Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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Don’t Give The Eagles The Lombardi Trophy Yet



As far as the Philadelphia Eagles are concerned, enough is enough. Good just wont suffice anymore. No more failures, no more let downs, no more heartbreak for one of the most passionate fan-bases in all of pro sports. The Eagles are in it to win it in 2011. This notion was never more evident than when they convinced the biggest prize on the free agent market to call South Philadelphia home for the foreseeable future.



The Eagles shocked the professional football world last Friday when they agreed to terms with free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a 5-year, $60 million contract and formed the scariest defensive back core in the entire NFL. The signing instantly legitimizes a defense that was among the league’s worst in pass defense and red zone defense during the 2010 season.
He and the other free agent signings could potentially put the Birds over the hump. But, as of right now that’s all it is: potential.
Don’t jump the gun just yet, Philadelphia. Eagles fans need to face facts and realize that the Birds are not the team beat just yet. They aren’t even the team to beat in the NFC.
As mentioned above, the Asomugha signing makes the Eagles remarkably better than they were last season. Though the defense is much improved, there are still holes that can be exploited.
To their credit, the Eagles have insured the defensive line and the cornerback position but the Birds still desperately need an established presence at linebacker. Are you really comfortable with Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou as your linebackers? Me neither. This isn’t to say they aren’t capable of performing well, but teams will key in and try to take advantage of that inexperience at one of football’s most important positions.
Philadelphia could also use an established presence at safety. The departure of the steady and solid Quintin Mikell has left a bit of a void at the position. Right now, we are looking at a pair of second year players, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, as our safeties. Coleman only had consistent playing time towards the end of last season due to others’ injuries including the serious knee injury that Allen suffered last year at the Meadowlands that abruptly ended his rookie season. This will be another unproven position that opposing offenses will try to take advantage of.
Let’s all end the “Dream Team” chatter right now because it is a total crock. There are no “Dream Teams” in the NFL.
Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles are an excellent football team. They have a dynamic offense that will certainly light up the scoreboard.

 


Their defense, which still has holes to fill, is much improved and will wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
Expectations are always high in a city like Philadelphia. The focus on the Eagles to excel will be as great as it has ever been. National attention will be on the Birds throughout the course of the season. Let’s not put the hype machine into overdrive. If we do and heaven forbid the Birds don’t accomplish the ultimate goal, the heartbreak and pain will be worse than ever imagined.
The fact remains that the Green Bay Packers are the team to beat in the NFC. They are the defending Super Bowl Champions and are healthier and scarier now than they were last season. I’m a firm believer in “to be the man, you gotta beat the man” and, right now, the Packers are the man.
Philadelphia, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. Just because we are the “offseason champions” doesn’t mean we have won anything yet and it won’t put a ring on our finger.
One thing is for sure though; this is going to be an exciting football season and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I personally can’t wait.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That's, uh, $100 Trillion in 1776 Dollars




Joshua Harris, leader of the Wall Street group that has reached a deal with Comcast-Spectacor to buy the 76ers, is a billionaire bottom-feeder who buys damaged assets cheaply and sells them at a profit.
That's how Harris, 46, who grew up in suburban Washington and graduated from Penn and Harvard, has made his bread since the end of the 1980s, when he escaped the former junk-bond giant Drexel Burnham Lambert. That was after Harris' fellow Wharton graduate Michael Milken wrecked the firm with illegal deals and went to prison.

Harris cofounded Apollo Global Management, which bought bargain-priced bonds from the same kind of busted companies Drexel financed, slashed costs by cutting jobs, facilities, or vendor payments, hired new managers, and then sold at a profit when the companies had recovered.

Harris' primary financing partner in the Sixers bid, real estate dealmaker David Blitzer, performs similar duties for another buyout giant, Blackstone Group L.P.

So who is this guy Joshua Harris?

Harris has been living with his family in London, but he is moving back to New York this year.
Since word of his bid for the Sixers became public, he has been photographed at a Swiss bankers' party in the posh Hamptons and a Wharton School private-equity conference in San Francisco. Between flights, Harris negotiated a deal to invest in a new steel plant in India, among his other Apollo duties.

