Friday, September 30, 2011

Division Series Predictions

Here you go, short and sweet, predictions for the Division Series:

  • Yankees over Tigers

  • Rangers over Rays

  • Phillies over Cardinals

  • Brewers over Diamondbacks

No special analysis on these picks. I'll save those for the LCS's.

I will say this, I am looking forward to the Sabbathia-Verlander pitching match-up tonight. This is kind of like seeing Koufax go up against Marichal back in my formative years. Let's hope it lives up the the expectations.

Let's hope for a full five games for each series!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Well, the Pirates season went out with both a bang (six of them, actually - the number of HR's hit by the Brewers in the last two games) and a whimper - Pedro Alvarez looking at a called third for the final out of the season. If there could have been a more appropriate and symbolic ending to the 2011 season, I can't think of it at the moment.

Let me pose a question to you. If, in the dead of winter prior to the opening of Spring Training, if someone had guaranteed that the Pirates would improve their sorry 2010 record by 15 games, would you have signed on for that?

And let me present a quote from the November 15, 2010 edition of this blog, made upon the hiring of Clint Hurdle as new Pirates skipper:

"He also knows what lies ahead. If he can coax 70 wins from this team, I would make him an early candidate for Manager if the Year in the National League for next year."

Based on those two suppositions, you'd have to say that the 2012 Pirates season was a successful one wouldn't you? But of course, to those of us who followed it intently, it sure isn't that simple. We all remember the giddy days of July when the Bucs hit their high water mark at 51-44, and how thay sat all alone in first place after 100 games with a 53-47 record. Then there was that 101st game in Atlanta, the 19 inning "Jerry Meals Game" after which it all seemed to come crashing down upon the Buccos.

Of course, it isn't THAT simple either. No doubt you have all seen the various statistical comparisons of the First 100 Game Pirates vs. the Last 62 Game Pirates, and know that the downfall can be explained very simply, and the reason is as old as baseball itself: the pitching, so stellar, so over-achieving for three and one-half months, simply gave out and came crashing back to earth. This, combined with an offense that never was very potent, spelled the end not only of division title hopes, but hopes for the end of the losing seasons streak.

While I agree that the downfall of the pitching staff caused the downfall of the Pirates, to me, the single biggest story and theme of this season was the failure of Pedro Alvarez to do anything at all at the plate. Coming off a rookie season that filled us with so much hope and optimism, Alvarez had a season of hitting below .200 with only 4 HR and 19 RBI while spending time on the disabled list and having two return trips to the minor leagues. At a game in June with some SABR friends, Len Martin said that Alvarez was the Pirates linchpin, not only for this season, but for all the seasons to come in the Pirates immediate future. As the team heads into the off season, Alvarez is in my mind the most important player and biggest question mark before the team. Was 2011 an aberration, a bump in the road on the way to a stellar career? Will Alvarez, indeed, be the next Willie Stargell? Or the next Brad Eldred?

As fall fades to winter, I am guessing that the optimism that springs eternal in all baseball fans will cause the sorry finish of the Pirates' season to fade, and that memories of the excitement, the baseball excitement, that returned to Pittsburgh in June and July will be what remains. How cool was it to see the Pirates at the top or near the top of the standings everyday, how great it was to look forward to getting to the ballpark or turning on the TV to see the next game, even when you knew in your heart-of-hearts, that, no, they weren't going to win the division, but wouldn't it be great to hang in until after Labor Day and then finish over .500.

To that end, when I look back upon this season, I will remember two very specific games:

June 8. Pirates 3 Diamondbacks 2. The Pirates staged a terrific come from behind win the night before to get to within one game of .500, Zach Duke was returning to PNC Park, and Dan Bonk reached into his own wallet, paid his way into PNC Park, and jumped on the Pirates Bandwagon. At Dan's instigation, Len Martin, Jim Haller, he, and I met up and went to that June 8 game, and, serendipitously, also met up with SABR buddy Marky Bilson as well. In extra innings, the Pirates fell behind the D'backs, and tied the game on a clutch Neil Walker RBI in the bottom of the 10th, and the game was won in the 12th on an Andrew McCutchen walk-off HR. It was a great ball game and a great time spent with some good friends. And the Pirates hit the .500 mark for the latest time in a season since 2003.

