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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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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Eagles Rumor Update: Parcells Quits Over T.O.??? is reporting that Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells quit last night after an argument with owner Jerry Jones over the signing ex-Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Could it be that T.O. has already wreaked havoc on the Cowboys? Good news for Eagles fans?!

Wait, you gotta read this report! The Eagles have re-signed Freddie Mitchell! It's from the same website.

What's going on? Be sure to click the Mitchell link. Or check out the first comment below.

Friday, March 31, 2006

'If you can't enjoy this season, that's YOUR fault' 

Inquirer photographs by Akira Suwa
Slugger Ryan "H Bomb" Howard (above),
pitcher Brett Myers (below left),
and infielders Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

I'm one of those miserable malcontents who've failed to get enthused about the Phillies since the strike of '94. (Yuh, got some character flaws.) But I'm hankering to recapture the passion I had as kid hanging on every pitch on radio or TV. I'm sure I'm not alone. (Especially with the Eagles and Sixers on dissapointing downslides.) That's why I asked a friend, Sam Hughes, to tell us why we should rekindle the spirit that, pre-Buddy Ryan and Bill Giles, had long made this a baseball town, even with much worse teams than this year's. Here's his case:

* * * * * * *

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who claims to be a baseball fan and can't be at least reasonably enthusiastic about the Phils' prospects this season has either (a) allowed their worldview to become a reflection of their own loser personality, or (b) is not really a fan at all. This is a team that won 88 games last year, missed the wild card by one game -- that's one Billy Wagner meatball to Craig Biggio -- and the division title by two. They could have easily won five more games with better decision-making (had they kept Polanco and dumped Bell, sat Thome when he was clearly injured, banned Endy Chavez from anything beyond pinch-running and defense, benched or released Worrell and Addams a lot earlier than they did, etc.). While Manuel is not going to suddenly become a tactical genius, his (and Gillick's) decisions this spring have been very encouraging -- especially in the way they reward talent and achievement over washed-up or injured Proven Veteran-ness. In past years, under Wade (and Bowa), this was a consistent, maddening, and fatal problem. This year, they promoted Madson and Floyd to the starting rotation even though they shelled out $2.7 M to Ryan Franklin, for the very good reason that they are, at least potentially, better pitchers. Tomas Perez, an engaging character but a lousy hitter, looks to be on the way out despite a dopey gift contract from Wade. I admit to mixed feelings about dumping Padilla, who will probably have a career year in Texas just to spite us, but there's something to be said for cutting bait on a moody and somewhat injury-prone pitcher who was not living up to his considerable potential -- and who would have made more than $4 M this year.

So what's to like?

-- The lineup that scored more runs (807) than any team in their division should score even more this year with (hopefully!) full seasons out of Howard, Utley, & Rowand, not to mention a better bench.
-- The very good defense got even better with Rowand.
-- While the starting rotation certainly has some question marks (especially with Floyd), it also has a fairly high ceiling. Myers could win 17 games if he pitches the way he did last year, and he might just pitch better. Lieber did win 17 games. Lidle (a better trade than I thought at the time) should be good for 12. Madson is a big upgrade to the rotation and could well win 14-16. Floyd could either win 14 or lose 14, half of the latter in Scranton. Franklin can step in and eat innings, even if he's likely to barf up a lot of runs. More important, there is help not far away in the minors.

Yes, they lost Wagner, and they will miss his arm, if not his mouth. But it was a wise decision to let him go in that market. $44 M for a guy who will be very lucky to pitch 80 innings a year is insane.

As for the competition:

The Mets did get better, especially at first base, but then, they weren't that good a team last year. (They scored 702 runs, compared with the Phils' 807.) If they get full, healthy seasons out of Pedro, Wagner, and Floyd, they will be very tough. But does anybody really think they will?
The Braves have that pact with the devil thing going on, not to mention a very good farm system, neither of which should be underestimated. But they no longer have Leo Mazzone; Chipper's getting old and fragile; Hampton's out; Smoltz is due for an extended visit to Dr. Jobe; and their bullpen inspires no fear.

