Thursday, June 2, 2011

"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???"

Dear Readers of Pittsburgh's Black and Gold,

First of all, I can't thank you enough for all the emails asking what happened to me. It's good knowing that you are appreciated not to mention, missed!

About nine months ago, I began working on my second book. This story is the tale of my exploits on the golf course and it is entitled,

"LIFE is an Unplayable Lie".

Being as last June marked the 25th anniversary of my "winning" the title of "America's Worst Avid Golfer", I thought that now was as appropriate a time as any to compose a tell-all biography documenting the unbelievable 2 1/2 decades that followed.

I tried to juggle my book writing and blog writing, but the further I got into my book, the more difficult it got. Then, in February, I was contacted by "Golf Channel" as they invited me to go back down to the TPC Sawgrass to have another go-around at the legendary 17th hole.

If I may jog your memory, this is the famous hole where I lost 27 balls en route to shooting a 66 on that one hole, thus cementing the life-long title that I now possess.

My wife and I traveled back to Ponte Vedra for a few short days and the result was the video that is available here entitled "Remembering Angelo". My producer for this shoot was a young man by the name of Dominic Dastoli who did an amazing job coordinating the entire event. Dominic later commented to me that he felt that this video represented the "best work of his career". I'll let you be the judge of that.

Not only did Dominic secure the use of the TPC course, he also managed to have a PGA official, the TPC's official starter, as well as legendary former commissioner, Deane Beman on hand to participate as well!

Needless to say, I was blown away by the folks at the TPC and the video was shown by "Golf Channel" as a part of their week-long coverage of the Players Championship.

It was totally an unbelievable coincidence that at the same time that I was writing a book, that the final chapter would land on me courtesy of Dominic and the folks at "Golf Channel".

When I came back from Florida, as you can imagine, I became completely immersed in and obsessed with completing my book which at that time was about halfway finished. Meanwhile, as I pounded away nonstop at my keyboard, consumed with completing it, I was unable to keep up not only with sports, but composing my sports blog as well.

As I write this, my book is now about 80% complete. The stretch run will involve more writing but the lion's share of the work will involve the task of copy reading, editing and polishing the entire manuscript. After I've finished doing that, I'll do one final pass-through to insure that "no stone has been left unturned".

Trust me, after spending eight hours a day writing a book, you're too burned-out to compose a story for your blog which can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours depending on the story.


So what I'm trying to say is that I apologize for not posting and I hope that once I've completed my book that I'll be able to get back into covering Pittsburgh sports as I always have. In the meantime, I hope you get to watch the video that shows how I managed to get what I called, "The biggest penalty in the history of golf." Also, below I'm going to give you an excerpt from chapter one of...

"Life is an Unplayable Lie".

I'll greatly appreciate your comments!

                                           ---Angelo Spagnolo "66"


CHAPTER ONE.
               
I Never Knew My Real Name Was
         "Charlie Brown" 
_________________________________
"Are you crazy? Do you want people to think that I’m making a joke out of this? No way. There’s no way that I’m putting across that path. I’m going to get on that green the way this hole was designed to be played."
________________________________________________________

That was a conversation I was having with my caddy, over 25 years ago. I had already lost about a dozen golf balls into the lake surrounding the dreaded 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass course in Ponte Vedra, Florida. My caddy at Sawgrass was a young, part-time real estate agent named Paul Karahalios. God bless him, he thought it would be more fortuitous for me to putt my way down a packed sand cart path near the waterline and then out along a snaking path that made its way out to the green. This was about the most absurd idea that I had ever heard in my life and there was no way that I was going to do it. No way!!!…. What I didn’t know at the time was that it wasn’t even my caddy's idea! More on that later...

Have you ever become involved in something and later found yourself asking, "How in God’s name did I ever get myself into this?" That was me all during the years 1984 and 1985. It was during this time when I unwittingly was laying the groundwork for establishing a worldwide reputation for myself as the worst player in the recorded history of golf…the worst on the planet…the worst golfer who ever picked up a club, yes, the worst who ever lived! 

"How do you do this," you ask? "It ain’t easy," we often will say here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

What I’m going to attempt to do in this story is try to explain how all of this came about and the craziness that it became. But as is the case with any good story, I have to first take you back, back, back; All the way back to my days as a young boy growing up in Pittsburgh (sound of harps in background).

I was a pretty happy kid growing up. I was the oldest of three children with a younger sister, Mary, and a little brother, Frank. My parents were hard-working, good people who loved each other and their children very much. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood and we kids all went to Nativity of our Lord Catholic grade school, so religion was always a big part of everything year ‘round.

My earliest sports activities were playing in pickup baseball games and of course, playing little league for four years. I loved baseball as a boy and I played nearly every day. I always had my glove on the handlebars of my bike just in case a game broke out. You would have thought that I would have improved after playing so much, but unfortunately, I didn’t. That should have been an early clue of things to come for me later. Even though I wasn’t some uncoordinated person who was always falling down the steps or something, at an early age I had already displayed a striking inability at playing sports. Any sports.

