Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Playoffs, Ben, Jay Cutler, and Pirates Ticket Prices

Cleaning out the Mental In-Box.....

  • I was happy to see that I finally broke the .500 mark in my NFL Playoff Predictions this past Sunday. Especially after I hit in the first game, and a 50% tally would have meant a Steelers loss to the Jets.
  • That means I now stand at 6-4 in the predictions business, which means I'd have made money, regardless of how the Super Bowl pick goes. That is, if I'd actually bet on these games.
  • Three days after the fact, there isn't much I can add to all the post-mortems on the AFC and NFC Championship games. OF COURSE, it is delightful to see the Steelers making yet another trip to the Super Bowl. As Art II said on Sunday, it never gets old.
  • The 35.something passer rating that Ben Roethlisberger had on Sunday proves one thing: that the NFL passer rating statistic is about as meaningful as the one that Neal Huntington used last year to tell us Charlie Morton wasn't doing so badly in the starting rotation. As Mike Greenberg said so well on Monday, if you watched the game there was no doubt who the best player on the field was, and it was Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Must comment on the cause celebre of Sunday's game, and that is the Jay Cutler affair. I have always considered him an over-rated, whiny punk, and when I saw him on the sidelines, I thought of how Aaron Rodgers took a shot in the game and stayed in (and in the second game, both Roethlisberger and Mark Sanchez took some bad hits and played on), but I did say to myself that, hey, it's not for me to judge how bad the guy is hurt. It was interesting to see that most of the criticism leveled at Cutler has come, not from fans or media, but from other players. Justified or not, I think that this will dog Cutler for the rest of his career.
  • It did bring to mind the criticisms that Hines Ward leveled on Roethlisberger in 2009 when Ben sat out the Ravens game due to "concussion-like symptoms."
  • In the past six seasons, the Steelers have gone to the Super Bowl three times and missed the playoffs twice. Not sure how you might feel about it, but I'm OK with a couple of playoff-less seasons amid all those Super Bowl trips.
  • And the Pirates are in the news this week for oh-so-quietly announcing an increase in ticket prices for 2011, the first ticket price increase since 2002. As these things go, it was a pretty benign increase, as it will only apply to tickets purchased on the day of the game. In the PG+ "DK on Sports" blog, Dejan Kovacevic points out that the Pirates sell fewer than 2,000 day-of-game walk-up tickets on average, and that this increase is expected to bring in less that $1 million over the course of the season. Interesting.
  • Now I know of no business that can afford to hold their retail costs over nine years, so I do understand the Pirates looking to increase prices, but from a purely emotional point of view, how can the Pirates really justifying asking people to pay more money for a steadily deteriorating product?
  • What this tells me is that when (if?) the Pirates ever do get good, or even post a winning season, the price increase that our friend below will take to market will hit Pirates ticket buyers like a freight train!

<--- The Most Disliked Man in Pittsburgh?

  • Another lucky visit to Rivers Casino this morning. Turned $100 into $200 in a little under one hour at the blackjack table. It started poorly, as my $100 stake had dwindled to $30 after about ten minutes. Got lucky, though, thank you very much!!!
  • A melancholy Happy Trails to Pittsburgh radio talk show host Doug Hoerth who passed away at the age of 66 today. Hoerth had been off the air for a number of years, but he was one of the best interviewers in a business that is now dominated by big mouthed gasbags. RIP, Uncle Dougie.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


More will follow from The Grandstander in the days ahead, but I just have to acknowledge the AFC Champs before I head to bed.

And how great will it be to have teams like the Steelers and Green Bay in the Super Bowl???

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Football Thought...and Predictions

I am currently about halfway through the book you see to your left, "The Games That Changed the Game" by Ron Jaworski. It is a pretty good book, although Jaws does tend to get a bit technical and throw in a lot of X's and O's, but you can learn a lot about the game of football as it is played in the NFL, and he does have some interesting anecdotes.

Here is one thing that I learned: professional football coaches are smart people when it comes to their chosen profession. A LOT SMARTER that the average Joe that watches his favorite team from the couch or the stadium on a Sunday afternoon. The next time you hear some bozo calling a talk show (or writing in a blog) that Bruce Arians is an idiot and should be fired, be very sure that that caller (or blogger) hasn't the slightest clue as to what he is talking (or blogging) about.

For all of you Steelers fans out there, one of the games that Jaws focuses on is the 1974 AFC Championship game between the Steelers and Raiders at Oakland, the game that sent the Steelers to their first Super Bowl. He chooses this game because he credits Steelers defensive coordinator Bud Carson with creating and implementing what we know today as the "Cover 2" defense. Now I just read that entire chapter, and I still can't tell you what "Cover 2" is (see comment about how smart coaches are in previous paragraph), nor was I aware that Carson was the father of it. Learn something new every day! The chapter is a great read if for no other reason than to remind you of just how GOOD the Steelers of that era were.

