Saturday, October 31, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Call this one New York, New York.

The Eagles are the first half of a daylong, Philly vs. New York sports extravaganza. And the Birds no doubt are chafing at their new role as the city's warm-up act. The Eagles haughtily consider themselves the No. 1 sports team in town. But they're deluding themselves this week. Of course, a huge win would go a long way toward restoring their luster, as well as putting the fans in a frenzy for what is to follow Sunday night. I don't think it's going to happen.

Look for fans to be in a surly mood at the start of tonight's Game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park. They likely will be spitting out the remains of an Eagles' loss.

This is the game I have been pointing to that will tell us exactly what kind of team the Eagles really are. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to like the result. That's because, basically, I'm still not convinced the Eagles are very good.

They have played exactly one quality team, and got smoked by the undefeated Saints.The laid an egg on the West Coast against a truly dreadful Raiders team, and they didn't play all that well against an equally woeful Redskins team on Monday night.

Now they face the Giants, a good - but also not great - team. The G-Men have now lost two in a row themselves.

The Eagles likely will be without the services of star running back Brian Westbrook, who is still battling the effects of a concusssion suffered Monday night. That will put the load squarely on the shoulders of Donovan McNabb. And that might not be a good thing.

McNabb has not played well since returning from a fractured rib. He consistently has been inconsistent, especially on third downs, missing open receivers, too often reverting to his old habit of firing balls into the ground.

The Eagles will need McNabb to once again get the ball into the hands of their new No. 1 weapon, emerging superstar DeSean Jackson. And they will need to do it while keeping the Giants' ferocious defensive line off McNabb's back. And in the process keeping McNabb off his back.

On defense, The Eagles will be tested by the Giants' powerful running attack.

As I said, this one will tell us a lot about the Birds. Maybe, I'm wrong. It would not be the first time. But I don't see the Birds winning this game. We'll have to settle for a win by the Phils in the second half of a New York double-header.

Make it Giants 27, Eagles 13.

Last Week: I was on the money again as the Eagles toyed with the Redskins on Monday night. Donovan McNabb did not play particularly well, but got the ball into the Hands of DeSean Jackson enough to get the job done. As for the Redskins: They're just a disaster.

Season Record: 4-2, same as the Birds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 30

The Daily Numbers: 1win apiece after the Phils and Yanks split the first two games of the World Series in the Big Apple.
6 years, how long it had been since the Yankees had won a World Series game.
4 hits, all the Phils could scratch out against Yanks starter A.J. Burnett.
7 strong innings for Burnett, who struck out 9 and retired the last 8 batters he faced.
8 strikeouts in six-plus innings for Phils starter Pedro Martinez. He gave up all 3 Mets runs.
0 for 8 with 6 strikeouts for Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez.
4 whiffs for Phillies star Ryan Howard, who has yet to find his stroke in the Series.
16, age of female high school student who was held up while walking to school in the 500 block of Industrial Drive in Yeadon.
1 person rescued and 1 still missing after they apparently fell out of a boat on the Delaware River near the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook.
4,700 SEPTA city division workers who are preparing to walk off their jobs tonight at midnight. That would leave a lot of people walking. And almost everyone having to drive to World Series Game 3 Saturday night in South Philly.
400,000 dollar fine being paid by Sunoco for clean air violations at a plant in Haverhill, Ohio.
12 and a half to 25 years in prison for three teens charged in the death of Starbucks manager Sean Conroy, a Delco native, on a center city subway concourse.
3 teens shot at a McDonald’s in Philadelphia in what police believe was a fight over a girl.
2 students and 2 frats that face charges at Penn State in connection with the death of a student who fell into a stairwell after a night of drinking.
200 million dollars in stimulus funds for Peco, which will use the money to deploy new “smart meter” technology.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Yes, the Phils got a split in New York. But why does it seem they still blew a golden opportunity to seize control of the Series.
*
I Don’t Get It: Three teens finally apologized to Sharon Conroy for their role in the death of her son. Earlier they had been laughing during court proceedings. I don’t get it.
*
Today’s Upper: It will be nice to see real, live fans again when the World Series comes back to Citizens Bank Park this weekend. What did they do to Yankees’ fans, force-feed them all tranquilizers?
*
Quote Box: “They’re the best team we’ve played all year.”
- Yankees star Derek Jeter, on the Phils after scatching back to a 1-1 tie in the Series.

Splitsville for Phils

The Phillies did what they needed to in the Big Apple, carving out a 1-2 split. That means they come home knowing they now hold the all-important home-field advantage.

Still, there is a bad feeling that they squandered an opportunity Thursday night in going meekly against the Yankees in a 3-1 loss.

They seemed tentative, especially on offense, where they didn’t hit, and didn’t run when they had opportunities to do so. In short, they weren’t aggressive.

It’s almost as if they were satisfied to gain a split. Their comments after the game did little to dissuade such a belief.

Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins openly indicated they felt good about going home with a split.

Starter Pedro Martinez seemed to focus as much on achieving his dream of pitching again in Yankee Stadium, when he wasn’t informing us that he has not felt well for several days, as he did about failing to knock off his “daddy,” those Bronx Bombers.

The Phils now return home to what undoubtedly will be a much more souped-up atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park. Not sure what they put in the water at that New Yankees Stadium, but they should check it for tranquilizers. The place absolutely seemed like a tomb.

That won’t be the case Saturday night in South Philly.

Which brings this season all the way back to where it started.

Cole Hamels.

It will be up Hamels to re-establish himself as the guy who was the MVP of both the World Series and NLCS last year.

Not the timid, meek, inconsistent whiner who has showed up all too often this year.

Hopefully Hamels – and his teammates – left that guy behind in that cold, antiseptic new Yankee Stadium Thursday night.

Justice? It's laughable

They say justice is blind. You probably wouldn’t get an argument from Sharon Conroy.

She’s seen all too much of it.

She’s also seen three young men – charged in the brutal attack that led to the death of her only son - laugh their way through the system.

Yesterday she saw them stand and offer an apology.

Finally, she hoped to see justice delivered.

She came away disappointed. It’s hard not to sympathize with her.

Conroy, who still lives in Lansdowne, dutifully showed up at every court hearing for the three teens charged in the death of her son, Sean. The 36-year-old Starbucks manager was the victim of a gang attack on a center city SEPTA subway concourse.

Ameer Best, 18, Nasheer Fisher, 17, and Kinta Stanton, 17, all were sentenced Thursday to 12 and a half to 25 years in jail.

Before hearing their fate, each stood, faced Sharon Conroy, and offered apologies for jumping her son in what appeared to be little more than a dare. Young men who had skipped school.

They had time to kill. Literally.

The three likely will be out of prison long before they even reach the age of Sean Conroy, who grew up in Upper Darby.

That fact was not lost on his mother.

“I’m disappointed,” she said outside the Criminal Justice Center. “I don’t think anybody left there happy today. As a parent, we were hoping for the maximum. Realistically, at least something equal to Sean’s life expectancy.”

But it was clear something else was bothering her. It was the young defendants’ callous attitude as they made their way through the justice system.

“I wake up to the sounds of his pleas for mercy while you laughed,” she said. “I don’t understand how you could laugh. You laughed right up to the verdict.”

Justice is supposed to be blind. It’s not supposed to laugh in your face.

You probably wouldn’t know that from the death of Sean Conroy, and the cavalier attitude of those responsible for snuffing out his life, and leaving his loved ones to pick up the pieces.

The houses that money built

What happened to the “House that Ruth Built?”

My guess is something akin to what was once home of the Broad Street Bullies.

They will close the doors to the Spectrum one final time Saturday night, after the last of a series of farewell concerts by Pearl Jam.

The Sixers and Flyers no longer play there. They now play at the massive, sprawling edifice across the parking lot now called the Wachovia Center.

It has always struck me that it appears as if you could take the Spectrum and fit it inside the Wachovia Center.

You just couldn’t get the passion inside.

The same now seems equally true for the new home of the New York Yankees. It’s still in the Bronx, it’s still called Yankee Stadium, but it seems to have lost its heart and soul. Maybe they still reside in the shell of the original, which is slowly but surely being dismantled next door.

During the first two games of the World Series, I was shocked at how quiet the place was. This was not the place that once instilled fear in opponents’ hearts. It seemed almost antiseptic.

Then came the killer. With the Phils leading 6-1 late in Game 1, the evidence of the change was clearly evident: lots and lots of empty seats.

I am thinking these are not the same people who inhabited the joint next door.

Just as many of the folks who showed up at the Core States-First Union-Wachovia Center were not those same orange faithful. These people were wearing suits, talking on cell phones. They were conducting business.

There was a time when NHL opponents would come down with a case of the Philly flu, rather than subject themselves to the ordeal of appearing in the Spectrum.

Likewise NBA players would tell you how they could feel the fans’ breath on their shoulders. That’s how close, intimate the old place was.

All of that is gone now. Soon the Spectrum will be, too. Just as Yankee Stadium, the original one, is now just a memory.

