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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, March 17, 2006

A Note 

We'll pick this up again Monday.

OK, after I post the latest T.O. rumor: Denied deal is real in Dallas? Another take, straight from Dallas: "It appears the ego has landed." See still active poll: You want T.O. to go to Dallas?

The Wearing of the Green: An Eagles Poll 

Begora and begosh, a small flock of free agents will soon be flying around in Eagles midnight green. So, as our salute to local fans of football and St. Patrick's Day, here's a poll:
Which recent Eagles move deserves a toast the most?
Free polls from

Eagles Moves: Rumors and News 

Selected: The Eagles have signed 6-foot-1 receiver Jabar Gaffney (above), who's young (25), healthy, and had 55 catches and two touchdowns for the Houston Texans last year. He should compete for a starting job. Eagles sound excited, arguing Lito Sheppard's cousin should do even better in Andy Reid's offense. Then again, why just a one-year deal? This move probably means forget about trades for disgruntled wideouts Javon Walker or Eric Moulds.
Collected: Quarterback Jeff Garcia came to town and decided to stay. Garcia, 36, who had 3 TDs and 6 interceptions, could replace Mike McMahon, 26, who had 5 TDs and 8 INTs. Of course, that's comparing Garcia's least productive year with McMahon's most.
Protected: The team also re-signed receiver Darrien McCants, who caught five passes last year. Unless he's another guy who needed a year to learn Andy Reid's system, he'll do mostly special team duty again.
Rejected: Terrell Owens, of course, dismissed by the Eagles on Tuesday.
Refuted: Radio report here that Walker was on his way to Philly to discuss a possible trade. "Ain't happening," says
Disputed: Radio report T.O. has signed in Dallas is denied, but sources deny the denial?
Relocating: Defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, if the Eagles can work out a deal. He hasn't demanded a trade but is unhappy with his contract, multiple media sources say.
Replacement: Durable defensive tackle Brentson Buckner, 34, might be a stopgap if Thomas leaves. Buckner's agent has talked with the Eagles, he told the Daily News.
Reappearing: Speculation the Eagles might re-sign Jon Runyan. Team's had no luck landing young free-agent o-linemen, and he's had little luck getting offers. (He vacationed during signing period? Inquirer footnote says Patriots might be interested.)
Refocusing: The Eagles. On lesser/backup free agents and the draft.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Easier to Win Powerball or Be Perfect in NCAA Pool? 

The answer: It depends. Suppose your chances are 50-50 of correctly guessing each in game the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which starts today. Then the odds are 9 quintillion to 1 against your filling out a perfect pool.

Put another way, it'd take about 3 billion monkeys each filling out 3 billion forms to be the neighborhood of certainty to generate one mistake-free form.

The odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot are much better, "only" 1 in 146 million. (No one won last night, by the way, so the prize is up to $88 million.)

But suppose, because you're a perspicacious hoopsologist, you'll right about three-fourths of the time. Then your odds are about 1 in 74 million, says Penn math prof Robin Permantle. That's about the odds of winning Powerball if you bought two tickets.

Knight-Ridder Chairman: "It's Terrible" 

That's what Tony Ridder says about his company's breakup in a New York Times article with more on who might buy The Inquirer and Daily News.

Legal Briefing 

Suspect dies overnight after S. Philly shootout leaves officer wounded.
City schools cracking down after yet another student is found with cocaine.
Fate of defendants in child-murder case could be decided by judge today. Kareem Johnson and Kennell Spady are accused of killing Faheem Thomas-Childs.
Rick Mariano trial has closing arguments this morning. Case could go to the jury by noon. Yesterday, the city councilman (left) wanted to take the stand but changed his mind. Read live reports, find background info, on USA v. Mariano blog.
Tariq Blue, 14, died yesterday after being shot in the eye Tuesday in South Philadelphia. "We don't have anything solid right now. We're still trying to interview a couple of people," a police sergeant said.
Latin Kings leader, others found guilty. Three found not guilty in complicated case.
Investigation of Soul players fails to confirm rape allegations.

