Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HOUSTON'S "BEER CAN HOUSE"...A PICTORIAL STUDY OF ONE OF MANKIND'S GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS


A "P.B.& G." EXCLUSIVE REPORT

Houston, Texas

I recently had an opportunity to visit the city of Houston, Texas and while I was there, I finally had the chance to visit, in person, that metropolitan area's fastest-growing tourist spot. No, it wasn't the Astrodome (now the site of Joel Osteen's church) or even the Johnson Space Center.

For people really in the know, it's the Houston "Beer Can House".

I first luckily stumbled across my knowledge of this venerable homestead one day while researching pictures of six packs on "Google Images". I needed the picture for the Pittsburgh Steelers famous "Six Pack Trophy" which you can now see pictured along the panel on the right. While searching through tons of pictures of beer; six packs, cans, cases and bottles, I thought it unusual to suddenly see a picture of a house mixed in with this melange. Upon looking closer, I noticed on the description that it was called the "Beer Can House".

I subsequently published this famous story, "New North Shore Neighborhood To Be Built From Beercans." with a relative Pittsburgh twist.

But after publishing this story, it left me with an empty feeling. I thirsted for even more knowledge. Much like Egyptian archaeologists, I had this burning desire to learn the secrets of the "Beer Can House". How was it built? How did they manage it without heavy machinery? How was a project of this size financed? Where did John Milkovisch, the owner and drinker of 39,000 beers, get the technological wherewithal to conceive of such a thing? Better yet, when was he ever sober enough to do it?

I had to get there, no matter what it took.

Above: The Sphinx is still something I need to see someday. But of the "Big Three, (Machu Picchu is number two) " I have fortunately seen the "Beer Can House" (now considered number three in the world).

While I have never been to Egypt to see the great Pyramids of Giza or climbed the Andes to rediscover the lost city of Machu Picchu, I imagined just how I would feel to see those marvels as I turned the corner from Memorial Drive onto Malone Street, the home of the "BCH" for short. There were no signs pointing the way. It was hidden, much like Machu Picchu was for centuries.

Above: Machu Picchu, the mountaintop city discovered in Peru. Believe it or not, there is a tie-in to the "Beer Can House". Immediately after reading this entire story, come back to this picture and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

Malone Street is an area near the Galleria District in Houston that has definitely turned "upscale". For example, the gelato shop near Malone sells one scoop of their homemade stuff for just $4.95, a bargain at any price, but I digress. I recommend the mango-raspberry, by the way.

Accompanied by my son, he himself a veteran college beer drinker and former Kappa Sigma frat brother, I could tell how excited he instinctively became as we approached this monument to mankind and his favorite beverage made with yeast and hops. We drove slowly down residential Malone Street, an area that has been transformed from single dwellings into massive apartment buildings, condos and townhouses...and there, in the middle of this urban reinvention serenely lies the "Beer Can House." It is otherworldly.

Undisturbed from its' original design, the "BCH" is quaint, novel, unusual, definitely unearthly and certainly not fitting into the present-day decor on Malone Street. When you first see it, you are immediately struck by two things: First, how could the "Beer Can House" have survived while all other construction from its' era is long gone? For that matter, how did it survive Hurricane Ike just last year? Second, how in God's name did one man drink all of this beer? 39,000 cans of beer is 1,625 cases! That's a lot of runs to the beer store for sure and a lot of trips to the "john" too! He's certainly a person to be admired, that's for sure.

The beer can house is a rather unremarkable structure, other than the fact that 39,000 beer cans adorn virtually every square inch of the exterior. In addition there is a beer bottle wall along the back of the property as a backdrop to the "beer garden" area as well as dazzling examples of alcohol-induced art that were undoubtedly inspired by the owner's non-stop binges.

Above: Sitting on an upscale Houston street, the "Beer Can House" is now dwarfed by apartment buildings and condos. All of the homes of its' era have already been razed for new development. Thankfully the "Beer Can House" is now protected, like the Pyramids.

One of the more amazing features of the "BCH." is that there are thousands of tops of beer cans that have been strung into wind chimes that run along the outside of the house. In addition, there is a chain link fence that upon closer inspection is also made up of beer can lids. The skill and craftsmanship that went into creating the "Beer Can House" could never have been done by humans, especially one human consuming so much beer. The answer as to who did it may be found by rounding up some of "the usual suspects".

For example, according to "Mapquest," Roswell, New Mexico, is only 720.81miles away from Houston's Malone Street. Is it so inconceivable to think that alien beings who traversed the universe to get here couldn't make it to the "Beer Can House" from Roswell? Even if they had to thumb to get there, I'm sure that it could have been done.

Above: "Mapquest" says that in a mere 10 hours, 46 minutes you can get to the "Beer Can House" from Groom Lake and "Area 51" near Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, it's much faster by spaceship.

Above: The front of the "Beer Can House". Notice the "Amen" at the top of the ladder reaching to the heavens, the moon and the stars. The bizarre work of an inebriated beer lover? Or a tribute to his friends from way up there?

Above: At first glance it looks like an ordinary chain-link fence. But in reality, it's been made out of beer can lids! Oh that clever John Milkovisch! But is this a fence or possibly some type of alien power grid?

Above: An example of a wall section of the "Beer can House". How John Milkovisch flattened these cans so that they could fit together so perfectly has had scientists baffled for years. The technology just didn't exist then or now!

Above: Part of the "Beer Bottle Wall" is actually a combination of bottles and cans. Made of enough beer containers to last a modest beer-drinker a lifetime, the wall represents but a small part of this overall complex...and tens of thousands of ounces of beer!


Above: The "garden" area of the "BCH." Call it "eclectic", "bizarre", "otherworldly", it all applies.

