Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ride the Ducks seeks access to city's fountains

Above: A Duck boat splashes into the fountain in Rittenhouse Square during a test run of a proposed idea that would permit the sightseeing amphibious vehicles to regularly use the small collections of water.

Philadelphia, PA--The following could possibly be overheard at many of Center City's crowded parks come the spring: "Mommy, the penny I just threw in the fountain was just run over by that big boat-truck thingy, does that mean my wish won't come true? Honey, I can't hear you over the quacking whistles, you'll have to speak louder."

The Ride the Ducks sightseeing amphibious vehicles have been missing from Philadelphia since the tragic accident on July 7 that claimed the lives of two Hungarian tourists after a collision with a barge on the Delaware River. Despite this, the company is forecasting a March 2011 return to the waters that does not include either the Schuylkill or the Delaware Rivers.

If not the rivers, then where? Well, if the company and city have there way, how about the plethora of ornate fountains that often center many of our urban parks?

"We want to put the amphib back in amphibious," said Carl Baker, a Philadelphia Ride the Ducks representative. "We've been out of operation these past several months and we're itching to get back on the city's waterways. Plus, it would only be the larger fountains ... and a handful of smaller ones and really small ones."

That's right, move over pennies, watch out swimming residents and heads up to those gathered along the fountains' edges, Ride the Ducks could be your new neighbor.

The Georgia-based company has made it clear that they will cover all costs to retrofit fountains to accommodate its bulky fleet. If a fountain is too small, for example in Fitler Square, Ride the Ducks will call for a redesign, and, in some cases, bring in entirely new fountains, so that a Duck can fit and make several "comfortable" laps.

"The depth of the fountains is really our main concern right now," said Vince Buster, vice president of the Greater Philadelphia Office of Tourism and Marketing, who is strongly backing the plan. "The average water depth of a fountain in the city is 1.4 feet, which is well below the 6.1 feet required for a Duck boat to float. As we found out last week during the test runs, the Ducks are more driving through the fountain water than cruising. So, is it really a true amphibious tour of the city? I don't know how to answer that."

Don't look for skate boards to return any time soon to Love Park, but do keep your eyes out for Ride the Ducks in the popular fountain in the middle of the bustling downtown square. Also, the company has requested that the dyeing of the fountain's water, which has become hugely popular in recent years, be halted out of "fear of staining the amphibious vehicles' white hulls."

City officials were excited about the idea of large, noisy vehicles climbing and descending small ramps and plunging into the historic works of art.

"When I heard the idea," said Valorie Strohman, an adviser to Mayor Michael Nutter, "I pictured me and my family quacking away with the Wacky Quacker whistles as the Duck vehicle splashed into the fountain at Logan Circle. What a great learning experience that would be for the kids. Plus, it'd be loads of fun."

For the proposed idea to be approved, it is believed that Ride the Ducks must provide the mayor and members of City Council with an "endless supply of quacking whistles." This could be a deal breaker for a company who has a patent not only on the Wacky Quackers themselves but their sound as well.

"I don't know about shelling out an endless supply of Wacky Quackers," said Baker. "That's a little steep. We're kind of funny when it comes to our whistles, but we'd be more than happy to give one per councilperson ... and a coupon for a Chic-fil-A sandwich. However, not all Chic-fil-A's are participating."

Above: A Duck boat enters the Love Park fountain last week during a test run. The vehicle was coated with a special lubricant so that the fountain's dye would not discolor the hull.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

James, Wade, Bosh confused, thought Heat games would use 3 basketballs

Boston, MA--Last night, the Miami Heat and their big three--LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh--lost, quite surprisingly, to the Celtics, 88-80. After the game, the three stars complained about the fact that there was only one basketball used during play. "I thought they were joking when they started the game with only one jump ball," said Chris Bosh. "I was expecting three separate jump balls at the same time. Pat [Riley] said that if all three of us signed in Miami, all Heat games would utilize three basketballs, even during the regular season. This is some bull#%&*." The two other stars agreed and said they have been practicing all summer and fall using three basketballs in scrimmages and the preseason. "Tonight," James said after the disappointing loss,"there just were not enough basketballs to go around. Hopefully this is taken care of before the next game because I've been working on this crazy dunk where I use all three balls."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Phils to send Brian Wilson carpet cleaning bill after champagne washes away beard dye

