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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on

About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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The Inquirer's ever-evolving way to start your day. Email. Phone: 215-854-2388.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Developing Story
No deal: T.O.'s grievance begins
Local and national news vans have commandeered the parking spots out front of the Airport Marriott, where dozens of media people await word on the hearing that started around 9:30 this morning, reports the Inquirer's Jeff McLane.

At left, Owens arriving for the hearing with agent Drew Rosenhaus (Inquirer photo by Clem Murray).

An arbitrator will decide if the Eagles' recent suspension and deactivation of Owens was excessive. One sign the procedure will be lengthy is that coach Andy Reid has canceled his regular 1 p.m. Friday press conference in order to testify.

Don't expect a decision today, knowledgeable observers say. However, the two sides could still strike an agreement at any time. Recall that Owens joined the Eagles when a deal was struck before an arbitrator could rule on a Baltimore Ravens claim to his rights from a trade. Read story on the settlement prospects, another on arbitrator Richard Bloch. Also worth reading: Frank Fitzpatrick's funny take.

Later radio: WIP says Owens is still expected to speak on his 5 p.m. radio show.

Instant Poll: What do you hope happens? After more than 700 votes, hoping the Eagles win the case is edging out hoping T.O. plays here this year and next.

Express your hopes, fears, apathy here.

Talk About It ...
Negadelphia's Next Target: Andy Reid
You know it's coming. Unless, by some miracle T.O. stays and the Eagles beat the Giants on Sunday. (I know. Stop laughing.)

Initially, most of the toxic talk was aimed at T.O.'s antics. Lately, the ire has shifted toward McNabb, who self-destructed on a lame-brained/lame-armed pass, costing the team the Dallas game.

But with Donovan likely to be shelved for surgery, guess who'll next have his every flaw turned into evidence for the Philly prosecution? The head coach, of course.

After all, isn't he the guy who ... had final say on T.O.'s ouster ... . called the play that resulted in Dallas' gimme touchdown ... feeds fans malarkey like that was a low-risk play ... let a clearly injured McNabb put himself back in the game ... let a wounded David Akers try a game-ending no-chance 61-yard field goal into the wind ... keeps mismanaging timeouts and time-expiring situations ... let proven players go without replacing them with proven talent ... failed to upgrade a team that fell short (see cliches, horseshoes) ... has been coming up short against coaches who have won Super Bowls (Parcells, Shanahan, Gibbs and almost Vermeil) ... and more?

Then again, no coach is perfect, many are worse, and the guy's won more regular season games than any other NFC coach in recent years, more playoff games than any Eagles coach ever.

So what's fair? If you're ready to let loose, feel free to comment here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rumor: Philly's Survivor Makes Final 2
Survivor fans know that "Princess" Stephenie LaGrossa has Philadelphia-area roots: She grew up in Glenolden and went to Temple. She's also been praised by host Jeff Probst as one of the strongest contestants ever. The "reality" gods apparently liked her so much she was brought back after an earlier ouster to be part of Survivor: Guatemala (tonight at 8 on CBS).

Well, a spoiler at, claiming inside information, predicts she'll make the final tribal council, needing to triumph over just one other contestant to win the $1 million prize. Here's the tip:

1. source spoke with direct stephenie contact regarding plans for stephenie to travel to NY for the boot interview. was told that there was no trip planned because 'stephenie does not get booted'.
2. source spoke with direct stephenie contact regarding the finale. was told that many immediate family members were heading out to Los Angeles on 12/8. was told that 'stephenie makes it to final 2 with that guy from New Jersey (judd?)'.

"Los Angeles on 12/8" is a reference to the show's finale, at which the jury's votes will be counted and the winner revealed. (Judd's from Ridgefield, in North Jersey.)

Making the scenario more plausible is that Stephenie's in an alliance that's firmly in control.

You go, Steph! And beat that stinkin' Dallas Cowboy (hey, all the contestants gotta smell really bad), ex-quarterback Gary Hogeboom. We need another winner in town.