Normally, when we played pickup games there would only be ten or twelve of us total, so we would have "ghost" fielders. If, say, the fielding team called a "ghost" for left field and the other team hit a ball there, well too bad, you were automatically out. In my case, I was the kid who was always chosen last during the per-game ritual of picking teams. This was because: I couldn’t catch fly balls, I didn’t throw that great and, oh yeah, I couldn’t hit. Other than the fact that I didn’t have blazing speed either, I was great.In reality,I should have been a ghost player.

This was very frustrating because I really loved baseball, but I also really stunk. We used to play on a field that we called "The Coal Mines". This was because that’s basically what it was, an old strip mine where they had basically cut off the top of a hill. This place had only a backstop, no benches, no dugouts and no fences. If you hit a ball over someone’s head, well forget it, you’d be chasing it forever. So being able to hit was a major consideration in these games.  

If you ever had to slide at this field, a tremendous cloud of dust would be kicked up and your clothes would be covered in black coal dust. The players would wear this as a badge of honor, viewing themselves as being a gritty player. My mother, on the other hand, would become infuriated at what I was doing to my clothes. She’d often say, "And don’t be going to that coal mine." But with every guy waiting outside my house for me to finish practicing my accordion, well, I had already suffered enough of a humiliation for one day already.

Like a rebel without a cause, I went anyway and tried not to slide. Most of the time there was no problem because I didn’t get on base that often anyway!

My love of baseball continued into organized baseball. In the "minor leagues" I played on the "Pirates". I seldom got a hit, but one day I lucked-out and made contact. I actually hit a double. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be my career highlight. But most of the time I was an "automatic out". More often than not I was usually looking at simply striking out. My hand-eye coordination was awful, just as it is trying to hitt a stationary golf ball! Naturally, I began "riding the pines" as players do when they stink.

One day we were playing on a field that had benches but no dugout or fences to protect anyone. We were small kids, ten years old, so no one should have been in imminent danger...well one would have thought, anyway. One of my teammates, a righty, was late on a swing. I was sitting on the bench along the first base line, not paying enough attention, when he made solid, albeit late, contact. The result was a hard line drive that hit me directly in my forehead. Since I only had my baseball cap on at the time, the result was the biggest "hit" of my baseball career. I was briefly knocked out.  

When I "came to" a short time later, I had a massive welt on my forehead. My firs dubious athletic performance was now history. It was then that the league put in the "Spagnolo Rule": All players at this field not in the game had to wear a batting helmet. My teammates just loved me for that.

The minor league Pirates, just as has been the case for the last 18 years with their modern day brethren in Major League Baseball, were a pretty bad team. However the next year when it came time to move up to the "majors" in our league, I was unbelievably drafted by the best team, the Yankees. They obviously must have been lucky at drafting, because they didn’t much of a scouting department if they drafted me.  

This team was loaded with solid players: Good hitters, dominant pitchers and slick fielders. My contribution was usually one or two innings in left field. Since there were more right-handed batters and odds were that they wouldn’t "get around" on the ball against our pitchers, there were less chances that I’d have to be called on to field a fly ball, unless a rare left-handed batter came to the plate. Hence the reason for "hiding" me in left field.

I can vividly remember playing against the "Pirates" in our major leagues. Unlike their minor league counterparts, this team was really good. In a playoff game in later innings, we had runners on second and third with two outs when it came time for my trip to the plate. I was determined that I wasn’t going to strike out and let our team down. I may not have been good, but I was determined, a trait that would rear up its ugly head throughout my sports and business career.

The kid on the mound, Tom Austin, was a hard-throwing, extremely intimidating pitcher. I dug in at the plate and before the first ball was even thrown, the umpire called time out and said, "Son, would you get back off that plate, you’re inside of the batter’s box!!!"
I stepped away, then stepped back in and took a nasty fastball for a called strike one.I knew I could never hit this kid, not in my wildest imagination.The second pitch came in seemingly faster than the first one and I took my patented "rusty gate" swing that produced only a "strike two" call from the ump. There was only one more strike and I wasn’t going to cost us this game I guarantee that.

I dug in again and it was another fastball but this time over the inside corner. I leaned in and took a terrible blow to my upper arm. This kid was the hardest thrower in our league and I got a nasty-looking black and blue mark, complete with the stitches of the ball branded into my arm. But more importantly, I had "taken one for the team." Fighting off tears, I proudly went out to first base while trying to conceal my agony. Meanwhile, our dugout was wild with excitement. We had bases loaded and a chance to win because I had allowed myself to be hit. The next batter, our leadoff man hit a game winning single. I almost felt like I had done it myself. At least I had kept the inning alive! It was a small victory for me, but our team went on to win the league championship. Not because of anything I did, mind you, but because I had allowed a real hitter to get to the plate. But at least I was on a winner. It meant a lot to me.
I began wondering that perhaps baseball just wasn’t the right sport for me though. Maybe I’d have better luck playing football? At least I wouldn’t have to swing at fastballs.....
                                     
                                             TO BE CONTINUED....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

MELLON ARENA TRIBUTE AWESOME WORK OF CARNEGIE RESIDENT


As a longtime Pittsburgh sports bloggger, fortunately I get a lot of interesting things sent to me. I received a video from Chris Benson of Carnegie who has a video website called "Benstonium". His video, "Defending Our Home" is of such a high caliber that you are absolutely guaranteed to enjoy it.




ABOVE: The iconic superstructure of the Civic Arena.
BELOW: The Arena as seen from 10,000 feet.



