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Super Bowl 48!!

Super_Bowl_XLVIII_logo

Since I am getting sick of winter and the polar vortex, I have decided to write about something that will make me happy-the upcoming Super Bowl.  This year’s matchup is a rarity in that it will be a meeting between the best offense in the league (the Denver Broncos) and the NFL’s best defense (Seattle Seahawks).  This is only the fifth time this has ever happened and so far the defenses have won 3 out of the first 4 times it has happened.

This will also be the first time the game will be played outdoors in a cold weather stadium and the weather could play a factor in the game.  If the conditions are bad it could hurt Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense as he has historically had some of his worst games in bad weather.  Another thing to watch is the Richard Sherman ‘controversy‘.  He caused an uproar after the NFC Championship game when he was mocking the 49ers Michael Crabtree.

If you don’t care about the game on the field, there is also the halftime show featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and there should be some awesome commercials.  Either way, it will help us forget about the cold!!

Steelers Training Camp

training-camp

I know that everyone is excited about the Pittsburgh Pirates and the amazing season they are having so far.  I was tempted to write about them, but I don’t want to take the risk that I might jinx things and cause another late season fade.  So, instead I will stick with the NFL and the Steelers!  I always love when the Steelers start training camp because I get to see highlights of Saint Vincent College in beautiful Latrobe, PA.  As a proud SVC grad it is cool to see my college on the news every night. 

Plus, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King called it his favorite training camp location.  The Steelers will be at Saint Vincent until Saturday, August 17th.  All the practices that are open to the public will be held from 3-5 in the afternoon.  There will be one night practice on Wednesday, August 14th from 5:30-7:30.  If you go to Latrobe I recommend the wings at Sharkey’s Cafe.  They are awesome, plus there is always a chance that you might see some of the Steelers there too!

As far as the actual NFL action looks, here are some my top thoughts and predictions about the upcoming season.  Sorry to all the Steelers fans out there, but I don’t see them making the Super Bowl this year.

AFC:

Playoff teams: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Broncos, Colts (wild card), Bengals (wild card)

NFC:

Playoff Teams: Giants, Packers, Falcons, 49ers, Lions (wild card), Saints (wild card)

mattryan

Super Bowl: Falcons over Broncos

Pirates Season preview

Winter is FINALLY over.  So that means that the weather is at last getting nicer and it is time for baseball season!  This should be an interesting year for the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates.  Lat year they almost ended their record streak of 20 losing years in a row, but struggled in the second half and ended up finishing 79-83.  This offseason has seen a few changes, most notably the loss of All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan and the addition of former Yankees catcher Russell Martin and former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano.

There are some interesting questions this year that will go a long way in determining how well the Pirates do this year.  How will Pedro Alvarez hit?  Will he be the batter who hit 30 home runs or will he be the batter who hit .244 and had 180 strikeouts (second in the National League)?  He will probably be both!  Just like he was last year, but hopefully he can raise his average and cut his strikeouts a bit.

The second big question is when will Gerrit Cole make it to the big leagues, and how will he do when he gets there?  The number 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft had a good spring training, but will start the season with the Triple A Indianapolis Indians.  It is very likely that Cole will be up with the Pirates by the summer and hopefully, he will be the first of many of the young pitching prospects that the team has drafted in the last few years.

America's Best Ballpark

America’s Best Ballpark

Even if the Pirates don’t break .500 this year (and I don’t think they will), you can still enjoy the beautiful PNC Park.  It was just named  America’s Best Ballpark by TripAdvisor.com.  The team just announced some of the new features they will have this year and I am already looking forward to the new Brunch Burger, which is a patty made of beef and ground bacon topped with more bacon!  It also has cheddar cheese and a fried egg and is served on a glazed doughnut!

The Brunch Burger!!

The Brunch Burger!!

March Madness-Shamrock Shake edition

mcdonalds-Shamrock-McCafe-Shake-12-fl-oz-cup

March is one of my favorite times of year for two reasons.  The first is that Shamrock Shakes are available at McDonalds.  I LOVE Shamrock Shakes!!  The mint, the cream, the deliciousness.  I wish they sold them all year, but March is the only time to get them.

The second reason I love March is that it is time for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, or March Madness.  This is my favorite sports event of the year-even more than the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup Finals.  I love it so much because it is so unpredictable.  A small school like Butler can go to two straight Final Fours and someone that nobody has ever heard of can become a basketball immortal like Bryce Drew did in 1998.

You can vote for the best players and teams in NCAA history right here.  You can also watch some of the greatest moments in tournament history including Christian Laettner’s famous jumper to beat Kentucky in 1992.

This is a weird year for the tournament because usually there are a couple of teams that are head and shoulders over everybody else, but this year that has not been the case.  Kentucky and NC State were ranked in the top 10 when the season began, but they are not even in the top 25 now, while Gonzaga is ranked number 1 for the first time in school history.  Overall, 5 teams have been ranked number one this season.  So it’s been a topsy turvy year this year with no clear cut favorite going into the tournament.  I’m hoping that Gonzaga can pull it off, but if not then I am hoping for lots of excitement and upsets.  Hope you all have a great time watching this year’s tournament (with a Shamrock Shake of course!)

