Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NBC hoping Winter Classic includes 'at least some baseball or football'

"Correct dimensions ... check, boards ... check, goals ... check, ice ... oh crap."

Seeking to increase television ratings, NBC has asked the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, opponents in Friday's Fenway Park NHL Winter Classic, to not play hockey. Instead, the network would simply prefer that the two hockey clubs play baseball (or football) in one of the sports most cherished stadiums on New Year's Day. "At the very least we would like to see the teams use a baseball or smaller-sized football instead of a puck if they do decide to play hockey," said Albert Zumos, an NBC executive. Whether or not the teams decide to play hockey, each club will take a televised batting practice before the game. "We're hoping it tricks some of the television audience that there is actually going to be a baseball game played at Fenway Park in January," said Zumos. "The batting practice will definitely increase the number of viewers early in the telecast." Also, if the game goes into a shootout, the teams will attempt to earn the extra point in the standings with a field goal kicking contest that NBC demanded to be part of the Winter Classic broadcasting deal.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

City removes every trace of snow from Delancey St, adds leaves to trees

Above photo: Delancey Street in Philadelphia only 23 minutes after a December record 23.2 inches of snow fell over the weekend in the Philadelphia area. The controversial, city-funded and operated Delancey Street Snow Task Force cleared last Saturday's snow in record time, utilizing its 350 crew members, 35 plows, 100 snow blowers and 700 hair dryers in the process. The task force was established in 1882 (photo below) to keep the street free of snow, by whatever means necessary, for its many influential residents. "The crew gets one minute to remove the snow for every inch that has fallen," said Susan Vern, a Streets Department representative. "We'd like to have a snow task force for every street in the city, but it's just not in the budget right now. It's just not."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gaga's 'Proper Yahtzee' song a tribute to dice game

The award-winning singer Lady Gaga (Stefani Gemanotta) claims that she owes much of her success to the popular dice game Yahtzee. So much, in fact, that the 23-year-old performer from New York City wrote a song about the game of chance titled "Proper Yahtzee."

Released in July, "Proper Yahtzee" still tops the charts in single CD sales and can be heard on countless radio stations around the world. It wasn't until recently, during an interview with Today's Matt Lauer, that the pop star revealed Yahtzee's personal connection.

"Yahtzee taught me many life lessons," said the singer. "My parents not only encouraged my siblings and me to play Yahtzee, but to play proper Yahtzee and follow all the rules and be very familiar with the hidden strategies of the game."

Deciding when to use a chance, three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind or even a small straight requires quick decision making and strengthens mathematical skills. Also, decision making is very important when choosing what die or dice to keep after a first or second roll.

One of the key reasons for Yahtzee having such a large influence in Gaga's life was that fact that her father, Joseph Germanotta, was a world-class Yahtzee competitor throughout the 1980's. "He traveled all over North America and Western Europe to play the game," said the singer. "So he would expect nothing less than proper Yahtzee from his children."

From an early age Gaga has vivid memories of placing the five dice in the red cup and recording scores on the child-friendly scoring sheets.

"I remember when I was about seven years old and we were playing Yahtzee in the kitchen and I used my chance too early in the game," recalled Gaga about the scoring option of adding any combination of dice. "And my father kept asking if I really wanted to use my chance. He kept saying, 'proper Yahtzee sweetie, let's think and execute proper Yahtzee."

So, remember when playing the game to always execute proper, proper, proper Yahtzee!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

City solves obstructed bike lane problem ... with ramps

Cycling along Spruce Street’s buffered bicycle lane last week I encountered several stopped automobiles on my westbound, cross-town journey. In only a few short months, this may no longer be a very frustrating occurrence for cyclists.

"There has to be something that can solve the problem," said commuter cyclist Ronnie Talbot. "Something that all interested parties will be happy with."

Most of the city’s bikers, including myself, are more than willing to share the road; however, when four, five or, even, six vehicles per block are parked or stopped in the designated bike lane it can be extremely dangerous for everyone involved. Soon, these stationary cars will no longer be a problem. In fact, autos may even be welcomed. Huh?

The City of Philadelphia can be credited for creating this dramatic turnaround in cyclists’ attitudes toward impeded bike lanes. Cyclists voiced their concern, the city listened and hit a home run with its solution.

Beginning in March of 2010 the city will adopt the country’s first bicycle car ramp program. What does this mean? The program, officially called Philadelphia Bicycle Ramp Pilot Program: A Bridge Over Obstruction, aims to provide cyclists with an easy way to traverse over the stopped or parked automobile blocking the outlined bike lane.

“It’s quite simple,” said Dan Yates, a Mayor’s office representative. “If you provide cyclists the means to pedal over the tops of cars with wide, comfortable ramps we think they will. And if motorists can easily set ramps up, they can remain stopped for hours … its win-win.”

I must give the city credit, after hearing the idea for this revolutionary car ramp pilot program last week, I was skeptical. My main concerns were the weight of the ramps, anti-theft devices for the ramps and possible tire damage to bicycles.

The Philadelphia Streets Department has announced that the program will be tested for two months on the new Spruce-Pine bike lanes beginning in March on the 2000 block of Pine St and the 700 block of Spruce St.

Up to ten ramps will be placed on each block in order for five motorists to legally stop or park in the bike lane area. Smart technology and Philadelphia Parking Authority cards will be used in order to give drivers access to the locked ramps located on the adjacent sidewalks. Rubber-coated magnets and clamps will keep the inclines in place on the backs and fronts of cars keeping paint and body damage to a minimum.

"It's a simple swipe of the card to unlock the ramps," said Mark Blanton, a planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. "Each ramp also has a cable attached so motorist or pedestrians don't run off with them."

The slopes can be extended up to 40 feet, allowing all cyclists a more gradual climb to the top of the automobile. The elongated ramps will also better serve cyclists when riding over tall delivery trucks.

"Bikers will need to ride as fast as they can in order to build up enough momentum to scale the vehicle," said Blanton. "Pedaling hard, balance and modern helmets will be the key to the project's success."

The ultra-light aluminum alloy ramps can support over 400 pounds and, weighing nearly 20 pounds each, can be set in place and disassembled by most everyone in less than two minutes.

There is no cost to motorists to use the ramps, at least, for now. The City feels the free service will encourage the use of the ramps, even if a driver is stopping in the lane for only 30 seconds.

One cyclist, who learned of the program last week, tested the idea in a South Philadelphia parking lot on his own car and ramps.

"I felt a bit unsteady going up the ramp," said cyclist Tom Bridgeton, 45, of Old City. "But going down the front ramp was much easier and, actually, very enjoyable."

The program is attracting attention from across the country as city officials from Portland, OR, one the nation’s friendliest bicycling cities, have twice visited Philadelphia to study its objectives and officially endorse the project.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Beebe to loan Westbrook padded helmet

Retired NFL wide receiver Don Beebe has graciously decided to loan his foam-covered helmet to concussion-prone Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook. Beebe played in the NFL from 1989 to 1997 and spent most of that time with the Buffalo Bills, where he and teammate Mark Kelso popularized the top-padded head gear after sustaining several concussions.

"We contacted Don about two weeks ago regarding the use of his helmet for Brian," said Eagles' head coach Andy Reid. "Don was very receptive to the idea and said that he would check his attic and basement to see if he could find it."

"It took me about two hours to find, but it was in with my kids' Halloween costumes all the way in the back of the attic," said Beebe.

The ultra-light padding on the helmet is approximately one inch thick and is designed to absorb the impact of several hundred pounds moving at a high rate of speed. The gear served Beebe so well, in fact, that he would often wear it while biking, ice skating and, even, driving in airbag-less cars.

"I used the helmet a lot outside of football," said Beebe. "Doctor's orders."

The Eagles claim to be running out of options to protect their star player and that borrowing the Beebe helmet was "the only thing we could think of right now." At the request of Beebe the team will not paint or alter the head protector in any way.