As for tomorrow's games, I won't give a lot of analysis here, nor will I disparage the New York Jets. They have earned their spot in this game tomorrow. I will make my picks short and sweet:

Steelers over Jets

Packers over Bears

My reasons are simple. In a close game, which I believe these two will be (although if one game is going to be a blowout, it will be the Packers-Bears game), take the team with the better quarterback. Roethlisberger and Rodgers trump Sanchez and Cutler.

And could there be a better Old School match-up in the Super Bowl that Pittsburgh and Green Bay? I don't think so.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Basement Project - Update 5

Today, the 14th working day of The Basement Project, the contractors FINISHED the job, on time, and on budget.

We are most pleased with the job that they did.

Now, it remains for Marilyn and me to arrange a couple of new area rugs and set up the furniture to our liking.

If any readers out there are in need of any kind of home improvement or remodeling, we have a contractor that we would be more than happy to recommend to you!

It Was 50 Years Ago today....

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Polo Grounds

An interesting story from the New York Times about the Polo Grounds. This is not a ballpark often mentioned when people start recounting warm and fuzzy memories of no-longer-existing ballparks. It is in the news now because the San Francisco Giants are bringing their 2010 World Series trophy to New York this weekend to visit its ancestral home.

And for the Pittsburgh-centric amongst the readers, were you aware that the famous Billy Conn - Joe Louis first fight took place at the Polo Grounds? I always presumed that it happened at Yankee Stadium.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the article:

Monday, January 17, 2011

....and on the Baseball Front....

The small market Washington Nationals have signed All-Star Jayson Werth to a long term deal.

The small market, NL Central Milwaukee Brewers traded for Zack Grienke.

The small market, NL Central champ Cincinnati Reds have locked up two of their key young players, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto to long term deals.

You know where I'm headed with this, don't you? Do I really have to mention names like Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen, Matt Diaz, and Lyle Overbay?

The Reds' moves locking in Bruce and Votto are perhaps the most depressing from a Pirates point of view. The Reds are doing what the Pirates have always said that they would do, but they haven't yet, have they? It gets harder and harder to get excited about the Bucs, doesn't it?

Birthday Greetings

Happy 69th Birthday today to the "Greatest of All Time", Muhammad Ali.....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Steelers Get a Home Game!!!!

OK, if you tell me that you saw the Patriots going down like they did to the Jets today, I simply won't believe you.

Good News: Steelers get a home game against the presumably weaker team, the Jets.

Bad News: We have a whole week to listen to the insufferable Rex Ryan and the equally smug and insufferable New York press.

It will probably be a good idea to not listen the talk radio, not read the paper, and turn on the TV at about two minutes before kick-off on Sunday. I also think that Mike Greenberg will be TOTALLY insufferable this week.

From reading the comments on my Facebook page, it does not appear that many people have a whole lot of sympathy for Tom Brady tonight. Wonder why?

In the greater scheme of things, I am delighted that the Steelers do not have to go through New England to get to Dallas, and I think that they will be more than happy to take another crack at the J-e-t-s Jets Jets Jets, and won't you also be tired of hearing that cheer and seeing that goofball with the fireman's hat this week?

On a final note: another 2-2 week for The Grandstander in the predictions department.

