Archive for December, 2009

5 Stories That Shaped My 2009: #2
December 31, 2009

It’s the closing moments of the greatest sporting event in the world. The Steelers are driving down the field towards what could be the winning touchdown and where am I to see this moment in Super Bowl history? Under the stands t at Raymond James Stadium … watching it on TV.

I’ll explain how I got there in a moment.

I have covered three Steeler Super Bowls and there is nothing like being in the city where the game is being played that morning. You know the whole world is watching and most of the planet would give their right arm to have the access you do during Super Bowl week.

Channel 4 Action News photographer Dan Pratt helping Steeler punter Mitch Berger scoop up confetti off the field at Raymond James Stadium.

While I seen the Steelers in the Super Bowl before, this one was different. It wasn’t the first after a long drought like Super Bowl XXX in Arizona and it wasn’t the “one for the thumb” like Super Bowl XL in frigid Detroit. This was a Steeler team that had a new head coach, a completely different identity and an opponent which failed to strike fear in the heart of Steeler Nation. The Arizona Cardinals had been a punchline for most of their existence until reaching Super Bowl XLIII.

For me, I have to admit there were mixed emotions. As a news anchor, I no longer go to Steeler practices and the locker room on a regular basis. I didn’t personally know many of the younger players while I was very familiar with some members of the Arizona Cardinals. I knew head coach ken Whisenhunt so well that I was the first to let him know about Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident because I had his cell phone number. Receiver Steve Breaston and defender Reggie Wells were players I first covered when the played high school football in these parts. Russ Grimm and Larry Fitzgerald were people who played or coached here who I knew very well. No matter who won, I would have had reason to be happy for the victors.

As for the game, Guy Junker, Sally Wiggin and myself were seated at the highest most seats in the grandstand at the Stadium. We had  bird’s-eye view of  the 100-yard return by James Harrison and the spectacular halftime show. However, we were supposed to be on the air, broadcasting live back to Pittsburgh, as soon as the game concluded … so we followed the media horde down to the tunnel under the stadium with five minutes to go.

Of course, it wound up being the best part of the game … and we were stuck watching it on TV as we waited to take the field. I will say that Sally and myself rode the roller coaster in that time, watching the Cardinals take the lead, then seeing the Steelers comeback and win on Santonio Holmes end zone grab.

As soon as the clock hit zero, Sally and I grabbed each other’s hand and made a mad dash for the field. We stayed close so we weren’t run over by the mass of media descending upon the field. Once in place, we had players come join us for live interviews. They were like little kids, especially offensive lineman Max Starks who hugged both of us … and nearly squeezed us to death in the process.

However, one moment from that post-game celebration stays with me. The team’s punter, Mitch Berger, joined us for an interview. So what do you ask the punter? Well the simple question is to ask “how do you feel?”. His answer said it all. He was signed to replace the team’s regular punter who was injured. Mitch said after many years in the league, he never expected to have this chance. He pointed to his dad in the stands and said how much it mean that his dad was there. Berger then said he would grab handfuls of confetti on the ground and take them home to remember this moment.

The Super Bowl means different things to different people. For me, it’s the greatest sporting event in the world … and one of the greatest displays of passion and pure emotion you will ever see. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long for another chance to take part in “Super Sunday”.

 

 

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5 Stories That Shaped My 2009: #3
December 31, 2009

Editors note: This is my look back at the 5 local stories that I believe had the greatest impact on our community in order of importance and impact. This is my opinion … and the narrative is told from this reporter’s view, offering a view of each story from a unique perspective.

While those of us who reside in Pittsburgh around proud of our city, our teams and our history there is still this sense of self-doubt that often rules. Pittsburgh knows it can be a great city, but even if you ask its residents some wonder just how it ranks with the rest of the country and whether those who aren’t from here truly appreciate what we have in this region.

The answer came emphatically from the White House in August. A very brief announcement by press secretary Robert Gibbs that Pittsburgh would host the G-20 Summit. The news was greeted by chuckles among the  White House press corps … and shock from people back here. Why in the world was the world coming to Pittsburgh?

