Friday, October 31, 2008

Phinally, we're winners

We’ve gotten a whole lot more tricks than treats from our pro sports teams over the past 25 years.

Today, on Halloween, it’s payback time.

Something almost unheard of will happen today in the city of Philadelphia. More than a million people will gather along Broad Street from City Hall to South Philly to salute the World Series Champion Phillies.

These kinds of civic celebrations have all too often been something we see on TV. In other towns. With other city’s fans rejoicing.

Some are better at it than others. New York City can do a pretty good parade. Then again, we also remember the New Jersey Devils holding their celebration in the parking lot of the Meadowlands.

The nation today likely will learn what it means to be a Philadelphia “phan.”

Our image precedes us. Let’s get this one out of the way right now. Yes, we booed Santa. The truth is he deserved it. He was a shabby St. Nick.

We’ve been known to be brutally tough on opposing teams, and even rougher with our home-town heroes, who all too often have come up short.

But today all of that changes. After 25 long years, we’ve dusted off the parade plans and are throwing a shindig that likely will set the bar for years to come when it comes to celebrating a championship.

How big a deal is this? They’re using not one stadium, but two. Both Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field will be packed as the parade of floats carrying our World Series champs snakes its way down Broad Street toward the stadium complex.

Tickets were free, available on the Internet. They were snapped up in a matter of minutes.

The region’s schools and business are likely to be largely abandoned today. Officially schools are open. Unofficially I’m guessing a lot of students – and workers for that matter – will be absent with a serious case of “Phillies Phever.”

Twenty-five years is a long time to wait. But we persevered. We continued to buy tickets. We continued to pack stadiums. And yes, we often continued to boo.

Not today. The curse has been banished. The drought is quenched. The sun is out. Even Mother Nature is cooperating. It is going to be a glorious day.

One fitting for a city of champions.

A few jackasses spoil the party

There’s a few in every crowd.

Wednesday night there were more than a few. They weren’t satisfied celebrating the city’s first sports championship in 25 years. They had to leave their calling card.

And of course they did so in the ugliest way possible, leaving a stain on the pristine joy that spread across the entire region.

Thousands poured out into the streets in spontaneous celebrations after the Phils won the World Series title, the city’s first in a quarter century. Most were there to soak in the sheer joy of the moment. Others too advantage to revert to a character trait we see again and again tied to large crowds fueled on too much alcohol.

They resorted to violence. Cars were tipped over. A SEPTA bus shelter at Broad and Walnut was destroyed. One business was targeted. Robinson Luggage at Broad and Walnut took a direct hit. Looters broke into the store by shattering glass doors and windows. That’s bad enough. Of course on the way out these lowlifes carried out as much merchandise as they could. They apparently weren’t going anywhere. Police believe one knucklehead used a suitcase to start a fire at Broad and Sansom.

Let’s be clear. The overwhelming majority of those who took to the streets did so in the spirit of the evening, an outpouring of joy and emotion that’s been building for 25 years. Only a few took the opportunity to break the law.

But it was a few too many. Luckily, like so much of our lives these days, images of these vandals are popping up everywhere. There are still images and videos of the destruction on the Internet. Of course, some of the most outrageous acts can be viewed on YouTube.

Police are now hot on their trails. Good. If you have any information on who is responsible for these acts, police would like to hear from you. You can call them at 215-686-TIPS.

By all means, let’s enjoy the party. We’ve waited long enough for it. But, in the inimitable words of Mayor Michael Nutter, “You cannot be a jackass.”

Unfortunately, there’s never a shortage of those around.

Another gem from Nutter

Give Michael Nutter this: You always know exactly how he feels.

The Philadelphia mayor is quickly gaining a reputation for saying precisely what’s on his mind. That in itself is unusual for an elected official, let alone a politician. They all too often speak in code and political double-speak.

In short, Nutter can at times be brutally blunt. We sometimes refer to it as the “wince factor.” Sometimes you cringe when Nutter speaks his mind.

A few weeks back we castigated the mayor for his choice of words after still another shooting of a Philadelphia police officer. Nutter told the gathered media exactly how he felt. He was ticked. Except that’s not the word he used. In fact he used one of my least favorite words in the English language. It’s a common term for relieving yourself. But it’s also often used to denote being upset. It’s just not very often used by the mayor of a major city at a widely disseminated press conference.

Nutter dropped another juicy sound bite Thursday in talking about the city’s preparations for today’s parade to honor the World Champion Phillies.

The city is expecting more than a million people to line the parade route along Broad Street.

Officials want everyone to have a good time, but they do not want a repeat of the actions of some neanderthals who went on vandalism sprees in the wake of the party after the Phils’ win over the Rays Wednesday night to win the World Series.

Nutter made how he felt crystal clear.

“You can be joyous; you cannot be a jackass,” Nutter said. “That kind of idiotic, destructive behavior will be no accepted in the city of Philadelphia.”

Well said, mayor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phinally

9:58 p.m.

It was at that moment that the torch was passed. And the curse was broken.
Twenty-eight years ago it was Tug McGraw throwing his famous “Peggy Lee” fastball (Is That All There Is?) past Willie Wilson.

Last night it was a mirror image, with a similar swing and a miss from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Eric Hinske on an offering from Brad Lidge.

Carlos Ruiz squeezed the ball, and a city and region erupted.

What followed was a little like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. And there was plenty of that going on as well.

The Phillies were World Champions. The curse was broken. .The drought is over. We’re winners.

Phinally!

You can make a legitimate argument that we pay entire too much attention to these silly games designed for little boys but played by millionaire men.

But that would ignore the fiber that unites us as a community. At 9:58 last night we were not a city or suburbs, black or white, rich or poor, blue collar or white collar, Republican or Democrat.

We were sports fans. Slightly crazed sports fans, but ones whose hearts were beating as one.

For 25 years we had waited, sometimes patiently and at times not so patiently, to be led out of the wilderness.

More than once we were led to the edge, only to get another dagger in the heart.
We heard about Billy Penn and his displeasure of seeing skyscrapers rise above the brim of his hat from his perch atop City Hall.

We looked inside ourselves to some character fault, for some reason to explain 25 years of losing.

The truth is there was no real reason, other than the fact that more times than not we simply lost to better teams.

Our frustrations grew, matched only by the bile in our stomachs. We manifested this yearning for something other than a kick in the gut in our own traditional way.

We booed.

Yes, we once even let Santa Claus know he did not exactly come up to our standards.
We watched a parade of athletes come and go, lining their pockets but failing to deliver us from our pain.

We tore down one stadium, built several others.

But still we did not win a title.

Until last night.

At 9:58 p.m., a quarter century of angst, 100 seasons of losing dissipated. The drought is over. We drank from the cup of victory. Liberally.

Anyone ready for a parade?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just a few more hours

The wait is almost over.

We’ve waited for 15 years for the Phils to get back to the World Series, to erase the memory of that Joe Carter laser that pierced our hearts.

We’ve waited 28 years for the Phils to once again offer us the sheer delirium of being champions of the baseball world. The celebration in 1980 is still talked about in hallowed terms.

We’ve waited 25 years for a championship of any kind. The last time we’ve had the sweet taste of victory was in 1983. Since then we’ve endured 100 seasons without the sweet taste of a title.

I suppose we can wait a few more hours.

We can try to put the debacle of Monday night’s suspended game behind us. Ditto for the decision to postpone the conclusion last night.

There are those who believe all of this is a good thing, that it actually provided fans with an opportunity to recharge their batteries.

Only if they’re hooked up to portable heaters.

Look, I am as manic as anyone about the idea of the Phils finally winning something tonight.

But don’t ask me to be thrilled about the way Major League Baseball and network television treats the fans who pay the freight.

They will re-start tonight’s suspended game at 8:37 p.m., right after the half-hour political message from Democrat Barack Obama.

Not that it matters. Do you think they would have started any earlier if not for that? Yeah, sure. They probably would have moved it all the way up to 8:29. Basically all they’re canceling is the pre-game show.

But the elements remain stark. Temperature at game time is expected to be around 40 degrees. It likely will dip into the 30s during those three and a half innings. Fortunately, the fans likely will supply more than enough heat. Citizens Bank Park tonight will be positively electric. They could probably run the lights off the sparks coming out of the stands.

But some things don’t change. The season is too long, the games are played too late, too often in wintry conditions.

There are some silver linings. Since they’re only playing three and a half innings (please don’t bring up the possibility of extra innings) the game should end shortly after 10 o’clock. Kids might actually be able to see a little history being made.

Should – OK when – the Phils win, it means the party will start a little earlier as well.

We’re on the brink of history. Twenty-five years of being branded losers, an epic drought when it comes to sports championships. That’s 100 seasons of futility. Or is that phutility?

And it might end tonight.

Phinally. We’ve waited long enough.

About that informercial

One of my most vociferous critics e-mailed yesterday that in my ranting against Major League Baseball and the way they sell out the fans to TV, I left one villain out.

Barack Obama.

He’s right. They’re re-starting tonight’s suspended Game 5 of the World Series at 8:37 p.m. That’s because the Democrat running for president has purchased a half-hour of time for a political infomercial, starting at 8.

I don’t know if Obama realized he’d be interrupting World Series mania, especially here in the land of unchecked Phillies Phever, but that’s what will happen tonight.

So if you flip on the TV at 8 expecting to see the Fox pre-game show, don’t bother, unless of course you’re interested in what Obama has to say.

He’ll be on all the networks but one. ABC is going with its normal programming.

The truth of the matter is the only thing Obama is interrupting is the pre-game show. Do you really think that Fox would start this game any earlier even if they could? Not for a second.

They would have given us the full half-hour buildup, then gotten around to picking up the game, which will start with the Phils batting in the bottom of the sixth, sometime around 8:30.

Still, point taken. Add Obama to the list of things that are wrong with playing the World Series at these outrageous times, and in these miserable conditions.