Will Harris use his buyout expertise to cut costs and jack up sales for another underperforming asset, the Sixers?

Don't count on it, says David Niles, a New York business strategist who counts pro sports teams among his past clients.

"There are a lot of buyout financiers who own teams," he said.

Mark Cuban, owner of the champion Dallas Mavericks, made his money in private equity. Cuban was initially an activist manager but in recent years has stood back while his pros ran the club, Niles said.
The Boston Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox are owned, in part, by private-equity executives. Tom Gores, owner of Platinum Equity, led the purchase of the Detroit Pistons in June for $325 million, about $45 million more than what Harris' group reportedly bid for the Sixers.

"To a person, those guys leave their business heads at the door," Niles told me. "We don't see them professionalizing or corporatizing sports teams. For these guys, this is a hobby."

Maybe you can't prejudge Harris as owner of the Sixers, but here's how he has handled his day job:
Apollo, which claimed investments worth $67 billion at the end of 2010, has been a major owner of landfill giant Allied Waste Industries, casino-owner Caesars Entertainment Corp., Century 21 L.L.C.-parent Realogy, Converse sneakers, and many lesser-known outfits.


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Friday, July 8, 2011

Philly and Pot... they both begin with P


Ok... Arnold isn't from Philly... but this pic just makes sense...

D.A.: Philly's new pot policy just makes sense ... and saves dollars

LYNNE ABRAHAM doesn't get it. She didn't get it when she was Philadelphia's district attorney from 1991 until last year.

And she'll probably never get it, no matter how many statistics and reports show that America's 40-year-old "war on drugs" has been a hugely expensive and crime-inducing failure.

"My view remains unchanged with regard to drug abuse," Abraham, 70, said from her office at the Archer & Greiner law firm, where the bulldoggish ex-prosecutor is now a partner.

Her view is that people who smoke marijuana - by far the most widely used illicit drug in the United States - are violent deviants, roaming Philly's streets with deadly weapons, killing witnesses and committing "untold numbers of crimes" to support their habit.

They are the enemy, Abraham and other old-school politicians still insist, even as forward-thinking cities and states are decriminalizing marijuana possession, and polls show that public support for legalizing pot has nearly quadrupled in the U.S. since President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse "public enemy No. 1" in 1971.

"Don't tell me about polls. I don't want to hear it," Abraham groused. "People want to drive 100 miles an hour. They want to smoke pot. They want to do everything!"

Or maybe, as a growing number of politicians and law-enforcement officials now realize, Americans just don't want to continue paying for the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders.

Fortunately for Philadelphia taxpayers, Seth Williams does get it.

Williams, who replaced Abraham as district attorney in January 2010, has saved an estimated $2 million in the past year by diverting thousands of marijuana-possession cases into a new program that processes pot smokers quickly and leaves them with a clean record.

Read the rest of the article at PHILLY.COM


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Duck Boat Victims Honored

From MyFoxPhilly.com

Duck Boats Halted For Crash Anniversary

Two Hungarian Students Died In Crash One Year Ago

PHILADELPHIA - Thursday is a somber anniversary in the city of Philadelphia. It marks one year since that deadly duck boat accident on the Delaware River.

Two Hungarian students were killed last July 7 when a barge ran over the "Ride the Ducks" tourist boat.
The two students, 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner and 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem, died when a city barge being pushed by a tug collided with the stalled duck boat. The crash also dumped 35 others aboard the boat into the river.

Ride the Ducks of Norcross, Ga., has suspended operations in Philadelphia on Thursday to mark the date.
In its final report, the National Transportation Safety Board largely blamed the tugboat's mate.
The NTSB says he was distracted by repeated use of his cell phone and failed to maintain proper lookout while towing the barge up the Delaware.

The victims' families have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the city, the operators of both vessels and others.

