An agitated but special win by the Eagles

As incredibly implausible Philadelphia’s stunningly dramatic win over San Diego today may have been, it merely signaled a temporary truce from this sobering reality:The Eagles ain’t what they used to be.Indeed, it certainly looks as if it’s going to be a gouged and pitted road to the playoffs. In recent regular seasons, opposing teams fell to the Birds as if sliced by machetes.Not this year, baby. Looks like this is gonna be a campaign destined to leave our nerves stripped.For instance, take the Eagles’ improbable 20-17 victory today at the Linc.Philly’s defense was nearly impassable for much of the afternoon.Spearheaded by middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, the Birds stuffed the superlative LaDainian Tomlinson like a Thanksgiving Day turkey.Go figure.And they also kept LT out of the end zone, which means he failed to break the NFL record of 18 straight games with a touchdown that he shares with former Reading High and Baltimore Colts great Lenny Moore.Trotter left the Chargers with somber, shaken expressions as he rang up nine tackles, a pivotal interception, one sack and one forced fumble. The Eagles’ defenders rose in anger like a lynch mob. They were as sharp as a razor in containing the explosive Chargers, whose lightning bolts usually aren’t merely contained to their splashy helmets and uniforms.And the game clincher came courtesy of the Eagles’ much-maligned special teams as Matt Ware ran 65 yards for a touchdown with a blocked field goal that would have iced the game for San Diego.The Birds, in a 17-13 hole that looked deeper than a grave, rose from the dead when Quintin Mikell broke through the middle and blocked Nate Kaeding’s 40-yard field goal attempt.Ware scooped it up and zipped unmolested into the end zone with 2:37 left in the game. His heroics restarted the hearts of faithful Eagles fans who had opted to remain in the stands.Of course, a few fans may have left more in fright than in despair. A false fire alarm kept wailing in the second half, and an announcement over the PA system appealed for an orderly evacuation.Some cynics and pundits wondered if that was why the Eagles’ offense essentially disappeared. By the way, matters weren’t settled until the defense came up with another signature moment.Cornerback Sheldon Brown stripped the ball from Chargers receiver Reche Caldwell after a 19-yard reception and Darwin Walker recovered at the Eagles 18 with 1:26 left to wrap up the miracle.There was considerable white-knuckle time for the Birds while the replay officials analyzed whether Caldwell’s knee touched the turf a blink or two before he started losing his grip on the ball.Just say that it was thisclose. But Eagles fans should harbor deep concerns despite the victory.Their offense is a hauntingly terrible place to be much of the time.They can’t and won’t run.The O is totally skewed toward the pass, with an obviously distressed Donovan McNabb cranking out a team-record 35 completions in a whopping 54 attempts for a relatively paltry 287 yards.During one stretch in the middle part of the game McNabb threw on 25 consecutive plays. Roll that particularly astounding stat around in your mouth for a bit before you try to digest it. That, my friends, is a surreal offensive approach that is hard to swallow. The Eagles have so many three-and-outs that it sucks up what little air there is left from their flow. That their defense played such a marvelous game today with such lack of support from their O was astonishing.The deep strike essentially has disappeared from the Eagles’ offense.Terrell Owens didn’t catch a deep pass, his longest reception a mere 12 yards. He did catch a 4-yard TD pass, the 100th of his career, and then celebrated with a lame mimic of a waiter, complete with a towel draped over his arm.When Chargers wideout Keenan McCardell later punctuated his TD catch by mimicking T.O.’s mimic, it just demonstrated how ridiculous the stunt was.Besides, there’s nothing for the Eagles’ O to celebrate these days. They need to recapture their mojo.Too many series right now are ending with them clambering back to the sideline, wearing dazed, defeated expressions.The Eagles will not make it back to the Super Bowl if their offense is as silent as an empty stage set for great stretches of time. The Birds won’t be able to puff out their chests and move the chains until they hit the ground running. They hardly made a peep rushing today, with Brian Westbrook getting just 25 yards on 10 carries. McNabb had four carries for a loss of a yard. Nobody else ran the ball.Westbrook, who doesn’t need a little negotiation with his inner self to know that he’s a star, did catch 10 balls for 75 yards as Andy Reid continues to substitute a dink-and-dunk short passing game for any semblance of a running game.Compounding matters this afternoon, Reid made some tactical blunders bad enough to make a midget football coach blanch. My intent is not to send everybody in Eagles Nation sinking into a tar pit of gloom. After all, it was a critical victory over a strong opponent. Still, the Eagles are lost on offense, devoid of themselves.Over their bye week they fixed some of the dents in their defense and special teams. But now they’re fresh out of byes.So they have to somehow find the time to get the offense into the body shop. Installing a new engine that can run without sputtering would go a long way.