They say you can’t go home again. I’m guessing Yankees fans would agree.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 29

The Daily Numbers: 1 down, 3 to go for the Phils after they dismantled the mighty Yankees last night.
10 strikeouts in a dominating performance by Phils’ starter Cliff Lee.
2 home runs for Chase Utley as the Phils rolled to a 6-1 win.
50,207 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium last night, but not nearly that many were still around at the end.
3 strikeouts on an 0-for-4 night for Alex Rodriguez.
8, age of two girls who police believe were sexually assaulted by a Chester Township man. A warrant is out for his arrest.
15,000 dollar reward now being posted for information on who is responsible for the execution-style shootings of 2 family dogs in Chadds Ford.
0 subways, buses or trolleys that will operate in the city in the event of a SEPTA strike.
30-18 percent margin for Sen. Arlen Specter over Rep. Joe Sestak in the latest Keystone poll.
28 percent in the poll who say they have a favorable rating of Specter.
36 percent say they are financially worse off than they were last year.
1,000 jobs being cut by US Airlines, but none of them in their Philly hub.
12 percent boost in profits at Newtown Square-based SAP.
3 teens to be sentenced today in the killing of a Starbucks manager who was attacked in a Center City subway concourse.
31 points down at one point, where the Sixers stood in their opener last night in Orlando.
21 points for Dwight Howard to lead the Magic.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Hats off to Cliff Lee. He was General Lee last night. Then again, it was also opening night for the Sixers. Uh, never mind.
*
I Don’t Get It: Some prankster changed an electronic message board along a Pa. interstate from its intended message to “Go Yankees.” Very funny.
*
Today’s Upper: Pedro Martinez going back to Yankee Stadium in Phillies pinstripes. Great stuff.
*
Quote Box: “He can’t pitch every day.”
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, after the complete game gem thrown at his team by Cliff Lee last night.

Ya gotta Be-Lee-ve!

The aura of the Big Apple was shaken to its core last night.

The magic and mystique of the Yankees and Yankee Stadium must have been next door, at the rusting hulk of their original home.

Their ace didn’t get the job done. Their fans deserted them early.
There’s panic in the streets of Gotham.

But for the Phillies, there is only the cool, calm collected skill of the assassin who dismantled the powerful Yankee machine.

You can call him General Lee.

All the talk going into last night was about how the Yankees would be able to throw C.C. Sabathia three times vs. the Phils. Anyone intimidated by that prospect this morning?

On the other hand, the Yankees likely are dreading the thought of facing Lee two more times in this Series. If they’re that lucky.

All Lee did was throw a complete game gem in Game 1. He struck out 10.
Take away a 9th inning error and Lee shuts out the mighty Yankees.

But it was none of those things that really stuck a dagger in Gotham’s heart.

Instead it was a little bloop pop-up that made its way to the mound. Lee nonchalantly snagged it like he was having a catch with his son in the back yard.

Later on, he made a bit more flamboyant behind-the-back stab of a one-hopper headed back up the middle.

There is no boasting today in the Big Apple. There are only frowns. And the gnawing worry that this Yankees team does not have the magic of its predecessors.

Last night, all the magic was wearing red pinstripes.

And Cliff Lee, General Lee, was in full command of the troops.

Tonight there will be more dread for Yankees fans. An old nemesis will take the hill for the Phils.

Pedro Martinez is back. Let’s just say that he is not the apple of the Big Apple’s eye.

Start spreading the news indeed.

One down, three to go.

Another 15 minutes of fame

No doubt there must be a reality show in the works for Susan Finkelstein.

When Andy Warhol talked about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame, he might have had her in mind.

Finkelstein is the woman charged with soliciting prostitution after she posted an ad on the Craigslist Web site “desperately” seeking World Series tickets.

Finkelstein’s ad profiled her as “Desperate Blonde Needs WS Tix.” It described her has a “gorgeous tall buxom blonde.” And it had some interesting terms for the transaction. “Price negotiable – I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!”

For some reason, that drew the attention of police in Bensalem, Bucks County. They arranged a meeting in a bar, where they now claim Finkelstein offered to swap sex for the Series ducats. Finkelstein was handcuffed and marched off to the police station. She – and her lawyer – adamantly deny any such thing.

There’s a part of me that wonders why exactly it’s important for police to be patrolling for this kind of behavior.

There’s also a part of me that feels bad for what was about to happen to Finkelstein. In this age of the Internet, she was about to become a star. Once her story hit the blogosphere, it rocketed across the globe.
Finkelstein, who is described as a Phillies Phanatic, soon learned there was a downside to the fact that the Phillies were playing the New York Yankees in the Series. The New York tabloids had a field day with her saga.

But I had a bad feeling about what I figured was going to happen next. I wasn’t disappointed. You can’t turn on your TV without seeing Finkelstein’s smiling face. She’s made the rounds of local TV news shows, trying to offer her version of what happened in that bar.

She’s sticking to her guns that she was merely “flirting,” that she never offered sex for the tickets.

At this point, I don’t really care.

By the way, Finkelstein will be going to a World Series game. A radio station and car dealer are coming through with the ducats.

And there was no sex involved.

Get the reality show ready. How about this for a title: “What Would You Do For World Series tickets?”

It’s a guaranteed hit.

World Series bus-ted?

This being Philadelphia, there is a dark cloud hanging over what could be one of the great weekends in Philly history.

It comes courtesy of SEPTA and its city union. They are continuing to talk, but they don’t appear to be going anywhere.

And soon anyone who depends on the SEPTA to get around the city could be in the same boat.

You can catch all the details here.

That means if you’re one of those who like to beat the traffic in and out of the stadium complex by instead taking the El downtown, then hopping on the Broad Street line for a quick route to the stadium complex, you’re out of luck.

Here’s the brief course from SEPTA should Transport Workers Union Local
234 hit the bricks this weekend. Forget about mass transit in the city.
Nothing will be running. No subways, buses, or trolleys, no Market-Frankford El.

The regional rail lines will be going in and out of the city, but once at 30th Street or Suburban Station, you’ll either need a cab or some sturdy shoes to get where you’re going. Expect the trains to be packed, especially should the strike extend into Monday morning.

SEPTA and its unions continue to talk. They are looking at a deadline Friday night at midnight. The union has been working without a contract since last spring. They say the timing, just as the eyes of the nation come to the city, along with the World Series, is simply a coincidence.

If you believe that, I have some cheap World Series tickets you can buy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 28

The Daily Numbers: 7:57 start time for Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Yankees Stadium. Gee, that means we only have to survive another 12 hours of hype.
3 to 6 years in jail for the Sharon Hill mother convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of her daughter.
8 months to 5 years in prison on drug charges for Fen Bruce Covington, the other man in the house the night a young intern was slain in Thornbury in 2006. Convington was not charged in the murder.
1.6 million dollar loan for a sewage collection system announced for the soccer stadium under construction in Chester.
788,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine expected in Pennsylvania.
17, age of high school student in Mount Holly, N.J., who died of swine flu.
19 deaths tied to H1N1 in New Jersey. In Pa., the number stands at 17 adults, including 8 in Philadelphia and 1 in Montgomery County.
500 dollar reward being offered for information on who is responsible for the shooting executions of 2 family dogs in Chadds Ford.
1 suspect shot by police early this morning in Northeast Philly.
2,000 jobs that could be created when a hybrid car firm sets up shop in the idled Boxwood Road former GM plant in Wilmington.
5 people hurt in a 2-vehicle crash in Greenville, Del.
25 dollar fares being offered by Southwest Airlines to some cities Dec. 2-16, and again Jan. 5-Feb. 10.
43, age of woman charged by police in Bensalem with prostitution for trying to swap sex for World Series tickets.
270 bucks for the cheapest tickets for tonight’s opening game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The price is apparently coming down because of the weather.
1.19 ERA in the post-season for Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia.
5 games, how long Phils shortstop Jimmy Rollins says it will take the Fightins to win the Series.
2 goal lead in first period for Flyers over the Caps last night. It didn’t hold up. The Flyers lost, 4-2.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.You have to feel bad for the Sixers and new coach Eddie Jordan. They open their NBA season tonight, up against Game 1 of the World Series.
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I Don’t Get It: Sex for World Series tickets? Talk about getting to first base.
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Today’s Upper: Only a few hours before we can stop talking about the World Series and watch some actual baseball. Weather permitting, of course.
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Quote Box: “He’s been Nostradamus, that’s what I heard. He’s been making a lot of good predictions, so we’ve got to take that away from him.”
- Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, on Jimmy Rollins predicting the Phils will win the Series in five.

World Series of hype


If you think this whole World Series thing feels like it’s been cranked up three or four levels from last year’s frantic pitch, you’re not alone.

I can tell you why in two words: New York.

Specifically, the New York Yankees.

Yes, no one will ever mistake George Steinbrenner’s Evil Empire with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Phils now will find themselves defending their World Series crown in the center of the media universe.

That’s why you saw Shane Victorino in a skirt on the front page of the New York Post yesterday.

In all honesty, it’s why you see the Statue of Liberty in a Yankees cap, along with her Philly counterpart, the state of Rocky Balboa adorned with a Phillies cap, on the front page of the Daily Times this morning.
Along with this headline: The Big Scrap-ple.

This is not just a couple of baseball games pitting the Phillies vs. the Yankees.

It’s a faceoff of Philadelphia vs. New York City. It’s the cheesesteak vs. the Reuben. The soft pretzel vs. the bagel.

It’s about the opportunity for Philly, once and for all, to step out of the shadow of Gotham City.

Brace yourself, eventually, weather permitting, they may finally play some baseball tonight in Yankee Stadium.

Until then, expect the hype to be in permanent overdrive.

By the way, I agree with Jimmy Rollins, but I think it will take them one more game.

Make it Phillies in six.

'Scoring' some Series tickets?

This might give a whole new meaning to “scoring” some World Series tickets.

Forget about getting to third base, police in Bensalem, Bucks County, say a woman there offered sex for a couple of World Series tickets.

The woman’s lawyer is adamantly denying the charges.

But he’s not denying that Susan Finkelstein, 43, is a rabid Phillies fan who was suffering from a serious case of Phillies Phever and was desperate to get her mitts on some World Series ducats.

It’s how far she was willing to go to get them that is in dispute.

Finkelstein took out a personal ad on Craigslist Web site, describing herself as a “gorgeous buxom blonde,” and seeking World Series tickets.
In the ad she went on to list the price as “negotiable. I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other.”

The ad no doubt was meant to raise a few eyebrows. It did, including a few at the Bensalem Police Department. They set up a meeting at a bar.

