Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Discovering (and Supporting) a New Artist

At this time I would like to introduce you to Sean Millroy and Itanza Saraz, who perform together under the name Sle (pronounced "slay"; the letter e has one of those ' over it, but I cannot make my keyboard do that).  Sean is the son of Kathy Millroy, a friend and fellow volunteer at the Highmark Caring Place.  Sean is a graduate of Seneca Valley High School and Belmont University in Tennessee.

Sle has just released an EP collection of songs called "Autumn Cadence" that I believe is worth your effort to hear.  The five songs in the collection were co-written by Sean and Ms. Saraz.  Itanza does the vocals on the songs, and Sean played the guitar and other instruments.  The songs are a kind of blend of blues and jazz, and make very nice listening.

You can listen to Autumn Cadence by clicking on the following link:

You can support Sle and download Autumn Cadence into you own personal music library by accessing this link:

The site allows you to make a contribution to Sle in any amount that you wish.  Think of it as virtual tip jar.

I met Sean one night last week, and I learned a bit about how the music business operates in the 21st century.   No more do up and coming artists seek the means to make a record and have a label produce and market an album for them, and yes, I still use such arcane terms as "record" and "album".  In this case, Sean and Itanza were able to produce and record their songs and release them as MP3 files via the Internet.

As a friend of  mine often says, someone is join got be the next great doctor or the next great judge or the next great film director or the next great singer/songwriter. Someone is going to do those things, and who is to say that next great singing duo won't be Sle?  I would urge you to click on the above links and listen to the music, and then consider offering your support to them.  

Who knows, ten or fifteen years from now, you may see Sean and Itanza collecting a Grammy Award on television, and you will be able to say that you were there on the ground floor when they were just starting out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Movie Review: "Spotlight"

Few movies have had more buzz prior to its release as has "Spotlight".  Critics have been fairly unanimous in their praise, and it is a dead certain cinch to be nominated for a passel of Academy Awards, and may well be the odds on favorite for the Best Picture of the Year.  It has also been called the best movie EVER about the newspaper business, something that might be hard for fans of "All the President's Men" to accept.  In fact, so much has been made about that opinion, that I had cause to wonder, "Do newspaper critics love this movie because it is a great movie, or do they love it because it is a great movie about newspapers?"

The movie takes place in 2001-02 when the special investigative reporting team of the Boston Globe undertakes an investigation into the sexual abuse scandals that were occurring over a period of decades in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.  Specifically, the investigation's focus centered on the institutional cover up by the Archdiocese and the legal community in Boston.

The subject matter is such that I suspect that many people will choose not to see this movie.  Fine.  However, it needs to be noted that this, tragically, is a true story.  These events really did take place.  

That aside, is this a good movie?  It absolutely is.  It depicts the work that goes into reporters cultivating sources, digging for the facts, hitting dead ends, wearing out shoe leather, and making sure that the story gets told and told correctly.  It is a thriller, and the very nature of the story is such that you are moved and deeply affected by the story.  As a piece of motion picture art, this is a terrific movie.  Any awards that this movie garners in the awards season ahead will be well deserved.

Directed by Tom McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with Josh Singer, "Spotlight" includes a terrific ensemble cast....Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.  Not sure if any one actor will dominate the Oscars.  Surely Ruffalo and Keaton will receive acting nominations, and I wouldn't be upset if Tucci received one either.  The Oscars do not have an award for Best Ensemble Cast (as the Screen Actors Guild does), but if it did, the "Spotlight" would be a cinch for it.

Lots of good lines in this movie, but the one that was a real grabber to me was "If it takes a village to raise a child, then it also takes a village to abuse one."

Four stars all the way for this one.

A Great CD From An Unlikely Duo

I received an early Christmas present yesterday from some old friends.  It is the newly released CD "Cheek to Cheek" by the unlikely (to me, anyway) duo of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, and let me tell you, it is one terrific album.  Yes, I still call them albums!  As you can see from the play list above, it is a collection of standards from Cole Porter to Duke Ellington to Sonny Bono.

