Archive for August, 2008

History Awaits the Winner
August 29, 2008

On January 20, 2009, we will witness American history.

Last night, that became a possibility. On Friday afternoon, it became a reality.

Less than 24 hours after Barack Obama became the first African-American candidate to lead a major party as its Presidential nominee, John McCain raised the stakes by naming Alaska governor Saran Palin as his running mate. The bold strokes guarantee that we will have either a Black President of a female Vice-President next January.

What makes the move today by the GOP presumptive nominee all the more historic is that it firmly says that change has taken place in the world of American politics and that the battle for the greatest elected office in the land in all-encompassing.

This morning, we wondered if McCain’s announcement would overshadow the crowning of Barack Obama in front of 85,000 in the spectacle of Invesco Field at Mile High. Even if someone else had been chosen, few thought it would rival the images presented to America during the DNC. Little did we know that in a gymnasium of 15,000 in Dayton, Ohio, we did see an image that has upstaged the atmosphere in Denver. A woman and a mother selected to be part of the team that will represent the GOP over the next 67 days.

Alaska Governor and GOP VP pick Sarah Palin: An historic election just got even more interesting. No matter what lever you pull election day, you will make history and change the face of politics forever.

Why Governor Palin? I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to realize the strategy behind this move. What did the media and pundits discuss all week leading up to Obama’s speech? It was all about Hillary and her supporters and the decision not to put her on the ticket. Would they be satisfied with the tribute to Hillary during the DNC and would some flee to the GOP because their candidate was not chosen as Obama’s running mate? Would Obama regret selecting a running mate who carried 18 million votes into the DNC? Now, McCain clearly wants to show America the error of Obama’s VP pick by picking a female running mate who is anything but a token choice. Now, it is the GOP which offers women a choice.

You know, it’s interesting. Earlier this month, I wrote a blog about who the two candidates would choose as VP and who they should choose. I did say at the time Obama would do well to go with a female governor ( Governor Katherine Sebilius of Kansas ) to symbolize his commitment to change and to somewhat pacify the followers of Hillary Clinton. Who could have guessed that John McCain was reading my blog? ( Just kidding )

Someone close to me told me that the argument expressed above, that Palin’s selection would rally women and independents to the GOP, was nothing more than a “media narrative”. Hey, it’s not the media who wrote this story. The fact is there are voters out there, some female and some disappointed Democrats, who are not happy with Obama or Joe Biden.

No matter how the story is spun, from my view as a follower of politics in this country, this maybe the most exciting moment in campaign history. Never before have the two parties offered such distinct choices or such bold choices. How will America side in this battle between inclusionary tickets? We will see on November 4th. All I know is that what seemed to be a bore of a race a couple of weeks ago has taken on new life and that after nearly 18 months of campaigning, neither side can really claim a lead.

It’s back sqaure one.

Let the race to the White House really begin.

By the way, she calls herself a “hockey mom”. Could anybody be more excited about this selection the NHL: commish Gary Bettman?

A Language All Our Own
August 29, 2008

First this morning, everyone could tell I was already in the weekend mode. Take a look at the cufflinks I was wearing:

Yes, that is martini glass ( with an olive inside ) and a martini shaker. Amazing what you can find on sale at Macy’s.

Now onto today’s entry and for a state that seems to be part of middle America, we are really a very different and unique place. I was reminded of that by Tina, a reader of my blog who sent me a story about our special way of speaking entitled: “Talking Pennsylvanian”. I don’t know who originally wrote it, but I’m sure you will agree when you read on that it hits home:

Talking Pennsylvanian:

 You’ve never referred to Philadelphia as anything but ‘Philly’ and New Jersey has always been ‘ Jersey ‘

You refer to Pennsylvania as ‘PA’ (pronounced Pee-ay). How many other states do that?

‘You guys’ is a perfectly acceptable reference to a group of men and women

You know how to respond to the question ‘Djeetyet?’ (Did you eat yet?)

You learned to pronounce Bryn Mawr, Wilkes-Barre , Schuylkill, the Pocono’s, Tamaqua, Tunkannock, Bala Cynwyd, Duquesne and Monongahela.

