Saturday, September 14, 2019

RIP - My Pirates Bet

Born January 13, 2019
Died September 13, 2019

With the Pirates 17-8 (!!!) loss to the Cubs yesterday afternoon, my season long O/U bet on the Pirates, on life support since the All-Star Break, officially died.

In truth, when I placed this bet at Paris in Las Vegas back in January, I felt strongly that UNDER would have been the smart bet to make.  However, I did not want to place myself in a position where, come September, I would be rooting for my favorite baseball team to lose, so I went with the OVER.  I did think at the time that the bet wouldn't be decided until the final week, maybe even the final weekend, of the season, but this train wreck of a Bucco season made sure that my bet would be put to rest with two full weeks left in the season.

Lesson: Never bet with your heart, kids.

(Parenthetically, I need to add this.  In that 17-8 debacle of a game yesterday, the five Pirates pitchers that toiled in the game now have ERA's of 4.89, 7.30, 9.15, 8.74, and 9.92.  And GMNH tells us that he's prepared to move into 2020 with the group that he currently has in place.  What a joke.)

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Steelers Get Humiliated....and Some Pirates News!

A familiar sight - 
Donte Moncrief flat on the ground 
after failing to catch yet another pass 
against New England last night.

There is not much that can be said about that 33-3 humiliation that the New England Patriots laid on the Steelers last night.  Professional sports can be astounding in the sense that a team can point to a single occurrence - in this case, the Steelers season opener against the Pats - prepare for it for months, and then come out so flat and listless that it appears that they had no interest in playing at all, and are never in the game from the opening kick/pitch/tip-off.  This happens a lot in sports, and it always just astounds me when it does.  As one of the oldest cliches in the book says, that's why you play the games.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just recap some comments that I made on The Facebook last night while watching the game:
  • If the Steelers of the Tomlin/Roethlisberger ever played a worse game than last night, I cannot remember it.
  • Based on what we saw last night, I would guess  that opposing teams defensive coordinators will game plan against the Steelers as follows:  "Let them throw to Donte Moncrief and Ryan Switzer all game long, and we'll take our chances."
  • It was early in the second quarter, and I felt like I was watching  Pirates game.
  • I cannot come up with a single solitary positive thought or comment on the Steelers performance last night.
  • As a Steelers fan, one of the worst aspects of the ass-kicking they received from New England is that it will lessen the opportunity to gloat about the Browns and the ass-kicking that THEY received at the hands of the Titans yesterday.
  • How about old goat Bob Kraft down there on the field pre-game parading that Lombardi Trophy.  The guy has absolutely no sense of shame does he?
  • On the bright side, this week's episode of Pittsburgh Dad should be positively epic!
Oh, and speaking of the Pirates, lost amid the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Steelers debacle, this headline was buried at the bottom of Page 8 of the Post-Gazette sports pages this morning:


Some quotes from the story written by Jason Mackey:

"The way general manager Neal Huntington put it Sunday, It doesn't sound as if there will be many changes to the Pirates for next season."


"Huntington's comments painted the picture that, unless something dramatic happens here, the Pirates might be coming back with pretty close to this existing group."

As is the case for last night's Steelers game, I can't quite find the words to respond to THAT either.  Those comments  ought to help sell a lot of season tickets this coming off season.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday Morning Quick Hits.....

Pitt gets into the win column with a (as Myron Cope used to put it) desultory 20-10 win over Ohio University.  A win is a win, and Pitt surely needed one as they figure to be big underdogs the next two weeks.  However, on the entertainment meter, that game yesterday at Heinz Field scored pretty low.

On the plus side, the Ohio University marching band, The Marching 110, was terrific!  Really.

One of the reasons for that could be due to the fact that the Pitt game was totally hijacked by the news, delivered via social media on everybody's cell phones, of the release by the Oakland Raiders of that well known Steelers former WR, Antonio BrowNarcissist. That news completely inundated the crowd at Heinz Field and completely sucked all of the air out of the game being contested between Pitt and OU on the field. 

It was, everyone agreed, a completely remarkable turn of events.

But however crazy those turn of events were, they were, incredibly, topped only a few hours later when now free agent BrowNarcissist was signed by none other than the New England Patriots. 

