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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 Philly.com.



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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Friday, April 07, 2006

Night of Heart Tugs and Zingers 

Last night, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inducted its third set of honorees with a good meal, fond reminiscences, and quality quips at the Sheraton Society Hill. The absence of many of the inductees, while disappointing, gave loved ones a chance to transform the event into a family affair. Most moving was the speech of Sara Hart, wife of Gene, legendary "Voice of the Flyers," as she told how people keep coming up to her with stories of Gene's good heart. He stopped to help a motorist in need of medical attention and perhaps restored a young cancer victim's will to live by showing up at the hospital with a couple of favorite players. And while more than a dozen members of the 1960 Eagles championship team got a standing ovation, perhaps the greatest testament to love was the turnout for legendary Simon Gratz basketball coach Bill Ellerbee, who brought an enthusiastic rooting section of family, friends and colleagues.

To answer a question, you're probably wondering: The hope is someday there will be an actual museum for fans to visit.

Now, in the interest of balance, here are some less sentimental highlights:
Host Pat Williams, ex-Sixers GM: "It there was a tooth fairy for hair, Phil Martelli would be a rich man."
Ray Didinger, inducted himself for his writing career, provoked perhaps the loudest applause while saluting Philly's Herb Atterly as clearly a better cornerback than Deion Sanders, because "in football, part of the game is hitting!"
Williams on Sixers stats legend Harvey Pollack: "That Harvey's been around, hasn't he? He has Social Security number 2. He remembers Absorbine Sr. He remembers when fast food was a cheetah chasing an antelope."
Just as Willie Mosconi's son said of his billiards-phenom father, "He was a very difficult taskmaster," the electricity went out, leaving only a seancelike glow of candlelight that silenced the room. When the chandeliers relit, the son adlibbed, "Sorry, Dad."
Stan Hochman, longtime Daily News scribe: "I don't want to say the program was long, but Sonny Hill's clothes went out of style ... [pause for laughter] ... and came back!"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Eagles Schedule Is Out: Predictions, Please 

Which games do you think the Eagles will win? (Vote for as many as you like.)
Sep 10 @Houston 1pm
Sep 17 N.Y. Giants 1pm
Sep 24 @San Francisco 4:15pm
Oct 2 Green Bay 8:30pm
Oct 8 Dallas 4:15pm
Oct 15 @New Orleans 1pm
Oct 22 @Tampa Bay 1pm
Oct 29 Jacksonville 1pm
Nov 12 Washington 1pm
Nov 19 Tennessee 1pm
Nov 26 @Indianapolis 1pm
Dec 4 Carolina 8:30pm
Dec 10 @Washington 1pm
Dec 17 @N.Y. Giants 1pm
Dec 25 @Dallas 5pm
Dec 31 Atlanta 1pm
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Results Update: After nearly 1,000 voters, the average prediction is up a bit, to between 10 and 11 games. Looking at the choices game by game, a 10-win season would go like this: 6 straight wins, loss to Tampa Bay, 3 straight wins to go 9-1, then 5 straight losses (panic time in Philly!) including 3 in the division, ending with a crucial victory over Atlanta for a 10-6 record. Winning the game in Washington seems to be most popular route to 11 wins, while losing that game along with one to Jacksonville is how prognosticators settle on 9 wins.

The Man With All the Answers 

The following is fictional.

One day Alex Trebek went to Pre-Wheel Elementary in Syndication City. "Students," said Mrs. Wolliver, "This is Mr. Trebek, host of the TV show Jeopardy! Would anyone like to ask him a question?"

"Ooh, ooh!" said Hermione Jo. "What is Australia?"

"I remember the answer to that," said Mr. Trebek. "In 1827, Allan Cunningham became the first European to explore this continent's Darling Downs."***

Hermione Jo wrinkled a brow hard enough to defy botox.

"I got one!" said Eleesha. "What is green?"

Mr. Trebek's eyes twinkled. "We envy the Egyptian mau cat, whose eyes are the gooseberry shade of this color,"*** he said.

Eleesha's eyes rolled up far under her forehead.

"Me, me, I do!" said Dmitri. "Who was Lincoln?"