Tony Bennett is 89 years old and has released over 70 albums (there's that word again) in a career that began during the Harry Truman Administration.  Listen to him on this CD and he sounds as smooth and good as ever.  

As for Lady Gaga, if you think that she is nothing but a gimmicky pop singer getting by with outrageous costumes and too many tattoos, think again.  If her performance on last year's Academy Awards show didn't convince you that she is a terrific and serious musical talent, then listening to this CD certainly will.  If you think "Ella Fitzgerald" as you listen to the tunes on "Cheek to Cheek", you would not be off base.

Pop this into your car CD player or plug in your iPod earbuds and enjoy some real listening pleasure.

"A Servant To Two Masters" at the PPT

We took in the second play of the Pittsburgh Public Theater's 2015-16 season the other night.  It is "A Servant to Two Masters".  It is a comedy written in 1764 in Italy by a playwright named Carlo Goldoni.  It is an example of the type pf theatrical production called commedia dell'arte, a term that I remember from college literature classes, but which I could certainly not define today.  Anyway, if the idea of a European play written 251 years ago is turning you off, don't let it do so.  (The PPT program describes Carlo Goldoni as "a sort of 18th century Judd Apatow", so that should give you an idea of what you are in for.)

The plot of the play is kind of hard to summarize - mistaken identity, double dealing, sexual innuendo, and farce are just a few concepts that spring to mind.  The Sproule jury offered a split decision on the play.  Marilyn thought that it was "just okay". I thought it was very funny.  In fact, I was laughing out loud in several parts of the show.

As is usual with the PPT, this is excellently staged with a lively and attractive cast.  The central character, the "servant" of the title, is Truffaldino, as played by Jimmy Kieffer,

is loud, boisterous, funny, and a wonderful character.  This was Kieffer's first appearance with the PPT, and I hope that he will become a regular there in future productions.  He was really good in the role.

And the show ends with a rousing cast and audience sing-along of a song that will make you leave the theater feeling good. 

The play runs through December 6 at he O'Reilly Theater, and I would recommend it with three stars (out of four).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Men in Green" by Michael Bamberger

If you are a golfer, watch professional golf on television, or if you're just a golf nerd who  appreciates the history of the game, I cannot recommend to you highly enough that you read "Men in Green" by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger.  As teenager in the 1970's, when the PGA Tour was, and he puts it, in it's "Sansabelt-and-persimmon heyday", Bamberger fell in love with the game. He supported himself through college and in his early sports writing days as a Tour caddy, and went on to write about the game in various newspapers, as a freelancer for golf magazines, and, now, with Sports Illustrated.  He has also written a number of books on the subject.

For "Men in Green", he drew up a list of nine of golf's Living Legends, and nine of what he calls his own Secret Legends.  The Living Legends are whom you would expect - Palmer, Nicklaus, Venturi, Watson etc.  The Secret Legends are some folks you may never have heard of - a couple of caddies, a TV executive, a retired USGA official, an instructor, a sportswriter, and one golfer, Mike Donald.  He then sets out to interview all of these legends to try to find what he calls the soul of golf.  He is accompanied for most of his journey by Secret Legend Mike Donald, who he characterizes as the ultimate Tour grinder.

A word or two about Mike Donald.  Golf nerds will remember Donald as a thirty-five year old guy who came out of nowhere in 1990 to finish in a tie for the lead at the US Open.  He lost in an 18 hole playoff with a 19th sudden death hole to Hale Irwin.  It was the highlight of Donald's career.  In a career that spanned thirty-some years, Donald played in 550 PGA Tour events, made 296 cuts, won once, and earned $1.97 million (or about what Jordan Speith earned in any two given weeks on Tour in 2015).  He played thirty to thirty-five events every year and never finished higher than 22nd on the money list.  As Bamberger put it, while players like Tiger and Phil and Rory can drop in and drop out on tour events as it suits them, it is guys like Donald who are at the very heart and soul of the Tour, and Donald's insights are very much a key part of this book.