They now allege she offered sex for the pricey tickets and charged her with soliciting prostitution.

You can pretty much imagine what happened next. This morning Finkelstein’s “offer” is all over the media, including front-page coverage on one of the New York tabloids.

In the immortal words of the late, great Rich Ashburn, “Hard to believe, Harry.”

Swine flu concerns

If there has been one word that has been stressed while everyone waits and wonders when an H1N1 vaccine is going to arrive, it has been this:
Caution.

This won’t make it any easier.

Officials in Mount Holly, N.J., confirm that a 17-year-old high school student who died over the weekend had swine flu.

The Burlington County Medical Examiner is saying that influenza is the cause of death.

The sophomore at Rancocas Valley High School became New Jersey’s 19th person to die of swine flu.

Here in Pennsylvania, the death toll from H1N1 stands at 17. That number includes eight victims in Philadelphia and one in Montco. Delaware County has not recorded any swine flu deaths as yet.

And County Council sounds like they’re getting as antsy as the rest of us as they await word from the state on when a vaccine might arrive.

Councilman Jack Whelan said the county has requested 95,000 doses for students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

They’re planning a meeting with the county’s school superintendents for Thursday morning.

While the CDC says it has bumped up its allocation for H1N1 vaccine for Pennsylvania to 788,000 doses, up from 566,000 reported last week, no one at the state level is offering any details on how the vaccine is being distributed or to who.

In the meantime, expect nerves to get more and more frayed with each new story like the one breaking in New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 27

The Daily Numbers: 666 bucks, how much you can expect to shell out for a ticket to one of first two World Series games at Yankee Stadium.
946 bucks, what that same ticket to Games 3 or 4 at Citizens Bank Park will set you back.
423.5 million dollars, combined deals signed by 3 Yankees stars, C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texeira.
111 million dollar payroll for Phillies in 2009.
2 family dogs found shot to death and placed tail-to-tail near some local railroad tracks in Chadds Ford, Chester County.
45 minutes of talks between SEPTA officials and Transport Workers Union Local 234 in an attempt to head off a threatened strike that would crippled mass transit in the city just in time for World Series games this weekend.
3 teens shot on a West Philly street last night.
27,000 students in Philadelphia schools who have given their consent to get the H1N1 vaccine.
39, age of woman fatally stabbed in a luxury apartment complex in Montgomery County Sunday night.
8 weekends in jail for a man who admitted trying to sneak an unloaded gun on to a US Airways flight to Phoenix with the help of an airline employee.
40, age of pedestrian in Philadelphia who has died of his injuries after being struck by a bicyclist on Oct. 15.
2 TDs for Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is quickly blossoming into an NFL superstar.
1 TD on an interception return for the newest Eagle, linebacker Will Witherspoon.
17 points surrendered by the Eagles’ defense in the 27-17 win.
1 pass completed by Michael Vick last night, for 5 yards, to go with 3 runs for 9 yards.
79, age of ailing Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, who is planning to be at Yankees Stadium for the World Series.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Even when the Eagles win, they lose. They likely will be without Brian Westbrook next Sunday in their crucial match with the Giants. He suffered concussion symptoms last night after taking a knee to the head vs. the ‘Skins.
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I Don’t Get It: See there’s still no deal OK’d in Harrisburg for table games, part of the budget agreement. Glad to see some things in the state Capitol don’t change.
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Today’s Upper: Some words of caution last night from a doctor who urged some people with minor flu symptoms to simply stay home, not rush to the hospital. Good idea.
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Quote Box: “We’re trying to do this for Pops, Mr. Steinbrenner.”
- Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, on the ailing team owner.

The murder of Veronia Benson

A cat is set on fire on a Chester street and tip lines light up with people who want to drop a dime on the suspect.

I don’t condone animal abuse. But I am routinely besieged by people who believe we make too much of it when bad things happen to animals, and not nearly enough of it when the same happens to a human being.

They have a point.

This weekend a 23-year-woman walked out of a relative’s home in Chester and went to get in her car. A man walked up to her, stuck a gun in her chest and pulled the trigger at point-blank range.

Vernonica Benson, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, was trying to turn her life around. She had moved into an apartment in another town, was taking part in a program called “Wings for Success” and was on her way to starting a new career.

But a trip back to visit relatives brought her back to the mean streets of Chester. And to the gun violence that continues to plague parts of the city.

It would be nice if the same kind of outrage that is voiced when something horrific happens to an animal is voiced when the tragedy is all too human.

Anyone with information on Benson’s murder is asked to contract county Detective Michael Palmer at 610-891-4700, or Chester Detective Patrick Mullen at 610-447-7908.

This morning we are dealing with another savage case of animal abuse.
This time it happened in Chadds Ford, where two family pet dogs were found shot to death and left tail-to-tail near some railroad tracks.

No doubt there will be another outpouring of emotion and anger. And no shortage of calls to a tip line seeking information in that case.

I hope the same can be said of the savage shooting of Veronica Benson.

A star is born

The Eagles did a couple of things in their win last night in their prime time encounter with the Redskins that they should have done last week in Oakland.

First and foremost, they got the ball into the hands of the NFL’s newest superstar. That would be DeSean Jackson, the electrifying second-year wide receiver.

It took all of three plays for the Cal product to put his stamp on the game. Jackson took an end-around from Donovan McNabb and was off to the races. Jackson turned on the jets and was untouched as he outran the hapless Redskins 67 yards into the end zone.

It was one of two Jackson TDs on the night, the other coming on a 57-yard bomb from McNabb in the final two minutes of the first half.

Jackson was almost enough to beat the Redskins by himself. He also reeled off a 29-yard punt return.

By now you’re wondering what the other thing the Birds did that they should have done last week. Easy. They put their foot on the neck of an inferior foe, and then stepped down. Hard. And did not let up.

Thanks to Jackson, the Eagles got up early on the Deadskins and never looked back.

This was not a classic game. Eagles-Redskins games rarely are, but it is something the Birds failed to do last week, and also failed to do in two tries vs. the Redskins last year. That would be win.

Helping in no small part with that was the latest addition to the team, middle linebacker Will Witherspoon. He scored a TD after he picked off a deflected pass and rumbled into the end zone. The former Ram – playing his second game this year at Fed Ex Field – also caused a fumble when he slapped the ball from Campbell’s hands. The Eagles sacked Jason Campbell six times.

Of course, even when the Eagles win, they manage to lose. They might have lost Brian Westbrook for next Sunday’s crucial faceoff with the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The star running back was knocked woozy when he took a knee to the helmet in the first quarter. He left the game and did not return. Initial indications are he suffered a concussion. His availability for next week is not yet known.

But for now, in the dreck that is so much of the NFL, the Eagles find themselves once again in the thick of the NFC race. Sunday they face the Giants, which likely will tell us much about just what kind of team they really are.

After all, you can only play the Chiefs, Bucs and Redskins so many times. I would count the Raiders in there as well, but I have to remember actually beat us this week. So revved up were the Raiders that they got waxed this week by the Jets, who shut them out in a 38-0 rout.

Without Westbrook the Eagles will be hard-pressed to beat the Giants, who he seems to specialize in torturing. Here’s a hint. Get the ball to Jackson. Early and often.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 26

The Daily Numbers: 23, age of woman gunned down outside her mother’s house in Chester.
8 part-time officers hired by Darby Borough police.
100 Darby borough residents who took to the streets Saturday to take a stand against violence.
4,700 union members who run SEPTA’s city division who authorized a strike this week if they don’t get a new pact, just in time for the World Series.
32 stab wounds suffered by a priest in Chatham, N.J., who was found slain in his church. A janitor has been charged.
10, age of Philadelphia girl who died of brutal abuse police say came at the hands of her parents. Her father hung himself in his jail cell over the weekend.
2 people killed in a head-on crash in Montgomery County early Saturday.
8 months old, age of toddler found dead in an apartment in Camden, N.J. The father is believed to have killed the child, then taken his own life and setting the apartment on fire.
16, age of girl found stabbed multiple times in Southwest Philly early Monday morning.
5 million dollars for Philadelphia International Airport for more security cameras.
38 million dollars for Crozer-Keystone Health System from sale of 3 properties, including the Healthplex Complex in Springfield.
40 feet, current depth of Delaware River in the region. The Army Corps of Engineers is going to move forward with a plan to deepen it to 45 feet.
14 Americans killed in a copter crash in Afghanistan.
5 percent uptick in gas prices in the region. Average price at the pump in the region is $2.68 a gallon. That’s up from $2.53 a gallon last week.
4 game sweep for the Yankees the last time they hooked up with the Phils, back in 1950.
5-2 Yankees win over the Angels last night to advance to the Series. It means no World Series for Angels skipper and Delco native Mike Scioscia.
0.74 ERA in post-season play so far for Cliff Lee, who will be the Phils’ starter in Game 1 of the Series Wednesday night.
4-1 loss for Flyers last night against the San Jose Sharks.
0 games suspended for Flyers Mike Richards for his brutal hit that left a Panthers forward Mike Booth unconscious on the ice.
3-2 record for Eagles, who are in D.C. tonight for Monday night matchup with the Redskins.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Make it Broadway vs. Broad Street. It’s the Phillies and Yankees in the World Series.
*
I Don’t Get It: Who walks up to a 23-year-old woman and shoots her point-blank in the chest.
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Today’s Upper: Red October rolls on.
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Quote Box: “We want to enjoy this tonight. We’ll worry about Philly tomorrow.”
- Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter, after they won the ALCS Sunday night against the Angels.

New York, New York

In the words of the one and only Francis Albert Sinatra: Start spreading the news!

It’s the Phils and Yankees in the World Series, a dream come true for local baseball lovers.

