Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Penguins' new marketing campaign brilliant; could use more shirtless Crosby


The 09' Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins launched a new marketing campaign today in the form of a two minute video, with the theme "Deny Ordinary". While I thought it could use more shirtless pictures of the players (which I have kindly supplied above... you're welcome) , on the whole I have to say it was multi-faceted and brilliant, much as I imagine the Cup itself to be.

The video served the dual purpose of promoting both the city and the team, though the latter needs little introduction or promotion. The world watched two years ago as the Pens fell to the Detroit Red Wings in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Championship, after fighting to get there in the previous game, which Pittsburgh forced into 3 overtimes before finally winning (I didn't make it to work the next day...). The world watched again this year as the same two teams faced off in yet another final Championship series, this time waging war up and through game 7, this time with a different result. Pittsburgh won 3-2.

The video showed clip after clip of the Pens scoring throughout this past season's playoffs; through opponents' legs, ricocheting off the edge of the goal and in, and shot straight in untouched. It showed incredible Marc Andre Fleury saves made possible by splits (maybe he learned a thing or two from George W. Bush's cheerleading skills?). It showed opponents thrown into the glass and fist fights on the ice. And it showed the pinnacle of all those moments; team captain Sidney Crosby hoisting the Stanley Cup high over his head. I got chills reliving all the moments that, the first-time-around, had me on the edge of my seat and jumping up and down starting "Lets Go Pens!" chants.

Equally importantly, thought not as exciting, viewers are also treated to a quick glimpse of some of Pittsburgh's many gems. From the beautiful bridges, to local hot spots, to the university campuses and currently under-construction future Pens' arena slated to open in the fall of 2010, the Consol Energy Center (to replace the aging Igloo), those who watch see a beautiful city with much to offer. Viewers encounter the Penguin players hand delivering the game tickets to season ticket holders, a unique Pittsburgh practice that the viewers also have a chance to experience by submitting an entry for free season tickets at the end of the video.

It shows people like Pittsburgh native and now focus of a museum in the same city dedicated to him and his art, Andy Warhol. And it shows people who are rabid Pens fans like I am, decked head-to-toe in fan gear inside the arena and out where a large screen is set up for fans who don't have tickets to the game and need a place to watch, and where hundreds gather - rain or shine - and camp for hours to be near their team.

From a steel town and heart of the labor movement to a state-of-the-art national leader in the medical and robotics industries, the marketing campaign shows the many facets of the dynamic city.

To outsiders (read, non-Pittsburgh fans) the marketing campaign is an informative opportunity to better know the city. To those of us who know and love Pittsburgh and the Penguins, its a reminder of how great our team and our city are.

Pittsburgh is forced to defy old stereotypes that it is a dying, polluted, blue collar city with little to offer.

Last year, the Pens stood in defiance of those who wrote them off and didn't think they would make the playoffs (they were, after all, a long shot). They stood in defiance against those who doubted Crosby and Malkin could succeed against Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the playoffs, especially starting off the series down 0-2 games. They stood in defiance of those who saw them fall last year to the Detroit Red Wings who were convinced the same would happen this year as they began that series once again the same way they started with the Caps; 0-2. The fans stood with the signs "WE BELIEVE!", defying those who doubted us. The Penguins stood and defied all odds when they played game 7 in Detroit after having lost all previous away games in that series. They stood. And they won. Then they stood with the Cup above their heads, not just for the team, but for the fans and for Pittsburgh.

For an underdog city and an underdog team that just can't be kept down, the slogan "Defy Ordinary" means so much more than just that. Its a more politically correct way that Pittsburghers read as 'Defy the odds', 'Defy the expectations' and 'Defy what people say or think about you, your team, or your city.'


Get a first hand look at the video and marketing campaign here: www.pittsburghpenguins.com/defyordinary

Monday, September 21, 2009

Maybe the third time would've been a charm

[In perhaps his most effective moment of the game, Steelers' kicker Jeff Reed shoves Bears' wide receiver Johnny Knox out of bounds on a kickoff return. Photo from ESPN.com]


I feel like my boyfriend just punted my cat, dumped me, and broke my heart... and that boyfriend is Steelers' kicker, Jeff Reed... and he honest to God may as well have been using my cat in place of a football because it'd have been just as accurate a kick...

