Dreading, PA we ain't

In my blog yesterday I tried to put our city’s awful crime situation into perspective.Which, simply, was that while we absolutely need to muzzle the gang-bangers and dope dealers with itchy trigger fingers, we can’t continue to cower in a funk and proclaim, “Oh my God, the heavens are raining bullets and we’re all about to die,” and then allow our fear of the violence to paralyze our town’s revitalization.People with tombstones in their eyes can’t see the big picture.Obviously, judging by the tenor and tone of the comments to my blog, a lot of folks missed my point. Perhaps Reading needs more instructors to teach reading comprehension.My whole premise is we need to avoid falling victim to a gloom-and-doom mentality. The crime problem, as alarming as it is, must be put into a viable context.And what we can’t do if we want to continue our city’s economic upturn is to delve into tabloid sensationalism like the Philadelphia Daily News did today. Piling on the problem smothers perspective.Instead of wasting our time crying fire, we need to turn a firehose on the flaming problem. Which is what our mayor is trying to do. Like all squalid tales, it unfortunately takes time to reach a happy ending.

Danger, like anything else, is a relative matter

OK, numbers don’t lie. But they can be deceiving. And I’m not talking about fuzzy math.According to the figures that Morgan Quino Press compiled in listing the nation’s most dangerous cities, Reading now has toppled to its worst ranking.Yep, our town was the 21st most dangerous city in the country in 2005. We ranked 29th in 2004, which was an improvement over the 25th rankings in 2000 and 2002. By the way, Reading is the most dangerous town in Pennsylvania, too.No denying that our city backslid in 2005. However, this rather ugly denouement needs to be put in context. After all, navigating through reams of stats and data can be more treacherous and time-consuming than wrestling your way through a Keats poem.Indeed, there is a little patch of blue sky amidst all the storm clouds in this latest report simply because it’s dated.Reading had 24 homicides in 2005, which was a dramatic increase from the 14 slayings in 2004. But Mayor Tom McMahon feels that our town has turned the corner, thanks to several initiatives such as the formation of the police VIPER squad and more cops on street patrol.In fact, there have been just seven murders so far this year.Of course, that simply could mean the bad guys pulling the triggers this year have poorer marksmanship. Since we already are infested with so many gangs, having The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight around might not be a bad thing. Perhaps all the drugs they’re taking is blurring their vision and turning them into lousy shots. We can only hope so. Anyway, the deal is not to get too hung up on numbers. As McMahon correctly points out, Harrisburg and York are not included in the rankings because their populations are shy of the 75,000 threshold. Harrisburg and York, as you well know, aren’t exactly Mayberry. Which brings me to another point: We are too hung up on crime around here.Crime happens in cities. Always has, always will. Cities always will have some segment of the populace who are economic bottom-feeders. Those are the people who turn to crime. Cities always will house some individuals walking around without moral compasses. Shoehorn any number of people into an urban core and it always will generate cages of friction.I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight crime. But I think all of us around here make way too much of it.I realize people love to read and hear about crime. But they also love to rubberneck at accident scenes, too.We all need to focus more on all the wonderful revitalization going on these days in our town and realize that human nature being what it is, there always will be some bad guys in town.

The Eagles are now so bad they have an otherworldly quality to them

For a few fleeting years, Andy Reid’s Eagles mesmerized us even they always eventually disappointed us.Now they simply demoralize us.Let’s face it, last season was not just an aberration due to the T.O. insanity and enough injuries to make the ER at Reading Hospital seem as vacant as City Park at twilight.Simply put, the Birds no longer own a time-share in the world of the NFL elite.That was painfully vivid today as the Eagles played like the munchkins from Oz. They were so putrid that the Linc couldn’t have smelled worse if somebody had littered it with a zillion cartons of rotten eggs. I mean, how the hell do you explain the 13-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that had lost the previous week to the woebegone Houston Texans?The Birds, who came into the game averaging a league-best 417 yards a game, had no offense Sunday as they lost their third straight game.They managed a mere 229 total yards – a paltry 164 before the last drive – against a Jacksonville defense missing three starters. The Birds were as listless as coma victims all afternoon. On the other side, the Eagles’ defense was facing a Jaguars’ offense that was playing its backup quarterback. No matter. David Garrard hardly had to unholster his gun. All he had to do was hand the ball to Fred Taylor and Maurice Drew, who rushed for 103 and 77 yards, respectively.Indeed, the Jaguars were just full of mischief at the line of scrimmage. They kept lunging for the Eagles’ throats, who in turn kept gagging. The Birds were so weak up front they had better spend more time in the weight room. And if any of them are sneaking steroids or humane growth hormone, their suppliers are ripping them off. The Jagwires — as so many clueless announcers mispronounce them — so completely dominated the time of possession (holding the ball for a whopping 37 minutes); you would have thought they were playing a game of keep-away. So now the Birds have finished the supposed easy portion of their schedule at 4-4 going into their bye week.Actually, they took an early bye today.And now — barring some divine intervention from the Man Upstairs — they can say bye-bye to their playoff hopes. Stick a fork in the Birds. They’re done. Who would have thought they’d be cooked before Thanksgiving, let alone Halloween?