The truth is there are those who believe that chip the size of a cheesesteak that sits on the shoulder of so many surly Philly fans comes in no small part due to the fact that we have spent our lives in the shadow of New York City.

Halfway between Gotham City and the nation’s capital in D.C., we too often get overlooked.

Not this week.

Now we get a chance to knock off the Evil Empire, otherwise known as the New York Yankees.

It’s the I-95 series. The Battle of the Jersey Turnpike. The Bronx Bombers vs. Ryan’s Hope. The Big Apple vs. the Big Pretzel.

Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Series trouble for transit

Don’t look now, but Red October may be about to run off the tracks.

At least if you depend on mass transit to get to the game. Or just about anywhere else in the city.

That’s because the union that represents the 1,200 members of SEPTA’s city division are threatening to hit the bricks, just in time for the World Series.

Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents city division bus drivers, trolley and subway operators, on Sunday authorized a strike this week if talks don’t produce a new deal.

A work stoppage means that nothing would move in the city in terms of mass transit. The regional rail lines would not be affected.

But if you’re one of those who take the El downtown and then jump on the Broad Street line to the stadium complex, you could be thrown a curve.

A strike would not only mean chaos on city streets, it would likely mean a huge traffic problem for Games 3 and 4 in South Philly next weekend as almost everyone would be forced to drive to the game.

Both sides are planning to sit down at the bargaining table again this week.

They need to cut a deal.

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney is confident they will be able to do just that. A union spokesman is not nearly as cheerful. He notes the union has been working without a contract since last spring.

He says the fact that that the strike vote comes at the same time the eyes of the sports world are turning to the city for the World Seriees is simply a coincidence.

Yeah, sure.

Birds on back burner

Remember when the Eagles used to be a big deal around here.

And an Eagles Monday night game was enough to bring the local sports world to a screeching halt?

Not this week.

It no doubt galls the folks down at Nova Care Nation to no end to know that they are have been relegated to an afterthought, even as they command a bit of the national spotlight tonight when they head down I-95 to tangle with the Redskins in a Monday night affair.

But they will do so in the shadows. That’s because the spotlight will be shining squarely on the World Series matchup between the Yankees and Phillies.

The Series won’t start until Wednesday night. But it is already Topic No. 1 around the water cooler.

Donovan McNabb and his pals will simply have to deal with playing second fiddle for a couple of weeks.

They would do well to go about their business, and emerge from this World Series mania, in the thick of the NFC East race.

Things actually tightened up a tad yesterday when the Giants lost their second straight game, falling to the Cardinals at home, 24-17.

That means if the Birds can beat the lowly Redskins tonight in D.C., they will be tied with the Giants in the loss column, at 4-2, although the New Yorkers have played one more game, thanks to the Eagles bye week. Dallas is already sitting at 4-2, thanks to their win over the Falcons yesterday.

Of course, the Eagles could go out and pull a repeat performance of last week’s disastrous performance in Oakland.

I don’t think that’s going to happen. Look for the Birds to win, and for almost no one to notice as we are consumed by another Red October.

Yes, the Eagles will be green with envy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Anybody remember the Eagles?

Normally such a quandary would have Eagles' execs down at the Nova Care complex climbing the walls, seeking to restore their perceived perch as the No. 1 team in town.

This week they likely don't mind a tad lower profile while the Phils and their their fans bathe in the spotlight of a second straight National League crown and another date in the World Series.

That's because the Birds laid one of the biggest eggs in franchise history last week when they flew all the way across the country, then forgot to show up in losing a dreadful 13-9 contest to the Raiders.

How bad was it? The Eagles got outscored by the Phils, 11-9.

The Eagles continue their tour through the dregs of the NFL this week when they pay a visit to the nation's capital Monday night . Their goal will be to state emphatically that they do not belong in this steaming mess of mediocrity in the NFC. Sitting hip-deep in that simmering stew of bad teams are the Redskins.

But first a few words about last weekend's debacle against the Raiders.

It;'s hard to explain just how bad the Eagles - and coach Andy Reid - were in the loss in Oakland. Maybe the biggest indictment came after the game, when several players stated openly that they were unprepared for the Raiders' game plan of blitzing, something they hadn't showed before this season. Even worse was that the Eagles never adjusted, with Reid dialing up one pas play after another, exposing Donovan McNabb, still guarding some bum ribs, to the pass rush, in front of a tissue paper-thin offensive line that featured King Dunlap and Winston Justice at the tackle spots.

The news didn't get much better this week. Starting linebacker Omar Gaither is likely out for the year with a foot fracture. The Birds actualy made a trade, bringing in linebacker Will Witherspoon. To show you how concerned the Eagles are about their defense, look for Wtherspoon to be on the field a lot Monday night.

Reid and the Eagles simply cannot afford a repeat performance, one that would serioulsly damage their season.

I have been on the record that many of the moves made so far this odd year by Reid and the Birds have showed a sense of deperation.

Maybe it's time for the team to play that way.

It won't be easy, even against another inferior foe. The Redskins' list of problems is even longer than the Birds', which should tell you soemthing about the NFC East.

Make it Eagles 26, Redskins 13.

Last Week: I certainly didn't see the loss to the Raiders coming. I wasn't alone. It's never easy for East Coast tems to fly across the country and tee it up on the West Coast. That is not excuse either for the game Reid coached or the one his squad played.

Season Record: 3-2, same as the Birds.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The un-Philly Phillies

Lovable losers?

City of Brotherly choke artists?

El Foldo-ville?

Not anymore.

Phillies 10, Dodgers 4.

After stopping eveyrone's hearts Monday night with a cardiac comeback win, the Phillies methodically bludgeoned the Dodgers into submission Wednesday night to capture their second straight National League crown and head back to the World Series.

And here's the funny thing. No one is surprised. When the Dodgers got a homer in the first to stake themselves to a 1-0 win, they never batted an eye. Did anyone not expect them to fire right back? Didn't think so. In the bottom of the inning, Jayson Werth offered a classic touche by crushing a VIcente Padilla into the right-field seats, and the party was on.

These Phillies team just might be the un-Philly team. We are used to being teased by our sports heroes. We are used to being sweet-talked by our idols right to the door of the boudoir, then having it slammed in our face.

It was a perpetual case of unrequited love.

We endured more than 25 years of championship drought. We once were entralled by those guys wearing skates and orange sweaters as they hoisted two Stanley Cups. But that was a generation ago, and they have not scaled the mountain since. The Sixers took us to the mountaintop in 1983, but have wandered in the wilderness since. Then there is the ultimate tease, our beloved Iggles. For the past 11 years, they have been good. Actually very good. Just not good enough. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have done a lot of things. But they have not won a championship.

Which brings us to the pinstripes, and this particular band of Phillies.

They are something we simply are unaccustomed to. They are money. From Charlie Manuel, to Ryan Howard to JImmy Rollins, they come up big when the chips are on the table.

Last year they ended our championship drought. They must love the taste of champagne. Because this year they're back for more.

The Phillies are the first team to win back-to-back National League pennants in a decade. And they're not done.

They now await the winner of the Yankees-Angels ALCS and a date in the World Series, starting next Wednesday.

Don't bet against them.

In maybe the most un-Philly feeling imaginable, they aren't just happy to be there.

They expect to win. Like I said. Money.

Hometown hero, or the Yankees?

The Philies big win over the Dodgers to advance to the second straight World Series leaves only one question left unanswered: Who will they play?

And that just might create a bit of a dilemma for Delco baseball loyalists.

The overwhelming sentiment is a matchup with the mighty Yankees, and the opportunity not just for the Phils to defend thier World Series crown, but perhaps once and for all to wipe away our long-standing inferiority complex from sitting in the shadow of the Big Apple.

But we do so at a cost to one of our own.

The Yankees are on the precipice of advancing, holding a 3-1 edge over the Angels.

Sitting in that Angels' dugout is a hometown kid, Delco native Mike Scioscia. The Angels skipper is the pride of Morton and Springfield High.

It would create a natural rivalry with the Phillies. But my guess is Scioscia and the Angels are about to give way to the Battle of the Pinstripes.

New York vs. Philly.

Big Apple vs. Big Pretzel.

Sorry, Mike. Bring on the Yankees.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 21

The Daily Numbers: 23, age of New Jersey man “stung” by members of the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
8 and 11, ages of young girls who the man thought he had set up a liaison with, along with their mother, only to walk into the arms of undercover detectives.
35 minutes of deliberations, how long it took a jury to clear a Darby police officer sued in connection with an alleged strip-search incident.
The jury did not believe the stripp-search ever took place.
40 dollars, how much police believe a Colwyn woman charged a teen boy for sex. They believe she was doing a brisk business with borough teens.
300 jobs created by the latest development in Chester, a new senior development at the site of the former Chester Towers.
25 percent absentee rate at two Penn-Delco School District elementary schools as flu concerns continue to pop up across the region.
200 jobs up for grabs yesterday at Philadelphia Park Casino because of their expansion plans.
1,000 more jobs that could be created once table games get the OK for the state’s slots parlors.
10,000 jobs across the state tied to table games, with at least 4,500 in the Philly region. That would include Harrah’s in Chester.
5 weeks old, age of newborn found unresponsive in Philly. The baby’s parents are under arrest on assault charges.
1,000 dollar reward posted for information leading to an arrest in the murder of a baker in Woodlynne, N.J., during a holdup.
33, age of Delco man who has been charged with tying up an elderly Delaware couple during a home invasion.
2.9 percent increase in home sales in Pennsylvania in September. That accounts for 3,187 properties sold.
9.18, how much Philadelphia spends per voter on its elections.
287,000 dollars, how much state funds were funneled to a pal of former Sen. Vince Fumo in state contracts. The man pleaded guilty yesterday.
5 shaky innings from Cole Hamels in his last outing in the NLCS. He’ll be on the hill tonight as the Phils look to advance to the World Series.
8:07 first pitch again tonight for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
100 tackles recorded 3 times in his career by the newest Eagle, linebacker Will Witherspoon, acquired in a trade with the Rams yesterday.
.3 seconds left when the Wizards Mike James sank 2 of 3 free throws to beat the Sixers last night.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Maybe there really is something to all this talk about how much it aggravates the Eagles that the Phillies are the center of attention.
They pulled off a trade yesterday to bolster their shaky linebacking corps.
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I Don’t Get It: Another suspect nabbed in an Internet sex sting. I still don’t get it.
*
Today’s Upper: Here’s a sure bet. Table games mean more jobs in the region and state. A lot more jobs.
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Quote Box: “Drivers should not be doing anything than operating a vehicle.”
- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, as the township continues its push for a statewide ban on use of hand-held devices while driving.