Above: The visiting clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park is marred by a black stain on the carpet that was discovered in the early morning hours on Sunday following the Giant's game six NLCS victory and the champagne celebration that ensued. A member of the maintenance staff came across the blemish and made several attempts to remove it before calling 911. Giants' closer Brian Wilson, who admittedly colors his facial hair jet black, is being blamed for ruining the $40,000 carpet, which has been signed by every opposing player that has passed through the room. In addition, the team has spent over $1000 in cleaning bills that they say Wilson is responsible for. Beard dye, according to the Just For Men website, washes right off when exposed to large, prolonged doses of cheap champagne. "They have no proof that it was me," said Wilson, sporting a light brown beard.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Phils loss brings up old debate: Should NLCS be best-of-fifteen or even best-of-seventeen?

Above: Ryan Howard reacts after striking out to end the game and the NLCS, while the Giants celebrate in the background. Afterwards, Howard said all the Phillies needed was a "few more games and they could have pulled it out." For years, Major League Baseball has toyed with the idea of making the NLCS a best-of-fifteen or even seventeen. Television networks have long called for a policy to adjust the best-of format on the fly to assist the team that would bring the best ratings in the World Series. "If we had our way," said Dennis Graham of Fox Sports, "the Phils and Giants would have played game 7 on Sunday night because the series would have been changed to a best-of-nine format. If the Phillies lost that one, it would have gone to a best-of-eleven."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Future field trespasser putting lots of faith into jet pack

Media, PA--A crumpled up piece of paper ricocheted off the rim of the gray, steel Ikea trash can and landed on the burgundy rug, startling the curled up black lab napping in the corner. The ball of blue-lined, 3-holed paper was not alone, it lay in a field of red surrounded by identical scrapped ideas.

Bill C. Turner, 23, is a fifth-year senior at Swarthmore College majoring in mathematics. Though the college is in the heart of the fall semester, which means midterm time, Turner is not studying for his exams, rather, he is preparing for a test of a whole different kind.

The Delaware County native is a diehard Phillies fan and has been planning for weeks to show his allegiance and support of the team by leaving his seat in the fourth inning of an upcoming home playoff game, hopping over the railing and running onto the field. However, Turner feels that his venture onto the grass will end much, much differently than those before him.

"I was devising a plan to actually run onto the field at Citizens Bank Park, avoid security for a length of time and escape," explained Turner about the countless paper balls on the floor and the pencil sketches on the inside. "I kept coming back to the same solution: the jet pack."

What lay on the floor were calculations, including square roots, standard deviations, arc lengths, arm flapping rate per second, fuel weight volume, bungee cord diameters, miniature helicopter torque specs, lift-power of 1200 pigeons, a Domino's Pizza phone number, trajectory predictions and lots of stick figures.

Because fans running onto the field are prosecuted, Turner would not give his middle name or reveal the town where Swarthmore College is located.

"Ever since the tasing incident," said Turner about the teenage fan that was tasered by police earlier this season for coming onto the field of play, "I thought there had to be a better way. You know? I mean, does fan trespassing always have to end in arrest? Can't people just run onto the field and then ... fly away?"

Turner plans to somehow bring a small jet pack--covered with Red Bull advertising-- into the stadium under a large Phillies parka. He admits that the the personal flying device will slow him down once on the field, but, after liftoff, hopes to hover just out of reach of security before taking a "victory flight" around the base paths and eventually exiting the facility by flying over the outfield Liberty Bell.

