Thursday, January 28, 2021

Pittsburgh South

Many Pittsburgh sports fans are rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs to win the upcoming Super Bowl. Sure, part of this is because KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes is likable, so fun to watch, and appears in commercials with Steelers legend Troy Polamalu. 

However, the bigger reason some Steelers fans will support KC is because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers employ the most decorated QB in NFL history (and frequent Steelers tormentor) Tom Brady and former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Although Brown was arguably the best WR in the NFL over the last decade, let's just write that he did not depart from Pittsburgh and Steelers on the best of terms.

Have you looked at the Tampa Bay organization though? And yes, I'm talking to Pittsburgh sports fans here. If you did, you'll see a lot of familiar names. Let's start with the obvious. Head coach Bruce Arians served as the Steelers wide receivers coach from 2004-2006 and offensive coordinator ("OC") from 2007-2011. The Steelers reached the Super Bowl twice when Arians was the OC, winning the title in the 2008 season. Then, after the 2011 season, he "retired." I still don't think the retirement was fully explained as he joined the Indianapolis Colts the next season.

Looking at the roster, there are several players with Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania ties. The biggest name is obviously fellow Woodland Hills High School graduate Rob Gronkowski. Gronk and I have a lot in common besides graduating from the same high school. Gronk is going to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. I've visited the NFL Hall of Fame. Gronk appeared on The Masked Singer and CBS' Game On! I've watched both of those shows. I mean, there's a lot more, but I'm getting off topic.

Starting safety Jordan Whitehead is from Monaca and had a successful career at the University of Pittsburgh. While LeSean McCoy is now a back-up and hasn't played much this year, Pitt fans will also remember him well as part of an excellent crop of running backs in Panthers history. Deep on the depth chart is WR Justin Watson who went to South Fayette High School. And reserve cornerback Russ Cockrell played two years for the Steelers. Oh, and while not Pittsburgh, WR Chris Godwin, tackle Donovan Smith, and center A.Q. Shipley (though on injured reserve) went to Penn State. This matters to a lot of people in Western PA.

You're not convinced yet. I get it. Well, let's look at the coaching staff.

- Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich played 4 seasons as the Steelers back-up QB. I've always had a soft spot for Leftwich. When I attended the Steelers-Washington Football Team game in 2008, Leftwich led the Steelers to victory after Roethlisberger got injured. I also love the video of his Marshall offensive linemen carrying him down the field when he basically played on one leg. You want to play for or with Byron Leftwich!

- Assistant Head Coach / Running Back Coordinator Harold Goodwin worked with Arians as an offense assistant with the Steelers from 2007-2011.

- Offensive Assistant Antwaan Randle El was the most exciting offensive player on the Steelers over the last 20 years. You never knew what could happen when he had the ball.

- Defensive/Special Teams Assistant Cody Grimm. This one is a bit of a stretch since I'm not sure how much time Grimm spent in Pittsburgh. However, his dad Russ was the Steelers offensive line coach for five seasons and was part of some elite Pitt teams in the late 70s and 1980.

- Outside Linebackers coach Larry Foote played 11 seasons with the Steelers. He was so solid, dependable, and a team leader. He was also part of one of my favorite post-Super Bowl pictures.

- (I missed this one before.) Safeties coach Nick Rapone is from New Castle, was a grad assistant at Pitt in 1979-80, coached at Pitt in 1989-1992, and worked at New Castle High School in 1993-1994.

- The final Pittsburgh connection is a bit surprising. Tampa's Speed & Conditioning Coach is two-time Olympic gold medalist Roger Kingdom. How would you like to be coached by arguably the greatest 110m hurdler of all time? Oh, he's also a Pitt graduate.

Look, I understand that the dislike of Brady and Brown is strong. However, if the Bucs win, I think you can be happy for all of these other people with Pittsburgh connections.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The End of Shloshim

It's been really easy for me to remember when the coronavirus became more than just something that impacted people internationally or on cruise ships. My dad's funeral was on Wednesday, March 11th. That evening, the NBA shut down after Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, Tom Hanks announced that he tested positive in Australia, and Sarah Palin was revealed as the Bear on The Masked Singer. It was truly a surreal day. 