Two members of Bamberger's Legends list emerge as the featured players in this book.  One of them, as you might guess, is Arnold Palmer, and the other is Ken Venturi, whose careers managed to intertwine on the twelfth hole of the final round at the 1958 Masters.  Palmer invoked a rule that allowed him to play a second ball when he felt tat he was not granted relief from an embedded ball.  (As is often the case with the sometimes arcane Rules of Golf, the details are too lengthy to go into here, so just trust me on this.) The invocation of this rule, which was ultimately upheld by the Masters Rules officials, allowed Palmer to score a three rather than a five on the hole.  He finished ahead of Venturi by one stroke in winning his first Masters.  Venturi thought that Palmer was wrong and that he, Venturi, got jobbed by the Augusta National officials.

Palmer went on from that first Major Championship win to become, well, Arnold Palmer, and while Venturi went on to have pretty good life (multiple tour wins, a US Open win in 1964, a storied career as broadcaster on CBS, and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame), he never had the life that he envisioned for himself, the life that that Masters win would have brought him, and he became a pretty bitter guy over it.  Bamberger interviewed him not long before he died in 2013, and the anger and bitterness towards Palmer and the folks at Augusta National (which stems from something that happened to him at the 1956 Masters, but that is a whole 'nother story, as they say), was with him to the very end.  And that same story ultimately came up with many of the other "legends" that Bamberger encountered in gathering material for the book.  He even spoke to Venturi's first wife, and that was one of the more eye-opening parts of the book.

Another part that I found interesting was Palmer talking about "the edge" that all top level golfers have to have in order to continually succeed on the Tour.  Palmer himself says that winning a US Open was an obsession with him, and that after he won it in 1960, he was never the same. "After you win it, you have to stay aggressive, stay the way you were when you won it.  And it's difficult to do."  In other words, he had lost his "edge".  Strange when you consider that after that 1960 Open, Palmer went on the win dozens of other Tour events, including two British Opens and two more Masters.  However, he never won another Open, although he seriously contended for the Championship five more times over the years, and lost two of them in playoffs.  

In speaking about the hard to define edge, Palmer went on to say "It's so fine.  You have to get in there and you have to stay in there, and once you get out, it's very hard to get back in.  It's happened to every golfer. Hogan, Nicklaus. Every golfer. It's just a question of when."

Interestingly, when Bamberger talked to Jack Nicklaus about that 1960 Open, a tournament that Jack, then a twenty year old amateur, led for a brief point during the final round, Nicklaus said that not winning that Open was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was too young and had he won, he would have felt that his game was ready for anything, when, by not winning, he knew that it was not.  The rest of the Nicklaus Story is history.

Anyway, I would say that this book is 260 pages of must reading for any golf fan.  Really good stuff that I could write on and on about, but read it, because, trust me, Bamberger is a much better writer than I.  However, I will leave you with one more comment about Palmer, this one from the guy who may know him the best, Jack Nicklaus.  Nicklaus, who says that "Arnold is as close a friend as I've got" was making a reference about how good Palmer is in a crowd  and at golf course openings, something with which both of them have spent much of their post-playing days doing.  This is Nickalus' quote:

"I don't want to cut the ribbon or do the cocktail party. Arnold wants to cut the ribbon. He wants to do the cocktail party. We were always different that way. I'd invite Arnold to dinner, but Arnold would rather go to a party with forty people he didn't know than go to dinner with one friend. That's the difference between the two of us. I'm not criticizing Arnold. We're just different."

Terrific book.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Revisiting A Classic

Any list of all-time great mystery novels will probably include Agatha Christie's 1933 novel,"Murder on the Orient Express".  The novel was written when Agatha Christie was at her prime and it featured her famous fictional detective, Hercule Poirot.