"And, who knows, I might even make a return flight to Ashburn Alley in the late innings. All that jet packing could make me hungry."

Giants' pitcher refuses to alter unorthodox follow through, says 'it is what it is'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'Terror Behind the Balls?': Local haunted house actors tease coworker about severe jock odor

Fairmount, Philadelphia--Tony Luprin, 29, looks forward every year to the Halloween season, the Francesville resident claims that he actually begins to lose sleep with anticipation by late August. Luprin's restlessness grows from his excitement as a local actor who takes part in "Terror Behind the Walls," the castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary's annual haunted house.

His specific role varies each year, but in the past he has portrayed a deranged inmate, wounded prison guard and a chainsaw-wheeling doctor.

The harrowing event spans September, October and November and has been ranked the country's number one haunted house several times, and helps financially support this National Historic Landmark in the neighborhood just north of Center City.

Luprin is well-known among his Penitentiary coworkers for his dramatic portrayals of the characters he plays, but he is also known among them for another reason.

"Last year, I was partnered with him in the haunted 3-D room for a couple nights and it just became too much," said coworker Paul Donnemiller, 41, of Brewerytown about Luprin's severe jock odor. "I had to get reassigned. I couldn't do it. That guy's jock odor is ripe."

The actor claims to have a perfectly good explanation for this odor.

"I'm a runner, I play soccer and I bike all over the city," explained Luprin. "So, yeah, I get sweaty. Honestly, I don't notice the smell at all, but I guess it's a lot like living next to a noisy highway or elevated train: you get used to it. It's not like I don't bathe. Although, sometimes I go right to work from a soccer game. So yeah, sometimes I don't bathe."

The actor's hygienic problem has earned him the nickname "Terror Behind the Balls." At first, it was a name that was used strictly behind his back--a kind of "quiet everyone, here comes Terror Behind the Balls"-type situation. But he soon learned of the name and had no hard feelings.

"Yeah, we call him 'Terror Behind the Balls.' I actually came up with it," said Jessica Houser. "I think in a weird way he kind of likes being called that. In fact, he doesn't really answer to Tony anymore."

Some have said that the haunted house's number one ranking could be partly due to Luprin's frightening jock odor.

"We like to tease Tony, but it's all in good fun," said Sarah Glastone, 33, who uses a nightstick to bang on cell door bars as unsuspecting visitors to the haunted house pass by. "But, seriously dude, you gotta do something about that jock odor. You're scaring the crap out of the visitors."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Obnoxious Giants fan quiets down after learning heartbreaking Golden Gate Bridge fact

San Francisco, CA--The Walt Whitman Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge? Though you can't see either from AT&T Park, nestled on the east side of the city, home to over 800,000, the two structures were at the center of a drunken tirade spanning (pun intended) several innings during Game 3 of the NLCS.

Damon Fullerton, a rabid Giants fan from Daly City, CA, is considered by most in AT&T Park's section 234, where the computer programmer has season tickets down the left field line, to be somewhat of a loud mouth.

"We're all Giants' fans, so we tolerate Damon," said Debbie McGeckrin, also a season ticket holder two rows behind Fullerton. "He's knows his stuff, but he really likes to get under the skin of the opposing team's fans with stats ... on all subjects. Sometimes he has some really good zingers. He's a Northeast baseball fan that happened to be born in San Fransisco."

Yesterday, the atmosphere of the second round of the MLB playoffs put Fullerton into a rare mood and his fellow Giants' supporters were loving it.

"Hey, section 234, did you know that Philadelphia's Walt Whitman Bridge is the 46th longest suspension bridge in the world," shouted a standing Fullerton, so the handful of earshot Phillies fans could hear. "Pretty impressive, right? Well, maybe, until you realize that the Golden Gate Bridge is the 9th longest. Sucks to be you Philly."