The answer said a lot about our President, our region, our people and our future. It told me that President Obama had not forgotten the role this region played in his historic victory. It told me that our region had made a full comeback from the collapse of the Steel industry to become a leader in “green” technology and medical science. It said that what was being done in this region was a blueprint the rest of the country and the rest of the world could follow for future success. Most of all, it said the people of this region were both resilient and forward-thinking.

What was said and discussed at G-20 was really not as important as hosting the event itself. It allowed world leaders to see Pittsburgh, but it allowed the world to discover Pittsburgh: the new Pittsburgh. People who had not been here in ages were surprised by what they found. Those who had never been to Pittsburgh discovered a vibrant, growing city. Those who had abandoned the city during its hard times, rediscovered a city born again.

G-20 from my digital camera: This was noon Thursday on the North Shore. No traffic, no people, plenty of secutiry

However, the G-20 was far from perfect. We had protests that, at times, took a violent turn. We had international attention focused on the turmoil these protests caused and clashes between protestors and police. But nothing was as bad as the one thing the g-20 failed to showcase: the people of Pittsburgh. With security heighten and every entrance to the city shut down or gated off, few bothered to venture into the city those two days.

I was based on the north shore across from the Convention Center doing live reports. I had time to walk into an empty city populated by more security forces than actual residents. I know of people who chose to leave the city rather than deal with the closing down of the city. It’s a shame because what makes Pittsburgh unique is its people … and they were not to be found.

So was G-20 worth it? That’s the question that will be answered in the years to come. We are already hosting another world conference next year: a direct result of hosting a mostly peaceful G-20. Pittsburgh, for two days, was in the international spotlight. We’ll see if that results in new business coming to our town.

What I will say about G-20 is this: from my vantage point, I saw something that as recent as ten years ago would have been unimaginable. In many ways, I look at G-20 the same way I look at the Pro Bowl ( pardon the sports analogy ). It’s the honor of being named and not the event itself that is truly the thing worth celebrating.

5 Stories That Shaped My 2009: #4
December 30, 2009

Editors note: This is my look back at the 5 local stories that I believe had the greatest impact on our community in order of importance and impact. This is my opinion … and the narrative is told from this reporter’s view, offering a view of each story from a unique perspective.

It was a quiet August night in the newsroom. Kind of one of those summer nights where most residents in the region were outside enjoying the weather. There was nothing in the air to suggest a night of terror was soon to unfold … in all places … a health club.

However, slowly after 8pm, word started trickling into our newsroom from Collier Township that there had been a shooting at the L.A. Fitness Center on Washington Pike. As with such stories, confusion reigns in the early moments of such a scene. How many people were killed? Was the shooter still in the building? Was he alive?

We were fortunate as a news organization that night because we had people who lived in the area or nearby. We were able to learn the scope and size of this tragedy. For me, I nearly joined that gym when I lived in Bridgeville and it wasn’t far from many good friends that I had.

It was while Wendy and myself were on the set, breaking into programming to give as much information and details as we could, that I first discovered very important first-hand for the first time: the power and immediacy of social networking.

A night of terror unfolded before ouu eyes in Collier Township August 4th.

Many of you who normally read my blog know I have both a Facebook and Twitter page. Usually, the pages are used more for fun and games but on this night, they helped keep me in touch with people who lived in the area. People I knew. It was also the first time I had friends I knew so well so close to an unfolding story. So close that one of my friends called me later to tell me she literally had pulled out of her parking space at the gym as the shooter pulled in. She said to me later she left earlier that usual.

Well, you know what happened that night that put our community in the national headlines. Three women who went to the gym for their evening workouts were killed. Even looking at their pictures and hearing their stories, it is still hard to believe they are gone in such a senseless act.

And the man who killed them? We were given a rare glimpse into his mind through his own personal videos of his pursuit of a girlfriend. A pursuit that ended with lives being lost, families being torn apart and a community coming together to mourn. But we also saw great bravery and heroism. People pulling others out of the gym as the shooting began, the healthy helping the injured and those brave women who did survive their wounds.

 Today, the fitness center still stands and is still in business. Nothing outside the building to give anyone the idea or hint that something so horrifying had taken place. However, western Pennsylvania people have a way of not forgetting the past. There’s this adage that if ask a local person for directions, they won’t use street signs or even current markers. They will refer to what used to be there.

Such will be the case for years to come, I sense, at that facility in Collier Township.