July 8. Pirates 7 Cubs 4. Marilyn and I headed down on a Friday night and were part of a sell-out crowd that witnessed what forever will be called the "Mike McKenry Game." It was a back and forth game, several lead changes, and all seemed lost in the eighth inning when McKenry worked and worked and worked the count on Carlos Marmol in a terrific at bat that ended with his first major league home run, a three run shot that stunned the Cubs, caused the crowd to explode, and keyed a win that put the Pirates over .500, where, I believe they stayed until into early August. The most unlikely guy on the team hit perhaps the most important home run in the 11 year history of PNC Park.

Walking over the Clemente Bridge after both of those games was like leaving Three Rivers Stadium back in the day after Steelers playoff wins. No exaggeration. The Pirates front office folks who continually say that ".500 is not the goal" should have been walking over the bridge those nights.

After a scintillating last day of the season wherein the Wild Card winners were decided in amazing fashion, we now await the baseball post-season. Will attempt to squeeze out a predictions posting for you tomorrow. Can't wait, can you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Night Thoughts

Some quick thoughts on a Friday night....

The Pirates start the weekend with a record of 69-87 and have six games remaining. As each miserable Bucco season unfolds, the goals become more and more compressed, so here are my final thoughts for the last six games:

If they go 4-2, they will avoid a 90 loss season. Isn't that a grand goal to have when in July we were talking about a possible pennant chase? In all honesty, I don't think that they're going to achieve four wins in these last six games, not when three of them will be played in Miller Park

If they go 1-5, they will have won 70 games, the number that I said would represent a successful season if they achieved it. I think that they will win at least one of these final six games, but the route that they have taken to get to 70 wins will not make this season seem to be the success that we might have envisioned it to be back on Opening Day. To further that thought, I would suggest that you check out Dejan Kovacevic's column in today's Trib.

All speculation on the matter ended earlier in the week when Pedro Alvarez indicated that he would not be playing Winter League baseball, despite the Pirates' request that he do so. Opinion is divided on the matter. Both Gene Collier and Bob Smizik feel that it is probably a good idea that Alvarez hang it up for the winter, clear his head, and come to Spring Training with clean slate. Kovacevic's has blasted Pedro for his "selfish" decision not to honor the team's (which has paid him $6 million, by the way) request. I can see both sides of the argument, and probably lean to the Collier/Smizik opinion, but I will say this. If Pedro begins 2012 with the same level of performance we saw this season, his decision not to do as the team asked concerning winter ball will set him up, fairly or unfairly,to join Derek Bell and Kordell Stewart in the pantheon of Pittsburgh athletes who will get merciless treatment form the fans in the stands .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Old Movie Review - "Ace in the Hole"

Regular readers are aware of the fact that I have been on a Billy Wilder kick in recent weeks after reading a biography of him during the summer. This quest was rewarded earlier this week, thanks to Turner Classic Movies and the great invention of this era, the DVR, when I watched Wilder's 1951 movie, "Ace in the Hole" starring Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling.

In this movie, Douglas plays a many fired newspaper reporter who finds himself working for a paper in Albuquerque, NM. After a year of looking for a story that will get him out of the sticks and back in the big time, he stumbles upon a guy who has been trapped in a mine cave-in. This is his big chance. When he learns that it a relatively simple procedure would enable the rescuers to free the trapped guy within 24 hours, he manipulates a crooked sheriff and mine engineer into using an alternate rescue plan that would take six or seven days to release the guy. By doing this, he can manipulate and milk the story to his own advantage, drawing maximum attention to himself, of course.

This begins a huge media circus that soon careens completely out of control. This was Wilder's follow-up to his classic "Sunset Boulevard" and it was not well received by critics at the time. Perhaps they didn't like how Wilder held up the mirror before them. It was re-released under a different title, "The Big Carnival", and it still never took hold. It wasn't until many years after release, when it appeared on television and later on video and DVD that the movie came to be recognized as the gem that it is. Woody Allen, for example, considers this one of his all-time favorite movies.

