L.J. Smith's sports hernia surgery leaves the Eagles a little loose at tight end

Perhaps the Eagles should revisit their weight training techniques. Maybe they should stop doing heavy dead lifts and squats and opt for spinning classes. Or stop toting Andy Reid around. Because they seem to lead the NFL in sports hernias. Or could it be the heavy burden of Eagles Nation expectations are weighing them down until they snap? As you may recall, Donovan McNabb had the most celebrated sports hernia in medical history. And Dirk Johnson also had one. His was less trumpeted, him being a lowly punter and not a lofty quarterback.Now Eagles tight end L.J. Smith has one. Or had one until Wednesday when he underwent surgery. If you bump into Andy Reid, don’t be surprised if he looks as if he’s just seen a live squid pop out of his turtle soup.The good news is Smith should be fine by the start of the regular season and could even be recovered by the July 30 training camp kickoff for veterans at Lehigh. The bad news in terms of timing for Smith is he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If his injury hampers his production, it could cost him mucho dollars or earn him a one-way ticket to ride from Philly. And a hobbled Smith this season could mean plenty of trouble crawling through the windows at the NovaCare Complex.The tight end is a key component of the Eagles’ West Coast passing offense and Smith is a talented receiver. He had 50 catches for 611 yards and five touchdowns last season. A second-round pick in 2003, Smith has 172 receptions for 1,991 yards and 14 TDs in four seasons.The Birds have a decent backup at tight end in Matt Schobel. But they’re as green as, well, Eagle green behind Schobel with converted defensive end Lee Vickers and rookie Brent Celek.Better rev up that ground game just in case, Andy.

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A sorry read on Reading

I know there are some folks in the Berks suburbs who still think a trip to Reading is an excursion to the brink of civilization.Which is sad, because our town is fighting back from oblivion and is hardly the apocalyptic menace some profess it to be.Still, its comeback is going to be as hard as marble to complete.Indeed, not to pull the cork out on its resurgence and allow it all to trickle down the drain, but Reading remains a depressing place.I know anybody can manipulate numbers to support their argument, but some stats can be starkly foreboding.A lady from the Brookings Institution, where smart people think for a living, was in town yesterday to say Reading isn’t doomed to hell if it teams up with other towns in trouble in reaching out for state and federal lifelines. Apparently there are a dozen cities in our state that spell trouble with a capital T — Reading among them.Mull over the ensuing Brookings findings about our town and you may want to catch the first flight to Beverly Hills and risk getting T-boned by a drunk celebrity driver:Ranked 280 in residential well-being out of 302 cities studied.Lost 24 percent of its jobs from 1990 to 2000, more than any other PA city. Had a median household income of $26,698, the third lowest of the 12 Pennsylvania cities studied.Had an average per capita income of $13,086, the lowest of the 12 Pennsylvania cities.Had average unemployment of 9.2 percent, equal to the average for the 12 cities.Had 26.1 percent of its population living in poverty, the second highest in Pennsylvania.

Get thee to a nunnery, Lindsay!

Fame and wealth at a precocious age frequently crown out-of-control celebrities with cocked-eyed party hats. Indeed, they seem to ride in tandem. One without the other would be like eating the coconut without hearing the ukulele.Lindsay Lohan is the latest young star to treat rehab as a turnstile as she futilely reaches out for equilibrium.The actress, a notorious wild child, isn’t quite 21 yet. But already the saga of her life plays out like a chorus to the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman.”Lohan certainly boogied early into the morning — twice — over the holiday weekend. When the sun buries itself in Beverly Hills, this girl comes alive to the steady gurgle of upturned beer bottles and God knows what else.She obviously had little time for coffee and aspirin as she crashed her Mercedes (officers investigating the accident also found a substance tentatively identified as cocaine) and was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence early Saturday, and for a memorable encore performance was photographed slumped in the passenger seat of a friend’s car early Monday.No word yet if she found the time to enjoy any holiday fireworks, but one could say she had a dynamite of a weekend without the pyrotechnics. If this rehab stint doesn’t stick, perhaps Lindsay should try the Caron Foundation in Wernersville, where there’s little nocturnal neon and the primary pleasures of the night consist of eating ring baloney while listening to crickets.

