Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back

I will use this 153rd and final Grandstander post of the year to look back upon 2017.  In doing so,I will tell you that Bob and Marilyn Sproule can quote Charles Dickens and truly say that "it was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

As for the best of times, we went to Walt Disney World for the first time since 2004, we visited the beautiful city of Seattle and took our first cruise together and experienced the sheer wonder and beauty of Alaska, we shared those adventures with good friends and new travel companions Dan and Susan, we visited New York City and saw a Broadway show with friends Bill and Joann, we took our first train ride, we saw "Hamilton" in Chicago, we made it back to the Outer Banks, and we had many more fun experiences with family and friends throughout the year, and it concluded just two nights ago when we saw our niece Katie for the first time in eleven years and met her two children, Will and Caroline, for the first time.

As for the "worst of times", well, I have chosen not to share details of that on this blog, but many of you readers out there know what I am talking about.  However, even when terrible news is received, we have been able to take refuge in the knowledge that we have family and friends who support and love us, who have been and continue to be there for us throughout.  And, while it has always been a part of our belief systems, we have learned of the power of prayer, and that it works.  Our gratitude to all of you out there, and to the wonderful caregivers at the Allegheny Health Network, is something that we will never be able to fully capture in mere words.

We loved 2017 and we hated it, but we are ready and looking  forward to 2018.  I still plan on pounding away here about the Pirates, the Steelers, movies, television, books, pop culture, and yes, obituaries, as I have since 2010.  Marilyn and I have some exciting things already planned for this coming year, and we can't wait to share them with all of you.  Thank you all for being here, not only in reading these periodic musings of mine, but for being here for us as you were during these last several months.  Not sure that we could have done it without you.

A happy and healthy 2018 to you all!

To The Absent Friends of 2017

When I started The Grandstander, I had no intention of turning it into, as one reader once called it, the Obituary Blog, but I have found over these last eight years that coming across the deaths of famous, infamous, and sometimes just plain interesting and/or oddball folks is just fascinating, and I get enough feedback that I think you folks out there sitting in the Grandstand get a kick out of it, too.

So, with a tip of the hat to the late, great sportswriter Red Smith, who coined the term "Absent Friends" when writing of the departed, a final salute to the 42 Absent Friends recognized by The Grandstander in 2017.  If you want to see what I wrote, simply type the person's name in the search box in the upper left had corner of this page to take you to that original post.

Gene Cernan
Tommy Allsup
Mary Tyler Moore
Mike Conners
Barbara Hale
Thomas Starzl
Robert Osborne
Dakota James
Chuck Berry
Jimmy Breslin
Dan Rooney
Fran Deford
Adam West
Glenne Headley
Stephen Furst
David Vincent
Hootie Johnson
Babe Perilli
Martin Landau
George Romero
Sam Shepard
Jeanne Moreau
Ara Parseghian
Joseph Bologna
Barbara Cook
Glen Campbell
Joe Solomon
Don Baylor
Jerry Lewis
Frank Vincent
Penny Chenery
Hugh Hefner
Monty Hall
Tom Petty
Connie Hawkins
Jimmy Beaumont
Roy Halladay
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
Christine Keeler
Sue Grafton
Stan Terlecki
Rose Marie

What a line-up!  RIP to all.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

To Absent Friends - Stan Terlecki, Rose Marie

In what has been a busy year for Absent Friends, let me remember two more on this second to last day of the year.....

Stan Terlecki

Indoor professional soccer had a brief run in Pittsburgh in the early 1980's in the form of the Pittsburgh Spirit, and when they were playing, the Spirit's biggest star was Polish born Stan Terlecki, or "Stush" Terlecki, as Myron Cope dubbed him.  The fact that Cope even mentioned Terlecki and the Spirit was a testament that the team was more than just a gimmicky side show.

I am not sure what became of Terlecki after both he and the Spirit left the local sports scene, but he was in the news this week due to his death at the too young age of 62.

Rose Marie
1923 - 2017

Perhaps Rose Marie will be best remembered for her role of Sally Rodgers in the classic 1960's sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show", but in fact her career in show business spanned a remarkable 90 years.  She began vaudeville at the age of three years old and was the subject of a well reviewed documentary in 2017 called "Wait For Your Laugh".  One item in her obit that intrigued me was that she got her start as a night club singer in Las Vegas in the 1940's at the Flamingo Hotel, a job that was given to her by none other than Bugsy Siegal!