Talk About It ...
Vegas Gets Miss America: You Care?
Atlantic City won't host the beauty, er, scholarship pageant any more. See story. Instead, Sin City gets it. Kiss that wholesome image goodbye. But wasn't it all passe anyway? Who's still impressed by women who yodel and twirl batons and act and talk like robots stuck on full grin?
These days, women in movies box, bag serial killers and off alien species, while on TV they're jumping off cliffs and gargling grubs.

That's what's needed. Livelier competitions. A Jeopardy! segment. A Donald Trump Apprentice money-making challenge. Followed by hand-to-hand combat (in swimsuits?) for the finale.

What do you think? Post comments here, or vote in a poll.

Thought You'd Wanna Know
Maine wants Michael Chitwood to run for governor. The legendary Philly detective (left) was top cop in Portland, Me., before recently becoming chief in Upper Darby. "I mean, it's flattering," he said, not saying no. More. ... Biography shows James Michener's life would make a great movie, writes critic Carlin Romano. A Writer's Journey by Stephen J. May is a "a smoothly written portrait that reopens the issue of Michener's literary importance while deepening our understanding" of perhaps "most famous and successful popular novelist ... ever associated with the Philadelphia area." More. ... Food critic cooks?! Craig Laban tells how he'll cook his Thanksgiving turkey: on a Weber Grill. See story and recipes, including favorites of other staffers. More. ... Worried about dangers black bears pose to humans, New Jersey will allow bear hunting Dec. 5-10. More. ... Can you write a novel in two weeks? If not, wait'll till the next NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). "It's a license to hack," said one wordsmith. More. ... Jeremy Sullivan pedalled more than 7,000 miles to publicize Camden's plight. The $30,000 he raised will plant trees, reclaim a vacant lot. A blog chronicled his travels. More.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trotter on his show with WIP's Anthony Gargano earlier this season.

T.O. Central, Part 978
Trotter Holds Out Hope

On his WIP radio show last night, Jeremiah Trotter expressed a view almost no one else has: Many Eagles would be willing to take T.O. back, perhaps even coach Andy Reid:

"We believe T.O.'s a good guy at heart and he can rectify the problem. And if he can rectify the problem, why wouldn't we want T.O. on the team?"

The Eagles linebacker said: "I think it comes down to him talking to Andy and saying, 'Hey coach, I want to come back and I want to do things the right way.' That's it. It's that simple."

T.O. still talks with half of his ex-teammates, Trotter also revealed.

Simple? Yes, Reid did forgive Trotter and welcome him back, even though Trotter had ripped the Eagles on his way out the door as a free agent a few years ago.

But recall that Owens' ouster came after he said the Eagles organization lacked class, and called a team rep a liar. So good luck winning owner Jeff Lurie back, T.O.

Expect more surprises as Friday's grievance hearing here approaches, perhaps even a settlement.

Hit Comedy Set in South Jersey?
A recent episode of My Name Is Earl revealed it's set in Camden County. But which one? Could be Georgia's, lots of Interneters speculate, 'cause the characters have Southernish accents. Then again, Earl and his brother drive to Hagerstown, and the best-known one's in Maryland, an easy drive from South Jersey. (No Camden County in the Old Line State.)

Had to call Greg Garcia, the NBC show's creator to set the record straight. "Camden County is a fictitious county that lives on a upside-down globe," he said.

Still sounds like South Jersey to us.

But he insisted it's not in any state. "We never say how long it takes them to get anywhere. This town, it's out there somewhere," he said. "The truth of the matter is we shoot it in Los Angeles, so there's going to be palm trees in the shots."

OK, I may have overlooked that.

Most places named-dropped on the Tuesday-night show do have Maryland roots, he admits. Like Cumberland. The Crab Shack. And on a future show, Frostburg State, where Garcia, 35, went to school.

So why Camden? Just as we suspected: There's a Baltimore connection. "My son's named Camden, after Camden Yards," he said. (It's where the Orioles play, of course.)

Unlike his main character, Earl, played by Jason Lee (pictured), "my karma's great," Garcia said. "I'm pretty pleased with myself. I think I'm doing all right."

And he's never kept a list of wrongs to make right. "I've done a lot of bad things," he admits. "I just don't feel guilty about it."

Any Philly-area examples? "I illegally bought beer when I was underage in Wildwood. I got thrown out of a TGI Friday's in Philadelphia when I was in college." And he remembers getting hassled at the Vet. Virgina-born and -raised, he's a Redskins fan and dared to let it show.

