Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Evidence Pirates Really Are Trying to Kill me

From the Post-Gazette: "The Pirates and Washington have agreed in principle to a trade that would send outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett to the Nationals for outfielder Lastings Milledge and reliever Joel Hanrahan."


Just when I find a player I love to watch, they have to send him away. Which is not to say that Lastings Milledge is not a better player. He might be, but I doubt it. He's batting .167 with one RBI. One.

Admittedly, he's played only seven games. Oh, because the Nats sent him down to AAA affiliate Syracuse in April. You have to be a special kind of suck to be sent down by the lowly Nationals. Super. His 2009 game log is an impressive steaming pile if ever there was one:


Why do I keep thinking about Tyke Redman? (sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/stats?playerId=4442)
Only more injury prone. And way more of a head case.

If it pans out that way, you heard it here first.

The Nyjer Morgan era is over in favor of a head case, injury magnet, and bust. Let the Lastings Milledge era begin!

Meanwhile, I'm still hot about the McLouth trade. Not because Nate McClouth is the second coming of Ralph Kiner, but because I'm convinced that Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Morton and Jeff Locke are going to end up just three more testaments to mediocrity. Hurrah. More mediocre players.

And people around here wonder why the great unwashed masses yearn for Steelers training camp? Look no further than your Pittsburgh Pirates.


Still Bitter on the North Side

P.S. Is it hockey season yet?

Passion Loses in Playoffs to D.C. Divas

27-17 loss bounced Pittsburgh from the post-season at True/Slant:


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Nine Iron?

I believe that developing a proper mastery for watching a sport is a lot like learning a second language: the younger you are when you do it, the richer your understanding will be, which puts me at a decided disadvantage among golf fans, given that I watched my first golf tournament only six years ago while housebound, rehabbing an ankle that looked kinda like Jimmy Caan's ankle in "Misery" after Kathy Bates hobbled him. In fact, when my buddy the Deadhead called to browbeat me into watching the back nine at the Masters, I didn't know what the back nine was, though I didn't admit that to him. I thought it might be some sort of farming term. Or possibly a boy band along the lines of "N'Sync." (I've since learned that the back nine are the last nine holes of golf to be played in the final round. At least I hope I've got even that much right.)

At the start of that day, I was much more familiar with runways than fairways, but by evening, through the final round which included many calls to the Deadhead, I learned that a bogie was bad, a birdie was good and the importance of a "short game." And to my surprise, I kinda liked it. Not enough to play, because I would never spend even the price of a Starbuck's latte to walk on manicured lawns and curse, but watching golf in hi-def, the clarity of which can give me an allergy attack from the comfort of my sofa, is pretty entertaining. So, I learned enough to enjoy any major tournament on Sunday, but there still remained the problem of how to get truly engaged.

For me to really connect to a sport, I need to have a rooting interest and it's not so easy in golf as it with team sports. I have a highly refined ability to turn on a random, Division II college football game, make a split-second judgment about a team based on location or conference, the posture of the coach, or the color and design of the uniforms, and thus instantaneously, it will become very important to me that that team lose.

When I decided to make the leap to golf, the first task was to find some go-to guys. There were two no-brainers in Jim Furyk and Rocco Mediate. Both are both local guys, seem pretty decent and it doesn't hurt that Mediate looks just like my regular UPS driver. Who else? Mike Weir won the first Masters I watched, plus he's Canadian and I love all Canadians, so I decided to root for him.

Of course, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson loom over all things golf and, despite the fact that both are fun to watch, I felt like I had to pick sides a'la the Hatfields and McCoys.

I chose Phil. I had a soft spot for that squirrelly lefty the moment I discovered that he always lost major tourneys, usually in stupdendously dramatic fashion. That really appealed to me -- the gifted guy who couldn't seem to get out of his own way -- so I got on the Mickelson bandwagon. Of course, he went out and won the Masters in 2004, which was great for him, but not so much for me, because a little of his lovable loser sheen was buffed off. Thankfully, Mickelson returned to form by imploding in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot (here for more info for other golf neophytes.) Phil himself said of that performance, "I'm such an idiot," and I never loved him more. It was, as baseball fans might say about a certain juiced slugger, just Phil being Phil.

