Friday, April 20, 2018

Columbine & Littleton

It is the single word that forever changed the way America thought about school safety and mass shootings.

Columbine.

April 20, 1999.

Before I arrived at the University of Colorado in Boulder, a lifetime ago, I spent a year living in Littleton, Colo. That was before Columbine High School was built. Before what is now an eerily familiar script, two troubled young men walked into the school and started shooting. Before they were done, the killed 12 students and one teacher. Another 21 people were injured.

The image that forever stays with me is the line of students walking out of the school with their arms over their heads, to ensure they were not mistaken for one of the shooters.

Once I found out how much it was going to cost me to attend the University of Colorado as an out-of-state student, I had a decision to make.

It really wasn't much of a decision. I didn't have the money. So I made one of the crucial decisions of my life, at the age of 20. I decided to leave school, live and work in Colorado. In the process I became a state resident.

I spent that year in Littleton, living with my older brother and his family, and quickly learning to love the Colorado life.

This was the mid-'70's. There was still a lot of cowboy in Colorado. For a kid from the East Coast, it was a blast.

Despite coming perilously close to blowing all the money I had saved after working for a year as a waiter at the Denver Mariott on a new car that I wanted so bad I could taste it, my mother's fairly stern voice on the phone assured me that would not be a good idea.

I then spent two years in Boulder before packing up all my earthly belongings in the back of my brother's old Toyota pickup truck, pointing it east on I-70, and heading home.

Back east.

But I think I left a part of me in Colorado.

And I will never be able to think about Littleton without thinking about Columbine. And I will never be able to deal with the ugly memory of the Columbine shooting without thinking of the year I spent in Littleton.

For that I owe my older brother a huge thank you.

He and his family put up with me for a year.

I learned to ski, how to ride and care for a horse, and developed a keen appreciation for Coors beer.

Today kids across the country will walk out of school to note the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. One is scheduled for Haverford High. We'll be there to cover it.

My mind will be about 2,000 miles away.

Another time, another world really.

A world before Columbine.

And before what was once unthinkable could somehow come all too close to being routine.

A night to honor John Unangst, Tom McCarthy, Hi-Q kids and some great teachers

It's one of the best nights of the year. Easily one of my favorites.

Why? Because it's exceedingly rare for someone who does what I do for a living to sit in a room of more than 600 people, all of whom are saying nice things about the newspaper.

So how is it that I managed to miss last night's annual Partners in Education Celebration? Well, I had a pretty important prior commitment. I accompanied my wife to the annual Chester County Relay for Life Cancer Survivors Dinner.

She's given up a lot for my newspaper career over the years. I think I owed her this one.

In the meantime, I'm sure it was a bittersweet night at the Drexelbrook.

That's because I was not the only one who was not there.

John Unangst, the longtime CEO of Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and the driving force behind the Partners in Education Celebration, passed away earlier this year.

He was inducted posthumously into the Hi-Q Hall of Honor.

McCarthy, the longtime quizmaster of Hi-Q, was honored as he hang up his microphone, retiring after being the face of Hi-Q for 39 years.

I missed the opportunity to congratulate the All-Delco Hi-Q kids and the winners of this year's Excellence in Teaching Awards.

But mostly I missed the opportunity to talk to John, the remember once again the visit to my office more than a decade ago that set the All-Delco Hi-Q team in motion.

I'll tell that story in my Monday print column.

I was not there last night, but a little bit of my heart was. And the All-Delco Hi-Q team, which John, Harry Jamison and I cooked up, is testament to John's giant legacy.

Rest well, friend.

Sixers, Phils win - & the Eagles schedule is out!

Who was that masked man?

Why, Joel Embiid, of course.

The beat goes on for Philly sports fans.

Last night Embiid returned to the lineup for the Sixers, complete with facemask and goggles, and led the Sixers to a huge 128-108 win over the Heat to boost Philly to a 2-1 series lead.

Back here at home, it was Throwback Thursday as the Phillies rolled out their retro power blue unis that they will wear for Thursday home games this year.

Jake Arrieta looked retro himself, a sort of right-handed version of Steve Carlton as he dazzled the Pirates, striking out 10 and giving up just a single hit over six innings as the Phils rolled to a 7-0 win.

But of course the BIG story in sports was - no, not the advance on the Flyers game in Pittsburgh tonight - but the Eagles schedule is out.

Hold the presses, the Eagles schedule is out.

The Super Bowl champions will kick off the NFL season with a Thursday night prime time matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 6.

It's one of five prime time games for the Birds.

And just for kicks, the Eagles also will play a game in London, against the Jaguars on Oct. 28. Set your alarm for that one, it will kick off at 9:30 Eastern time.

Here's the full Eagles schedule:

EAGLES 2018 SCHEDULE Sept. 6 Atlanta, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sept. 16 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Sept. 23 Indianapolis, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Sept. 30 at Tennessee, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Oct. 7 Minnesota, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Oct. 11 at New York Giants, 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Oct. 21 Carolina, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Oct. 28 at Jacksonville, 9:30 a.m. (London-NFLN)

Nov. 4 BYE

Nov. 11 Dallas, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Nov. 18 at New Orleans, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Nov. 25 New York Giants, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Dec. 3 Washington, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Dec. 9 at Dallas, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Dec. 16 at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Dec. 23 Houston, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Dec. 30 at Washington, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Our icons continue to fall by the wayside

Icon.

Websters's defines it as "emblem" or a "symbol."

Not really what I had in mind.

I consider an icon something that becomes bigger than itself, that starts to represent something more than it appears.

We are losing icons here in Delaware County.

Recently we saw two more reach the end of the line.

Last week it was Joseph D. Doubet jewelry store, which has held fort on State Street in Media for decades.

This week, just a few miles farther out Baltimore Pike, we got word that the Riddle Ale House will close its doors forever soon.

Icons.

Yep, I think they both qualify.

We salute these two institutions on today's editorial page.

Talking politics & pipeline on PCN tonight

Proving once again that this was a face that was made for newspapers, I will make another appearance on the Pennsylvania Cable Network show 'Journalists Roundtable' tonight.

I made the trek out to our sister paper The Mercury in Pottstown yesterday afternoon to tape the show, hosted by Brian Lockman. I was joined by Mercury Editor Tony Phyrillas, and West Chester Daily Local News courthouse/politics reporter Michael Rellahan as we discussed the top issues in the region, as well as the political scene as the much anticipated May Primary and November mid-term elections loom.

I ran down the various possibilities in the newly formed 5th Congressional District, including the herd of Democrats still seeking the nomination and the chance to face off against Republican Pearl Kim to replace incumbent U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, in Congress.

We also chatted about what I continue to believe is the biggest economic issue in the region, that would be Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

'Journalists Roundtable' is a 30-minute program that features Pennsylvania journalists discussing news of the week, and examining politics and policy to provide background and analysis on hot-button topics.

The show airs tonight, April 19, at 7 p.m., and again on Sunday, April 22, at 9 p.m.

Check your local listing for the Pennsylvania Cable Network channel in your area.

That ancient-looking guy on the right? Yeah, that's me.

Flyers blown out again, on brink of elimination

10-1.

That' pretty much all you need to know about the Flyers two games at the Wells Fargo Center against the Penguins this week in their Stanley Cup opening round playoff series.

The Penguins scored 10 goals, the Flyers just 1.

Sidney Crosby is once again owning the Flyers; Claude Giroux is once again almost invisible.