The Marlins got worse--much worse.

The Nationals played way over their heads last year, and take it to the bank that they won't this year.

It's easy to get sucked into the rank swamp of Negadelphiativity, which is created by several things: poor baseball journalism (see Eskin, Howard; and many of the region's out-of-touch general-assignment columnists); the Phils' own history of shooting themselves in the foot; and the aforesaid loser mentality of many fans and potential fans in these parts. But most of the time that attitude is just lazy, dishonest, and stupid. This is a good team (if it stays reasonably healthy). If you can't enjoy this season, that's your fault.

Play ball!

* * * * * * *

Me again: C'mon. Suspend that snarly nastiness, if you're so afflicted, and post here your best reason for enjoying this Phillies season. Myself, I think Gillick did a really smart thing ... (continued in the comments)

Sky's No Limit for Pink 

That's Doylestown's phenominatrix looming at 11th and Vine on a billboard for a star-studded anti-AIDS campaign to wake up more kids. Her online message: "Unprotected sex is like Russian roulette, there might be a bullet in the chamber." Monday, she'll be on The Today Show, promoting I'm Not Dead, her new CD, which arrives in stores Tuesday. It dispenses a "gleeful, in-your-face audacity," writes Rolling Stone. Of mocking the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears on "Stupid Girls," Pink told the mag, "I was put on this Earth to make fun of myself and other people." You can see that video and supposedly hear more songs at's The Leak (no such luck on my PC). One song's especially risque (seems "Fingers" is now called "U + Ur Hand") and she's even created a salacious CD not to be heard outside her own boudoir, an online report says. Then from Hollywood comes word that Pink's in the running to play iconic rauc-star Janis Joplin in The Gospel According to Janis. Director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World) wants someone with pipes who can channel the spirit for the film, which will go up against another Joplin biopic, starring Renee Zellweger. Whew.

Report: Blood Is Missing Student's 

Newspaper and TV reports say blood found in a College of New Jersey trash bin has been identified as that of John Fiocco Jr., who's been missing since early Saturday morning. N.J state police, however, can't confirm that blood was found, a spokesman told Early Word this morning. The investigation yesterday focused on garbage containers and a trash chute at a dorm. Today, the search may shift to a Bucks County landfill.

A Penn student alleges rape. A woman, 22, said that around 1 a.m. Thursday she went back inside South Street's Fiso Lounge to retrieve a coat, and a man forced her out the back door and raped her. Some reports say the club had been hosting a private party just for Penn students, and speculate she may have known her alleged attacker. Sgt. James Pauley said the investigation is ongoing, and area residents should be reassured "we believe this is not a random or stalker-type incident."

Bon Jovi Talks Success on ABC Tonight 

Another rocker, John Bon Jovi, who happens to own the Philadelphia Soul football team, is a headline act, along with Shakira, on 20/20 tonight. As the theme "Up From Nothing" suggests, the newsmag looks at people who overcame overcame adversity to achieve big success. It's not all about celebs, though. Mexican immigrants, an amputee, and the women who invented Miracle Mops and Huggable Hangers are also spotlighted.

Eagles Rumor Update: Moulds Trade Soon? 

Looks like we should forget yesterday's ESPN report that the Eagles are still in the picture to land standout wideout Eric Moulds. In Houston, a newspaper and a radio station report he's headed there, even though the receiver's people have issued denials. Sorry, the Eagles haven't even discussed a trade with Buffalo, a league source told the Inquirer's Bob Brookover. Only hope: The Eagles swoop in and steal the deal, the way Cleveland snatched a star center away.
More rumors: Green Bay isn't ready to appease wideout Javon Walker with a trade, suggests the Eagles website. (All the more reason to go for Moulds?) The Birds' "Rumor Mill" also scoffs at getting Cleveland center Jeff Faine, saying teams don't unload good linemen.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Menace Is Under House Arrest 

Eek! It's a cat!