Sestak vs. Williams

Here’s my daily non-Phillies item. Yes, there is another world out there. We call it the real world. It’s a world that, while it cares if the Phillies win, it does not treat it as life and death.

For those, and for political junkies crazed with the final week of the campaign, there is this.

Craig Williams and Joe Sestak will finally stand on the same stage this morning.

The Republican Williams is challenging the first-term incumbent Democratic congressman, the man who stunned the local GOP two years ago by beating one of their icons, 20-year incumbent Curt Weldon.

The two-hour event is being hosted by the League of Women Voters from 10 to noon at the at the Lang Performing Arts Center on the Swarthmore College campus.

For Republicans, this is a view they’re unaccustomed to, that of the challenger, and the underdog. They’ve adopted the tactics once heard in this district from Democrats, urging a series of debates.

And Sestak has reacted the way the Republicans often once viewed those very same kinds of challenges. He largely ignored them.

Republicans say he’s been ducking them. Democrats remind them that’s exactly what the GOP did for years.

But in the last memorable 7th District donnybrook, Weldon did offer Sestak two debates, held well in advance of election day. Republicans also are steamed that Sestak has held them at bay until just a few days before voters head to the polls.

Today they go mano a mano. After they scrambled to find a candidate to challenge Sestak, the GOP struck gold with Williams. Anyone unfamiliar with him will quickly learn that today.

He’s bright, articulate, and rock solid on the issues.

Let the debate begin.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The stuff hits the fans

I heard a song on the radio over the weekend while riding in the car. Now I can’t get it out of my head. This morning it seems pretty appropriate.

The song? “Red Rain,” by Peter Gabriel.

“Red rain is falling down. Red Rain. Red Rain is falling down all over me.”

We’ve now entered the world of the surreal, Phillies fans.

Yes, we have seen this before. The year was 1977. Phillies vs. Dodgers. The game was delayed two hours because of a driving rain. Major League Baseball decided to start the game anyhow. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League President Chub Feeney sat in their box seats without rain coats. Great night for a ballgame. Steve Carlton and the Phillies lost to Tommy John, 4-1. The Dodgers won the pennant.

I didn’t think I would ever see a similar travesty. I was wrong. I saw it on Saturday. It took 31 years, but baseball once again showed exactly what it thinks of the people who pay the bills to walk through the turnstiles.

They never for a second considered postponing that Saturday game. It had been pouring all day, a really nasty wind-driven day. But the forecast called for clearing at night. That’s all baseball needed to hear.

Fans didn’t have to wait another three decades to have it rubbed in their faces again. How about two days?

What happened Monday night is kind of hard to explain. Maybe it really is Philadelphia. Maybe we are cursed. Call it the curse of Bowie Kuhn.

It was raining at the start of the game last night. But Major League Baseball clearly had no interest in postponing the game. What followed was a slow descent into what the front page of our print edition correctly describes as a “Rain of Error.”

A few innings into the game, it was pouring. Water was starting to collect on the field. Now baseball was stuck, because the Phillies were ahead. In the top of the sixth, it looked like a monsoon was enveloping Citizens Bank Park.

In the top of the sixth the Rays tied the game. That gave Commissioner Bud Selig the “out” he so desperately needed. It apparently wasn’t raining hard enough to stop the game in the fourth, fifth, or top of the sixth, but as soon as the Rays tied the game, Selig suddenly came to his senses and stopped play.

Here’s the deal, one fans should come to realize. You don’t matter. The game is no longer played for you. It is played for TV, for programming, for entertainment, and most importantly as a vehicle to sell products.

That’s why the season now runs so long, giving us games featuring the Boys of Summer playing in games where the temperature never breaks 50.

That’s why games are no longer played in the afternoon sunshine, when kids might actually be able to play them.

That’s why these are now prime time affairs, all the better to push ratings and sell commercials.

That’s why the night games no longer can start at 7 or 7:30. They have to be pushed back to prime time. The TV production might start at 8, but the first pitch does not occur until 8:35.

That’s why the breaks between innings are now stretched out, because extra commercial time has been sold.

The conditions in which the Rays and Phillies played, first Saturday and then last night, were atrocious. Fans were forced to sit around all afternoon with no word from baseball’s brass about a postponement. They shouldn’t have held their breath. It was never going to happen. Baseball never considered the fans and the conditions they had to endure either night. That’s because the fans don’t matter.

Saturday was cold, raining and miserable. Fans were forced to sit through a one hour and 36 minute delay. Major League Baseball started a World Series game after 10 p.m.

Last night was worse. It was raining at the start of the game, but baseball marched on.

It wasn’t fair to the Rays. It wasn’t fair to the Phillies.

But it was actually cruel to the fans. The Phillies set an all-time attendance record this year. Doesn’t matter. None of that matters. The fans don’t matter.

Baseball proved that once and for all last night.

Maybe we are cursed. Somewhere Bowie Kuhn is chuckling in his grave. There have been 603 World Series games played in World Series history. This is the first time a game has ever been suspended.

The game is supposed to pick up tonight at 8, weather permitting. Don’t be fooled by that. Even if they play, first pitch won’t happen before 8:30.

Bud Selig will make sure of that.

It is still raining as I write this Tuesday morning.

Maybe a heavy fog will roll in tonight. We’ve seen that before, too. Anyone remember the Fog Bowl?

Who knows how many people will show up at Citizens Bank Park tonight. Who knows how many people no longer have their tickets, or have made other plans, or need to juggle travel arrangements.

Maybe the game will be played in a stadium only half full.

Doesn’t matter. Bud Selig and baseball will soldier on.

That’s because the fans don’t matter.

Red Rain, falling down all over us.

Forecast of doom

There is one other item that is still sticking in my craw about this entire Phillies’ situation.

It involves one of my favorite topics, or suppose I should more correctly say my least favorite topics.

It has to do with the weather. Yesterday’s weather. OK, last night’s weather to be exact.

Where did that come from? Did I miss something in the forecast. The first I heard about the chance of rain last night was as I was driving into work Monday morning.

Huh? Comes as news to me. Apparently came as news to many forecasters as well.

Then through the day we heard about the “chance” of showers last night. But we were reassured again and again that they would arrive late and not have any effect on last night’s World Series game. How did that work out?

A co-worker who had just walked to the Wawa last night around 6:30 stuck his head in my office and offered this grim forecast: “I don’t like the looks of this weather out there.”

He did something that’s always helpful in these instances. He actually went outside.

When I left the office to head home just after 7 p.m., it was already spitting rain.

By the time I got home, it was raining. Not drizzling. Not spitting. It was raining.

It also was raining at Citizens Bank Park. And it kept raining, eventually picking up steam until the game was finally suspended with the Phils coming up to bat in the bottom of the sixth.

It wasn’t the Storm of the Century. But it’s a forecast we’re going to remember for a long time.

Obama does Chester

There is a big world out there outside of the World Series and Phillies Phever. Some times we need to remind ourselves of that.

Exactly one week from today, we’ll go to the polls to elect a new president.

And Pennsylvania remains in the crosshairs of both the McCain and Obama camps.

John McCain and Sarah Palin will make several appearances in the state. He held a rally in Pottsville last night. He will team with Palin for a couple of stops today.

Last night Obama was in Pittsburgh, but this morning he will hit Delco, with a rally at Widener University in Chester that is expected to draw as many as 50,000 supporters. Of course, that was before Mother Nature got involved. As Phillies fans know all too well, it started raining last night and it is still raining. It’s expected to rain steadily most of the day and into tonight.

Obama is expected at Widener at 10 a.m.

It’s been awhile since a presidential candidate has been in the city. Ronald Reagan was there in 1980. And John Kennedy famously visited in 1960.

The rally, which is expected to clog city streets, making it difficult to get around, either on foot or especially via school buses, caused Chester Upland School officials to cancel classes for the day.

You can make the argument that the last thing kids in Chester – or anywhere else for that matter – need is a day off for school.

Chester Upland Superintendent Gregory Thornton said it was a safety decision, since crowds are expected from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., although the rally itself is set for 10 a.m. on the main quad on campus.

Chester has a population of about 35,000, which means a group larger than the city’s normal population could engulf the town. Amid that throng there would be 7,000 kids trying to get to school in the 4.7-square mile school district.

The decision to close the schools raised a few eyebrows, in particular among some local GOP officials. Springfield GOP boss Michael Puppio called the decision “a disgraceful misuse of taxpayer dollars” and said the Obama campaign should have moved the rally if if meant cancelling classes.

I’m inclined to give the district a break. It’s not exactly new that kids are out of school when a big political event comes to town. Any number of school bands have taken part in recent rallies.

Besides, we could use a diversion to take our minds off the Phillies’ debacle.

No word yet on whether they will suspend the Obama rally because of the weather.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One more win

One more win.

One more win and we wash away 25 years of waiting, of suffering, of crying in our beer, of being branded losers.

If 1993 seems like a lifetime ago, when we watched as Mo Cheeks dunked to seal the Sixers’ world championship, that’s because it was.

1980, the last Phillies title, was even longer.

Now we are on the verge of redemption.

It’s been a fairly tumultuous weekend here in Phillies-land. First we had to endure water torture – literally – Saturday night. Game 3 of the World Series was supposed to start at 8:35.

I kind of had a bad feeling about this game for days. The forecast said it was supposed to rain most of the day Saturday. For once, the weather folks weren’t wrong. But they also indicated that it would start to clear up Saturday night. I just had a feeling that Major League Baseball and Fox were going to do whatever was necessary to squeeze that game in.

I wasn’t wrong. The game started after 10 p.m., the latest starting time ever for a World Series game. So much for deadline for the Sunday paper.

But instead of the last time we dealt with the misery of rain involving the Phillies in the playoffs (we’re still haunted by the sight of National League President Chub Feeney sitting in the pouring-down rain without a topcoat), this time it was the Phils who persevered.