RIP Stan Terlecki and Rose Marie.

Friday, December 29, 2017

To Absent Friends - Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton

It was a real shock to see this post pop up on my Facebook news feed about an hour ago:

Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue's daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.
If you are regular readers this blog, you know that I am a long time fan of Sue Grafton and her "Alphabet Series" of Kinsey Millhone private eye novels.  This is certainly sad news, not only to Ms. Grafton's family and personal friends, but to her many, many readers, me among them, who always anxiously awaited the release of one of Kinsey's new adventures.  It is almost shocking to think that we will never see the publication of "Z" and the conclusion of the Kinsey Millhone saga.  Well, it is an old show business axiom to always leave the audience wanting more.  Maybe it's better that there was no "final episode" for Kinsey.  Perhaps that is how she and her creator will always remain alive for their legions of fans.

Back in October, 2013, I had the pleasure of hearing Sue Grafton give a talk at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh.  It was a real treat, and this is what I had to say about her in The Grandstander at that time:
Since the publication of "A is for Alibi" in 1982, Sue Grafton has been one of my favorite authors and her "Alphabet Series" of mystery novels featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone have been on my "can't miss" list of reading pleasures.

Last night, Sue Grafton was the guest speaker at the Drue Heinz Lecture Series at the Carnegie Music Hall, and it was a real treat to be able to hear her speak.  She was very candid about her life story, which has some parallels with Kinsey's, as it happens.  She gave her lecture by using 3x5 inch index cards for her notes, and she confessed to owning an all-purpose black dress (readers will know what I mean!).   She was humorous and self-deprecating, and very entertaining.  It was not a let down to finally "meet" someone that I have followed and enjoyed for over thirty years.

With the recent publication of "W is for Wasted", there are now only three Kinsey Millhone novels to be written, and Grafton promises that the final one, "Z is for Zero" is on track for publication in 2019.

Sadly, we will only be able to imagine what would have happened to Kinsey and the other cast of characters in Santa Teresa.

RIP Sue Grafton.

Friday, December 22, 2017

In The Area of Critical Commentary: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" (NO SPOILERS)

Let's say that a Blue Ribbon Panel of scientists and nutritionists determined that after an exhaustive study of all foods they had determined that because of the unique balance of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients, mashed turnips was the absolute perfect food, and that eating it every day would assure sound health, clear skin, avoid memory loss, and a heightened sexuality if you ate a big plate of them every single day.  You know what?  No one, or at least not me, would eat them because mashed turnips don't taste any good!!

So it is with the awkwardly titled movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri".  This movie has already received multiple Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards nominations, and it will undoubtedly receive similar acclaim when the Academy Award nominations are announced next month.  The acting is superb, the direction is great, it is artfully shot.  All true.  Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, to be sure, but when it is a movie about ugly events, with ugly characters, you end up with an ugly story that just doesn't taste good.  Perhaps I just don't like "dark" movies (some critics have labeled this a "dark comedy"; trust me, there is nothing comedic about this movie), someone suggested to me.  Not true. I can handle "dark", but "Three Billboards...." goes way beyond dark.  I can honestly say that there is not a single character in this entire movie that comes across as sympathetic or likeable.

Here's the story: A mother (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was the victim of a violent, and still unsolved crime, puts up three billboards asking the local police chief (Woody Harrelson), essentially, why are you dragging your feet and why isn't this crime solved?  This raises the ire of the third main character in the movie, a racist, drunken, incompetent cop (Sam Rockwell).

I will say this, the three actors all do a great job in their roles.  I love Frances McDormand, an Oscar winner twenty-one years ago for playing Marge Gunderson in "Fargo" - now THAT was a perfect example of a "dark" movie that was actually, you know, good - and she will probably score another Oscar nomination for this one, and she may well win, but, wow, let's just say that her Mildred Hayes in this one was no Marge Gunderson.

Good acting in an unpleasant movie only serves as an attempt to put a shine on a road apple, and as the old saying goes, you can't polish a road apple.

One star from The Grandstander, and that is there only for the good will that Frances McDormand has built up for me over the course of her career.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pirates Hot Stove Stuff

Major League Baseball's Hot Stove has been a bit tepid this off season, aside from news that the Marlins are stripping their cupboard bare and that the Yankees have obtained NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton (59 HR's in 2017) to go alongside Aaron Judge, AL ROY who hit 52 HR's in 2017.

