Pittsburgh

Over the last two decades, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have become accustomed to losing. The Pirates compiled a losing record in each of the past 20 seasons, which is the longest losing streak in U.S. professional sports.

To say the least, things have been bad for Pirates fans.

But the Bucs’ fortune seems to have turned this season. They not only achieved their first winning record since the first George Bush held office, but they even made the playoffs.  

And Pirates fans have gone rightfully insane.

The crowd of 39,441 at the Bucs’ first round National League Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Reds was the largest in the history of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, and the rowdy fans helped propel the Pirates to victory. The crowd was chanting so loud that it caused opposing Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto to give up a second inning home run to Russel Martin, pushing the team to a 6-2 victory.

After Pittsburgh’s first playoff win in over two decades, one Pirates die-hard, Dean Pasztor, stripped to his underwear and jumped off the 40-foot Roberto Clemente Bridge in a very interesting form of celebration.

After their big win, the Pirates advanced to the National League Division Series, where they hold a 2-1 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

As the Pirates advance deeper and deeper into the playoffs, the fans are sure to only get rowdier.  The fan base has stayed strong and united despite becoming the laughing stock of all professional sports over the past couple of decades, and those years of commitment are finally being rewarded.

Pittsburgh fans seem to believe that their team’s time to win has finally come, and they are doing all they can — and more — to make the most of it. Because really, out of all fan bases, the Pirates’ faithful fans know best that something this special doesn’t come around all too often.

The Winners and Losers after the NHL Trade Deadline

The NHL’s April 3 trade deadline is officially a day past us, and there was a flurry of action over the last 36 hours right before the deadline. Almost every team in the league made some kind of move, whether it was a buy or a sell. Here is a look at the biggest winners and losers after the madness.

The Winners:

Pittsburgh Penguins (28-10-0)

My goodness is GM Ray Shero aggressive. They were already arguably the best team in the league before they acquired skilled and physical winger Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames. But wow – look at their roster now. It’s looking more and more like the Pens and the Blackhawks are on a no-turning-back collision course in the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh also traded for Dallas Stars’ center and longtime captain, Brenden Morrow, in exchange for talented 19-year-old
defensive prospect Joe Morrow (no relation). My only concern for the Pens is their long-term flexibility. They gave away a boatload of prospects to acquire two aging veterans who likely won’t be around for too long. Sure they could win the cup this year (and even repeat next year), but I’m beginning to think the following four to six years could be a question mark.

Minnesota Wild (21-13-2)

They are a darkhorse contender in the west right now, but trading for Buffalo winger Jason Pominville bolstered their position pretty quickly. He’s another young, 25-point winger that will compliment Zach Parise and Mikku Koivu excellently. It was a great deal for the “State of Hockey.” The Wild only had to give up a backup goalie, Matt Hackett, and forward prospect Johan Larsson. They now have a bundle of tricky wingers with dangerous play-making ability, so watch out
Anaheim and Chicago. At their best, this team can now skate with any in the league.

The Losers:

Buffalo Sabres (14-17-6)

Alright, so you might be in the toughest division in hockey. You are miles away from any playoff hopes. What do you do? Trade your second leading scorer (Jason Pominville)?? This deal made absolutely no sense to me. There are two main reasons why this deal is a stinker for the Sabres. One – giving away Pominville removes a key playmaker on their top line, which only throws more burden on Tomas Vanek (who was single-handedly keeping them in it for the first two months).
Two – Buffalo absolutely did not need a goalie in this trade. Matt Hackett only has four starts this season anyway. Ryan Miller is the man between the pipes for this franchise, no questions. This is a disappointing end for a club that had high hopes for this season.

Dallas Stars (16-17-3)

Only for now. They scrapped a significant offensive portion of their team, but they got quality prospects in return from several different clubs including Vancouver, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Colorado. They are officially in rebuilding mode, which will take them 3-6 years to recover from but, hey, look how Edmonton is doing right now. They are focusing on the future. Check back in on them in a few years and you’ll see them near the top of the west, alongside Edmonton and Colorado.

Buyers and Sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline: Who could be on the move?

The NHL’s April 3 trade deadline is looming, and there are plenty of teams buying and selling. Here is a look at who should be the most active buyers and sellers, and which players could be on the move in the next few days.

