Archive for September, 2008

The First Day of School
September 30, 2008

Before I start blogging, I wanted to let you know my schedule. Now that O am working nights, I will be blogging  before I leave at 11:30pm. That way you will have a post before when you wake up in the morning. This one, for instance, is for Tuesday.

Do you remember your first day of school … high school, for instance?

Now you know how I felt on Monday.

Monday seemed like the first day of my freshman year of high school. I felt like I was entering a new building and starting over. I felt like the new kid in class and that everything I did would be judged. Now, of course, I have worked at WTAE for 13 years but I felt very different on this particular day.

Why? Because I came into the building as the new anchor of channel four Action News at 5, 6 & 11pm. It was a position I never sought when I came here and could never have imagined when I joined the station in 1995. While I had anchored the 5pm news before on a fill-in basis and had been the morning news co-anchor the last two years, today was different. Today I was a bit nervous and anxious at the same time.

I think today was different because the job was mine and these shows now have my name attached to them. I have a stake in them and I play a larger role in their success and failure. In other words, there is more pressure on me than ever before. But along with the pressure comes a confidence in knowing the people who hired you believe in you and your abilities. That is why I started this first full day of school with a sense of pride as well.

Spending my first day “at school” with my new partner, Wendy.

The day went well. I felt more confident as the 5pm show progressed into the 6pm broadcast.  Of course , it does not hurt having Wendy Bell and Michelle Wright as co-anchors. It also helped to know so many people were pulling for me. I got so many letters of congratulations and well wishes … even one from my very first news director, a woman who gave me my first chance.

But most of all, I have heard from you. Those who let me into their homes when I was working mornings. While the e-mails were penned by different people, the message was the same: We will miss you in the mornings but we wish you best in the evenings.

So the first day of school is just about over … and I actually found someone to sit next to in the cafeteria. I think I’m going to like this school.

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“Spitting” Image
September 25, 2008

Forget north vs south, east vs west, man vs woman or black vs white. This country is divided, but not be demographic, sex or location. The dividing line that has grown over the past decade has been politics … also known as red vs white … and the divide has gotten not only larger but much more intense and angry.

What long ago was once a kind and gentle discussion of politics in this country has become all-out hate in some cases. I have to tell you I’m afraid to even ring up politics, even with my wife, for fear of starting a conversation could end in a heated argument. Think I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill? Let me introduce you to Cindy Michaels.

Will the real Governor please stand up? Guess which one is the VP nominee and which is the TV anchor under fire.

She is a TV news anchor, like myself, at a station in Maine. For years, she has come to work with the same look and the same personal style and viewers have come to like it. She wears her dark hair up … and very distinctive glasses. Sound like anybody we know?

Yes, bears a striking similarity to Alaskan governor and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. What should be an coincidence, however, has gotten way out of hand. Those who don’t normally watch the station now accuse Michaels of copying Palin’s look in an attempt to influence voters in a subliminal manner. Wait, it gets worse. Michaels story, which is now national in scope, includes receiving what she describes as “hate mail and nasty phone calls”.

OK, can I be the voice of reason here? What is the matter with people? Here’s a woman who had a style she thought was all her own and just because she happens to bear a resemblance to the “surprise” pick for VP, she is trying to swing Maine’s electoral votes by dressing as the candidate? Are you kidding me? Folks, it’s time for people with political leanings to get a grip.

I’m not bashing Democrats. I’m pointing out this off-the-wall story to show that our nation’s passion for politics is closing in on paranoia. Should Michaels have to change her look because she looks too much like Palin even though it’s a style I doubt was inspired by Palin? Of course not.

Yes, this is an important election and the candidates positions are clearly black and white ( pardon the really bad pun ) leaving no middle ground. Still, we can push for the candidate we want without denigrating, demonizing or outright threatening the other candidate.

So much for the “politics of hope” as coined by Barack Obama. It just seems like more of the same “attack” politics … and not just from the candidates.

Hitting 400
September 24, 2008

400 is a magic number in baseball. For those of you not familiar with the significance of 400 in baseball lore, that is the magic batting average that for years players have chased and hasn’t been hit reached by a hitter since Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox finished the season hitting .406.

