How 'bout those Cowboys, Eagles fans?

Well, America’s Team, after a long siesta snoring through seasons of modest achievement, is waking up the echoes of past Dallas Cowboys glory.And Tony Romo, the latest American Idol, seems borne on the currents of destiny to become the next great action hero. With Arnold and Sly moving onto rocking chairs, this is Romo’s time, on screen and off.And can’t you just imagine a whole chain of Tony Romo Restaurants pocking the landscape of America any day now? The Cowboys quarterback, who excels as a raconteur, scratch golfer, escort of Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson and big-time producer of impromptu dramatics, threw four touchdown passes Thursday night as the 11-1 Cowboys outgunned the 10-2 Green Bay Packers 37-27.Of course, Eagles fans hate it when the dreaded Cowboys are a force. And Eagles Nation had to be incensed last night, at least those of those who get the NFL Network, when they watched the despised T.O. snare seven passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.Also known as Terrell Owens, he celebrated his touchdown by munching some popcorn in the end zone.Granted, T.O. could have had another touchdown catch, but the pigskin clanked off his questionable hands and boomeranged right into the greedy hands of Packers cornerback Al Harris, another former Eagle.At least Cowboy haters, and their number is legion, can take solace in the fact the Cowboys probably are merely using up acres of everybody’s time by kicking butt in the NFC. The general assumption being that unbeaten AFC superpower New England will be too much for Dallas to handle in the Super Bowl.We shall see. Such a Super matchup undoubtedly would bring record ratings as women across the globe salivate at the prospect of watching Romo duel Patriots heartthrob QB Tom Brady. The ensuing female hormone surge could accelerate global warming and drown Al Gore in utter frustration.Last night’s game was also notable because Green Bay legend Brett Favre injured his right elbow and separated his left shoulder.The indispensable common coin of the NFL, besides gridiron grunting, is injury. And Favre, who was knocked out of the game in the second period, could see his NFL record ironman streak of 249 consecutive starts by a quarterback come to an end. Favre, whose streak numbers 269 if you count playoff games, has been an icon of durability.But, as they say, nothing lasts forever except for eternity.

The dark side of the holidays

Now that Thanksgiving is receding into our rear view mirror, the steamy breath of the holidays is upon us.I love the holidays. What’s not to love when there’s plenty of food, drink and parties involved?Granted, Christmas shopping hassles can be sniping little terrors that are a psychiatric goldfield. But since I generally buy only gift certificates, I don’t work up a residue of cold sweat over shopping. But I don’t completely escape the angst of the holidays. I am sick and tired of holiday decorating. I find the whole concept of adorning the exterior of your home with more lights than a casino to be rather ludicrous. I mean, how many lights were there on that stable in Bethlehem?Nevertheless, I have strung up enough lights over the years to keep the boys pumping electricity at Titus Station working overtime. Not willingly, of course. Only because my better half has shamed me into it so our neighbors won’t think I’m a Scrooge.Bah humbug to that nonsense!This year I’m serious about not hanging outdoor lights. No more boiling over in anger as I dangle from the ladder while high winds turn the surrounding trees pulpy with fear.All in the interest of global warming and our inflated electric bill.I just hope my wife lets me get away with it.

This dancing machine comes equipped with high-performance spark plugs

In yet another validation that the America public (I guess that includes you and me) is shallower than a thin slice of pizza, 40 million eyeballs (two per person, I assume) locked like laser beams on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” every week this season.Consequently, eyes and tongues have been fluttering all day over the shocking developments in Tuesday’s night finale when two-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves of the Penske Racing Team (once upon a time headquartered right here in Reading) stomped on the accelerator of his twinkle toes to race past Spice Girl Melanie Brown. Helio’s firecracker personality apparently wowed enough viewers to vault him to a level of prominence he didn’t come close to achieving while confining his talents strictly to the world of motor sports.While Castroneves has yet to appear on a Wheaties box, he soon may be coming to a People magazine cover near you.

