Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pirates Season Preview

As you may have read in Pat's post from earlier this week, I'm going to end up picking the Pirates to finish .500 this year at the end of this article. Just so you know what to expect.

After a season in which we improved by one game to 68 wins, then went out and essentially dissolved our bullpen, weakened our bench, and acquired absolutely no one of merit in free agency, why would anyone be optimistic? I'll get to those reasons, but first I have to address the overall mood of Pirates' Nation and how it needs to change. Look, we've endured 15 losing seasons and deserve to be pissed off and cynical as any fanbase in all of sport. But its getting redundant. How many of you have read a variation of this sarcastic comment on innumerable message boards/blogs in the past 3 months: "We went out and signed Chris Gomez! World Series here we come!"? How many times can we make fun of Danny Moskos, or of the ridiculous trade for Matt Morris? There are, by conservative estimates, 235,987 jokes about Aramis Ramirez being traded away for Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez, a couple on this very site.

I've gotten to the point that I'm cynical about all the cynicism. Every single move the Pirates make, every single time anything somewhat negative happens, everyone, including me, flips out and goes back to the old tried and true hyperbole and complaints. Our first basemen has ADD! Our catcher looks like he's more interested in the hotdog vendor than the pop up he just dropped!

It actually reminds me of the Pittsburgh bashing you see in sports blogs. "You may have the Steelers, but at least I don't have to live in Shittsburgh!" The Sports Gal on ESPN immediately comes to mind as an example of the idiotic opinions only espoused for the sole purpose of scratching up readers from the fiercely proud, yet insecure, Pittsburgh fanbase. While the Pittsburgh attacks are unwarranted, the Pirate insults are well-deserved, one might say, but they are about as original as a Napoleon Dynamite reference. I'm not saying we can't be critical of the team, but we can try to keep the complaints somewhat reasonable, or at the very least original.

There is a silver lining. Cynicism only breeds apathy, and I'd have to say this is quite possibly the most cynical and apathetic I've ever seen people feel about the Pirates before the season even starts. Which I find wonderful. Low expectations are never a bad thing. Plus, the Pirates seem to always do better when no one gives a damn, which is why they always seem to have positive events with players in September, but always shit the bed when everyone is watching, like the Yankees series.

The way I see it, the starting pitching has improved from last year, just from added experience. We acquired a solid right-handed reliever in Tyler Yates and Osoria should surprise people in the 'pen. While the bench may have weakened, the improvement in the coaching staff, while not guaranteed, could easily make up for it. The biggest upgrade in my mind, though, will be Jason Bay. I'm just going to pretend we lost Bay to a torn MCL last year, and he's now making his triumphant return.

All I'm asking for is 13 games. You don't think an extra 9-10 homeruns from Bay, a slightly less cold start from LaRoche, consistency from Paul Maholm, Zach Duke (or his replacement) keeping opposing batters from hitting above .300, and management that is willing to allow the hot catcher play regardless of game calling ability, couldn't scrape together those 13 wins? Its a long list, but four out of the five are only asking either an injury free established player to return to form in the prime of his career, young pitchers to continue their development, and coaches to continue with a plan they've already installed in the spring. LaRoche improving his start to the season is the only one that should not be expected, but never letting the average drop more than a few points above the Mendoza line isn't a lot to ask.

We're going 81-81 this year. Mark it down.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Draft Prospect Profile: Jeff Otah

With the NFL Draft now just about a month away, the Steelers are beginning to bring in prospective draft choices to their South Side facilities. If you look back at past first round Steelers draft choices, almost all of them (Simmons, Polamalu, Roethlisberger, Miller, Timmons) visited with the team prior to the draft. The lesson here is that the Steelers first round pick will almost assuredly be someone who comes into Pittsburgh for a visit. With that said, over the next few weeks I will be providing brief profiles of those players who will most likely be picked in the first round and come into Pittsburgh for a visit. Chances are, one of these players profiled will be the team's first round selection in April. Today, it's Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah, who according to the Post-Gazette has already visited with the Steelers.

Player: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Height/Weight: 6'6'', 340 lbs.