"It'll be kind of weird wearing a Buffalo Bills helmet," said Westbrook. "But I'm itching to get out there and help the team during the stretch drive and this helmet is the key to that happening. Don's a great guy, we've talked several times in the past week about our [concussion] symptoms."

Out this week against the Giants, Westbrook hopes to return to play next Sunday versus the San Francisco 49ers at home after missing five games because of two concussions suffered in weeks 7 and 10. The team plans to fly Beebe and his family to Philadelphia for the game, where team owner Jeffrey Lurie will host the group in the owner's luxury box.

This is not the first time that Beebe has loaned his helmet to a Philadelphia athlete. In 2000, a retired Beebe granted Philadelphia Flyers center Eric Lindros (photo below) permission to use the custom-made protective gear during a playoff run.

"For whatever reason the helmet didn't offer the same protection on ice as it did on the field," said Beebe. "So BWest should be just fine."

Notes: The Eagles also contacted Mark Kelso about using his helmet, identical to Beebe's, for wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who suffered a concussion in week 12. The Eagles reported that Kelso did not return numerous calls. Jackson and Westbrook may share the gear depending on who is in the game. it is possible that the helmet may be large enough for the two players to wear at one time, something they plan to practice in pregame warm-ups.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Progress or laziness? Iconic museum steps to be replaced with giant escalators

"The new escalators will allow four to five times as many tourists to run, er, rather ride to the top of the steps per day," said Roger Dillon, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's executive director. "We can move a lot of people and because the escalators will only go up we're hoping some tourists actually make it inside the museum." Some were upset by the news of the plans to replace the world famous steps: "It's kind of sad," said Kelly Hinders, visiting from Michigan. "I guess you can still run up the moving escalators like at the mall or something. It won't be exactly the same, but it'll be close."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wissahickon made strong effort to lure Dad Vail

The 2010 Dad Vail Regatta is rowing to Rumson, NJ and in its wake are many floating index fingers pointing in numerous directions about who exactly is to blame for ending Philadelphia’s 56-year run as host of the one of the sport’s premier North American events. In that wake is also a report that the regatta apparently had more than one suitor.

Who else tempted the oars from the Schuylkill's shores? The largest collegiate rowing event in the country, with over 130 schools participating, very nearly dropped anchor on the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Yes, the almost-impossible-to-navigate creek in the city’s northwest section made a serious attempt to lure the race to its banks.

Several days after eager Rumson officials presented to the Dad Vail board of directors, the Wissahickon Creek Rowers Association followed with a 4-hour presentation to the board—showing nearby amenities and facilities—in an effort to sell the waterway by the same name as a possible host.

Charles Farley, the president of the Wissahickon Creek Rowers Association and longtime rower, was able to secure $99,999 from private donors in an effort to persuade the Dad Vail organizers (Rumson promised $100,000) of the viability of the creek.

The creek has never been a rower’s destination because of rocks, shallow water, dams, larger rocks, impossible-to-maneuver bends, low bridges, unpredictable currents, water fowl, its narrow width and rapid changes in elevation.

“We looked at the many waterfalls and jagged rocks along the fast-moving stream as exciting new challenges to future rowers and regattas,” said Farley. “The shallow parts of the stream would have been dredged for the event.”

The creek, which is a tributary of the Schuylkill River, winds its way for 23 miles from central Montgomery County and ending in Philadelphia. The cost of dredging a 2-mile portion of the lower Wissahickon would have been prohibitively expensive. In addition, some of the stream’s most dangerous boulders would have been blasted away using dynamite, driving up the cost even more.

When asked how taking the event away from the larger, more rower-friendly and neighboring Schuylkill River would have looked, Farley shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Probably not too good … but at least it would have stayed in the city.”

Some on the WCRA wondered whether the Dad Vail board gave serious consideration to the Wissahickon as a legitimate host.

“We want everyone to know that we didn’t just simply or quickly dismiss the Wissahickon as a possible host site,” explained Bob Forther, a Dad Vail Regatta board member, when asked about the WCRA concerns. “The presentation by Charles [Farley] was well thought-out and included many vivid graphs and charts. The Wissahickon Creek is one of the most scenic natural areas in the country. Unfortunately, it just came down to finances. The WCRA couldn’t match what Rumson had on the table. It had nothing to do with the stream’s protruding rocks, as many on the board viewed them as an asset.”

"We may not be hosting the Dad Vail in 2010," said Farley, "but we'll sure be installing more rocks and dams over the coming year."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Barnes to remove homeless from new museum renderings

In early October, the world-renowned Barnes Foundation released renderings of its new facility to be constructed along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway—one of the nation's most well-known and influential museum districts. The move that will bring the fine art collection from Merion, PA to Center City has been extremely controversial, going against the wishes of its deceased founder. The relocation, however, is official.

The designs for the new building have received praise from around the world. Architecture Biweekly called the plans, “quite simply astounding.” The New York Times praised, “Elegant and graceful, a perfect neighbor to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.” Architecture and Things, published thrice yearly, placed the design on its cover with the title: “Can Astoundingness Be Measured? New Museum Design Is No Barn.”

With such acclaim from the architecture world, why has there been such a backlash from the local (and national) community?

“It took a few days for [the public] to notice that the renderings included what appeared to be several homeless individuals walking around the outside of the museum,” said Conner Bilken, president of the Logan Neighborhood Association. “It really was inappropriate.”

The architecture firm David, Tanner, Smithson & Co designed the new building and wanted to embrace the surrounding community. The firm said it was important to welcome those meandering, riding or living on the Parkway into the museum with open arms.

"We wanted to include everyone in the design," said Mike Smithson, one of the lead designers for DTS. "We included the homeless in the renderings because they are part of the neighborhood and have been for quite some time. We weren't going to ignore anybody."

The area around 21st St and the Parkway, the museum’s new home and former site of the Youth Study Center (demolished earlier this year to make way for the Barnes), has long been a gathering area for the city’s homeless population. The Study Center’s proximity to the sidewalk—set back several hundred feet—and the adjacent lawn’s tree canopy made the location ideal.

“The [Study Center] blocked the wind and we were far enough from the public’s eye to be left alone more or less,” said Daniel Murray, 56, a member of the city’s homeless. “It was a pretty comfortable spot next to that building. I really miss it.”

Many of the homeless interviewed for this story explained that they understood what the designers were trying to accomplish with the plans, but ultimately were offended by their inclusion in the museum renderings. They went on to say that in no way would this deter them from making a new home next to the Barnes Museum following its completion in 2011.

“It was a little insensitive,” said Gilbert Toliver, 48, another homeless citizen. “But I won't it stop me from curling up next to that brand spanking new building in a couple years. I'm a forgiving person. Also, the fountains in the renderings are of particular interest to me.”

DTS and the Barnes Foundation have issued a public apology and are planning to give free admission to city residents during the first two weeks of operation in 2011.

"The figures in question on the renderings have been removed and we hope that we can all move forward and put this in the past," said Hank Tanner, a project manager for DTS. "Again, we sincerely apologize and look forward to the opening of the museum. Go Eagles."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Proposed bill would require bicyclists to register all kickstands

Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney have proposed a bill that would require Philadelphia's bicyclists to register all bicycle kickstands. If the bill passes cyclists would be expected to pay a $25 fee and have kickstands inspected by the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania State Police Departments.

The councilmen are citing the thousands of dollars of damage that kickstands inflict on sidewalks and streets when engaged. The fee will help with these and other surface repairs.

Also, it has been reported that hundreds of thousands of kickstands are stolen from bicycles every year in Philadelphia, therefore, registration will help police identify and return recovered stands to the rightful owners.

"A rise in bicycling is great. But a rise in bicycling also means a rise in the number of kickstands that are being used. It's unfortunate but very true," said Councilman DiCicco. "This bill can almost assuredly end the underground kickstand market."

