Much Super ado about nothing

Today was Super Bowl Media Day in Detroit.Unless you’re into chronic boredom or deep into hero worship, you didn’t miss anything if you were unable to attend.Super Bowl Media Day is a non-event. And apparently it was really a snooze of a time today.It’s essentially a tour de force of inane babble as 4 zillion alleged journalists are left lunging with microphones for shreds and/or shards of newsy substance like a horde of hunting dogs devoid of nostrils.Considering they are searching for these verbal nuggets from professional athletes grown terribly jaded with the whole media process, the presence of enlightenment never intrudes.

Beating around the Bush on the State of the Union

President Bush will deliver his fifth State of the Union address tonight.I wouldn’t want to be him tonight. Actually, I wouldn’t want to be him any night. But I’d rather be, well, a human goiter than George W. tonight.The guy has to face the nation after coming off a terrible year. And he can’t blame all his woes on an apocalyptic axis of bad bounces and bad luck. Some of us know better. If Bush were an NFL quarterback, he’d likely be placed on waivers.Of course, don’t expect him to detail the pratfalls of his administration tonight. He’ll be too busy trying to pump up confidence in his shaky stewardship. His batteries likely will have only positive terminals tonight. This is a pivotal speech for him and his fellow Republicans, who are peering down the barrel of midterm elections.So expect Bush to be as self-indulgent as triple fudge cake as he seeks to allay all the anxiety about U.S. casualties in Iraq and skyrocketing costs of energy and health care.Whenever Bush is salivating to win some sympathy votes, he always plays the terrorist trump card. So expect him to vigorously pitch his program to secretly eavesdrop on people, despite questions raised by legal experts. And he’ll likely urge Congress to renew portions of the Patriot Act that mangle the privacy of individuals. I guess the rationale is that it’s OK to break the rules if you do so in the name of security. And if you do so with an exuberant swagger, I guess it doesn’t seem that nauseatingly despotic to some people. I guess since Bush has bestowed upon himself the role of warrior king in leading the world in the never-ending war on terror, he gets a free pass on the Bill of Rights. The matter of ethics probably will pop up in his address as well. With a lobbying scandal on Capitol Hill having some members of his own party walking around in a cold sweat, don’t be shocked if he pledges his undying support for reform.After all, ethics always become important when you get caught operating without them. Hindsight is a marvelous invention for those myopic enough not to have any vision. I thought it might be fun to press the mute button tonight on Bush and instead just try to read his lips. I probably wouldn’t miss all that much. Because when it comes to speechifying, the guy doesn’t exactly suffer the torment of the talented.Actually, the real fun comes after the State of the Union address when all the pundits on the cable chat fests go bonkers putting their severe spins on Bush’s speech into the witching hours. Talk about a gyroscope of gibberish. Democracy at its finest! Yeah, right.Polarizing dialogue has become the true national pastime. Just what we need. More billowy gales of bluster. We need that like the equator needs more sun.So enjoy watching President Bush and his GOP cronies trying to manufacture sunshine from gloom and doom tonight.

The fog

I drove out of my garage this morning and right into a Stephen King movie set.Or perhaps it was a bowl of soup.Heavy fog, of course, is no laughing matter when you’re driving.And you know it’s sort of soupy when you wish you had a seeing eye dog in your passenger seat.Speaking of dogs, I had the misfortune of being the lead dog of the sled in a West Shore bypass caravan.Of course, whenever it’s a clear day when you can see forever, I usually have to do a grip it and rip it just to merge onto the bypass. This morning I had clear sailing (except for driving blind) onto the bypass. Just my luck. So I was the poor sucker who had to navigate through all the glop without benefit of the guiding light of taillights.Granted, I’m usually in a fog on Monday mornings anyway. But this morning’s commute was extra surreal.Fortunately my car is so familiar with the road to work that it probably could drive itself. I’m just along for the ride.After all, somebody has to keep punching the radio buttons to steer clear of all the commercials.

