Are We Obligated To Go?

October 6, 2011 - Comments Off

WVU first-year head football coach Dana Holgersen ignited a firestorm of controversy in Mountaineer nation – and beyond – when he called out WVU fans for failing to fill the seats last Saturday when the Mounties hosted Bowling Green. Over forty thousand showed up. WVU’s home field seats more than sixty thousand. Weather conditions were not great. It was cold, wet and Bowling Green is not a major draw. Still Holgersen used his Tuesday press conference to “call out” Mountaineer fans and wonder aloud what happened to the Mountaineer faithful he’s heard so much about.

OK, let’s start with the obvious: This is not the way to win over fans as a first-year head coach and the athletic department couldn’t have sold a seat after Tuesday’s remarks. However,the controversy that has ensued misses the real point. This isn’t about whether fans did or did not show up. It’s about whether we have an obligation to be there.

 

WVU coach Dana Holgersen was critical of fans not showing up Saturday in Morgantown. Are the obligated to have to be there?

From Tampa Bay to Morgantown, we have heard from athletes and owners about apathetic fans. Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays have been a play-off contender in recent years and reached the post-season this fall. Tampa Bay fans have let out a big yawn and not shown up en mass. Other franchises throughout history have had issues drawing fans even when they win. Blame it on marketing, economics or location, sometimes fans just don’t show up. Now this may sound like a foreign concept in Pittsburgh where we would never sell our Steeler tickets and even the lowly Pirates just had their fourth best-attended season in team history. However, I think it’s a lot for a team to ask the fans to show up just because they win.

Sports is entertainment, pure and simple. It’s no different from the performing arts, the movie theatres or a music club. It’s a diversion from the everyday issues of life and it tends to be one of the more expensive getaways. This notion of having to “support” the home team is more about history than it is about modern-day life. We all have limited funds to spend on our free time and we should be able to choose where and when we spend it. Are we really “obligated” to support the home team?

I love sports and love going to games, but I shouldn’t be told when I have to go. I don’t think anyone should have to sit in the rain and cold. It should be an option and it should be up to us whether we choose to do so or not. If we don’t want to sit in the elements, it doesn’t make us any less a fan than those who do.

Coach Holgersen can share his feelings and frustrations about the fans of West Virginia. However, he should realize that the fans have the right to determine how invested they want to be. After all, they are fans and last I checked, they are the spending their hard-earned dollars. Nobody has the right to tell anyone how to spend their entertainment dollars … no matter how successful they are on the field.

Young Pittsburgh Shapes Our Future

August 26, 2011 - Comments Off

When I came to Pittsburgh in the mid 90’s, the city was in the process of rebuilding and reinventing itself from the closings of the steel mills. It was undergoing the transformation from an industrial city … to one that would become a center for technological advancement and achievement. At that time, I was 27 and the city was not exactly one that catered to the whims of young people. Back then, the strip was where young Pittsburgh partied and played and we were still years from “America’s Most Livable City”.

Fast forward to today and this city has truly has earned a place on the world stage. From technologies to science, Pittsburgh is the place to be. We have hosted everything from the G-20 to Baseball’s All-Star game and major events of all kinds. Part of what is powering the growth of Pittsburgh is a belief that while we have reinvented ourselves, we have done it with a growing population of younger people. Pittsburgh is already a city of schools and universities. Now, with the creation of new business and infusion of new ideas, young people are playing a more prominent role in Pittsburgh’s future.

“Business Bout”: The six young Pittsburgh professionals looking to fund the next big business thing. Part of a growing group of young Pittsburghers helping our city grow.

We have a young mayor and that’s only the beginning. There are many technology start-ups headed by recent college graduates, like a recent company I found that is designing web technology which will allow you order the perfect fitting shoe on the web by virtually conforming it to the shoe you are currently wearing.

Not every creation by younger Pittsburghers is technology-based. I met Dan Desko a couple of years ago. He was one of the founders of Fresh Factory, makers of vintage t-shirts that have both style and a message. They are sold in many boutiques and stores around town and Desko believes Pittsburgh is prime territory for young entrepreneurs. He is not alone.

