Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tired of the Pirates not living up to Pittsburgh standards

Another trade, another day.

The story of the Pittsburgh Pirates seems to be the in-season trade. What's bothersome is that they do it with no hope for the present, and with little thought to the future, although they would say otherwise.

I called it months ago, partly in jest, hoping it wouldn't be true, but my false prophecy proved itself tonight: the Pirates traded one of the young, promising players of MLB -- Nyjer Morgan -- the left-fielder and one of the fastest men in baseball.

He's fun to watch. He enjoys the game, and has a youthful glow as he takes the field. His stolen bases ignite the crowd, and his antics win over critics, as well as his stolen bases and beat-out bunts. But here the Pirates go again, trading away the talent that appears in front of their eyes, and right to the Nationals, a team Nyjer can't be too excited about joining.

The Pirates weren't too far below .500, a win percentage they haven't touched for a record number of consecutive years in MLB. I guess that makes us the worst team in recent baseball history. And as we do increasingly well, we continue to remove the talent that has gotten us to a nearly not-embarrassing-to-the-point-of-vomiting record. Moves like this lose fans, faith, money, and even the support of the team. Check out the Post-Gazette's article on how Jack Wilson is taking it. 

He was bonding well with up-and-comer Andrew McCutchen, the centerfielder with a knack for speed and flair similar to that of Nyjer. And these smiles were bringing hope back to Pittsburgh:

When will it end? Because before we return to the storied days of old, we need to make sure we're not trading away the next Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente or Honus Wagner.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hating big cities...

...but not Pittsburgh. That is definitely the only city I can say I would deal with living there, and not only because my sports teams are supreme. Although I'm continually amazed with how much Pittsburghers love the Steelers, Penguins, and yes, even the Pirates.

After checking out the Buccos game (which they oh-so-lovingly won for me), I saw all the Pittsburgh natives strolling the streets and the stadium, all sporting shirts from one of our majors teams, I just realized how much people can come together. I think Pittsburgh quite literally is a small town masquerading as a big city.

The cultures merging, Italian, Polish, Croatian, Irish and just about any country you can imagine -- all can be found in the Strip District. Bargaining with shoppers, hawking food and shouting about $5 t-shirts, it shows the diversity of a farmer's market and the friendliness of a southern small town -- you just feel at home, and maybe a little overwhelmed.

Driving through the Fort Pitt tunnel reveals the beautiful skyline and Heinz and PNC stadiums along the waterfront, where the historic and beloved Three Rivers Stadium once stood. The old bridges and buildings welcome you, and the city is far from trendy, yet perfectly okay with that.

So many aspects make me love that city, but it's the little things that truly steal my heart. A simple nod of understanding while walking around in a Roberto Clemente shirt -- the city knows his greatness, as acknowledged by his large statue. A smile when someone notices a shirt denouncing Cleveland -- what a healthy and lovable rivalry. The discussions over food orders in restaurants and purchases in stores -- reminiscing about one of the best years in sports for a single city, the inspiration of Sidney Crosby, the unlikely touchdown from James Harrison, the disappointment in the Pirates, but the promise that is seen in Nyger Morgan and the stability in Jack Wilson.

I tried to enjoy my latest trip like it was my last, because I very well might not make the trip to the city again, but I certainly hope I'm wrong. Columbus has never been that type of city, and neither has Cleveland or Cincinnati. With three major sports and a troubling economic history, the city has become a cultural maven with grandmotherly women talking about the good ol' days and young children crooning over their hockey autograph. I couldn't think of a better city in which to spend a summer weekend enjoying life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Summer isn't my favorite time of year, mostly because I hate humidity and heat and sweating, but the evenings spent in my backyard are so nice and relaxing. Especially when you're goofing around with two giant doggies. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


...you just have to do what you want in life.

A lot of perspective comes while planning for a wedding, a cross-country move and a college graduation. So many little details are discussed, and so many arguments ensue. People are never happy with the way you want to do things, and you can never please everybody.

I have always wanted to enjoy a life outside of the Midwest, just to experience the world. To me, being in Ohio isn't living -- not to life's fullest extent. Many people may be happy here their whole lives -- but me? No. The world is so large, and the culture just on the other side of our vast nation is so different that I can't imagine a single person who would never want to leave a place to which they've become accustomed. Even just for a moment. It's ridiculous to miss out on life experiences just because of fear.

I've never feared getting married, sharing a life with someone, moving to a place where nobody knows me, graduating from college and getting a job. I'm young, intelligent and happy, and completely ready to take on the world. I want to experience a new way of life, and there's nothing wrong with moving away from friends and family to achieve that.