And we know Lancaster is pronounced Lank aster, not Lan kaster.

You know what ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ is, and what it means if he sees his shadow.

At least five people on your block have electric ‘candles’ in all or most of their windows all year long.

You know what a ‘State Store’ is, and your out-of-state friends find it incredulous that you can’t purchase liquor at the mini-mart.

Words like ‘hoagie,’ ‘crick,’ ‘chipped ham,’ ‘dippy eggs’, ‘sticky buns’, ‘shoo-fly pie,’ ‘lemon sponge pie’, ‘pierogies’ and ‘pocketbook’ actually mean something to you. Pocketbook is PA slang for purse!

You can eat cold pizza (even for breakfast) and know others who do the same. Those from NY find this ‘barbaric.’

You not only have heard of Birch Beer, but you know it comes in several colors.

You know the difference between a cheese steak and a pizza steak sandwich, and know that you can’t get a really good one outside PA, except Atlantic City on the boardwalk.

You live for summer, when street and county fairs signal the beginning of funnel cake season.

You know what a township, borough, and commonwealth is.

Driving is always better in winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

You know beer doesn’t grow in a garden but you know where to find a beer garden.

That’s Talking Pennsylvanian.

Quite the list.

More than once during this political campaign our state has been referred to as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with “Alabama: in the middle. The truth is that while this state is wide and diverse … and very big .. it shares one common trait: it’s language. Strange, sometimes hard to understand and definitely unique. It’s singularily Pennsylvania … and we are proud of it … n’ at!

History Amid Hype
August 28, 2008

I guess I have officially become a member of the media. I have truly become cyncical and suspect of the process and those who hold power.

The realization came while watching last night’s role call at the Democratic National Convention. It’s a tradition that the role call of the states nominates the next President of the United States. While the outcome was never in doubt, the moment was still historic: an African-American became the nominee of a major political party. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, you must acknowledge the symbolism of the moment and what it says about how far our country has come … and perhaps how far we still have to go.

While I am a reporter, I am also an African-American who should take pride in a moment that was no more than a dream for many who look like me. However, instead of allowing to witness history unfiltered, I was struck by the lack of spontaniety of this moment. Yes, I know political conventions are no more than slickly packaged infomercials designed to sway voters but watching last night’s role call, I did not know what was real and what was rehearsed. I mean seeing people, especially African-Americans bawling and tearful at the official naming of Barack Obama as the nominee struck me as a bit of a stretch. And please don’t tell me I can’t understand the reaction because I wasn’t there. I covered enough campaign stops during the primary to know they are all designed to elicit emotion … whether it’s genuine or not.

Biden & Obama in Denver last night: Part of the packinging of politics

The packaging continues tonight with Obama’s acceptance speech in fronf 73,000 at Invesco Field at Mile High on a specially-constructed stage featuring greek columns created for this one night and this one event. It’s dramatic and it’s striking and all designed to make voters ( white voters in particular ) to continue to feel “comfortable” with Obama.

The other problem I have with his whole made-for-TV show is that history of this moment is being acknowledged by the media covering the event, but not the party itself. Not once did any of the speaker’s mention Obama’s racial breakthough. It seems as if they wanted to avoid mentioning that their nominee was “black”. Sorry to tell you this folks, but he is … and instead of the party trying to downplay it, they need to celebrate it. I doubt the smart voter will be offended if they are reminded, just once, that Barack Obama is the Jackie Robinson of politics.

Still, I will be watching tonight and watching to see what Barack Obama says and how he presents himself to the nation. I can only hope it that he will choose to do it with less packaging and saying the “politically expedient” thing and being more honest about who he is, what he is and what he truly wants to accomplish.

50 Years of WTAE
August 27, 2008

There’s something about the month of August. Kelly and Demetrius as well as many of my friends werer born this month. Also born this month? A television station: WTAE-TV in 1958.