I recently did a story about six friends, all under 30 and all successful in their fields, who have decided to back up their belief in Pittsburgh with cold hard cash. The six sponsored a contest called “Business Bout“. The idea was find a new or current business idea and fund it with the $5000 they had raised and well as their own expertise. The goal: to make that business a success here in Pittsburgh.

It’s amazing to see what has transpired in this city in the 16 years I have called this region home and it makes me happy to know the city’s youngest residents have played a key role in reshaping the “Steel City”. There’s never been a better time to be young nd be here. Makes me wish I was still 27.

Keeping Our Kids Fit

July 19, 2011 - Comments Off

You have heard the discussion about childhood obesity. The talk of how our children’s generation is quickly becoming larger than the generation before.  You’ve heard the dire prediction that if this doesn’t change, their life spans might be shortened. This is frightening.

Such dire warnings have  inspired an event that benefitted two worthwhile causes: our children and those who live life without a home. The Kids triathlon series reached its 11th year this past Saturday. It takes place in two different venues ( North Park and South Park ) and was created in part by Congressman Tim Murphy (R). Rep Murphy is also a child psychologist.

Joining congressman Tim Murphy to  welcome another competitpr across the finish line ( photo: Ken Eber ) 

For the past few years, I’ve joined in this effort to inspire kids to be fit and be competitive as well as have fun. While my duties are of the emcee variety, nothing gives me a greater thrill than being at the end of this triathlon and see these children cross the finish line. Some with big smiles, some with flowing tears and others just pleased to be done with this physical challenge. I hand out water or present them a medal, but it never seems to amaze me how they react when they see their parents after this competition.

It’s a 50 meter swim, followed by a one-mile bike ride and a half mile run. That’s for children 7-9. Those distances double for the kids 10-12. The thrill for me is to watch the kids and parents interact. You can see the effort the children are putting in as they push themselves to their physical limit. Then, to watch their parents live or die with every step their kids take along the course. Finally, when these children are done, they get a hug like no other from mom and dad.

It’s an inspirational morning for some 200 children and their families … and for those like me who have the pleasure to volunteer and take part. You know, it doesn’t take a triathlon to keep our kids healthy, but its a goal and a direction for these children to avoid the pitfalls of eating the wrong foods or becoming inactive. It also something to inspire those of us who left our childhood years behind long ago. I know. It inspired me to become a runner.

Loving Pittsburgh, Thanks To Boston

June 26, 2011 - Comments Off

Leave it to a group of guys from my native New England to show me just hos special a place Pittsburgh.

I mean I have lived here 16 years and how many times have I ridden the Duquesne Incline? Twice. How often have I visited the Warhol Museum. Twice maybe. When do I make a point to run up to the observation decks on Mount Washington? I can probably count those visits on two hands.

The point is while we all live in Pittsburgh,  how often do we take the time to visit the sites and landmarks that make Pittsburgh so special . In other words, how often do we put on the tourist hat and travel around our town? Well, I did this weekend and, would you have guessed, it was a group of Red Sox fans who turned me into a tourist.

Walking by PNC Park, I saw a bunch of Red Sox fans standing outside the gates more than 8 hours before the first pitch. Curiosity got the better of me so I asked why. One Red Sox rooter, Alan Gerofsky, brought his group of guys to the gates. Each year, he organized this group of diehard Red Sox fans on a road trip to another major league town. This time, it was Pittsburgh and PNC Park. This morning, he had organized a group tour of  PNC Park … and asked if I wanted to join them.

My new friends from Boston who helped me appreciate Pittsburgh a little bit more ( Courtesy Diane Marshall )

A tour of PNC PARK? I covered the Pirates for their first six seasons at the ballpark and had a season pass. I have been to more than 200 Pirate games and sat in the press box and various seats around the stadium. I figured I had seen it all but then again, no one had ever taken me around the ballpark and really explained the history, I figured why not!

Our tour guide took us from the indoor batting cage to the press box and down onto the field. Our visitors from Boston were impressed with amenities, the views and the incredible view of  downtown Pittsburgh from the press box. Their measuring stick? Only the most beloved ballpark in America: Fenway Park. Still, even the wearer of the Red had to be impressed with Black and Gold. Since I came along for the ride, I was able to add some insight and commentary from my baseball experiences in this ballpark.

