Monday, February 23, 2015

"Birdman" Soars on Oscar Night

The big winner at the Academy Awards last night was, of course, "Birdman".  Winning four biggies - Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and the biggest of all, Best Picture.

We finally saw "Birdman" on Saturday night through the magic of OnDemand. It was interesting, and it certainly was different, filmed in a unique manner, and the performances by the actors were quite good, but Best Picture?  I'm not so sure.

Of course, as I mentioned in a post the other day, I had only seen two other of the Best Picture nominees, "Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game", so who am I to offer a judgement of the relative merits of "Birdman" compared to the other seven nominees, but here's one yardstick that I use in judging a movie: How likely am I to  watch this movie over and over again as the years roll by?  Using that standard, I can honestly say that I will probably watch "The Imitation Game" several times as we go forward, but I am not sure if I will ever go out of my way to see "Birdman" again. Once was enough.

(Interestingly enough, I made a Facebook post on Saturday night expressing these sentiments about "Birdman", and it generated a moderate number of comments, about 75% of them leaning towards my point of view, for whatever that might be worth.)

The Oscar winning director of this movie, Alejandro Inarritu, in accepting his award, said, and I am paraphrasing here, that the test of time will be the ultimate judge of what the Best Movie of 2014 really was, but for this moment in time, it's "Birdman", so congratulations to all concerned.

A note on that "test of time" notion.  The Best Pictures of 1995 and 1997 were "Forrest Gump" and "The English Patient".  In those years, two of the movies that "lost" the Oscar were "Shawshank Redemption" in 1995 and "Fargo" in 1997. Of those four movies, which two would you rather watch if given the choice today?

As for the Oscar show itself....

  • I thought Neil Patrick Harris did a good job as host.  After the opening number, the host's job is to just keep things moving and introduce the next presenters.  I thought his opening number was quite good, and he did as much as can be expected in his role as traffic cop in keeping the show moving.
  • Even thought I didn't see their performances - yet - I was glad to see Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K Simmons take home the Oscar.
  • I am sure that Eddie Redmayne was deserving of his Best Actor Oscar, but I was sorry to see that Pittsburgh guy Michael Keaton did not get the nod.  One question to which we may never know the answer - if he had won, would Keaton have taken the gum out of his mouth that he was chewing all evening when he made his acceptance speech?
  • How awesome was Lady Gaga in that "Sound of Music" tribute?  People have long said that Lady Gaga is not a gimmick, but a serious musical talent, and she proved it last night.  Tremendous performance. 
  • And having Julie Andrews come out right after that number was terrific, perhaps the best moment of the night.
  • How about John Travolta?  He was good sport in taking a beating for his mispronunciation of Idina Menzel's name last year, but WHAT HAS HE DONE TO HIMSELF?  Another Hollywood poster boy for Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong.
  • The Neil Patrick Harris "Oscar Predictions in a Locked Briefcase" gimmick went on way too long, perhaps, but, tell me, how exactly did they do that?
I will conclude with another comment on "Birdman".  One thing I did like about it was seeing the divide that exists between Broadway and Hollywood, and the perception among actors and critics as to which is the "more important" art form.  In one scene, the New York Times critic contemptuously tells Riggan Thomson (Keaton) that "you're not an actor; you're a celebrity".  Great line, but not a new one.  In the fabulous 1982 movie "My Favorite Year" screen star Alan Swan, played by Peter O'Toole, has an anxiety attack when he realizes that he will be appearing on LIVE television. In the course of his panic he screams out, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star."  One of the great lines in movie that as full of them.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscar Thoughts

Regular readers may have noticed that I have been silent on this year's Academy Awards, and, in fact, I am much more detached from the ceremonies this year than in past years.  There are couple of reasons for that.  

First, the announcement of the nominations came out when we were on our vacation in Hawaii last month, so I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention.

Secondly, and more to the point, I have seen very few of the nominated movies and performances this year.  I have seen only two of the Best Picture nominees, "Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game", only three of the ten acting nominees, Benedict Cumberbatch,  Rosamund Pike, and Kiera Knightly, and only one of the movies with a Best Director nomination, "Grand Budapest Hotel" for Wes Anderson.  Based upon what I have read, none of these nominees will take home an Oscar tomorrow.

