My sports bucket list

I absolutely despise MTV. The fact they show a bunch of crappy reality shows instead of music videos, which is what it was namer for, has me bewildered.

However, there is one show that I do watch and feel is really good. “The Buried Life” is a show that follows a group of four friends and chronicles their attempt to complete a list of 100 things they would like to do before they die.

It’s a very entertaining show that gets you thinking: “What do you want to do before you die?” Though my list doesn’t include streaking at a game or attempting to get Taylor Swift to go on a date with me, I have come up with 10 things I definitely want to do in my lifetime.

1. Catch a game home run at an MLB game.

If you know me, you would know that I love going to Pirate games early to try and get baseballs during batting practice. I’ve gotten many home runs during BP, and even a few foul balls during games. However, a home run hit during a game has always eluded me. The chances of getting one are very low, however with the attendance at Pirate games being low for the foreseeable future, I think eventually my time will come.

2. Sit courtside between the benches and the scorers table at an NBA game.

I’m not a big fan of the NBA, and being from Pittsburgh probably has a lot to do with that. However, one thing that I always felt would be cool to do would be sitting in the courtside seats directly next to the benches. Many teams started doing this in the past few seasons and the experience would be incredible. Sitting just a few seats down from a great coach such as Phil Jackson or Doc Rivers and having players walk inches in front of you as they check in would be awesome.

3. Attend the Kentucky Derby

Things that stand the test of time are awesome. A prime example of this is the Kentucky Derby. It seems that every year during the first Saturday in May, Churchill Downs is in the 1900s while the rest of the country is in modern times. I would love nothing more than to dress in a suit and sing “My Old Kentucky Home” from the main grandstand with a mint julip in my hand. Unfortunately, I have no connections to old money in the South, so a cheap ticket in the infield will most likely have to do. I would be totally content with that.

4. Attend the Indianapolis 500

I’m no fan of racing, but the Indianapolis 500 is just another one of those All-American events that has too much tradition to pass up. Hearing “(Back Home Again In) Indiana” with the cars lined up ready to go and over 100,000 people screaming gives me chills watching it on TV. I can’t imagine it live.

5. See a game at all 30 MLB ballparks


Compared with football stadiums and basketball/hockey arenas, ballparks are much more unique. They all have their own personalities and quirks that make the idea of seeing a game at each one in the league a very fun thing to do. I’ve already seen games at 7 of the 30 (however one is the Old Yankee Stadium and the other is the soon to be demolished LandShark Stadium), but I’ve got a lot of work to do to see this goal happen.

6. Cover a championship in one of the four major sports

One of the things that got me hooked on journalism was hearing sportswriters talk about all of the great things they’ve gotten to cover in their time. Being the first to talk to athletes shortly after accomplishing something they have desired for so long, or after coming so close to doing but coming up short in the end is one of the reasons sportswriting is so great. Having a front row seat and inside access to an event like the World Series or Super Bowl is why I’m working so hard to make it in the field.

7. Attend the Final Four

Though college basketball thrives in cramped, intimate venues, there is no stage like the Final Four. With the court situated in the middle of a football stadium, over 80,000 fans are in attendance to see who can win the national championship. I can’t think of what it would be like to watch a game that kind of setting.

8. See a World Cup game

The most popular sport in the world’s biggest tournament held once every four years is truly a grand event. With billions of fans wolrldwide, everyone (except Americans of course) hold on to the hope that their country will reign supreme in the soccer world. From the chants to the vuvuzelas, World Cup games are one of a kind.

9. See the Pirates win a World Series

A lot of my friends at Ohio University always tell me that I’m spoiled to be from Pittsburgh. I’ve seen the Steelers win two Super Bowls and I’ve seen the Penguins raise the Stanley Cup. There is one championship that has eluded the city of Pittsburgh since 1979, the World Series. Hearing my dads stories about the teams that captured the title in 1971 and 1979 has me longing to be able to see the same. Unfortunately, the rut the Pirates have been in the past two decades has many doubting that it will ever happen again.

10. See the Pirates finish above .500

Forget the World Series, I just want an 82-80 season. Not many sports fans would be rejoicing after their favorite football team finishes 9-7, or a basketball team going 42-40. Yet in the case of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it has been 18 seasons, or roughly my lifetime, since the team was able to win more games than lose in a season, let alone make the playoffs. This is a record for sports teams in North America. If they were to just show once in my life that they are a competitive baseball team, I could probably die a happy man.

So there is my list. What have you always wanted to do in the world of sports?



Bobcats mourn passing of Marcellis Williamson

It was a sad day for Bobcat fans with the news that former nose tackle Marcellis Williamson had died Wednesday in Cleveland at the age of 23. I covered the story for Speakeasy Magazine. You can read about it HERE.