The surrounding crowd, fired up after just taking a 2-0 lead in the game, gave a big round of applause to this factoid thrown at them, unsolicited, by the beer-toting man draped in orange and performing the sprinkler dance. The cheering seemed to encourage Fullerton, as you could see the gears were slowly moving inside his baseball-capped head.

"Hey, section 234," again yelled the father of two, this time getting a 'hey what' in return from the all-the-sudden attentive fans. "Did you know that the City of Brotherly Shove's Ben Franklin Bridge is the 57th longest in the world? They can really build 'em out there, huh? Oh, but wait, this just in: the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the 37th longest. Wow, sorry again Filth-adelphia."

Again, most of the nearby sections cheered, and, when the clapping and whistling died down, a response was issued.

"Hey, buddy!" shouted Frank Cohen, 44, a mechanical engineer for Boeing in Delaware County, PA, wearing a Ryan Howard jersey while following his Fightin's on the road. "The Golden Gate Bridge has 68,000 tons of Bethlehem Steel. That's Bethlehem, PA, you asshole! That's Phillies' country. Sprinkler on that."

Fullerton, who had no immediate comeback and appeared to be in a state of disbelief over this fact, was bright red with embarrassment, quickly sat down and vented his steam by finishing off several Anchor Steam beers. Three innings later, he was ready with a rebuttal.

"Hey, to that Philly guy who said that stuff about my bridge that's mine. You don't know anything at all you don't know," slurred Fullerton, unable to stand without the support of a nearby fan's shoulder. "What'd they do? They send it by boat across the country on a train? What'd they do? Answer me wherever you are. They get a boat and drive through the Panamanian Canal? Canal. Can Al help me sit down?"

The stumbling Giant fan was on to something. The steel for the iconic bridge was, in fact, shipped from the east coast, south through the Panama Canal and to San Francisco. Only at a baseball game!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phillies, ballpark bracing for kayak inundation in Ashburn Alley

Above: Citizens Bank Park directors hired a Philadelphia Police Photoshop specialist to show what Ashburn Alley could look like over the weekend when the Giants come to town for games 1 and 2 of the NLCS. The kayakers could cause problems in the Alley.

South Philadelphia--Hank Blaylock gave a long sigh on Monday night after Miguel Cabrera grounded out to third base ending the Braves season and sending the San Francisco Giants into the NLCS, a date with the Phillies, for the first time since 2002.

Blaylock is executive director of Ashburn Alley, the mega-popular promenade just beyond the outfield seating sections in Citizens Bank Park named for the talented and one of the most well-liked Phillies' players and announcers of all time, Richie Ashburn. The brick-paved walk reaches capacity throughout the game as it is lined with food concessions that makes it a Philadelphia cuisine lover's paradise.

"Why did I sigh on Monday night?" repeated a wide-eyed Blaylock at an NLCS news conference in Center City, yesterday. "Because they're coming. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it."

Blaylock, somewhat surprisingly, is referring to the many Giants fans that will make the trip eastward from California to Philadelphia to follow their local nine on the road during this playoff run. These orange-clad fans from a great baseball town on the tip of a peninsula are not particularly known for being rowdy or obnoxious, so why all the concern?

"Kayaks!" interrupted Shane Deloitte, Blaylock's assistant. "They love their kayaks out there in San Fran. Always paddling around McCovey Cove and what not. Yeah, in those lousy kayaks. They're going to bring those bulky, plastic floating masses with them right onto Ashburn Alley and there ain't nothin' we can do about it."

It is true, Citizens Bank Park has no policy specifically prohibiting kayaks from entering the stadium. In fact, only two Major League clubs have banned the personal recreation watercraft: the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. These two franchises, one a division rival and the other just across the Bay, grew tired of having to accommodate visiting Giants' fans and the accompanying kayaks. Before banning them all together, the A's set a maximum of 5.5 ft per "anything that floats." This, after fans were caught riding down the stairs of the upper deck.