A family torn asunder on desolation row

A Florida couple right now is dealing with a level of tragedy that is beyond comprehension.Barbara and Terry Mann must be utterly broken in spirit, their souls battered by profound loss.The Manns were scheduled to complete their adoption of a 20-month-old boy yesterday. Then gruesome grief opened a firing zone on them, leaving them with a ruin of a life. With what must be a deadened clank of sadness rattling in their hearts, they spent Thursday planning funerals for him and their other four children — all killed in a fiery car wreck.The accident Wednesday not only killed their five children, but also snuffed out the lives of two of their nieces. I can’t imagine how anyone could even be barely ambulatory dealing with that enormity of heartache. Astonishingly, it then got worse for the Manns. Barbara’s father, upon hearing the news of the carnage, dropped dead of a heart attack. Even Atlas couldn’t have borne such a burden that now is crushing the morose Manns.The scope of their mourning undoubtedly is massive enough to whisk them away to dementia.May God bless them and give them enough strands of strength to somehow cope.Sadly, I sincerely doubt that even the province of divine intervention can even begin to soothe the scalding scorch of their torment. There simply aren’t enough tears in heaven to help drown their sorrow.

Some transportation byproducts shouldn't sit too long in the sun

Thank God for Henry Ford.If he hadn’t invented the automobile, I guess we all still would be riding horses.And all those horses would be dumping so much manure around here that the pungent aroma of ripe fertilizer would be singeing all our nostril hairs.Fortunately, that isn’t the case and the question of horse manure soiling our streets is a non-issue.Except in Fleetwood.If you saw the front page of today’s Reading Eagle, you know what I mean. If you don’t get our print edition (and you should), subscribe to our e-edition and check it out.Anyway, some folks in the Fleetwood area are upset about the piles of manure being deposited in the streets by horses pulling buggies.They apparently think that the residue being left behind by these horses is sending their quality of life into the crapper.Hungry inhales of really fresh Fleetwood air are setting off more than pinpricks of nausea in them. I guess the smell is giving a bleached look to their eyes.While the Fleetwood air hangs still and poignant, some folks have a quarrel that extends beyond pollution.One guy says the horse manure messes up the tires on his Corvette. Can’t blame him for squawking. If I had a Corvette, I wouldn’t want my wheels churning tar-thick squalid clumps of waste either. Another guy has a proposal on how to flee this trauma.He has asked Fleetwood Borough Council to consider an ordinance forcing horse owners to be responsible for removing the horse manure.He thinks horses should have to wear diapers or buggies should have bags to catch the droppings before they splat on the street. Otherwise owners should have to stop and clean up the mess, just as dog owners are required to do by Fleetwood ordinance. Council will consider the issue at its next meeting.On the other hand, some residents don’t think it’s an issue at all, reasoning that horse manure has been deposited on roads for decades and Western Civilization as we know it is still standing. Apparently a lot of people echo that sentiment, since ordinances calling for horse cleanups throughout the state are evidently rare. And it’s not that buggy drivers necessarily are an uncouth bunch with no regard for the environment.One horse owner who drives his buggy through Fleetwood on errands said, “If I had a choice, I would tell my horse to go before we left.” Now there’s a possible solution: Potty train horses. Granted, that might be a tough task to accomplish. After all, we already have found out that we can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make him drink. So best of luck with the potty training.Not to kick a dead horse or anything, but Fleetwood may have just have to wait awhile to enjoy a flaxen smell.

Wal-Mart Supercenter will turn Spring Township into the world's biggest parking lot