As I said, this movie does not paint a flattering picture of the news media, and keep in mind that this movie was made in 1951, long before 24 cable news outlets - and not to mention Larry King! - made the idea of media circuses a common event. Wilder didn't know it then, but he was making a movie about O.J. Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey, Lacey & Scott Peterson, and Michael Jackson, or anyone of dozens of stories we could all mention if we thought hard enough.

Kirk Douglas is great in this movie. One Internet source I found states that Douglas not winning an Oscar for this movie is a classic case of when the Oscars got it wrong. (In case you are wondering, Humphrey Bogart won that year for "The African Queen.") He is not a nice guy or a likable character, to say the least, but what a performance!

This movie also contains a classic Wilder line. When Douglas tells Jan Sterling, the wife of the trapped guy, to go to a prayer service because it will look good for the papers, she tells him "I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons." That's right up there with "it's the pictures that got small" in my book.

So, keep your eye out for "Ace in the Hole." It's a great movie.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In My Mind I'm Going to Carolina....

Last week, Marilyn and I took off for a brief trip to North Carolina (and, apropos to the title of this post, we actually did cross the James Taylor Bridge at one point in our journey) to visit our long time friends, Sandy and Gary Carroll, who retired and moved to Southern Pines, NC several years back. It was a most enjoyable trip.

Sandy and Gary have a beautiful home in a golf course community called Long Leaf in Southern Pines. Here is the view, literally, from their back porch:

Not bad, huh? This is the first hole at Long Leaf, which I double bogeyed!

We spent much of our three days in Southern Pines catching up with Sandy and Gary, enjoying their hospitality, eating at some very fine restaurants, and touring the area, including a visit to the famous Pinehurst Golf Resort. It was at Pinehurst's Number 2 course where Payne Stewart won the US Open in 1999 a few months before he died in a plane crash. A statue of Stewart commemorating that win stands just off the 18th green at the #2 Course.

As referenced above, I also played with Gary and two of his playing partners at Long Leaf on Thursday. It was a fun course to play and an enjoyable round. I even played fairly well, carding a 53-50 for the day.

On Friday morning, we left Southern Pines, and drove to Durham to visit our niece Bonny and her husband, Michael and daughters Mara and Sophie. It was a short but delightful visit. On Friday evening, we went to the "American Tobacco District" in downtown Durham. This is an area of old tobacco factories and warehouses that have been reclaimed and redeveloped into offices, retail space, restaurants, and condos surrounding a very cool public gathering space, and beneath an old Lucky Strike water tower, where we saw a very cool outdoor concert. The picture below will give you some idea of what a neat venue it is.

It was an all together delightful experience to get together with old friends and distant family members over the four days we were there.

The trip through North Carolina was also of interest to an old TV fan, because you pass near and through the town of Mt. Airy, NC, which is famed for being the birthplace of Andy Griffith. While we did not stop and visit Mt. Airy, you can surmise from the signs you see along the way on the Andy Griffith Parkway that the area is milking the Griffith connection for all it's worth. The famous fictional town of Mayberry is said to be based upon Mt. Airy, and one of the geographic landmarks is Pilot Mountain, from which I am sure Mayberry's neighboring town of Mt. Pilot was derived.

While driving through this area, we saw signs for the following businesses: Mt. Pilot Storage, Mayberry Camp Grounds, Mayberry Shazzam Go-Carts, and Aunt Bea's Gentlemen's Club.

OK, I made that last one up, but the others are real.

On the way home, we pulled off at a scenic overlook, something that we never do, and got a close up look at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virgina. It was quite a sight, as you can see below.

Most of the drive is spent driving through the state of West Virgina, and I will put aside all West Virgina jokes and tell you that it is beautiful country. I can only imagine how gorgeous it might be two or three weeks from now when all the leaves turn to their fall colors.

The only negative for the entire trip came when we were within shouting distance of home. On Saturday afternoon, just north of Canonsburg on I-79, we hit road construction and it then took us 64 minutes - yes, that is 1 hour and 4 minutes - to drive the SIX MILES between Canonsburg and Bridgeville. We are grateful to PENNDOT for making it such a pleasure to drive in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

And I will close by giving a shout out to one of the great inventions of the era - our Garmin GPS system. That thing took us on our 1,000+ mile round trip journey without missing a turn. How does it do that? We both were lamenting how much we would have loved to have had such a gadget while working and traveling the hinterlands back in the day.