Tonight, we celebrate that conception 50 years ago with an hour-long special which airs this evening at 8pm. Produced by Rich Cook and hosted by Sally Wiggin, the show tells the story of WTAE from how it began in the late 50’s to its present day form and function. In between, an hour of memories, moments and nostalgia sure to remdind you why you fell in love with WTAE in the first place.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years. Just think when this station started Ike was President, gas was much less than $1 a gallon and Pirates finished 14 games over .500. But I am reminded everyday about where this station has been over the past five decades. When you enter the lobby, there are pictures of the locally produced programs from years gone by, the newsroom from the 1970’s and Sally at Kennywood in 1980’s.

I am proud to be a very small part of this history, a history that I am reminded of juist about every day. Whether it’s a viewer telling me about the days of Paul Long and Adam Lynch, or people sharing with me their tales of the exploits of Myron Cope, we are not far away from this station’s past. In many ways, viewers passion for WTAE resembles that of the love of Pittsburgh sports. I mean where else but here can a viewer see those old promo spots ( the “Diner” spot for instance ) and then think they were meant to let viewers know Don Cannon was coming back to Channel 4.

Now I doubt myself or any of the current crew will be remembered quite like Joe DeNardo, Paul Long, etc. ( although I’m sure Sally has punched her ticket into the WTAE Hall of Fame ). It’s just a different time. No longer is WTAE one of only three choices for TV viewing. We live in the age of internet, cable and the digital world. However, we are playing a role in writing a new chapter in this station’s history. We are about to broadcast in High-Definition and I know in the past I have helped out in producing new programming both on the air and on-line.

In the end, I’m proud to have played a small part in this 50 years of broadcasting. I don’t expect to be in the 60th anniversary show ( unless I’m still working here ) and don’t need to be part of my nostalgia parade. I’m just happy that I have been able to help the tradition of community broadcasting going. A tradition that began before I was born and will certainly continue ( in a slightly different form ) when I move on.

Happy Birthday WTAE!

The Perfect Place for a Stay-Cation
August 26, 2008

Before I get to my blog for today, two quick comments:

This morning, there are reports that there are credible threats against Senator Barack Obama as he arrives in Denver to accept his nomination as the Democratic choice for President. While it’s sad, it’s not surprising. To be honest, I wonder how many dozens of threats he has received during his 19-months on the campaign trail. Racism, still alive and well in this country.

Second, a new survey by ranks Pittsburgh as the 5th best commute in the country. They cite that one out of every ten commuters uses a method of transportation other than their car and that we average only 16 hours per year in traffic. They must be talking about Pittsburg, Kansas.

Have any of the people in this survey ever been on the parkway East? The traffic in this city is not only bad, it maybe worse than many major cities because unlike Atlanta, New York or Chicago, there is no by-pass or secondary option available to avoid the parkways.

Now, onto why I’m writing this morning. Kelly and I walked into work today and were actually surprised to learn that Labor Day is this weekend. Where did the summer go? As I think about the last three months, I realize I didn’t travel ( thanks to airline prices ) or do many get-away weekends ( sure, we went to Seven Spring and Penn National in Gettysburg for my birthday ).

However, I don’t look at this last three months as a lost summer. For all the non-traveling I did, this may have been my best summer ever … because I spent it enjoying the weather, warmth and sites of western Pennsylvania. Kelly Frey has a term for it when you choose to spend the summer in your backyard – literally. It’s called stay-cation.

Sure economic conditions dictated that many of us cut back on our travel plans, but I found that there was no need for me to leave the Three Rivers to experience a vacation. Whether it was touring out museums, taking in a ball game or heading to the mountains, I could find it all right here.

Perhaps the best moment of my summer stay was what I found on Saturday. I walked down the path that runs along the North Shore. I found hundreds of people biking, I saw folks piling into kayaks and paddling down the Allegheny and I saw parents watching their little children splash in the waterfall in front of PNC Park. I looked out onto the pier and could see people lounging around the waterfall at the point.

It all reminded me that while the world has plenty to offer us, some of greatest treasures on the planet are the simplest ones … and can be found in our own backyard.

Happy Birthday Kelly!
August 22, 2008

My morning partner, Kelly, celebrates another birthday on Sunday. Now I won’t tell you how old she is. Heck, I won’t even ask her. I know better than that. I’ll just say she looks great … no matter what her age.


