Monday, March 30, 2009

BACK INTO BLOGDOM!!!

I'd like to issue an apology to fans of "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" because of the technical difficulties we've been experiencing recently. We finally got the problem resolved, so we should be back in business shortly!

While the site has been down, our crack team of investigative journalists has been hard at it and we have some great stories "in the can" so to speak. Stay tuned and again, sorry about the downage!!!


Ang Spagnolo Publisher

Sunday, March 22, 2009

PITT AWAKENS FROM SLUMBER, DOWNS TOUGH OKLAHOMA ST. 84-76

"P.B.& G." 100th Post

"P.B.& G." 100th Post


"P.B.& G." 100th Post


"P.B. & G." 100th Post


"P.B. & G." 100th Post


First- Ever post, Oct. 18, 2008. Thanks For Reading!!!












Above Left: Jamie Dixon's hair color returned to normal today after the Panthers defeated a tough Oklahoma State team 84-76. Dixon hair had changed several shades of gray during the awful East Tennessee State victory on Friday.

After Watching Pitt "stumbling, fumbling and bumbling" to a victory over 16th seed East Tennessee State on Friday, it did nothing to encourage Panther fans that they would be able to do better against the much-tougher Oklahoma State Cowboys on Sunday. Oh what a difference 48 hours can make. Somehow, someway, the Panthers were able to shake off the nightmares that were East Tennessee and West Virginia and regain their stride as a contender, defeating the Cowboys 84-76.

Make no mistake, this was a tough win against a very gritty Oklahoma State team that had defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in the first round on a shot by their rugged guard, Byron Eaton with 7.2 seconds left. However, this game was a very interesting contest that gained in intrigue as it progressed. It did not lack in physicality either as on two separate occasions collisions between the combatants left players such as DeJuan Blair, Byron Eaton and Levance Fields writhing on the court in pain. Fortunately all players were able to return.

Oklahoma State shot out to an early eight point lead and the immediate concern was that with the Panthers' shooting being so poor the last two games, that they wouldn't be able to stay with the red-hot Cowboys for long. The Panthers battled back, mostly on the back of Sam Young who exploded for 32 points in this game. For a period of about five minutes, the teams seemed to be trading three pointers nearly every trip down the court. When the dust had settled, the score showed Pitt still trailing by three with 15 seconds left and Levance Fields at the line.

Apparently there was some confusion among the Oklahoma State players who thought that Fields was shooting two. When the first shot bounded off the rim, Fields alertly ran under the hoop, dove on the ball and called timeout. Upon resumption of play, Fields made a beautiful three-pointer to knot the score at 49. It was one of those plays that when they happen, you know they're going to have a lasting impact on the game.

The Panthers came back in the second half as a much more methodical team. The pace was slowed and Oklahoma State cooled off beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Pitt's big men started exerting their influence on the game and Pitt opened up a ten point lead. However, this Oklahoma State was not going to quit and they gamely battled back to even take a one point lead very briefly inside of five minutes.

However, the relentless rebounding and inside presence of Sam Young and DeJuan Blair proved to be just too much for the Cowboys to overcome as they ended up on the short end of the 84-76 score. For Panther fans though, the victory was much more than just another ticket to the Sweet 16 next week, this time against Sean Miller's Xavier Musketeers. No, the cause for celebration was that the Panthers were able to get their "mojo" back as a team and look more like the group that had won 29 games prior to this one.

The Panthers now stand at a sparkling 30-4. Their coach, Jamie Dixon has now won more games (162) than any coach ever in his first six years of coaching ( an amazing 27 win average per year)...and he's still not finished yet this year! The Panthers should match up well against Xavier and potentially Duke after that. But you can only play one game at a time, so there's no sense in looking ahead. None of these games will be easy. At the very least though, by playing a game that was up to their immense capabilities, Panther fans can once again optimistically look forward to a very long and deep run into this tournament. It's a good thing too, because I don't think many of them could have handled another West Virginia or East Tennessee-type of game. Pitt officials would have been forced to lock the doors.. to the roof on the Cathedral of Learning.


Above: There were storm clouds gathering around the Cathedral of Learning, but fortunately they blew over.

Friday, March 20, 2009

WHY COACHES GET GRAY HAIR: PITT BUMBLES PAST E. TENN ST. 72-62












Left: Jamie Dixon reveals how his hair changed several shades during the course of Pitt's horrible first round showing in the NCAA Tournament. Right: Dixon as he formerly looked before his team's 72-62 win over 16th seeded East Tennessee State in a contest that was much closer than the final score.

