Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eh, What's a Little Wind? Part 2

This is Part 2 of the story I began with the last post.  If you're finding this first, please scroll down and read the prior post or else this will make no sense at all.

We last left our heroes on the day after Hurricane Jeanne as they are about to set sail for the Steelers/Dolphins game.

Sun is shining… who needs a rain poncho?  I leave mine in the room and head down to the bus.

Fan Club folks ask for help loading all the kegs and ice.

Ed suggests using the hotel rolling luggage carts.  Brilliant!

Load up on Bus #3, next stop, Pro Player Stadium!

Actual next stop, Publix grocery store.  The Emperor needs Heinz ketchup instead of Hunts.  Three buses full of people pull in and wait for him to come back with some Heinz ketchup.

Rain begins pelting bus, as a “Feeder Band” rolls through.  I begin rethinking the whole poncho thing.
A feeder band rolling through.

It's still raining as we pull into Pro Player Stadium.  
Pro Player Stadium as we pulled in.

But then the sun comes out.  Who needs a poncho?

Tunes crank, beers flow, Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go.
It's Party Time, Picksburgh-style.

A Woman from bus says I look just like a friend of hers who is a Ravens fan and hates the Steelers, and wants to take my picture all dressed in my Screaming Yellow Shorts and Black Game Jersey, with Terrible Towel Accompaniment.  She is draped in a very cool Pittsburgh flag, and anything that upsets a Ravens fan is OK with me so we take pictures of each other.
Steeler-Flag Girl

Another Feeder Band is visible on the horizon. 

A man appears selling yellow ponchos for $3.  Sold!

Our cousin Angela appears with her friend Zach.  All now present and accounted for.
Party Time, Family-Style
My brother and Angela begin throwing the football around.  Angela totally has a gun on her.  She’s whaling the ball to Ed from about 40 yards across the parking lot.  As it turns out, the next year Zach and Angela become contestants on Fear Factor.  Zach mentions Angela’s football prowess and all-around jockhood on national television.  They then go and win the thing over some much larger competitors, bring pride to Pittsburgh and glory to the family name.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Angela and Zach, from a screen-shot during Fear Factor.

Feeder Band comes through on way into stadiumEveryone breaks out their ponchos.

Poncho turns out to be a garbage bag with 3 holes in it.  At least it’s yellow.  Rain is done by the time we reach our seats.

Seats are in the 2nd row from the top, back corner of the endzone.

No one is behind us.  No one in any of the 5 rows in front of us either.  Making mental note to move down if they remain empty. 

First Quarter, Feeder Band comes through and leaves just as quickly on and off with the ponchos.

Second Quarter, Mother of all Feeder Bands comes through, lasts almost the whole quarter.  Animals are lining up 2 by 2.  Raining blowing horizontally from right to left, then blowing horizontally left to right.  Baseball infield gathers an inch of standing water.  (see pic)  Hard keeping leaks out of poncho, but I remain mostly dry. 
 The grounds crew try to drain the "swamp" at halftime.

Poor Angela has no rain gear, and gets thoroughly soaked.  Oh well, she’s young; she’ll recover.

Rain stops at halftime, Game On.  We consider moving to closer seats, as the stadium is not even half full.  But as our seats are still dry because of having our butts in them while it was raining, we decide to stay put.  Steelers go on to win the game 13-3 behind first time starting QB Ben Roethlisberger.  Life is good.

Final score, minus 28 seconds.

Reassembled at the bus for trip home.  We wait 20 minutes on the bus, for reasons unknown.

Reasons known… someone had stolen the $400 beer tap system, which was inexplicably left out during the game while the bus drivers were huddled on their busses during the rain.  Just as well, if the beer taps would have still been there, it would have been hours before getting back, because the Fan Club would have spent the time getting drunk again and congratulating themselves on what great fans they are.  An hour after getting on the bus, we’re back at the hotel, and ready for bed.

