Friday, January 28, 2011

Super Bowl: Steelers,Packers merged to become Stackers during 1990 season because of First Gulf War

Dallas, TX--The Super Bowl is set and two storied NFL franchises will battle on February 6th deep in the heart of Texas (the stars at, it's a dome). The Packers and the Steelers, who joined the league in 1921 and 1933, respectively, have won a total of 18 championships. As one NFL analyst put it: "That's a dang awful lot of championships when you do the arithmetic."

Though these teams will push, shove, hit, grab, trash talk, bite, punch, slam, lead with the head, lead with the elbow, fake smile, finger wave, step on, fake clap and tackle each other a littler more than a week from now, 20 years ago it was much more cordial.

On August 31, 1990, the Steelers and Packers merged to officially become the Pitt Bay Stackers after the U.S. declared war on Iraq earlier in the month pulling hundreds of NFL players away from the sport and onto the battlefields of the Middle East. The union would last only one year and was modeled after the 1943 merger of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Steelers to form the Steagles because of World War II's insatiable demand for soldiers.

"We were really short of players because of Saddam [Hussein]," said former Steelers' legendary coach Chuck Noll, paging through an old photo album from the 1990 season. "It was interesting to say the least. I remember I had to share the head coaching duties with Packers' coach Lindy Infante. We were forced to wear a suit that joined us together. It looked like we had three legs, like a three-legged race. It took us a while to get used to it, but it was eventually fun."

Fun for some but difficult for others. The logistics were a bit of a nightmare, especially for fans. During the 16-game season, three games were played in Three Rivers Stadium (Steelers) and three in Lambeau Field (Packers), while the two remaining "home" games were played halfway between the two cities in Kendallville, Indiana's high school stadium.

"I remember making the drive from Pittsburgh to Kendallville," said Stackers' general manager Donald Taylor, who had stepped in for the two GM's who traded front office desks for fatigues. "That drive was brutal, but the Indiana people were great. In honor of the Stacker name, they attempted to stack thousands of canned goods on top of each other during halftime to make a pyramid. I think two residents were seriously wounded in the process."

At halftime of the Super Bowl, before the always-enjoyable musical performance, the league will honor the Stackers, who compiled a 4-12 record, as former members will jog around the perimeter of the field wearing shirts with the team's logo from that season (pictured above) and carrying a 30-ft, 200- pound I-beam made entirely from cheese.

"I got a call from the league about a month ago and they were like were you on the Stackers back in 1990?" said Stackers' linebacker Daniel Farnsworth, 49, from his Miami home and whose only NFL season was 1990. "I was like, 'I sure was.' I thought people forgot about the Stackers. I can't wait to see the whole gang in Dallas. This is gonna be sweet."

"I miss the Stackers," said Gene Rezouse, president of the Pitt Bay Stackers Historical Society, based in Green Bay for six months and Pittsburgh for six months over the course of a year. "But I really miss those I-beam-shaped blocks of cheese."

Pittsburgh and Green Bay will forever be linked by the Stackers, and the two decades that have passed has only strengthened this tie. "There will be no loser of this Super Bowl," said one Steeler fan. "That 4-12 record from 1990 will improve to 5-12 no matter what happens in Dallas. Go Stack Go."

White supremacist feeling 'bummed out' after producers of reality tv show 'Amazing Race' reject latest idea for new episode

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

81st Schuylkill River First-Freeze Festival still thrilling club members

Powelton Village, Phila.--Last week, in the middle of the night, Becky Meyers was startled from her slumber by a 2:30 am wake up call. The voice at the other end delivered only two simple words to the groggy University of Pennsylvania philosophy professor before hanging up. "Icy, icy." A tear rolled down her cheek and into her wide, teeth-baring grin.

Meyers, along with roughly 750 other like-minded individuals, impatiently wait for these two words every year. The Schuylkill River First-Freeze Festival Club is a group of cold weather enthusiasts that celebrate the arrival of an ice-covered Schuylkill River.

"Obviously this event is totally dependent of Mother Nature," said Kent Crossman, who was elected secretary of the club, a three-year term, after a controversial recount last spring. "It began in 1898 and, including this year, has been held 81 times. It's sad for all of our members when the river doesn't entirely freeze from bank to bank over the course of a winter. I've experienced a few of those."

