Imagining the Worst for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Quick thought exercise on the most ridiculously horrible end-of-season scenario for the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates. Shall we?

  • After the Cardinals crater over the next week and a half, the Pirates have a chance to clinch the NL Central by winning of the season’s final two games on Sept. 27 and 28. They lose both, in walkoff fashion to the Reds, and St. Louis wins its final game to force a tiebreaker with the Pirates.
  • The Pirates fly from Cincinnati to St. Louis to play in the NL Central tiebreaker on Sept. 29. They lose that game, let’s say in the 15th-inning when Pedro Alvarez (the last available third baseman on the bench) overthrows Ike Davis with two outs.
  • The Pirates fly from St. Louis to San Francisco to play the NL Wild Card game. It is still conceivable that the Wild Card Giants have a better record than the NL Central winner, considered the Giants are currently 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. The Pirates, of course, lose the Wild Card. This time we’ll say it was a 6-0 laugher in which they never stood a chance.

Fun to think about, eh? Fun to think about the Bucs kicking your heart into 1,000 pieces and not even getting to play the postseason clincher, the NL Central tiebreaker or the NL Wild Card Game at home, eh?

If it happens even similarly to how I have laid it out, I will be fleeing to Canada before I am exiled.

Young Women in Sports Media are Badass

I don’t know how you could have missed it, because everyone has been linking to it.

But if you haven’t seen Katie Nolan’s takedown of the NFL and its broadcast networks, watch it. And if you have already watched it, you know it’s worth the three-and-a-half minutes to watch again.

I can’t add too much to that, because Katie knocked it out of the damn park. But here goes:

If my experience is indicative, our journalism schools are churning out female sportscasters that are just as smart and knowledgeable about the sports they cover as the boys are, often more so.

Once you understand that’s the truth, it becomes inconceivable that our channels and networks continue to employ more men for on-air roles than women. Taken as a whole, from play-by-play to color commentator to sideline reporting to anchoring to studio analysis, I would guess that our national and regional sports networks are still at least three guys for every woman.

And don’t get me started on sports radio. Nolan nails it when she says:

“A lot of people like to justify women’s supporting role in sports media by saying, well, they’ve never played the game so they just aren’t qualified to speak about it. Because, God forbid, someone misspeak about the game. But topics like domestic violence and racism and corruption? Let’s let Boomer handle those between downs.”

Every day, we tune our radios and flip our TV channels and hear hundreds of men and make bold proclamations about games they never played professionally and topics like domestic violence that they have never experienced.

But when you put a woman in the same role? The complaints pour in. She doesn’t belong there. What would she know about football? I didn’t tune in to hear a woman. It just doesn’t sound right having a female play-by-play announcer.

On and on ad infinitum.

Please stop. Sure, male writers and broadcasters hear, “what do you know, you never played the game!” as well, but never as much as females do. And if a male makes a mistake on a name or stat, as humans tend to do, he gets far more benefit of the doubt than a woman who just doesn’t know the game dammit.

For everyone who thinks like this, slowly remove your fat foot from your Bud-Light-guzzling mouth, crawl back into your man-cave and lock yourself in it. We don’t need you.

This is no exaggeration: my graduating class in the Broadcast and Digital Journalism major at USC had six girls for every guy. The girl/guy ratio for those looking to enter sportscasting was 2-to-1, maybe 3-to-1. Every one of those ladies knows more about football than I do, is harder-working and (let’s remember that being watchable is a part of television) is better looking than I am.

If somehow, in 25 years, the number of females in on-air sportscasting jobs has not equaled or surpassed the number of males, it will be because biased network executives and misogynist fans won. It won’t be for lack of available talent.

It’s Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing

This evening and tomorrow morning will be the Night of a Million Think-Pieces regarding the Ravens releasing spouse-abuser Ray Rice and the NCAA canceling Penn State’s punishment.

Some of these think-pieces will be vapid or downright stupid. Some of them will be written by smart authors and make sense and I may link to them. I don’t pretend to be enough of a thought leader to subject you to a full column on my oh-so-important feelings on these matters.

All I will say is something very simple: the Baltimore Ravens did the right thing today. So did the NCAA.

Obviously, neither of these organizations will be canonized for sainthood, nor should they be. But let’s not focus on their past awfulness for a moment. Let’s focus on today.

Today, the Baltimore Ravens’ decision-makers saw the Ray Rice elevator video for the first time (I presume), and they faced a decision:

  • Do we keep Ray Rice on the roster and let the NFL figure out what to do?
  • Do we release Ray Rice and be done with it?

Argue all you want about their motivations. Argue over whether or not they took too long to get rid of Rice.

But faced with two possible decisions today, the people running the Ravens made the right one. They fired a bad person who had acted reprehensibly.

Over the last few months (I presume), the decision-makers at the NCAA saw how Penn State has been running its athletic department post-sanctions, and they faced a decision:

  • Do we keep the school’s sanctions as-is?
  • Do we reduce the school’s sanctions, allowing the football team to play in the postseason this year?

Argue all you want about whether or not the initial punishment fit Penn State’s crimes. Argue over whether oft-hypocritical NCAA only demonstrated more hypocrisy when you contrast their treatment of Penn State with that of USC. I certainly did.

But faced with two possible decisions, the people running the NCAA made the right one. It is wrong to dole out sanctions that serve only to punish innocent athletes who played no part in the crimes. Make administrators and wrong-doers pay the price, not 20-year-olds.

We can and should discuss many elements of these stories: Should Roger Goodell be out of a job? Should the Baltimore Ravens be punished for keeping their heads in the sand for so long? Who knew about the Ray Rice video and when? Does USC have a basis for a lawsuit agains the NCAA? How exactly should the NCAA punish ne’er-do-well athletic departments in the future?