So, going on the theory that an uninformed opinion is worse than no opinion at all, I am going to forgo my traditional Oscar Predictions this year.  Be still your hearts.

I will be watching the show tomorrow, and I will be pulling for Michael Keaton ("Pittsburgh's and Montour High School's own!") to win the Best Actor Award, and I will no doubt have some thoughts on the whole proceedings come Monday.

Some Baseball Thoughts...and One Football Thought

Spring Training camps have opened across Florida and Arizona this past week, so how about a couple of baseball thoughts and a cold and very snowy Pittsburgh morning?

Major League Baseball is very much in the news today because of procedures that will be implemented this season aimed at increasing the pace of play, which will eliminate some dead time in the course of a game, and, perhaps, shorten the average length of time it takes to play a major league game these days.  Personally, I am all for these changes, but, predictably, people who just want to take shots at whomever a sport's commissioner happens to be at any given time, and so-called Baseball Purists, are outraged.

"Baseball is the only game without a time clock.  You just can't DO this.",  seems to be a common response.

First of all, no one is suggesting this:

Baseball is still a nine inning game.  A team will still have to record 27 outs to win a ballgame.  No one is proposing four fifteen minute quarters or three thirty minute periods for baseball.  Strictly enforcing the time between innings, requiring that a pitch be delivered in a certain amount of time, and, most importantly, not allowing the batter to step out of the box after every pitch to readjust their batting gloves and protective cups, and eliminating the slow stroll by a manager while his bench coach decides if a replay challenge should be requested....these measures ARE NOT PUTTING A TIME CLOCK IN BASEBALL.

Will these measure reduce a 3 hour and twenty minute game to 2 hours and forty minutes?  Not likely, but even a three hour plus game will not SEEM that long, if there is not so much interminable dead time in game.


In an move that is also no doubt related to the length of time it takes to play a ball game, the Cleveland Indians have announced that their home night games (not sure if it is all night games or just the Monday through Thursday games) this season will start at 6:10 PM, instead of 7:05.  In a town where the ball park is located in the downtown business district, this will be an interesting experiment.

Recalling the days when I was working, I can say for sure that I would have stayed in town after the work day ended at 5:00 and walked across the Clemente Bridge for a 6:00 game a lot more times than I ever left work, drove back home, changed clothes, and drove back into town for a ball game.

Plus, these games will end, give or take, sometime between 9:00 and 9:30, which is a big difference than between 10:00 and 10:30 to someone whose alarm will be going off at 5:30 the next morning.

I am guessing that a lot of teams, including the Pirates, will be paying attention to this experiment in Cleveland throughput this season.


And now to football....

Speaking of Cleveland, is there a more dysfunctional franchise in all of professional sports than the Cleveland Browns?

Just this week, GM Larry Farmer, when he was not fessing up to illegally texting his coaching staff during games, announced that the Browns will strongly consider drafting a quarterback early, if not in the first round, of the upcoming draft. The is coming on the heels of the fiasco that was the Johnny Manziel experiment this past season, and on the heels of the news that QB Brian Hoyer, who has had a winning record as the Browns' QB, by the way, will not be re-signed by the team.  ( It should be noted that in the sixteen seasons since the Browns rejoined the NFL, they have started twenty-two [22!] different guys at QB.)

All of this is overseen by owner Jimmy Haslim, who was, briefly, a minority owner of the Steelers.  Neutral observers always will tell you that the Steelers are one of the NFL's model franchises in the operation of their team.  Either Haslim never hung around the office to see how things were done, or he wasn't paying attention when he was there, during his time with the Steelers.  He appears to be cut from the Dan Snyder Cloth, just another rich guy with a shiny toy who gets to hang out with real football players.

Too bad for the loyal fans in Cleveland.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Thoughts on Television.....

So, what else do you do when it snows to beat hell and the temperatures are in single digits or sub-zero?  You watch a lot of TV, that's what......

Through the magic of the DVR, we finally finished watching the 3 and 1/2 self-congratulatory Saturday Night Live special that NBC aired this past Sunday night.  Based on the comments on Facebook while the show aired, I know that I am going to be at odds with a lot of folks, but that show could have been squeezed into ninety minutes, two hours, tops.  I have long maintained that the humor of SNL is generational.  My parents didn't "get" Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi et al, and I never quite got people like Chris Farley, Adam Sandberg and people of that ilk, but that's okay.