"Kickstands keep bicycles upright when not in motion. I'm not going to get into the physics of it," said Councilman Kenney. "Without them people just lean their bikes against whatever they can find. I've seen bikes temporarily leaned against walls before."

What about those who do not have a kickstand? How would this bill affect them?

"Not everyone has a kickstand, I understand that," DiCicco explained. "They are the lucky ones. Although, we would consider a separate registration for non-kickstand bicycles to cover wall or bench or tree repair costs."

Erie, PA, considered the Portland of the east because of its vast bicycle lane network and large cycle community, began registering kickstands in early June of 2009. The program has been a huge success, as the city claims to have registered 97% of Erie's total kickstands.

"[Erie] residents were upset at first," said Mike Vernon, president of the Presque Isle Bicycle Association, the city's largest bicycle association with over 20,000 members. "But the city made a huge effort to show where riders' money was actually going. For example, kickstand divots made in the park were filled and seeded within 24 hours. Kickstand scrapes on the sidewalks were circled with spray paint and repaired within 36 hours."

DiCicco hopes that Philadelphia can register at least 80% of the city's stands by this time next year. The councilman admitted that he would be thrilled with any number over 80%.

In addition to theft and damaged surfaces, the councilmen have cited safety as an additional reason for registration. Many stands are spring-loaded and can cause serious bodily harm if not operated properly.

"I've seen bloody, bruised fingers caused by powerful kickstands," said Councilman Kenney. "Just imagine, injuries could be totally eliminated if this registration bill is passed."

Part of a rider's registration fee would go towards a mandatory 6-hour class aimed at teaching the basics of kickstand operation. The class would also include a section on properly applying soft, plastic tips to the ends of stands that can help minimize potential surface damage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

At the movies: Pirate-side has strong showing over weekend

The new movie Pirate-side made a strong showing at the box office over the weekend. Pulling in $15 million placed the Paramount film in the second slot for top grossing films on its opening weekend. The film stars Sandra Bullock as herself, as she responds to a British ban. The apocalyptic film 2012 netted $23 million, as viewers lined up to see John Cusack save the world.

From the Pirate-side trailer: "Based on a true story. In 2002 Great Britain banned Sandra Bullock from the country because of Ms Congeniality and Speed 2: Cruise Control. When the banishment was announced the actress shot back the only way she knew how ... she began to make movies from a ship just off the southern English coast. Bullock plays herself in this heartfelt story about an American actress getting back at the British government. 'They don't like my movies? I'll broadcast a new movie every week into that fog-covered country. Drop anchor and start that camera. We're about to go starboard side.' From the people who brought you The Net and Two if by Sea and from the assistant director of Waterworld comes ... Pirate-side. Rated PG-13 multiple references to Bullock films."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SEPTA: Fire was result of transporting bicycle during peak hour

"This is why we don't allow bicycles on the trains during peak hours," said SEPTA regional rail manager, Brenda Short. "This whole mess could have been prevented had the rider simply taken a non-peak train."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Union wanted token system, more frequent bus stops

Philadelphia's transit strike is over, ending on Sunday night, and slowly the public is learning more about the issues that blocked a deal from being reached and shortening, or even preventing, the labor stoppage.

Transit Workers Union 234, the largest within SEPTA, had several demands that kept them on the picket lines and out of transit vehicles. First and foremost the Union demanded a token payment system be implemented to make transactions easier for riding customers.

"Tokens are easy to use. They were used throughout the 1950's and 60's around the country and in Europe," said a striking SEPTA employee. "We just think it will be more rider-friendly."

SEPTA workers suggested that tokens could be sold in corner shops or pharmacies to make purchases more convenient. Only selected subway stations would sell tokens to the public and they would not be at all clearly marked.

"Having the shops sell them just makes sense," said Orange Line operator Frank Taglioni. "If the customer comes down to the station and tokens aren't sold there, or token machines are nonoperational, they can easily run back up the four flights of steps and search the neighborhood for a store that does sell [tokens]. We're just thinking about the rider here."

What if the participating stores are not open for business and tokens are not sold at the particular station? Well, riders using buses or the subway can easily pay in cash but must be careful to have the correct change. If not, riders must seek a place of business that can change a higher bill--and is open--so that exact change can be presented to the station attendant or bus driver.

The city, state and SEPTA management decided to grant this request by the Union and so riders should look for a token system in the near future (no date was set for installation).

The second issue that stalled talks was the long-standing debate of having the city's buses make more frequent stops along their designated routes. The Union was calling for buses to stop at every block corner and, at least, two mid-block stops--SEPTA management sought three mid-block stops in addition to corner stops. The concession was to have the buses make scheduled stops at every block corner.

"Unfortunately, people will have to walk at least a half of block," said Dennis Harpring, 45, of Fairmount.

SEPTA said all city operated buses will immediately begin to make scheduled stops at every block corner.

"I have to say that the Union was really looking out for the rider with these demands," said a teary-eyed rider who would not give his name. "It's always about the rider."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eagles hoping new M&M-filled challege flags will curb Reid's tossing

The Eagles front office and assistant coaches will unveil a new red challenge flag for head coach Andy Reid this coming weekend versus the San Diego Chargers. The new flag will be packed with the popular candy M&M's. "It came down to M&M's or Reeses Pieces," said a front office representative. "We performed a scientific study by placing a bowl of each on his desk and watching, by hidden camera, as he finished the M&M's in a matter of hours." The coach did a number on the bowl of Reeses Pieces, but took almost two hours longer to polish off the peanut butter-flavored candies. The team does not plan on telling the coach about the new filling, but trusts that Big Red's strong sense of smell and the small incision on the side of the flag will keep him occupied. "We think it can greatly reduce the number of challenges," said team president, Joe Banner. "This could be copied around the league if successful."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Victorino denies new padded batting glove is a boxing glove

Shane Victorino had a scary moment in the first inning of game five of the World Series on Monday night. The center fielder was hit on the right hand with a mid-nineties AJ Burnett fastball after squaring to lay down a bunt.

The All-Star outfielder will likely play in game six on Wednesday night as x-rays proved negative. To be safe, however, Victorino will wear a padded batting glove (pictured) on the injured hand.

At a press conference today Victorino was asked by several reporters if the red, puffy glove was just an old boxing glove.

"Though it looks like a boxing glove it really is just a heavily padded batting glove," said Victorino, reading from a prepared statement. "Really, it's a batting glove everybody and has been approved by Major League Baseball. Sincerely, Shane Victorino."

The player also said that he has not decided on whether or not to wear the glove while playing in the field and that it would be a game-time decision.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rally towel lint causing fans major respiratory problems

Just a little under two weeks ago, Philadelphia area hospitals began admitting an inordinate number of patients experiencing severe coughing and burning of the lungs.

Doctors first blamed the city’s numerous oil refineries then looked to the Swine flu, but quickly ruled these diagnoses out after other symptoms—fever, sweating and vomiting—were not evident in any of the ill.

Doctors took several days to determine a link between the thousands of patients experiencing similar symptoms and all arriving at hospitals within hours of each other.

“Many were wearing Phillies gear when they arrived,” said Dr Gale Strommers, a respiratory doctor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. “We originally thought it was too much tailgating. But cough samples all revealed white and red cloth fibers.”

Enough fibers were removed from the patients’ phlegm samples that a pattern soon developed. The fibers spelled out “Fightin’ Phils.” Apparently, Philadelphia Phillies' rally towels were the cause, but why were fans eating rally towels? They weren’t, at least, not consciously.

The towels are part of the team’s effort to unite the crowd for late season and playoff games. When fans wave the China-made rally towels, hundreds of trillions of tiny, and some large, pieces of lint begin to dislodge and float freely in the air around the seating area of Citizens Bank Park. Cheering fans, often breathing at a higher rate from game excitement, begin to take in large quantities of the lint.

“Lint from one or two towels wouldn’t make a difference,” said Dr Harrold Patterson, a professor at Drexel University’s School of Medicine. “Lint from 50,000 towels, however, can have serious medical consequences for those exposed.”