Fog foils itchy trigger fingers

This isn’t a good time of the year to be a deer. For two weeks folks with rifles are stalking the woods of Pennsylvania trying to blow their brains out. And just when the deer are trying to get a jump on their Christmas shopping.Anyway, Mother Nature had the deer’s backs Monday in Berks County on the first day of rifle deer season. A thick fog apparently saved a number of them from being harvested.After all, you can’t shoot what you can’t see.Of course, unless a dense fog shrouds Berks until Dec. 8, a number of deer will wind up so much venison. Bad for them, of course. But at least there will be less of them to dart into our grilles at 55 mph.Actually, we can learn something from yesterday’s fog. Instead of hiring more cops and purchasing more surveillance cameras, the City of Reading should buy a gigantic fog machine and blanket our town in enough soup to make everybody crave crackers. And then nobody will be able to kill anybody.After all, you can’t shoot what you can’t see.

With some touchy-Feeley heroics, the Eagles lose but aren't beheaded by the dreaded Patriots

OK, fess up. You thought the Patriots were going to gobble up the Eagles Sunday night like so much leftover Thanksgiving turkey.The spread was an astounding 24 points and some folks thought anything shy of three figures was a tad conservative. There hadn’t been a spread that big since the Roman emperors stopped throwing their lavish buffet orgies. After all, this was unbeaten New England, the most feared force to come from the north since the Norsemen were pillaging the English coast. The Pats seemingly were so invincible that the faint of heart were writhing at their excess of accomplishment. Well, it certainly wasn’t a different denouement than anybody expected. The Birds did lose. But instead of falling on their swords, they authored a dramatic page before falling 31-28.Close, but no cigar. But at least there was no executioner’s song.It was a fascinating but ultimately frustrating night for Philadelphia. A.J. Feeley was absolutely magnificent for most of the game in relief of the injured Donovan McNabb.But Feeley bumped into human nature at the beginning and at the end of the game. After all, there is a reason he’s a career backup.He showed why early on when he threw an interception to Asante Samuel that was returned for a 40-yard touchdown. And Feeley, who was an astonishing 27 of 42 for 345 yards and three touchdowns (two to the long forgotten Greg Lewis) behind air-tight protection, threw ill-advised picks on his two final passes to seal the Birds’ doom.Granted, it could be perceived as a moral victory for the Eagles, who rattled Tom Brady to distraction with a stunning array of blitzes out of three-man and four-man fronts and who saw Lito Sheppard turn Randy Moss into a missing person. But the NFL is no morality play.And while the Eagles were shutting down Moss, Wes Welker carved them up for 13 catches and 149 yards.By the way, don’t expect Feeley to supplant McNabb at quarterback. Even though there likely will be a groundswell from the media and the public to play either Feeley, Kevin Kolb, you or me — anybody but McNabb — you just know Andy Reid will saddle up Donovan as soon as he’s healthy.

Allowing Thanksgiving to settle in our stomachs

OK, folks, another Thanksgiving has rolled our way.Leave it to Americans to invent a holiday that is a terrific time to get stuffed on food, drink and football.I’m surprised more of us don’t suffer cardiac arrest on Turkey Day. No wonder the Pilgrims themselves didn’t eat pumpkin pie. And they would have been absolutely shocked to see Berks Countians treat gravy as a beverage.My one aunt had a gravy bowl so gigantic they could have used it as a swimming pool liner. I had an uncle who could inhale so much food at one sitting his digestive tract seemingly came equipped with a threshing machine.No wonder he eventually became bigger than the Pioneer Crossing Landfill in Birdsboro. When he passed away, his casket was so large it would have made a great buffet table.Indeed, you have to hand it to Berks County folks. We may lose manufacturing jobs and some farmland, but we never lose our stomachs. On Thanksgiving we can make our belt buckles snap with the best of them.What I like about Thanksgiving is the tradition. In our family, we have a rich tradition of sharing the labor. The women have been doing the cooking and the dishes for the past 30 years. And they are scheduled to do them for another 30. Then the men will take their turn.Of course, one year after a particularly robust Thanksgiving feast, we had a pile of dishes stacked higher than the Pagoda. So we called in the Mount Penn Fire Company to hose down the plates. And then we all passed out, feeling as if we had swallowed Spring Township. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody, and don’t choke on a drumstick.