Still, I was in awe like the group itself. While I had been inside this park many times, there were stories I had not heard. There were places I did not see until this Saturday morning and there is still the sight of coming out of the dugout and onto the field that takes my breath away every time I stop by the North Shore home of the Pirates.

What this group of buddies and Boston Red Sox fans taught me is this: We always marvel at the sights when we visit other cities, but rarely take the time to take in the tourist spots of Pittsburgh. Whether it be a duck boat tour or a double-decker tourist bus drive through town, take time to be a sightseers in our town.

Who would have thought it would be a group of Bostonians than helped me to take another look at Pittsburgh.

Cross Country Runner Stops By The Burgh

April 28, 2011 - Comments Off

Imagine getting up every morning, knowing you are going to run 40 to 50 miles before the sun sets. Ok you can stop laughing now. This is the reality for Dean Karnazes and he embraces it.

Karnazes is an ultramarathoner who is running the equivalent of two marathons and day and consuming 10,000 calories to power his personal engine, It’s an amazing achievement and this amazing athlete is doing it while he crosses America. Leaving Disneyland in February, he is well ahead of pace to finish in New Y0rk City in May at the studios of “Regis and Kelly”.

A post-race discussion with Dean Karnazes. He’s gone 2500 miles already. Just 450 to go!

So why is he doing something many of us would consider impossible? He says he’s doing it for all the young children who sit on the couch and don’t get out.

Karnazes came to Aiken Elementary in GreenTree Wednesday to spread of the gospel of children staying fit and being active. He pointed to the childhood obesity epidemic which no one denies is harming our children. His message: a healthy lifestyle begin by putting one foot in front of the other.

That figure casting the long shadow in morning sun in GreenTree is yours truly.

So grade school kids, along with adults, joined Karnazes for a 5K around the school, It was hot but it was fun. I joined them for the 3.16 mile run. While I love to run, I’m not marathoner. Ok, I have completed one but I’m not in Dean’s class. However, I understand at this point in my life how critical it is to be active. Let’s just hope the children got the message.

Homemade Savings

April 18, 2011 - Comments Off

Hope you enjoyed Monday’s’ story about Pat Long and her homemade money-saving secrets. She is a great example of how to make a frugal life a fun life. She also left for you some recipes so you can start saving in the confines of your own home. Also, thanks to reporter Sean McDonald of our sister station, WMUR:

PAT LONG’S HOMEMADE RECIPES:

Candied Grapefruit from ” The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” 

2 or 3 oranges or 6 lemons

2 cups sugar

3 Tablespoons light corn syrup

Peel the fruit in large strips, using only the zest & white peel. If the white is very thick, trim it down a little.

Put the peel in a pan, cover with cold water, and simmer for 30 min.

Drain, cover with cold water, and simmer until tender.

Drain & cut the peel into small strips, about 1/4 in. wide & 2 inches long

Mix 1 cup of sugar with the corn syrup & 3/4 cup of water in a heavy saucepan & stir over low heat until dissolved.

Dip a pastry brush in cold water & wash down the sides of the pan, then add peel & cook very gently over low heat until most of the syrup has been absorbed.

Cover & let stand overnight.

Reheat & bring to the simmer again, then cool a little & drain,

Spread several thicknesses of paper towels with the remaining cup of sugar & roll the peel in it, turning so all the pieces are well coated. Let them stand until they are dry enough to handle.

Stored airtight, they will stay fresh for several months.

If they become too dry, put a lemon in the container for a day or two and the peel will soften.

Note: Pat does not use paper towels but use wax paper instead or just put it on a sheet pan. The left over sugar can be used to sweeten a cup of hot tea.

Also, older cookbooks are a good place to find forgotten about recipes & ideas on making do with what you have.

Homemade Laundry Soap

4 Cups – hot tap water

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar

1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*

½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer “Super Washing Soda” – in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Meijer.com). Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent – It must be sodium carbonate!!

 

Powdered Laundry Detergent: Top Load Machine

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar

1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*

½ Cup Borax

Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered.