Super Bowl XLVII

logo

So what did you think of that Super Bowl?  It was definitely one of the most eventful Super Bowl games we ever had.  I know a lot of Pittsburgh fans were conflicted about the game since the Ravens are their bitter AFC North rivals and the Niners would have equaled their record of 6 Super Bowl titles.  But from the Ray Lewis controversies to the HarBowl to the 34 minute power outage, this was a game that had it all!  It looked like it would be a Ravens’ blowout before the Forty-Niners were able to rally after the power outage.  San Francisco rookie Colin Kaepernick led a furious comeback, but his team fell just short in the last few minutes.  The game also featured a halftime show by Beyonce.  All of this led to the game being the most watched tv show in history!

Not only was the game eventful, but I thought the commercials were awesome this year.  Of course, my favorite was the Oreo commercial with people fighting in a library and whispering the whole time.

But I also liked some of the other ones, including the Taco Bell one with the senior citizen party animals.

What was your favorite part of the game?  Were you happy that the Ravens won?  Did you have any favorite ads?

Jim-CLP Sheraden

How Disappointing; Pittsburgh Sports in 2012

Oh, sports. All year, through each and every season, you give me hope. I invest time and emotion into you and sometimes it’s even worth it. Then there are the other times, years like 2012, when you fulfill your awful, inevitable promise to ruin my life.

OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s been a bad year for Pittsburgh sports. This year, every team that I care about has completely self-destructed in one way or another. Let’s review, shall we?

The Pittsburgh Pirates The Pirates came into the season facing a seemingly inevitable Major League Baseball record-breaking 20th consecutive losing season. It was an ominous milestone, but the Pirates decided to temporarily shake the monkeys off their collective backs and put together a very solid season through the all-star break.

Their record shortly after the break was 67-54. That’s right–13 games over .500. Things were looking up. Nobody wanted to jinx it, but, at 13 over, people in this city seemed ready to come out and say it–there’s no way the Pirates will screw this up. No, sir, this is the year we at least finish above .500. And that’s just about the time the slide started.

The Pirates started to lose and lose big. Even then, with a September schedule that featured plenty of games against the Cubs, Astros, and Mets, the suddenly flat Buccos could find a way to limp into the playoffs, right? No. The Pirates kept losing, prompting me to calculate daily first their playoff chances and then the number of wins they needed to stay above .500.

That great feeling permeating small-talk around town began to fade. Sports fans who were excited to have a meaningful conversation about the Pirates had to come to the realization that 2012 was different, yes, but not in the way they’d hoped. It was, instead, the year the Pirates engineered the biggest collapse in Major League Baseball history. Better focus on the Penguins and Steelers, right?

Wrong. After a sad first-round exit last season courtesy of their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, The Penguins haven’t played at all this season due the the NHL lockout. They have, therefore, disappointed fans by default. I won’t blame the players, but a lost season is a lost season.  Will we see the Pens take the ice at all this winter? It’s not looking good. All games through Dec. 14, along with the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, have been canceled. The last NHL lockout resulted in a completely lost 2004-05 season and Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby is talking about playing in Europe.

The Pittsburgh SteelersThen there’s the Steelers. The Steelers made the playoffs last season like they usually do, but they were Tebowed. In fact, I think we were the only team to truly BE Tebowed. So sad. This season, the Steelers are confounding us all with injuries, inconsistent play, and some suspect coaching decisions. You know how the Steelers seem to always lose to bad teams? Yeah, they’ve done that a lot this year. The Steelers have lost to the sub-par Titans, Raiders, Chargers, and Browns. One week you get a gutsy, seemingly season-saving performance by 3rd-stringer Charlie Batch, and the next week you get a completely incompetent effort at home against the San Diego Chargers. (If the CBS sports guys didn’t pound it home enough yesterday, I will remind you that the Chargers had never won a regular season game in Pittsburgh until yesterday’s blase performance.)

Wow–reading over all of this reminds me that it truly has been a terrible year in Pittsburgh sports. (And I didn’t even get into college sports.) What good can come of that? Well, for me, there has been the surprising upside of finding a way to not let it ruin my day. Believe me, I’ve let a Steelers playoff loss, or Penguins’ first-round playoff exit, ruin my day(s) before. That’s why I don’t want to let it happen in the future. Why? Because it’s inevitable. All of these teams will lose again in excruciating fashion, so don’t think that it won’t happen. It’s a game, and while I totally understand getting caught up in the stories  and the emotions, out boys in black and gold will play and win again.

Need another reason to get over the latest sports disappointment? We’re spoiled! The Steelers have more Super Bowl wins (6) than any other NFL team! The Penguins, too, have won three Stanley Cups and recently captain signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal that will keep him in town until he’s close to retirement. As for the Pirates, well, they haven’t done much in a while, it’s true, but that doesn’t invalidate what they have accomplished–five World Series championships and rosters featuring Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Willie Stargell.

I’ll leave you with this, video of the greatest, most clutch, home run in history, and proof that, sometimes, things do work out–it’s Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run against the juggernaut New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was the only walk-off, series-clinching, home run in World Series history and it happened across the street here in Oakland.