"I survived. I turned my shirt inside out and started rooting for the Eagles, because I saw another guy get pelted with hot dogs. ... It's rough up there, man. There's a lot of Earls up there in those stands."

Which is why we had to ask if Earl was one of us. Then again, the world is full of Earls.

Thought You'd Wanna Know
Autumn's helping deflate the real-estate bubble. More. ... Tamoxifen cuts breast-cancer chances in high-risk women, but few are taking it. More. ... Disney World death of a Bucks County child traced to heart problems. (Father holds Daudi Bamuwamye's picture, right)More. ... Rising sea levels, sinking land will flood parts of New Jersey permanently over the next century. More. ... Three-fourths of Catholics think grand jury report on clerical child abuse was fair, a poll has found. A majority also said the church continues to put its reputation ahead of children's welfare. More. ... First day of registration for Medicare drug plan has hotlines jammed. Seniors are confused and frustrated. More. ... Consumers are complaining about, based in Cherry Hill. More. ... Philadelphia's murder total already exceeds last year's. More. ... Our affluent area will do more holiday spending than the national average, a survey says. More.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Talk About It ...
Who's the No. 1 Goat?

Nearly midnight, under a nearly full moon, the Eagles nearly won. All they had to do was kill two minutes. Two runs for 7 yards, and the season might have been saved.

But that's not how Andy "I'm not stuck in my ways" Reid does things.

If there's still time to pass, he does. And the ever-obedient quarterback never wimpers a protest.

Of course, Reid never foresaw the nightmare that unfolded, as Donovan McNabb, in a moonbeam-brain moment, played catch with the Cowboy Who Crippled T.O.

Roy Williams ran in for the winning TD. That's him, No. 31, ambling for the score, as McNabb gets tumbled and injured.

There was one last chance. A field goal. But rookie Reggie Brown (in other photo) dropped a pass deep in Dallas territory. A pass Terrell Owens might have held. Maybe even run in for a score.

Pick your culprit. Why not? Last night's loss was a crime.

Comment here. Give voice to your venting, so it can be posted today, call 215-854-2388. Or vote in our finger-pointing poll.

Results update: At 1:30 p.m., with over 900 votes cast, McNabb had more than half, with Reid a strong runner-up.

3 of 4 phone calls, though, put the onus on Reid: (1) "Andy Kuharich and Donovan Snead" (2) "They should have been running" (3) "No concept how to run an offense" (4) "Who's in charge?"

T.O. Central, Part 976
Hugh Douglas Said What?
Check out this quote, said by the ex-defensive end on WIP:

"It's everybody's fault, and everybody could have handled the situation a lot better."

Excuse me? Hugh Douglas works for the Eagles' front office, and his fracas with Terrell Owens has been cited as one of the final straws that led to T.O.'s suspension.

Doesn't a statement like this undercut the team's official position, that T.O. deserves all the blame, the front office none of the shame?

Maybe T.O. should call Douglas as a witness at Friday's grievance hearing.

Here's the full context of the quote. It happened during an exchange between WIP's Rhea Hughes and Douglas, while Howard Eskin was off getting the coffin for his mock T.O. "funeral." (See next item.)

Hughes: Somebody asked me about you today. And you seem kind of, I don't know what the word is, apologetic, kind of sad that you were involved in it.
Douglas: Yes, because when you step back from the situation and you actually know everything that's going on, like I said, it's partly his fault, but everybody's involved. It's everybody's fault, and everybody could have handled the situation a lot better. You just hate to see a great player have all this controversy surrounding him.

Clearly, Douglas was trying to avoid controversy. Consider this earlier exchange:

Caller: Hey, Hugh, don't you think you're taking this a little bit too far, man?
Douglas: What do you mean? What am I doing?
Caller: What are you doing? You're right down there with the muskrat right beside you!
Douglas: This is my job, and I'm going sit here. Have you heard me say anything? I have not opened my mouth.
Eskin: Larry's a punk. He calls up and whines all the time.

But didn't Douglas, in trying not to point fingers, actually point them all over the place?