Mix all ingredientFor light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 Tablespoons.

Yields: 3 Cups detergent. (Approx. 40 loads)

Use *Arm & Hammer “Super Washing Soda” ONLY.

Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent – It must be sodium carbonate!!

Laundry Soap Tops

Pat uses Fels-Naptha bar soap in the homemade soap recipes, but you can use Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile or Zote bars. Don’t use heavily perfumed soaps. We buy Fels-Naptha by the case from our local grocer or online. Washing Soda and Borax can often be found on the laundry or cleaning aisle.

Recipe cost approx. $2 per batch.

Using Vinegar as Fabric Softener: 

- Pat says there is NO odor AFTER the laundry dries, but she admits it’s not quite as soft as some retail products.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap:

4- hot tap water

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar

1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*

½ Cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water.

Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water.

Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax.

Stir well until all powder is dissolved.

Fill bucket to top with more hot water.

Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water.

Shake before each use. (will gel)

Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons.

Add once soap has cooled.

Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer “Super Washing Soda”

.Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent – It must be sodium carbonate!!

Pat also says check out  Duggar family website for more home savings ideas. It’s one of her favorites.

Fighting For Air

March 15, 2011 - Comments Off

Forgive me if I am out of breath as I write this blog entry. Just writing it reminds of  last year’s “Climb For Air” for the American Lung Association at the Gulf  Tower. The task seems both simple and insane: Climb 37 flights of stairs at the downtown office building as fast as you can.

Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower: The place for Saturday’s unique athletic and fund-raising challenge.

However, the purpose is not about setting a new personal best time. It’s about raising funds for the American Lung Association and realizing just how important lung health is. As you go higher and higher, you begin to understand that. No matter how good or bad shape I am in, I always find myself at the finish barely being able to breathe while coughing uncontrollably. Your legs burn, Your ankles ache and you go from a modest sprint in the first few floors to a slow crawl where the railing becomes your friend.

The Fight For Air also draws local fire companies. Giving them a chance to practice for the real-life challenge of climbing stars during an emergency.

For some, this is an athletic challenge. For others, it to raise awareness and to run for those who cannot. It’s also the biggest fund-raiser for the American Lung Association. It grew from modest roots. I remember the first time we did this in the Oxford Center — 5 years and 44 flights ago. We didn’t have a large group, but we were enthusiastic. This year, with over 200 people involved, it may take us longer to get everyone across the start line than to actually run the 37 floors.

Nothing beats that feeling going up the final set of steps … the feeling of accomplishment!

It’s also rare to have this chance to run that many steps in a skyscraper in a major city, so it brings out the competitive athlete from outside Pittsburgh as well. We will have people of all ages … and perhaps you will consider joining us on Saturday, March 19th. It’s a great way to start your day … and make someone else’s day as well.

Here’s the link.

Come join us as we fight for air … so others won’t have to.

First Taste of Spring

March 3, 2011 - Comments Off

Are you feeling it?

I know we still have wicked wind, cool days and not a bud on any of  the trees, but you can feel spring is almost here. I felt it this past Sunday afternoon when I decide to engage in my new favorite activity. Running.

We’re pretty lucky here in Pittsburgh. Not only do we have trails in the city on which to run and bike, but a view of the rivers to boot. That is where I spend much of my free time …which really isn’t much. I’ll run the Eliza furnace Trail ( better known to some as the “Jail Trail” for its proximity to the Allegheny County Jail ). It goes up the Mon River starting just before the Hot Metal bridge on the South Side.

Its wooded but surrounded by both roadways along the parkway east. You can hear the cars whizzing by, but they never seem to take away from the view of the city. I run all the way to the Smithfield street bridge and cross over, seeing the river through the grates under my feet.

Once I cross, it’s a circular path through Station Square which I often find is quiet and devoid of tourists during the late morning hours that I run. From there its down the Mon along the path which takes me all the way into South Side Works and then back across the Hot metal bridge towards home. I’m guessing it’s about 6-7 miles but who can be sure.

The Eliza Furnace Trail. This is where Ioften begin my run … and my special view of our city.