On the Pirates front, I suppose the biggest news is that Jung Ho Kang will most likely not be in Pittsburgh, or anywhere in the USA, in 2018, and probably not any time after that either. According to the Pirates website, they are not too alarmed about it and plan to make do at third base next season with some combination of David Freese, Adam Frazier, Max Moroff, Josh Harrison, Jose Osuna, and some random guy who will be selected from the stands for each Sunday home game.

It can be noted that the San Francisco Giants also were in  need of a third baseman for next season.  Their solution?  Make a trade with the Rays for Evan Longoria.  How old fashioned of them.

But the Pirates have added the following players for 2018:

  • Jordan Milbrath, RHP, via the Rule 5 draft
  • Nick Burdi, RHP, trade from Philly where he was selected in the Rule 5 draft
  • Engelb Vielma, utility INF, trade from Philly
  • Todd Cunningham, OF, minor league free agent
  • Richard Rodriguez, RHP, minor league free agent
I also recall reading in there paper that they invited a guy to camp who spent last year with the Washington Wild Things, but can find no mention of it on their website, so that was either fake news from the nasty, Nutting-hating media or I dreamt it, in which case I apologize to the Pirates.

Oh, and the Bucco website also has a feature with this headline (honest to God): 

"Bucs Not Rushing To Find Fourth Outfielder"

We all know how well that worked out in 2017 when the team found themselves in desperate need for a fourth outfielder.

And other news reports indicated that GM Neal Huntington was still mulling over whether or not the team should try to contend in 2018, or work on tooling up for 2019 and beyond.  He hasn't quite decided yet.

I suppose that a lot can happen between now and Opening Day, but in the meantime, ain't it great to be a Pirates fan?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Patriots 27 - Steelers 24

Some thoughts on yesterday's "Game of the Century" (until, that is, the next "Game of the Century" takes place)....

  • This should not be construed as sour grapes, because the Steelers had ample opportunities to win that game, but when some Suit from the NFL has to dominate the post-game pressers with a power point presentation to define what constitutes a "Catch", something is seriously wrong.
  • As for those other ample opportunities, here are just two.  (1) If the Steelers make only one first down when they got the ball in the fourth quarter with around three minutes left, they probably win the game; instead they go three and out for the only time in the game, and (2) if Sean Davis holds onto that pass of Brady's for an interception, they definitely win the game.  If, if, if....
  • Oh, and if Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski get into a car wreck on the way to the stadium and have to be hospitalized, then the Steelers probably win that game.
  • How many more Super Bowls might the Steelers have won in this century had they not been playing in the same era as the Belichick-Brady-Patriots Era?  How many  more Majors would Phil Mickelson have won had he not been playing in the Tiger Woods Era?  Same kind of question.
  • Just as the Tomlin-Roethlisberger Steelers are kryptonite to the Cincy Bengals, so too are the Belichick-Brady Patriots to the Steelers.  Hate to say it, but until the Steelers actually, you know, BEAT the Pats as they are currently constituted, it will be hard to predict that they will.  
  • Still, should the two teams meet in Foxboro next month for the AFC Championship, as seems inevitable, I do have hope.  The Pats defense isn't what it used to be, so they can be beaten.  All you have to do is outscore Tom Brady and keep him off the field.  They came THIS CLOSE to doing it yesterday, so maybe they can do it if they get the chance next month. 
  • Probably not the way to bet, though.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Continuing a Christmas Tradition

Does doing something for three years in a row qualify it for being a "tradition"?  If so, then Marilyn and I continued a Christmas Tradition of ours today:  Sunday Brunch at the Terrace Room of the William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

Prior to brunch, we visited the beautiful creche set up in the plaza of the US Steel Building....

Took in the lobby decorations at the Hotel...

Sadly, they just don't make hotel 
lobbies like this anymore.

Had our picture taken by the nice lady who was seated next to us...

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

And I topped of my delicious breakfast of Eggs Benedict with a traditional Christmas desert, a root beer float....

As I mentioned, this is the third year that we have done this, and it is a real treat, and as I say every year, they just don't build hotels like the William Penn, now in it's 101st year, anymore. Really classic and elegant.