So, even though it’s the Monday after a Steelers loss, I hope you have a good one.

– Corey, The Labs @ CLP

It’s that time again-Football is almost here!

The Olympics are FINALLY over (thank God) and it is almost time for the NFL to start playing real games!  The season kicks off on Wednesday, Spetember 5th with a matchup between the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.  Of course the big game locally is the Steelers against the Denver Broncos.  That might be the most watched game of the first week since many people will be tuning in to watch Peyton Manning play his first regular season game for the Broncos.

There will be lots of interesting storylines this season, both with the Steelers and around the league.  Some of the questions with the Steelers include how the team will deal with the loss of veteran leaders like Hines Ward and James Farrior, how new offensive coordinator Todd Haley will mesh with Ben Roethlisberger, the inexperienced offensive line, and injuries to James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall.  It should be an interesting season as the Steelers try to hold off some up and coming AFC teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.

Around the league some of the most interesting stories will be the soap opera of the New York Jets and Tim Tebow, the rookie seasons of top draft picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and how the Bountygate scandal will affect the New Orleans Saints.  It should be an interesting year for football fans that is for sure.  I am excited for the year to begin and my predictions are that the Packers will defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVII, Aaron Rodgers will win the MVP Award, the Steelers will not win the division but be a wild card team, and the Bills will end their streak of non-playoff years with a wild card appearance.

How to Win the Gold Medal

The 2012 London Olympics have come to a close.  Now, I can’t pretend to tell you how to win an Olympic gold medal.  I can’t tell you how to get to the Olympics.  What I do know is that there were teenagers doing incredible Olympic feats at the 2012 London Games.  To even get to the Olympics is amazing—to win a medal is incredible.  To win a landmark medal is astounding.  Claressa Shields, 17, won the first gold medal ever awarded for women’s middleweight boxing.

Gabby Douglas, 16, is the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and the team competitions.

Kirani James, 19, won the first gold medal ever for his country of Grenada by winning the gold in the 400 meter race.

Missy Franklin, 17, won 4 gold medals and set several American records.  This YouTube video was created by a fan.

Wow.  These teens are absolutely inspirational.  Check out these books about teens, sports, and life.


Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

Happy reading and happy sporting!

Olympic Mania-Let the Games Begin!

In just a few hours the XXX Olympiad will kick off with a star studded Opening Ceremony. The Games will officially be opened by the Queen of England, but not before British actor Daniel Craig makes an appearance as English super spy James Bond.  Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle has designed the ceremonies to reflect both the urban and rural aspects of Britain.  Music from wide ranging sources will be featured throughout the event.  A medley of songs in Punjab to reflect Britain’s Indian influences, plus the theme from English TV series Dr. Who, English rock band Muse and Sir Paul McCartney will be featured.

A lot has been made of controversies surrounding this Olympic Games in London from security concerns to transportation but there’s no denying that the Olympics has created some of the most amazing  examples of sportsmanship, achievement and triumph over great odds.

Here are a few of my favorite Olympic moments to get you ready.

Kerri Strug completes a perfect vault on an injured ankle to clinch the all around gold medal for her team!

Michael Phelps wins just one of a record 8 gold medals at single Olympics in 2008

A team of amateur US hockey players defeat the Russian hockey power house despite all the odds in 1980

– Brooke, CLP-South Side

On Your Mark, Get Set…GO!

Here’s a shout-out to East Liberty, Homewood, Friendship, and Shadyside on Sunday during the Pittsburgh Marathon!  I am particular to them because they carried me through all 6.1 miles of my relay leg.  Everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather, cheering us on as we thundered through their neighborhoods in our running shoes and sweat.  Music blasting from the street corners, lyrics joining the cheers and encouragement as it pounded through our blood.  Even now, a few days later, I am still affected by the support of the neighborhoods, and as spectators they certainly deserve 1st place!

As you may have already guessed, cross-country running is my go-to, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying many other recreational sports or activities.  (WARNING: I like them but it doesn’t mean I’m any good ;)) What’s got you hooked, your heart-racing adrenaline taking over?  As a spectator or a contender, the emotion of an event can be rather exciting!  Whether it is basketball, football, hockey, golf, tennis, volleyball, or some other cool activity, you’ll be sure to find fans and players alike are all rooting for the big WIN!  If you are the type that prefer to do computer whiz fun, getting artsy, or gaming (don’t worry, I didn’t forget you either) check out the sweet things that will get you up and running, too!  (Well, maybe not literally…)

Ultimate Sports: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults edited by Donald R. Gallo

  Sixteen original sports stories featuring young men and women playing basketball and football, running track and cross-     country, and training for the triathlon, as well as participating in water sports, raquetball, tennis, boxing, wrestling, and the ultimate sport of the future.

 

Guide to Outdoor Sports edited and written by Jonathan Hanson and Roseann Beggy Hanson

   All you need to get started camping, dayhiking, backpacking,
mountain biking, sea kayaking, canoeing, river running,
cross-country skiing, and climbing. 

 

 

“An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets.  He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.”  ~Emil Zatopek

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