars that will be raised for Sen. Arlen Specter today during an apperance by President Obama at a fundraiser in Philly.
21, age of man shot and killed during a confrontation in the 1700 block of Bristol Street in North Philly early Tuesday.
5 suburban banks believed to have been held up by the same man in Motgomery County.
70, age of New Jersey man arrested for possession of 100 bags of heroin.
50 million dollars from stock sales this year for Bruce Toll, head of the luxury homebuilding firm.
3 judge panel that will hear appeal of Delaware hoping to overturn a ruling that blocked its expanded sports betting plan and limited bets to parlay action.
6,000 dollars stolen from a popular tavern across from the former GM plant on Boxwood Road in Wilmington. An employee has been charged.
3 teens stabbed by a man they apparently were hassling on the Market Frankford El Saturday night.
2 cent dip in price of gas overnight. Regular is going for average of
$2.67 in Philly region.
12 points for Academy Park’s football team. That was enough to top Kennett, 12-7.
39, age of Jeff Garcia, signed by the Eagles as a backup QB yesterday.
6-2 in 8 starts, what Garcia went in 2006 filling in for McNabb. He and the team parted company on less than amicable terms.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Eagles just added one more tent to the Big Top that is there quarterback conundrum with the addition of old pal Jeff Garcia. Hint to Kevin Kolb. Don’t struggle in the first half Sunday against the Saints.
I Don’t Get It: 2 people have been locked up for an attack on a woman at a beauty school in Lancaster County. The victim was pregnant.
Today’s Upper: Hey, look at it this way, sports fans. No one is talking about Brad Lidge today.
Quote Box: “Whether it’s a week or two weeks or the entire season, I’m excited about the opportunity.”
- Jeff Garcia after signing with the Eagles yesterday.

State of Play for Pat Meehan

Those who have seen the movie “State of Play” know there there’s a neat little quirk for Delaware County residents tucked into the plot.

Ben Affleck’s character is a congressman who wants to put a big-time defense and security conglomerate on the hot seat through congressional hearings. That move is derailed when a young aide – who he just happens to be having an affair with – turns up dead. At first it’s considered suicide, then questions arise, with most fingers being pointed at the defense firm.

Affleck’s congressman represents the 7th District from Pennsylvania. No kidding. Yes, the Weldon overtones strike me as more than a coincidence.

It turns out the seat is once again in a “state of play.” As in up for grabs. Yep, it’s the very same seat that former U.S. Attorney and Delco D.A. Pat Meehan formally announced he would seek yesterday.

It didn’t exactly come as a surprise. Meehan has been making noises for months now. First he considered a run for governor. He got out of that race and left Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach and state Attorney General Tom Corbett to slug it out for the GOP gubernatorial nod.
Corbett made his candidacy official yesterday.

In the meantime, it looks like clear sailing for Meehan to snag the Republican nod for the 7th District congressional race.

It took 20 years for county Democrats to finally unseat longtime Republican incumbent Weldon. The increasing emphasis Weldon placed on foreign relations rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including some powerful folks in his own party. It’s hard not to snicker while watching the “State of Play” and not think the choice of Weldon’t seat is more than just somebody’s inside joke.

And it’s just as hard to believe that after trying to win the seat for two decades, Democrats now are staring at the very real possibility of it returning to the GOP’s hands.

That’s because Joe Sestak, who gave Weldon his walking papers, helped by a federal investigation into the congressman that included raids on the homes of Weldon allies just a few weeks before the election but has yet to result in anyone being charged, is throwing away the seat.

Sestak has his eyes on a bigger prize. He’s decided to try his fate tilting at windmills. He will challenge Sen. Arlen Specter, a newly minted Democrat, for the Senate nod in 2010. Saying it’s an uphill fight is like saying Michael Vick is real popular at the SPCA.

Not only are Delco Dems facing the possibility of seeing their prize possession return to Republican hands, it could cost them a valuable state House seat in the process.

It looks like state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, will take up the Democratic cause vs. Meehan. Lentz is a good guy, but he will be a decided underdog against Meehan, who has much wider name recognition across the district.

And just as it took forever for Dems to oust Weldon, the same could be said for their efforts to topple former longtime GOP state Rep. Tom Gannon. He held the 161st state House seat seemingly forever. Now that seat also could head back into the GOP fold as Lentz looks to tangle with Meehan.

Of course, it’s still early. There is a chance that Sestak and Lentz could both win.

But I wouldn’t bet the House on it. Either the U.S. House of Representatives, or the Pa. House for that matter.

Bucks stop here for Specter

There’s some bad news today for U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in his uphill battle to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter.

That hill just got a lot steeper.

Specter, the longtime Republican turned Democrat, is coming to town today. He’s bringing a friend with him. Maybe you’ve heard of him. His name is Barack Obama.

The president will appear at a fundraiser for Specter this afternoon in Philadelphia. He’s expected to raise $2.5 million for Specter’s war chest.

Most of the big-name Democrats have welcomed Specter with open arms.
Today they’re also opening their wallets.

In addition to the president, Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Ed Rendell also are in the Specter camp. Most have made it clear they are not particularly pleased with Sestak’s renegade effort to seek the Democratic nomination.

Sestak has made it equally clear he could care less what they think.
He’s giving up his 7th District seat in Congress and is taking on the powerful Specter.

One of the biggest challenges he faces is name recognition. The congressman himself learned that during a tour of the state’s 67 counties back in the summer. What he found out was that outside Delco and a few surrounding suburbs, almost no one knew who he was.

That view has been reinforced with polls that show Specter holding a commanding lead over Sestak.

Today that lead will get another 2.5 million reasons to bet the house on Specter rebuffing the Sestak challenge.

In politics, much like life, money talks.

Today the message from big-time Democrats will come through loud and clear.

Andy Reid puts up the Big Top

I have just two words to describe what is going on with your Philadelphia Eagles: All in.

If the message did not register with the signing of Michael Vick, Andy Reid added an exclamation point yesterday when he decided to bring back Jeff Garcia as a backup quarterback.

The words may not be coming directly from Reid’s mouth, but make no mistake, this is the message, borrowed from Oakland Raiders legend Al
Davis: Just win, baby!

Reid and the Eagles for years portrayed themselves as team first and always looking for character guys.

That went out the window with the signing of convicted dog ring operator Vick, who admitted to killing several dogs in the most gruesome of ways.

I’m not buying the whole “everyone needs a second chance” story. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s nice. But I also think Reid – maybe for the first time – is feeling the pressure to win. Now.

Now the Eagles have added another tent to the Big Top in what has become something of a circus surrounding their quarterback position.

Officially, Donovan McNabb has not been ruled out for Sunday’s home opener against the Saints after suffering a cracked rib in the blowout win over the Panthers. Common sense seems to indicate, however, that Donovan will sit this one out. In fact, the Birds might be looking at the idea of somehow allowing McNabb to heal the next two weeks, then getting the added bonus of the bye week Oct. 4 and bringing McNabb back to face Tampa Bay on Oct. 11.

For this week, that makes Kevin Kolb your starter. But with Vick still ineligible to play while he serves a two-game suspension from the NFL because of his dog-fighting conviction, the Eagles were still a backup quarterback short.

Enter Garcia, last seen here ripping the front office after they could not agree on a new contract back in 2006 after he filled in for an injured McNabb and went 6-2 and led the team into the playoffs. Does anyone else forget that Garcia made it pretty clear that he didn’t think Donovan could handle the idea of Garcia’s success and was not all that unhappy that he was not resigned by the club?

For now let’s take Donovan out of the equation. The Garcia signing immediately turns up the heat on Kolb. To borrow a phrase from Vick, Kolb is already on a very short leash. Garcia is familiar with the Eagles offense. If Kolb struggles in the first half Sunday against the Saints, how long do you think it will take Reid to pull the trigger and go to Garcia. After all, he did the same thing last year when he fed Kolb to the Ravens when he sent him in for a struggling McNabb in the second half in Baltimore.

If Garcia should come into the game and rally the Birds to a win, how difficult would it be to dislodge him if he continues to play well. Will Donovan privately be stewing in the background?

And regardless of what happens Sunday, the whole circus atmosphere will only be heightened Monday morning when Vick enters the picture.

Andy Reid is rolling the dice. First with Vick. Now with Garcia. The message is clear. Win now.

This has already been an Eagles season like no other in Reid’s tenure, and we’re only one game into the season.

It’s the football version of Barnum & Bailey. Welcome to the Big Top, the greatest show on Earth.

Now if it was only the greatest show on turf.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 14

The Daily Numbers: 38 points dropped on the Carolina Panthers yesterday by the Eagles as they won their opener in a laugher, 38-10.
1 cracked rib that has Donovan McNabb – and all Eagles fans – holding their breath.
600,000 dollars for Delaware County fire companies in Homeland Security grants.
10 years after Hurricane Floyd created chaos in Darby Borough, its effects are still being felt in the town.
3 game parlays, the minimum you can bet as legalized gambling on pro football kicked off on the first weekend of NFL games at slots parlors in Delaware.
2 and a half months, how long they’ve been arguing over a state budget in Harrisburg. They might have an accord this week, although Gov. Ed Rendell is still balking at the numbers.
3,000 pink slips that will go out in Philly on Friday if the Legislature does not take action on a move to allow a tax hike and changes in the city’s pension plan. It also is expected to see action this week.
1 million dollars cash bail for a man who was threatening to blow up Springfield Township, Montgomery County, on his Facebook page. Police say he had a small arsenal of weapons in his home.
1 person killed and 1 in critical condition after a man with a history of DUI offenses slammed into a carrying a man, wife and their daughter in Lower Township, N.J., Saturday night.
2 suspects being sought in an armed robbery at the Feltonville Inn in the Rising Sun section of Philly early this morning.
6, age of child left in car overnight when police say his stepfather went to buy drugs and then could not find his car.
60, age of Pa. Attorney General Tom Corbett, who today will announce he will seek Republican nomination for governor. Big day in politics, as Pat Meehan also announces he’s officially in race for 7th District seat in Congress.
2.62, what we’re paying on average for gas in the 5-county Philly area.
4 interceptions throw by Carolina QB Jake Delhomme in yesterday’s loss to the Eagles.
130 pitches thrown by Pedro Martinez in last night’s win by the Phils over his old team the Mets.
6.5 game lead for the Phils over the Marlins.
20,000 bucks, how much Lenny Dykstra’s World Series ring is expected to fetch today at auction.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Yes, the Eagles looked good yesterday. But all anyone will talk about today is Donovan McNabb’s rib. He’s day to day. So is the conversation.
I Don’t Get It: Police say a guy went into Philly to buy drugs and left his 6-year-old stepson in the car. Then he couldn’t find it. The kid spent the night locked inside. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Upper Darby Officer John Reheffer, who was honored yesterday with the National Libery Museum Award of Valor for his tour of duty in Iraq. Good for him.
Quote Box: “To come out like that in the first game it was definitely a statement for us.”
- Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, on Eagles big win in Carolina.

