Sunday, September 26, 2010

PENS STILL IN MY DOGHOUSE, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO LOVE THEM GIVING AWAY 8,000 TICKETS TO KIDS

CLEARING MY DESK....
          By Angelo Spagnolo, Publisher

Make no mistake about it, I am still doing a major burn over the Mayor, the Penguins and the Sports and Exposition Authority selling out en masse to the developers who are apparently throwing around wads of cash here in the city.. They all supposedly prefer seeing the iconic Pittsburgh Civic Arena converted into a shopping mall or housing. I still maintain that it is embarassingly short-sighted of all of these people that this incredible structure may now not be reused, but instead, destroyed. What kind of creativity does that show? None. But what it does show is that people can still be bought.

How amazing that the Penguins, who have so quickly and shockingly abandoned the very symbol of their team over these yo last 40-some years, could be so wrong on one decision and so very right on another?

I may not agree with their real estate decisions, but when it comes to decisions they've made regarding strictly their fans, these guys are in another universe altogether. Case in point; The Penguins decision to give away over 8,000 tickets to kids in the region who are involved in youth hockey or who are simply underpriviliged. What an incredibly brilliant move!

I can remember back in the 60's, when I was playing youth baseball, that the Pittsburgh Pirates had their "knothole club" where entire teams would be admitted into the right field grandstands for free, or just a buck (I can't exactly remember) provided that the teams wore their baseball uniforms. I can remember being in a gigantic line that snaked through the area outside the left field wall and even made a loop around the Schenley Fountain, located near the Carnegie Museum. That was a lot of kids!!! We made a lot of noise too, just like the kids did last night!

The key point is that 45 years later, I still remember that day and always will...especially seeing a Clemente home run ball land about one section away from me. I was electrified by this! In that same game, Clemente came up for one of his patented basket catches...and he dropped the ball! The stupid runner thought that he could take second on"The Great One" and was out by about 20 feet at second.

The reason why I'm relating this baseball story in a column about free hockey tickets is that 40 or so years from now, those of you who are young enough to still be around will be able to read the vivid recollections of many of those 8,000 free passes that were handed out yesterday. They'll be talking about Gino Malkin lowering the boom in a fight or the "Flower" standing on his head in the second and third periods. They'll also still be gushing about being in the brand new Consol Energy Center on a free ticket no less!

But the biggest thing that they'll be remembering is that, "This was when I became a Penguin fan for life." They will also have purchased thousands of dollars of tickets, hot dogs, cokes, nachos and souvenirs. they will also have helped the Penguins to retain and even grow their amazing television viewing numbers.

The Penguins made one of the smartest investments they could have ever made yesterday. Their marketing and fan relations are unrivaled anywhere in sports.

Now all that they have to do is make some improvements in how they handle former arenas that happen to be city icons and they'll be possibly the most perfect sports franchise ever!

Friday, September 24, 2010

PITT TAKES WRONG TURN AT CROSSROADS, BECOMES ROADKILL

  "Oh Sweet Irony!"
In yesterday's column Pitt's season was described by this blogger as being at an important "crossroads". The trepidation being felt over their upcoming game against the Miami Hurricanes, to this writer, was palpable and in retrospect, entirely justifiable.

Pitt's team responded in a not unexpected manner by standing in the middle of that crossroads while a steamroller repeatedly smashed this lifeless team. Miami, the steamroller in this image played well, but the Panthers? They were absolutely, putrifyingly awful in a 31-3 loss.


ABOVE: It wasn't pretty for Dave Wannstedt despite wearing a sporting cap.


Name any aspect of this game and it was analagous to the "Little Big Horn." For example, Pitt went three and out five consecutive times. Pitt's return man, Cameron Sadler, on the other hand was a man on a mission: He seemed determined to have one of the worst returning games in college football history. After Miami roared downfield against a flatfooted, backpedaling Pitt defense on its' opening possession to take a 7-0 lead, Sadler took a deep kickoff, then proceeded to run laterally at the eight yard line. I've never returned a kickoff in my life yet even I knew how that would end up... and it did.

So Pitt started its' first offensive possession down seven points and on their eight yard line. All together now: "One, two, three kick!" Then repeat four more times.


ABOVE: If Pitt's players looked this good maybe we wouldn't have minded, but I was was getting pretty bored with, "One, two, three, KICK!" all night long.

Miami's quarterback, Jacory Harris, then threw a very bad interception in the Pitt end zone to the Panther's DiCicco and so Pitt's early exit was delayed...at least a little longer.

 ABOVE: From his custom buzzcut, down to the hair on his chinny chin chin, save for two i.n.t.'s Pitt had no answer for Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.