On our drive home from Pittsburgh a few days later, we found out that my kids' schools and my office were going to be closed the following week. I went to my synagogue for Shabbat services on Friday night and Saturday and people really didn't know how to react. There were a few elbow bumps but no handshakes or hugs. This was also before people realized that masks helped. On Sunday evening, we hosted some friends for shiva, part of the week-long mourning period in Judaism, and that was really the last time I spent time with people other than those in my home without social distancing. 

Right around that time, many people around the country started to realize that a lot of things needed to happen online instead of in person and that included religious services. While my own synagogue hosted services online each week on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I needed somewhere for the other days of the week.

(Sorry. I've been in the same room as my first grader during his school day for months!)

On that first Monday and Tuesday, I found an online minyan (a quorum of 10 people for a prayer service) in order to say the Mourner's prayer for my dad. I didn't know anyone at that particular synagogue, and it was awkward with everyone trying to figure out how an online service should work. Then, I connected with a friend from college who just happened to be a rabbi. Even though she and her synagogue are several thousand miles and several time zones away, I started joining their minyans. So every day since I got home from the funeral in March, I've attended a minyan between my synagogue and my friend's congregation (with an occasional cameo at my brother's synagogue). While I wrote about much of this way back in June, the period of Shloshim* officially ended for me on Monday. (I also tried to explain what shiva and shloshim are in that post.) Before I get to the thank you portion of this post, I thought I would share some highlights from attending online services every day since March.

- Seeing a guy in his 70s without a shirt while eating breakfast at his kitchen table.

- Witnessing a family perform the Adon Olam prayer/song together to the tune of Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way. (It was truly awesome!)

- Being able to "attend" a Bar Mitzvah in Arizona while in my own home.

- Attending a B'Not Mitzvah and listening to three girls singing almost magically together.

- Wearing pajama pants for the vast majority of these services. 

- Hearing some variation of "you're on mute," "you need to unmute yourself," or "can everyone mute themselves" probably hundreds of times.

- Watching a recognizable TV personality on the computer screen as he attended the same service as me. He appeared to be wearing a Cleveland Browns sweater. 

(It was not one of the guys in this picture.)

It's amazing that my dad passed away 11 months ago in the Hebrew calendar. Being able to attend these services has really been comforting. With everything going on in my life and in the country during this pandemic, this has been the one consistent part of my life each and every day. I now have two separate communities where I feel welcomed. And yes, it's still a little strange knowing many of these people only via Zoom and never really having one-on-one conversations. I'm not trying to do a silver lining thing here, but I wouldn't have done services during the entire 11-month period every day in normal times. It just wouldn't have been realistic with commuting to and from work, kids activities, and even just driving to services. 

I want to thank my family for being supportive in me doing services the entire time. Thanks to both synagogues for having online minyans during the pandemic. And thanks to you for reading this blog post. 

* Update/Correction: Shloshim in Hebrew means 30, so the 30-day mourning period actually ended in April. There does not seem to be a specific name for the 11-month period for a parent, so I'm using the term incorrectly. Since this has already been published, I'll keep the name, especially since The End of the 11-Month Mourning Period isn't as "catchy" of a title.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Joe Biden's Inauguration

I started writing Sean's Ramblings only weeks before George W. Bush's second inauguration, so Wednesday's inauguration of President Joe Biden is my fifth opportunity to write about such an event. Considering that I've lived in Northern Virginia during this entire time, you would think that I would have a good story to share about attending an inaugural ball or standing on the national mall during a ceremony. Nope. In January 2005, just after I started this blog, instead of writing about Bush's inauguration, I shared that our heat wasn't working. In 2009, I listened to Obama's inauguration on the radio while driving from Buffalo to New York City at the conclusion of that year's hockey road trip. I mentioned this only briefly, but I then took a bus from New York to DC. Once I arrived in DC, I got the Metro at Union Station and saw people dressed in tuxedos and gowns going to or from a ball on the platform and the trains. Meanwhile, I was carrying a suitcase and looking completely disheveled. Someone who appeared to be homeless asked me if I had an extra pair of socks, and even though I said they were dirty, he graciously accepted a pair. So giving away a pair of socks at a Metro station is the closest I have to an inauguration story.

Wednesday's inauguration was nice. I mean, I'm sure that there are plenty of other words that you can use but nice just seems right. Joe Biden talked about unity and being the president for all Americans. He was empathetic in having a moment of silence for those who passed away during the pandemic. Overall, Biden came across as a good guy who wants to serve the American people which I think he really is and wants to do. I'll write more about Biden momentarily.