All eyes on Donovan ... and Vick

Good thing The Heron’s Nest did not take the mortgage money to Delaware and plunk our Eagles’ pick down on one of those fancy NFL parlays.

OK, so I was off just a bit. You might remember I picked the Carolina Panthers to run down the Birds, 23-16.

Not exactly. The Eagles won a laugher, 38-10.

Of course today that is not the big story. I’m talking about the aftermath of the Eagles’ opening day win, not my prognosticating ability.

The big story today – as it likely will be all week – is once again the health of Donovan McNabb. The Eagles starting quarterback left yesterday’s rout after banging into the end zone for a TD, then promptly taking a knee in the ribs, which for some reason did not draw a penalty.
So much for the NFL’s big push to protect the quarterback.

McNabb headed to the sidelines, then to the locker room, clearly in pain.

He returned to the sideline, but again had the look of a guy who hurt every time he took a breath. Cracked ribs will do that to you.

After the game, Coach Andy Reid announced McNabb had suffered a fractured rib and listed his status as day-to-day. McNabb will be re-examined today. Reid would not say whether McNabb would be available for next Sunday’s home opener against the Saints.

Reports varied from McNabb being out two to four weeks, to the QB definitely missing next week.

All of which sets up a very interesting situation for the Birds. And which gives me the chance to at least go one-for-two in Eagles predictions this weekend.

In my print column today, I offered some more thoughts about the Eagles’
decision to sign convicted dog-ring operator Michael Vick.

I believe it will be a disaster. Not because of my feelings for Vick, but rather because of McNabb, and the way he usually reacts to anything that threatens his status. I don’t much care for Vick, and I abhor what he did, but he deserves another chance to play in the NFL. I just wish he wasn’t doing it there. And I wish that even more this morning. Here’s why.

Let’s just say McNabb is out for next week and Kevin Kolb continues to struggle. Not exactly a reach the way he looked Sunday in Carolina. That would bring up the specter of Vick playing in Week 3 when he becomes eligible after serving his two-week suspension.

I think McNabb would get up off his death bed to prevent that from happening. Meaning he could wind up playing before he really should, and risking further aggravating that bad rib. It’s the kind of thing that could linger, even bother McNabb the rest of the season.

The McNabb furor overshadowed a dynamite performance on both sides of the ball by the Eagles in Carolina.

But I’m left with this question: Are they that good, or is Carolina that bad?

I think I can answer one part of that question. They likely will not face a lousier quarterback this year than Jake Delhomme. The guy is suffering from Brad Lidge syndrome after giving up that homer to Albert Pujols in the playoffs a few years back. He was shellshocked for a year.
Delhomme tossed five interceptions last year in the playoffs. He picked up right where he left off yesterday, tossing four interceptions before being mercifully pulled from the game.

The game could not have started off worse for the Birds. Carolina took the opening kickoff and exhausted half the first quarter as they marched down the field and scored. It was 7-0 before Donovan McNabb and crew could even get on the field with just 7 minutes left in the quarter.

But that was the high point of the day for the Panthers, who then watched as the Eagles dropped 31 unanswered points on them.

Almost every question about the Birds through what was a very mediocre preseason seemed to be answered with an exclamation point.

Sean McDonough, once he got that opening drive out of his system, was every bit the successor to Jim Johnson, thoroughly befuddling Delhomme.
The defense suddenly turned into a turnover machine. A sack and Delhomme fumble turned into a TD. DeSean Jackson returned a punt for another.
Delhomme continued to thow to green jerseys.

On offense, the center of all that preseason talk, that offensive line, looked more than able to hold its own.

Then McNabb clutched his ribcage. Now that’s all anyone remembers.

And it’s likely all anyone will talk about all week. We’ll hear from Coach Reid at noon. My guess is he’s not about to rule McNabb either in or out for Sunday’s game.

One thing’s for sure. The Saints will pose a stiffer test than those stiffs from Carolina, especially on offense. Drew Brees dropped 45 points on the Lions yesterday.

But right now it will be all Donovan all the time. With a huge shadow waiting in the wings.

His name is Michael Vick.

Another vote for Pedro

Maybe the Eagles should sign Pedro Martinez as their backup quarterback.

All the aging righthander did last night was toss 130 pitches in shutting down his old teammates as he lifted the Phils to a sweep of the Mets.

Martinez went eight innings and did not surrender a run as the Phils held on to a 1-0 lead. In the process they took both ends of the day-night doubleheader.

In the afternoon game, the Phils managed to eke out a 5-4 win, one that was made much too close for comfort by the continuing struggles of closer Brad Lidge.

Lidge entered the game in the ninth with the Phils up 5-2. Stomachs started to churn almost immediately as the first batter smacked a single to center. Forced to work from the stretch, Lidge struggled, pretty much the way he has all year.

The Mets scored two runs to close within 5-4 before Lidge managed to seal the deal. Lidge’s performance muddied what had been a very good start from Kyle Kendrick, who went seven and a third strong innings

It was all Pedro in the nightcap. He scattered six hits over eight innings, throwing a whopping 130 pitches along the way.

Luckily for Lidge, everyone today will be talking about Martinez, or the injury to Donovan McNabb.

That does not change the fact that the Phils continue to have a problem with the closer’s spot.

Even Brett Myers struggled this weekend.

How about this for an answer? Count this as one vote for Pedro. Yes, I know that with the injury to J.A. Happ, Martinez might be needed for the Phils’ starting rotation.

But if not, why not have him coming out of the bullpen to slam the door.

Martinez clearly has the mentality to close games that Ryan Madson does not, and Brad Lidge seems to have misplaced.

I’ll take Pedro.

Budget imasse for Birds, eh guv?

Now I know this state budget impasse is getting pretty serious.

It apparently kept Gov. Ed Rendell from his normal spot on the set of the Comcast Eagles Post-Game Live show.

The guv had to be piped in from Harrisburg, where he continues to lord over the standoff with House and Senate Republicans on a spending plan.
Hey, it’s only 70-some days overdue. What’s the rush? Especially when the Birds are back in action.

Rendell huddled with legislative leaders last night in an effort to improve the tentative deal that was announced Friday. Rendell savaged the deal, saying the numbers did not add up, that it would lead to a whopping budget deficit and likely big-time tax hikes next year.

Know this about Rendell. He wants his legacy to be that of the “education governor.” That’s why last year he pushed for a new way of dispersing state education funds, with those districts in the most dire need in line to get the most bucks.

He also is pushing to make sure those funding boosts are not cut.

That’s one of the reasons he has dug in his feet on this budget deal. He does not want that legacy short-circuited.

One thing you can take to the bank. Table games are about to arrive in Pennsylvania. The deal announced Friday would give the green light for the state’s new slots parlors to add table games. It comes just as Delaware adds parlay bets on NFL games. Yesterday the Delaware casinos were jammed with bettors laying down money on their NFL parlays. That means you have to select a minimum of three games. Didn’t seem to stop many people from getting a piece of the action on the first Sunday of the NFL season.

Maybe Rendell and the Republican leaders can finally sit down and hash out this budget mess this week.

Then the governor can get on to the really pressing business, such as next week’s home opener against the Saints and who will be at quarterback for the Birds.

It will be interesting to see how long Rendell stays away from the Comcast set if there is no deal in place.

Me? I’m betting on a budget deal this week, and Ed in his normal spot Sunday night.

And I don’t even have to go to Delaware to do it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Yes, friends, if Labor Day is in the rear-view mirror, it can only mean one thing: The return of the dreaded Saturday Eagles pick.

I'll make this one simple. I have not seen one thing this preseason that makes me feel good about the Birds.

I know they are the darlings of the national media. I'm not buying.

Two years ago, Andy Reid decided he could go into an NFL season without a punt returner. How did that work out? Has anyone forgotten the debacle in the opener at Green Bay?

Apparently Andy did. One year later he decided his team didn't really need a fullback. That worked out peachy, no?

This off-season, the Eagles made a series of moves, changing the face of much of their roster. It's hard to argue they did not make some very sound pickups. I just don't think right now they're a very good TEAM.

Reid apparently believes it's no big deal that what was supposed to be a revamped offensive line has yet to take a single snap together. Todd Herremans missed the entire preseason. Beside him, replacing Tra Thomas at right tackle, the Birds spent big bucks to bring in Jason Peters. He was touted as the best left tackle in football. But if I'm Donovan McNabb, I"m not all that comfortable with what I've seen from Peters protecting my blind side.

On the flip side was supposed to be the Andrews brothers. The Eagles signed Stacy to plop down beside his brother Shawn. Stacy was coming of knee surgery; Shawn from a battle with depression and a bad back that ended his season last year and forced him to go under the knife.

Then Reid decided to flip-flop the brothers, putting Shawn outside at tackle, with Stacy inside. Shawn also missed most of the presason after tweaking his back on the first day of practice. He finally returned this week and pronounced himself ready for the season. That lasted a couple of days, when he felt some discomfort in his back and pulled himself out of practice again. He'll miss the opener. Who knows when he'll be back. He has yet to hit anyone in anger this season.

And that doesn't even touch on the sideshow waiting to happen between Donovan McNabb and MIchael Vick.

Brian Westbrook did not take a single snap in the preseason. That probably is just as well, unless it takes him a few weeks to round into 'playing' shape.

On the other side of the ball, Jim Johnson is gone, and so seemingly is much of his feared defense's bite. Sean McDermott does not have Brian Dawkins, nor starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. They appear soft in the one place a defense cannot afford it, up the middle.

Everywhere I look this year, I see questions. Look for my print column on Monday, where I will discuss why I believe the Vick signing was a monumental mistake and a disaster looking for a place to happen.

I think one question about this team will be answered on Sunday.

They're just not very good. I see the Birds at 8-8 and missing the playoffs. I hope I'm wrong.

Look for Donovan McNabb and the offense to struggle as they almost always do early, and the Panthers to run the ball right down the defense's throat.