Mr. Trebek smiled and said, "In the Scarecrow's song 'If I Only Had a Brain' in The Wizard of Oz, this president's name is mentioned."***

Dmitri scratched his head lice, which in turn scratched their dust mites.

"Ahem," said Mrs. Wolliver. "Mr. Trebek, why does your show replace the word what with the word this to turn what is really a long trivia question into a pseudo-answer no one would ever give?"

"Er, uh, hrrumph," said Mr. Trebek. "We never had that question on our show before! Anybody else want to buzz in? Oop, there's the signal the round is over! I'm afraid I have to end this show!"

Mrs. Wolliver turned to the class. "What is the magic word?" she said.

Eleesha, Hermione Jo, Vinnie and Dmitri didn't hesitate. Being quick learners, they cheerfully said in unison: "Abracadabra and alakazam, as well as such two-word phrases as hocus pocus and open sesame, which was used by the character Ali Baba in 1001 Arabian Nights, are examples referred to by this fanciful term of stage and story."

"Smart ... kids!" said Mr. Trebek with a pause. "Why don't you try out for the grammar school edition of Deal or No Deal? Or Win Ben Stein's Money? On second thought, don't answer that. I've experienced enough Jeopardy! for today! So long!"

"Goodbye, Mr. Trebek!!!!"

"Thank you very much, Mr. Trebek," said Mrs Wolliver.

***Actual answer quoted verbatim from a recent Jeopardy!

So Everybody on 'Lost' Is Hallucinating?! 

Am I a man dreaming he's a butterfly? Or am I butterfly dreaming it's a man dreaming he's a butterfly? asked the ancient Taoist Chuang-tzu. Well, 'Lost' fans, if Hurley's hallucinating, isn't everything similarly called into question? He could be in a mental institution imagining he's on an island. Or he could be on an island, imagining he was in a psych ward. Or maybe the island is some kind of Dharma Initiative psych ward/prison experiment populated with convicts and nut jobs whose brains are electronically or chemically fed assorted fantasies. Kate's a fugitive who saw a horse that shouldn't have been here. Jack might be this psych ward's doctor ... or he's a patient, too, having 'Lost' it after his wife left him and his dad died. Remember he imagined seeing his physician father on the island? Charlie was a junkie. Eko a crime boss. Jin a hit man. Sayid a torturer. Locke a paralyzed loser. Boone imagined his sister being attacked by a monster. She "saw" the missing boy, Walt, before she died. (They didn't die, they got released?) Maybe the plane crash never happed. That's no hatch, it's a loony bin.

Is that why the prisoner, alias Henry Gale, said, "God can't see this island"? Because it doesn't exist, except in the inmate's minds? Or is this place a kind of afterlife limbo, where these dead souls are beyond the jurisdiction of even God? (Maybe Gale was stretched out like Jesus on the cross because he's part of some afterlife test.)

I keep thinking: This explanation sounds too final to be real. There has to be another, even more surprising layer of riddles, to keep us guessing. After all, who are "The Others"? Another set of human guinea pigs? The folks in charge of the asylum? Imaginary enemies?

Then again, suppose the island-asylum theory is true. That truth could steadily unfold through to the season finale. Then next season could bring a dramatic shift to an even more interesting puzzle: How do these dupes escape their psychoses and their prison? As Hurley's imaginary friend, Dave, said, "I'm the part of you who wants you to wake up." Next season could be about that waking up.

Sorry ... no podcast. Apparently the magnetic fields generated by the island interfered with the recorder's operation. Either that or a cable wasn't properly socketed and this dope failed to notice.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

'That's Right, Kid. T.O.'s Coming for Christmas' 


Kid: I'd rather have coal in my stocking!

Andy Claus: Chill, you little elf. You're reminding me of T.O.