5 Stories That Shaped My 2009: #5
December 29, 2009

Editor’s note: Over the next 5 Days, I’m looking back at the 5 local stories that I covered on Channel 4 Action News that  I think most shaped this year. I’m presenting them in a manner in which you will see what they looked like and what they meant from this reporter’s point-of-view. An inside look, as it were, starting with #5.

Sitting outside watching hockey on a giant screen in June?

That’s hockey: Pittsburgh style.

Pro hockey has been a part of  Pittsburgh since 1967 when the Pens first put on the blue shirts and skated in the then 12 team NHL. Maybe it only stands to reason that they would go back to the baby blues when the transformed hockey in this town.

Mario Lemieux had led the Pens to two Stanley Cups in the early 1990’s.  He turned Pittsburgh onto hockey for the very first time in a mass way. Children actually started skating en masse on the dearth of local rinks. Nearly two decades later, it was Sidney Crosby and a group of youngsters who got a new generation of kids living for life on the ice.

However, they were just a bit too young to lay claim to hockey’s holy grail. In 2007-2008, these “baby” Pens reached the Stanley Cup finals only to lose the modern-day “Red Army:  The Detroit Red Wings. It was clear the Wings were playing hockey on a completely different level that year and their Stanley Cup victory over the Pens didn’t shock anyone that really follows the game.

But a year later, the mantle was ready to be passed. Crosby, Malkin, Fleury were one year older and one year better. They were not intimidated by the Wings and they had overcome an even bigger challenge during the season. Trapped in 10th place in February when a little know minor league coach named Dan Blysma took over the bench. Blysma was the calming influence, sticking to his pre-game burrito tradition, that helped these young skaters once again reach the Cup finals against the Wings.

Sid no longer “the Kid” and neither were the Pens. The team became every bit as popular as the Steelers during thier Stanley Cup run in 2009.

While I no longer worked in sports, I did watch the games with interest from our studios in Wilkinsburg and when the Pens forced the Red Wings into a winner-take-all Game 7, I was sent to Detroit along with Guy Junker and Sally Wiggin to cover the biggest Game 7 in recent team memory.

I remember seeing the ravenous Red Wings fans outside Joe Louis arena, every bit as fanatical as we are about our Pittsburgh Steelers. I also saw quite a showing of Pens fans on the shores of  lake Ontario right across from Windsor Canada. After doing our live pre-game live shots on this nice evening in Detroit, I took my media pass and went off on what would be the greatest challenge of the night: finding a seat on media row.

You see, the NHL has this habit of assigning more credentials than seats … and chairs were at a premium inside Joe Louis Arena. I managed to find one, fortunately, right next to a correspondent from CBS radio whose normal beat was news but did all the big name sporting events: Super Bowl, World Series, etc.

Together, we watch a close battle between two teams who had played what amounted to over 100 games that season for a shot at the Stanley Cup. The tension was unbearable and the excitement was indescribable. However, when Max Talbot broke through with the game’s first goal, I sensed this would be the Pens game.

I never got to see the final seconds … or the hoisting of  Lord Stanley’s Cup at game’s end. I had to be outside ready to go live minutes after the game. My close-up with history was seeing the Cup being taken out of its box and taken down the tunnel towards the ice.

I did get a much better seat for the team’s victory parade back home. Wendy Bell and myself co-hosted coverage from the podium. It was a shining day, sunny and warm.  There were thousands of fans, many of them young children wearing their favorite players’ jersey. The players diving into the crowd and staying to sign autographs.

It was the culmination of a season … and a long journey for hockey in this city. But finally, the coolest game on ice took its place alongside Pittsburgh red-hot football culture. While some will always say this is a football town, at least for this season we learned that we are a town that supports winners and great stories …. no matter the sport.

Defining This Decade
December 23, 2009

I’m watching CNN “Larry King Live” and they are having a debate on whether there is an afterlife or not. On the panel, a skeptic, a spiritual adviser, a medical practitioner… and a conservative commentator. I will leave it at that.

I was also watching CNN ( which I do from time-to-time ) and they were doing what every news and commentary program will be doing the next week leading up to New Year’s eve: trying to make sense of the first decade of the new millenium.