Because the river ice can melt as fast as it freezes, the club is on call 24 hours a day beginning in mid to late November, in the rare case that the region sustains a cold weather spell earlier than expected. When the call finally comes, the members gather along the shores with folding chairs, picnic tables, hot beverages and more varieties of soup than are known to exist before delicately venturing onto the ice.

"Really, the main goal of the club and the First-Freeze Festival is to throw a party on thin ice and see who can last the longest without falling through," said Meyers. "We've gotten so good at this that we haven't had a person fall through the ice, which is often less than an inch thick, since I've been a member. That's 27 years."

Today, the internet and telephone facilitate the communication between these frigid freaks, but early on it was a rookie member's job to sit by the river and ... watch.

"In the early 1900's, new members would be chosen to watch the river to alert others when a freeze occurred on the Schuylkill," said Meyers. "They would then run through the streets clapping and shouting, 'icy, icy.' There are also accounts of these 'freeze warners' using musical triangles to assist projection."

Kyle Grubbs has been a member since 2002 and although he wouldn't get into specifics about his technique to remaining on the dry side of the ice, he did hint about weight distribution.

"I've adapted my technique over the years," said the Northern Liberties accountant. "At first, I would put all of my weight on one foot. Club membership forbids me to give technique details, but let's just say I don't use the one foot method anymore."

For years, the city made every effort to put a halt to this dangerous past time. The pressure from law enforcement to end the event, however, became severe in 1920 after 350 people died after crashing through the ice beneath the South Street Bridge. Club president at the time Rory O'Reilly, later attributed the catastrophe to the warmer waters that usually collect under bridges, a fact unknown until 1921.

The club, however, would not go away. And so in 1922, the First-Freeze Festival Club and the city agreed that new members would have to be trained in the art of thin-ice maneuvering and needed to pass a board-approved exam to become a member.

"If it wasn't for those persistent club members of 1922," said Crossman, "we wouldn't be freezing our @$$e$ off today."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reid backpacking through Southeast Asia, spotted on Bangkok's Khoasan Road

Bangkok, Thailand--As the Eagles' defensive coordinator saga drags on, details are emerging about why numerous qualified candidates have withdrawn their names from consideration for the vacant position.

These past two years have been quite difficult on Andy Reid: signing a controversial quarterback, sending his longtime quarterback south on I-95, benching the quarterback he promised to start for the controversial quarterback and, finally, searching for a defensive coordinator.

It has been reported that the head coach took a "vacation" earlier this month seeking some much needed rest and relaxation from the chaotic life of the NFL. Reid may, however, be on more than a vacation, as the coach was spotted on Khoasan Road, a popular backpacker gathering spot in the Thai capital. The above photo was taken yesterday when the team's front office claimed the coach was in his Lincoln Financial Field office working diligently on filling the position.

The photographer, an Eagles' fan from Ardmore attending Bangkok State University, said the coach was yelling instructions into his headset and throwing his challenge flag at "anyone who looked at him funny."

"I saw Andy on Khoasan Rd and he wasn't himself," said the student, who wanted to remain anonymous. "He purchased a bunch of Calvin Klein knockoff challenge flags from a street vendor and then disappeared into the crowd."

"Andy is doing some solo backpacking--and some soul-searching--through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Australia," said Eagles' president Joe Banner, realizing they couldn't cover up the coach's whereabouts any longer. "We got him a nice new backpack and off he went. We expect him back for the preseason opener next season."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Interview with the Ryans: Buddy, Rex and Rob open up about bounties, Belichick, Browns, Braman, pork chops and handshakes

WilliamPennmanship: First off, I would like to thank the three of you for taking the time to talk with me. I realize that you traveled to Philadelphia, at your own cost, solely for the purpose to participate in this interview and that is greatly appreciated by everyone here at WilliamPennmanship. Two of you even flew here. I mean, Rex, you're in the middle of a playoff run, so I totally get the effort that was made. Do you guys want anything to drink? I have water or milk.
Ryan's: No, we're good.

