If you didn't know it by now, and even if you don't understand why it's there, a 40 foot rubber duck is docked near Point State Park for the next three weeks. Making its first appearance in North America, it will be an attraction for residents and tourists.
Hopefully, it doesn't symbolize the play of the Pirates and Steelers over the next three weeks.
The Steelers, who were lame ducks even before the giant, yellow bath toy docked in the Allegheny, are playing another duck in the Minnesota Vikings. Like Pittsburgh, the Vikings are 0-3, have dealt with key players getting injured and are across the pond trying to get their first win tonight at Wembley Stadium (this afternoon for us).
The Pirates, soaring like Eagles on this final road trip of the year, will play a meaningless game Sunday afternoon and return for the National League Wild Card game against Cincinnati at PNC Park Tuesday night in front of a standing room only sellout crowd on national television.
A big moment for this franchise. They haven't played a postseason game in Pittsburgh since October 11, 1992. Hopefully, the Pirates offense doesn't go lame duck with Cueto on the mound for the Reds and soar past them on the wings of Liriano.
Hopefully, the Steelers don't get their goose cooked in London (they like to eat geese over there, right?), and the Pirates make a victory formation towards the NLDS.
It was already bad enough that the National Football League is sending the Jacksonville Jaguars over to London for a game later this season and three more times through 2016.
Now the league is sending the Steelers and Vikings to Wembley Stadium to entertain the British masses this Sunday. The one thing nobody could predict was that both teams would be 0-3. It will be yet another boring game for those in England and fans of neither teams in the U.S. that get stuck with the regional coverage.
Since its inception in 2008, the International Series has come off as an attempt for the NFL to relocate a team (Jacksonville) or create an expansion team across the pond. The attempt, year after year, to make London look like the NFL hotbed of Europe, while doing nothing more but "Americanizing" the city for a week.
Pittsburgh and Minnesota might have liked this trip if they had two or three wins after week 3.
The Vikings are 0-2 in the NFC North, which included a tough 31-30 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field in week 2. Last week, they lost to the lowly Browns at home. The Browns! A team that was writing its own obituary for the 2013 season after trading Trent Richardson to the Colts.
The Steelers are probably worse off than Minnesota. The Titans, who gave up the most points in the NFL in 2012, almost held Pittsburgh to 2 points, that they gave them on the first play of the season. Losses to Cincinnati and last weeks turnover filled loss to the Bears, the Steelers are a team with no offensive line, no run game and a quarterback running for his life and from criticism, courtesy of Steelers Nation.
So don't expect anything other than a possible struggle between two teams dying to get a win under their belts before their bye weeks. It might be worse for London when the Jaguars play the 49ers on October 27.
It's something that people my age have never experience with Pirates baseball. Being nervous, hanging on every pitch and holding our breath right down to the final out. Meaningful baseball going into late September, the old folks call it.
Most of my life, that feeling has been featured for playoff games that the Steelers and Penguins have played in over the last 20 years. The "I can't look" moments coming with 6.5 seconds left in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, and the game winning drive in Super Bowl XLIII, when Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the far side of the endzone for the game winning touchdown with 35 seconds left.
That feeling was with me and probably a lot of Pirates fans last night when Jason Grilli took the mound at PNC Park Saturday night.
After watching the Pirates squander a three run lead on Friday to the Reds, with the help of errors by Jordy Mercer and Pedro Alvarez, you could not blame anyone for not looking when Grilli, who got his first save in that role since he returned from the disabled list, took the mound.
Giving up a single to Ludwick, the feeling of Déjà vu resurfaced in the standing room only crowd of 39,425 and those watching at home. A double play and game ending ground out to Barmes secured a 4-2 win, and most exhaled after not breathing for the whole half inning.
With seven games left, this week will be the most exciting and nerve racking one for fans as the Pirates try to take the first wild card and with some luck and help from the Cardinals opponents, they'll try to win the division to avoid the one game wild card playoff with Cincinnati.