The Sellers:

Calgary Flames (12-14-4)

They’ve been at or near the bottom of the West for a majority of the season, and though still alive in the playoff race, their realistic ceiling is the 7-8 seed – probably a first-round exit playing Chicago or Anaheim. So why not ship off 35-year-old winger Jarome Iginla to a legitimate contender and see what value you can get in return? Iginla is the most coveted Flame right now, and Calgary’s front office has fielded a number of calls about his status. I expect he’ll be sent east, probably to Boston. There have been rumors that Jay Bouwmeester is also available, but I think the Flames will hold onto him. He’s under 30, and one of the league’s most durable and complete defensemen.

Dallas Stars (15-14-3)

They just traded mainstay center and captain Brendan Morrow and a third-round pick to Pittsburgh for highly touted defenseman prospect Joe Morrow (no relation) and a sixth-round pick. But they aren’t done. GM Joe Nieuwendyk remains committed to retooling this team by developing youth and depth. On the Stars trading block right now is third line center Derek Roy, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Roy, 29, currently has 20 points (4 G, 16 A) and has reportedly rejected the Stars’ offer to re-sign him after this season, so they can either trade him and get some value or let him go for nothing. The Stars' asking price has been high – they are looking for a projected top six forward. Like Iginla, expect Roy to head east, as Dallas will probably try to get him out of its conference. Ignore the Jagr trade rumors. He is too important to the Stars, and he is expected to be re-signed.

The Buyers:

Boston Bruins (21-7-3)

They are on the hunt for almost any major trade out there. They are looking to take over that top seed in the Eastern Conference, and boy, will it be a dogfight with Montreal and Pittsburgh. Already an imposing and physical team I’m not sure they need someone like Iginla, but instead could really benefit from a flashy creator up the middle – someone like center Mike Ribeiro from Washington, who is rumored to be available. They have the prospects to dangle, so we’ll have to see what happens.

Ottawa Senators (18-9-6)

They’ve been in talks with Dallas about Roy, but are hesitant to give in to Dallas’ demands: a top six forward. But ever since defenseman Eric Karlsson went down with that nasty Achilles injury, they’ve been a little thin on the blue line. So maybe they look at a Jay Bouwmeester? But then again, Calgary will want a hefty return for him. Ottawa needs to make a move to compete with Boston and Pittsburgh, and it doesn't quite have the same level of prospects, so it is undoubtedly in the toughest position to negotiate.

Commercial success in the music industry is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, you’ve made it — hundreds of thousands, even millions of fans are now awaiting your highly anticipated next release. On the other, those very anticipations can have a crippling effect, as all of a sudden your art is created with other people’s expectations in mind rather than your own.

This is the all-too-familiar problem Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa finds himself battling on his sophomore major label release O.N.I.F.C. [Only Nigga in First Class], out Tuesday from Atlantic Records. After generating local interest — which eventually became national — with a series of mixtapes and independent releases, Khalifa rocketed to superstardom with the chart-topping Steelers anthem “Black and Yellow,” followed closely by his critically and commercially successful debut album Rolling Papers.

A motion picture role alongside Snoop Dogg followed, and now the 25-year-old MC must produce another hit on par with “Black and Yellow” in order to maintain his newfound popularity and relevance.

His first attempt is with O.N.I.F.C.’s lead single “Work Hard, Play Hard,” another Pittsburgh-centric anthem that does much to mimic his breakthrough hit. The production is massive and grandiose, with a steel mill drum pattern pounding over an ominous single-note bass line. The verse mostly consists of Khalifa bragging about how rich he is, while the chorus strives for something a little more profound: “The quicker you here, the faster you go / That’s why where I come from the only thing we know is / Work hard, play hard.”

The song works well enough, but ultimately lacks the intangible energy captured in “Black and Yellow” and the rest of Rolling Papers. The same can be said for O.N.I.F.C. as a whole; the production and guest appearances are on the money, but Khalifa lacks anything new to say as well as a new way to say it.

About 90 percent of the lyrics concern either the rapper’s love of smoking weed or his love of his own money. At 17 tracks and more than 73 minutes long, the album quickly begins to drag, with tracks like “It’s Nothin” and “Initiation” adding nothing new or interesting to the sonic portraiture.