They won in the wee hours.

Last night they made it easy on all of us. They crushed the Rays, 10-2.

It would appear the stars are aligned. Tonight they will send Cole Hamels – he of the 4-0 postseason record – to the mound to seal the deal.

Twenty-five years. That’s a quarter of a century. For many fans, it’s longer than they’ve been alive.

Think you can wait one more day?

Go Phillies.

Everything's Jake with Phils

The day after the Phillies eliminated the Dodgers to win the National League pennant, I get a phone call here in the office.

It’s the start of my favorite story so far from the Phillies run to a World Series title.

It’s from Sherry Lancianese, a mom out in Aston. It involves her son Jake, Gov. Rendell and the World Series. And the Daily Times plays a feature role as well.

It seems a few years back, when Jake was in elementary school at Hilltop Elementary, the governor came to the school to praise the district’s new kindergarten program.

While he was there he asked the kids some questions. Jake Lancianese correctly answered one of the questions. When the governor asked him what he wanted, Jake responded that if the Phillies ever made it to the World Series, he wanted tickets to a game. A story, including Jake’s photo and his request, appeared in the Daily Times the next day.

Jake didn’t forget. After the Phils won the NLCS, he sat down atthis kitchen table and penned a letter to the governor.

His mom called me. It sounded like a great story and I told her, absolutely, I thought it would be worth a shot of reminding the governor. I asked her to let me know how they made out. I meant to have someone get back to them, but in the frenzy we’ve been involved in with the World Series, it skipped my mind. It was on the list of stories I wanted us to do.

Last Thursday I get a voice mail. It’s from the governor’s aide. “The governor needs to speak to you,” Anne Shriver said in a pretty serious voice. My stomach was in knots. I knew that our editorial endorsements had appeared in the paper that day, and one of them mentioned the governor. I figured he was upset about something. I had totally forgotten Jake’s story. The governor, however, had not.

I call the aide back and leave her a message. She calls me back. I’m calling her at about the same time. She picks up the phone almost at the same time.

“Can you hold for the governor,” she asks? What was I going to say, no?

Rendell comes on the phone. I’ve met him a couple of times. He sounds like my best friend.

“Phil, you’re not going to believe this story,” he says.

I immediately think of Jake’s story. I still can’t believe I did this, but I blurt out, interrupting the governor:

“I don’t believe it, don’t tell me you heard from the Lancianese family.”

Oh, he had heard alright. They sent the letter certified mail. Rendell goes over all his own mail. He saw the letter, which included the story from the Daily Times as proof, and contacted the family.

That’s how that great story ended up on our front page Saturday. And that’s how wound up at last night’s Phillies game.

He and his dad were at last night’s Phillies game, courtesy of Gov. Ed Rendell.

And the Daily Times played a small role in it.

Sometimes I just love this job.

One week and counting

Times like these call for a little perspective. Then again, when you haven’t won a world championship, perspective tends to go out the window.

However, lest we forget, one week from tomorrow something fairly important is going to happen, and it has nothing to do with the Phillies.

At least I don’t think it does. Unless they decide to hold the parade then. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to talk about such things.

Next Tuesday we hopefully will have recovered from the party to get down to the serious business of electing a new president.

This week we are getting a calling card, a reminder of the crucial role of the Pennsylvania suburbs, on Tuesday. Sen. Barack Obama is planning a rally at Widener University in Chester. The Democratic nominee will speak at the Main Quad at 10 a.m.

Tonight Obama will be in Pittsburgh.

The Republican tandem of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah palin also will be in the state this week. McCain is doing a rally in the Pottsville School District today. He’ll join Palin for a rally in Hershey on Tuesday. Palin also will be in Shippensburg Tuesday afternoon and will do a second rally Tuesday night at Penn State’s main campus in State College.

Of course, they have already done a huge town meeting here in Delaware County in the courtyard of the county courthouse.

All of which points to the crucial role of Pennsylvania, and within that the key role of the Philadelphia suburbs, in the vote. There is still a belief that Pennsylvania could tip the election, and the Philly suburbs could tip the state vote. The belief is that McCain must attract enough votes in the suburbs to offset the huge edge Obama is expected to roll up in Philadelphia.

Polls done over the weekend see the race as getting closer, at least on the national level.

The latest poll of swing states done by Quinnipiac University continues to show Obama with a 13-point lead in Pennsylvania. But a Big Ten Battlegrond Poll showed a tighter race, with Obama up by 10 points.

Republican strategists continue to believe Pennsylvania is the key to a McCain win. Many can not see him capturing the White House without winning the Keystone State.

Get used to seeing a lot of the candidates over the next eight days.

Better buckle your seat belt, too. It might be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The agony and the ecstasy of a Phils' win

Have I mentioned recently how much I hate TV?

Look, I'm a print guy. This blog appears online, but if you cut my arms open, you'd be just as likely to get ink as blood.

I spent much of the past week doing two things I don't especially care for: Checking the forecast and making a battle plan for Saturday night.

For those of you glued to political coverage on MSNBC, Fox or CNN, I bring you this news bulletin: The Phillies are playing in the World Series.

For most of the region's sports-addled fans, that brings tidings of great joy. After all, it's been 15 years since Joe Carter broke our hearts with that laser into the seats in Sky Dome to beat the Phils in the 1993 Fall Classic. It took 15 years, but the Phils are back, and after two games in Tampa, the scene shifted Saturday to Citizens Bank Park.

Everywhere you go, there are smiles on the faces of the faithful. Unless you happen to be a newspaper editor.

Look, I'm as big a fan as anyone. My heart shattered in '93; I loved the "Wheeze Kids" in '83; I was at the parade in 1980.

But in 2008 I have other issues to deal with.

Sprots has long since surrendered its soul to TV. They pay big bucks to televise these events. They tell them when to play. TV says jump, major league sports execs respond, "How High?"

There was a time when the Fall Classic was played in sunshine. Not anymore. This is now strictly a Prime Time Affair, regardless of how many kids will not be able to stay up to watch their heroes. The Series is played at night, sometimes late night, toward the end of October, in less than ideal weather.

Last night's game was supposed to start at 8:35. That in itself poses a challenge for our nightly print deadline. We long ago established new later deadlines in order to handle these Wolrd Series games.

But note the first four letters in that word - D-e-a-d-line. At some point, we have to start printing newspapers in order to get them into the hands of our readers. Go ahead, cal us dinosaurs. Some people still cling to the idea of holding a newspaper in their hands.

Then there was the other little problem last night. I guess it was about Tuesday that I started hearing the forecasters calling for rain on Saturday. Not good. Add in the possibility of weather problems with an 8:35 start, and you have a newspaper editor's nightmare.

So I started creating Doomsday Scenarios. In a perfect world, I thought to myself, if it was pouring all day, Major League Baseball might make an early call to postpone the game. Yeah, right, I told myself. Right after they sell the souls of their grandmothers. I knew that was never going to happen, especially when the forecast started to shift, with many calling for rain most of the day but clearing at night.

Sceanario Two was my big concern. As I suspected, Major League baseball was not about to make an early call. They would make everyone slosh down to the ballpark, then sit and wait in the rain. 8:35 came. And went. Rain delay. Not good.

Saturday night's game was delayed 1 hour, 31 minutes. Which ment it started just after 10 p.m. Which told me something I had been fearing all week. We likely would be publishing newspapers that did not have the result of the game in them.

If you are a home subsciber, you probably noticed that. And the box on Page 3 informing you that last night's game ended too late for that edition of the Daily Times. It killed me to do it, but we really had no choice. We informed readers they could get full coverage on our Web site, another arrow in the heart of an old print relic like me.

When Carlos Ruiz hit that dribbler down the third base line to win the game in the 9th inning to score the winning run, it was exactly 1:46. I know because I had been looking at my watch constantly for the past two hours.

Yes, I'm hapy that the Phillies won. I'm ready to do it all over again today.

It's something of a double-header. The Eagles play at the Linc at 1, with the Phillies on deck for Game 4 of the World Series.

But it won't start at 4, or even 4:35. Nope, it's also an 8:35 start. Prime time, you know.

Hey, at least it's not going to rain. So tonight I suppose they'll play 19 innings. Just kidding. I think.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Remember the Eagles?

Yeah, I know, who cares? We're busy painting the town red. We've waited 15 years for the Phillies to return to the World Series, and now we might have to wait one more day because it's supposed to pour down rain all day.

Cheer up, they're still supposed to squeeze the game in tonight, and tomorrow is expected to be gorgeous.

Which will make for a marathon day of sports: Eagles-Falcons at 1 at the Linc; Phils-Rays at 8:30 at the Bank. A double-header, if you like.

Anyone else have a clue as to this Eagles team? I am now officially 2-4 picking games this year, while the Birds are a thoroughly mediocre 3-3 on the season.

Something is bothering me about this team. I just don't think they're very good. That was pretty clear in how they had to struggle to overcome a not-very-good 49ers team.

On the other hand, if there is on thing the Eagles have done is play very well when they come off their Bye week.

Make it Eagles 23, Falcons 17, as the Birds ruin the homecoming for Exton native and Penn Charter star Matt Ryan. But I would not be surprised if the Eagles go belly-up.

Why? There's something fundamentally unsound about the way this team plays, and the way it's set up. Six games into the season and Andy Reid is still figuring out what to do about a fullback? This week they signed Havertown native Kyle Eckel. But converted defensive lineman Dan Klecko is still supposed to get the start.

They also passed on an opportunity to get All-Pro and lock Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez from Kansas City, even though they desperately need both a blocking presence at that position and a solid option for Donovan McNabb in the red zone. Gonzalez wold have filled both.

But Andy, along with Joe Banner and the Eagles' brass, knows best. Which so far has gotten to them 3-3.

