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.