Mohnton unwraps the cellophane from a revered tradition

Mohnton definitely qualifies as small-town Americana … populated with nostalgic folks in whose souls the decades melt away to reveal the kids within.Mohnton, the local hub of soap box racing a half-century ago, is getting back on its soap box this Saturday at part of the borough’s centennial celebration. The Mohnton Lions Club is sponsoring the race for 16 kids ages 8 to 13, aspiring racers who will be competing for a July 21 spot in the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.How cool is that? After all, the thrill of racing always has been an addictive part of our culture. Speed thrills. Speed chills. The passion some folks feel for fast vehicles could melt the bumpers off a muscle car. Wheel-to-wheel racing spins our country’s heritage with breathtaking velocity.And with gas prices skyrocketing through the stratosphere, racing in bullet-shaped cars constructed out of wood and fiberglass may be the prudent course to follow in our fuelish world.

The mantle of a hero is not the easiest cloak to wear

Recommended reading: Darrin Youker’s poignant piece in today’s Reading Eagle about four everyday heroes from Berks County who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.Memorial Day Weekend is the most fitting time of the year to remember our fallen soldiers. And while the hostilities in Iraq have gone so far south it’s almost as if George W. Bush is on an archaeologist’s dig, we must never shortchange our tributes to the valiant men and women who fought for freedom with the zeal of a secular commandment. Live long enough and you realize this isn’t such a wonderful world. There always is spine-snapping dissonance somewhere in the world, conflicts that usher the members of our military into harm’s way. Invariably, some of them are bushwhacked in the line of fire — brave combatants who hung tough in classic American-hero style.Men and women of crackling courage snuffed out before their time, denied the opportunity to grow wrinkled of face and gimpy of gait. Men and women whose loved ones are forever caught in the brambles of their loss, whose memories put their every step thereafter in leg irons. These families undoubtedly will dwell in an armada of tabernacle-quiet moments this weekend, their feelings a bittersweet blend of pride and loss. And while their Sunday serenity will be splattered by sadness, may they take comfort in the nobility their extraordinary heroes exhibited in dying for their country.

Wal-Mart runs into a STOPP sign in Spring Township

Like the battle of the bulge, going toe to toe with Wal-Mart is a fight we ordinary Americans usually don’t win.But every now and then we palookas absolutely refuse to allow Goliath to swat us to the canvas.The dreaded Broadcasting Pointe shopping center ain’t happening after all in Spring Township. Who would have thunk it?I, for one, expected a different denouement.So plenty of props to the citizens group STOPP — Spring Township Organized for Proper Planning — for getting the alarms systems to shriek over the nightmare that a Wal-Mart Supercenter, four other stores, three restaurants and a bank would have been to a corner of the township already out of elbow room.Not I’m not saying the shopping center would have been as cruel to the township residents as pulling off a butterfly’s wings. But it would have been close. For one, the traffic would have escalated to ridiculing decibels.Apparently the STOPP folks were enough of a source of discomfort, rather like heartburn, to make Wal-Mart officials grow sick of the indigestion. So they spit out the bit rather than endure a real gagger.Of course, it now remains to be seen what does eventually spring up on the 68-acre site at Paper Mill and Broadcasting roads.I just hope the township supervisors straddle the thread between development and sprawl. Ideally, it would be marvelous if they just left the site vacant (of course, a few flowers and shrubs would be nice to help spruce up the weeds and wild grass). Obviously that is not an option for eternity. But it will do for now. I shall savor the here and now.

Playing the name game at Wilson

As a Wilson taxpayer, I greedily applaud the school board’s decision to seek corporate sponsorships for district facilities. If Wilson can boost revenue without boosting my taxes (not a given, of course), my stretched-too-thin wallet will be vibrating with joy in my pocket. The school district hopes to sell naming rights to its gyms, cafeterias, athletic fields, dances, athletic contests and homecoming.They should pitch Hooters for the naming rights to all their cafeterias. Sounds like a natural fit. And Home Depot would find it downright homey to sponsor homecoming. Body Zone or LA Fitness could go bench press to bench press trying to outmuscle each other for the naming rights to Wilson gyms. And I’m sure Lawn Doctor or Green Giant would love to plant some seeds towards getting the naming rights to district athletic fields. I would imagine the folks at the Marie Shaw School of Dance in West Lawn would cut a rug or two in their haste to secure naming rights to Wilson dances.While they’re at it, perhaps the board should go one step further (my apologies to grammarians if it’s farther in this context) and sell naming rights to the entire school district. A bank would be a marvelous fit … either Sovereign School District or Wachovia School District or M&T School District work for you? Heck, they could then rename the Bulldogs the Bankers. Then again, perhaps Wal-Mart School District would be better and the school nickname could be the Retailers. I hope the school board appreciates my creative suggestions.