Make it Carolina 23, Eagles 16.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept 11

The Daily Numbers: 8 years since that fateful day when jets slammed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa., changing our world forever.
2,752 people killed that day in New York City; 184 at the Pentagon; and 40 people in Shanksville.
10 percent of $250,000 bail for Rachael Jankins, charged in the deadly accident in which two pedestrians were run down outside Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Police she was “huffing” before the accident.
45 weekends in prison for a Lansdowne man who had hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer.
11 cases of swine flu being reported at La Salle University in Philly. They’re not alone. Eastern College in Radnor has 1 case of flu, but is not yet sure if it is Type A or H1N1. West Chester University has sent home 8 students who have flu symptoms.
7, as in 7th Congressional District. Former Delco D.A. and U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan will announce on Monday that he will run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Sestak.
14, age of girl in Brandywine Hundred who foiled a burglary when she dialed 911 when she heard a man coming up the steps.
50 office burglaries believed to be the work of a former security company employee in Montgomery County.
16,000 dollars believed ripped off from a non-profit agency by the chairman of the Pottstown Fourth of July Committee. He spent $500 on lottery tickets.
29, age of missing Chester County mother. Search teams are now looking in the Schuylkill River where a car was found last night.
3, age of child hit by gunfire in Northeast Philly last night.
4 hour standoff between police and a man barricaded in a home in Bensalem that ended peacefully last night.
27 Starbucks cafes that will not be closed, as originally feared.
30 homes that will get weatherization protection this winter in a joint program of Exelon Corp. and Habitat for Humanity.
700 million dollars that would be generated for Philadelphia under temporary tax hike that could be approved by legislators in Harrisburg today.
1,000 people employed at Sunoco Inc.’s chemical business, which the firm is looking to unload.
16.3 percent dip in revenue for casinos in Atlantic City in August.
3 games, the minimum you have to play in parlay action to gamble on NFL games under the new program offered in Delaware as of yesterday.
0 for 30 skid ended in the ninth inning last night by Matt Stairs with a pinch-hit, grand slam homer. The Phils still lost 8-7.
87 games without an error for shortstop Jimmy Rollins. That ended last night with 2 errors.
8 runs surrendered by starter Joe Blanton in four innings and change.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Phils’ lead in the NL East is now down to 5 games over the Marlins.
What has you more worried, that or the sight of Shawn Andrews on the sidelines, questionable for Sunday’s Eagles opener?
I Don’t Get It: Police are questioning a man in connection with an attack on a man at an Acme store in Paoli. The victim was in a wheelchair. Nice.
Today’s Upper: It’s not an upper, but it needs to be said. Never forget what happened on this date just eight short years ago.
Quote Box: “From the beginning of the investigation, we thought she had been huffing.”
- Michael Chitwood, on driver of car that struck two pedestrians, killing one of them.

What we lost on Sept. 11

The morning could not be more different.

It will always be the first thing I remember about that fateful morning eight years ago.

It was just a gorgeous morning. A brilliant blue sky. A touch of fall crispness in the air. Simply perfect.

But not for long.

After my morning sojourn to the Wawa for my cup of coffee, I returned to the office on Sept. 11, 2001, just before 9 a.m., sat at the main news desk in the newsroom, and went back to work.

That’s when I first glanced up at the TV and saw the smoke billowing from the World Trade Center tower.

It had begun.

Eight years later, the morning could not seem more different. Very simply, it’s downright miserable out, pouring down rain and howling winds. It’s supposed to be this way much of the day.

Maybe that’s appropriate.

It seems like yesterday, not eight years ago, that our world changed so radically. Most of that day went by in a heartbeat.

But there are a couple of images that have stayed with me. One is the video of that second jet slamming into the other World Trade Center Tower on live TV.

One of the things I always tell my staff in the event of a cataclysmic tragedy like this, is that inevitably there will be a connection to Delaware County.

Sept. 11, 2001 was no different.

The next day United Airlines released the passenger list of Flight 175, that second jet that slammed into the tower.

Among them was First Officer Michael Horrocks.

Home town? Glen Mills, Pa.

Funny how these things always seem to come full circle.

Tonight at Penn Oaks County Club, they will hold a fundraiser to create a scholarship fund and erect a memorial to Horrocks at his alma mater, West Chester University. Horrocks was a star quarterback there.

Before that he was Marine. Became a captain. Flew a squadron of KC-130 tankers.

Horrocks married and settled in Glen Mills. His kids went to Rose Tree Media schools.

He is one of the morer than 3,000 lives that we lost that day.

Make no mistake, we are not the same nation, not the same society today that we were on Sept. 10, 2001.

Sept. 11 changed all that.

Today there will be memorial services at Ground Zero in New York City, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. There also will be a ceremony in Rose Tree Park in Upper Providence at 11 a.m., weather permitting.

The clouds and rain are a fitting reminder of what we lost on Sept. 11.
We lost all that sunshine and brilliant blue skies.

And a lot of people like Michael Horrocks.

A sorry sight for Eagles fans

There was a familiar – if less than comforting – sight along the sidelines at Eagles practice yesterday.

That would be one Shawn Andrews. He’s supposed to be the starting right tackle for the Birds.

He missed the entire preseason after undergoing surgery on his back last year. He tweaked it during a run on the first day of camp and skipped the rest of the summer. He returned to practice this week and pronounced himself ready to go on Sunday vs. Carolina.

But yesterday he was on the sidelines again. Apparently the back is acting up on him.

Nor surprisingly, the Eagles also brought old pal Jon Runyan in for a workout yesterday. He’s been on the shelf since undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his knee after last season. Runyan is a free agent, and was last seen heading for a workout in Buffalo after finishing up at the NovaCare Center.

I hope the Eagles have him on speed dial. His price might have just gone up. The Andrews situation is just one of the dark clouds hovering over this team.

I’ll discuss the Birds more tomorrow morning when the “dreaded Saturday Eagles pick” returns to the Heron’s Nest.

Here’s a hint. I do not have a good feeling about this season.

Actually, I think it has disaster written all over it. I know a lot of national experts and publications are touting the Eagles as a Super Bowl contender.

Sorry, I don’t see it. The reasons why on Saturday.

A rally cry for Phils

You can’t blame this on on Brad Lidge. Or even Matt Stairs for that matter.

Stairs broke an 0-for-30 skid in the ninth inning with a pinch-hit grand slam, but it was not enough as the Phils rally fell short.

They scratched back after being down 8-2, but still lost 8-7 after Ryan Howard bounced into a double-play with runners on first and second.

The bullpen didn’t let the Phils down last night. The fingerprints on this one belong to starter Joe Blanton.

Blanton has been the Phils’ most consistent pitcher over the course of the season, but he got roughed up by the lowly Nats.

Among those who noticed was Charlie Manuel, who was not even a little bit happy after the Phils failed to sweep in D.C.

Manuel didn’t exactly mince words.

“We’ve been getting outplayed by second division teams,” the steamed skipper said. “We don’t put nobody away.”

That would include the Marlins. Don’t look now, but that blip in the rear-view mirror is Florida, who won again last night and now trail the Phils by just five games.

The Phils return home to a soggy Citizens Bank Park tonight to kick off a series against the Mets.

They will send Cole Hamels to the mound. They need their ace to pitch like one.

Now is the time for Hamels to reclaim his spot atop the Phils’ rotation.

A complete game - alleviating at least for one night the closer question
- would go a long way toward that goal.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 10

The Daily Numbers: 1 young woman killed and 1 seriously injured when a third young female driver’s car went out of control, up onto the sidewalk, running over them. Police now believe the driver may have been “huffing” before the accident.
25 years in jail for a Collingdale woman for her part in the horrific child porn ring operated by John Jackey Worman.
3 people charged in the 2nd home invasion case in Upper Darby in three days. Police now are looking at possible links in the two cases.
3 Good Samaritans who came to the aid of a purse-snatch victim in Upper Darby. Good for them.
1 burned-out van containing 1 ATM machine recovered on a Philadelphia street.
0 of the $96,000 dollars that was believed to be in the ATM that was still in it when it was recovered by police.
3,000 workers who are facing layoff as Philadelplhia continues to wait for action in Harrisburg on a tax hike and pension reform plan to bail them out. Now the city controller is questioning the layoff plan.
25,000 dollar fine and 2 and a half years in prison for a real estate developer who bribed a Philadelphia city councilman.
39, age of Darby Borough man who pleaded guilty to homicide hcarges in connectin with the death of a man in Wilmington, Del., in 2007.
6 foot alligator captured while sunning itself in a city park in Allentown.
6, age of child who police say was allowed to drive the car by a Coatesville woman who was under the influence.
5 bags of animal food to be donated to a city animal shelter every time Michael Vick is tackled during away games this year. The move is being made by Main Line Animal Rescue.
25 years ago, when a man was murdered in Berks County. Yesterday his former wife was charged with the crime.
2.4 carat emerald cut diamond engagement ring that was being hawked on Craigslist. The man trying to sell it now faces theft charges. Yep, he stole it.
81 million dollars in Saturday night’s Powerball jackpot. No one hit it big last night.
2.69, where the average price of gas sits in the Philly region, for the 2nd straight day.
2 saves in 2 nights for Ryan Madson. Charlie Manuel still is not ready to close out Brad Lidge as his closer, but for now it looks like Madson is the guy.
2 home runs back to back last night for Jayson Worth and Pedro Feliz.
15 straight solo home runs now hit by the Phils.
2,721 hits for Yankees great Derek Jeter, tying with him with the legendary Yankee Lou Gehrig for the all-time team record.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.So who is your closer, Phils’ fans? Charlie Manuel isn’t saying. He declined to call on Brad Lidge last night, going instead to Ryan Madson, who picked up his second save in as many nights. But after the game Manuel was not ruling out going back to Lidge.
I Don’t Get It: So much for decorum in the nation’s Capitol. South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson yelled out, “You life,” as President Barack Obama made a point last night in his speech on health care. Nice.
Today’s Upper: Another NFL season starts tonight, when the Steelers play the Titans. All is right with the world.
Quote Box: “It’s disheartening to hear things like this going on inside a car that results in such a tragedy.”
- Matt Bochanski, father of Christine Bochanski, who was seriously injured by a driver police now say may have been under the influence of an inhalant. Another woman was killed.

Another huffing case

I have a question for Rachael Jankins.

She’s the 20-year-old Haverford woman who was behind the wheel when her car went out of control, up onto the sidewalk and slammed into two young women who had just exited Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Nicole Gallo, 19, was killed; Christine Bochanski, 20 of Lansdowne, is recuperating from serious injuries.