Overview (courtesy of NFL.com):

Otah played only two seasons at Pittsburgh, but many rank him with the elite offensive tackles produced by the school over the last two decades. He is a road grader in the mold of former All-Americans Jimbo Covert (1979-82), Mark May (1977-80), Bill Fralic (1981-84) and Ruben Brown (1991-94), all of whom enjoyed productive NFL careers. Called the "best blocker I've ever coached," by Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, Otah served as offensive captain for one of college football's best running attacks as a senior.

Otah concentrated mostly on basketball, lettering twice at William Penn High School. As a senior, football coach Bill Cole convinced Otah to compete in football and he started in his only year on the team. Because of a lack of playing experience, he was not recruited coming out of the prep ranks and enrolled at Valley Forge Military Academy in 2004.

At Valley Forge, Otah started 17 consecutive games over two seasons, where he was rated the 26th-best junior college offensive lineman by Scout.com and 31st by Rivals.com. He was a two-time All-Seaboard Conference choice and was selected the league's Most Valuable Player in 2003. He led the team to a pair of conference co-championships and also lettered twice in basketball. He averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game during his hoops career at Valley Forge.

Otah enrolled at Pittsburgh and immediately took over the demanding left tackle position in 2006. He started all 12 games, delivering 91 knockdowns with 13 touchdown-resulting blocks. He allowed four sacks and one quarterback pressure while recording one solo tackle and recovering a pair of fumbles.
The winner of the team's Ed Conway Award in 2007, given to the team's most improved player, Otah garnered All-Big East Conference honors as a senior. He produced 101 knockdowns, with 13 of those blocks leading to touchdowns. He finished with an 82% grade for blocking consistency, allowing four pressures and 8 1/2 stops for losses. In two seasons at Pittsburgh, Otah started all 24 games, grading 81.58% for blocking consistency, as he delivered 192 knockdowns, including 26 that led to Panthers' touchdowns on the team's 1,523 offensive snaps.

Wannstache: You can’t teach Otah’s size. At 6’6, 340 lbs, the guy is an absolute monster. People will look at his size and just assume he’s another Max Starks, but Otah has better footwork and athleticism, so much so that some scouts believe he could eventually make the transition to left tackle. However, Otah is a raw prospect who only began playing football his senior year in high school. He’s not as polished as some other tackles in the draft, but his ceiling is extremely high.

Otah struggled at the combine, looking a bit stiff and sloppy in the blocking drills and running one of the slowest 40 times among offensive lineman (5.56). However, when it comes to offensive lineman the 10-yard split is much more important, as it measures an offensive tackle’s initial explosiveness off the line or how he’ll move on say, a screen pass. The truth of the matter is, an offensive lineman is never going to run 40 yards down the field. In the 10-yard split, Otah had a much more respectable time, at 1.85 seconds. What I like more is that Otah gutted it out at the combine with a high ankle sprain. Other prospects may have sat out the drills, but Otah went ahead and took advantage of the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of all 32 team’s general managers and scouts. He knew he still would have another opportunity to impress, and he wisely sat out yesterday’s University of Pittsburgh Pro Day in lieu of a private workout two weeks from now, in order to give himself more time to heal his ankle injury. While his combine performance was disappointing, Otah is the quintessential player who looks “better in pads than in shorts.”

If we’re to believe Kevin Colbert’s mantra of evaluating players by “80% tape and 20% measurables” than Otah’s performance at the combine shouldn’t hurt him too much in the eyes of the Steelers. All they have to do is pop in the tape and see him get the better of Virginia defensive end Chris Long not once, but twice, and also hold South Florida defensive end George Selvie in check as well. Long is going to be a top 3 pick in this year’s draft, and Selvie could very well be a first rounder next year. The question is whether Otah will make it to #23. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has Otah going to the Chiefs at #5, but that would be an absolute reach of mammoth proportions. More likely, Otah will fall somewhere in the mid to late first round, with tackle needy teams like Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and Philadelphia all possibilities. My guess is if somehow Otah is there at pick #23, he will get serious consideration from the Steelers.

End of Post

Ah, Spring: So Much Else To Do

I think my thoughts about the beginning of the 2008 MLB season echo Bud Selig's in this picture: what the heck? I grew up listening to my Cincinnati-bred uncle telling me how pumped up he would get every spring for the Reds to be the first team to open up the Major League season. The beginning of baseball season was a big deal in Cincinnati, and in nostalgic minds around the country, it still is. Baseball season will carry us into summer and eventually guide us into the fall. In that way, the start of baseball season is a "big deal".

