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Vote for your favorite YA book of 2012!

Every January, a bunch of library folk get together at their semi-annual meeting and announce the winners of annual YA book awards.   This is something I greatly look forward to each year, and spend early January scrambling to read as many of the award contenders as possible, as well as perusing YA blogs for predictions.

For a comprehensive list of the panoply of awards for young adult materials, click here.

I’ve read many opinions from bloggers, librarians, so-called-experts, etc., but I want to know what YOU (the real experts at enjoying YA literature) have to say!  Vote for your pick for the 2013 Printz Award.  The Michael L. Printz Award is given annually to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”.  Vote now–do it!

I do apologize if your favorite book is not included in my list–please comment on this post with your pick.

Will this be the Pirates’ year?

Can the Pirates end their infamous losing streak this year?  In two words- probably not.  In the early part of the season, there has been a glaring weakness for the team- they CAN’T HIT the ball!  They rank near the bottom of almost every hitting statistic in the league.  They are last in batting average, home runs, and on base percentage.  And they are not even last by a point or two.  It’s a pretty big gap in almost every stat between them and the next worst team.  Their power hitter of the future, Pedro Alvarez, is batting around .050 and is on pace to break the alltime record for strikeouts by a better in one season!  On the bright side, the pitching looks pretty good, Andrew McCutchen is signed to a long term deal, and PNC Park is still a great place to watch a game.  But to me, that is not nearly enough to end the Pirates‘ 19 year losing streak.  It looks like they will make it two straight decades of losing.


21st century football, or ‘how physical is too physical?’

By Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

If you live in Western Pennsylvania, chances are you know a fair amount about football. This region is often referred to as the “Cradle of Football” because of all the great players who grew up around here. (And, of course, Pittsburgh is home to the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.)

In Pittsburgh, football is everywhere. Even if you aren’t a die-hard Steelers fan, you can probably still recognize Troy Polamalu’s flowing mane, Hines Ward’s smile, and Brett Keisel’s beard. In Western PA, Mondays after a Steelers’ loss are unbearable (everyone is in a bad mood!), and the excitement in the air before a playoff game is palpable. Why? I could speculate, but what it ultimately boils down to is this — football just matters here. 

We love the Steelers because they represent something tough and enduring and, despite some necessary strife and struggle, successful (attributes modest Pittsburghers may secretly identify with).

While the 2011 Steelers love to pass the ball (utilizing their impressive corps of talented young receivers) the franchise is traditionally associated with a tough up-the-gut running  game and crushing defense. The hard-hitting defense has been a mainstay since the vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense of the 70s, but recent rule changes have begun to shift the way the game is being played and, therefore, the way the Steelers are allowed to play. Hits and tackles once considered textbook are now drawing penalty flags, while the players responsible are fined and sometimes even suspended.

Just today, Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker and “repeat offender” James Harrison (the man responsible for THIS PLAY) was suspended for one game without pay after a helmet-to-helmet hit left scrambling Cleveland QB Colt McCoy with a concussion. (See the play at NFL.com HERE.) This is Harrison’s fifth illegal hit on a quarterback in the last three seasons.

To better understand this ruling we have to look at the 2010 NFL season when the league decided to crack down on tackles they considered to be dangerous. Take a look at an excerpt from this Associated Press story from last season:

Not only is the league worried about defenders turning themselves into human missiles, but also with them aiming for the head with the forearm, shoulder or any other body part.

”We’re certainly concerned,” said Anderson, a member of the league’s competition committee and one of its loudest voices on the need for enhanced player safety. ”The fundamentally old way of wrapping up and tackling seems to have faded away. A lot of the increase is from hits to blow guys up. That has become a more popular way of doing it.

”Yes, we are concerned they are getting away from the fundamentals of tackling, and maybe it has been coached that way. We’re going to have to look into talking to our coaches.” (AP, 2010)

The league not only talked to coaches, but also modified its rules (read the NFL – Rulebook here) in an attempt to cut down on these dangerous hits. The NFL Rulebook reads more like a phone book, but here’s the specifics of the roughing the passer penalty that James Harrison was flagged for last Thursday (and a bunch of other Sundays in recent memory):

A.R. 12.47 ROUGHING THE PASSER
Second-and-3 on A35. Quarterback A1 rolls out of the pocket, and while moving, throws a pass to A2
who is downed at the A40. Just after A1 released the ball, B1 tackles the quarterback making helmet-to-helmet
contact in the process.
Ruling: A’s ball, first-and 10 on B45. Roughing the passer because of the helmet-to-helmet hit. (12-2-12-3)

We can probably all agree that helmet-to-helmet hits are dangerous, but what if they’re unintentional? In that case, who’s to say whether a helmet-to-helmet hit was intentional or not? It’s a slippery slope, which is probably why the league has begun to penalize all helmet-to-helmet hits regardless of intention.

It’s confusing and frustrating, but you could make a strong argument that these rule changes are a step in the right direction. Believe me, I know it’s frustrating that the Steelers won’t be dressing #92 against the Forty-Niners on Monday Night Football next week, but at least they’re being proactive about preventing injuries (even if they’re spouting off mixed messages to their fan base about big hits).

For years the NFL turned a blind eye to player injuries resulting from repeated head trauma. That is until 2002 when Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist here in Pittsburgh, discovered a new disease — Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). That year, Dr. Omalu found CTE in the brains of Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk and Tom McHale.

What is CTE? It’s a degenerative brain disease found in those who have suffered repeated head trauma. People with CTE may show symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. What’s worse is that these symptoms may appear within months of the trauma or not until many years later. (Read more about CTE HERE.)

The first deceased athlete examined by the CSTE researchers was John Grimsley, former Linebacker for the Houston Oilers and Miami Dolphins, who died in February 2008 at the age of 43 from an accidental gun shot wound. Examination of Mr. Grimsley’s brain confirmed extensive CTE. In both sets of photographs, below, the brain tissue has been immunostained for tau protein, which appears as a dark brown color. (2011, CSTE)

And CTE doesn’t just affect football players–the disease is prevalent in hockey and professional wrestling, too. In May of this year, New York Rangers brawler Derek Boogaard died of an accidental overdose. When doctors performed the autopsy they found his brain was riddled with the disease.

How do you solve this problem? In football, some have suggested removing face masks, having lineman begin each play standing (rather than in the 3-point stance that results in repeated blows to the head), or even getting rid of helmets all-together (so players theoretically hold back on the big hits). So far, other than the new rules, nothing has changed.

So, yes, I’m upset that James Harrison won’t dress next week, but knowing what we know about CTE, maybe these rule changes are for the best.

What do you think? Take our poll and let us know.

- Corey, Digital Learning Librarian

Poll: Will you brave “Black Friday”?

It’s only one week away–will you wake up at the crack of dawn, filled with stuffing and pumpkin pie, only to face the bloodthirsty crowds for your shot at scoring a bargain or two? Let us know.

Batman “The Dark Knight Rises” will be filming in Pittsburgh this summer. What do you think?

Pittsburgh will stand in for Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises!” What do you think?

Take our poll and tell us!

(polls)

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