If you ever thought that you might be interested in being a division one basketball coach, the performance yesterday by the Pitt Panthers should have been enough to convince you that a different career path might be in order.

The Pitt Panthers added plenty of anxiety into the coaching career of Jamie Dixon, aging him about ten years in the process. It looked for a long time that Pitt might become the inevitable first number one seed to ever lose to a #16. Several times during this contest, CBS would flash onto the screen (for obvious dramatic purposes) that "#1 seeds are 98-0 all time against #16 seeds." It wasn't like the Panthers were watching the game and would press even more than they already were.

This game was very troubling on many fronts. First off, the entire team looked slow and rusty. Passing was poor, shooting was worse and turnovers were off the charts. In particular, Levance Fields had a terrible shooting night, committed several uncharacteristic turnovers and in short looked very much like a player who is struggling with a groin problem. Fields' trademark quickness was also clearly missing in action and Sam Young wasn't on top of his game either. Far from it. Young actually looked lethargic at times missing even a trademark slam dunk. His rebounding was less than encouraging too.

You found yourself wondering what the Pitt team was waiting for to get started? After all, isn't this what they had worked so hard all season to achieve?
East Tennessee State started the game off with a full court press and alternated this defense many times during the game. The Panthers had a lot of trouble dealing with this and with the groin problem that is plaguing Fields, they can be certain to see a lot more press from Oklahoma State on Sunday. The Panthers threw the ball away on several possessions trying to deal with breaking the Buccaneer's pressure.

In fact, with the notable exception of DeJuan Blair who had carried the team with 27 points and 16 rebounds, the rest of the Pitt team had almost a hypnotized appearance. They were out-rebounded badly on the defensive boards and had an incredible 18 turnovers, 13 in the first half. The team's overall effort was so bad that it almost made you wonder what was going through the team's collective mind. The Panthers had a completely out of focus appearance and looked just as bad as they did losing to West Virginia a week ago. It led this writer to wonder if Pitt may have already peaked two weeks ago when they defeated Marquette and UConn in back-to-back home games.

Above: Sam Young dribbles through East Tennessee State traffic.

East Tennessee State gets an "A" for effort as they never quit in this game, however, their own shooting was so bad (30.7 %) that it kept Pitt from losing the lead except for a couple brief moments. They went a dismal 4-22 from beyond the arc. The Buccaneers, a season-long 71% free throw shooting team also left at least five points at the line as they shot just 50%. These were points that could have won this game for them. Virtually any other team that has appeared in this tournament so far would have beaten Pitt today...that's how bad the Panthers, now 29-4, looked as a unit.

But if you're Jamie Dixon, what do you do? Staring you in the face is the Oklahoma State Cowboys team that barely outlasted Tennessee 77-75. That team would have beaten Pitt by 20 had they played them today. But they didn't, which is why Pitt is still playing. Because they had such a great season, as a number one seed, they got to play one of the very weakest teams in the field. All that can be hoped for is that the Panthers can somehow shake themselves out of this fog that's enveloping them now and put this horrible game behind them. Jamie Dixon is going to have a hard time getting this team's confidence back, as they looked nothing like the team that entertained us so well all year.

This is not to say that Pitt can't or won't beat Oklahoma State, however, I can't imagine this team ever looking worse than it did today. That's the good news, they can't look any worse.They have their #1 seed to thank for them not being on a plane already heading home for Pittsburgh. That and the fact that DeJuan Blair wasn't out looking to set a record today for collecting the fastest five fouls ever.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

STEELERS TO LOSE THREE LOMBARDI TROPHIES; BROWNS, BENGALS, LIONS TO BENEFIT FROM OBAMA "REDISTRIBUTION"

Above: Everybody was all smiles earlier in the President's election campaign. But today, their "buddy", Barack Obama, decided to "redistribute" three Lombardi Trophies from the Steelers' trophy case. The trophies from SuperBowls IX (their first versus Minnesota) XL (Seattle) and XLIII (Arizona) will go to Detroit (bad), Cincinnati (worse) and Cleveland(worst).

Pittsburgh, PA. "The Super Bowl XLIII Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the only team to win six titles, will soon be losing half of those trophies." That was the grim announcement made by Commissioner Roger Goodell after a meeting between the NFL Commissioner, President Barack Obama and Dan Rooney, the soon-to-be-confirmed new Ambassador to Ireland. Obama decided to "redistribute" half of their Steeler Super Bowl victories and trophies to less fortunate teams in the league. Many immediately speculated that this was a "quid pro quo" for recently announcing that Rooney would be his Ambassador-Designate to Ireland.