It’s hard to believe ten years have come and gone … and I’ve only moved down the hall in the newsroom. No, seriously, it feels like just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2K and the end of civilization as we know it. Now, ten years have come and gone and we have seen our fears grow and our world shrink.

OK, it wasn’t the best of decades. But were the 2000’s really that bad? ( Courtesy: Time Magazine )

Quick refresher course: the 2000’s has seen the attacks of 9/11, wars in Iran and Afghanistan, the internet bubble burst and the economy go into the tank. We have seen our first African-American President and the final remnants of such American staples as the typewriter and the home telephone cord. Cell phones and in the internet have made our world smaller … yet we have more video choices than ever. As we near the end of the decade, we are having babies in numbers not seen since the “Baby Boom” and yet, we are getting divorced in greater numbers.

Finally, we all have to have our 15 minutes of fame … and it’s not just a moment, it’s a mini-series. Andy Warhol’s famous prediction has morphed into an entire industry where it seems every American has been on TV … or the internet. If they haven’t, no problem. They can create their own show and distribute it to the world through the web.

So what do we make of this decade that made cell phones required gear and gave us everything we wanted anytime we wanted it? I think I heard one person, and forgive for not remembering their name, give this decade a perfect title: the reality decade.

This will go down as the decade where reality TV went from fad … to format. Think about it. This decade began with “Survivor” and now, there are more reality shows than scripted shows. The “real” world made news more than just information … and on some levels, it truly is entertainment. The web allows us to get real with others, using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Whether it was manufactured or real, “reality” has pervaded our life and when all is said and done, that is what will define this decade.

Bad Times in Steeler Country
December 18, 2009

Everyone loves a winner, but I think you often discover more about a person, a player, a team and a town when things go south. Such is life in Steelers Country these days.

Ever since the Super Bowl champions started off their title defense at 6-2 we have seen a steady decline in performance from the team, patience from the fans and decorum from players.

We have witnessed a quarterback and receiver playing out thier difference in the press. We listened to a defensive back who got some fan hate mail and chose to use it as a springboard for bashing the media which he feels speculates too much. We have seen the loyalist fans in the NFL slam their Steelers and take aim at everything from the club’s heart to its head coach.

Not exactly what we expected when Sports Illustrated picked the Steelers to reach their 7th Super Bowl when the publication handed out ist mid-season report card.

Now, as a former sports reporter who covered this club on a regular basis for a decade, I could give you the clinical analysis of what’s wrong with the team and the weaknesses are obvious and many. The Steelers can’t close the deal with a fourth quarter lead. Their defense can’t stop the league’s worst offenses and, in my humble opinion, it’s because the team lacks the suffocating run game of the Cowher years. Remember those days when they would just give the “Bus” the ball and kill the clock.

Steeler Coach Mike Tomlin: His greatest coaching challenge lies ahead over the next three games.

I could give you many more reasons that I think the Steelers have gone south. However, I would rather give you my thoughts on what the decline has caused. It’s led to a solidified Steeler nation becoming divided and a realization that maybe we have been spoiled. Think about it. How many lean years have we had since 1992 when Bill Cowher became coach? Yes, there have been some teams that missed the playoffs, but never anything like the collapse we are witnessing.

We have been treated to some great football over the better part of the last two decades and a couple of world championships. It makes it hard to complain about having one terrible year, but maybe we would feel better if we were losing to the Colts and Saints, not the Raiders and the Browns.

I do like to make predictions … and my guess is that Mike Tomlin is about to clean house. He has won a world championship, but not with his players or a majority of his staff. Don’t ber surprised to see changes in coordinator ranks … and don’t be surprised to see Mike Tomlin put his stamp on this team with his own draft picks and free agents. Starting next year, expect to see a truly “Mike Tomlin” team.

Finally, watch the final three games of the year. If you are wondering what kind of coach Mike Tomlin truly is, you will learn over the next three weeks. As some wise coach once again, losing doesn’t build character, it reveals it.

Get ready for the big reveal.

Kudos To You!
December 15, 2009

There was a time when television was a one-way medium. We talk. You listen. I’m not taking about ancient history here, either. As recent as ten years ago, TV was clearly made for the coach potato – but not anymore.