Above: Thousands of beer can tops make up "the mother of all wind chimes."..or were they some alien communications device? Did aliens have a hand in this? Consider: Hurricane Ike passed right overhead and did NO DAMAGE!!! There must have been a ton of racket though!

The other obvious clue that aliens were involved is the number of cans that were drank in the first place. John Milkovisch, the now-deceased home owner who supposedly drank all of this beer had to have had help drinking it, that's why I suspect that there was alien intervention. Once they tasted beer for the first time after their journey from Roswell following their crash, they obviously couldn't stop.

Going inside the structure, you find rows and rows of beer cans that have been lined up, some brands familiar, many others, not. Presumably these represent the favorite brands that were consumed by the normally-inebriated property owner and his "friends". In another room a simple television set out of the '60s shows the story of John Milkovisch and his wife on a continuous loop drinking beer. There are no other furnishings, sadly, remaining inside.

His wife was a small, church-going-looking woman. She didn't look like the beer swilling type at all. In watching the eerie footage of Milkovisch drinking beer, I could just imagine agent Mulder coming down the steps from the second floor or agent Skully finding something alien in the basement. You could just feel the alien presence, it was that overwhelming. I got the creeps and had to get out of there. I also became strangely thirsty. Was it a remnant of the alien influence that Milkovisch had to deal with for decades? Sadly and surprisingly, the "Beer Can House" sold no beer.

I must admit that initially I had a mistaken impression of what the "Beer Can House" really was all about. I thought it was a house that had somehow been built out of beer cans, much like the "Beer Bottle Temple" in Thailand that this publication coincidentally also discovered. But no, that's not the case. The "BCH." is rather a structure that has been completely adorned with beer cans that have been cut with a tinsnips or some alien beam and then flattened perfectly under enormous pressure. It's totally amazing, no human could have possibly done this. The technology far exceeds what a hung over John Milkovisch and his 80 pound wife would have been able to accomplish, just like the marvels at Giza and Machu Picchu. The amazing thing is how few people are aware of this masterpiece that now sits alone on an otherwise quiet, upscale, street in Houston, Texas.

__________________________________________________
John Milkovisch had a lot of help drinking this beer and creating such an incredible edifice...help that came, presumably, from somewhere else.
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My own personal epiphany came as I was preparing to leave. Sitting alone on the right hand side of the property sat this unusual Milkovisch creation...a lawn ornament it was called. I knew better. But what was it? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It looks eerily reminiscent of the monolithic structure built for apparently no reason by Richard Dreyfuss in the sci-fi classic, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"! Take a close look at these last two photos. Was Milkovisch being influenced by aliens or simply haunted by alcohol? Like the Pyramids and Machu Picchu, we may never know the answer, but just like these other great mysteries of this world, I think it's safe to say that John Milkovisch had a lot of help drinking this beer and creating such an unforgettable edifice...help that came, presumably, from "somewhere else."

Above: This Milkovisch "yard decoration" that's inlaid with multi-colored beer caps, looks very alien in appearance. Could it be a representation of the Roswell aliens' mothership? Note the pure perfection of the beer can wall behind it! Below, the monolithic image featured in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

Above: Richard Dreyfuss creates a little mess in "Close Encounters". Is this movie possibly based on the real-life experiences of John Milkovisch?

Above:...The Martians in "Mars Attacks" killed our entire Congress and read "Playboy" while transplanting Sarah Jessica Parker's head onto a chihuahua So why would it be such a reach to think that they could have drank beers with John Milkovisch too?

EPILOGUE: Face it, there are things in this world that we'll never understand. The "Beer Can House" certainly fits in that category. While this visit was certainly enlightening, I 'm sorry to report that I created more questions for myself than I answered by visiting it. Next time you feel like taxing your brain to its' very outermost limit, just pay a visit to 222 Malone Street...and bring something, anything, to drink with you. You'll need it by the time you're ready to leave.

Monday, April 27, 2009

BUCCOS CLOSING IN ON DIVISION TITLE; TEAM SEEKS LEAGUE PERMISSION TO PRINT PLAYOFF TICKETS


Okay, okay, it's still early. I know. But holy cow, who would have thought this team was capable of this good of a start? The Pirates, sporting the BEST pitching staff in baseball (lowest e.r.a., most quality starts) have an 11-7 record (.611) and are only a half game behind St. Louis for first place with 11% of the season already completed! This after having the WORST pitching staff last year (with the same basic guys).

Of course as I already said, it's early. Because bad stuff can happen during a long major league campaign, like, for instance, losing two of your four "core players" early in the season (this has already happened with Ryan Doumit's broken wrist and Nate McLouth's sprained oblique muscle).



Above: Ryan Doumit in less-meaty days. He's filled-in since this picture was taken, stopped shaving regularly, too.

Then again you could also possibly lose your starting shortstop just like last year (this has already happened too, as Jack Wilson has a badly sprained finger). No problem, as we have the very competent Ramon Vasquez to plug in.

You can always rely on Adam LaRoche's annual, terrible, first half to contend with. Not true as LaRoche is off to his best start ever batting .270 going into yesterday's win where he hit a three-run homer). It won't get him in the Hall of Fame, but it beats .170.

Above: The Bucs hope to get Nate McLouth back soon. He tweaked a rib cage muscle and the team is hoping it's not too serious. He missed the entire San Diego series.

The Andy LaRoche trade: Now that's been an unmitigated disaster too. Not so fast there buddy. Andy has relaxed at the plate and in the field. He's starting to have the look of an everyday veteran and showing why Neil Huntington was interested in him in the first place.


Above: Third baseman, Andy LaRoche, chats with injured shortstop, Jack Wilson. NO!!! YOU CAN'T PULL MY FINGER!