A Euphoric Victory

Some Sunday morning thoughts following a euphoric Steelers victory....
  • At halftime my thought was, "well, if they are going to lose, at least it looks like it will be decisive, and not a gut churner." Oh, me of little faith.
  • Never count the Steelers out when Roethlisberger is on the field.
  • I used to think that only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning ranked ahead of Ben Roethlisberger as NFL QB's. I now think that Ben has passed Manning in the discussion.
  • And please, DO NOT include guys like Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler, and Carson Palmer in the same breath with Roethlisberger.
  • The question now is, will the national pundits and talking heads start to feel that way. The only such pundit who gives Roethlisberger his due in this regard is PTI's Michael Wilbon.
  • When the Steelers completed their draft last spring, I mentioned that I had never heard of any of the players drafted, but hoped that they would show their value on the field. I think that Marquis Pouncy, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Jason Worilds have shown 2010 to have been a fairly successful draft.
  • With the emergence of Sanders and Brown, do you think that Limas Sweed will ever suit up for the Steelers again?
  • Much talk is made of the "rivalry" between the Steelers and the Ravens. I am now thinking that this is very much like the rivalry that existed between the Yankees and the Red Sox pre-2004. While the games are always good and exciting, how much of a rivalry is it when one team always wins? Kind of like the "rivalry" between a hammer and a nail.
  • Shortly after I posted my predictions for this playoff weekend, I had second thoughts on my pick of the Falcons over the Packers, and I said as much on my Facebook page ( ), however, once in print, I couldn't back off, so I now stand at 1-1 on the weekend.
  • Perhaps top seeded Atlanta had a bad day, or maybe they are proof that the NFC really is in a down cycle, but the Packers and Aaron Rodgers sure looked awesome in thrashing the Falcons last night. Looks like we'll be seeing them in Dallas in three weeks.
  • It is old news now, but it was quite a day for Pittsburgh sports teams. The Steelers, Penguins, Pitt, Duquesne, and Robert Morris all came away with wins yesterday, a perfect 5-0 day. The biggest surprise among those wins may have been the Dukes' win over a ranked Temple Owls. Maybe things are FINALLY turning around up on the Bluff, as the Dukes are quietly putting together a very nice record thus far.
  • It should also be noted that the Lady Dukes under Suzie McConnell-Serio are also making a lot of noise in their sport as well. When history is written, I think that we will say that Suzie McConnell will have been one of the greatest sports figures that western PA has ever produced.
  • Talk about a quandary: you'd love for the Steelers to have a home game next week, but that means rooting for the Rex Ryans today, and rooting against the Rex Ryans means rooting FOR the Bill Bellichicks. Kind of like the old joke of seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff while driving your brand new Cadillac.
  • All that said, I think that the Steelers would beat the Jets in a rematch, while I don't have that same feeling about another tilt with the Patriots.
  • Awhile back, I mentioned my involvement with the MOASP, the Mother of All Sports Pools. The Steelers victory last night secured the 2010 MOASP championship for good buddy Dave Jones, so congratulations to him. I will finish the season in second place, and earn a nice profit as a result. (For me to have won, the Dave's Steelers had to lose yesterday, both of my teams, the Patriots and the Bears would have had to make it to the Super Bowl. Given the "Cutler Factor," I don't think that was going to happen, so my cheering for the Steelers yesterday was not compromised by my MOASP loyalties.)
  • Enjoy the games today!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

To Get Your Mind Off Football For a Moment....

As we await the kickoff of the highly anticipated Steelers-Ravens playoff game, I thought I'd just go in another direction and, just for laughs, include a picture of my brother Jim's favorite baseball umpire, who was the controversial topic of conversation for several blog posts last summer.

Play ball!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Basement Project - Update 4

Well, it has been over a week since my last update, and I know you are all waiting with bated breath. At the conclusion of the second week of work, I can report that....
  • Despite the snow that caused numerous school closings and delays, the contractors have not missed a day of work.
  • All drywall has been erected, sanded, primed, and have had one coat of paint applied. This includes the interior walls and ceiling of the powder room.
  • Water lines and valves have been installed for the powder room.
  • Baseboards have been installed where needed.
  • All doors and have been hung, including the trim around the doors, with one coat of paint applied.
  • All electrical lines, light boxes, switches, and outlets have been installed.

The biggest job that remains will be tiling the bathroom floor and installing the vanity, sink, and commode.

The original two week estimate for completion has not been met, but we never really expected that all would be done in two weeks. We are confident, however, that by this time next week, the job should be done.

Can the return of the "Executive Game" be far behind?

Week 2, NFL Playoffs - Predictions

Well, I went 2-2 last week, which means I'm losing money if I'm betting in a real sports book. Need to recover this weekend.

Ravens at Steelers. Has any cliche been left unturned in the lead-up discussion and writing about this game? Maybe you've heard a few: This is a blood rivalry....this will be a hard hitting game that will be won in the trenches....these two teams just plain don't like each other...two real blue collar teams banging heads on Saturday...and on and on and on. Well, this no doubt will be a terrific ballgame, possibly the best of the four that will be played this weekend. Based on recent games in the series, it will be a low scoring game, it will no doubt be a close game, and it will, dare I say it, be hard hitting and won in the trenches. I will refrain from saying that it will be won by whichever team wants it more, because, really, does any NFL team NOT want to win a game that they are playing? While I wouldn't be shocked if Baltimore wins, I am going to pick the Steelers in this one for the simple reason that they have the better quarterback. Ben gets it done - again - against the Ravens.

Here's an interesting thing to ponder which I just heard on 93.7 The Fan from Steelers Cheerleader Deluxe Bob Pompeani. If this is indeed a close game and it comes down to a drive at the end of the game for one team to win, what would you rather have: the Steelers defense on the field protecting a 3 point lead, or the Steelers offense on the field trying to overcome a three point deficit? I guess it's always better to have the lead, but based on recent Steelers history, I think I'd go with Roethlisberger driving the team to a victory at the end. What are your thoughts?

Packers at Falcons. This is a tough one to call, and it has the potential to be a close and good game, much like the Steelers game that precedes it. My instincts tell me to take Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but I am going to play a hunch that the supreme home field advantage that Matty Ice and the Falcons have enjoyed over the past two seasons will prevail. The Falcons to
win a close one.