I have reached this coveted mark in another field: the world of blogging. While it’s not as important as a baseball player hitting 400, for me it means just as much. This past week, I blogged for the 400th time. Thanks to this program, I can see just how many blogs I have written. It’s hard to believe that when I was asked to begin this endeavor in June of 2006, I would have enough to talk about to reach 400 entries.

The desk & keyboard that launches 400 blogs

However, blogging five days a week for nearly 50 weeks a year has allowed me to speak about a variety of topics and take you along for ride. From Pittsburgh sports to politics to the price of a video game, I have written each morning on whatever topic comes to my mind. Each morning, after I get off the set at 7am, I sit down try to coherently type out what’s going through my mind. Sometimes I have made people laugh, other times I have made readers cry but I hope each time I write I make those who read it think.

One thing is certain. You are reading my rantings and ravings. Thanks to this blogging program, I can get a read of how many people are taking a look at my daily entry and anywhere from 600 to 1000 people take the time to read and for that, I thank you. I know you are the greatest reason I keep sharing some of myself with you and there are days I forget that I’m sticking my opinion out there. Sometimes I say what I feel regardless of consequence. This is probably against the rules of journalism.  You know, the rule that says we should not share our biases. I have always felt that while I am a reporter, I am a person first and have feelings and thoughts that I want to share. At the same time, because I have these thoughts it does not mean I cannot do my job in an unbiased manner.

Best of all, I have established relationships with some of the readers who write me back often. They come from various parts of the commonwealth and some from outside the area. They are from all age and demographic groups and while most of them are female, they all feel they can share their thoughts with me … and for that I say thank you.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer can I keep doing this. How much more do I really have to say? Just when I think it’s time to step away from the keyboard, there is something that brings me back. Maybe it’s the fact that I know that through this medium, I have a chance to become part of the larger discussion and perhaps share a different insight with the world. It’s the democracy of blogging.

Once again, thanks for stopping by and thanks for allowing me let you into my private world of thought 400 times. Here’s hoping I will be able to do this at least 400 more times.

Stockey Goes Shopping?
September 23, 2008

Thank goodness Wendy Bell is back! Yesterday was the first day in nearly two months that I did not anchor both the 5am and 5pm broadcasts. In fact, I was done early after shooting this week’s “Test It Tuesday” so I went home and played the role of house husband which included cleaning the garage and finishing up the laundry ( oh the glamorous world of TV ).

I also decided that with the free time I did have I would make a trip to western Pennsylvania’s newest place to shop, the Tanger Outlet at the Meadows in Washington County.

Now if you have learned anything about me during my two-plus years of blogging it’s that I am not a shopper. I don’t like to shop and when I do I like to go in, buy what I need and be out before I am even approached by a salesperson. That’s why yesterday was so unusual.

Tanger Oulet, Washington County: The place I learned to relax and enjoy shopping

I went there expecting large crowds and knowing the only thing I really needed was a new belt. Well, there was no crowd to speak of when I drove in and got that nice close parking space. When I walked into the outdoor mall, I started to really gaze at what was there. There outlets for such brands as Banana Republic, Nike, Adidas, Le Gourmet Chef, Coach, Van Heusen. The list was endless … as were the deals.

There was stuff in there that was 60-70$% off .. and those sales were on things that I wanted and actually needed. I got my belt … as well as dress shirt, cufflinks, a couple of items for a future “Test It Tuesday” and a couple of sauces and marinade. Best of all? I spent less than $100.

Also, the people there so nice … happy to greet you and say “hi” and allow you to browse about without the pressure, something I have discovered in other shopping areas. Now this is not a commercial for Tanger, but since the only outlet mall in this area was Grove City, it’s nice to have one within a half hour of the city of PIttsburgh.

Now don’t expect to see me hitting the malls every day, but I have to admit that shopping is a pleasant experience … when you have choices, the service is good, the deals are abundant … and the price is right.

Weekend Warrior
September 22, 2008

I guess I have forgotten when I used to be an athlete.

