Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great time to be a sports fan

As October dawns, it's a great time to be a sports fan:

  • The National League Eastern Division champion Phillies, above in an AP photo shown celebrating their division title, open the Division Series Wednesday at home against the Milwaukee Brewers.

  • The 76ers, with new power forward Elton Brand, at righ in an AP photo, began training camp on Tuesday. The team expects to contend for the NBA Eastern Conference title this season.

  • The Eagles, despite their awful loss Sunday night in Chicago, are still among the top teams in the NFC. Unfortunately, they play in the best division in football.
  • Undefeated Penn State has risen to No. 6 in the country in college football. The Nittany Lions' chances to play for a national championship may come down to an Oct. 25 game at Ohio State.

Let's hope that when Halloween comes, I'll feel the same excitement.

Right out of a "Seinfeld" episode

Fans of "Seinfeld" remember Newman, the mailman down the hall who would call in sick on rainy days and plot diabolic schemes within the postal service. In one story line, Newman (played by Wayne Knight) kept mail in Jerry's storage unit.

Well, a former postal worker in Michigan may have gotten an idea from seeing that episode.

According to the Associated Press, Jill Hull has been charged with stealing thousands of pieces of mail that authorities say she had kept in a storage unit northwest of Detroit .

Federal investigators say they've recovered more than 9,000 pieces of mail from a storage unit in Fowlerville. Authorities allege in court documents that Hull admitted storing the mail because she couldn't deliver it on time. Some mail has postmarks from 2005.

Hull worked for the Postal Service in the Howell area for three-and-a-half years. She quit in August, about three weeks before the mail was discovered.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bad vibes about baseball outcomes

It could be my pessimism shining through, but I keep getting more bad vibes about this weekend's Phillies games and their chances for the postseason.

Perhaps it has to do with both the Mets and Brewers winning games Thursday night on walk-off hits, with the Mets rallying from a 6-3, 7th-inning deficit to nip the Cubs.

Then there's also the fact the Washington Nationals, the Phils' opponent to close out the season, plays them as tough as anyone in the league. And then there's the pressure the Phillies will face as they hold their post-season fate in their hands.

All 3 teams play at home this weekend and, of course, the Phillies have the easiest opponent as the Nationals sit on 99 losses -- which strengthens those bad vibes.

I hope I'm wrong and on Monday the Phillies are ready to play the Cubs or Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I got too confident

Ask anyone I know and they'll say that I rarely show confidence in the success of my favorite sports teams. They say I'm a pessimist; I tell them I'm a realist.

Which is what makes a blog post I made earlier this week regarding the Phillies' magic number and a trip to the post-season so surprising. I actually showed confidence that one of my teams would succeed.

After all, the Phillies were ahead by 2 1/2 games with just 5 games to play all at home. I thought nothing could go wrong.
Can I take it all back?

One night after Cole Hamels got his usual run support in a 3-2 loss to the Braves, manager Charlie Manuel, above, saw Brett Myers and the bullpen stink it up in a 10-4 loss Wednesday. Fortunately, the Mets blew a game Wednesday in a 9-6, 10-inning loss to the Cubs. The magic number to clinch the division or the wild card spot is 3.

So now I'm anxious, and once again fearing the worst, that the Phillies will end the year on a five-game losing streak and miss the playoffs.

In an ideal situation, the Phils will win the division and Milwaukee will take the wild card, leaving the hated Mets out in the cold. But now, as long as the Philies get in, I don't care which team joins them.

Phillie Phanatic accused in bomb scare

A bomb scare at Citizens Bank Park before Wednesday night's game has led authorities to an unlikely figure -- the Phillies Phanatic.

According to The Associated Press, hours before the Phillies-Atlanta Braves' game, a film crew shot a commercial of the mascot shooting heavily wrapped hot dogs from a launcher.

But someone inadvertently left three of the duct taped hot dogs outside the ballpark, sparking security fears. Stadium employees were evacuated and the bomb squad was called in.

Only after the packages were blown up did authorities realize they'd just exploded some sausages.

"We saw something that looked suspicious," said Michael Stiles, Phillies senior vice president, administration and operations. "We did the right thing. It turned out to be nothing. We could have gone over and picked it up and thrown it in the trash and been done with it. But if we had been wrong, somebody might have lost an arm."