The ghost of Manny Mota

It took more than 30 years, but here was my initial reaction to the Phils’ heart-stopping, come-from-behind win over the Dodgers Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Take that, Manny Mota.

Oct. 7, 1977. If you’re of a certain age and a die-hard Phillies fan, I probably do not have to go any farther.

Black Friday.

Maybe one of the lowest moments in Philadelphia sports history.

Ironically, it also provided one of the high points, one of those occasions that people often point to when talking of the legendary passion of Philly sports fans.

I know because I was there.

It was Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Dodgers starter Burt Hooton was spotted to a 2-0 lead, but was struggling with his stuff. In the bottom of the second, the Phils were rallying. With two men on and two out, Hooton was facing his pitching counterpart Larry Christenson. With the count 1-2, Hooton fired what he clearly thought was strike three to end the inning. Only home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt didn’t see it that way. He called it a ball.

A perturbed Hooton kicked at the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. That’s all Phillies fans needed.

What happened next is something I will never forget. I rank it as one of the truly great moments in Philadelphia sports. In part because it defines us as fans.

The fans unleashed their fury on Hooton. He responded by walking Christenson. Things got louder. Hooton was rattled. Theh he completely unraveled. With each ball he uncorked, the din grew louder. Christenson walked three straight batters before being lifted. As he walked to the dugout under the unrelenting verbal assault, for a second I actually felt sorry for him. Then I continued screaming at the top of my lungs.

Of course, we all know how that game turned out. Manny Mota hit a line drive that Greg Luzinski could not get to. Fans turned their wrath on Manager Danny Ozark, who failed to insert defensive replacement Jerry Martin as he had all year.

It was like knocking over the first domino in one of those intricate displays. Current Phils first base coach Davey Lopes then hit a ball that went off the glove of third baseman Mike Schmidt. Shortstop Larry Bowa barehanded and fired to first, seemingly just in time to get Lopes.
Only this time the call went the other way. Safe.

The Phils 5-3 lead crumbled. The Dodgers won, 6-5, and went on win the series.

Walking out of the stadium, I remember two things from that day. How loud the crowd was in literally chasing Hooton off the mound. And how quiet it was just a few hours later, after enduring one of the most painful losses in Philly history.

Monday night I figure the Dodgers and their fans were feeling the same way.

It took more than three decades, but the ghost of Manny Mota had finally been exorcised.

My favorite thing about the Internet

Now that I split much of my day between working on the print edition and online, where this blog appears, I am often asked about the differences between the two.

Our Web site “solves” two huge logistical problems print people struggle with every day.

First, we print and distribute the newspaper once each day. But news does not stop. It is now a 24-hour operation. We now are capable of doing the same online. We break stories online, sometimes with only a few sentences, then develop and update them through the day. That is something we can’t do with print. The fact is readers now decide pretty much on their own when they want their news. We are reacting to that.

Second is the fact that every day we are limited in print by the size of the newspaper. Some of the toughest questions I face each day are not which stories are going to get in the paper. Those decisions usually pretty much take care of themselves.

My biggest problems each day are all the stories that are not going to get into the newspaper. That problem disappears online. We are limited only by how fast we can shovel the information out there.

But neither of these two key issues are actually my favorite thing about the Internet.

This is. Suppose (and I know this would never happen) we have a bad typo in our lead headline.

In print, that’s a major problem. Online, while a problem, it’s a temporary one. Because with a few keystrokes – Voila! – the problem is fixed. I can change anything that appears on the site. I can add information. As we get updates, I can add that material to our online reporting. And yes, I can even fix mistakes.

Print, on the other hand, and as I am constantly reminding the staff, is FOREVER! Once the newspaper leaves the building, it is out of our hands.

As someone who works more and more online, I can admit that there is an inherent danger built into this process. There is the constant lure of being tempted by speed, to get the information out there as fast as we can, without taking the same care to be sure it is as accurate as we would like.

That is because, to my way of thinking, in the back of our minds we know that regardless of what winds up on the Web site, it can be changed in the blink of an eye. Not so with print. I am constantly reminding myself to throttle back just a bit when I’m working online.

I’m thinking maybe the folks at the Major League Baseball Web site likely would concur with me on this issue.

Monday night, with the Dodgers set to drive the final nail into the Phils and even the National League Championship Series at 2-2, they published an item on their Web site that said in fact that had in fact happened.

Of course we all know what happened next. The Phils rallied, with Jimmy Rollins smoking a heart-stopping double into the gap to score two runs and cap a spine-tingling rally as the Phils won, 5-4.

Spine-tingling is likely not what that person at MLB.com was feeling at the time. The story was quickly pulled from the site.

I know exactly how he feels.

Another sex sting

By this time I really shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t help it. I still am.

It’s happened again. Readers of the print edition today will be greeted by Evan Weidmann, a 23-year-old New Jersey man who is the latest to be corralled by the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

You can read the story here.

It’s particularly gruesome. Undercover county detectives say Weidmann drove to Delco expecting to have a tryst with a mother an her two young daughters, 11 and 8.

Instead, he drove right into the arms of county law enforcement officials when he drove into the parking lot of a fast-food joint just off I-95 in Lower Chichester.

Recently I had a visit here in the office from Dave Peifer. He’s a county detective.

We had the opportunity to talk about what I am increasingly considering “the Wild, Wild West.” That is the cyber-world of online folks out there. And I mean “out there.”

I quizzed Peifer about one of the many things I don’t get about these people who get stung in these undercover operations. I asked him when exactly these people are going to catch on to the fact that you really have no idea who the person at the other end of these chat lines really is. Sure, it might be a mom offering up her young daughters for your sexual desires. Then again, it just might be an undercover detective.
It’s a roll of the dice.

Then I told Peifer my real fear about these stories. I’m wondering if the fact that we keep seeing these successful stings means that there is a ton of this kind of behavior that is not being caught.

He simply shook his head and sadly concurred.

Scary stuff.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 20

The Daily Numbers: 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, when Jimmy Rollins unloaded that shot to the gap in right-center, scoring 2 runs and propelling the Phils to a thrilling come-from-behind win.
3-1 lead for the Phils over the Dodgers in the NLCS. They can wrap it up and head back to the World Series with a win Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
2 days suspension for a Chester firefighter lifted in a dispute over a decal of the U.S. flag affixed to his locker.
13 inch blade on a Samurai sword that a despondent man allegedly used to attack an Upper Darby police officer.
100 victims who are lining up to sue the diocese of Wilmington alleging sexual abuse by priests. The diocese has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
27, age of volunteer firefighter in Fort Washington under arrest on charges he had sexual relations with an underage girl.
5 hour standoff in Delaware that ended with a man’s arrest after he fired shots at officers.
3 people, including 2 active Air Force airmen stationed at Dover Air Force Base, killed in a crash in Dover Sunday.
88, age of Howard Unruh, mass killer who gunned down 13 people on a Camden street in 1949 shooting spree.
7 cents per gallon jump in cost over the weekend. Gas is now an average of $2.54 a gallon in the Philly region.
6.22 percent combined state and local sales tax in Pa. that ranks us 30th in the nation. Delaware is one of 4 states with 0 sales tax.
4 laptop computers that a former TSA officer at Philly International admitted stealing while he was screening bags.
18, age of Penn State student who died after a night of drinking. His death is sparking a review of alcohol use on the campus.
2 million dollars illegally transferred to a region of his native Pakistan by a Philadelphia food vendor. He pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer.
700 million dollars in state aid to Penn State and other Pa.
universities that is still in limbo as budget talks drag on.
300 employees laid off by the state since July because of spending cuts.
The state is now saying more layoffs likely will be needed.
8 straight postseason games in which Ryan Howard has now driven in a run.
3 scoreless innings by 4 Phils relievers as they kept the Dodgers in check and allowed the Phils to come from behind for the win.
6 innings for Phils starter Joe Blanton, who gave up 4 runs on 6 hits.
17 straight post-season games in which Ryan Howard has reached base.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I know the Eagles are insanely jealous of the attention showered on the Phillies. But you have to think that maybe this week they don’t mind.
*
I Don’t Get It: Attacking a police officer with a samurai sword. Never a good idea.
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Today’s Upper: One more win for the Phils Wednesday night and they advance to the World Series to defend their crown.
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Quote Box: “I’m just an American, tired of Old Glory getting stomped on.”
- Linda Vasile, protesting outside Chester City Hall yesterday morning over an edict banning a U.S. flag decal on a firefighter’s locker. The edict was lifted.

Flagged

It’s nice to see that sometimes rational thought and common sense can prevail when it comes to a municipal dispute.

That seems to be the case in Chester, where a controversy over a decal of a U.S. flag affixed to a firefighter’s locker resulted in the suspension of a union member – and some national publicity.

Last summer the city’s fire commissioner issued a policy that banned all decorations on lockers. But the edict only started to be enforced last week when some firefighters complained about a cartoon that was being displayed on one locker. Some intimated it had negative racial overtones.