I have seen so many phenomenal videos over the past several months that I can't help but wonder if other cities have videographers to our standard level producing highlight films as good as ours' or if this is simply another Pittsburgh sports phenomenom?

Whatever the case, special thanks to Chris Benson for sending it to us and be absolutely sure, Penguins fans, to check out this video!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ANOTHER GREAT PITTSBURGH COACH GETS HIS JUST REWARD

ABOVE: Dan Bylsma gets into the spirit of the NHL Winter Classic.

What is it about the City of Pittsburgh? This town has been fortunate to have many of the best coaches in America in several sports over the past forty years. Today, another great young coach found out that he is receiving a three year contract extension. That man, Dan Bylsma is already the winningest coach, percentage-wise, in Penguins history.

By extending Bylsma's contract, he is already assured, excepting for some type of a Mike Haywood-style calamity, of being the longest tenured coach for the Flightless Birds. That, in itself, is amazing as hockey coaches get changed with the same type of frequency that people do spring cleaning. In fact, of all the major sports, hockey coaches seem to have the shortest leash of them all.


ABOVE: Ray Shero (right) shakes hands with someone he obviously looks up to.

But Ray Shero, surely the shrewdest g.m. in hockey, certainly knows something good when he sees it. Bylsma is a cerebral coach who communicates well with both his boss and his players. Witness the horrible blizzard of injuries that have plagued the Penguins during the last few months. Working together, Shero has brought in a cadre of players to replace the injured. These new Penguins came both by trades and call-ups from Wilkes Barre-Scranton's Baby Penguins. It has been amazing to witness how within relatively brief periods of time, each new component has come on to become another productive piece in the Pens lineup.

It's also exciting to think about how a James Neal or Alexi Kovalev will mesh with Sid or Gino if and when those superstars return. So instead of the players mailing-in the balance of the season, incredibly this team, largely through goal tending and defense has managed to keep scoring points, to the degree where they now trail first place Philadelphia by just two points.

People have talked about how, while the Penguins will make the playoffs, they probably won't survive a round or two. Last Saturday, in a game that resembled a playoff game if this writer ever saw one, the Penguins managed to win an extremely tough game, in overtime again, against the big,bad, Boston Bruins.

The Penguins were really taking it to the Bruins and would have won in regulation had it not been for a goal scored while the B's had their goalie pulled. Still, they managed to prevail, 3-2 in overtime. Last night they managed to throttle a very hot Buffalo team 3-1 at home.

These players have bought into Bylsma's system, lock, stock and barrel. As a result, with each passing game, they're gaining more and more chemistry with each other. There have been very few occasions where any team has had to fight through as many injuries as this year's edition of the Penguins. Maybe they took a lesson from Mike Tomlin's bunch this year. They had a lot of injuries too, but they overcame them and went on to make it as far as the SuperBowl. Tomlin is now regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the NFL. If Dan Bylsma can get the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals using glue, masking tape and rubber bands, he too will then be regarded as one of the top coaches in the NHL. He will have also helped the Pens' bottom line immensely which can't be understated in importance as well.

Yes, the Penguins are very fortunate to have a man like Dan Bylsma. They're also extremely fortunate to have a judge of talent and coaching ability like Ray Shero too. He truly is the best general manager in the game.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TRIPLE CROWN HOPES NOW DEAD. HOW ABOUT TWO CROWNS? ONE CROWN? NO CROWNS? NO!!!!!!


ABOVE: What looked like potentially the greatest-ever of seasons in Pittsburgh history could degrade into a period of heavy drinking to cushion the pain.

In the mercurial world of sports, it is an ever-changing landscape fraught with land mines everywhere. Despite these dangers, we had every reason to believe, back in December, that we could potentially have been looking at a most-rare Triple Crown season in Pittsburgh this year.

Back then, the Steelers were chopping wood, destroying the Browns and Panthers. Meanwhile, the Penguins, were riding a tsunami that was created by Sidney Crosby as he was playing the best hockey of his already-prodigious career. The Pens were featured on HBO as they approached playing the Winter Classic on New Years Day in Pittsburgh, certainly one of the largest events ever held in the city. Yes, things were certainly looking as good as they've ever been.


ABOVE: The rarely-awarded Triple Crown Trophy.

Meanwhile, over in Oakland, the Pitt Panthers continued to dominate Big East opponents led by sharpshooter, Ashton Gibbs. Pitt touched the number one spot briefly, but for the most part, they've settled into the #4 slot nationally, certainly nothing to sneeze at and most likely they'll be a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.


ABOVE: It would have been a phenomenal story for the "City of Champions", but alas and alack, not this year.

Once January rolled around though, things started to unravel. The first victim was the Penguins. After Sid suffered two major hits starting off with a blatant cheap shot in the Winter Classic, he was soon to be lost for Lord-knows-how-long with a major concussion, if not worse. Will Crosby be back this year? Probably, but don't be shocked if it doesn't happen.

Once Crosby was injured, it set into motion an avalanche of injuries including such notables as Evgeni Malkin (out for the year), Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu, and others. In fact at one point, the Pens had to bring up four players on one day from Wilkes Barre and two of them are now hurt! In addition to injuries, the Pens also lost Matt Cooke and Eric Goddard to suspensions. In the now-historic Islanders clash, they finished the game with about three players on the bench!