But again, I turn to Mr. Selig: what the heck? The Pirates open up within the week? Isn't March Madness going on? Isn't the NFL Draft around the corner? I mean, the NBA playoffs (highly underrated entertainment) and the NHL playoffs (the BEST form of athletic entertainment) are starting up as well. The Masters will dominate the second weekend in April. There is so much to look forward to in the next month in sports, and for me, baseball season probably doesn't make the top 5.*

I will gladly listen to anyone wax poetically about the start of baseball season, because I want to believe that it is a big deal. I want to know that summer is around the corner (two months away actually) and feel young again (fat chance with my sore back), but the simple reality is that the rest of the sports world has hijacked baseball's signature spring-time sentimentality. In a week's time, I will don my Clemente t-shirt, Sam will predict a Pirates winning season, and then we'll completely immerse ourselves in the Penguins Cup-run. And somehow, for my generation, that just feels right.

*HUGE disclaimer: article is written by a Pirates fans, so of course I am not overly excited about baseball season.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Rare Sunday Post

- Lots of stuff to cover from the weekend, but I think that we first need to address Dan Rooney's comments. The post below this details some of the interesting facets of the blog-media-journalism-Steelers relationship, but I think that what Sam essentially said was this: blogs generally deal with opinion, and there isnt much opinion to be espoused regarding crimes. We comment on games, transactions, and anything else where we can throw out an opinion or maybe bring to light some hidden issue. We didn't report on the Wilson or Harrison stories because we read the facts and didn't really see an angle to take other than: "well, that is quite depressing".

That stance changes with the recent Rooney comments. If you are unfamiliar with his statements, Rooney (comically referring to Harrison as "Jimmy") basically said that because Harrison was trying to get his son baptized, then "what he was trying to do was really well worth it". Using the phrase "really well worth it" in a sentence about domestic abuse is just asinine, and if the Steelers want to maintain their reputation as a top-notch organization, then bumbling old men need to stop e-mailing porn and belittling issues of domestic violence. I didn't think we were going soft on the Rooneys and the Steelers before, because in my mind, who knows to what extent an organization is dealing with things internally? But with these stupid public comments, it is clear that some of the concerns about Steelers coverage are valid. I wasn't particularly engrossed by this story before (NFL players arrested...yawn) but Dan Rooney's should definitely draw the media's attention to the issue.

- Another March, another early exit for the Pitt Panthers. Just an awful game to watch. The scoreboard read 65-54 at the end of regulation, but the real score was 37-26. That's how bad Pitt got beat on the boards. Blair had three rebounds and Young had one. Blair's inability to finish inside also made every Pitt fan conjure up images of Aaron Gray. Not fun times.

- To salvage the weekend though, your Pittsburgh Penguins played a huge statement game Saturday night. 7-1. Only five shots allowed in the third period. Marty Brodeur forced from net. Five third period goals. 600 goals in the past few home games. 100 point marker for Malkin. And quite possibly the greatest AP line in the history of sports...

In a matchup of Atlantic Division leaders, the Pittsburgh Penguins
touched them for five in the third period alone.

Not to be overly juvenile, but the thought of the Pens touching the Devils for 5 goals single-handedly eased the pain of the Pitt loss.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Media Wake Up Call

We received a rather scathing email from a reader about the our site and the Pittsburgh media as a whole:

"How about a story that doesn't glorify the Pittsburgh Steelers?

It's ridiculous that just because a man wears black and gold in our city that he can hide behind the Steel Curtain. Men like James Harrison and Cedrick Wilson disgust me. Even worse is the Pittsburgh media for not uncovering the truth about what slimeballs these guys really are, (i.e., Wilson's alleged drug addiction, having sex with Lindsey Paulat's sister - which is what sources say set her off the day she snapped?)

Don't wanna piss off the Rooneys now, do we?"

The reader is right. We failed to mention both James Harrison's and, now ex-Steeler, Cedrick Wilson's assault charges. I would find it rather difficult to piss off the Rooneys, they've always seemed to have a level-headed nature about them, but I can tell you thats not why we didn't write any stories about these incidents. I doubt Mr Rooney knows how to use the internet, let alone stumble upon our site.

