Archive for June, 2009

Another Talent Taken Too Soon
June 29, 2009

This is getting really scary.

I’m not one to follow the celebrity culture and I have no fascination with celebrity deaths. That being said, I cannot turn away from all these famous people passing before their time.

Farrah Fawcett, while was battling cancer, still died well before her time. You know all about Michael Jackson. Now, another celebrity has passed … and quite unexpectedly. He is famous, but  only to a certain group of people. Those whose follow infomercials and a desire to buy those items that claim to do the outrageous. Everything from remove scratches with a pen to remove any stain with a lump of something that looks like lard. I’m speaking of Billy Mays.

While I do not know Billy Mays personally, there is a connection. There is his Pittsburgh connection. He’s a McKees Rocks native that worked his way up from the ground level to become America’s foremost pitchman. He became a true original who learned the sell is in the pitch as much as it is in the product.

The connection I have is through my segment called “Test It Tuesday”. Our weekly segment is pretty much having viewers like you putting the products that Mays pitches to the test …. to see if they do what they claim in those commercials. While the results were mixed, Mays’ pitches and products were a great source of material for me.

billy mays

McKees Rocks native Billy Mays: Pitchman extraordinaire who passed well before his time.

I did once try to get an interview with Mr.Mays … with no luck. He was too busy moving at the time. I also felt I would get another chance to talk to him at his Florida home. This is why you never make plans for the future because the future is never guaranteed.

The early word is that the 50-year-old pitchman passed in  much the same way actress Natasha Richardson died: a delayed reaction to a serious shaking of the head and brain. For Richardson, it came from a ski accident. For Mays, a hard landing at the airport.

It’s a shame when anyone passes before there time, but its even harder when its someone with obvious talent …. whether it be an actor, a singer, a physician or a pitchman. In this case, the pitchman who made his first sale in McKees Rocks.

So much for these things happening in threes.

Shocked By the News
June 26, 2009

“He’s dead”.

Those are the words that came into my ear around 5:44pm Thursday as our 5pm producer, Thomas West, told me that Michael Jackson had died. We had been following the news for almost a half hour and I had no BlackBerry, laptop or computer on the desk with me. Wendy Bell and I were depending on the word from our producer booth.

“He’s dead, Credit the website”.

The website in question was TMZ, the celebrity gossip site, which many in the traditional media tend to frown upon. However, to this station’s credit, we used it as a credible source based on its history and track record … and we continued to source them during our coverage. That’s why our viewers heard about his passing before those watching CNN, Fox News, etc.


That being said, it was one of those moments that completely shocked me … and I am never shocked by anything anymore. I guess I have become a cynical news reporter, never being blown away by anything I hear. I guess I have heard of the worst things people have done onto others, so its hard to be surprised by anything I hear anymore.

The death of Michael Jackson shocked me.

Now I will admit, while I did love his music I thought he was a little bit of a freak show. Skin disease aside, his desire to change his appearance to look more like Diana Ross was kind of strange. Also, let’s not forget the whole child molestation case as well as his dangling of his young baby out a hotel window. Plus, the man was no money manager. Reportedly, he was deep in debt.

All that being said, his music is part of my life and my generation. His songs as a member of the Jackson Five take me back to my youth. His “Thriller” album hit the store shelves while I was in high school. I was one of those kids who rushed home in anticipation of seeing the “Thriller” video. While I never bought one of  his albums, I always seem to pause and listen to his sonsg when they pop up on the radio.

And I was always remember Michael Jackson’s passing. I have to. It’s the same date as my wedding anniversary. Now, I have joined the likes of friends who have birthdays or anniversaries on holidays or significant dates in history. Now, those special dates have been completely overshadowed by events in pop culture.

I will finally say this. It was strange to say “Michael Jackson has died” on the air last night. We all know that in television news, we are often reporting information to people for the very first time. It’s weird to know I may have told thousands of viewers about the passing of Michael Jackson. I’m sure they had the same reaction Wendy and myself did when we heard it from our producer.

We didn’t believe it, either.

