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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.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Is Eagles Team Unity the Real Worry?
Yesterday, cornerback Sheldon Brown suggested that Donovan McNabb "move on." If the QB hadn't been so candid in interviews this week, he wouldn't have become aswirl in controversy, he told Daily News Live on Comcast SportsNet. "So he's bringing it upon himself. It should be over with. He should be ready to move on to 2006 and helping the team go to the playoffs."

Is this another sign of a possible rift between the quarterback and teammates?

Brown also made news by confirming that McNabb and Terrell Owens nearly had a fight in November 2004. And, of course, that comes on the heels of McNabb making headlines by using the phrase "black-on-black crime" to characterize criticism by Owens and local NAACP chief J. Whyatt Mondesire. But a Henry Ford quote applies: "History is bunk." What matters is where the team goes from here.

As I'm writing this, Ray Didinger is addressing the same issue on WIP: "When you read his comments, you realize, there's some issues at the Nova Care Center. And that stuff has to be resolved." To think tensions will dissipate with time, he said, "That's naive." He went on: "Before they do anything else this year, I think the coaches and the players have to get together and they have to have a clearing-of-the-air session. ... I think there are deep internal issues within that team that have to be addressed and clarified and settled, to some degree, before the team can go back out on the field."

Didinger is talking about comments like what McNabb told reporters during a Super Bowl Week interview for Chunky Soup. When the QB said, "They wanted him back. So what message does that send to you?" it sounded as if he still harbored resentment that players like Jeremiah Trotter lobbied to have T.O. reinstated after his suspension. More than a dozen players also attended the exiled Owens' birthday bash."

Personally, this is a sign for my teammates... . That person you may smile and talk to every day, that same person can talk about you in the media or publicly, or talk to somebody else about how he doesn't like you or is jealous of you or whatever it might be," McNabb said. "... Now for me, it's time to see how my teammates react to that. We've obviously seen how they reacted to it during the season."

Wrote the Inquirer's Ashley Fox: "Asked to clarify his remarks, McNabb said he wished some of his teammates had come to him directly to explain their support of Owens, so he didn't have to hear their comments through the media. He said the communication within the Eagles' locker room last year was poor, and that repairing those lines will be key to the Birds' success in 2006."

Are these feelings likely to fester? One reason to worry is that McNabb says he'll forgive, but he won't forget. He can't seem to forget that some yahoos booed Eagles management when he was drafted. (No, they weren't booing him in particular ... they would have booed any other future Pro Bowler who wasn't Ricky Williams.) He likens criticism to "crime." And, in fact, the front office did the same thing, banishing Owens mostly for remarks. Sounds like a situation where mistrust and resentments could linger, if not build, especially among proud players with reasonable views they could be afraid to express.

Or, are these worries "hysteria, as usual," as the Eagles' Dave Spadaro writes? Funny, but in "Team Effort to Build Mojo in the Locker Room," he mentions "quiet, mature cool" Brown as one of the team's leaders.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Another Wing Bowl Memory, from the Inquirer, 2002: "Wing Bowl will return next year, thanks to sportscaster Howard Eskin, who failed to defeat a live chicken in a game of tic-tac-toe -- an outcome that would have doomed this contribution to Western civilization."

Three pulchritudinous blondes were chosen as the final three. Husband-pleaser Kara or Tara was runner-up to Candace. Rachel finished third. Check for more photos of the event, folks. Lots of them there. Heading back to the office while I attempt to recover. Will post more later.

Unidentified woman with The Time Machine resembles Miss Wingette 2006. Inquirer photo by David Swanson.

The Wingette contest has begun. Why do you want to be Wingette of the year? Do you have a special talent? Some responses:
"I like guys who are greasy and dirty, and I like wings."
"I do. I can belly dance."
There's a whole lot of shaking going on.
"I can swing dance and salsa."
"I am really good at taking standardized tests."
"You have to ask my husband because I somehow keep that hot man happy."

Joey Chestnut wins! Where'd everybody go? To work, I guess. Ten thousand people must have hightailed it as soon as the eating was decided. With Miss Wingette yet to be decided, no less!