"My advice to Blaylock and his staff: cater to the kayakers as best you can," said San Diego's PetCo Park fan relations director Tony Rosenburg, who has plenty of experience with the backers from the City by the Bay. "If you start banning them from this part of the stadium and that part of the stadium or the parking lots, then you're going to really agitate and provoke them. You don't want to see a drunk, life jacket-wearing Giants' fan in a sea of red swinging a kayak and shouting:'Nobody criticizes our cable cars.'"

The Phillies said they will not close off any areas of the stadium, despite Blaylock's concerns over limited space on all the concourse areas. The team is also permitting kayaks to gather on the sidewalks and streets surrounding the ballpark, with the highest numbers expected on 10th St beyond the outfield seats and Ashburn Alley.

Above: San Francisco hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2007. The weekend's events brought kayakers from all over the Bay Area to McCovey Cove in an effort to catch or recover a home run ball that cleared the right field stands. These kayakers are expected in Philadelphia this weekend in large numbers--inside the stadium.

Chilean government official: 'These guys aren't minors ... Oh ... miners!'

Rescuers shocked as 'minors' turned out to be miners

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reviews are in: Stadium Holiday Inn rooftop bleachers huge hit

South Philadelphia--Since the opening of Citizens Bank Park in 2004, the nearest part of the city's skyline, the Holiday Inn, has longed to cash in on it's proximity to the stadium complex by offering guests an unmatched "sporting experience." To do this, they climbed the hotel steps ... all of them. And, when the staircase ended, an idea was born.

The Yuengling Top O' the Bleachers at the Holiday Inning, the official name of the hotel's new rooftop game seating area, opened late last month to packed crowds. According to permits, the rooftop bleachers can seat up to 400 people, but some have estimated crowds over 600 gathered on every inch of available space.

Most of these fans have had nothing but positive reviews.

"It was really a great experience," said Ian Offerman, 56, of Point Breeze, who watched Roy Halladay's no-hitter through a telescope on the hotel roof. "The sight lines are awesome. The food is classic. And the back of the animatronic Liberty Bell is poetic. Plus, with military-strength binoculars, I can just make out Bull's Barbecue. Is that the Bull himself?"

"It's like Chicago, but really, really far from the field. And, really, really high up off the ground," said Sean McBride, a dentist from Marlton, NJ, comparing the seats to Wrigley Field's Waveland and Sheffield Ave rooftop stands. "All that was missing was the bratwurst ... and Ditka."

Venturing to the top of the 12-story hotel, however, especially as the seasons change and the shadows grow longer and the days shorter, is not for the faint of heart.

"The games are sold-out, so now the Holiday Inn is the diehard fan's only option," said Carol Francis, 38, dressing in layers for the 20-mph sustained winds that are part of the rooftop experience. "Oh, it's windy up there. During the last game, my eyes got so watery, I missed the final eight innings."

"The wind howls and you really can't hear the person next to you talk," said John Denpher, a Phillies fan from Trappe, PA. "But when it's blowing in the right direction, you can hear the roar of Citizens Bank [Park]."

The Phillies appear to welcome the new seats and plan to count the fans as part of the overall attendance for the respective game, despite being almost a quarter-mile away.

Holiday Inn's management said the bleachers will be open for Eagles' games beginning in November. Also, the hotel plans to add restrooms to the roof area. Currently, fans must climb the steps down to the lobby restrooms. Next season, a kids playland will be added to the very back edge of the roof.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Unbelievable: Halladay records his first playoff hit, RBI, run scored

Philadelphia, PA--The Phillies lead their National League Division Series 1-0 after winning the opening game, 4-0, over the Cincinnati Reds at a raucous Citizens Bank Park, thanks in part to a bat that is not a regular contributor to this dangerously powerful offense.

The Phillie's ace right-handed pitcher, Roy Halladay, who started his first playoff game last night after twelve postseason-less years in the league with Toronto, went 1 for 3 with a single (his first playoff hit) that drove in Carlos Ruiz (his first playoff RBI) to give the team a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Later in the inning, he would score his first playoff run when Shane Victorino singled to center field.