Game 7 aftermath

The curtain came crashing down on the Penguins’ 2010-2011 season Wednesday night, as they fell in the decisive game  seven 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It brings an end to a frustrating season for fans, as many were left wondering what could have been, as the team was the best in the league before losing star players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the season halfway through.

The Pens had seen their three game to one lead in the series slip away, with the Lightning outplaying them in games five and six, setting up the final game in Pittsburgh.

The last game was a microcosm of the series for the Penguins. They got great goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the primary reason for the Penguins ability to stay in the game. However, the anemic offense, which many feared would the biggest obstacle for the team to get over, did them in. The Penguins went a ridiculously horrible 1-35 on the power play during the series. This just shows how much the team missed their playmakers Crosby and Malkin.

Tampa Bay would only need one goal, which was scored by Sean Berginheim on a clone of a play behind the net that got the Bolts a tally in game six. Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson increased his record in elimination games to 6-0, standing tall in net.

With the high expectations this team has now, a first round exit would have been thought to be a colossal failure back in December. However, with all the adversity the team faced throughout the second half of the season, few if any teams would be able to keep it together losing as many players as they did let alone come within a few points of a division title. It gave us a chance to see the skills and heart that many of the team’s young prospects have while they stepped up in tough situations. Though many of the games weren’t pretty, you couldn’t help but admire the effort the team gave on a nightly basis.

Certainly fans are disappointed that the season came to an early end, but with the Penguins healthy going into the 2011-2012, and the experience they gained during a turbulent season like this, they will be the team to beat in the NHL next season.

(Photo from postgazette.com)

What should the NHL should do about the Coyotes?

Cleaning out my room today, I found this mutilated ticket stub from a while back.

It brought me back to my fandom of the Phoenix Coyotes that I had when I was younger. I don’t remember much about that game, but I do remember thinking I was the coolest kid on the planet wearing my Jeremy Roenick jersey around the Civic Arena, and how cool it was knowing that this was the NHL on Fox game of the week (believe it or not, teams from the Western Conference used to be shown on national TV). I used to love watching their playoff games on TV and seeing the American West Arena white-outs with no spots of black or powder blue (ahem Penguin “fans”). However a little more of a decade later, the team is bankrupt, playing in a half-filled arena most nights, and most likely on its way back to Winnipeg, the Canadian city where the team played from 1979-1996. Where did it go wrong?

When the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix for the 1996-1997 season, the city was very receptive of the team. They had winning seasons each of the first six years the team was in existence. The problem, however, was that the arena they played in, the American West Arena, wasn’t made for hockey. The building that was made for basketball featured tons of seats that were situated directly above the goals that the team couldn’t sell. After attempts to get the arena better built for hockey failed, the team was able to strike a deal to get the Jobing.com Arena built in Glendale, a suburb of the city.

When the team moved out, things went south for the Coyotes. They fell into a pattern of losing, and fans were less than receptive of going so far out of the city to catch games. Making matters worse, the ownership’s finances were shaky. Some more seasons of poor performance and attendance led the team to file bankruptcy, and the NHL seizing control of the team.

After their elimination in the playoffs in 2011, the rumors of the team heading out are louder than ever. Should they go back north of the border? The simple answer would be yes.

The Jets didn’t leave for Arizona because of a lack of fan support. Instead, the team was forced to skip town since they were playing in a dilapidated arena that was much too small for a professional team. They didn’t get any help from the government to fund a new arena, so the team was forced to head south. They should go back to where they would be appreciated and beloved, not ignored.

However, this issue is not a one way street. It is always tough when a team leaves to go somewhere else, no matter how many or how few fans there are. I experienced this turmoil first hand when the Pittsburgh Penguins were very close to leaving this past decade. Not many cared then, but I would have been crushed to see a team that I grew up with bail to go somewhere else.

So as you can see, it isn’t an easy decision choosing whether a team stays or goes. People are going to be hurt no matter what happens. I’m curious to see where you guys stand on the issue of teams relocating. What do you think?

Pictures from NIU-Ohio Baseball 4-15-10

Before I enjoyed the Pirates and Penguins game on Friday, I went to Bob Wren Stadium to take in some innings of the Northern Illinois-Ohio baseball game. Since I bring my camera everywhere with me now, here are some pics.

Bob Wren was the long-time coach of the Ohio Bobcat baseball team, there are plenty of mementos for him around the field.

As it happens: Ohio Green-White Game

Posted up in the press box at Peden Stadium on what has turned into a lovely spring afternoon in Athens, Ohio. Keep it here as I’ll have updates on the game.