Guy's from San Jose, I hear. Highly ranked on the pro eating circuit.
Next year: Gotta be from Philly area? How about a handicap of 1 wing for every 100 miles between your house and the Liberty Bell?

Wing Tutt barfs! The Machine quits! Geriatric contender The Locust keeps sprinting! The monitors keep showing the famous footage of Sloth's projectile puking! It ain't helping! Oh, somebody else just heaved and has to leave! Dr. Slob, yeeeh. Fill that trash can. Cheers for the Locust as the round ends!

Having a little trouble adding to these posts as I update main report for So keep checking that story, too, where you see the latest results. Here's a link.

Who hates Wing Bowl?
Yes, it's true, Wing Bowl is not a universally beloved event! Witness this letter discovered in the Inquirer's archives:

Is the Wing Bowl worthy of the front-page space it was given on Jan. 31? People gluttonously gorging themselves with food while surrounded by scantily clad females is reminiscent of the Roman Empire, which self-destructed because of its hedonistic debauchery. How about equal time on the front page of The Inquirer for a tribute to those who help make our society better?
Elizabeth A. Corcoran, Wildwood Crest

Two guys are busting beer cans on their heads. One guy quits. The other guy is a machine, smacking his skull till lager's spraying skyward. Oh, he's doing two cans at once. His momma must be so proud!

Photo by David Swanson / Inquirer

Black Death, before the eating began. My last photo from an earlier sprint down to the floor. Writing from high in a press box, where there's a direct Internet jack.

The eating has begun. The Wingettes are holding plates of slimy bird knuckles over the heads of the eaters, who are doing their best to rip bones between their teeth. The old guy, in a green Eagles jersey, keep showing up on the Jumbotron as he chews like a pro. Is he winning? I don't know.

Last year's champ El Wingador, who's won several other times, too, was just inducted into the Wing Bowl Hall of Fame! Here's a picture of his win last year.

Is there a doctor in the house? Yes, there is, thank goodness. We'll stay away from the rescussitation jokes, and hope no Heimlichs are needed. He's Mike Cirigliano, who practices general internal medicine, is affiliated with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and does medical reports for Ch. 29.

The procession continues ... the Norseman has a dragon with blinking eyes and an entourage with horned headgear ...
here's a picture taken as they were preparing to come in ... Winged Commander is in military attire ... earlier, the White Widow -- yes, there is a woman in the field -- was carried in, yelling something about female domination.

Here are the names of the contestants and odds. Names like most are boldfaced (soon to be sauced-faced)"

Joey Chestnut – 2 to 1, Robocop – 3 to 1, Freak of Nature – 4 to 1, The Locust – 5 to 1, Wingman – 5 to 1, Meatbill – 7 to 1, Dr. Winglove – 9 to 1, Black Death – 10 to 1, The Polish Prince – 10 to 1, Dr. Slob – 10 to 1, Big Diddy Diesel – 11 to 1, Mikey Cheesesteak – 12 to 1, Wingmaster- 12 to 1, The Machine -12 to 1, King Koagie – 12 to 1, Ex-Con – 15 to 1, Boss Hog – 20 to 1, Wing Commander – 20 to 1, Wing Tutt – 20 to 1, Dave The Dumpster- 20 to 1, Corpral Punishment – 25 to 1, MacWing - 25 to 1, Norseboy – 50 to 1, Hungry Hebrew – 75 to 1, Ted Bundy – 75 to 1, White Widow – 80 to 1, Dusty Rhoads – 100 to 1.

The oldest contestant, the Locust, with Wingettes.

Daily News Memorable moment from 2004:

[Editor's note: We regret Stu's characterization of the young ladies as tramps, especially since we have pictures of him spanking one of them.]

The procession slowly continues, as WIP's Al Morganti methodically analyzes each competitor, mentioning weight and odds and describing what stunt earned the slob a berth in the 25-person field. There is one woman this year, I believe.