Seahawks at Bears. I am not a Jay Cutler fan. I think he is a whiney little punk who is a numbers hanger and that makes him a god amongst fantasy footballers. I also see that the clock will strike midnight for the Seahawks, and that their dream run will end at Soldier Field. The Bears will win, but the "Cutler Factor" will make it a close game.

Jets at Patriots. After last week, the Jets have made believers out of me. Despite a poor first half from Mark Sanchez, they thoroughly earned and deserved that win over the Colts, and I have to give the Loudmouth his due, Rex Ryan knows how to coach his team for a big game. However, they aren't going to beat the Patriots on Sunday, and barring a key injury (meaning "Tom Brady goes down"), I can't see anyone beating New England the rest of the way. The Jets may make it interesting for a half, but I see the Patriots pulling away with a fairly comfortable win.

There you have it. Steelers, Falcons, Bears, and Patriots to win this weekend. As always, watch, but don't bet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can You Take One More Kris Benson Post?

The following is a pretty decent and interesting assessment of the Pirates former overall #1 selection.

Of interest is the other #1 selections in 1996 that didn't make it, and that the guy who turned out to be the best major leaguer drafted that year, Roy Oswalt, was selected in the 28th round!!

As I said yesterday, scouting and drafting is an inexact science.

Does Bob Smizik Read The Grandstander?

Judge for yourself. This item appeared on Smiz' blog today:

Why no one should get too excited about high draft choices. Kris Benson, once the No. 1 pick in the MLB June draft and the great hope of the Pirates, has announced his retirement. Benson, the top pick in 1996, was 70-75 for his career. He’s pitched in only 11 games since 2006.

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kris Benson - A Cautionary Tale

The news arrives today that Kris Benson has announced that he is hanging up his spikes and calling it a career. His was a career that spread over 12 MLB seasons with several teams that included 206 games (200 starts) and produced an overall record of 70-75 and 4.42 ERA and one bout with Tommy John surgery..

Pirates fans well remember that Benson was selected by the Pirates as the overall #1 selection in the entry draft in 1996. He was an All-American at Clemson and a member of the USA Olympic Team that year. He was as "can't miss" a prospect as there could possibly be. Well, the above numbers that will forever define Benson's career prove that scouting major league talent and predicting future success is, at best, an inexact science. Fans of Stephen Strasburg and those hoping for great things from Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie need to keep this in mind.

I have one memory of seeing Benson pitch in a game at Three Rivers Stadium, probably in 2000, where the Bucs overwhelmed the Cardinals and won by a score of something like 11-0 or 12-2. In addition to Benson securing one of those 70 wins that night, Jason Kendall hit for the cycle. Benson also was a late season addition to the North Park League champion Shoeless Joes in 1999!

Of course, Benson was also famous for the antics and publicity seeking behaviour of his comely wife, Anna. So, fair or not, The Grandstander must close this post with a photo of the lovely Anna Benson.

To Absent Friends - Cookie Gilchrist

If you remember the early days of the American Football League, then you know the name of Carlton "Cookie" Gilchrist. In an era when a 275 pound lineman was considered HUGE, Cookie Gilchrist was a 250 pound running back.

A native of Natrona Heights, PA, Cookie left this mortal coil yesterday at the age of 75.

RIP, Cookie Gilchrist.

Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL Playoff Thoughts...and a BCS Comment

Surveying the weekend wherein my predictions came in at 2-2....
  • Good for the Seattle Seahawks. At 7-9, they made the playoffs on a technicality, but they looked a lot better than a couple of those 10 and 11 win teams did this weekend.
  • My dad always said that there was nothing more exciting in football than a long run from scrimmage. Marshawn Lynch proved that big time with that run on Saturday. The TD by the Chiefs Jamaal Charles was a nifty one, too, but that run of Lynch's was one for the ages.
  • Speaking of the Chiefs, man did they stink up the joint. Everybody points the the NFC West with its 7-9 champ as a lousy division, but how good could the AFC West be if the Chiefs were the best of that lot?
  • How does Ray Lewis keep on playing so well? He's about 50 years old, isn't he? It seems like he's been around forever, and he hasn't slowed down a bit.
  • If you read Peter King on today, you saw him asking of Peyton Manning is starting on the downward path of his career. As I said on Saturday, the 2010 Colts are NOT the Colts that were so dominant in past years.
  • With his team down 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter and facing fourth and a yard from the 30 or so yard line, Andy Reid went for a FG...and they missed it. I thought that they needed to go for it there. As I mentioned on Facebook last night, I would not be real thrilled if Andy Reid was the coach of a team that I rooted for.
  • I think it is kind of amazing that the Eagles still had a chance to win that game right up to the very end.
  • Readers know that I am no fan of Rex Ryan and the Jets, but they sure were the better team in Indy on Saturday night, and they deserved that win.
  • Two awfully good match-ups in the AFC next week, both of them divisional rubber games, Jets v. Pats and Ravens v. Steelers. I'm glad that the Steelers game is the first one of the weekend. No stress in wading through two or three other games. We'll know how we stand right off the bat.
  • Falcons-Seahawks and Bears-Seahawks in the NFC. Not sure how I'll pick these ones, but this much I know: the Seahawks are still a team that went 7-9 this year, and Jay Cutler is the QB of the Bears.
  • Again, from Facebook on Saturday night: If I could pick one football analyst to listen to for any one game, I'll take Chris Collinsworth.