Kelly surprised on the air with a special birthday cake

Thanks to Scott Stiller for coming up with the ultimate birthday surprise. He got Kelly a cake that we presented on the air before our show ended. On the cake, the bakery laser printed a great shot of Kelly! It’s from “Test It Tuesday” a few weeks back. It was the time she tested a Doogie IQ test with her three dogs. One of the tests involved Kelly wearing a ski mask to see if her dogs would recognize her. In the shot on the cake, Kelly is wearing the mask and trying to scare Chuck … and he’s not buying it.

Who is that masked woman? Kelly in disguise with Chuck immortalized on her birthday cake.

In the immortal words of Joe DeNardo “the cake was excellent and it was well received”. Everybody, if you get a chance, please send an e-mail and wish Kelly a Happy Birthday and be sure to tell her she looks better “without” the mask.

Have a great weekend! I’ll see you Tuesday!

Was Mario Bragging?
August 21, 2008

I’m often read the Pittsburgh City Paper and a recent editorial by one of its writers, Chris Potter, got my attention. Please take a look at it. The column also reminded me about one of the major stories from last week that may have gone under the radar.

The Penguins finally broke ground on the new arena and after the ceremony, Mario Lemieux was asked the negotiations which took place to make this day happen. Negotiations that included trips to Kanasas City. Mario admitted for the first time these trips were merely an effort to pressure local and state lawmakers. In his words “Those trips to Kansas City and Las Vegas and other cities weer just to go, have a nice dinner and come back”.

There is little doubt those “trips” played a key role in getting the arena deal done. Potter’s column takes issue with Mario not for taking us behind the scenes of how these moves played in getting the deal done, but for bragging about his slyness and his ability to pressure lawmakers to get on board with his plan. I have to agree with Chris on this one.

While Mario may have not been intentionally bragging, he has made no secret of his disdain for politicians in his quest for a new building. However, there is no need to talk up how he put these lawmakers feet to the fire to get what he wanted. It’s hardly the way to break ground on a new building. In essence, it makes Mario no better than the politicians he has openly criticized.

It’s a small criticism on my part but its one that I have of a man who I have admired. Mario came here as a young man, learned the language, resurrected a franchise as both a player and as an owner, beat cancer and has helped to raise millions in the battle against this dreaded disease. The arena will be Mario’s lasting legacy, but with the comments he made on groundbreaking day the building is not starting out on solid ground.

Some Random Observations
August 20, 2008

I had a few things on my mind. None of them worthy of an entire blog, but worthy of comment.

John Challis. The courageous 18-year-old baseball and football player from Freedom High School finally succumbed to cancer. While we knew this day would eventually come, it makes it no easier. While we all have reason to be sad, John would want us to celebrate his life by following his simple equation: belief + courage = life. I bloggedabout him a few weeks ago and have little to add. My only regret was not meeting him.

A Deal for the Hill District. After much debate and discussion, the Hill district finally has its Community Benefits Agreement as part of the construction of the new Pens Arena. While it guarantees millions towards economic development and job creation in the Hill, it doesn’t guarantee the Hill will become a economically viable community. It’s just a second chance for an area that needs it. Now, it’s up to those who call the Hill home to squander this rare second opportunity.

A great round of golf.Spending a Monday at a charity golf outing is nothing new for me. I have emceed or hosted various outings for charitable organizations in the region. What made Monday’s Tito Francona golf outing for Heritage Valley Health Systems so different was that I was in attendance … as just another player. Norm Mitry, company CEO, invited me to just play and relax as a thanks for some of the events I have hosted in the past. It was so relaxing to just get up, not shave, play golf and even have a beer without worrying about my emcee duties afterwards.

Meet my foursome from Mondays outing at Olde Stonewall: Lori McAninch, Garry Hogan and Kathy Harley

Speaking of golf … I have played more than 50 rounds this year and my game has gotten worse, not better. So much so that I have decided to put the clubs away for a few weeks. While I still enjoy the game, I’m struggling and maybe pursuing some other endeavors will help me get my game back on track this fall.