As for the show on Sunday, I liked the Jeopardy sketch, the Wayne's World sketch, some, not all, of the Weekend Update stuff, the tribute to those who died, including the item about Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Paul Simon, and seeing some of the original cast members.

And the jokes about not being able to read the cue cards, which EVERYBODY made, got old after the second person did it.

Last weekend we did a major Binge Watch of Seasons Four and Five of HBO's terrific "Boardwalk Empire".  What an great series that was.  The short, eight episode fifth and final season did a fantastic job of bringing the entire story full circle, and it led to an absolutely perfect conclusion.

If you like crime dramas, and haven't seen this show, then do whatever you the DVD sets, go to Netflix, OnDemand, or stream in some fashion, but watch this series.

Golf Channel is now three episodes in to its current season, "Big Break, The Palm Beaches FL".  Men only contestants this time.  No one yet has stood out as a "villain" in the show, as Anthony Quesada and Mary Narcisi had in past seasons, so there is no one to really root against as yet.  The guy that I am sure that the producers want to go all the way is Chad Pfiefer, and Iraqi war vet who is an amputee with a leg prosthesis.  In truth, Chad is not as good a golfer as most of the others, so I can't see him hanging in there for too long, but he has already been to two elimination challenges and sent three other contestants packing, so who knows?

From a local perspective, one of the contestants if Robert Rohanna of Waynesburg, PA.

If you've read the agate type in the Pittsburgh sports pages over the years, you know his name.  A local professional who represents Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, he has kicked around the mini-tours, and he seems to be a likable guy. Also, he is seen in some clips on the show wearing an Andrew McCutchen tee shirt.  So, Let's Go Robert!

CBS has decided to do a reboot of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple".  As TV critic Rob Owen stated in the PG yesterday, Why?  The show premiered last night following "The Big Bang Theory", which should have given it a large audience, and it wasn't awful, but, again, why?  Why follow what was a classic TV series, which was based on a classic movie, which was based on the classic Simon play?  This one stars Matthew Perry of "Friends" as Oscar, and some guy named Thomas Lennon as Felix.  Perry is okay as Oscar, but Lennon's portrayal of Felix is so over the top that it is going to be hard to take on a regular basis, I think.

At least two of the lines in last night's episode were direct lifts from the original Simon play.  So give Perry, who had the writing credit for this episode, some props for sticking with the original.

Watched an episode of "Fantasy Island" on wine of those "classic TV only" cable stations on Wednesday night.  Hey, I told you we were getting desperate.  Anyway, this show was circa 1978, and it hit the perfect trifecta of TV Awfulness: bad acting, bad writing, bad editing.  Can't believe that was regular television viewing for us back in Seventies.  Makes you realize that television has indeed improved over the years, despite some of the dreck that still populates it.

Finally, and I know I'm a bit late on this one, but I guess that I must comment on Brian Williams.  You all know the story, so I won't restate it again, but when the news of his false heroics emerged, I knew at the time that this would not end well for him.  I feel bad, because, I liked Brian Williams at the NBC anchor desk.  The fact that he continued to repeat this story, and even embellish it over the course of ten years is what is so befuddling to me.  I am surprised, actually, that it took this long for this particular shoe to drop.

Williams is currently on a six month suspension form NBC.  I am sure that we will see him again on television, but not at a network anchor desk, and probably not on NBC.

Hubris strikes down another icon.  It is a story as old as time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Absent Friends - Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore

Recording star Lesley Gore died of cancer yesterday at the way too young age of 68.

Miss Gore was a popular singer of the 1960's with hits such as "It's My Party", "Judy's Turn to Cry", and "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows", and "You Don't Own Me."  "It's My Party" was a Number One hit when Lesley Gore was only 16 years old and a junior in high school.

Here is Ms. Gore performing her most famous hit:

RIP Lesley Gore.

To Absent Friends - Gary Glick

Gary Glick

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Gary Glick passed away last week at the age of 84.

In the obituary for Glick that appeared in today's Post-Gazette, Ed Bouchette writes that Glick, whom the Steelers selected as the first overall draft selection in the 1956 NFL Draft, was symbolic of the futility of the Steelers in the first forty years of their existence, particularly in their inability to draft astutely.  An accurate assessment of the Steelers front office in those days, to be sure, but certainly not fair to Glick himself, who may not have been a great player, but he did go on to forge an eight year career in the NFL and went on to a coaching career in the Canadian Football League.