This weekend was a reminder how much fun it used to be when I would spend my weekend playing nothing but sports. From a Dek Hockey game on Friday night, to a softball game on Saturday to a round of golf on Sunday this was a very active weekend for yours truly.

Friday, I was invited to take part with the gang from WDVE in a celebrity Dek Hockey game against six and seven-year-olds at Penn Hills. The event was to raise funds for the dek hockey program ( basically hockey without skates ) in that community. Our team includes DVE’s Jim Krenn, Randy Baumann and Val Porter as well Jannelle Hall and yours truly. It was a lot more strenuous than I thought. We lost 7-6 in overtime in a shootout, but of course the 6-7 year olds had Penguins star Max Talbot on their team .. and he got the game-winner.

The next afternoon, many of the people you know from WTAE took the softball field to play some of the stars of local radio in a softball challenge as part of the Fall Festival in Penn Township, Westmoreland County. Part of the fun for me was teaming up with our former traffic reporter turned radio star Melanie Taylor. We wound up winning 16-14 and believe it or not, I actually hit the rare home run. Of course, our team also was powered by three members of the Penn Township Police. A big thanks to Jen Miele who did all the hard work to put this on … and her efforts helped to bring a rather large crowd to the ball park.

Finally, a chance to wind down and play my first round of golf in five weeks. Sunday, I met a friend of mine to play a round at Uniontown Country Club which is celebrating its 100th birthday. Considering how badly I played this year and how I was actually close to quitting golf for good, I was stunned that I actually had a decent round of 99.

One thing was clear after three days of physical activity: my body actually hurts. This is something new for me because I cannot remember very playing sports like softball and golf and actually waking up the next morning and feeling pain. I think I bruised my arm falling to the ground in hockey … and I might have pulled a groin muscle running the bases. No it’s not easy when you are 40, but I think I have rediscovered what I have been missing … the fun of playing sports.

During these years of work, I have sometimes forgotten to go outside and just play. Look, golf is great but its not real exercise unless you walk with the bag over your shoulder. This was real physical competition and it left me wanting more. From now on, I’m going to try and commit myself to more weekend like this …. not weekends when I’m in pain but weekends when I go out and play.

Now, if I can only remember that I do have a blog and bring my camera to these things next time ….

The Battle for the Perfect Temperature
September 19, 2008

Time to take you behind the scenes of the morning show once again.

Every morning, there is this battle that takes place between power forces, each trying to impose its will. It becomes a stalemate most mornings and often in can leave one of the parties with the scars of battle. Those scars, in this case, being goosebumps.

Ashley “Heat Miser” DiParlo

I’m talking about the temperature battle that goes on every morning. Now, of course, temperatures are usually kept lower because of the equipment in the studio but our set also doubles as the office for the weather center. That means Demetrius is there all the time … and he likes it cool. Check that, he likes it cold.

Demetrius “Snow Miser” Ivory

This would not be a big deal, but we happen to have two ladies in our studio each morning, Ashley DiParlo and Kelly Frey, and let’s just say they are not dressed for a stay at Seven Springs. They are not wearing jackets and often wear skirts and they are cold. How cold? This morning, Ashley told me she’s growing the small hairs on her forearm longer so she can keep warm.

Each morning, the battle between cold-weather Demetrius and warm weather Kelly and Ashley goes on. Harsh words are spoken as well as pleas to turn the temperature up. As for me? I got a jacket and I’m drinking coffee so I don’t care.

Watching these three go at it reminds me of a Christmas TV special of all things. Just to show my age, do your remember A Year  Without Santa Claus ? There were two characters battling each other in the heavens above “Heat Miser” and “Snow Miser”? OK, maybe I’m stretching but watching these three battle over the temperature reminds me of that.

Heat Miser & Snow Miser from “A Year Without Christmas”

Now, aren’t you glad to know that between the important news of the day we are battling over the studio temperature?

Kelly Rides the Train
September 18, 2008

She is so lucky! Kelly got the plum assignment of riding with the crew of Good Morning America on their whistle stop tour as it made it’s way to Pittsburgh Wednesday. It’s amazing what they have created, a train that has turned into a broadcasting studio.