WP: Hey guys, let me move some of this junk around and you can have a seat on this sofa. Sorry for this mess. Rex and Rob, could you grab those two boxes and I'll grab the pile of newspapers and you guys can sit down. Sorry about the heat, it's a long story. Here's a blanket. Let me just light this kerosene heater, it's gonna smell for about 15 minutes. Careful, one of those cushions on the couch has a piece of wire sticking up. Also, would you guys mind taking your shoes off?
(The Ryan's take a seat. Lots of sighing.)
So, let's get started. Do you guys, primarily Buddy, get to come to Philadelphia much? You're a legend here, Buddy. This is a real thrill for me.
Buddy Ryan: Oh, I love this city and the fans. I don't visit as much as I would like to, but I love coming back. Especially since Norman Braman [Eagles' former owner] lives in Florida now.
Rex Ryan: First, let me say that I really did think that travel costs were being covered by WP. I have my Amtrak ticket right here. And, B, I love Philly. I love that it's in southeastern Pennsylvania. There's something about the Schuylkill River that ... just sets the tone of this town.
Rob Ryan: I was here during the preseason this year. And, I will disagree with my brother and say that the Delaware River is really the most beloved river in the region. It makes things go.

WP: When was the last time the three of you were together?
Rob: We were all in Foxboro last week to watch Rex and the Jets beat the Patriots.

WP: Buddy, you have to be pretty excited about your son appearing in the AFC championship game for the second straight year?
Buddy: Oh, Number 2 (Buddy's nickname for his son Rob) coached for Cleveland this year and they didn't do so hot.

No, I mean Rex.
Buddy: Oh, sure. Of course, Number 1 (Buddy's nickname for son Rex). I am very, very proud of Number 1. I was joking a bit. I like to take jabs at Number 2 and remind him that he hasn't secured an NFL head coaching job yet.
Rob: (Rolls eyes) Dad, you're embarrassing me.

WP: Rex and Rob, you guys have the same birthday, how is this possible?
Rex: We're twins.
WP: That's cool. Fair enough.

WP: Buddy, did you ever consider naming either of your sons Ryan or Brian?
Buddy: You mean so that their full names would have been Ryan Ryan and Brian Ryan?
WP: Yes.
Buddy: Dammit. That would have been some good ol' fashion torture. Where were you 48 years ago?

WP: Casey, get down off the couch. Sorry about that guys. That's really my dog's couch. Casey, get down. Casey! Down! This is really embarrassing. Do you want a biscuit? Casey, get ... good boy. Sorry about that.

WP: I hate to go here, but I have to. Rex, how did your father's 1989 "Bounty Bowl" incident influence your career?
Rex: (The three laugh) Well, I was only 27 years old when my dad put a bounty on Cowboys' kicker Luis Zendejas. I was coaching in New Mexico at the time and I really thought it was a whole new way to motivate players. I thought my old man was on to something. However, it took me a while to realize this. After it happened, I called my dad and asked what the hell happened in Dallas today? He responded only as Buddy Ryan could: "Number 8 [Zendejas] needed to be hit hard. He's a kicker. The NFL should ban kickers and punters." When I asked him who would do the kicking and punting he hung up on me. Classic dad.

WP: Is it true that you put a bounty on Bill Bellichick's sweatshirt? I feel like that would be tough for a player to pull off. Literally.
Rex: (Nervous laughter followed by a long pause.) Where did you hear that?
WP: There were some re...
Rex: You got a lot of nerve. Next question.

WP: Buddy, is it true that after the "Bounty Bowl" you received thousands of Bounty paper towel rolls in the mail from Eagles' fans?
Buddy: (Proudly grins) Oh, yes. In fact, the exact amount was 63,569 rolls. I still have everyone in my basement.

WP: Rob, do you ever wish that you got into coaching?
Rob: I did. I'm the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.

WP: That's weird. Are you sure?
Rob: Yeah, I've been coaching in the NFL pretty much since 1994. I coached the Browns defense this year.
WP: I'm sorry, my notes are kind of unorganized here. What's Cleveland like? Is it still on that lake?
Rob: Yes, Lake Erie is right there. I really enjoyed Cleveland. A passionate and knowledgeable fan base that expect a lot.

WP: Let's get to the controversial topic of shaking hands with the opposing team's coach after a game--win or lose. Buddy, you refused to do this. Why?
Buddy: A lot of people called me a bad sport for not shaking hands. I really believe that doing that takes away from the game. You're not suppose to fraternize with the enemy. I'm long retired now, but, looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. For a time, the league was considering forcing me to shake hands. It never happened, but I bought an extra strength hand buzzer in case it did. Also, I was a crazy germ freak back then and didn't shake anybody's hand.