'Lost' Drives Me So Nuts, We Did a Podcast 

Fans are already deciphering symbols seen last night.
bigger image or forum this image came from.

ABC's enigma wrapped in sunburn really had some slam-bang developments last night. Blast doors plummeted in the hatch, as OMG the computer countdown was about to expire! Leg-trapped Locke had to trust the mysterious prisoner who comes through -- then proves to be untrustworthy after all. More weird symbols appeared (above) ! A grave is discovered! Jack's good at poker! A parachute with goods falls from the sky! And looks like next week Hurley will fall off a cliff! Look out below!

Afterward I recorded a conversation with my friend John Sharkey, whose fascination with mythology and conspiracy theories often produces interesting insights. Last night, for example, he predicted during the show that Locke's father's funeral was a fake -- the guy was still alive.

Listen to our podcast. Whether you listen or not, post comments and questions below (I'll try to answer), or vote in our polls.

Where and when do the events on "Lost" take place?
Free polls from

Who are "The Others"?
Free polls from

Speaking of 'Lost' 

Sixers lost last night. ... Players may have lost will to win. ... Many fans have lost hope. ... Cheeks may have lost the team.

AP photos by George Widman

'American Inventor': Inspiring but Bizarre 

Tonight at 9 will be the third installment of TV's strangest new mix of the remarkable and the pathetic. Thought the off-key caterwaulers of American Idol tryouts are gaper-delay inducers? They mostly lose just self-delusions -- and some of them don't even lose that. ABC's American Inventor parades a far more sad-sack lot, people whose misjudgments about schemes and dreams have cost them beaucoup bucks, jobs and even marriages ... producing little more than but major embarrassment on TV. Examples:

-- A woman who thought her inflatable timeout cell was cool for kids who throw tantrums.
--The fuzzy dude who had to hug his fuzzy "Therapy Buddy" (left) after they got rejected. (Get a blanky!)
-- The man with a Flatulence Deodorizer, a kind of asstivated, er, activated charcoal underwear insert inspired by a smelly episode surrounding his wife. (Bet she's glad he shared that on ABC.)
-- The penniless and wifeless inventor of a tabletop kind of handball he can't stop believing will be the next great Olympic game.
-- The woman who developed a bedside pocket system that's already on the market.

Think American Idol has bickering judges? Inventor Doug Hall and marketing maven Mary Lou Quinlan, who "hails from Philadelphia," frequently clash, usually with one suggesting the other's heartless and wrong-headed. She's actually becoming the star of the show, with her wide-eyed reactions, empathetic speeches and occasional outbursts. (More on her tomorrow.)

But the appeal isn't just some kind of superiority trip ("my life looks pretty good compared to that guy's"). The show gets at dreams we all have, deals with questions we've all wondered. What makes a good idea? Is confidence a good thing or a handicap? How much does success depend on design and presentation, even the looks of the presenter? How divergent can reactions to one idea be? Do we have all have a chance of getting rich off a single good idea?

OK, I'm especially interested because I dabble at inventing. (Of dozens of games I've designed, only one's on the market ... in Finland.) And true, critics have panned the show. But if you have ideas and dreams, or just want some laughs and good life lessons, check out the show.

Then again, if you have an idiot spouse who's on the verge of chucking it all for his handy-dandy wireless light bulbs ("Uh, dear, I think they're called flashlights") , maybe you want to hide the TV section. Hmm. Could that be why my wife refuses to watch?

What Were Some Dumb Bets? 

Final Jeopardy yesterday. Leader has $20,800. Next guy has $10,400, exactly half. (Forget third guy, who has about $5,700.) How should they bet? If the leaders tie, both keep their money and return. So Mr. $10,400 should bet it all, knowing Mr. $20,800's smartest move is to bet nothing, and guarantee his return. But no, Mr. $10,400 bets about $1,400, conceding first and jockeying only for second-place money. Then it's revealed Mr. $20,800 bet $1,000, risking his victory for almost nothing. Doh! Both men had right answers, too. You have another reaction?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Eagles Update: Scratch Moulds? Center of Interest? 