Kelly talks with Robin Roberts & Diane Sawyer on the GMA train

Kelly and photographer Eric Hinnebusch met the train in Gustavas, Ohio and took into Pittsburgh. While on board, Kelly had a chance to interview the people we talk to every morning: Diane, Robin, Chris and Sam. It’s obvious how much they like Pittsburgh because as soon as Kelly got on board, it was like meeting old friends.

The train pulled up at the Pennsylvanian downtown to cheers and greetings from a number of residents as the foursome taped segment for Thursday’s show under the beautiful rotunda.

Courtesy of Kelly and GMA producer Tarcy DePascale, here are some behind the scenes snapshots from the Kelly’s great adventure.

Kelly interviewing Robin and Diane on board the GMA train

Kelly with Sam Champion and Chris Cuomo on the GMA train

Brad Paisley performs live at a farm in Gustavus Ohio on GMA

Kelly with GMA producer Tracy DePascale at the Pennsylvanian

A Real Revolution
September 17, 2008

I know that I am getting closer to that magical goal of adulthood: I actually went to a lecture. Voluntarily. I went to Heinz Hall last night to join a capacity crowd and listen to New York Times writer and author Thomas Friedman. I read his book The World is Flat which discussed globalization in the 21st century.

I was anxious to hear him speak about his newest book, which I have not read yet, about the hot topic around the world today: the environment. It’s called Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution.

With humor and a bit of cold hard reality, Friedman forwarded the notion that America has lost its groove since the attacks of 9/11. He says we have lost our stranding in the world and he believes the only way we can retake our dominance on the planet is to do what we did over a century ago.

Author Thomas Friedman in Pittsburgh yesterday advancing the notion of a real “Green Revolution” ( Courtesy AP Photo )

The United States led the Industrial Revolution and that’s how we became a super power in the 20th century. Now, Friedman says we must become the leaders in the new revolution – the Green revolution – or become just another player on the world stage and be behind such emerging powers as China and India. That means we need to lead planet it its search for clean, renewable forms of energy and end forever our dependence on oil.

Now what makes Friedman’s argument so interesting is that he feels what we have done to this point in the “Greening of America” amounts to garden party. He scoffed at this notion of “10 Things You Can Do Live a Green Lifestyle ” and other small ways to be “Conveniently Green”.

In his opinion, revolution means somebody gets hurts, someone has to lose something or suffer in someway in order for change to occur. Whether that means the death of old thought or old companies, he says change rarely happens without conflict.

While that belief that revolution means suffering is a stretch in my mind, I do agree with Friedman that America can once again rule the world by leading the way in this “Green Revolution” and that means more than “5 ways to keep your house green”.

I actually might buy his book and give it a read. If the previous book he wrote The World is Flat is any indication, it’s bound to open my eyes once again.

In Favor of Facebook
September 16, 2008

The hardest thing for anyone to do is to admit when we are wrong. However, I think I am a big enough person ( at age 40 I hope I’m big enough ) to admit when I made a mistake. In this case, my error comes to my conclusions about Facebook.

A while back, I talked about my initial impressions of Facebook. I discussed how about the half the people who asked me to be “friends” were people I did not even know. I said I did not need anymore friends in my life.

Well, what I did not count on was the on-line reunion that I have become a part of. Suddenly, I’m hearing from people in my past that I have not heard from in decades ( and I do mean decades ). If you know anything about me, you know that my high school years played an important role in my life. To this day, the person I am was formed and created during my high school days.

Now, I am hearing from my high school friends on almost a daily basis. From guys I used to play football with to girls that I dated, I am hearing from all my high school classmates who have turned this “Facebook thing” into a virtual class reunion. For me , it’s great to be able to not only read what my fellow members of the class of ’86 are doing, but to be able to see pictures of them with the click of a mouse.

Reading and cyber-chatting with my classmates from high school makes me very happy to see where their lives have taken them … and very sad to know they have achieved things in life that are still on the drawing board in my life. Most of all, Facebook has allowed me realize that despite the years the ties still bind and the feelings are still there.