Fox 29's Steve Keeley was live along the river Thursday morning to file this live report.

 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canada Loses to Phils

Here's how the Canadians see it.

Jays blow lead in ninth
Misplayed flyball leads to two-run inning for Phillies



Ryan Howard’s two-run single in the ninth inning gave the Philadelphia Phillies a 7-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game interleague series Friday.
At Toronto, the Blue Jays had taken a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning on Jose Bautista’s 25th homer of the season that scored two runs.
But Frank Francisco (1-4) walked Placido Polanco to open the ninth and Chase Utley sent Juan Rivera to the wall where the left-fielder misplayed the ball into a double.
Howard then singled both runners home to give the Phillies the lead.
It was Francisco’s fourth blown save in 13 chances this season.
Danys Baez (2-3) pitched the eighth to earn the victory. Antonio Bastardo pitched the ninth to pick up his fourth save.
A one-out double by Ben Francisco chased Frank Francisco and brought in Marc Rzepczynski, who finished the inning.
Eric Thames also homered against Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick, who gave up eight hits and six runs in seven innings.
Bautista’s homer with two out in the bottom of the seventh gave the Blue Jays (40-43) the lead after the Phillies (52-31) had gone ahead 5-4 l in the top of the inning.
Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero’s string of going at least seven innings in nine consecutive starts ended when he was lifted after a one-out single in the seventh. Romero allowed seven hits, four walks and four runs (three earned).
Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar started Toronto’s two-run rally in the first when he was hit by a pitch on the left hand. He was removed from the game and Aaron Hill, who was not in the starting lineup, ran for him. Escobar was taken for X-rays and a CT scan, both of which were negative. He has a swollen hand and will be listed as day-to-day.
Bautista hit a one-out, ground-rule double to move Hill to third. After Adam Lind popped out, Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double.
The Phillies got one back in the second on Shane Victorino’s single and Ben Francisco’s double.
Romero hit Utley with a pitch with one out in the third to set up the tying run. Hill booted Howard’s potential double-play grounder, and Victorino singled to score Utley.
The Blue Jays took the 4-2 lead into the fifth on Thames’ second career major-league home run, a drive off the facing of the third deck that followed Hill’s one-out second. The rookie outfielder hit his first homer on Tuesday against Pittsburgh.
The Phillies cut the lead to one in the sixth when Carlos Ruiz singled after Domonic Brown’s leadoff double. They took the lead in the seventh, started by Howard’s single that could have been scored an error on McDonald. As shortstop he had moved to the right side of the infield as part of the shift on the left-handed hitting Howard.
Jason Frasor replaced Romero and gave up Victorino’s game-tying triple before Ben Francisco’s sacrifice to left put Philadelphia ahead 5-4.
The Blue Jays regained the lead on Bautista’s homer that came after Hill singled off the glove of second baseman Utley with one out.

White Sox 6, Cubs 4: At Chicago, Alexei Ramirez hit a two-run homer, and the Chicago White Sox opened their weekend series against the crosstown Cubs with a victory.
Ramirez connected in the seventh and Juan Pierre added a two-run triple in the inning, turning a two-run deficit into a two-run lead and sending the White Sox to their third straight win.
The Cubs came up short again in their quest to win three straight after pulling out dramatic victories the previous two days against San Francisco. They remain the only team in the majors without a three-game winning streak. Just when it appeared they might get one, it slipped away.
They were leading 4-2 after Aramis Ramirez hit his 300th homer — a solo shot — in the sixth off Edwin Jackson (5-6), but the White Sox immediately responded in a big way against Randy Wells (1-3).
A.J. Pierzynski led off the seventh with a single, and Alexei Ramirez tied it with his eighth homer. The White Sox weren’t finished.
Alex Rios singled and Adam Dunn, batting for Jackson, walked with one out. Pierre, who has struggled this season but came in on a 9-for-19 run, made it 6-4 when he drove in both runners with a triple to the right-field corner, chasing Wells.
That gave Pierre five RBIs in two games. He also had the tiebreaking two-run single in the 10th inning in the White Sox’s win over Colorado on Thursday.
"I wish I had 25 Juan Pierres," said manager Ozzie Guillen, who has repeatedly defended him despite loud calls for Dayan Viciedo to take his roster spot.
The big rally gave Jackson his first win in five weeks. The right-hander wasn’t exactly dominant, allowing four runs and five hits in six innings, but he’ll take it after going 0-1 in his previous five starts.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flyers sign Jagr and Talbot