Giroux had a great regular season, responding to those who thought he might have lost a step. But he will be haunted once again by this playoff performance and the notion that truly great players take their game to another level once the playoff starts.

Crosby would be Exhibit A.

He has now scored five goals in this series. That would be four more than the Flyers scored in their two home games.

The Flyers have been blown out in all three losses, while posting a spectacular win in Game 2 in Pittsburgh after being thoroughly outclassed in the opener.

Yes, goaltending has been an issue. Isn't it always with the Flyers?

But this is more likely a case of a young team learning the hard way that playoff hockey is whole different animal.

And the Penguins are just a flat-out better team.

The Orange and Black now find themselves in a very familiar spot. Check out our lead columnist Jack McCaffery's take on the series here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Everyone has an opinion & it's important to hear all of them.

One of the great myths of the newspaper business - and the role of the editor - is that I sit here and carefully bend and twist the newspaper's coverage to fit my own personal beliefs.

I know there is no shortage of readers who believe this newspaper has a liberal bent, reflective of the man who sits in the editor's chair. That would be me.

I would disagree.

In fact, I would say that one of the roles of the newspaper, in particular on our editorial pages, is to play the role of a community marketplace of ideas, where all opinions are welcome.

I do not reject opinions I do not agree with. That comes very close to censorship, which is something I loathe. Whenever I hear from a reader who suggests I not run a certain opinion, I remind them of just that, of how that is a very slippery slope, and a very dangerous one as well.

I would hope that one glace at our op-ed pages most days would lend credence to that statement.

If that does not do the trick, please inspect our featured columnists.

Every Sunday I run the column of Christine Flowers. And almost every Sunday I disagree with her stance on a particular issue. Does that mean I spike the column? No.

Today it's Chris Freind's turn.

Chris today offers his take on the Starbucks fiasco in Philadelphia, and lays out his case that much of the resultant protest sparked by the arrest of two black men in the store, as well as the actions of company executives, were a rush to judgment.

I would disagree.

And here is why. Once a month I sit in a Starbucks myself, working on my laptop. I remain there long after I finish my small (no, I have yet to figure out what the hell of grande is. I still live in a small, medium or large world) blonde coffee.

That's right. I'm a wimp. I don't particularly like Starbucks coffee. It tastes burnt to me. I'm a Wawa man. But I sit in that Starbucks while my wife is getting her hair done.

Never once has anyone come up to me and asked me how long was I going to occupy that table, even when the shop was full of customers. And I'm not alone. I notice lots of people sitting there, basically doing the same thing I'm doing.

I feel fairly safe in saying that if that was me in that Philly Starbucks, no one would have called the police on me. Why? Because I am terminally white. The two men in question are black.

Is it possible that I am wrong? I guess so. But that is my opinion. I think incidents like this are a signal of something deeper in our society, a problem we have yet to eradicate.

If you happen to disagree with Freind's opinion, by all means join the conversation. Pick up your pen - or your laptop - and write a letter or column of your own. I will run it on our op-ed page. In fact, just last week I featured an opinion piece by my friend the Rev. Mike Robinson, who just happens to be the pastor at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church. He eloquently points out why he will never visit Starbucks again. You can read it here.

I am equal opportunity when it comes to opinions.

I know that is not going to change the minds of those who insist that I sit here each day and dream up ways to push the newspaper farther to the left, merrily bashing Donald Trump and Republicans at every opportunity along the way. They will scream for the head of the editor, as well as his other feature columnist, Jodine Mayberry, who they also skewer as far too liberal.

They never seem to mention Freind, likely one of the fiercest conservative voices in the region.

All these opinions are part of the community ideas.

And I happen to think it's important to hear all of them.

Putting the excellence in the Excellence in Teaching Awards

Yesterday on our editorial page we offered a salute to this year's All-Delco Hi-Q team, and in fact all the students who take part in the nation's oldest scholastic quiz competition.

They didn't get there by accident.

They are products of their environment, including their homes, parents and community.

And someone else who is vitally important as well.

They are known as teachers.

On Monday we presented the 19 men and women who are the winners of this year's Excellence in Teaching Awards.

We talk about what makes them so special - and why teaching is a special calling - on today's editorial page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A salute to Excellence in Teaching

My wife is a special education teacher's aide.

My son is a high school English teacher.

There is no question that I do what I do, at least in part, because I spent eight years under the fairly firm tutelage of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yes, I can diagram a sentence like nobody's business.

This newspaper has, from time to time, been accused of being antagonistic to teachers, in particular when it comes to what they get paid.

It is a fine line, trying to balance the bottom line - which inevitably comes out of taxpayers' wallets - and what teachers should be paid.

I don't think I really understood what goes into the classroom until my son moved away from home after graduating from college and starting his teaching career in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

When he came home for the holidays, one of the first things he told us that, living where we do, we have a tendency to not understand what real struggle is like, and the conditions some kids live in - and struggle with - every day.

Those kids bring those struggles to school with them every day.

I think it was the hardest year of my son's life.

A few years ago, after we rolled out the All-Delco Hi-Q team and the annual honors for students at the Partners In Education gala, Franklin Mint guru John Unangst again approached me with another idea.

It was John and Harry Jamison, then head of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, who first came to me and asked if the newspaper would be interested in extending out All-Delco brand, with the selection of an All-Delco Hi-Q team.

John wanted to expand this very special night by honoring educators.

Thus was born the Excellence in Teaching awards.

Each year 19 educators from across the county are selected for the honors.

After we presented the 21 All-Delco Hi-Q team winners - one from each competing squad - on Sunday, we followed that up Monday with the 19 Excellence in Teaching winners.

We run a snapshot of each winner, some biographical information, and a feature story encapsulizing their stories.

This year we focused on Cheryl Scartozzi, a teacher at St. James Regional Catholic School.

She gave a great description of a teacher, and a reminder that while education is the backbone, good teachers have to literally be a jack-of-all-trades.

"You have to do it all," Scartozzi said. "Sometimes you're a nurse, sometimes you're a counselor, sometimes you're a teacher."

Sounds about right.

Our congratulations to this year's winners.

Looking for sure sign of spring? Check gas prices

That was a quick spring.

One damn nice day, - granted Saturday was just superb - and we're right back into the weather doldrums.

Most of this week is going to be cold, at least by my standards. Highs will struggle to break into the high 50s or maybe low 60s. And there is no warmup in sight.

Hey, it could be worse.

You could be living in Green Bay. They're still dealing with the Midwest's endless winter. A freak spring blizzard dumped more than 20 inches of snow on the region over the weekend with temperatures in the 20s and 30s.

There is, however, one sure sign that spring and summer is on the way.

Anyone else notice what is going on with gas prices?

I go past two Wawa on West Chester Pike on my way into the office each day.

I had to do a double-take this morning when I noticed the sign reading $2.95 a gallon.

According to the website GasBuddy.com, average retail prices jumped 5.5 cents a gallon in the past week, with the average price now $2.90 a gallon.

That means you're paying 27 cents more for a gallon of gas than you did this time last year, and 19 cents more than just a month ago.

Nationally, GasBuddy says prices have spiked 17 cents a gallon in the last month, 30 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

I guess it could be worse. Back in 2014 we were paying $3.51 a gallon.

Then again, Memorial Day and the official start of the summer driving season is still more than a month away.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Another weekend with that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach

Some days I hate this job.

OK, these days, there are a lot of days I hate this job.

These are difficult days in the newspaper business.

But that's another story, for another day.