Jankins told police that she had dropped her iPod on the floor of the car and was trying to retrieve it when the car went out of control.

Police made a point of noting there were no skid marks at the scene of the accident.

Yesterday the results of toxicology tests on Jankins were announced, and they suggest another possible reason for the crash.

In a county where the word “huffing” brings up some very sad memories about young lives lost, police yesterday said Jankins was likely under the influence of an inhalant at the time of the crash. An aerosol can was found next to her in the car. She also had marijuana in her system.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood announced the results of the testing and forwarded his findings on to District Attorney G.
Michael Green.

Here’s what I want to know. Does this mean Jankins merely made up the story about the dropped iPod? Police noted they did find an iPod in the car. Or did she merely have the misfortune of losing control while fiddling with the iPod, while she just happened to be under the influence?

No charges have yet been filed in the case. My guess is that will soon change.

I’d be lying if I told you the first thing that went through my mind when I heard the word “huffing” was another case that rocked this county a few years ago. It involved a carload of girls and aerosol inhalants.

It eventually entangled County Council and the county medical examiner.

We routinely used to refer to that case in every story we did on huffing.

About a year after the incident, as we were reporting another huffing incident, I got a call from the father of one of the five girls killed in that horrific crash.

Do you think there will ever be a time when huffing is mentioned in this county when these five girls and the circumstances surrounding their deaths is not mentioned.

I told him I certainly hope so, but, at least at that time, I didn’t think we were there yet.

We did not mention the previous accident in today’s coverage. But I have to tell you it’s been on mind.

Apparently I haven’t gotten past it yet.

Writing stories about kids being killed will do that to you.

End of road for Worman trio

The horrific saga of John Jackey Worman’s child pornography ring saw its final chapter written yesterday in a federal courtroom in Philadelphia.

Concetta Jackson, of Collingdale, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for taking kids from the day care center she ran in her home and turning them over to Worman for his depraved activities.

Last month Worman was sentenced to 120 years in prison for his role as the mastermind of what a federal prosecutor and judge called the worst case of child pornography in U.S. history.

Another woman, Dorothy Prawdzik, of Drexel Hill, a former girlfriend of Worman’s, had been sentenced to 30 years.

25 years. 120 years. 30 years.

Doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

That’s how evil the things this trio – in particular Worman – did to innocent, unknowing children.

Dishonor in the House

I have for some time been concerned about the tenor of political debate in this country.

This might surprise you, but I believe former President George W. Bush got a bad rap, unfairly criticized as a dunderhead, and harpooned at every step by his political enemies, many of whom sat at keyboards.

Likewise, much of the controversy that is perpetually swirling around President Barack Obama strikes me as being over the line.

There has been something missing in these discussions, and it hasn’t been there for some time.

It’s respect for the office of the president. That’s why I was a bit taken aback by the firestorm that greeted the news that President Obama was planning to give a pep talk to the nation’s students to correspond with the start of school.

Too much of what was said was personal, purely partisan, attacking him and the office.

For that reason, I suppose I should not be surprised by what happened Wednesday night.

The president addressed both houses of Congress concerning his health care proposal. It is clearly one of the most pressing issues in the nation, and has managed to bitterly divide those who favor a government “public option” and those who want no part of it.

A series of town hall meetings across the nation has been pockmarked by a familiar vision, opponents of the plan yelling at those taking part, disrupting the proceedings in order to make their point.

Those who feel that way now have a new poster boy. Enter Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina.

Forgetting perhaps that he was sitting in the Capitol and not in a town hall meeting, the representative could not hold back when the president was making a point.

“You lie,” he shouted out from his seat on the Republican side of the chamber.


Am I surprised? No. Disappointed? Yes.

Wilson eventually apologized. I’m not sure why. That’s how we act these days. We used to expect more of our public debate, including members of Congress. I’m not so sure anymore.

Barack Obama is president of the United States. That should mean something to us. But it rarely did when opponents of George W. Bush felt compelled to make a point, so I suppose we should not be surprised by what happened last night. And what Rep. Wilson did.

There’s a time and a place for dissent. It’s part of the lofty experiment that forms the basis of our democracy. Last night was not the place for it.

We used to know that. We didn’t have to be reminded. Apparently that is no longer the case.

We routinely shout at congressmen; we dial talk radio and vent; we leave nasty voice-mails; we harange each other on Sound Off lines; we send harassing texts; we tweet with a vengeance.

Last night we watched a member of Congress dishonor the president, the office, and the hallowed chambers of Congress.

Why am I not surprised?

Slamming door, opening controversy

There’s nothing wrong with being lucky. Just ask Ryan Madson.

The lanky right-hander appears to be the closer of the moment for Charlie Manuel and the Phillies.

The Phils’ skipper called on Madson again last night – not normal closer Brad Lidge – after having to pull Lidge during another ninth-inning meltdown the night before.

Last night Madson was helped by Chase Utley, who speared a line drive and turned it into a game-ending doubleplay. A few feet in either direction and the game is tied.

It gave the Phils a 6-5 win and preserved their six-game cushion over the Marlins.

Manuel isn’t saying if Madson is now his guy, as opposed to Lidge, or even Brett Myers, who was not available after pitching two straight nights coming off hip surgery.

“We’ll just wait and see,” Manuel said. “I don’t want that to be a big thing.”

Uh, Charlie, it already IS a big thing. Suddenly the Phils home-run parade (they hit two more last night, with Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz going back-to-back in the seventh to provide the margin of victory) is no longer a big deal.

Everybody is on the edge of their seat in the ninth inning to see who walks out of the Phillies’ bullpen, and how they will fare in trying to slam the door.

Has anyone else noticed that the Phils have not exactly gotten a breather against the lowly Nats, easily the worst team in baseball?

These games have been close. And that means closer.

Right now the Phils appear to be settling into closer-by-committee mode.

That does not usually turn out well. Maybe the Phils will prove differently.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 9

The Daily Numbers: 96,000 dollars, how much police believe was inside an ATM machine that was ripped off from inside Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
2 brazen bandits who calmly walked into the hospital, snipped the wires on the ATM, loaded it onto a cart, and walked out.
10 inch pipe that ruptured at the Sunoco plant in Marcus Hook, leading to explosion and fire back in May.
10 pounds of pot seized in a Fed Ex shipment from California to a home in Upper Darby that was intercepted by state narcotics officers.
222,201 dollar grant to continue a mental health court program in the county.
9-9-09. That’s today’s date. Not exactly sure why that is important. But it is a bit weird.
17, age of teen with Down Syndrome in Upper Darby who has been missing after he failed to show up for the first day of class yesterday at Upper Darby High School.
20,000 dollars believed ripped off from a youth baseball league in New Jersey by the former president of the group.
78,000 dollars stolen from a youth soccer club by a woman in Red Hill, Montgomery County. She was convicted on all charges.
12 robberies on Philly streets believed to be the work of a 42-year-old South Philly man. He’s now under arrest.
2 of October, that’s the so-called “Doomsday” date in Philly when cuts and layoffs will go into effect unless the state House takes action on a proposal to allow them to hike taxes and alter their pension plans.
12, age of youth believes stabbed in the back, allegedly by his mom, during an argument in Telford, Bucks County.
250 jobs being trimmed at the Valero plant in Delaware City, Del.
2.70 a gallon, what we’re paying for gas in the Philly region.
30 home runs for 4 different players on the Phillies, three of them left-handers. Raul Ibanez hit 2 homers.
12 times in MLB history that a team has had 4 players with 30 homers.
4 batters faced by Brad Lidge before being pulled in the 9th inning with the bases loaded. His status as closer is now up in the air.
10 minutes, how long Michael Vick talked to kids in North Philly about the dangers of dogfighting.
7, as in No. 7, for Penn State after they opened the season with a win against Akron. That’s up 2 places.
8 straight hits to start the game last night as the Cubs rocked the Pirates.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.You could hear the pain in Charlie Manuel’s voice as he talked about pulling Brad Lidge in the 9th inning last night. But he made the right move. It’s not Lidge’s year. They can’t have him trying to close games in the playoffs.
I Don’t Get It: It takes some brass ones to calmly walk into a hospital, then walk out with an ATM machine loaded with $96,000.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Darby Mayor Helen Thomas and Chief Bob Smythe as they stick to their guns in enforcing a tough new curfew in some sections of the town.
Quote Box: “This was a very sophisticated, well-planned, well-orchestrated crime.”
- U.D. top cop Mike Chitwood, talking about two thieves who stole an ATM machine from Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

U.D. criminals hit the jackpot

File this one in the criminal chutzpah Hall of Fame.

Two guys walk into Delaware County Memorial Hospital. They calmly load an ATM machine onto a handcart and walk out of the place.

Police believe the ATM may have had as much as $96,000 loaded inside.

The whole thing was caught on the hospital video surveillance system.

You can check it out here.

These guys are either the coolest crooks around, or the dumbest criminals to come down the pike in a while.

The weird thing is the ease with which they were able to pull this off.

Maybe everyone simply assumed they were with the hospital, or maybe with the bank, or that they simply were servicing the machine.

They looked official enough, pulling up in a white van, walking right into the hospital, snipping some wires in the back of the machine, putting it on their car, then simply walking out and putting the pilfered ATM in their van.

Several people saw them, but nobody seemed to question what they were doing.

Unreal. Now comes the hard part. It’s one thing to pull off a job like this. It’s another altogether to get away with it.

I’m saying they get caught. Either they try it again or someone comes forward to dime them out.

In the meantime, they are the new proud owners of an ATM with somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 inside.

How exactly do you go about getting the money out of an ATM. That is aside from inserting your card and making a withdrawal.

Something tells me it involves a really big hammer.

The Michael Vick redemption tour

The first chapter of the Michael Vick redemption tour was unfurled yesterday.

A clearly repentant Vick paid an unannounced visit to the Nueva Esperanza Academy charter school in northeast Philly.

If you listened to Vick speak to these kids, you had to come away impressed. At least I was.

But here’s the real question. Who wrote those moving words? Was this from Vick’s heart, and from his head, or was he simply mouthing what some hotshot PR outfit had scripted for him as he tries to atone for his egregious actions in operating a dogfighting ring.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I suppose the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter who wrote the words. It certainly appears that Vick is earnestly trying to carry the message of the problem of dogfighting where it desperately needs to be heard, in the community.