Watching the Olympics. I seem to be the only person, according to the ratings, not watching the games every night for three hours. Frankly, I can’t. I usually get up before I go to work, flip on SportsCenter on ESPN and see the highlights. It’s not that I don’t care about the Olympics, but I’m not going to act as if swimming, gymnastics and water polo are must-see events. While we all love Michael Phelps, I don’t see anyone watching swimming on TV on a regular basis now that he has won eight gold medals.

Great line in this month’s GQ magazine. They have an article entitles “73 Reasons We Are Living in the Golden Age of Football”. It’s mostly tongue-and-cheek, including reason number 8: Because the Cowboys are America’s Team But The Steelers Are God’s Team. Page 294. Check it out.

And Finally … on Good Morning America, their daily water cooler discussion centered upon this year’s incoming class of college freshman. Folks, these 18-year-olds were born in 1990. That means they have no recollection of the 1980’s, the first Persian Gulf War or the last time the Pirates won a division title. That says to me either I’m “that” old or the Pirates have been “that” bad for “that” long.

The Veep Stakes
August 19, 2008

After name-calling, attack ads and incessant back-and-forth between the candidates for the Presidency, we are finally going to have some real news coming out of the campaign the next couple of weeks. This week, Barack Obama names his running mate and John McCain will do the same next week.

Much will be made by the media over the selection of the VP. The pick will be analyzed, investigated and, of course, criticized. However, I thought I would give you the heads-up before the madness begins ( perhaps has soon as tomorrow ) from the media perspective.

Never has a candidate won the White House because of who they chose as their running mate and never has someone lost the office because of their running mate. I know, some of you are going to mention Dan Quayle making things interesting for the first George Bush but in the final analysis, Quayle did little to hurt Bush in the 1988 campaign.

Who will the candidates choose? Conventional wisdom says Obama will likely chose between Senators Joe Biden and Evan Bayh ( although he would really add some splash to this campaign by adding Hillary Clinton ). As for McCain, his choice will fall between Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.

Now who do I think they should take? I think you have to look at what each candidate wants from their running mate. For McCain, we know pretty much what we are getting so the selection has to be someone who complements McCain and brings new elements to his campaign. In my opinion a younger and rising star in the party would be the perfect choice, creating the feeling that McCain is planning not only for this eight-year stay in office, but leaving a successor for another eight years. Pawlenty seems me to be the no-brainer.

John McCain with my pick for his Vice-President: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

Obama has a different goal for his running mate. He still needs to make voters feel “comfortable” with him as their President ( The word “comfortable” is code as far as I am concerned with making white Americans feel OK with the idea of electing a African-American ). Biden and Bayh seem to fit that mold, since they are experienced politicians with cemented reputations. However, selecting either man strikes me as more of the same rather that “change you can believe in” which is Obama’s campaign motto.

My pick for Senator Obama’s running mate: Kansas Governor Katherine Sebelius

Let me give you a name that popped up on my radar early that would be the perfect fit for a campaign appealing to all sides. More than a month ago, someone in the campaign world told me about Governor Katherine Sebelius of Kansas. An unknown outside of political circles, she encompasses so many voting blocks. She is from the midwest and oozes those “midwestern” values we here so much about. She is in her mid-fifties, which means her age plays perfectly with the boomers and speaks to her experience. She is a woman and in a year where Hillary nearly captured the nomination, it’s time to have a woman front-and-center in the stretch drive for the White House. Finally, it gives Obama a partner rather than someone who is seen as a teacher ( Biden ) for a student ( Obama ) seen as still inexperienced.

One more prediction: Your deicision inside the voting booth in November will involve neither Pawlenty of Sebelius. Sure, it’s each candidates first big decision, but it should hardly be enough to make you choose one or the other for President.

Together Forever?
August 15, 2008

“Two people. Together Forever. It’s just not realistic.”