I don't want to go all Oliver Stone here, but it stretches all credulity to think that there WASN'T any tampering and hinky doings going on behind he scenes among BrowNarcissist, his sleazy agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and, of course, the evil empire of Bob "Happy Endings" Kraft and Bill Belichick.  Surely the Commissioner's Office needs to look into the machinations that went into this farce.

And now tomorrow's highly anticipated nationally televised Sunday Night opener between the Steelers and the Patriots will be hijacked by constant close-ups of BrowNarcissist standing on the New England sidelines with all of his new best buds on the Patriots.  It'll be sickening.  

Of course, if the Steelers can only manage to beat the Patriots......well, how sweet would THAT be?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

We're Ready for Some Football!

With a baseball season that has been the dumper, Pittsburgh-wise, for over six weeks, and after a weekend that force fed us college football games over a five day weekend and included a turd-in-the-punchbowl performance by the Pitt Panthers, we can all look forward to the debut this week of the lead dog in all of American professional sports (and yes, I am lumping big time college football and basketball as "professional"), the (imagine a Howard Cosellian voice here) National...Football...League.

Or maybe just listen to this....

In any event, the NFL opens its 100th season....

...this coming Thursday night with the Packers and Bears rivalry, and, more importantly from a local standpoint, on Sunday night when the Steelers take on the Patriots in Foxboro.  One can only hope that that game brings us scenes like this....

...which will lead to a sour puss scene like this....

But more on the Steelers in a minute.

This season I will be making weekly posts of the Grandstander Power Rankings (GPR) for the NFL.  This will rank the top four NFL teams in the same fashion that college football ranks its Top Four every week leading up to the College Football Playoffs.   I did this on Facebook last year to an underwhelming reception, so I figure that perhaps doing it in this space will lend it a bit more gravitas.  Who knows?

Anyway, I don't intend to release the initial GPR  until at least four weeks into the NFL season, so you will have to remain on the edge of your seats until then.  However, I  just can't resist giving it a bit of a go right now, so, herewith, The Pre-Season NFL GPR:
  1. PATRIOTS. Yep, gotta go with Coach Bill and the Golden Boy until  someone proves to be better or they show some signs of slippage.  However, no matter how the team does on the field, the big question is....Will owner Bob Kraft still be able to manage a Happy Ending for himself every week?
  2. CHIEFS. They have Patrick Mahomes.  What more can I say?
  3. RAMS.  When last seen, the Rams and especially their young QB Jerrod Goff looked totally outmatched in the Super Bowl by the Patriots, but note this:  They WERE playing in the Super Bowl, and thirty other teams were not, so I still like them going not the season.
  4. BEARS.  Strong defense and a dynamic young QB in Mitch Trubisky.  They're as good as any other team to place in here as the season begins.  In all honesty, though, I hope that they do not stay here throughout the season because if they do, Michael Wilbon will be positively insufferable.
Teams knocking on the door to crack the Top Four.....Chargers, Saints, Steelers, and Vikings.

From those eight teams, at least one of the Super Bowl participants will emerge.  You heard it here first.

Now, as to the local squad, I am very optimistic about the Steelers as they head into the season.  The distractions that totally overtook this team last season - and I don't have to mention their names, do I? - are gone.  The coaches and the players seem totally focused on one goal this season, and a real sense of TEAM seems to have permeated the team throughout training camp and the exhibition season.   And to whatever extent you can place your projections on exhibition games, the team, particularly the defense, seems to be better  going into 2019 the they were when they ended 2018.

I'll make no predictions of a Super Bowl win for the Steelers, although did place a $10 bet at 22-1 odds on them to do just that at the Rivers a few weeks ago, but I will predict this:  The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the AFC North Division championship this year.  

You know what that means, right? It means that the Cleveland Browns, the trendy and fashionable pick to win, not only their division, but to go all the way to the Super Bowl, will still finish the season looking up at the Steelers.  I grant that they are no longer the 1-31 team of 2016-17, and that they do have talent, but until I actually see them do it, see them beat teams, and beat the Steelers of Tomlin and Roethlisberger in particular, I am not ready to throw  full belief into them.  Baker Mayfield is an intriguing talent, but he ain't Otto Graham, and maybe not even Brian Sipe, just yet.