Monday 9/27
 Bob and I decide to leave on Tuesday.  For Bob, he has the opportunity to chill in Lauderdale for a day, the only real relaxing day of the trip.  For me, I had been scheduled to stay through Wednesday, back when my folks were going to be here.  Didn’t want to hang the whole time alone, so I shorten my stay and plan to fly to visit my sister in Cincinnati on Tuesday instead.  Bob gets a new flight to Charlotte, with weather considerations resulting in no extra charge.  I’m routed through Philadelphia and have to pay a $100 rebooking fee.  There are no considerations.  I can see how someone might want to pay $100 to get out of Philly, but not to get in.

Ed hits the road early and later, Bob and I hit the breakfast buffet.  They’re out of eggs.

We take a walk down the beach and back, not a cloud in the sky.  Sit by the pool reading and working on tan.  Have lunch and drinks at the poolside bar.  Life is good.
 Our hotel is the building at the upper right of the picture.

We watch the weather channel, learn that Jeanne is expected to arrive in Philadelphia on Tuesday, roughly the same time that I do.  This is bad.

Take a walk to local beach shop, check into getting a Henna Tattoo of Steelers logo.

They don’t do Henna Tattoos in color.  (What the hell do I know?)  Idea is scrapped.  Real tattoo costs $160.  Never mind.

We walk to Hooters for Monday Night Football.  Main room is hot, muggy, and loud.  We spot a side room, with TV and A/C.  Wings, beer, Monday Night Football and Hooters Girls…  life is good.

Tuesday 12/28
We check out, and grab the hotel shuttle to the airport.  We draw the worlds most entertaining van driver, Mr. Glickman, I believe, who is from Brooklyn.  (32 years in the garment district, now retired to Florida)  He regales us with stories of meat pilfering geezens, mooning his nosey neighbor lady who’s looking in his window, and sitting at a social function with 6 blue-haired ladies, discussing how one of them has a sore mouth from… well, never mind.  You had to be there.

Bob’s flight leaves on time.

Mine does not.  First, it’s delayed a half hour, and then bumped to a full hour. 
When we eventually get off the ground, we circle Philly for a half hour, and end up at the gate a full 2 hours late.  Our friend Jeanne is dumping inch after inch of rain on Philadelphia. 

Upon disembarking, I check the monitors and find that my connection has also been delayed.  Was supposed to leave at 5:40, now to be leaving at 8:15.  It’s currently 7:30.  I take a bus across the tarmac to one of the far terminals.  As I walk up to the gate, they’re just now announcing the change to the 8:15 departure.  Hmm, took them a while to make that announcement.  I saw it up on the monitors 15 minutes earlier.
Upon further review, I learn that the flight that is supposed to be in Philly, to go on to Cincinnati, had been diverted to Norfolk.  As the time is now 7:45, I know full well that we’re not going anywhere at 8:15.

To try to stay one jump ahead, I go to the “Courtesy Desk” to try to book on the next flight to Cincinnati, scheduled to leave at 9:00.  No can do, they’re booked solidI ask about how to get one of the “distress rates” they give at a local hotel, when weather cancels your flight.  (and the airline doesn’t have to put you up)  Sorry, they give you a special slip, but only at the gate, and only after the cancellation has been announcedSo much for thinking ahead…  I said, “I’m just trying to avoid the stampede and long lines that are going to happen if the flight cancels.”  She says, “Honey, there have been stampedes and long lines all night.”  Touché.

At 8:00, I notice on the monitors that my flight has now been bumped to 9:30Part of me wants to go get some dinner, now that I have all that time before the next flight, but something stops me.  Remembering the gap between the monitor change, and the gate announcement, I beat feet back to the gate, hoping to hear some greater detail. 

As I hover near the ticket counter at the gate, they indeed make the announcement… that the flight is now cancelled.  I look around and I’m in pretty good shape.  Only 3 people are in front of me in line.  Remembering the previous trouble getting a last minute room, I feel a bit better that I won’t get closed out of the hotel.

I rebook on the first flight out Wednesday morning, at 8:00, and get a voucher for a $69 rate at a local Ramada.  I’m welcome to take my checked bag with me, but of course, it’ll be an hour or two before they can bring it out.  Looks like I’ll be going primitive tonight.  All I have is the clothes on my back, and my contact lens stuff in my shoulder bag. 