Reading’s Kermit Cintron a real belter as a welter!

Since Reading Eagle boxing beat writer Don Stewart — who has adroitly picked up the local ring beat since the sportswriting heyday of the Z Boys (Tony Zonca and yours truly) — has KO’ed his blog, allow me to answer the bell.After all, we need to have some online open thread available to salute the storied accomplishment of Reading’s own Kermit Cintron.I realize there are almost as many alphabet world boxing titles these days as there are, well, letters in the alphabet. Nevertheless, it still was a shining moment last night for Cintron to win the vacant IBF welterweight championship.Cintron, a guy who packs thunder in his gloved fists, pummeled Mark Suarez in West Palm Beach, Fla., stopping him in the fifth round. Cintron seized control of the fight with single power shots in the third and fourth rounds. Then he began firing lethal combinations in the fifth, combining rights and left hooks as Suarez did a bang-up impression of a heavy bag — welterweight-sized. After Suarez took a knee for a knockdown and an eight-count, Cintron moved in for the kill behind a swarm of unanswered shots to the head before the ref stopped the carnage at 2:53 of the fifth round.Congratulations, champ! You’ve done Reading proud.

Jeff Weaver, who-in-God’s name would ever have thunk it?

Yes, after last night, I do believe in miracles!Indeed, I now believe that anything is possible. Suddenly, I wouldn’t be shocked if George W. Bush became a great president, if Paris Hilton morphed into a plump nun, if we dramatically won the war in Iraq, if Reading somehow was transformed into Beverly Hills and if my hairline stopped its rapid retreat and grew bangs!Why all this gushy, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming, cockeyed optimism? Why do I now believe that it’s a piece of cake to drop the im from improbable and get probable?Because my boy Jeff Weaver is an honest-to-goodness, genuine, bona fide, who-would-have-believed-it? World Series hero.The flaky California surfer dude pitched heroically and magnificently last night as St. Louis beat Detroit 4-2 to win the Series. In so doing, he became the starting pitcher with the worst regular-season ERA (5.76) to win a clincher in the World Series.Weaver allowed only two runs (one earned) and four hits in eight brilliant innings, striking out nine. I guess this miracle was in, ahem!, the Cards.For some unknown reason that defies logic, I’ve followed Weaver for years since his burgeoning years of promise with the Tigers.Then he wound up with the New York Yankees and melted down in the Big Apple media fishbowl. He rebounded with two solid seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers before melting down again this season with the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels. I’m the only nut on the East Coast who used to stay up late to watch him pitch in West Coast games and wonder where my sanity had gone.But I couldn’t help myself.Weaver is fascinating to watch pitch. He has electric movement on his fastball and his breaking balls. And he has an arm like a rubber band. He eats up innings like they were Goobers. But his emotions always have gotten the best of him on the mound. He can be fabulous and horrible, all in the same inning.He serves up nasty pitches and fat pitches, which is why he usually leaves guys either flailing or taking one downtown. He surrenders gopher balls in bunches. He can throw five shutout innings and then get torched for a seven-run sixth.Compounding matters, he wears his emotions on his sleeve and on his face, which undergoes more contortions than a Chinese acrobat. And in times of despair he waves his arms more frequently than an orchestra conductor. His pitching career seemed destined for the glue factory this summer when his younger brother Jered aced him out of the Angels’ rotation and he was traded to St. Louis. But his train wreck of a season, one that saw him go 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA for the Angels, got back on the tracks when Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan reassembled Weaver’s mechanics.He was an effective pitcher in September, and then really got in a surreal zone in the postseason with a 3-2 record and 2.43 ERA.I’m still stunned by all this. I feared Weaver would be destroyed in the biggest game of his life. I dreaded he would suffer such an inferno-like meltdown that it really would shift global warming into third gear. I prayed for the polar caps as he took the mound.But my boy came through. Big time! And now I believe, baby!Put a moose in tails and a top hat and I believe he could light up Broadway as a hoofer.And speaking of neon, Jeff Weaver’s name will be forever flashing on the marquee of incredible World Series performances. Now who’s crazy for being a Jeff Weaver fan! After all those nightmares, the guy is a real Dream Weaver.