An Introduction to Pittsburgh …. Thanks to You!
June 25, 2009

Boy, when I ask for help, you blog readers really come through. I have gotten more than a few suggestions for ways I should show Pittsburgh to a newcomer. They came from this blog and also from my Facebook page and they came in mass.

sunny day 003

Showing someone their new home in one afternoon? Thanks to your suggestion, I have a game plan for showcasing Pittsburgh.

For those of you wondering what this is all about, on my blog Tuesday I asked readers to help me. The best friend of a high school friend of mine just landed a job here in Pittsburgh. She has not been here in quite sometime and I have been asked to show her the city she will now call home. While I think I know Pittsburgh as well as anyone, I still want to make sure I present the most positive image of our town. So I asked you to suggest stops to make and things to see Sunday afternoon when I serve as host of this guided tour.

I got about 30 e-mails suggesting everything from letting the city speak for itself to not letting anyone with a Pittsburgh accent get within 30 yards of this woman. While there were many different suggestions, there were a few things that it seemed everyone suggested.

Mount Washington:  Almost everyone who sent me an e-mail says the tour should include the $64 billion view of the city from Mount Washington. While that price tag may have dropped in value because of the economy, the view is still priceless. Many of you said its the perfect place to tell anyone the story of the city of Pittsburgh, although I doubt she will be listening when looking at this view.

The inclines: While there are faster ways to get down from Mount Washington, none is more unique that riding the incline down. As one person told me “it brings the past and present together as you slowly descend down from Mount Washington”.

Just Ducky: I like this idea because I don’t have to drive. It takes about an hour and you can see the city by land … and by water. There is the amphibious Just Ducky Tours or the more traditional Gateway Clipper.

Pittsburgh museums: From the Heinz History Center to the Carnegie Science Center, nothing gives you a better understanding of our town than the museums that we have. They tell the story of the history, the pride, the sports and the people of western Pennsylvania. Plus, given the temperature outside, they give us a chance to cool down and spend a few moments indoors.

The Fort Pitt Tunnel: OK, this is an easy one. Pittsburgh is the only city with an entrance … and what a view it is. However, that’s what I think everyone who comes to visit expects to see. One reader suggested that instead I take the back way up Mount Washington …. the winding roads all the way to Grandview Avenue and to the view of Mount Washington.

But perhaps the best and most unique suggestion I got was one in which I would be driving and talking. Try this on for size: Downtown to PPG, then cut through Liberty and head down Grant street to the Boulevard of the Allies. From there, head to Oakland, down Forbes Avenue and circle the Cathedral of Leanring. Next stops: Carnegie Mellon and through Schenley Park. Follow the winding roads down through Bates Street at across the Hot Metal bridge to South Side Works. Thanks Rico. Hope I got that right.

I was also told to avoid a number of places: west end construction and the tunnels before the ball game. However, one person said I should show off the orange cones.

Thank you for all your suggestions and ideas. I think one thing is clear from every submission I received: Pittsburghers are proud of their town and that pride can be shown in many different ways. So many that I know I cannot show all of them in one day … so why try. I’ll take some of your suggestions for my tour on Sunday.

I like to think the greatest thing about Pittsburgh is that you can be here a day … or 14 years like myself …. and learn something new. Maybe, with apologies to Michael Chabon, that is the true “mystery of Pittsburgh”. It’s thinking you know the city, but always being pleasantly surprised.

I’ll lety you know how the tour turns out.

Residents of Pittsburgh: Help Me Out!
June 24, 2009

I’m putting out an ABP. I need your help long-time residents of Pittsburgh as well as those who have called this place home for only a short time.

I know I have been here 15 years so I should have a handle on the town I call home, but I have been given an enormous responsibility. My friend from high school has a friend who has landed a job in Pittsburgh. She hasn’t been in the city in more than a decade … and now she’s about to call it hone.

So where should I taker her? How do I show off this beautiful town without giving everything away. How do I give her a taste of  Pittsburgh without feeding her the whole Primanti’s  sandwich? You get the point here.

sunny day 001

How would you show off our city to a newcomer in one afternoon?