The story this day is about the rock that I have carried around in my stomach for the better part of the last two decades. That's how long I have been editor of this newspaper. It's that queasy feeling I get in the pit of my stomach every time I get wind of a story that I know is going to be big news - and big controversy.

You don't get into this business to make friends. Or to make money, for that matter.

It is one of the reasons journalists, including this one, refrain for the most part from joining a lot of organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis or the Lions. We don't run for local office. We don't join a lot of community advisory boards. I am not even a member of the Delaware County Press Club.

For the most part, this is to avoid any conflict of interest. We are supposed to be watchdogs, not affected by personal relationships.

That's easier said than done. At a lot less painful.

I do, however, speak often to exactly such groups. I talk about what I do for a living and the convulsive changes that have rocked the newspaper world.

They invariably want to know how they can get good stories about themselves, their towns and their businesses into the newspaper. I am more than happy to oblige them whenever possible, and whenever it merits such coverage.

But I also tell them something else. I also assure them that is a very good chance that I or someone else from the newspaper may be calling on them one day when the news is not so good.

All of which is kind of a preface to saying that the rock that resides in my stomach got a little bigger over the weekend. St. Joseph's Parish in Downingtown is in the news again. You can read about it here.

I happen to be a parishioner.

More than that, I consider the man at the center of this latest controversy a friend.

I still do.

I first met Monsignor Joe McLoone when he was pastor at St. Katharine Drexel in Chester.

AFter his arrival at St. Joe's, one of his first tasks was overseeing the construction of a new church. St. Joseph's is the largest parish in Chester County - even after a chunk of it was split off to form St. Elizabeth's a few years back. It is the second largest parish in the entire archdiocese.

The old church, where I happened to get married, was bursting at the seams. I still wondered about what that money could have been used for instead of building a massive new facility. It didn't exactly soothe my feelings that they knocked the old church down. The only still standing there is the bell tower that sits in the middle of the new parking lot.

I used to kid the monsignor all the time. "You came here from St. Katharine Drexel in Chester. You think we really need a $10 million church." He was always wise enough not to respond.

It was first announced that Monsignor McLoone was taking an extended leave of absence back in February. At the time it struck me as kind of odd that not much information was being released.

The next week, I imagine in an attempt to tamp down rumors in the parish, it was announced that the leave had nothing to do with children.

Yeah, I guess that's the kind of world we live in today.

I made a few inquiries into how he was doing, but didn't really think that much about it, aside from that little gnawing in my gut, a result of too damn many years as a newspaper editor, that told me something wasn't right.

Last Friday I got a phone call about 1 p.m. Suddenly that little knot in my stomach became the size of a beach ball.

Yes, there was indeed more to the monsignor's leave than we first knew.

It was going to be addressed at every Mass at St. Joe's this weekend.

It was not pretty.

We had a reporter in the 7:30 Mass to hear the remarks delivered by Monsignor Thomas Dunleavy, who had been named parish administrator after Monsignor McLoone first took his leave.

In a selfish kind of way, hearing what he told the faithful was a bit of a relief. I am not above telling you I had wondered exactly how we were going to cover the story, how much detail we would provide. It turned out the archdiocese did not leave a lot to the imagination.

As I said, it wasn't pretty.

Ironically, Monsignor McLoone was brought into St. Joseph's in the aftermath of criminal charges being filed against the former pastor, the Rev. William Lynn. He faced charges stemming from the grand jury investigation in Philadelphia into abuse of children by priests. Lynn was not charged with any abuse. Instead he was charged with endangering the welfare of children for allegedly moving problem priests into other parishes without notifying parishioners. He was convicted of one count. That conviction was thrown out in 2015. He is currently awaiting retrial.

At the time I wrote several blog items and columns concerning the scandal that had enveloped the archdiocese - and St. Joe's.

Let's just say it was not especially appreciated by many of the faithful who remained loyal to Rev. Lynn, in particularly one woman who sent me an email and a request to "stay there in Delaware County WHERE YOU BELONG."

Like I said, you don't go into this business to make friends.

This weekend was certainly proof of that.

A salute to our Best & Brightest

This was one of my favorite weekends of the year.

Not because we finally got a real dose of spring fever with temperatures rocketing into the 80s on Saturday. And certainly not because winter seemed to return with a vengeance Sunday with a cold, nasty drizzle that made Saturday seem like a distant memory.

No, this was the weekend where we present two very special packages to our readers.

On Sunday we saluted the members of the All-Delco Hi-Q team. That is one member from each team that competes in the nation's oldest scholastic quiz competition.

Today we followed up that report with the 19 winners of this year's Excellence in Education Awards.

All of this results from a meeting I held in my office more than a decade ago.

John Unangst was head of the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union. Harry Jamison was boss at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.

The credit union had just stepped up to become the primary corporate partner of Hi-Q, and John was looking to do something special.

His vision turned into an annual banquet honoring Hi-Q. It was called Partners in Education.

But that was not really what John and Harry wanted to discuss.

They were intrigued by the All-Delco teams the newspaper selected at the conclusion of every high school sports season. They wanted to "adopt" it for the Hi-Q team and honor the winners at the banquet.

They asked if I was interested.

I think the smile on my face told them all they needed to know.

It has always been my goal to offer more coverage for kids who excel in the classroom, not necessarily on the athletic playing fields. Here at the Daily Times, we take our role as "Delaware County's Sports Authority" pretty seriously. But every time I bragged about how well we covered high school sports, my wife would ask why we did not offer similar coverage for academic excellence.

Good point, don't you think?

The All-Delco Hi-Q team is one way we've addressed that issue.

We run the head shot and biographical information each All-Delco Hi-Q member. Along with a feature story. The All-Delco Hi-Q team is not selected by us, but rather by their teammates.

A few years after he kicked off the Partners In Education dinner, John decided to add another aspect, honoring the people who were responsible for a lot of that academic excellence.

Thus was started the Excellence in Teaching awards. All 19 of them, along with their head shots, appear in today's newspaper.

Unfortunately, this year's banquet, set to be held Thursday night at the Drexelbrook, will come with a bit of sadness. John Unangst will not be there. We lost John a few months ago.

The All-Delco Hi-Q team and the Excellence in Teaching Awards are testament to what John meant to the Delaware County education community.

I will always be grateful for that visit.

And I'll be thinking of you Thursday night, John.

60 years in the news business

I've been in the newspaper racket for 40 years.

I still remember the thrill of picking up a copy of the The Daily, the campus newspaper at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and seeing my name screaming from the lead at the top of the fold. I wrote a story on an appearance on campus by Allan Bakke, the white California man who set off a legal firestorm when he challenged affirmative action policies and claimed reverse discrimination in the admissions policies of that state's universities.

That was my first real newspaper gig. I was what is called in the business a "stringer." In other words, a freelancer, someone who gets paid by the story. That is opposed to being on staff, when you receive a weekly salary.

Barbara Ormsby knows a little bit about being a "stringer."

After all, she's been doing it for almost 60 years.

That's correct. Six decades.

Barbara is one of our longtime loyal corps of correspondents, those stringers who become our eyes and ears in the community. For Barbara, that meant Ridley, Ridley Park, Eddystone, Morton and the Ridley School District. If something was going on in those towns, Barbara knew about it.

It was my honor recently to actually get out of the office and attend a Delaware County Press Club luncheon to honor the woman we lovingly refer to as "Barbie O."

A lot has changed in the newspaper business in the four decades I have been toiling in it.

One thing has not.

People like Barbara Ormsby - and the rest of the stringers we use to cover Delaware County's 49 municipalities and 15 public school districts, to say nothing of the private schools, are an essential part of community journalism.