Bouchette pointed out that in that 1956 Draft the Steelers passed on future Hall of Famers Lenny Moore, Forrest Gregg, and Sam Huff, and took Glick instead.  This is true, but also a bit misleading.  Yes, the Steelers blew it by not taking Moore, who was a first round selection of the Colts that year, but a lot of other teams blew it on Gregg, who was a second round pick, and Huff, who lasted until the third round.

As I was growing up, it became part of the "Same Old Steelers" mythology was that the Steelers were so dumb that they selected Glick instead of Jim Brown in that 1956 draft.  I am not sure how that started, but this is totally untrue.  In fact, Brown was not eligible for the NFL Draft until the following year, 1957.  With the first overall pick in the draft that year, the Green Bay Packers selected Paul Hornung, a pick which, it can be said, turned out quite well for them.  Drafting second, Cleveland selected Jim Brown, so the fact of the matter is that the Steelers never did have the opportunity to draft Jim Brown.  The Steelers followed Cleveland in the draft order that year and used the pick to select Purdue's Len Dawson, who also had a Hall of Fame career, but not, alas, with the Steelers.

RIP Gary Glick.

DVR Alert: Courtroom Dramas

The cold weather being experienced throughout much of the country these days has apparently caused The Grandstander's keyboard to freeze since offerings from here have been sparse of late.  So, let's turn up the space heaters and see what we can put out there for all of you Loyal Readers.

Let's start with the always popular DVR Alert.

This coming Thursday, February 19, Turner Classic Movies is offering a back-to-back-to-back feast for fans of the courtroom drama.  

12:30 PM - "Witness for the Prosecution" (1958).  Based on classic Agatha Christie short story and play, this movie was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and Marlene Dietrich.  It is truly a Classic Christie story, and it doesn't get much better than that.

2:30 PM - "Inherit the Wind" (1960).  This Stanley Kramer directed movie is a fictional recreation of the famed Scopes "monkey trial", and it is a heavyweight championship of acting performances with Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as the opposing attorneys.  This  movie also has an interesting acting performance by Gene Kelly in a dramatic, non-singing, non dancing role.

And best of all....

5:00 PM - "Judgement at Nuremberg" (1961).  I have talked about this movie many times in this blog.  It is a story of the Nuremberg war crimes and the political reassures that were brought to bear as the political realities of a post world War II world were falling into shape.  Maximilian Schell won the Best Actor of the Year Oscar for his performance in this one, but there were also Oscar worthy performances in this one from Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, and Richard Widmark. (Tracy, Garland, and Clift all received Oscar nominations for this one.)  This one was also directed by Stanley Kramer.  In my humble opinion, this is a movie that everyone should see at least once, and should be required viewing for every high school history student.

I'm going to stop at these three, but you could do worse than keeping your DVR humming for the remainder of the day on TCM on Thursday, as it will also be showing "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), "A Hard Day's Night" (1964), and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1968).  Both "Strangelove" and "Dinner..." were also directed by Kramer.

Man, what a day on TCM!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

To A Trio of Absent Friends: Billy Casper, Dean Smith, and Ed Sabol

Sometimes things happen so fast, that you need to compress a couple of things in one post, as today we remember three Absent Friends.

Back in 2006, I can recall that Tiger Woods won his 50th PGA Tour event.  By any measure this was a milestone event, and the TV announcers noted that he was only the seventh player to achieve this mark.  Who were the other six?  Well, the easy ones to name were Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson.  The hard one, the one that no one comes up with is Billy Casper, but he is indeed on the list.  Seventh in wins all-time, a Masters Champion, and two time US Open Champ, Casper died this past week at the age of 83.

In the 1966 US Open, Casper was paired in the final round with the leader, Arnold Palmer.  As they stood on the tenth tee, Palmer led the second place Casper by seven strokes.  The story goes that Casper said to Palmer, "I'll just try to stay out of your way", and Palmer told Casper, "Let me know if I can help you with anything".  Golf history nerds know what happened:  Palmer's seven stroke lead evaporated, Casper tied him at the finish, and won the Open the next day in an 18 hole playoff.  This Open is always referred to as one that Palmer gave away, but it was Casper who chased him down and won the event.