On the next series, Pitt, facing a daunting third and five situation threw a two yard pass that, complete with the accompanying run left them just two yards short. Why throw for two when you need five? Oh well, another three and out. We'll have to work on that play in practice this week.

Miami, meanwhile, was forced to punt on its' next possession, and Sadler, eager to atone for his bad kickoff return, chose this time to exercise discretion in the place of valor. Not trying to catch this low, end-over-end punt resulted in a loss of at least 20 yards of field position, so Pitt would start this drive in familiar "Sadler field position", on the nine yard line. He would save his best work, however, for the second half. More on Sadler later.

Thanks to a second ill-advised pass by Miami's Harris, Pitt would ultimately escape from this completely miserable viewing experience with just a 10-0 deficit. In fact, Dan Hutchins missed a 52 yard field goal as time was running out in the half that could have made it just a seven point game. But it was not to be...no surprise there on a night where absolutely nothing went right for Pitt. 

In this amazing half of a game of utter futility, Pitt managed three first downs (the first coming with only six minutes left in the second quarter). They managed 29 yards rushing and 47 yards passing for just 76 yards in a very Steeleresque performance. Only problem was that James Harrison,Troy Polamalu and company couldn't suit up for their defense, which was very pedestrian at best.

As Wanny left the field and did the obligatory network interview, he stated several obvious facts: "We get the ball at the beginning of the half...we've got to do something with it...we've got to get some rhythm".

In about twenty minutes, Wannstedt would find answers to these three questions and many more as the Panthers promptly went three and out. He found that they were still unable to do anything with the ball and he also learned that they may actually have been in possession of a rare, deadly element called negative rhythm. As proof of this, they followed this horrible possession up up with a bad punt.

On their next possession, the Hurricanes managed to stick a fork in this lifeless group as Harris connected to Hakerson on a pathetically-easy 19 yard reception. All over Heinz Field, you could hear nothing but the sound of pins dropping.

Down 17-0 and looking like a boxer with his gloves over his face absorbing punishing blows, the game took on an even uglier aspect as recently-momentarily-suspended middle linebacker, Dan Mason, suffered a Joe Theismann-like dislocation of his knee.

Meanwhile, Wannstedt was flipping out on the sideline with Buddy Jackson who took a stupid dead ball penalty on a play that took place 30 yards from the point of attack! As the Panthers were being marched backwards 15 yards, Wannstedt, completely now in Jackson's grill kept yelling, "WHYYYY? WHYYY?" An appropriate answer was not seen forthcoming. Jackson was smart in keeping on his helmet.

As the quarter ended, Pitt was mounting one of its' precious few positive moments of the night. Jump-started by a poor Miami punt, the Panthers began the drive at their 49. Then, aided by a roughing the passer call, the Panthers would salvage their only bright spot of the night, a 27 yard Dan Hutchins field goal. Wow.

Momentum was seemingly trying to rear its' ugly head, but this time in the Panthers' favor. The Pitt defense, obviously stimulated by the offensive outburst it had just witnessed, came out with some fire in its' belly. Pitt was down two touchdowns, but stranger comebacks that than have happened in college football, right? True, but those teams didn't have Cameron Sadler as a punt returner either.

Following a sacking of Harris by Pitt's Jabaal Sheard (who was one of the few bright spots on both sides of the ball) Miami went three and out and you could feel the anticipation building, almost like a pimple waiting to burst asunder. It burst alright and much like the pimple, it wasn't pretty but pretty nasty. 

Sadler went back to return the punt and misplayed it badly causing a fumble on the 43 of Pitt. This game was now over, pure and simple. On a third and ten, a missed tackle resulted in a 27 yard gain for the Hurricanes and then with Katrina-like efficiency, Harris then threw to Travis Benjamin for a 24-3 insurmountable lead. Game, set, match. Done. Vanishing deductible.

Tino Sunseri, who looked completely lost, amidst a sea of Hurricanes jerseys all night, left the game with a possible concussion. His replacement, Pat Bostick, seemed to be seeing the field better, but by this time, Miami had called off the dogs.

One of the more pathetic plays, however, occured when Bostick was intercepted in the endzone and had the ball returned 75 yards to the Pitt 25. On the play, a completely disinterested Jonathan Baldwin, failed to even turn towards the pass allowing for an easy interception. This prompted the usually laid-back Bostick to scream at Baldwin, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???" Baldwin had all of the body language of a disinterested person who had quit on his team. His thoughts are now on the NFL, but good luck with that if he keeps playing like this.