So I’m aksing you, loyal blog readers and your friends. If you only had a few hours, what would you show a newcomer and furure resident of  Pittsburgh. That’s what I want to know … and I want you to tell me. Send me your best ideas over the next two days and I will create my own trip guide for this latest person to call Pittsburgh home.

Thanks, in advance, for your help … and feel free to sell it to me in Pittsburgh-guese. You can send your ideas to the link right here on my blog page.

Jon … Minus Kate & the 8
June 23, 2009

I have never heard of Jon & Kate until last week. Had no idea what the show was all about and didn’t even know what network carried the program. Apparently, I was in the minority.

“Jon & Kate Plus 8” has become a cable television hit. The program has been on for a few years and has gained a loyal and growing following. The story of the Gosselins and their eight children in Wernersville, Pennsylvania is a compelling one. Raising eight young children should give any writer enough stories for a season-long reality series.

However, the story that was all about the kids has taken a twist. The focus soon moved to the husband and wife. Jon and Kate are showing the stress of the children – and the constant eyes of the TV cameras – has taken its toll on their marriage. There have been rumors of infidelity on both sides, rumors each spouse denies.

TV Jon & Kate Investigation

The 8 … minus Jon and Kate. The parents are splitting up. So what happens to the reality TV show?

Finally, all the speculation bubbled over on Monday’s season premiere. Even the mainstream media – and Channel 4 – were doing stories about what would happen in tonight’s season premiere. Even though I had never seen the show, it was easy to guess that the couple was breaking up. Jon says he’s moving out, while Kate stays with the 8 kids.

I would love to write this off as reality TV, but these are real people … with 8 real young children. However, its become nothing more than a plot twist for viewers. In a report from our sister station in Harrisburg, there was this one guy waiting outside the house today hoping to catch a glimpse of Jon or Kate. He said he found their story “compelling” and wanted to see them in person. Paparazzi was stationed outside the home, hoping to get a picture.

I just find the whole thing very sad. Divorce is a serious thing, and reality TV has turned it into prime-time fodder. I wish Jon and Kate all the best and hope, privately, they can find some peace … away from the cameras and for their eight children who will have to grow up without the spotlight and cameras and eventually deal with being children of divorce.

Its Truly A Small World After All
June 20, 2009

When I was first getting into broadcasting I had that desire – like every person who has ever worked in this business – to work in my hometown. For me, its where I grew up: Hartford, Connecticut. That dream came true in January 1991, thanks to a woman who saw things in me I never saw in myself.

Her name was Colleen Marren and she was the news director of WTIC-TV, Hartford’s Fox station. WTIC was relatively new in the news game, up against the more-established CBS, ABC and NBC stations. Colleen had put together a young, but talented group already and was looking for a weekend sports anchor. She went through quite a few tapes … and then chose to hire me.

Believe me, I was a long shot. I never had a job in commercial broadcasting as a on-air person. Once more, I was starting in one of the nation’s top 25 markets. I’m not sure what Colleen saw in this skinny kid with the  afro ( Don’t laugh. It was 1991 ). Whatever she saw, I was grateful. But getting the job was only the beginning.


She gave me my first job in TV news. Now, she’s leading one of WTAE’s competitors. Talk about a small world.

Colleen was like a mom to all of us in the newsroom. She taught me so much about journalism – and about life. She gave me lessons that have stayed with me to this day. I was only at the station for a year and a half, but its still the most important 18 months of my career.

So why do I mention all this … and what does it have to do with the title? Turns out one of our competitors ( the one whose call letters start with a “K” ) has hired a news director. Guess who it is?

That’s right, Colleen Marren. Some 18 years after she hired me, I will be competing against her for viewers. It’s almost like in sports when the coach faces one of his former players. However, in this case, many years have passed and the style I had back then is very different what I do know. Same is true for Colleen who has become a success in so many cities since leaving Hartford.

I’m sure I will be calling her at some point to welcome her to Pittsburgh. I know she will find it as fascinating and welcoming as I have. After all, it was Colleen who taught me to embrace the city in which I work.

The Fly and the Flooding
June 19, 2009

Let me get the frivolous, silly stuff out of the way first.