Never was this more true than Sunday morning where freezing temperatures and heavy morning rain turned the local roads into ice rinks. Allegheny county 9-1-1 got 478 traffic calls and the parkways were shut down by PennDot.

While traffic was at a standstill and the region was frozen by, literally, the “perfect storm”, two things happened that kept the crash count from going even higher. First, the fact it was a Sunday morning and not a weekend morning with much more traffic. Second, the drivers in this region had the viewers of channel 4.

While we broadcasted non-stop Sunday morning and even had reporters calling in, we had more than one extra pair of eyes and ears. We had viewers calling us, e-mailing our website and letting us know what was happening all over the region. We had viewers who saw trouble in their neighborhood and after getting off the road, got in touch with us. As Ashlie Hardway reported today, we got dozens of e-mails alerting us to what was happening and allowing us to warn others.

Slick roads, icy conditions made for a dangerous Sunday for local motorists. It could have been worse, if not for you. ( Courtesy: Guy Wathen, Trib )

That is really the “perfect storm” and the perfect combination. While we are the broadcasters and the journalists, you are the people who live life everyday and see everything. You know your towns, your streets and your communities. You have a vested interest in your region and responded as such on Sunday.

A TV station is no longer a one-way street. It’s a community resource and a center of common discourse and discussion. It is a place where, either verbally or electronically, ideas are exchanged and information is passed. In the end, a TV station is a public resource and its only as effective as the citizens who use it.

Sunday, you used it to its fullest potential. Congratulations … and thanks!

Three Close Friends, One Great Idea
December 11, 2009

Put this one under the heading of “Why didn’t I think of that?”.  You probably have, but you didn’t put the idea into action. Three lifelong friends from Green Tree did.

20-somethings Mike Conley, Tony Ciotti and Danielle Danzuso are the owners and founders of Pittsburgh’s newest venture, Pear Cares. The concept is pretty simple: If you have been out and had too much to drink, they will pick you and your car and take you home. It’s $15 upfront with an additional $1.50/mile and a $7 surcharge if you live outside Allegheny County. All you have to do is call earlier in the night, or make reservations on-line, and they will come get you.

Childhood friends Mike Conley, Danielle Danzuso & Tony Ciotti: The trio has now formed a different kind of bond. One that is getting people home safely.

The concept is not new. Mike tells me he first thought about it when he was in another city and at the urinal. While taking care of business, he looked up and saw an advertisement on the wall for a similar service ( see, bathroom advertising really works! ). The trio started the service in October and now make 7-15 runs on an average night. Most of their cleints:  Not so much the bar-hopping 20-somethings but people in their 40’s and 50’s.

To get in touch with Pear Transportation ( “Pear Cares” ), you can call their office at 724-249-3855 or you can go to their website: www.thepearcares.com.  Be safe and Happy Holidays.

Fit for the First
December 11, 2009

Why wait until the start of the New Year? You can be fit in time for the first … and then, fulfill that annual resolution to get into shape. Personal trainers Mary Beth Silverio and Janet Hoffman of Squirrel Hill-based Silverio-Hoffman (silveriohoffman@aol.com) have come up with a plan that takes just a half-hour three days a week, no money down and can be done in the privacy of your own home.

The result? If you start today, a fitter you and one ready to run into the gym come January 1. Here’s their six-step plan:

Single Leg Split Squat ( 20 reps per leg /3 sets )

Muscles: Legs/Gluteus. Start with one foot on floor and the other resting on a chair. Concentrate on lowering the hips while keeping the front knee over the ankle and the back knee towards the floor. From this position, descend until the front thigh is para;;e; to the floor and the back knew is nearly touching the floor. Keep head/chest up. A broomstick can be held for increased stability.

Supine Bridge Over Ball with Straight Leg Raises ( 20 reps per leg/ 3 sets )

Muscle groups: Buttocks, lower back, hamstring calves. Lie on your back and place both heels over a chair. Contract your abdominals and glutes and slowly roll your spine off the floor while pressing your heels into a chair. Continue to press one heel into the chair while lifting the opposite leg towards the ceiling. During the lift, keep the knee in a locked position by contracting the quad muscle. Rise approximately two feet in the air and lower slowly without touching the chair.