A notable exception is “The Bluff,” featuring a guest appearance by NYC rapper Cam’ron. The song features a delicate, ethereal production that glides hazily over a slow jam drum pattern as the MC’s trade off verses. It’s about as close to “sensitive” as a song that revolves entirely around marijuana and hundred-dollar bills can get.

Two of the album’s best tracks are reserved for the very end. “Remember You” features a haunting chorus sung by alternative neo-soul singer the Weeknd, while “Medicated” closes the album out with introspective, reminiscing lyrics that finally reach beyond the shallowness that pervades the rest of the disc.

The delivery and production on O.N.I.F.C. reveal an artist who has just hit the big time and is trying to make it last. In order to do so, Khalifa would be wise to find more substantive subject matter to rap about the next time around.

Printed on Thursday, December 4th, 2012 as: Wiz Khalifa's repetitive lyrics disappoint

PITTSBURGH — Add seven swans, six geese and five golden rings to the list of Christmas gifts that cost more than they did a year ago.

And if you get all 364 items repeated throughout “The Twelve Days of Christmas” carol, you’ll pay 6.1 percent more this year, according to the so-called Christmas Price Index that PNC Wealth Management updates annually.

That comes to $107,300.

“The rise is larger than expected considering the modest economic growth we’ve had,” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC. He noted the government’s Consumer Price Index has risen just 2 percent in the 12 months before September.

Thrifty shoppers may find some reasons for cheer. Six items mentioned in the song haven’t gone up in price: maids-a-milking, ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping, calling birds, turtle doves and the partridge. The eight maids-a-milking still cost just $58 because the minimum wage hasn’t risen.

Twelve drummers drumming ($2,775.50) and eleven pipers piping ($2,562) might also be considered relative bargains compared to seven swans, which will set you back $7,000. Nine ladies dancing will cost you $6,294.03.

Dunigan said the 2011 drought caused the prices of some birds to soar, partly because of corn and other feed costs.

“The geese were up 29.6 percent, and swans were up 11 percent,” Dunigan said, adding that none of the gifts in the song went down in price this year.

The price of a pear tree is $189.99, an 11.8 percent jump from last year’s $169.99. Five gold rings jumped 16.3 percent this year, to $750, and three French hens are now $165, instead of $150.

The $15 partridge is the cheapest item, and swans the most expensive, at $1,000 each.

Last-minute shoppers who turn to the Internet will pay a bit more for the gifts. Buying one set of the core items in each verse costs $24,431 in traditional stores this year, but $40,440 online. Part of that difference is the extra expense of shipping live birds, Dunigan said, adding that Internet costs rose 1.5 percent compared to last year.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to compile the list. Some of its sources this year include the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Ballet Company.

Fantasy Frenzy: McCoy torches Cowboys to lead EaglesÂ’ NFL-best rush offense

 Week 8 of the fantasy season is now complete, so here are a few players that knew how to compete and those whose expectations they did not meet.

Hot

1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Quick: Name the NFL’s leading rushing team? Done guessing? Well I’m willing to bet that none of you chose the Eagles, a historically pass-happy squad that has had a change of heart in 2011, averaging a 179.9 yards on the ground. The bulk of those yards have been gained by a lightning quick second-round pick from Pittsburgh, LeSean McCoy. McCoy had been the best running back in football this season, averaging more than 100 yards a game, even before this weekend’s performance. He cut through the top-ranked Dallas run defense like butter for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions
Jahvid Best is hurt and that means someone has to get the carries in the Motor City. That person is Maurice Morris, who had a good game on Sunday as Best’s replacement, rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Morris, who is available in 86 percent of ESPN fantasy football leagues and should continue to see touches even when Best comes back to keep him healthy, is a solid pickup.

3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have always been known as a run-first offense, but they have an All-Pro quarterback behind center and they have decided that throwing the ball is the best way to win ball games, which makes Pittsburgh receivers viable fantasy options. While you will not be able to pick up the Steelers No. 1 option, a solid No. 2 is still available in Antonio Brown, who has had more than 10 points in each of the past two weeks and is the Steelers’ most targeted wideout. He is still available in 76 percent of leagues and is a solid wavier pickup this week.