Fire and redemption

I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you Fire, I’ll take you to burn Fire, I’ll take you to learn I’ll see you burn The Crazy World of Arthur BrownOfficials believe an arsonist has set 11 fires in northwest Reading over the past few days.Now I don’t pretend to know what toxic psychological residue is fanning this person’s perverse fascination with fire to heat.Just because our town isn’t the most luminous of cities, that’s no reason to burn the damn place down.I realize my ensuing suggestion will collide with the raucous blats of the politically correct. But I think when the cops finally nab this sicko, they should burn him at the stake at Fifth and Penn.That should throw off a few sparks of alarm inside the minds of those who play with matches.

Finally, some props for Reading

Reading has been peering down the barrel of negative news for so long, it’s absolutely delicious to enjoy a cheer-up moment.Indeed, such a moment transpired today when the news broke that the 14th annual “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America” placed Reading as the 32nd most dangerous city among those with populations of at least 75,000.Since we improved a whopping 11 slots from last year’s 21st ranking, we all need to take a deep, cleansing breath. The jump was good enough to make Reading the sixth most improved city on the list. “We have something to crow about,” said Reading Mayor Tom McMahon. Of course, there’s still room for considerable improvement. So Reading’s finest will have to continue their clenched-teeth efforts to further reduce rampant crime.

Westbrook rescues Eagles from an embarrassing pratfall against the Dolphins

For much of Sunday’s scrum between the winless Dolphins and the hardly-ready-for-prime-time Eagles at the Linc, the game was boring enough to numb minds as well as butts.And since the Birds trailed Miami Vice until almost a third of the way through the third quarter, the encounter was enough to make Eagles Nation tear its gizzard out and eat it raw. And if Philly fans instead were munching on Philly Cheesesteaks instead, it was double bad news for their carotid arteries.Fortunately, Brian Westbrook is a god in a chinstrap. The elusive running back, who missed some practice time with a sore knee, hardly looked sore Sunday as he scampered for a career-high 148 yards on 32 carries to fuel an offense that was hardly a passing fancy in a 17-7 wart-ugly win.Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Westbrook, the Eagles likely would have strangled in a lattice of misery. Before he was knocked out of the game with a sprained right ankle with 7:44 remaining in the first half, Donovan McNabb was a dreary 3 of 11 for 34 yards, including two drive-killing picks. X-rays were negative, but McNabb was too gimpy to play again.His status for next Sunday night’s game at unbeaten New England is uncertain. McNabb’s injury Sunday happened nearly a full year after he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee.A.J. Feeley, supposedly the backup bridge between the McNabb and Kevin Kolb eras, was 13-of-19 for 116 yards, a touchdown and an interception.”If Donovan’s healthy, he’s the quarterback,” said Andy Reid in squelching any quarterback controversy.By the way, the Eagles reached the hallowed ground of .500 at 5-5 with the win, their second straight for the first time this season.Granted, they figure to slip below .500 next week after tangling with the Patriots.As for the Dolphins, they’re the reverse image of a perfect 10 at 0-10.

An extremely taxing situation

OK, we’re all gonna die. And we’re all gonna pay taxes. And while we can’t do anything about the former, we can do something the latter.But not until we realize that sometimes we need Uncle Sam to step up and do his job.Obviously some folks are so sick of property taxes that their skin is as pale as a pearl handle. So we gotta do something pronto about this because who in the hell wants to live amidst a bunch of ghosts?I say we’re all stuck in the net of too many types of taxes like tuna caught at sea. We and our wallets have to flounder around with federal, state and local income taxes; property taxes; school taxes; head taxes; sales taxes; and God knows what else.Besides paying through the nose, we’re all contemplating hara-kiri with all the paperwork.Why can we just pay a federal income tax that is graduated prudently and fairly across income levels? The richer you are, the more you pay. The poorer you are, the less you pay. And if you’re middle class, you don’t have to pay the freight for the pampered rich and the perpetually poor.And then let the federal folks do their jobs efficiently and filter the money down to the state and local levels with an equitable system that eliminates all the confounding layers of fragmentation. We simply have too many damn tax collectors. And if we can’t make the folks who operate the levers in Washington, D.C. make a Big Brother government accountable to all us little brothers, let’s vote in federal officials who will.Otherwise getting taxed to death will remain an unfortunate way of life.