This was part of the deal that got him re-entry back into the league after being in prison for two years. Vick will not be eligible to play until Week 3 of the regular season, when the Eagles face the Chiefs at the Linc on Sept. 27.

My guess is that Vicky likely will face a tad bit more hostile crowd that day, both inside and outside the stadium, than he did at that school yesterday.

He would do well to repeat some of the words he used yesterday.

He admitted to the kids that he had been a follower, and not a leader, and urged the young people not to take the same path.

“Growing up, I had dreams and I always wanted to have this great, lavish life and make it to the NFL, go and accomplish great things and leave a great legacy,” Vick said. “My future was promising ... at some point, I got sidetracked. I started listening to my friends and doing some things that were not ethical and not right.”

Vick appeared with Wayne Pacelle, leader of the Humane Society of the United States. He is helping coordinate some of Vick’s activities along with the Eagles.

“It’s really a test of our character as individuals about being good to those who are less powerful,” Vick said.

That’s now two times I have heard Vick speak in public since he was signed by the Eagles. Both times I have been impressed by his sincerity, by his thoughtfulness and by the way he conducted himself.

Of course I suppose that would be tempered by the fact that I have been less then awed by his performance on the field so far.

On the grand scale of things, I think what he was doing yesterday at that school is infinitely more important than anything he does on the field.

That’s the editor speaking, not the die-hard Eagles fan.

I’ll offer a bit more on that this weekend when I return to my practice of making an Eagles pick each Saturday morning, as well as in my Monday column.

Pulling plug on Lidge

Pulling plug on Lidge

If you look in the boxscore this morning, you will see an “S” beside Ryan Madson’s name.

But the real save in last night’s Phillies’ win goes to Charlie Manuel.

And that means that on a night when the Phils hit five solo home runs to beat the Nationals, closer Brad Lidge is outtaheeere.

Manuel made the slow walk from the dugout to the mound in the ninth last night and gave the guy to the guy who was a perfect 48 for 48 last year.

Saying Lidge has struggled this year is like saying it rained a little bit on Noah.

Lidge entered the game in the ninth last night with the Phils clinging to a 5-3 lead and once again proceeded to pour a little gas on the fire.

He gave up a leadoff single. Not a good sign, especially since Lidge admits he is having trouble pitching out of the stretch. Pretty good prediction. Lidge hit a batter and walked two others to load the bases.

That’s when Manuel decided he’d seen enough. You could tell after the game it was not a move Manuel wanted to make. For weeks he’s been saying Lidge is his guy to slam the doors in the ninth.

Not anymore. After Madson got out of the jam and saved the win, Manuel said he was not sure exactly what Lidge’s status is and who his closer might be now.

Brett Myers, who pitched another inning last night, is lurking in the background.

Give Manuel credit for making the move. And also give some kudos to Lidge, who once again proved to be a class act after the game, calmly facing the music and answering questions, admitting he’s still struggling with his control.

If you have followed Lidge’s career, he has run hot and cold this way before, one good year followed by an off year.

He’s struggling through an off year after being perfect last year.

Charlie Manuel no longer has the luxury of hoping Lidge turns things around. He gave his closer the hook last night.

The search is on for a new one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 8

The Daily Numbers: 12 days spent in hospital by woman recovering from injuries when she and a friend were struck by an out-of-control car on sidewalk outside DCMH. Her friend was killed, and Christine Bochanski is planning to use the tragedy to push for a state law banning use of hand-held electronic devices while driving.
1 police are in Darby Borough struck last night by a projectile from a slingshot. The officer did not suffer any injuries.
50 firefighters and community members who joined Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Chester Monday.
40 to 50 jobs that will be eliminated at Sunoco’s shut-down ethylene plant in Marcus Hook because of a fire back in May. The company is expected to release cause of the fire today.
88 and 77, age of victims of a home invasion in Upper Darby. Four people are being sought.
2 people killed and 2 injured in a bad crash over the weekend on Route
202 in Chester County. Another victim ran from the scene of the crash.
29, age of woman from Chester County who has been missing since leaving a party on the Main Line more than a week ago.
3.9 percent drop in passenger miles recorded by US Airways in August compared to the same month last summer.
1 off-duty police officer killed in a 1-car crash on I-95 in Bucks County early Monday.
3,000 Philadelphia employees who could be laid off under Mayor Michael Nutter’s Plan C “Doomsday Budget” if the state House does not OK a plan for them to hike taxes this week.
11, age of boy grazed by bullet while standing outside his house in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia Sunday night.
5 people wounded during a shootout at a condo complex over the weekend in Lindenwold, N.J.
5 people busted in an investigation of an alleged prostitution and drug ring operating out of a Ramada Inn in Northeast Philly.
115,000 students enrolled this year in state-owned universities, including West Chester and Cheyney.
2 Pa. state troopers injured when their patrol car struck a barrier and flipped over on the Schuylkill Sunday night.
4 game sweep of the Phils by the Astros.
6 game lead for the Phils over the equally hapless Marlins and Braves.
6 decent innings by Jamie Moyer filling in for an injured J.A. Happ, who has a strained oblique. Moyer had the lead when he left.
2 home runs back to back for Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.
7, as in 7th place in market value, where the Eagles rank amid NFL franchises.
5 more days before the Eagles kick off the season in Carolina.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Repeat after me, Phillies fans. This is not 1964. This is not 1964. You don’t feel better? Neither do I.
I Don’t Get It: A study found that college kids drink more when the booze is cheap. Ya think?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Christine Bochanski, for taking the tragedy that took the life of her best friend Nicole Gallo and left her seriously injured and turning it into a positive. She’s going to push for a ban on hand-held devices while driving.
Quote Box: “If they can’t get it done, the wrong legislators are in office.”
- Matt Bochanski, father of woman seriously injured in crash police believe may have been caused by a distracted driver, of move to ban use of hand-held devices while driving.

School of Hard Knocks

Someone will have to explain this one to me.

The president of the United States is going to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren today about the importance of working hard, staying in school and taking responsibility for their futures.

And, at least to some people, this is a bad thing.

There are a lot of people who don’t think President Obama’s message to schoolkids is a good idea, and don’t necessarily want their kids exposed to what they see as some kind of an agenda on the part of the White House.

Apparently, some people simply can’t see past the politics that is obviously involved in such an event.

They don’t care about the message. They don’t like the messenger. Or his politics. And they see this as some kind of nefarious way of pushing his partisan position on our kids.

I am not making this up. This is where we stand today. This is where our poisoned political atmosphere has landed. We don’t respect the office of the president of the United States enough to allow the commander-in-chief, a man who a year or two from now might be sending some of these kids into harm’s way, to offer a message on the value of hard work.

After all, we wouldn’t want to give him even the slightest political edge. So much for honoring the office.

George W. Bush once delivered a similar message. So did Ronald Reagan.
No one, at least that I remember, accused them of pushing their ideology on America’s schoolkids.

To be honest, I don’t think liberals and Democrats should complain too loudly. I find it hard to believe that the second President Bush could do much of anything without them finding fault with it, or without someone trying to make fun of it. No doubt some liberal-leaning news outlets and the late-night TV shows would go over the speech with a fine-tooth comb for any small element that they could poke fun of, the honor of the office be damned.

Forget the office. Or having respect for the man who holds it. This is politics. Hardball, as they say. It’s a contact sport. It’s spinning every story to use it to your advantage.

The president speaks to schoolkids about working hard and mapping out a plan to a successful future.

Nah, kids today don’t need to hear that message. Especially not from a guy who could be a particular role model for so many of them, the first African-American to hold the office of president.

But certainly not the first to be caught in a political cross-fire.

Call this one the latest lesson from the School of Hard Knocks.

Getting played in 'State of Play'

I watched “State of Play” over the weekend. My wife, who handles the Netflix duties in our house, thought I would enjoy it.

She was right. It’s got just about everything I like in a movie. A fast-paced narrative, lots of drama, a good story based in mystery and intrigue, and some very good acting..

And, at least for me, there was a big plus. The entire backdrop of the movie is about not only the “state of play,” and being played, but in the backdrop of a newspaper, how they operate, how stories are covered, and how decisions are made.

In particular the movie nicely zeroes in on the troubled “state” of the industry, and the pressures those who toil in it find ourselves working under each day.

Russell Crowe is a grizzled reporter who is tracking a breaking scandal involving a congressman who just happens to be his old college roommate.
The congressman has been investigating a big-time private security outfit whose tentacles have managed to reach some very high places on Capitol Hill.

But the congressman’s probe is derailed when a young female aide commits suicide. Or at least it appeared that she did.

A young blogger (Rachel McAdams) on the newspaper learns that the congressman was having an affair with the aide.

Helen Mirren does a dynamite job playing the editor, struggling to push the two reporters into a team to go after the story while holding onto some measure of journalistic integrity, all while the pressure from the paper’s new owners bears down on her.

Crowe does things the old way, through hard work and reporting. McAdams is all about the puff and celebrity that we are bombarded with every day on the Internet.

Crowe clearly has inside information on the congressman from his relationship with him – as well as his wife, who it becomes clear he was once more than just friends with.

I didn’t go to school with any congressmen, at least that I’m aware of.
And I certainly have never had an affair with the wife of a politician, or anyone else for that matter.

But I know all too well exactly what those financial pressures – as well as those journalistic questions – are like. I struggle with them every day. This blog will appear on our Web site. I also am trying to plan out tomorrow’s print edition at the same time.

I highly recommend the movie if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work in this racket.

And for Delco residents, there is an added surprise tucked into the movie.

Ben Affleck plays the troubled congressman. At one point as Crowe digs deeper and deeper into the security company’s business, it’s clear he’s rubbing some powerful people the wrong way.

The kicker comes in a confrontation with someone who knows the inner workings of the company.

I almost spit out my popcorn when I heard it. In fact I rewound the DVD just to be sure I had heard it correctly. Then I went online to research the movie.

This is basically what the guy said: “Do you really think they are going to let some congressman from the 7th District in Pennsylvania do this?”

I kid you not.

Now did we not once have a congressman in this district who knew a lot about the workings of security companies, who likely ruffled a lot of feathers in D.C. with some of his foreign policy beliefs?

Among the many things that Curt Weldon did in his 20 years in Washington was become an expert in many areas of foreign relations. Not all of those beliefs made him especially popular, even within his own party.

Anyone remember “Able Danger?”

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Why exactly would the makers of the movie decided to make their character from the 7th District of Pennsylvania?

I have no idea. Maybe it was a coincidence.