Yesterday, with Doumit and McLouth already missing from the lineup, Manager John Russell had the unmitigated gall to rest Freddie Sanchez who's only been hitting the cover off the ball with a .345 average while leading the NL in doubles. No problemo. Brian Bixler, himself a real letdown last year, came in to play second and responded by hitting a triple yesterday over the head of Brian Giles in right field. In short, the Pirates manager and his players can do no wrong right now. As for his coaching staff? I feel it's already safe to say that they have assembled the best coaching staff since the days when Ray Miller was nodding to Mike Lavallier behind the dish. These guys are pitching, fielding, hitting, throwing to the proper cutoff man, hitting behind the runner, hitting sacrifice flies, moving runners over...even the popcorn at PNC Park tastes better! The Pirates entire coaching staff has done one of the most incredible coaching jobs that this city has ever seen!

What can you say about Nyjer Morgan at leadoff? The guy looks right now like the best leadoff man for the Pirates in the last twenty years with his combination of hits, on base percentage and raw speed that you dream about for this position. Will it continue? If he can continue playing the way he is both offensively and defensively, it'll be hard for anyone to ever take him out of the starting lineup ever, EVER! We should all hope that it continues!



Above: Nyjer Morgan wears his pants like a throwback, plays like a throwback even has a card that looks like a throwback!

Talking about pleasant surprises, Craig Monroe has been a terrific addition to the team, he had a two-homer game a week ago with a curtain call from an appreciative PNC crowd, and has also played excellent defense. He also has an above-average arm and reacts quickly to the circumstances in the field. He brings plenty of power to the plate and has played both right and left fields.

No one expected to see a whole lot of Jason Jaramillo this year but with the Doumit injury, he's been pressed into duty. He too has been doing a terrific job at the plate and is probably an upgrade over Doumit defensively. He doesn't have the long-ball power yet that Doumit possesses, however, he's been a doubles machine and has exceeded the team's wildest expectations so far.

So who's not doing well? It's a pretty short list really. Of the outfielders, Brandon Moss hasn't gotten himself untracked yet and there have been a few bad relief stints, but the starting pitching has been so strong that there haven't been that many opportunities to thoroughly evaluate the middle or long relievers.

In short, the positives thus far in the season have been so amazing, that watching this Pirates team has been like watching Boston Rex Sox players wearing Pirates uniforms. Watching these guys beating the tar out of San Diego on Saturday and Sunday was an experience that's been so foreign that I can't remember the last time a Pirates team so thoroughly dominated every facet of the game as they did over the weekend. They've already had a large number of blowout games this season.

Hey, there's plenty of time for things to go wrong, sure. But for a team that was expected to win nothing to start out this strong...well it's just pretty amazing. You've got to feel that with Frank Coonelly and Neil Huntington at the helm that the worm may have finally turned. You've got to be happy for the players, the coaching staff and management too. They've all worked hard and they deserve their success.

When the big team's going well, it has to resonate throughout the entire organization with this message, "Do you want to crack the majors with the Pirates? If you do, you'd better be bringing your "A" game to the park every day or plan on making Altoona, or Lynchburg, or Indianapolis your permanent home." There can be no better motivating factor for young players.

Yes it may still be plenty early, but writing this kind of a column beats the daylights out of writing another story complaining about the bumbling, stumbling Pirates again!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

NO FLYER FANS HURT IN WACKO CENTER ROOF CAVE-IN IN PHILADELPHIA, BUT 20,000 CASES OF "SEVERE MONKEY BUTT" ENSUE


Above: Part of the decimated roof at Wacko Center in Philadelphia. With his team leading 3-0 midway through the game, Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo took exception to a check from the Penguins' Max Talbot. The fight that followed triggered the resultant seismic destruction and ignited a limp Penguin team into scoring five consecutive goals for an improbable 5-3 victory in the "City of Dysfunctional Love". While no fans were physically injured by the cave-in, the 20,000 potty-mouthed Flyer fans left with a severe collective case of "galded monkey butts".

I honestly believe that I enjoyed this year's conquest over the Flyers even more than last year's. That the Flyers would allow the Penguins to come back from a 3-0 deficit on their own ice in front of 20,000 nauseating excuses for human beings....well it just doesn't get much better than that. Oh wait, it does! Was that Sidney Crosby inserting that final daggar into the Flyers? He of the "Crosby Sucks" cheer? Yes, oh yes Philadelphia, that indeed was him. The revenge for all those chants must have been so sweet for "Sid the Kid" too!

Just yesterday I noted in my last post how meaningless the home ice had become in this series. In fact, the last three games were all won on the opponents' sheet. I also stated that the goaltenders had become the biggest determining factor in who would take this series.

While M.A.F. was busy butchering the game into a 3-0 Flyers lead, he, like the rest of the Penguins team and coaches never panicked. On the other hand, after the Talbot fight, once the Pens broke through with the Fedotenko goal where he shoved the puck through under Biron's pads, the roof began to cave in on the Flyers' season. In fact, after goals by Malkin and defenseman Sergei Gonchar (I missed that goal watching the hated Cleveland Browns select my number one Steeler pick Alex Mack) the Pens were actually pressing for the lead as the second period ended. Fleury then became rock-solid making several amazing saves.

The game winning goal, was another knife to the gut by Sidney Crosby where he knocked a puck out of the air into the net, after it had deflected off Biron's wrist portion of his glove. It was exactly the kind of goal that can motivate 20,000 fans to chant your name...and wish subconsciously and fervently that you were playing for their team! Crosby's empty-netter was simply the final "knife twist" for the expiring Flyers. The only thing Sid didn't do was jump up and down on their dead corpse.

Evgeni Malkin was also a tremendous force, dominating throughout the second and third periods and was even named number one star of the game. Jordan Staal again was also a huge force, most notably on the defense where I can't remember seeing an offensive player be so dominant. So this 5-3 victory gave the Penguins a 4-2 series win and a chance for a couple days off before the wars begin anew.


Above: Max Talbot now has plenty of time to wear this horny hat before his next game.