Our blog, if you have not noticed, has been a bit short of content of late. I'd love to write articles about spring training, the NCAA tourney, and the Steelers offseason, including these troubles, but sometimes its just not possible due to time issues. Not to mention other blogs and newspapers pretty much have the story covered. What are we going to add to the discussion? We weren't witness to the incidents and the newspapers essentially report what was in the police reports. Its impossible to add new and unique insight without blatent random speculation into something much more real and serious than a football game.

About the coverage from other outlets, I found it to be appropriate for two players accused of something. The Wilson incident seems more clear cut - he hit her in in a restaurant with witnesses present - while the Harrison incident happened in the privacy his of girlfriend's home. But both seem like they are fairly uncomplicated cases, in that I find it difficult to see either enter a plea of not guilty, and I think the traditional media reported everything they could without irresponsible speculation.

The other charges you bring against Wilson, his drug use and infidelity, would make him a slimeball, as you put it. For traditional media, theres a line there that they probably won't cross. If you knew of the drugs and the infidelity, though, someone had to be reporting it. For most blogs, where drunken athlete photos are often the golden ticket to links on Deadspin, these charges seem well within the realm of reporting. While those photos cross the line into a players' personal life, most of the time they are posted with benevolent intentions. Yes, we're laughing at you Mr. Drunken Athlete, but we like the fact that you're human just like us.

What I'm trying to say in this rambling post is that while its appropriate for you to expect us to write something about these stories, just because we don't doesn't mean we are intentionally ignoring them. It could also be due to our tendency to focus on stories that have some sort of humor, and there is nothing funny about what either of these guys did.

The Wilson incident seems to be picking up steam as I write this though, mostly because he was cut. The PG, Mondesi's House, The Trib, and Pro Football Talk all have something on it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What If

That was the bracket I almost submitted to the Sportsocracy Pittsburgh Blogger March Madness Challenge. What would happen if the NCAA Tournament boiled down to a second Big East Tournament? Would people be calling for all games to be moved to MSG?

With Nittany Lion nation still waiting for Joe Crispin's child to lead us to the land of milk and honey, this is the scenario I'll be rooting for. A match up of Pitt vs UCLA in the final four would also be ok, I guess.

As Dirkman noted in the comments below, Pryor has chosen to be a Buckeye. Word on the street is that the signing bonus was $5mil with an option for his junior year. Err, I mean, that he'll get a degree in...something. Our OSU writer will surely chime in on this soon... Tuesday, March 18, 2008 Steelers Sign Center Justin Hartwig The Steelers announced today that they have agreed to a contract with free agent center Justin Hartwig. The deal is for 2 years,$4 million, with a $975,000 signing bonus. In this day and age$2 million a year for a potential starter is a paltry sum to pay. Furthermore, if they don't like what they see, the Steelers can release Hartwig at minimal cost since the signing bonus is so low and the length of the contract is so short. In that respect, it's hard to dislike this deal. Hartwig provides a nice hedge in case 2nd year man Darnell Stapleton can't win the starting job. The Steelers like Stapleton a lot, but it might be asking a bit much of an undrafted rookie free agent to anchor the Steelers offensive line in his 2nd year. Having a proven commidity who has started 63 games in his career is nice to have. For sure, he'll be an upgrade over Sean Mahan, and thus the "Mahan at center" experiment can come to an end after only one season. For that, we can all be thankful.

In terms of the draft, the signing shouldn't alter the Steelers approach in the first round. No center was worth drafting that high anyways, and there are still holes at the guard position, making Brendan Albert out of Virginia and logical and sound choice. However, the Steelers had been rumored to be very interested in Arizona State's Mike Pollak, who is projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round. Chances are that Pollak no longer fits in the Steelers plan.

End of Post

Instigator

Rick, possibly the last known Penguins fan to hate Rob Scuderi, returns for his take on the Instigator Rule. Let him have it in the comments.

--

From the NHL Rulebook:

47.11 Instigator - An instigator of an altercation shall be a player or
goalkeeper who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some
of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch
thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats;
conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious
retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.

Like most people, I enjoy the physical aspect of hockey. I like to see big hits. I also like to see a teammate stick up for a star player when they get knocked down. More often than not it involves fighting.