Pending investigations
Police may have found car that killed a man in Tacony on Saturday.
More cocaine winds up in school. 8th-grader and 1st-grader involved in discovery in a hallway at Hartranft School in N. Phila.
Most recent reports on case of missing Michelle Nau: "Police: Escort's pal 'freaked' at her death." "Cocaine, prostitution and a wild night."
Continue reading here ...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Philly's Thriller Queen Is on a Signing Spree 

This afternoon, Lisa Scottoline held court at the 1805 Walnut St. Barnes & Noble, talking about justice, exes, her gutsy new heroine from still-smoky Centralia, Godfather and The Sopranos, and how, yes, some favorite characters will return, not in the next book, which she just finished yesterday, but the one after that. Good give-and-take from the audience was rewarded with flying packs of Tastykake Powdered Sugar Mini Donuts. Once again, the City of Brotherly Shove is the setting of her 13th character-driven thriller, Dirty Blonde, which the Inquirer called another fast-paced page-turner. Scottoline, who got her law degree at Penn, is a winner of crime fiction's top award, the Edgar. At 7 p.m. tonight, she'll be at the Chester County Book Co., 975 Paoli Pike in West Chester. A couple of 7 p.m. Barnes & Noble gigs follow, at Main Street in Exton tomorrow, and Swedesboro Road in Devon on Friday. Wilmington's on her website's signing schedule for next Wednesday. Listen to an interview with Scottoline, or read a few excerpts. For more insights into her likes and dislikes ("Readers need big nightstands") see recent Inquirer "Influences" feature.

Schmidt's Here Pitching His Book, Too 

After ringing the opening bell at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange this morning, Phillies hall of fame slugger Mike Schmidt moves on to the Central Branch of the Free Library, where he'll speak at 12:30 this afternoon about his new book, Clearing the Bases. Then at 6 this evening, it's on to the Barnes & Noble at 1805 Walnut. Although no mega-seller like Marley & Me, the book is No. 10 today on's list of sports best-sellers. Schmidt's tour has made some news itself. Two weeks ago, at the Phillies spring training site, he talked about steroids and the hall-of-fame worthiness of Mark McGuire and Pete Rose. Then, because he wrote that amphetamine use was common in locker games, the New York Times asked if he'd ever used greenies, and he said, "A couple times in my career I bit on it." Perhaps that admission helped spur a current Phillie to admit anonymously to using them, too, which in turned prompted commissioner Bud Selig to comment on possible speed-abuse in baseball. Too bad such revelations aren't detailed in the book, said a Daily News review. Today's events are free and no tickets are required, but Schmidt will sign only books, no memorabilia.

There Was Hair in Their Soup, Not a Mouse 

Remember the case of Pearl Parkey, the 89-year-old Kentucky woman who found something gross in a mouthful of Campbell's Kitchen Classics Bean With Bacon Soup? As a daughter gawked, a granddaughter said, "Mama, that's a mouse!" A teeny baby mouse. And a local paper ran the story ... which then ran all over the country, including (with some skepticism) in Early Word. Campbell Soup has gotten back to the family's lawyer with test results: Uh, the granddaughter's and local media's analysis was kind of flawed. The offending stuff was human hair that had never been cooked, so it couldn't have come from the can. (Yikes! What's that on my floor? Where's the broom? Wham! Wham! Take that, you disgusting ... harmless clump of cat fur. Never mind.) When asked if it didn't appear to be a simple mistake, since any sharpie attempting extortion would use a real rodent corpse, Campbell's rep John Faulkner said matter-of-factly the family hasn't asked for money or anything else.

To BYOB or Not to BYOB? 