If so, they certainly got my attention.

Little did I realize when I sat down to watch “State of Play” that I would wind up being played in ways I had not imagined.

Relax, Phillies fans

Keep repeating this chant, Phillies fans:

It’s not 1964. It’s not 1964. It’s not 1964.

Get the picture, Fightins’ fans?. Take a deep breath. The sky is not falling, even if the Phils’ bullpen and shaky hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be.

Yes, the Phillies got swept over the weekend in Houston. Yes, they looked fairly inept in doing so, especially at the plate.

No, they are not going to pull a repeat of the famous ’64 debacle. At least I don’t they are.

The Phillies are desperately in need of a break. Luckily, that’s exactly what the schedule-makers have in mind.

The Phils left Houston with their NL East-leading tails between their legs, but their heads hit the pillow last night in the home of the worst team in baseball, the Washington Nationals.

The Phils will play three games in D.C. before heading home for a weekend set with the Mets and still one more visit from the Nats.

Now if they don’t win at least two of three in Washington, then it might be time to stay away from rooftops or sharp objects.

Until then, relax. They’re still up by six games.

It’s not going to happen again.


Friday, September 4, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 4

The Daily Numbers: 9 p.m., when you have to be off the streets in certain sections of Darby under tough new curfew enacted by the mayor.
150 union members who protested outside the sprawling Sunoco plant in Marcus Hook Thursday to protest more job cuts at the plant.
48 jobs believed on the chopping block as the company looks to cut costs.
2 million bucks in federal stimulus funds being used by County Council to help the homeless.
1 person killed, 1 wounded in shootout on hoops court in Philadelphia.
1 motorcyclist killed in a hit-run crash in the Wynnewood section of Philly.
100 car break-ins believed to be the work of a couple in Bucks County.
3 TV cameramen attacked, allegedly by the father of the Bucks County woman who faked her own abduction. He now faces assault charges.
21 straight days that the average price of gas in the region has held steady at $2.71.
3, as in Week 3, that’s when Michael Vick will be available to play for the Eagles.
1 TD running, 1 INT for Vick in last night’s exhibition finale vs. the Jets.
9 strikeouts for Pedro Martinez as he outdueled Tim Lincecum and the Phils bested the Giants, 2-1.
11 strikeouts for Lincecum in the loss.
10 point lead blown by Temple in the 4th quarter last night as they fell to Villanova.
0 ticks left on the clock when Villanova kicked the winning field goal.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Who would have thought that Pedro Martinez would outduel Tim Lincecum to lead the Phils over the Giants and win the series. This one had all the makings of a playoff series, and it just might be repeated in October.
I Don’t Get It: Those who are immediately ripping Darby Mayor Helen Thomas’ move to declare a state of emergency and enact a tough curfew.
What else is she she supposed to do?
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Thomas for sticking her neck out and taking a stand. It’s not going to be popular, but if it works, if it saves a life, it is worth the aggravation.
Quote Box: “For them, it’s all about dollars and cents. It’s not about money for us. We got a concern for health and safety of our people in the refinery and in our community.”
- Union boss Tim Kolodi, during protests against more job cuts at Sunoco plant in Marcus Hook.

Crackdown in Darby

It was just a couple of weeks ago that it was still light at 9 p.m.

Now, at least in one part of Darby Borough, you have to be off the street by then.

Mayor Helen Thomas last night rolled out a tough new curfew, which will be enforced by Police Chief Bob Smythe and his officers. Adults and juveniles have to be off the street by 9 p.m.

Thomas declared the state of emergency Thursday night in response to a sudden spike of “shots fired” incidents.

Good for her.

I know this is not going to be a popular stance. I know some residents already are blasting the mayor’s actions. I know that a certain former mayor is likely to say this is all politics.

None of that changes the fact that nothing else has worked to stop the violence that plagues certain sections of the borough.

Thomas is now ordering people off the street in an area along Main Street, from Front to Fifth, and extending to Greenway Avenue. All of the streets are located in the Third Ward’s Second Precinct.

Police are stopping anyone they see on the streets after 9 p.m. and asking them to show some form of ID.

It was just a couple of months ago that Ollie Cloyd was gunned down on the street outside his home. Recently a similar incident occurred, with a youth firing shots into building while riding a bicycle.

I don’t know if what the borough is doing is legal. I suppose we will find out soon enough.

But something had to be done.

They’ve held too many vigils in Darby Borough. Now it’s time to change things. Now it’s time for action.

Residents may not like living under these conditions. I don’t blame them. But unless someone has a better idea, or one that won’t cost a fortune, this is at least a starting point.

If it stops one more person from winding up like Ollie Cloyd, it will have been worth it.

Disaster taking flight for Eagles

Here’s a prediction, one I take no great joy in making.

The Eagles Michael Vick experiment is going to be a disaster.

This comes from a die-hard Eagles fan who wants nothing more than to see them join the Phillies as World Champions.

Ain’t going to happen. At least not this year.

This has nothing to do with Michael Vick, or the two years he spent away from the game in prison for his role in financing a vicious dog-fighting ring. I’ve already had that argument.

Now I want to talk football.

And I think bringing in Vick was a monumental mistake by Andy Reid, a guy who strikes me as somebody who suddenly after 10 years without much in the way of a mandate is now feeling a little pressure to win.

He thinks Vick will offer him some unique looks on offense.

I think it’s going to blow up in his face.

And here’s why: Donovan McNabb.

Has Reid somehow forgotten who is starting QB is, and how fragile his mental makeup is? He’s still lamenting the fact that a few die-hards booed his selection on Draft Day. That was a decade ago. McNabb has not changed much. He proved it last week on the sidelines of the Eagles’
crucial third exhibition game when he offered a few antics to show he was ticked at the way the Eagles kept shuttling Vick into the game.
McNabb said it prevented him and the offense from getting into a rhythm.

Can you say T.O.?

This is going to be an instant replay.

The Eagles now have put McNabb in a no-win situation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said Vick can play in week 3 of the regular season. Consider that lighting a 3-week fuse. And Donvan McNabb is holding the bomb.

McNabb now will feel the heat to play well in those first two weeks, cognizant that Vick is looming in the background.

If by any chance he plays poorly, or if the Eagles struggle, look out.
That third week could turn into a circus, one we’ve seen before. The first time McNabb unfurls one of his signature two-hoppers, or overthrows a wide open receiver, brace yourself for the “We Want Vick”

Maybe I’m wrong. Feel free to point that out if you care to do so. But I don’t think I am.

I think this is the Titanic, and Andy Reid is at the helm.

Look out below!

A vote for Pedro!

It took all of one pitch for things to look bad last night at Citizens Bank Park.

Pedro Martinez, taking on the task of facing Giants’ ace and reigning NL Cy Young Award holder Tim Lincecum, was taken out of the park on the very first pitch of the night. 1-0 Giants before most of the “Phaithful”
were even in their seats.

Go ahead, admit it. You were saying to yourself, “Uh-oh, here we go. The Giants are going to take this series.”

Say it ain’t so, Pedro.


From that point on Martinez outdueled Lincecum as the Phils won a classic pitchers’ duel, 2-1.

Martinez struck out 9, while Lincecum struck out 11.

This series had all the feel of something that happens about a month from now.

They call it the playoffs.

Last night not withstanding, I sill have no great desire to face the Giants in the playoffs.

That pitching staff is capable of shutting anyone down in a short series.

The good thing is that it appears the Phils are ready to match them arm for arm.

Vote for Pedro!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Daily Numbers - September 3

The Daily Numbers: 17, age of Collingdale teen charged in knife fight that resulted in stabbing of another teen. He’s charged as an adult.
15,000 dollar Phillies World Series ring that police now say was pilfered by a man from Yeadon.
80 years of education at Our Lady of Peace School in Ridley that has come to an end. The school closed its doors last spring and will not reopen this fall.
10.8 percent decline in revenue in August at Harrah’s Chester Casino compared to the same month last summer.
25,709,960 dollars raked in by Harrah’s, compared to $28,831,904 last year.
19.8 percent boost in overall revenue across the state from slots gambling.
5 of the 7 casinos that were in operation in August 2008 that showed declines this year.
37 percent to 11 percent edge for Sen. Arlen Specter over Joe Sestak in the latest Keystone Poll from Franklin & Marshall College.
37 percent of those polled in Pa. who now hold an unfavorable rating of the job being done by President Barack Obama.
33 percent of residents who believe the state is headed in the right direction.
29 percent who believe Gov. Rendell is doing an acceptable job.
27 percent who believe the same of the state Legislature.
16, age of female student at Council Rock High School in Bucks County killed in a car crash on the 1st day of school.
5 suspects being sought in a smash-and-grab job that targeted an Apple store in Marlton, N.J.
2.3 billion dollar fine to be paid by drug giant Pfizer over illegal drug promotions.
82.5 million dollars, how much Sunoco Inc. is selling its retail heating oil and propane biz for to Superior Plus Corp.
1 killed, 2 injured in a shooting Wednesday night in southwest Philly.
0 runs for the Phils, who got shut out by Brad Penny and the Giants just a night after they shut out San Francisco.
97 mph, what Penny’s fastball was clocked at in the first inning.
2 home runs, back-to-back, surrendered by J.A. Happ.
2 consecutive losses for the Phils’ rookie left-hander.
73.5 point spread in the Florida-Charleston Southern college football game this weekend. Anyone want Charleston?
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Touche! One night after they shut out the Giants, they returned the favor behind Brad Penny. Tonight they get to take their hacks against Tim Lincecum. Don’t expect the Phils slumbering bats to awaken against the Giants’ ace.
I Don’t Get It: Former Phillie Curt Schilling says he might be interest in the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to the call by an activist group in Pa. to eliminate community initiative grants. They used to be called WAMs.
Quote Box: “It took the oldest a while to figure out who I was and I’m still a stranger to my 1-year-old.”
- Spc. Eric Sprague, on his arrival home in Darby after a tour in Iraq.

More bad numbers at Harrah's

Uh-oh. Don’t look now, but there are storm clouds forming over the rosy picture that the state consistently paints when it comes to the grand expansion of legalized gambling in those swanky slots parlors.

The state Gaming Control Board put out a press release yesterday hailing the fact that revenue generated at the state’s nine casinos was up 19.8 percent in August 2009 over the same period last year.

But a big part of that is because there are more casinos online now than last year, especially the big Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem.

What the state did not stress is that while the total take is up, revenue at five of the nine slots parlors was actually down.