Bad taste shouldn't be this delicious

“South Park” appears on Comedy Central, so its whole intent is to generate laughs.And “South Park” is funny as hell. But sometimes I wonder if its creators are going to burn in hell.”South Park” is achingly and outrageously hilarious because it routinely opens a window of bad taste with a chair. Nothing is sacred as it vulgarly and insensitively lampoons celebrities, politics and religion. Everything and everybody are fair game.”South Park” feeds on controversy and outrage. For instance, its latest episode skewers Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter who was killed by a stingray’s barb while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef last month. The episode depicts Irwin in a bloodstained shirt and with a stingray still attached to his chest as Satan prepares to host a Halloween fancy dress party. Devilishly nasty? Yes! A scream? Yes! (Whether you’re splitting your sides with laughter or trembling like a tuning fork with righteous indignation.)That clever duality, of course, is the genius of “South Park.”

Excuse me, but fetishists are somewhat unzipped

The puzzlements of modern times can be a challenge to comprehend.For instance, what exactly is the DNA of fetish aficionados?Call me a straight arrow, but I can’t imagine why folks would fly down to Tampa to hang out at “FetishCon” — an annual convention that apparently is the ultimate fashion trade show for leather, latex, PVC, leather cat-o-nine tails, bullwhips, dog collars, you-don’t-want-to-know.Who could imagine there would be so many hell-for-leather daredevils in our midst?Sometimes the truth is inelastic, impossible to stretch: These bondage enthusiasts, submissives and dominants are nuts!Who says so? Apparently the World Health Organization and psychiatry’s DSM-IV manual do.Granted, few hobbies reveal the cracked fissures in one’s psyche so nakedly as a fetish fixation.Of course, if folks must be flogged, why can’t they do so in their own cubicles at the end of the world?Then again, if these kinky zipperheads dressed up like perverse escape artists must convene annually for a big bondage party, why not hold it in Greater Reading and make their out-in-the-margin aesthetic statements here?We’ll take their money as greedily as Tampa does. And to further entice the fetishists, we could even erect large steel Xs on Penn Square where they could be chained until their hearts are content.Of course, our tourist coordinators probably shouldn’t book the fetish freaks when the Jehovah’s Witnesses are in town. There might be a slight cultural shock.

Rush is the one who's shaky

Forgive the sarcasm, but Rush Limbaugh has a mouth bigger than the Grand Canyon and a brain smaller than a Fruity Pebble.And he seems destined to march in lockstep through time with his foot in his big mouth.Rush loves to take shots at folks from the fire bank of his radio pulpit. Mostly folks who don’t share his conservative vision of the world (tough to do since Limbaugh looks at the world through a straw). His latest victim is actor Michael J. Fox. Limbaugh accused Fox of exaggerating the effects of his Parkinson’s disease while doing political ads supporting candidates who favor stem cell research.Stem cell research offers hope to people who suffer from Parkinson’s and its uncontrollable shaking.Too bad that stem cell research can’t cure stupidity steeped in arrogance.

Kids: Don't grow up like your bad news fathers

Sometimes I wish life was more fiction than reality.Especially when I read a squalid tale about adults resorting to brutality in front of their kids.Why are there so many morons infesting our human race? And why do we allow cretins to reproduce?While I’m spitting out questions, why aren’t youth sports for kids only? For instance, pee-wee footballers 6 and 7 years old were playing a game in Northeast Philadelphia when a complete meltdown of parental perspective turned a beautiful Sunday coyote ugly. Suddenly a molten-tempered dad was punching his son’s coach in a dispute over the boy’s playing time before brandishing a .357 Magnum, and then a referee was clocking the angry father’s brother. Both men were arrested. And they should throw away the key until those 6 and 7 years olds are 21 and 22 years old.Because kids don’t need adults like those poisoning their lives — and our tomorrows.

Dealing with a dirty hand

If Kenny Rogers can be an old man of 41 and pitch like some young stud this postseason, I’m wondering why I can’t do the same.While Rogers was pitching the Detroit Tigers to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday night to square the World Series at a game apiece, I was watching at home and plotting how I, too, can become a real dirtball. Granted, this marketing gig here at Reading Eagle Company has its perks. But my salary hardly ranks up there with a major league pitcher’s. Plus, the groupies hanging out at the office aren’t nearly as hot as the groupies hovering over the dugout. Of course, it was so cold last night in Detroit that even the gorgeous groupies were hardly hot.But I digress.Yep, I’m 57 years of age and I’m plotting a pitching comeback. And I haven’t pitched since Little League when my curveball couldn’t stop hanging and my slider couldn’t start sliding. And since I’ve probably lost about 20 mph off my fastball, I have no recourse but to put a big clump of brown goo on my pitching hand if I want to make a belated pitch for major league stardom.Yep, I figure a gob of pine tar that gives some extra snap to my breaking pitches is all that separates me from a stint with the Philadelphia Phillies.Assuming, of course, that the umps turn a blind eye.So if you see an old geezer toeing the slab at Citizens Bank Park next season, you know I pulled it off. Just don’t ask me to wash my hands when you ask for my autograph.