The story had all the elements of a classic municipal standoff: First Amendment free speech rights, union vs. management issues, even some racial overtones.

Add in the U.S. flag and you are bound to attract a lot of attention.

Fire Commissioner Jim Johnson decided to stem the issue by enforcing the policy of eliminating all such items on lockers. Firefighter and union member Jim Krapf complied – except for the U.S. flag decal on his locker. He refused to remove it. He was promptly suspended two days last week.

When word hit the media that a city firefighter was suspended for refusing to remove the flag decal, the issue suddenly started drawing interest from all over.

Yesterday, as a meeting was scheduled betweeen Krapf and city officials, a group of about 40 pro-flag protesters showed up to show their support for the firefighter – and Old Glory.

Not surprising.

It appears the city relented. Krapf can keep the decal of the flag on his locker. He was reinstated to his job and returns to work on Thursday.

The flag was granted an exception to the policy banning such displays on lockers.

Johnson said his policy would be tweaked to allow for the proper display of the flag decal.

If it’s one thing that city officials are routinely criticized for, it’s not being flexible.

Clearly, the policy of trying to restrict what can and can’t adorn lockers is a good one, in its broadest terms.

But when that policy extends to a decal of the U.S. flag, especially in these times, the city is asking for trouble.

Johnson made the right call in flagging his all-inclusive policy.

Thrill of victory, agony of deadlines

Readers may notice something odd about today’s front page.

Then again, maybe you won’t. At least that’s my hope.

The front page of today’s print edition is not dominated by last night’s dramatic win by the Phillies, with Jimmy Rollins knocking in two runs with a two-out-double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lead the Phils to an improbable come-from-behind, walk-off 5-4 win over the Dodgers.

The win gives the Phils a 3-1 stranglehold on the National League Championship Series, just one win away from returning to the World Series to defend the crown they won last year.

Oh, the game is out there. It’s featured in the skybox across the top of the page. But it’s not our lead story. We reserved that spot for the settlement of a dispute between Chester city firefighters and officials over a U.S. flag decal that was displayed on a locker. The city relented and now will allow the sticker, and also reinstated the firefighter, who had been suspended for two days at the end of last week.

Covering Delaware County is what we do. Of course, the Phillies are a big part of that. There is no shortage of readers who call to complain every time we lead the paper with a big sports story, and make no mistake, last night’s win by the Phils is a very big story. They tell me that’s what the Back Page is for, that we should reserve the front page for a news story.

Actually, there were two news stories that I considered for today’s lead spot. The other was about a man charged with attacking Upper Darby police with a samurai sword. Upper Darby top cop Mike Chitwood even went so far as to identify him as “Delco’s Last Samurai.” We “teased” that story off the front page.

But the Chester story was generating a lot of controversy, and we decided, literally, to run it up the flagpole.

Of course, that decision was made at about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until ten minutes before midnight to make that call. If I did I might have made a different decision.

No doubt there are a lot of people, like me, who lapsed into sleep somewhere around the eighth inning, with the Dodgers clinging to a 4-3 lead. We woke up this morning literally not knowing who won the game.
That mystery was soon solved by flipping on the radio and checking KYW.
It was confirmed by the morning papers, inlcuding ours, in an unusual circumstance, actually informing many people who won last night’s game.

Yes, I could have constructed a page that focused on the Phils and then simply changed the key elements of the page after the game. It would have involved using an early color photo, locking that in on the page, and then changing the black type – including the lead headline - on the page later on.

Color causes us problems in terms of time and production. So when we have a game we know is going to run late, such as playoff baseball or next Monday night when the Eagles play in Washington, we will use one of the early photos that we get from our photographer at the game. Last night that was Eric Hartline. That’s his shot of Ryan Howard on today’s back page watching his laser beam of a homer disappear into the right-field seats in the first inning.

Of course, the key photos would be from the celebration after the Phils dramatic ninth inning win. But that occurred at about 10 minutes before midnight. That won’t work for us.

There is another element readers should know about, and which might explain why your paper was delivered a little bit late this morning.

While thrilling for fans, an ending like last night’s is agony for newspapers – and sportswriters.

Our writers covering the game do not have the luxury of waiting until the contest is over to write their stories. They literally are crafting their stories as the game is being played. We call it “running” copy because it is written as the game is running.

No doubt most writers had already locked in on a theme of the Phils dropping Game 4 last night and facing the challenge of a deadlocked series.

At 10 minutes to midnight, with a walk, a hit batter and one swing of Jimmy Rollins’ bat, all that went out the window.

Suddenly writers were completely rewriting their stories to reflect the Phils’ come-from-behind win.

I’ve always envied writers from the West Coast, including the contingent from L.A. covering the Dodgers last night. The last-minute heroics – while certainly souring the mood of Dodgers’ fans – likely did not faze them a bit. That’s because it was only 10 minutes to nine on the West Coast. Plenty of time to rewite their stories to reflect the Dodgers’
epic collapse and still make deadline.

Our normal deadline most nights is 11:40, about 20 minutes ‘til midnight. With all these 8:07 starts, we knew we would be holding the press to be sure we got the result of the game in.

No doubt we’ll be doing that again Wednesday night as the Phils seek their second straight National League pennant.

It just might be our lead story on the front page. Of course, that depends on what else happens that day. We cover Delaware County. The Phillies and their playoff success are an important part of that.

Just sometimes not the most important part.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 19

The Daily Numbers: 11 runs scored by the Phillies, as opposed to 9 points for the Eagles. Ouch!
8:07 start time for Game 4 tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
5 year contract approved by UAW Local 1069 at Boeing yesterday.
3, 2, 3, 3 and 4 percent pay hikes over the life of the deal for union workers at the Ridley plant.
35, as in Directive 35, which is at the center of a dispute in Chester over a flag decal that was attached to a fireman’s locker, and which he was ordered to remove. He refused and has been suspended for 2 days.
59, age of man killed in a strange accident at the entrance to the Blue Route Sunday.
5 years, how long it took Newtown Township to finally give the OK to the development plan for a 219-acre development on the Ellis Tract in the township.
2.53, average price of gas in the 5-county Philly region.
3 Catholic high schools in New Jersey that will be hit with teacher walkouts this morning.
8 gunshot wounds suffered by a man on a North Philadelphia street last night.
15 to 20 percent dip in prices for holiday travel expected this year.
30 teens who police believe stomped on a 15-year-old during an attack in Philly. Police are now hunting for suspects.
2,600 walkers who braved the elements yesterday to take part in the Breast Cancer 3-Day in Philly after the first 2 days got wiped out by the rain.
123 million dollars in federal stimulus funds available for Pennsylvania weatherization projects, including $5.3 million coming to the Community Action Agency in Delco.
8.8 percent jobless rate in Pa. in September. That’s up from 8.6 percent in August.
25 million up for grabs in the Wednesday Powerball drawing after no one hit on Saturday night.
21, age of West Chester University student found shot to death in her car in Philly. Her 19-year-old boyfriend has been charged.
32.5 million dollars in sales to lead the weekend box office for “Where the Wild Things Are.”
8 shutout innings for Cliff Lee in powering the Phils over the Dodgers.
16 straight post-season games in which Ryan Howard has reached base.
46 degrees, game time temperature at Citizens Bank Park, about half what the two teams played in Friday in Los Angeles.
2 missed field goals by Eagles kicker David Akers. The Birds lost to Oakland, 13-9.
0 touchdowns scored by the Birds, against a team that had lost 3 straight weeks by more than 20 points.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Call it the agony of defeat, followed by the thrill of victory. That’s what it was like for Philly fans yesterday, who sat through the Eagles bitter loss in Oakland, only to be redeemed about an hour later when the Phils crushed the Dodgers.
*
I Don’t Get It: I still don’t get the appeal of playing baseball in 45-degree weather.
*
Today’s Upper: Anyone else think Ryan Howard would make a pretty good tight end.
*
Quote Box: “Cliff Lee, what can I say about him, he was absolutely outstanding."
- Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, on his starter last night.

Thrill of Phils, agony of Birds

Here’s pretty much everything you need to know about what kind of sports day it was for Philly fans yesterday.

The Phillies outscored the Eagles, 11-9.

You might say it was a bitter/sweet day. After the agony of seeing the Eagles fail to show up on the West Coast and lose to the Raiders, the Phils again gave us the thrill of victory in crushing the Dodgers, 11-0.

The Phils now take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, with Game 4 tonight at 8:07 at Citizens Bank Park. They’re two wins away from a return trip to the World Series.

The Phillies, apparently sensing their fans’ despair at the Eagles pathetic showing, did not waste any time in delivering a much-needed balm.

The Phils jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, powered by a two-run triple by Ryan Howard and a two-run homer by Jayson Werth, and never looked back.

Cliff Lee went eight shutout innings in stifling the Dodgers, who looked like the only thing they wanted to do was get back to those 80-degree temperatures on the Left Coast.

Tonight another former Phillie, Randy Wolf, will take the mound for the Dodgers. Forget the Wolf Pack. This team needs heat packs, clearly out of their comfort zone in the chilly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

Maybe that’s what was wrong with the Eagles, who flew across the country and looked like they were suffering from a serious case of jet lag in 70-degree weather in Oakland.

Actually, if you really want to know what I think is wrong with the Eagles, read my item on them below.

They are the exact opposite of the Phillies. When the money is on the table, the Phillies – led by people like Ryan Howard - deliver.

When the money is on the table for the Phillies, we get Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

The Phillies gave us a parade last year and are looking to provide another one. The Eagles gave us that effort against the Raiders yesterday.

That’s really all you need to know.

The Heene family reality TV show

Here’s a stunner.

Officials now believe the saga of the “boy on the balloon” in Colorado was part of an elaborate hoax.