Most people, I would suppose, are more familiar with this story as a result of the 1974 movie version of this story.  This movie was directed by Sidney Lumet, and it starred Albert Finney as Poirot, a role for which he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, and an all-star cast that included Ingrid Bergman, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this movie.

In the story, Poirot finds himself a passenger on a filled to capacity passenger coach on the Istanbul-to-Calais Orient Express on a three day trip across Europe.  On the first might out, two significant events take place.  The train hits a snowdrift and and is stranded somewhere in the middle of the Balkans, and one of the passengers is brutally murdered in his compartment, which is right next to Poirot's compartment.

The murdered man's compartment is locked from the inside, the victim's watch is broken so the time of death can be firmly established, a pipe cleaner is found on the floor of the compartment, as is a conductor's uniform button, but no one on the Calais Coach had any motive or reason to murder the dead man.  Or did they?  A railroad official also traveling on the train asks Poirot to take on the case and determine a solution before the tracks are cleared and the local police can reach the train.

The solution to the mystery is what has made this one of Christie's most famous books and why it occupies so many "Best Mysteries" lists. However, this may be one case where the movie that was made from this novel actually outshines the book.  I have read this book several times over the years, but it has probably been at least thirty-five or so years since I last read it, and what I read this time did not hold up to my memory of my enjoyment of the book the first time that I read (which I did well before the movie was produced).  How Poirot reached his conclusions involved some seemingly incomprehensible leaps of reasoning at times.  I also thought that the phrasing sometimes seemed arcane, and Poirot's frequent use of French phrases was a bit annoying.

If you have neither read this book nor seen the movie, I would highly recommend that you do both, but read the book first.  For someone who knows only the 1974 film version of this story, the book might prove to be a disappointment.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Morning Football Thoughts

Pitt's 31-13 victory over Pitt yesterday was an impressive one and an important one.  It boosted their record to 7-3 and kept their hopes alive, however dim they may be, to capture the ACC Coastal Division and getting a chance to play in the ACC Championship Game.  It also proved that they could beat a pretty good team on the road, and do it in fairly convincing fashion.  With two home games remaining, it is not unreasonable to think that Pitt can fashion and 8-4 or even a 9-3 season, and a chance to play in an upper echelon Between-Christmas-and-New-Year's-Day bowl game.

Who saw that coming last December when yet another Pitt coach was fleeing Oakland to take yet another dream job, and the new guy would be coming in and reaping a less than complete recruiting class for his first season?  I should probably wait until the after the final game to see this, but I say that Pat Narduzzi now becomes one of the leading candidates for the Dapper Dan Man of the Year Award for 2015.


On the Pro Side of the House, the Steelers take on the Hated Browns today.  By all rights, this one should be an easy W for Rooney U., but for the following reasons, it could also end up in disaster.  First and foremost, Ben Roethlisberger will be sitting out this one due to that injured foot, and secondly, the Steelers in recent years have shown an uncanny ability to lose to crummy teams, including these same Browns last year.  If you haven't already done so, I recommend Gene Collier's column in this morning's Post-Gazette, who spells out, in his usual entertaining manner, how this could be one big pitfall for the Steelers.

We will see how it unfolds on the Heinz Field greensward this afternoon.  In any event, the annual tilts with the Brownies are always fun to watch.


Speaking of the Browns, for even the most hardened Steelers fans who harbor a lifelong dislike for the Cleveland football team, I am guessing that most of those people would concede that the Browns always had a classic uniform, as modeled by this guy:

As has become the case these days throughout  all sports, especially in the NCAA and now the NFL, the Browns went to new uniforms for 2015, and can we all agree that they are absolutely hideous?