Yes this game was pathetic on so many fronts that I simply cannot count them all. Was Miami the greatest thing since sliced bread was invented? They were very good, but not worldbeaters. They made several stupid mistakes that could have allowed any vaguely-interested team to get back into the game. Make no mistake about it, this performance by Pitt was so totally bad that they could have made Washington and Jefferson College look like BCS contenders.

When you see a team play this badly, preceeded by three weeks of off-field incidents, you can't help but suspect that there may be very deep-seated divisions existing on this team and that it could go into a virtual freefall against Florida International, their next opponent. Not to be confused with Florida or Florida State, Florida International managed to throw quite the scare into Texas A&M recently, losing to them by a 27-20 score. They also lost to Rutgers, in their home opener, by a 19-14 score. This week, they take on a weak Maryland team. But if you're FIU, you've got to be salivating at the chance of knocking off the sleepwalking collection of zombies that are this year's Pitt Panthers.


ABOVE: Nicknamed the "Golden Panthers" of all things, Florida International will face those other "Not-so-Golden Panthers" of Pitt next week. F.I.U. probably also has an administration building called "The Cathedral of Learning" and a dorm called "Salk Hall".

GAME NOTES: The Pitt-Miami game was nationally telecast, thus improving Pitt's national image as an up and coming football program...By playing as well as it did last night, Pitt helped to also polish the image of the Big East, a conference that has been maligned as being the worst of the BCS...Pitt brought in over 300 of its' greatest players ever to welcome the team onto the field. In response, the Pitt players burst onto the Heinz Field sod with all of the vigor of a person who had just awoken from a deep, deep sleep. They were completely on their heels from the first play from scrimmage when Miami went into a hurry-up offense and sported an empty backfield...Bars on the South Side were cordoned off by police last night in anticipation of a potentially deadly tsunami of out-of-control student-athletes needing desperately to "drown their sorrows" (alright, I made up that last report)...I like Dave Wannstedt, he is a formidable recruiter and I perceive him to be a "good guy". But like many others, I question his gameplanning, in-game management and handling of disciplinary issues. He's a guy who loves his university. I just don't know how many more seasons Pitt fans will tolerate games such as this that are such an embarrassment.  




Wednesday, September 22, 2010

PITT TEAM AT CROSSROADS; SEASON HANGING IN BALANCE

ABOVE: As if the road signs in Pittsburgh are written in Chinese, Pitt's players have been having a hard time finding their way back to campus from the South Side.

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy,..
"Save me if you please."


I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me,
everybody passed me by.


When I'm going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.


You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
Run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
And I'm standing at the crossroads,
believe I'm sinking down.

Words and music by Eric Clapton and "Cream"

I have always hated it when I hear sports commentators building up an early-season football game as being "critically important" or attempting to otherwise overly-hype their contest as a means of retaining viewers. However, after just two games though, Pitt's season, one that was bubbling over with promise just three weeks ago, now seems to be literally hanging by a thread.

After losing in overtime at Utah, a game which most people thought they'd have a hard time winning, the Panthers came back to stomp I-AA New Hampshire at home. So what's wrong with that, you ask, isn't that what Division I teams are supposed to do with their less-talented I-AA brethren?

True, it is. But in the meantime, the team has had not one, not two, but three separate incidents where: A person was thrown through a glass door of a South Side storefront; Another person was a victim of a hit-and-run with two intoxicated Pitt players in the car; Finally there was another person who had a shoulder injured in a campus fight involving yet another Pitt player. If you're keeping track, so far there are four players who have drawn the coach's ire and we've only played two games this season. Where does it go from here?

Coach Dave Wannstedt is certainly a man whom I admire and when he says that he has weekly "Life Lessons" for his team, I believe him. The question though has to be, "Are the Pitt players sleeping during these Life Lessons?" It sure seems like it to me. Wannstedt is no different from any other coach in America who deals with these type of issues on a regular basis. He obviously doesn't want them to happen, but these are young men. They should know better, but in most cases, alcohol has clouded their judgment. What I have to wonder though is, "Are the penalties being handed out enough of a deterrent? Or are they merely gentle slaps on the wrist so that no one misses any snaps? Are the players even worried about the potential consequences of their actions?

  ABOVE: Wanny has given plenty of warnings, but so far they've fallen on at least eight deaf ears. Much as the sign above, Wanny's warnings are not taken seriously.

In between all of the serious legal problems involving Pitt players, the team is supposed to be getting ready during an off week for a critically-important game against the "U" of Miami Hurricanes. This is a home contest for the Panthers and a nationally-telecast game. It's a game against a nationally-ranked opponent who the Panthers should defeat at home. But It's not going to be an easy win by any stretch of the imagination, but here's the problem: (cue "Crossroads" music) The team has been so distracted by the juvenile antics of so many of its' players that I can only wonder how ready mentally the players can be for this game.