In today's national game, the Capitals and Rangers renew their heated series with the Rangers fiery coach, John Tortorella suspended for the game for squirting water on fans and then throwing the water bottle at them. For Sidney Crosby and "The Butcher", Marc-Andre Fleurythey'll spend the next couple days resharpening their "implements" for their next opponent.


Above: A prime example of "monkey butt". While occuring naturally in monkeys there were 20,000 human cases of this condition reported in "The City of Dysfunctional Love" yesterday. Authorities say it was the largest reported outbreak since the "Great Phoenix Outbreak" that occured when the Steelers beat the Cardinals in SuperBowl XLIII. The greatest Pittsburgh outbreak of "monkey butt" occurred in 1992 when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Atlanta Braves.

Friday, April 24, 2009

So What's "Home Ice Advantage"???


Above: Martin Biron slammed the door on the Penguins last night including 18 shots in a first period Penguins onslaught.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have both proven once again that the idea of playing in front of your home fans gives you some added advantage is one of the biggest fallacies ever foisted onto the ticket-buying public. The Martin Biron 3-0 shutout of the Penguins on Mellon Arena ice last night comes on the heels of the "Flower's" 3-1 defeat of the Flyers at the Wacko Center. In both cases, the goalies, not the fans, made the difference.

In Pittsburgh the fans wore White. In Philadelphia, they wore orange. Didn't matter. In this series, more than any I can remember in a long time, the goaltenders have completely taken over center stage. I was thinking about the opportunity lost last night and how now the Penguins faced the very real possibility of losing in Philadelphia and having to play a game seven in Pittsburgh. Losing game six is never a good thing and more often than not, the game six winner ends up taking game seven wherever it's played.

So depending upon who is the better goaltender in Philly tomorrow, that's whose team will win. Orange jerseys, obnoxious cheers, boorish behavior will have nothing to do with who wins. So fret not Penguin fans. If "The Butcher of Pittsburgh" can sharpen his meat cleaver, we'll be moving onto the second round.

As much as we'd all like to think that the fans have something to do with it, we don't. Just ask the Steelers who won SuperBowl XL winning every game on the road or any of the terrific Steeler teams who lost the AFC Championship Games at home!



Above:"The Butcher" didn't play bad last night. It was Martin Biron's turn to stand on his head in goal. But make no mistake about it, how he plays will be the biggest factor in determining if the Penguins advance.

Statistically, it would be very interesting to see how the home court, home field, home ice advantage plays out among all the major sports and colleges and what the overall combined winning percentage is for the home team. It's probably a lot closer to .500 than you might think.

So enjoy dressing up, painting your face and making signs. Just don't think you had anything to do with the team winning. You were just fortunate enough to witness it live.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"BUTCHER OF PITTSBURGH" HAS A FACE FOR ALL SERIES"

Above: He looks friendly enough, but don't let the looks deceive you. "The Butcher" can quickly carve up the fastest shots from the most severe angles. He wears his trademark everywhere, even in formal wear.

Marc-Andre Fleury was not a happy goaltender after game three against the Philadelphia Flyers. He had just surrendered five goals, not counting the final empty-netter while en route to a 6-3 loss to the hated cross-state rivals. Even worse, a few of the scores were not of the vintage variety usually required in a Stanley Cup game. Fleury had to play better in game four. He knew it and even said it. He decided to put on a new "game face" for game four.


Above: Marc Andre as he must have looked to the Flyers on Tuesday night while suffocating the life out of them. Pens won that one 3-1 and yes, he was that frightening.

Tonight, the "Butcher of Pittsburgh" will try to close out the series in game five. Sir Sidney has called for a white-out. The "Butcher" should have a great view of the puck in that sea of white...as if he'll need another advantage!

Above: "The Butcher" disappears into the night in his Lamborghini last Friday after slaying the Flyers in game two. In pusuit are a possee of "puck bunnies," women who would stop at nothing to lift up his trademark apron. They'll have a hard time keeping up with that Lambo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

IT COULD HAPPEN "ONLY IN PITTSBURGH"

MEDJUGORJE VISIONARY MIRJANA SOLDO
ADDRESSES LARGE CROWD AT PALUMBO.

Above: Mirjana Soldo, while in the process of experiencing a revelation by the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovinia

Being a fairly large city that's a picturesque place to visit and that has plenty of universities, Pittsburgh gets more than its' fair share of interesting visitors. But few could match the speaker who came to town on Sunday at the Palumbo Center on the campus of Duquesne University. While the Penguins and Pirates were playing games yesterday, none other than Mirjana Soldo, the famous visionary of Medjugorje, addressed a large gathering of the faithful and curious.

At an invitation received from my mother, my wife, Darlene joined a group of friends and relatives to listen to this woman--through an interpreter--who has had many visits with the Blessed Mother. Since this was a "ladies afternoon out" I retired to the comfort of my recliner only to be aggravated by the Penguins and Pirates (I guess there's a message in there somewhere).

At this point you're probably wondering what's this story doing on a sports and humor blog? But I'm getting to that, so be patient!

The lengthy program included, among many other things, an opportunity for people in the audience to write questions to Mirjana Soldo about her visits with Mary and then hear her answers through an interpreter. I was fascinated hearing my wife relating some of them such as...

QUESTION: "What does the Blessed Mother look like?" That seems like a reasonable question I thought. ANSWER: She has long dark hair and blue eyes.

QUESTION: "What type of clothes does Mary wear?" Again, this seemed like a normal, logical question, I thought. ANSWER: A long grey dress with a blue veil and she floats about two feet off the ground.

QUESTION: "Has Mary made any references about the Pittsburgh Steelers to you lately?"



WHAT???????

I could just imagine in my head the sound of a record needle being dragged across a piece of vinyl. Is the Blessed Mother a Steeler fan? That's your question?