I know it's all about marketing, and selling jerseys to the suckers fans who continue to put down big bucks for these rags.  The Steelers get criticized all the time for those bumblebee throwbacks that they wear, but at least they only pull those out for two games a year, and  the classic Black-and-Gold uni remains unchanged, although I do wish that they would go back to the "block" font for the numerals ("Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!")  Lifelong, die-hard Browns fans, and I know many of them, after having watched years of incompetence since the franchise came back into the NFL, have to really be sickened by this aesthetic nightmare of a uniform.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Notre Dame 42 - Pitt 30

I will leave the debate as to exactly where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish belong in the national rankings.  Going into the weekend, the wire service polls had them at #8, the Committee with Condoleezza Rice On It had them at #5, and after yesterday's game at Heinz field, who's going to argue?  

I suppose that many Pitt fans hearkened back to 2013 when Pitt upset Notre Dame at Heinz Field,  It was the only upset win and the only signature victory for the Panthers in the Paul Chryst Era.  Could it happen again in 2015?  Well, those thoughts were pretty much dispelled when ND gained 19, 9, and 47 yards on their first three plays from scrimmage and took a 7-0 lead.  It was pretty much downhill from there for Pitt.  The twelve point margin reflected by the 42-30 final score is not indicative of the dominance of Notre Dame over Pitt.

So, what are Pitt fans to make of this?  Pat Narduzzi won't be, and, really, he cannot be, totally honest when evaluating his team in public, but when he talks to himself in the shaving mirror each morning, I am sure that he has been saying ever since he took this job, that the level of talent currently at Pitt cannot measure up with the "big boys" of college football, and that was sure evident yesterday, and by arriving at his position late, he was only able to recruit 15 players for this year's team.  However, despite all of that, Pitt still is in a position where they are competing and still in the hunt for their division lead in the ACC, which would put them in a position to play Clemson in the ACC title game.  Give Narduzzi and his staff a couple full years of recruiting, and it would appear that Pitt will be competitive in the ACC in the years ahead.  The fact that Pitt is 6-3 at this point would indicate that Narduzzi knows how to coach 'em up come game day.

Remaining for Pitt is a road game at Duke and home games with Louisville and Miami.  I am thinking that Pitt could be competitive in all of those games.  I would gladly settle for two of three and an 8-4 record and a trip to between-Christmas-and-New-Year's-Day-bowl game.  That would be a major step forward from the three season 19-19 record of mediocrity of the Chryst Era.

To Absent Friends - Charles Herbert

Well, now it's time for another of those oddball obituaries that may appeal only to me.  This time it is to note the death of actor Charles Herbert, who died of a heart attack in Las Vegas  last week at the age of 66.

Charles Herbert

Charles Herbert Saperstein was a child actor who, according to IMDB, had sixty-six acing credits over a career that spanned 1954 to 1968.  He appeared in TV shows like The Donna Reed Show, Twilight Zone, 77 Sunset Strip, Playhouse 90, My Three Sons, and Wagon Train.  He appeared an a number of feature films and can include co-stars the likes of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Lucille Ball, Vincent Price, Doris Day, David Niven, Sophia Loren, and Cary Grant.  Pretty good stuff, but now for the bad part.

At his height, young Mr. Herbert was earning $1,600 per week (the equivalent of $13,000 in 2015 dollars), but when adulthood came, he career as an actor was pretty much over.  And as is often the case, Herbert found that for all that he had earned in his young life the only money that was put away for him amounted to about $1,700.  A downward spiral into addiction issues followed.  After battling those demons for most of his adult life, Herbert claimed to be clean and sober since 2004, and he turned to the world of nostalgia and appeared at various Fan Fests, Comic Cons, and SciFi conventions to sustain himself.  He had no family of his own, and was survived only by one brother.

Through the magic of Facebook, I have become Facebook Friends with a couple of former child stars who could be considered contemporaries of Herbert's.  Fortunately, their lives did not follow the pattern of Charles Herbert and so many other child stars.  One of Herbert's former co-stars from both The Donna Reed Show and the feature film "Houseboat", Paul Petersen, runs an organization called A Minor Consideration that provides both financial and emotional support to both present and former child actors who were victimized as Charles Herbert was. 