"We live everyday in the country that invented the Super Bowl." said Obama "We are not about to lose this Great American tradition in the wake of these difficult times." Obama’s plan calls for the Steelers, who are a successful NFL team, to give half of their Super Bowl trophies to teams that are not successful or have not been as successful as the Steelers. "The Detroit Lions are just as much a part of the same fiber of the NFL as the Steelers and they should, no rather, will, be entitled to a Super Bowl Trophy as well."

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who by virtue of hard work, excellent team play, stellar draft choices, responsible investing of free agents, careful hiring of coaches and excellent community service and commitment to their fans, has prospered greatly during the past 30 years and have won six Super Bowl Trophies. But President Barack Obama’s plan calls for the Pittsburgh Steelers to carry the larger burden of the NFL’s less successful teams. Obama went on to further proclaim, "In these difficult times we are all in this to work together. We must reclaim the NFL Championship Dream for every team, for every city and for every fan."

"My plan will not negatively affect 31 of the 32 teams in the league." Obama assures. Thus 96.87 percent of the teams in the NFL will not have to worry about losing any of their Super Bowl Trophies. "The worst teams in the NFL and the teams that can’t seem to get a break and win a championship will no longer have to worry about going without a title." Obama promises. "We are a country and league of hope. We all need to make a change. It does not matter the color of the teams uniforms, or if they have a bad logo or even no logo at all. The personnel decisions that the teams make or their performances aren't important towards winning a trophy, but rather, if they are a member of this great American league. Only the most successful franchise will be asked to make a sacrifice."


Right: Roger Goodell looks more than a little put out over this plan. We're sure he's worried what Obama will plunder next to "guarantee" the league's continuing anti-trust status. He can be expected to provide a luxury box at the SuperBowl at the very least. Where will it all end?

The Super Bowl XLIII trophy will be redistributed to the 0-16 Detroit Lions. Through no fault of their own incompetence, the Lions could not manage a victory all season and this trophy will help ease the pain of their lack of performance and give them hope once again. The redistribution of Super Bowl XL trophy will go directly to the Steeler’s division rival the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals who also have fallen on hard times have never won a Super Bowl. This victory will bring a smile to hundreds of Bengals fans all over the world as they can now celebrate, especially since Kimo van Oelhofen hurt Carson Palmer's knee in the playoffs in '05.

The final of the three trophies to be redistributed will no doubt be the most difficult. The Preseident plans to send that trophy, the original trophy from SuperBowl IX to Cleveland, the hated rival of the Steelers. "If we redistribute that trophy to Cleveland, that will then mean that all four AFC North teams will now have a trophy. That's a lot more fair. We need to provide hope in the face of difficulty and provide hope in the face of uncertainty. Cleveland certainly falls in that category. This is a heavy burden for the Steelers but together we can all prosper. After all, the Steelers will still have three SuperBowl Trophies when it's all said and done. My soon-to-be ambassador to Ireland will have to handle reallocating these trophies. This will be a good ambassadorial-like learning tool for him," he smiled.


Above: If you want to swim with the sharks, you can't be a bleeder. Dan Rooney learned this lesson the hard way today as he was unexpectedly forced to give up three of the team's Lombardi Trophies in exchange for being named Ambassador to Ireland. We're sure Dan Rooney never saw that development coming!

All hope is not lost for Pittsburgh fans though. Barack Obama has another plan coming together for baseball... Obama has met with the MLB owners and Commissioner Bud Selig on a similar plan. The New York Yankees will redistribute two of their world series trophies to the Pittsburgh Pirates to help compensate their losing for 16 straight seasons and counting. This plan will help stimulate the Pirates and enable them to regain hope of attaining their "American Dream", a World Series title. Obama will also be meeting with the NBA and even Michael Phelps in the upcoming weeks as this issue is high on his agenda for redistribution of wealth as pertains to sports victories.

So in the final analysis, the City of Pittsburgh will be down three football championships, but up two baseball championships. The Pirates are expected to announce that there will be a parade to celebrate their trophies coming to Pittsburgh. We'll keep you updated as more details emerge.