To fully connect, though, I needed a villain, the golf equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys. I have this pilot friend who once flew Vijay Singh on a privately chartered flight. He said Vijay was a total dork, only substitute the middle two letters with two other letters so that you get the nickname for Richard, and with that, I had my first villain. But Singh has faded and heading into this year's golf season, I was in need of a new, proper villain. John Daly's a train wreck, but despite his Kenny Chesney wannabe fans, he's no Charlie Weis, no Bill Belichick, no A-Rod. I needed a real heel, someone who combined the worst traits of Mike Vrabel, Roger Clemens and Ohio State football fans.

And then, as though the golf gods answered this humble supplicant's plea, the pride of South Africa arrived to save the day. Thank you, Rory Sabatini.

Thanks for Rory's stupid face.

And his pot belly.

Thanks for his idiotic sartorial choices.

I'm eternally grateful for his stupid hair.

And how could I ever repay him for that moronic belt buckle?
So I'm rooting for Phil right now (although not as much as I'm rooting for his wife who is just beginning her battle with breast cancer) and I'll always be a sucker for Rocco. But truly, I'll okay with just about anybody winning at Bethpage Black, so long as it's not that jack ass Rory Sabatini.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Favre, Favre, Go Away, Don't Come Back Another Day

Earlier this week, Brett Favre went on Joe Buck's new HBO show (who thought that was a good idea?) and admitted that the rumors are true: he's hoping to play football again, specifically with the Minnesota Vikings. As reported in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune:

"Brett Favre ended weeks of silence Monday by making it clear that if his surgically repaired right arm is healthy, he wants to return to the NFL -- as a member of the Vikings. During an interview on HBO, the retired quarterback admitted it 'makes perfect sense' for him to play in Minnesota, even referring to the Vikings as 'we' at one point."

There was no doubt much rejoicing from one, John Madden, Favre's biggest cheerleader, and also from Vikings fans, who apparently believe their team will be improved with Methusela's younger brother, a/k/a Brett Favre, under center, but I've reached my complete and utter saturation point. What comes beyond saturation? Whatever that is, that's where I am with Favre. I'm anticipatorily over-loaded on future SportsCenter stories about him, more tired debates on the Sports Reporters, and sideline reports detailing his relationships with new teammates, coaches and even equipment managers. I'm dyspeptic when I think ahead to the Vikings Week 4 prime-time match up versus the Green Bay Packers, which will no doubt bring pre-game hype to heretofore unreached levels of inanity.

Somewhere along the way, Favre morphed from a mere-mortal quarterback into the gun-slinger monolith, unwilling to give up on the mystique of his own greatness, even as his abilities manifestly diminished. This version of Favre -- the older, annoying version that tearfully retires and un-retires annually -- has been so omnipresent that it retroactively taints my happier memories.

Every time I even hear his name, I make an unpleasant face, like the one I would make if I had to suck on an aspirin tablet. It's the exact same face I make when I see Madonna.

Tragically cool music snobs will deny ever enjoying the Material Girl, but I don't know anybody who didn't dance up a sweat to her first clubby, catchy self-titled disc back in the early '80's. Oh, sure, Madonna made mad missteps. For every "Express Yourself," there was a "Papa Don't Preach," and for every charming "League of Their Own" performance, there was a ludicrous stinker like "Body of Evidence." She produced some absolutely painful drivel, but she also had moments of greatness. She made some great dance music and dominated pop culture for a long time. Personally, I counted "Like a Prayer" as one of my top 10 favorite pop songs of all time. If anybody bothered to ask, which nobody did. Just saying.