After the detonation, the game went on as scheduled.

"I'd rather them blow up some hot dogs or some ketchup and mustard and relish than have it be a real bomb," reliever Chad Durbin said. "Better safe than sorry."

She DOES look like Sarah Palin

She denies it, but Cindy Michaels, a news anchor for WVII-TV in Bangor, Maine, bares quite a resemblance to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Because of it, Michaels says she has received hate mail from viewers who think she made herself look like Palin. Michaels says she's worn her hair up and glasses for years.

To see for yourself, click here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cheerleader outfits too skimpy for Idaho fans

Cheerleaders at the University of Idaho have to get another uniform after fans complained the new uniforms bought just this year were too skimpy.

"A number of fans were concerned that the uniforms were inappropriate," said Bruce Pitman, dean of students. "To be fair, there were a number of fans who liked them."

The outfits that drew controversy, halter tops and short black skirts with white trim, were similar to what an NFL cheerleader might wear, Pitman said.

Click here to read the story.

Must win tonight

After last night's tough, 3-2 loss to the Braves and wins by the Mets and Brewers, the Phils edge against both teams shrunk by a game. The magic numbers to clinch either a playoff berth or the National League East remained at 3 and 4 games, respectively.

A win tonight against the Braves is essential to ease some of the pressure off the final weekend series against the last-place Washington Nationals.

The Phillies control their playoff destiny. But in the past few years, they seem to play better when they are the chaser, rather than the chasee. Let's hope that's not the case this year.

The truth comes out

After years of speculation, former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken admits in a cover story in People that hits newstands Friday that, yes, he is gay.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Aiken, shown above in an Associated Press photo, has an infant son who was conceived by in-vitro fertilization with friend and producer Jaymes Foster. Aiken said it was his son who brought him to the realization that he could no longer hid his sexual orientation.

"It was the first decision I made as a father," Aiken told the magazine. "I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn't raised that way, and I'm not going to raise a child to do that."

Fans of speculated since his 2oo3 "Idol" appearance that Aiken is gay. As one Mercury colleague, an avid Idol fan, said this morning when hearing the news, "I feel vindicated."
To read the story, click here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Magic number 4 - or 3

Thanks to their recent streak of 10 wins in 11 games and a 3-game losing streak by the hated New York Mets, the Phillies enter tonight's game against Atlanta with a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League East with just 5 games to play. (The Mets have 6 games remaining.)

The Phillies' magic number (a combination of Phils' wins and Mets' losses) to win the division is 4.

But the magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just 3, as the Phillies are 3 1/2 games better than Milwaukee, who trail the Mets in the hunt for the National League Wild Card. (Got all that?)

Thanks to contributions from nearly everyone on the now 33-man roster, the Phils find themselves on the verge of a playoff spot. So if things go their way, a post-season berth could be sewn up Wednesday night.

The people have spoken

MSNBC recently conducted a poll asking readers if "In God We Trust" should be removed from U.S. currency.

The choices were "Yes, it's a violation of the principle of separation of church and state" or "No, the motto has historical and patriotic significance and does nothing to establish a state religion."

Overwhelmingly, of more than 841,000 votes, 81% voted no.

To see the poll results, click here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Something's gotta give

The two hottest teams in major league baseball square off tonight in Miami, when the NL East leading Phillies visit the red-hot Marlins for the first of three games.

The Phillies have won 7 straight games, their longest streak of the season. The host Marlins, meanwhile, have won 8 straight. So something has to give.

The Marlins trail the Phillies by 5 1/2 games, with 10 games left. (The Phils have just 9). So the Marlins know they need to sweep the Phils to have any realistic shot at the post-season.

The Phillies lead the Mets by 1/2 game, and are two games ahead of Milwaukee in the Wild Card chase. They need to take care of business and not let the Marlins get into the playoff race. Having to deal with the Mets and Brewers is enough.

The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend to meet the Braves, who were just swept by the Phillies. The Brewers visit Cincinnati.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This could only happen to Temple football

This year was supposed to be different for Temple football.

The Owls, after decades of ineptness and coming off a 4-8 season in 2007, were supposed to be a much-improved team. Whispers of contention for a title in the Mid-American Conference and a possible bowl bid were heard.

