Saturday, May 31, 2008

25 years -- and still waiting

Today celebrates a quarter-century of frustration and disappointment.

For on May 31, 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship 4 games to none. Twenty-five years later, sports fans are still waiting for the next title.

Hard to believe that a city with 4 professional sports teams can go 25 years without a championship. That's 98 sports seasons (2 championships were lost to labor unrest) of losing. ARGGGHHH!!!!!

And what's equally as frustrating is that only 7 times since then -- and just four times over the past 20 years -- has a team made the finals of its respective league. So thanks to bad management, overall lack of talent and a few superstars who couldn't get their teams to the promised land -- the teams haven't been close to championship caliber.

At this moment, it's hard to determine which among the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles will end the drought. Right now, you'd have to say the Phillies, because they are the only ones playing right now. And they are in first place.

I was about to turn 20 when the Sixers won that last title. Now almost ready to blow out 45 candles on my cake, that's 56 percent of my life I've spent waiting for another title.

But at least I'm lucky to have seen a few of my teams win championships. One Mercury sports colleague who is as big a fan as I is 26 years old and hasn't seen any.

I just hope the drought doesn't reach 50 years.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The big news: Apparently no one got shot in Philly

I was channel surfing at 11 o'clock Thursday night when I came across THE BIG STORY on Channel 6 Action News.

No, it wasn't another shooting in Philadelphia -- which should have been a big story itself. What had the folks at Action News all excited was the black bear that was cited in New Hanover Thursday morning.

The reporter was live from the township filing his report. I guess a black bear roaming through a rural township 40 miles outside of the city is the big story for a television station in the fifth largest city in America where gun violence is rampant.

Channel 3 also had a reporter live in the township, but the story was a few minutes into the newscast, not its top story. Still it should have been buried further.

Sure, a black bear in the area is big news for a local newspaper such as The Mercury, but that's something that is happening in our community. The TV news in Philadelphia should have more pressing issues to report on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ticket brokers try to take us for every dime

My youngest stepdaughter is a huge fan of Carrie Underwood, at right in an Associated Press photo, so for her upcoming 15th birthday, she's getting tickets to see the "American Idol" songstress in concert at Reading's Sovereign Center on June 12.
The tickets were relatively inexpensive. What's upsetting is the way the ticket agencies rape their customers with added fees.

On top of the $35 ticket charge was a $9.55 "convenience" charge. Convenient for who? It's more like an "inconvenience" charge for those of us buying the tickets. And the "convenience" cost escalates a few cents depending on the cost of the ticket.

In addition to the convenience charge, I could have bought "ticket insurance" for $6 per ticket. I declined it. Yet for that additional $6, I would have gotten piece of mind that if an illness, traffic jam, or yes, even an airport delay, had caused my wife, stepdaughter and friends to miss the concert, I could have gotten my money back.

I could have had the tickets shipped several different ways -- at an exhorbitant cost to me, of course. Being able to print the tickets right away would have been a nearly $3 fee. Instead, I chose snail mail -- at no additional cost.

But I shouldn't be surprised that a business would try to nickel and dime their customers. After all, the government does it to us every day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A blog about nothing

Ten years ago tonight, "Seinfeld" ended its 9-year run as one of the greatest shows on television.

The show's finale concluded with Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer in a jail cell after being prosecuted and sentenced to one year in jail for violating a "Good Samaritan" law in a fictitional Massachusetts town. A parade of characters who were the butt of the quartet's snide remarks throughout the series testified against them in court.

More than 76 million people watched the episode, the third-most in television history.

After the one-year "sentence," fans hoped the gang would return to prime time, or at the very least a "Seinfeld" TV movie. However, 10 years later, "the show about nothing" just lives on in reruns.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Can't believe they have a winning record

The following is a list of things that have gone wrong for the Phillies in the first 30-plus games of the year:

* Reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins has missed a month with a sprained ankle;

* Starting center fielder Shane Victorino would miss 2 weeks with a calf injury;

* 2006 MVP Ryan Howard would be hitting .165 with just 6 home runs;

* Opening day starter Brett Myers has just two wins and an earned run average over 5.

Yet on May 9, the Phillies are 20-16 and just 1 game out of first. The hated New York Mets are 17-15.

So with all these problems, better things must lie ahead. When the weather heats up, so will the Phillies.

The waiting is the hardest part

Since the government announced the economic stimulus package, I've had this date circled. By May 9, my wife and I were expecting our $1,500 rebate to be directly deposited into our bank account. On May 10, we planned to do our part to help stimulate the economy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the electronics store -- the Department of Treasury forgot to give us our money.

We do our taxes online and had them completed and accepted by the Internal Revenue Service in early April, nearly 10 days before the April 15 deadline. The tax program we use even asked if we wanted our rebate directly deposited into our bank account.

But apparently we didn't read the fine print about the stimulus package. You know the part -- the one that says if you paid in, your check would come in the mail.

We owed the IRS a few dollars from 2007, but I still thought we'd receive our stimulus check by the target date of May 9. Heck, those that paid in should be the ones who get the rebate first -- not those who are already getting money back from the government.

So if the release dates are correct, our rebate check won't come in the mail until the middle of June. By then, I might be stimulated to just keep the $1,500 in my savings account.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A step in the right direction

A story in Thursday's Mercury talked about how a statewide smoking ban could succeed with peer pressure. Some tavern customers want to be able to smoke while enjoying a beer, while others would like to have a sandwich and a pint without the smell of smoke in the air.

One area establishment is taking a step in the right direction.

The Greshville Inn on Route 562 outside of Boyertown is offering a smoke-free environment on Monday and Tuesdays, according to a sign outside the restaurant.

I was in the restaurant on a recent Friday night, and a cloud of smoke hovered over the bar area. Fortunately for me, I spent most of the time at a gathering in an upstairs room.

Kudos to the owners for trying to create a healthier environment at least 2 days a week.