Somewhere along the line, Madonna crossed a line and her miscues started to outnumber the moments of artistic genius; her knack for recognizing a trend just nanoseconds before it happened and then capitalizing, turned into an egomaniacal, solipsistic need to create the trend, to actually BE the trend. She tried on any pose, any outfit, any style to seem relevant. Heck, she tried on Kabbalah, and she even tried on a phony British accent when she started loafing with Rupert Everett. On a visit to the Holy Land several years ago, she asked to be called 'Esther', about which one of my wittier friends commented, "She's so biblical."

At some point, the current Madonna incarnation -- the yoga obsessed, Kaballah quoting, third-world child adopting, anorexic, surgically altered, A-Rod canoodling Madonna -- consumed and ruined the earlier eras. I deleted "Like a Prayer" from my iPod running mix.

Likewise, I used to love Favre. He was my favorite NFL player who didn't play in Pittsburgh. It was easy enough. I always had a soft spot for the Packers: the appeal of Green Bay as an NFL city, the charming chant of the locals, "Go Pack Go," Lombardi and Starr, the odd sartorial splendor of the green and the yellow, the frozen tundra and all that.

Then there was Favre himself, funny, reckless, fun-loving, with a canon for an arm. He won a lot and when he did, it was often in dramatic fashion. It was flat-out fun to watch Favre and the Packers. Back then, the gunslinger routine was fresh and organic.

Like Madonna, Brett made a lot of missteps along the way. His 464 career touchdown passes rank as the most for any QB; of course, his 310 career interceptions rank at the top, too. He won one Super Bowl but there are those who think he could have, in fact, should have had more. There were times when he carried his team, elevated them to heights unattainable without him. And then, like Madonna in her "Swept Away"/"Die Another Day" phase, there were games that he threw away: the 2003/2004 divisional playoff game versus the Eagles, when he threw a late game interception that lead to the winning kick for the Eagles; or the 2007/2008 NFC Championship game in which he tossed two killer picks that sent the Packers into the off-season and the New York Giants into the Super Bowl.

The thing is, he always threw bad picks. That's just who he was and his penchant for the big mistake used to be counter-balanced by some entertaining heroics. But, as with Madonna, Favre's stinkers became more frequent and his moments of greatness more remote. The 2008 Favre devoured the 1996 Favre.

What could a return possibly accomplish that he hasn't already accomplished? Another MVP or Super Bowl title are highly unlikely. And besides, how many of those does he need to solidify his already secured spot in the pantheon? And, truly, how many more hit records are in Madonna's future? At this point, they both seem like the party guests who see you cleaning up, yawning, even brushing and flossing, but don't know that it's time to go.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Welcome Back to Pittsburgh, Lord Stanley

I'd like to welcome Lord Stanley's official representative, Cup, back to Pittsburgh. It's been a while since your last visit, Cup, and a few things have changed.

What's that? Oh, yes, you are not mistaken, in fact that was the soft, sexy caress of Mario Lemieux's hands on you last night, but he doesn't play hockey any more. He owns the team now. Yes. Owns. No, I'm not kidding.

The Pirates? Oh, it really has been a while since you were here. They didn't win any titles and they've been just soul-crushingly horrible since you've left, but they have a pretty new ballfield, so they've got that going for them.

Yeah, a few other things have changed around here since then, too. We have a new Mayor. Sigh. I'll just leave it at that. And the housing boom that hit the rest of the country? Well, we never had that, but it's cool because when it all crashed and burned and brought the entire nation's economy down with it, it had a negligible impact here. In fact, ironically enough, Pittsburgh is being touted as a model of fiscal responsibility and good old American, ah, something or other involving character, I think. The city's in the New York Times all the time. Suddenly, they love us, though we're not so sure if the feeling is mutual.