Forget Eric Moulds, WIP is reporting. The Houston Texans have agreed to cough up the cash Buffalo's best receiver wanted, says midday cohost Anthony Gargano. But wait: First, Houston still has to work out terms of a trade with Buffalo, and second, why couldn't the Eagles jump in, match the money and trade better draft picks? In other words: Do to Houston what Cleveland did to Philly over center LeCharles Bentley. Eagles also held back until Jets made offer to Jon Runyan and he ended up here.
Speaking of Cleveland centers, Jeff Faine, a former first-round draft pick, was given permission to seek a trade last week. And the Eagles clearly wanted the snapper who made Faine expendable, free agent LeCharles Bentley. So why not go for Faine, especially since he's only 25 and will collect a mere $550,000 this season? OK, he might be a "good fit" here, as a suburban paper surmises, but is anybody actually citing a source that the Eagles are interested? "Is he better than what the Eagles have? Is he better than what the Eagles could draft?" Eagles commentologist Dave Spadaro asks on his "Ask Dave" message board. Adds a fan: "If he was good enough, the Browns wouldn't have paid all that money to Bentley. Just say no." Faine missed the Browns' final two games because of a torn biceps.
Not a rumor: The Eagles did re-sign cornerback Rod Hood.

'Extreme Makeover' Presents House Today 

Inquirer photography by David Swanson
Hundreds of people showed up to see the new home.

This afternoon, the Py family was presented with the keys to a great new house, thanks to ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and legions of local volunteers. William and Carole Py and their grandkids sure fit the formula for show beneficiaries: Jose, Samantha and William lost their father to a brain aneurysm and their mother to breast cancer. Just last Friday a one-story house with three bedrooms stood at the site near Haldeman Avenue and Montour Street in the Northeast. Today, there's a new two-story house with four bedrooms, a backyard swimming pool, and, no doubt, all sorts of fanciful features and decorating schemes. The website of local ABC affiliate WPVI (Ch. 6) has video reports.
The Py family with show host Ty Pennington.

Into the Lead on 'Amazing Race' 

Last night, the happy hippie duo with Collingswood's BJ Averell, hustled their orange pants into first place on CBS's Amazing Race. Told they'd won a computer, a printer and other goodies, they enthused: "Wow! Digital imaging!" Team Lothario, finishing second, got upset: "Dang it! We gotta beat those hippies. Dang!" BJ and Tyler (not to be confused with basketball's BJ Tyler) have also been winning hearts, displaying both crazy antics and good sportsmanship. This week, killing time at an airport, they created a wheelchair slalom course, weaving around metal poles. One poster on a message board commented about last week's show: "Breaking bottles over the partners' heads when the cookoo cookooed was so funny. Plus the oompah band added to the fun." Another fan noted how a bearded old gent greeted the guys after they walked backwards to the finish line: "I was sooo waiting for someone to comment that the dude looked like a travelocity gnome, so when BJ called him Santa it gave me gigglepants. I love those two." When the sponsor's gnomes were part of a challenge, Tyler said they named theirs Chomsky. (Allusion to some guy born in Philly.) "Whhhhhhoooooooaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! COLLS POWER! great win" is a message at a myspace site for Averell, Collingswood High valedictorian in 1998. His greatest prior claim to fame was sneaking onto a plane and getting arrested, after his seat was given to someone flying standby. A Harvard Crimson profile, dubbing him "a one-man circus," mentioned his doing a comic strip, staging magic shows for nursing homes, performing with improv troupe On Thin Ice, and "running naked through the Yard during Primal Scream." Tyler, a.k.a. "Kintaro," once walked the length of Japan to impress a woman and made a movie about it. No question they provide much needed comic relief from the show's surfeit of explanations and breathless exasperations. Find out more, see assorted clips, at the Amazing Race website.