Not

1. John Beck, Washington Redskins
Whenever your team gets shut out, it will be a rough week for the quarterback. For one that is competing for his job, it could be devastating. This is exactly the situation Beck is in after the Bills shutout the Redskins 23-0 on Sunday. Beck threw for only 208 yards and added two interceptions. After that performance, it remains to be seen if the quarterback carousel in the nation’s capital comes back to Rex Grossman this coming Sunday.

2. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Rookies will take their lumps and Gabbert took his on Sunday against the Texans. He threw for only 97 yards and two interceptions on a 10-of-30 passing performance in a 24-10 loss. The Jaguars’ league-worst offense was held to only 174 yards in this game.

Printed on Tuesday, Novemeber 1, 2011 as: McCoy runs over Cowboys, remains top fantasy player

Students wait across the street after being evacuated from building adjacent to the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus after a bomb threat was received Monday morning. Dozens of bomb threats over the past two months have students on edge and professors offering courses online.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Dozens of bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh, including at least four on Monday, have made professors start holding classes outside and forced security officials to put in new building access measures and offer a $50,000 reward for information.

Some students “are definitely afraid,” said Brian Haughwout, a junior who had one of his final exams changed to a take-home because of the disruptions.

“But I think just shutting down the university would be a mistake,” he said, adding that’s probably what the person making the threats wants.

The threats began in mid-February, at first targeting a landmark building at the center of campus. But in recent weeks numerous buildings have been threatened. Four threats had been made by mid-afternoon Monday, starting at about 4 a.m.

Student Dawn Diehl, who’s studying for a master’s degree in library science, said it wasn’t until a few days ago that the bomb threats started to affect her in terms of “my feelings of security.”

“So now it’s pretty alarming,” she said. “We’ve never had an experience like this. I kind of have that feeling like, where’s this going to end?”

Diehl was surprised Monday to find all but one door to the main library locked and everyone’s bags being searched.

Under new security measures, students and faculty members will need school IDs to get into buildings.

Non-residents won’t be permitted in dormitories.

University police, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service have said they have a person of interest in the investigation.

Authorities say some of the threats have been traced to or through computers in Austria, but nobody has been charged with making them.

Fifth-year chemistry student Brian Graham said the first threats were written on walls in buildings and he hoped security officers would catch the perpetrator. But, he said, threats then started arriving by email.

“I think it’s a little bit more nerve-racking,” Graham said of the latest wave of threats. “I have to either stay later or come in different hours. I would be about to leave home, and then there’d be a bomb threat.”

Graham says he’s confident that Pitt officials are doing what needs to be done to protect students and find the person responsible.

“It seems that they’re taking all the appropriate steps,” he said.

The threats have caused some professors to move classes outdoors or offer them online and have led some students to stay off-campus. The university, located a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh, has about 3,800 full-time faculty members who serve 34,000 students.

The university is urging faculty members to make arrangements for students to make up classes or exams missed because of evacuations, but it says there are no plans to end the semester early.

No bombs have been found, and nobody has been injured, but police say the building evacuations will continue if warranted. There have been about 25 threats targeting numerous buildings, with some of those threatened multiple times.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton in Pittsburgh issued a statement Friday commending Pitt’s response and confirming the threats “are being vigorously, aggressively and thoroughly investigated through every possible mean” by the region’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the campus police and FBI.

Column

Head coach Mack Brown celebrates the Longhorns 49-20 win over UCLA on Saturday. His team will remain in the Big 12 for now.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Mack Brown may get what he wants after all.

The longtime Longhorns head football coach has repeatedly expressed his desire to keep the Big 12 Conference intact and maintain regional rivalries. That seemed less and less likely with the Pac-12 Conference becoming a probable destination for Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. But after Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s announcement that his conference won’t expand, the Big 12 could be saved in the 11th hour yet again.

Even if Missouri follows Texas A&M into the SEC, the Big 12 won’t be beyond salvaging. The Big 12 has proven it can make things work with 10 teams but may soon be stuck with eight. Fortunately for the Big 12, the Big East is in an even worse spot with Syracuse and Pittsburgh headed to the ACC (and Connecticut and Rutgers eager to join them).

The Big 12 needs to go after Texas Christian University and West Virginia. TCU is set to become a member of the Big East soon but would be a better fit in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs would make sense geographically and would quickly become one of the Big 12’s most competitive teams.

West Virginia, who was rejected by the ACC and SEC (possibly for academic reasons), clearly wants to leave the Big East for a more stable conference. The Mountaineers would, unlike TCU, provide another television market to explore, as well as great football and men’s basketball programs.