RIP Charles Herbert.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Movie Review: "SPECTRE" (contains no spoilers)

Yep, we were there for the first showing on opening day for "SPECTRE", the 24th James Bond movie, and Daniel Craig's fourth go-round as the world's most famous double-naught spy.  It is great to be retired!  And, as one of the characters says in the movie, "It's good to have you back Double-O Seven."  Indeed.

You want to know what the movie is about? Well, I am not sure that I could tell you, but, after all, are comprehensible plot lines what you really go to James Bond movies to see?  Well, I suppose that one plot point could be the danger of a world of computer and digital networks more terrifying than anything that George Orwell ever imagined, but, C'MON MAN, that is not, as I said, why we go to see Bond, James Bond.  You just have to go to this movie, sit back and let it flow over you.  You will see some amazing location shots: Mexico City, the Austrian mountains, the Tunisian dessert, Rome, and, of course, London. You will see amazing chase sequences, four by my count, five by the count of Mrs. Grandstander, depends on how you define "chase", I guess, lots of explosions, and the requisite number of pretty women.  

The Bond villain is played with great evil gusto by two time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, and the "Bond girl" is thirty year old French actress Lea Seydoux, who has just the slightest gap between her two front teeth that I found to be quite attractive and sexy, but that's just me.

It is non-stop action, and a whole lot of fun, and if you wait until the very end of the interminable credits, which I did because I wanted to see this, you will see that standard tag line....JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.  From what I have read, though, SPECTRE may have been Craig's last turn as Bond.  If that is to be the case, I think that most will agree that he has played the role well, but as Mrs Grandstander said when we left the theater, "He's no Sean Connery."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My New Gig

When I retired in 2010, one of the very first things that I did was sign on as a volunteer at the Heinz History Center, and for much of the past five plus years I have served as docent at the History Center, mainly conducting tours for school children ranging in age from third grade to high school senior.  I enjoyed it immensely, but last winter I kind of reached my limit ("burn out" is way too strong a term) as a docent, so I took a step back for a few months.  Not wanting to disassociate myself entirely with this terrific Pittsburgh institution, I asked HHC Human Resources Director Renee Falbo and Volunteer Coordinator Ellen DeNinno what other volunteer opportunities might be available.

It was Ellen who came up with the idea of using me as a History Center Ambassador to speak to some groups in the area who might not have the time windows or the financial resources to request a visit from a full-fledged History Center Ambassador.  They asked me if I was willing to give that a try, and today was my first gig.  I spoke to the weekly luncheon meeting of the Greentree Rotary Club this afternoon, and I really had a blast.

Let's face it, I love being retired, but there was something nice today about putting on a sport coat and speaking to a group of twenty-five people about a topic that was interesting, fun, and something that I care about.  I was promoting the Heinz History Center, and face it, that's a lot more fun than talking to a group of employees about how their health insurance plan is going to change and cost them more money.

I am grateful to both Renee and Ellen for coming up with this idea, and I hope that I can do a lot more of these engagements in the months ahead.  If you are a part of a group that needs speakers for lunch or dinner meetings, let me know, and I can put you in touch with the right people at the History Center to get it lined up. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Royals Win, and A Long Winter Ahead for Collins and Harvey

First and foremost, congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for their four games to one World Series victory over the New York Mets.  They were clearly the better team, and they earned that Championship, and they did it in convincing and dramatic fashion.  So, good for them!