The good citizens of Spring Township, of which I am one, are against the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter targeted for the southeast corner of Broadcasting and Paper Mill roads.There have been a series of hearings to examine the harrowing traffic repercussions of such a gigantic commercial monster that also likely will include a grocery store and auto-service area, four retail stores, three restaurants and a bank.I guess they couldn’t find room for a topless bar. That would be the only other establishment that could possibly make this nightmare worse.But these hearings are a fruitless ploy. The proposed development will move remorselessly forward. Trust me. It’s as inevitable as sunset.A Wal-Mart bigger than King Kong will soon will be casting its huge shadow upon our neighborhood. Not only is that uncivil, it’s downright depressing. You don’t have to be a traffic expert to know that the gridlock will be insane. It’s already bad in that clogged artery of suburbia.Life stuck in traffic is more energy-sapping than slowly bleeding to death. It will be an intolerable imposition on those of us who have made it our life’s work to try to swear off cursing behind the wheel.The whole Broadcasting Pointe development area is going to be a nasty mecca for molten road rage. Traffic expert Christopher J. Williams of McMahon Associates, Exton, Chester County, said something last night that will have me staring at the back of my eyelids when I go to sleep for the next 11 years.He said the shopping center, annual traffic growth and other new developments will cause a backup of about 29 (he couldn’t have rounded it off to 30?) vehicles on northbound Route 222 at the Broadcasting Road exit during peak hours in 2017.Of course, I could be dead by 2017, so that parking lot of venom may not infect my vehicle. But if I’m still kicking as a gritty stump of a man in 2017 and held hostage in my own car, I may be in the mood to kick somebody’s ass at Wal-Mart.And the traffic projection of funeral proportions gets worse.If the shopping center is built, traffic conditions at the neighboring Colony Park and Stone Hill Farms developments will reach an unacceptable level, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation standards.However, traffic volumes in and out of the developments do not warrant adding signals, Williams said.Say what?Traffic conditions will be beyond terrible but not bad enough to require more traffic lights?It’s logic like that that might force Spring Township residents to flee the suburbs and move into Reading.Actually, they had better take flight in the middle of the night when the traffic thins out a bit.Once they’re relocated in Reading, they might encounter some gunplay. But that’s a small price to pay in order to enjoy the freedom of mobility.Granted, the bullets may be flying in town. But unlike the traffic in Spring Township, at least they will be moving.

The heated temper of the times in town

Whenever there is a high-profile murder in town, thunderbolts of emotion and pious soliloquies resonate throughout Greater Reading.Now we have a tough police chief in Bill Heim coming back to town. And Mayor Tom McMahon has declared a zero-tolerance policy toward violence.But exactly what does zero tolerance imply? It’s an enlightened concept, but its implementation means we need to have the true belly to fight fire with fire.Which means more cops and more money for crime fighting. It takes resources and diamond-hard concentration to crack down on crime. Since Reading is admittedly short on treasure, it somehow is going to have to muster up the talent and resolve to burrow in on criminals and take them and their guns apart piece by piece.That, my friends, is a monumental task.But McMahon, Heim and all of us have no other choice.Our city is like a hose that squirts blood. The faucet of violence has to be turned off so blood on the streets no longer is as commonplace as litter.

With the Steelers and the Seahawks boiling, the Super Bowl griddle should have a flame that throws plenty of heat

In case you’ve just recently returned from Saturn, they do this thing every winter here on Earth called the Super Bowl.The Super Bowl is a marvelous vehicle for manufacturers to pitch their products in expensive and creative commercials.Amidst all those entertaining commercial breaks and a much-too-long halftime that either features boobs or venerable rockers, two teams tussle to decide just who is the toughest football squad on our planet. This year the combatants will be the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks.In Sunday’s conference championships, the Steelers and the Seahawks blew by their opponents like they were road kill. Both teams have so many landmines in their defense that their helpless foes could have used sonar. Without it, they simply got blown away. Pittsburgh trampled the Broncos on their home Denver turf 34-17 for the AFC title as Big Ben Roethlisberger was superb in his role as man-child quarterback. The kid, still 23 years old, is so cool he doesn’t even have belly-button lint, let alone dried saliva on the corners of his mouth.Then Seattle, supposedly a soft outfit despite its No. 1 seeding in the woebegone NFC, made the Carolina Panthers summon a relief convoy or two en route to a 34-14 yawner. The helpless Panthers found tackling Shaun Alexander to be tougher than mowing their lawns with scissors. Of course, none of those guys actually mow their own lawns but why let reality mess up a good line?Speaking of lines, the early betting line has the Steelers favored by 31/2 points in the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Detroit.Speaking of Detroit, the idiot who awarded the Super Bowl to a frozen ghetto like the Motor City must have recently returned from Saturn himself.