As directed, I make my way to the baggage area to call the hotel on one of their courtesy phones.  I ask the guy finishing in front of me if he’s calling the Ramada.  He shakes his head no, but the guy beside me pipes up, “they’re booked up.”  Christ, not this again…

Well, I call them anyway, and hey, they have openings.  I book it, and head out for the shuttle.  I ask the other guy if he mentioned the distress rate before they froze him out.  He hadn’t. 

I proceed to check into the dumpiest Ramada ever.  First thing I see when I get off the elevator on the top (7th) floor is a giant garbage can, catching a steady water drip from the crumbling ceiling tiles over head.  Welcome to Philadelphia.  While the room didn’t leak, the table was rickety, the bed was lumpy, and they didn’t even have shampoo in the room.  (But thoughtfully provided 4 bars of soap)

By this time, it’s 9:30 and I haven’t eaten since breakfast.  I figure I’d go down to the bar for a burger and well deserved beer.  I sat at a table in the bar for 10 minutes, failing to get anyone’s attention.  (by “anyone” I mean “anyone who will bring me a burger and some beer”)  They probably couldn’t see me through all the smoke in the place.  Eventually, I say screw it, and walk around to the restaurant part and have my dinner there.

Twice during my meal, a hotel employee walks through the dining room talking to himself, “I hate this place, I’m going to burn this damn place down.”  Says the same thing, both times.  I want to suggest sleeping on it and reconsidering in the morning.  Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t cigarette smoke back in the bar.  Glad I’m traveling light, at this point.  I may have to bug out quick, especially the way this trip has gone…

Wednesday 9/29
After getting up, washing my hair with a bar of soap, and putting on yesterday’s clothes, I made it to the airport and onto my flight to Cincinnati without incident.  That’s when I encountered The Beast

My seatmate, a young, well-dressed, businessman-looking fellow, had The Beast.  Those familiar with “Seinfeld” may know the episode regarding a valet parker with B.O. so offensive, it took on a life of its own.  This guy had it.  Every time he moved, it would just radiate from him.  The guy was probably stranded too, but good God, buy a Speedstick like I did.  I spent the trip huddled against the window, trying to breathe exclusively through the air jet. 

After an interminable hour and a half, we landed in Cincinnati, where I was picked up by my sister and brother-in-law, and was able to begin the “relaxing” portion of this supposed vacation.  Lots to eat, lots to drink and a great big TV.  Life is good.

The Cincinnati Estate.
So what have we learned from this adventure?
1.                  Persistence is key, but preparation is crucial.
2.                  Keep all airline and hotel phone #s in your cell phone.
3.                  Have your out of town game tickets in hand, before you leave.
4.                  Never book a hotel in Florida in hurricane season, without making a backup reservation inland.
5.                  Never order pizza delivery in downtown Miami, even if they do speak English.
6.                  Nothing beats local storm coverage, for unintentional audio-porn.
7.                  When looking for a quality hot meal in times of emergency, find an Italian diner.
8.                  Put the beer back on the bus.
9.                  Always keep some toiletries in your carry-on bag, to keep The Beast at bay.
10.             Lastly, never underestimate what a Steeler Fan will endure, in order to go support his team.

Related note, next year we travel to see the Steelers in Green Bay!  What could possibly go wrong with that?
So, that's the story.  This weekend, we'll see what Miami and Lauderdale have in store for us this time around.  It's just New Year's Weekend, the week after an airline terrorist incident... what could go wrong?

Final Note:  Absolutely nothing went wrong with the Green Bay trip.  The game was in October on a beautiful fall day.  Thoughts on that trip may be found on my 12/20/09 post.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eh, What's a Little Wind?

Next weekend, the Steelers are playing their final regular season game of the year, in Miami against the Dolphins.  My brother and I are meeting our parents and our sister and brother-in-law there to attend.  We have great hopes that we will encounter none of the problems we faced the last time we saw the Steelers in Miami, back in 2004.  It was the first game that Ben Roethlisberger ever started, but it is better known as The Hurricane Game.