And once again that includes Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, where revenue was off 10.8 percent in August compared to the same month last summer.

That continues a troubling trend of declining revenue at Harrah’s, which has been lagging behind previous years numbers for months now. But the
10.8 percent dip is the biggest decline yet. No one is talking about why the numbers are down. Harrah’s usually has little to say when we ask about their numbers.

Don’t feel too bad for them. They’re still raking in big bucks. They just didn’t take in as much in August as they did last year. The Chester slots parlor reported revenue of $25,709,960. That compares to
$28,831,904 last year.

And Harrah’s was not alone. The numbers also were off at Philly Park in Bucks County, where revenue was down 4.04 percent. It was the same song at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, down 4.92 percent; Presque Isle Downs and Casino, down a hefty 12.23 percent; and Mount Airy Resort and Casino, down a whopping 19.19 percent. The state’s two newest casinos, the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and Rivers Casino, were not open last year.

Overall state gambling revenue was up, totaling $186.9 million, up 19.8 percent from $156.1 million in August 2008, but that number was bolstered by the two new casinos.

In all, only two of the seven casinos that were in operation showed gains this August, those being the Meadows, up 15.66 percent, and Hollywood Casino at Penn National, up 10.59 percent.

Harrah’s Chester still ranks second in the state in total slots revenue, trailing only Philly Park.

But I still wonder why the numbers continue to trend down, in particular at Harrah’s.

Is it the general economy? Is it people returning to Atlantic City to gamble and take in the shore during the summer?

Harrah’s dodged a bullet last week when the courts knocked down a plan in Delaware to allow legalized wagering on sports.

Still, there appears to be storm clouds over Harrah’s, as well as the state’s other two casinos.

Eventually two new casinos are going to go online in Philadelphia, which will further cut into Harrah’s turf.

Pennsylvania is about to give the go-ahead for table games at the slots parlors. It will be interesting to see if that reverses the downward numbers.

Right now, slots gambling continues to be a winning bet in Pennsylvania, but someone needs to explain to me why these numbers continue to go down.

Anybody have any ideas?

Penny looks like a million

Penny for your thoughts this morning, Phillies fans.

Actually, the Phils’ bats weren’t worth 10 cents last night.

But Brad Penny looked like a million.

The new addition to the Giants’ staff blew away the Phils’ ailing lineup, which managed to scratch out just five hits against Penny in eight innings, and never got a sniff of the plate.

Penny’s fastball was clocked at 97 mph. In the meantime, the Phils’
young phenom J.A. Happ gave up back-to-back homers in the sixth. Up to that point, he had only surrendered one run. He gave up eight hits and four runs over his six innings of work. It was his second straight loss.

The Giants will send their ace, Tim Lincecum, to the hill tonight in the series finale.

There is one team the Phillies really do not want to say in the playoffs. They will be staring at them in the other dugout tonight.

Losing proposition for Charleston

I gave gambling on my mind this morning.

Which, of course, can mean only one thing. No, not that revenue is down at Harrah’s again. I will get to that in a minute.

It means that football returns tonight. Yes, the Eagles will wind up their silly exhibition season tonight. But that’s not what I’m talking about either, although I can’t resist saying that tonight’s second half, featuring Michael Vick behind center for the majority of the action, might just go down in history as the most-watched final half of a last Eagles exhibition game in history.

Actually, I’m talking about real football. Games that count. The Birds’
regular season does not start until a week from Sunday.

But college football starts tonight. Actually, it got a jump start last weekend with the clash of Cheyney and my old stomping ground, Lincoln U.
How ’bout dem Lions, who rolled over Cheyney!

Tonight marks something called the Mayor’s Cup in Philly, which will feature Villanova and Temple at the Linc. You have to admire what Al Golden has done at Temple, but they still likely will have their hands full with a very good ‘Nova squad.

Penn State and the ageless one, Joe Paterno, kicks off their season Saturday against Akron.

All of this can mean only one thing: Betting. Someone once asked me why football is so popular in this country. I only half jokingly replied it was because God did not rest on the seventh day. Instead he created the perfect vehicle for wagering – football.

Which brings me, in a rather roundabout way, to the oddity of this weekend.

The No. 1 team in the country, Florida, with its Heisman hopeful and all-everything QB Tim Tebow, plays a school called Charleston Southern.
I kid you not.

That’s not the weirdest part. The line on the game is not a typo.
Florida is favored by 73 and a half points.

That means if you bet on Florida and they shut out the hapless Charleston squad 73-0, you still lose because the line is 73 and a half.

It’s almost irresistible to take Charleston Southern in this case.
Except for something that tells me the Gators, looking to polish their case for being No. 1 and make Tebow the runaway favorite for the Heisman, just might lay a 82-0 whipping on Charleston.

In other words, don’t bet the house on it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Daily Numbers - September 2

The Daily Numbers: 13 to 26 years in addition to life in prison slapped on an Upper Darby man for the senseless murder of a cab driver. Ramir Steve likely will never walk free again.
20 to 30 shots that rang out on a Chester street early Tuesday, leaving one victim clinging to life.
50,000 dollar reward posted for information in the unsolved murder of Yeadon resident Veno Leigertwood in 2008.
50 child-care workers who took to the sidewalk outside the Chester residence of state Sen. Dominic Pileggi yesterday to protest budget cuts.
60 cars believed ripped off by a team of his and her bandits in Bucks County.
1.6 million dollars in heroin seized during a cop stop in South Philly.
1, as in No. 1 in the nation, ranking of the boardwalk in Atlantic City, according to Forbes Magazine. Wildwood came in second, and Bethany and Rehoboth in Delaware were ranked 3rd and 4th.
18,000 dollars believe stolen from a youth football group in Bucks County by the woman who was the former president of the boosters.
1 college in Pa. that is already reporting a case of swine flu. That would be the University of Pittsburgh.
275 million dollars being borrowed by the city of Philadelphia to tide it over until the state Legislature gets around to passing a measure that would allow the city to hike taxes and stave off a financial crisis.
28, age of rookie patrolman in New York state who captured a man suspected of killing a Philadelphia Housing Authority employee back in July.
20 consecutive days that the average price of gas in the Philly region has held at $2.71.
5 foot long alligator that has finally been captured in a pond in Stacy Park in Trenton.
47 to 37 point lead for challenger Republican Chris Christie over incumbent N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine in the latest poll.
7.6 percent jobless rate in Delaware County. That’s the highest in the five-county area aside from Philadelphia, where the jobless rate is now in double figures at 10.3 percent.
52 percent boost in sales last month posted by Subaru. Credit the Cash for Clunkers program.
17 percent boost in sales at Ford in August.
2.5 hour meeting held Tuesday night between the Eagles and local animal rights activists.
2 hits surrendered last night by Cole Hamels in turning in a gem of a 1-0 win for the Phils over the Giants.
19 consecutive scoreless innings put up by Hamels.
24 Giants in a row retired at one point by the Phils’ lefty.
5 hits for the Phils, who scored their only run when Ryan Howard doubled in Shane Victorino.
82, age of Joe Paterno as he enters his sixth decade on the sidelines of the No. 9 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Now that’s the Cole Hamels we came to love last October. With Hamels and Lee at the top of their starting rotation, the Phils are looking formidable as they rumble toward the playoffs. Charlie Manuel will have to think about sandwiching them around Joe Blanton to break up his left-handers.
I Don’t Get It: Another youth sports organization apparently has been ripped off, allegedly by the woman who once headed the group. And again she was the only one with access to the books. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Delco Judge Barry Dozor for throwing the book – and a serious prison sentence – at Ramir Steve for the cold-blooded murder of Upper Darby cab driver Greg Cunningham.
Quote Box: “Mr. Ramir had a complete disregard for the life of Gregory Cunninham.”
- Prosecutor James Halligan, in asking for the maximum sentence for Ramir Steve.

Justice delivered

It’s become quite the ‘en vogue’ thing to criticize the justice system, in particular judges who set low bail and who seem to run a revolving door of putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.

No less an authority than Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood recently blew a gasket over the low bail granted to a suspect in a weekend case in which several of his officers were assaulted.

For that reason we hope all the critics of the justice system take note of a little justice handed down at the Delaware County Courthouse yesterday.

As fate would have it, the cased stemmed from a particularly heinous incident on Chitwood’s turf, in Upper Darby.

Ramir Steve stood before Judge Barry Dozor convicted in the senseless shooting death of cab driver Gregory Cunningham.

Steve called the cab under the ruse of needing a ride. He intended to hold up the driver. Cunningham responded. He paid for it with his life.
Steve fatally shot Cunningham and commandeered his cab.

And all this occurred on Christmas Eve. Cunningham’s family was left to pick up the pieces of their life as the rest of the world celebrated the holiday.

That was in 2007. They have been waiting almost two years for justice.
It arrived in Dozor’s courtroom yesterday.

The judge indicated he wanted to send Steve a message. Dozor sentenced Steve to life behind bars without parole. And for good measure slapped on another 13 to 26 years – to run consecutively to the life sentence, to pretty much ensure that Steve will never walk free again.

Dozor wanted to send Steve a message. He did exactly that.

He also sent a message to those who lose a loved one to senseless violence, to those who would so callously take a human life, and to those who believe the system too often works in favor of the accused.

Justice may be blind, and it may not always be swift.

But there is justice. Yesterday Judge Barry Dozor delivered a little bit of it in a Delco courtroom.

Justice delivered

It’s become quite the ‘en vogue’ thing to criticize the justice system, in particular judges who set low bail and who seem to run a revolving door of putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.

No less an authority than Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood recently blew a gasket over the low bail granted to a suspect in a weekend case in which several of his officers were assaulted.

For that reason we hope all the critics of the justice system take note of a little justice handed down at the Delaware County Courthouse yesterday.

As fate would have it, the cased stemmed from a particularly heinous incident on Chitwood’s turf, in Upper Darby.

Ramir Steve stood before Judge Barry Dozor convicted in the senseless shooting death of cab driver Gregory Cunningham.

Steve called the cab under the ruse of needing a ride. He intended to hold up the driver. Cunningham responded. He paid for it with his life.
Steve fatally shot Cunningham and commandeered his cab.

And all this occurred on Christmas Eve. Cunningham’s family was left to pick up the pieces of their life as the rest of the world celebrated the holiday.

That was in 2007. They have been waiting almost two years for justice.
It arrived in Dozor’s courtroom yesterday.