One of the things that has changed in this business are the economic frailties of a system that has put increasing pressure on us to reduce costs. One area where that is evident is in the reduced use of stringers like Barb.

As the Washington Post now observes, "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

I can tell you that it is getting darker out here every day.

I don't think we realize what we are in danger of losing.

People like Barbara Ormsby are simply irreplaceable.

I talk about it in today's weekly Letter From the Editor.

Ecstasy & Agony in return to yard work

If I were a baseball player (and there was a time when I was a damn good baseball player) I would call this a 1-for-2 weekend.

That's a pretty good batting average.

It's not so hot - literally - when it comes to the weather.

On Saturday, amid the glory of a return of 80-degree weather, I rediscovered the back yard.

Call it the reverse of the Agony & the Ecstasy.

It the was Ecstasy of being outside and working in the yard, and the agony the next morning of discovering I was indeed another year older, and these 62-year-old muscles had not been used in a while.

I don't know what was more miserable, my creaking old body, or the return of winter.

After that one day of sunshine and a high in the mid-80s, Sunday reverted to our endless winter, with a cold, wind-driven drizzle that went right to the bone.

This morning I think Noah is out there building the ark. It is absolutely teeming out there at times.

Here's the full forecast.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A fond farewell to Doubet's

I have a soft spot in my heart for small, family-owned businesses.

We used to call them mom-and-pop stores.

I know, my mother and father ran two of them.

They were classic soda fountain/luncheonettes.

It was there, for the most part at the store in Oxford, Pa., where I learned what I call the "Magic of the Cherry Coke." Heron's in Oxford was located right down the street from the high school. It was where every kid headed most days after schools.

And it was where I headed most days to man that soda fountain. You'd be amazed at the different concoctions you can whip up with a few squirts of syrup and some soda water.

My mother ran the Oxford store, while dad took care of things at his original location in North East, Md.

It was a different time, and in a lot of ways a different world.

I think Joe and Joyce Doubet would understand.

For the last quarter century, they have been one of the icons of State Street in Media.

I wonder how many engagement rings, wedding rings and other precious memories started inside Joseph D. Doubet.

Not for much longer.

The Doubets are closing their store. The building has been sold, and they have decided to call it a career.

When we lose businesses like Doubet, we lose a part of what makes us a community.

It's something you can't get at Walmart, or even at a mall or your favorite chain store.

It's people who know your name when you walk in the door.

They are your neighbors.

And friends.

After all, that is their name on the sign outside.

Running a family-owned business these days is no picnic.

But we would be remiss if we did not stop to salute them - and wonder about what we are losing.

As I said on the front page of Thursday's print edition, we've lost another jewel.

Farewell, Doubet's, State Street won't be the same.

Republicans continue to seek redistricting edge

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court fixed one of the symptoms of gerrymandering when it tossed out the state's Congressional districts and replaced it with one of their own.

But they did not cure the disease.

And it's clear that Republicans in Harrisburg - who just happen to control both the House and Senate - and not exactly in the mood to give up this powerful perk.

Yesterday they rolled out an amendment to legislation that would get this crucial process of drawing the maps out of the hands of politicians and make it the job of an independent, bipartisan commission.

Instead, the GOP plan would keep control exactly where it should not be - in the hands of politicians.

You're stunned, I know.

We explain it on our editorial page.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Ahhhhhhhhh!!!

It's over.

Congratulations, we survived another winter.

And today we get our reward.

After a sneak peek yesterday, we get a full blast of summer-like weather today, with lots of sun pushing temperatures into the low 80s.

I knew what was in store the minute I opened the door this morning.

It's the first day since Thanksgiving that I did not put on a coat.

I make a deal with myself every year.

I will not don a winter coat until Thanksgiving.

Now that I left the house this morning without one, I vow not to put a winter coat back on until next Thanksgiving.

Let's hope this weather sticks around.

Make sure you get outside today and enjoy the return of summer-like temps.

Saturday looks like another winner, while Sunday will be mild but wet.

You can get the full forecast here.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A horde of candidates head for polls

Remember when we used to lament the lack of public participation in the democratic process.

Specifically, we refer to primary elections, when voters used to stay away in droves.

Just about a month from now, we'll go to the polls to nominate candidates for the November general election.

We expect the polls to be jammed.

And that's just for the candidates!

We explain on today's editorial page.

Ouch! Flyers smoked by Pens in Stanley Cup opener

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this was not exactly what the Flyers had in mind.

The orange and black basically failed to show up as they got drubbed by their hated cross-state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-0, last night in Game One of their Stanley Cup playoff opening series.

Ouch!

And it probably wasn't that close.

You can hate Sidney Crosby all you want, but you can't deny he's the real deal. He kicked off the Pens' annual playoff run with a natural hat trick, three straight goals, as this one was over early.

But all's not lost for Philly fans.

How 'bout those Sixers!!!!

They now head into the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak.

Last night they demolished the Bucks to wrap up the third seed. They open the playoffs Saturday night against the Miami Heat in South Philly.

And even the Phillies are now above .500. Gabe Kapler's young crew got another great start from Nick Pivetta last night, who went seven strong innings, but did not get the decision.

Instead it was left to Scott Kingery to provide a walk-off sac fly in the 12th to push the Phils to a 6-5 win over the Reds to sweep the series. The Phils now stand at 6-5 on the season.

The Flyers will get another shot at the Penguins Friday night.

If they don't win, this series might be over quick.

Free coffee all day at Wawa!

We take great pride in our very own, home-grown convenience store.

That's right, Wawa, the behemoth icon of the convenience store world, traces its roots right here to Delco.

They started on the family farm in Chester Heights. The first Wawa store was on MacDade Boulevard in the Folsom section of Ridley Township, back in 1954..

Today there is more reason than ever to love us some Wawa.

That's because our very own convenience store is offering free coffee all day as part of their annual founder's Wawa Day celebration.

Let me state that a little more clearly.

FREE COFFEE ALL DAY AT WAWA!!!

That should do it.

Yep, the chain turns 54 today, and will throw its annual shindig by offering its loyal customers any size free coffee all day at its more than 790 stores.

Wawa says it expects to give away 2 million cups of java today.

“Wawa Day is a great day for us to all pause and thank the millions of customers we’ve served over the past 54 years who have made us an integral part of the communities we serve,” Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens said in a prepared statement.

You bet, Chris.

Gotta Havva!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bucking the standards of public speech

I am what you might call old-fashioned.

OK, I'm a dinosaur.

Maybe it's the guilty conscience of a reformed altar boy.

Maybe I should blame my mother and father.

Maybe it's because I spent eight years under the firm tutelage of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Or maybe I just cling to a time when public writing and speaking was, how should I put this?, a bit more reserved.

Now, every random thought that comes into our head is deemed worthy to share with the public, so long as it fits into 140 characters, or whatever limit Twitter is imposing on us this week.

The truth is, I tend to be a bit formal.

Some people would call it stuffy.

That pertains to just about everything I write. Emails, blog items, Facebook posts - I tend to cling to formal spelling and grammar.

Blame Sister Helen Dolores. She's the won who drilled this stuff into me.

Yes, I am a man of words.

But I come before you today actually to speak out against one particular word.

I would like nothing better than to see it banned.

Unfortunately, I can report just the opposite. Instead of producing cringes - which I assure you it does for me every time I hear it - instead it increasingly creeps into our everyday lexicon.

To me it will always be like fingernails on the chalkboard.