ABOVE: If Pitt stumbles out of the gate against Miami, it could set off a string of losses that would ruin one of the most anticipated seasons in years and possibly derail Dave Wannstedt's progress as Pitt's coach. That's how big this game is!!!

Of course for the Pitt players (who God knows what they've been thinking about) they can possibly go into this game not worrying about past transgressions of their teammates. Hey, boys will be boys, right? (Wink, wink) Of course the "U" of all people, has had tons of their own problems in the past too. "Hey, this is just something that every college team goes through every now and then, right?"

True, but if Pitt doesn't get their collective heads straightened out and I do mean fast, they can just go ahead and check their season into this serene crossroads below.

ABOVE: Crossroads Cemetary, final resting place for distracted football teams.
 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

STEELERS DEEFENSE PAINTS A PICASSO, RENOIR & MATISSE IN AN INCREDIBLE 60 MINUTES TIME!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are an offensively-challenged team right now. Their franchise qb has been banished to his Lazy Boy recliner for four weeks; Their offensive line is a patchwork of players who lack cohesion and in some instances, possibly are even being overmatched; Their backup quarterbacks keep taking turns getting hurt. But today, it didn't matter. Their defense put up a gem of a performance, literally painted a masterpiece that will be talked about for a long, long, time.

This game, an organized streetfight of a 19-11 victory by the Black & Gold, was played in sweltering Memphis. The players were dropping like flies on both sides of the ball. It was such a contradiction in terms, that a million dollar word like, "dichotomy", simply does not do it justice.


Above: Heat-seeking missile, Lawrence Timmons, relaxes in the stands after making seemingly 900 tackles against Titans. He actually was in on 15 assaults on this day.

So suffocating was the Steelers defense that it caused six turnovers (there was also a fumble recovery of Houston's first kickoff return). So in all, the Steelers wrangled seven turnovers from the Titans. However, the Titans came to play, at least defensively, and for the Steelers...well there's also that little offensive problem.

In this bizarre game, the Steelers offense would only score twelve points on four Skippy Reid field goals and manage just 54 yards passing! That was it despite having the ball handed to them by their defense the entire game. If the Steelers hadn't scored on an 89 yard reverse on the opening kickoff by rookie sixth round pick Antonio Brown, I think it's pretty safe to say that this game could have had a different outcome.

The awesome Steelers defense played with an especial vengence on this day with linebackers James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons in particular delivering crushing blows to Tennessee's highlight-reel running back, Chris Johnson and quarterback Vince Young. Johnson, who reportedly doesn't like taking big hits, took plenty of them while managing a paltry 34 yards on 16 carries. He had one long TD run called back on a holding call.

Young, on the other hand, had that, "Deer in the headlights" look all game long and became totally lacking in confidence after interceptions by Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley and also after falling victim to the famous "Harrison slam". Much as he did in Cleveland with a fan who ran out on the field, Harrison, with some help, managed to slam the much larger Vince Young in one of the more fearsome plays you'll ever see. You can enjoy it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFpnxVrT8Js

Young's multitude of fumbles didn't help his cause either. In the third quarter, Tennessee's frustrated coach, Jeff Fischer, also fearing for his starting quarterback's life, had seen enough. He brought in backup Kerry Collins who to his credit rallied his team to a touchdown and two point conversion. But by this time, even the dreaded "prevent" defense couldn't prevent this win. After a few scary moments at the end, highlighted by a fumbled on-sides kick by Wil Allen, the Steelers left the field with an improbable and almost magical 2-0 record despite having an offense that is currently on virtual life support. The Steelers' offense has scored one touchdown in two games, yet the team is 2-0. How do you do that?

Defense my friend and even more defense.

In a town that routinely has chanted "Deefense, Deefense" since the 1970's, that's actually considered a very good thing.

Charlie Batch had to come in to replace injured quarterback Dennis Dixon who, it turns out, tore the meniscus cartilage in his left knee after a designed run early in the first half. Batch managed to not lose the game, but because of a lackluster game on the part of several receivers, his performance was made to look much worse than what it actually was. Batch actually also managed to walk off the field upright and not be in need of the "meat wagon" after the game.

Much as Dixon had done last week, Batch was a game manager, but more importantly, not a game loser. He allowed his defense to continue teeing off on Young and company while getting far enough into Tennessee territory (with a large dose of help from turnovers) on four separate occasions for Reid to continue to pad their lead. But a game like this makes you uncomfortable when you see so few points (9) being scored as a result of so many turnovers (7). You hate to see so many great opportunities squandered.