Oh, yeah, that new Steelers coach that you met when you were here in 1992? He stayed for a long time and had a very good run. He finally won a Super Bowl in the 2005-2006 season, but then he retired and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where he very publicly started rooting for the Carolina Hurricanes. Now he's about as popular around here as Marian "goal-less in the seven most important games of his career" Hosebag (tm Smiley). I guess those two can start golfing together any time.

You'll be spending your summer with a new bunch of guys, so let's get you up to speed on your hosts.

Let's start with Sidney Crosby, the youngest captain ever to tote you around the ice. (Notice, I didn't say 'hoist.' Why do people always say 'hoist?') Anyway, Sid's been touted as the great savior of the game since he was about 9 years old, which is good amount of pressure to carry around, but he never complains about it; he just works harder than he did the day before and, in spite of his youth, the guys in the Pens locker room would follow him to the ends of the earth. He's pretty much an assist machine. Just ask the old-timer and relative Pittsburgh newcomer, Billy Guerin, about what it's like to receive a pass from Sid right on the tape as he's perched in the goal mouth. He's rarely demonstrative and his game is less flashy than a few others, but he is a complete player in every way. He has fantastic hands and great vision and sees things opening up two and three moments before anybody else on the ice does.

The other guy I'm sure you'll be spending a lot of time with is Geno Malkin, the young Russian phenom who hauled in the Conn Smythe trophy, even as Detroit netminder Chris Osgood was thinking about where he'd display it in his home. Malkin's an amazing player. He can just physically take over a game and in Game 7, with Sid out with knee injury for much of the game, Geno threw himself all over the ice with reckless abandon to preserve the Pens victory. His english isn't great, but he's a good kid and he hasn't even reached his peak as a hockey player yet. Oh, don't be surprised if his mother uses you to serve her famous borscht.

Max Talbot is a local superstar, as he'll be the first to tell you, as much for his ebullient personality as his gritty style of play. He plays every shift with his foot flush on the gas peddle. His Game 7 heroics were the stuff made of legends. First, he and Geno irritated Brad Stuart into turning over the puck near the goal and then he buried it by going five-hole on Osgood. The second goal, the one that turned out to be the game winner, was again started when Talbot, this time teamed up with Chris Kunitz, badgered Stuart into another stupid turnover, this one at the blue line. Talbot raced towards Osgood, considered a cross-ice pass, reconsidered it, and lifted the puck over Osgood's shoulder. Top shelf, as Talbot himself would describe it. You'll have a lot of fun out with Max and I'm sure you'll get a lot of attention from the ladies.

Some of these guys aren't so young, and surely you remember Guerin from the old days with the New Jersey Devils, and Petr Sykora, too, from his 2000 performance with those Devils. Sergei Gonchar's been waiting a long time to meet you, but he was so anxious to do so that he played his usual steadying role after suffering a nasty knee injury in the Capitals series; we'll probably find out that he was skating with zero cartilage and ruptured ligaments in his knee ever since, but still played around 20 minutes a game. In Game 7, he logged of 24 minutes time, so yeah, I'd say he was pretty desperate to spend some time with you.

Even old Miro Satan made a return trip from Wilkes-Barre himself, just in the hopes he might dance with you.

The coach? Yeah, that's a crazy story to go from coaching in the AHL in Wilkes-Barre on Valentine's Day to winning the Stanley Cup just a few months later. It is stranger than fiction, indeed. By the way, is it kinda gay of me to have reading glasses that look like Bylsma's glasses? Even a little bit?

But this team is surprisingly deep and so many contributed. Jordan Staal is not even old enough to drink legally in Pennsylvania, but he was a penalty killing machine all playoffs and scored a short-handed goal in Game 4 that probably turned the whole series around. Tyler Kennedy is a grinder if there ever was one and he ended up having the game winner in Game 6. Line-mate Matt Cooke crushed everything within his vision in a red sweater. So did defenseman, Brooks Orpik. But then, he did that last year, so nobody was really surprised. Rob Scuderi single-handedly saved Game 6 with his in-goal heroics.