I was supposed to fly down for the game, spend a couple days in Ft. Lauderdale with my parents who where coming in from Green Bay, then fly to Cincinnati on the Wednesday to visit my sister and her husband, for the rest of the week.  It didn’t quite work out that way, as we ended up flying directly into Hurricane Jeanne; a Category-3 Hurricane that had went out into the Atlantic but buttonhooked back to disrupt our best-laid plans.

It occurred to me, as this monumental CF was playing out, that it would make a great story.  So I began taking notes, documenting each twist and turn of our strange saga.  There seemed to be an awful lot of “good news/bad news”, so much of it was written in that manner.  To keep things clear, I’ve used color-coding here: the good news will be in blue and the bad news will be in red.  As this is a rather long piece (about 10-pages on Word, including pictures) I’m posting it in 2 pieces.  This is Part 1 of the story.  Please come along on the ride for:

Our Long Strange Date With Jeanne
In retrospect, we should have seen it coming, and bailed.  You’d have to be crazy to fly straight into a hurricane’s path.  But then again, we’re Steeler fans.  We have a greater obligation. 

There were a lot of decisions made on this trip.  Some worked out, some led to disaster.  This is the travelogue of my journey to Miami for a Dolphins/Steelers game, with my brother Ed and our friend Bob.  Strap in for the ride.

Saturday 9/25/04
Upon coming home from a Friday night happy hour, I find a message from my brother Ed that our 7:40 am flight from Baltimore to Charlotte has been cancelled.  I had been automatically rebooked on a later flight.  Ed rebooked the rebooking to a 6:00 am flight.  This changes my wake up time to just after 3:00 am.  Maybe going to happy hour wasn’t such a great idea. 

We meet Bob in Charlotte, and catch a standby flight at 8:15, delivering us to Ft. Lauderdale around 10:00, rather than at 12:30 as originally scheduled.  Bob and I learn, while on the flight, that Ft Lauderdale airport will be closing at noon, in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Jeanne.  (I was hoping she wouldn’t show up.)  If we had remained on their original schedule, we would never have made it to Florida.  Now we would make it in just under the wire. 

My folks were scheduled to arrive at 2:30.  I said to Bob that if anyone can, my dad will find a way to get there.  I predicted that they would get on a flight to Miami instead, and rent a car.

Upon disembarking in Lauderdale, we learn that my parents will not be making the trip after all.  Miami’s airport was closing too, as were most of the airports in Florida.  They couldn’t even get out of Wisconsin.  As much as we realized we’d miss their presence and companionship during the trip, we’d also be missing all the game tickets.  My dad was still holding them all. 

But in speaking with him, we learned that he had access to more tickets, from one of the guys from the Fan Club delegation.  While our local Steelers Fan Club had organized a ticket/hotel/bus ride/tailgate party for the game, there would be many cancellations and therefore a surplus of tickets.  Getting tickets wouldn’t be a problem.  Having to buy them again was the rub

We caught a cab to the hotel, the Doubletree, which is right on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.  The driveway was bustling with activity; in fact the valet greeted us immediately upon pulling in.  This is good.

We were immediately informed that the hotel was evacuating; in fact, all of the barrier islands were undergoing a forced evacuation.  This is bad.  We asked what the rest of the Fan Club had done, and were told that they scattered to the winds, like so many cockroaches when the light turns on.  (OK, they didn’t say that exactly, but that was our characterization.)

A quick note on the Fan Club: while they’re decent people, and have obvious taste in football allegiance, some of them are not the brightest crayons in the box.  Their leader, The Emperor, is known for negotiating preposterous rates for their events, and running his club like a little kingdom.  His insistence upon playing the old 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers Polka after every score reaffirms the perception that Steelers fans constantly live in the past. 

His refusal to play the Steelers radio broadcast, featuring legendary broadcasting gnome Myron Cope, instead of that of the regular network schmoes, is based on his insistence that because he did it once before and the Steelers lost, it is bad luck, and should never be allowed again.
Myron Cope with Ed in Miami, many years earlier.

Obviously this is an insult to all who are knowledgeable and passionate about football and know that the broadcast that is heard has no effect on a game’s turnout.  The jersey that I wear on game day does.  But I digress… 

This time the Fan Club service was pretty good, which was to get us a $79 rate on the Doubletree rooms, and a $40 bus ride to the stadium, and tailgate party.  But all of this is of dubious value now, as we have to scramble just to find a place to hole up for the night, and wonder when or if the game is going to take place.  The Doubletree gives us a handout listing about 20 area hotels, which are undoubtedly filling up fast.