Sunday's game with the Reds, three with the Cubs, and another three game series at Cincinnati will determine their spot in the playoffs.
It's "White Knuckle Week" in Pittsburgh.
Many will say to embrace it, enjoy every moment of this week and however long the Pirates are in the postseason. Remember, they haven't been in this situation in 21 years. Nobody can predict how 2014 will go.
I got nauseous when I saw the lines for Ohio State-Florida A&M and Miami (FL)- Savannah State this week. As I watch the Buckeyes almost put 60 up on the Rattlers before halftime, I want to vomit.
We all know the drill. FCS schools will take a nice paycheck from a big FBS school to come into their stadium, get steamrolled and go quietly into the night. Some schools (Appalachian State, North Dakota State) are exceptions at times and pull off a huge upset. With Florida A&M and Savannah State, the white flags are should be waving as the teams take the field.
Weeks 1 and 2 are the usual "get your butt kicked for a big check" weeks during the college football season. The fact that it extends into week 4 is troubling.
The Buckeyes have played Buffalo, San Diego State and California the first three weeks. So after having to play a formidable opponent out of the Pac 12, the charitable Ohio State slides the Rattlers of Florida A&M, (more known for a hazing death in the marching band than their football team) into their schedule for week 4.
Savannah State is making bank for their program. Last season, they lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State and a week later, went to Florida State, and lost 55-0, which was ended by mother nature's mercy rule: lightning.
The Tigers only scheduled one sacrifice this year down in Miami against a Hurricanes team on the rise. They are also 60 point underdogs.
We can't stop it. It will continue. But please! Make the madness stop after week 2.
Ohio State beat the Rattlers 76-0 and Miami (FL) is having a good time with Savannah State in the 2nd quarter 42-0 with four minutes to go.
After week 1 of the NFL season, it seems to be the time to overreact to what happened in your teams first game and other games across the league.
Here are ten reactions you had from week 1 of the season.
10. "Boy, What an Idiot"
The Tennessee Titans were the worst defense in the game last season and gave up the most points. So why not give the Steelers their first two points on a boneheaded safety in your first game of the season?
9. "Geno! Geno! Geno!"
The New York Jets are the Bad Luck Brian of the National Football League. First their superfan Fireman Ed quits, then the Thanksgiving "Butt Fumble" play defined Mark Sanchez's NFL career. So the Jets go out and get a quarterback in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft in Geno Smith, who did not receive high marks from many.
With Sanchez out, Smith took over and somehow found a way to win the game for the Jets on a last minute drive (with some help) to set up a field goal to top the Buccaneers.
8. "What do you mean everyone in the AFC North Lost?!"
Oh, the mighty AFC North. A division with a history of top dogs like the Steelers and Ravens making the postseason. Let's not forget the Bengals are the favorite to win it this year.
Well, Baltimore got slaughtered by Manning's Broncos, the Bengals lost a lead in Chicago and the Steelers looked terrible all around. The Browns, well, they are the Browns.
7. "Are the Giants TRYING to Lose?"
In a game the New York Giants could've won, they seemed to content finding anyway to lose the game at Jerry World Sunday night. They did it to the tune of six turnovers, three being interceptions from Eli Manning. For those fantasy owners with Manning, you were OK, especially since he threw four touchdowns.
6. "Faith Hill Was Way Better"
If you are man who loves professional football in this country, your Sunday has ended with football and the hot Faith Hill singing the opening song.
But NBC decided to retire "Faith Hilling" and bring in country star Carrie Underwood. Underwood is a wonderful talent, and like Hill, great to look at. The producer who suggested she wear Daisy Dukes deserves a raise and understands television ratings.
You may have enjoyed seeing Carrie, but you might've disliked her rendition of the song, which took a more country approach.
5. "Faith Who?"
To be fair to "Team Carrie," there were those of you saying this while watching the new opening for Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Country is the most popular genre of music in this country, but what do I know?
4. "Steelers are Going to Suck This Season"
In a game where the Steelers lost Larry Foote and Maurkice Pouncey for the season, and also played horrible offense all game long, Pittsburgh is looking at a depleted offensive line and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who might be running for his life this season (Seems to happen a lot).