Well, yes I was getting to that. I was just saving the best for last, because, appropriately enough, so did he. Marc-Andre Fleury is a lithe, acrobatic guy, more of a dancer in net than a jock. They list him at 6' 2" and 180 pounds, but you'll see what a crock that is when you meet him. Perhaps Flower stands 6' 2" in his skates and weighs 180 in all of his gear, skates and stick included. He catches a lot of heat from the media and some of the fans love to disparage him, maybe because he seems so delicate, a trait which masks his iron will. Certain folks will dismiss his performance by pointing to his playoff goals against average (2.61 -- ranks 9th among playoff goalies), or his save percentage (.908 --10th among playoff goalies), but I'd direct you to his post-season wins: 16. It's the only number that matters. It must be said that he's had some rough moments. He let in two flukey goals off those funky springboards in Detroit in Game 1, then he let in a soft goal against Justin Abdelkader (who?) in Game 2. His brilliance in Games 3 and 4 was overshadowed by the Pens offensive firepower. Yeah, I know. He was horrible in Game 5. Just horrible. But when his team needed him most, he turned in back to back brilliant performances in Games 6 and 7 and he fought up until the very final moment, making a spectacular save on Niklas Lidstrom with less than one second left in Game 7. It was a save worthy the Mount Rushmore of saves, one of the Seven Wonders of the World kinda things.

It took a moment, after the clock wound down to zero, for anybody to realize that he had done it, and that the Pens had done it. With that, any questions about Fleury's capacity to perform in the clutch, to come up big in big moments, were answered. He went into a building that had his number, against a team that had his number, a team that circled like vultures for the last 20 minutes of action, and he stoned them. He just fucking stoned them. To be the best, you have to beat the best. That's what Fleury and the Pens did and that, my old friend, takes some stones.

So, welcome back. Give our best to Lord Stanley and enjoy your stay in Pittsburgh. You should get used to it. I can envision you spending a lot of summers here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We're Not Dead Yet!

These playoffs have reduced me to monosyllabic grunts, groans, yelps, and shrill exclamations. When I manage to even form words, it's usually just a player's name: Gronk! Sid! Brooks! You get the idea. Every now and again, I curse. But last night, there was one name I screamed more than any other: Scuds! Somebody much more articulate than I once wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas.

Although it coulda been Rob Scuderi.

It wasn't so long ago in the spring of 2006 that the nicest thing I could say about Mr. Scuderi was, "um, he clears the puck well." He's not an offensive defenseman, like Sergei Gonchar, or even Kris Letang. He's not a body-blow delivery machine like Brooks Orpik, nor is he the humongous slab of humanity that we call the USS Hal Gill. But watching Scuderi's maturation from a mediocre player (sometimes even a liability) to a team leader who makes all the right plays at all the right times, has been one of the more surprising elements of this Penguins journey. He finished the regular season at +23, a remarkable stat for a purely defensive defenseman, and even more remarkable when you consider that, with the arrival of coach Dan Bylsma, Scuds was often deployed to blow up the opposition's best offensive unit.

He's had a tremendous run this post-season, too. He limited Alex Ovechkin. (You cannot entirely stop Ovie, merely limit him and Scuds made sure that Ovechkin never put his team so far ahead that the Pens offensive stars weren't within striking distance.) Then he contributed to the utter dismantling of Eric Staal, the Carolina Hurricane's number one offensive weapon.

But the Red Wings? The Red Wings are a different animal. They can attack from so many lines. If Henrik Zetterberg's not crashing the net, then it's over-grown ginger kid, Johan Franzen. Or Dan Cleary. Or Tomas Holmstrom, who parks himself in the Pens goal crease so much, he's starting to have his mail delivered there.