Experts agree that though the lint appears to float weightless in the air, it is slowly descending toward the stadium’s first level. Therefore, fans sitting in these areas are considered to be at a greater risk. Hospitals have confirmed that most of the admitted patients were ticket holders from the first level.

Some fans feel shortness of breath, burning lungs, diarrhea and blurry vision is a small price to pay for a run at the World Series.

"The doctor has ... forbade me from ... attending games for the rest ... of this year," said Phillies fan Frank Donegal, 19, in between deep breaths. "Plus, this ... oxygen tank ... is very ... cumbersome."

The elements can also play a factor on the “towel effects.” On game days with rain and wind—speeds greater than 7 mph—the number of patients admitted into area hospitals plummeted. Wind would quickly carry the fibers away from seating areas and away from the stadium. On these days, however, more fans claiming to only have been in the stadium's parking lots and not entering the stadium had more reports of the illness.

The team will distribute disposable breathing masks along with the rally towels for all of the World Series games at Citizens Bank Park.

Notes: The Phillies will give out Frightnin’ Phils rally towels on Halloween night. The towels will have a wacky, scary theme with Phillies colors. "It'll be wacky and frightnin'," said a Phillies representative.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bieber Tourways Series? Bus company made strong case

In 2000 the World Series between the New York Mets and New York Yankees was dubbed the Subway Series, as had previous series showcasing two Big Apple teams. Yankee and Shea Stadiums were separated by a mere ten driving miles.

With only 60 miles or so, and the state of New Jersey, separating Northeast Philadelphia and Staten Island, Amtrak, NJ Transit, the NJ Turnpike, Greyhound and, yes, Bieber Tourways were all hoping that fans and television networks would refer to the championship series between the Phillies and the Yankees using one of the transportation services.

Even the local transit provider was crossing their fingers for a SEPTA Series because of Manhattan service it provided several years ago during the Philadelphia Flower Show.

"We put a bid into the FOX network for the announcing crew to use Amtrak Series," said Amtrak's Director of Marketing Tim Gibbons. "If they do, we could really use the marketing to close the gap on some of our minor budget shortfalls. They're really pretty minor. I would even accept Acela Series."

"It makes a lot of sense to call it the NJ Transit Series," said Bobby Delbert, head of NJ Transits' advertising sales division. "We've got a pretty comprehensive transit network. So..."

Some may not be familiar with the Bieber Tourways bus company, which, at one time, was known as Carl R Bieber Tourways after the company's founder. Based in Kutztown, PA, the tour company offers a wide range of destinations including service between King of Prussia and New York City.

"We were banking on the King of Prussia-NYC route to maybe have the series named after our company," said Tom Garrone, a longtime driver for Bieber. "I really do like the sound of Bieber Tourways Series."

Bieber contacted the FOX Network minutes after the Yankees eliminated the Angels in an effort to show that choosing to label the series with Turnpike or Amtrak was too obvious and that going with a lesser known tour bus service could make FOX announcer Joe Buck "appear very clever."

"When the network brought up the Bieber Series thing in the production meeting yesterday I have to say that it was pretty tempting," said Buck. "Nationally, however, would it pack that punch that Turnpike Series would have? I think it could. And it would make me look extremely clever. But the [New Jersey] Turnpike stepped up with a nice offer."

In the end New Jersey Turnpike officials offered all FOX employees working on the production of the World Series a lifetime of free travel on the state's most famous road. Each will receive a loaded E-ZPass at the conclusion of the series good only in the Garden State.

The nearly free marketing that a Turnpike Series will bring to the 120-mile long toll road will increase revenue to help with lane widening and much needed surface repairs.

"Plus, I think the increased traffic and the resulting tolls will help us add an exit or two," said a laughing Stan Veritor, a turnpike official.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kate Hudson latest to join I-did-A-Rod

Campbell's: Soup sales just fine, Soupy Sales not

Campbell's Soup, Inc. has issued a statement to reassure investors and customers that soup sales are as strong as ever. With the announcement of the passing of beloved comedian and actor Soupy Sales last Thursday the soup maker, and the industry in general, felt the need to address any possible confusion. "While Soupy Sales may be dead, God rest his soul, soup sales are not," said Harry Toliver, president of Soup For America, a national soup interest group based in Camden, NJ. "We were nervous that the public would confuse the news of Soupy Sales' death with a stagnant soup market," said Dave Newton, a Campbell's representative. Campbell's will begin airing a national public service advertisement on television showing the strength of soup sales with pie charts and line graphs. "I love soup. So when I heard the news I couldn't believe the media was pronouncing the death of one of my favorite foods," said Diana Donnet, a soup lover.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guy from Truman Show spotted at Angels game

The guy that played Jim Carey's best friend in the hit 1998 film The Truman Show was spotted in the first row behind the Angels dugout on Thursday night at Angels Stadium.

The Dodgers are the baseball team in Los Angeles and Dodgers Stadium is where Hollywood's brightest and biggest stars, the A-Listers if you will, go to see and be seen.

Though not as well known as the star magnet that is the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodger Stadium can hold its own when it comes to star gazing. Larry David has been spotted there eating soft pretzels that dry is throat out. Larry King, Opra, Tom Cruise, Jim Carey, Brad Pitt and even Cher have cheered on the Dodgers.

Angels Stadium attracts more of the B-Listers like the actor who played the prosecuting lawyer in My Cousin Vinny. Or the lead character from the Karate Kid films. Fans spotted one of the pilots from Memphis Belle during game 3.

"It's really fun to come to the Angels games," said the actor from Memphis Belle. "It's fun to get recognized sometimes or not get recognized."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Phillies have no clue who player at end of bench is

The Phillies are moving on to the World Series for the second year in a row, a first for the 127-year-old franchise. The city and team are buzzing and salivating about a possible match up with the New York Yankees and another march down Broad Street.

To accomplish this goal manager Charlie Manuel has tinkered with the roster for each of the two postseason series thus far. The skipper has had to make some tough, an sometimes unpopular, decisions.

One such move is one the manager doesn't recall making ... or maybe he did. One player, uniform and all, sits and cheers at the end of the bench, talks with players, celebrates, but is unknown to the rest of the team.

"I have no idea who the guy is," said manager Charlie Manuel. "Whenever I pass him, or he passes me, I politely give a nod, but that's about it. It can be very uncomfortable at times. If we talk, which is rare, it's often about the weather or college football."

Players and coaches feel too awkward at this point to confront and ask the player his name and so have decided just to act as if they know him and as if he's been on the team all year long.

"Whoever he is I got him real good with the champagne last night," said star Ryan Howard and MVP of the NLCS. "I'm guessing it was a playoff roster addition or something. I don't remember him being here during the regular season, but some players say they do remember seeing him. He's a funny guy though."

The player usually wears a jacket which prevents teammates from reading the name on the back of his jersey. And when the jacket is off the player sits flush against the dugout wall.

"One time he was sitting jacket-less against the dugout wall," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins,"A few of us came up with a plan to drop a bat or glove on the ground and ask him to pick it up to expose the back of his jersey. He had a towel over his shoulder that covered up his name. Someone said they saw an 's'. Not sure though."

Scott Palmer, former local sports television news reporter, is a Phillies ambassador who was in the clubhouse last night for the raucous celebration and was awkwardly forced to interview the player.

"I was trying to avoid him all night, but he just came up to me out of nowhere and put his arm around me and said,'Scotty my man this is the best feeling in the world my good friend. Coming from where I come from this is special. Real special Scotty,'" said Palmer. "I have no idea who he is, but I just went along with the interview trying to keep the questions as general as possible."

Palmer's questions included: How happy are you right now? Rate your happiness level on a scale of one to twelve. How happy is Ryan Howard right now? Rate Ryan's happiness on the same scale. Have you ever used the one to twelve scale for rating? Rate the one to twelve scale on a scale of one to twelve. Tell me about your favorite food or something.