I know the NHL wanted to crack down on thugs when they started using the fight instigator penalty, but I believe this has played only to thugs' advantage. Take Sunday's game. Cote, a 4th line scrub, puts a big hit on Sykora. Malone comes over to address the situation. Maybe he was going to ask Riley if he wanted to get a sandwich, or even question whether his head had healed since BGL gave him a pounding earlier in the year. More likely, he was going to challenge Riley Coyote to a fight.

Ryan, being a smart hockey player, didn't want to draw an instigator penalty and kill the Pens' momentum. As he approached, Riley Coyote reached into his ACME bag of tricks and took Ryan to task before Ryan could get his gloves off. Luckily, Ryan got down in a hurry, and wasn't injured, but imagine if he would have been hurt for a playoff run all because he wanted to avoid a fight instigator? NHL, the fight instigator makes less sense than the 8 games you gave Chris Pronger.

Look at these three incidents. All involve a pure jobber: Tootoo, Weller, and Cote; a hit on an established teammate: Modano, Nash, and Sykora; and a role player sticking up for them: Robidas, Tollefsen, and Malone. All three were pounded as a result of wishing to avoid an instigator. In none of the cases did the charging party get his gloves off before a head shot was thrown.

Here are the tapes:
Tootoo
Weller
Cote

Malone wasn't hurt, but the other two received concussions. The tape speaks for itself: the fight instigator needs to be reevaluated.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nice Weekend

DAI Editors, if you can believe it, run pontoons even worse than blogs

As you've noticed, we've been lacking in posts for the past couple weeks. Wrapping up college careers and trying to find jobs that pay us more than 20 cents a day (thanks google ads) will do that to you. I hope you'll bear with us -- I think I speak for all of us, starting this blog has been one of the best decisions we've made and we plan to keep on making improvements, even if we have to step back once in a while. Speaking for myself, I should be able to really pick up the slack at the end of this month, which is nice as it coincides with the start of Pirates baseball and the Pens playoff run. The one positive of this small break has been the ability to store up some ideas...hopefully I'll make up for the lack of quantity with some quality posts coming in April.

Anyway, not a bad weekend in Pittsburgh sports. Pitt's second Big East tourney win in their history and of this decade against a team that could easily have been a #1 seed with a win. A win against Georgetown is always nice too, a school I find just as easy to hate as Duke. Something about the preppiness mixed in with the "They have the son of John Thompson AND Patrick Ewing, amazing!" stories that inevitably come up helps a lot. I also enjoyed the elder John Thompson yelling at Hibbert after picking up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a critical part of the game. If Jay Paterno is coaching Penn State 3 years from now and JoePa starts yelling at Terrelle Pryor from the front row for throwing a pick, please shoot me. Scratch that, if Jay Paterno is coaching Penn State, please shoot me.

Anyway, this Pitt team seems to have the same swagger and magic of the Brandin Knight teams, only with a ton more talent. Their seeding of 4th in the tourney with a potential matchup of Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen was a fairly good outcome. Would you rather face any of the other 1 seeds at that point?

The Pens also continued their scoring outburst, putting up 7 on the Flyers. Hal Gill and Pascal Dupuis have shown their worth and have fit in seamlessly with their linemates. I questioned putting Letang with Gill, only because I figured Gill would be making mistakes as he learned the system while Letang would make mistakes due to age, but they've found some sort of chemistry. Should be interesting to see what Therrien does once Scuderi comes back. Starting 7 defensemen in the playoffs looks like more and more of a possibility.

While we've beaten the Flyers the past two games, something concerns me about playing them in the first round, other than brawls in Beaver Canyon. We play them the final two games of the regular season, which means we could very well play them 9 times in a row. First of all, the series figures to be as physical as any, with the winner emerging playoff tested but banged up going into the second round. Adding two games to that is not good for the potential of people wearing down. Secondly, and what really scares me the most, is that the Flyers could have momentum going in. Imagine we're playing them and the Flyers have to win both or the last game to qualify, while we only need 0-2 points to win the East. If we win both, we essentially knock them out, but if they win they'll "advance" to play us again. The momentum they'll gain from beating us to get in can only hurt the Penguins. There's a lot more to lose than to gain.