Fortunately the Penguins two Championships were "untouched" as the team didn't get to keep the Stanley Cup.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PITTSBURGH: WHAT YOU MORE THAN LIKELY DIDN'T KNOW AND WHAT YOU NEVER BOTHERED TO THINK ABOUT. PART DEUX


Yesterday, in Part I of this historical photo essay, we learned about the Pittsburgh Blockhouse that's now being used as a storage shed for Zambelli Fireworks; We learned how the Pittsburgh River Patrol eliminated the need for having a fort here at all; We learned about the origins of the Pittsburgh flag, the Black & Gold and the mysterious William Pitt letter; We learned about "smoky" Pittsburgh as well as intriguing statistics about our bridges. In short, this was priceless information that you should scroll down and read if you didn't do so yesterday!

But once again, we must advise you that, "This information is so important that you should print it out and save it with your other important papers. Some day you can impress the grand kids with your keen insight into all things Pittsburgh as they gather round you in your rocking chair. You'll be saying then, "I'm glad I'm a loyal "P.B.& G." reader, otherwise these kids would think I'm a complete idiot!!!

Today, we're going to examine some of the things that Pittsburgh has become famous for:

"The Mona Yinzer"

Above: Art has always been something that the City of Pittsburgh takes seriously. As proof, we have the Andy Warhol Museum to brag about. But the "Mona Yinzer" could one day supplant Warhol's inspirational Campbell's Soup can as the artwork of choice for the city. Left, Andy Warhol was one strange dude who shortened his name from Warhola to the much-shorter "Warhol". He looks ticked off at our photographer for some reason in this picture.

Pittsburghers have become known as "Yinzers" because of their propensity for butchering the English language. In the "New York Times" an article once appeared that described the speech of Pittsburghers as being, "The Galapagos Islands of American dialect". For those international readers enjoying this blog today, let me explain further. Instead of a true Pittsburgher saying "Are you folks going downtown with us today?", the true "yinzer" routinely would say, "Are yinz goin' dahntahn with us tuhday?

But in typical Pittsburgh fashion, rather than being ashamed of their strange speech, Pittsburghers seem to celebrate, yea, embrace it. In fact, the term, "yinzer" has now come to take on a life all its' own. For example...

Above: This is a classic example of a "yinzer". Notice the mullet, dirty Steeler jacket and jeans. Perfect for "jaggin' arahnd", another phrase for "goofing off".

Left: We probably all remember seeing a car with a decal that says "OBX" (Outer Banks) drive past us. Pittsburghers now have their own identification with the "YNZ" window decal. This won't get you on the turnpike or a even into the parking lot at Heinz Field for that matter. Fortunately, though, none of the city's 400+ bridges is of the toll variety anyway.





Right: "Chipped Ham Sam" the "Yappin' Yinzer". The mullet, Steeler shirt and jeans are a must. Stupid look is optional for the "real thing".


Left: Centuries ago, our earliest ancestors first decided to place their fries and cole slaw directly on the meat in their sandwiches. This helped them eat quicker as they were always defending the area against the British, French, Indians, you name it. Originally they cooked their victims and called these "Primate" sandwiches. However, with the passing of time and resolution of conflicts, they began to use more common ingredients such as beef and pork. To keep up the tradition of cannibalism, our ancestors jokingly renamed these "Pri "man" ti " sandwiches. You can still order them in the original British, French or Indian meat, depending however on availability (these battles have become more and more infrequent over the years so you should call in advance).

As part because of their heritage of having to constantly fight off invaders, this spirit lingers in Pittsburgh to this very day. It's funny how some things never change:

Above: To the "untrained eye" this may simply look like somebody forgot a chair out in the street, but Pittsburghers know what this chair means. This chair is saying, "Even though I don't own the street, this parking spot is in front of my owner's house, therefore he reserves the right to use it for himself ONLY. If you move me and park here, there will be serious repercussions such as a "throwdown" and I ain't talking about no cooking show either. "

Our final piece of some of our "modern-day history" that we're going to study today is the Pittsburgher's propensity to improvise and work with what little they may have, just like the founders of Pittsburgh always managed to do.

Above: The spirit of our pioneer forefathers lives on! The yinzer above used the tools at his disposal, the cardboard from two empty cases of Yuengling Lager and some duct tape to seal his covered wagon from the elements. You can almost imagine this very vehicle driving around the blockhouse at the point 300 years ago patrolling for Indians and having around a hundred arrows stuck in it!!!