And speaking of the Browns, how would you like to be their first year coach Freddie Kitchens?  The hype is so great for them and the expectations are so high, if they don't come out and go 14-2, that goofball owner Jimmy Haslam, not to mention the rabid denizens of the Dawg Pound, will probably want him tarred and feathered and run into Lake Erie on a rail.  Talk about pressure.  I grant you that, unlike in past years, the Steelers can't just pencil in a 2-0 record against the Browns this year, but just how delicious will it be to watch the reaction in Cleveland if the Browns still manage to lose twice to the Steelers this year?

Speaking of wagers, my Maine resident and New England Patriot fan cousin, Jan Spencer and I have renewed our friendly wager on this week's Steelers-Pats game.  Look for a picture late Sunday night or early Monday morning on Facebook when one of us has to pay off on the bet.  Just to begin on a good note, here was Jan shortly after the Steelers 17-10 win over New England last December:

She did have the last laugh when the Super Bowl confetti fell, though.

It all starts on Thursday night, and I can't wait.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Cleaning Out The Mental In-Box, Sports Division

A whirl around the wide, wide world of sports.....

Perhaps the most stunning news in sports this past week was the surprise announcement that Indy Colts QB Andrew Luck was retiring at the age of 29.  Yet another injury and the facing of yet another long and laborious rehab process caused Luck to reach this decision.  Equally stunning were the reactions of both the fans of the Colts and of the (too) numerous ex-jock talking heads that populate the (too) many sports networks that have too much time to fill.  How dare Luck do such a thing?  Everything from his dedication, his courage, and his very manhood was questioned by these neanderthals.  It was kind of distressing, actually.

From what I know and have read about Andrew Luck, he is an intelligent guy, and he would not have come to this decision lightly.  I hope he does well in whatever his future endeavors are, and that he can take every opportunity possible to tell the Steve Beuerleins of the world to go pound salt.

When the circus that comprised much of the Steelers off-season came to a merciful end this past winter with the free agent signing of a former RB by the New York Jets and the trade of one of their WR's to the Oakland Raiders I made comments in this space to the effect that I won't ever have to write about the two guys again, and I have pretty much kept to that.  Events over this training camp season and reports out of the Raiders camp have only reaffirmed that decision of mine, and it seems that everyone surrounding the Steelers would be well served to do the same.  In fairness, the Steelers themselves have pretty much adopted that stance.  That changed this past Sunday night when Ben Roethlisberger was interviewed by Michelle Tofoya on NBC and the subject of said wide out was mentioned.  I thought Ben took a high road and handled it well, but, of course, it brought up the idiotic tweets out of Oakland, and some idiotic comments by, among others, Shannon Sharpe.

Enough already.  That should be the last time anyone connected to the Steelers agrees to have anything to say about the guy who was last seen in Pittsburgh walking out and quitting on his team during the last game of the season.

How about those "Players Weekend" uniforms worn by all MLB teams last weekend?  Without doubt, the ugliest and most stupid idea ever.  Whomever in the high echelons of MLB came up with the idea for those monochromatic monstrosities should be fired immediately.

Earlier in the week, I made a post on Facebook and asked if anybody, anybody at all, actually liked them.  All I got were more comments saying how much everyone detested them.

Earlier in the year, Steve Blass got into a bit of a jam when he made an old-man-yelling-at-the-clouds comment about the excess amount of jewelry being worn by some opposing player.  The comment was seized upon by some as being racist and Blass was branded as such.  Now, you can say that Steve Blass is many things, a cranky old guy being one of them, but one thing that he is definitely NOT is racist.  His entire body of work in his sixty year association with the Pirates and MLB makes such a notion absurd.  Blass is also smart, or he certainly was in this case, because he chose to ignore the entire kerfuffle.  Never responded to any of the changes, and inside of a week, the entire story deservedly went away.

I mention this only to suggest a path for those associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers to follow whenever the subject of a certain Oakland Raider comes up for discussion.

One of the more distressing bits of news amidst the crashing and burning of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second half of the 2019 season was the news that Jameson Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career, and that he would be lost not only for the rest of 2019 but for the entire 2020 season as well.

Taillon was the second player selected overall in the amateur draft in 2010, and it hasn't been an easy road for him.  Tommy John surgery and surgery for a sports hernia cost him parts of two seasons in the minor leagues and delayed his debut in Pittsburgh.  He also was a cancer victim a few seasons back.  He seemed to turn a corner in 2018 and it looked like he was going to become the ace of the staff that the Pirates expected him to be when they used that high draft slot to select him.  This second TJ surgery on his pitching arm certainly throws his future and career in doubt.