Manuel is unsure whether the player will make the World Series roster but said,"it would be kinda weird without that guy around."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Twirling towels gave flight to many fans in dramatic ninth

Last night's Phillies NLCS game 4 was an instant classic. A "where were you when ..." kind of game. A poster capturing the jubilant player celebration kind of game. The 5-4 victory is burned into memory.

Fans who attended the game reported noise levels well past anything they had ever experienced ... indoors or out. Accompanying the noise, and keeping with Phillies recent tradition, were almost 50,000 red and white courtesy rally towels.

The towels, which the team began giving away in 2007, were meant to add a "visual punch" to the passionate Phillies fans. Most have welcomed and warmed to the towels.

Dr Palo Gouditz, a physicists at the University of Pennsylvania, was at the game and witnessed firsthand the power of the rally towel. Rally towel flight.

"It was a very intense bottom of the ninth inning," explained Gouditz from his University City laboratory. "The towel revolutions per second were at an all time high."

The professor went on to explain that twenty-five overhead revolutions per second were needed to lift a fan from the ground using a standard Fightin' Phillies rally towel. Phillies fans were timed at twenty-nine. He estimates that 80%-85% of the fans actually lifted off the ground an inch or so and the rest were raised to the tips of shoes.

"My whole section was airbourne," screamed Tom Sanders, 44, of Manayunk. "It was so bad ass. It was freakin' cool. Someone call the Wright brothers."

The award-winning professor also went on to explain what would have resulted had every fan in the stadium—46,157 strong—been strapped into their seats with a seatbelt while waving the towels at the same rps. (Standing-room only fans would have been fastened to a pillar or railing.)

"Had the sell-out crowd been anchored to the stadium during that thrilling ninth, in some way, the stadium would have lifted several inches off the ground," said Gouditz. "Had the crowd been able to maintain the waving for an hour or so, the stadium could have been moved closer to Broad Street. Which would be great for subway riders."

The Phillies plan to place small holes in future rally towel give-aways to prevent fan flight.

"We don't want any future rally towel flight for safety reasons. On a side note, moving the stadium closer to the subway station would be great," said a Phillies rep,"but not during a playoff game. And not with cars parked in the adjacent parking lot."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Colorado Police: Balloon shape should have given a clue

Colorado Police have reported that the story of a 6-year-old Fort Collins boy whose family claimed was aboard an unsupervised, helium-filled Pinocchio-shaped balloon was a hoax. "Honestly, when we got the call that it was a Pinocchio balloon it never dawned on me that the whole story could be a lie," said Fort Collins Sheriff Douglas Brackett. "From this day forward I will think twice when calls come in claiming an out-of-control Pinocchio-shaped balloon. Or if Pinocchio is mentioned at all during the call."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Phils' snow day proves Golden ... Colorado

The Phillies were informed yesterday at about 10 AM Denver time that the accumulating snow and frigid temperatures would push their Saturday night game against the Colorado Rockies to Sunday. Baseball is a game of routine, but the Eastern Division-winning Phillies seemed to welcome the news to have a chance to explore the attractions of the Centennial State.

After the news the team promptly convened in the lobby to hold a vote about how the unplanned day off should be spent. Each player wrote on a slip of paper an activity idea, folded the slip and placed it into a a shoe box watched over closely by Charlie Manuel. Injured and slumping players were not permitted to participate.

Manuel, hitting coach Milt Thompson and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr counted the votes at the front desk with the hotel manager looking on.

"The players wanted an independent to oversee the tallies so that 'no lame trip was chosen,'" said hotel manager Frank Hollender.

The players and coaches have vastly different interests as the desired destinations included Red Rocks Amphitheater, skiing in Vail, Toronto, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Yosemite National Park, New York City, Rocky Mountain National Park, Argo Gold Mine and Mill Museum in Idaho Springs, the original Chipolte, skiing in Breckenridge, stay in hotel too cold outside, Coors Brewery tour and practice for upcoming game as it's kind of important.

With only three votes the team chartered a bus to the Coors Brewing Company in Golden Colorado for a tour that most Phillies sampled during the 2007 playoffs. The twenty-five minute drive will end at one of the world's largest breweries with a two-and-a-half-hour walking tour.

"It really was a lot like Laverne & Shirley," said catcher Carlos Ruiz. "There were so many bottles. It was crazy. I mean tons of bottles. I think this is where they did a lot of the filming."

Teammates attempted to explain to "Chooch", with little success, that the late '70's and early 80's hit television show, shown regularly in the catcher's native Panama, was set in Milwaukee, WI.

Players waved to bottlers and canners wearing Rockies paraphernalia who stared expressionless at the passing World Champions. Offers of autographs and photographs with Coors employees and executives were often refused.

"We really are thrilled to have the Phillies visit us," said Paul Coors. "But we have a very close relationship with the greater Denver area, the state of Colorado and the Rockies organization and we wouldn't want to compromise that relationship by ooing and ahhing over the perceived enemy."

As many brewery tours end with samples so too did the Coors tour. Many players admitted to never tasting the Banquet beer and said they would consider buying this line in the future ... for any large banquets they may have.

Brett Meyers purchased three cases of Coors Light to take back to Philadelphia because "these beers are guaranteed to be born in the Rockies."

In second place with two votes was the gold mine in Idaho Springs just off of route 70. Manuel told the team that if all went well at the Coors plant he would consider making a quick trip to the mine.

"I went to that mine back in '97," explained the manager. "It's good mine. A real good mine."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Players, coaches helping with stadium playoff preparations

Above, Charlie Manuel, right, and Matt Stairs hang bunting from Citizens Bank Park's upper deck facade. The team will host the Colorado Rockies beginning tomorrow afternoon in the first round of the MLB playoffs. "It helps me get focused when I help out around the ballpark," said Manuel. "I used to fold up the seats in Cleveland until they became spring-loaded. Damn spring technology." Stairs and Manuel hung 150 of the red, white and blue decorations yesterday and assisted the grounds crew with spraying divisional logos onto the field. "Zip ties were invented in Canada or very close to Canada," explained Stairs, a New Brunswick native, referring to how the player and coach fastened the festive decorations to the stadium railings.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Americans shocked by tsunami destruction, spelling

Americans are both saddened and in disbelief at the complete destruction of many coastal villages on the island nations of Samoa and Tonga and the American territory of American Samoa by an unforgiving, fast-moving tsunami.

The enormous waves that crashed ashore on Tuesday morning were the result of a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in the South Pacific centered less than 200 miles from the tiny islands. The waves traveled over 500 miles per hour and were felt as far away as California.

The same shocked Americans expressed even greater astonishment at the spelling of the word tsunami. As people gathered around television sets in diners, airports, schools and cafeteria's from Hawaii to Maine news anchors were greeted with blank faces and tilted heads.

Despite the massive 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed over 200,000 people and, as a result, saw news networks reporting and showing the word on television and computer screens the world over hundreds of thousands of times for months after the event, Americans were still surprised by the "t" at the beginning.

"I was like, 'Where'd that "t" come from?'" said Neal Tomko, 39, of Sacramento, CA. "That word looks crazy with a "t" in the beginning. It looks like TS Unami. Isn't that an author?"

In Chicago's O'Hare Airport a small contingent of waiting passengers surrounded a wall-mounted television near Terminal 2's gate E10 just opposite the crowded Cinnabon. Flashing across the bottom of the screen, on one of the 24-hour news networks, was the headline, "South Pacific Tsunami Report."

A traveler standing in the back of the group, holding a bag of duty-free goods, attempted to explain: "I think the Tsunami Study and Information Center places a 't' in the beginning if they think the giant wave is either treacherous or terrible."

"No, no, no," a nearby passenger interrupted. "The 't' is part of a formula that helps in determining the magnitude of the earthquake that caused the wave. There's an equation or something."

A man flying to Orlando and carrying a box Cinnabons was convinced that the "t" was a plus sign.