But this is Temple we're talking about. And the Owls have accomplished something this season that is hard to do -- losing 2 straight games on the last play.

On Sept. 6, Temple dropped a 12-9 decision to Connecticut in overtime. Tied at 6-6 after regulation in a game played in heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hanna, the Owls kicked a field goal on their possession, but the Huskies scored a touchdown to win the game.

Then last Saturday in a game against Buffalo, Temple seemed to claim a victory on a touchdown with 38 seconds to go that gave it a 28-24 lead. But this is Temple we're talking about.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving Buffalo the ball at its own 40-yard-line. A defensive holding call on an incomplete pass hurt the Owls. With just 5 seconds to go and the ball on Temple's 35-yard-line, Buffalo had to heave the ball into the end zone, where surely the Owls defense would knock the ball down and prevent the winning score.


Instead of knocking the ball down, four Temple defenders watched as the Buffalo receiver made the catch in the end zone, giving the Bulls an improbable victory and sending the Owls to their second straight disheartening loss.

But the Owls are making great strides. For most of the past 2 decades, the games have been decided by the end of the first quarter. At least now they are going down to the final play.

Those family reunions must have been fun

A murdered New York couple told relatives just how much they were loved -- or, more to the point, weren't loved -- in drafts of their will, according to the New York Post.

In the Post story, Mark Schwartz and his wife, Christina-Maria Petrowski-Schwartz let their family know just how much they were hated.

"To my brother who I know hopes to be in my will, well, here you are," chided Mark Schwartz, 50, as he bequeathed nothing to his estranged sibling, Robert, in an unsigned April 2006 draft.

In an earlier version, Schwartz had already left his brother "the sum of zero ($0.00) Dollars," zinging, "I believe this sum is fitting, as you are probably the most greedy person I know."

Petrowski-Schwartz first expressed her love for her children, Melissa and Nicholas. She then took an apparent shot at her first husband, James, leaving him no cash but decreeing that a "gift" of $10,000 be made in his name to a battered-women's shelter.

She also gave just $1 each to her mother, father, 2 brothers and sister, "and request that they donate same to their precious church to whom they had a greater allegiance, than to their first child and sister."


To read the full story, click here.

The levels to which some parents won't stoop

Put this in the "crazy mom" file.

Police say a woman in Wisconsin stole her daughter's identity and posed as a high school student so she could be a cheerleader.

According to the Associated Press, Wendy Brown, of Green Bay, at right, faces a felony identity theft charge after enrolling in Ashwaubenon High School as her 15-year-old daughter, who lives in Nevada with Brown's mother.

According to the complaint, Brown wanted to get her high school degree and become a cheerleader because she didn't have a childhood and wanted to regain a part of her life that she'd missed.

To read the full story, click here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Can I take credit for this?

I wonder if "Saturday Night Life" executive producer Lorne Michaels reads my blog.

You might recall that on the day Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain's running mate, I blogged that Mercury business editor Michelle Karas noted Palin's resemblence to former "SNL" cast member Tina Fey. Apparently, so have others.

Well, according to an Associated Press story, Fey is "likely" to return to play Palin in tonight's season opener:

In an interview earlier this week with The AP, "SNL" executive producer and creator Lorne Michaels said, "The whole world cast her in that role."
The final decision went down to the last minute, apparently. "SNL" premieres Saturday evening with Michael Phelps as host. An appearance had been planned by Sen. Barack Obama, but his campaign said early Saturday that the Democratic nominee for president was canceling.
Fey was a cast member and writer — including a stint as head writer — for "SNL" for nine years before leaving in 2006 to star in "30 Rock," which is also produced by Michaels. On Tuesday, Michaels said that should Fey play Palin, she was unlikely to remain in the part in the long-term, which depending on the election results, could be for four years or longer.
Fey's publicist did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

This guy should be dead

A man in Wisconsin claims to have eaten 23,000 Big Macs since 1972.

Don Gorske says his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder drove him to have 2 of the sandwiches every day for the past 36 years.

Surprisingly, he still is in good shape. Gorske, 54, is 6 foot, 2 inches and weighs 185 pounds He says he walks 10 miles a day.

Gorske is shown at right in an Associated Press photo biting into his 18,000th Big Mac in 2001.