Last night, it looked like we might see more of the same kind of demoralizing, flukey, ugly scoring we saw in last year's Game 6 when Zetterberg put a puck in the crease that Marc-Andre Fleury accidentally knocked back into the goal with his own derriere. It was the game winner. I try to forget that the Wings' Stanley Cup winning shot was put in by the ass of the Pens net-minder, but Zetterberg clearly hasn't, and he was looking for a little deja vu last night when he dinged a shot off the goalpost that landed behind Fleury. Unlike last year, Zetterberg's shot remained harmlessly in the blue paint. As Fleury tried to move the puck forward, from his post alongside his netminder, Scuderi made one of the smarter plays we've seen all series, as he simply held his stick down on the ice behind Fleury to provide an extra layer of defense against potential errant puck dribblage. Zetterberg and the Red Wings were thus denied and I started to get the feeling that this Game 6 was going to be different.

All night, Scuderi was all around the goal mouth, on two crucial back-to-back penalty kills in the third period, and also scuttling a third-period Pavel Datsyuk rebound out of harm's way. The puck nestled just to the right of the net, just out of reach of Fleury, tantalizingly close to going in. It was precisely the sort of opportunity the Red Wings always seem to capitalize on in typically annoying fashion, except this time, Scuds was there to foil them.

Still, Scuderi saved his best heroics for last.

If you read the official play-by-play of the game, it reads simply: 19:43 - Johan Franzen shot blocked by Rob Scuderi.

And yeah, I guess you could say that. In the same way that you can describe Mt. Kilimanjaro as a big hill and Helen of Troy as okay looking. I guess you could also say that the Beatles were pretty popular once upon a time, too.

With the potentiality of a Game 7 hanging in the balance, Scuderi really was the piece, the most elemental, crucial piece of the puzzle necessary to block not one, not two, not three, but four attempts to stab the puck into net by the Red Wings, and all with Franzen's unappealing ass right in his face. Unlike Zetterberg's crafty move in Game 1 when he gloved a puck on Chris Osgood's back, Scuderi made all the stops with his stick, his leg and his skate, per the letter of the law. By the time the officials blew the whistle for a stoppage of play, 11 players were piled in net, with Scuds at the bottom, still keeping the puck from crossing the line.

There are blocked shots. And then there are blocked shots.

In the words of the inestimable Monty Python boys, 'We're not dead yet!'

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pitiful Penguins Performance. With Video.

I woke up this morning thinking of the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers, who opened their season by losing at home, at Three Rivers, to the divisional rival Browns by a score of 51-0. That's not a typo, the Cleveland Browns had 51 points and the Pittsburgh Steelers had zero. It was a game in which the Steelers turned the ball over eight times (five fumbles and three interceptions.) Watching the game on a beat up Zenith television set in my first apartment, I remember thinking the Steelers were just snakebit that day. Nothing worked. Every phase of the game looked like the climax of a slasher flick. No matter what they tried, it blew up like one live hand-grenade after another. It was just one of those games where you knew that, not only would they not be able to right the ship, they wouldn't even be able to claim any moral victories. There would be no drives to build on, no defensive stands to feel good about. As good as the Browns were that day, the Steelers were equally putrid.

That's what the Penguins game felt like last night. Only turned up to eleven.

And like that Steelers game, through my own sheer stupid stubbornness, I watched until the bitter end. It was like a self-imposed 'Ludovico Technique,' with beer. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludovico_technique )

It was so promising for a few minutes. The Pens came out flying high, cycling the puck, finishing their checks, forcing the action in the Detroit defensive zone, and playing up to the occasion. Then Niklas Kronwall tripped Chris Kunitz, the Pens went on the power play, and it all turned to shit. Smelly, stinky, pungent penguin scat.

The Pens put not one single shot on Chris Osgood with the man advantage. The Red Wings special teams, which had heretofore been foul-smelling themselves, got a huge lift from the penalty kill and just four minutes after the neandertal Kronwall made his return from the penalty box, Daniel Cleary blasted a shot between Brooks Orpik's legs, which sailed right past Marc-Andre Fleury. I don't think Fleury was even aware of the shot, just felt the breeze in his hair as it whistled by. The 1-0 lead would have been good enough for the Red Wings on the night.