As we hadn’t given up the cab yet, we piled back in and regrouped.  The cabbie graciously offered to take us around to look for a hotel vacancy.  He did not graciously offer to turn off the meter.  Ed realized that Dad still had a car rental reservation, so we decided to go back to the airport and rent our own vehicle.  That’s how it came to be that we took a $40 cab ride from the airport, to the airport.  Shrewd, huh?

We rented a Blazer, and proceeded to sit in the parking lot where Ed worked his phone from the front seat, and Bob worked his from the back.  Marriott tells Ed there are no rooms in any of their Marriott family of hotels within a 50-mile radius.  The first 9 hotels Bob calls turn him down.  Ed suggests working the list from the bottom up.  I suggest calling 1-800-hotel, whose flyer I’d picked up in the car rental office.  Phone agent there seems lost on what to do.  After about 10 minutes, he informs that it’ll be hard to find any vacancies because there’s a hurricane coming.  Ed thanks him for the news flash, and hangs up.  

We begin driving west, continuing to make calls, getting answers of “no, no, no, no, hell no, no, and no,” and continuing to get laughed at by hotel clerks.  We try asking in person at a Renaissance Hotel and get laughed at in person.  Suddenly Bob gets a bite; they have a room in Coconut Grove.    Bob is exchanging information with the hotel as his cell phone cuts out.  He calls back immediately, and the room is gone.  We continue heading west.

Ed calls Marriott again, this time looking for a place outside a 50 mile radiusNow they have one, a Marriott Courtyard in downtown Miami, about 15 miles away.  Then Ed’s phone cuts out.  He re-contacts, and by some Divine Intervention, they still have the room.  Room has 1 king bed with a rollaway.  I brace myself for having to spoon with my brother for the night. We book it for one night.  We find our way there, and check in.  Finally, a break!  We can breathe again.
The view our our window of the downtown Miami Marriott.

Up in the room, we catch a crawl on ESPN saying that their reporter Hank Goldberg says the game will be postponed until 8:30 Sunday night.  This is great news, because that will allow Ed and Bob to catch their original flights home on Monday.  We head downstairs for a late lunch, and spot a crawl on a local channel saying that the game is cancelled.  A half hour later, there is another crawl that says game will be 8:30 on Sunday. 

Ed contacts Dad’s ticket guy, and arranges for 5 tickets for we three, plus our cousin Angela and her friend.  Angela is law student at the University of Miami, so since we’re “in the neighborhood”, we thought she should be included in the festivities. 

Our plan, assuming the hurricane damage in minor in South Florida, is to contact the Doubletree in the morning and try to book there for Sunday night, hoping to still get the original $79 rate. 
Ed and Bob killing time at the Marriott.

After our meal, we walk to a carryout down the block, through some pouring rain, and buy 12 Miller Lites and a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke, for $17.  I receive $3 change in quarters.  We consider calling the Florida Anti-Price Gouging Hotline.  (Yes, there is such a thing)  The rest of the night unfolds in a kind of “good news/bad news” manner.  Or maybe more like a “good news/bad news/more bad news” manner.

About 5:30 pm, Jeanne is upgraded to a Category-3 Hurricane. 

6:00 pm, we see another crawl that says game time tomorrow is “uncertain”. 

We find a top rate lineup of college football games on TV.

There is no “go-back” button on the remote.

Every bar in Miami is closed, but for one live music venue.

The Diet Coke is aged slightly longer than good scotch.

Delivery menu slipped under the door from local Pizza Shop advertises “We Speak English”.  Dockers Pizza is open and delivering!

Two 1-item pizzas cost $27.  “Hello Price Gouging Hotline?

An hour and a half later, the driver is 2 blocks away, looking for parking “because it’s raining”.  We point out that covered parking is available at our hotel, which we expected them to know, because they had, after all, been here at least long enough to slip flyers under all the doors. 