All I know is that this past Sunday, I had plenty of company along the path. With temps hitting the 60’s, there were couples and singles walking their dogs. I saw plenty of people riding bikes, some look like olympic cyclists and some look like they were just pedaling their way forward with no particular place to go.

And there were children. So many children who were ready to say goodbye to the snow and hello to the arrival of spring. This was who I would share the path with on a spring-like day. There was a healthy share of  dodging bikes and running around  people walking  the path. In my mind, there is nothing that says Pittsburgh than a Sunday in the warm weather.

Whether you run, walk, bike or crawl ( yes there were some little ones crawling ), nothing quite captures the city and its spirit like a lazy Sunday afternoon … and I get to see it all because I’m running!

You Go Girls!

February 14, 2011 - Comments Off

 Friday February 11th.

A day to celebrate. A day for camaraderie, A day to come together and celebrate the achievements and advantages women and the world of sports. Chatham University in Oakland/Shadyside hosted the 16th edition of National Girls & Women in Sports day. Based on a national concept, it’s a day to recognize just how the female athlete has come … and how far she still has to go.

Students from Hopewell High School joining the Chatham Cougar ( photo by John Altdorfer )

For me, its a bit more than an annual event for which I serve as emcee. This was my 10th appearance and having been on the committee to organize this event, along with some tremendously talented people at Chathan, its become a labor of love. When I got involved, we had maybe 50 students from various high school in what was a very small on-campus gym. Friday, we had 35 area high schools and 7 universities represented. A total of 450 students filling the state-of-the-art Athletic & Fitness Center on campus. The day is hilighted by the presentation of the Pat Blayden Spirit of Sport Award, named for the woman who launched fitness programs at Chatham when it was called the Pennsylvania College for Women.

High school students picking up their shirts on their way to the luncheon ( photo by John Altdorfer )

The message of the day: a simple one. Embrace the world of sports as a way to get closer to the women you call contemporaries. These young woman who came from various high schools had competed against the young ladies seated next to them but had not really had the chance to get to know them. This event allowed for that interaction. That show of pride in not only their school but also their gender in the field of athletics.

Posing with award-winner Shayla Scott from Pitt, Dr Taunya Tinsley from Cal and Chatham athletic director David Zinn ( photo by John Altdorfer )

We live in a city of champions. A city where athletic achievement is first and foremost in the minds of many. Yet, we rarely celebrate the many accomplishments of women in sports in our city. From the basketball talents of Swin Cash and Suzie McConnell-Serio, to the golfing legacy of Carole Semple Thompson, to the golfing achievements of  Missie Berteotti. The names may not sound familiar, but their achievements laid the foundation for the young women of today … and that’s Friday event is so important.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in this celebration of sport … and hopefully your child or your high school will join us next year.

A Not-So-Super Bowl

February 9, 2011 - Comments Off

I would have written this Monday, but frankly I needed some sleep if this was going to make any sense.

I won’t bore you breaking down the game. You saw what happened and you can draw your own conclusions. Instead, its what you didn’t see … and what you probably have read … about the host site of  North Texas. No, the weather did not help and frankly it made the whole Super Bowl experience feel more like the winter olympics. But this city was not prepared and that became glaringly obvious during the Super Bowl week.

The event was spread out to the point that it seems Super Bowl Sunday was the only time everyone there for the game was in the same time zone. We stayed with the team in Fort Worth and frankly we could have been in Albuquerque and felt the same distance. It was just too spread out.

Then, there was no plows to speak of and no salt, so the roads looked worse than anything you will see in a rural part of western Pennsylvania. Should I even mention the price of parking? If you could  get within a mile of the stadium, you were looking at $100 to park your car. That was the minimum.

We all know about the seating fiasco inside the stadium. That has been well reported. The shock that I felt when I was letting viewers know what was happening was why did they wait so long to get the temporary seats up. Everything else about this stadium was state-of-the-art. Why not the seating?

One thing I could not complain about: My seats for the Super Bowl. Pretty good, huh?

That brings me to the stadium itself, I will say this: Cowboys Stadium is the most stunning facility in which I have ever watched a sporting event. Its got everything … including that video board which is so large I didn’t even watch the game on the field. Its amazing! However, all the stuff we had to go through to get to that point took some of the luster of the event.