That’s not only the power of Facebook, that is the power of the internet … where Simsbury’s High School’s graduating class of 1986 still lives on.

I’m Back … and so are “The Women”
September 15, 2008

I’m back after a blogging break and a much-needed rest. Thanks for being patient and coming back to visit my blog. Now that I’m a bit better rested I can blog with a clearer head and maybe makes my points and my arguments stronger.

Besides sleeping, one way I spent my weekend was a trip to the movies. I can count the number of movies I have seen the past year in the theatre on one finger … and I can’t even remember what that film was. So what did I decide to see in my return to the movie theatre? The Women.

Yes, I decided to go see a “chick” film in my first venture back into theatres. OK, maybe that is not a fair thing to say but I can tell you this: When I walked into the theatre to take my seat I was the ONLY man in the room of about 40 patrons at the Loews Theatre at the Waterfront. Sure it was an NFL Sunday, but the Steelers did not play until later that day.

The movie has an all-star lineup: Meg Ryan, Annette Benning, Candice Bergen, Jada Pinkett, Deborah Messing … and Eva Mendes who looks absolutely stunning in this film. Essentially, the plot is Ryan’s character finds her husband cheating with Mendes … and her friends rally around her as she goes through the trials and tribulations of a marriage falling apart.

So what did this “guy” think of this “girl” flick? I liked it … for two very good reasons. One, it was genuinely funny and while it was about women, they were jokes that everybody could get. The second and more interesting thing is the movie did not feature one man. Men were referred to but never shown, not even as window dressing in the background. This movie was all women and it was done in such a way that you were immersed in the woman’s world without the “distraction” of seeing a man, but seeing the effects of what a man does on a woman’s life.

Two thumbs up from me for The Women. Now, I want to see a “guy” flick like Burn After Reading.

On Blogging Break
September 10, 2008

A recent e-mail … and my daily workload … has convinced me that I need to take a blogging break. I’m going to stop blogging for the remainder of the week and return on Monday.

I know this borders on “blogging suicide” but frankly I’m tired right now and burning the candles at both ends along with more than a few charitable appearances has convinced me that I need to take my hands of the keyboard and move slowly away from the keyboard until I get some rest.

I hope all of those faithful readers will come back on Monday for more insights, observations and guesses from yours truly. In the meantime, please check out some of the other blogs on our website … except for Michelle Wright’s. Last month, she beat in page views and I’m trying to catch her this month.

America’s Vice
September 10, 2008

I have to admit, as a life-long observer of politics, the so-called “Palin” effect maybe the most interesting development in recent memory. No matter how you feel about the Governor, her running mate or the election in general, you must admit that her inclusion has changed the conversation and the discussion going on in this country.

Consider this: The New York Times just did an article about the protocol when Senator McCain and Palin make physical contact. Should they hug or share an embrace on stage? Who should initiate the hug? There has even been speculation that McCain, who used to introduce Palin first, now introduces his wife Cindy first on the campaign trail for political reasons. The theory being this is the more politically correct. The McCain campaign denies this was a strategic move.

From the introduction and growth of the “hockey mom” demographic to the sudden energizing of the Republican base, her appointment two weeks has changed the entire tone and tenor of the campaign. Suddenly, “lipstick” has become a buzzword and even the Governor’s glasses the must-have fashion item this fall.

On a more serious note, the greatest change her inclusion in the conversation has brought about is a real discussion about the role of one of the most misunderstood offices in this country: the Vice-Presidency. There is a great article in the Washington Post  ( OK, I like to read newspapers and often get ideas from them ) about the bizarre history of the second-highest office in the land.

The inauguration of VP Dick Cheney: The current holder of the strangest position in all of politics. An office that will undergo another evolution in light of this recent campaign … regardless the winner.

The Vice-Presidency, according to one of its office holders, said it wasn’t worth “a warm bucket of spit”. For most of its history, that might be understating it. The man poised to succeed the President in the event of death or illness often has never had the chance. A formal succession hasn’t happened since the assassination of John Kennedy. The founding fathers created a position that was the political equivalent of a back-up quarterback. The guy holding the clipboard,  ready to assume the lead role at a moment’s notice. Over the years, the role of Veep has changed depending on the time, office holder and circumstance. While some have not even resided in Washington during their tenure, current VP Dick Cheney has become the CEO of the Bush administration – the most powerful number two in history.