Things only deteriorated from there. The Red Wings played like champs so I don't mean to take anything away from Detroit when I say that the Pittsburgh Penguins played like a bunch of jackass penguins.


I don't think we need to revisit in detail the horrors of the Red Wings power play success (3 for 9) or Marc-Andre Fleury's turnstile impersonation in net. Meanwhile, the officials, the same crew which had worked Game 3 and had allowed a, shall we say, Anaheim Ducks style of play, decided to call this one closer to the vest. Much closer. The Red Wings adjusted. The Pens didn't, leading to 18 minutes worth of minor (2-minute variety) penalties served by Pittsburgh and the embarrassing 30 minutes of game misconduct penalties (three 10 minute misconducts handed out near the end of the game to Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Max Talbot).

Though, if I'm being honest, it's hard to be genuinely pissed at Talbot, Cooke and Adams as I myself was calling for Bylsma to send out the Hanson Brothers by the beginning of third period.


The good news is that regardless of the final score, whether 1-0 or 51-0, it still only counts for one game. (That, and the fact that Benedict Arnold Hossa has zero goals in this series, and is showing his true stripes as a regular-season phenom and post-season weakling.)

The Pens can win Game 6 at home on Tuesday, provided, of course, that they don't play like a bunch of jack-asses again. But you have to wonder, even if they win Game 6, are they capable of taking a single game at the Joe in Detroit? If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear Morgan Freeman's voice-over narration, "Sadly, none of the Penguins would survive their journey to Motown ..."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Haiku Pucks

Game 4, in haiku form:

Geno swoops and scores
post-season point thirty-four
Mom and Pop high five

Jordan Staal explodes
Rafalski caught flat-footed
Epic short-hander

Detroit special teams
give up two goals in must-win
May cost them the Cup

Flower's eyes are on
unflappable acrobat
Hossa's shots denied

Malkin feeds Crosby
Mortal Osgood looks shakey
Sidney buries it

Sid spins, passes, scores
Zetterberg chasing the Kid
Gives in to fatigue

Kennedy's poke-check
Another Pens takeaway
Chris to Sid to Ty

The springboards beckon
Sid ready to feast on squid
Lord Stanley, come home

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Dead from the Neck Up

Just when I thought it was safe to go back to PNC Park, when I thought it was okay to peek over my morning coffee into the baseball scores. I crunched the numbers and saw progress, real for real progress, in a lot of areas. So just when I thought it was okay to care, just an eentsie bit, the Pirates became the Pirates. Stupid is as stupid does.


You have to ask: Do they want to lose?

Secondly: Are they trying to kill me?

I don't buy the ruse that they're making room for Andrew McCutchen. As Danny Murtaugh once said, a McLouth batting in the three hole is worth a McCutchen in the minors. Unless they got the second coming of John Smoltz in this deal, they were outplayed at the bargaining table. Again.

I knew this guy when I was a kid, George the Greek. That's what everybody called him. I have no idea what his surname was. He did light construction work. I think he worked for the Borough's municipal works crew or something. I remember him pouring a sidewalk at my childhood home. That's what George the Greek was -- a basic guy who knew how to fix a few things, was good with his hands and lived pretty simply. I don't mean to say he was dumb, but he saw the world in simple terms. Something worked or it didn't. Certain foods tasted good and others didn't. Working hard and having a couple of beers at the end of the day was a good thing. Being paid to loaf and having a few beers at the end of the day was an even better thing.

What I'm getting at is that even George the Greek would have known to hang on to Nate McClouth. Not only that, he's the kind of player you can start building the franchise around.

We've all had this conversation about and with Pirates management for years. My uncle recently reminded me of something George the Greek used to say that is particularly applicable here.

Ah, what's the use of talkin'.