Dixon did not have a good showing during his early limited action, and with his needing knee surgery and Byron Leftwich being on the quick mend, we will more than likely see our third different quarterback in as many games when the Steelers take on the surprising 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in sweltering Tampa this week.

But make no mistake about it: Football is a game where the winner is always the more agressive team that makes fewer mistakes, and even though their offense is clearly well out of sync, they've already managed to win two of the four games that they have to play "sans Big Ben". Most people expected them to go at best 2-2 or 1-3 during this time. So for the next two weeks, before they will have a bye week prior to Big Ben's return, they will be playing the "bonus rounds" of the Roethlisberger suspension. This could have been a complete disaster, but now, it will be no worse than a .500 start without the "Large One". It just goes to show what can happen when an NFL team becomes galvanized and literally on a mission: To show that they are more, much more in fact, than a one man team. Sure, they'll be even light years better when Roethlisberger returns, but the message should be coming loud and clear: "It ain't pretty, but we can win without you Ben. Get your act together or plan on playing somewhere else. We'll welcome you back, but knock off the prima donna routine."

One thing though is for certain: The Steelers once again have returned to their comfortable, familiar old perch on top of all of the league's defensive categories. They are a formidable and fearsome unit that is enough to strike fear into any offense in the league. In a sport where game films are studied ad nauseum, I'm sure that this past Sunday's game will cause many sleepless nights around the NFL. God help anyone who has to face this bunch.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BLOGGER TAKES DOUBLE KICK TO GROIN, GROWING SKEPTICAL OF EVERYTHING IN THE PROCESS

Much as the poor guy pictured below, but only worse, your's truly has taken the ultimate double karate kick to the groin during the last 24 hours and I know that I will be a long time recovering.

ABOVE: This poor guy has been kicked so hard that he's actually left the ground by a good foot. Yeah, that's kind of how I feel right now...in need of new gonads.

Yes, I feel as though I have been kicked, stomped, trampled and what ever other adjectives you might want to add. It all started off last night when Pittsburgh's own Jackie Evancho was robbed of the championship and $1 million on "America's Got Talent". Let me be the first to say it, "The fix was in."

If that wasn't bad enough, then came the news this morning that the sports and exhibition authority had voted unanimously to tear down the Civic Arena. UNBELIEVABLE! All that I can say is that the developers must have agreed to pay off all of them too!

So let's see, so far we have the mayor, the Penguins officers, and now all of the sports and exhibition authority members. I would venture to say that all of them should be getting a fat check in the mail any day now. How else could you ever explain a decision as ludicrous as this one, not to mention having all of these politicians and the Penguins organization walking in perfect lockstep? This doesn't happen without tons of cash hitting the fan. Don't be stupid and think otherwise.

Jackie Evancho and her family may have gotten ripped off to the tune of $1 million, however, this girl is so immensely talented that I'm sure she'll be multimillionaire ten times over anyway. The judges couldn't believe this nor could the fellow who actually won. Everyone had Jackie winning, so what happened?

Here's a good question: why don't these programs ever show the vote totals? Why are they such a state secret? If they're going to ask the public to vote, why won't they show the vote totals? When a decision comes out of left field like this one did, it really makes you wonder.

Translation: Whoever the Vegas Hotel is that is going to showcase the winner probably called the producers and said, "Hey, we're not paying a million bucks to have some ten year old kid that sings opera. We want an entertainer that Vegas audiences will be able to relate to...so make it happen.

Do you really think that Jackie didn't win? Do you believe that my explanation is far-fetched? Do you really and truly believe that money isn't changing hands as we speak over the demise of Civic Arena? Please folks... please don't be so naieve.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CITY OF CHAMPIONS' JACKIE EVANCHO INTO FINAL FOUR



ABOVE: Last night was "cutdown night" from the top ten down to the final four of "America's Got Talent." Pittsburgh's own ten-year-old-superstar, Jackie Evancho, once again had the judges awestruck with her massive talent. What did they expect? She's from the land of smashing helmets and flying skates. We always win!!! 

ABOVE: Jackie sings an Andrew Lloyd Webber song from the "Phantom of the Opera" in Latin. Sharon Osbourne said, "I didn't understand a word you just sang...I just know it sounded like heaven!". Click the link directly below to hear this future champion for yourself.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

WOMEN OF PITTSBURGH READY FOR NEW STEELER SEASON


With the start of the 2010-2011 Steeler season just days away, the women of Pittsburgh have been hard at work getting ready for kickoff.


ABOVE: "Holder" for Skippy.

 ABOVE: The women of Pittsburgh instinctively know that there are things other than football that interest their men...
 ABOVE: Motorcycles have all the luck!