For the most part, the Veep’s role has been to get the Presidential candidate into office. The person has been chosen because of their appeal in a certain part of the country. The pick of Palin was no different, except there was another added benefit: it was a woman during a campaign season in which Hillary Clinton nearly won the nomination.

While liberals and conservatives are weighing the pros and cons of what will happen should she become President and whether she has experience to hold that spot, history says its a long shot she becomes Commander-In-Chief. Based on Achenbach’s math in the article, one 33% of the Veeps eventually became Presidents. But maybe both sides should consider what she has done already … without becoming vice-president. Suddenly, there is an interest in what she would do and it’s obvious that if her ticket won, she would not suddenly fade into obscurity.

It will be interesting to see whether Palin continues to ride this wave of popularity as the populous gets to know her and her positions better. Win or lose, one thing is true: Palin has made a position that rarely makes a difference come election day matter. In a country where amazing low number of citizens know who Dick Cheney is, its’ quite possible a victory by the GOP in November would result in more people knowing the VP ( Palin ) than the President ( McCain ) changing a position that, for most of its history, has been insignificant.

 

 

A Very Good Year …. for Movies
September 9, 2008

Be warned: this blog is only for those of you who have tangible memories of 1983 … so I am guessing those of you who are at least 35 or older. I guess I’m freezing out much of the “web” generation, but sometimes you have to tell the younger members of our society that there was life prior to 1992.

The reason I single out 1983, other than it’s the year I became an upperclassman in high school, was that it was an exceptional year for movies. Not so much because there were great movies made, but there were generational hits produced that year and these are films that not only continue to be in our culture today but have laid the foundation for films that are still being made today.

First, The Big Chill. The premise was so simple: A bunch of college friends reunited 20 years after college having achieved some success in the real world but wondering if they were still true to the ideals they had during their younger years. What made the movie such a hit and allows it to still captivate audience 25 years later was a kickin’ Motown soundtrack and an all-star cast which included Glenn Close and Pittsburgh’s own Jeff Goldblum. How good was this movie? Kevin Costner’s role was cut out. However, it was the fusion of music and movie that still sets the standard to this day.

Scarface: Is there a man on this planet who hasn’t seen this movie more than once. Guns, gore and guy talk. Before everyone went “gonzo” over the Sopranos, this is the film that made the mafia cool. Al Pacino, already one of Hollywood’s best, took his career to a whole new level playing the rea;;y, really over the top bad guy. While this was not a family movie by any stretch, it opened the door to an entire family of films featuring the misunderstood bad guy cast as the protagonist.

Risky Business:I remember this as the ultimate date movie that year. You have to remember, Tom Cruise was already one of us when he did the western Pennsylvania football story “All the Right Movies”. Then, came this film which took on a teen fantasy and took it to a ridiculous level. It gave us one memorable scene set to music ( Tom dancing in his drawers and socks to the tune “Old Time Rock an Roll” by Bob Seger ) … and one line that stays with me to this day, although I would likely be fired for repeating in person. Most of all, it was a stylish flick that was meant for teens … and the pre-cursor for all those teen flicks about guys going after the girl that seems well beyond their reach.

There were more great films that year … and Pittsburgh got a taste of the spotlight when Flashdance came out in 1983. Still, it was quite a year for films and that’s not my opinion. These flicks stood the test of time and you really can’t say that about most of the movies being made today. Even the blockbusters are with us for a year until the sequel to the blockbuster comes out.

The other thing these three films have done is stayed in our collective culture. How many times have you heard of a  reunion film referred to as “modern-day Big Chill”? Also, can you really look at The Sopranos and not think of Al Pacino?

Making History … and Not Happy About It
September 8, 2008

We are the of the Three Rivers, the home to industry and new technology, “America’s Most Livable City” and we lead the way when it comes to the “greening” of America.