Yes, it is a four-letter word.

Yes, it rhymes with buck.

No, it does not start with the letter f. I am, by the way, a serial abuser of that particular epithet. Yes, I routinely go over to the completely dark milk bottle. And if you do not know what that is a reference to, you clearly were never privileged to what is the greatest text book ever written, the Baltimore Catechism, and in that particular instance, the greatest visual aid ever emblazoned on young minds.

The totally dark milk bottle equals mortal sin. That is opposed to the speckled milk bottle, which is reserved for venial, or more minor offenses.

I've had more than my share of both.

The word that so offends me stars with the letter s, and yes, it rhymes with duck.

I'm not quite sure when this particular term became OK for routine use.

I assure it is not for me.

It apparently is, however, for none other an august body than the U.S. Senate.

I could have sworn (yes, I do more than my share of swearing) I heard that word emitted from the mouth of a U.S. senator in excoriating the policies of Facebook yesterday when CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a Senate panel.

I agree with the sentiment.

I disagree vehemently with the use of the word.

Want to know why society is slowly sliding into a coarser, nastier, ugly public persona.

Once the public use of such language no longer produces an outcry, you know we have passed a crucial barrier.

Today, nothing seems out of bounds when it comes to the way we speak to each other.

Not me.

I will cling to my Baltimore Catechism, and my standards.

I am not a prude. I can swear with the best of them. But there is a time and a place. And too often today, those tasked with speaking in public forget that important rule.

I lament our race to the bottom in our public discourse.

Welcome to the lowest common denominator.

And that, my friends, does indeed buck the standards we have held dear for generations.

Has there ever been a better time to be a Philly sports fan?

A quick review of the Philadelphia sports scene:

To the best of my memory, the Eagles are still Super Bowl champions.

We just wrapped up another parade celebrating Villanova's second NCAA hoops championship in the last three years.

The Sixers last night won their 15th straight game, easily the hottest - and perhaps most feared team - heading into the NBA Playoffs.

The Flyers tonight kick off the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a best-of-seven clash with the defending champion cross-state rival the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And even the Phillies are getting into the act. Last night they got eight strong innings from starter Aaron Nola and a grand slam from rookie Scott Kingery to beat the Reds and even their series at 4-4.

So here's today's question: Has there ever been a better time to be a Philly sports fan?

We need to deal with 1 more day of chilly weather

One more day.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you.

It is still freezing out on April 11th.

Actually, my car thermometer ready a decidedly chilly 29 degrees when I climbed behind the wheel this a.m.

And while we will get lots of sun later on, it's still not exactly going to be spring-like, with a high forecast of just 54.

But if we can survive one more day, there is the promise that spring might actually start to break through Thursday.

We could push close to 70 degrees Thursday and forecasters are hinting we could break threaten the 80s Friday and Saturday.

Who needs spring? Let's just fast-forward right to summer.

Count me in.

Get your full forecast here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The latest on the 5th District Dem donnybrook

You can't tell the Democratic players in the race for the party's nod in the 5th District congressional race without a scorecard.

That's because there are 14 candidates seeking the nomination.

Uh, scratch that. Make it 13.

And maybe 12.

Yesterday, former CIA intelligence officer Shelly Chauncey withdrew from the campaign and threw her support behind former assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Lunkenheimer.

And we're hearing that George Badey, head of the Radnor Democratic committee, might also be ready to throw in the towel. Yesterday we pointed out the irony that is facing Delco Democrats, who could not united behind one candidate at their endorsement meeting Sunday night.

Former Wallingford Swarthmore School Board member and attorney Mary Gay Scanlon remains the leader in the clubhouse. She led after all four rounds of voting, but still could not garner enough support to win the party's nomination.

After the last vote Scanlon had 218 votes, to 155 for Lunkenheimer.

The problem for Delco Democrats, as we pointed out yesterday, is the fear that the Delco candidates could splinter the vote and open the door for Rich Lazer, a former aide to Philly Mayor Jim Kenney who also has the support - and money - of labor boss John Dougherty behind him, to snag victory in the primary.

After years of whining about how the county was split between two congressional districts, with a chunk of the county, including the city of Chester, being included in the 1st District of Dem boss Bob Brady, the recent ruling and redrawing of the map by the state Supreme Court put the entire county in one district, the newly formed 5th.

But they also added a sliver of Montgomery County along the Main Line, as well as a strip of South and Southwest Philly. Thus the possibility that a Philly guy, namely Lazer, could blunt the Delco Dems' victory.

We're not the only ones who have noticed.

Today's Clout column in the Philly Daily News also examines the same possibility.

It will be interesting to see if David Landau can get any other candidates to drop out of the race in an effort to unite the party.

We'll keep you updated.

The big news from Day One of the Cosby retrial

Bill Cosby's retrial on sex assault charges certainly got off with a bang.

And a bust.

A topless woman jumped over a barrier and charged toward the entertainer as he arrived at court Monday morning. She was taken into custody and faces disorderly conduct charges.

The Associated Press photographer on the scene got images of her. We ran a cropped version, both online and in print.

While that no doubt is what most people are talking about, it is not the most important thing that happened on Day One of the trial.

Not by a long shot.

The prosecution released details of the agreement between Cosby and his accuser, Andrea Constand.

In a settlement that ended her 2005 lawsuit against "Cliff Huxtable," Cosby paid Constand $3.4 million. You read it right, that's the kind of numbers that have six zeroes after it.

The prosecution used the figure to allege that Cosby was merely trying to buy her silence. The defense has a different version, that this proves Constand was out for money.

It's also just one of the way that this trial will prove to be much different that the first go-round that ended in a hung jury. The settlement was barely mentioned back then.

Opening arguments are scheduled today.

Delco just won't be as much fun; we lost Tore Fiore

Delco just became a little less fun place to live and work.

We lost Tore Fiore.

Tore was the guy behind 'Destination Delco,' the new tourism campaign that replaced the venerable Brandywine Conference & Visitors Bureau.

The problem was that the county's tourism vehicle seemed to spend the bulk of its time promoting the Brandywine Valley, in particular items such as Brandywine Battlefield and the Brandywine River Museum.

That's a lot of Brandywine.

And not much Delco.

Tore Fiore decided to change that.

His idea was 'Destination Delco,' a rebranding campaign to focus on the things that make this county what it is - the people who live and work here.

We lost Tore Fiore last week after his two-year battle with cancer.

Like I said, the county just won't be as much fun anymore.

You can read about it on our editorial page.

Monday, April 9, 2018

This is what I was warning Delco Dems about

On Friday I issued a bit of a yellow light - for caution - to Delco Democrats.

They are certainly feeling their oats these days.

They are looking at things from a bit of a different view - from the winner's perch. In the November they did something they have been talking about doing for years - winning a countywide election.

Not only that, but they won both seats on Delaware County Council, as well as all three county row offices.

How Sweep It Was!

Then they set their eyes on the November mid-terms, in particular the 7th District seat held by incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan.

Then a funny thing happened. Meehan decided not to seek re-election after becoming mired in the details of using taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment suit.

Not only that, but the state Supreme Court followed that by blowing up the existing congressional districts and drawing up a new map of their own.

They put all of Delaware County into one district, the newly formed 5th. Gone was the ugly gerrymander that led critics to brand the 7th "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck," carefully twisted and contorted to pretty much guarantee Meehan or another Republican smooth sailing at the polling place.

Also wiped away was the old 1st District turf held for years by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1, who also decided not to seek re-election. The 1st included lots of Democratic votes in the city of Chester, as well as some towns along the river.