1:51- Taylor Price of the New England Patriots and Mike Mitchell of the Oakland Raiders both in the house today checking on their alma matter

1:52 – Wicked winds at Peden today. Should be interesting to see how that affects the passing game.

1:59- Game will begin some punts from Paul Hershey. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hurdled anyone yet.

2:02- Matt Weller on to do some kickoffs. That is if the ball ever stays on the tee.

2:04- Offense takes the field for the first time. Tyler Tettleton in at quarterback.

2:06- Ryan Boykin getting the carries early at running back.

2:07- Tettleton looks very comfortable at quarterback, going 4-4 for 79 yards on the first drive, capped with a 23 yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Clark.

2:09- For the second drive, Kyle Snyder will be under center. He promptly completes his first pass.

2:11- Snyder completes a 36 yard bomb to Landon Smith. Secondary having a rough go early.

2:13- Drive comes to an abrupt end when Snyder gets sacked twice in three plays. Tettleton’s squad back in for White.

2:18- Some hard hitting out of the defense this drive. Gerald Moore clocks Tettleton, then Landon Smith gets decked after catching the ball over the middle.

2:21-Some option plays with Tettleton under center.

2:24- Snyder doing a good job while going against the first team defense. Seeing pressure every play and standing strong.

2:31- 1st team offense running the two minute drill before half.

2:35- Team Tettleton can’t convert. Matt Weller, Kyle Clinton, and Danny Miller all make a 34 yard field goal as we go into the half.

2:40- Halftime stats:

Passing- Tyler Tettleton 8-12, 103 yards, 1 TD Kyle Snyder 4-8 with 65 yards.

Receiving- Landon Smith with 53 yards on 3 catches

Rushing- Ryan Boykin 19 yards on 5 rushes.

2:44- Even with just 30 members here, the Marching 110 still louder than most other college bands. Always a treat to see them play at Peden.

2:45- Post writer Mike Stainbrook noticed the Bobcats ran 38 plays in the 24 minutes of the first half with the running clock. Quite a fast pace.

2:47- A lot of players out of action today including WR Lavon Brazill, LB Noah Keller, and RB Donte Harden.

2:52- Ricky Pringle gets his first carry and fumbles. Solich has spoken highly of the redshirt freshman so it should be interesting to see if he can sneak in some playing time in the fall.

2:54- Deeper reserves start the half on the field. Snyder remains under center.

2:56- Chris Johan makes a fine leaping catch on a 41 yard pass from Tettleton. The receiving is definitely a strength for this team.

2:58- If there is one thing you can take from today’s game, it’s that the quarterback job is Tettleton’s to lose.

3:05- Good crowd on hand today, a lot more than I expected.

3:09- A lot of designed running plays for Snyder in the second half.

3:12- Foster and Boykin still getting reps against the reserve defense. Running game hasn’t been too good today.

3:16- Three sacks for DL Kyle Kozak today

Game 1 Aftermath


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from post-gazette.com

It took some time, but the Penguins were able to secure a victory in game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning behind stellar goaltending, and getting just enough offense.

The team followed what was basically their script for the second half of the season. Play shut-down defense and get a little offense at just the right time.

Marc-Andre Fleury was locked-in early on. He made a ton of big saves including beauties against Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier that stopped what appeared to be game-changing goals.

The Penguins offense started getting their chances in the second. Despite a multitude of opportunities, the Pens just couldn’t get past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson.

In the third period however, those chances on offense, would eventually pay off. At the 6:05 mark of the final period, James Neal sent a slap pass to a wide open Alexi Kovalev who had somehow gone unnoticed behind the entire Lightning defense right in front of the net. He buried the shot, and the Penguins went up 1-0.

Just 18 seconds later, Arron Asham converted a wrap-around goal that sent the Consol Energy Center into a frenzy, and locked the game up for the Penguins. Chris Kunitz added an empty netter that completed the 3-o victory.

The player of the game, no doubt, was Marc Andre Fleury. His 32 saves were the reason the Penguins were in the game. He’s peaking at the right time.

Links to Coverage

Fleury saves the day (P-G)

Third-period flurry lifts Penguins to win over Lightning (Tribune-Review)

Starkey: Fleury made win possible (Tribune-Review)

There are few more depressing places while the Penguins are making their yearly run at the Stanley Cup than PNC Park. Last night in front of literally hundreds, the Pirates saw their first dip below .500 in 2011 after losing 6-0 to the Brewers. Despite throwing five no-hit innings, starter Kevin Correia came unraveled in the sixth, giving up four runs which were highlighted by a Prince Fielder three-run home run.