This is the first year that we have done this on a Steelers Sunday, and that made for an interesting twist.  The lobby filled with people decked out in Steelers gear, and not an insignificant number in Patriots gear as well.  In fact, while visiting the creche at the US Steel Plaza, we took photos for a number of people who were in town from New England for today's Big Game.  Very nice people and it was nice exchanging pleasantries with them.  Also in the theme of a Steelers Sunday, also dining with us today in the Terrace Room, albeit not at our particular table, were Steelers Hall of Famers Franco Harris and John Stallworth.

We just love this new tradition of ours.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

KQV Signing Off

The Grandstander is not going to consider a corporate entity an "Absent Friend" in the usual sense, but Pittsburghers, and especially Pittsburghers of a "certain age" (my age or older) had to be taken aback a bit with the news that radio station KQV, 1410 on your AM dial, will be signing off as of January 1, 2018.

Prior to 1975, KQV was the radio station in Pittsburgh to listen to for Top Forty rock & roll hits.  (Do Top Forty radio stations even exist any more?) Chuck Brinkman, Dave Scott, Henry DiBecco, the "Fun Loving Five", weekly Top 40 sheets that you would pick up at the National Record Mart, the station that presented The Beatles when they played Pittsburgh in 1964, even Jim Quinn before he lost his mind.  Yep, if you are north of age 60 and grew up in Pittsburgh, chances are you were a regular listener to the "Groovy Q-V".

Of course, that all ended in 1975 when KQV went to an "all news, all the time" (with a right wing slant) format.  However, the Dickey Family, which owns the station, has thrown in the towel, saying that due family circumstances and the current radio marketplace, the current business model is no longer sustainable, so the plug gets pulled in 15 days when this calendar year ends.

What I don't get is how an individual, Robert Dickey Jr. in this case, can just shut down something that is, in theory at least, a community asset?  What happens to the station that exists on this frequency?  Can an entity that is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission simply just go away, as if it never existed?  Why isn't the Dickey family selling the station to someone who will continue to operate a station at 1410 on the dial?  Or, maybe they did try and found no takers.  Such is the radio business these days, I suppose.

By sheer coincidence last week, someone added me to a Facebook group called "KQV Radio Pittsburgh Fans".  I didn't expect that I would be adding much to it, but I have found myself enjoying the group in these few days that I have been a part of it.  Who knew that the end was so near?

Oh, well, as Bogart might have phrased it, "We'll always have the corner of 7th Street and Liberty Avenue."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

To Absent Friends - Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler

In an era where the evening news seems to be dominated by one scandal after another involving the sexual escapades of those in high places, the news of the death in England last week of Christine Keeler, 75, reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun.

Back in 1962, the news that "model and party girl" Christine Keeler was involved with a minister in the British Cabinet, John Profumo, the War Minster, no less, dominated the headlines, led to Profumo's resignation, and eventually toppled the British government.  It seems that while Miss Keeler was cavorting with Profumo she was also carrying on with a Soviet spy.  Was Keeler passing on pillow talk from one of the guys to the other?  No wonder the government toppled.

I highly recommend that you read the obit for Miss Keeler that appeared in the Washington Post last week for this particular history lesson, if only to appreciate the writing of reporter Matt Schudel who describes the initial meeting of Keeler and Profumo thusly:

He and Ms. Keeler met in 1961, when she was taking a dip in a swimming pool at the estate of a British lord. He was 46, married and wearing a dinner jacket; she was 19, free-spirited and wearing a smile.

Here is a link to the complete obituary:

As you will read, Keeler continued her "life-style" but eventually suffered for it, as her obit concludes....

In her later years, Ms. Keeler lived in poverty. She adopted the name of C.M. Sloane as she struggled to find work in advertising, in a school cafeteria and as a receptionist.
“I mean, it’s been a misery for me, living with Christine Keeler,” she told Britain’s Observer newspaper in 2001. “Even a criminal has the right to a new life, but they made sure I did not have that. They just didn’t stop calling me a prostitute for ever and ever and ever and ever. How can anyone live with that? I took on the sins of everybody, of a generation, really.”
I was ten years old in the summer of 1962 when this story was in the news.  I remember it, but at the time I had no idea of what was euphemistically being referred to as a  "party girl" was.   They were simpler times.  At least they were for me.

RIP Christine Keeler

This photo of Christine Keeler was taken during a modeling session
during the height of the "Profumo Scandal".  It became famous
throughout England and followed Keeler for the rest of her life.