University of North Carolina and Hall of Fame Basketball coach Dean Smith also died this past week, also at the age of 83.  

Perhaps no coach was more revered and respected by his associates and, especially, his players, than was Dean Smith.  Even Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame coach himself who is now in his seventies, still refers to him as "Coach Smith".

You can recite all the numbers - the wins, the ACC and NCAA titles, the roster of great players, but the thing that stood out to me in reading the stories this week was a quote of Smith's in John Feinstein's story yesterday:

"You should never be proud of doing the right thing.  You should just do the right thing."

Finally, Ed Sabol, the man who created NFL Films, died yesterday at the age of 98.  There may be no one more responsible for the popularity of the National football League than Ed Sabol and his son, Steve, who preceded him in death three years ago.  What football fan among us doesn't have great memories of NFL highlight movies with those great shots, fabulous movies, and the voice of John Facenda?  Ed Sabol, rightly so, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

RIP Billy Casper, Dean Smith, and Ed Sabol.

Classic Movie Review - "Wings"

Trivia buffs and old movie buffs all know thew answer to this question:  What movie won the very first Oscar for Best Picture of the year?

The answer, of course, is "Wings", released in 1927, directed by William Wellman, and starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rodgers, Richard Arlen, and Jobyna Ralston. It is a story about fighter pilots in World War I, a mistaken love triangle, and small town girl who enlists as an ambulance driver so she can track down the man she loves.

Turner Classic Movies showed this move a week or so ago. Like many silent movies of that era, "Wings" was deteriorating, but it was restored and saved, and the restored film is what TCM showed.  

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was surprised at how good it was and how well the movie - a silent movie - holds up almost ninety years after it was made.  It is a movie that depicts the horrors of war every bit as well as any current day director has done in any number of movies released in recent years.  It also shows the need for soldiers to decompress from what they have experienced in a scene of Rodgers and fellow soldiers on leave in Paris.  And the battle scenes of the airplane dogfights are remarkable, considering that there were no green screens and CGI back in 1927!  When a plane was shot down the flames of the explosion was in color.  I thought that this colorization was something that was done when the movie was restored, but not so. I learned that the flames in the film were hand-tinted in the production process.  I can only imagine the effect that this must have had on movie goers in 1927.  No wonder it won that first Oscar!

I have written about Clara Bow before, and she was certainly delightful in this movie.  In doing a Google Images search for a picture to accompany this post, I was surprised to see how all of the contemporary posters and pictures for this movie featured Miss Bow and gave her the top billing for this movie. I have read a little bit about Clara Bow, and plan to do more, but I don't think that we, from the vantage point of 2015, have any idea of the magnitude of the Stardom with a capital "S" that surrounded Clara Bow back in her day.

I also thought it was interesting that Rodgers was billed as "Charles 'Buddy' Rodgers", even IMDB references him like this.

Anyway, pretty good movie.  Well worth seeking out and watching.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bettis and Ben, and Buckner and Branca

In his Sunday column yesterday, John Mehno wrote about the now infamous call made by Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll that, it is fair to say, probably cost Seattle their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.  He said, not without merit, that this play call will most likely earn Carroll a spot alongside Bill Buckner and Ralph Branca, men who are known mainly for one specific misplay that has overshadowed two pretty nice career bodies of work.  (I don't have to recount those two instances, do I?)

Anyway, that got me to thinking about something else that took place last weekend, and which I have previously commented upon, the election of Jerome Bettis to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  What Steelers fan does not remember the play in the Playoff game against the Colts following the 2005 season where Jerome fumbled the ball on the goal line, and were it not for this play...

...a certain Steelers win, which led a few weeks later to a Super Bowl victory, would have turned into a loss that would have been every bit as ignominious as the Pirates-Braves 1992 NLCS Game 7 in the annals of Pittsburgh sports history.

If Ben Roethlisberger doesn't make that shoe top tackle of Nick Harper, Jerome Bettis would  have become the Pittsburgh version of Bill Buckner, and I am guessing he would not be the Beloved Bus among the denizens of Steelers Nation that he is today, and I am also guessing that he would not be going into the Hall of Fame, either.  That would not be fair or right or just, but that's how it would be, I believe.