Pirates fall below .500 with loss to Brewers (P-G)

Brewers bats break out, bounce Bucs (Tribune-Review)

Penguins vs. Lightning Preview

My magical trip home to enjoy Pirate baseball came to an end. As I returned to school in Athens, Ohio, another sport near and dear to the sports fans of the Steel City is ramping up for the playoffs.

The Penguins’ mad dash at the last second to steal the Atlantic Division away from the Philadelphia Flyers came up short, so they ultimately had to settle for the number four seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play the young and very talented Tampa Bay Lightning. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Key Matchup: Penguins defense vs. Tampa Bay offense

Since the loss of Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins have been able to maintain their position in the standings with good defense. They will face a tough test from the potent Lightning offense that features two of the top 5 scorers in the NHL in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. The Penguins will have to keep up the intensity in their own zone, something they are more than capable of doing.

Player that will have to step up: James Neal

I know a lot of people give me crap for doubting him but hear me out. The Penguins will need to score goals. Neal had 21 goals and 18 assists when he was acquired at the deadline as a means of replacing the scoring that was going to be lost from the Penguins’ fallen stars. He has scored just one goal and tallied five assists in black and gold. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done a lot to get the team here, but he’s going to have to start scoring sooner or later.

Player that will step up: Marc-Andre Fleury

The playoffs have brought out the best and worst in the Penguins’ number one netminder, but he’s been locked in most of this season, and his shaky beginning to the year is far, far behind him. If the Penguins make a deep run, he will be the key reason. If think otherwise, look at many of the teams that do. They all had hot goalies.

The Penguins will win if: Keep on keeping on

They certainly haven’t won many pretty games since the injury bug has bit, but it seems that they always  get just enough to pull out the victories. They are playing very well as a team, and that is very important come playoff time.

The Penguins will lose if: They play undisciplined

The Penguins have developed a nasty habit of playing down to their competition at times throughout the season. The Lightning is a team with a deadly power-play that will strike if the Penguins find themselves in the penalty box too much.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

This series isn’t going to be a cake walk, however, the experience and defense are in the Penguins favor, two factors that usually lead to success in the playoffs.

Gettin’ down on Friday: Pirates vs Rockies 4-8-11

Shortly after Jason Giambi sent a Ross Ohlendorf offering deep into the cool, damp evening, giving the Rockies a 3-0 first inning lead, I along with many other fans were wondering “how can this series get any worse?”

Five hours and 11 and 1/3 scoreless innings from the Pirates bullpen later, the remaining crowd at PNC Park got their chance to enjoy the first home win of the season, with some unlikely events deciding the game in the end.

With the weather being as crappy as it was, I only got to my seats minutes before first pitch.

With the weather so bad, I was surprised at how many people showed up. Being “Buc Night” most of the seats in the stadium were sold for $1, which aided attendance.

Ross Ohlendorf took to the hill, where he was looking to snap out of his early season funk.

It wouldn’t happen in the first, as after a lead-off walk and single by the first two batters, Jason Giambi took a 1-2 offering and crushed it into the seats, giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead. Something was definitely up with Ross, as in the third his pitches began losing velocity. After recording two outs in the third, he called on the trainers to check him out, and he couldn’t continue. Things looked bleak.

Not even one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time could keep me from feeling uneasy as the new pitcher warmed up.

Luckily for the Pirates Jeff Karstens was able to answer the call, getting back control of the game with a solid long relief appearance. It would set the tone for the rest of the bullpen’s pitching the rest of the night.

The Pirates offense would get out to a slow start. But they started to get patient with pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and it would pay off.

Their first run of the game came after two walks and productive outs scored a run in the fourth. In the fifth, Jose Tabata got the Pirates some momentum back with the first bucco blast at PNC in 2011. With the momentum in hand, and Rebecca Black’s “Friday” being the rallying cry, Jason Jaramillo, who struggled mightily in 2010, came through in the clutch hitting a key single to nod the game up at three.

Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan mowed down the Rockies in the 8th and 9th.

The Pirates pitchers were baffling the Colorado hitters.

The Pirates blew a chance to win it in the 9th when Steve Pearce got a one out singe. A wild pitch moved him to second, and shortly after Jose Tabata grounded out moving him to third. With the crowd on their feet, many of which were waving the free shirts given out, the Pittsburgh Kid Neil Walker came up short by striking out to end the threat.

Though there were some tense moments later in the game. Chris Resop was able to get out of some jams, with some timely defense, primarily from Pedro Alvarez.

The game went deeper and deeper into the night. Neither team could push the run across. The teams’ bullpens and benches were running low. Closer Huston Street even got an at-bat for the Rockies.

