Fond season farewells for the Eagles, McNabb and Westbrook

For yawning stretches Sunday the season finale between the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles at the gloomy Linc was matched in dullness only by a conversation about the indoor shelf life of a Scotch Pine Christmas tree.However, while it was hardly a fire-in-a-theater game, the encounter was notable for three reasons.Number One: The Eagles won 17-9, their third straight victory that stamped them as neither winners nor losers in 2007. Rather, they finished in the limbo of .500 at 8-8. Nevertheless, missing the playoffs for the second time in three years since their Super Bowl season of 2004 was a colossal disappointment.Number Two: Donovan McNabb’s career is not tanking. While no longer a matinee idol in Philly and guy who still may have to fear deportation proceedings in the offseason, the dude continued his strong play down the stretch. He completed 29 of 41 passes for 345 yards and a touchdown, adroitly spreading the ball to 10 different receivers. Rookie Kevin Kolb, the No. 2 pick and perhaps the heir and air apparent, was the No. 2 quarterback for the first time this season when both McNabb and A.J. Feeley were healthy. But with the game relatively close, Kolb didn’t take a snap.Number Three: Running back/receiver/what-the-hell-doesn’t-he-do? Brian Westbrook climaxed his Pro Bowl season by establishing franchise records for total yards from scrimmage (2,104) and receptions (90). At this rate, if Westbrook remains in one piece for subsequent seasons, his legend will swell like a blowfish. Give him the football either with a handoff, pitch or pass, and the twinkle-quick Westbrook squeezes it until the juice of the pigskin runs.

Sweet Sixteen for the Patriots

Everybody in the universe, and yes that probably even includes folks on Mars, Jupiter and Birdsboro, knows by now that the New England Patriots finished the NFL regular season picture perfect at 16-0. God knows, there has been enough stenography about their unbeaten year, one they punctuated in resounding fashion Saturday night by overcoming a 12-point deficit to beat the New York Giants 38-35 at the Meadowlands.It was New England’s 19th straight win over two seasons, a victory in which Tom Brady set an NFL record with his 50th touchdown pass and Randy Moss broke the league mark with his 23rd touchdown reception. Not coincidentally, both records fell on the same play when Brady hit Moss with a 65-yard bomb for the go-ahead score.Granted, Sweet Sixteen will turn bitterly sour for the Pats if they don’t run the playoff table and finish 19-0 with a Super Bowl victory.But this seems to be a team of destiny. The Patriots are a brass section that sends out a triumphal arch of sound every game. Whether their opponents are performing like store window dummies or valiant warriors, the Pats rise to the occasion.So snap a picture of their wondrous season and tuck it away safely in your mind’s personal scrapbook. Odds are you won’t see their like again.

A toast to a better tomorrow

We all know ’tis the season to abuse our livers. You can’t run the gauntlet of holiday parties everywhere and not swallow enough booze to float the Queen Mary in the Schuylkill River just off the West Shore Bypass.And New Year’s Eve hasn’t even dawned yet. By the New Year, your liver could look worse than Amy Winehouse.But don’t you just love the marvels of medical research?A new drug that reverses severe liver damage could be on the horizon.I’ll drink to that!

Hope Santa brought this poor soul a new pair of nostrils

Every year I worry about Santa Claus getting stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve.After all, he spends the whole night traveling the world and jumping down chimneys of various shapes and sizes. Hard to believe he hasn’t got stuck at least once after all these centuries, especially with the gut he packs. Speaking of getting stuck on Christmas Eve (and I’m not talking about being trapped in a conversation with your annoying uncle by the punch bowl), a 77-year-old Des Moines gentleman got stuck headfirst in a septic tank. I kid you not. “It was the worst Christmas Eve I’ve ever had,” Robert Schoff said in a bit of an understatement.He could have been more blunt and said it downright stunk.

The magic of Christmas

I don’t know whether anyone can actually quantify it or thoroughly explain it even after delving into the depths of theology and sociology, but Christmas has a magical quality — spiritual and secular — like no other time of the year.In a calendar year chockfull of special events and other religious celebrations, Christmas remains the High Holy Day of Joy.Wherever you are and whoever you are with today, savor the spirit of the season and soak up the good tidings.If every day could be Christmas Day, Mother Earth truly would be a priceless gift worth unwrapping.

So NOW the Eagles concoct some belated heroics?