Of course, shortly after his surgery, Taillon tweeted out the above photo of himself with the message that he knows what lies ahead, and that he will do the work necessary to get back to where he belongs.  Nobody really knows what our sports heroes are really like in real life, but Jameson Taillon has given every impression that he is as he seems:  hard working, strong, and, mainly, a good guy.

Here's wishing him nothing but the best as he heads down the long path of rehab.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

"Mike Wallace Is Here"

We went off our usual move trail on Friday and took in this new documentary about former "60 Minutes" pit bull journalist Mike Wallace.

It covered Wallace's career.  He started in radio and TV reading news, acting in soap operas, and doing commercials for just about anything, including Fluffo shortening.  But when he began doing interviews, he found his niche.  Interestingly enough, when he joined CBS, he was looked down upon as a "pitchman" by the serious newsies like Ed Murrow, Eric Severeid, and Walter Cronkite, but he became a force when the still ratings challenged "60 Minutes" converged with the collective mess known as Watergate, and a legend and a career was made.

The doc shows clips of Wallace's highlights...interviews with people like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Erlichman, William Westmoreland, Barbara Streisand, Kirk Douglas, and, perhaps the biggest coup of all, the Ayatollah Khomeini in the midst of the Iranian Hostage crisis.  It tells of Wallace's own battles with depression, and his ultimate impact on his profession.

It is a well done movie about one of the more captivating and compelling journalists in television history.  Wallace, by the way, was still working when he died in 2012, one month shy off his 94th birthday.

As movies in general go, it gets Two and One-half stars from The Grandstander, but in the documentary category, I'll go to Three Stars.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Brooks Koepka and the "Average" Golfer

I heard the morning show guys on 93.7 The Fan talking about this today and thought it deserved some attention/discussion.

At a presser preceding the PGA Tour Championship now being contested at East Lake CC in Atlanta, someone asked Brooks Koepka, four time major champion and currently the world's #1 ranked player a question the effect of....If you took an "average guy, an average player" out of the gallery at random, gave him a set of clubs and paired him with you, Brooks Koepka, in this tournament, how many strokes would you, Brooks Koepka, have to give him in order for it to be competitive?

Well, on the sound bite, Koepka at first just laughed and then said, "well, if an average guy is a fifteen handicap, I don't know, maybe 75 strokes over the four rounds of the tournament?"  (Not an exact quote, but that was the gist of it.)

Well, The Fan's Dunlap, Mack and Colony, all agreed that in saying 75 strokes, Koepka was just being diplomatic in answering the question.  That if an average golfer (and by the way, I am guessing that an "average golfer" is nowhere near a fifteen handicap) started a four round tournament on a course set up for PGA Tour players 75 strokes ahead of Brooks Koepka, not only would Koepka win, he would blow the doors off the poor sap who get suckered into thinking that the might be able to compete in such a contest, a contest on a 7,000+ yard course where there is no rolling the ball in the fairway, playing from behind trees and in thick rough and deep sand traps "as it lies", and where even the casual two foot "gimmes" from the Wednesday night league must all be putted out.

Think about it. If Koepka shot even par - which is 70 at East Lake, I believe - in every round, and if Joe Average managed to shoot 90 in each round, which he would be lucky to do, Koepka beats him by five strokes.

I can only imagine Koepka went back into the locker room and said to his fellow Tour players, "you ain't gonna believe what some guy just asked me", and that they all had a good laugh over it.

Switching from golf to baseball, I have to say that after watching the Pirates lose three of four to the Nationals this week (cumulative score of all four games, 32-6; cumulative score of the three games the Pirates lost, 31-2), I have to say that I am not sure now many more posts you'll be seeing from The Grandstander on the Pirates for the remainder of this season.  I mean what more can possibly be said, and I've run out of synonyms for "lousy", "horrid", and "wretched".

So, perhaps the next post of any length or depth you will see on the Pirates in this space will be at season's end when we see who, if anyone, will be held accountable by Bob Nutting for what has been a total and complete second half collapse (and does "collapse" even begin to describe what we've seen since mid-July?) by this team.