Let's go, Phillies!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Payne ends for Faith's family, friends

It was a familiar sound that accompanied Lemuel Payne as he left a Sharon Hill court in handcuffs yesterday: Silence.

Payne had no comment on the charges that he was the driver of the black Mercedes that struck and killed 16-year-old Faith Sinclair as she tried to cross Chester Pike back on Aug. 3.

It’s the sound that police and Sinclair’s family members struggled with for almost three months, since that fateful Sunday night when the black Mercedes slammed into Faith, then sped off, leaving her to die in her friends’ arms.

For almost three months, Payne was a free man, at least physically. But I would imagine he was anything but free psychologically. In reviewing the charges filed against him Thursday, another picture develops. Payne knew that he had struck someone at that intersection. He also knew that, for whatever reason, he drove off without stopping to render aid or notify police. He obviously learned later on that Faith Sinclair had died. There is every indication that he took steps to hide his damaged car, including stashing it in an Upper Darby garage, where it was found covered with a tarp. The garage’s windows had been recently tinted so someone outside could not see what was inside.

Police found the car in the garage within days. They identified Payne as a person of interest. But he was not charged with any crime. Until Thursday.

Payne surrendered to authorities.

It took 81 days.

I don’t know what Payne did during those 81 days. I know what Faith Sinclair’s friends and family did. Several of them have called to urge the newspaper not to forget Faith’s case, not to let it slip through the cracks. They would often gather at the site to hold vigils for Faith.

Police slowly, tortuously built their case, including using the county Investigative Grand Jury.

I also know what Faith’s mother, Kim Ferrell, did. Just about every day, she would visit either the intersection where her daughter died or the cemetery where she now rests.

She apparently went to the cemetery again yesterday, to tell her daughter that they now know the person police believe is responsible for her death.

As I said, for those 81 days, Lemuel Payne was a free man. But I am guessing he was never free of the demons that chased him ever since police say he fled that intersection after striking and killing Faith Sinclair.

The same kind of demons that maybe now Faith’s family and friends can begin to put to rest.

Dems the breaks

I’ve worked at this newspaper for more years than I care to remember.

That means I’ve covered more than my share of elections.

In almost every one of them, the following words have been a staple: The Republican Party, and their overwhelming edge in voter registration in Delaware County.

Not anymore.

I was startled at the numbers coming out of the County Election Bureau this week. You can check it out for yourself here.

The 3-1 voter registration edge the GOP once enjoyed is gone. Democrats continue to closed the gap. They now trail the mighty GOP by just a little more than 18,000.

Democrats added another 6,000 voters just since Oct. 6. Republicans added just 1,200 during the same period.

The scoreboard now looks like this: GOP 46.9 percent, Dems 42.4 percent.

The county has gone Democratic in the last four presidential races. Two years ago 7th District voters showed longterm incumbent GOP Congressman Curt Weldon the door. Republicans continue to dominate locally, especially when it comes to the County Courthouse, where they win everything in sight.

But the numbers show a shift in the county that will be fascinating to watch.

New polls numbers out this morning indicate the crucial Pennsylvania suburbs, once loyal GOP bastions, are tilting toward Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in the presidential race.

That does not bode well for McCain’s chances of winning the crucial Keystone State. He needs a strong showing in the suburbs to offset what is expected to be a huge margin of victory for Obama in Philadelphia.

But the numbers say the GOP might not have the numbers to deliver that kind of win anymore.

Democrats flexing muscle in Delaware County? Who’d a thunk it.

Phils' bats tied up in knots

All even.

And no one should be surprised.

If you’ve watched this Phillies team this year, then the fact that they have trouble manufacturing runs in lieu of hitting home runs should not come as a surprise.

The fact is they’re probably lucky to be coming home after stealing a win in Game One at Tropicana Field.

Last night they weren’t so lucky.

Small ball is not their forte. They live and die with the long ball. Last night they died.

This team continues to get runners in scoring position. And fails to deliver a clutch hit.

They’ve scored five runs in the two games, and as usual three of them came courtesy of a home run.

The math is pretty simple. Last night the Phils again were unable to deliver with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-15. That makes them 1-for-28 for the Series. Not good.

At times all they needed to do was put the ball in play. But with a runner at third, designated hitter Greg Dobbs struck out. It wasn’t a good night for Dobbs, who fanned twice with a runner at third and less than two outs. Jayson Werth also did it once.

In the seventh, with a chance to tie the game, Ryan Howard struck out with two men on board. Howard did have two hits in the game, but didn’t deliver at crunch time.

The team’s spark plug, the guy who sets the table and makes this offense go, is not exactly hitting on all cylinders. Jimmy Rollins is now 0-for-the-Series in the leadoff spot. That makes him 0-for-10 with three strikeouts in the Series.

Simply put, the Phils’ bats are ice cold. They’ll be in good company Saturday night when they return to their home in South Philly. The forecast calls for rain and more cold temperatures.

The Phils will need to deliver some heat. So far they’ve been unable to do so, particularly with runners in scoring position.

But enough of the negative. Let’s look on the bright side, and no, we’re not talking about the weather.

The fact is the Phils did what they had to do. They went into Tampa and won a game. That shifts home-field advantage to the Phillies. They play very well at Citizens Bank Park.

But they will need to pull out the lumber. Saturday night would a good time to start.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Justice for Faith Sinclair

It has taken 81 days, but today there will be justice for Faith Sinclair.

Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green will announce charges have been filed in connection with the hit-and-run that snuffed out the life of the promising 16-year-old.

A suspect is expected to surrender to Sharon Hill Police this morning.

It was back on Aug. 3, a Sunday night, when the Ridley teen and a group of friends tried to cross Chester Pike at Laurel Road in Sharon Hill.

She didn’t make it. Sinclair was struck by a black Mercedes. The driver did not stop.

In the investigation that followed, police tracked down the car they believe was the vehicle that struck Sinclair. It had front-end damage police said was what they would expect, a missing side-view mirror, a smashed windshield.

They knew who owned the vehicle. He was termed a “person of interest” in the case. But they did not know who was driving. No charges were filed.

A $10,000 reward was posted for information by the Citizens Crime Commission.

The county utilized the Investigative Grand Jury to hear from potential witnesses in the case.

One word seemed to surround the mystery of what happened that night. Silence.

That silence will be broken today. We likely will learn the identity of the person police believe struck Faith Sinclair, and then simply drove off.

It has been more than two months, a time in which Sinclair’s friends and family were unable to ease their pain, without the knowledge of who was responsible for her death.

That should end today. Because today there will be justice for Faith Sinclair.

That's one

The front page of our print edition pretty much sums things up this morning.

One down, three to go.

How are your fingernails this morning? Have any left? Never in doubt, right?

The Phillies pushed us one step closer to sports nirvana last night, edging the Rays, 3-2, in Game 1 of the World Series.

This one went pretty much according to the script. Another strong outing from Cole Hamels, who is looking more and more like the second coming of Steve Carlton, and a long ball from Chase Utley.

The second baseman got the Phils off to the perfect start in the first inning by depositing a Scott Kazmir pitch in the right-field seats to give the Phils a 2-0 lead and quiet all those cowbell-ringing fans inside the seriously quirky Tropicana Field.

Hamels took it from there, pitching a strong seven innings, giving up just two runs on five hits while striking out five.

You might say this one went according to the script. Hamels, the MVP of the NLCS, dominated for seven innings. He then handed the ball to Ryan Madson, who quickly is perfecting his setup role as the “Bridge to Lidge.” He pitched a perfect eighth and then gave way to lights-out closer Brad Lidge. Nothing new here. Lidge did what he has done all season, slamming the door in a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the deal.

There was one other unfortunate similarity to the Phils’ win. Their penchant for “untimely” hitting continued last night. They left 11 runners on base, many of them in scoring position. This game should not have been close. Hamels should have been on cruise control. But time after time, the Phils failed to deliver the killer punch, especially with runners on base.

Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell combined for an 0-for-7. Both had opportunities to deliver big blows, but flailed instead. Jimmy Rollins did not exactly set the table. He went 0-for-5.

But none of that matters now. The only thing that does is that the Phils went one up in the World Series.

Three to go. Brett Myers takes the mound tonight as the Phils will look to take a stranglehold in the series.

How fast do you think they can get Hamels back on the hill?

3:23, a beautiful number

A confession here. I have a favorite number from last night’s big Phillies win.

It is not 1, as in the Phils taking a 1-0 lead in the World Series.

It is not 3, as in the number of runs they scored.

It is not 7, the number of strong innings from ace starter Cole Hamels.

Nor is it 0, the number of base-runners allowed by relievers Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge in the eighth and ninth.

It is 3:23. That’s how long it took to play the game. Three hours and 23 minutes. With an 8:35 start, the game ended right around midnight.

I am a newspaper editor. I deal with something every day. It’s called a deadline. It’s a little like having a loaded gun pointed at your head every night.

Playing World Series games in prime time might be convenient for TV, but it wreaks havoc with newspapers.

The truth is, we’d hate to find ourselves in the position of having to print newspapers without the result of the game in them. The truth is that’s a possibility. Remember, baseball is the one game that is not played with a clock. Throw in network TV, a late start, and a ton of commercials, and these games take forever to play.

That’s another reason for me to be a Cole Hamels’ fan. The games in which he pitches happen to move at a pretty good clip.

Last night we were able to sub a special front page, with lots of color, because the game ended at a reasonable hour.

Of course, on Saturday, when the Series heads north to South Philly and Citizens Bank Park, they are talking about the serious possibility of rain.

That could mean a rain delay. I don’t even want to think about it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chasing the demons of '64

In a city that is holding its breath as World Series Fever turns our world upside-down, my thoughts this morning took an odd turn.

I have been thinking about 1964. That’s really where all this starts. This notion that we are cursed, that our sports heroes are fatally flawed, doomed to failure, sure to stab us in the heart.