On a dizzying day, the team that finished with the second-most points in the Eastern Conference last season continued its Great Makeover.
The Flyers made several moves Friday, highlighted by the signing of two players with ties to archrival Pittsburgh - the once-great Jaromir Jagr, 39, and third-line center Max Talbot.

They also lost Ville Leino, who signed a surprising six-year, $27 million free-agent deal ($4.5 million cap hit) with Buffalo, the team the gifted winger helped the Flyers beat in this year's conference quarterfinals.
Oh, and they dealt Kris Versteeg to Florida, watched free agents Brian Boucher (Carolina), Sean O'Donnell (Chicago), and Dan Carcillo (Chicago) sign elsewhere, and signed veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja.
Friday was the first day to sign free agents, and the Flyers were one of the league's most active participants.
If you are scoring at home, the Flyers have lost 10 players, through trades or free agency, since the season ended.
And they don't appear to be done. The Flyers have about $3.3 million in cap space, which will grow to about $4.4 million when Ian Laperierre goes on the long-term injured list. They still plan to sign restricted free agent Wayne Simmonds, acquired in the Mike Richards trade with Los Angeles, and would like to add another winger - they have had discussions with the agent for former Flyer Simon Gagne, a free agent.
The Flyers are counting heavily that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Jagr, a winger who is a five-time NHL scoring champion, has not lost too much productivity.
"Jaromir Jagr is one of the better players at the cycle game that there is in the game," said general manager Paul Holmgren, adding that Jagr was a fitness fanatic and that he wasn't concerned about his age. "He's a big, strong guy who can really control the puck in the offensive zone, and he's a big body in front of the net, too."
Holmgren conceded that it would have been difficult for the Flyers to pursue Jagr if they had been able to re-sign Leino.
Jagr, who played the last three seasons in Russia, will be a key cog on the Flyers' power play and could be on the team's top line, while Talbot will be an anchor on the penalty-killing unit. Talbot helped the Penguins finish with the league's best PK last season.
Jagr, who has 646 career NHL goals, signed a one-year deal for $3.3 million - reportedly $1.3 million more than Pittsburgh offered. The Penguins and Detroit dropped out of the bidding early Friday.
 Talbot, who had the winning goal in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals for Pittsburgh, signed a five-year deal that totals $9 million. The 27-year-old Talbot had eight goals and 13 assists for Pittsburgh last season.
  By all accounts, Talbot is a character guy and a locker-room leader - and the Flyers hope his shot-blocking skills will remind folks of the gritty Laperriere.
"It's exciting. It's a new challenge," Talbot said. He called the Flyers "a great team" and said that was one of the reasons he picked them.
"I wanted to go with a team that had a chance to win a championship this year," he said.
Later in the day, the Flyers sent Versteeg to Florida. They will receive the Panthers' second-round pick in either 2012 or 2013 (Florida's choice), and also will get San Jose's third-round pick in 2012, which Florida previously had acquired.
 The Flyers also signed restricted free agent Jakub Voracek for one season at $2.25 million. The winger was acquired in the deal that sent Jeff Carter to Columbus.
 After a brilliant NHL career, Jagr went to Russia's KHL for the last three seasons. In his last NHL season, he had 25 goals and 46 assists for the New York Rangers in 2007-08.
  Yes, the Flyers would be thrilled with that kind of production.
  Last year, Jagr had 19 goals and 31 assists in the KHL, then had five goals in nine games for the Czech Republic national team in the IIHF World Championships.
  It was at the world championships that Flyers scouts became intrigued by Jagr.
"Our guys who saw him there thought he was - well, he was one of the better forwards. He was named to the all-star team at the world championships," Holmgren said. "We think he can play at this level. We know he can. And we believe he can still put up a lot of points, so we're certainly excited to have him."
The Flyers also signed the 6-3, 220-pound Lilja, a soon-to-be 36-year-old defenseman who had one goal and six assists for Anaheim last season and was minus-15.
  Because the Flyers do not have many big bodies at center, they showed interest in Michal Handzus (6-4, 219). But they bypassed the former Flyer, and he signed a two-year with San Jose for a total of $5 million.
Earlier in the day, the Flyers didn't think that Erik Cole was worth the asking price, and the winger signed a four-year, $18 million deal ($4.5 million cap hit) with Montreal.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, or @BroadStBull on Twitter