I'm sure my own mother was just thrilled hearing that irreverent question. If there's one thing that she doesn't joke about, it's her religion. She's all business and doesn't like people making light of Catholicism or Christianity. She's an Italian grandmother through and through. Was it meant by its' author to be a light-hearted reference to our team that we dare presume it to be loved by even the Mother of God?, Or was it a sarcastic comment by a non-believer meant to demean Mirjana Soldo and her visions of Mary, the Blessed Mother?

This type of thing could happen "Only in Pittsburgh", where some events are important and other things, like the Steelers and the NFL are really important!

Of course early this year we'll never forget the famous T shirt that Baltimore Ravens fans were spotted wearing during the AFC Championship. In this football-crazed environment that we live in we shouldn't be surprised by anything!

Above: I guess I'm just surprised that someone else didn't ask who The Blessed Mother wanted the Steelers to draft on Saturday. Thank goodness nobody brought up the "Immaculate Reception" too!

So what was the answer to the Steeler question you ask? After a brief explanation from her interpreter as to what the Pittsburgh Steelers actually were, Mirjana Soldo smiled, laughed politely and shook her head no.

After all, she had far more important things than the Pittsburgh Steelers to talk about...and imagine, she was in Pittsburgh doing it!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"PENRATES", "PIRGUINS" SUFFER "BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK"


Above: Spencer Tracy would later go on to sequel this movie with "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Day at Black Rock". He even wears the same hat!

Every once in a while the teams who have done this city so proud over the years just have a collective meltdown.

Okay, so in the case of the Pirates, it's been 16 collective meltdown seasons. However, yer Buccos were 6-5 going into today's third game of their series against the "notHotlanta" Braves. El Pirates had uncharacteristically steamrollered and shutout the Bravos in the first two games.

Then there were the Penguins. They won the first two of their playoff games against the hated Flyers and were scheduled to play game three in, "The city of dysfunctional love." Could we possibly see a sweep by the Pirates and a three game lead for the Pens today? Ah that would be a "no" and another "no" for two resounding, collective "NO"s.

Over at the ballyard that game was over, in retrospect, in the first inning as Zach Duke reverted to 2007 and 2008 form allowing three runs in the first en route to an overall 11-1 shellacking. The Bucs scored their lone run on a hit batsman with bases loaded in the ninth. It was officially the "off" day for the Pirates offense as on Saturday they scored ten runs in the "on" day.

Meanwhile, in a nationally-telecast game on the cheapskate NBC network, the Penguins fell in a very disappointing effort by Marc Andre and the boys by a 6-3 score. This game was played very poorly from the goaltender on out as there were numerous gaffes throughout the afternoon that allowed Philadelphia to never trail in this one. The good news for NBC was that their ratings were up by .00000000000028% nationally because they decided to disallow the large screen broadcast at Mellon Arena. I'm sure the good folks at WPXI are grateful for this bonehead decision from New York. Heck, the good p.r. alone was worth it let alone that major spike in viewership!

Above: In the lower right hand corner, Robert Ryan has that smug look that's making Spencer Tracy crazy. He reminds me of someone who plays for the Flyers. I'd like to rub that smug look right off his face!

So if you're following this, the combined team of the "Penrates", "Pirguins", "Pittsguins", "Pittsrates"--whatever you want to call them-- lost by a 17-4 score, making this one of the worst sports days in quite a while around these parts.

I must pay a compliment to Fox Sports Pittsburgh. Their production and most notably their announcers are so superior to NBC's national team that I was ready to do the "turn the radio up" thing with Mike Lange. Either that or smash the TV set in, but that never does any good. In fact, I guarantee that I will do that (not smash the TV set in but turn up the radio) next time because the color commentary of Pierre MacGuire and Mike Milbury was so inane and meandering as to be practically completely worthless. Mike Emerick is tolerable in a high-pitched kind of way, but those other two...give me Mike Lange and the "Old two-niner" the next time that Fox doesn't have the game. While Paul Steigerwald isn't my favorite local announcer ever, he does a much more than adequate job. Bob Errey is hands down better than the goofs on NBC.

The only thing that I did enjoy was the "end-zone" camera that NBC used during power plays. It was enjoyable watching the plays develop that way instead of the traditional side view.


Dan Bylsma never saw that Flyers freight train coming.

So what's next for the "Pirguins"? Their next combined game will be Tuesday night when the Buccos take on the Florida Marlins at home while the 'Guins take on the Flyers at the "Wacko Center" in game four.

And just how jealous are the Philadelphia fans anyway? Don't they know that kicking Sidney Crosby is never a good thing? He'll pay them back for all those "Crosby Sucks" chants, just watch!

Above: The famous "Black Rock". Somehow, the title, "Good Day At Black Rock," doesn't have the same ring to it as the one the producers wisely selected.

In the meantime, if you want to know what a real "Bad day at Black Rock" entails, try to rent the original classic or watch for it on Turner Classic Movies. It stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan Walter Brennan and several other famous "character actors" you'll immediately recognize.

Above: Pirates' Manager John Russell is looking the wrong way as a train comes up from behind to run over his team today.

A famous legend that surrounds this movie has it that Brennan and Tracy did not like each other because of serious liberal (Tracy) conservative (Brennan) differences and refused to speak to each other except for their lines! Brennan would flash four fingers at Tracy before a scene...he had won four academy awards to Tracy's three!

Above: Let's hope this movie's over...and we don't need any sequels either. Sunday's version was certainly no "classic," that's for sure.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

PENS, FLYERS PLAY GAME FOR THE AGES IN GAME TWO OF SERIES



PENS TAKE 2-0 LEAD IN SERIES ON GUERIN O.T. GOAL

The Penguins and Flyers play regular season games intensely. They even play exhibition games intensely. They would even play mumbley-peg intensely. So when a pivotal game two of a Stanley Cup series comes up for these two hated rivals, the normal intensity level gets ramped-up to levels topping most Stanley Cup finals games.
Above: Bil Guerin

Last night, for example, these two teams both came out sporting their "A" games. The Flyers, who had been badly outplayed on Wednesday in a 4-1 loss in game one, clearly had notions of knotting up this series and starting over again on Sunday at home. It really looked like they were going to pull it off too.