It started when Chico Ruiz stole home to propel the Reds over the Phils. Up six with 10 games to play, the ’64 Phillies went belly-up to earn a permanent spot in the darkest recesses of our sports-addled minds.

The city has struggled with the emblem ever since. Even a World Championship in 1980 has not completely dispelled those feelings of inferiority, that somehow, some way, our sports teams will fail in the clutch.

I was 9 years old in 1964. I loved two things: Playing baseball and the Phillies. I followed them religiously, either at my father’s side as he sat in the yard listening to the transistor radio, or on TV, which my father eschewed because he could “see the game better” on the radio. Today, all these years later, as a person who loves nothing more than sitting on his porch on a steamy summer night doing the same thing, I finally know what my dad was talking about.

I grew up in a little town out in Chester County. Oxford, Pa., has a fairly famous connection to the Phillies – and that 1964 team – that I bet you’ve never heard of.

His name is John Ogden. Ogden was a scout for years with the Phillies. As kids we would often hang around outside his house because we knew the kindly older man had a penchant for giving out tickets to see the Phils at Connie Mack Stadium. To be honest, we probably were just pestering him and he likely offered the ducats as a way of getting us off his lawn.

And what would Ogden’s connection to the ’64 Phillies be? As I said Ogden was a scout. During one of the endless trips that scouts took in those days, before every moment of every prospect’s life was captured on video, Ogden found himself beating the bushes in another little Pennsylvania town. Ogden was in Wampum, Pa.

Ring a bell? It should. That was where John Ogden laid his eyes on a young slugger. His name was Richie Allen. We would later know him as the “Wampum Walloper.”

Ogden signed Allen, who starred as a rookie on that 1964 team. Allen was known for his prodigious power, and his occasional blasts over the Ballantine Scoreboard at Connie Mack Stadium.

I’m not sure if it was after Ogden signed Allen or later when he was terrorizing National League pitching, but Allen once joined Ogden on the front porch of that Oxford home. Every kid in town was there to see the next great hope of the Phils.

Kind of like that ’64 team he starred on as a rookie, Allen was a bit cursed. He had a running series of disagreements with team management, as well as the fans. He once famously etched the word “Boo” in the dirt around first base. He got involved in a famous tussle with teammate Dick Stuart, and was involved in an equally infamous injury to his hand, which he claimed happened when he put it through a headlight while pushing his car. Eventually Allen was traded.

But it never diminished my admiration for him. That’s because I had another reason to like Allen. Like my dad, he fancied the ponies. He was a bit of a horse player.

He once famously said about the arrival of Astro-Turf artificial surfaces: “If a horse can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”

Which brings us full circle. The Phils will play Game One of the World Series tonight, inside a domed stadium, on an artificial surface.

Maybe if they win, we can finally put away the demons of 1964. But some elements of that team will be with me forever.

Seeing your favorite player sitting on the front porch of a house in your tiny home town will do that to you.
*
Finally. Or maybe that should be Phinally.

The Phillies and Rays will tee it up tonight in Game 1 of the World Series at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.

Of course the Phillies clinched their spot in the Fall Classic last Wednesday by dumping the Dodgers in L.A. That was seven long days ago. In the meantime the Rays and Red Sox were in the throes of a seven-game struggle before the Rays finally prevailed.

Crazed Phillies fans have been biding their time, buying every piece of Phillies paraphernalia they can get their hands on, for the last seven days.

We waited 15 years to get back to the World Series, what’s another seven days.

Here is one man’s view of the Series. Tonight is the key. And Cole Hamels is again in the spotlight. He’s been lights out so far in post-season play. He’s compiled a 3-0 record and a sparkling 1.23 ERA.

If Hamels wins, the Phils will follow his lead. I say Hamels delivers again. He goes eight strong and then hands it off to Brad “Lights Out” Lidge.”

You heard it here first. Phillies in six.

Anyone ready for a parade?

*

If you just can’t wait until 8:35 (yes, I know that is ungodly late. Just thank your lucky stars you’re not a newspaper editor with an impossible-to-meet deadline), there’s any number of rallies for you to get your Phillies fix while waiting for Game One.

In Delco, fans will converge in the courtyard of the Delaware County Courthouse Government Center in Media from 12:30-1:30 this afternoon. Wear your red.

If you’re going to be downtown, the city is holding a pep rally at noon at Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall.

And if you’re feeling really adventurous and like your baseball with a chill in the air, there will be a Phillies Viewing Party in the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing to watch Game 1 of the Series in the great outdoors. Game time is 8:35. Imagine that, 2,000 fans huddled outside in the October chill to watch a game being played in the climate-controlled indoor atmosphere of Tropicana Field.

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fighting terror at home

Forget al-Qaeda.

Yes, we are still engaged in conflict in Iraq. And increasingly we look at the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and their role in aiding and fomenting the terrorist element intent on bringing down the United States.

But you don’t have to go to the Middle East to find terrorist elements that threaten our way of life.

Sometimes all you have to do is visit your local Dunkin’ Donuts.

Upper Darby police yesterday asked for the public’s help in tracking down what top cop Mike Chitwood referred to as a group of “urban street terrorists” who are believed responsible for a series of recent brazen daytime armed holdups at the popular local coffee outlets.

Police released a harrowing surveillance video that depicts one of these thugs leaping over the counter and sticking a gun in the face of a female employee, then knocking her to the floor.

Police believe this group is responsible for hitting three local Dunkin’ Donuts outlets, including two in West Philadelphia. Chitwood says they also hit an Upper Darby Pizza Hut.

Ironically, the Dunkin’ Donuts that was the site of the latest armed heist has a farely well-known daily customer. That’s where Chitwood goes to get his java fix.

The Upper Darby top cop fears that if this gang is not apprehended – and soon – someone is going to be seriously hurt or even killed. He points out that it was just such an instance in Philadelphia where Officer Chuck Cassidy walked in on a holdup and was shot and killed by an armed robber.

“Anybody can walk in,” the chief said.

Chitwood, famous for labeling those who commit crimes on his turf as “scumbags,” has an even sterner warning in this case.

“These guys are street terrorists, plain and simple,” Chitwood said.

And they are here, on our streets, in our neighborhoods. No one is going to forget the war in Iraq, or in Afghanistan.

At the same time, maybe it’s time we started to pay more attention to the war in Upper Darby, and every other town endangered by this new-wave style of terrorism.

The 'curse' of lousy players

Can we please stop talking about a curse?

The only thing we’ve been cursed with when it comes to our pro sports team is the curse of lousy players.

Here are the basics. Philadelphia has been engulfed in something of a drought when it comes to pro sports championships. That’s kind of like saying Katrina was a rain storm.

No Philadelphia team has won a championship since 1983, when Mo Cheeks slam-dunked to seal the deal for the Sixers as they vanquished the Los Angeles Lakers.

That was 25 years ago. That’s an even 100 seasons, with nary a championship trophy. No parades down Broad Street.

There are those who insist this quarter century of ineptitude is somehow linked to the decision that allowed buildings to be erected that would be taller than Billy Penn’s hat atop City Hall.

Willard Rouse crashed through that ceiling when he built Liberty Place. Now the Comcast looms even higher, with Billy Boy now dwarfed by the city’s burgeoning skyline.

I don’t for a second think there is anything to this so-called curse. Oh, I’ve done more than my share of cursing in the past 25 years, but it’s usually directed at the players on the field, or the coaches, or owners who have too often fielded inept squads.

Can you say Doug Pederson? Freddie Garcia? Shawn Bradlee? John Vanbiesbrouck?

The Phillies made a return trip to the World Series in 1993, only to have a stake driven through our hearts by Joe Carter. The curse then wasn’t so much that the Phils lost, but the decision by manager Jim Fregosi to go to closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams that set off the fans’ ire.

In 2004, the Eagles actually made it to the Promised Land, only to see it all slip away as they took their good old time in the fourth quarter while losing to New England.

Now we are once again on the brink. The Phillies open the World Series tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Brad Lidge will play key roles in the outcome of the Series.

Billy Penn will have nothing to do with it. Unless Charlie Manuel decides to use him as his designated hitter.

Boys of summer? Don't fall for it

When it comes to baseball, I’m something of a purist.

I believe the game should be played outdoors, in daylight, on real grass.

Which amounts to strike three for this World Series. Of course, all the games will be played in prime time. TV calls this shot. Nothing new about that. They’d play the games at 2 in the morning if that’s when TV told them to throw out the first pitch.

In fact, all 7 games of the World Series will start at 8:30 or a few minutes later. Prime time. So what if that’s too late for many kids who must get up for school the next day. (And newspaper editors who have trouble staying up until 9 o’clock most nights. And don’t even get me started about deadlines.) That’s strike one.

Strikes two and three involve Tropicana Field. That’s the orange can where the Rays play their home games. It has a dome. Mid-October in Tampa might be delightful, but you’ll never know it in the climate-controlled atmosphere inside this stadium. It also has a funky design, with all kinds of nooks and crannies and skywalks. Also look for a Phils’ outfielder, maybe Pat Burrell, to lose a ball in the domed ceiling of this joint.

Then there’s the playing surface. Dick Allen once famously proclaimed this of Astro-Turf when it first debuted. “If a horse can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”

Suffice it to say Allen would hate Tropicana Field. It’s not real grass. It’s not especially pleasing on the eyes. And it has more than its share of bumps. Did you happen to see that final out recorded Sunday night in their win against the Red Sox, and the nasty hop that grounder to second took? You’ve been warned, Chase Utley.

Then again, there is one thing that you have to begrudgingly give to playing inside. Weather is not a factor. No matter what it is doing outside, Games 1 and 2 will be played in hermetically sealed perfect conditions inside Tropicana Field.