Arg! Technical difficulties here at the Wach. Anybody know the wireless password?
Anyway, the processions have started for the world's craziest dermatological exam, er, dining contest, Wing Bowl. Still quite a few empty seats ... and dropped jaws. On a TV monitor, a woman grabs her top and lifts ... her eyebrows ... before the picture switches. It's so loud not even Angelo Cataldi could scream over the din.

Why is there a Wing Bowl? Angelo Cataldi summed it for an Inquirer story: "People are sick and tired of the PC crowd telling them how they can have a good time. This is about women as sex objects and fat guys stuffing wings down their throats. It's about all those terrible things the pressure groups hate. "

Radio: WIP-AM (610) = Contestants & Odds = Wingette & Tryout Videos

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Friday News & Notes
Pernicious computer worm is timed to strike today. Don't click on questionable e-mail links. For more, see Blinq.
Wing Bowl held at Wachovia Center this morning. Must have tickets this year. Early Word will cover it live.
Main Line Murder investigation continues. Yesterday Montco D.A. released pictures of suspect Jacquin Bird and his van, hoping witnesses would come forward.
Jury could rule today in trial of Roxborough man accused of killing four infants.
Philly's Eleanor Ainslie is returning champ on 'Jeopardy!' 7 p.m., Ch. 6.
Also onTV: Dave Chappelle reveals on Oprah today why turned his back on $50 million Comedy Central deal. 4 p.m., Ch. 6.
Sixers host Detroit Pistons, 8 p.m., Wachovia Center, CSN.
New in theaters: A Good Woman (**1/2), Imagine Me & You (**), Something New (***), When a Stranger Calls. Movies page.
For concerts, other events: Weekend page.

Bing Bong!
Caught some of the chatter this morning on WWMR's Preston & Steve. Topic was how Spencer Gifts honchos have been charged with selling drug paraphernalia at the Oxford Valley Mall store. Prosecutors argue you can't sell hookahs where there are marijuana posters -- and at least one salesguy who openly talked about drugs. Preston (hope I have the voices right) described a visit to a Spencer's: "I didn't know they had a whole pot section. ... After looking though the posters, I was walking around the store, and ... there's pot mugs ... drug candles ... everything just had pot leaves all over them."

They wondered if every Spencer's in the area could get shut down.

"You know what else they sell at Spencer's? Beer bongs!" said Preston. "They had them hanging all over the place."

"Is it kind of weird that you could get busted for a hookah pipe, but you wouldn't for something that facilitates, you know, beer-bonging?" said Steve.

"Yeah but alcohol's legal. That's the difference." (Confession: Clueless about this, I had to eyeball the "funneling" entry on wikipedia. This picture of one shows what the chain sells online.)

They mentioned that the stores "also sell sex stuff," like "sex dolls," and commented about how many head shop in the area have been closed down, like one near Villanova, although "there are still quote-unquote legitimate head shops," like one in Center Center and another in Exton.
"When you go to purchase, or whatever, you just can't use any of the terminology. That is like the standard head-shop deal," said Steve.

McNabb's Pity Plea Stirs Astonishment, Admonishment
Can't a football player say something silly and be ignored? Not if he's Terrell Owens. And, now, apparently not if he's Donovan McNabb. Two days ago, we were wondering how McNabb's physical injuries might heal. Now, after a couple of interviews, people are wondering if his psychic wounds will. McNabb seems to so deeply resent past digs from T.O. and a civic leader that he feels he's the victim of "black-on-black crime." That's what he told ESPN. He also told reporters in Detroit, according to an Inquirer article, that after Owens' disruptive behavior, "it's time to see how my teammates react. We've obviously seen how they reacted to it during the season. They wanted him back. So what message does that send to you?"

And yet in another quote, he says, "Again, with everything that's happened, you sit back now and smile about it and move on."

But these remarks have led to new rips, and not just from hosts and callers on often-hot-headed sports-talk radio. "I'm starting to think this Charlie Brown act will never go away," writes Sam Donnellon of the Daily News. The Eagles' own Hugh Douglas questioned McNabb's leadership, and the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan asks if the team's tight-lipped policies are partly to blame. On the other hand, most voters in a new Inquirer sports poll say McNabb is a good team leader.