The sad thing for me … and I would think for the players … was that being at the Super Bowl is as much a reward as an honor. Super Bowls used to be played in Miami, Tampa, New Orleans. These are cities where the chance of inclement weather is small. Now, the next two Super Bowls will be in Indianapolis and New Jersey, with the Meadowlands Super Bowl being outside. Is that what we really want?

I just thought the league would have learned its lesson from Detroit. I mean that was a miserable place to hold a championship game. Cold, snow and freezing rain. Even the Steeler players that year had to wonder.

Anyway,I think it will be awhile before Dallas is hosting another Super Bowl … and if they do, I think Pittsburgh should get its shot. After all, we do have snow plows.

Why I’m A Super Bowl Fan

January 31, 2011 - Comments Off

I’m sitting here writing this entry watching the Pro Bowl. Never did get why they have an all-star game for football. Tough to play this violent game at 3/4 speed.

Anyway, onto the topic of the day and I have to admit that I am a bit of “geek” when it comes to the Super Bowl. I think all guys have some sort of hobby or thing they get geeky about, whether they know even the most trivial items. My geek thing is the Super Bowl. This goes beyond knowing what happens when the Steelers play in this game. I know more about the Super Bowl that I know about my own life.

This game got my attention in 1979, when the Steelers and Cowboys squared off in Super Bowl XIII. I wasn’t a hardcore Steeler fan at the time. I was a kid growing up in Connecticut who quickly became enamored with the game and the spectacle. While I knew little about football at the time, I knew this was big. It was  great game decided,  of all things, a dropped pass by the Cowboys Jackie Smith that might forced the game to overtime.

As the years went on, I made sure I was somewhere to watch the game from start to finish. I didn’t care about the parties, the commercials. I just wanted to see the spectacle. When the Bears and Patriots met in Super Bowl XX, I was in the perfect location to cash in on my first Super Bowl bet. I  mean I lived 45 minutes from Foxborough, Massachusetts and I was convinced Chicago would win convincingly.

As the years went on,  college and the work world, I wondered if I would ever get actually see a Super Bowl in person. A job offer from WTAE was my ticket to Super Bowl XXX, covering the Steelers and Cowboys ( a rematch of the first Super Bowl I had ever seen ). I then began to realize the adage of  “how rare an opportunity” it is to go the Super Bowl since the Steelers didn’t go again for a decade. However, I was there for the magic carpet ride that ended in Detroit at Super Bowl XL.

Three years later, I was there to witness two of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history in Tampa. James Harrison’s electrifying interception return before the half … and Ben Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl winning pass to Santonio Holmes. Now I’m going back again with the Steelers. My fourth Super Bowl. Amazing for a kid who is more than a fan of the game.

I used to collect programs from each game until they started asking for $15  for a program ( really?).  More recently I have collected the DVD hilights of each game … as well as the “America’s Game” series in which NFL Films does a masterful job of telling the stories of each of the 44 previous Super Bowl Champions. Its a must-see.

For a kid who grew up watching the game, it was a moment to remembe to hold the Lombardi Trophy after a Super Bowl. ( Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa ).

I’m more than just a fan of the game, I’ve become a bit of a historian. Maybe its the roman numerals. I don’t always remember my brother’s birthday, but I can remember the storyline from Super Bowl XVIII. ( Raiders 38, Redskins 9 in Tampa; Marcus Allen MVP. Trust me. I didn’t google that ). Let me just share with you some of my Super Bowl favories:

Best game: Super Bowl XLIII ( Steelers vs Cardinals ) or Super Bowl XXXVIII ( Patriots vs Panthers ) Both great shootouts!

Best play: ( Tie ) James Harrison INT return ( XLIII ) and David Tyree’s catch using his helmet ( XLII )

Best team effort: Chicago Bears defense crushing the Patriots ( XX )

Most dramatic moment: Terry Bradshaw’s TD pass to John Stallworth to rally the Steelers past the Rams ( XIV )

Biggest blowout: San Francisco 55, Denver 10 ( XXIV ). We kind of knew it was over … at the coin toss.