WP: Rex, it appears you have no problem shaking hands with the opposing team's coach. How did this happen?
Rex: (Buddy turns toward Rex in anticipation of the answer.) You ask some tough ones. The first time I did it in the NFL, dad saw it on TV and stopped talking to me for six months. I did it mostly to rebel. When I was coaching with my dad in Arizona, however, I never shook hands with opposing coaches. Dad made that a policy for the Cardinals. I still do it because I know it bugs him.

WP: I'm going to say a word and I would like all three of you to say the first word that comes to mind when you hear it. Ready?
Ryan's: Sure.
WP: Applesauce.
Buddy: Sweet.
Rob: Apples.
Rex: Mott's.

WP: Really? That's it? Buddy, didn't you choke on applesauce back in the late 80's?
Buddy: I choked on pork chops.
Rex: Where do you get your facts?
WP: That makes a lot more sense. My notes say applesauce and I was confused. I was like how could someone choke on applesauce?
Buddy: I had applesauce with that meal, but it was the pork chops that got me.
Rob: Dude, we're through. This interview is over. This is some low budget shit.

WP: Guys, please.
Ryan's: We're done.
WP: I apologize. When I get my notes in order and I clean this place up a bit and get my dog under control would you guys come back for another interview?

Above: The Ryan family after a game in Baltimore between the Raiders and the Ravens. At the time, Rex and Rob were defensive coordinators for Baltimore and Oakland, respectively. Buddy, third from left, wore a hat the read: Raiders vs. Ravens: Ryan vs. Ryan Leaves No Time for Cryin'.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A gift for his coach: For winning 125th game, Lurie permits Reid to interview Emeril Lagasse for open coordinator position

South Philadelphia--Could world-famous chef Emeril Lagasse be wearing a headset and standing on the home sideline at the side of Andy Reid at Lincoln Financial Field next season leading the defense ("Bam! That was a great tackle.)? Absolutely not! So why is the Cajun Chef scheduled to meet with the Eagles' head coach at the NovaCare Complex concerning the vacant defensive coordinator position this week?

Reid reached a milestone win this year, including playoff victories, when he won his 125th game in November. The organization's owner wanted to do something special for the 12-year coach. Perhaps a new car? A cash bonus? A luxury vacation? Reid wanted none of the above. The 2002 coach of the year wanted to interview Emeril Lagasse for a position with the Birds.

"I've always dreamed of having Emeril as an assistant coach on my staff," said an unusually emotional Reid, his bottom lip quivering. "I know it could never happen, but a coach can dream. Mr Lurie said I couldn't hire him, but I could at least interview him for the coordinator position. I'll settle for that."

"Andy won his 125th game this season against the Giants on November 21," said Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie. "Last week, I asked him what he wanted as a gift. He smiled and pointed to the Emeril Lagasse t-shirt that he always wears."

Lagasse has agreed to come in and meet with Reid and says he has tapes of himself defending some of the incredible meals he has made from overanxious family members.

"Obviously, I won't get the job but I think Andy will be impressed with my ability to keep my dishes from being picked at before the actual meal is served. I've really had to hone those defensive skills," said the chef.

An excerpt from Reid's press conference announcing Lagasse would be interviewed:

I have had this recurring dream for years now. We're [The Eagles] playing in the Super Bowl and we're ahead by five points with three seconds to go. The opposing team is threatening to score, as the ball is positioned on our 3-yard line. It's fourth down. This is the game. I look down the sideline and there is Emeril, our defensive coordinator. I yell to him: "Hey, Lagasse! This is why we brought you here. Get your defensive unit out there and make a stop." He smiles and replies, "Andy, I've been cooking up a defensive scheme for this moment for years." It's a running play and we make the tackle at the two-yard line. We go crazy. I'm hugging and high-fiving Emeril. I turn my back for a second and he dumps the container of Gatorade all over me. However, it's not filled with Gatorade. It's filled to the top with his signature meatloaf. It knocks my hat off--my good hat. I'm not mad at all. I'm covered in meatloaf and grinning from ear to ear. How could I be angry? We just won the Super Loaf.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NFL looking into why Steelers failed to remove hockey rink boards from field before playoff game

Pittsburgh, PA--The Baltimore Ravens are protesting their 31-24 second-round playoff loss in the Steel City on Saturday because of "unusual and dangerous" field conditions and have filed an official complaint with the NFL.