Eventually the clock struck midnight

The few remaining fans had braved the cold for over five hours to see the Pirates come out victorious.

After getting through the 14th inning stretch, the Pirates appeared to be heading down in order and we would be heading to the 15th. That would not be the case however.

Josh Rodriguez drew a walk, and then reasons that we’ll never understand, the Rockies decided to pitch to Jose Tabata with pitcher Garrett Olson on deck. Being the quick-thinking manager he is, Clint Hurdle sent up Andrew McCutchen to the on-deck circle in an attempt to fool Colorado. I noticed this, and Cutch wasn’t wearing batting gloves. Fooled or not, the Rockies gave Jose his pitch to hit, he nailed it high off the Clemente wall, Rodriguez scored and the Pirates came out victorious for the first time at home in 2011.

The Ecstasy and the Agony: Home Opener 2011

Picture this.

You’ve heard many great things from your friend about a certain girl or guy. They sound like a perfect match for you. You then finally get to meet this certain someone and they are far from what you have learned. You go running in the opposite direction.

I feel like the Pittsburgh Pirates are like that girl/guy you hear about.

They did great things on the road, starting the season 4-2. But when we get to see them in person, they laid an egg.

I was one of the 39,000+ that was at PNC Park today that witnessed the 7-1 whipping at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, but rather than focus on the negatives, like so many will, there were many great things that happened that made the day worthwhile.

I got to the stadium at 10:30. PNC gleamed in the morning sun.

I got into line and at 11:00 got into the stadium.

If you haven’t read my old blog much, you should know that I like to frequent batting practice at baseball games. There is nothing better than watching a 400 foot home run into your glove in the bleachers. Plus you get to have some cool experiences with the players in the meantime.

I’m usually worried about “getting on the board” early. However, I wouldn’t have to wait long. Just 8 minutes in, Matt Diaz bombed a home run that landed on the concrete area between the first and second deck of bleachers in left field. It took a high bounce landed halfway into the second deck and I ran up and picked it up.

(Photo taken after the fact)

Now that the pressure was off, I was able to loosen up. When the last group was up, Neil Walker hit a drive into left-center field. Though a lot of people played it in the front row, but it skipped past them. It came right to me. Two balls in 15 minutes! Couldn’t ask for a better day. I spent the rest of Pirates BP getting pics.

Josh Rodriguez

Steve Pearce (who would send the pitch .5 seconds afterwards right at me, almost breaking my camera)

It was also nice to catch up with the other batting practice regulars about what they were up to in the winter.

The beginning of the Rockies BP was quite boring, and my dad and brother met me. We then went to share the obligatory Opening Day feast of Primanti Brothers sandwiches. It could not have been a more beautiful day for baseball.

The pre-game ceremonies began with a nice tribute to former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner. Leading the Pirates to a World Series victory in 1979, he was beloved by all Pirate fans. Many members of that team were on hand, and an emotional Kent Tekulve gave a great speech. The scoreboard played this video montage.

They then unveiled a memorial in right-centerfield that will remain on the fence all season.

After the rest of the usual ceremonies it was time for the team introductions. The Rockies took their place along the first baseline, with plenty of boos for former Pirate manager Jim Tracy.

They along with the Parrot were looking in awe at this ridiculously stupid video that played before the Pirates introduction.

As Greg Brown introduced the Pirates one by one, I must say, it was the most electric of any Opening Day I have ever been to. Most of the stadium gave the team a standing ovation, giving every player from Andrew McCutchen to Michael Crotta a huge ovation. Unlike past years, the fans believe.

There are few things better in sports than the national anthem at a baseball team’s opener.

Paul Maholm throwing the first pitch at PNC Park in 2011

We all know how the game ended up, so I’ll share some photos. Here’s Jose Tabata.

Neil Walker

Lyle Overbay

Pedro Alvarez

Ryan Doumit

Garrett Jones

Cutch in centerfield

Esmil “Next Cy Young” Rogers

I had no idea Todd Helton still played baseball

Troy Tulowitzki

The Pirates are like the CBS of baseball when it comes to montages. This one aired before the team came to bat in the first and features the one of the new and always entertaining at bat pictures for 2011 at the end. Very cool.

Yesterday, the best and worst of baseball was seen at PNC Park. Yes, we could all rejoice that baseball had returned to the North Shore, but the harsh reality that the team can’t keep up the pace of their first week of play showed. Good thing for them is that there is a game tomorrow and the team is 4-3. I have a feeling that Clint Hurdle will do his best to get the team’s heads back in the game, something that wouldn’t have happened with John Russell at the helm.