T.O. Central, Part 977: The 'Funeral'
Paying Their Last Disrepects

Sometimes choosing what to write about is a process of elimination. Usually, no pun intended. Other reporters blanket important stories, interview real newsmakers.

Which leaves me what? Howard Eskin's "funeral" for Terrell Owens.

Yesterday afternoon, as part of WIP's pregame programming, the self-styled King of Bling staged a stunt near the Linc that ESPN called a new low, even for Philadelphia sports.

And that was before Eskin asked two strippers if they were lesbians.

Don't worry. Owens is alive and well. Nothing got buried. But Eskin did "cremate" a Terrell Owens jersey, with plans to cast the ashes on the field. Then out of a hearse came a coffin, its lid engraved with the dates of T.O.'s tenure, its interior lined in green velvet. Funeral music played. "Pallbearers" gathered, dressed in black Eagles jerseys. (See photo above.)

A woman named Kathleen threw in the first No. 81 jersey. "Goodbye, T.O.," she said. "... Rest in peace."

As fans began tossing in more now-unwanted T.O. jerseys, even pulling them off their bods, a dummy was deposited in the casket.

"That's an ugly looking effigy, that's all I got to say. Oh, it has a baby bottle," said WIP's Rhea Hughes.

Pages were torn from T.O.'s book, Catch This, and set aflame.

"I don't find it amusing," a caller said, supposing all the jerseys would be burned.

"We're donating them to the homeless," Eskin explained. "Someone in Uganda will be wearing a Terrell Owens jersey."

Ever the background chanting: "Dallas sucks! Dallas sucks!"

Eskin pulled no punches as he delivered his "eulogy" for "the biggest I-and-me guy I've ever seen in sports." Of T.O.'s hyperbaric healing chamber, Eskin said, too bad someone didn't turn off the oxygen. The reason T.O.'s selling two mansions: He doesn’t want to see his family starve.

In all, several hundred jerseys were collected. "But this is the most touching," Eskin said at one point. "It is a child's jersey."

A cynic might say: Only in Philadelphia. Score your 100th receiving TD and who cares? But lose your job, and they dance on your grave.

No, it wasn't classy. Not by a long shot. But it was a classic.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hot Topics
Medicare drug plan: Big decisions, "massive confusion." Tomorrow, senior citizens can start signing up for prescription coverage, but the choices are many. So millions of people are trying to become instant experts. Here's help:
1. "The Medicare muddle," the Sunday Inquirer's detailed look at the plan, includes tips on navigating the program, questions to consider, where to find advice.
2. "Picking a plan will be personal," today's followup part. It's told in an easy-to-read Q&A format.
3. Today's Consumer Watch column, which mixes outrage with this advice: "Don't pull the trigger hastily."
4. This morning's online Q&A with a Medicare expert Richard Stefanacci. It's live from 10 to 11. But you can ask questions in advance, and return later to read the entire discussion.

Predict the score. With a 4-4 record and 2 losses in the division already, the Eagles' playoff hopes could fizzle with a loss to the Cowboys tonight. Last time, Dallas won 33-10. Vote in a poll how the game will go.

Also, discuss the game online this morning in a Live Q&A with Marc Narducci. Ask questions in advance. Join in from 9 to 10 a.m. Or visit later to read the discussion.

What do think of this stink over pink? A University of Iowa professor triggered a ruckus when she objected to the hue of the locker room for visiting men's football team. It's the same shade as bubblegum. Jill Gaulding said it sent a misogynistic message and represented "a serious obstacle to gender equity on campus." Hawkeye fans responded by buying lots of pink merchadise -- toilet seats, coffee cups, women's underwear -- and sending her hundreds of emails. Story.
Photo from

Glucosamine and chondroitin do work to alleviate aggravated joints, a big study suggests. So it wasn't the placebo effect (meaning my imagination) that was helping my trick thumb? Do you take this stuff? Do you swear by it, too? See story.

Are stronger eminent-domain limits really needed? Ever since a Supreme Court decision caused a furor six months ago, citizens have clamored for protection from politically sanctioned property grabs. More than 30 states have taken action, and nine bills are pending in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But beware, some experts say. If the rules are too rigid, some towns will have trouble revitalizing. More.

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