TOMORROW: We're back to Pittsburgh sports coverage as we'll be getting ready for the Panthers heading into the NCAAs. Next week we'll have Part III of our history lessons plus a Pittsburgh Pirates season preview, coverage of our surging Penguins and (hopefully) coverage on Pitt's second round opponent.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 16, 2009

PITTSBURGH: WHAT YOU MORE THAN LIKELY DIDN'T KNOW AND WHAT YOU NEVER BOTHERED TO THINK ABOUT. PART I


"P.B.& G." is a blog about Pittsburgh sports, primarily Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. We'll throw in an occasional Pitt story and even a West Virginia "couch burning" piece now and then, but history? We were thinking in the editorial department that it's important that we share some of our knowledge about Pittsburgh's early years so that you can pass it on to your children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren. So once again, we encourage you to, "Print out this story and save it with your other important documents." One fine day you can whip it out and totally entertain these kids for hours, maybe even teach them something too! So here it is:

PITTSBURGH: A PICTORIAL ESSAY PART I

Above: This is the first structure ever built in Pittsburgh, the Fort Pitt Blockhouse located in Point State park. This was the first fort that was built to protect this strategic area. Today, people like Bruce Willis (who was a Pittsburgh River rescue officer) secure the Three Rivers with motorboats, thus rendering the Blockhouse useless. Now it is used to store fireworks for the various Zambelli shows that take place in Pittsburgh every third night.

Above: The only movie to accurately portray life in Pittsburgh, Bruce Willis in "Striking Distance". In this police drama, Dennis Farina plays the police chief . He has two neurotic sons who are former cops. One, "Tommy" is particularly insane and speaks with a lisp as he says, "Who's the better cop now?" as he attempts to kill Bruce Willis, but I digress.

Above: Here it is, the reason why you have all of those Black & Gold Steeler shirts. It's the official flag of Pittsburgh, which incidentally "borrowed heavily" from the family crest of William Pitt, the city's namesake. The "Burgh" (as it is now affectionately called) now has two teams that proudly wear these colors always and a third that sometimes wears San Diego blue for some unknown reason.


Above: Famous picture of William Pitt holding "the letter". This letter had instructions on the outside that it was not to be opened until Feb. 2, 2009. When it was opened on that date recently, it mystically had instructions for the mayor to change the city's name to "Sixburgh".
Above: Believe it or not, this building is the first-ever to house the University of Pittsburgh. Today, ironically, the athletic department now uses it to store Pitt's football helmets during the off-season. Dave Wannstedt can often be seen smoking a corncob pipe on the front porch on warm summer evenings.


Above: This picture captures the essence of what moved author James Parton to write: Pittsburgh is, "Hell with the lid off." Indeed Pittsburgh was so smoky that a famous "family story" concerning my grandfather has it that one night between the fog and the smoke that you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face. My grandmother had gone to the North Side to shop and as it got dark, my grandfather was in a panic. So he began walking from Troy Hill to the North Side. During the walk he plowed right into someone that he never even saw coming...you guessed it, my grandmother! There are at least 18 smokestacks depicted in the scene above.

Pittsburgh was founded in 1758, incorporated in 1794 and Chartered in 1816. Its' name was officially changed to "Sixburgh" in 2009 by Mayor Steelerstahl.

Above: Mayor Steelerstahl lover of contact sports except of the sexual variety.

Above: The Pittsburgh waterways are busiest in the country since Pittsburgh is the largest inland port in the United States. With all of that barge traffic, it means small boaters had better have their "heads on a swivel" as they say. It also means that these particular rowers are in imminent danger. Notice the oncoming barge on the right! HEY WATCH IT!

Pittsburgh is also a city that has won many awards over the years. Some are good, some.... The "Places Rated" almanac has ranked Pittsburgh 4th in 1987, 1st in 1988, 3rd in 1989, 5th in 1993, 14th in 1997 and 12th in 2000. It was once again ranked #1 in 2007. Believe it or not, Pittsburgh is the only city to finish in the top 20 in every edition.

In 2005, "The Economist" named Pittsburgh the most livable and also ranked the Burgh number 26 worldwide, while "Cities Ranked & Rated" listed Pittsburgh #28 in 2004.

On the other hand, The American Lung Association ranked Pittsburgh's air as still being the second most-polluted in the nation, behind only Los Angeles. This finding has been vigorously disputed by the Allegheny County Health Department.

Above: Pittsburgh is often referred to as being "The city of bridges," which no one is about to dispute. But did you know that there are 446 bridges in the city? That's actually more bridges than they have in Venice, Italy!

Above: Venice may be romantic, but God help these people if they ever try to get barges going through there! What must their basements be like too? Don't store your important papers there, that's for sure!