On January 1, 2011, Heinz Field, home to the Steelers, hosted the NHL's Winter Classic, the league's annual showcase, outdoor game. After the Penguins and the Washington Capitals battled in the New Year's Day rain, the Steelers instructed the stadium's maintenance crew to remove the ice and glass but leave the boards.

"It was an unusual request," said Bill Laughlin, Heinz Field head grounds crew supervisor. "I thought they were joking. But, we left them in place. The Steelers had something up their sleeve."

Fifteen days later, with no hockey players in the vicinity, the skeleton of the rink was still, strangely, in place.

"When I came out of the tunnel and saw the hockey boards I thought it was for a pregame ceremony or something," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco during a postgame interview on Saturday. "Then the game started ... and the boards were still there."

Despite the rectangular-shaped, 40-inch-high wall barricading the center of the field, the Ravens managed to take a 21-7 halftime lead and were in complete control of the game.

"The boards apparently were not a problem during the first two quarters for the Ravens," said Steelers' fourth-year head coach, Mike Tomlin. "They could have filed a complaint before the game or refused to play."

At the coin toss before the game officials asked the captains gathered at mid-ice, er, midfield if playing with the boards was agreeable to both squads. There were no objections at the time.

"The Steelers have been practicing for two weeks with the boards," said Raven's head coach John Harbaugh, "using them to set picks, jump off of to catch high passes and, my favorite, to hide behind. We weren't able to game plan for the boards. Our players were not ready. It's not right."

Several Ravens were carted off the field after sustaining violent collisions with the anchored wall. Cornerback Chris Carr, while pursuing Steelers' wide receiver Hines Ward, ran full speed into the Pepsi advertisement at the south end of the field. The wall also very nearly blocked Billy Cundiff's 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

"We're investigating what transpired in Pittsburgh on Saturday," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced from the league's offices in New York on Monday. "If the Ravens agreed to play the game with the rink's boards intact, then there is little I can do. It is both an 'unusual and dangerous' condition, but if they knew what they were getting into, then ..."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seahawks players heatedly debate which of their 9 losses served as wake-up call during season

Seattle, WA--After beating the St Louis Rams in the final game of the regular season, 16-6, which sent the Seahawks into the playoffs, the jubilant locker room in the depths of Qwest Field took a long look back at the 2010 campaign. A heated debate began amongst the players who were attempting to determine which of the team's nine losses served as the wake-up call for achieving a birth in the postseason.

"Oh, it was definitely the 41-7 home loss to the Giants on November 7," said head coach Pete Carroll, the first-year coach with the team who built a powerhouse football program at USC. "After that shellacking we beat Arizona by 18 points the following week. And the rest is history. It pushed us to a respectable 3-6 finish to the season."

Many players and coaches disagreed with Carroll saying that it was really the 33-3 week 8 loss to the Raiders in Oakland that jump started the season.

"If we hadn't lost to the Raiders by 30 points that week there was no way that we would have been able to come home and lose to the Giants by 34 points the following week," said wider receiver Brandon Stokley, standing on the leather chair by his locker. "I think coach forgets that. Giving up 545 total yards and only generating 164 is like putting smelling salts under all of our noses at the same time."

It appeared that most of the 53-man roster supported Stokley's argument, as clapping and whistling broke out. But, the discussion wasn't over.

"You guys have a short memory," shouted a visibly frustrated quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, slamming his helmet into the locker of an unknown special teams player. "It was the 42-24 loss to Kansas City in week 12. If we hadn't lost that game by 18 points we could not have beat the worst team in the league [Carolina] the next week."

Several players nodded in agreement with Hasselbeck, before defensive end Chris Clemons stood and addressed the room.

"Guys, can we settle down? We're adults. We're a team and we made the playoffs today. Let's be happy. Let's prep for New Orleans." The Georgia native paused for a moment and the collective team expression changed, suddenly recognizing their juvenile behavior. "Besides, you assholes are neglecting the most critical loss. Without a doubt it was the 40-21 loss at the 49ers in week 14. How would we have been able to lose to Atlanta, 34-18, the week after? Answer me. This was a key blowout for us."