Running Joe Banner Through the Wringer 

Looks like it's 'IP day at Early Word. Angelo Cataldi slung tough questions at the Eagles King of Capology, Joe Banner, this morning. Banner answered patiently, even irrevently. How did he think the fans will react when Terrell Owens returns? "Quietly and calmly. … No one would even notice," he quipped. Is he a candidate to be NFL commissioner? "No, but I did submit your name," Banner said to Cataldi, elicting laughs and this comment from Rhea Hughes: "You want the league to go straight to hell?:

Speaking of hell, Banner talked about last season, and denied the Eagles think that T.O. and injuries alone caused the downslide. "The reality is that what went wrong is a combination of a number of things," he said, citing the need to improve team chemistry ("We're hoping to get that back on track") and hinting at upgrading various (unnamed) positions.

"I think everybody in this organization acknowledged we could have done better," he said. "... We know that we make some mistakes."

Not that cutting T.O. was one of them. Or that punishment was the point. "We're trying to win as many football games as we can. It was quite clear that TO’s presence, in our judgment, was counterproductive to doing that. … It’s not even remotely vindictive. It’s just basic common
sense."

He also denied any panic about the defensive line, calling Mike Patterson, Darwin Walker and Sam Rayburn "very solid players." "Right or wrong, we feel good about the players we have."

Banner also spelled out his role in player acquisitions in more detail than I'd heard before.
"I have input in the sense that I explain what the implications are" of any signing, he said. He'll not only calculate the cost, but point out the impact on signing other free agents, retaining players, and current players' "comfort level with the kind of structure of the salaries on the team."

"If we decide we do want to pursue a player, we'll agree at that time on what’s a reasonable price to make an offer," and what the upper limit might be. "We’re pretty disciplined about that," he said, but added that during the process, they will reevaluate their position.

If the Eagles fail to pursue a player fans want, "it wasn’t that we didn't want to spend the money," he said. "It wasn’t that we didn't have the cap room. That's the football evaluation.” Sometimes, the player the player they do pursue just prefers to sign elsewhere, to be with a favorite coach or in a preferred part of the country.

Did the Eagles have input into timing of Dallas game? "No."

And, of course, once again he pooh-poohed allegations of being cheap, saying the team spends more on players, coaches, facilities and charities than almost everybody else. In his 11 or so years with the team, only twice has the team asked a play to take a pay cut, he said. (Clearly, that's no reference to Owens, Corey Simon and Jeremiah Trotter, who were cut before they'd get lots more pay.) Yes, Jon Runyan's take-home was honed last season, but Banner called him “one of the few players in the NFL who signed a long term contract as a free agent and was able to stay with his team and make almost every single penny throughout that contract." Of such restructuring, he said, “we do that less than anybody in the league by a huge margin.”

As for Banner and owner-pal Jeff "Gold Standard" Lurie sometimes sounding too "self-congratulatory," even arrogant, Banner said that with agents and fellow owners, "the reaction to us is that we’re quite modest. ... There’s very few of anybody who knows us personally who would describe us as arrogant or egotistical. ... We’re pretty down to earth, modest and realistic.”

Funny, as those excerpts appear on the screen, they come across with a kind of "we're so modest" hauteur. But as Banner uttered them, they left a different impression. He wasn't bragging, just patiently and soft-spokenly making his case.

Caravan to Canton for Reggie Induction, Eagles Game? 

ROAD TRIP! WIP's Anthony "The Cuz" Gargano proposed one yesterday that's hardly a crazy idea if you know the fanaticism of Eagles fans. On Saturday, Aug. 5, in Canton, Ohio, Reggie White, legendary Eagles and Packers defensive end, will be posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And guess which team's playing there the very next day? That's right, the Eagles. They'll take on the Raiders in the yearly Hall of Fame Game exhibition. Get the picture? Recall how Philly fans caravaned to last year's Super Bowl? Well, why not another pilgrimage, led by the author of A Sunday Pilgrimage, a reminiscence of that Jacksonville journey? A caller even suggested a goal: 92 vehicles for N0. 92 (the number White wore).

Sounds "cool de la," as Ant might say, except for one problem: Getting in. Although tickets for Saturday's ceremony go on sale at 11 this morning (go to Profootballhof.com or call 1-800-913-9788), "a very limited number of tickets are expected to be available for public sale," with details merely promised "soon" on the site.

Wait, here's a possible solution: Travel packages available through the Eagles website. And they're caravan-compatible, since airfare's not included.

