Same old attacks on McNabb

Donovan McNabb responds to the North Carolina crowd while leaving the field after suffering a rib injury in the second half against the Panthers.
Donovan McNabb responds to the North Carolina crowd while leaving the field after suffering a rib injury in the second half against the Panthers.
Posted: September 17, 2009

Why does all this fantasy fury directed at President Obama seem so familiar?

Maybe because it sounds like the same kind of skewed logic, stupidity, and - yes - bigotry that has marked a lot of the criticism of Donovan McNabb over the years.

For the Eagles quarterback, the pipe dreams of the prejudiced take on a different slant. This nonsensical speculation isn't about death panels, Alaskan gulags, or Kenyan births. Instead, the silly conjecture concerns his fragile anatomy, his lack of desire, his passing ability.

Like the president, the Eagles quarterback had the temerity to be an African American assuming a position traditionally filled by white men.

That's never been OK for a small minority of local sports fans.

For them, McNabb, no matter how many NFC titles he wins, will always lack what it takes to get the Eagles a Super Bowl victory.

He's brittle. He's not a real leader. He can't throw accurately. He chokes in the fourth quarter. He may even be a Muslim.

He's not Tom Brady. He's not Peyton Manning. He's not Norm Van Brocklin.

His mother is too pushy. He's afraid to run the ball. He doesn't care.

You hear it on talk radio, often in carefully couched terms. It shows up among anonymous fan bloggers. In angry e-mails. If the Eagles held town meetings, you can be sure the anti-McNabb crazies would shout down his supporters.

Is it any wonder that Rush Limbaugh has demeaned both?

McNabb is not above criticism. Many fans have legitimate questions about him. Just as there are many with real concerns about Obama.

The shame is they can't match the noise or the fervor of the crazies.

A fading Philly game. Does anyone play hose ball any more?

Two weeks ago, I asked readers to recall the ball-related games they played as kids in the streets in and around Philly.

The response was astonishing.

Scores of readers mentioned stick ball, wall ball, step ball, hand ball, wire ball, box ball, sock ball, chink, triangle ball, half ball, Wiffle ball, tire ball, kickball, speed ball, run the bases, puff ball, curb ball, punch ball, long ball, pimple ball, cork ball, roof ball, racket ball, and, my personal favorite, hit the dead guy (those kids lived near a West Philadelphia funeral parlor and their target was a departing hearse).

But far and away the most frequently mentioned game was one that is peculiarly Philadelphian - hose ball.

The game, which was born of economic and practical necessities, appears to have faded away everywhere but in the graying heads of Baby Boomers.

Here are a few comments from old hoseballers:

"I grew up in the Lawndale section of Northeast Philly in the '50s.  We played hose ball in the streets.  Setup was like a baseball infield: 4 or 5 guys to a side.  We cut sections of old hose into 4" to 5" sections and used a broomstick as a bat.  Not easy catching a hard hit piece of hose with your bare hand."

- Raymond Ford

"Let's say you and your fellow miscreants had already roofed all your halfies.  And lefty slugger Mike Fedyna had slammed all your "pimpies" and "pinkies" over the short right-field fence at "Johnson's Fair" (7th & Glenwood) onto the pre-Amtrak PRR trunk-line to Trenton & New York, never to be found again. Not a problem.  You just snuck into somebody's backyard with a steak knife, unscrewed the garden hose from the spigot, and started slicing that nice long tube into 4-inch segments. . . . You underhanded them across the side street the same way; your buddy or buddies whacked them with a broomstick; they were caught on the fly or off the wall for outs, or not. First story was a single; second, a double. Ringing the "tin" - or metal rooftop cornice - yielded that rare triple. And over the top was a homer, of course."

- George Shotzbarger

"Growing up in Mayfair in the '50s and '60s, kids played hoseball or tireball in the rowhouse streets or back driveways. . . . If you managed to hit it with a sawed-off broomstick, the hose or tire wouldn't go that far, but it took some fast and wild flight patterns. My older brother John took a hose in the lip one time, and we thought he got killed - blood everywhere. And now kids stay in the house and play Wii games."

- Dick McGeary

"When we did not have enough money to buy new pimple balls, my brothers and me would get an old garden hose and cut 4-inch lengths of hose to use as a 'ball.'   Garden hoses were kind of a worn red color and were really heavy duty . . .."

- John Lalli

"I worked for Sears in their Abington store. A group of us formed 2 teams and we played hose ball during lunch, hitting against the back of the building where the receiving/shipping dock was located. . . . You have not lived until you were pitching, without a shirt on, & got hit by a hose that a batter hit square in the middle & came at you so fast you couldn't react in time to catch it. The welts lasted for weeks."

- Rick Kass

A grown-up sport? I'm going to join a Fantasy Football league, as soon as I make my First Communion and my Mommy lets me stay up past 8 p.m.

NASCAR note of the week. Trivia question: Driver Brian Vickers' pit crew gathers each Monday for (a) shock therapy, (b) six-packs and sausage, (c) yoga, (d) a Vladimir Nabokov book club, or (e) hand-washing?

Answer: C (believe it or not).

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or

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