Who's blowing things out of proportion? McNabb? The media? Both? Is this just a little dustup? Or do you have fears about where things might be headed? Can't we just "smile about it and move on"?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Didinger's Year-Later Look at the Super Bowl Loss
Bitter moments turned into bitter months, as publicized rips and rumors crystallized into conclusions about last year's Super Bowl. Two are most often heard. At the end of the game, Donovan McNabb "got tired" / got sick / choked. And if only Andy Reid could manage the clock and timeouts, the Eagles might have won that game.

But do those judgments deserve to stand as history? I'd long had doubts. So I carefully watched the game again. And called Ray Didinger.

Didinger's perhaps the town's most respected football analyst. He's in the pro football hall of fame for his writing, mostly for the Daily News. He now works for NFL Films, producing documentaries. He coauthored the hot-selling Eagles Encyclopedia. And the radio show he cohosts with Glen Macnow Saturday mornings on WIP is lauded for being thoughtful and fair.

Didinger's diagnosis: The game was lost in the first half, not the last. And while it's fair to fault McNabb for interceptions (as McNabb himself did after the game), it's unfair to say he choked.

With about 5 minutes left, the Eagles get the ball, trailing 24-14. After completing five passes, McNabb gets chased and sacked (above), then gets whacked again after a premature snap (below left). Looking woozy, he takes his time to get off the next play. Completion, dropped pass, completion, long touchdown to Greg Lewis!

"I don't think it was nerves," Didinger said by phone yesterday. "That pass to Greg Lewis, if a guy's choking, he's not going to throw that pass."

The game-ending interception, it's worth noting, was a last-gasp pass that bounced off a receiver's hands.

McNabb got beaten up and worn down for two reasons, Didinger said: the lack of a commitment to the running game, and poor pass protection. "If you run the ball, your quarterback doesn't get sacked and hit and you don't turn the ball over as much," Didinger said, adding, "They got beaten badly in the middle of their offensive line." The Patriots had trouble running early, too, but stuck with it until it gained key chunks during second-half scoring drives.

As that was happening, Didinger recalls thinking the game was slipping away. "They're starting to look like New England again. ... They're throwing punches and you're counterpunching."

That's why Didinger felt the Eagles blew their best chance in the first half. "They had an opportunity to be up by 14 points or more pretty early in the game, and that would have forced New England to play differently. ... If you put them into a position where they had to play uphill, where they had to come after you, and put aside a lot of the game plan they had to prepare ... then you get a greater advantage."

In the first quarter, with both teams still scoreless, the Eagles had the ball at the New England 8, after a long Terrell Owens catch and run, plus penalty yards. Then McNabb was too-easily sacked, and the next two balls he threw up for grabs. A penalty erased one interception, but not the other. On the next drive, L.J. Smith fumbled after a catch. The Eagles still scored the first TD, but a bad punt and botched end-zone coverage by Lito Sheppard let New England tie the score before halftime. Poor execution cost crucial chances to build a lead, Didinger said.

During the season, the Eagles rarely turned the ball over and they usually held scoring threats to field goals. "The teams that win the Super Bowl are teams that play the game the way they played to get to the Super Bowl," he said. The Eagles didn't. New England did. "The better team won," said Didinger, who also praised New England's coaching adjustments, well-disguised alignments, and diversified offensive attack. "The Patriots were a better team."

Looking ahead, Didinger hopes the Eagles learned a lesson from this season. The division has better coaches and players now. And other teams have clearly figured out how to play the Birds tougher. "It's pretty obvious they have to upgrade their personnel. It's pretty obvious they have to rethink their strategy on both sides of the ball."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

For Now & Later
Lottery news: Tomorrow's Powerball drawing will be for a jackpot of at least $156 million. Tickets sold in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Tonight's Megamillions drawing for Jersey, other states, is for $61 million.
'Survivor' tryouts: The reality show will have an open casting call from 10 to 1 on Thursday at KYW studios, 5th and Market.
New on video: Filmed-in-Philly In Her Shoes, based on novel by local author Jennifer Weiner. The Legend of Zorro. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Bubble, which hit theaters just on Friday.
Artists with new albums out: Wanda Jackson, Wilson Pickett, David "Fathead" Newman, Lee Rocker.