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the Chicago Bears yesterday 17-14, as the result of two missed field goal attempts by #3, Reed, that he sent soaring wide-left.

The Steelers, still sans Troy Polamalu out on a knee injury, needed to be on top of their game against the Bears with their shiny new quarterback, Jay Cutler, who played a great game, going 28 completions for 37 attempts and 236 yards, and looking every bit the star Chicago hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Denver Broncos this year.

Ben Roethlisberger also looked strong, going 23 for 35 resulting in 221 yards. The consummate passer and not at all known or praised for his running ability (basically the opposite of former Steelers' QB Kordell Stewart who effectively ran the ball nearly as often as he threw it), he tricked the unsuspecting Bears' defensive line with a QB keep play that resulted in a touchdown they neither saw coming, nor covered.

'Fast' Willie Parker had better games and gave a lackluster performance, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, while Rashard Mendenhall had 3 impressive carries totaling 39 yards. The Steelers' rushing game produced almost double the yards of the Bears' Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson.

Even the Steelers' passing game out-ranked the Bears' 140 yards to 111.

Then, the weak link became apparent. Reed missed a kick from the Chicago 20-yard line with 11:42 remaining. Everyone misses sometimes.

He missed another with 3:23 remaining in the then-tied 14-14 game. Now this was getting ridiculous.

The mistake turned out to be one the Steelers could not afford to make against Cutler, who lead the ensuing eight play drive, completing all four of his passes.

The Steelers' fate was sealed when Bears' kicker Robbie Gould succeeded where Reed had failed, successfully making a 44-yard field goal with only 11 seconds left in the game. The resulting kickoff and Steelers' last hope, was caught and then fumbled by Stefan Logan... we could've done without that. Pittsburgh fans would have been upset about it, if not already beside ourselves at the Reed situation, which left us with little indignation to direct toward Logan.

The whole debacle is summarized best on the Steelers' official website; www.Steelers.com, "Make the kick and you're a hero, but miss it and you're the goat." Reed effectively lost the game two times Sunday.

I've always been, and continue to be a Reed fan. Two years ago at the Steelers / Redskins preseason game, I sat in the front row, 30-yard line (Steelers sideline, of course - as with every one of their games i've ever attended), cheering (definition used loosely... more like badgering) our players with various exclamations including but not limited to "Go Steelers!" "I love you!" and "I want to have your babies!", and Reed came up to me after half-time and personally handed me a football he had signed "Jeff Reed #3 =) ".

Suffice to say, nothing could turn me into a Reed-hater or a fair weather fan. However, missing TWO field goals in one game when the game is close and you play for the best team in the NFL is unacceptable and fully warrants the criticism he is now receiving. With Reed's high standards for himself, I'm sure he'd agree.

Reed is an exceptionally talented kicker who has made 82.7% (162 of 196) of his field goal attempts entering the '09 season, including completing the last 14 of his postseason field goals. He has kicked career-best 51 yarders three times, and with stats like that, it remains a mystery as to why he was unable to complete either of the 38 and 41 yard attempts, respectively, in the Bears game.

Reed even described the field goals as "makeable" (Steelers.com), and Steelers fans, we describe missing two of those as inexcusable. We can only hope this was a fluke and that our beloved and reliable Reed was just having an off-day. A Super Bowl caliber team absolutely must be able to depend on their kicker, so Reed needs to brush his shoulders off and step up.



[Side Note: No animals were punted or in any way harmed in the writing of this post, and I do not condone violence toward animals]

Devine's speed foiled by own QB's failures: WVU vs Auburn


After a lightning-laden torrential downpour delayed the start of the WVU / Auburn game for an hour, things got off to a fast and, for the Mountaineers, promising start.