But as with all trips, it is always good to be back home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hail to Pitt??

So, back in 2003, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech left (abandoned?) the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. At the time, both the three schools and the ACC were decried for their greed and overall lack of integrity. Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg stood tall as a beacon of integrity as he led the charge to hold things together and keep the Big East in tact.

Today, you all know the story....Pitt, under the leadership of Chancellor Nordenberg, as announced that it is bolting the Big East and heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference. So much for integrity, so much for loyalty to your conference brethren. Hey, just exactly whose ox is being gored here?

Of course, if you have been following college athletics for the last few years, ever since the ACC's original raid on the Big East in 2003, really, you know that it isn't really that simple, that black and white, and you also know that the concept of "integrity" has very little place in big time college athletics. Pitt can certainly defend their move to the ACC, and everyone will be dancing the happy dance of joy when North Carolina and Duke come to the Peterson Center on a regular basis. Hey, I'll still be a Pitt fan, so if you want to call me a hypocrite, go ahead, but the whole thing still makes you want to take a shower after you read about it.

Still, I'd love to overhear the next conversation between Nordenberg and his counterpart at Texas Christian, who were lured into joining the Big East beginning next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Football Weekend...and a Baseball Item

As it happened, today was the Stonebrook Village picnic. Because of that, I knew that I was not going to be able to watch the Steelers-Ravens game. So, I set the DVR before I left with the idea that I would zip through the game tonight. Well, we did have a radio at the picnic shelter, so I was aware of how the game was unfolding.

I am happy to report that I came home with the knowledge that I have three hours of my life back, since I intend to delete that game without even giving it a glance. Since I saw very little other than the first quarter, and only heard bits and pieces on the radio, I can make no knowledgeable comment on it, other than saying that sometimes a blow out loss can be more easily overcome than a heartbreaking, last minute loss by a touchdown or a field goal. Just ask Notre Dame about that after their game with Michigan last night. No, there are no what-ifs and might-have-beens in a game like that. Just an old fashioned ass kicking that you can file away and forget.

Speaking of that Notre Dame - Michigan game....WOW. That was one amazing football game last night. In case you missed it, three touchdowns and three lead changes in the final 1:12 of the game. An absolutely amazing ball game. If you were rooting for ND, it was a crushing loss, but even that shouldn't lessen you appreciation for such a great ball game.

The only thing about that game that ticked me off was the post-game, on-the-field interview with Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Instead of being caught up in the euphoria of such a remarkable victory, he resorted to the worst kind of coach speak and talked about the mistakes his team made, and said how they all "still had a lot of work to do." Geez, Coach, way to stick a pin in the balloons of all of your players. What a horse's ass.

Pitt now stands at 2-0, although you wouldn't know it from listening to the talk show callers. I do have to say that a six point win over the University of Maine was probably not what Pitt was expecting when they scheduled this game. Things aren't going to get any easier, for the "high octane" Panthers, not even in the weak Big East. They do say that teams do get better as a season progresses. Let's hope so for the Panthers' sake.

In other news, Penn State gets drubbed by Alabama in Happy Valley yesterday. No surprise there, and the Joe Paterno rumblings go on and get louder and louder.

And in baseball news, the Pirates announce a three year contract extension for GM Neal Huntington. A coincidence that the Pirates make this rather important announcement on the day that the Steelers open their season against perhaps their biggest rival in recent years? I think not. The team celebrated this news by losing to the Marlins, which completed a three game sweep for Florida. The season is sixteen games away from being mercifully concluded. Will take more time to discuss the season, GM Neal, and other such matters in the days ahead and when the season concludes in Milwaukee. How appropriate that the Bucco season will conclude in their personal graveyard, Miller Park.

They Say It's Your Birthday....

Yes, today I celebrate one of those milestone birthdays that everyone both looks forward to and dreads. I will paraphrase the late Billy Wilder here (although he was speaking on the occasion of turning 90), and say that I try to think of myself as being comfortably middle-aged, until I realize that I don't know of anyone who is 120 years old. Oh, well.