But let's talk about what everyone else outside of Kansas City will be talking about after that Game Five win - the decision by Mets manager Terry Collins to allow Matt Harvey, whose valiant efforts through the eight innings of that game cannot be overstated, to pitch the ninth inning, despite having reached what was most likely a prohibitive pitch count, despite having his closer ready to go in the ninth, despite this being a game that the Mets absolutely, positively HAD to win in order to extend the Series.  Actually, that was not Collins' initial decision.  He wanted to pull Harvey and go with his closer to start the ninth, but we all know what happened:  Harvey balked at being told he was through for the night, and talked his manager into letting him start the ninth, wherein he gave up a walk and a double, was removed from the game, a game which the Royals tied in the ninth and won in the twelfth.

Collins will no doubt be lambasted for sending Harvey back out there to pitch the ninth, but I put a big heaping helping of blame on Harvey himself for refusing to be pulled and insisting that he stay in the game.  On one hand you can say he was being a tough, determined, and gritty competitor, and on the other hand you can say that he was being an ego driven, selfish, me-first modern day ballplayer who was putting his own desires ahead of what was best for the team.  With the team's very existence in the World Series at stake, I come down in the latter camp.

Of course, Collins let himself be talked into sending Harvey back out there to pitch.  He is the Boss, nominally, and in the most critical decision of the season, he allowed the inmate to run the asylum.  That never usually works out well, and it killed the Mets.  And Collins compounded his mistake when, after Harvey walked the lead off batter, at which point Harvey should have been yanked, he let him pitch to still one more batter, Eric Hosmer, who promptly doubled and cut the Mets lead to 2-1.  As soon as that happened, I said to Marilyn, "The Mets are done, KayCee is going to win this game."  And that is what happened.

When I occlude writing this post, I am going to peruse the Internet to see what the New York writers have had to say about the bizarre maneuverings in the ninth inning.  I am guessing that it won't be pretty.  Collins will deserve whatever brickbats rain down upon him, but I hope that Matt Harvey gets roasted a bit, too.  He deserves it.


A four games to one World Series victory would make it appear that it was lopsided and dull Series, but that was not the case.  Three of the Royals victories took place after the Royals were trailing the Mets, in the eighth inning in Game Four and the ninth inning in Games One and Five, and those Game One and Five wins came in extra innings.  They never ceased putting pressure on the Mets, and once they grabbed the Mets by the throats, they never let go.  They were absolutely relentless in the way they went about their business in the World Series, and they are a most worthy Champion.


Okay, now for the "Hey, you kids, get off my lawn" segment of the post.  The Royals victories in Games One, Four, and Five were remarkable contests.  Thrilling and dramatic in ways that only baseball on the major league level can offer.  Game One ended after 1:00 AM in the east, and Game Five, the final game, ended after Midnight.  

So, how many people actually saw these marvelous baseball games?  Relatively few.  I did, and I only saw them because I'm retired.  If I had to get up to go to work in the morning, there is no way that I would have seen these games, and what a shame that is.  For sure, no school age kids saw them.  (Perhaps the fact that the "retiree demographic" was the only one watching these games explains the bewildering number of pharmacological products that were sponsors of the telecasts, but I digress.)

Anyway, this is an old and tired argument that has been taking place ever since MLB agreed to night World Series games, and we all know why - Television Money.  It's not going to change.  Too bad for everyone.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Fargo", Season Two

We are now three episodes into the second season of the FX Network's "Fargo". Based on the Coen Brothers' fabulous 1996 movie, last season's series might well have been the best show on television. The second season started a little slower, but three episodes in, I am hooked for the duration.

This season takes place in 1979 and some of the characters from last season, which took place in 2004, are in this one as well, although as their much younger selves, and by the way, the non-linear method of the telling of theses stories only contribute to the quirkiness of the series, and helps to make it so good.

In this season, a shocking crime takes place in a Luverne, Minnesota Waffle Hut.  The crime is investigated by the local sheriff, played by Ted Danson, and his Minnesota State Trooper Lou Solverson, played by Patrick Wilson.  A local housewife (Kirsten Dunst) unwittingly gets involved in the crime because of some very poor decision making by her and her husband.  A crime family headed by Jean Smart headquartered in Fargo, ND, gets involved, as does representatives of a Mafia Family out of Kansas City.  