TOMORROW: Tune in for part 2 of this important historical feature!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"WITH THE 32nd AND LAST PICK IN THE FIRST ROUND, THE WORLD CHAMPION PITTSBURGH STEELERS SELECT...


Those are the words that every Steeler fan is anxiously awaiting to hear as we are close to embarking on our annual fascination with the NFL draft.

I thought it would be interesting to you if I were to comb through blogrolls and websites, newspapers and magazines and come up with what was a consensus or even a most-referenced suggested pick for 'yer Stillers".

After doing this exhaustive research, I have come up with the candidate that most authors expect the best-drafting team to select in the first round. Before I give up the name and do the obligatory accompanying photo essay, I thought I would round up all of the other most likely suspects for you as well. It is from this list that our projected number one first separated himself from the pack. I feel it's safe to say that depending on how the draft falls, the Steelers will be making their selection from one of the ten names on this list:

Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St. DE. 6'7" 266, 4.6 40

Vontae Davis, Illinois CB. 5'11, 203

D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt CB. 5'10, 182

Duke Robinson , Oklahoma G. 6'5, 352

Alex Mack, California C 6'4, 311

Eben Britton, Arizona T 6'6, 310

Sean Smith, Utah CB/S 6'4" 215 4.5 40

Ron Bruce, Boston College DT 6'3 330

Tyson Jackson, LSU DE 6'5, 292

Robert Ayers, Tenn. DE 6'3, 270

Of these "consensus" Steeler first round choices, three are defensive ends plus there's one defensive tackle, two are cornerbacks and one is a safety. So seven of the ten are defensive picks! Of the three offensive picks, one is a center, one an offensive tackle and the third a guard. There are no skill position players listed, no tight ends and no linebackers So the overriding consensus seems to be that the pick will be either an offensive lineman, defensive lineman or cornerback.

So presuming that the Steelers do not trade down in the draft, who will be our new first rounder? Let me give you a hint: Nickelodeon. Didn't help? Here's another: He has the same name as a young woman who starred in a children's series from 1994-98. She had superpowers such as telekinesis and the ability to turn herself into a liquid, liquokinesis (new word). Still don't get it? Well, here's the logo for the show:

Did you get it yet? If not, you're hopeless!...and here's our first round draft choice:


ALEX MACK

As stated earlier, he's 6'4, weighs 311 pounds but along with being big and powerful, he also has a brain. Mack won the "Academic Heisman" for his performance in the classroom, a trait never missed by the Steelers.

The positives on him include that he is agile and more than capable of pulling and putting a good lick on someone. He is very physical and aggressive, finishes all of his blocks and is "weight room strong". Says one scouting service, "If you combine his smarts with a ton of experience, you have a player who is ready to play on Sundays."

Another site says that Mack is, "The best center to come out of college since Nick Mangold. Centers aren't usually taken in the first round, but if you were going to take one, this is your guy."

Some scouts have Mack projected as a second round pick. With the Steelers drafting last in the first, it seems a good possibility that Mack will be available.


But every player has their list of weaknesses too. What are the experts saying about Mack? "Is over aggressive and lunges on his blocks sometimes. Tends to be on the ground a lot...can play out of control at times."

"Mack can sometimes be slow to react in pass protection which brings in to question his awareness."

But no one is questioning this young man's strength or aggressiveness.

"He registered a program-record power clean of 374 pounds. He has no known character flaws and he was the unquestioned leader of Cal's offense."

If there was one thing that may have turned off some scouts, it's the one thing he didn't do, participate in the NFL combine. Many players will attend, but not participate in the drills which teams loathe. "While preparing for the combine on Monday with my trainer, I suffered a sprained ankle. The injury isn't serious, but unfortunately it's going to keep me from working out this week in Indianapolis. No one is more disappointed than me, as I have been working tirelessly to further prove myself as a first round pick. However, I don't want to perform at anything less than 100%. I will complete my interviews here and return to my training in anticipation of a great Pro Day in Berkeley on March 18th."

Above: Mack was the BMOC (big man on campus) for Cal the last three years running. In Pittsburgh, where the Big Mac was created, well you figure it out.


Above:Prediction: "The Terrible Truck" will be replaced by "The Big Mack".

Above: Actress Larissa Oleynik portrayed the "other" Alex on Nickelodeon for four years from 1994-1998.


RIGHT: The "real" Alex points out a defender at the line of scrimmage. Watch out. Next year it might be Ray Lewis and that would be Big Ben with his hands under your butt, so pay attention!