Most emotional moment: Seeing Jerome Bettis call  it a career on the podium with the trophy ( XL ).

Most devastating loss: Bills go wide right, losing to Giants 20-19 ( XXV ). A win and they might have gone on to win more.

So what will happen this year between the Packers and Steelers? Classic or blowout? Memorable or one to forget? Who really knows … and that’s why I love this game.

A Really “Super” Bowl Ahead

January 24, 2011 - Comments Off

You are going to hear all sorts of previews, stories, insights and opinions on Super Bowl XLV in the days ahead  to the point that by gameday, you will sick and saying “can we play this game already?”. Well let me put in my two cents early in the process.

First, kudos to Sports Illustrated’s football writer, and proud Ohio University grad, Peter King on picking this match-up back in September. Married to a Bridgeville girl, he predicted the Steelers and Packers in the Super Bowl.

The stories of Super Bowl week will be many: The Steelers trying to win their seventh Lombardi Trophy, the showdown between Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, the meeting of two traditional powers who are storied in history but humble in ownership, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy being a Pittsburgh native, etc.

However, the greatest story of this Super Bowl maybe the Steeler and Packer fans. Before the Steelers and Packers “nation” stuff started, these were already two of the loyalist and most unique fan bases in all of pro football. The Terrible Towel lovers vs the Cheeseheads. These two franchises have the greatest following of fans and travel very well. The 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium may not be big enough for all the Steeler and Packer fans that want to attend this once-in-a-lifetime game.

MIke Wallace’s game winning grab with no time left to beat the Packers in December 2009.

If you want tradition and history, there is nothing quite like this match-up. When you think Steelers-Packers, you think Bradshaw and Starr, Lombardi and Noll,. Nitschke and Greene. Add to that, the last match-up the two teams had back in 2009, a see-saw showdown on the North Shore which saw four lead changes in the final quarter and the Steelers winning on the final play, add you have a making of Super Bowl for the ages.

Let the hype begin … and let’s hope the game can live up to the hype!

One Win Away

January 21, 2011 - Comments Off

One win away.

I’ve been here before. I have had the pleasure of covering or attending seven conference championship games … both here and in other cities. While the Super Bowl is the ultimate prize in pro sports, there is something about the conference championship game that makes it perhaps a little more dramatic.

NFL Films recaps every season with the hilight film “Road To The Super Bowl” … and its always done prior to the big game. The climax of the hour-long film is the conference championship games. As they say “four teams, two games, one shot at glory”.

Its the final game before the biggest game. The teams usually play in the elements and that adds another dimension to the contest. Then, its the fact its a championship game: an homage to the days before the Super Bowl when the AFL and NFL would each hold title games … and then the winner would advance to the Super Bowl.

I’ve seen some interesting atmospheres in this town prior to the AFC Championship. There was the overwhelming confidence of the 1994 Steelers before they were shocked and stunned by San Diego. There was the trepidation when the Steelers played the Colts in 1996 … and won because the receiver for Indy dropped the ball in the end zone. There was the string of title games from 1998 to 2004 where this town started to question if the Steelers could win “the big one”.

Then, there was the exorcising of the demons on the road in Denver in 2005 en route to Detroit. Now, those days of doubt have been forgotten. The Steelers and their fans are nervous, but confident their team can win against the Jets Sunday.

I think what make this game so special and so different is that its our last chance to cheer for the Steelers this season – in person. Not everyone can go to the Super Bowl, but Pittsburgh can host a championship game and can use its voice to help the Steelers to victory.

It will be the 11th title game held along the Three Rivers. An NFL record. As Steeler author Jim O’Brien told me, and I echoed it, we are lucky in this city.

Final Thoughts From The Inaugural

January 19, 2011 - Comments Off

I’m back home after a whirlwind two days in Harrisburg watching something is truly made in America: the smooth transition of power. From Presidents to governors to mayors and even the local dog catcher, moving power from one group to another is done in a peaceful in a democracy.