I know, it sounds complicated, but stick with it and you will be drawn into it quickly.  The series has all the hallmarks of the movie and the first season - the funny accents, the shocking amount of violence and the nonchalant attitude towards it, as well as the quirky characters.  Oh, and if you have fond memories of the wood chipper from the movie, you will be drawn to the role played by, so far, a butcher's shop meat grinder and a truckload of hot asphalt in this current season.

"Fargo" is not for the squeamish, but it is an incredibly well done a well presented television show. I highly recommend it.

Sunday Morning Sporting Thoughts.....

The big news in Pittsburgh sports today will be the return of this guy to the playing field:

(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Steelers managed to go 2-2 in Ben Roethlisberger's absence, which is better than many of us had hoped, to be perfectly honest.  Here's hoping that Ben won't be too rusty today as the the Steelers take on the 6-0 Cincy Bengals today in a key AFC North match-up.  Let's face it, based on that defensive performance against the Chiefs last week, the team is going to need Roethlisberger at the top of his game from here on out.

The other thing the Steelers have going for them is that today's opponent is the Cincy Bengals.  Yeah, I know that they are undefeated, but there is always the possibility that they will revert being the, well, the Cincy Bengals.


That was a tough loss that Pitt suffered at the hands of North Carolina this past Thursday night.  North Carolina was clearly a better team than Pitt, so that 26-19 result was probably a just one.  Still, one can look at how Pitt made adjustments and played a better second half.  The coaches seem to know what to do to make in-game adjustments, and the players are clearly buying into it.  That's a good sign.  Also, one wonders what might have been had two UNC fumbles been recovered by Pitt when they occurred, but they weren't, so it's time to move on.

Pitt now faces two straight games where they figure to be underdogs, home with Notre Dame and at Duke, before finishing up with home games with Louisville and Miami.  would be nice to see the Panthers split those remaining games and end up at 8-4 (and what Pitt fan would not have signed on for that at the beginning of the year?), but it's not going to be easy.  Still, I wouldn't discount what this team might be able to do in these remaining four games.


Speaking of college football, let me highly recommend this book to you:

Check out the subtitle: "A Journey Through the Big Money Culture of College Football."  There's nothing in here that any serious fan didn't know or at least suspect, but Gilbert Gaul, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, has put together a well researched and well written book about this topic. Delving into this topic oft-times makes you want to take a shower, but as I have stated before, I buy the tickets, and I watch the games on TV, so I am a part of the problem, too.


So, Steven Matz did his job last night, as did Michael Conforto, and the New York Mets were five outs away from evening the World Series at two game apiece.  What followed is what makes baseball such a great game: two Tyler Clippard walks, a Daniel Murphy error, and a seeing-eye single by Salvador Perez, and BOOM!, the Royals are now firmly in control of this Series after a 5-3 win has given them a three games to one advantage over the Mets.  You can't take a knee in baseball.  You've got to get all twenty-seven outs.

Too bad for the Mets, but good for the Royals, who are clearly the better team insofar as the everyday eight man lineup is concerned.  Still, the Mets send Matt Harvey to the mound and momentum is the next game's stating pitcher blah blah blah, so we'll see.  Other teams have overcome being down 3-1, but the Mets are clearly rolling that rock uphill right now.

And by the way, while most of the country was probably watching the Notre Dame-Temple football game last night, they really missed a pretty darn good baseball game, even if you had to listen to Harold Reynolds in the broadcast booth.  Man, he's bad.  And on the subject of the announcers, I was pre-disposed to not like Alex Rodriguez as an analyst, but in the in-game spots that he has done, he has been pretty good.  He is well prepared and at times he seems to want to force every factoid that he has into his comments, but, all in all, I've enjoyed what he's had to say.