Oscar's No Popularity Contest
That's for sure. At least not this time. Nineteen movies last year grossed $100 million or more. Not one was nominated for best picture -- or even best animated picture. See 2005 Top Ten List. (Only No. 19, Walk the Line, was oft-mentioned by critics as best-picture worthy.)

The year's biggest hit, Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, got only one nomination, and it was for makeup, not special effects. Sorry, Yoda (left).

Art and popularity aren't always divided, though. Three best-picture winners -- Titanic, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and Forrest Gump -- are in the all-time Top 15.

The nominees for animation, by the way, were Howl, Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, while the biggest animation hits were Madagascar, Chicken Little, and Robots. (I wonder if this category even makes sense any more, since so many movies use computer graphics.)

Actress Mira Sorvino, academy president Sid Ganis revealing nominees.
Oscar Nominations Announced
Best-picture nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich.
Surprises (based on comments on ABC's Good Morning, America): No picture nomination for Walk the Line, though Reece Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix got acting nods. Munich and its director, Steven Spielberg, were thought be iffy, but got nominations. Crash's Don Cheadle didn't, though as producer he's honored by the best-picture nomination. William Hurt was an unlikely pick for the supporting-actor category, since his role in A History of Violence was a small one. Usually a film gets 10 or more nominations, but not this time. Usually Russell Crowe gets nominated, but not this time.
Noteworthy: George Clooney tied a record with four personal nominations: Actor, supporting actor, director, and producer. Kiera Knightley's only 20, and was nominated for one of her first serious roles, for Pride & Prejudice.

Eagles Guy Said What?
Did a double take when I read these remarks by Dave Spadaro on the Eagles Web site: "Pittsburgh stayed with Cowher despite back-to-back losing seasons and three straight years out of the playoffs. The Eagles, with Andy Reid entering his eighth season as the head coach, and with five playoff appearances in his pocket, seem to [be] one of the few teams in the league following such a plan." Uh, yeah. Most teams don't plan to have "back-to-back losing seasons and three straight years out of the playoffs."

OK, that's not what the Bird's in-house columnist really means. But what he does is also a head-scratcher: Eagles plan to stick with Reid even if the team stinks for a few years. Excuse me? Reid as executive VP for football operations is responsible for bad personnel moves. Cowher's simple title: head coach. Big difference.

Wilt's Record 'Unthinkable,' Says 'Embarrassed' Kobe
Bryant, still being asked about scoring 81 recently, said yesterday he's not aiming for Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record of 100. "I don't even think about it. That's unthinkable. It was done once -- by Wilt, and I'm not Wilt." See ESPN report, with Stephen A. Smith interview.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Eagles: Vote Who to Cut, Who to Keep
Looks like's going through most of the roster, letting fans vote which players should stay, which should go. Today's turn: center Hank Fraley and defensive end N.D. Kalu. (Click "Guest" if you're asked to register.) Results so far: Cut Dhani Jones. Keep Greg Lewis, L.J. Smith and Hollis Thomas.

Five Reasons to Trade Iverson
1. No title in sight with him.
2. Defensively, a liability.
3. Without him, Sixers play more as a team.
4. No other Sixer has as much trade value.
5. He’s aging, gonna wear down.

Five Reasons Not To
1. Trading a star usually backfires. Barkley, Malone deals were awful.
2. Tough to replace his points.
3. Even harder to replace his heart.
4. Civic pride of having a hall of famer here his whole career.
5. Is a trade any way to say thank you?

Inquirer photo by Ron Cortes

Two Takes
Bob Ford: "Break Up Sixers' Odd Couple."
Stephen A. Smith: "Consider the Unthinkable"

Online Love 1: Seek and Ye Shall Find?
"... eye contact, but then you disappeared."

Online Love 2: Lost in MySpace
Oh, what a tangled Web he weaved.

First, Lower Taxes! Second, Higher Pensions!
Third, keep the women safe!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reading Man Calls Himself God
Claims PennDOT and a credit card company agree.

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