Apparently, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has expanded their base. It’s not longer just our furry friends, but also those barely large enough to make a blip on the radar.

In a recent interview, President Barack Obama swatted a fly, killing it. The moment was seen as light – until PETA found out. The group, which protects the rights all of animals, now wants to make sure bugs are protected. They have sent the President a gift”: a humane fly catcher for him to use the next time a fly happens to cross the President’s path.

obama fly

Obama vs the fly ( Courtesy: CNBC/AP )

At best, this is seizing the moment for publicity sake. At worse, this is the silliest stand this organization can make. I’m going to assume it’s the former because if it is the latter, PETA has done more damage to itself and its very serious message.

Look, I am a pet owner and a pet lover. When I see a bug on the ground or a squirrel crossing the street, I go out of my way to avoid it and give the creature a few more minutes of life. That being said, I will be the first one to crush a fly if it comes into my air space. Is the cruel, insensitive? It’s a fly. Let’s get over it, PETA. I see enough animal abuse stories on a weekly basis on this broadcast that deserve PETA’s attention and focus.


Now, onto a more pressing matter: the flooding in Western Pennsylvania.

I think I was like many of you. Awed by the lightning show which initially began the evening, concerned by the dark clouds and funnel-shaped things forming in the sky and then completely shocked by the length and strength of the rain storms.

We were on the air, along with meteorologists Demetrius Ivory, Erin Kienzle and Michael Haynes for five hours. I can honestly say it was difficult to watch some of the video knowing full well that many of those who had their homes damages and their cars submerged were in no position to pay for the destruction about to befall them. It was even harder today to listen to those whose lives and belongings were covered in mud.

Nature can be kind to some and cruel to others … and such was the case last night in our region. Why is one house in Plum standing while the other was hit by lightning and set on fire?

While we all felt the rain, some got the brunt of the storms. Communities like Export and Wilkinsburg saw flooding like they have never witnessed before … and its always the poorest in our communities who seem to get the worst of this.

Erin Kienzle says we are not done. More wet weather is coming tomorrow and while it may not be an exact repeat of Wednesday, it will drop enough rain to make a bad situation worse for many.

I hope you keep your neighbors – the ones you know and the ones you don’t – in your prayers tomorrow as we hunker down for round two.

The City’s Newest Champion
June 16, 2009

Can you believe the last few days?

Pittsburgh is now home to two champions – with the latest title coming from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The franchise which faced bankruptcy and nearly left town for the riches of a new arena in Kansas City, is now on top of the hockey world … and our city.

I had a chance to see the final pages of this story first-hand. From a trip to Detroit for my first-ever finals game 7 to a front-row seat for today’s championship parade. It was a different experience for me in so many ways. Since I no longer work as a sports anchor, I have not a chance to interview almost all the players, except Crosby. My only meeting with Coach Dan Bylsma was at a restaurant one night.

However, I was able to be there for the game 7 and the most improbably Stanley Cup champion in recent memory. It was thrilling to watch the Pens exorcise the demons of Detroit with the game 7 win. I wish I could have been on the ice for the trophy presentation, but I wound up being outside doing live shots at 11pm.

logoThat was an “interesting” experience to say the least. The Pens fans out there were more than a little sauced and the Detroit fans who joined them were more than a little upset. One peeved Wings fan came up to me and actually said ” What are you going to do now? All you have to cover is the stinking Pirates”.

My answer. Two words: Detroit Lions.

Let’s fast forward to Monday … and the parade. From the start, there was something different about this celebration. The temperature, of course, and then there were the fans. You could sense the Pens fans were younger …  and decidedly female. They seemed to move to a different beat … and a different sound. They also cheer for a group of players who seem to look at their fans differently.

The players were truly humbled by the Cup, anxious to slap hands with their fans and more than willing to sign every autograph. They are clearly not from this region, or this country, but embrace our town and traditions unlike any group of athletes I have ever seen.

Then, there is the Cup. While the Lombardi Trophy represents all the sweat and toil from a Super football season, the Stanley Cup looks more like something out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. It’s actually known as “hockey’s holy grail” and it does become a quest to capture the Cup.