Plank ( 60 seconds for 3 sets )

Muscle: Core ( abdominal, glutes and hips ). Lie face down on ground. Place your elbow and forearms underneath your chest. Prop yourself up and form a bridge using your toes and forearms. Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag towards the ground. Hold this position focusing on tightening your abs until you can no longer maintain a flat bridge.

Pull-Ups ( 12-15 reps/3 sets )

Muscle group: Upper/mid back. Begin by lying on the floor underneath a broomstick across two chairs. Grasp the stick palms down a little wider than shoulder width. Keep body as straight as possible and pull your body so that the chest meets the stick. Lower yourself slowly to the floor.

Push-Up to Side Plank ( 12-15 reps/3 sets )

Muscle: chest, triceps, abs, hip and back. Begin by performing a standard push-up with your hands a little wider than shoulder length apart. At the top of the movement, lock one elbow and shift your body weight onto one hand and flip onto  your side while keeping your hips off the floor and your opposite arm reaching towards the ceiling. Move back into a push-up position before completing the next rep on the opposite side.

Triceps Dip ( 20 reps/3 sets )

Muscle: Triceps, shoulder. Position yourself on two chairs with both hands on the edge of one and your heels on the other. Lift and lower your body to the floor while keeping your spine close to the chair and your elbows close to your body.

That’s it. Follow these steps, which take a half-hour, for three days and fitness will be yours come New Year’s Day. A reminder from these personal trainer: always stretch before and after exercise … and consider a brief cardio workout like jumping jacks before you begin. Also, if it starts to hurt, stop. Also, consider this program with a friend. Teamwork also inspires and motivates.

The program can always be adjusted to allow more work or less … but as Mary Beth says “more is better”.

Good luck! We’ll see you in the gym ready to go come January 1.

The Fascination with Woods
December 9, 2009

I will preface this blog by saying that on my Facebook page, I did say that I was “tired of the Tiger talk”. However, this is the story that just keeps giving and until it stops giving, it will be front page news around town … and around the world.

This might be the most bizarre story I have ever seen in my years or reporting news and sports. The world’s best known athlete winds up in a single car crash. It opens the floodgates to apologies for “transgressions”, a number of women claiming to have affairs with Woods and now, his mother-in-law coming collapsing and going to the hospital in Florida. One can only imagine the conversation before they called the ambulance.

If you still wonder why the alleged sexual affairs of a pop icon are important, it’s because Tiger Woods was unlike any athlete in our time. Immensely talented, immensely private and incredibly popular. He broke barriers, made history, gave back to this community and his country and showed us just how thrilling a game golf can be. However, he saved his greatest lesson for now: that he is human … and fallible.

Why the fascination with Tiger Woods’ story? Perhaps because it has all the elements of a TV drama. 

Maybe the reason this story has gripped this country is because it changes on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I swear the number of women claiming to have been involved with Tiger doubled in a matter of days.

The story has it all: fame, sex and betrayal. It’s just what we ask for in our television shows and movies and it’s what we are now seeing each night on the news. While I’m not a fan of tabloid TV, I can certainly see why shows like “The Insider” are running with this like the bulls in Pamplona. You have attractive people, alleged infidelity and secrets. You have texts and audio recordings with allude to an even more bizarre story.

And when will it end? Perhaps when Tiger speaks but can we really expect him to ever address this in public? If his current silence is any indication, Woods might not be speaking about but golf for the rest of his life.

Finally, for those of us who say we are tired of Tiger? We are , but its like that car wreck on the side of the parkway: we cannot help but crane our necks around to see what’s happening. There are more important stories out there and thing a that affect more Americans than the supposed dalliances of a pro golfer. But the truth is, in the end, there really is no story with as many twists and turns than that of Tiger. It’s become America’s newest soap opera … and even Hollywood couldn’t write a script this crazy.

Shopping for Her 101
December 7, 2009

Guys, we don’t ask for directions. We all know that, but when it comes to shopping for our spouses and signficant others we could use a road map. Bethany Ramsey, a local personal shopper, does this for a living for a lot of men without the time to shop. On a recent trip through the Mall at Robinson, she gave me do’s and don’ts when it comes to buying for that special someone.

Personal shopper Bethany Ramsey on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans.