 ABOVE: Sporting a thong, this young lass is obviously a fan of Millidgeville's finest.


ABOVE: The "Terrible Towel" used in a new wicked format!

Yes, the women of Pittsburgh know that their men love football. They also know that they have to work harder than ever to get their attention. God bless their hearts for trying, but it won't work during football season. Remember: "Pittsburgh is a hard drinking town with a football problem". These pictures are nice and all, but they won't cause us to lose focus on the one important thing in life: Steelers football!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NOSTRADAMUS PAYS ANNUAL VISIT, PB&G BANK BOOK SUFFERS

ABOVE: We bring in only the best of the best prognosticators, Nostradamus himself to give you the low-down on the Steelers' 2010-2011 season.

Much has already been made about the Steelers' schedule and the fact that Big Ben won't be available for the first four games. But what it comes to doing the heavy lifting of predicting how well an entire season is going to go, that's where we call in the experts. Fortunately for us, "PB&G" long ago secured the exclusive services of the one and only Michel de Nostradamus, he of end-of-the-world fame.


ABOVE: One of the many "History Channel" shows that pays Nostradamus big money.

True, the "History Channel" has been wearing him out with a barrage of 2012 prediction shows, but nevertheless, we were able to pull him away from the biblical meltdown stuff long enough to get him to predict some really important facts: Like what will the Steelers do this year?

A word of warning: The following information should be digested very slowly. For example,  it's very easy to have the seer's words misconstrued into an unintended meaning and thus have a misinterpretration, such as the type when he predicted that "Hister" would cause World War II.

So here now for your enjoyment and inside betting information, is our exclusive interview with Michel de Nostradamus.

PB&G: I guess you kind of get sick of doing all of those gloom and doom shows for the "History Channel"?

NOSTRADAMUS: I knew you were going to ask me that (laughing)!

PB&G: Seriously, how many times can you keep predicting the end of the world?

NOSTRADAMUS: Hey, it pays the bills...and a lot more, I might add, than what I'm getting from this blog!

PB&G: That may be true, but at least you're getting to talk about your favorite subject, the Pittsburgh Steelers!

NOSTRADAMUS: Oh they're going to have a great year this year. I predict them winning the SuperBowl as a matter of fact! 

PB&G: Wow, you and Peter King are the only two calling for that!

NOSTRADAMUS: They're going to beat the Phoenix Cardinals in a thrilling game. Ben is going to hit Santonio with an unbelievable pass at the end.

PB&G: But...

NOSTRADAMUS: Your Pittsburgh Steelers will win their sixth SuperBowl, but I see big trouble ahead. Your quarterback is going to get in big trouble.

PB&G: But Nostradamus, you're messed up on your dates!

NOSTRADAMUS: Stop interrupting! I'm getting another vision!!...It's the "History Channel", they're going to contact me about doing another show!! I have to go, immediately. This is big cash after all.

PB&G: But what about the 2010 season predictions? That other stuff you gave me was old...from 2008 and early this summer!

NOSTRADAMUS: I'll email them to you.

FROM: Michel de Nostradamus
TO: Pittsburgh's Black and Gold
September 8, 2007
Subject: Pittsburgh Steeler predictions

THE FORWARDED EMAIL of 2010 STEELER 
PREDICTIONS BY MICHEL de NOSTRADAMUS

"I am predicting a great year for your Pittsburgh Steelers. The players have been so traumatized by the man they call "The Large One" that they will be focused on nothing but football in 2010. Most importantly, they will manage to elude the injury bug for most of the season with none of the season-ending injuries such as they had last year. This team's combination of veteran leadership and exciting young players should make for a most exciting year. The team will start the year off at 2-2 before Ben Roethlisberger returns. After that, watch out. Like a man possessed (which he probably is) Big Ben will cut through the competition going 9-3 during his 12 games. This will give the team an 11-5 mark, but alas, it will not be good enough to win the AFC North. That prize will instead go to the Baltimore Ravens who will win both contests against the Steelers this season in two very hard-fought losses. Baltimore will finish 12-4, ahead of the Steelers at 11-5, the Bengals at 10-6 and Browns at 7-9. 

The Steelers will make the playoffs as a wild card team and fortunately, they will continue to peak as the season wears on. It is for this reason that I am predicting that the Steelers will make it to the SuperBowl to face the Green Bay Packers and their cheesehead lunatics.

My crystal ball is fading, fading. Pittsburgh's Black and Gold: If you want to know more, please send me another check (only bigger) to the usual address. Bye for now."