Legal Briefing 

White House shakeup prompts TV zingers 

On the departure of chief of staff Andrew Card, David Letterman said last night on CBS: "Finally, somebody in the White House with an exit strategy."

On budget director Josh Bolten (above) being named as successor by President Bush, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's Daily Show said, "He just promoted the guy who's in charge of our $9 trillion debt!"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Phanatic Turns Red! 

No, he wasn't blushing from being near WPVI percolator Karen Rogers this morning. Yesterday he got dipped in a vat at the zoo and came out a shade of Phillies red, kicking off the team's Paint the Town Red week. WPVI-TV has lots of videos of the mascot's morning antics, and the Phillies have a schedule of events. Tomorrow morning, he'll give blood at Citizens Bank Park, kicking off a drive.

Eagles Update: Two Cases of Dancing Around 

Dhani Jones was arrested in South Beach ... for dancing? "He refused several orders to get out of the street." Miami is so much safer now. (Boogeying bowtie-wearing poets are such a threat.) No word if he was also charged with impersonating a linebacker.

The Eagles and Eric Moulds' agent are also involved in some kind of dance. On WIP-AM last night, Greg Johnson said he talked with team president Joe Banner three times yesterday. "The sense that I get is that there is major interest on both parts," Johnson said. "Because of that, I believe that a deal can be worked out." Most observers suspect the Eagles will probably wait for Buffalo to cut Moulds, so there's no draft pick to pay and no pricey contract to assume. But I have this feeling ... Moulds says he wants to play here. The Texans are also pursuing him. And while Moulds' price may still be too high ($5 million a year for three years, reports say), that's getting into the right neighborhood. So is Buffalo's alleged request for a fourth-round pick. Remember, two years ago the Eagles pursued a trade to get another wide receiver (Terrell Owens) and had worked out contract details when Baltimore forged its own deal. If the Eagles were willing to trade then, why not again? When it wants to, the Eagles front office can get things done. The other top-receiver option would be to trade for Javon Walker, but Green Bay might hold the line and keep him.

Eagles won't be on the prime-time TV dance cards when season opens.

Mommy Has a Mustache 

Rejected Hallmark Cards 

From the story: Drawing shows "a couple cuddling on a living room couch with a friendly bearded man, wearing a robe, sandals and a turban. The woman blurts: 'Honey, this Afghan your mom gave us is really warm!' "
From the list: Front says, "When I think of you, Mom, I swell with pride." Inside says, "At least I hope it's pride. Otherwise, I'm pregnant again."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Not Even Morgan Spurlock Can Say That in Horsham! 

Made sense to invite the the creator of Super Size Me to speak at a school wellness fair. After all, Morgan Spurlock's Oscar-nominated documentary was about how an all McDonald's diet wrecked his health. But when he kidded around about "retarded kids," pot-smoking teachers and workers with Indian accents, officials took offense. So even though he got a standing ovation, a followup speech later Friday was canceled. Spurloch said that he was warned not to talk about McDonald's, and that he's given the same spiel before without any complaints. "To think I'm going to give in to that type of censorship is unbelievable," he said. Some might reply: Yo, you with the fries in your face, being insensitive to the handicapped suggests you might be a little mentally challenged. And shouldn't McDonald's actually be applauded for giving jobs to people who have trouble getting hired?

Where Was Mike Missanelli Last Night? 

Mike Missanelli, cut loose by WIP last week, had been a regular on NBC10's Sports Final on Sunday nights for months. But last night WIP's Howard Eskin was on instead. A WCAU-TV spokeswoman explained that Missanelli simply wasn't scheduled, and said his appearances were never a formal steady arrangement. Other media personalities, such as WIP's Rhea Hughes and the Inquirer's Stephen A. Smith, have also appeared, she noted.