Now the entire county is included in the 5th, along with a sliver of the Main Line and a portion of south and southwest Philly.

Democrats could not wait to toss their hats in the ring for this new plum.

And a lot of them did.

But here's the rub. While county Dems have for years wanted to unify the entire county under one Congressional roof, they finally got what they wanted - and still might be on the outside looking in, in a manner of speaking.

That's because one of those seeking the nomination is Rich Lazer, from that Philly portion of the district. He's a former aide to Mayor Jim Kenney, has the backing - and money - of John Dougherty's powerful IBEW union, and last week picked up an endorsement from state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8, and a host of local officials from the eastern end of the county who don't seem nearly as bothered by the idea of a Philadelphia candidate winning the seat as some of their other Delco counterparts.

The belief is that with so many Delco horses in the field, they could splinter the Delco vote, opening the door for Lazer to win the nomination.

What happened Sunday night did not help those who fear that scenario.

County Democrats gathered for an endorsement meeting, with party Chairman David Landau hoping to unite the party behind a single candidate, preferably one from Delaware County.

It didn't happen.

None of the 14 candidates seeking the endorsement won enough support.

That means an open primary.

Buckle your seat belts, folks.

This one could be a bumpy ride.

You can get all the details on last night's Dem endorsement meeting here.

And there is a bit of news on the GOP side as well.

The party recently united behind their endorsed candidate, Pearl Kim of Radnor. She's a former county assistant district attorney and former deputy state attorney general.

All of the other candidates stepped aside as the party rallied behind Kim.

All except one.

That would be Paul Addis, a corporate lawyer from Haverford.

Now it looks like there may be issues with some of the signatures on his nominating petitions. A court hearing is expected to be held on the matter this week.

The one challenger to the GOP-endorsed candidate gets a petition challenge? Coincidence. Probably not. Then again, if indeed it is as it appears and Addis has problems with some of his signatures, he should have seen this one coming.

A very long week - & a different way of looking at the news

It's now been a week since my wife's close call.

I would tell you it's been a long week. I can't even imagine what it's been like for her.

To be honest, I'm not exactly what you would call a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. What I do is work. The rest of this "empathy" stuff I could probably stand to improve in.

But when it comes to work, I would be lying if I told you I do not look a bit differently at news stories after the scary incident involving my wife last week.

As I note in my weekly print column today, I have written and edited that line in thousands of stories about accidents or mishaps.

"Two women received minor injuries."

That's the way it played on any number of Washington-area TV stations, all of whom did stories on the out of control car that grazed my wife before slamming through a store-front window and not coming to rest until it hit the back of the store. Yes, it's a miracle that no one - including my wife - was killed.

I still can't believe that no one who was in that store was struck by the car.

My wife was not as lucky. She was walking on the sidewalk outside the store when the car roared up onto the sidewalk, grazed her while running over her foot, and leaving her sitting in a pile of glass after ramming through that front window.

I can pretty honestly say that if my wife was two steps in front of where she was, she might not be here.

As it is, she suffered a broken big toe, as well as myriad cuts and bruises.

But a week later, she's still having trouble getting around, has not yet returned to work, and is a little fearful of being out in crowds.

We also once again are delving into the nightmare of insurance and health coverage.

I've learned a few things over the last week - not the least of which is that we remain extremely lucky.

I've learned I have a long way to go in terms of separating work from life. I'm not good at it, and at times like this, when I am needed on the home front, I come up small. It's a personal fault, one I need to work on. The newspaper business - more so now than ever - has a tendency to take over your life, if you let it.

There are lots of people - my wife among them - who will tell you my life is out of balance. I guess it goes with the territory, but it's the only way I know how to do it.

We're also - for the second time in a year, delving into the nightmare of insurance coverage, claims and forms.

I did learn one thing. In the emergency room, we gave them all of our health insurance information. What I did not know that in this kind of instance, because it involved her being struck by a vehicle, it falls on your auto insurance, not health policies. Of course, that did not stop the first notice from Anthem, our health insurance provider, from showing up right on time Saturday, despite assurances from our auto insurance folks that all the bills would go to them.

Hey, it's supposed to be 70 degrees later this week.

Things are looking up.

I think.

A little but of sun, not so much in the way of warmth

Spring remains a rumor.

Yes, we finally has some sunshine yesterday. Yes, I wandered into the back yard for the first time since October to make my annual survey of the damage.

Nothing major, just the usual scattering of limbs and twigs scattered everywhere, lots of wet, muddy conditions. We did lose one Rose Sharon bush. I didn't think it was possible to kill those things. Guess I've been proved wrong. Looks like it literally got pulled right out of the ground by the winds.

I'm beginning to wonder if the day lilies I planted last summer are going to come back. Can barely see some sprouts ready to pop there.

A few of the trees finally appear to be sporting buds.

And of course, as I drive through the neighborhood, there is one sure sign of spring in evidence, those brilliant yellow forsythia.

I traditionally spend Masters Sunday planted in front of TV watching my favorite golf tournament of the year. But this year was a little different.

I actually spent most of the afternoon driving my wife around the Chester County countryside. She's been laid up most of the week with a bad knee and foot, remnants of her very close call last weekend.

I wanted to get her out of the house a bit.

I'm not sure it did any good, but at least it beats the two of us sitting inside staring at each other.

If we can survive one more day of this non-spring, things start to look up this week and we actually have the promise of some 70-degree weather later this week.

Get the full forecast here.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Careful what you wish for, Delco Dems

Be careful what you wish for, or so the old adage goes.

Are you listening, Delco Democrats.

For years the county Dems griped about the way redistricting split the county into two districts, with a lot of Democratic votes in the city of Chester and portions of the county along the river cut off and into the fiefdom of Philly Democratic boss U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and his 1st District seat on Congress.

The state Supreme Court, as we are all now aware, tossed out those old maps and created one of their own. It puts all of Delaware County under one roof in a new 5th District seat in Congress.

Democrats, who had been pulverized by U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan in three consecutive elections, saw a golden opportunity to win back the seat once held by Joe Sestak.

Meehan is opting not to run, hounded out of office by a report that he used taxpayer money to settle a sex harassment suit filed by a former staffer.

Brady, with his 1st District seat blown up, also has decided he's had enough of Washington, and also will not seek re-election.

The door is wide open for Democrats to seize this new 5th District seat. And that would include a sliver of Montgomery County along the Main Line, as well as a part of South and Southwest Philly. And that's the muddle the county Democrats now are facing.

A Democrat very well might win the seat.

But it just might not be a Delco Dem who wins it.

Yesterday state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8 of Philadelphia, who also represents some parts of the eastern end of Delaware County, was joined by a group of local elected officials to throw their support behind Rich Lazer, a Philly Democrat and former aide to Philly Mayor Jim Kenney.

There is a small army - no less than 14 candidates - seeking the Dem nomination. Those include Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, as well as state Reps. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby, and Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford. Former Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board member Mary Gay Scanlon, has received an endorsement from former governor and Philly Mayor Ed Rendell.

The problem is that unless the Delco Democrats can unite behind one of their own, this massive field could splinter the vote and open the door for Lazer to win the nomination.

Democrats meet to offer an endorsement in the race Sunday night.

The winner of this Dems' battle royal will face Republican Pearl Kim, who was endorsed by the Delco GOP.

It's interesting to see the way the two sides went about getting behind a candidate.