The Steelers looked like an 8-8 team coming in. Now, many fans, who left the game at the start of the fourth quarter when their team was only down by one Sunday, are predicting more of a 5-11 type of year. Haley's hope of running the ball more may disappear faster than Maurkice Pouncey.
3. "The Eagles Offense Is Scary Good!"
Chip Kelly walked into a perfect situation in Philadelphia. Most first year head coaches have to deal with adjusting their new players to their playbook. Kelly was like a kid with a bunch of shiny, new toys in the Eagles with Vick, McCoy and Jackson.
It was shocking and for some revolutionary watching the Eagles put up 26 points as quickly as they did against the Redskins Monday night. The only thing missing is a new uniform design from Phil Knight every week. Although, much like Kelly's Ducks, they tend to forget to play defense at times.
2. "Why is Ryan Seacrest on My TV?! Why?!"
Football and Ryan Seacrest go together like liberal and conservative running mates. It makes everyone angry and nobody is happy.
Seacrest is everywhere, and thanks to Comcast owning NBC Universal (which includes E!), you will see him any chance the network gets.
The reception he got in Denver opening night was an accurate consensus that NOBODY wants Seacrest touching football coverage with a ten foot pole.
1. "My Team Is Gonna Be Great/Is Going to Suck in 2013"
The definition of overreacting is summing up your teams season after one week.
It's easy to label your team after just one game. But let us remember the 2003 New England Patriots, who got blown out in Buffalo to open the season 31-0. They went on to win the Super Bowl that season. New England might've went to Radio Shack and bought some new video cameras after that, but they rebounded from a week 1 loss.
If you live in Pittsburgh, you know that Steelers football can take on a religious tone at times. Especially since most spend at least eight Sunday's in parking lots along the North Shore before home games.
Along Ridge Avenue, in a lot two doors down from Art Rooney's original home, a tailgate conducts a sacred ritual in which virgins (Those who have never attended a live Steelers game before) are summoned to be baptized into Steelers Nation.
The ritual has grown over the years. This isn't the first time I've seen or taped this infamous event, mainly because the tailgate happens right across from ours.
It's evolved into a full Steelers Pope hat, and to be politically correct, the Rabbi Dave who dons a black and gold yamaka. The newest addition for 2013: An altar boy (Get those inappropriate thoughts out of your head right now).
A quick sermon, somewhat accurate quotes from Steeler greats and a blessing leads to the baptism of the "virgins" with holy water (Iron City Light: Pittsburgh's champagne beer). After the ceremony, you will walk out of the tailgate as members of Steelers Nation, while smelling of beer, just like most of the 65,000 in attendance.
It's all in fun. Although I think they were trying to sacrifice a Titans fan toward the end of the video. It might've helped in retrospect.
Whether or not you consider it a "rivalry," Michigan and Notre Dame holds a spot as one of the best matchups in the history of college football, that began back in 1888.
Two schools out of the Midwest, who seem like they have played each other every season since the inception of college football. They had hiatus, after hiatus over the 20th century, especially between 1944 and 1978, when the two schools stopped playing each other.
Both have a spot in the history of the game. Each have helmets that catch the eyes of millions and each have a well-known fight song. In fact, the Notre Dame Victory March was inspired by "Hail to the Victors." Even if Irish fans don't want to hear that.
Now with the Irish required to play five ACC teams per season on their schedule, we have had to say our week long goodbye to this matchup, in which these two have played 30 times in the past 35 years since the series began again.
Many will argue that Michigan has more to worry about with Ohio State and Notre Dame will survive with their rivalries with USC or Stanford, but with the schools, this matchup always fell in the middle.
Since the series came back in 1978, the current series is at a 14-14-1. Whoever wins the finale at the Big House Saturday can claim bragging rights in this era of the matchup.
Here are some of the best moments from the recent series in no particular order.