Meanwhile, Steve Martarano may be leading an Early Word poll, but word is he's not likely to return to replace Missanelli, writes The Inquirer's Michael Klein. He also mentions a new candidate, John Kincaid, a Philly guy who's doing afternoon drive at an Atlanta sports talk station. (Didn't this guy call himself "Hugh the Baker" when he salted the morning show with jokes?)

McNabb Dunks! Will Call T.O. for Free Book 

Worried about McNabb's physical or mental state? Check out two video clips on the Eagles website. During a charity basketball game, his no-look alley-oop pass sets up a Darnerian McCants dunk, then McNabb adds a jam of his own. He even wrestles an opponent on the floor.
That sports hernia? In a post-game video interview, in which he sounded reassuringly relaxed and mature, the QB said: "Well, it's getting better. It's still not 100 percent ... But if I had to play now, I'd definitely play." You'll recall that he had surgery in early December to fix the abdominal injury that cut his season short. McNabb had no harsh words for Terrell Eldorado Owens either. Donovan called his snippiest critic a "great athlete," and responded when asked if he'll buy T.O.'s book with laughter and a quick quip: "I'll call him and see if I can get it for free." He's happy Jon Runyan is coming back, and likes the addition of receiver Jabar Gaffney.

Eagles Rumors Update: Arrington? Walker? Kalu? 

N.D. Kalu has signed with the Houston Texans. His starting spot at defensive end has been filled with the recent signing of Darren Howard.

No, the rumors aren't true that LaVar Arrington was in Philadelphia yesterday to visit the Eagles, says Not only do the Birds think the linebacker wants too much money, but several execs were out of town, the site's rumor roundup says.

Could Green Bay's signing of another receiver signal that stellar wideout Javon Walker will soon be traded? After all, he wants out, and word is the Eagles are among several teams who are interested. Says's Jeremy Green: "This has been floating all day. I talked with someone in the Eagles organization and they told me they would do the deal if the compensation is 'right.' " Green Bay, though, supposedly wants a second-round pick. If that doesn't happen, the Eagles could go after another star wideout, Eric Moulds -- after Buffalo cuts him, Green says. Today's Daily News reports Moulds would love to play here. Earlier came news: Forget "Meshawn" Johnson. He signed with Carolina.

Biggest recent move: Eagles re-signed offensive tackle Jon Runyan to a three-year deal.

At the Grossery Store: Grapples?! 

"Looks like an apple! Tastes like a grape!" And smells like genetic engineering. Or so I thought, dumbfounded at the Acme, gawking at a package of Grapples. But no, I find out on the Web, Grapples (rhymes with "maples") are simply Fuji apples that get infused with grape flavor (not calories) through some mysterioso bobbing / tanning booth / skinny-dipping process. OK, I'm not on the Island of Dr. Moreau after all, but I still wonder: If I want grape flavor, couldn't I, uh, like just eat grapes? Uh-oh, what's this over here? Strawberry tomatoes? Whew, no, they don't taste like strawberries. They're just bigger than cherry tomatoes, which are bigger than grape tomatoes, which sure don't taste like grapes. At least not yet.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Max Heartbreak Theory Says George Mason Will Win 

Philadelphia bids for championships are supposed to end with afflicting "oh so close" agony. So the fates decree. See last year's Super Bowl, the '04 Flyers, St. Joe's two years ago, Smarty Jones, '01 Sixers, '93 Phils. Last year's Villanova team fell 1 point short to North Carolina, the team that won it all. But last night's elimination by Florida was hardly close at all. Nevertheless, the loss was a killer because all the other No. 1 seeds were gone. If fate wants to be truly cruel, Cinderella team George Mason will win, emphasizing the road was incredibly clear.

Excerpt Special 

Liked this line at the very end of David Hiltbrand's Saturday TV column: "I keep seeing ads for this Al Roker Investigates series on Court TV. Makes perfect sense, because the holly-jolly weatherman has such a reputation as a hard-nosed reporter. Look, the only thing I want to see this guy investigate is a George Foreman grill."

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