The room exploded and players had to be separated, however, 279-pound defensive end Raheem Brock managed to get into the face of Clemons and words were exchanged. "Where do you get off? If you can't see that the 38-15 loss to Tampa Bay in week 16 changed our fortunes than you're dead to me. I will take that chair and ..."

At that moment, head coach Carroll, seeing that a friendly debate had gotten way out of control, let out a scream so ear piercing, so mind-numbingly crisp from deep within, that several players began to sob for mercy. The scream even startled Carroll whose voice began to go hoarse.

"Hey, we made history today," announced the coach, who had unquestionably secured the attention of each athlete before him. "We're the first NFL team to make the playoffs or win their division with a losing record. Be proud of our 7 wins and 9 losses. Hold your head high when you walk into the local coffee shop or go see a Pearl Jam concert or go see a Seattle Storm WNBA game. We shall walk together forever! Or at least until some of you are cut during the offseason."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flyers' Pronger to play inside giant skate after return from foot injury

Voorhees, NJ--The Flyers position atop the Eastern Conference standings may be surprising to some NHL experts and fans after the team lost their leading defenseman to a foot injury nearly a month ago. The hard-hitting Chris Pronger was predicted to miss up to six weeks of action due to a broken right foot, but rehab has gone considerably better than expected.

"We're hoping that Chris can return to the lineup sometime next week," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "He's a warrior, but our main concern is protecting that foot for the remainder of the season and the playoffs when he does finally return."

The team has tested several ways to prevent further injury to the 36-year-old, including a single giant skate to sit in, a snow tricycle and a XXXXL right-footed skate. The front office, against Pronger's wishes, has decided on the giant skate which includes a small bench for the player to sit on to conserve energy throughout a game and a mini fridge.

"Right now, we're thinking the best way to protect Chris' foot is for him to play inside one giant single skate," said general manager Paul Holmgren. "This is the best course to an injury-free conclusion to the season. I'm sure of it. If it were up to me, Chris would play the rest of his career in that giant skate."

Pronger has tested the single skate several times in practice and admits he has a long way to go before becoming proficient at maneuvering the Swedish-designed and constructed piece of hockey gear that has never been used before--at any level.

"I'm really having a difficult time balancing when I'm standing still on the ice," said Pronger, who hopes to lead the team back to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. "The coaches say I will learn to do this quickly but I'm not so sure. Also, changing lines has been a nightmare during scrimmages."

This changing of lines has been the biggest concern for the team. Currently, during practice, when Pronger is on the ice and would like to come off, he skates to the team's bench where four or five teammates lift him up over the boards, as the gate is too narrow to accommodate the large skate.

There has also been complications of getting the player back on to the ice for a shift change. At one point yesterday, six players and two coaches were not enough to lift Pronger over the boards as the six-foot steel blade caught the top edge sending the former All-Star crashing to the ice.

"That was a little embarrassing," said one teammate who wanted to remain anonymous. "I mean, we just dropped the guy. But we helped him up and he quickly skated off and checked someone in the corner."

The giant skate has not slowed the defenseman, in fact, his coaches say that he is moving at speeds--and hitting harder than ever--that he displayed as a rookie. The problem is that he becomes nervous to stop out of fear of tipping over and once this happens he is at the mercy of his teammates.

"I want to play very badly but I don't want to be a burden to my teammates. Yesterday, it took ten players to lace and tie my giant skate. I can't believe it's come to this."

Notes: The Flyers are hiring! If you have experience sharpening giant ice hockey skates the team wants to hear from you. Must have 3-4 years experience sharpening skates with blades between 6-8 feet long. Must have own transportation and love to travel.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Report: Kobe Bryant also sent Aaron Rodgers a jersey with message: 'BE EPICer'; Eagles fans furious

Philadelphia, PA--NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, the Delaware Valley's favorite hometown hero, is taking a lot of heat from Eagles fans today. How did the California professional athlete manage to do this?

The Lower Merion High School alumnus sent the Bird's high-flying quarterback Michael Vick an autographed Lakers' jersey with the message: Be EPIC.