Penn State stomps Illinois into jelly

Well, wasn’t Penn State something else Saturday night?I guess the Nittany Lions caught a good dose of Saturday Night Fever because they were hotter than a Saturday Night Special in transforming poor Illinois into a 63-10 ground-down wasteland.Michael Robinson put on his Superman cape as the Penn State QB. He was truly amazing in the first half when he threw four touchdown passes and scampered for two more scores.Thanks in large part to Robinson’s sheer sonic brilliance, it was an incredible 56-3 at halftime.Thank God that Joe Paterno, en route to his 350th career win, exhibited extreme mercy in the second half.Which was most kind because the Illinois imposters were choking on plumes of Homecoming boos well before the intermission.Illinois was spitting out more colossally stupid mistakes than West Virginians spit bicuspids. This sorry bunch must train on a diet of Haagen-Dazs. Penn State, in reaching 4-1 in the Big Ten and 7-1 overall, was tougher than a $4 sirloin. The Lions hardly broke a sweat in processing Illinois into steak tartar.While Illinois obviously played like a team of lint-brains, we still must give ample credit to Penn State. The Lions were awesome in bouncing back from their last-second loss to Michigan, which could have been tougher to do than shaving with sandpaper.But they refused to allow the psychic welts from such a shattering loss to fester.The Lions were sharper than the tongue of an angry spouse from the opening kickoff. And gleefully joining in the carnage was Wyomissing High grad Nolan McCready, a reserve safety who returned his first career interception 76 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.Indeed, this was the gold standard of romps.”You kind of feel bad,” said Robinson. “You don’t want to do that to teams, but nobody felt bad when we were losing like that the past couple of years.”Oh, well. Such are the fortunes of war.In recent seasons, Penn State’s expectations for success were skinnier than a 7-iron. Now they’re as plump as a Halloween pumpkin.

Definitely a jail Bird of a different feather

Uniform numbers on sports stars often morph into much more than mere numerals.Their mutual identities frequently become closer than conjoined twins.Jocks and their numbers go together like peanut butter and jelly, Scotch and water, Pam Anderson and cleavage, George W. Bush and confusion, yin and yang, etc.For instance, Larry Bird made the No. 33 memorable on his Boston Celtics jersey.Fortunately for some nutjob named Eric Torpy, who must be dumber than a box of screws, Bird’s number wasn’t No. 99 like old-time Lakers star George Mikan.Because when it comes to being a Larry Bird fanatic, Torpy must have a screw loose. Otherwise, he either (a) just returned from Jupiter or (b) is simply mind-blown, brain-bruised, stupefied and mystified.This bird brain actually asked an Oklahoma City judge to add three years to his 30-year prison term for armed robbery and shooting with intent to kill.Evidently, this jail bird said if he was gonna go down, he was gonna go down in Larry Bird’s jersey.Of course, the dude will actually have his own prison number. But since he obviously has no life of his own and lives vicariously through Bird, his prison digits are of no relevance to him.At least his rather unique sentencing agreement merited a big media play. Usually these sentencing matters make less of a media splash than a jelly bean landing in a pond.Still, when this clown wraps up his 30th year and he’s still looking at three more years of hard time, I wonder if he’ll still think he’s too cool to have belly-button lint.I doubt he’ll blow by those three final years like they are so much road kill.I hope he finds those last three years to be tougher than watching a never-ending NBA highlights reel showing Magic Johnson blowing past Larry Bird in one of their classic Lakers-Celtics showdowns.