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nutter Vetoes Bill

As expected, Mayor Nutter vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required many businesses to allow their employees to accrue paid sick time.  
Because City Council does not meet again until Sept. 8, the bill's sponsors have the summer to lobby for the 12 votes necessary to overturn the mayor - but that could be a daunting task.
 
The bill passed this month with the minimum of nine votes amid the horse-trading of several contentious tax-increase proposals.
 
One of the votes in favor was cast by Councilman Bill Green, who opposed paid sick leave, but supported the bill in a deal to prevent the mayor's soda tax from passing.
 
Councilman William K. Greenlee, who sponsored paid sick leave along with Majority Whip Darrell L. Clarke, said he was disappointed the mayor did not give the bill more consideration.
 
"I was hoping we could have a conversation first," he said, shortly after Nutter notified him of the veto. "There was a lot of time and effort put into this, so I don't feel like having a conversation would have been out of line."
 
Nutter announced his decision in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue offices of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, while a hastily organized gathering of about 30 protesters waited by the elevators.
"The paid-sick-leave bill . . . would put thousands of jobs at risk and discourage businesses from coming to the city of Philadelphia," Nutter said. "I do not believe this is the time or place for this legislation."
This was the mayor's second veto in a week. On Thursday, he turned aside Council's bill to overhaul the controversial DROP pension program. Nutter favors ending the program.
 
His DROP veto is likely to be overturned in September, since the bill passed with a comfortable 14 votes.
Paid sick leave was backed by a broad coalition of advocacy groups as a public-health issue and a matter of basic fairness.
 
The business community was nearly universal in opposition, saying employees would abuse sick time as "unscheduled, paid vacation." A handful of business owners testified at Council that they would leave the city if the bill passed.
 
Greenlee said there were 19 changes made to the bill to appease business concerns.
 
"We tried to address the major stuff they came to us with, except 'Don't do it,' which is what they really wanted," he said.
 
The debate often pitted employers against employees. Restaurant servers were big backers, while owners were lined up against.
 
Garth Weldon, chairman of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, said the industry was struggling with higher food prices. He applauded the veto.
 
"It's still a very tough business environment," said Weldon, who is a partner of The Prime Rib, a 225-seat eatery in Center City. "Anything that can help us in small businesses keep afloat without an additional cost is good."
 
But Marianne Bellestorte, senior director of policy for PathWaysPa, an organization that provides services and advocacy for women, children, and families, said a poll taken by advocates found 71 percent of city residents were in favor of the bill.
 
"I'm very disappointed that the mayor is not with the 71 percent of Philadelphians who support paid sick leave," she said. "We're going to fight for paid sick time until everyone has access to it. It's a public-health issue."
 
Nutter said that he supported the intent of the legislation but that the bill should be enacted on a state or federal level. If only Philadelphia had a paid-sick-leave requirement, the city would be at a "competitive disadvantage" in the region, he said.
 
"I care a great deal about paid sick leave, but I care even more about people getting paid," Nutter said. "People need jobs, and that's our number-one priority."
 


Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 215-854-2730, tgraham@phillynews.com,
or @troyjgraham on Twitter.