It was great to be next to Wendy Bell as we co-anchored the coverage and watch her become a little girl. She is the most rabid Pens fan I know and she literally melted seeing her heroes enjoy the championship.

It was a weekend to remember … and if I could find my camera cable, I would download some of the pictures I took during the last three days. Suffice to say, the memories are burned in my mind for a long time to come … or until the Pens capture the cup next season.

Editor’s Note: By the way you have to see this. While I was in Detroit, I discovered there are folks in Pittsburgh that think I had something to do with winning the Cup. Take a look and listen.

Facing Your Own Game 7
June 12, 2009

Editor’s note: Andrew will be blogging from Detroit before and after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Look for updates here.

We’re on late tonight because of the NAB finals this Thursday night, so I will have to hurry home and pack my bags. In the morning, it’s off to Motown for game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

I know that I no longer do sports, but as you can tell this event “transcends” sports. It’s more than a game, it truly is an event. The Penguins and Red Wings are about to give us a fitting ending to one of the most exciting playoff seasons in recent memory.

While many fans will tell you they would rather win the cup in four games, there is something about game 7 – in any sport. It is final and puts an exclamation point on the championship chase.

I think we have all faced game 7 in our lives, in one form or another. We have all faced a challenge in our lives where it came down to an all-or-nothing scenario. Whether it be a job interview, a date or perhaps a crucial life-changing decision, we have each been in the winner-take-all scenario. Believe it or not, this is what the Pens and Red Wings are about to deal with tomorrow.

finals logoThe great lesson in life’s Game 7’s is this: experience helps but does matter when it comes to facing that challenge. What you did before doesn’t count when you face a Game 7 in your life.

Game 7’s can also be seen from two different angles. You could be the favorite, like the Detroit Red Wings, with everything to lose and all the pressure on your shoulders. You could be the underdog, like the Pens, with nothing to lose because no one expected you to be there.

Enough with the analogy. The point is Game 7’s happens rarely in sports, but quite often in life. I think if you are a Pens fan and you are nervous about Friday night, just think back to your own personal Game 7 … and how you handled it.

Now you know why I feel supremely confident.

By the way, can I get anyone something from Detroit when I come back?

A cup perhaps?

Ho Hum …. Another Honor for Pittsburgh
June 11, 2009

If you know anything about Pittsburgh’s recent sports history, you know the one thing fans in this town do not suffer from is arrogance. While we really feel that we have the best football team in the world ( and the Super Bowl bore that out ), any fan will tell you there was more than a bit of doubt late in that game.

I think this lack of confidence comes from way too many defeats in the AFC championship games of the past … and three straight losses in the 90’s by the then-competitive Pirates in the National League Championship series.

However, that fear of failure may only lie with our sports franchises. When it comes to us as residents of this region, we are getting used to compliments. In fact, we’re not getting excited anymore.

The latest laud comes from The Economist, a magazine with a world-wide following which has more to do with political climate and planning trips. It just rated Pittsburgh the 29th best place in the world to live. Here’s where it becomes impressive: we are the top-ranked city in the United States.

Why Pittsburgh? Let’s assemble all the usual suspects: cost of living, hospitals, technology, the arts and quality of life. Pittsburgh seems to have it all … and while our civic leaders are taking pride and sending out press releases celebrating their hand in helping win us this honor, most residents are quietly unmoved by the news.

Pittsburghers, I guess, don’t worry about the world view. The world, for most of us, is where we live. Sometimes that means western Pennsylvania, sometimes that means Allegheny county and sometimes, that just means the boro or township we call home. Maybe its because our attitude about such designations is similar to way we have weathered the ebbs and flows of economic reality the last 20-plus years. We did not see the economic boom so we did not experience the bust. We did not get too high with the highs so we won’t tumble too low with the lows.

SUNNY 001For me, its the realization that I happen to live in a very unique place. Its a region that has ressurected itself from economic death and – like a phoenix rising from the ashes – found new life. Its not to say we don’t have our problems and our challenges, but we seem to have made it over the hump and now we are that example of what is possible in today’s harsh global economy.