It doesn't mean you never keep in touch. It doesn't mean you never visit. My door is open, and I can't wait to show off my new home in Coos Bay. It's a constant vacation, just like when we lived in The Dalles, Ore., for a few months. Doesn't everybody deserve to live in a place where you feel a zest for life?

When you begin a new life with someone you love, it should be just that: new. I want to learn about life with him alone, learn to swim instead of sink without the backup of parents on which to lean. Family is important, but eventually you branch out on your own to create new traditions and a new home and a new family. 

Sometimes, you just need to do what makes you happiest, and overlook the tiny details that mean nothing in life. People won't remember our wedding in 15 years, but we'll still be married. I won't remember all the classes I took in college, but I'll still have the skills.

Sometimes, when you look back, you will realize that the little details didn't actually matter, despite how much time and effort you put into them. All I know is my faith and my love are unshakeable, and I plan to live life exactly how I always pictured it, despite what outside opinions and societal norms have tried to instill upon me.

"No storm or heavy weather will rock the boat you'll see."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Basking in the glow

The road is long and difficult. Longer and more difficult than any other road in sports. The silver chalice is storied -- more so than any other professional trophy. In the middle of the season, nobody would have been caught dead predicting the Penguins in this position right now.

One year later. One lost, prima donna winger later. One coaching change later. One year older, wiser and more experienced, but still young with excitement. Young enough to fully appreciate this opportunity, but skilled enough to actually take advantage of it.

The Penguins showed their depth, the same kind of depth that announcers, sports writers, coaches and players have bestowed upon the Red Wings. Nobody talked about Max Talbot, or Jordan Staal. Everybody talked about Marc-Andre Fleury, but it wasn't positive. Ruslan Fedotenko, Tyler Kennedy, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz -- the smaller-named hockey players -- were the ones who vaulted this team led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin beyond the team they were last year. Losing Marian Hossa freed up finances to pay Guerin, Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, all the players who played a significantly better game than Hossa did for the other side.

We all knew this day would come. Sidney Crosby was meant to write history. There's a reason he's been slated to win the Cup since his teenage years, a reason he's the face of the league, a reason he gets all those commercials. He may not have been the playoff MVP (an honor which deservedly went to Geno), but at 21 years old, he's the youngest captain to ever hoist that shiny cup. And words can't describe his face, and the feelings every Penguins fan felt as they watched his expressive and childlike smile spread to his teammates, with the Stanley Cup lifted high.
Until next year, boys.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Lord Stanley's Cup will be in Joe Louis Arena. This time, both teams have the opportunity to hoist it high, this time the series is tied, this time the Penguins can enact revenge. It's a waiting game. It's a patient game. It's a beautiful game. But only one team truly wins, wins it all, wins the chance to get their names immortalized on the Stanley Cup.

Nobody will pick the Penguins. This I know. But they know it, too, and so do the Wings. The Wings have always been the favorite, even before we'd played a shift.

But the game 5 shutout doesn't mean a thing. The two dominating games in Pittsburgh don't mean a thing. Neither team's season means a thing. The only game that matters comes on a late Friday evening, in a run-down city that claims the title of Hockeytown. Nobody needs to be reminded what's at stake.

Always believe.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Inspired by God

Nothing connects me with God more than wandering around in nature, and the vastness of the wilderness, sky, oceans and mountains make it impossible to deny divine creation.

First, Mt. Hood, a mountain near and dear to my heart, my soul and my previous summer internship. The close proximity, accessibility and endless beauty every month of the year never cease to amaze me. I've also explored Mt. St. Helens, but Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters and Mt. Rainier are on my to-do list. Do you think I have enough time in my life to experience all that beauty that God has to offer?

Nothing is more relaxing than sitting next to a bubbling Pollalie Creek (a roaring river in Ohio). I feel so peaceful sitting inches from clear, icy water flowing from a beautiful mountain, and I could eat my lunch here every day, as bald eagles and hawks soar effortlessly above and the clean, fresh air cleanses my lungs.

Hearing a thundering wall of water tumble over a cliff before it comes into sight feeds the adventurous explorer in everyone, and seeing such a powerful, yet peaceful and beautiful sight hidden well off the beaten path just cements the wonders of God. This gem hidden deep in the Mt. Adams wilderness surprised me with its girth and raw power, and its untapped beauty is unprecedented. There's no physical way of descending to the base of the waterfall, ensuring that man will leave this spot in nature to its own, creative devices.