That's one question being asked around Philly this week. On Sunday, the Inquirer detailed a growing rebellion against restaurants that charge a corkage fee, or refuse to let you bring your own. (Despite oft-repeated claims, no state law in Pennsylvania or Jersey forbids taking your own to a restaurant, liquor license or not.) That's why more and more full-service restaurants are dropping their fees or have dispensed with them altogether. Still, you'll pay $40 to lug one of your own cellar dwellers to Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel (and it has to be one they don't have) and $35 at Striped Bass. (Here's a list of what more than two dozen restaurants charge or don't charge.) The BYOB boom also gets support in a report from food critic Craig LaBan, who likes some of the new license-less restaurants, names establishments with an eagerness to teach about wine, and points out places with wine bars and wines by the glass. Completing this set of stories are a few etiquette tips.

It just so happens, however, that the opposing case is made in the March Philadelphia Magazine. Aliza Green writes, "I feel like I'm in a time warp as small, imaginative BYOBs pop up like dandelions. ... they represent the entirely wrong direction for our city's culinary future. ... BYOBs are starter restaurants that just can't offer the complete dining experience. ... Philadelphia needs a new generation of world-class, full-service restaurants on a par with Buddahan, Susanna Foo and, of course, Le Bec-Fin." The BYOBs lack the visibility -- and liquor licenses -- that lure tourists, she laments, so visitors gravitate too often to chains with both, from Maggiano's to Ruth's Chris.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cut, Outta Here, Sayonara 

Howard Eskin buried T.O. in more ways than one.

Just as expected: "The Philadelphia Eagles today announced they have terminated the contract of WR Terrell Owens."

This story isn't over, though. Gonna be interesting to see who'll pay him what. To hear how much he'll finally say about how the Eagles treated him. To see if, as an opponent, who he'll hurt more -- the Eagles or his new team.

What's this?? Check out what happened in Dallas: The Cowboys have cut receiver Keyshawn Johnson, to avoid paying a $1 million roster bonus. Could it be this opens the door for T.O. in Dallas?

You Hope T.O. Goes to the Cowboys?
Free polls from
Ah, what a wild ride's it's been. Here is just a sampling of some of Early Word's wacky coverage of Terrell Owen's even wackier fall-and-winter downfall:
Terrell Owen's Unfinished Business
T.O. Wins a Sports Oscar?
He Bought T.O.'s Ring for $48K and Has No Regrets
T.O.'s Birthday Bash in Atlantic City
Eskin Hosts Mock T.O. Funeral
T.O. Gets Punk'd!
T.O. Smackdown With Hugh Douglas?
Cartoons Lampoon Eagles, T.O.
T.O. Talks With Letterman
Live From N.Y.: It's the McNabbs!
Your Coach's Mustache!
Replay the T.O. Game!
See also that infamous towel bit with Nicolette Sheridan.

For reactions by bloggers and more, see Blinq.

New No. 2 Tight End Will Get Playing Time 

The Eagles sure aren't selling Matt Schobel, today's free-agent acquisition, as a human insurance policy for starting tight end L.J. Smith. The signing announcement on reads, in part: "Underutilized with the Bengals, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Schobel figures prominently in Philadelphia's West Coast offense after signing a five-year deal with the Eagles on Tuesday. In fact, Schobel revealed the Eagles coaches' desire to use more two tight end sets."

Car Fire, Motorcycle Accident Both Fatal 

A car fire in Camden overnight killed one man, hospitalized another, local TV stations are reporting. Both men are estimated to be in their early 20s. They were in a Honda Civic that caught fire near 31st and Carmen Streets. A nearby empty car also caught on fire. The survivor was taken to Cooper University Hospital, then transferred to a Philadelphia hospital. Early Word is awaiting word back from Camden police.

About 10:30 last night, a notorious stretch of Rt. 422 claimed two more lives, as a motorcycle lost control West Pottsgrove, Montgomery County. The man operating the bike was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he died. The female passenger died at the scene. No helmets were found. Speed may have been a factor, but police are still investigating, said detective Steve Ziegler "Plenty" of fatalities, especially to motorcyclists, have occurred at the same curve in the highway, which has a speed limit of 55, he said. Names are being withheld pending notification of kin.