Escaping with an overtime 3-2 win against the badly-slumping Colorado Avalanche last night, the Pens have now won two of their last six games. They've hardly thrown in the towel, but this team has suffered such upheaval and loss of scoring talent, that barring the return of Sidney Crosby, they would seem to have little chance to make a deep run in the playoffs, being realistic about it.

Meanwhile, after stirring conquests over the Ravens and Jets, the Steelers did the unthinkable, losing for the second time in the SuperBowl in a performance that was definitely not one of their best on the "big stage".

So there's definitely no triple crown and a double crown now has heavy odds against happening too. So what about a single crown?

This very possibly could be Pitt's year. A week or so ago, Ashton Gibbs, at 16.4 points-per-game Pitt's leading scorer, sprained his MCL and hasn't seen the court since. So what has Pitt done in Gibbs' absence? They just beat WVU and Villanova on the road and last night dispatched a game South Florida team 67-55. Not only did they defeat the hoopleheads in their insane asylum, they also beat #10 Villanova in their bandbox on-campus facility where they had only won 46 in a row. While Gibbs continues to rehab, the Panthers keep rolling on. Their tremendous depth is right now paying major dividends for them as they allow Gibbs the proper time to rehab his injury.


ABOVE: Somebody won this baseball tournament. Notice that we haven't mentioned the Pirates in this championship conversation.

This Panther team seems to be one of the most mentally tough and "unrattleable" units in memory. But the NCAA's are a place where dreams can be dashed with one mediocre performance as we well know.

We've already lost one golden opportunity and the second one is flickering. Don't ask me why, but this might be the year when Pitt claims its first national title in basketball. Maybe since it would be such a big deal it would be more appropriate to be a "stand alone" championship for the city?

Nah. Let's Go Pens!

ABOVE: Pittsburghers may have to "break out the heavy stuff" if the Pens and Panthers falter as well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

NEW ABBREVIATION FOR GREED APPROVED BY WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY: "N.F.L."

ABOVE: The famous, soon-to-be-slaughtered, goose.

While the citizens are still reeling from the news that our country is currently pondering another $1.4 trillion deficit, along comes the N.F.L., literally bathing in money, awash in so much profit that it boggles the mind...and it's still not enough.

Yes the N.F.L. is planning on locking out its players as the end of the current labor agreement, March 3rd, moves ever closer. But is it easy to have any sympathy for any of these characters on either side of the table? Come on man!!!


First of all, the players, by any measuring stick available on the planet earth, are among the highest-compensated people in the world. It's actually funny sometimes hearing the players say things during a contract holdout like, "I have to put bread on my table." Was that bread on the table or were they planning on buying the entire bread plant? Maybe it was the entire county where the plant was located? Maybe they were looking to buy the entire notion, the concept if you will, of bread itself! Most recently it's even funnier seeing these multi-multi-multi millionaires falling all over each other to have surgeries before their health benefits run out! Good Lord! Could you imagine what would happen if a guy who has $50,000,000. in the bank had to pay $10,000 for a surgery? Why he'd be down to having $49,990,000 in there!!! Then what? How could he continue to live? Yes, these guys are truly delusional.


Then there are the owners. They are, by far, the most power-crazed group of people in this country, led by their high priest of avarice, Grand Poobah, Jerry Jones. Jones is the guy who just got done spending more money on a stadium than many countries have for a national budget. Yet his greed, and the greed of the league was so great, that they were even moved to install temporary seats for the SuperBowl so they could shoehorn even more people inside. Of course we also know that the jumbo screens, mounted outside of the stadium for the poor slobs who couldn't afford $5,000 tickets to get in, were not free to watch, as is the case with "Mario's T.V." located outside Penguins playoff games. Hey, why not hit 'em for a couple hundred? Right?


These guys will squeeze a buffalo nickel until it squeals. I'm glad they're now facing a class action suit for their illegal and unsafe seating. Do you know that they even placed some of the Dallas season ticket holders into folding chairs so that they could raise their attendance figures even higher? That's Dallas' own season ticket holders!!!

Oh there are no limits to their con games. Take for example that purist, Roger Goodell telling reporters that, "I have fans telling me all the time that they want an 18 game season." No Roger, what they're saying is that they don't want to pay full price for an exhibition game that means nothing where the veterans are playing to preserve their career when they're playing at all.

It is shameful that this league forces their season ticket holders to pay for this charade masking as football. Even that paragon of common sense, Major League Baseball, doesn't force their season ticket holders to underwrite their practice games. While true, the Pirates play their exhibition games in Florida, they're not expecting fans who attend games there to pay regular season prices. That would be a double insult, after all.

Yes, while our country continues to slide into a financial abyss and normal, everyday people have less and less money to really put actual bread on their table, it would be interesting to see the N.F.L., that bastion of freedom, liberty, apple pie and jet flyovers to proclaim that the owners want to really help the country they claim to love so much. In an unprecedented move, they would donate XXX,XXX,XXX million dollars annually to help fund job initiation programs for everyday people and help underwrite new businesses where manufacturing would be reestablished in this country instead of having to phone China for everything.

ABOVE: Our delusional government spends $450,000 to fly over a closed stadium at SuperBowl XLV for a five second appearance on television. No wonder we're in the shape that we're in!