Guys, here’s Bethany’s  guide to shopping for your special woman 101:

DO’s:

Be thoughtful and intentional: Women will be appreciative almost always if there is thought. Most women love to shop, but also want to know their man put forth effort so if you can’t pick so if you can’t pick something out … and have to buy a gift card … make it creative, wrap it fun, with a sentimental card. Service gift certificates are always appreciated ( manicures, pedicures, massages, spa days ).

SHOP LATER HOURS: Most malls are open until 10pm through the week and you can get better service if you aren’t fighting the crowds.

GO SHOPPING WITH HER: Find out her favorite stories, brands and not just anything her closet ( Women tend to hold onto things that don’t fit ).

ASK HER WHAT SHE WANTS AND LISTEN:  Keep with the classics. Buy a sweater and attach a gift card so she can go shopping and buy exactly what she wants too. Splurge on the gift card so she can get $100 pair of jeans instead of the $20 discount jeans usually settles for.

SHOP AT STORES WITH GOOD RETURN POLICIES: and gift receipts. Make sure she knows you tried, but it is OK if she wants something else. Women can be picky, yes, but you are significant to her for a reason.

CHECK ON-LINE: Look for printable coupons to her favorite stores. “Google” In-store coupons for ( store name her ). Remember, on-line shopper can find even better “online” only coupons.

WISH LISTS: Some stores have wish lists available. In this, you can have the woman in your life write a list on the store website of items she would like to have. From there, you can choose which item. Such wish lists include sizes and styles she would like.

DON’TS:

STAY WAY FROM JEANS; Unless you have a specialty retailer like BUCKLE that has wish lists, customer purchase histories and a good team of customer service help and don not buy electronics or appliances UNLESS they specifically ask for it.

CONSIDER HIRING: If you choose a personal, you can consult them and they should help you figure out what to buy and give you ideas. Still, the gift needs to be yours. If you are busy, a personal shopper can help you find multiple products and allow you to pick your favorite.

BETHANY’S FAVORITE PLACES:

KAY: Purchase histories. Excellent open-ended questions to help you pick out something. Of course, you can never go wrong with diamonds.

BUCKLE: Layaways, wish lists, free gift wrapping, personalized customer service. Shop online and return in store.

TARGET: Online and in-store wish lists, gift receipts and easy return policies. Shop online and return in store.

 You can contact Bethany Ramsey. Her e-mail address is  AllForYouStyling@yahoo.com   for more shopping advice and her services.

Concussions and the NFL Culture
December 4, 2009

Concussion. It has become the word of the week in these parts. Turn on the TV, listen to the radio or hop on-line in Western Pennsylvania and you will hear all about concussions. It’s enough to, pardon the pun, give you a headache.

Anytime something changes or influences the game and the team we all care about, it becomes big news. The last two weeks, the issue of the concussion suffered by Ben Roethlisberger has led to a rift between teammates, the one-game ascension of a third-string quarterback and a changing of the rules that govern concussions during NFL contests.

The truth that no matter how aware the league has become about the injury or how knowledgable players and fans become about concussions, the nature of the game is not likely to change. Football is a “collision” sport. The whole premise of the game is to hit the opposing player until he falls to the ground. Hardly the action that lessons the chance of concussions.

New rules instituted by the league can now keep a player out of a game if he suffers a concussion. That’s wonderful – in theory – but what player who’s fighting for a playoff spot or even a job is going to voluntarily admit he is not at his best and sit on the sidelines. It’s not the nature of pro football … from the player or fan viewpoint.

Ben Roethlisberger being wheeled off following his third concussion. That was last season. He now has four concussions.

This week, I spoke with Dr Richard Bonfiglio, a local certified MD who deals with brain injuries. He was the man who earlier this week said he would advise Ben Roethlisberger never to take another snap in the NFL following his fourth concussion. He warned of dementia and possibly Parkinson’s disease for the signal caller by the time he enters his 40’s.

That’s scary stuff.

However, in a game which is still in essence a test of how tough you are, few athletes will admit their weaknesses or failings. Don’t believe me? Consider this statistic: The Associated Press polled 160 NFL players. Half admitted they had suffered at least one concussion, but 20% said they had also played down the effects.

It’s clear after this week that concussions are nothing to take lightly and the NFL is taking steps to change the mindset of players, teams and even fans in regards to this issue. But can the league change the culture that pervades pro football?