"Roy was struggling on the mound. He walked a guy with two outs in the fifth inning and everyone was a little concerned," said Ruiz, the Phils' catcher who has had a tremendous 2010 season. "Roy didn't have his best stuff, but he made up with it with his bat."

No one, including the workhorse pitcher and members of the media, wanted to discuss the Colorado native's pitching performance at the conclusion of the game. Television reporters pleaded with the seven-time All-Star for an on-field interview to discuss his second-inning single to left field.

In the clubhouse, a media mass converged on Halladay's locker to get details of how it felt to score his first playoff run.

"What went through your mind when you stepped on home plate?" asked one reporter. Halladay, who appears uncomfortable discussing personal achievements, said that he was happy the team got the win. The ultimate professional, Halladay talked briefly about the hit and admitted that he thought it was going to be caught as it quickly dropped to the turf.

Phils' manager Charlie Manuel was thrilled by the pitcher's bat performance, but realizes "Doc" needs to work on his pitch control. "It's great when a hurler can help his own cause by driving home a run or two. But, he walked that batter in the fifth and [Rich] Dubee [Phillies pitching coach] and I just looked at each other like, 'this guy is killing us. What's with this freakin' guy.' We picked up the bullpen phone, but it was only to scare him a bit."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Was standing ovation for a certain beloved snack cake mascot?

Philadelphia, PA--The national media, for once, praised Delaware Valley sports fans for their generous reception for the return of 11-year ex-Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. The nearly-minute long standing ovation was recognized, with a smile and wave, and appreciated by the new Washington Redskins' signal caller that led the home team to five NFC Championship games.

Standing behind McNabb on the field at the time of the ovation, however, was the beloved Kirby Krimpet, the mascot for Philadelphia-based Tasty Baking Company's butterscotch Krimpet, one of the city's iconic snack cakes.

"I told my buddy that I was disappointed that they didn't announce McNabb to the crowd," said Hank Barns, an Eagles' fan from Lansdowne, PA, who was seated in section 112 for the game. "He said they did, but it was at the same time that Kirby Krimpet came onto the field. I just get
so excited when I see Kirby Krimpet that I didn't even notice McNabb. I really was looking forward to seeing Donovan."

"This is embarrassing, but I was standing for Kirby Krimpet," said Tyler Supanoff, 54, from East Philadelphia. "I mean, you know it's a big event when Kirby makes an appearance. I feel horrible that I didn't see Donovan. I wanted to show my appreciation for all that he did for this team. I feel horrible."

The mascot, who made his debut in 1994, is regularly brought out for big sporting events at the South Philly sports complex.

"Kirby is like our new Kate Smith, but without the beautiful voice. Come to think of it, he doesn't sing ... or talk," said Teresa Gambone, a Lincoln Financial Field operations manager, referring to the famous singer that became a good luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers during the 1970's while performing the national anthem before games. "Yeah, he really has no voice, but he's still our Kate Smith. A really quiet Kate Smith."

Part of the fixation with the mascot stems from the mystery of exactly how the Tasty Baking Company gets the icing on top of all Krimpet snack cakes.

"It is the age old question in Philadelphia: How do they get that icing on top of the Krimpet? I guess we'll never know," said Zack Galler, 45, of Francisville. "My kids and I go crazy when we see Kirby. My son has a t-shirt that reads,'Kirby+Krimpet=Kirby Krimpet.' It's priceless."

McNabb said after the game that he thought the standing ovation was for him until he panned around and saw Kirby Krimpet. "I really thought they were clapping for me, then I turned to see that walking, grinning Krimpet behind me. Philly loves that thing. I was a little embarrassed that I waved to the crowd and a little hurt that I had to share the stage with that delicious, icing-topped snack cake. How do they get that icing on top?"