In the economic jungle, the beauty trumps the beast

We’ve all heard again and again that you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.Maybe not. But we all do. We can’t help ourselves. We’re human beings. So, by definition, we’re superficial and shallow when it comes to the matter of good looks. Try as we might, we lack the proper gravitas in truly grasping that beauty is only skin deep. There was an interesting story in today’s Reading Eagle about the significance of physical appearance in our culture.We all know that if you’re beautiful and luminescent, the odds are pretty, pretty good that your life won’t be dismal. The marquee gorgeous in our realm usually are programmed for the good life … unless, of course, their excesses and vanity turn them into train wrecks. But that’s another sociological tale for another day.Of course, all generalizations have their fissures and flaws. For instance, 30 percent of CEOs are 6-2 or taller while only 3.9 percent of American men stand that high. Well, such odds didn’t translate into my life. I was 6-2 for most of my adult life (somehow the burdens of the world have shrunk me to 6-1), and I’m not even CEO of my own household (just ask my wife, who checks in at a diminutive 5-4).I guess there are tall guys such as me who just don’t have a commanding presence.Still, research does indicate that attractive people likely will be wealthier than their ugly-to-the-bone brethren. If you have to grimace whenever you look into the mirror, chances are you have lived a life of meager entitlements unless you possess a notable and marketable skill, i.e., rock guitarist or drummer. I’m not a proponent of predestination, but sometimes it does seem that what happens in the womb trails us like a timber wolf until we reach the tomb.Nevertheless, I’m determined to go out on top. So while my lack of looks may have doomed me to be a poor man instead of a rich man, I’m saving my pennies so I can be attired in a snappy cream-colored suit at my viewing.

In the dog race that is the Super Bowl derby, some quarterbacks become Dobermans and others become poodles

Football is the ultimate team sport.But in the ultimate irony, the quarterback by far is the most important swan in the ballet.Four men on Sunday will try to etch themselves into the grand annals of men who have quarterbacked teams to the Super Bowl.They are gunning to script their legacies, but their scrawl could become so much scribble if a calamitous chain of coincidences intervenes.If their pass protection unravels like cheap rayon, defenders basking in their virility will be clubbing them into convulsing heaps. Quarterbacks are the stars, but they are only as good as their supporting casts. Nevertheless, history judges them as individuals. Something doesn’t jibe here. No matter. Things are what they are.John Elway won Super Bowls. Dan Marino did not.Tom Brady has won multiple Super Bowls. Peyton Manning keeps whiffing in his swings at the Holy Grail.All four were or are elite quarterbacks. But history perceives Marino and Manning as losers. Perhaps those two needed to barter with Beelzebub.The Super Bowl is the ultimate inquisition of a quarterback and his sport.The pressure to reach the Super Bowl targets NFL quarterbacks like incoming tracer fire. Even the best of them find themselves sprinkled with small fingers of doubt. Even the ones with swagger find themselves with eyes as glazed as a Krispy Kreme.But do not pity quarterbacks. They are well compensated for being their sport’s focal point. When they walk onto the field, flashbulbs pop like a laser show. They are the rock stars of their profession, and wherever they go an air of manic energy trails in their wake.Which brings me back to Sunday. A pair of dandy conference championship games should generate plenty of white light exploding into the night.The Pittsburgh Steelers are dueling the Denver Broncos at 3 p.m. for the AFC title; the Carolina Panthers are squaring off with the Seattle Seahawks at 6:30 p.m. for the NFC crown. The Steelers and the Panthers are great road warriors. The Broncos and the Seahawks are wonderful home teams. Obviously, when push comes to shove, something is going to have to give. And likely will do so with great theatrics and dramatics.The guys in charge of crisscrossing the field are the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the Broncos’ Jake Plummer, the Panthers’ Jake Delhomme and the Seahawks’ Matt Hasselbeck. It is their job to scoop up as many of expectations as possible. If they don’t, they won’t be Super. It’s that simple.They may sneer and leer behind their facemasks, but internally they will be praying that fate doesn’t cruelly play on the corners of their mouths.All four are skilled enough to have the pundits waxing reverently about them.Roethlisberger is a giant of a quarterback at 6-5, 240 pounds. His stature affords him with great pocket presence and downfield vision. Plummer is a marvel at throwing on the run, and has remarkably improved his decision-making under fire.Delhomme is a gunslinger, a playmaker not afraid to squeeze the ball into a window too small to even accommodate a sparrow.Hasselbeck is twinkle-quick of mind and foot, a facile facilitator. So which two quarterbacks will stand tall Sunday and which two will shrink down to something less than palatable?Stay tuned. That’s why they play the games.