I will leave the NFL for a moment to comment on tonight's BCS Championship Game. No, this will not be a rant on the evils of the BCS, the grip of the large conference cartel over college football, the hypocrisy of Cam Newton's eligibility, and the dire need of a playoff for NCAA Division I football. Instead, I will merely point out that the two teams, Auburn and Oregon, last played a game over six weeks ago, the public has been force-fed 34 meaningless bowl games (also known as "ESPN programming"), and what was previously the culmination of the college football season, New Year's Day, passed ten days ago. Having said that, does anyone other than the two schools involved actually even care about this game at this late date?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Night at the Movies - "Dirty Harry"

I will give my NFL Playoffs, Week One, thoughts tomorrow, but after a weekend of football, I decided to take in a movie tonight, 1971's Clint Eastwood classic, "Dirty Harry." Not long ago, I found a two disc DVD set that contained the first four Dirty Harry movies in the ten dollar bin at Target. What a deal! When I saw that, as Harry might put it, I felt lucky.

Lots of action, lots of violence, and no gray areas about the good guys and the bad guys. It had been a long time since I'd seen this flick, and I didn't remember it being such a dark movie, not only in the mood, but it really was dark. Could barely see the people on many of the scenes, it was so dark. Anyway, after this one, looks like I'm gonna have to knock back the other three movies in short order.

Yeah, I do feel lucky.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jets 17 - Colts 16

I got my prediction correct, but DAMN!

At least one more week of Rex Ryan. S**t!

Saints March Out

Seahawks 41 - Saints 36. OK, who saw THAT coming. Certainly not me, as you read in my post from this morning.

It may be a long, long time before you see another TD run as spectacular as that one from Marshawn Lynch that sealed it for Seattle.

Now, let's go to Indy.....

Birthday Wishes...and Predictions

First off, Birthday wishes go out today, if I may be so modest, to The Grandstander. Yes, it was on this day one year ago that The Grandstander made its entrance into the Blogosphere. I wasn't sure if this was going to work, but after three hundred fifty posts, twenty-two registered followers, and several more on Facebook, it looks like things have worked out. I am looking forward to another year of this foolishness.

I will begin Year Two with my always anticipated and usually incorrect Sports Predictions, NFL Division, but first a word on the Pitt Football Panthers.

I participate in something called the MOASP (Mother of All Sports Pools). This is a year long sports pool in which participants draft teams from MLB, the NFL, NHL, and NBA, NCAA Division I schools, as well as PGA golfers and NASCAR drivers. (It sounds sick, but admit it, you would like to be in on it, wouldn't you?) I won't go into details, and you can contact me if you really want to know more about it. Anyway, the MOASP season ends with the Super Bowl, and right now, I sit in second place and have an outside shot at winning the whole thing. To make that outside chance come through, though, the heretofore much ridiculed BBVA Compass Bowl all of a sudden becomes a very important game. You see, Pitt is one of my two NCAA teams, and a victory by the Panthers will keep me alive in the race for the coveted Lady of Victory Trophy.

So, what the hell, a bonus prediction: the Panthers survive an up-and-(mostly)-down season, and the Marx Brothers-like coaching situation and beatdown on the Kentucky Wildcats in Birmingham today. Let's Go Pitt!!!!

(By the way, two of my NFL teams, the Pats and the Bears, could meet in the Super Bowl, so I like may chances of at least holding on to second place in the MOASP!)

Now, onto the NFL Wildcard Weekend....

Saints at Seahawks. Does anyone think that the 7-9 Seahawks can beat the defending champs? I didn't think so, and neither do I. Four divisions, one containing four crummy teams, have produced an NFL Nightmare of a Perfect Storm - an under .500 team in the Playoffs. Still, those are the rules, and Seattle has no need to apologize for being where they are. To combine two great cliches, everyone is now 0-0 and on any given Sunday (Saturday in this case) anyone can win. All that aside, have fun at the tailgates, Seahawks fans, but your season ends today. Saints to win big.

