I had hoped to write something uplifting and inspirational today to accompany your holiday eggnog, but alas, there was nothing uplifting within the state of Philadelphia sports last week, certainly nothing to do with any result on a scoreboard.
It was a whirlwind week, where a longtime city sports columnist was accused of child molestation and a Penn State quarterback got knocked out by one of his teammates, who just happens to be from West Philly.
Rancor overshadowed anything that had to do with the Eagles and their Christmas Eve game in Dallas, or even the job status of Andy Reid, which kind of gives you an idea of the evolvement of sports in a new millennium.
That said, we shall attack these two controversial issues individually.
Bill Conlin. The one thing we have learned through the Penn State scandal is that we can never be oblivious to dark secrets. To most of us acquainted with Conlin, Nancy Phillips' piece in The Inquirer last Tuesday was flabbergasting. The unfolding of the story was equally bizarre. It was first reported that a story was about to be reported saying Conlin was a sexual abuser. (If that doesn't tell you the state of journalism today, I don't know what does.) But then a few hours later, the actual story hit and Conlin's long journalistic career was over.
If the allegations are true, it's another sickening story of sexual abuse against defenseless victims. The expired statute of limitations makes it impossible for Conlin to serve jail time, but also prevents him from mounting any kind of defense. The court of public opinion delivers swifter justice. Conlin's attorney is longtime Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto. All Bochetto can do is present his client in public to make a statement that he didn't do it. That would make six people who have accused him of the abuse, against one. Interestingly, we haven't had one declaration from the Conlin side that he's innocent.
Though I have worked in Philadelphia media for many years, including a large chunk in the same newspaper world as Conlin, I didn't know the man well. Many years ago, when I was heading a Philadelphia sports magazine called The Fan, I had published a story speculating that then-Flyer Eric Lindros was befriending undesirables. Conlin wrote a Daily News column attempting to tarnish my journalistic credentials. Years later, in the midst of the Flyers' purging of Lindros, the Daily News wrote a story confirming the information I had revealed in The Fan. I wrote an e-mail to Conlin, asking him if he was going to defend me with as much zeal as he attacked me. He wrote me back a one-word response: "No."
Today, the Bill Conlin issue has nothing to do with any story he ever wrote or any colleague at which he may have sniped. It has only to do with compassion for the victims.
Penn State. In the theater of the bizarre that has become the Penn State football program, starting quarterback Matt McGloin may be forced out of the team's bowl game after getting banged up in a locker-room fight with wide receiver Curtis Drake, the kid from West Catholic High. I don't have anything to say about that, but I needed a decent segue to get into some information regarding the Nittany Lions' search for a new head coach.
Sources close to the situation say the coaching search committee reached out first to gauge the interest of Bill Parcells. Yes, that Bill Parcells. Parcells told them he didn't have the sea legs left to coach college, but he recommended they talk to former Jets/Browns head coach Eric Mangini, the man once portrayed in The Sopranos as "Man-genius." I don't know if Eric Mangini would make a good head coach at Penn State, but the program needs a big name to trump the scandal, and he's the biggest one right now that I can see.
I couldn't leave you today without mentioning a few Christmas gifts I'm planning to give to various Philadelphia sports names:
Andy Reid: A microchip, to be worn in his ear, with a loop recording of his postgame news conferences so he can see how ridiculous he sounds when he repeats the mantra of "It's my responsibility and I have to do a better job." Along the lines of Kubrick wedging Malcolm McDowell's eye lids open with toothpicks to re-program McDowell's violent tendencies in A Clockwork Orange.
Casey Matthews: A whiteboard on which he can write a thousand times, "I shall not unnecessarily tweak Philadelphia Eagles fans." Matthews all but called the fans front-runners, which never sits well. And Casey, cut the hair until you actually become a star. Like Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham: When you make it big, then you can grow fungus on your shower shoes.
Me (A present from me): More books. I've now made three obtuse movie and TV references in this column because I watch too much television.
Andre Iguodala: A mechanism, akin to an invisible dog fence, that sends an electrical shock through the Sixers forward when he attempts to rise up to shoot a three-point shot.
Ilya Bryzgalov: Mark Burnett's phone number. Judging by his performance in HBO's 24/7, there's certainly a reality show in the Flyers goalie's future.