I was running the jail trail this morning and looking at this city. It really is wonderful. The view is impressive and there is so much to like about Pittsburgh. Obviously, the people here know that – and demonstrate that with a quiet confidence about winning yet another honor.

Now, if we could only have that confidence for game 7. Watch the game with both eyes open everyone.

” … and a Big Ring!”
June 10, 2009

The above is the final four words in a pre-game speech given by then Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. Trying to inspire his troops before they took the field for Super Bowl XVII, he laid out the stakes in as simple terms as possible.

“This game is worth $70,000 and a big ring!”.

That is what the Super Bowl means to the players. Yes, the Lombardi trophy is what the winning team brings home but long after the trophy is in the possession of the team and the money is spent, all that remains is the ring.

There is no ring quite like the Super Bowl ring: from what it represents to what it has become, the ring is the symbol of both success and excess in professional sports. I have worn the Steelers first Super Bowl ring and its not that much bigger than my college ring. Tonight, I saw the latest Super Bowl ring … and it dwarfs what the fabled “One for the Thumb”.

sb 43 rungA local jeweler told me today’s Super Bowl rings are like having a trophy on your finger – even for the largest of players. The league usually covers $5000 per ring, but many franchises will spend four to five times that on this championship symbol. This year, the Steelers went over the limit … and the result is a ring that left the players I spoke with tonight speechless.

From Charlie Batch to Santonio Holmes to Ryan Clark, each Steeler I spoke with following tonight’s ring ceremony struggled to find the words. They even struggled deciding what they would do with it after they wore it tonight. Many said they would savor it for the next few months, then put it away when the season began.

Maybe its meant to be this way. Such a large ring and such a gaudy symbol of success is not meant to be worn every day. Its meant for special occasions and memorable moments. It’s a symbol of a once-in-a-lifetime achievement ( at least for some teams ). Maybe it should be worn just as frugally.

A Life Well Lived
June 9, 2009

While I had attended many funerals, I have never been to a small memorial service until this Saturday. Little did I realize such a service without the deceased would be so powerful and moving.

The deceased in question was a woman named Becky Duke. I had worked with her and her husband on Hot Pink Pittsburgh, a breast cancer fundraiser that brings out the best in the performing arts for this most worthy cause. They were always such a kind and generous pair that when I heard of her passing from complications due to cancer, I had to come and offer my condolences.

It was Becky’s wish that upon her passing, there would be no service until a month after her death. It sounded like a strange request when I first heard it, but it made all the sense in the world Saturday morning.

Upon entering the chapel, it was clear that Becky had many friends, family and relatives. The small service room was filled. That morning at that time, the sun entered the room from the bay window and filled the space with so much natural light there seemed to be no need for lights. Inside, there were many people I did not know. However, their identities would be revealed to me in a most enlightening way.

What began as a memorial service quickly became “This is your life, Becky Duke”. The speakers ranged from her husband’s best friend, her sorority sister, her high school class president and her step children. They each told the assembled group about a side of Becky that few in the room knew. Her many nicknames, her organizational skills, her passion for pictures and her love of high-tech. Each of the speakers delivered their remarks with perfect timing … whether it be making a joke or hitting upon a poignant moment.

There were as many laughs as there were tears. There moments of surprise and shock and others quiet agreement. But most of all, there was something in this service for everyone and that’s when the meaning of  Becky’ request became clear.

She wanted time to pass before those she touched gathered to say goodbye. Once we were secure in the knowledge of her passing, we could truly celebrate her life. The reality of death had sunk in and all that was left was life … a glorious life. A life well lived.

As I left the chapel, my sadness went from her passing to my missed opportunity. I thought I knew something about this woman and I really did not. I knew so little but learned so much that day. I know regret not knowing her better.

I also now know what is truly important in death. It’s not the passing of the individual. It’s what that individual leaves behind. The lives that person touches and the memories that have made. Judging by the number of people, she touched many lives in her years on this planet. We can only hope that when we pass, so many who were so moved by our place in their lives will come to say goodbye.

Declaring His Independence
June 5, 2009

There seem to be absolutes when it comes to Pittsburgh and the region. The sun rises in the East. The Pirates will finish with a losing record. Baseball season ends around here when training camp begins. Somebody, at some point in the day, will invariably stop before the tunnels to hear the ending of their favorite song.