Finally, just wanted to plug a poem called "Ode to the Bucs" by Dave Crawley of KDKA. Before you start thinking that I read other things than blog posts during my day, it should be known that the poem was sent to us. No, I'm not that cultured. He apparently wrote it at the age of 13. And what struck me other than his writing ability at a young age, was the fact that 13 year olds poem writers now have lazy Paulino and Jason Bay's perpetual bum knee to inspire them...and that just kind of sucks.

Monday, March 10, 2008

UNC-Duke: an in-person recap

I slept outside on Friday night. In a sleeping bag. In the rain. On a sidewalk. And it was absolutely worth it.

What follows is an in-person recap of tenting outside in Krzyzewskiville, interacting with quite possibly the most famous and hated group of fans in the country, and witnessing the best basketball rivalry in the world from twenty feet away. If it seems disorganized and proceeds illogically, I blame it on being out in the rain for two straight days surrounded by booze. For those keeping track at home, Doubt About It has snuck into a definitive game for the number one college football team in the country (OSU-PSU in the fall) and now the biggest game of the season for the number one team in college hoops. Just throwin' it out there. Anyways, the observations...

- The trip down to Duke started with what turned out to be a six hour layover in Philly, where I sat amongst numerous Flyers fans. It's been said here and on ThePensBlog, but let me just reiterate: no one is emotionally prepared for a Pens-Flyers playoff series. You won't be able to go to work on days after the games. You won't be able to sleep. What school work? You will think of doing awful things to people you have never met. No one is ready. Take my word for it.
- I should elaborate on my plan to get into the game. You can tent in K-ville for two months to get into the Carolina game (which is insane, more on this soon...), or you can go into the walkup line two days before the game. My incredibly loyal friend, known as Brittlebones in this space, got in line Thursday and was waiting for me to get in on Friday. You enter the line in parties of two and one member has to be present at all times until tip-off. Many Duke students had just left for spring break, so I used a student ID from a friend of Brittlebones to pose as a student.

- Right next to the walkup line in Krzyzewskiville, where students had been tenting out for months to get into the game. Picture the muddiest, grossest patch of grass imaginable and that is where these students tented. I heard many students say it looked like a Refugee Camp. Despite the fact that most Duke students wouldn't know what impoverished conditions looked like unless their private jet crashed into a ghetto, the comparison was fairly valid. Endless beer cans, six inches of standing water, and about 100 tents. K-ville was rather subdued, but I was seeing it at the end of a two month run that surely saw some pretty wild times.

- Friday night I went into Cameron to hear Coach K talk with the rest of the students. He was quite funny, I thought. Cheesy, but funny. I wont repeat the things he said here because he has a strict no media policy at these things and Sam and I like to think of ourselves more highly than what we actually are.

- I slept with my head in a puddle of mud Friday night. Let's move on...

- ESPN Gameday was inside Cameron on Saturday morning, and I have to say that this Gameday was INFINITELY better than the football one I witnessed at PSU-OSU in November. No one knew what the hell was going on in Happy Valley during Gameday. It was just random cheering. Digger Phelps ran the freaking show here, playing to the crowd, telling the band what to play, and just making things feel upbeat.

- K-ville has student "line monitors" that regulate all the people who tent out for the game and who make sure that everyone is essentially in line for the game at all times. They have random checks (the walkup line was checked at 6am...thanks you freaking jerks) where you have to show them your ID. For those of you who might think that this whole tenting out for games thing is cool, I'm here to tell you that it is not. Waste of time...illogical...poorly managed...all of these words come to mind when I think of the tenting process at K-ville.

- After waiting until 8:45pm for the line monitors to let us in, we finally arrived inside Cameron. Put 85 people in an elevator and that is what it feels like in the student section. Unbelievably packed.

- Before I forget, what an awful tragedy it was at North Carolina with their student body president being killed. She was honored fittingly at the game, and my heart goes out to the community at UNC.

- Cameron Indoor...what else is there to say? Imagine a small church, stack all the peaus along the sides, throw down two hoops, pack in as many people as you can, and buckle in. It is unbelievably loud in a "small space" kinda way as opposed to a Beaver Stadium "tons of people" kind of way. The small size makes it so much fun to look around and see who is there. The Manning brothers were under one hoop (Eli was getting particularly fired up about some calls) and so was Matthew McConaughey (LeBron was supposed to be there with him but got snowed in...does that make sense in any way???). Jay Williams, Chris Duhon, Billy King, Laettner, and Pat Forde (if you think he looks like a d-bag on TV or online, he is ten times worse in person) were also spotted as well.