Such was the case in Harrisburg as Republican and now former attorney general Tom Corbett assumed the governorship from Democrat Ed Rendell. I had  a unique insight on this process because I had sat down a couple of weeks earlier with the then governor-elect. It was the only one-on-one interview he did prior to his swearing-in. We covered many subjects, but the theme I came away with during our half-hour discussion was that he was going to balance the budget and achieve financial growth by reducing spending, not taxing more.

During the wet and cold inauguration on the capitol steps, there were familiar faces from our region. Just the presence of so many from western Pennsylvania signals a change in Harrisburg. For too long, the perception from western Pennsylvanians has been Harrisburg has been focused on the eastern half of the state. With Corbett, along with many other legislative leaders from here in positions of power, are certain to turn Harrisburg’s attention west.

Governor Tom Corbett addressing audience following being sworn-in at Inauguration in Harrisburg

The day itself was cold, wet and rainy. Ice had formed on all the chairs. I was as shocked as anyone they performed the ceremony outside, but I think it was more symbolic than anything else. After 8 years of  the Rendell administration, the Republican governor and his people weren’t about let bad weather spoil their moment in the spotlight.

I saw many familiar faces from our region in the audience … all friends and colleagues of Corbett, including Allegheny County GOP committee chair Jim Roddey. In a moment of candor, he admitted to me that the incoming Governor knew his policies and measures would not be popular and was willing to accept the real possibility that if they did not work, he could very well be a one-term Governor. A sobering thought on Inauguration day.

Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling Protestors, including people from Pittsburgh, at Inaugural in Harrisburg

Just outside the ceremony, another event took place. People from across the state, including a bus load from Pittsburgh, were there to protest Marcellus Shale gas drilling. They are concerned about the impact of the booming industry on the environment and their drinking water. Supporters told me they fear the industry could run rampant in the state because it was also one of the biggest contributors to the Corbett campaign. The governor-elect told me he plans to form a committee of environmentalists and industry leaders to look into the issues involving gas drilling in the state. We will watch … and see.

A final thought. This was the second inaugural I had ever covered. The first was the historic Obama inauguration which is still the coldest day I can remember. Obviously, this inaugural was smaller, but no less a display of the smooth transfer of power. It’s really one of those things we often take for granted, but one of those traditions that is truly American and should be celebrated …. no matter which party wins.

Pre-Inauguration Insights

January 18, 2011 - Comments Off

Sorry for the late post, but hopefully this is greeting you as you arrive at the office today. I’m writing this as I head off to bed on election eve in Harrisburg. Tuesday, Pennsylvania will have its first new governor in eight years … and a new set of challenges for the top office holder in the Commonwealth.

If you have never been to Harrisburg, it’s an interesting town. The downtown and capitol areas are busy and full of energy, but if you venture off from the downtown area you find a city in flux. Not much industry or business. As the governor-elect told me, Harrisburg would be in trouble if not for it being the seat of state government.

Notice much of the media has begun to descend on Harrisburg as there is a sense of excitement and anticipation. Whether you voted for Corbett or Dan Onorato, there is little doubt that when a new governor is sworn-in, life will be better for its citizens. There’s always the hope that whatever ails a community or a commonwealth will be cured with new leadership.

However, even the governor-elect, in his only pre-inaugural interview, that sacrifices must be made by residents and lawmakers in order to get onto sound financial footing with the state’s $5B budget gap. Add to that, a governor who doesn’t plan to raise taxes to close the gap, and you have the makings of tight times for Harrisburg where things could get worse before they get better.

Big question coming into Inauguration day is how made will the weather be. The Weather Watch 4 folks tell me if you want to see tomorrow, take a look at Pittsburgh weather tonight. Yep. It’s going to be one of those days but the Corbetts want to hold this outside and I don’t think anything is going to stop them.

The other interesting note is the protest planned for the capitol area. Those who feel Marcellus Shale drilling should be curbed or banned altogether will assemble in the capitol area to protest. There will be a bus load from Pittsburgh there as well. It’s an issue on which our governor feels very strongly that it could be the savior for the state. Opponents think it could be the death of it as well.

Should be a very interesting day … and when I get a few moments … I’ll blog some more thoughts. One little inside tip: Corbett will be sworn-in on the same bible used by the founder of Pennsylvania. William Penn.

Pretty cool!

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