A beach is peaceful for most people, as they gaze out into the seemingly endless waters, holding wonders that no human eyes have seen. I'll trade the popular beaches any day, where people lay lazily on the sand acquiring skin cancer, and beer bottles stick out of the sand as a McDonald's wrapper blows effortless through the crowds. Could you think of a more disgusting scene? This photo of Cape Blanco, taken in December no less, shows a beach devoid of humans, and until you've walked on a beach like this one, you haven't truly lived.

But sometimes God gets a little rough with us here on Earth. This photo was taken in Wyoming following a survival of this snow/hail storm (in August!) at high elevation. I'd rather not experience that again, but isn't it amazing to look at from a neutral standpoint far away from the state of Wyoming?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gather your troops

This guy, the wonderful Evgeni Malkin, has thrust himself into the 8th place spot of the most points in a single post-season. The list is impressive, including greats such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey. Malkin currently has 35 points -- 14 goals and 21 assists. If the Wings can't find an answer for him, and Crosby and Zetterberg keep canceling each other out, these next few games could be interesting. But with Crosby finding ways to score, too, the Penguins are dangerous. And young. And healthy.

Game 4 was amazing beyond words. But I'm not just saying that -- I literally have no words to describe the magic I saw on that ice in Mellon Arena, and it won't be the last time Pens fans will see their beloved boys on home ice, thanks to the win.

The road will be difficult, even though it shortens by the hour. And those hours tick by slowly, as we replay Marc-Andre Fleury's amazing saves, Tyler Kennedy's well-executed goal or Sidney Crosby's game-winner. We have the talent, that we know. But we also know that Detroit has been here before, many, many times. But they haven't played against this Penguins team. Sure, they beat us last year, but this team isn't the same team. You can feel the electricity from the players and the fans, the fans that came by the thousands to sit outside the Igloo where they couldn't even see the game, just to be a part of it.

It. Will this be "it?"

Imagine how long it will take them to edit this video to fit Sidney Crosby's smirking face hoisting that 35-pound hunk of metal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Not going to think about it

Purposefully not talking about the Pens. Because I can't think about it. It's too scary. I will say that if we play all game every game like we played the third period last night, we'd win this series easily. So that sounds like a plan.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I long for rain, pine trees and wonderful seafood

Sometimes I take for granted how much I miss the Northwest when I'm not there. How long have I spent time there, you ask? Three months last summer, and about a month visiting Coos Bay over Christmas. And random vacations. But there's no other place that feels more like home to me. I cherish it when I'm there, and I miss it when I'm not. 

I miss the hiking, the wonderful and constant smell of pine, the fact that everything is still green in the winter, fresh, live crab and fish options about 15 minutes from home, rain (believe it or not), the feel of a coastal town, the dive restaurants that always tend to beat out most restaurants in Ohio (at least in Newark), and I miss the companionship, quite obviously.

Sure, I can hike in Ohio. But I've been to Hocking Hills in every season, and I've explored every mile they can offer. I haven't begun to tap the hiking and exploring in Oregon, let alone Washington and northern California. Plus, Hocking Hills doesn't have large, flowing mountain rivers, miles and miles of pine trees and moss, beautiful wild flowers or snow-capped mountains. And it's covered with people who don't know how to respect nature's beauty, littering, smoking and toting children who run around trampling plants. Hippies or not, Oregonians (and people in the Northwest in general) love their wild, untapped land, and know how to respect it, and keep it perfect for visitors in the future.

I feel so smothered in Ohio. I like the wild and free feeling of the Northwest, where I can enjoy a bonfire on the beach, seafood dive restaurants and I can be myself in a small-town atmosphere. I've reached my peak in Ohio, and I grow increasingly bored with the state.

The need to play dirty...

...because the Red Wings are doing it right. 

I think the Pens forgot that in the playoffs, refs don't call anything. And the Wings know exactly what they can get away with. We need to learn that, and go for it, even if it's against our moral beings as hockey players, because otherwise, there's no way we win this series.

Screen the goalie, because there's no other way to get past Osgood. Especially not when they miss a million blatant penalties that could have resulted in fantastic scoring opportunities for the Pens. Lay in front of the goal. The Wings do it all the time! Why not us? As soon as the puck gets near the goal, lay down, make sure there's no possible way the puck can get through the wall of players. Isn't your goalie fat enough to do this on his own?

We need to test the waters. Throw some elbows. Toss some sticks. Push the envelope with penalties, just to see what we can get away with, because until we figure that out and start playing with a little toughness and urgency, the Wings are going to win this one, because they already figured this out a long time ago, and we all see where that led them last season.