However, I would rather reflect on a couple of aphorisms of one of the 20th centuries great philosophers, Satchel Paige.

"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter."

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"

And perhaps, Satch's most famous.... "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."

If you are looking for rules to live by, you could do a lot worse.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Football????

Well, with the Packers and Saints opening the season last night, it is time for The Grandstander's cutting edge preview of the upcoming NFL season.

Here you go...

In the AFC, the Steelers, Patriots, Jets, Ravens, and maybe the Chargers are all going to be pretty good. Also, with Peyton Manning out for up to three months, the Texans might finally sneak into the playoffs.

In the NFC, the Packers, Falcons, Eagles, and Saints are all going to be good.

From those ten teams listed above, the two Super Bowl participants will emerge.

There you have it, and that's as far out on a limb as I am gong to go. If you want more than that, read Peter King!

Here are a few more predictions:

The Lions are a dark horse in the NFC, and could sneak in as a wild card.

The Bengals, Browns, Bears and Redskins will all stink.

Phillip Rivers will receive accolades galore but the Chargers will still not make it past the first round of the playoffs.

On a more serious note, I do have high expectations for your Pittsburgh Steelers. I think that they will be an offensive powerhouse. My concern, and I have stated it here before, is that so many key players on defense are well into their thirties. I know that everyone had the same concerns last year, and the defense was the best in the NFL and the team made it to the Super Bowl, so why can't it happen again? Well, I hope that it does, but Father Time can be very cruel to athletes, and great teams can get "old" very quickly, almost overnight. Here's hoping younger guys like Woodley, Timmons, Gay, Hood, and Heyward can mix in with the older guys and make it a seamless transition.

As for that game last night, how awesome did the Packers look? Missing out on mini-camps and off-season OTA's really hurt them, didn't it?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Reviews: "Last Team Standing" and "Hound Dog"

OK, not one, but two, book reviews for your pleasure today.

The first is "Last Team Standing" (2006) by Matthew Algeo, a guy who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. The sub-title of this book is "How the Steelers and Eagles - The Steagles - Saved Pro Football During World War II." Steelers fans over a certain age, say, 55 or so, may have some recollection of the fact that during the years of WW II the Steelers and Eagles combined to form one team in 1943 as a matter of war time urgencies. In the NFL Official history and records, that team is known as "Phil-Pitt." In Philadelphia, and the Philly part of this combo was the dominant partner, the team was still referred to as the "Philadelphia Eagles," but in Pittsburgh and around the country (at least that part of the country that cared about pro football), the team became known as the "Steagles." It should be noted that to this day, the NFL does not acknowledge the name Steagles as anything but a nickname. (In 2004, some enterprising fan registered the name "Steagles" as a trademark, something I am amazed that the money hungry NFL never did.)

The Steagles were comprised of players from two teams that pretty much stunk for their entire histories up to that point, but in that 1943 season, they surprised everyone, including themselves, to stay in the hunt for the Eastern division title up until the next to last week of the season and finish with a 5-4-1 record. This book is the story of that unlikely season.

Perhaps an even more interesting part of the book is how Algeo tells how the NFL was affected by the manpower shortage brought about by WW II. Everyone knows about major league baseball during the war, about the players (Feller, Williams, DiMaggio etc.) served and lost time from their careers, but to my knowledge that story has never been told to any great extent about pro football during that time. In all, 638 NFL players served in the armed forces during the war (the League only had 330 total roster spots in 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked), and 19 NFL players were killed in action.

Algeo tells the story of how the NFL fit into the American landscape during the war, and how it struggled for survival during those years, and actually thrived when not everyone figured that it would.

The post-script of the book takes place at Heinz Field during Steelers-Eagles exhibition game in 2003. I was not aware of this at the time, but Dan Rooney staged a "turn back the clock" night for that game to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Steagles' 1943 season. Six living members of the Steagles were introduced and honored at halftime that night. A nice touch.

Oh, and here is a little known fact that Algeo talks about. The original franchise that Art Rooney was granted for Pittsburgh by the NFL is NOT the beloved Black & Gold that the Steelers Nation of today adores. No, that franchise is now the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Steelers of today, the Steelers with the six Lombardi Trophies, was originally from Philadelphia. I'll not spell out the details here, but it's true. You can look it up.