ESPN now says the game is on “tentatively” at 8:30 Sunday.  We expect that’s as good as we’ll get, as the powers that be will no doubt wait until Jeanne has passed so they can assess the damage to the area surrounding the stadium. 

The pizzas finally arrive 2 hr after order is placed.  We discover that speaking English does not guarantee an edible pizza.  Apparently, sauce was optional.  Of course, being guys, we ate it anyway.

We spend the rest of the night with one eye on ESPN, and the other on local hurricane coverage.  It was amusing to watch when local anchors have to actually listen and react to live situations, as opposed to reading their Teleprompters.  And you have to feel for the poor schlubs that they send outside to cover the storm.  Our favorite was Jawan, who while clad in his yellow slicker, announced that “anyone coming outside now is going to get blown.”  When not sticking his mic out to arms length so we could hear what the storm sounded like, he was maneuvering about so that the camera wouldn’t pick up the skateboard punks playing in the background.  Apparently their presence was undermining the seriousness of the occasion.  I thought his slicker was doing the same thing.

The hurricane hit around 9:00 pm, landing about midway up the eastern part of the state, crossing through the state before turning north overnight.  What we had in Miami and Lauderdale was no worse than a bad rainstorm back home.  The locations directly in the storm’s path got hammered pretty good.  Still, as Bob hit his rollaway, and Ed and I climbed into our shared King, we wondered what we’d be waking up to in the morning.  I tried to remember not to put my hands in between any “pillows.” 

Sunday 9/26
Woke up to more “Good News/Bad News”

It’s 8:00 am. and the bathroom smells like ass.  Someone’s been up early.

Hit the breakfast buffet at the hotel.

They were out of bacon.  (Now that’s a state of emergency)

11:00 the evacuation of the barrier islands is lifted.  We head back to the Doubletree in Lauderdale, and wonder how we’re going to get to the game… where to go?  Where to park?  Is there a public transportation option?

We pull up as they’re taking down the plywood from their windows.  We’re told they’ll open at noon.  Lexi, the valet, directs us to a nearby Hooters.

Hooters is closed until 2:00.

Max’s Grill is also closed, but lets us loiter and watch the pre-game shows.  They don’t open until 2:00 either, but they give us free cokes.

We check in at the Doubletree, and learn that the Fan Club bus and tailgate party is back on.  Bus leaves at 3:00.  We’re back in the game, baby!
 Primanti Bros. in Ft. Lauderdale, right on the beach.

We are directed to a nearby Primanti Brothers establishment for some authentic Pittsburgh cuisine, featuring “The Pittsburger”.  (burger, fries, and slaw, all mashed together on Italian bread.)  We inquire about buying some of their spiffy Primanti Bros shirts.  They’re all out; we’re directed to
 The "Pittsburger."
Quote of the Afternoon:
They call the beerRed Stripe’ because that’s what it leaves in your underwear.”  -Ed-

The food is outstanding though, and the beer is cold.

Learned that Primanti’s stays open during a hurricane’s aftermath because they got their shop wired up from the grid that belongs to the Holiday Inn.  Counter guy says they had their boards off at 7:30 am and were open for breakfast.  Rest of the local shops didn’t open until 11:00.  Why did they take so long?  According to the Counterman, “because they’re all pu**ies.”

Primanti’s only had 1 TV.

The 1 TV had Direct TV and by overwhelming demand, TV was switched to Ravens/Bengals game.
Digging the game at Primanti's.

We received delivery of our second package of game tickets and headed back to the Doubletree, to change into our game gear.  (the importance of which has been previously mentioned regarding correct Game Apparel Mojo.  Today’s choice: Hines Ward black game jersey, rubberized, water-resistant Steelers ball cap, screaming yellow cargo pants.)  

In the next installment, our heroes boldly set out for the game.  Also, the Exit Strategy goes awry!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Steelers Recap - Week 16

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Central Maryland area, owing to the incessant crying of Baltimore Ravens fans following their team’s 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I went to check the game box score and unfortunately, it had a comment section.  You should see all the whining and crying about the officiating, but I can’t fault the Rattie fans too badly… it’s all they have left.  They don’t dare call out their team for playing sloppy, reckless, undisciplined football.