Kamala Harris formerly becoming the first female Vice President was truly a historic moment. Amanda Gorman gave an incredible address that really stole the show, which is amazing to think about considering that Lady Gaga (and her pendant), Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks (and his belt buckle) all performed. And I could spend hours looking at Bernie Sanders memes. 

Look, I don't know how the Biden presidency is going to go. It's refreshing to know that Biden isn't going to insult people on Twitter. That he's going to be empathetic during tragedies. That he's not going to argue about crowd sizes or constantly bring up electoral college results. He's definitely not going to encourage his supporters to march to the Capitol. This is an incredibly low bar, but this is where we are in January 2021. Based on the current state of the country, I expect Biden to have early success. Over 400,000 Americans have now passed away due to COVID-19 and the job market is awful. He has nowhere else to go but up. I fully expect him to do everything in his power to distribute vaccines and try to end the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the stock market and retirement accounts are doing great, which shows the disconnect between those with wealth and those who don't. I really think Biden is going to try to help those unemployed and struggling.

Now passing legislation is going to be much tougher, especially with a 50-50 split in the Senate. Biden is not going to get a honeymoon period. For example, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted this on Wednesday:

By rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden indicates he's more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh. This agreement will do little to affect the climate and will harm the livelihoods of Americans.

I'll disregard the fact that just two weeks ago, Cruz tried to block the certification of Pennsylvania's election results (including by voters in Pittsburgh). It just shows that Biden is going to get opposition on pretty much anything he does. Oh, I will write that it was fun to see Pittsburgh Twitter unified in their disdain for Cruz. If you ever follow Twitter during a Steelers game, you know that there is never any unity or agreement among Pittsburgh people.

Anyway, my point to this whole post is that the inauguration was nice, and I'm hopeful that Biden has a successful presidency. I wish him and Kamala Harris good health and good luck. 

Biden photo by Brendan Smialowski AFP. Harris photo by Getty Images.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Linked In

Enjoy links of articles and stories from around the world:

I’ve mentioned J.J. Hensley here before. As a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, he has some valuable insight about the security for Wednesday's inauguration. [J.J. Hensley]

This is a really cool story about Presidential candidate Barack Obama playing pickup basketball with the University of North Carolina men’s team. [The Athletic]

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres for a handful of prospects. The most significant prospect is 19 year-old outfielder Hudson Head who was a 2019 third round pick. I appreciate the Pirates getting an early 1990s sitcom, especially since the team was really good at the same time that the show aired.  [Pittsburgh Baseball Network]

I don't know what to write about this story about the U.S. government paying $3,000 a month to rent a toilet for the Secret Service staff to use in protecting Ivanka Trump/Jared Kushner other than it's amazing. [The Washington Post]

When I was in high school, I shared the stage with E. Clayton Cornelious in Lil Abner and Peter Pan. When I write "shared the stage," I mean we were both on the stage at the same time as he was a much, much, much better singer and actor than me (though you can judge my acting ability for yourself). Clayton has been performing on Broadway for years and was recently interviewed in Playbill. [Playbill]

Don't forget to click on the link to check out Dancing and Life which I wrote about last week. The 30-day New Year New You challenge is pretty cool. [Dancing and Life]

Finally, Congregation Rodef Shalom in Denver welcomed Reverend Timothy Tyler at a special Shabbat service on Saturday just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I highly recommend checking out the video starting just before the 50-minute mark. [Rodef Shalom Facebook page]

Oh, I almost forgot that I have a referral available for LearnedLeague, the greatest trivia league in the land. If you're interested in trying a season, please let me know. [LearnedLeague]

Friday, January 15, 2021

Joanne Rogers

Joanne Rogers passed away on Thursday at the age of 92. You may not recognize the name until you realize that her husband was the late Mr. Fred Rogers. I spent some time last night watching videos of her, primarily discussing Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood for the terrific documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? I've included some of these videos below. I also encourage you to check out her obituaries in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Washington Post. She had an amazing life and certainly had her own accomplishments. I don't have any personal stories to share about Joanne Rogers. With the craziness of the world, there's just something comforting and refreshing in hearing her speak and seeing clips of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. 

I do want share some other thoughts that I saw online.