I believe baseball is a summer game. They don’t refer to them as the Boys of Summer for nothing. I’m thinking T-shirts and shorts.

When the Series heads north to Philadelphia for Games 3 through 5 Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Rays had better pack their long underwear.

Game-time temperatures will likely be in the 50s. And fall from there as the game goes on.

And one other thing. The forecast is calling for showers on Saturday and rain on Sunday. Better pack an umbrella if you’re going.

Maybe there really is no place like dome.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Payback time for Tampa

It’s Payback Time.

Jan. 19, 2003. The last Eagles game every to be played at Veterans Stadium.

Coming into that that crazed South Philly pit were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This one was a lock. Tampa never won when the temperature was below 32 degrees.

A chilled Vet awaited a final banquet, ready to feast on Buccaneers.

Didn’t work out that way. I think Joe Jurevicius is still running. If you don’t know what that means, you are not a serious Eagles fan.

The same can be said for Ronde Barber. He stepped in front of a Donovan McNabb pass at the goal line as the Eagles were driving for the tying touchdown and took it coast to coast.

It’s as quiet as Veterans Stadium has ever been. A numbed crowed filed out in silence.

They tore the place down a few months later. But they did not dispel the demons.

A year later, it was the Flyers turn to exact our revenge. They faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Instead the Lightning zapped the Flyers on the way to a Stanley Cup.

Now it’s payback time.

The Phillies will be in Tampa Bay Wednesday night to kick off the World Series. The Rays – just Rays now, they dropped the Devil – finally advanced and became the Phils’ opponent when they beat the Red Sox in a deciding Game 7 Sunday night.

The Phils are rested and ready to go.

We have not forgotten Joe Jurvecius and Ronde Barber.

It’s time to exact some revenge.

A vote for Colin Powell

Something occurred to me as I watched Colin Powell on Sunday weigh in on the presidential race.

Powell explained how he agonized over his decision, caught between his long-time loyalty to an old friend, Sen. John McCain, and his newfound respect for Sen. Barack Obama.

Powell announced he was backing the Democrat from Illinois, and in the process offered a scathing condemnation of the Republican Party and the tactics that have been employed against Obama.

But I could not escape one overriding thought: Why wasn’t this guy running for president?

We have fears that McCain does not have the temperament to sit in the Oval Office. He is known to react rashly, and often with more than a trace of anger. Does the name Sarah Palin come to mind?

On the other hand there are lingering fears about Obama’s lack of experience, whether there is enough substance behind the glowing oratory.

In a perfect world, we would seek some combination of the two. Someone like Colin Powell.

A general who led troops into battle in Iraq. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And former secretary of state under George W. Bush.

Yes, he also was the person dispatched to the U.N. to seal the deal on the argument for military intervention in Iraq, a claim we now know was based on fault intelligence.

It does not diminish Powell’s luster.

I’d vote for him in a heartbeat.

A little frost on the pumpkin

Winter arrived this morning.

I know what the calendar says. I know that officially there are still two months before winter checks in on Dec. 21. Don’t believe them.

Winter got here this morning.

How do I know this? For the first time since last spring, I was forced to dig through my trunk this morning looking for the windshield scraper.

That’s right. I had a job to do before I was able to jump in the car and start the morning commute. First I had to scrape a fairly heavy frost off the windshield. While I was scraping the windshield, something else occurred to me.

It was cold out. Really cold. Probably about time to give up the last ghost of summer and break out the winter coat.

On second thought, maybe that can wait. I’m an endless summer kind of guy.

Even when my chattering teeth are telling me otherwise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Kanterman case

It has been the single question that has haunted me since we first heard of the tragedy that played out in that Marple parking lot back in June.

Little Nicholas McCorkle was safely tucked into his car seat in the back of his grandfather’s SUV on one of the hottest days of the summer.

Only Edward Kanterman did not drop the tot off at the day care center as he normally did. Instead, he drove to the tech school in the Lawrence Park Shopping Center where he taught a course, parked the SUV, closed the door and hurried inside.

It is something any of us have done any number of times as we rush through our daily schedule.

With one horrific difference. Little Nicholas was still in the back seat. Police believe temperatures inside the vehicle soared well over 100 degrees. Nicholas was not discovered until Kanterman came back to his SUV shortly after lunch. By then it was too late.

And the question remains. How could this happen? The answer is one most of us probably would rather not admit. It could happen all too easily.

I like to tell myself there is no way I could ever forget that precious cargo inside the car. The truth is while I would like that to be the case, deep down inside, there is a nagging doubt.

Yesterday Edward Kanterman entered a plea in the case. He pleaded “no contest” to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to three years probation and 200 hours of community service.

A clearly repentant Kanterman told our courthouse reporter, Marlene DiGiacomo, that he simply did not want to put his family through the ordeal of a trial. That’s why he entered the plea, against the advice of his attorney.

“I live with it every day,” Kanterman said.

The truth is Kanterman already has been given a much tougher sentence than the one meted out in court yesterday.

He has sentenced himself to life, a life in which every day he will be haunted by what happened on that sweltering June morning, and what he possibly could have done differently.

The rest of us can certainly sympathize with Kanterman, even as we wonder how this could have happened.

And fight back the demons that tell us it could happen all too easily.

Recession? What recession? We're seeing red - and green

It has been a horrific couple of weeks on the economic front. Wall Street goes in fits and starts, down 700 points one day, back up 900 the next, fluctuating wildly even during one day’s trading.

The fear is that we are either approaching or already in a recession.

Try telling that to the faithful standing in line outside a store on Baltimore Pike last night. They could not peel off the bills fast enough. You could still see the smoke coming off their credit cards.

And what would cause such a boost to the local economy?

National League champion duds, of course.

At one point the line was 20 deep and out the door at the Modell’s store. Hats, T-shirts, souvenirs. So long as it had a Phillies logo and declared them National League champions, it was being snapped up as fast as the items could be put out on the shelves.

Guess that’s what happens when you spend 15 years between appearances in the World Series.

Recession? Maybe everywhere else. There’s no caps on spending in the Delaware Valley. At least not where the Phillies are concerned.

There’s only a run on caps. We’re painting the town red. And turning the local economy green in the process.

Of course the red that comes with those credit card bills in a month will be a sobering experiences. By then we might be standing in line to buy World Series Champion goods.

And now we wait

So the Phillies are going to the World Series. Now all they need is someone to play.

Everyone pretty much conceded they would face Tampa Bay, which held a commanding 3-1 lead over the Red Sox going into last night’s Game 5 of the ALCS.

And it certainly looked like the Rays were going to have their ticket punched to the Fall Classic in the early going. Right up until the seventh inning.

The Rays methodically built a commanding 7-0 lead, displaying the hitting and aggressive base running that has become their signature.

Then, amazingly, they watched it all dribble away. The Red Sox rallied to take an 8-7 win and slice the Rays’ lead to 3-1.

It’s not as if the Red Sox don’t have some experience at this. They’ve done this before, coming back from a 3-1 hole to boot the Yankees out of the playoffs. Think that might be in the Rays’ heads this morning?

Tampa blew a golden opportunity. They had their foot on the Red Sox’ throats. And they let them off the hook. And opened the door to doubts, and the thought that they could blow the series.

For the Phils, it’s now a waiting game. The argument is whether the weeklong break – the World Series will not start until next Wednesday night – is a help or a hindrance. How do they stay sharp without any games to play? Does the rest offer them the chance to heal up and rest all their arms, while cementing their rotation for the Series? Does the fact that the AL teams continue to go tooth and nail for at least a few more days weigh on them as they battle to advance, unable to rest any regulars or their pitchers?

Actually, the wait probably won’t have all that much effect on the players. It’s tougher on the fans. We’re all revved up, with nothing to cheer.

We don’t even have an Eagles’ game this weekend to tide us over. They’re on their Bye week. And didn’t even get us started on the Flyers. Not exactly the kind of start they wanted.

So we sit. And wait. And buy anything in red that carries a Phillies logo.

Six days and counting. We’re “Series-ly” psyched.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The new Joe Sixpack

Is there a more famous person in the country this morning than Joe the Plumber. The guy became a running theme in last night's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

That woule be Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber from Toledo, Ohio. He met McCain at a campaign stop. He told the Republican his fears that Obama's tax plan would keep him from buying the small business that employs him.

Both candidates kept coming back to Joe and whether or not taxes would be raised and the effect a tax hike would have on the public.

Forget Joe Sixpack. We now have Joe the Plumber.

A 15-year wait is over

While you’re driving to work this morning, take a glance at the driver next to you.

I’m guessing they’re smiling.

That’s what winners do.

It’s been a long 15 years. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve been able to utter these words in the same sentence: Philadelphia Phillies, National League Champions.

Yes, we’re going to the World Series.

We just don’t know who they’re playing yet. Does it really matter? Tampa has a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox and can seal the deal tonight.

But don’t get too excited. Regardless of when the ALCS is decided, we’re going to be facing a bit of lag time. That’s because the World Series will not start until next Wednesday regardless of who the Phils’ oppponent is.

All the better to savor a National League pennant. Hell, we don’t even have an Eagles game on Sunday to bide us over. Guess we’ll just have to survive a week without second-guessing Andy Reid.

Speaking of second-guessing, Charlie Manuel must have a sense of fulfillment this morning. Of course, any joy Manuel has in leading the Phils to the pennant is tempered by the fact that he now will head home to bury his mother, who died earlier this week.

Manuel, a genuinely decent, good man, has been second-guessed more than just about anybody outside of George W. Bush. He was at times ridiculed for his down-home, country manner of expressing himself.

All Manuel did in the last five games was out-manage Joe Torre.

Torre is headed for the golf course. Manuel, and this special team, is going somewhere else.

They’re going to the World Series.

Enjoy the ride!

*

OK, I admit it. I spent most of my time watching the Phillies last night.