It just seems the tough guy sport … and the take care of your brain mentality … seem to collide and, in the end, the tough guy may come out on top.

Role Model No Longer?
December 3, 2009

Can we now stop with the “athlete as role model” discussion?

It started with Charles Barkley 20 years ago, in a very famous series of ads, in which he told parents that don’t look to athletes to be role models for your children. The spot was met with the expected backlash …. and some looked at Barkley as shirking his responsibility as an athlete to the children of America.

Who knew that Sir Charles would be the prophet?

Here we are in 2009 and the most famous athlete on the planet, the one who inspires children of all ages, races and creeds, now has been exposed in a scandal of unimaginable proportions. A single-car crash in front of his home snowballed today into the revealing of a possible affair with at least one women, a tape-recorded message of someone sounding much like Tiger asking a woman to erase his name from a cell and his somewhat nebulous apology on his website.

Tiger Woods: He is a role model as a golfer, but should any athlete be a role model for the way they live thier lives off the field or course?

As they say, it’s not the crime. It’s the cover-up.

That being said, Tiger’s only “crime” is a misdemeanor traffic violation and a $164 fine. Of course, there are the laws of morality that have been broken here which will like cost him much more in any divorce. However, the damage that may have been done that is irrevocable is that to his image as a role model to millions of young people around the world. No longer will he be seen as perfect … or as close to perfect as any athlete.

But why should our children be told to place their faith in superstars and famous people? Sure, they hold a high place in our society, but how can we expect some in their mid-20’s to mid-30’s to set the example for the way we live our lives. Think about what you were like at age 27? You were still trying to save money, not save the planet. You made mistakes and probably did more than a few embarrassing things. What makes athletes any more perfect than you?

I think 20-somethings have enough to worry about as professional athletes and enough temptations. Let’s not pile on and ask them to raise out kids as well.

Tiger Woods will survive this. He is still the greatest golfer of our time … and will likely eclipse every record in the game. He will still make millions and may actually gain more fans after this because people will want to see him in action even more. I just hope that young people will not look to these stars as models for how they live their lives. Rather, they should view them for the lessons their lives teach. There are obstacles, there are temptations and there are mistakes to be made.

Hopefully, children will look up to the greatest role models in the world … and the most accessible: mom and dad.

Get The Facts First
December 1, 2009

The Steelers are usually a big deal around these parts, but you know something involving the team is really huge when even the Monday morning news analysis features the story. Such is the blowback from the pre-game comments of receiver Hines Ward regarding the decision which kept Ben Roethlisberger out of Sunday’s game in Baltimore. It was a game the team desperately needed … and they did not get.

Their third straight loss.

Hines Ward: Making headlines before the ball was snapped in Baltimore Sunday night.

Usually, this would cause enough consternation for “Steeler Nation”, but before the game Hines Ward spoke with NBC about the late word that was not going to play. Having suffered a concussion last week, he was cleared to practice all week but at the last-minute, did not.

The insinuation in the interview Hines did was that it was Ben’s choice not to play and the decision was not fully supported by the team. Ward went so far as to say there was “50-50 split” in the locker room whether that was the right decision. He said, given the magnitude of the game that he would have played with a concussion and perhaps Ben should have as well.

What Hines was not told prior to his comments was that it was the team doctors who made this decision … and one the team rightly followed. It was not Ben’s choice. Coach Mike Tomlin did not tell his players about that decision … and Dixon started the game which was clearly to the consternation of  some players, like Hines Ward.

Before we make this into a rift, let’s look at this situation for what it is: a player speaking up without complete information. So often, we make judgements ans people without having all the facts. It’s become a cottage industry in the media but rarely do those pundits comments cause them the trouble that it has caused Ward.

Look, I know Hines wants to win and won’t settle for anything less but does he really believe his quarterback would bail on the team in such a crucial spot? Maybe this all falls on Tomlin for not taking the time to tell his team? We really don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but we have now seen what happens when dirty laundry is aired.

Hines should take heart. He’s not the first person to speak before knowing all the facts. Anybody remember what our Commander-in-Chief said when he first learned of the African-American professor detained by police after breaking into his own home? He accused the officers of acting “stupidly”.

I guess we should get ready for a beer summit on the South Side …. right?