The players, for their part, would agree to the new rookie salary scale, while the owners would agree to drop the exhibition games as a requirement for season ticket packages. In Pittsburgh, I'm sure that with a fireworks show or an appearance by Three Dog Night they'd still pack the place. If the Pirates can manage that, I'm sure the Steelers could. The players would then keep a status quo on the number of "live" games they'd have to play and the season ticket holders would even save a few bucks. Even better, people who can never get into a Steeler game would finally have a chance to do so...even if it was an exhibition. But the fireworks and Three Dog Night will make it all worthwhile!

ABOVE: The influence and popularity of Three Dog Night continues to be undeniable.

From the standpoint of supplying health benefits for retired veterans, the league would agree to provide matching funds from each new player contract at a negotiated figure. Whatever the player's union wants to pay, the owners will match it. This would create a pool of funds that each retired player would be entitled to request aid from if now physically and financially unable to provide for himself.

Yes there are all kinds of creative ideas that both sides could be proposed if they were really interested in doing good things for the game, their fans and their country. Unfortunately, these people on both sides are driven only by one word: greed. With that being the case, don't be shocked to see a full house for all Pitt games this season. That might be the only place to get your dose of live football this year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

PITT MEATGRINDER KEEPS ON GRINDING UP BIG EAST FOES

The Pitt Panthers had to struggle the other night against their arch-nemesis, the West Virginia Mountain Kin, but even without their leading scorer, three point maven Ashton Gibbs (46% for the season beyond the arc), the Panthers (now 22-2) were able to win in Motown, a difficult place to play indeed, by a 71-66 score. Gibbs, the team's leading scorer at 16.3 p.p.g. is suffering from a strained MCL. He says he's not in pain, but he feels as though his knee is going to buckle when he tries to cut.


ABOVE: Travon Woodall, Ashton Gibbs and Gary McGhee celebrate another Pitt victory.

Gibbs is expected to be out 1-2 weeks. Along with his amazing 3 point touch, he is also averaging 89% from the free throw line. This is a player, obviously, whom you want to have on the floor and healthy during the upcoming Big East and NCAA tournaments.

Gary McGhee was once again a force to be reckoned with and if I've ever seen a player who is the perfect example of what the University of Pittsburgh's "Jamie Dixon School of Basketball" can do for a young man's basketball career, he is it.


ABOVE: A chistled Gary McGhee brings a physical style of play in an early-season conquest over UConn.

When he first arrived on the scene, McGhee was a rumbling, stumbling, bumbling, fouling machine. It was amazing how he could come into a game and immediately start piling up fouls and creating turnovers. His clumsiness was astounding for a division one athlete.

Today, McGhee is one lean, mean rebounding machine and the clumsiness is gone. He's a terrific rebounder, makes great outlet passes, runs the floor well, plays agressive defense and even scores with respectable frequency (22 minutes p.g., 7.3 points and 8.2 rebounds). What school wouldn't want a player like Gary McGhee on their team?

In short, Pitt would definitely not be 22-2 and ranked #4 in the country without one Mr. Gary Magee. This leads to another obvious question: How does Dixon do it? He consistently takes less than stellar talents and molds them into some of the finest players in the country. The Dixon way is the unselfish way. Anyone wanting minutes on this team had better plan on playing suffocating defense as well as a team-first style of offense. His players also become physical specimens during what must be relentless practices (they're always closed to the public).


ABOVE: Pitt players Ashton Gibbs, Gary McGhee, Tyrell Biggs and Gilbert Brown chill out before a game.

Right now we are watching the gradual transformation of one of Dixon's most highly-touted recruits in recent years, Dante Taylor. Taylor came with all of the McDonald's accolades attached to him when he arrived at Pitt, but he quickly showed that raw talent or not, he was far from ready for the level of play that his teammates had already been exposed to at Pitt. While he is not as bad as Magee was during his first two seasons, he is still well below the game that Magee has honed for himself today. Taylor also seems to have a chippy attitude at times during games. An example of this came during the recent WVU game where he "accidentally" walked into referee Tim Higgins in a circumstance that easily could have and in reality should have been called a technical foul. I'm sure this attitude hasn't eluded the scrutiny of Jamie Dixon either. It's just another rough edge that Dixon will have to "sand off" Taylor's game. Such is the life of a successful college coach.

Meanwhile the Pitt basketball machine just keeps on grinding up opponents methodically. With a two game lead in the Big East and an upcoming game against Villanova, everything's looking rosy for the "Dixon Basketball School". Hopefully Ashton Gibbs will be back soon, but in his absence, Travon Woodall will be getting more minutes than usual, a reward for a great team player and #6 man. He deserves them and he's more than capable. That's the Jamie Dixon way.

UPCOMING PITT SCHEDULE

02/12/11 at Villanova Villanova, Pa./The Pavilion 9:00 p.m. ET
02/16/11 vs. South Florida Petersen Events Center 7:00 p.m. ET
02/19/11 at St. John's N.Y./Madison Square Garden 12:00 p.m. ET
02/24/11 vs. West Virginia Petersen Events Center 9:00 p.m. ET
02/27/11 at Louisville Louisville, Ky./KFC Yum! Center 2:00 p.m. ET
03/02/11 at South Florida Tampa, Fla./Sun Dome 9:00 p.m. ET
03/05/11 vs. Villanova Petersen Events Center 4:00 p.m. ET

Monday, February 7, 2011

STEELERS SUFFER SECOND-EVER SUPERBOWL DISASTER


ABOVE: As seen from outer space, today a gigantic black hole is sucking the life out of the entire Pittsburgh area into "God knows where".

