Archive for June, 2008

Steelers and Jim Parsons Hit it out of the Park
June 29, 2008

Forgive the delay on this posting. There was almost no internet service in the Arctic where I was the last week and a half. Hence, no Arctic postings either. Hope to have those starting tomorrow. 

Recognize the guys above? Team Four Investigative Dynamo Jim Parsons, and Stephen Colbert of the “Colbert Report,” showing off their Peabody awards at the Waldorf in New York  Monday, 6/17. It just happens to be one of the most prestigious awards you can receive in journalism–both electronic and print. We are all so happy for Jim, who won for his investigation of spending abuses by the board members of PHEAA–the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Jim and WTAE waged an 18 month long battle for PHEAA to open its records.  Board members had gone on expensive spa trips, rented limos, and engaged in other abuses of taxpayers dollars.

 

 Our news director, Bob Longo, shown here at the table,  and Asst. news director Roberta Petterson were on hand, having played an important role in supporting and guiding the legal battle , as well as editing the final product. Of course, our vice-president and general manager, Rick Henry had to sign off on all of this, so he was was also there, along with  David Barrett ,the president and CEO  of our parent company, Hearst-Argyle, and the company’s senior vice-president of news, Fred Young. Pretty heady stuff for JIm, and richly deserved , since his probe and the station’s stance in court have helped change the state’s Freedom of Information laws. That legal battle was a primary reason Jim, his team, and the station received this prestigious honor. 

So the sports metaphor, “hitting it out of the park,” could not be more appropriate. 

And switching gears here, it was more than a metaphor on Saturday, June 7, when Hines Ward hosted his first charity softball tournament out at North Allegheny High School. Hines’ Helping Hands Fund, which is part of The Pittsburgh  Foundation, aids urban youth, and biracial kids, which has been a theme in his work in South Korea–where he was born. Hines’ biracial heritage has been a motivating theme running through his entire life. 

A strong Steeler contingent showed up in the 90-something heat. This is Max Starks, and the three of us our Co-Captains of the Caring Team for the Caring Foundation. But we weren’t on the same team this day. Max was in the dugout with Big Ben.

The Steelers were  amazing.  I think Ben hit a homer every time, and Santonio Holmes, on our team was powerful. Larry Foote and I both went to Michigan, so we would yell, “Go Wolverines, “ when we went up to bat, but Santonio asked us to say “Go Big Ten, “ since he went to Ohio State. 

 Brett Kiesel, Nate Washington, and Charlie Batch also played,  and there were a lot of TV and radio celebrities who came out. Frankly, I was shaking like a leaf out there. Before I was married, I played softball with a woman’s team in Birmingham, which is how I met my ex-husband. He had played pro baseball when he was younger. Then I played for  the WTAE No-Stars, and my former spouse even played for us the first several years I lived here.  He was a good coach, I have to admit. Anyway, in the first inning, I at least hit the cut-off from the outfield, for an out to retire the side. But I was hitless at the plate. At least I didn’t have a strike. 

But the true star of the game was DVE’s Jim Krenn. He was one of the reasons we were leading for the first six innings. He was snagging  fly balls like a frog with a bug, and he grabbed what would have been a homerun. 

The other star was our own Jon Burton–BUT HE WAS ON THE OTHER TEAM!!!!!!!  That ball just shot off his bat, and he hit a homer that drove in the runs that put them ahead for good. Talk about clutch. I was just clutching my hamstrings, which were screaming for me to stop. 

One week later, Pens Fever Still high
June 12, 2008

 

A week ago tonight, this was the scene. Heartbreaking for the fans, the players, management and ownership–yet stirring, encouraging, and touching. 

 

 

Just before I took this, the Pens had saluted the crowd, and they roared back their appreciation and affection. Then the celebration began. I turned to Guy Junker, and commented on my surprise that the crowd remained. And he correctly pointed out that these Pittsburgh fans had never seen a Stanley Cup celebration in person. Both the Cups in the early 90’s had been won away from home. I had seen the first one, standing next to the Cup as it was ready to be wheeled out onto the ice for Mario and company. It was amazing, historic, full of tradition. And last week, most of the fans were respectful, some even applauding. But when Henrik Zetterberg hoisted the Conn Smythe, there were boos,

and the same as some of the Redwings skated around with the Cup aloft. What was interesting, is that my phone immediately registered a text from a friend–a rabid Pens fan–who complained how classless the boos were. Everyone else echoed those sentiments as we exited. I can only conclude that the booers were definitely in the minority, but just yelled more loudly.  

A week later, folks just can’t let go of this team. The sports talk shows are dominated with free agency and trade talk–rumors that Columbus wants Malone and Orpik?! Some fans suggesting trading Malkin? But without exception, every pundit I have heard has underscored the importance of keeping Fleury.  Unbelievable that this man is only 23,  and played a game for the ages in Game 5! 