Those are the words of Jamie Buchman ( aka actress Helen Hunt ) in the popular ’90’s TV show “Mad About You”. It’s always been one of my favorite programs and I do have the “The Best Of …” DVD. The line is from one of my favorite episodes when Paul and Jamie ( Paul Resier and Hunt ) are on the verge of splitting up. Here’s the link to that scene on You Tube.

I started thinking about that scene because of all the people I know who are having trouble in their marriage and all the people I know who have already gone their separate ways. They say half of married couples are divorced. Sometimes I begin to wonder if its higher.

I’m not sure why this is. I mean our grandparents stayed together forever. However, something began to change with our parents generation. Now, those vows that we exchange on our wedding day don’t hold the same significance or power as they once did. For that matter, marriage seems to be less of a commitment and more of a phase for many these days. Think about it. Entertainment publications have their own “divorce” beat writers.

“Together Forever”: I know it’s TV but they did it. Why can’t all of us.

“You put up my my crap and I put up with your crap. That’s marriage?”

More words of wisdom from Paul and Jamie when Paul tries to size up what marriage is. To a degree, it’s true. Date behavior goes out the window once you get married and then it becomes dealing with the differences in your personalities. The funny part is that over time, those small differences are just that: small. The things couple bicker about over time become less significant to the point that you can’t remember what the fighting was all about.

While I come from the Mad About You  school of marriage, I realize that marriage is not the funny and comedic adventure portrayed on television. It’s a wild ride for sure, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It maybe the bravest thing we do and that’s why it takes not only two special people, it takes one special characteristic: the ability to put your spouse’s needs ahead of yours.

The late professor Randy Pausch told us many things in his Last Lecture that leave us a clear road map for how to live our lives but it was something he said later … in this year’s commencement address at CMU … that leaves something for all of us who are married to ponder:

“The reason I waited 39 years to get married is becauser it took me that long to find someone who’s happiness was more important than mine.”

 That, in a nutshell, appears to me to be the secret to success in marriage. Putting the other person first. Some learn that lesson from the start and that’s why they are together forever. Others never learn that lesson and are forever adrift in the search for their partner for life. It seems so easy, but if it was than everyone would be doing it.

Together Forever. Is it possible today? Of course, it is. I certainly hope so. It happened, ultimately, on Mad About You so why not in real life for all of us.

The “R-word”
August 14, 2008

In many respects, we have come quite a ways as a society.

It may be hard to fathom, but less than 50 years ago, our country was actually proud of a form of entertainment we created called “black face” in which white performers portrayed black people in film by covering their face in black makeup and using white makeup to create exaggerated eyes and lips.

Now, we are much more sensitive to races, genders and ethnic groups. Things such as the Spanish Olympic basketball’s team decision to lampoon the host Chinese by making “slant eyes” in a team photo is being widely condemned and would not fly in this country. Any form of sexual or racial discrimination in a media portrayal is instantly met with wide spread criticism.

Still, some insults and insensitive remarks slip through the cracks. The issue I’m speaking of is the controversy surrounding the new movie “Tropic Thunder” starring Hollywood funnymen Jack Black and Ben Stiller. Yes, it’s a funny movie but like so many recent Hollywood comedies, it’s humor comes from the easy targets. This time, it’s the mentally challenged.

“Tropic Thunder”: It maybe funny, but at what expense?

In the film, a character who clearly faces this challenged is referred to multiple times using the “R-word”. I don’t think I need to go into detail as what that words means. This was brought to my attention by a viewer who reads my blog and said how difficult it is to hear that word, especially when raising a special needs child.

You can say this smacks of political correctness, but I would disagree. It’s just a matter of recognizing people’s sensitivities. We all know of words that hurt and words that can scar. While we all want to laugh, we need not have to find humor and the expense of others feelings. I remember as a kid the “R-word” was used by the kids I went to school with and, even then, I knew it was wrong.

I know that the word offends me and that’s why I don’t plan to see “Tropic Thunder”. If you feel the same way, you should skip the film as well. I think the best way to address insensitive remarks is not to recognize them in the first place. I always tell people that if there is something you don’t like on TV, don’t watch. You will be amazed.