                  Predictably,
                         ----Michel


Friday, September 3, 2010

PITT & STEELERS CREATE "CLICKER MELTDOWN" FOR BLOGGER

STEELERS CRUSH CAROLINA 19-3

PITT LOSES 27-24 IN OT THRILLER 

ABOVE: My TV and remote. Never before had it worked so furiously.

Last night, I set out to do something that has never been done before! It was ground-breaking, scientific research, to be sure. On a weeknight where Pittsburgh's two major football programs would be competing, for the first time possibly in history that I could recall, the Steelers and Panthers would end an exhibition season and kick off what should be a great season...all at one time.

In most households this could cause a dilemma. Fortunately, since our household is always on the cutting edge of technology, we have one of those new-fangled remote thingies that actually allows you to actually remain in your seat without having to get up to change the channel!!! OMG what an invention!

Last night, I knew that I would be pushing this innovation to its' very limit as the Steelers and Pitt collided against different opponents in different time zones, but I took the chance of melting down my remote-control anyway. But why not accomplish ground-breaking scientific research during the process? I decided to record each and every click of the remote to see just how many times it would take to watch these two games. This, in a sentence, is truly amazing work on my part.

However, before we begin our sojourn into clicker madness, let me make two very important points that affected the outcome of the research:These games did not start at the same time. In fact, mercifully, there was nearly a one hour time difference between the Steeler and Panther starts. This greatly affected the rate of clicking because the Steelers were able to get in nearly a full quarter of action before Pitt received their opening kickoff. Regardless of the clicking, my wife decided to "make herself scarce" and view something of a less violent nature in the safe confines of her boudoir.

It was at the 15 click mark that Byron Leftwich tossed a TD pass to rookie Emmanuel Sanders. Leftwich suffered an ugly knee sprain and would leave the game. However, the Black and Gold were already up 10-0 against what would prove to be a totally lifeless Carolina club.

But this was a night that clearly belonged to Pitt in my mind. The last preseason game is typically the very worst of the lot. Pitt, on the other hand, was playing a very compelling game in many respects. Not only was it their opener and against a difficult opponent, it was also the first start for sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri.

The Pitt coaching staff handled Sunseri much as you would have expected. He was in hostile territory, make no mistake about that, so they tried simplifying their offense in the first half. To his credit, Sunseri showed much poise in his first start. The Panthers managed to hold their own in the first quarter, even missing out on a 42 yard field goal attempt by kicker Dan Hutchins. However, they would cash in on a fumbled punt recovery that would end with a Dion Lewis off tackle run for a touchdown. The Pitt recipe for success seemed to be working. I was already at 45 clicks.

The Steelers, for their part, were already well into the third quarter of their snoozeathon. While I knew that there were rookies trying to make the team, I just couldn't get into this game, not with Pitt leading 7-0 on the road in their opener. But just when things looked like they were really heading in the right direction, Pitt's heralded defense started unraveling. Utah's receiver, Jeremy Brooks was wide open for a TD strike to tie the game.

Meanwhile, at the 55 clicker mark, Jonathan Dwyer was running hard for the Steelers with Charlie Batch at the helm. Clicker number 56 contained a disastrous Pitt play. The ensuing Utah kickoff was fumbled and then recovered at the Pitt 35. "Big Mo" had raised its ugly head.

At 58 clicks, Utah's quarterback Wynn once again hit a wide open Brooks for a 14-7 lead. Despite coming back later in a valiant effort to tie the game, Pitt would never have the lead in this game again.

After a quick Pitt offensive series, the Pitt defense was back on the field and appearing in virtual freefall. After a 30 yard catch by Brooks brought the ball to the Pitt 10, it clearly looked like another score here just before the half would possibly seal the deal for the Utes. It was here where Wynn made a terrible error and threw an interception to Pitt's Holley in the end zone.

At 64 clicks, the Panthers left the field for a presumed Dave Wannstedt "stashing". It was time to watch some Steeler football.

As the melodic voice of Bob Pompeani came through my TV's speakers, Jonathan Dwyer was getting killed in the backfield by Tank Tyler. Unfortunately, due to a click back to the Pitt game I had missed Carolina's only score of the night, a field goal. At 72 clicks I made a note about how bad Carolina's team looks. Finally, at 77 clicks, Wanny was back on the field commenting, "We need to make every play count in the second half."

While back watching the Steeler coverage click number 80 revealed that on the play before, Utah had apparently connected on another bomb. They were now on the Pitt 15.

At 86 clicks the Steelers have vanquished the inept the Carolina Panthers 19-3. Mercifully, I could now settle into the Pitt game completely, allowing my clicker to cool off. Fortunately, the "other" Panthers playing on this night had a lot more fight in them then the variety emanating out of Carolina.