The Ravens committed 11 penalties for 113 yards and every goddamned one of them was a legitimate call.  If they don’t want the calls, then don’t commit the penalties.  Don’t grab hold of receivers 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.  Don’t plow into guys 3 seconds after the play goes the other way, or when the runner is 5 yards out of bounds.  Don’t pull guy’s jerseys up over their heads when they’re running down the field trying to tackle.  Don’t climb on a receiver’s back like he’s wearing you as a backpack.  Just don’t do that stupid shit and the penalty problem goes away.

Oh, and catch the ball instead of letting it clank off your facemask when you’re open by 5 yards in the end zone.  Derek Mason (and Rashard Mendenhall) need to heed that well.

While the Ratbird fans babble about beating themselves for every loss, this is one time where it’s close to the truth.  Stupid penalties and dropped balls doomed their game, that and Lamar Woodley coming around end to whack Flacco.  Flacco is going to be seeing Woodley in his sleep.

One to the game notes:
*  Early Steeler drives were halted by the Steelers themselves, due to errant passes and dropped balls.  Farrior’s interception return deep into Ravens territory only resulted in 3 points, after Mendy dropped one right in his hands, at the goal line.

*  Stefan Logan finally earned his keep with 4 kick returns for 129 yards.  The Ratbirds started pooch kicking to avoid him.

*  Ben was his usual escape-artist self when faced with the rush.  The Ratties weren’t facing our 3rd stringer this time; they drew the gunslinger.  I just wish he would have been a little more accurate today.  He threw into the feet of a number of open receivers.  But it was a Pro Bowl play when he recognized the “Freedom” he had when the Rats jumped offside and hit William Mike Wallace on a 50-yard bomb from his own 6-yard line.

*  Where’s Hines?  Hines Ward was tearing it up early, taking first time starting corner Carr to school.  Then he disappeared… I assume his hammy was acting up but nothing was ever mentioned by the announcers.  I didn’t notice until someone named Grisham made his first career catch.  I was like, “Who the hell is he?”  The announcers said he just came up from the practice squad.  So late, all we could put on the field was Santonio, Wallace and this Grisham guy.  I even saw our fullback/tight end Johnson downfield on a pattern.  I hope Hines is good to go next week for the ‘Phins game.  We need all our guns.

*  Ben directed a killer 2-minute drill, marching from the 3-yard line down to score in a minute and thirty seconds.  In fact, it was a false start penalty that put them back to the 3.  This is where all the Ratbird-fan whining about the fix being in falls apart.  The Steelers may have only been called for 4 penalties, but 1 put them on the 3 and 2 other calls erased sacks by the defense.  I don’t know why I even address that stuff… it’s not like you reason with the deluded.

*  The dreaded 4th quarter defense showed up early in the 3rd quarter, when the Ratties ran 22 plays to 4 for the Steelers.  It’s a wonder they only scored 10 although much of the credit goes to the Rats’ own ineptitude and undisciplined play.  That said, the D came through in the 4th, with a lot of pressure on Flacco.  In fact, he was pretty well harassed all day and hit quite a number of times.  Joe’s going to need a little extra time in the hot tub tomorrow.

*  Self-defeating to the bitter end, Rats pick off a late pass and return it about 50 yards only to have it called back on an illegal contact penalty.  Undo!  Undo!  And yes, it most certainly was a penalty.  This is something only the Ratties can fix.  Second-year coach John Harbaugh has his work cut out for him to change the culture of his team; that culture being, “play reckless and undisciplined and blame everyone else for the bad penalties.”

*  I almost wish I was going to work Monday, just to argue with the faithful and celebrate with the underground, secret society of Steeler fans there.  OK, maybe not so secret… These are shots of my office cube from after last year’s AFC Championship Game:

Cuz I’m all about the subtlety, you know.  (Note: that is NOT a Browns helmet in the corner there... that's the helmet of my alma mater, the Bowling Green State University Falcons.)

Now, on to the Penguins game at 7:00… Let’s Go Pens!

Post Christmas Mojo

It’s about an hour before kickoff as I begin to write and I still have to take my shower, so this will not be a long post.