You have the ultimate power as a consumer as to what is considered acceptable and what is popular. That’s why a show like “American Idol” becomes a sensation while other programs like the Pittsburgh-based comedy “Back to You” didn’t survive the season. By your patronage, or your lack of it, you can tell Hollywood that use of the “R-word” will not stand.

The Nanny State
August 13, 2008

On the surface, it seems like a good idea. The Los Angeles City Council limiting the number of fast food restaurants in the city’s poorest neighborhoods for one year. Their argument being overweight and obese children are exposed to nothing but unhealthy food choices and when you combine that with the poor nutrition they are often encountering in single parent homes and poverty, they fall victim to becoming overweight. The hope being that more healthy choices and even supermarkets will begin to pop up in areas like south central L.A. and thus begin to turn around the dangerous and ultimately deadly eating habits of the poorest and youngest of our society.

Now the truth: this is a bad idea that I hope does not lead to a nationwide trend that will put limits on two very American ideals: capitalism and freedom of choice.

While I not only understand but often see our inner cities have more McDonald’s, Burger King’s and Wendy’s than anything else, that does not mean putting a stop to their expansion will make our youth healthier any more than putting a moratorium on the number of check chasing places will lead those who make minimum wage to be more frugal with their money.

It’s called the “nanny” state where government tells us how we should live our lives by limiting our choices … and it’s dangerous. I believe what makes this country great is our ability to decide what we want. If we really want fast food out of our neighborhoods, then the people who live in those neighborhoods need not patronize those places. It’s the same theory that applies in television. If there is something you don’t want to see on TV, don’t watch and see how quickly it goes away.

Also, the whole theory that fast food is causing our kids to be overweight doesn’t hold water with me. Parents, why do you let your kids have fast food and don’t tell me there is nothing you can do about it. Most kids don’t have the money to go out and buy fast food and I don’t know any child that is driving to these establishments. It’s the parents who provide both the means and the access to these so-called enablers. It’s up to mom and/or dad to make sure fast food does not become part of a child’s diet.

Now I am not a parent and don’t claim to understand the pressures or parenting in this era, but I do know that it’s the parent who sets the example for how their children eat. My mother never placed salt and pepper on the kitchen table when I was a kid, thus I never put salt or pepper on my food. The same is true today: allow the parent to make the decision for the child and not the “nanny” state.

Golfing for a Good Cause
August 12, 2008

You may have noticed I took Monday off. No, I wasn’t playing hokey. Instead, I was playing golf … but for a good cause.

On any given Monday, there are probably a dozen golf tournaments in western Pennsylvania designed to raise funds for variosu charitable causes. What’s amazing is that nearly all of them fill their fields. That speaks volumes about not only our passion for golf, but our desire to do good.

My fearsome foursome at Allegheny on Monday: Mark Merten, Richard Tang, Tom Laughlin and yours truly.

This Monday, I was out at the Allegheny Country Club for the Verizon Wireless Skins Challenge: an event that raises funds for Cystic Fibrosis research. CF is the leading genetic killer of young people and this event has raised more than $145K for research locally which has helped extend the life-span of children with CF into thier late 20’s and 30’s.

My foursome including a trio of big hitters from Verizon: guys who hit the ball a ton and have key roles in the company. Their involvement in this event and this cause knows no boundaries. Tom Laughlin, one of the members of my group, recently presented a check for CF research during a Pirates game and met a young boy with CF. Before the game, he found a batting practice ball on the ground and gave it to the young man. Tom later found out that boy slept with the ball that night. Tom says it left him choked up.

While we all love to play golf, we do think about why we are out there … and what we can do to help. No matter the fund-raiser, golf events are the best way to help out and have fun and when you realize who is benefiting you understand that your score means little. It’s about the biggest game – and that is the game of life.

By the way, I did not play well. I think I will put my clubs away … until the next Monday I can go out and help out by swinging the sticks.

My Annual Plea
August 8, 2008

Tonight, another football season commences with the Steelers and Eagles kicking off the pre-season at Heinz Field. 65,00 rabid fans will begin that annual tradition of pulling for Pittsburgh’s Black and Gold.