The second book is "Hound Dog, the Leiber and Stoller Autobiography" by, naturally, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The recent death of Jerry Leiber prompted me to check this 2009 book out of the library. I wrote about Leiber and Stoller at the time of Jerry's death last month, so I won't belabor it here.

I will say that it is a fascinating tale. Leiber and Stoller met as teenagers in Los Angeles in the late 1940's and for over sixty years, their's was a musical partnership that contributed so much to popular music, rock & roll, and rythm and blues. As one critic put it, it would be hard to imagine what American popular music and culture would be like if Leiber and Stoller had never met.

One thing amazed me about them. Throughout the book, they told stories of how they needed to come up with songs at a moment's notice, and were able to do so. For example, they sat at a piano and wrote "Hound Dog" in less than twenty minutes, and the book is full of stories like that. I am in awe of truly creative people.

Incidentally, the "Hound Dog" that Leiber & Stoller wrote for blues singer Big Momma Thornton, was very different from the "Hound Dog" that Elvis Presley recorded and that we all know so well. In fact, Leiber & Stoller never much cared for Elvis' version. That didn't stop them from cashing the checks, however. It didn't stop them from loving Elvis, either, and the stories dealing with Elvis in the book are great.

"Laughter in the Rain"

For those of you who are not a "friend" of mine on Facebook, I attach the following link to a great Neil Sedaka performance on video:

While out on our morning walk today, it began to rain, which made me think of this song, which I looked up on YouTube, which I then posted on Facebook and dedicated to my daily* walking partner and lovely bride of almost 37 years.

So, now Grandstander readers get it, too.

*Okay, so it's not quite "daily", but close enough!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Birthday Greetings.....

.....go out today to Raquel Welch, born this day in 1940.

Still gettin' it done at 71!!!

On Putters

Earlier this summer I noted with regret that Adam Scott, once considered a Young Lion of the PGA Tour, was now using a long putter. Three weeks ago, Keegan Bradley, age 25 for God's sake, won the PGA Championship in thrilling fashion while using a belly putter. This was the first time a major championship was won by a golfer using a non-standard putter.

Then this past Friday, Phil Mickelson, one of the greatest golfers of his era, if not of all time, shows up at the the FedEx playoff event with a belly putter. Say it ain't so, Lefty, say it ain't so.

Ben Hogan is no doubt spinning like a lathe in his grave.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pitt 35 - Buffalo 16

The Todd Graham Era of Pitt Football began tonight with a 35-16 win over thirty point underdog Buffalo, but it wasn't easy. In fact, the Panthers went into the locker room at halftime with a shaky 7-3 lead. An interception early in the third quarter gave Pitt a short field that led to a TD and a 14-3 lead. After that, they did manage to reel off a couple of nice touchdown drives that gave an indication of what Graham's much talked about High Octane football will be all about. Ray Graham rushed for over 200 yards, and the Panthers pulled away for the nineteen point win.

After watching the first half, my initial smart-ass comment was that you can't run Graham's high octane offense with Dave Wannstadt's low octane players. OK, it's a cheap shot, I'll grant you that, but I do think that the players that Graham inherited are not the types of players that he wants to use to run his wide open spread offense. Let's face it, Tino Sunseri will never be confused with Cam Newton. Still, the first game is in the books, the Panthers are 1-0, and the decidedly weak Big East Conference lies before them. Let's hope that it's going to be a fun season for the Panthers.

You may have noticed that I mentioned that I "watched" the game. You may ask, but the game wasn't televised and you weren't at Heinz Field, so how did you watch it? Well, I took a step into the 21st century and watched the game via video streaming on This was a new, first-time experience for me. The video did not come through on my iPad2 (probably has something to do with bandwith or some such thing), but it did come through on my laptop. At times the picture was quite clear, but often it was jerky, blurred, and not real smooth. It reminded me of days back in the early 1960's when we would try to watch something on Channel 6 in Johnstown or Channel 9 in Steubenville, with a snowy picture and Frank constantly jiggling the antenna wires that came down through the chimney and connected to the back of the black & white TV. It beat listening to Bourbon-Nosed Billy Hillgrove on the radio, but I'll take the sofa and my 47 inch Vizio HD over the office chair and the 16 inch laptop every time.