The first period featured a magnificent stretch of hockey to open the game where for nearly seven minutes there wasn't a single stoppage of play. The ferocious hitting on both sides made the ice a veritable war zone that was not fit for man nor beast. After the Flyers successfully turned back the Penguins opening salvo, they gradually recovered to build great momentum of their own. In particular, Philadelphia's sharpshooter, Jeff Carter, seemed to have found an extra gear that had him moving at an amazing speed. But Carter was denied on several opportunities by a very sharp Marc-Andre Fleury. Just when it seemed that the Flyers were going to go to the intermission with a tie, the Flyer's Scottie Hartnell quieted the raucous Mellon Arena crowd with an opening goal on a wrist shot.

The second period had a single tally by the Penguins recently-acquired Bill Guerin, the oldest member of the Penguins at age 39. So the teams went to the third period tied at one apiece.

Everyone seemed ready to hunker down for a long grinding period of scoreless hockey when the Flyers' rookie, Darroll Powe, cashed-in a shot just seven seconds into a power play to propel the Flyers to a 2-1 lead. Obviously, a score of this magnitude gave the Flyers a great burst of adrenaline and it looked like the tide was getting ready to turn to a 3-1 lead for Philly.

The Flyer's goaltender, Martin Biron, had been very sharp in this game as was Fleury, so a 3-1 lead would appear to be insurmountable, even for an offensive juggernaut like the Penguins. The really critical moment in this game came when Jeff Carter was robbed on one of the most amazing saves ever made by a Penguins net minder...or any net minder for that matter. Fleury had stopped a shot and the rebound came directly to the Flyer's sharpshooter, Carter. With the wide open net yawning in front of him, Carter shot only to have Fleury whip his skate out across the crease just barely deflecting the shot with the tip of his skate. The only save that even remotely compares to this was the point blank save by Frank Pietrangelo in the playoffs 20 years ago that's been dubbed "the save". This play deserves to be named as well.

After that save the Flyers had many other great chances to score, but Fleury had slammed the door and was very clearly now in the Flyer's heads. It was one of those situations where after watching hundreds of football, baseball, basketball and hockey games during your lifetime, that you come to realize that when a scoring chance that is that easy is stopped in a game of this magnitude, it bodes badly for the team that was stopped, and that's just what happened.

The Flyers took a very inopportune penalty at around the four minute mark and it was then that they unveiled a new alignment for their power play. The change in position for Evgeni Malkin left the Flyers confused enough that the league's leading scorer was able to tie the game. Malkin, who was playing the game in front of his delirious-with-joy parents, slammed himself backwards against the glass as he celebrated his good fortune. A slapper from Kris LeTang hit a Flyer's skate then caromed off Malkin for the tying goal at the 16:23 mark.

The crowd and the Penguins both were anxious to have this game ended in regulation, but it was not to happen.

As the teams tentatively began playing the sudden death period, it became obvious that both sides were tiring. The shifts became shorter, and the Flyers, who aren't as deep as the Penguins, began to look particularly vulnerable. Jordan Stall was cross-checked by Mike Knuble in front of the Flyers' net, setting up a power-play opportunity. Then, shortly thereafter, Claude Giroux was called for slashing as he broke his stick while hacking away at Chris Kunitz. The refs had no choice but to award the second penalty in the overtime, a very rare occurrence indeed. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1933, in 76 years worth of playoff games, there has been only one other circumstance where a team won in overtime with a two man advantage. It happened in 2003 when Tampa Bay beat Washington in 2003. It hadn't happened in 70 years, now it's happened twice in six years.

During the two man advantage, the Pens finally managed to get Sergei Gonchar the puck at the blue line and Gonch wound up for one of his patented slap shots. But it was a fake! He passed the puck to the right of Biron to Billy Guerrin who nailed it home off the post for his second goal of the game. It was Guerin's 30th playoff goal of his career, but the first one in overtime.

It was a devastating blow for the Flyers who now find themselves trailing in the series 2-0. The series now shifts to Philadelphia for game three on Sunday and an even more crucial circumstance for the Flyers. The Pens have been playing well now for about 25 games, but it now seems that the "Flower" has ramped-up his game to a point where a Flyers' comeback looks awfully remote. Anything can happen in a seven game series and the Flyers have nothing to be ashamed of in their gritty performance in game two. However, for all of their effort, all that they have to show for it is another loss. To which Penguins fans everywhere responded with a collective WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

Stanley Cup Notes: In one of the most incredibly-stupid corporate decisions ever made, NBC has decided that it will not allow the Penguins to broadcast the game Sunday on their large screen outside of Mellon Arena for fans who don't have tickets. NBC claims that this will have a negative affect on game ratings. The NHL, always the league that trails in national viewership has to be thrilled with this NBC decision as well. This is a p.r. nightmare for NBC and WPXI which wants to broadcast the game. Fox Sports was referring to themselves as, "The good guys" for their allowing the Fox broadcast to be shown on the large screen. NBC deserves every bit of bad publicity that they'll get from this. You'd think they would have learned from the infamous "Heidi" NFL game 40 years ago. In that situation, NBC switched from a game which had run over its' time slot so that it could broadcast the movie, "Heidi". Outraged NFL fans flooded NBC with phone calls. Don't be surprised if Penguin fans do the same.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Jim and Randy": The Yinzer's Morning Radio Headquarters ON WDVE, 102.5 FM



There are some things about Pittsburgh that make its' residents truly feel like they're a part of something bigger. Obviously, our sports teams are a matter of civic pride and offer that common bond. So does our pride in the beauty of Pittsburgh with its' majestic three rivers, the point and the magnificent Pittsburgh skyline. Onto that list of things that make Pittsburgh special, add the morning radio team on WDVE 102.5 FM of Jim Krenn and Randy Baughman.