From Ya Jagoff 

So glad we had a chance to cross paths with you. Rest in peace. The neighborhood will miss you.

From Virginia Montanez (AKA Jane Pitt)

Many trying to figure out why our sadness at the death of Mrs. Rogers is hitting us so hard. It's because she has always been so wonderful at carrying on the legacy of Fred that she felt like one of our last tangible links to him. So we are mourning two people at once.

From my friend J:

So sad to hear the news of Joanne Rogers' passing. I was privileged to have gotten to know her while working at the PSO (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). My favorite memory is being with her in Europe for 10-days on our patron tour in 2017. She said her dream was always to hear the PSO in Europe and I am so happy to have been there with her for those concerts. Our world is a better place because of her.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Dancing and Life

For many years, I've wanted to be part of a campaign and to be an influencer. I get occasional offers from companies to subtly or not-so-subtly include a link to a website in a post. Some are fine and I accept. Others seem a little sketchy, so I decline. These have always been one-time posts and are designed to feel organic though that's not always the case.

So this is very cool. For the first time, an organization picked me / Sean's Ramblings to be an influencer for their campaign. And that organization is Dancing and Life, which provides free and premium training and coaching to help you overcome crises and live your best life. I think we can agree that we can all use that right now. Dancing and Life teaches you the power of movement and dance to help you feel better. This is rather simplistic, but in my mind, when I hear It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock or Groove Is In the Heart by Dee-Lite, I want to dance, and I immediately feel better.

Obviously, Dancing and Life is much more than this. The first step is to take a 3-minute quiz about what inner strength will help you through a crisis. It sounds much more intimidating than it is. In case you're wondering, I am a strong inner healer. According to the quiz results, the traits that make me great in a crisis is that I'm relationship-oriented, empathetic, committed, selfless, and tolerant. This is right on the money. Famous people that are also strong inner healers include Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, William Shakespeare, and Taylor Swift. I also say how much Oprah, Taylor, and I have in common, and this proves it!

Then, join the free Dancing Through Crisis 7-Day Challenge led by Saje Flow. What an awesome name. By the way, Saje did a monster livestream to kick off this initiative on Monday. If you're interested, you can check out my appearance at the 9:52 mark. Not 9 minutes and 52 seconds. The 9 hour and 52 minute mark!

Saje has so much energy. I'm jealous of his flowing hair too. I might be getting off topic. Check out the videos on the 7-day challenge. This is all free. There is some premium content after this, which is completely optional. The website also has plenty of information and can answer any questions you may have.

Plus, Saje is doing a 30-day New Year New You Transformation. Please check out my Facebook page to see what this entails each day.

I think that's it. I'm doing this, and I'm being an influencer, so I hope that you've been influenced. 

Update 1/17: I mentioned this just briefly in this blog post, but I am posting a new challenge or message every day during the 30-day New Year New You Transformation on my Twitter and Facebook pages. For example, on Thursday, the challenge was to share your wish for the year. (I included that it should be something personal to you and not the end of COVID or a safe and peaceful inauguration since everyone wants there.) You can share it with everyone else on my or your social media or just keep it to yourself. 

Update 1/28: The day #18 challenge was to share a brief video of you "raising the roof" and proclaiming to the world one thing you've learned this week or that you achieved today. I guess I'll pick the what I achieved today option. I finished writing a blog post, finished something I needed to get done for work, helped my older kids with math, and participated in a dance challenge (more on this in a separate post). Plus, I get to include this gif.

Update 2/5: The day #26 challenge was to share a video of yourself looking into the mirror when you wake up in the morning, and saying, "Thank you and I love you." All I could think of was the picture of Alex Rodriguez about to kiss himself in the mirror. 

Update 2/7: One of the challenges is have "me time" by going somewhere into nature like a beach, park, or even your backyard and sit in silence for 5 minutes with your phone off. Then, you should write what came up for you. Unfortunately, this is one that I can't do. Just too much going on in my life. There is not any time for me time. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

State of the Ramblings

My blog officially turned 16 years old. It can now drive, or at least go and take the driver's test depending on the state. Or in my case, maybe my blog will be given the school bus driver's permit test at the age of 16 even though I did not go to the DMV to take the school bus driver test. Amazingly, I don't think I ever shared this story in the 16 years of Sean's Ramblings. I mean, there's not much more to the story than that. My mom was really disappointed that I failed the permit test, and I tried to explain that some of the questions weren't in the book. When I mentioned to my driver's ed teacher about the questions, he told me that I was given the bus driver exam. I just thought the DMV had some type of theme to the test. When I went back to the DMV to retake the test, I asked several times to make sure that I didn't get the bus driver test again, and they didn't believe me when I said that I got the wrong test the first time.