More Tuesday Morning Updates 

Extensive Blue Route repaving project begins tonight. Where to check the status of the the work on I-476 and I-76.
Speculation increases as to who might take over Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News.
It's Terrell Owens Must Go Day. (See item below, countdown clock at right.)
Today is also Pi Day. No, not as in apple crumb but as in the circumference-to-diameter ratio. Why? Well, today's 3-14, and pi is, well, it starts out as 3.14. It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. So schools are celebrating with math activities.
Ex-State Rep. Thomas Druce has first day of freedom in two years, after serving time for hit-and-run and other charges. But his mood can't be too bright, with only $15 in his checking account, $100,000 in debt, his marriage almost over.

It's T.O. Must Go Day 

The Texas Rangers are more likely to win 162 games this year than Terrell Owens will act like a choirboy for one season, an outfielder tells "The Little Ball of Hate."

And moose are more likely to cha-cha than Terrell Owens will be an Eagle tomorrow, when he's due a $5 million bonus just for being on the roster.

Since nobody's been trying to trade for him, and that means he'll get cut today. And that has to happen before the league office closes at 4 p.m., which means we had to adjust our T.O. Countdown Clock (right).

So he'll finally get what he (and agent Drew "I Could Collect a Dime From T.O.'s Old Deals" Rosenhaus) wanted. Out of his contract. His freedom to sign with another team. Except for one thing: The money could be a lot less.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Signing of Defensive End: Eagles' Last Major Move? 

Team Rehab, er, the Philadelphia Eagles added another medical risk, er, potential starting player today, signing defensive end Darren Howard to a six-year deal, the team confirms. He'll have a 1 p.m. news conference. The deal was for $30 million, with $10.5 million guaranteed, says Howard, who had 11-sack seasons in 2000 and 2004, is clearly a force when healthy. But he missed the Saints' final four games in December because of a knee injury.

Last week, the Birds signed linebacker Shawn Barber, who missed all but a half-dozen games the last two years because of injuries.

Eagles spokesblogger Dave Spadaro this morning had possibly revealing comments (though he insisted these were his personal views, not management's). "I've come to this series of conclusions: 1) The Eagles weren't kidding when they said they liked this roster; 2) They aren't particularly impressed with this crop of free-agent talent; 3) They believe they have time to add to the team before the draft; 4) They clearly aren't as stressed about the wide receiver position as so many of you are and; 5) If they can land Howard, the Eagles may not dip much deeper into free agency."

He said it, not me.

Oh, there is still one major move left: The cutting or trading of T.O. by the end of tomorrow. (See countdown clock at right.)

Temple Coach Chaney Announces Retirement 

Temple University's men's basketball coach, John Chaney -- known for producing great teams and NBA players, as well as bursts of unpredictable behavior -- announced his retirement this morning.

The medical problems of his wife, Jeanne, may have been a factor in his decision. So, too, his age: 74.

"When he leaves, it's going to be devastating," said NBA guard and former Temple player Eddie Jones yesterday.

Always a colorful character, Chaney recently entertained reporters with talk about his $600 Gucci shoes and washing his "drawers" in the sink.

Chaney, who went to Philadelphia's Ben Franklin High and coached at Simon Gratz, never lifted Temple to a national title, but he did win one as coach of Division II Cheyney State in 1978. His teams were known for playing a tenacious matchup zone defense that often led to upsets over confused higher ranked teams. Even though he had a No. 1 ranked team in 1988, he never reached the NCAA tournament's Final Four. Under Chaney, however, the Owls did get to the Elite Eight five times. More bio info.
Chaney's most infamous incident took place at a news conference in 1994, when he yelled death threats at Massachusetts coach John Calipari. Last year, Chaney again came under fire when a St. Joe's player was injured by an Owl acting under orders from Chaney to commit hard fouls.