Above: Jim Krenn IS morning radio in Pittsburgh with 21 years brewing the city's Joe.

These two guys are a big part of the Pittsburgh scene and their show definitely reflects their love for all things "Burgh". As an example of that Pittsburgh reverence, a year or so ago an already-failing Myron Cope with his now raspy voice, visited with the fellows by phone. You would have thought it was the Pope calling. The guys were just so in awe of Myron and the icon he had become for Pittsburghers. They respected him for the living legend that he was. They simply love all things Pittsburgh.

The "Jim and Randy" show is an eclectic mix of Pittsburgh sports, followed by more Pittsburgh sports, followed by a cut from "AC-DC" or "ZZ Top" and then a comedian thrown in for good measure. In addition to Pittsburgh radio icon Jim Krenn (21 years at WDVE) and Randy Baughman (co-host since 2001), show regulars Val Porter (celebrity sleaze) and Mike Prisuta (even more Pittsburgh sports) gives you an idea that Pittsburghers: A) Love their sports and B) Love laughing at Hollywood celebrities.

Jim and Randy also have a large number of celebrity imitations that they'll sprinkle in liberally along with some regular guests such as Frank Caliendo. This morning, for example, Caliendo was on doing his best John Madden impersonation. Along with discussing that Madden was retiring, we more importantly learned that the real reason was because Brett Favre, his favorite player, had also retired. During the interview, Jim Krenn asked "Madden" what his favorite all-time play was. Caliendo, er, Madden responded that he, "Had about 774 favorite plays and about 80% of them involved Brett Favre."


Above: Jim and Randy at last year's celebrity roast. Note Jim holding now-empty glass.


When they're not working with comedians, Jim and Randy can often be found espousing various local charities such as "Animal Friends". Jim Krenn is an ardent animal lover and I had several opportunities to cross paths with him at the Animal Friends "Bark in the Park" or for many many years at the "Worst Avid Golfer's Tournament" for the MS Service Society.



Above: Jim and Randy are at the forefront of many local charitable causes.

Each year Jim and Randy get a collection of their best comedy routines together and sell them on a CD with the proceeds going to several charities. I can verify to the everyday listeners that annually Jim Krenn had several thousand dollars donated to the MS Service Society and would participate in our tournament. It was always a thrill to see Jim and his wife Hedy at our event.

One of the funniest routines that they roll out each week during football season involves using actual taped comments made at Mike Tomlin's news conference and twisting them into unrelated responses to questions from a Walter Brennan character and Clint Eastwood. Tomlin is the "sheriff" in this old west town. In the days of Bill Cowher, the same format was used only the characters were placed in the middle ages and sounded like the Knights of the Roundtable addressing Cowher as "My Lord" or "My Leige".

As you can see, just from this brief description, these two fellows are extremely creative and it's obvious how much they love their jobs. While Jim Krenn is a native Pittsburgher, Randy Baughman originally hailed from Erie. However, after years of working in Pittsburgh, he has been thoroughly "Yinzerized" (new word) since Jim's longtime co-host Scott Paulsen decided to move on in 2001.

Jim and Randy have managed to create an entertaining format for their show that always seems to revolve around this great city and its' wonderful sports teams. For example, now that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are under way, we can look forward to a solid couple of months (hopefully) of following the exploits of Sid, Evgeni and company. During the recently-concluded NFL season, Jim and Randy took their act on the road and even broadcasted live from Tampa, this year's site of the SuperBowl. It could something as insignificant as a tiddlywinks national tournament, but if it involved a Pittsburgh team, Jim and Randy would cover it.

Above: Jim Krenn with his beloved Gizmo. Gizmo was lost a few months ago and the panicked radio host took a day off to find him. His wife found him in Banksville Park.

So as you can see, these two guys literally have become Pittsburgh itself and they're another big reason why Pittsburghers are so connected to each other. We're lucky to have them and we here at "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" wish them continued success at WDVE! For those transplanted Pittsburghers who miss listening each day, you can hear them streaming live every day at WDVE.com.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

STEELERS" EASY SCHEDULE WON'T GUARANTEE ANYTHING

Count me as being in the distinct minority of Steeler fans who does NOT like this year's schedule.

"So what's not to like," you ask? It's loaded with pushovers, patsies and perennial losers, that's what. Here's a point about football players that many people never get: The talent gap between the best and worst teams in the NFL is not that significant. So what determines why some teams win and others lose? Two important factors, attitude towards the team and focus.

The Steelers, to their credit, have been able to maintain an extremely positive atmosphere among their players for about the last 35 years. During that time they've won six SuperBowls and had a plethora of playoff appearances as a result of it.

The other important ingredient is focus. The Steelers have been truly blessed to have had just three coaches during those 35 years, Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and now Mike Tomlin , who have all been masters at getting their players' attention and keeping it. By getting players focused, they learn their plays more thoroughly, pay closer attention to their bodies and their athleticism and finally, come into games with a crisp, clear attitude and greater attention to detail than the "other guys". Having the intangibles of attitude and focus working for you creates an extremely difficult scenario for the opposition. Fortunately the "Black and Gold" figured this part of the game out a long time ago and thus their success.

"So why the long face about the schedule," you ask?

Quite simply, having the toughest schedule, like we had last season, plays right into the hands of "focus". Players go into the season subconsciously preparing harder and driving themselves that little bit extra to insure that they'll have enough in the tank to handle the challenge. That's just basic human nature. Having one of the weakest schedules can have an opposite negative impact on the team. Sure, players will work out, but will there be the same urgency to prepare for the Lions as there is to prepare for the Giants? Hardly. Unfortunately, that's human nature too.