Pittsburgh can now add more title to its list of accomplishment. We are now the home of the worst professional sports franchise – ever. Thank you Pittsburgh Pirates for bringing the game of baseball to a new low. Sunday, the team lost at San Francisco thus allowing them to clinch their 16th consecutive losing season. That, my friends, is the longest consecutive streak of losing season in the history of pro sports. No football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey or tennis team ( yes, there is pro tennis ) has ever been this bad this long.

Think about it. The last time the Pirates finished with a winning record was 1992. Even the rookies on that team are nearing age 40. Back then, Bush was in the White House ( the first one ) and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet ( just kidding ). In 1992 Bill Cowher was a rookie coach and Sidney Crosby hadn’t laced up a pair of skates.

The Pirates logo: The “Jolly Roger” is not so happy these days

So why should you care? It’s just a game after all, right? Not when your city becomes a symbol of what is wrong with professional sports. The Pirates have what is arguably the best ballpark in the country and it was built with your tax dollars and on the simple premise that if they had a new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art stadium, the team would make more money. The cash infusion would allow the team to increase payroll and spend more money on top free agent players, thus making the team more competitive.

Instead, the “best ballpark in America” continues to house the worst franchise in sports with mediocre talent. As a fan, you should be offended and as a taxpayer, you should be enraged. The team has gotten richer and somehow at the same time, they have gotten worse.

I grew up outside of Boston and watched the Red Sox and the one thing that I always loved about baseball was that every year my team had a shot. That is not the case here. Consider this: the youngest children at the time of the Pirates last winning season will graduate from high school next year.

Enough bashing of the Bucs. The real fear for the franchise should be this: Pittsburgh’s baseball team becomes less of a fan-driven entertainment option and more of a casual viewing sort of thing. The team depends on fans buying season tickets, but if the club is not competitive why would you continue to show up? Soon, Pirate baseball may rank up there with the movies: something you watch every now and then but would never invest a lot of money in.

The Love Affair Continues
September 5, 2008

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has declared today “Black and Gold Day” in the city of Pittsburgh, It might as well be for the entire region for southwestern Pennsylvania is Steeler country and this Sunday resumes one of this nation’s great love affairs: the relationship between the Steelers and their fans.

I have been a sports fan all my life and rarely have I seen an entire region, or for that matter an entire “nation”, be so passionate about a team. Maybe only baseball’s Boston Red Sox can claim such similar loyalty, but the Steelers and their fans have such a unique relationship and this country has always been a “football first” nation.

Get ready to waive those “Terrible Towels”! Another season of Steeler football is here. ( Courtesy AP Photo )

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. For the franchise’s first four decades, the Steelers were the worst team in pro football. They rarely won anything and played a second-class role to the more popular Pirates. That all changed, as you know, during the 1970’s when Pittsburgh piled up Super Bowl championships and became the “team of the decacde”. In the succeeding three decades, Pittsburgh’s fan base grew outside its western Pennsylvania borders due in large part to the exodus of residents who left the region because the collapse of the Steel industry.

The exodus did have one benefit: it allowed the Steeler gospel to spread to an entire nation and thus create “Steeler Nation”. That world-wide pride is exhibited at various Steeler bars nationwide. From Flagstaff to Fort Lauderdale and from Seattle to South Florida, Steeler fans are everywhere and they are rabid. Pittsburgh is ground zero for Steeler Nation, where the Terrible Towel waves the highest.

So the question is why are we so passionate about our pro football team? I think the answer is simple, though the explanation is complex. The Steelers represent our region’s blue-collar past and the team plays the sport which that demographic most identifies with – football. The Steelers also allow us to celebrate our city and our region. Western Pennsylvania is not the largest area of the country, nor are we the richest. However, we know that there is one thing we do better than anyplace in this country …. and that is support our team. We are the only city in America where those who visit think about our football team first.

I’m not making any predictions for the season ahead, but I will promise you this: no matter the final record, we will cheer for our team louder than anyone else in the nation and win or lose, we will love our Black and Gold. A love affair that will continue this season and for seasons to come.