Temple said it won't name a succesor today, but speculation has already begun. Among names mentioned: Penn coach Fran Dunphy, and Aaron McKie, who played for Temple and the Sixers. A recent blog mentions two dozen names, including Drexel coach Bruiser Flint; Portland Trailblazers assistant Dean Demopoulos, once Chaney's assistant and choice for successor; and current Temple top assistant Dan Lebovitz. Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins could be on the list, says WIP's Mike Missanelli, who once covered college basketball for The Inquirer. On a wilder limb: Hire Dawn Staley, coach of Temple's women's team, WIP's Al Morganti (a hockey guy) suggested this morning.

Monday Morning Updates 

Fog, record high part of wild forecast: Dense fog advisory till 9 a.m. Afternoon's high of about 80 will smash this date's record high of 66 in 1957. Tonight's low in low 50s could be higher than the normal high of 48. Showers are possible this evening, even thunderstorms, as a cold front moves in, dropping tomorrow's high into the 40s and tomorrow night's low below freezing. Snow could even be part of the mix on Thursday night and Friday. Forecast.
New owners for Inquirer, Daily News? Knight-Ridder expected to announce sale today to McClatchy chain. But McClatchy may sell off The Inquirer, Daily News, 10 other papers. Union for nine papers has a plan to buy them.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Eagles' Grand Plan Goes Awry: What's Plan B? 

Defensive end Darren Howard visited Eagles today. Staying overnight, so could a deal come tomorrow? Was so good Saints franchised him twice, but he sufferered an "injury-plagued 2005." (See earlier post, "Give Us Your Aging and Injured?")
How about a backup tight end? , Tomorrow, Birds will announce the signing of Matt Schobel, says a Cincy paper. Move sounds iffier in Inquirer story on Philly losing center LeCharles Bentley.
Forget about: WR Joe Jurevicius, DE Aaron Kampman, DT Kendrick Clancy. Yesterday, they signed elsewhere. Today, so have: WR Antwaan Randle El, guard Steve Hutchinson, LB Will Witherspoon, RB Edgerrin James.
Who's left? Here's a full list. Check "2006 team" column to see who's been signed.
What Should the Eagles Do Now About the Offensive Line?
Free polls from
In an earlier poll, "Who would you most like to see the Eagles sign?" linebacker LaVar Arrington was leading vote-getter.

Last week's predictions about what the Eagles would do:
Eagles spokesjournalist Dave Spadaro raises hopes, though not too high, on "The Eagles are going to be active, no question about it. ... The team's M.O. has always been to spend big money on younger, ascending players, so if you think they're going to break the bank on a player who they perceive is on the down side of his career, forget about it. ... Remember this: The Eagles like this roster very much. The Eagles are also going to have some draft picks -- does 10 sound right, including expected compensatory picks? ... So don't think the Eagles are going to sign eight to 10 players." Yesterday on his online call-in show, he nixed one running back: "I guarantee you Mike Anderson doesn't want to come here and be a bit player."
Mark Eckel, Trenton Times, on WIP said this morning he foresees by Monday just two more signings: center LeCharles Bentley (excellent move, said both Ron Jaworski and Ray Didinger during on-air interviews yesterday) and backup quarterback Jeff Garcia. But even bigger news is likely to be LaVar Arrington's signing with division rival the New York Giants. After Monday, the Eagles will likely bide their time, weighing their options avoiding big-time bidding wars, he said.
Newsday, by the way, says the Giants will sign cornerback Sam Madison, but "LaVar Arrington's agent, Carl Poston, said the Giants have not expressed interest in the former Redskin."
WIP's Howard Eskin often espouses views in sync with Eagles' thinking. Before Bentley's name came up, he said repeatedly he expects the team to focus on the offensive line in free agency, defensive line in the draft. Forget about top-dollar free-agent running backs or wideouts, he said.
Early Word says expect the unexpected (short of T.O. staying). Two years ago, rumors were rampant about Owens, but Jevon Kearse came as a surprise. With the team likely to have a cap cushion of around $30 million, they may see gold in them thar hills and mine it, hoping to attain their "gold standard." But, overall, of course, fans will still feel unsatisfied.
Continue reading here ...

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