2009-2011: Denard's Dominance
Denard Robinson haunted Notre Dame in the first three years at quarterback for the Wolverines. Late game drives tortured the them as Robinson ran and threw all over the Irish. The last second drive at the Big House in 2011 had Irish fans reeling as Notre Dame went to 0-2 and wondering how they blew a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter.
2012: Denard's Last/Worst Stand
This was the last time Robinson would face the Irish, and it was the worst performance. Denard turned it over five times against the Irish and Notre Dame got a great performance out of Manti Te'o and the defense, leading to a 13-6 win. Thus, snapping their losing skid to Big Blue.
2005: Charlie and the Irish Pull Another Upset
With Charlie Weis being named the third coach at Notre Dame in a decade, the Irish were not expected to make a lot of noise. They crashed Pittsburgh's homecoming for new head coach Dave Wanndstedt, doubling up the Panthers 42-21 at Heinz Field.
The following week, a trip to the Big House against No. 3 Michigan saw Brady Quinn taking the No. 20 Irish down the field for two early touchdowns, and Weis' team held on 17-10.
1978: Reunited and It Feels So Good
For the first time since 1943, the Irish and the Wolverines meet in South Bend for a game. Michigan's 21 unanswered points beat a Joe Montana lead Notre Dame team 28-14.
1989: Double Rocket Launch
Rocket Ismail took two consecutive kickoff returns all the way to the house, in the Big House in 1989. The Irish won 24-19 and only threw the ball twice. It was Bo Schembechler's last game against the Irish as well.
1992: The Reggie Brooks "Unconscious" TD Run
The game ended in a tie, but Reggie Brooks was knocked unconscious as he crossed the goal line on a touchdown run.
(Sorry it's a couple days late, but I have a job).
Rejoice! The Pirates are guaranteed their first non-losing season since 1992. While the Pirates have won game 81 Tuesday night, Pittsburgh is on the verge of their first winning season in 21 years and are competing for a division title.
10. Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart"
Billy Ray's hit was sweeping the nation as the Pirates were in the start of a pennant run. There is no twerking. Miley picked that up somewhere else.
9. Nickelodeon had "GUTS"
This show had Mike O'Malley, Mo, an agro crag, and a glowing piece of the rock.
8. Tiger Woods Played in his First PGA Event
He was 16.
7. Gas was $1.13 a Gallon
You're used to seeing this at least once in these type of posts.
6. There was Still a Czechoslovakia.
In November of that year, the country split into two. The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Slovakia got Marian Hossa in the divorce.
5. Alabama won the National Championship
OK, sometimes things never change. It's the '92 team, and of course they played this game in January 1993.
4. The Mall of America Opened
Shopping on steroids. A sign of what was to come for baseball.
3. NHL Conferences Had Different Names
Oh, the good old days of the Wales and Campbell conferences. They became the Eastern and Western Conferences at the beginning of the 1992-93 season.
2. Bud Selig Became the "Temporary" MLB Commissioner
Nobody else wanted the job, so he's been there since.
1. And I.........Will Always Love You!!!!!!
Deep down, you always felt the same way about the Pirates. The song topped the charts late in the year into the early part of 1993.
Like Whitney Houston, the streak is now dead.
Nothing like watching the hero become the villain. Especially when it's a 20 year-old Heisman trophy winner entering just his sophomore year at Texas A&M.
Johnny Manziel went from Beaver Cleaver to James Dean before our eyes. A privileged kid who came from money, with exceptional talent to play at the highest level of college football, has been in the negative view of the public eye since he took home the game's highest honor back in December.
You know the story. The fancy car, the courtside seats at basketball games, hanging out at fraternity parties at Texas while donning a Tebow Jets jersey. Oh yes, Johnny Manziel is like a good number of young adults his age. Problem is, he's a public figure.
I was no angel at age 20. But I, like most of you, was an average nobody.
Manziel served his 30 minute timeout and then came out for the second half against Rice and made his presence felt. The "show me the money" hand gesture and taunting Rice defenders as he ran and passed all over the Owls in the second half.