GOP Chairman Andy Reilly visited with several contenders before the endorsement meeting to let them know the party was going to line up behind Kim, a former county assistant D.A. and former deputy state attorney general.

Those candidates withdrew before the meeting, clearing the deck for Kim to accept the nod.

Don't look for Dems to do the same.

This could get messy.

GOP makes their pick to succeed Nick

We now know who the Ridley Republicans want to replace state Rep. Nick Miccarelli in the 162nd District race.

And it's a familiar name.

As had been hinted, former county Sheriff Mary McFall Hopper is the GOP's choice.

But her name won't appear on the ballot. Instead she will have to bank on a write-in vote.

That's because Miccarelli, who has been under siege after two women came forward to accuse him of physical and emotional abuse, did not decide not to seek re-election until it was too late for Republicans to get another name on the ballot. Miccarelli, by the way, continues to deny the allegations made against him.

But after insisting that he was running for re-election, "come hell or high water," I guess the water got a little too high.

Hopper, who spent two terms on Ridley Park Borough Council and was also its first female president, also served as a Republican committeewoman and is a member of the Delaware County Women's Commission.

She fell victim to the Democratic tide that swept Delco in last November's general elections, which saw the Dems snag both seats up for grabs on County Council, as well as all three county row offices. In the process they turned out Hopper in her re-election effort as county sheriff.

Picking a woman is something many political insiders predicted. It's one way for the local GOP to fend off what some are calling the "year of the woman" in the wake of #Metoo revolution sweeping politics.

But Hopper is a lot more than that. She's a solid candidate with all the credentials to serve in the state Legislature.

She will face Democrat Dave Delloso, president of Teamsters Local 312 and a U.S. Marine Corps vet, as well as Libertarian W. David Medina.

Now this is a team on a (Pork) roll

I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

My day starts - at an ungodly early hour - pretty much exactly the same way every day.

I grab my handy portable radio, flip the switch on, and then make a beeline for the coffee maker.

And what would be on that radio?

Sirius XM? Umm, this is a portable, battery-operated radio, several decades old.

Classic rock? Nah, too early.

Talk radio? Please.

That radio dial - yes, it's a slide dial, I'm not yet entered the digital read-out age - never leaves its trusty position.

That would be the soundtrack of my life, KYW Newsradio 1060 A.M.

I use it to be sure the world hasn't ended since I slid into my nightly coma a few hours before.

It also does something I need - it lets me know, in pretty quick order, the top news headlines from across the region.

But every once in awhile, it also produces a smile.

No, I'm talking about the forecast, which is calling for a cold, miserable drizzle this morning and another chance of snow showers tomorrow. I think spring has been cancelled.

No, I'm talking about the Trenton Thunder.

They are the minor league baseball team that plays in the New Jersey capital. An item on a special promotion they are "roll"-ing out this season brought a smile to my face as I drove into the office this morning.

They have come up with a new gimmick I can really sink my teeth into.

The team's nickname, as it has been for the past 25 years, is the Thunder.

But that will change one night this season.

Every Friday night, the team will be known as the Trenton Pork Roll.

The team will kick off its latest promotion May 18 with a giveaway and "Pork Roll Celebration." The first 1,025 fans - get it, in the team's 25th year - will get a special pork roll apron, and the team will sell special $1 pork roll sandwiches.

They have a tie-in with a local business, Case's Pork Roll of Trenton.

I happen to be someone who loves his pork roll.

I salute the Thunder, er Pork Roll.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The author and the editor

This is a tale of the author and the editor.

When I was approached by Larry Smoose of the Media Rotary and the folks at the Media Library about moderating a question-and-answer session with best-selling author Mark Bowden, I jumped at the chance.

That's because there was something I wanted to ask him.

Bowden has written a grueling, intense, at times overwhelming new book on what most people consider the pivotal battle of Vietnam.

Fifty years after America left Southeast Asia, Bowden has produced an exhaustive tome examining the fulcrum point of the war.

It is called "Hue, 1968."

It recounts the battle that raged for 24 days, from Jan. 30 to March 3, 1968. After that battle, it is said the conversation back home in America concerning the war changed forever. The reporting from that battle - and the truth that shattered the lies that were being told to the nation about the war in Vietnam - flipped the conversation. It was no longer about winning, it was about how to get out.

It turns out Bowden and I have several things in common.

He spent more than 20 years as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other things covering the infamous Joey Coyle saga of the down-on-his-luck Philly guy who saw a million bucks literally fall into his lap from an armored car. That story was eventually told, again in exhaustive detail, by Bowden in a three-part magazine series. It was made into a movie, "Money for Nothing," starring John Cusack.

Bowden had the good sense to do something I have not done. He got out of the newspaper racket. But he is still a reporter at heart, as anyone who reads 'Hue, 1968,' can attest. At times the detail in the book is overwhelming. He writes for The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, when he's not busy cranking out best-sellers like 'Blackhawk Down' and 'Killing Pablo.'

The other thing we have in common I did not learn until yesterday morning, when an old high school friend reached out on Facebook and asked me to say hello to Bowden at the event.

When he moved his family out of the city, Bowden bought a farm right outside the little town of Oxford where I grew up in Southern Chester County.

So what was it I wanted to ask him?

Well, first I highly suggest you read the book.

One of the things Bowden says he wanted to do was tell the story of the battle, from all sides. In other words, not just the American side.

Some of things I read and heard about the book was that some people were a bit taken aback at how much he focused on the Vietnamese side of the battle.

I asked him if he considered that.

He never batted an eye in his response.

He did not.

He pointed out he was not interested in telling the "American" side of the story. Rather, he wanted to tell the whole story. Or, simply, the truth.

He could not resist saying that current events tell us a lot of people are more comfortable in dealing with propaganda rather than the truth.

The book does not pull any punches, in particular when it comes to Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. troops in Vietnam. Bowden says not only did Westmoreland vastly underestimate the size of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces in Hue, telling officials in Washington there were no more than 500 soldiers in the city when in fact there were more than 10,000, but he also points out that Westmoreland's optimistic outlook without question extended U.S. involvement in the war.

But none of this was really what I wanted to ask the noted author.

A confession here first. This is a topic where I always tread very lightly. That would be issues involving war and veterans. I do so for a very good reason. The truth is I did not serve. I was not there. I have no idea what that experience was like. It's actually something I now often regret not doing, though I'm sure I would have answered differently 50 years ago. I asked Bowden if he had served.

Again, he never hesitated. No, he did not.

Did that ever give him pause in writing about the topics of service and war? Again he assured it did not. He simply sought the truth, and by that meaning the whole truth, not any one particular person's or side's version of the truth.

Still a true reporter at heart.

My thanks to the Media Rotary and Media Library for a truly exceptional night.

And in particular my heart-felt thanks to the many veterans who turned out for the chat, who offered their own questions to Bowden.

Fifty years after we left Vietnam, the nation - in particular many veterans - continue to struggle with the scars, both physical and emotional, that remain.

It is my hope that events like last night's session help in that process.

It was an honor to take part.

Thanks, Mark. See you around Oxford some day.

50 years later, where does the 'Dream' stand?

It was the question that was on my mind most of the day yesterday.

Fifty years to the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. walked out onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., and was gunned down by an assassin's bullet, how close have we come to achieving the "Dream?"

Yes, there is no question the country has made great strides.

But I also see continuing problems.

And worse, I see regression in some areas.

I talk about it on today's editorial page.

Sixers? 'Nova? Phillies? Nope, time for the best sports event of the year - Masters weekend

You might say it's a big day in sports.