Okay, I'm getting way off topic here. The last 12 months have certainly been awful. Well, at least the last 10 months. My dad passed away in March, and the funeral took place right before things shut down due to COVID-19. I've spent nearly all of my time at home or on my street since I returned home from the funeral. Between the pandemic, the state of the country with protests and the election, and The O closing, my blog has covered a lot of heavy topics over the last year. That makes sense when I can't write about going on vacation or attending concerts or sporting events. 

There were some fun posts though. My favorite posts are usually collaborations like when I got predictions from cool people about the 2020s decade and the 2020 election. I also wrote about Cameo, answered 45 questions about turning 45 (though I only answered 33 questions), shared my life in pictures, and really enjoyed reliving the songs of 2000. Oh, I also went viral after last year's Super Bowl halftime show.

While I know that I complained about my kids in posts (and definitely more not in posts), I'm sure that I'll look back one day and be grateful for the amount of time I spent with them over the last year. Before it started getting cold, we played outside nearly everyday. We went on hikes and played football, baseball, or soccer constantly. Inside, there are regular games of Yahtzee and other board games. 

So what's next for Sean's Ramblings? Well, the next 12 months have to be better than the last 12 months. I have friends in the medical community who have started getting vaccines as have some older relatives. (I'm not writing that they're old. They are just eligible to receive the vaccine.) Eventually, I'll get the vaccine too and hopefully there will be some sense of normalcy again. I miss writing about concerts and trips and various activities with my kids. I want to write about more fun things. After a year of many heavy posts, I want to be more positive. For example, maybe I can write about Pittsburgh sports teams doing well. Okay, I don't want to get too crazy here.

As always, thanks to all of you for reading this post and any other posts I've written over the last 12 months or 16 years. I've written before that this is like a journal for me, but I still like when people read it and provide their thoughts and opinions on posts.

Oh, I've also done these state of the ramblings posts for years. Please check out those from, say 2008, to see what I wrote and if it holds up.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday Video: Monsters & Kings & Queens

In my best and worst of 2020 post, I awarded The Weeknd's Blinding Lights as my song of the year. There are two songs that emerged late in 2020 that received some consideration, and I figure now is as good a time as any to share them. I mean, there's nothing else going on in the country.

The first is Monsters by All Time Low featuring blackbear and Demi Lovato.

They were on Good Morning America too (without blackbear and Demi Lovato).

The second is Kings & Queens by Ava Max, which I really thought was by Lady Gaga the first time I heard the chorus.

I have some Ava Max trivia for you.

What is Ava Max's favorite streaming service? HBO Max.

Where does Ava Max like to shop? TJ Maxx.

If Ava Max was alive in the 80s, what type of video cassette would she have used? Betamax.

Who is Ava Max's favorite pitcher? Scherzer, Max.

Where does Ava Max look for used cars? CarMax.

I'll be here all year!

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Blame Donald Trump

There are times when I write about major events because I want to preserve my immediate thoughts about them for the future. This is one of those times. What happened today was a disgrace. It's disgusting. It was a terrorist attack on the Capitol and our country. It's an attempted coup. And this is all on Donald Trump.

So here's what happened over the last few months. The Presidential election took place on November 3rd, It was a close race, particularly in several battleground states. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and our country's terrible response to it, many people cast ballots early and/or by mail. Therefore, the results weren't completely tallied for days or weeks after polls closed. At the end, Joe Biden was elected President of the United States. Trump wasn't happy with the results and claimed that there was widespread fraud. 

Apparently, the same Democratic party who couldn't get a Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland in the Senate pulled off the greatest electoral steal in history. And in doing this incredible heist, they somehow lost House seats to Republicans and only won the Senate (based on the Vice Presidential tie-breaker) thanks to the two Georgia run-off elections just yesterday. (That was only yesterday!?!?) There were recounts and audits, but each of these close states that went to Biden certified the results.Trump and his allies filed 62 lawsuits about the alleged fraud and lost 61 of these cases. 