It's Steelers/Patriots Week

Well, the week that we have all been anticipating since the NFL schedule was released back in April is now upon us.  The 11-2 Steelers take on the 10-3 Patriots this coming Sunday at Heinz Field.  At stake, in all likelihood, will be the overall Number One seed in the AFC and home field advantage in the AFC Championship game should both teams advance to that game.

The Steelers have certainly taken us on a thrilling ride over the course of this eight game winning streak.  Fourth quarter comebacks that have resulted in four victories that have culminated in three last-play-of-the-game field goals, and one FG in the last minute of a game.  Some people have said that the Steelers drive you crazy, but in all honesty, over the course of these come from behind wins over the Colts, Packers, Bengals, and Ravens, I have never felt that they were ever out of those games, and was not at all surprised that they ended up winning them.  Okay, when they were down 31-20 in the fourth quarter to the Ravens on Sunday night, maybe, possibly, I had just a teensy bit of doubt, but in the end, I wasn't surprised by the eventual outcome. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is leading that team, the Steelers are NEVER out of the game.

So, what happens this Sunday?  Well, I have always said that I would never pick the Marvin Lewis-led Bengals to beat the Steelers until such time as they actually would beat the Steelers (hasn't happened lately).  I fear that I must apply the same logic to a contest between the Steelers and the Patriots.  The Pats of Belichick and Brady have certainly had the the Steelers number over 

the years, winning the last four games that they have played. That makes it hard to imagine that the Patriots will not prevail once again.  Plus, New England should be plenty ticked off after losing to Miami last night, and while Tom Brady may be forty years old, he is still Tom Brady.   Still, I expect that the Steelers will show up on Sunday and play that game, and as I said, as long as #7 is throwing it to #84, the Steelers will never be out of that game.  I don't expect that they will be overwhelmed as they were in the AFC title game in Foxboro this past January.

Isn't there a saying in sports along the lines of "Something is always true until all of a sudden it isn't."  Perhaps this will be the Sunday where Patriots dominance over the Steelers will suddenly not be there any more.  Let's hope.

Then all that the Steelers will then have to do is beat the Pats  again in January when a trip to the Super Bowl will be at stake.

As I always say, games and situations like this is why we follow sports.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Lady Bird" (The Movie, Not the Former First lady)

One of the more critically acclaimed movies of this year end rush of serious, awards-worthy movies is "Lady Bird", written and directed by actress Greta Gerwig. The movie can be described as a "coming-of-age" flick about a young teen-aged girl, Christine McPherson, who has for some unexplained reason rechristened herself as Lady Bird.  She is a high school senior living on the "wrong side of the tracks" (her description) in Sacramento, CA.  She longs to leave her dumpy Sacramento existence and go to college somewhere in the east, preferably New York City.  Problem is, she is, at best, an underachieving student, and her family is facing some serious economic hardships.

The movie highlights the challenges and conflict arising between Lady Bird and her mother.  It also shines the light on all of the normal angst that faces teenagers and teen-aged girls in particular.   Never having had children of my own, much less a teen-aged girl, I may not be the best person to judge just how close this movie hits the mark, but it appears to be pretty much on target.

What makes this movie worth seeing, in my opinion, is the performance of  Saoirse Ronan in the title role.  Miss Ronan,  23, you may recall, is the young Irish actress who was wonderful in the terrific movie from 2015, "Brooklyn".  That 

girl, you may say, is now going to play an American teenager?  Are you kidding me, you may say? Let me tell you, she is simply terrific in that role.  You buy it completely that this really is a seventeen year old American high school girl, with everything that that entails, that you are seeing on the screen.  "Astonishing" is not too strong a word to use to describe her in this one.

Another great performance comes from Laurie Metcalfe as Lady Bird's mother.  There is strong buzz that she will soon be landing an Oscar nomination, at least, to go along with the Emmy and Tony Awards already on her mantelpiece at home.

Another element of this movie that I personally liked was the depiction of Lady Bird's high school, a Catholic all-girl's school, which exists hand-in-hand, almost, with a neighboring Catholic all-boys school.   Its as an element to which I could pretty much relate, based upon my own high school years.