Broadcasting the game was former Channel 2 sports guy and Pirates announcer John Sanders. Man, was he bland. His color commentator was some former coach named John Bunting. I had never heard of the guy, but he left no cliche unturned, and every player on the field was a "young man." (Aside: college football players are always referred to as "young men" while college basketball players are always referred to as "kids." Why is that?) Sanders always addressed him as "Coach."

I heard the beginning of the game on the radio while driving home from 5:30 Mass, so, in addition to the cheer leading of Bill Hilgrove, I also heard new Pitt color guy Pat Bostick. Didn't hear enough to give an informed opinion, but I heard enough to think that he'll be a big improvement over the droning of Bill Fralic.

Also, radio sponsor Que Dobe Mexican Restaurant jumped on the Graham Bandwagon by advertising their special "high octane burrito." Now, I'm no advertising guy, but I have to think that this is something that is going to misfire big time. There are also about a half-dozen cheap laugh lines that spring immediately to mind, but I am going to take a pass on all of them at the moment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Will Roger Do

It was announced today that the Indy Colts hired disgraced former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to work as a reply review coach to work in the booth at their games. Recall that Hangin' Judge Roger Goodell suspened Terrelle Pryor for five games for something that he did as a college player. That Goodell could do that is of dubious legality, but the NFLPA rolled over without protest. Now the question is should the same justice prevail for the college coach who allowed Pryor and his teammates to run roughshod over the NCAA rulebook? Seems to me that the NFLPA had better scream bloody murder unless Tressel is allowed anywhere near a Colts game, or a Colts paycheck, for the same five games that Pryor will spend in NFL purgatory.

Roger Goodell has done what I thought was impossible and pit me in a position to semi-defend Terrelle Pryor.

The Pirates Want My Opinion

So, I get an email from the Pirates the other day inviting me to take an on-line survey. They really value and need my opinions, the email says.

So, I click on the link and begin taking the survey. I am 38% into the survey, when it dawns on me that all of the questions up to that point were about the ball park experience, team promotions, give-away items, and post-game concerts. No questions about, you know, actual baseball as played by the team on the field. No questions about the Overbay, Diaz, and Olsen free agent signings. No questions about Ronny Cedeno running out infield ground balls. No questions about Pedro Alvarez' plate discipline.

I really hate it when people say that all the Pirates care about is "fireworks and bobbleheads" because I really and truly do not believe that. However, as I was taking that survey, it made me wonder what the priorities really are at 115 Federal Street.

In fairness, I did quit the survey after 38%, so maybe the player evaluation questions were somewhere in the final 62% of the survey.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Woe is the Pirates

The Pirates closed out the month of August last night with an 8-22 record, and they did it in a somewhat spectacular manner by being swept by the pathetic Houston Astros. To make the cheese even more binding, they began September today by losing to the crummy LA Dodgers and pitcher Dana Eveland. You may recall that Eveland is a stiff pitcher that Neal Huntington traded for last season, but quickly jettisoned when they realized how lousy he was. Not so lousy that he couldn't handcuff the Pirates today, apparently, so what does that tell you?

That Mike McKenry home run against the Cubs in July seems a million years ago, doesn't it?

High Octane Opener

While out driving in the rain this morning, I heard Pitt Coach Todd Graham interviewed on The Fan. If you have heard Graham and all of his "high octane" schtick, you know that he is corny and cliched, but I have to confess that I kind of like it. Certainly, Graham runs the risk of being ridiculed for all of the bluster and high octane stuff (high octane bluster?) should the Panthers stink up the joint, but you have to like his enthusiasm and optimism, especially as it contrasts to the conservative nature of Dave Wandstadt and the John Russell-like demeanor of Walt Harris.

I am looking forward to the Pitt opener this Saturday, and to the entire season ahead.

Go Panthers!

And on the subject of college football, while I will only hear the Pitt game on the radio, I do plan on being at Joe Walton Stadium on Saturday afternoon to watch the Robert Morris Colonials open their 2012 campaign against the Dayton Flyers.

Go Colonials!