Every other politician in American history would have conceded at some point during this time. They would have done this for the sake of the country. Not Trump. No, he had to keep fighting despite losing at every turn. Trump encouraged his supporters to attend a rally in DC today and this is what he said at the rally:

"We're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you. You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

Of course, he went back inside the White House because he would never want to spend time with "commoners." Meanwhile, his supporters tried to "take back" the country.

Hours after terrorists invaded the Capitol and with at least one person wounded (who ended up dying), Trump gave one of the most despicable performances in Presidential history. He told these terrorists that "We love you" and that "You're very special." This is the video. (Well, part of the video since the original got deleted.)

I'm getting more and more angry. Even after this video and saying that he wanted peace, Trump resisted calling the National Guard for assistance. He called NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem "sons of bitches," but apparently he's fine with the Capitol building being invaded for the first time since the War of 1812.

Look, nothing is going to happen to Trump. There's talk about invoking the 25th amendment or impeaching him, but his term ends in two weeks. He's out. He's not going away, but he's out of power. He didn't break any windows at the Capitol building or take over Nancy Pelosi's office,* so he won't get charged with anything. However, Trump is going to be busy once he leaves office. All of these lawsuits that have been on hold during his presidency, including the tax evasion one in New York, are going to start going through the judicial system. He's not going to win 61 of 62 cases.

* I haven't heard anyone mention this since it really is a lower priority at the moment, but how many classified documents and materials from Congressional offices and computers were viewed and taken by these terrorists? 

The first photo is a screenshot from live coverage by The Washington Post. The other photos are by Saul Loeb/Getty. His gallery is amazing.

I'm including two links from The Washington Post here and here that show a detailed account of this day.

Random Ramblings: January 2021

Welcome to a new edition of Random Ramblings where I share various things that probably aren't enough for a blog post by themselves.

* I've been critical of blogs that only exist to provide sponsored content. I understand people wanting to make money. I mean, earning a living just by being a blogger is the dream! However, it seems to go against the purpose of blogging if there is such a thing. In my mind, blogs are supposed to be journals or about a specific topic. It should be about self expression or about something that you're passionate about. 

Anyway, part of my criticism is pure jealousy. I've written Sean's Ramblings for 16 years (more on that below), and I'd like to make some money from my blog too! Well, it looks like I'm finally getting that chance. I was just accepted to be an influencer for a campaign. Starting next week, you'll likely see a bunch of posts on my blog and on my Facebook page. If you like what I'm promoting, great. If not, that's fine too. I'll still have plenty of other posts about my life or the Grammys or my kids or something else.

  * A friend of mine who is a Cleveland Browns fan asked on Facebook where she could find a Browns Starter jacket. I joked that she could probably borrow one from Bernie Kosar. Turns out Kosar really does have a Starter jacket!    

* Over the last month or so, my three year-old son Luigi, my cat Ziggy, or both have woken me up in the middle of the night most nights. Ziggy will start playing with the blinds or banging on the bathroom cabinet doors to get me to give him more food even though he already has food in his bowl. I've found that picking up and putting him into my bed generally works to get him to stop. He'll stay for a few minutes before returning to the floor. Meanwhile, Luigi generally wants to come into my bed. If I'm really tired or it's close to the time I wake up, I just let him in. Otherwise, one of us goes with him back to his room until he falls asleep again.

* We leased a car back in March, and now 9 months later, we're driven it almost 2,000 miles. That's not a typo. I don't think there are any concerns of going over 36,000 miles by the time the 36-month lease ends.

* On Christmas Eve, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for two pitching prospects. Although Bell had a bad 2020 (like most of us) and isn't very good defensively, he was an All-Star in 2019 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs. Plus, he's still only 28. Maybe the trade will work out for the Pirates, but I do know that I'll miss Bell on the team. I hope that he does well for the Nats.

* I shaved for two consecutive days for the first time since (I believe) early November.

* My blog turns 16 in a few days, so please look for a State of the Ramblings post sometime soon. I have no idea what I'm going to write yet, but my team of speechwriters are on it!