Oh yes, there’s one more: a democrat will will Pittsburgh’s race for mayor. It’s been one of the surest best in the region for years. It’s why the democratic primary holds such importance. The winner of that usually can feel confident headed into the general election in the fall.

The reason? Tradition, history and money. The democratic candidate holds all three heading into the general election – and if that person is the incumbent, it seems the race is all but won. Once only in recent memory has someone other that the democratic candidate won the race … and that was Richard Caliguiri in 1977. A breakthrough? Hardly. He was a democrat who lost the primary and ran as an independent and won. Still, he was always seen first and foremost as a democrat.

Which brings us to 2009. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl won the democratic primary, and with the news that the city has landed the prestigious G-20 Summit, it looks good for Ravenstahl to repeat.

However, a couple of candidates believe otherwise and one of those would be challengers announced his plans to run. His name is Kevin Acklin, a Squirrel Hill attorney who held a rally last night in Shadyside amid friends and supporters. I was there as well to listen briefly to what Acklin has to say and what he stands for. While his positions aren’t really that much different from those of Carmen Robinson or councilman Patrick Dowd ( public safety, economic responsibility, ethical government ), his story is.


Attorney Kevin Acklin throws his hat into the ring. ( Courtesy Heidi Murrin, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review )

Acklin was raised by a single mom and went from South Oakland through Central Catholic to Harvard before getting his law degree from Georgetown. He could have worked in D.C., but came back to Pittsburgh where he’s now going for the ultimate job: mayor. He faces long odds no doubt, but there seems to be a certain confidence in listening to him. He truly believes he can win … as an independent.

Sure, he’s rough around the edges and needs to avoid making the ultimate mistake: not being good on television. However, I get the sense that he’s not in this to make a statement. He’s in this to win it and become mayor of Pittsburgh. It might make for an interesting fall if he is able to make this  a race.

I am not a political expert, especially when it comes to Pittsburgh. However, I have watched the machinations of political contests for a few years now. I enjoy debates because it really is an exchange of new ideas and the chance to see those who may lead in the future take their first steps. Such was the case with Carmen Robinson who I believe will eventually earn a position of power on the city’s political scene.

The same maybe true for Acklin depending on how he fares in the fall. The same might be true for Franco “Dok” Harris, the son of Steeler legend Franco Harris, who announced in May he too was running as an independent. However, I have heard very little of  Harris since the announcement.

We’ll see how things turn out for Harris, Acklin and our current mayor this fall. History says the race is all but decided. Then again, history is not everyone’s strong suit.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs Syndrome
June 3, 2009

As I write this entry, I am watching the final minutes of game three tick away. During the game , I have been in conversation with people in the newsroom and friends of mine watching the game at home.

I’m not sure what’s with my female friends, but for some reason they are big-time Penguin fans who are using words I don’t associated with hockey. They describe themselves as “scared”, “nervous” and “tense”. Some cannot even watch the game. That’s right, there are Pens fans I know who watched all during the regular season who refuse to watch during the playoffs. “It’s just too tense,” they say.

Maybe its because I spent all those years watching playoff hockey as a reporter who wasn’t allowed to show any emotion in the press box. For whatever reason, I just can’t imagine getting to the final series of the season and not watching every minute.

stanley-cup-finals-2009Hockey is the one sport where the regular season and post-season are two entirely different animals. The post-season is so much better and perhaps the best post-season in all of sports. Yet, for a number of my friends – especially female – they cannot watch it without having a visceral feeling.

I think that is why hockey clicks with so many women. Unlike football, the roller coaster lasts all game long. There are no long time outs and no chances to breathe. It’s fasten your seat belts and let it ride. No sport takes its viewers on such a ride. Yet, I can see how that ride can be a little too intense for some. To those folks, I say get over it and enjoy it. Win, lose or draw, there’s nothing wrong with the kind of entertainment that is almost like a horror film when it comes to its affect on the viewer.

Just ended. Pens win 4-2.  It’s a series again.