Archive for January, 2010

Meal Game Plan for Men
January 28, 2010

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.

That adage is true … in both a positive and negative way.  Sure, you can get to a man’s soft side through his taste buds but you can also find a fast track to heart disease if that man is gobbling up the wrong things.

I’m a guy who loves fried chicken, ribs, steak and all sorts of other things can do damage if eaten in the wrong amounts or not balanced with the right things. Since I started running, I have tried to be more aware of what I eat. Perhaps my downfall is sushi … with too much soy sauce. But I also find I eat too little or at the wrong times. Probably explains why I have peaked ( or reached a plateau  ) when it comes to weight loss.

My story Wednesday at 5 brought me face-to-face with Leslie Bonci. She’s the director of sports nutrition at UPMC and nutrition consultant to the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. She just finished her third book on nutrition, “Sport Nutrition for Coaches”.  She has run marathons and travels the country preaching the gospel of good nutrition. She told me that men often face obstacles when it comes to nutrition. For example, unlike women, if it doesn’t taste good we won’t eat it. Also, we are not into smaller portions. We want size as well as taste.

Smart snacks for men: Pistachios, Popcorn and Veggies with Bean Dip

Bonci’s advice: put together a day long eating plan based on taste and substance:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, cereal, peanut butter or a banana. These are all things that start your day and give you energy as well as stick to your ribs.

Lunch:  Turkey chili, or turkey meatball. Once again, its tasty and sizable .. and Bonci says soups are very appealing this time of year just from the warm-up factor.

Snacks: Pistachios, popcorn and vegetables with bean dip. Bonci especially likes pistachios because they must work to take the shell off and eat. In her words “shelling” foods means you won’t be “shoveling” them down your throat and eating more.

Dinner: Stir Fry. Its a sizable meal with the option of adding more vegetables or other things to enhance the meal.

Seems like a lot of food … and it might be … but the substance and types of food ensures men will be able to lose weight, prevent heart disease and give yourself energy. And as a bonus, men won’t feel like they are missing out on a good-sized meal.

Now, if I could only fit this plan into my 3pm to 11pm work life.

Fredo Comes to Pittsburgh
January 26, 2010

I think the Haiti story has touched many hearts and inspired record donations. Amazing when you consider that most of those people have never met the people who are suffering much less been to Haiti.

However, your perspective changes when you actually comes close and get personal with those who have stared death in this face and saw the tragedy. Such was the case for me today when I met Jamie and Ali McMurtie. You know their stories by now and, if you don’t, I’m guessing you don’t live in Pittsburgh. In short, working at the Bresma orphanage in Haiti during the quake, they watched over 54 orphans until a massive rescue effort could save them.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the sisters today. When you meet them, after all that you have heard, you expect to meet some larger-than-life people. Instead, they are two very young-looking woman who could easily be your neighbors down the street. Nothing on the outside would clue you into the emotional trauma they experienced less than a week ago.

“Hello Pittsburgh”! Fredo, with his adopted sisters Jamie and Ali, with a greeting for his new home.

Then, I met Fredo. Fredo is the three-year-old orphan whom their family adopted from the group of 54. He speaks Creole and very little english. His smile is wide and joy is from ear to ear. There is nothing about him that says he has endured such heartbreak. Not only the trauma of the earthquake, but also the heartache of not having a family to call his own. He seems unaffected.

He has adjusted well to his new surroundings. He marvels at a cell phone and its keys. He is first scared, then cuddly with a dog that laughs automatically. He gets enveloped in the love of his new family … easily calling Jamie and Ali his sisters.

After our 45 minutes together, I left with one question on my mind. Would we all be so brave as those girls were in the face of the earthquake and given the charge of taking car eof 54 orphans in the front yard of a crumbling orphange? Would I say to a possible rescue “all of us or none of us”? I would like to think we all would be able to step up in the face of such danger but its hard to say.

I asked Ali if she minded being called a “hero” as many have done just this past weekend. Ali accepts it but adds there is so much to do … and that a hero wouldn’t quit at this stage of the game.

Well said.

By the way, I did ask. No movie offers …. yet.

Orphans In Your Own Backyard
January 22, 2010

The story of the Haitian orphans has moved the people of western Pennsylvania. It has rallied them to action. It has made many open up their wallets and now, their homes.

I spoke with directors at two local adoption agencies today who told me that have been inundated with phone calls inquiring about adopting the Haitian orphans who have either been brought back by the McMutrie sisters or are still in Haiti looking for homes.