Are we stuck in the perfect petri dish for doomsday?

The last time I heard of a lady named Wilma, she was married to Fred Flintstone.Now Wilma may be the mother of all hurricanes. And she’s barreling towards Florida.We’re bracing for another disaster.So what, pray tell, is going on around here?Tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes are firing sledgehammer shots at our poor world.Indeed, Mother Nature is throwing punches in bunches at us. How long until we get knocked off our axis?All these natural disasters are fueling big-time speculation that the Apocalypse is coming soon to a neighborhood near you … and me. Could it be that we are now watching the dusk fade on our weary-eyed world?Could it be that our planet and all its inhabitants are currently whistling past the graveyard?Such talk makes most of us wince. After all, a brutal endgame struggle is no walk in the park.If you thought walking through Reading’s City Park was an adventure in danger, wait until Armageddon is tapping all of us on the shoulder. But what can we do?Actually, I guess all we can do is live our lives the best we can and play out the hand that destiny has dealt us.It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a light on and stay dry. The spores of panic, you see, are typically nurtured in dark and dank places.Finally, say your prayers. Ultimately, you get the feeling that this isn’t going to end well.

Shakespeare's suffering the slings and arrows of an identity crisis

Highfaluting English literature is not my cup of tea. Truth be told, it bores me out of my skull. In fact, just thinking of that high-brow stuff I had to digest in high school and college sets off pinpricks of bad memory.So the raging debate on whether Shakespeare was actually Shakespeare, one that is making scholars foam at the mouth, has not been keeping me awake at night.Actually, reading Shakespeare, which I don’t do nightly, undoubtedly would put me to sleep.Still, I do realize that Shakespeare’s works — no matter who actually penned them with quill in hand — have spawned penetrating roots that are intractable in literature.Consequently, the very concept that Shakespeare may have had a ghost writer or two has rocked the world of a few people here and there who inhabit the thinnest shadow of a life.The argument goes that William Shakespeare evidently was an under-educated dude from Stratford-upon-Avon who couldn’t possibly have had the depth to write his heavyweight plays.Could it be that ol’ Will himself never wrote anything more substantial than a grocery list? To be Shakespeare or not to be Shakespeare, that is the question.Evidently, some scholars postulate that Shakespeare was just the front man for such writers as Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.And now there’s breaking news on this torrid debate that has thrown a hot spotlight on this Shakespeare dude who has been sitting in the shadows of most non-academic minds. A new book claims that the real Bard was Sir Henry Neville, an English courtier and distant relative of Shakespeare.Shakespeare himself was simply the front man, claim Brenda James and William Rubinstein in “The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare.”I guess Shakespeare’s role was to merely look scholarly at premieres and schmooze the London theater critics.Neville, it seems, was smartly educated, well-traveled and had a life matching up with what “Shakespeare” was writing about at the time, the book says.And Neville may even have been spotted wearing a Hamlet replica jersey while going to the theater one evening.Many Shakespeare experts, by the way, pooh-pooh the theory.Well, after all these years, does it really matter who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays? I mean Bob Hope and Johnny Carson had gag writers.Jay Leno and David Lettermen have a posse of writersWriting, like rugby, can be a team sport. Let everybody pile on and see what shakes out.So do we really have to keep women and children hidden away in attics and basements while we sort out who actually doodled the Shakespearian plays on parchment? I think not.Agonizing over who made the likes of Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and the various Roman numeral versions of the Henrys stage struck is Much Ado About Nothing.All’s Well That Ends Well.

Did matters of the heart escalate into a deer departure?