"When the equipment guys said there was a package for me from a K. Bryant with a Los Angeles address, I thought it was my boy Kori Bryant, a friend from Virginia who moved out to L.A. a few years ago to pursue an acting career," said Vick, standing at his locker after the first-round loss to the Packers. "I opened it up and saw it was a Laker jersey from Kobe. I got the chills right then and there."

Vick, who was overwhelmed by the gesture, wore the jersey during yesterday's game on the outside of his Eagles uniform. Some analysts felt this contrast of jersey color--similar to Green Bay yellow--prevented the offense from finding a rhythm throughout most of the contest.

This may have played a factor, but there was something bigger. What Vick or the rest of the Eagles were unaware of was that Bryant had also sent a signed Laker jersey to the team's Wild Card Round opponent. Specifically, to their quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"When the equipment guys said there was a package for me from a K. Bryant with a Los Angeles address, I thought it was my buddy Kevin Bryant from Chico, who moved down to L.A. a few years ago to pursue an acting career," said Rodgers, sitting at his locker after the first-round win over the Eagles. "I opened it up and saw it was a Laker Jersey from Kobe. I got the chills right then and there."

The message on Rodger's jersey, however, was slightly different: "BE EPICer." Why was the Philadelphia native telling the Green Bay quarterback to be more epic?

Kobe Bryant's connection to Green Bay? During his senior year in high school in 1996, Lower Merion played a tournament in Madison, WI and the team was supposed to fly from Philadelphia to Chicago and onto the Wisconsin capital after a connection. However, a snowstorm in Madison forced the team to land in Green Bay, where they were delayed for four hours. That is Bryant's connection to Green Bay.

"Don't get me wrong," explained Bryant, the five-time world champion. "I like Mike and want to see him do well, but I wanted to take a shot at Philadelphia fans for all the booing over the years. And I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it. I mean, I've only been to Green Bay once ... for a couple hours."

Vick said that when he first learned that Rodgers had also received a Laker jersey (not until after the game) and that Kobe's message was to be a bit more epic, that he was "disappointed and hurt." In fact, the resurgent quarterback declined to field any further questions regarding the gift.

Eagles fans were livid after learning about the message on Rodgers' jersey and the effect it may have played on the outcome of the game.

"I can't wait until the Lakers come to town next year," said Frank Vordini of Media, PA. "I'm gonna launch some EPICer booing."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

With help from cranes, 'Lambeau Leap' to reach the cheap seats

Green Bay, WI--Why do the fans with the best seats in the house have to have all the fun? This was a question that the Green Bay Packers' front office--and the faithful Cheeseheads--asked themselves during the offseason last year.

"Really, why do the people in the front row not only get the best views but also get to experience the 'Lambeau Leap?'" said Kyle Renault, Packers' vice president of marketing. "It's not fair and, to their credit, our fans let us know this."

Carol Sperrier sits in the top row of section 134 in the corner of the end zone in legendary Lambeau Field. Her season tickets were passed on to her from her father who received them from his father who stole them in the middle of the night from his grandfather.

"I wrote a letter to Mr Renault last spring," said Sperrier, who lives in Green Bay and works at the Polly-O String Cheese factory ('It's the Best Part of the Factory'). "I told him the 'Lambeau Leap' didn't have to be for only the privileged people. I included a diagram of how a crane could be used to bring the players to the nosebleed seats."

The "Lambeau Leap," named for the historic sports landmark, is the name for the celebration following a touchdown when the scoring player jumps into the first row and into the waiting arms of fans where he is swallowed up and showered with pats and praise. Well, the first few rows will no longer be the sole beneficiaries of this Packer tradition.

Beginning next season, after scoring touchdown, the player will run to the corner of the field where a crane's hook will be positioned. The player will then quickly put on a harness, tested for over 600 pounds (in the case a lineman rumbles into the end zone), that is connected to the end of the hook. A thumbs up by the athlete will indicate readiness and with a flash will be raised to heights of 60 ft or more and lowered into the upper seating sections of Lambeau Field.

"The whole stadium will now feel like they have a front row seat," said Renault. "This is groundbreaking stuff. Soon, all NFL stadiums will be hoisting players to the far reaches of a stadium to embrace the common fan. This is great for the game."

Not all agree with Renault and rabid Packers fans.