- The biggest shock of the entire experience...some kid leaving the middle front section of the student section to go get a pizza and coke at half time. Once you leave the student section, it is impossible to get back to your spot. So let me ask you this, coke and pizza kid...WHY, AFTER SPENDING TWO MONTHS IN A RAINY TENT TO GET A GOOD SEAT AT THE NORTH CAROLINA GAME, WOULD YOU LEAVE YOUR SPOT AT HALF TIME TO GET A FREAKING COKE AND PEPSI??!?! HOW STUPID ARE YOU? HOW DID YOU GET INTO DUKE? YOU ARE WITHOUT QUESTION THE DUMBEST PERSON I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED.

- As for the game, a herculean effort from Greg Paulus in the first half. Duke defended the hell out of Psycho T. Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington are damn good. Refs...eh, some shady calls, both ways.

But at the end of the day, what more can you ask than to be in Cameron Indoor watching Duke play Carolina, two minutes left, tied at 68? Without question one of the greatest sporting events I will ever attend, and thanks to BrittleBones for making it happen.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Headin Down South to the Land of the Pines

If you only read Doubt About It for your daily Pittsburgh sports update, then you probably think that Ben Roethlisberger's contract is the only thing that happened this week (then again, if you watch ESPN you might think that the sports world took a week off to commemorate the retirement of Breet Favre).

Which is obviously not the case. Pitt basketball continues to their annual "Uninspiring Rollercoaster of Mild Success" while the Pens are blasting LL Cool J in the locker room to remind everyone that they've been atop the east even BEFORE Crosby and Fleury returned (don't call it a comeback, folks). As for me, I'll be taking a few days off from the site and coming back next week (hopefully) with an in-person recap of the Duke-UNC game this weekend at Cameron Indoor Stadium. More details about that elaborate plan will be fleshed out next week.

See you all then...

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Franchise Gets Paid; Steelers Close to Signing Moore

Back up the Brinks truck, because Ben Roethlisberger just got paid.

As Pat has already alluded, Big Ben and the Steelers agreed to an 8-year, $102 million contract extension with$36 million in guarantees that will keep Ben in Pittsburgh for the next decade or so. Obviously, this is a ton of money, but I'm just glad it got done. For all those years we went through with the likes of Bubby Brister, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, and Tommy Maddox at the helm, it's nice to know we're set at the QB position for a long, long time.

I think the deal is fair for both sides. About two years ago, Carson Palmer signed an 8-year, $118.75 million extension with about$24 million in guarantees. While Ben's guaranteed money is more, you have to factor in inflation, and when you look at the insane signing bonuses being thrown around (like Bernard Berrian getting $16 million in guarantees), you realize that$36 million is the going rate for franchise QB's. Furthermore, we don't really know the hard numbers. For all we know, $13 million of the guaranteed money could be a roster bonus due in 2015 that Ben would never see. As I said, all in all it's a good deal for both sides. In other news, ESPN.com is reporting that the Steelers are close to signing free agent running back Mewelde Moore. Moore was originally drafted out of Tulane in the 4th round by the Vikings and spent four seasons in Minnesota. Assuming he signs, I think he would fill a valuable role on this team. First, he's an above average punt returner, averaging 10.4 yards per return and taking two to the house in his four seasons with the Vikings. Second, he'd provide us with a true 3rd down back. He can block, and he is great out of the backfield as a receiver (116 catches for 1,093 yards in his career as a receiver, with a career-high 46 catches for 468 yards in 2006). Unlike Najeh Davenport, Moore would pose a mismatch to the opposing team's linebacker on third downs, and he would be a much better 3rd down check down option for Ben as defenders are bearing down on him. Think Kevin Faulk in New England. Will update this post if/when the Moore signing becomes official. UPDATE: Moore has indeed signed with the Steelers. 3 years,$4.95 million, with a $1.35 million signing bonus. Very cap-friendly deal. I like this signing a lot. It's a typical Steelers move, getting a nice player at a very good price. Much better than spending$34 million on Michael Turner.

End of Post

Ben Gets Paid

Well, you knew it was coming.

8 years, 102 mil. 36 mil in guarantees.

I feel like this is something the stache should cover, so I am just going to report it.