Perhaps Gargano will elaborate on his game plan this morning. His radio show on WIP (610 AM), also available via the Internet, begins after 10 a.m.

Pedal faster!

We've Been Duped by the President?! 

No, not Bush. Talking about Fox's 24, of course. President Weenie / Manilow / Milquetoast / Tricky Dicky Jr. is behind the terrorist plot! Psssshoooooo. That's the air going out of this fan's balloon. It's ridiculous. Guy hems and haws, and pleads for advice, and all along he's a mastermind? A top aide acts sneaky around the Prez and later commits suicide, but all along they were in cahoots? And what's he got to gain? He's already the President! What, he's some Manchurian Candidate? So next week he'll peel off his latex face and, gasp, it's really Osama bin Ladin? Actually, his face does look rather rubbery. And he does seem to have sworn off intimacy with his wife ... Hmmm. Better be a good explanation come next Monday night.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Aargh! April Fool's Lives On! 

Oh, those clever kids at Penn. Almost got me again. (See Bill Parcells item below.) Seems the college paper's April Fools issue got posted online today. What's this? Amy Gutmann named Harvard president? "Penn's leader to replace Larry Summers, who resigned after a tumultuous five-year tenure"? Conceivable. Believable. But apparently untrue. Along with these other stories posted today at the Daily Pennsylvanian's website:
"Out with the old ... Yesterday, Franklin Field was torn down to make way for Olympic dreams."
"Taking it to the next level ... Students pictured in infamous photo to be centerfolds." (Nicely Photoshopped Playboy cover.)
Building will be renamed for a sex offender.
Admissions office to use Facebook.

Sixers Talk: Iverson trades? King excuses? 

Oh, the Sixers off-season could very interesting. A lot more than the games have been, if two columnists named Smith are right.

First, the Inquirer's own Stephen A. flatout says he thinks GM Billy King is not responsible for every Sixers move, because somebody else interfered. (You might have missed this, since it was well into yesterday's game story.) "Someone in the Sixers' front office has hand-picked a bunch of patsies to play alongside Iverson," writes Smith. But after quoting King saying, "Point the finger solely at me," the columnist responds: "Hogwash. ... I'm saying it right here, right now, that King deferred to someone. To whom, I'm not sure, but someone convinced him to allow a bunch of choirboys to be paired with the Rottweiler that is Iverson." So who allegedly interfered? Chairman Ed Snider? President Peter Luukko? Previous president Dave Coskey? And how? Could Smith be intimating that the marketing folks pushed getting and starting Kyle Korver to have a white guy who'd appeal to white fans? How about the hiring of Mo Cheeks? Another mistaken concession to the fans? Whatever shaking and baking took place in the offices, sounds as if we'll hear more about if King's job appears increasingly in jeopardy.

Iverson's the focus of the other Smith, Sam of the Chicago Tribune. In a column he enivisions the possible pairing of A.I. with superstar forward Kevin Garnett, either here in Philly or there in Minnesota. Who would trade who for what? Well, that's not clear, just that something's gotta give in both cities. Garnett's miserable, the Timberwolves are on the decline, and, as for the Sixers, "Perhaps no team has underachieved more this season ... they've been unmotivated and undisciplined, an unhappy mess." So the T'Wolves might bid for Iverson (or reobtain Stephon Marbury) or maybe the Sixers will go for Garnett, jettisoning a grabbag of talent. Funny, didn't past rumors have Iverson getting swapped for Garnett? Putting them together sounds like a a sensationalistic screenplay. More back-to-reality might be Scenario B (or is it C?): "Memphis long has been a quiet suitor for Iverson." GM Jerry West could offer a package of Eddie Jones (good salary-cap expiration date), young forward Hakim Warrick, forward Shane Battier and maybe a first-round draft pick, Sam Smith writes.

They Wrote What Off on Their Taxes? 

Actually, you can depreciate your ostrich herd if you're a breeder. But take a depletion allowance for sperm donations? List your dog as a dependent? Declare a loss for dentures you dropped in the toilet? Before you get too creative on your tax return, you might check out bankrate.com's roundup of oddball strategies.