When you think of "teenage movies" the 1980's films of John Hughes  - "Sixteen Candles", "Breakfast Club", and "Pretty in Pink" - come to mind, and "Lady Bird" may mine some of the same territory, but in a more dramatic and serious way.  This one does have its comedic moments, though (wait until you see the priest who had been the jayvee football coach and now has to direct the school play).  I liked the movie, didn't love it, although I suspect that I may like it more with repeated viewings.

I was initially going to give this one only Two and One-half stars, but upon reflection, I am bumping it to Three Stars based mainly on the terrific performance of Saoirse Ronan.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Critical Commentary - "Young Sheldon"

I love "The Big Bang Theory", but I have to admit that when CBS announced plans last spring to air a spin-off prequel series called "Young Sheldon", I wasn't real enthused.  I saw it as a blatant attempt for CBS and the show's producers to milk the cash cow to the extent that it probably wouldn't be any good.  Still, as fans of "Big Bang", we had to give it a shot, and we are slowly becoming captivated by the show.

Nine year old Iain Armitage in the title role is cute and pretty good, and he is growing on me with each passing episode.  

To me, though, the real stars of the show are the two female leads.

Zoe Perry plays Mary Cooper, Sheldon's mom, and she is very good in it.  It is a bit of casting that could be called a gimmick, but that has worked out well.  The gimmick being that Miss Perry is the real life daughter of actress Laurie Metcalfe who has for years played Sheldon's mother on TBBT.

Perry and Metcalfe

However, the real star is veteran actress Annie Potts who plays Meemaw, Sheldon's Grandmother.

She gets the best lines and delivers them with perfect facial expressions.  Meemaw also provides a voice of reason to family that is definitely facing challenges from having a kid like Sheldon in its midst.

One question that loomed in my mind when this series was announced and that concerned Sheldon's father.  For years on Big Bang, whenever Sheldon referred to his father, it was usually in the negative, and he was often referenced as a bit of a drunken lout.  Well, the producers of "Young Sheldon" have softened that image a bit, and George Cooper is seen as a guy who is trying his best but just isn't sure what to do when trying to raise a prodigy like Sheldon.

Finally, Jim Parsons, who earns more than $1 million per episode for portraying Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" provides voice over narration for "Young Sheldon".  How much more  money is he getting for that gig?

In summary, "Young Sheldon" is not yet on the level of "The Big Bang Theory", but it's getting better week-by-week, and it has been permanently set to record on our DVR.  It's comic portrayal of a young family, parents and siblings, trying to deal with a genius in their midst like Sheldon is worth watching.

Some Pro Football Thoughts

With no Steelers game yesterday, I spent all of about eleven or twelve minutes watching football yesterday afternoon, but from what I did see, I can make the following observations.

  • I saw the New York Jets score a touchdown to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.  Of course, it took the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets about a dozen plays for inside the KC ten yard line to actually score said touchdown, and they were aided by some numbskull penalties by the Chiefs.  All of which leads me to this conclusion:  most teams out there really stink.  Fans in Pittsburgh who bitch and moan about Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have no idea how good they have it.  We could be watching an abomination like the Jets week after week.
  • I saw just enough of the New England game to see that absolutely horrendous cheap shot delivered by Jackass Rob Gronkowski on a Bills defender who was lying on the ground out-of-bounds well after the whistle blew the play dead.  If Gronk isn't suspended for at least one game because of this, then what the hell????
  • By the way, in case you forgot what Gronk looks like, here's a picture of him:

Speaking of the Steelers, the 9-2 Steelers, that is, I find in interesting that they are a team that is garnering much more respect from national media and commentators than they are from the talking head and talk show crowd here in Pittsburgh.  Not sure what to make of that.

Anyway, the world looks forward to the December 17 showdown with the Patriots at Heinz Field, but before that happens, they must play two games against division opponents, at Cincinnati tonight, and home against Baltimore next week.  Hate to say it, but given the nature of division games and the history among the three teams, I would not be surprised to see the Steelers lose one of these two games.  It happens, and it won't be the end of the world if it does, even though I know that much of the local fan base will be calling for Mike Tomlin's firing as soon as it does.  I will say this, though, should that loss come tonight against the Thug Bengals, I pity (well, not really) what will happen to the Ravens next week.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

College Football Playoff Thoughts

As I begin typing this blog entry, we are a little over an hour away from hearing the announcement from Oracle From On High, aka the College Football Playoff Committee, of the four teams that will comprise the College Football Playoffs for the 2017 season.  Three of those teams will no doubt be Clemson, Georgia, and Oklahoma.  The fourth will be either Ohio State or Alabama, and this debate is no doubt taking place even as I write this.