With these players already having won a SuperBowl ring and many others, two of them, it will be a major challenge for Mike Tomlin to lock in the "focus" factor as he did last year. I liked it a whole lot better playing against the NFC East last year than the AFC West this year.

While the analytical side of me says that based upon last year that the Steelers could win 13 or 14 games this year, common sense dictates that injuries, flukes and yes even focus could have something else to say about this. The Steelers will probably win 12 in a cakewalk run to the division title. They'll split with Baltimore, but probably will sweep Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, having played such an easy schedule they probably won't have the same hunger that drove them this year. You see it's all about intangibles in the NFL. Hunger is another one of them.


2009 Season Projection

Thurs. Sept 10 vs Tennessee W 24-17 1-0

Sun. Sept 20 at Chicago W 28-10 2-0

Sun. Sept 27 at Cincinnati W 31-10 3-0

Sun. Oct 4 vs San Diego L 20-17 3-1

Sun. Oct 11 at Detroit W 35-7 4-1

Sun Oct 18 vs Cleveland W 28-3 5-1

Sun Oct 25 vs Minnesota W 17-14 6-1

Sun Nov 1 BYE WEEK

Mon Nov 9 at Denver W 27-7 7-1

Sun Nov 15 vs Cincinnati W 24-21 8-1

Sun Nov 22 at Kansas City W 29-10 9-1

Sun Nov 29 at Baltimore L 21-17 9-2

Sun Dec 6 vs Raiders L 17-10 9-3

Thurs. Dec 10 at Cleveland W 13-10 10-3

Sun Dec 20 vs Packers L 28-24 10-4

Sun Dec 27 vs Ravens W 31-20 11-4

Sun Jan 3 at Miami W 35-14 12-4

SEASON NOTES: The Steelers will start off 3-0 before losing to the Chargers at home...They will be 6-1 heading into a week 8 bye...The Steelers will lose three of their last six games after peaking at 9-1...Curiously, the Steelers will finish 5-3 at home while ending up 7-1 on the road. Their record should get them home field advantage for the playoffs. Look for Baltimore, New England, San Diego and Indianapolis to be the other primary contenders looking to prevent another appearance (their eighth) in the SuperBowl. Last year's team was very fortunate to win it all with a deficient offensive line and poor punter. That luck could run out in another AFC Championship Game against Baltimore.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PENGUINS, BUCCOS TO CLASH TONIGHT....FORTUNATELY NOT AGAINST EACH OTHER!!



Right: Flyers will be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun tonight.


Above: Most people are unaware how tough Penguin gangs can be.






Above Top: Penguins fans are tired of hearing how the Flyers plan on playing a physical series. Above: Unidentified Flyer falls to a sword-bearing Penguin. Penguins can be very dangerous...especially during the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (4-3) go up against the anemic Houston Astros (1-6) tonight on the North Shore, while at the same time the Penguins take on their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers over at Mellon Arena.

It should be interesting to see how many fans attend the early season baseball game in cool clammy weather as opposed to those watching the expected Bloods vs Crips matchup in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.


To once again accomodate their loyal fan base, the most fan-friendly franchise among all the major sports leagues is going to once again provide a giant screen in front of the arena for those fans who couldn't get tickets. Last year the Pens had thousands watching the games outside, a true credit to the organization's level of committment to their fans.
One thing is for certain: The Penguins certainly won't be fearing the Philadelphia Flyers. My prediction: Pens in 5.

Above: You'll see signs like these all around Mellon Arena.

Monday, April 13, 2009

PIRATES, MINOR LEAGUE AFFILIATE BOTH LOSE TOUGH GAMES; "P.B.& G." PHOTOJOURNALIST THREATENED!!!

It was a rough day yesterday for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they lost two tough, low scoring games.
In Cinci, yer Buccos lost 2-0 despite turning a rare triple play. Ian Snell took the loss giving up a two-run homer in the first then slamming the door. Unfortunately for the Pirates and Snell, their on-again, off-again offense was in the "off" position for this one.

In another tough contest, fought by their new minor league affiliate in Somalia, the Somalia Pirates lost by a 3-0 score to a rugged Navy Seals team.

Above: This minor leaguer was in a very foul mood after losing to the Seals yesterday. The Somalia Pirates to a man seem to display the same bad attitude leaving G.M. Neal Huntington to consider a possible change in managers. Good luck on that idea.


Above: Unlike their higher level American minor league affiliates, the Somalia franchise travels to games by small boat in oftentimes rugged waters, leading some to speculate that this may be a major contributing factor in their constant hostile mood.


Above: A map of Somalia. After losing a home game to the Seals, the Somalia Pirates must now travel all the way down the coast to Kenya (lower left of map) on board their small, rinky-dink boats. If the Seals don't get them, the Great Whites might! No wonder why their attitude stinks!

Above: An unidentified, cocky, Somalia Pirates minor leaguer in a feisty mood after getting his butt kicked by the Seals "calls on" "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold" photographer, Dave Navis. "Take away your three buddies with their guns and I bet you're not so tough, tough guy," yelled Navis.

"P.B. & G. will not be intimidated by the Pirates no matter what level they're playing at," stated infuriated publisher Angelo Spagnolo. "It's no wonder some of these guys have a bad attitude by the time they make it to PNC Park."

Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington was also very upset over the Somalia Pirates boorish behavior towards the photojournalist.. "Hey, whether they're playing in Somalia, Lynchburg, Altoona, Indianapolis... it doesn't matter. They're part of our operation and they're expected to act like professionals, especially with a blog as highly respected as "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold."

Judging from these photos, Huntington has a lot of work to do adjusting these attitudes.