Mack was this year's winner of the coveted "Draddy Trophy.The Draddy Trophy is one of college football's most sought after and competitive awards, recognizing an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. The award comes with a 24-inch, 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship. A total of $277,000 was awarded to Mack and the other 14 Draddy Trophy finalists, who each claimed $18,000 scholarships for their post-graduate educations.



Above: Mack poses with the Draddy Trophy. Smart, athletically gifted and does charitable work. Man does this guy sound like a Steeler to me! While below he accepts the Academic Heisman trophy with his Head Coach, Jeff Tedford, right. Mack even dresses up nice!


Above: Cal "Golden Bear" coverboy.


EPILOGUE


Like college kids everywhere, Alex Mack likes goofing off and having a good time. However, once he gets that call from the Steelers, here's betting that he'll be locked and loaded and ready to learn the fine art of being an NFL center from day one. His presence will do a lot to bolster the depth of the Steelers offensive line and since all of the starters on the SuperBowl-winning -unit will be back, he won't be rushed in to play before he's ready, another great Steeler trait.

Alex Mack will not be a player to expect big things from this year as is usually the case with Steeler rookies. However, given the chance to polish and hone his skills, he should prove to be yet another in the long line of outstanding centers who have been employed by the Steelers.

If Mack is still there when the Steelers draft, he'd be a tough player for them not to take in that first round, unless of course if Pat White is still available!

Friday, March 13, 2009

NO, THAT SOUND WASN'T A GARBAGE TRUCK FALLING OFF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, IT WAS JUST PITT



If you're going to lose, go all out. Shoot poorly, foul stupidly, don't rebound, don't have a game plan, turn the ball over and sprinkle in some lousy refs for good measure. Oh, yeah, and wait to lay this egg until the Big East Tournament arrives.

Pitt played one of its' worst games in memory last night, losing to arch-rival WVU 74-60 after having the benefit of a double bye in the long grind that is known as the Big East Tournament. The game wasn't as "close" as the final score indicated either, as the Panthers seemed to lack intensity after DeJuan Blair got into early foul trouble with Pitt leading 9-4 at the time. Blair, in particular, seemed completely unprepared to play as not only were some of his fouls needless, others were downright head-scratchers such as the technical that he got in the second half for throwing an elbow. Even when he wasn't fouling, Blair, who was just named the co-Big East MVP with UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, uncharacteristically missed many layups that he routinely feasts on. Okay, everybody's entitled to a bad game. After all, he has been the cornerstone of this team all year. But what's the rest of the team's excuse?

Above right: The memorable "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" had the unforgettable phrase ..."Like the sound of a garbage truck falling off the Empire State Building." Since the Big East tournament is held in New York City, we thought the reference was apropos.

Above: It's not that far from Madison Square Garden to the Empire State Building. Pitt took the express elevator last night and the result wasn't real pretty.



Sam Young and company had a very bad shooting night (34.8% from the field) and didn't make one three pointer the entire game. The team looked lethargic, particularly Young, and was just completely out of sync. Afterwards, players were remarking that WVU's 1-3-1 zone had given them problems. Well guess what? Every team in the NCAA field that will have a chance at playing Pitt will be studying this tape carefully as it appears that WVU indeed may be on to something. If anything, the recipe for beating Pitt probably reads like this: "Try to have several different players engage Blair early-on hoping to get some quick whistles. See if you can get the same refs that WVU managed to get. Then, play the 1-3-1 zone as masterfully as WVU did and you should have Pitt completely out of their game."


Pitt was even out-rebounded in this game 33-27.


Above Left: It's a long way down without an elevator. Right: Hopefully these workers will quit "b-s-ing" and get this big mess cleaned up before "Selection Sunday".

So what do you take away from a loss as bad as this? All you can do is dust yourself off and hope that the bad taste in every Pitt player's mouth today will motivate them during the week they have off until "the big dance" begins. Oh, and work on that 1-3-1 in practice Jamie. That should be about the only defense you'll see between now and the end of the season!

Above: Madison "Square" Garden appears to be circular-like in appearance. From this shot it appears to have emerged unscathed from the Pitt crash last night, that's the good news.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IN A TWIST OF FATE, "DRINKING THE KOOL AID" COULD HAVE INSTEAD BEEN CALLED "DRINKING THE SMACK"


I was reading an article on the Pirates today when this quote from Ryan Doumit jumped off the page and nearly crushed my skull: "Dude, there’s a buzz here. I don’t know, there just is. I’m telling you, it’s a positive buzz. "

God I love his optimism. But I wonder what he's taking?