Officials in Larimer County said Sunday they will file charges, including felony counts, against Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi.

The sheriff there now believes the entire stunt was concocted as a way to pitch a new reality show.

Why am I not surprised.

From the moment this story literally streaked across the radar screen last week, as the nation sat riveted in front of TVs wondering about a 6-year-old who was on board a homemade space ship that somehow came untethered from the family’s home and was floating over the Colorado landscape, I’ve been skeptical.

I got about a minute of the father on camera before my suspicions were confirmed. Remember Andy Warhol’s famous comment about everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame? Richard Heene just might be the poster boy for this kind of story.

It says a lot about us as a society, and as media, that we continue to deliver this 24-hour diet of what is becoming an increasingly blurred picture of what is news, what is entertainment, and what is a “reality TV” hybrid of the two.

Last week’s stunt was initially believed to be real, and was covered as such, with live images of the balloon – supposedly with its precious cargo intact. We got a live commentary on the story, regardless of what the talking heads actually knew or could confirm about what was going on.

We now know it wasn’t real at all. The 6-year-old was never on the balloon. And when the family dutifully showed up on The Larry King show that night, the boy – named Falcon - intimated that “we did it for the show.”

Uh-oh.

This was not the family’s first leap at reality TV. Heene and his wife once took part in a TV show called “Wife Swap.”

People actually tune it to watch this stuff. They also will tune in to the notion of a 6-year-old trapped and helpless in a homemade balloon thousands of feet above the earth.

And the public eats it up.

The Heenes now likely have more than they bargained for in terms of their 15 minutes of fame.

They aren’t the first.

They won’t be the last. Something will come along to replace them.

That’s the thing about a 24-hour news cycle. You have to have something to put on to fill those hours.

For right now, the Heene family saga will do nicely.

Film at 11.

Reid it and weep

Andy Reid should get down on his knees this morning and thank God for the Phillies.

Big Red should be leading the cheers for the Big Red Machine that plays across the street.

That’s because the Phillies today will no doubt get the lion’s share of our attention, which is a good thing if you’re an Eagles fan. Or if you’re Andy Reid. Not that our haughty, arrogant coach can be bothered with such trifles as upset fans.

The Birds hit one of the lower points of the Andy Reid Era yesterday, basically failing to show up as they lost to the lowly Oakland Raiders, 13-9.

This game might have been a microcosm of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb.
First there was the sneaking suspicion that the Birds, like many East Coast teams, might struggle to start the game, battling the dreaded hangover effect from flying across the country.

Indeed they did. Only the Eagles never recovered. This wasn’t John Madden’s Raiders they were facing. Or even those of Tom Flores. Both former coaches were in the house yesterday. Instead these were Tom Cable’s black and silver. The highlight of their season was – until yesterday – the fact that Cable took a swing at one of his assistant coaches.

Last week they were embarrassed by the Giants. Antonio Pierce was moved to say the Raiders played like it was a “scrimmage.”

The Eagles didn’t even do that yesterday.

And once again the fingerprints for this disaster have Andy Reid written all over them.

He went about the project of rebuilding his offensive line in the offseason, let veteran Tra Thomas go and decided to replace Jon Runyan, who was recovering from knee surgery. Reid rolled the dice with the Andrews brothers, with Stacy coming off knee surgery that ended his year last season, and Shawn still trying to get his head on straight and his achy back healed. They signed Jason Peters to man Thomas’ spot at left tackle.

Shawn Andrews is now out for the year. Stacy Andrews can’t get on the field. Todd Herremans has not yet played with a foot injury. Peters went down in the first quarter yesterday. So we got a good look at King Dunlap, Nick Cole, Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice. It wasn’t pretty.

Of course, with the Raiders coming into the game unable to stop the run against anyone this year, and with an increasingly makeshift offensive line, the offensive genius of Andy Reid decided it was a day to throw the ball almost 60 times. In the process Reid again exposed Donovan McNabb, still recovering from aching ribs, to his non-existent offensive line.

The few times Brian Westbrook or Sean McCoy did carry the ball, they carved out huge chunks of ground. Didn’t matter. Reid again had his blinders on, and could see only passing plays on that huge chart he carries around.

It soon became apparent that McNabb was not sharp, instead lapsing into his habit of throwing balls into the ground. No matter. Reid continued to dial up the pass plays.

Not helping a lot was kicker David Akers, who missed two field goals.

The Wildcat? It was missing in action, with little or no action for Michael Vick.

Reid also gambled on bringing back Jeremiah Trotter, only to see him exposed once again, when the Raiders found him – and picked on him on a first-down pass play that led to the game’s only touchdown, Trotter hopelessly trailing the play.

Maybe the Reid/McNabb Era can best be summed up with this: The 11-year veteran quarterback tried to call timeout at the end of the first half, apparently unaware the team had no timeouts left.

Or maybe this. The Eagles got the ball back with three minutes left in the game, trailing 13-9. They were one drive away from pulling this game out of the fire. Did anyone believe McNabb was going to deliver? I didn’t think so.

I said a few weeks ago that I expected the Eagles to break out to a 5-1 record against this miserable part of their schedule. And I still wouldn’t know if they’re any good.

I was wrong. The Eagles are now 3-2. And I have a pretty good idea if they’re any good.

They’re not.

The unofficial arrival of winter

We’re marking another first this morning.

No, not the Eagles coming up flat in a game against an inferior opponent that they were supposed to dominate. We’ve seen that act before. And we no doubt will see it again.

No, I am talking about the unofficial arrival of winter. They had snow in State College over the weekend. And it was snowing yesterday in Boston, as evidenced by the Patriots romping over Tennessee in the snow.

But I refer not to any of these so-called “snow events.’ Instead my own personal version of winter arrived this morning.

I had to scape the windshield. Of course, in order to do that, I had to locate the scraper.

A thick coating of frost greeted me when I got into the car this morning.

I should have expected it, after a thoroughly wet, raw, miserable weekend.

They say the temperatures are expected to rebound close to 70 later this week.

It can’t get here soon enough. And it can’t change the obvious. Winter is coming.

Swell.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Welcome to a double-header Sunday.

The Eagles will be on the Left Coast to play the lowly Oakland Raiders at 4, while the Phillies have jetted back home and continue their NLCS against the Dodgers tonight at 8 at a cold, rainy Citizens Bank Park

Phillies fans who brave the elements to tailgate early for the Birds' game should be rewarded with another cakewalk against an inferior team.

The key in this game once again will be for the Eagles to build a solid lead and then get their regulars out of the game and move on to next week's game against Washington.

Look for the Birds to struggle a bit, more a result of jetting across the country than anything Jamarcus Russell and the Radiers will do. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott should have a field day devising schemes that will no doubt befuddle the raiders' young QB. Watch for the Birds to score at least one TD on defense.

In the meantime, it would be nice to see the Eagles line up and actually run the ball against someone. But I'm not holding my breath. Look for another aerial assault to be unleashed on the Raiders, with Messers. Jackson, Maclin and Celek having another field day catching balls from McNabb.

Two weeks from now, when the Giants come to town, the Eagles might rue the fact that they can't run the ball and their 'Wildcat' so far has looked more
'Mildcat.'

Still, this is another breeze for the Birds in sunny Oakland.

Make it Eagles 30, Raiders 10.

Last Week: I was right on the money with a blowout win over the Bucs. The NFL should realy consider charging half-price for some of the dreck teams such as the Bucs and Chiefs who are showing up on the Eagles schedule. Today doesn't look to be much different.

Season Record: 3-1, same as the Birds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 16

The Daily Numbers: 4:07 start time for Game 2 of the NLCS this afternoon between the Dodgers and Phillies. Can you say Happy Hour?
10 p.m. curfew now in place in Darby Township.
16,000 dollars believed ripped off from a youth group by John Green, a former Penn-Delco School Board member. He faces trial on Nov. 30 after still another delay.
4 men being sought in a break-in in Collingdale.
18, age of Academy Park student who now faces attempted murder charges in a shooting that left another teen wounded.
1 to 2 inches of rain that is expected to soak the region over the weekend.
2 inches of snow that covered the ground in State College yesterday. It could always be worse.
6, age of boy who was feared inside a homemade helium balloon that came loose and floated off into the Colorado sky yesterday. Turns out he was never in the balloon.
2 alarm blaze at a Folcroft chemical business last night that forced the evacuation of several nearby streets.
11 Wawa stores that have been the target of 3 suspects who have been holding them up in Northeast Philly.
200 West Chester University students who gathered last night to remember a 21-year-old student who was found slain in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philly.
2 teens rescued from the chilly waters of the Delaware River after they apparently fell in at a Port Richmond waterfront site.
6 people busted in Philly for ripping off the federal WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program to the tune of more than $300,000.
13 million dollar fine slapped on fan maker Lasko Products of West Chester in a 2005 fire that killed a 7-year-old Philadelphia boy.
18-36 years in jail for career criminal who specialized in breaking into apartments of Saint Joseph’s students and ripping off electronics and computers.
2,200 video games that a former postal service mail handler admitted he stole while working at the Philly post office.
65 miles of the Pa. Turnpike that will be closed for 5 hours late Saturday so several bridges can be demolished.
4.7 million dollars in the coffers for Rep. Joe Sestak in his bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter. He’s raised $758,000 in the last quarter.
10,000 more jobs axed across Pennsylvania in September.
7 different pitchers used by Charlie Manuel in Phils’ win last night.
2 3-run homers for the Phils from Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Time to vote for Pedro this afternoon. Martinez will take the hill for Game 2 of the NLCS. He will be opposed by former Phillie Vicente Padilla.
*
I Don’t Get It: There’s something that just does not smell right about the saga of the boy in the balloon who really wasn’t.
*
Today’s Upper: Thank God It’s Friday. And the Phils should create the perfect happy hour with a 4:07 start in Game 2 of the NLCS this afternoon.
*
Quote Box: “We aren’t here to cause a problem, but if you want a problem, you’ve got it.”
- Eugene Guarnere, president of the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association, at demonstration last night in support of ousted Yeadon top cop Bryan Hills.