Yes, I know there was a fairly important debate going on. I flipped furiously between innings, but the sports fan in me just wouldn't allow me to stick with the debate other than between innings.

From what I saw, it sounded like more of the same.

The same claims, the same sound bites, the same vitriol over personal attacks on both sides.

Here's the really sad part. I did catch the end of the debate. Then I flipped furiously back over the Phils game.

Then I went to bed with the Phils up 5-1. I saw most of the Phils runs, including that dynamite Jimmy Rollins leadoff homer.

I managed to see Cole Hamels for the most part blowing through the Dodgers' lineup.

I was over on the debate when Manny Ramirirez took Hamels out for the Dodgers' only run.

I of course was gone a few minutes after I hit the bed. Yes, I was fast asleep when the Phils became National League champions.

But I didn't have to wait until this morning to find out.

My wife woke me with the news.

It felt pretty damn good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thank God for the remote control

Get those fingers limbered up folks. They’re likely going to get another workout tonight.

In case you haven’t noticed, there will be two major events on TV tonight.

Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but there is life outside the Phillies.

There is another little matter that will be contested this evening. Maybe you’ve heard of these teams.

I refer to Team McCain and Team Obama.

That’s correct, the third and final presidential debate will take place tonight.

Actually, you might be able to catch a few innings of the Phillies game before the debate kicks off.

First pitch of Game 5 of the NLCS is at 8:22. The candidates will not step to the podium at Hofstra University to hash out their differences on domestic policies until 9 p.m.

Maybe the Phillies already will have chased Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley by that time.

The debate will be on the major networks. The Phillies game will be on Fox.

Nationally, it will be no-contest. The debate should swamp the baseball game. I am guessing it probably will do so in Los Angeles as well.

Here? I’m not so sure. So here’s the deal? What will you be watching tonight. I know what I will be doing.

Burning up the remote control, flipping furiously back and forth.

That’s if I can stay awake that long.

One win to go

Fifteen years. That’s how long we have waited for the Phillies to return to the Promised Land.

It was back in 1993 that a group of grungy throwbacks captured our hearts, toppled the mighty Braves, and advanced to a World Series.

The temptation to look ahead is great. There is also great danger in doing so.

It is said the city’s sports franchises operate under a curse. Believers say that allowing the city’s skyline to tower above the hat of Billy Penn atop City Hall prevents us from winning another world championship. The last time we did so was when the Sixers won in 1983. That’s 25 years, a quarter century.

Now we stand one win away from competing on baseball’s grand stage one more time.

But that’s the key. We’re not there yet. We need to beat the Dodgers one more time. To do that, the Phillies will send their young ace to the mound in L.A. tonight to smite the Dodgers. He will be opposed by Chad Billingsley.

First pitch is at 8:22. If sometime around midnight you non-sports fans are awakened by a cacophony of voices, yelling, screaming, and banging of pots and pans, do not call police.

That is the sound of a city of winners. Count the minutes. Paint the town red.

But don’t celebrate too early. There’s one more win to go.

Bye, bye Birdies

As the region is furiously painting the town red, you’d think the Eagles would be green with envy.

You’d think they’d be doing anything possible to get themselves back on the Back Page.

After all, isn’t this supposed to be their town, where all other sports quiver at the mere thought of competing with the colossus of local sports?

You’d be hard-pressed to get that feeling today.

The Phillies own the joint. And the Eagles did nothing yesterday to change that. Literally.

Yesterday was the NFL trade deadline.

You would think the Eagles, sitting at a thoroughly mediocre 3-3, would be looking at every angle to add a few weapons to their arsenal.

Instead the Birds decided to stand pat and enjoy their bye week.

In the process they may be saying bye, bye to their favored status here in town.
That’s because another team took a different tack yesterday.
They wear stars on their helmets.

Eagles fans have been fairly screaming for months for more offensive weapons, especially a game-breaking wide receiver.

An NFC East team went out and got one yesterday. Hint: It was not the Eagles. Nope, the Cowboys trade several draft picks, including a first-rounder, to the Lions for wideout Roy Williams.

Also available was tight end Tony Gonzalez, the sure-fire Hall of Famer with the Kansas City Chiefs. But he’s not coming here either. In fact, he’s not going anywhere. He’s staying in K.C. The Eagles deemed either a third or a second-round draft choice too steep a price to pay for Gonzalez at this point in his career.
It is being said the Eagles were “in the mix” of teams showing interest for both these guys. They obviously decided the asking price was too high. Interesting in that this is a team that has traded out of the first round the last couple of years.
As has been the mantra under Andy Reid, the Birds clearly think they have all the weapons they need.

So far those weapons have gotten them to a 3-3 record.

Enjoy the bye week, fellas.

Let’s go, Phillies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Up the golden Stairs

One win away.

It’s been 15 years. Do you remember what is was like to be in the World Series. Yes, I know, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. The Phils still need to win one more game before they can think about moving on to baseball’s biggest stage.

Fans have no such limitations, on the other hand. So let’s start the party.

Of course, you have to stay awake to be part of the party. Last night’s game was not over until after midnight.

I didn’t even come close.

When I was a kid, my mom used to have a way of telling us when it was time to go to bed.

“Up the golden stairs,” she would intone. Nothing else needed to be said. We knew it was bed time. Ignoring the message was not recommended. Dilly-dallying in an attempt to stay up would be met with a decidedly more stern, less “golden” pronouncement.

I have been thinking about that saying of my mom’s ever since the Phils acquired slugger Matt Stairs to bolster their bench this summer.

Unfortunately, last night I took her advice after watching the first few innings at the kitchen table as I wolfed down some dinner. That’s when I made a fatal mistake. I decided to catch the rest of the game in bed. Big mistake. The last thing I remember is the Phils trailing, 3-2.

This morning, as is my daily morning ritual, I gingerly flipped on the radio, not knowing what I would hear. To tell you the truth, I was kind of expecting to hear about a Phils’ loss and the series being knotted 2-2.

Instead I was jolted awake by news of a thrilling come-from-behind win, of homers by Shane Victorino and one Matt Stairs.

Up the golden Stairs, indeed.

One win away. Go Phillies!

Seven down, five to go

Make it seven down, five to go.

Police in Chester continue to whittle away at their Most Wanted List. What was once 12 dangerous suspects on the lam is now just five.

The latest suspect to be corraled is Edgardo Gutierriez Jr. He’s also known as “Macho.”

“Macho” was wanted on charges connected to the murder of 19-year-old John “White Pork” Strand.

Police and Philadelphia SWAT team members caught up with Gutierrez. Authorities say it was an anonymous tip that led officers to the apartment in the 1500 block of Levick Street where Gutierrez was holed up.

I hope that the person who dimed out Gutierrez did so after recognizing his picture in the newspaper.

We have joined with community groups and Chester police to push the Most Wanted list, getting the suspects faces out there for the public to see in hopes that someone will come forward with information on the suspects.

Chester police tell us much of the information they have been getting is from people who have seen the pictures in the newspaper.

That’s seven down, five to go.

The faces of the five still at large appear once again on today’s front page of the print product. Make sure you pick one up. Take a close look at the five men. If you recognize any of them and have information on where they may be hiding out, call police and let them know.

The streets of Chester and in fact the entire region get a little safer every time one of these guys gets locked up.

And to those five suspects: Stop looking over your shoulder. Turn yourself in. Police are not going to go away. They will hunt you down.

And when these five are under arrest, maybe police will compile another list and start the process all over again.

Seven down, five to go

Make it seven down, five to go.

Police in Chester continue to whittle away at their Most Wanted List. What was once 12 dangerous suspects on the lam is now just five.

The latest suspect to be corraled is Edgardo Gutierriez Jr. He’s also known as “Macho.”

“Macho” was wanted on charges connected to the murder of 19-year-old John “White Pork” Strand.

Police and Philadelphia SWAT team members caught up with Gutierrez. Authorities say it was an anonymous tip that led officers to the apartment in the 1500 block of Levick Street where Gutierrez was holed up.

I hope that the person who dimed out Gutierrez did so after recognizing his picture in the newspaper.

We have joined with community groups and Chester police to push the Most Wanted list, getting the suspects faces out there for the public to see in hopes that someone will come forward with information on the suspects.

Chester police tell us much of the information they have been getting is from people who have seen the pictures in the newspaper.

That’s seven down, five to go.

The faces of the five still at large appear once again on today’s front page of the print product. Make sure you pick one up. Take a close look at the five men. If you recognize any of them and have information on where they may be hiding out, call police and let them know.

The streets of Chester and in fact the entire region get a little safer every time one of these guys gets locked up.

And to those five suspects: Stop looking over your shoulder. Turn yourself in. Police are not going to go away. They will hunt you down.

And when these five are under arrest, maybe police will compile another list and start the process all over again.

Running with the bulls

Quick! Better jump back into the stock market.

Forget the Phillies. How ‘bout dem Bulls? No, not the NBA team. I’m talking about all those Wall Streeters. They were running wild yesterday.

Anybody have any clue what is going on with Wall Street? After a week that can only be described as a time when the Street of Dreams turned into the Street of Nightmares, we’re back on the plus side. Big time.

It was just a few days ago that some were actually telling people who might need cash on the short term to consider getting out of the market altogether.

Yesterday the market exploded. Fueled by word that the U.S. would move to further stabilize banks, Wall Street recovered from its worst week since the Great Depression, in the process going on a 936-point tear.

It was the biggest single-day gain in terms of points in the market’s history. Wall Street, battered by eight consecutive days of staggering losses, gained a lot of it back in one wild day of trading. The Dow wound up 11 percent on the plus side.

It’s a good thing. Last week the markets lost $2.4 trillion in shareholder wealth. Even with the 900-point gain to close at 9,387.61, that’s still a long way from last year’s all-time market high of 14,165.