Jets at Colts. Many may recall that I went broke last year (or would have if I'd actually bet on these things) by picking the Jets to lose in the playoffs. Normally, I would go, all things being equal, with the team with the better QB. Peyton Manning v. Mark Sanchez? No contest, right? Still, something tells me that these Manning Colts are not the Manning Colts of recent years, and, while Rex Ryan is an insufferable blowhard, he does seem to be able to coach 'em up. So, I am going to call for a Jets win in a close one at Indy tonight.

Ravens at Chiefs. I have to say that the Chiefs are a team that really snuck up on me this season. I never saw them play once all year, but here they sit, a division champ with a home game in Round One. I like the Len Dawson-to-Otis Taylor passing combination, and Buck Buchannon and Willie Lanier are dynamite on defense, but the Ravens are a team I have seen this year, and I am going to go with the Ravens in this one. This result would also set up a rubber game against the Steelers next week at Heinz Field, and who doesn't want to see that again?

Packers at Eagles. This could easily turn out to be the best game of the weekend. The Packers were pre-season darlings, and the Eagles with Michael Vick represent one of the more interesting stories of the season. I am tempted to pick the Pack in this one, but that means that I would have picked all four road teams to win this weekend. That will never happen, so I'm going with the Eagles to win in a close one.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone, and once again, thank you for reading The Grandstander.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Basemant Project - Update 3

Week One ends with all insulation now installed for the powder room, and the pocket doors hung in their frame.

We are most pleased with what we have seen thus far.

Now we rest for the weekend.

By the way, I have been taking pictures each day of the progress that is made from day to day. There will be a complete Before, During, and After documentation of The Basement Project, but don't worry, I don't plan on boring anyone by forcing them to view all of the pictures. Unless, of course, you would really want to see them.

Joe Starkey on Pitt Football

Interesting take on the Pitt football situation - with a humorous twist - from Starkey.

Hello Good-bye - The Beatles

Watch one of my favorite Beatles songs. I get a kick out of Lennon & McCartney goofing around over the final "hey la, hey hello" part of the song.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Basement Project - Update 2

Four days into the Project, the following has been accomplished:
  • The framing for all walls has been completed
  • The door frame for the pocket door to the mechanicals storage area is in place
  • Electrical lines have been run and all light boxes, switches, and outlets have been installed and/or moved as appropriate
  • All water lines for the powder room have been installed

Lots accomplished in four days. I don't think that this Project will be completed in two weeks as originally promised, but I am betting that it will come in "under" the date of January 28 as established by noted handicapper, "John Bocabella."

The Beatles Greatest Songs

I think that we could all agree that a question that is all but impossible to answer is "What is your favorite Beatles Song?" I mean, how can you possible pick just one? (The same logic can also be applied to the songs of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, but I digress.) What prompts this is a Rolling Stone Magazine publication that hit the newsstands this past week called "The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs."

I love stuff like this because such lists are entirely subjective, can prompt arguments and discussion, are interesting to read, and, in this case, send you right to the ol' iPod to listen to all of your Beatles music, and how can that be a bad thing?

Anyway, here are the Top 10, according to Rolling Stone:
  1. A Day in the Life - I suppose that, musically speaking, this might be one of the Beatles' more intricate and interesting works, but is this one you sing to yourself as you are walking down the street?
  2. I Want to Hold Your Hand - as the song that launched Beatlemania in the USA, this no doubt belongs on the list.
  3. Strawberry Fields Forever - no argument here.
  4. Yesterday - did you know that this is the most recorded of all Beatles' songs? It has been recorded by over 2,500 different artists.
  5. In My Life - a great song. Listen to it and be amazed to think that John Lennon was only 25 years old when he wrote it.
  6. Something - no less than Frank Sinatra called this the "greatest love song of the past 50 years."
  7. Hey, Jude - this song was number one in the USA longer than any other Beatles song. I wouldn't put it in my Top Ten, though.
  8. Let It Be - written and recorded as the band was breaking up.
  9. Come Together - the last song that all four of the group cut together.
  10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - a great song written by Harrison, but not sure I would have it in the Top 10.

How can you leave out songs like A Hard Day's Night (11), Norwegian Wood (12), She Loves You (14), Help (15), Please Please Me (20), Eleanor Rigby (22), Here There and Everywhere (25), Can't Buy Me Love (29), Penny Lane (32), Blackbird (38), Get Back (41), Love Me Do (87), and Hello, Good-bye (100)? I mean, how can Hello Good-bye be listed as #100? This would be in MY top 10!

See what I mean about how much fun this can be?

I once heard a pundit say that if we could magically make the Beatles appear and give live concerts, you could go one night and hear them perform 25 songs, and you could go back the second night and hear them do 25 completely different songs, and you would be equally satisfied both nights. I think that's true and there aren't many artists that you could say that about.

So, what do all of you think?