Pitt, to its' credit would mount a furious comeback and in the process a young quarterback would show his enormous potential. At the 100 click mark, Sunseri would hit Jonathan Baldwin with a 44 yard bomb and then hit Baldwin again for a critical two point conversion. Pitt was now down 24-21 with 7:11 left.

With momentum clearly back on Pitt's side, the defense took the field and had Utah in a third and 10 situation. Wynn overthrew his receiver out of bounds, but Pitt was flagged with an interference call on a ball that clearly looked uncatchable. Given new life, Utah continued its drive and ultimately took three more minutes off the game clock. Then the Panthers got a great break on a very bad punt that gave them the ball at the 50. Utah, at this point, had the look of a team that was definitely on the ropes. I really thought that Pitt was going to pull the upset.

A quick check on the Steeler postgame coverage at 105 clicks showed coach Mike Tomlin stating at his post game press conference that quarterback Byron Leftwich would be having an MRI on his sprained knee. But who cared at this point? Pitt was on the move!!! My heart was pounding!

After driving the ball to the Utah 14, and with the clock down to 3 seconds, Pitt kicker Dan Hutchins, a very reliable kicker inside of 40 yards would be called upon to tie the score. Hutchins would tie the game, only incredibly, Utah's coach would call a timeout just before the kick, thus nullifying it. Incredibly, Hutchins would then kick a second time and then duck hook it! But wait, Coach Kyle Whittingham had actually outfoxed himself by burning a second timeout on the miss! Amazingly, Hutchins would get to kick again, this time making it (with no timeout called). I have never seen anything as bizaar as that at the end of a football game.

So the Panthers managed to send this one into overtime in a most hostile environment. Meanwhile at 108 clicks I learned that..."The Hilton Hotel is no longer a Hilton. That story next."

At 109 clicks and the clock approaching the witching hour, Pitt took the field for the opening stanza of overtime. Sadly, after leading a tremendous comeback and displaying such savvy, Sunseri would throw an ill-advised pass that would immediately be picked off. On their subsequent possession, the Utes were able to drive the ball down for a chip shot field goal by their senior kicker, Joe Phillips and win this wild game by a 27-24 score. The Utes were favored in this one by three. How do the bookies do that?

Sure, it was a sickening defeat. True, the Steelers had lost their starting quarterback too. But on the bright side, the Steelers had completely throttled an NFL opponent while Pitt and the nation had witnessed the coming out party of its' new quarterback.


Don't expect Pitt to keep this kid under wraps like they did, understandably, in the first half of this game. Sunseri showed that he can be the real deal and this Pitt offense, with the quarterback unshackled,  extremely lethal. The defense has some adjusting to do, but overall, there's nothing that I saw last night to  sway my opinion that this year's version of the Pitt Panthers is really going to be really special.

110 clicks at midnight and I'm ready for bed.

The results of this research will be forwarded to the appropriate scientific communities at CERN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and M.I.T..

 ABOVE: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Yeah, you bet they'll be reading this issue of "Pittsburgh's Black and Gold."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CITY READY TO CLAIM YET ANOTHER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

TEN YEAR OLD JACKIE EVANCHO STUNS JUDGES ON"AMERICA'S GOT TALENT"

Pittsburgh has long been referred to as the "city of champions", but now the town,which has celebrated numerous Super Bowl, Stanley Cup and World Series championships since the 1970s is on the verge of winning its first ever championship on "America's got talent".

It was on this show where ten-year-old opera singer, Jackie Evancho, of Richland Township in the North Hills, has absolutely wowed the judges and has become the leading vote getter on YouTube.

ABOVE: Who would have ever thought that the world's next great opera singer, a 10 year old, would have emerged as a gift to America from the "Yinzer Nation"?

Jackie, born on April 9, 2000, sang Giacomo Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" and received a standing ovation. She began singing at age 3, and there are videos of her performing at age seven and eight. When she sings, it is amazing to hear such a developed, mature voice coming from such a young person.

Jackie is considered one of the favorites to win the competition. Judging from the video that you can see below, the other contestants will have their hands full trying to outdistance her prodigious talent.


ABOVE: There were no negative votes cast on this occasion as the judges were astounded at Jackie's ability.

Jackie also has released an album entitled "Prelude to a Dream". It has already sold 4000 copies and is listed at number 121 on the Billboard Top 200 albums.

Sure, Pittsburghers love their sports, but our region is apparently also able to crank out 10 year old opera singers as well!

ABOVE: Jackie performs "O Mio Babbino Caro". To enjoy it click on this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPITHzdUUDk

Best of Luck Jackie! Bring another trophy home where they all belong!!!