While the generosity displayed is no doubt sincere, it does make one wonder why doesn’t charity begin here at home? Why don’t more people offer to adopt the thousands of children in this state? There are 1800 children in Allegheny county alone who need homes? Today, I went after the answer to that vaery question.

Prior to the earthquake, adoption agencies like the Children’s Home and the Three Rivers Adoption Council say they had gotten a few inquiries daily but nothing like the deluge that hit them after the Haiti orphans story started making the rounds. UPMC Chief of Psychology Paul Friday says it’s those images that have led to such intense interest in adopting the orphans. He says, for many, the desire is emotional. Think about it. You probably know someone who said out loud that they wanted to adopt one of the orphans after watching the coverage.

Pittsburgh has opened its arms to the Haitian orphans. Will this lead to residents opening their doors to its own children looking for families?

Directors at both adoption agencies tell me there are many children right here who are in need of love, attention and homes  and the children are readily available. Children’s Home adoption director Connie Back told me African-American infants are available almost immediately after you complete the training and background checks which take about four months. For those who want a Haitian orphan, if you put that child next to an African-American child, there is virtually no difference in their life experience  except one has been through an earthquake. Both understand pain. Both have experienced loss. Both know life without a family.

It’s clear no place has a bigger heart than the people of  Pittsburgh. Thats been made clear by the outpouring of support and love for the displaced children of Haiti. Those orphans will be taken care of and be raised in good homes. Count on it. While we look outward, it was clear from my interviews today that looking inward was also a dire need. 20,000 children in Pennsylvania need a family and need a home.

Mission Accomplished!
January 20, 2010

Don’t you just love a happy ending?

The story of the McMutrie sisters of Ben Avon and the 53 orphans that came home Tuesday is one of the most heartwarming and inspiring stories that we have seen in this region in  a while. But its more than the tale of two brave sisters and 53 orphans. It’s the story of how people: from government leaders to everyday people worked together towards a single goal … and getting the job done.

I first learned of the entire situation from a good friend of mine named Diane Rua. She told me about the grassroots efforts on behalf of the McMutrie family to rescue Jamie, Ali and the kids. There were people trying to get a plane and others trying to find facilities to house the orphans if they could get them to Pittsburgh. But the majority of this grassroots effort was people calling thier congressman and their elected officials. Keeping the heat on the people in power … and it was that effort started the wheels in motion which led to the dramatic rescue which was completed on Tuesday.

The McMutrie sisters and the orphans. Now they are in Pittsburgh thanks to a truly grassroots effort.

Last week, I had a chance to interview the sister-in-law of the women as well as the husband of Jamie McMutrie. They shared with me the story of struggling to make contact  the girls, their plight in Haiti and the lack of time to make something happen. They showed me pictures and shared the stories of these two girls and why they believed being in Haiti was the best thing for not only them, but also the orphans. They relayed stories of late night phone calls with various elected officials pleading for action. That led to the involvement of literally dozens of people in positions of authority, all working together with one single purpose.

In the hours since the flight arrived with the children, I have read the family’s Facebook page and have gotten some comments on my page. There is true joy and happiness in the area as well as a great sense of pride in Pittsburgh. It’s easy to understand because this was mostly a Pittsburgh operation: from the residents rallying to the hospitals offering their services to involvement of congressman Jason Altmire.  However, this is more than a Pittsburgh story. I would like to think this could happen any in America given the circumstances and the people who went all out to make this miracle happen would have done it whether they live in Pittsburgh or not.

Yet, there is something about this region that seems to make this Hollywood script of a drama more believable. You can imagine your neighbors giving what they can for someone they don’t know. You can see major local  hospitals asking what can we do for the common good. You can see those in political power forgetting party affiliation and doing some as one for the common good.

As for that “Hollywood script”,  I’m sure we will see on the big screen on the small tube sometime in the future. After all, a movie was made about the rescue of the Quecreek 9. When you think about it, in many ways, the stories are very much the same: facing difficult odds, a small group hunkered down while an entire community came together to rescue them.

If there is one thing I do hope happens, on a personal note, is that the spirit of wanting to help these orphans will spill over into the 1800 foster children we have right here at home. They need families and homes and while they may have not been in an earthquake, many have been through their own ordeals and are looking for love just like those children from Haiti.

Yes, I love happy endings.

The “Spirit” of the Rule
January 12, 2010

Former Steeler Chairman Dan Rooney is now the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. He leaves behind a great legacy, playing a front office role on all six Steeler Super Bowl championships.