Just as every other Steeler fan who watched SuperBowl XLCDII2 or whatever the hell number it was, today we all have one thing in mind: Escaping the gigantic black hole that now threatens to destroy all of us.

As Steeler fans we don't accept losing easily. To describe it even more succinctly, losing for us is tantamount to a complete disaster, to be avoided at any cost. But I must admit that for as confident as I had felt prior to this game, that confidence came leaking out as though there was a two foot hole in a hot air balloon during that awful "Aguilera Anthem" that we all had to endure. The sight of seeing seasoned veteran, Hines Ward, hyperventilating was a little more than I could take. I was half expecting him to keel over. This was the time that was supposed to be our advantage! Our guys had been there before! Was this a sign that subconsciously the Steelers were already fearing the worst? Methinks so.

You already know what happened in this game, I'm not going to bore you with another blow-by-blow-by-blow recap, but I'm basically going to take a different approach to this story through actual pictures that were not cleared by the NFL. As everyone in the free world already knows, we basically beat ourselves, much the same as Neil O'Donnell did in SperBowl XXX with two interceptions and a killing fumble. These plays can best be described through the photos below.


ABOVE: Ben Roethlisberger's arm is hit as he throws to Mike Wallace. We all know what happened next: Pick six.

ABOVE: Ben forces a pass to Mike Wallace in tight coverage. After this second interception, four plays later the black & gold found themselves down 21-3

If there's one thing that was reinforced during this game though, it's that the Steelers never quit, no matter how deep of a hole they may dig for themselves. Another image that was further reinforced is that Pittsburgh fans have unquenchable thirsts, especially on the South Side at the many fine establishments there...


ABOVE: Trailing 21-10 at the half, Steeler fans stepped up their drinking by hijacking a beer truck in the hopes that their collective inebriated state would somehow transfer itself to Aaron Rodgers. In theory a fun idea, but it didn't work. This is the aftermath of that beer orgy. 

As I said earlier, the Steelers are not quitters. In the second half they came out smoking and stuffed the Packers, following it up with a Rashard Mendenhall ten yard touchdown run. However, for Mendenhall, who had become a solid ball carrier this year, he chose a most inopportune time to have the most disastrous play of his career.

The Steelers had stopped the Packers yet again and their momentum was threatening to take them all the way back into the lead. It was turning into a comeback of historic proportions. On second and two and just after an eight yard run, the third quarter ended. The Steelers had the ball on the Green Bay 40 with a full head of momentum. The first play of the quarter, unfortunately, was not good. That last sentence could best be described as an "understatement".

ABOVE: Rashard Mendenhall's fumble was the turning point in this game. It was enough to send many despondent fans over the side of the Westinghouse Bridge.

BELOW: Casualties were not confined to human beings. A television, set up for Pittsburgh Zoo workers was unfortunately observed by this pacyderm. The end result was not pretty.


While the Steelers then fell behind 28-17 on a Rodgers pass to Jennings, to their credit, these guys weren't about to go quietly into the night. Mike Wallace would score on a 25 yard touchdown pass, capped by a two point conversion scored by Antwaan Randle-El on a "wishbone-type" option play.

Amazingly, the Steelers were now only down by a field goal. They were now starting to resemble this guy:

ABOVE: Yes, it's the "T-1000" from "Terminator 2". Try as Arnold would, he just couldn't kill this guy.

On the very next possession, the Steelers defense, in a position to get the ball back, had Aaron Rodgers just where they wanted him. With the ball on his own 25 and facing a third and ten, Rodgers, the eventual MVP, did what MVPs do:


ABOVE: Heartbroken again, this time by a 30 yard completion to Grant Jennings, Aaron Rodgers sliced the Steelers secondary up for another big gain. The man is truly ruthless.

To their stubborn credit...again....the Steelers managed to force the Packers to successfully kick a 23 yard field goal, leaving them with a six point lead, 31-25, and a full two minutes to work for Big Ben. These two teams had been considered so close, was it possible that the Steelers could pull out another amazing finish and win by a single point?

There were three reasons why this ultimately would not happen. The Steelers had squandered two timeouts earlier in the half. This in itself comprised two cardinal sins for a SuperBowl game. Then there was Keyaron Fox. His bonehead personal foul penalty on the ensuing kickoff was completely unacceptable, especially for a team captain. Fox took this same unnecessary roughness penalty in another game earlier this season. With the SuperBowl on the line, it is inconceivable that a shove could have really been worth it to him at that moment.

ABOVE: Keyaron Fox demonstrates another personality flaw in an earlier game this season, celebrating over a helpless Carolina Panther.

So after Fox's idiocy, the Steelers now had to start at their 12 yard line. A pass to Heath Miller moved it to the 25. Hines then caught a pass for four yards followed by a throwaway and then two incompletions to Mike Wallace...and that was the ballgame, as they say.