New Hall of Famers

A few years back I was doing some kind of research on pitchers. I think it was in an effort to prove that Walter Johnson was, if not the best, certainly the most dominant pitcher of all time. In any event as I was looking up things like strike outs, shut outs, complete games, and the like, it amazed me to see how often Bert Blyleven's name appeared on lists that included names like Johnson, Grove, Feller and the like. So, I certainly have no beef with his election to the HOF yesterday. It can also be remembered the contributions that Blyleven made to the 1979 World Series champion Pirates. However, I also remember how in 1980 Blyleven quit on the Pirates and went AWOL for a time, and how this eventually led to his being traded by the Bucs. Not a classy move at the time, and not in retrospect, either.

I also cannot dispute the HOF credentials of Robby Alomar, so congratulations to him as well.

The other sidelight to the HOF voting results was the low vote totals of the "steroids guys" like Mark McGwire and Raphael Palmiero, and it was somewhat disturbing to see that a guy like Jeff Bagwell, who to my knowledge had never been linked to steroids, seems to being painted with the same broad brush as the guys whom we know are guilty of the sins of the era.

I'm not sure what the right way to go is, but it seems to me that visitors to Cooperstown in the 2020's are not going to see plaques for great, if steroid-enhanced, players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and their ilk, and will instead be seeing plaques for more players like Andre Dawson, a very good player, but not one who screams "Hall of Fame" to me when I think of him.

As I said, I don't know the right answer, or even if there is a right answer to this knotty little conundrum.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seen Today.....

While out driving today, I found myself behind a driver that had one of those oval "Euro-style" stickers on it that everyplace in the world now seems to have. This one was one I had never seen before. It read as follows:


Only in Pittsburgh!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Pitt, Cook v. Smiz, Stan, and Bud Light....

Quick notes from the Mental In-Box....
  • The whole football coach thing at Pitt sure has been a nightmare. I won't rehash the mess that Mike Heywood has made of this. You all know the story. Who knows what kind of coach Heywood would have been at Pitt, he may have been the next Knute Rockne, for all anyone knows, but Pitt had to jettison him after what happened in South Bend over the weekend. On that, there is no doubt.
  • Ron Cook in the PG, and Bloggin' Bob Smizik on the PG Online, take two opposite views on Dave Wannstedt's decision to not coach Pitt in the WhoCares Bowl in Birmingham on Saturday. I can see both sides of the argument.
  • I'll also agree with Stan Savran - Wannstedt should have made this decision three weeks ago when he was canned, and not have dragged it out so long.
  • Speaking of Stan Savran, it is good news indeed that he is back on the local radio airwaves. 10:00 AM on 970 ESPN. Not sure what the call letters are now; I still think of it as WWSW, or, if I really want to go old school, "double-double."
  • The various Bud Light commercials that have run on NFL games throughout the season remain consistently funny and entertaining, no matter how many times you've seen them. Can't wait to see what they come up with for the Super Bowl.

To Absent Friends - Anne Francis

Sad to read in the paper this morning of the passing actress Anne Francis at the age of 80. She'll never be confused with Katherine Hepburn or Meryl Streep, but her TV series "Honey West" was must see TV for hormonally charged teen aged boys back in the mid-'60's. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.

RIP Anne Francis.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Basement Project - Update 1

Contractor arrived at 10:10 this morning to begin what will henceforth be referred to as The Basement Project. The Project consists of putting in a powder room, walling off the storage/mechanicals area of the basemant, and adding two walls to make a separate storage area/closet.

They told us that the job would take two weeks. I am asking Loyal Reader "John Bocabella" to set an over/under figure on how many days beyond two weeks this project will take.

Updates will follow over the course of the Project.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Steelers 41 - Browns 9; Was That JR Coaching the Browns Today?

Well, I was right when I said it would be a comfortable win for the Steelers today; I was wrong when I said it wouldn't be an easy win for them. Then again, I guess I was unaware as to just how abysmal the Browns are. Talk about a team that didn't show up. They should be embarrassed to collect their paychecks this week.

And how about Eric Mangini on the sideline? He was the NFL version of John Russell today judging by all the emotion he appeared to have out there today. Guess the axe will fall on him tomorrow, if not by tonight. Talk about a long fall from the New York "Mangenius" days and guest spots on "The Sopranos."

As for the Steelers, hard to find fault with anything in today's game, although I am sure the talk show callers will find something to grouse about. They appear to be peaking at the right time, key players are back from injury, and they have a two week rest before their first playoff game at home. That opponent, whoever it might be, is going to be a lot tougher than the Browns, that's for certain. What is also for certain is that that opponent will not be New England, which is a good thing.

The Grandstander will be here next weekend with his always anticipated predictions for Round One of the NFL Playoffs.