Christmas went very nicely here at the House of Bluz, with coffee, cinnamon buns, cool Christmas music (see previous posts) and some nice goodies. 

Had a lovely Christmas dinner with my brother and his family, featuring my 2 favorite boys in the whole world.

The boys, rocking their new Steeler jerseys.

Daniel, my 10-year old nephew was telling me about his new video games when his grandmother started fussing at him about he should only be playing educational games.  Trying to get her to see things from his point of view, he said she would play the same kind of games, if she were him.  She, of course, maintained that he should only play games where he learned something, like math.  He then issued the quote of the day:  “I’m 10, I’m a boy and I like action!

Meanwhile, Sammy was having great fun with the toy chainsaw I got him.  I’m sure the furniture will be in pieces by the end of the week.

 Sammy, ready to do some furniture repair.

Yesterday, Pinky made a special Day After Christmas feast, featuring turkey and mashed potatoes.  Good eatin’.  Next mission is to get out and pick up some rye bread for sammiches.

OK, business at hand… Steelers and Ratbirds have at it at 1:00.  Steelers need this game (and the next) in order to even have hope for the playoffs.  The Ratties would like a win, but could still make the playoffs if they win next week at Oakland.  Obviously, they’d very much love a win at Heinz Field, which would give them a sweep of the Steelers for the first time since 2006.

The Steelers will be wearing their Raven-killing throwbacks this afternoon and so will I.  I’d given thought to going “Bizarro-World” and wearing gear that I always found to ensure defeat, but last week’s win versus Green Bay made this game entirely too important for such experimental mojo.

Experimental Mojo would be another excellent band name.

The defense needs to step up today, especially late, so I’m going with the Harrison throwback, the white Steeler sweats and Steeler socks.  Happy hunting! 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Wish

Before it's time to head out and make our Christmas Eve rounds, I'd like to stop and wish a very merry Christmas to you, my friend, who takes the time out of your day to stop by and read whatever it is I have to say.  Whether you're someone I interact with regularly via blog comments and email, or one that pops by now and then on the sly, thank you so much for coming.  You've already given me the best Christmas present one could hope for; the gift of your attention.

In return, I give you this useless clip of Eric Cartman attempting to sing O Holy Night while getting shocked by a cattle prod:

May your Christmas be filled with happiness, family, good food and good drink, and I hope that Santa brings you everything you want. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Scroties

Someone with more time on their hands that I should come up with some awards for the biggest balls exhibited under duress.  I humbly submit that they should be called, “The Scroties.”

I started thinking about this the other night after watching the Pens game against the New Jersey Devils.  The game was a wipeout; the Devils outplayed the Pens all over the ice, but what really made an impression on me was in the 2nd period seeing Jordan Staal take an errant puck right between the eyes.  He hit the ice like a shot and proceeded to writhe and pour copious amounts of blood all over the ice.  It was painful even to watch.  When it’s a hockey player twitching like that, you know it’s bad.

If you missed the game, you can see the sequence here:

I know things like this are part of the game, but you watch these kids play game after game, year after year and it almost seems like you know them.  Then to see one of your boys get hurt like that… Yow…

So imagine my surprise to see that for the start of the 3rd period, here comes Jordan Staal back on the ice, wearing a full face shield.

The balls on this kid… and not just on Jordy.  I don’t think he’s the only hockey player that would have come back.  Those guys are just beyond tough and they have my total admiration.  “Major League 2” propaganda aside, baseball players aren’t even in the same league hockey players.

Check out the locker room interview with Staal… even his teammates were asking him questions about it:

I love how his teammate teased him about looking like Colby Armstrong, who was famous for his enormous honker.  But did you hear that?  “I felt like my nose was off, and it wasn’t a good feeling” he said.  
What, does he think he’s the Black Knight from Holy Grail?

“You’re arm’s off.”  “No it isn’t!”

So, to get the, er, ball rolling, I hereby present Jordan Staal as the inaugural winner of Darwinfish 2’s “Scrotie Award!”  You may claim your prize:

Kudos to Seth and his Empty Netters blog on, for finding the videos and Staal picture.