Mike Tomlin, obviously very hot over this loss and more abrupt than normal was nonetheless gracious to the Packers in defeat. "Usually when you lose it's because of penalties and turnovers...But we're not about making excuses...ever. Our hat is off to the Green Bay Packers. They made enough plays today, we didn't."

For Pittsburgh fans their only option today is to register for disaster assistance while dealing at the same time with a classic case of football withdrawl. It's not going to be fun living in Pittsburgh until the draft. Maybe, if we can get some offensive line help and a couple defensive backs, we'll be able to look forward to next season. But with Evgeni Malkin out for the year and Sidney Crosby dealing with a concussion in Nova Scotia, it might be a long winter. We may have to pin all of our winter hopes on the Pitt basketball Panthers. Maybe Pitt can reverse their NCAA fortunes this time...

ABOVE: Thanks to some quick thinking by the mayor, Pittsburgh today opened an office of "Disaster Recovery".





Saturday, February 5, 2011

SO WHO'S PLAYING THEIR LAST GAME IN DALLAS?

ABOVE: Charlie Batch picked a bad year to have to declare bankruptcy as this     more than likely will be his final season as Ben's backup. Batch suffered massive losses when his property development plans flamed out along with the economy.


The Pittsburgh Steelers will be one of the last two teams playing their final game of the NFL season tomorrow night and once again they have a very strong possibility of having the final pick in the 2011 draft. But here's an interesting question that hasn't been discussed much since, of course, the main focus has been completely on the SuperBowl: Who won't be on the 45 man roster next season (if there is a season)? I thought it would be interesting, though, to speculate now, in advance of the SuperBowl, so that you might be able to glimpse a few of these athletes during what might be their final Steeler game.

What I've done is list all of the current active and practice squad Steelers and mark them with two different symbols. Those who I feel will most definitely be gone, I've marked with an "X". Those who are "on the bubble" will be marked with an "*". Of course it's just speculation, but it's part of the year-around fascination with the NFL. 

ABOVE: Antwaan Randle-El has become a master of the fair catch in a comeback season that has been largely forgettable.

Overall, I have 16 players who could go "either way" and three that I would be very surprised to see wearing the black & gold next season. More than likely though, I would expect to see seven to ten new Steelers making the final roster next year. This is an aging, heavily-veteran team, however the aging vets are amazing pure athletes. Of that group if any were to not make it back next season, that would probably be Aaron Smith. He's just been breaking down too frequently the last few campaigns.

ABOVE: It would be a great story if hard-luck wideout, Limas Sweed, could pull a miracle comeback, but that ship may have already sailed, unfortunately.

Guys like James Farrior and Hines Ward will more than likely be back. Their competitive fires still burn very brightly and I believe that both have at least one more season if not more left. Flozell Adams has been rock solid this season, but who knows, after 14 years and if the Steelers win the SuperBowl, he could just decide to go out on a high note.

But if your last name happens to be "Batch", "Sweed" or "Randle-El" you may want to start checking the "help wanted" ads.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Final Roster 

No   Name               Pos      Stat.      Ht.    Wt   Birth.          Exp     College
71   Adams, Flozell  T        ACT      6'7"   338  5/18/1975    13    Mich. State     *
26   Allen, Will        DB      ACT      6'1"   200  6/17/1982     7    Ohio State      *
16   Batch, Charlie   QB      ACT      6'2"   216 12/5/1974     13    East. Mich.     
81   Battle, Arnaz    WR     ACT       6'1"   208  2/22/1980    8     Notre Dame    *
84   Brown, Antonio WR      ACT     5'10"  186   7/10/1988    0     Cent. Mich.
28   Butler, Crezdon DB      ACT      6'1"   191   5/26/1987    0     Clemson
25   Clark, Ryan       FS       ACT     5'11"  205  10/12/1979   9     LSU
74   Colon, Willie      T       RES      6'3"   315   4/9/1983      5     Hofstra
10   Dixon, Dennis   QB      RES      6'3"   209   1/11/1985    3     Oregon
27   Dwyer, Jonathan RB     ACT     5'11"  229   7/26/1989    0     Georgia Tech
93   Eason, Nick        DE     ACT     6'3"    305   5/29/1980    8    Clemson          *
79   Essex, Trai         G       ACT     6'5"   324    12/5/1982    6    Northwestern  
51   Farrior, James    ILB     ACT     6'2"   243    1/6/1975     14    Virginia  
50   Foote, Larry       LB      ACT     6'1"    239   6/12/1980    9     Michigan         *
73   Foster, Ramon    G       ACT     6'6"    325    1/7/1986     2    Tennessee
57   Fox, Keyaron     ILB     ACT      6'3"    235   1/24/1982    7    Georgia Tech
22   Gay, William     CB      ACT      5'10"  190    1/1/1985     4    Louisville
98   Hampton, Casey NT    ACT        6'1"   325    9/3/1977    10   Texas
37   Harris, Tuff        DB     RES       6'0"   198    1/23/1983    3   Montana
92   Harrison, James  OLB   ACT       6'0"   242    5/4/1978     7    Kent St.