Even some directly affected by the tsunami found the idea of a "t" in the word unbelievable.

"No way there's a 't' in tsunami," shouted a surprised Paul Totufulu, a resident of Samoa, from inside his small pickup truck positioned high atop a frail, leaning palm tree.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Desperate Cassel to add 'beck' to last name

Struggling Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback Matt Cassel has announced that he will change his last name in an attempt to ignite his sluggish 2009 start. The Chiefs traded for Cassel in the offseason after he led the Patriots to an 11-5 season in 2008. The young quarterback has battled injuries early on, but still holds high expectations even though the Chiefs are rebuilding.

"Starting tomorrow I will be known as Matt Casselbeck," said a confident Cassel. "I just need a change."

The new name should sound familiar to most NFL fans. Matt Hasselbeck is the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. Though currently injured, Hasselbeck has experienced strong success in the NFL highlighted by the 2006 Super Bowl appearance against the Steelers--a 21-10 loss.

Cassel hopes that the similar name will bring similar success to the University of Southern California graduate and former Tom Brady backup in New England.

Casselbeck will not hyphenate the new addition to his last name like other NFL players have done.

"I decided against the hyphen," said Casselbeck. "I'm just hoping that I can, at the very least, lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl loss one day in the future."

Reports that Cassel originally wanted to add 'hoff' to his last name are unconfirmed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lions beat bye week, 19-14, to break streak

The Detroit Lions (1-2) have finally done it. The city can breathe easier today. The football team that had lost 19 consecutive games dating back to 2007, including an 0-16 2008 campaign, won a game yesterday. The match up against the Bye Weeks (1-2) came down to the final play of the game and was celebrated by the home team as if it were the playoffs. Rob Zorn, head coach of the Bye Weeks, said,"It's like my team didn't even show up today. It's almost like it was our bye week." Lions players did not let the fact that it was their bye week take away from the hard fought victory. "You have to give the Bye Weeks credit," said Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. "They played hard and were able to put up 14 points on us."

Ford to install Braille on steering wheel controls

Ford Motor Company has announced that it will be adding a new feature to all of its vehicles with steering wheel control buttons starting in 2010. These control buttons, including volume, seek, cruise control, fan and temperature, will each feature Braille lettering to give visually impaired drivers more say over interior climate, cruise speed and noise level. The raised dot alphabet, which was developed in France in 1821, will help drivers match buttons with functions more quickly and easily. In addition, the dashboard cover will be removed to allow the driver to feel the speedometer needle as the automobile moves. The speedometer numbers will be raised to assist the driver in roughly estimating his or her speed. "We are creating independence. The driver will no longer have to ask an accompanying passenger to turn the volume down, change the radio station or set cruise control," said Pete Ford of Ford Motor Company. "Or, more importantly, with the exposed speedometer needle and numbers, 'How fast am I going?'"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Glanville, Lemieux, Bosworth applied for Vick mentorship

Michael Vick will play in his first regular season game in almost two years this coming Sunday. His journey back to professional athlete could not have occurred without the help of a trusted friend and adviser--a mentor, if you will.

Vick talked about his quest to find this mentor to guide his return to the playing fields of the NFL. Several months ago league commissioner Roger Goodell visited Vick in a Kansas prison and presented an idea to the former Atlanta Falcon and Nike spokesperson.

"Mr Goodell felt that having a mentor would help me deal with the obstacles I would face," said Vick. "We talked extensively about how to match me with the right individual."

On that same visit in May 2009 Goodell and Vick sat down, separated by 3-inch glass, and prepared a brief description of what they were looking for. The classified ad would then be posted on the popular craigslist website under the ETC category of the jobs section (the ad was later posted on

Mentor/Guiding Person/Mentoring Mentor: Do you like the outdoors? Do you like to make money? Are you good with people? We are looking for a mentor for former NFL player. Must be interested in mentoring. Must have at least three weeks mentoring experience. Must have own transportation. Valid driver's license. Application deadline is June 1st. Reply with "Interested in this mentor thing" in the subject line. Do not call or fax.

Over the next several weeks hundreds of applicants with varied backgrounds applied for the position and Vick conducted phone interviews with the most qualified. The hundreds were narrowed down to eight, who then met with Vick and Goodell personally.

The finalists included: former Atlanta Falcons' coach Jerry Glanville, Simon Cowell's brother, former Seattle Seahawks' linebacker Brian Bosworth, NHL great Mario Lemieux, former Indianapolis Colts' coach Tony Dungy, Two members of the band Hanson and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

"Jerry sent his application in early and really showed a lot of enthusiasm," said Vick. "He visited me in prison and we used Skype several times. Mario attempted to sway the decision with an autographed stick. Hanson seemed nervous at the interview. And Mary Lou was very organized, but Tony really blew me away."

We all know how this search ended. Vick and Goodell chose Tony Dungy who has been extremely successful in steering Vick back into the league and, most importantly, into Philadelphia communities and schools.

Notable applicants that did not make the final eight include: Montel Williams (who sent his application in one day after the deadline disqualifying the talk show host), the Dalai Lama, Tom Bosley, Michelle Kwan and Octomom. Pope Benedict XVI claimed the craigslist Vatican City site never posted the position.

"Honestly, it came down to Dungy and Simon Cowell's brother," said Goodell. "The fact that Tony coached a team whose mascot is a horse did not influence our decision in the least."

Tony Dungy will be in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to watch Michael Vick take his first step towards a second career and a second chance. The classy and well-liked Dungy, in a move to show respect toward mentor applicants not chosen, will be seated between Tom Bosley and Brian Bosworth.

"The Boz and The Boz will be with me," said Dungy. "Double Boz."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goldie Hawn to Reid: 'Leave wildcat to Netflix.'

Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn tried unsuccessfully to contact Andy Reid, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles had just been handed a lopsided loss, 48-22, to the high powered Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

"That's not football," said Hawn, a Redskins fan, about the Eagles use of the wildcat gadget play during the nationally televised game. "They left Kolb looking like a Bird on a Wire."

The suddenly-popular formation often sees a running back or wide receiver line up in the quarterback position taking the snap directly from the center and either running or handing off the ball.

The star of the 1986 film Wildcats--about an inner city Chicago high school football team--was so insulted by the Eagles' execution of the wildcat formation, which, incidentally, is not part of the film, that she had to reach out to the coach.

Hawn feels that if the wildcat formation is executed poorly by teams, that shouldn't be implementing it in the first place, then DVD rentals and sales of Wildcats the movie could be negatively affected.

American Video and DVD Rental Association (AVADRA) executive Robert Nowry says the numbers show otherwise.

"Since last season, when the wildcat really reestablished itself in the NFL, rentals of the film Wildcats have risen sharpley," said Nowry. "Was it because of the wildcat or because Kate Hudson, Hawn's daughter, was recently digitally added into several scenes for the 23rd anniversary edition? We may never know."

Hawn went on to say that she respected what Reid was trying to accomplish--taking pressure of his young quarterback--but that the number of wildcat plays ran was Overboard.

When Ben Hales, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for the Saints, in an attempt to defend Reid, hinted to the media that Hawns' knowledge of football did not match her onscreen character's deep understanding of the game the actress shot back.

Hawn replied: "That's none of his business. My football knowledge is private, Benjamin."

Wildcats costars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes agreed with Hawn saying that the wildcat has its place and it is not Philadelphia.

"While working on the set of Cheers, and to some extent Natural Born Killers, [the cast] would often debate the wildcat formation and its legitimacy and effectiveness. Andy, you're killing my DVD rental profits," pleaded Harrelson.

Reid addressed the controversy with Hawn and Harrelson at a news conference earlier this week.

"I'm not gonna get in to all that right now," muttered the coach.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Video edited? Father chased thrown foul ball

The feel-good baseball fan story of the year, a special moment between father and daughter, may have been altered some to make the moment even more special.