I am thinking that Jerome ought to give serious consideration to having Ben Roethlisberger be his Presenter at his HOF Induction this summer.

"My Fair Lady" at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

Over the years, I cannot recall how many times I have seen a stage production of the classic Lerner and Lowe musical, "My Fair Lady".  Probably at least four times, ranging from a North Allegheny High School musical to a Civic Light Opera production that had the almost gimmicky casting of Noel (son of Rex) Harrison as Henry Higgins.  And, of course, let's not forget how many times I've seen the movie.

Anyway, we did it again last night at the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of this venerable show, and I can't say enough about how wonderful it was (please note that I resisted the temptation to say how "loverly" it was) and how much we enjoyed it.  We have seen many shows at the Public over the years, and I cannot recall one that had such a lavish production...the sets, the costumes....just fabulous.  And the intimacy of the O'Reilly Theater makes you feel like you are right on the stage.  If you have never seen a show there, you are really missing something.

This show starred Kimberly Doreen Burns as Eliza Doolittle and Benjamin Howes as Henry Higgins, and they were terrific.

I am sure that everyone reading this knows the story of "My Fair Lady", so I won't repeat it here, but here are just a few of the highlights in my mind, and particularly in this production:

  • "The Rain in Spain" scene, when Eliza "gets it".
  • "I Could Have Danced All Night"
  • The scene at the Ascot Races when Eliza has her conversation with the swells of English society.  "Gin was mother's milk to her, it was."  And don't forget how she cheered on the horse Dover in the race!
  • When Eliza first appears all decked out for the Embassy Ball.  Beautiful.
  • And is there a bigger showstopper in any musical than Alfie Doolittle singing "Get Me To The Church On Time"?  Actor Bill Nolte's rendition of this in the Public's production brought down the house.
The Public's "My Fair Lady" runs at the O'Reilly throughout February 22, so there is still time to see it if you are so inclined.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pitt Gets Some New Players

This past Wednesday evening found me at the East Lounge at Heinz Field with friends Dan, John, and Paul to attend the National Letter of Intent Signing Day for the 2015 Pitt football recruiting class.  I have done this once before, and it is usually something that I don't get too excited about, but I did want to see and hear new coach Pat Narduzzi, and what else is there to do on a cold February mid-week night?

I will say that I was rather impressed with Narduzzi.  No snake oil like with Todd Graham, and no instant somnambulism like with Paul Chryst.  He's an earnest and articulate guy, and he seems at this point to be a good representative for the University.  Let's hope he can coach football.  We also had an opportunity to talk one-on-one with new OC John Chaney for a bit prior to the program.  Another impressive guy.

As for the meat and potatoes of the night, the new recruits, I can't get too excited.  I mean, we are talking about 17 and 18 year old kids here, so who the heck knows.  To me, projecting these kids is a bigger crap shoot than the NFL Draft.  I look at it like this, there were fifteen recruits announced on Wednesday night.  I am guessing that despite the accolades the coaches rained down on these kids, or, excuse me, these young men on Wednesday, I am thinking that at least one-third of them will never play for Pitt, and at best five of them become starters and make a significant contribution to the Pitt football team over the next four years, so why get too excited.  I am guessing that Coach Narduzzi would sign up for it right now if he could be assured that there would be five significant, impact players from this group.

 But, as I say, it was a fun night out, and it does make you look forward to September 5 when that juggernaut from Youngstown State will be rolling into Heinz Field, and we all remember what happened the last time the Panthers took on YSU.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Patriots 28 - Seahawks 24, and Other Super Bowl Thoughts

Okay, okay, I know that no one is supposed to like the New England Patriots, but you've got to hand it to them, and you most especially have to hand it to Tom Brady.  They are good, Brady is perhaps the Best Ever, and that 28-24 win over Seattle last night was one whale of a football game.

When Brady threw that second interception, which led to a Seattle TD and a 24-14 lead at the end of three quarters, that game was this close to being over.  I said at the time that the Patriots simply HAVE to respond right now, or this one could be over.  Did they ever.  Brady responds with a TD drive, the New England defense responds by forcing a three-and-out, and Brady responds AGAIN with another TD drive. Excellent play by the Patriots and positively brilliant play by Brady.

Of course, all of it could have been rendered moot because of a fluky tip ball catch by the Seahawks.  