It is the kind of play that inspires devotion thousands of miles away, where thoughts of home are precious. This is a picture sent me by a Pittsburgh Police officer. I have done two stories about Tim Crane (the man just to the right of the t-shirt)–one when he was a K-9 officer, and one just before he left for Afghanistan as a reservist. Tim is serving as a chaplain with the 911th Airlift Wing. His beloved partner, Madchen,  died several months ago, but he believes that she is still keeping him safe, just like she did on the streets of Pittsburgh. I am sure those games were a welcome distraction for Tim, and the men and women who sacrifice so much for all of us. 

A Week-End Of Loss
June 10, 2008

 

He had a laugh that shook the room. Just the way he must have shaken opposing quarterbacks. That 70″s Super Bowl Front Four was a fearsome force . Yet Dwight White was the nicest, friendliest guy you would ever want to meet.  

I had served on a board with his wife, Karen, who is smart, and beautiful, and deeply involved in community, as was her husband. The last time I was with them both was after just such a community event. A cocktail party for an upcoming Mentoring Partnership fundraiser. We went to dinner afterwards with another couple, and we prodded Dwight into regaling us with stories of those legendary teammates, and he even entertained us, in that booming voice,  with his somewhat irreverent observations of current NFL players. We were all in stitches, including Karen. What a caring and courageous guy. Amazing stories like the one in which he came out of the hospital, 18 pounds thinner from pneumonia, to play in the Steelers’ first Super Bowl. Not only to play, but to score the first points, sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone. Our hearts go out to those lucky enough to have loved him, played with him, celebrated with him. A life cut short so suddenly. That is what makes it doubly hard for his family and friends. 

 

The very next day, another loss. Someone whom I never met, but who changed my life. Jim McKay was the person who made this Asian Studies grad student, back in the mid 70’s decide she would rather report on sports, then teach pre-modern Chinese history. Watching the tributes to him all week-end, I heard him called a poet by those who knew him and worked with him. It is such an appropriate accolade. I just loved his writing. He was one of the reasons I became obsessed with the Olympics, and my mother and I were huge fans of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. His storytelling pulled you in, took you there, and made you  want to learn– because his empathy and enthusiasm were genuine, not manufactured.  And it was that empathy, and gift of language, that made him the perfect person to tell the world what was happening to 11 Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. I remember sitting in my dorm room, glued to the TV, praying that the rescue attempt at the airport ended in their successful release, and sobbing when he uttered the words, “They’re all gone.”

Now he is gone. On the day that the sport he loved the most–horse racing–was front and center. Full of controversy and questions. Can you imagine how brilliantly he would have summed up the jaw-dropping performance of Big Brown?  Jim  McKay elevated sports to another level.  I doubt there will be another like him in my lifetime. 

pens, penguins and DVE
June 4, 2008

The last time we won the Cup, these two guys were together on the team. Now, coincidentally, they are both hockey broadcasters. Bob Errey for the Pens, and Larry Murphy, for the Redwings. Murphy is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and played on two more Stanley Cup winning teams–yes, you guessed it. The Redwings. Bob was kind enough to do a sit-down interview with me before game Three, and that night, I took a photo of the two of them, just after their pre-game show on the NHL Network. Larry had to take a break from signing autographs. Pens fans had no trouble recognizing him. I have to tell you , I really miss listening to Bob and Paul Steigerwald doing the TV games. Not that Eddie Olczyk isn’t great on NBC. I was in the studio at DVE this morning, taking Billy Gardell and the guys breakfast sandwiches, and they were interviewing him. He was talking about how he tries to stay objective, but he has played for both teams,and broadcasted and coached for the Pens. I think his Pens ties are pretttty deep.

DVE had a great show this morning. Mike Prisuta has done and outstanding job of coverage, and this morning they also had Mike Lange, Phil Bourque, Paul Steigerwald, and Gene Collier

(this is Gene with his son Sean at the DVE Pep Rally), to name just a few. Gene and Billy are at the Improv this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and I can’t say enough about how screamingly funny they both are. Good tension reliever.

Val Porter has not shaved her legs since the playoffs began–her playoff beard. These days, now that I am older, it really wouldn’t make much difference for me…You 50-something ladies know what I mean. hahahaha.

Of course, our guys, JB and Guy have done a fabulous job–make a great team. And the other guys in this picture , Paul Alexander and Dan Potash are insightful, and entertaining. The city is chock-full of good hockey analysis.

The guy standing on Paul’s right is Val’s fiance—Tim Mackin. Wonderful guy. Wish there were another one like him for me.

And here is our good luck charm for tonight–Game 5. Today a penguin chick hatched at the Pittsburgh Zoo, right while our camera was there. Now that is a good omen for a win, and a trip back to the Motor City. GO PENS!!!!!!!