On Tuesday night in South Philadelphia during the Phillies-Nationals game outfielder Jason Werth fouled a pitch back toward Citizen Bank Park's upper deck. A fan in the first row leaned daringly over the railing and made a remarkable catch.

The often critical crowd cheered loudly with approval and the fan, Steve Monforto, awarded his young daughter the ball--who apparently thought it was an opposing teams' home run--who then threw it back towards the field. The crowd sighed and the heartwarming moment was all caught on tv.

What viewers at home didn't see, however, was what happened just after the little girl released the ball. It was at this point that Monforto lunged in an attempt to save the souvenir.

"It was the first foul ball I had ever caught and I really didn't want to lose it," said Monforto. "To be honest I didn't even realize a net was below. I figured the crowd on the first level would break my fall."

Monforto was quickly swallowed by the safety net (above photo) lining the edge of the upper deck, climbed out without the ball, as it had cleared the net, and embraced his daughter.

The television delay allowed the production team at Comcast SportsNet to edit out the diving father and only showed him hugging his daughter after he had climbed back into his seat.

"We felt it made a better story without the diving," said Comcast SportsNet's chief production manager, Garry Trumble. "I think we made the right call."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fan: 'I have a Grambling problem.'

Ted Jones has finally admitted to his problem and that is all his bookie ever wanted. "I was going to confront him at the end of last year, but I decided to hold off to see if he would seek help in the offseason," said Greg Holstrim, Jone's bookie. Jones is a 2002 graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana and has since relocated to Cherry Hill, NJ. After betting and losing $4,000 on Grambling's first football game, a loss at home to South Carolina State, Jones still did not seek help. "I do not have a Grambling problem," said the consultant at Daniels, Daniels and Ford, LLC in Palmyra, NJ. "It doesn't mean anything that I have bet on Grambling every game, no matter who they are playing, since 2002." Both friends and family finally confronted Jones on Wednesday hoping to thwart a bet for the Tigers' upcoming Saturday game against Northwestern State at home. The Tigers went on to win 38-17 and Jones collected $5,500. "Looking down and seeing all that money I realized I had a Grambling problem ... a serious Grambling problem."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Steelers let Pirates play wiffleball during halftime

The NFL Season got started on Thursday night in a game that matched last year's regular season champs versus the playoff champs. The Steelers hosted the Tennessee Titans and, in a defensive battle, eventually won the game in overtime 13-10.

Pittsburgh, the city, experienced quite a year by capturing both the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup. The attention focused on the hockey and football team has left the baseball team almost forgotten. But the popular Steelers sent a message to area fans during the kickoff of the NFL season on Thursday by letting the Pirates perform an exhibition wiffleball game.

"Basically the Steelers were looking out for the Pirates and letting them showcase there talent," said Professor Baker Hildebrand of Carnegie Mellon University.

Fans cheered when catcher Ryan Doumit hit the plastic ball through the stadium's north end field goal posts and into the stands. Were they cheering the home run? "I was cheering the field goal kicking contest at the south end. Who's Ryan Doumit? Let's go Steelers!" said a jubilant Steeler fan.

For most of the Pirates this was the first time playing in front a of sold out crowd. But it will not be the last as the Pirates will also play a wiffleball game between periods of a Penguins' preseason home game (yes, on ice and they will not have skates).

Monday, September 7, 2009

PhillyCarCher? Singer acquires car sharing nonprofit

The local nonprofit PhillyCarShare, which aims to reduce individual automobile ownership and dependence and promote car sharing on a community level in the Philadelphia region, has been purchased by Cher and Cher Alike, LLC of Los Angeles, CA. The same Cher and Cher Alike that is owned and operated by the world famous singer and actor Cher and a woman that looks very similar to the star.

The organization will eventually be renamed PhillyCarCher, but dates for the official name change have not been set. The organization’s new logo, however, has already been chosen (above photo) and will substitute the microphone with a key—the same key that currently adorns the sides of the nonprofit's fleet.

The Cher logo will be placed not only on the doors, but will appear on the hood, trunk, and underside of the vehicles. The singer's likeness will even be painted on to the numerous parking spaces scattered throughout the city.

The actress, who was turned down for a role in the film Who Killed the Electric Car and An Inconvenient Truth, has been a staunch supporter of car sharing and an environmentalist for years. She started LALALandCarCher in 2007 in Los Angeles, and, the following year, expanded to Anaheim (LALAAnCarCher) and San Diego (LALASanCarCher).

“It could be a very profitable nonprofit with my name attached,” said the singer from her home in Los Angeles. “This is a great day for Share and Cher Alike. Oops. I mean, Cher and Cher Alike, LLC.”

Officials at PhillyCarShare were excited about the takeover, hoping that the singer's star power will continue to grow the already large membership.

"It will definitely be exciting to have Cher around the office," said Renee Thomas, a PhillyCarShare board member, despite Cher strongly hinting that she will continue to live in LA. "I hope she sings at her desk. And if an employee is having a tough day I want her to say, 'Snap out of it.'"

Cher plans to keep the popular CDs containing music from local musicians that are provided by the nonprofit, but will add a plethora of her own CDs and DVDs for drivers to "rock out to."

"There will definitely be copies of Moonstruck, The Witches of Eastwick and Mask available for our customers," said Shirley MacAntyre, a PhillyCarShare rep. "But drivers will be placed on a point system. The more you drive, the more points you get and the more Cher merchandise you can receive."

At the end of each month, the driver with the most accumulated points will have the opportunity to take Cher along on a journey (no more than one hour) and have the singer perform live in the vehicle en route to the destination.

"Twelve times a year I'll be riding along with some Philly drivers. This is down right exciting," said Cher. "I will also act out scenes from my movies. But, I call shotgun for all trips."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vick disgusted by treatment of Dallas' scoreboard

The kicking didn't stop. Over and over again grown men were launching objects into its belly like a competition. To make matters worse a crowd looked on with anticipation at the brutality and later the vicious kicks were shown to a wider audience on television.

Sitting in his Waterfront Square condo Michael Vick became disgusted at the "highlights" he was viewing. The Philadelphia Eagles' newest quarterback was sick to his stomach and demanded answers. He wanted to know the facts. More importantly, he wanted to stop the improper treatment of Dallas' new stadium scoreboard.

Two weeks ago during a preseason game between the Tennessee Titans and the Cowboys at Dallas' new $1.1 billion stadium punter A.J. Trapasso struck the egregious video board with punt. Yes, he had attempted to hit the board in warm-ups and was successful, but this time he was not trying and it was fourth down.

"I really wasn't trying during the game," said a smiling Trapasso. "I swear it. I give you the punter's promise."

It has been said that the punters and kickers from both teams gathered on the field during warm-ups and bet each other whether or not they could hit the board, which is 90 ft above the turf. The FBI is apparently looking into the betting that may have seen anywhere from $10-$20 exchange hands, large sums for punter salaries.

So concerned is Vick that he has started PETOLS (People for the Ethical Treatment of Low-hanging Scoreboards). The nonprofit, operating out of Vick's living room, will keep a close watch on the future treatment of the giant video board. With only two paid staff at PETOLS this may difficult to accomplish.

"It's appalling," said Vick. "The way they were using footballs to beat the scoreboard made me nauseous. And the punters all had a good laugh about it, which makes it even worse."

Not everyone has been disappointed by what transpired in Dallas, at least not from what has indirectly resulted from the incident.

"This is what I meant when I said I wanted to see Michael get involved in the community and become active in a cause," said Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie. "This is being proactive. This is what I want. Few people know about the brutal treatment of low-hanging scoreboards in this and other leagues and Michael wants to change that."

Vick will be speaking to children in several Philadelphia elementary schools over the next several weeks to warn children about kicking footballs into overhead scoreboards. Lurie hopes to attend several of the meetings and support his fourth-string quarterback.

Though the Dallas scoreboard is the only one low enough in the league to be struck by a punt or kickoff at the moment Vick hopes to keep it that way.