If either of those two teams isn’t willing to come to the Big 12, Louisville is also a viable option. But TCU and West Virginia would put another Band-Aid on the Big 12’s wounds and keep the conference around a bit longer.

Oklahoma’s recent demands for a new Big 12 commissioner and new rules regarding the Longhorn Network (which may be responsible for this whole conference realignment mess in the first place) could be problematic. But the Sooners lost all their leverage when joining the Pac-12 was eliminated as a possible destination. Problem solved.

The ACC is also a potential landing spot for Texas. It’s handled this conference realignment chaos beautifully by realizing it’s not a football powerhouse and playing to its strength: basketball. Look for Connecticut, whose men’s basketball team just won a national title, to join Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the ACC, along with Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish have made it clear they want to stay independent in football, but the ACC would be their first choice if they gave it up. The ACC should let them keep their TV deal with NBC, especially since Notre Dame meets its academic standards.

Texas is beginning to look more and more like Notre Dame now that it has its own network. And, like the Fighting Irish, the Longhorns could go independent. It would make scheduling difficult, especially for teams playing Olympic sports. So, like Notre Dame and the Big East, Texas would likely have to join a conference for its non-football squads to compete in anyway.

Only 24 hours ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Texas was going to the Pac-12. That’s no longer the case, but such is the nature of conference realignment. Just when you’ve finished packing your bags, you find out you’re not going anywhere.

You’re welcome, Mack.

Printed September 22, 2011 as: Big 12 to remain intact, Pac-12 says no to expansion

The Longhorns added a seventh member to their 2011 recruiting class with the verbal commitment of power forward Jaylen Bond on Tuesday afternoon. The Philadelphia, Pa. native, listed at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, made the announcement via Twitter, saying “Just committed to the University of Texas, thank God for this opportunity!”

Bond should compete for playing time immediately because of the early departure of Tristan Thompson to the NBA. He had initially committed to play for Pittsburgh in April 2010, but because of a scholarship crunch decided to de-commit this March to play at a prep school. At Plymouth Whitemarsh High School near Norristown, Pa., Bond averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks a game.

With the lack of depth in the Longhorn frontcourt, Bond could very likely become a key contributor to this year’s squad.

Although he is still technically committed to Pitt, Bond intends to enroll at Texas in the fall, and the Longhorns have until August 19 to figure out his eligibility. Pittsburgh still has to release Bond from the national letter of intent he signed in 2010 in order for the process to be finalized.

Printed on Thursday, August 4, 2011 as: Philly forward chooses Texas after breaking ties with Pitt

Defensive backs highlight draft for TexasÂ’ 2011 class with three corners chosen

Former Texas cornerback Aaron Williams looks to take a pick back against Rice earlier in the 2010 season. Williams was selected 34th overall in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

In some ways, it was an atypical year for Texas players in the NFL draft, but there was a familiar theme to the seven-round affair — UT is still the place to look for talented defensive backs.


Texas, which is colloquially nicknamed DBU, or “Defensive Back University,” by some, lived up to its moniker with three corners going in the draft. They helped the team rank No. 6 overall in pass defense last season.


In all, four young men made the official switch from Longhorn to professional over the weekend.


Former Texas cornerback Aaron Williams went first, to Buffalo with the second pick of the second round and 34th overall. Fellow corners Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown (no relation) also had their names called by Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively.


The program hasn’t had that many defensive backs in the annual summer draft since 2007. Michael Griffin, a safety, went to Tennessee, where he still plays, while corners Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown were also selected. Griffin and Ross both went in the first round.


In all, 12 defensive backs have been drafted from Texas to the NFL since 2000.


But it was also the first time since 2008 that Texas did not have a first-round pick. Limas Sweed went in the second round that year to Pittsburgh. Jamaal Charles, now the starting running back for Kansas City and the league’s second-leading rusher last season, was also in that draft class and went in the third round to the Chiefs.


Sam Acho was the other ex-Longhorn picked over the weekend, going to Arizona in the fourth round.


Six other former Texas players had hoped to be drafted but were not picked up as this went to print: receivers James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Michael Huey, tight end Greg Smith and defensive end Eddie Jones. They are likely candidates for free agency.