One thing is certain, and that is that for once, college sports did something right when they instituted this formal four team playoff format a few years ago.  Think about it.  Each season - I believe that this is the fourth year for the CFP - the Committee makes the announcement of its rankings along about the last weekend of October, updates it each subsequent weekend, and then endless debate and discussion takes place over whether or not this team can crack the Top Four, what has to happen for Giant State University to remain in the Top Four, what does Enormous Tech University have to do to crack the Top Four, and, wait, there is still a chance that East Overshoe University can make it if these six dominoes fall in exactly this order.  

It is mechanism that is sheer genius in that it (a) gins up awareness and heated conversation about College Football for six consecutive weeks, and (b) when the season culminates with the various conference championship  games, the system works itself out so that the four teams that make the CFP field are the teams who pretty much deserve to be there.  There are some anomalies, of course.  Last year, a two loss Penn State team won the Big Ten championship, and were left out, while Ohio State, who did not play in the Big Ten Championship, and who lost to Penn State, did.  This year, it is  two loss Ohio State who is the Big Ten champ.  Will they make the CFP despite the precedent that was set last year?  If they do, you will no doubt be hearing the screams of anguish from Happy Valley, i.e. tweets from James Franklin, along about 12:05 this afternoon. However, even if that fourth team pick - 'Bama or the Buckeyes - generates controversy, it is still great for the college game in that people will continue to talk about it, and talk and talk and talk, incessantly.

Of course, inevitably, this great mechanism will no doubt succumb to political and financial pressures, and the four team CFP will become an eight team CFP.  Will debate about  whether the eighth, ninth, or tenth best team deserves to be in the playoff be as interesting as the discussions of the fourth, fifth, or sixth teams are? Would Conference Championship Saturday be anywhere near as compelling if you knew that, hey, even the teams that lose will still make the CFP?  I certainly don't think so, so I hope that the four team format endures, but we all know that money and, in particular, television money, will talk and integrity (to the extent that it exists at all in collegiate athletics) will walk.

Now, as to this season's Conference Championship Saturday, "compelling" was not exactly the word that I would use to describe those games.  Three of the four games that mattered yesterday had final scores of 41-17, 28-7, and 38-3.  The fourth game, Ohio State and Wisconsin, ended with a close score of 27-21, but if you watched it, you had no sense that Wisconsin was ever in that game at all.  All of those games were really disappointing, and I bailed and went to bed last night midway through the third quarters of the ACC and Big Ten games.  What a letdown.  By contrast, the PAC-12 game, USC 31 - Stanford 28, played on Friday night, was a tremendously exciting game, but because of the way those previously mentioned dominoes fell throughout the season, it had no relevance to the CFP machinations.

We can only hope that the CFP games themselves, the semi-finals will be in the Rose and Sugar Bowls on New Year's Day, will be better and more entertaining than what we saw yesterday.

Okay, it is now 11:24 as I am about to wrap up this piece.  I will call it now....the fourth team in the CFP will be.....the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

As always, watch but don't bet.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Our 2017 Christmas Tree

Yesterday was spent purchasing, putting up, and decorating our Christmas Tree for this year, and we are most pleased with the results.

Of course, the real joy in a Christmas Tree is the memories that are invoked when you put on the ornaments.....who gave us this ornament....where did we purchase that ornament...which ornament came from the trees that were put up in our homes when we were little kids....remembering the vacation where we bought this-or-that one.  

We have had some real experiences in 2017, and it will go down as one of the most memorable years of all of our lives together.  Never has a Christmas meant quite as much to us as this one will.

Special memories were made in 2017, and they are highlighted on this year's tree.

First, our trip to Walt Disney World in January:

Then, our trip to Alaska in June:

Finally, our trip to Chicago in October to see "Hamilton":

But, of course, our Christmas Tree is never complete without our favorite decoration....

...the construction paper angel on the top of tree, purchased for twenty-five cents for our first Christmas as a married couple.  This marks the forty-third year that she sits atop our tree.  Best quarter we ever spent.

Thanks to all of you out there who have helped to make terrific memories for us in 2017, and thank you for all that you have done for us this year.