Phillies, the anti-Philly team

One down, three to go.

Red October rolls on.

Here are some random thoughts on last night’s thrilling 8-6 Phillies win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS:

* This very well may be the anti-Philly team. By that I mean that when the money is on the table, this team consistently comes up big. Ryan Howard might just be one of the greatest “money” players in Philadelphia history. This team built a lead over the Dodgers, powered by a Carlos Ruiz homer and Howard double, then never batted an eye when the Dodgers pulled to within a run. Instead Ibanez dug in and then calmly launched a ball over the right-field wall to again give the Phils a comfy margin.
Then it was Brad Lidge getting his third straight save.

* Anyone else tiring of Cole Hamels’ act? Yes, he was the MVP of last year’s NLCS and World Series. I won’t deny him that. But he’s also been thoroughly mediocre most of this year. And his penchant for whining, seemingly the essence of California laid-back cool, grates on this passionate Philly fan’s nerves.

Last night he crossed the line. Hamels did something you simply can’t do. He showed up his teammates. And when those two teammates are likely headed for Cooperstown one day, it makes you look that much worse.

Hamels clearly was irked when Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins failed to turn a double-play. And he let his emotions bubble to the surface.
That’s called showing up your teammates. And it’s something that simply isn’t done. I am guessing it did not go unnoticed by his teammates. And it won’t be forgotten.

* Get used to these marathon games. We get a break today with a 4:07 start in L.A., but expect all the rest of these 8:07 p.m. starts to stretch past midnight. Between all the ads and the pitching changes, the four-hour game will be the norm, not the exception.

* Try to get used to the L.A. fans. No, those weren’t people dressed up as empty seats both early in the game and when the Phils held a two-run lead in the ninth. The “fans” on the Left Coast are notorious for arriving late and leaving early. That’s why they call it La-La land.

* Pedro Martinez takes the mound this afternoon. Game time is 4:07, which will set up one of the all-time TGIF Happy Hours!

The boy in the balloon

I am in the business of trying to figure out each day just what it is people want to read.

Crime usually does the trick. Sometimes politics will do, or an especially heated municipal issue.

Here’s something else that might fill the bill. Put a 6-year-old boy in some kind of weird homemade helium balloon that looks like something out of your favorite “Invasion of the Martians” cheesy sci-fi flick, then have the balloon suddenly come loose and go airborne, supposedly with the boy still inside.

I happened to mention the weird story to some people in the office early yesterday afternoon. The look in their faces told me all I needed to know. The “boy in the balloon,” floating over the Colorado landscape, was about to become the center of the media universe.

You could not pry people away from the television in our office yesterday. I imagine the same scene was played out all across the nation. Thankfully, the story had a happy ending. Eventually the balloon – which looked kind of like the spaceship from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” – returned to Earth on its own. Then came the moment of truth, opening the latch and looking inside.

As the nation held its breath, we learned that the boy was not inside.
So where was he? We pondered that as the good folks on TV informed us that someone had seen the boy get into the balloon, sparking talk that maybe the boy had fallen out.

A huge search was put in place, trying to trace the path the balloon took from where it lifted off in Fort Collins, about 40 minutes north of Denver, to where it touched down near the Denver airport, in the plains east of the Mile High City.

Our fascination with this story says something about us – myself included. I am a member of the media. I rushed to put the latest updates on the story on our Web site. TV, as you can expect, switched into all-boy-in-the-balloon, all the time. For two hours, we heard every possible bit of speculation about the story.

It was a visual story, and we were mesmerized by the video of the balloon – supposedly with its precious cargo – floating against a solid blue sky. The only thing missing was some background music, maybe David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“This is ground control to the 6-year-old in the balloon.”

“Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do. … Here, am I sitting in my tin can.”

Only in this case it was a makeshift spaceship-balloon.

There was a time when we would not have seen all this on live TV. It would not have been on every Web site in the country. It would have been reported, but likely only after all the facts were determined.

Clearly, those days are gone. We give people news when they want it – which is right now. Not necessarily after things can be thoroughly checked out.

It’s the nature of the news business now. We don’t publish once a day any longer. We publish instantaneously. We get information, we “publish”
it online. When it changes. We change the story online.

TV brings us streaming live images of the drama, complete with live commentary that may or may not be accurate.

As we know now, the boy was never on the balloon. Instead he was discovered hiding in a box in the attic of his home.

That no doubt will set off a whole new media storm. Questions are being asked about the family and who knew what and when about the now-infamous incident.

I will leave that for others. All I know is this. When you have 24-hour media - TV, radio, print and online - you have to feed the beast. Think O.J., Michael Jackson and any other high-profile celebrity saga. Or, in the case of yesterday’s story, something that cuts right into our marrow, a child alone floating across the sky in a helium balloon.
Anyone remember the little girl in the well? We can’t get enough of it.

Yesterday we served up a mesmerizing two-hour feast of human drama.

And the public ate it up, and still came back for more. Just as they will today and tomorrow.

Up, up and away. You could use that to describe the story of the boy in the balloon.

And the way the media covered it.

2 more embezzlement cases

It has happened again. Twice, actually.

Two more women find themselves on the wrong side of the law, charged with ripping off, in one case, their employer, and in another their friends and community.

First we have the case of Margaret Lagana. Authorities say the Clifton Heights woman, who was making $200 a week as a bookkeeper at a business in Collingdale, apparently decided to supplement her income.

Lagana is charged with ripping off more than $100,000. Police believe she stole from both the business and personal accounts of her employer.
It was noticed when the man’s grandson noticed his grandfather’s Vanguard retirement account was being depleted.

Nice, huh?

Then there’s the case of Lisa Butler. She’s the 37-year-old Glenolden woman who was a volunteer and treasurer of Briarcliffe Fire Co.

You know where this one is going. When Butler was suspended for an altercation, officials began reviewing the books. They were stunned at what they found.

This week Butler was charged with ripping off her friends and fellow brother and sister volunteer firefighters to the tune of $103,000.

It’s kind of hard to believe what can drive a person to rip off a volunteer fire company, let alone one that has put you in a position of trust.

In Butler’s case, authorities indicate she simply used the money for “shopping.”

Butler’s family has long ties to the fire company. Her husband also is an active member. The D.A.’s probe indicated he had no idea what his wife was up to.

It just makes you shake your head.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Daily Numbers - Oct. 15

The Daily Numbers: 103,000 dollars, how much police believe was ripped off from Briarcliffe Fire Co. by a woman who was their treasurer and a volunteer.
35 checks that the woman allegedly made out to herself between November 2006 and December 2008.
8:07, start time for tonight’s Game 1 of the NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers in L.A..
79 degrees, expected game time temperature in Los Angeles.
45 degrees, the high here in Philly today with a couple inches of rain.
3 inches of snow, what they’re expecting today in State College and some areas in the Poconos.
23 inches of snow, what we had last winter. Experts are again saying we’ll have above average snowfall and below average temperatures this winter.
1,789 union employees at Boeing represented by United Aerospace Workers Local 1069 that have a tentative deal with the company, meaning there will not be a work stoppage.
4 cats found abandoned in a Chester trash dumpster. The kitties apparently are in good health.
7 people held up in the Fairmount section of Philly by a man riding a bike. A suspect is now under arrest.
14 percent of New Jersey voters now backing the independent candidate for mayor over Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie.
200 million dollars in cuts that the Philadelphia School District is looking to make in their $2.4 billion budget.
1 owner of a baker gunned down last night in a robbery attempt in Wodlynne, N.J.
1 brother now charged with assaulting another brother with a golf club after they argued during a round of golf at Cobbs Creek Golf Clug.
1 person killed in a crash last night on I-95 just over the line in Claymont, Del.
5 percent boost in home foreclosures since the summer.
10,015.86, where the Dow Jones industrial average closed yesterday. It was the first time in more than a year that the Dow was over 10,000.
5.4 million dollar fine that could be slapped on US Airways for allegedly flying 8 planes that did not meet federal guidelines.
2 teachers strikes in 2 years as educators in the Saucon Valley School District in the Lehigh Valley again have hit the bricks.
2 of 3 men charged in the fatal beating of a Phillies fan at Citizens Bank Park who saw the charges against them reduced yesterday.
2 cops, 10 inmates injured when a police van and school bus collided yesterday morning in Philly. No children were on the bus at the time.
6 vehicles taken out of service in the region and 37 citations issued by state troopers cracking down on unsafe trucks.
1 winner who will collect $31 million in last night’s Powerball drawing.
47, age of Bucks County woman who will face trial for the death of a toddler who was left in a hot car.
1.8 million dollar more raised by Sen. Arlen Specter than Pat Toomey in the U.S. Senate race.
7 starters who pitched in last year’s Phillies-Dogers NLCS showdown. Only 1, Cole Hamels, who has started a game in this year’s playoffs.
25 percent increase in ratings this year for Phillies telecasts on Comcast SportsNet.
*
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Time for Cole Hamels to come up big tonight. The California Kid needs to shine in the brilliant sunshine of his home turf.
*
I Don’t Get It: Two more women charged with ripping off their employer and a local fire company. I don’t get it.
*
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for 8:07 starts for World Series games. And let’s hear it for playing in 79-degree weather in L.A., rather than 40-degree miserable cold and rain here.
*
Quote Box: “We are confident that justice will be served and Ms. Butler willl be held accountable fo her actions.”
- Mike Puppio, solicitor for Briarcliffe Fire Co., after their treasurer and a volunteer was charged with ripping them off for $100,000.