76   Hoke,Chris          NT    ACT      6'2"   305     4/6/1976     9    Brigham Young
96   Hood, Ziggy       DE     ACT       6'3"   300     2/16/1987   2    Missouri
85   Johnson, David   TE      ACT      6'2"    260    8/26/1987    2   Arkansas State
13   Kapinos, Jeremy   P      ACT      6'1"    233    8/23/1984    2   Penn State      *
99   Keisel, Brett       DE     ACT      6'5"    285    9/19/1978    9   Brigham Young
68   Kemoeatu, Chris  G      ACT      6'3"    344      1/4/1983    6   Utah
4    Leftwich, Byron    QB    ACT       6'5"    250    1/14/1980    8   Marshall
64  Legursky, Doug     G      ACT      6'1"    315      6/9/1986    2   Marshall
23  Lewis, Keenan     CB     ACT       6'0"    208     5/17/1986   2   Oregon State
37  Madison, Anthony DB     ACT      5'9"    180     10/8/1981   5   Alabama
20  McFadden, Bryant CB     ACT       6'0"   190     11/21/1981  6   Fla. State      *
69  McLendon, Steve  DT     ACT       6'4"    280     1/3/1986    1   Troy              *
34  Mendenhall, Rash.RB      ACT      5'10"  225     6/19/1987   3   Illinois
83  Miller, Heath        TE      ACT      6'5"    256    10/22/1982  6    Virginia
21  Moore, Mewelde    RB     ACT      5'11"  209     7/24/1982    7   Tulane          *
29  Mundy, Ryan         SS    ACT       6'1"    209     2/11/1985    2   West Virginia
43  Polamalu, Troy      SS    ACT       5'10"   207     4/19/1981   8   USC
53  Pouncey, Maurkice   C    ACT       6'4"    304     7/24/1989    0   Florida
82  Randle El, Antwaan WR  ACT       5'10"  185     8/17/1979    9   Indiana         X
33  Redman, Isaac       RB   ACT       6'0"    230     11/10/1984  1   Bowie State
7    Roethlisberger, BenQB   ACT       6'5"    241     3/2/1982     7   Miami (Ohio)
88  Sanders, Emmanuel WR  ACT      5'11"   180    3/17/1987     0   SMU
61  Scott, Chris              T   ACT       6'4"    319      8/4/1987     0   Tennessee   *
72  Scott, Jonathan        OT  ACT      6'6"     318    1/10/1983    4   Texas
9   Sepulveda, Daniel      P   RES       6'3"    230     1/12/1984    4   Baylor          *
91  Smith, Aaron            DE  ACT      6'5"     298     4/19/1976   12  N. Colorado  *
89  Spaeth, Matt            TE   ACT     6'7"     270    11/24/1983   4   Minnesota    *
78  Starks, Max               T   RES      6'8"     345     1/10/1982    7   Florida         
6    Suisham, Shaun         K   ACT     6'0"     200    12/29/1981   5   Bowling Green 
80  Sweed, Limas          WR  RES      6'4"     220    12/25/1984   3   Texas           X
55  Sylvester, Stevenso  LB    ACT     6'2"     231     7/18/1988    0    Utah
24  Taylor, Ike                CB  ACT     6'2"     195     5/5/1980      8   Louisiana-Laf.
94  Timmons, Lawrence   ILB  ACT     6'1"     234    5/14/1986     4   Florida State
17  Wallace, Mike           WR  ACT     6'0"     199     8/1/1986      2   Mississippi
86  Ward, Hines             WR  ACT     6'0"     205     3/8/1976     13  Georgia
60  Warren, Greg            LS    ACT     6'3"    252    10/18/1981    6   UNC
56  Woodley, LaMarr       OLB  ACT     6'2"    265     11/3/1984     4   Michigan
97  Worilds,   Jason        LB    ACT     6'1"    262       3/3/1988     0  Virginia Tech
Abbreviations
ACT = Active
RES = Injured reserve
NON = Non football related injured reserve
SUS = Suspended
PUP = Physically unable to perform
UDF = Unsigned draft pick
EXE = Exempt

Friday, February 4, 2011

PITTSBURGH, THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS, AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT!!!


Before our fans dive head first into another "ring game" I thought it would be great to look back and reflect on the greatness that we've been priviliged to see around here for, oh, about 40 years. During that time, the Steelers have already won six SuperBowls, the Penguins three Stanley Cups and the Pirates, amazingly, two World Series. That's 11 championships or one every 3 1/2 years! If the Steelers win on Sunday, that number will climb to 12 titles or one every three years four months! Should the Pens also win the cup this year, 13 titles would translate into one championship every three years one month. If Pitt would pull off a miracle in the NCAAs, then we're talking 14 championships or one every two years and ten months! This is insanity, but potentially it could happen which would make 2010-2011 the most championships ever in one year for this city. The most in one year until now was two in 1979 when the Steelers and Pirates did it and two in 2008 with the Steelers and Penguins doing it. 



A videographer by the name of "Toxic Sunset" has done another amazing job, this time producing a video titled, "City of Champions". "Toxic Sunset" is the same person who created the incredibly-stirring "Unstoppable" that is displayed at the top of our right hand column. This guy(?) (presumably) has tremendous talent and could be working for NFL films. I guarantee you'll love what he does with the Steelers and Penguins (sorry, no Pirates highlights in this one).

LEFT: The constant reminder that you should cherish every moment that we are now experiencing. Who among the Pirates fans of 1979 would have ever dreamed that it would be 31 years and still counting between championships (if there ever is another one again).