First, you need to digest last night's headlines. The Sixers have now won 12 straight, including the last few without center Joel Embiid.

Last night they were led by J.J. Redick, who pumped in 25 points as the 76ers rolled over the Pistons. That ties them with the Cavaliers for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. And LeBron James and friends just happen to be in town for a contest Friday night. Should be must-watch TV.

But before then there are a few things going on today as well.

That team from the Main Line is having a little party today.

This is getting to be old hat. It will be a parade in Center City to celebrate the latest championship for Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats. No word as yet on whether Jason Kelce will be making an appearance. We'll have live coverage. v The Villanova Parade wraps up about 12:30, just in time for the crowd to pile onto the Broad Street line and head to South Philly for the Phillies home opener.

What will be louder, the cheers for Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who is expected to throw out the first pitch, or the boos for Phils skipper Gabe Kapler, who's had less than a stellar start as the team stumbled home from a 1-4 opening road trip. But none of the above will command my attention.

That's because my eyes will be fixed on still another sporting event.

No, it doesn't take place in Philly.

It's still the best sporting event of the year.

Yes, I'm a degenerate golfer.

And yes, this is Masters weekend.

And yes, Tiger Woods is expected to content this year.

Clear the decks for the weekend.

Tiger on the leaderboard at August Sunday afternoon.

I don't care if it snows another foot. I'll be camped in front of the tube for some must-watch TV.

Go Tiger!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An evening with author Mark Bowden, talking about Hue and Vietnam

It is going to be my honor to take part in a very special event tonight in Media.

I have been asked to be the moderator for a question-and-answer session with local author Mark Bowden, whose latest work is 'Hue: 1968.'

Bowden, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as correspondent for The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, has put together an exhaustive look at what many consider to be the critical battle of the Vietnam War, and one that turned the tide of public opinion back home in America against the war.

Bowden spent five years doing research and interviews for the book, which chronicles the 24-day Battle of Hue as the pivotal time for the Vietnam War.

Bowden, the author of 'Blackhawk Down' and 'Killing Pablo,' also will take questions from the audience.

And that is what will make this evening so special.

Media is home to the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum, and as part of the night, many Vietnam veterans will be in the audience and have the chance to discuss their feelings - both about the war and Bowden's view of it - with the author.

As part of the night, Bowden will present a signed copy of his book to the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum, entrusting it to Media Mayor Bob McMahon and Ed Buffman, of the Musuem’s board of directors.

Tickets are still available for this special event. Admission is $10.

The event is being presented by the Rotary Club of Media in partnership with the Media Upper Providence Free Library, and will be held at the Media Theatre.

Please join me for a very special night examining one of the pivotal battles in America's most controversial war.

For tickets, call Media Theatre box office at 610-891-0100 or visit www.mediatheatre.org

Showing some love for newspersons - & Villanova

Today is National Hug a Newsperson Day.

Why do I get the feeling there is not going to be a run on the newsroom to take part in this celebration.

Maybe if I disguised myself as a Villanova hoops player.

Funny thing about those Wildcats. They have sparked a debate across the region about whether they are actually 'Philly' or not. We are here to tell you the Villanova campus is located in Radnor Township, here in Delaware County.

But we are more than willing to share the wondrous accomplishments of a team that has now captured two national titles in the last three years.

The anti-Villanova feelings go a little deeper than that. There are those old, lingering feelings that see Villanova's fingerprints all over the knife that was stabbed in the back of the traditions of the Big 5.

There are those who are not especially enamored of the often well-to-do status of many Villanova students.

And there are those who simply have trouble equating the 'Cats Main Line zip code with a 'city' team.

Not us.

We salute Villanova.

More than that, coupled with the Eagles' recent Super Bowl win, and the emergency of the 76ers, who are the hottest team in the NBA heading into the playoffs, and what do you have.

City of Champions.

It's on our editorial page.

Here's your early morning report from the roads

Brace yourself.

You haven't moved to London. It just might seem that way this morning.

I just made the drive to the office.

They aren't kidding about the fog, it's very thick in some spots.

And, of course, I'm not sure why this is the case but fog always seems to bring out my friends.

Those would be Bambi and her pals.

I had to take some serious evasive action to miss one deer that darted out right in front of me, and saw several other meandering along the roadways on the drive in.

Once we get past the fog, it's not going to be all that great a day anyhow. Yesterday's miserable clouds and wet weather is going to stick around today, even though we will warm up through the day, going all the way to 66 before plunging again overnight.

And, of course, they are talking about the possibility of snow on Saturday.

Yes, spring remains a rumor.

Kind of like the Phillies.

You can get your complete forecast here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

City of Champions!

Just call us the City of Champions.

Just 57 days after the Eagles ended their Super Bowl drought with that dramatic 41-33 win over the New England Patriots, we're once again celebrating a national title.

The Eagles went 58 years between championships.

The fans of the Villanova Wildcats didn't have to wait nearly that long.

For the second time in three years, Villanova is the 'Cats' Meow when it comes to college basketball.

Jay Wright's squad captured its second national crown in three years Monday night when they rolled over Michigan, 79-62. Here's a little-known fact.

This is apparently the first time that the NCAA men's hoops championship resided in the same city that held the Vince Lombardi Trophy - that little trinket they give away for winning the Super Bowl - in its mitts.

Sure, we know some people will want to quibble. They will say Villanova is not actually in the city. They are correct. We proudly claim Delaware County as the home of the Villanova campus.

That won't stop us from joining the party.

The Main Line campus erupted shortly after Monday night as fans poured out into the streets of Radnor to celebrate the win. Plans for another parade, no doubt to be held downtown, where the echoes of that thunderous party held to celebrate the Eagles' Super Bowl win still linger in some corners, will be announced later today.

The Wildcats completed a dominating season by dismantling another national power.

Think Villanova has the Wright stuff? Yeah, just a little. And we're not talking about just the coach. The 'Cats dominated again. They won all six of their NCAA tournament games by more than 10 points. In fact, they blew away both of their Final Four foes by 16 or more. Their stiffest challenge came when they suffered an uncharacteristic off night offensively and had to clamp down defensively to put away West Virginia.

In the process, the tiny Catholic school from the Main Line joins the very upper echelons of college basketball programs. They now sit right there beside such names as UCLA, Duke, Louisville and Kentucky. They are now one of only four programs to win two titles in the span of just three years. Last year they reached the tournament before an unexpected early second-round loss to Wisconsin.

What do these numbers all have in common? 26, 23, 12, 12, 16, 17. No, they're not the winning Powerball numbers. But they are winning numbers. Those are the margins of victory in Villanova's NCAA Tourney run.

Monday night they trailed early in the first half, when they called on Super Sixth Man Donte DiVincenzo, who exploded for 31 points as the 'Cats pulled away.

DiVincenzo, a product of Salesianum High School in Wilmington, lit up the Wolverines for the most points ever scored in an NCAA tournament game by a non-starter. Her personally scored nine straight points to spark the 'Cats and was named the tournament's top player.

This should shatter once and for all this city's image of lovable losers.

The Eagles are Super Bowl champions.

Villanova has now win their second NCAA title in three years.

We are trusting the process as the Sixers head for the playoffs appearing as if they are finally ready to make a run - even with the most recent injury to Joel Embiid.

The Flyers are in the playoff hunt.

Now if we could only help Gabe Kapler figure out how to use his bullpen.

Congratulations to the 'Nova Nation.

And the county and region they call home.

Let's face it, we all consider ourselves Philadelphians.

And today we live in the City of Champions.