However, in my opinion, the greatest impact Rooney leaves on the game of football has nothing to do with the Steeler success on the field … at least directly. He is the force and creator of what’s known as the “Rooney Rule”. It was designed a few years back by Rooney to discuss the clear inequality of minority head coaches in the NFL.

The problem was not just the lack of numbers, but the lack of opportunity for qualified candidates of different ethnic groups to get interviews and get in front of the decision makers. The rule, established in 2003, has opened the door for many coaches of color including Pittsburgh’s own Mike Tomlin.

I sat down and talked to Rooney about the rule back in 2004 and the spirit behind it. He told me the idea behind it was to allow teams to get a chance to meet and talk with coaches of color and, by virtue of that opportunity, the best man would win the job and sometimes that man would be the minority candidate. Dan Rooney was quite clear during our discussion that this was not a “token” interview situation.

Pete Carroll: The New Seattle Seahawks coach but was the “Rooney Rule” violated in his hiring?

Fast forward to 2010 … and the spirit of the rule has been lost … as has the execution. The Seattle Seahawks hired college coach Pete Carroll to turn around their fortunes. The hire was no surprise to anyone as of Friday when word leaked out. However, this past weekend African-American assistant coach Leslie Frazier interviewed with Seattle. Today, Carroll was hired.

Commission Roger Goddell said the Rooney rule was satisfied in this instance. After my conversation with the man who created the rule, its my opinion that not only this rule ignored, but Frazier had what amounted to a “token” interview. Even if they didn’t offer Carroll the job until after they interview Frazier, are you telling me only one person was worthy of an interview before hiring Carroll.

Teams will always have their eye on a coach or two as they look for a new leader. However, it does them no service to make a mockery of the hiring process by not interviewing several candidates before choosing the apple of their eye. That’s the spirit of the “Rooney Rule”. That is the right thing to do.

5 Stories That Shaped My 2009:#1
January 5, 2010

We’ve seen it all, haven’t we Pittsburgh? We have been on the world stage for so many things: G-20, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup. We have been talked about in so many different mediums for so many different things. We have been held up as an ideal for what a city looking to escape the economic doldrums should aspire to.

If there was ever a year a medium-sized city should feel good about itself, it would by 2009 in Pittsburgh. Yet, it was through tragedy, that this city showed more about itself that any triumph or success. The events of the morning of April 4th and the days that followed showed us at our best as our community came together to experience a moment that may have been our worst.

That morning, I was heading down I-79 towards my alma mater, Ohio University. Set to speak to a collection of journalism students, I got a call from our newsroom. There was a shooting in Stanton Heights … and it involved a police officer. I turned around and headed back towards the city, not knowing what to expect. My best guess is that one officer was shot, the suspect was apprehended and the scene was secured.

When my car pulled up to the police line, it was obvious this was different. Watching the 30 or more officers in riot gear run by me was the first indication. The sound of gunfire was the other. It sounded like firecrackers popping and it went on for a good ten minutes. From the point in which we held back police, we couldn’t see the shoot-out that was underway but we could hear it.

What followed was a morning of tragedy: the death of three Pittsburgh police officers in a quiet residential neighborhood. I remember being live all that morning and later that night at Pittsburgh police headquarters. I remember trying to talk to a woman who was at the scene and was inconsolable. She told me to get away when I tried to talk to her on camera. She was the Richard Poplawski’s mother.

I remember how cold it was … and I remember how things moved so quickly … even though it was almost four hours from the shootings to the clearing of the scene. I remember being at police headquarters for the press conference later than day and seeing the emotion and the tears in the eyes of their fellow officers.

But nothing stays with me more than what happened later that night. I went out to dinner because I hadn’t eaten all day and was craving a hamburger. My journey for food took me to Tessaro’s in Bloomfield. Of course, it never dawned on me until I got there that this was the neighborhood in which officer Paul Sciullo grew up. I was met by a constant wave of folks from that neighborhood. Some were complementary of our coverage while others simply wanted to tell me stories about. I learned about his neighborhood ties, his passion for golf and his decision to give up a financially rewarding career to become a cop.

As the days went on towards the funerals, it was amazing to see how the city and the community came together. Many to mourn and grieve while others wanted to raise money to help the families. It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t surprise us about the community in which we live. Still, when it happens its nothing short of amazing.

Tonight, as I am writing this, it will be eight months since that tragic morning. The images are still fresh. I can still feel the chill of that cold morning. I can still feel the uneasiness among those bystanders as the firefight went on down the street. These are images that eight months later stick with me … and likely for years to come.

Maybe with the community at large, but definitely with me.