The Grandstander calls for a comfortable, but not necessarily an easy, win for the Steelers over the Cleve Brownies this afternoon. This particular version of the Steelers don't seem to specialize in easy victories.

Comments from Washington DC

Washington Post sports columnist Len Shapiro is retiring from the Post. While much of his farewell column pertains to local DC sports people, his comments on sports media in general, particularly on the four letter colossus in Bristol, CT, are interesting and worth reading.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Night Viewing

We have just concluded the traditional New Year's Night dinner of roast pork (yum!), and are now looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the Pens taking on the Hated Capitals in this year's edition of the Winter Classic at Heinz Field.

Let's Go Pens!!!!

I will save comment on the Pitt/Mike Heywood Debacle until tomorrow, but I did come up with an idea for a Pirates marketing slogan for 2011:


A Final Look Back

Before we get into the important "stuff" of everyday life that have and will continue to populate this blog in 2011, allow me to take a final look back at 2010.

When I look back at the sixty calendar years that have comprised my life thus far, the one that really stands out is 1974. In that year, I managed to finish college, land my first "real" job, buy my first car, move away from my parents and get my first apartment, move to a new city, saw the Pirates win their division and the Steelers march toward their first Super Bowl championship, and, oh yeah, get married (and marrying Marilyn Moellenbrock remains to this day, the single best and smartest thing I have ever done!). As calendar years go, it's hard to top 1974.

However, I am going to have to put 2010 right behind it in the pecking order of all-time great years, a first ballot Hall of Fame kind of year.

The year began with me recovering from December back surgery and beginning my retirement from 35 years in the work force and 22 years with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. While I knew that I was "ready" to retire, and was very excited about it, there is always some anxiety when you take such a huge step. The year proceeded, and here are some of the highlights:
  • At the Easter Vigil on April 3, months of study and preparation came to a beautiful conclusion at St. John Neumann Church and Marilyn came into the Catholic Church. That entire process was very emotional for us both, and it remains the highlight of our year, maybe even the highlight of all our years together. And the messages of support that Marilyn received from both of our families and friends during the process is something that we will always cherish.
  • In June and July, we sold our home of 25 years on Field Club Drive and moved to our new home in Stonebrook Village. Readers of this blog are well aware of that entire adventure, so I won't restate all of it here once again. Suffice to say that we still have to pinch ourselves to believe how fortunate we are to be in our new place.
  • We both became involved in volunteer work. Marilyn at Passavant Hospital and with the Good Shepard program at St. John Neumann, me at the Heinz History Center, and both of us at the Highmark Caring Place. Believe me, we are no heroes for doing this, but we have found a reward unlike anything we have ever experienced in doing these things. The first President Bush talked about the "thousand points of light" and encouraged volunteerism to help your communities, and after doing something like that for the first time in my life, I can tell you that H.W. had it right. Everybody should think about doing something. You will get back more out of it than you will ever give, believe me.
  • The December '09 back surgery was successful to the point that I feel better physically than I have felt for as long as I can remember, so thank God for that! On the other hand, in March I was visited by an old bug-a-boo, kidney stones, that required some outpatient surgery to relieve the problem. If you have ever experienced kidney stones, you know how miserable I was. If you've never had them, be thankful for your good fortune and pray that you never do.
  • Despite the kidney stone adventure, we have both experienced good health, as has all of our family and friends. We have enjoyed many great times this past year on several mini-vacations, our annual Outer Banks trip, staying in touch with old friends, becoming reacquainted with some older friends, and making new ones. Fortunately, all have come through the year in good health as well.
  • I got to play a lot of golf this year, although the move in summer curtailed some of that. I especially enjoyed playing with my great-nephews, and one of my great-nieces, on occasions.
  • Saw sixteen Pirates games. OK, so not all of my 2010 experiences can be classified as "great." Despite all the frustrations that they give you - and regular readers have heard all about them - I'll still be going back to PNC Park this summer. What can I say? I saw my first Pirates game in 1959, and they are a part of my DNA. I couldn't stop if I wanted to. Besides, someday, they will be good again, and I will have my seat on the bandwagon when the Johnny-come-latelies try to jump on.

And on January 8, The Grandstander was born. He posted 335 time during 2010, and it has been a lot of fun to do this. Who would have predicted that the postings that drew the most comments concerned sloppy baseball uniforms and curling?!?!? I didn't know when I began if I would enjoy it, or if people would read, but I do enjoy it, and people do, apparently, read it. I continue to encourage you to comment on the blog, or to join Facebook (you can find me and "friend" me there) and comment on The Grandstander there as well, as several people do. I'll still be giving my thoughts on the Pirates, movies, the Pirates, TV, the Steelers, the Pirates, books that I have read, things at the Heinz History Center, and, once in awhile, I might even write about the Pirates.

Thanks to all of you for being here!!

A prosperous and healthy 2011 to you all.