An unsportsmanlike penalty and total disregard for his coach was yet another moment in Johnny Manziel, college football's rebel without a cause's career.
For those who found his behavior repulsive are also the same people who were hoping that he would not be suspended for the 2013 season, because they wanted to see him play (especially against Alabama). You know the old saying "You can't have your cake and eat it too?" Manziel will play against Alabama, but you can't expect him to behave.
Anyone on Twitter can tell you that Manziel was already trolling and responding to criticism over the offseason. So why wouldn't he do the same on the field?
He is embracing the role of the antagonist. Saturday afternoon was Manziel giving the finger to the NCAA and all the people who doubt him.
Eventually, he will cross the wrong person and pay for it. He got yanked by Sumlin for his actions against Rice. If that doesn't send a message, nothing will.
To paraphrase Harvey Dent "you can live long enough to watch yourself become the villain." For us, Manziel is becoming a villain that is too talented to look away from.
Last season, I did a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly of FCS schools going up against schools in the FBS in week 1 of the college football season.
Typically, FBS schools wave cash in front of FCS schools, in order to play a "tune up" game. Most of the time, these FCS schools will have a nice payday while getting spanked by 40+ points.
There was more good than bad and ugly compared to last season. That is if you consider the American Athletic Conference to still be a good conference.
As I said, a lot of good from FCS schools in week 1. Here are the ones who pulled off the upsets.
-North Dakota State beats Kansas State 24-21
Kansas State was close to playing for the BCS National Championship last season. They invite two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State to Manhattan and get embarrassed in what should have been a cake walk. No wonder the Wildcats are not ranked.
-Eastern Washington beats No. 25 Oregon State 49-46
You know Eastern Washington, right? They're the team with the red field. Take that Boise State. Also, they beat the Beavers, who enjoyed one week in the Top 25.
-McNeese State beats South Florida 53-21
This video was uploaded to YouTube to promote South Florida's 2013 season. Two things in this video didn't happen:
New head coach Willie Taggart wanted to fill Raymond James Stadium up to capacity and get everybody on board with Bulls football.
Around 35,000 people paid to watch McNesse State, out of the Southland conference from Lake Charlies, Louisiana humiliate his team by multiple touchdowns.
After that performance, the bus is emptying out, and it's about to drive off the bridge and into the Gulf of Mexico. Go Bulls?
-Towson beats Connecticut 33-18
As a former lax bro, I knew Towson as only a school with a lacrosse team. Then again, I only knew UConn as a basketball school with a football team on the side.
Towson plays in the CAA. the Huskies continue the departed Big East's tradition of losing to an FCS team. So the spirit of the old conference lives on in the new American Athletic Conference.
-Northern Iowa beats Iowa State 28-20
The Cyclones don't have a recent history of being upset by FCS schools. Their worst losses came back in 2008 against Kent State and UNLV, and those are FBS schools.
Should I even do the bad and ugly of FBS-FCS matchups? There was so much good this weekend, but let's push forward.
-Nicholls State losses to No. 3 Oregon 66-3
The bad part of this is more on Oregon for scheduling a team out of the Southland Conference that has gone 2-22 in their last two seasons.
The Colonels, from Thibodaux, Louisiana, could have given up over 80 points, so holding the Ducks high-powered offense to 66 points is a win for them.
It's games like this that reflect a weak schedule that Oregon plays. Come November, we'll hear the people of Eugene crying about how their school is getting screwed by the BCS.
-Elon losses to Georgia Tech 70-0
The Yellow Jackets love scheduling FCS schools as much as Oregon to kick off their season.
Elon is another Southern Conference casualty walking away from Atlanta with a big check.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
-West Virginia beats William and Mary 24-17
The Tribe of Bill and Mary had a 10-point lead at halftime in Morgantown Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers were able to find a way to win, but it might be a 5-7 type of season for West Virginia if they plan on relying on offense and playing quasi defense like last season.
They are off to Norman for a date with the No. 17 Sooners next week.