"Right now it's the only board receiving this kind of treatment and I am willing to go to great lengths to make sure it is eventually raised," said an emotional Vick. "In the meantime I want the league to use Nerf footballs in Dallas during punts. PETOLS hopes to pay for those Nerf footballs."

The Virginia native also has reason to believe stadium maintenance crews are using electricity to power and water to clean the board.

PETOLS also plans to ad Tampa's Tropicana Field to it's list of abused stadium accessories. Tropicana Field contains numerous catwalks that are often struck by foul balls or high pops.

"So many people are telling me to slow down and concentrate on one scoreboard for the moment, but those catwalks are being mistreated too and so are the nets behind the field goals," said Vick. "But that's a whole other story."

To make a contribution to PETOLS visit: wwww.petols.corg/what/if/it/was/your/giant/scoreboard

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Police: Laser pointer came from passing planes

The Philadelphia Police Department has arrested Hank Tanner, 45, of Media, PA in connection with the laser pointer incident that took place at Citizens Bank Park back on July 25, 2009. Police also made four other related arrests, but would not release names of the men being held.

On the day of the incident the game between the Phillies and the St Louis Cardinals was halted for almost fifteen minutes while stadium crew members, security and outraged fans all searched the stands for the culprit. Umpires, players and coaches attempted to direct the search crew from the field (using laser pointers, nonetheless) towards the source based on the perceived angle of the fan's beam, which was somewhere behind the Phillies' dugout.

"Usually, a fan with a laser pointer is easily spotted by security or nearby fans and arrested on the spot," said Dale Higginsworth, head of Citizens Bank Park security. "It was a little embarrassing for us to not catch this person. We needed the help of fans."

This is where 12-year-old Phillies' backer Tommy Lenard comes in. The young fan was aboard U.S. Airways flight 498 from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia and noticed a passenger sitting on the right side of the plane peering out the window and laughing heartily as the jetliner made its final approach into Philadelphia International Airport.

"The man was holding something and kept saying, 'Can you see it?'" said Lenard. "He was on a cell phone, which he shouldn't be doing anyway while the plane is in the air. And he had this real strong belly laugh."

Philadelphia's stadium complex is only a short distance from the city's airport where jetliners fly low just to the south of the Park during landings.

Lenard withheld his story until yesterday when, during his first day of school at Hannerhan Elementary School, the teacher talked to the class about the dangers of laser pointers.

"I went right home after school and told my parents about the guy on the plane and we called the police," said Lenard.

Tanner is believed to be the mastermind of the laser pointer plot, which, at this time, is said to have included up to four other individuals. Police say Tanner placed each accomplice on different planes with long range pointers all landing during the afternoon game. Security confirmed that the five men, including Tanner, match the number of targeted Cardinal players that were eventually "lasered" on that Saturday in July.

"These guys are good," said Detective Bob Gavinach, of the PPD. "This took months of planning and really good lasering. You don't see lasering like this anymore. Maybe in the mid 90's but not today."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pirates' Plinko-like fan game laden with Steeler prizes

During the middle of the seventh inning of last night's Phillies-Pirates game in Pittsburgh's PNC Park the home team attempted to actively engage the sparse crowd again. There are several opportunities for (Pirates) fans to win prizes throughout the game and this particular engagement, er, contest, was called Bucco. It was difficult, however, for the Pirates marketing staff to find a Pirates fan, as the Phillies faithful turned the picturesque stadium into a sea of red.

Bucco is based on the Price-Is-Right game show contest in which a large chip is dropped down a slightly angled, peg-covered board with slots at the bottom each labeled with different prizes. The chip bounces off the pegs changing directions rapidly as the fans look on in anticipation of where the disk will fall.

Most of the prizes are baseball-related gear ... with an extremely bizarre twist. For example, a Pirates bat signed by Ben Roethlisberger(?), Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. Another prize was a glove with the likeness of Mike Tomlin, the Steelers head coach, stenciled into the leather. A replica of a batting glove that Steelers wide receiver Heinz Ward used as a little leaguer was also among the rewards.

"We get a little more fan interaction when we mix in Steelers names during some of our fan contests," said Sally Griffin, director of fan relations at the park, when asked about why the city's football team is so visibly represented in the contests. "Honestly, I think attendance would dip under 2,000 per game if we didn't do this."

The prize that has been most welcomed by the fans (and single-handedly credited for boosting attendance by 1,500 per game) calls for an impersonation of the popular former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher by a Pirates player or manager and shown on the JumboTron between innings.

Last night manager John Russell gave it his best shot and received a cheer of approval—yes, even by attending Phillies fans.

"I haven't been asked to do it since April and so I was rusty," said the manager after the game. "I looked like a scared Bill Cowher and not a feared Bill Cowher."

"I love when one of the Pirates' players has to do their best [Bill] Cowher impersonation," said Veronica Hansen, a fan from Greensberg, PA. "They all try to do the jaw, but they really can't. It's hilarious."

The prize list isn't completely devoid of Pirates gear. In fact, last night's Bucco participant declined four tickets to a future Pirates game that resulted from her first chip drop. She even passed on 2010 season tickets to the Pirates that came on her second drop.

"The crowd was urging me on to go for the impersonation prize," said Bucco player and Pirates fan Gail Stommers. "The handful of Pirates fans were chanting 'impersonation.' I had to take the chance."

Notes: In an effort to boost attendance the Pirates are considering a move to the Steelers' Heinz Field next year during Sunday games. "We might be able to trick some fans into coming," said Griffin. Also, the Pirates will attempt to have Ben Roethlisberger throw the ceremonial first pitch at all 81 home games.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In-game video session leads to Victorino intervention

During the bottom of the fifth inning in last Wednesday's Phillies-Cubs game in Chicago's Wrigley Field, four Phillies bench players, who preferred to remain anonymous, made a visit to the Phillies' clubhouse. The short trip was to watch video of the Cubs pitchers, in case called upon to later enter the game as pinch hitters.

The video session kept the players away for almost the entire bottom half of the inning. What they missed was an unruly Cubs bleacher fan tossing a full cup of $8 beer on teammate Shane Victorino as the center fielder attempted to catch a fly ball. When Victorino returned to the dugout, the smell of beer followed the All-Star as he moved past players, coaches and bat boys.

When the players emerged from the video session to enter the cramped dugout it was the top of the sixth inning and the game seemed to be progressing normally. The strong smell of beer was, at first, linked to the fans sitting behind the dugout--possibly a spill.

"I came out ready to pinch hit and I was so focused on what I needed to do," said one of the players. "I did, however, notice an unusually powerful skunked Coors Light odor."

It was at this point that the focused player paced the dugout floor itching and hoping to get into the game, then, needing to settle down, sat on the bench. He happened to sit next to Victorino who was sipping Gatorade, spitting seeds and gathering himself after the beer shower.

"Right away I smelled stale beer on Shane. I didn't know what to do," said another concerned player who had been in the clubhouse during the fifth inning. "There was beer all over his jersey. It's one thing to go out to the bar after the game and grab a few beers. It's totally another thing to pretend to drink Gatorade."

Again, the nervous dugout pacing started, but this time it was over concern for a teammate and no longer about entering the game.

"I considered pulling Charlie [Manuel] aside and asking him what to do. Shane is having such a great year and I didn't know why he was turning to the drink ... on the job!" said another player.

Eventually, the player asked the rest of the video session group to help him confront the outfielder about the beer.

Just before the beginning of the seventh inning the group of four players slowly and discreetly formed a circle around teammate Shane Victorino. They asked to speak to Shane privately in the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.

"I told them that in the fifth inning some crazy fan threw a beer on me," said a smiling, but annoyed Victorino. "They had totally missed that entire incident while they were studying tape of the Cubs."

"At first, we thought it was an excuse, then we realized what we had missed. The whole team had a good laugh," said one of the four players. "One of those good hearty laughs."