Josh Bell photo by Mark Alberti

Monday, January 04, 2021

Sean Sees Sudden Death

25 years ago last month, the film Sudden Death starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was released in American theaters. I'm sure that some people may disagree with this, but the film is basically Die Hard at a hockey game/arena. And without the is it or isn't it a Christmas movie discussion. As someone born and raised in Pittsburgh, I am embarrassed to share that I never watched this movie even though it was filmed at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena. Looking at the calendar, I know why I didn't see it back in December 1995 or January 1996. My grandmother had just passed away. And then I broke up with my first long-term girlfriend. Then I went back to college for the second semester and got caught up in classes, activities, friends, and my jobs. That doesn't explain why I didn't watch the movie until just a few weeks ago though. So with this introduction, I'm now going to share my thoughts about seeing Sudden Death!

First, there are going to be a lot of spoilers in this post. If you haven't seen this movie yet and don't want to know that Jean-Claude Van Damme ("JCVD") is a good guy and saves the day, then watch the movie and come back later.

JCVD plays Darren McCord, who is a fire marshall at the Civic Arena. He gets tickets for his two kids for game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. For no apparent reason, he's allowed to enter the Penguins locker room with his kids about an hour before the game begins. If he's there to do official fire marshall duties, fine, but you can't drag your kids along with you. Totally unprofessional on the part of McCord. I guess you can make the case that he's being a responsible parent to his elementary school aged kids by not leaving them alone, but game 7 of the finals is not take your kids to work day. Besides, he leaves the kids by themselves later, and his daughter gets kidnapped by the bad guys. Plus, it seems like his only purpose in going to the locker room before the game is to have the kids meet the players and to talk with Penguins player Luc Robitaille. There was no indication that he was performing any fire marshall duties. Let's just say that current Penguins coach Mike Sullivan would never allow this to happen!

My favorite part of the movie may have been hearing the late public address announcer John Barbero's voice again. 

I find it quite curious that defenseman Chris Tamer was on the ice to start the game. Was he part of the first-line pairing with Larry Murphy? I think it probably would have (or should have) been Norm Maciver or Ulf Samuelsson or even Fracois Leroux with Murphy.

Another fun memory was seeing "Foodland" advertised on the boards. Foodland was one of three main grocery store chains in the Pittsburgh area when I grew up along with Giant Eagle and Shop 'n Save. There was a Foodland close to my house that I went to regularly. Once I got my driver's license, my parents seemed to constantly send me there to pick up a few items. I also had several friends work there. According to their website, there are only 9 Foodland stores still around. 

At some point in the third period, the Penguins goalie Tolliver (basically Tom Barrasso, but the Pens goalie wouldn't let his name be used in the film) goes to the locker room completely by himself. No trainer, no equipment guy. JCVD takes his equipment and reenters the game. I'm not going to get into the plot here, but per the not suitable for work video below (the coach says a bad word), JCVD starts a fight in order to get ejected. While it doesn't seem like an extra penalty was assessed, the Pens should have been short-handed for the rest of the third period, really hurting their chances for a comeback. Pittsburgh sports talk radio would have absolutely destroyed Tolliver for this!

I've been to many hockey games in my life, especially when I worked a beer man for the first season of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ushers at NHL arenas, and especially at the Civic Arena, definitely would not have tolerated JCVD and the terrorists going through the stands while the game was in play.

The Penguins were down a goal with only seconds remaining in the game, yet somehow Luc Robitaille got past Chicago's defense for a breakaway and scored the tying goal basically at the buzzer. This has to go down as one of the worst defensive plays in NHL history. 

Again, not getting into the plot here, but the game suddenly stops in overtime and people start running to the exits. There is no winner of the game. When does game 7 resume? A lot of innocent people died, many of whom worked for the Penguins organization. It's going to take some time for the players and fans to be up for a game again. Plus, where does this game get played? There was some major damage to the ice and the Civic Arena. It wouldn't be fair to put the game in Chicago. The Penguins earned home-ice for game seven, but there isn't any other NHL-caliber rink in Pittsburgh in the mid-90s. Maybe they play in the closest NHL city to Pittsburgh, which would have been Buffalo.

Is Sudden Death a great movie? No. Is it entertaining? Sure, especially if you have any ties to Pittsburgh or are a Penguins fan. My biggest takeaway from the movie is the Civic Arena itself. I wrote a post about my Civic Arena memories years ago, but it was really nice seeing the building again on the screen.

By the way, I highly recommend Sean Gentille's oral history of Sudden Death on The Athletic