Tonight also marks the return of my annual plea to the powers that be at Heinz Field that they do the smart, ecomnomical thing and please replace the grass at the stadium with field FieldTurf.

Since the stadium opened in 2001, Heinz Field has hosted AFC Championship games, concerts and high school title tilts. But the north shore stadium has become famous – or rather “infamous” – for its field. The turf has been voted the NFL’s worst by the players, the high schoolers who play the WPIAL title on that field have openly criticized it and then, there was the muddy Monday night debacle.

The muddy mess at Heinz Field last November. It put the troubled Heinz Field turf on the nation’s radar.

Last November, the turf at Heinz Field was so chewed up by Thanksgiving, the staff decided to re-sod in mid-season. Well, that decision would lead to disastrous results when rain fell on the sod which was layed on top of the old sod the night before the game. The new sod turned to mud and the teams were reduced to playing in what amounted to quicksand. The visual that stays with us from that day: a punt that stuck in the turf pointing upward.

I admire the desire to play on a natural surface, however that time has come and gone. The pristine grass we will see tonight will be brown by October and reduced to being dirt by November. Steelers and Panther football games will take their toll and then, there is that weekend in late November when the four WPIAL Championships will be played in one day … further obliterating what’s left of the grass.

FieldTurf is an artificial form of grass. It looks like the real stuff and plays like it as well. However, there is no dirt to worry about and no chance the grass fibers will give way during the worst weather.

It just makes sense to make the move. Think about it: Just about every high school in western Pennsylvania has this artificial surface. The schools went this way for the simplest of reasons: They use the fields for multiple sports and realize that if they went with grass, the surface couldn’t take the beating. If high schools realize this, why haven’t the folks at Heinz FIeld which is the premier facility for football in the area?

It makes sense from an economic point of view. It simply costs more to re-sod a stadium every year than to lay down the artificial surface one time. Injury? The technology is so advanced that if you do get hurt on FieldTurf, chances are that same injury would happen on grass.

Will my plea go unheard? Probably. With that in mind, enjoy tonight’s football game at Heinz Field and be sure to tune in before the game begins. Take in the view of the pristine turf and realize that it will NEVER look any better this year than it will tonight.

She’s Got My Vote
August 7, 2008

Senators McCain and Obama: You can stop spending millions on TV ads. You can stop flooding me with junk mail about how you want my donation and my vote. Frankly, I can stop watching non-stop campaign coverage on the cable networks. You can stop all this because I have decided how I will vote in the Presidential election this fall.

I’m voting for Paris Hilton.

No, I’m not kidding.

After much consideration and analysis – and one very impressive spoof of a campaign commercial – Paris Hilton has put herself over the top as far as I am concerned.

So why, you might be wondering, am I backing a woman I have always described as “superficial” and “a media creation”? Quite simply, she put out the most entertaining and the most informative campaign ad we have seen. It’s sure to go down in the annals of political history along with LBJ’s “Daisy Girl” spot and the first George Bush’s “Willie Horton” ad. It’s compelling, interesting and a YouTube sensation.

Who could have guessed the hotel heiress would re-energize the race for President?

OK, I am kidding somewhat here but I’m not. This has been the least inspiring Presidential campaign I can remember. It’s sniping back and forth with endless discussion about what really amounts to nothing. It makes me long for the days of the democratic primary when Hillary and Barack actually kept my interest and made me believe there was a real debate going on.

Suddenly, Paris Hilton shows up in a bikini and not only takes jabs at John McCain and what amounted to a waste of money ( His spot painting Barack Obama as a “celebrity”. Hardly a reason not to elect someone President  ), but also provides the only “straight talk” we have witnessed in this campaign. Hilton suggested a “hybrid” of the energy policies of both Obama and McCain. “Problem solved” in her words.

Of course, there are only two things which have me hedging my bets on Paris for President. First, if she makes the mistake of naming Nicole Ritchie as her vice-president. While I like Paris’ simple solutions, I don’t need to see “The Simple Life” again.

Second, and this might be the bigger problem, Paris is not old enough to be President. You have to be 35. Oh well, I guess I can always save my “Paris for President”: but for 2024.