But for today, the Ravens and the NCAA did the right thing. In a vortex of their wrong and downright stupid decisions, we should take a moment and commend them for doing the right thing.

Read These Stories: Mostly Sports!

I think “Read These Stories” may become a Sunday tradition, seeing as how I will be spending a lot of my fall Sundays reading from Pocket as NFL games play in the background — Not next Sunday, though, because the Steelers play Thursday. Maybe I will actually enjoy a beautiful September Sunday without watching sports.

Nah, probably not. The Pirates are playing.

On to the recommendations:

Open City (by David Roth)

Reading this story (from last year, but it applies now) only cements tennis’ U.S. Open on my Sports Event Bucket List. Roth never cheats you with his articles that are more like short stories with special guest: sports. I adore his descriptions of the Open patrons as “couples preppy enough that their outfits were effectively unisex” and “a boyfriend in a skintight Armani t-shirt taking photos of his girlfriend and her Instagram smirk in various hilariously inconsiderate locations.”

The Future Could Work, if We Let It (by Farhad Manjoo)

I enjoy criticisms like this that boil down books that fall under this category: I am interested in the idea, but I would never devote enough time to read it all. Manjoo breaks down the thesis of a new book “Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century,” gives me the gist and criticizes a few of the authors’ assumptions.

One criticism I have of an otherwise good piece that is worth your time: don’t bury the 33,000 lives taken each year by driver error in car accidents. When car companies begin marketing driverless cars, this needs to be a main talking point: keeping people from dying needlessly.

Does Watching the NFL Make You Evil? (by Jeb Lund)

Don’t get caught up on the clickbait-y headline. Leave your assumptions behind and read. Lund lays out the dastardly, and perhaps indeed evil, actions of the NFL, its commissioner and its owners (it’s a laundry list). Confront your own love of pro football and know that it comes with all these societal ills.

And if you don’t want to do all that, read Lund’s last paragraph. You and he are more similar than you may think.

Did Dante Hall Bankrupt an Electronics Chain? (by Aaron Gordon)

Cleanse your palate with this last piece, a fun vignette that taught me about a new kind of business. Don’t let me ruin any of the twists of this story. It’s short and you will enjoy it.

We Beat the Farm

[Editor’s Note: Typically I would ridicule the use of the word “we” when referring to a sports team for which you do not play or work. I grant exceptions if you are an alum of a school. You paid out the ass for the right to use “we.” So I am going to use “we” in reference to USC.]


Look, at its best, I would like this blog to be an example of writing that informs and brings fresh perspectives to topics I enjoy. But usually, it will just be a platform for “things I am thinking about on a certain day.” And all I can think about on this day is…



That photo is from one of the most enjoyable nights of my college life. USC beat No. 5 Stanford to wreck the Cardinal’s National Championship hopes and trigger a field-storming that will stay in my memory forever.

As I get older and deeper into the sports journalism business (I hope), perhaps my fan passions will not be as strong as they are now. I hope I never lose the love for my alma mater, nor the joy I feel when we beat Stanford.

I have been on Stanford’s campus. It’s beautiful. We are talking about one of the most gorgeous universities in the world, not to mention a place that educates at a level that is not matched by many other schools. More of this nation should be like Stanford.

Still, WE WON.

We Come Blogging

Technically, this still counts. I did some blogging today, it was just at another website.

Over at MLB Daily Dish, I wrote about Ron Washington resigning as manager of the Texas Rangers. This makes me actually sad.

Earlier, I wrote about the Arizona Diamondbacks firing Kevin Towers as general manager. This makes me the opposite of sad.

Please read them. Or don’t. But come to the Fox Chapel football game tonight for my beautiful announcing. Or don’t. It’s a beautiful day, go live your life.

Or don’t.

Falling Out of Love… with the NFL

I am the least enthused about the 2014 NFL season than I have been about any NFL season in some time. Introspection time! Why is this?

  • Four years of 10 a.m. West Coast start times
  • Four years of watching illegal streams on a laptop instead of HDTV
  • Mediocre Steelers teams
  • Very good Pirates teams holding one’s interest past August
  • One year of making television for a basketball team every Sunday instead of watching football
  • A protest against the increasingly violent game crippling our young men and rattling their brains

Nah, it’s not the last one.

We may hear more and more from people who are feeling conflicted about watching a game in which talented young players are exploited for their skills, then ignored by an uncaring faux-non-profit that allows them to wither up before their time. I am not one of those people. That concern, while it is something to reckon with and fix, doesn’t really change my football viewing habits one bit.

Matt Ufford wrote a strong column about that concern, and it is completely worthwhile when Ufford questions whether he wants his child to love this sport or not.

I don’t want her sucked into this gravity field, supporting a league that cripples its employees and arrives late to social change. I don’t want her marginalized to the NFL’s sidelines, be it as a reporter with a glass ceiling or a virtually unpaid cheerleader adhering to insane and outdated workplace standards.

His qualms are valid and appropriate. They don’t play into my viewing or enjoyment of the sport. Fact is, all American professional sports traffic in some manner of labor exploitation, deafness to social change and degradation of women. We look past it and hold our nose all the time.

Really, my reasons for lack of enthusiasm about the NFL (other than the potential ones listed in bullets above) revolve around it being… somewhat boring. Somehow the game that markets itself as AMERICA’S SPORT OF EXCITEMENT has lost that quality for me. Maybe it’s a bit too polished and over-marketed now. Maybe the game itself has withered in comparison to the more free-slingin’-anything-goes-good-time college game.

I really don’t know what it is, so I’ll give you a good ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to go out on. I will still watch the games, certainly. But for some reason, it all feels different now.