To read the whole story, click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Thursday is Patriots Day.

Take time to remember the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001, when more than 3,000 people lost their lives in the terroristic attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field in Shanksville, Pa.

Honor the police, fire fighters and emergency workers who are first to respond to crime scenes, accidents and work to protect us every day.

And don't forget the more than 4,000 service men and women who have given their lives for our freedom since that awful day.

Don't ever forget.

Good riddance, smoking sections

Friday night, my wife and I went out for a bite to eat. The hostess asked if we wanted the smoking or non-smoking section. We both said "non-smoking," and I excitedly added, "I hope that's the last time I say those words."

The statewide smoking ban in Pennsylvania takes effect tomorrow. To celebrate, we are joining another couple for dinner at that same establishment. (For the record, the nonsmokers at this restaurant were ushered to the back of the dining area and had to walk through the smoking section to exit the building.)

Of course, since our state government can't do anything right, there are loopholes in the smoking ban. State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican from eastern Montgomery County, wants to close those loopholes.

Greenleaf announced Wednesday he will introduce a bill in January to eliminate the exceptions to the smoking ban. The new law grants exceptions to some bars, hotel rooms, private clubs, casinos and nursing homes.

According to an Associated Press story, Greenleaf says lawmakers who opposed a stricter law will likely get pressure from their constituents to expand the smoking ban after it's been in effect for a few months.

Businesses that want to continue to allow smoking must apply to the state for an exception. Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson says about 700 have applied so far.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"What you talkin' about, Willis?"

Did actor Gary Coleman run over a fan last weekend?

The star of 1980s TV show "Different Strokes" was involved in a car accident over the weekend in Utah.

Authorities say a truck driven by Coleman ran over a man's foot after the two argued in a bowling alley.

To read the whole story, click here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

They must remember his bowling skills

In a recent poll at http://www.pottsmerc.com/, nearly 57% of voters believe GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin would beat Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a game of one-on-one basketball.

Palin was a point guard on the basketball team in high school and led Wasilla High School in Alaska to the small-school championship in 1982. She was nicknamed Sarah "Barracuda" for her style of play.

Obama, you might remember from an earlier post, was shown rolling gutter balls in an appearance at a bowling alley in Altoona, Pa., during a campaign stop in March.

Criminals can't get much dumber than this

Solving crimes won't get much easier for police in Iowa City, Iowa.

Earlier this week, police were able to find a man accused of using a stolen credit card — because the man signed his own name to the receipts.

In an Associated Press story, police say Kody Merrival of Iowa City used the stolen credit card to buy a latte at a coffee house and to buy cigarettes at a tobacco store.

Police say the credit card was reported stolen from an unlocked apartment last month.

They say Merrival also tried to use it at another store, but the card was declined because it came up as stolen.

Police say Merrival also used the card at a local deli.

He has been charged with four counts of unauthorized use of a credit card.

On second thought...

You may recall that last week the LPGA was going to make foreign players learn to speak English by the end of 2009 or suspend them.

But after further review and mounting criticism, the tour is backing down from that policy.

LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said Friday the tour would have a new plan by the end of the year. That plan would not include any penalties.

Bivens said there are other ways to achieve the tour's objective of "supporting and enhancing the business opportunities for every tour player."

Read the full story here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stick a fork in them

Barring a 3-game sweep of the New York Mets this weekend, the Phillies shot at the post-season is over.

Losing 2 of 3 games to the Washington Nationals, the worst team in the league, while the Mets were sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee, left the Phillies 3 games behind the Mets with just 22 games to play.

The Phillies can't expect the Mets to collapse like they did last year, when they blew a 7 1/2 game lead with 17 games to play.

The bullpen, the Phillies strength for most of the season, has blown several games over the last month. Chad Durbin, above in an Associated Press photo, has been the culprit in many of those losses. Meanwhile, the Mets' bullpen, much maligned and without All-Star closer Billy Wagner, seems to have righted itself.

And every Phillies fan knows how woeful the offense has been since the All-Star Break.

I hope I'm wrong, but unless the Phillies can muster up a sweep this weekend, another baseball season will end in disappointment.

Oh well. At least the Eagles open Sunday. E-A-G-L-E-S!!!!