"This will just add more time to a game," said noted football historian and purist, Baxter Livingston, whose new book, Beyond the Four-yard Line: A History of the Five-yard Line, is due out in February. "It's called the leap because the players are using their own strength to jump into the stands. Artificially extending this leap with the help of technology is truly unjust and can be labeled a crime."

"What about possible injuries resulting from falls from the crane?" asked NFL Players Association vice president Steve Harold, who would rather see players walk to the top of stadiums after games to greet and mingle with fans. "What if the harness breaks? It's not safe to have flying players. It's just not. Have you been reading the news about the Spider-Man musical?"

The NFL, which has cracked down severely on player celebrations in recent years, has, surprisingly, backed the idea.

"Growing up in Jamestown, NY, I was a huge Bills fan," said NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, about the team that was established in Buffalo in 1959, the year he was born. "We always ended up sitting in the upper deck of War Memorial Stadium and we always missed out on the 'War Memorial Janitorial.' This was the name for the players' leap into the stands after a score because all the soda, beer and popcorn in the vicinity were always knocked over during the jump, which upset the stadium's janitors."

The current plan calls for two cranes on the field, one behind each end zone, however, one of these will be mobile and the other stationary. The Packers front office would like to use next year as a test to determine which style crane is better.

"I can't wait until next year," said Aaron Rodgers, Packers' quarterback. "I don't like heights but this sounds really cool. I just hope they don't slam me into the plexi-glass of one of the luxury boxes."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beebe, Ark resident says he'll wait until 'things cool down' before seeking patent on new extra strength bird repellent

Beebe, AR--Over 4,000 blackbirds mysteriously fell from the sky on Saturday night in this sleepy, agricultural community 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. As officials investigate the reasons behind the deaths, one resident is pretty certain of the cause, but is working on keeping it quiet. "Oh, it was my new repellent ... for sure. However, I'm not about to seek a patent on this blackbird repellent now," said Kent Vazquez, 67, a semi-retired farmer whose crops were devastated by the birds three years ago, wearing a t-shirt that reads Protect Your Harvest With Blackbird Repellent: An Odorless, Colorless Gas Being Developed By Me (But Keep it on the Down Low). "The Feds are crawling all over this place right now. Apparently, they think it's natural causes. Plus, I may have overdone its potency a bit. It's back to my basement laboratory tomorrow."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Corbett continually interrupts Rendell during audition for Eagles Post Game Live

South Philadelphia--Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell shot a glaring look at the man seated next to him last night during a live tv show at the Comcast SportsNet studios. The Governor was making a valid point about the Eagles resting their starters versus the Cowboys in the final game of the regular season when he was blatantly interrupted by the man to his right.

That man, Tom Corbett, incoming Pennsylvania republican governor, who was auditioning for a panelist spot and was at the receiving end of Rendell's death stare, has made it clear that he would like to permanently join the Eagles Post Game Live crew for next season after taking office in Harrisburg later this month. Rendell has been an analyst on the show since it began in 1998.

"Tom wouldn't let me get a word in," cried Rendell. "I was about to make my best point of the night when he incoherently shouted something about Brent Celek. Apparently, it was a yelling contest for him."

Corbett, Pennsylvania Attorney General, is from Philadelphia and is a big Eagles fan and wanted to showcase his football knowledge for the home viewers.

"I was a bit nervous," said Corbett. "I guess I wanted to make a good impression. I honestly didn't even notice if I was interrupting Ed [Rendell]. If he's whining, then he's a wuss. If this show was filmed in China he'd would have been praising my assertiveness and decisiveness. Then, then he would have used geometry for ... something."

Time and again Corbett cutoff, contradicted and, at one point, put a hand in the face of Rendell saying, "Uh, uh. Don't go there Edward G. Don't make excuses for [Kevin] Kolb."

Host of the Comcast show Michael Barkan eventually had to separate the Governor and Governor-elect during a commercial break.

"I just asked Tom and Ed to respect each other's opinions," said Barkan, finding the whole thing comical. "I told them to shed their democratic and republican labels and unite as Eagles fans. We all had a good laugh, but the tension continued throughout the remaining segments."

The ratings for last night's post game show were the highest ever (6.7 out of every 10 televisions), which has the producers pondering the thought of keeping both governors on the program.