I’ve been married for over 30 years, so the dating scene is about as foreign to me as Mongolia.But I do remember reading somewhere that supermarkets are a good place to meet people if you’re single and have an eye out for a tasty peach or a ripe tomato.Well, our deer friends are entering their mating season. But since there is an alarming illiteracy rate among the deer population, they don’t hook up online.Now I’m not sure if a 130-pound, eight-point buck was looking for a little companionship Monday afternoon when he crashed through the front window of the Weis Market in Exeter Township. But it seems his intrusion had to be a glandular response. Nobody, unless their hormones are experiencing a pulse-racing dimension, makes a smashing entrance like that.However, it could be that the poor deer just had a yearning for some food. If so, he evidently wasn’t on a low-carb diet. He zipped toward the bread aisle.Sadly, he had to be tranquilized and euthanized. So we’ll never know if he perished in the name of love.

Albert Boscov is the exclamation point punctuating Berks

Renowned retailer Albert Boscov has reached the age where if he opted to retire as chairman of Boscov’s Inc., he could simply take his bows and relax for the rest of his life.But retirement likely will never keep company with Al Boscov in the same sentence.He still is actively involved in running his ever-expanding department store chain, but he also devotes inordinate time and energy to making Berks County a better place for all of us.For instance, his time, talent and treasure resurrected the Reading Fair from its death bed and gave it a resounding reincarnation in Bern Township.And it wasn’t because he has a strong affinity for farm animals and carnival rides. Boscov sees the big picture and realizes that the heartland of Berks — its strong agriculture roots — can’t get uprooted in the chronically changing landscape of suburban development.Boscov, of course, has received plenty of media exposure for his yeoman efforts in ushering new economic development into the city of Reading. His neighborhood housing and GoggleWorks Center for the Arts initiatives have been hallmarks for progress.Where some see a road fraught with peril, Al Boscov sees a boulevard brimming with hope. Where some see an era of meanness and darkness, Al Boscov sees an epoch of prosperity and light.This clearly is a man of uncommon vision.A vision that seemingly is boundless and global in scope.A vision that came to Boscov after the 9-11 attacks in New York City was that Berks could be a haven where large companies could put their backup data centers to avoid being decimated by disaster. And now that vision is becoming reality. The project’s $10.8 million state funding was announced Saturday by Gov. Ed Rendell, who praised Boscov for his ingenuity and commitment to Berks. The project could draw 1,460 new jobs to Berks, according to Jason Brudereck’s account in Sunday’s Reading Eagle. “You’ve got a real motivator, a great instigator there,” Rendell said of Boscov before more than 100 business, government and community leaders at the former GPU building in Bern Township. Directlink Technologies Inc., a company whose partners include Boscov and Directlink’s chief executive officer, Arthur Quinlan, purchased the 292,000-square-foot building for about $8 million this year. Directlink plans to attract companies to Bern and to hundreds of thousands of square feet of vacant office space in Reading by pitching access to the building’s connection to a vast $600 million fiber-optic network used to transmit information. Two large companies Boscov declined to identify are each interested in putting 500 new jobs downtown next year. “We’re not trying to fill the GPU building first,” said Boscov, who added that building could eventually hold 750 workers. Companies can also use the network to outsource data-center operations to Berks. Compared to New York, salaries for technical jobs in Berks are about 50 percent less, rental space in Berks is three to eight times cheaper and electricity costs about a third as much, Boscov said. Plus, the cost to outsource to places like India has been increasing, Quinlan said. “Outsourcing doesn’t have to be a dirty word,” Rendell said.“We can compete with India,” Boscov chimed in. If somebody else said that, it would smack of hyperbole.But Albert Boscov, an elf of a guy with a twinkle in his eye, a crinkle in his sense of humor and a lightening rod for change where most guys wear neckties, does more than spout rhetoric.He dreams big. Then he dips his dreams into the concrete reality of bricks and mortar.I wonder if a Jewish guy can be canonized. A delegation from Berks should fly to the Vatican and find out.Because Albert Boscov definitely is the patron saint of Berks County.