The judge indicated he wanted to send Steve a message. Dozor sentenced Steve to life behind bars without parole. And for good measure slapped on another 13 to 26 years – to run consecutively to the life sentence, to pretty much ensure that Steve will never walk free again.

Dozor wanted to send Steve a message. He did exactly that.

He also sent a message to those who lose a loved one to senseless violence, to those who would so callously take a human life, and to those who believe the system too often works in favor of the accused.

Justice may be blind, and it may not always be swift.

But there is justice. Yesterday Judge Barry Dozor delivered a little bit of it in a Delco courtroom.

Eagles soothing ruffled feathers

Time to give the Eagles some credit.

No, not for the way they’ve looked during the preseason. To be honest, I don’t really know what to make of this team. I sometimes think they have
8-8 written all over them. But that’s why games in August don’t count, except for the cost of the tickets.

Instead I am speaking of the Eagles’ pledge to make good on their commitment to local animal rights groups in light of their hugely unpopular decision to sign convicted dog ring operator Michael Vick.

The Eagles held another summit in South Philly Tuesday night. It lasted two and a half hours. Eagles President Joe Banner was among the Birds’
brass in attendance.

Most of the activists came out impressed with the Eagles plan to be pro-active in partnering with community groups.

“A loty of good can come from it and a lot of animals can be saved,”
said Dana Spain, an animal rights activist.

Now if they could just figure out how they’re going to work Vick into their offense without ticking off Donovan McNabb.

Cole night in September

The Phillies and Giants decided to skip over September and go straight to October last night at Citizens Bank Park.

They decided to hold an early playoff game, which the Phils won in a tense, white-knuckle 1-0 pitcher’s duel.

No, that was not Steve Carlton on the mound for the Phils. It wasn’t even Cliff Lee.

It was Cole Hamels. Remember him? Tall, lanky kid, full of California cool. He was the stud of the Phils’ run through the playoffs and World Series last year.

But he’s struggled mightily this year, offering little other than a maddening inconsistency.

But in his last few starts he’s been showing signs of being the old Cole. And he put an exclamation point on that comeback last night.

Hamels surrendered only two hits in going the distance and shutting out San Francisco. After Ryan Garko led off the second with a double, Hamels stranded him there and mowed down the next 24 in a row. He’s now tossed
19 consecutive scoreless innings.

And it’s a good thing. The Phils’ bats were chillier than the crisp evening air in South Philly. They managed just one run when Ryan Howard doubled home Shane Victorino from third.

Hamels made sure that was all the Phils needed. Even the weather was a sneak peek at October.

Make it Red October. Just like last year. With a tall, lanky California kid leading the charge on the mound.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 1

The Daily Numbers: 30 shots fired during an incident at 10th and Booth early this morning in which a man was critically wounded.
17, age of girl seriously injured in a car crash in Middletown in which the car she was riding in plowed into a pole.
29, age of man who escaped while being processed at the Darby Police Station who is now back in custody.
25,000 dollars worth of stuff cleaned out of several homes in the Brandywine Hundred section of Delaware. Neighbors grabbed the suspect and held him until police arrived. Good for them.
1, as in the first of September, and the 1st day of school for kids in the Ridley School District. As is their custom, Ridley starts the school year before Labor Day.
15,000 dollars, estimated value of Phillies World Series Ring missing from a men’s room at Citizens Bank Park, where it was left by a team employee. When he went back, the bauble with 103 diamonds encrusted in it, was gone.
23 pages in the opinion in which a federal court shot down Delaware’s plan for expanded legalized sports betting. All you can do is the same parlay on multiple games you’ve been able to do since 1976. Single-game wagers are out.
21, age of woman who reported being attacked at 21st and Locust streets in the Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia. She fended him off by using mace.
100 fewer fresmen this year in the entering class at Cabrini College in Radnor.
39, age of woman in Philadelphia convicted of running a prostitution operation along with her daughter. They sold their bodies to an undercover cop for $200.
1,400 bucks, how much a high school teacher in Colts Neck, N.J., reportedly was paid to improve the grades of several students. He now faces theft by deception charges.
62033-066, that’s how he’s now known to prison employees. You might know him as former powerful state Sen. Vince Fumo, who reported to the slammer Monday.
5 foot long alligator that continues to elude capture in a pond in Stacy Park in Trenton.
16 people who were ticketed yesterday during first day of crackdown on illegal parking on the shoulder of I-95 near Philadelphia International Airport, where people sometimes wait for arriving flights.
46, age of man in Delaware charged with dumping gasoline on a woman during a domestic incident.
4, as in No. 4, where the Philly region stands in terms of the biggest TV markets in the nation. Only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are above it.
57,000 dollars, average annual pay for a secondary school teacher in the Philadelphia metro area, according to a new study.
4 bank robbers in Bear, Del., who didn’t get very far, at least not in their getaway car. They left the keys in the bank they had just held up.
1 in 10 binge drinkers who still manage to get behind the wheel during one of their benders, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
2, as in No. 2 QB. That would be Kevin Kolb. He will start Thursday night in the Eagles final exhibition game. Michael Vick will play in the second half. Donovan McNabb has the night off.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Since Donovan McNabb is skipping the Birds’ exhibition finale against the Jets, maybe he also can refrain from any gestures to show how he feels about the Eagles’ inept offense.
I Don’t Get It: Why is it that anytime a sports figure creates any kind of controversy (are you listening, Donovan?) it always turns out to be the media’s fault?
Today’s Upper: Serious kudos to the band of neighbors down in Brandywine Hundred in Delaware who corralled a burglary suspect who had looted several homes and held him until the cops arrived.
Quote Box: “There are good ideas out there. I hate that it is getting so polarized.”
- Upper Darby resident Kathleen McGuigan, at Monday night’s town hall meeting on health care reform featuring Rep. Joe Sestak and others in downtown Philly.

A big win for Harrah's

That sigh of relief you hear in Chester is not blue-faced Sons of Ben soccer zealots relieved at the sight of a real stadium rising in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

No, it is coming from down the street, at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

It’s not coming from patrons who continue to pump money into all those slots machines.

It’s coming from the suits in the executive suites.

They just won big.

Of course, they win big just about every day. According to the latest figures from the state Gaming Control Board, Harrah’s took in more than
$69 million dollars in wagers during the week of Aug. 17-23. Sounds good, right. Of course you have to realize that they also paid out more than $63 million.

For the month they have now raked in almost $250 million, and for the fiscal year to date that number skyrockets to more than $594 million.

But the truth is that business has been down at Harrah’s. In fact, it’s one of the few of the glitzy new slots parlors introduced a few years back in the state where the numbers are off.

Add to that the fact that Harrah’s Chester was about to face a major challenge just down I-95, and you could understand the furrows in the brows of some of those Chester execs.

As the huge billboard near the Commodore Barry Bridge proclaimed, a whole new ballgame – so to speak – when it comes to legalized gambling was about to come on board. And it was just 20 minutes away. You could literally drive right past Harrah’s and continue down I-95 to Delaware Park, where legalized sports betting was due to debut next week.

Not anymore.

The four major pro sports franchises took a decidedly dim view of the notion of people being able to bet on their games. In particular they didn’t like what Delaware was proposing, the ability for gamblers to plunk down their money on individual games.

The courts backed the leagues. In a stunning loss for Delaware and the casinos, which had already invested untold millions in getting their operations ready to roll, the court said that sports betting would be restricted to parlay bets – involving multiple teams – on pro football games.

You can see the execs at Harrah’s Chester smiling all the way from the Delaware line.

And they are about to get more good news. State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, in a recent meeting with this newspapers’ editorial board, all but conceded that table games are coming to Pennsylvania, and to Harrah’s.

“It’s a matter of when, not if,” Pileggi said.

As they say down at Harrah’s, let the good times roll.

A familiar ring to this story

There is at least one member of the Phillies organization who is seeing red this morning.

And we’re not talking Phillies pinstripes.

We’re talking bling. Specifically, a Phillies 2008 World Series Champion ring.

Apparently one member of the team’s marketing department took off the ring while washing his hands in a Citizens Bank Park restroom Monday.

Unfortunately, he forgot to put it back on.

When he realized (how could you miss it?) he didn’t have the gaudy, diamond-encrusted item, he beat a hasty retreat to the men’s room.

Just one problem. The ring was not there.

Right now the ring is being considered by police to be missing, not stolen.

It shouldn’t be hard to find. It features 103 diamonds and is valued at $11,500 to $15,000.

How long you figure before it shows up for sale on eBay?

Donovan clears the air - sort of

Noted media critic Donovan McNabb wants to set the record straight.

Those gestures he was making on the sidelines Thursday night during his animated conversation with Michael Vick and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg? No big deal. Everything’s hunky-dory down at NovaCare nation. The entire thing has been blown out of proportion.

Yeah, right.

McNabb says this is all about rhythm.

He’s not trying to prevent pregnancy. He’s trying to end the pregnant pause that has been hanging over the team since his sideline antics in the crucial third exhibition game against the Jags.

Donovan continues to maintain that he has no problem with the Birds’ new addition, the former dog-fighting ring financier.

That gives him something in common with Mornhinweg, who said pretty much the same thing in his media offerings on Sunday.

Only one problem with all this.

Right now the Eagles’ offense is showing little in the way of rhythm, or flow for that matter.

Their offensive line – at least the one Andy Reid hoped to put on the field Sept. 13 in Carolina – has yet to take the field as a unit. They did get some good news yesterday when Shawn Andrews returned to practice for the first time this summer. But starting left tackle Todd Herremans is likely to miss at least the first several games of the regular season.

The man who means the most to the Eagles’ offense, aside from McNabb, has not played one snap in the preseason. Brian Westbrook has looked good at practice, but we won’t know what he can actually do on the field until a week from Sunday in the opener. You can’t blame the Eagles for risking an injury to the brittle Westbrook, but it still does nothing to help the notion of a cohesive unit.

Right now the Eagles offense is a work in progress. Much like the redemption of Michael Vick.

By the way, there will be no repeat this Thursday night, when the Eagles wind up the exhibition games up the Jersey Turnpike against the Jets.
Unless of course Kevin Kolb throws a fit when Vick jogs on the field.

Vick is expected to see some action in certain situations in the first half. Kolb will start the game. Vick will take over in the second half.

McNabb? He’ll be safely ensconced on the sidelines, where hopefully he will not be making any gestures.

He can save those for Carolina.

What will the Birds’ offense look like on opening day? Your guess is as good as mine. Unfortunately, it’s probably as good as McNabb’s as well.