Monday, April 03, 2006

To B.S. or Not to B.S. 

Ah, the subtleties of slang management. Sometimes a word's OK to print, other times it's not. I guess. Tonight's the season opener for Penn & Teller's anti-nonsense series with (warning! don't click if you might be offended) a bleepable name. In Saturday's Inquirer, TV critic Jonathan Storm posted an interview with Philly's own Teller, pictured above using his head as an asterisk. The title of the show, however, is genteelly replaced with Bovine Stuff. Pretty good magic trick, huh? Making a title disappear! Funny, but when a certain philosophical best-seller utilized the same word, the title did appear atop Carlin Romano's Inquirer review and was quoted several times. In other instances, Romano had fun referencing such start-alikes as bulltwaddle, bullkerfluffle, bulltripe, bullpiffle and bullbunkum. He also wrote the perfect close: "I bullrot you not."

Stalking the Mock Drafts: Who Will Eagles Pick? 

Free-agency in the rear-view mirror now, Eagles fans are looking ahead to the NFL draft. Crystall-ball gazing's tough, though, since 13 teams pick ahead of the Birds. But a survey of online mock drafts turns up some interesting prospects. Some seem dubious (the Eagles revisit the Freddie Mitchell era and take a first-round receiver?) but at least this list should help non-draftniks join the conversation.
LenDale White, running back, 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, USC. Projected as Eagles' pick in mock drafts by ESPN.com, about.com, Ourlads, draftgurus.com, and insidetheeagles.com. Thinking: Eagles need a big back to complement Brian Westbrook. Flaw in that thinking: Would mean a switch in philosophy for pass-happy Andy Reid.
Santanio Holmes, wide receiver, 5-11, 190, Ohio State. Projected by foxsports.com, sportsnutz.com, nflgurus.com, fantasy football toolbox. Thinking: Polished wideout with deep speed could be a No. 1 target. Flaw: With Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston and newly signed Jabar Gaffney, Eagles see bigger needs.
Ernie Sims, outside linebacker, 6-0, 220, Florida State. Projected by Sports Illustrated's Don Banks and foxsports.com. Thinking: Fills a definite need. Flaw: Eagles value linemen more.
Broderick Bunkley, defensive tackle, 6-3, 284, Florida State. Projected by nfldraftcountdown.com. Thinking: Would plug a big hole. Flaw: Could be gone by pick 14.
Leonard Pope, tight end, Georgia Projected by draftking.com. Thinking: Potential impact player. Flaw: Eagles may think they're set at tight end, with L.J. Smith, Matt Schobel.
Chad Jackson, wide receiver, 6-1, 205, Florida. Projected by footballsfuture.com. Thinking: "Size and talent." Flaw: See Santanio Holmes above.
Chad Greenway, outside linebacker, 6-4, 244, Iowa. Projected by ComcastSportsnet.com.
Thinking: Better guys will be gone. Flaw: If they are gone, Eagles will trade up.
Winston Justice, offensive tackle, 6-6, 300, USC. Projected by none of the above, but mentioned by some. Thinking: Insurance, future starter. Flaw: Defensive tackle's the need now, even if it means trading up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Join the Unhealthy, Unwealthy and Wise-A** Club! 

Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Hah! It ain't happenin. Can't sleep, can't relax, and can't do diddly on my get-rich schemes. And now I'm enjoined to write more news and put it on philly.com, not here, which means, well, this blog's gonna have less on it. So, like, help! Here's my multi-part plan:
1. Got something to say? As long as it's lively and local and original (not quoted from your blog), well, anything goes. Can't pay. But I can put your name in bold, even post your picture, add you to a contributors list, and link to your website, if you have one.
2. See something newsy worth linking? Let us know. Could be serious or funny, just can't be for a blog (Daniel Rubin's Blinq is your source about the world of blogs). Again, if it's used, I'll name-drop and add you to the list of Linker-Thinkers.
3. Got a great photo? Or something fun you Photoshopped? Share.
4. Got a suggestion? Send it. If we use it, we'll add you to the new Early Word Official Advisory Board (linked if you like).
For all of the above, email Early Word. To share your thoughts about this, post your comments below.


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