But it should soothe a lot of jitters, both on Wall Street and on Main Street, as nervous investors fretted over their 401K retirement nest eggs disappearing before their eyes.

And it once again proves something we hear again and again in these instances. If you don’t need your money right away, if you’re beyond a five-year window for retirement, the best thing to do when the market is tanking is usually to do nothing at all.

Let’s just hope the ride continues.

Fill 'er up

Improbable thought of the day: Who’d have thought that one day we’d actually be celebrating gas selling for $2.99 a gallon?

Hey, that’s a dollar less than it was going for just a few months ago.

The freefall at the pumps continued over the weekend, with AAA reporting gas prices skidded another 12 cents.

Here in Delaware County, you can actually buy gas for as little as $2.95 a gallon.

That would out at the Wawa in Brookhaven, where they seem to be having some kind of price war.

Now I am wondering if all those moves toward conservation, with everyone looking to buy a hybrid car, or jump onto mass transit, will go out the window as prices decline at the pump.

There are some things about expensive gas that should have taught us a valuable lesson. We shouldn’t abandon them and jump back into our gas hogs just because it’s cheaper to fill up the tank.

Near Nirvana for Philly fans

So you didn’t think the news could get much better for Philly sports fans?

Think again. If you were like me and were long gone before the Phils rallied to beat the Dodgers last night, you also missed something else. The Giants got crushed on Monday Night Football by the lowly Cleveland Browns.

That news comes just hours after the Cowboys, who lost in overtime to the Cardinals Sunday, announced that quarterback Tony Romo would miss as much as a month with a broken finger on his throwing hand.

Of course, the Redskins also turned back into the Deadskins on Sunday, losing to the hapless St. Louis Rams.

The entire NFC is suddenly in reverse, all of which benefits the Eagles, who have stumbled to a 3-3 start. But the Giants now lead the division at 4-1, and the Cowboys and Redskins both now have two losses.

Now if the Flyers could only bolster their defense.

Our new online home

So how do you like it?

No, not the fact that the Phillies are now just one win away from the World Series.

I’m talking about our new home here online. Yes, I hope you’ve noticed that when you went to what I know is your favorite spot on the Web, you found a new look here at delcotimes.com.

We’ve changed the site to make it more interactive and reader friendly. I hope that you agree.

You’ll now be able to take part in daily online polls in news, sports and entertainment.

You’ll also be able to check how your reader instincts stack up with others, because our site now will tell you which story is the most read on the site, as well as which one draws the most comments.

And we’re also putting much more emphasis on our blogs, the content that appears only online.

We’ve also made it easier for you to find older stories. We are now able to post seven days worth of content on the site. Anything before that also will be retrievable via our Search function.

But don’t just be a reader. The whole idea of this online world is for you, the readers, to get involved. Post a comment on the site. If there’s something you’d like to see, send me an e-mail at editor@delcotimes.com. Or simply pick up the phone and give me a call. You can reach me at 610-622-8818.

One thing has not changed. I still pick up the phone. Now on to the important things. How ‘bout dem Phils!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The campaign heats up

We must be getting close to an election. The rhetoric is heating up. And some of it is getting ugly.

I’ve always had a fear about this election, that if Barack Obama looked like he was starting to pull ahead in the polls, the attacks on him would be ratcheted up.

Turns out those fears were pretty much on the money.

The mood at several GOP rallies last week got downright ugly. The attacks on Obama again swerved over the line into personal questions. Still one more speaker took the opportunity to stress that his middle name is Hussein.

One woman at a town hall meeting cautioned that the Democrat is an Arab. To his credit, John McCain immediately corrected her.

In fact, McCain was trying to put out this brush fire, to let his backers know that Obama is a good man and even that they would have nothing to fear should he be elected president.

Unfortunately, once the tenor of a campaign is set, it’s a little hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

The McCain camp has been pushing an old association linking Obama with William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground that was responsible for a series of bombings in the ’70s. They served on the board of an educational foundation in Chicago but do not seem to have any close ties.

In return, the Democrats rolled out an ad stressing McCain’s ties to the Keating 5, one of the key components in the savings and loan scandal of the ’80s.

And Democrats have not been without their vitriol, too often responding to the GOP charges in kind. Regardless of whether or not you believe she should have been there, Sarah Palin was booed while dropping the puck at the Flyers’ season opener Saturday night.

Protesters have been decidedly more nasty in their tactics at several GOP events in the past week.

Then this weekend Democratic Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, an associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., castigated the McCain campaign for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division.”

But he didn’t stop there. He raised the ugly specter of George Wallace, the strident Alabama governor, who he said “created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

An outraged McCain camp demanded an apology.

Lewis later issued another statement saying it was not his intention or desire to directly compare McCain or Palin to Wallace. Again, the genie was already out of the bottle.

On Sunday, Democratic vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden accused the McCain campaign of launching “unbecoming personal attacks” against Obama.

The nation stands on the edge of the abyss, with our economy by just about any standard facing its greatest crisis since the days of the Depression.

But why talk about that, and other key issues, when you can inflame the passions of your base – and hopefully attract moderate and undecided voters – by tossing a few red-meat sizzlers out there.

The election is three weeks from tomorrow. My guess? Brace yourself. It’s likely to get uglier.

Which prompts another question? Is this any way to elect a president.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I think both McCain and Obama are good, decent men and viable candidates. Either way, I think we are light years better off than what we have endured the past eight years.

I just wish we could go about this process without the ugly, petty personal stuff that seems to overtake the serious issues facing the nation.

Remember the Phightins!

The Phightin’ Phils decided to take their nickname seriously last night.

Of course, it never hurts when the other team decides to throw a pitched ball directly over your head.

The Dodgers may have done the Phillies a favor. This one was almost over before it started. The Dodgers rocked Phils’ starter Jamie Moyer right out of the box, dropping five runs on him in the first and then tacking on another one in the second to seize a commanding 6-1 lead. Moyer recorded only one out in the second before making a quick exit.

The game, which the desperate Dodgers clearly needed to right their foundering ship after losing two straight in Philly, was almost over before it started.

Then the Dodgers decided to throw a little gas on the fire, add a little insult to the injury.

The Dodgers apparently had not forgotten that Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Manny Ramirez back in Philly. In the third, Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda gave them a wake-up call, and something of a calling card at the same time.

He buzzed a fastball over Shane Victorino’s helmet. Victorino took umbrage. Oddly enough, it was almost as if Victorino saw it coming. He seemed to be indicating that if Kuroda was going to hit him, he should do so by nailing him in the arm or his back side, not his noggin.

Both benches and bullpens held an impromptu meeting on the field. No punches where thrown, though Manny decided to be Manny, offering up some histrionics for the cameras while being “held back” by his teammates.

All of which should provide an interesting backdrop for tonight’s game. It also might shroud the Phils’ real problem.

The Dodgers are bringing back their ace, Derek Lowe, tonight on three days rest. The Phils are countering with Joe Blanton. Cole Hamels will get his usual rest before taking the hill Wednesday night.

Tonight is not the problem. It’s down the road that it could get interesting. By pitching tonight, Lowe also will be available for a deciding Game 7, if necessary on his normal rest. Hamels, who will pitch Wednesday, will not be available for that final game in Philly Saturday night.

The Phillies, and Hamels in particular, better hope it does not come to that. Hamels has been splendid down the stretch and in particular in the playoffs.

Maybe you don’t even want him pitching tonight off his normal rest. Still, there’s a part of me that thinks – or maybe wishes - it should be Hamels going to Manuel, demanding to pitch tonight.

Maybe it won’t matter.

Let’s hope not.

Remember the Eagles?

Remember the Eagles? You know, the team that plays football in these parts?

While we have been merrily painting the town red with the success of the Phillies, the Eagles and their struggles have been somewhat shoved into the background.

But there they are this morning, in the lead spot of both Philadelphia newspapers. But not on the front page of your Daily Times.

Sorry, but an NLCS game trumps a regular season NFL game, even when the Eagles win and the Phils lose.

That’s right, the Eagles won yesterday, despite their best efforts to give away a game to the 49ers. And the news was even better for Birds’ fans, because the Redskins inexplicably lost to the hapless Rams, and the Cowboys lost in delicious last-second fashion to the Cardinals. We actually got to see the final seconds of the Cowboys loss, the way they managed to rally to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, followed by the pure joy of seeing them choke one up in OT via a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown.

I was actually depositing my son back on his college campus after his fall break, so I missed most of the first half of the Eagles game.

Unfortunately, I did not miss the entire first half.

That’s right, I did manage to see the last 40 seconds. The Cowboys were not the only ones to have problems with a kick yesterday.

Sooner or later, Andy Reid has to get one of these end-of-half scenarios right, doesn’t he? Yesterday was not that day.

The Eagles got the ball back with about 45 seconds left in the first half. They at first appeared content to head into the locker room with the lead. They ran the ball on first down. Then they suddenly seemed to realize there was still time on the clock and they had all their timeouts left. They quickly ran off a couple of pass plays, and managed to call their final timeout with a single tick left on the clock.

They then quickly trotted David Akers out to attempt a 50-yard field goal. Akers has not had a lot of luck with these kicks in recent weeks. It didn’t get any better yesterday. The middle of the Eagles line seemed to collapse, allowing a jail break by the 49ers. They swatted Akers’ kick right back at him. The ball took a perfect bounce into the hands of a Niner, who strolled untouched into the end zone.

Just like that, a fairly good first half went right into the toilet. The 49ers went into the locker room up by a point.

They actually widened the lead in the second half, before the Birds ran off 23 unanswered fourth quarter points, including an interception return for a touchdown to seal the deal late in the game.

The Eagles now stand dead even at 3-3. They can kick back for a few days during their bye week, and hopefully will be able to get the rest of their walking wounded healthy, then start their push for the playoffs in two weeks.

For now, they leave the stage for the Phils.

October baseball. Gotta love it.