OK, some things are a total waste of time and effort.Like wishing Happy Hanukkah to Santa Claus.Like packing a clean set of underwear for the afterlife.Like the Eagles playing like a playoff team Sunday in slapping the Saints 38-23 in the Superdome.I mean, what the hell is the point now? Philadelphia already has spit the bit. This horse race is over. Nevertheless, Donovan McNabb looked like a quarterback whose body had never been injured and whose mind had never been cluttered with insecurity and indecision.He was 24-of-35 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns, including a 31-yarder to Reggie Brown late in the second period to put the Birds ahead for good at 21-14. His legs were spry and nimble. His 40-yard scramble on the third play led to a bizarre touchdown after his fumble was recovered in the end zone by Kevin Curtis. And McNabb’s scrambling ability neutralized the New Orleans pass rush. If only he and the Eagles had come up this big when it mattered.

Irony so thick you could slice it with a steak knife: Billionaire roofer dies after falling through his garage roof

Sometimes you come across a story that for a moment or two stabs the air in your lungs.And emphatically reminds you that we all are mere marionettes in the process of life — and death.Indeed, none of us — no matter how rich we are — is honeycombed for ultimate survival.Case in point: The 91st richest man in the country, a roofing company billionaire, has died after falling through the roof of his garage.I’m not sure even the Greek playwrights could script an exit scene dripping with that much irony for their tragic heroes. Ken Hendricks, 66, who had a net worth of $3.5 billion and was the founder of the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing, was checking on construction on the roof over his garage at his home when he fell through. He suffered massive head injuries.If only all his money somehow could have cushioned his fall.

Wishing a Merry Christmas to even the PC Scrooges

I do grow weary with the politically correct twits who find the very words “Merry Christmas” to be more terrifying than global warming.Not that I remotely am a candidate for sainthood, but it annoys me when Christmas gets elbowed out by the orthodoxy of multiculturalism.The PC brigade practically is Christ-ophobic. Those folks would rather step on a cockroach in their bare feet than dare to utter “Merry Christmas” when a mere “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” will suffice.I know some may impugn my character for saying this, but allow me to wish you all a Merry Christmas.Besides, character assassination seldom draws blood.

The county should help the city keep the Pagoda standing tall

The Pagoda is an invaluable treasure because it’s the symbol of our community.Has been for almost a century. Granted, the symbol of Berks County could have been anything. A pretzel. A hunk of ring baloney. A slice of shoofly pie. Whatever.Actually, a pretzel, ring baloney and shoofly pie would have been cheaper to maintain.But if the Pagoda is indeed priceless to our legacy, then we must pay the price to keep it from crumbling into a heap upon Mount Penn.Over the years the city of Reading has appreciated the strong bond between the community and the Pagoda. That bond among city fathers has evolved into a heritage that has never fractured. And the city still doesn’t want to flinch an inch from the yoke of financial responsibility that goes with that trust. A panel of city-hired consultants Tuesday proposed a multiyear project to renovate the Pagoda and create a Japanese garden around the landmark building at a cost of more than $15 million.The work on the landmark would occur in three phases, and the first might be completed by the 100th anniversary celebration on Aug. 8. City Council members are supportive, but cautious.As they should.The gap between the city’s expenses and revenues is expected to be $9 million in 2008, and projected to reach $12 million in 2009, $16 million in 2010 and $20 million in 2011. Layoffs and a big property tax increase could happen as soon as 2009. Plus, a federal mandate says the city must upgrade the sewage treatment plant by 2012 — a $250 million price tag.Flush your toilet or gaze up at the Pagoda? Hell, that’s not even a question worth considering.But who says the city has to cover the whole nut of renovating and preserving the Pagoda?The Pagoda is the symbol of all Berks County, or Greater Reading if you prefer the trendy geographic marketing tag. I say let the county write the city a big check to help fund the Pagoda project. The county has a projected $83 million fund balance available by the end of 2008, so it’s not like that the commissioners are strapped for cash.Even after nearly 100 years, the Pagoda is just breaking a sweat in serving as Berks County’s sentinel on the mountain.So we all should help wipe the Pagoda’s brow when needed.

Anchor punch II

When Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of their infamous 1965 world heavyweight championship fight in Lewistown, Maine, he described the flashing — and seemingly mild — right hand that gored Liston as his anchor punch.Well, it seems as if embattled CBS3 anchorwoman Alycia Lane, according to New York police, has brought the anchor punch back to life.She has been charged with sucker-punching a female cop. Besides landing her in a heap of legal trouble, Lane’s alleged anchor punch has put her gig at Channel 3 on the ropes.