Then there was this statement from Freddy Sanchez:“To be totally honest, this is the most fun I’ve ever had in a spring training.. I mean, there’s always an attitude of being optimistic and wanting to win, but I’ve never felt it like this…this atmosphere.”

WOW, NOW THERE'S
TWO OF THEM!!!

That’s when the thought occurred to me that the guy pictured below must have recently paid a visit to McKechnie Field.
Isn't it true that today, anytime somebody is speaking nonsense or sounds as though they’ve been somehow hypnotized, that we tend to immediately blame it on a certain powdered drink mix? In researching this trend further, I found that this verbiage tends to be most pervasive in sports and political references.

So what about "Drinking the Kool-Aid"? Do you younger readers out there really understanding how it came to symbolize blind devotion to an idea, a feeling, or a person?

Above: The man who ruined Kool-Aid's reputation and the lives of 95 people, the "Reverend" (term used loosely) Jim Jones. This guy reeked of charisma and even "DRANK HIS OWN KOOL-AID"!!! Now that's delusional!

Any mention of Kool-Aid drinking can only be attributed to the “Reverend” Jim Jones who led a group of oppressed people out of America and into French Guyana where they established a “tropical paradise”…well that was the original idea anyway.

Jones’ followers were mostly poor blacks from California. Once they got to Guyana, however, reports began filtering to relatives back home in the states that abuses were going on in the jungle “haven”. A California congressman and two of his aides went to "Jonestown" to investigate the reports. After meeting with Jones the three were then assassinated before they could return home to confirm their findings.

Fearing that his heaven-on-earth was unraveling, Jones instructed his assistants to mix a giant batch of grape Kool-Aid into which he then mixed strychnine, a powerful, fast-acting poison. He instructed his followers that they were soon going to have their world come to an end.

So on November 18th, 1978, all of the adults drank the poisoned Kool-Aid and incredibly the parents even gave it to their innocent children who had been born there!

Above: This was suicide on a scale never before seen.

It was one of the largest mass suicides in history and even sullied the heretofore pristine reputation of a powdered drink manufactured by General Foods.

Today, 30 years later, the anachronism “Kool-Aid Drinker” survives although the drink itself has fallen dramatically in popularity…probably because the original recipe called for about five pounds of sugar per pitcher.

This was such a mind-numbing event when it occurred, that today, people who are delusional, incoherent, or just plain “full of it” are still said to be “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

I wonder if a few hundred years from now when Kool-Aid has long-since disappeared as an everyday commodity, if people will still refer to “Drinking the Kool-Aid” as frequently as they do today, or if the reference will fade away in history as no doubt many other commonly-used phrases have disappeared over the centuries.

While “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has a horrible origin for sure, today it has strangely morphed into more comical usages with few references to its' gristly beginning, thus the “Pittsburgh’s Black and Gold” pictorial study that now follows:


The Kool-Aid Pictorial Primer



Above: Few drinks have ever been held in the high esteem that Kool-Aid enjoys. This guy apparently likes the cherry flavor which was always better, I felt, for making popsicles.

Above: The iconic packet of grape Kool-Aid. I always enjoyed this as a kid, now I particularly relish drinking it during Pirates spring training season (right now, coincidentally).

Above: Evil Kool-Aid Man. A Jonestown inspiration, no doubt.

Above: Part of the outfield wall in Bradenton. Yeah, he's been there alright, just ask Ryan and Freddy!


Above: Since the ratio of Black to Caucasian athletes has risen so dramatically over the last few decades, this character was created to further inspire black athletes without raising suspicions over "the man" being involved.

Above: Pundits on both sides of the aisle seem to love flinging around the Kool-Aid logo.

Above: Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was said to prefer grape flavor.

Above: In the eyes of the media and bloggers everywhere, these guys both drink heavily apparently from the trough of the cherry variety.


Above: The creator of this sloppy photo shop chose to change the popular "Kool-Aid Drinker" appellation and instead make Barack Obama Kool-Aid Man himself! In this reference Obama has mutated from the popular "drinking" to "passing-out" the Kool-Aid, an obvious Jim Jones comparison.

EPILOGUE:

How ironic is it that the actual predecessor to Kool-Aid was a product called "Fruit Smack"? Had this product survived, today we'd be saying things like, "You know, Ryan Doumit and Freddy Sanchez must be 'Drinking the Smack'." Even looking at the product, it's far easier to imagine something evil coming out of this bottle than from an innocent-looking packet of Kool- Aid!