Which leads up to that positively stupefying play call by Seattle on the goal line which led to the interception that sealed the deal for New England.  You don't give the ball to Marshawn Lynch when you are on the one yard line and a TD wins you the Super Bowl?  The term "dumbshit" doesn't even begin to describe the stupidity of that play call.  That one is going to haunt Pete Carroll forever, or at least until he coaches another Super Bowl win (and maybe not even then).

And how fitting that this 2014 NFL season ends in a Pier Six brawl.  What great imagery.  Stay classy, Seattle.


Of course we all know that the actual game is merely a footnote to the Super Bowl, so here are my random thoughts on everything else.....

  • It took Idena Manzell 2:07 to sing the National Anthem.  Too long.  That song should be sung in ninety seconds, tops.
  • We liked Katy Perry and her halftime show.  Very energetic, very talented. Now, like Bruno Mars last year, Miss Perry doesn't appeal to our particular demographic, but there is no denying the talent.  For the second year in a row, the NFL has abandoned Geezer Rock and hit it out of the park.

The there are the commercials.  Here are the ones we found worth noting.
  • BMW with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric
  • Carnival Cruise using JFK's voice to hawk their cruises.  I found that to be inappropriate.  Wonder what the Kennedy Family thought. At what point does a President, even a deceased one, become public domain?
  • What happens when you pour Coke into a computer
  • The Dove soap "Daddy" commercial
  • The Doritos ad with the guy on the airplane
  • Nissan "Cat's in the Cradle"
  • Fiat "Viagra" commercial
  • Kia commercial with Pierce Brosnan
  • Wix website with old football players "Farve and Carve", "Immaculate Receptions"...brilliant
  • Victoria's Secret "let the real games begin"
  • Then, of course, Sketcher's shoes using Pete Rose.  Is there nothing that guy won't do for a buck?  Note to self: never, ever buy a pair of Sketchers.  Never.
There are now sixteen days reaming until Pirates pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The 40th Anniversary Trip, Part IV - Hawaii (Honolulu and Maui)

I have decided that this will be my last extensive write up on our Hawaiian vacation.  After all, how much do people REALLY want to hear about somebody else's vacation?  So, here are just some assorted thoughts and tales about our visit to the Aloha State.


Hawaii really is a beautiful place. Mountains and flowers and scenic views of the ocean.  Best view of all may have been the one from our hotel room in Maui.


Honolulu was crazy.  It's a big city, lots of people, lots of noise, crowded.  Of course, in Honolulu, we got to visit Pearl Harbor, which I wrote about earlier, and it was the highlight of the trip.  

We also took a "Sunset Cocktail Cruise" on a catamaran off of Waikiki Beach that was really a lot of fun.

Piloted by these guys...

And upon which I met a wonderful Hawaiian friend...


Maui, on the other hand, was much more relaxing.  We really enjoyed our days relaxing at poolside in our hotel...

We went whale watching...

and snorkeling...

And, of course, we went to a luau...


We really ate well.  Including the refreshing snack of shave ice...

and lots of other really great meals, the best of which was probably at this place...


Another highlight was meeting and talking a lot of interesting people from all over the place....Minnesota, South Dakota, Washington state, New York, Canada and Australia...I even ran into a woman I used to work with at Highmark!


Okay, I'm going to stop here.  We are happy to tell you anything you want to know about our trip, but at this point, I'm going to stop foisting it on you all, but just ask if you do want to hear more, and we'll do it, as they say, off line.  It's far away, expensive, and the trip home was grueling (13 and 1/2 hours on airplanes; we woke up on Tuesday morning in Hawaii and went to bed on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh), but it was well worth it.  

We couldn't think of a better thing we could have done to celebrate our 40th Anniversary.

Aloha and mahalo for listening.

Hail to The Bus!!

Congratulations to former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis upon his election yesterday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  No one can argue (although some no doubt will), I believe, that he is a most worthy addition to the Hall of Fame in Canton.

I won't list all the stats and and accomplishments.  You can find those easily enough elsewhere.  I saw him play, and that is all I need to know about him.

The picture above, of Jerome scoring a touchdown while flattening Brian Urlacher in the snow at Heinz Field as the Steelers began their Super Bowl run in 2005 is the play that most typifies Jerome Bettis as a football player, and it is how I will always remember him.

Well done, Jerome Bettis.