In their first drive of the game, WVU running back Noel Devine, lucky number 7, scored a 1 yard touchdown on the heels of a huge pass which got the ball to the first-and-goal range. Minutes later, Devine scored again with a 71 yard run. The speed with which he evaded and straight up out ran the Auburn players on this play and throughout the night looked like the would-be outcome of a Shaq versus Ubain Bolt race. It reminded me of watching Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor when he played for Jeannette High School, where his QB keep running plays resulted in touchdown after touchdown and looked like he was playing against elementary school kids.

By the end of the first quarter, WVU still lead 21-10, and Auburn had virtually tied the game at 21-20 by halftime. WVU resolidified their lead thanks again to Devine, who ran another touchdown, this time for 12 yards, on a third-and-short play. They missed their extra point, however, which was one of a string of errors from which the Mountaineers could not recover. The missed point left Auburn in a position to tie the game on an 82 yard pass by QB Chris Todd.

Unfortunately, Devine and his 128 rushing yards were the only thing the Mountaineers brought to the table Saturday night. Auburn went on to win, 41-30, thanks largely to four interceptions thrown by WVU QB Jarrett Brown, and another by second string QB Geno Smith; all this and more leading to a total of six Mountaineer turnovers.

Despite the fact that WVU had a few more passing yards and first downs, more than double the rushing yards, and more time of possession, you just can't win when your playing is that sloppy.

The turnovers nullified anything good the Mountaineers had done, and even Devine couldn't outrun his team's mistakes. I bet he wished the game was rained out... as a Mountaineers fan who watched the game at a house party with 2 fellow WVU fans and roughly 12 Auburn fans, I know I did...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Steelers trump the Titans : a lesson in "sports karma"


I'd call it a clash of the sports 'Titans' if one of the teams involved weren't already named that, having the potential to result in some serious confusion. Instead, lets say that two of this season's predicted top contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans, met Thursday night to kick off the NFL season.

The Steelers won 13-10 in overtime, Polamalu-less (due to a knee injury he sustained earlier in the game which is predicted to put him out for 3-6 weeks) thanks to Roethlisberger's talent and use of a no-huddle offense, and the reliability of the formula: Football + Reed's Toe x upward velocity = 3.

The purpose of this post isn't to discuss my opinion of the game, but rather to discuss my theory of sports karma.

The idea of karma is that one's actions determine their destiny. What goes around comes around. If you do bad things, bad things will happen to you, and if you do good things, good things will happen to you. My favorite example is the story of Hercules involving Diomedes. Diomedes raised flesh-eating horses and was ultimately killed by being fed to those same horses; the evil you put out into the world will come back on you.

Sports karma is the same concept. Unsportsmanlike conduct will come back to haunt you. Last year the Shitans [sic] made quite the showing of stomping on and blowing their noses in the Terrible Towel, a cherished Steelers sports symbol and fan favorite, after winning a game over the Steelers.

In Thursday night's game, the first time the Steelers and Titans clashed since the terrible (pun intended) incident, which was a more-or-less even matchup between two very skilled teams, the Titans hubris did them in. Sports karma.

The same happened in '07 after the Patriots cheating scandal was uncovered. While they went on to a 16-0 season ("This won't stand long. God won't let it stand this way long." -Renee Zellweger / Cold Mountain), they lost the Super Bowl to the Giants with only 30 seconds left. Patriots, 0, "Cheaters never prosper" addage, 1.

In game 6 of this past season's Pittsburgh Penguins / Philadelphia Flyers NHL playoff matchup, the Pens started down 0-3. When things seemed bleak, Fedotenko managed to score the Pens' first goal of the game with 4:35 left in the 2nd period. He threw his arms in the air to celebrate his first playoff goal in five years. As he bent down to pick up his stick, Flyer defenseman Braydon Coburn knocked him to the ice, which, in traditional hockey-style, lead to a full-on good-old-fashioned brawl. As a firm sports karma believer, I knew the ramifications of Coburn's cheap hit. We were gonna win this. End of story. The rest of the game was a flurry of Pens' goals. Five in a row, to be exact. Pens won the game 5-3, and the series 4 games to 2 that night.

Sports karma assisted the Penguins again in their series against the Washington Capitals when, in game 4 of the series, Alex Ovechkin injured Penguins' Sergei Gonchar [a former Caps player and Obitchkin [sic] teammate] in a knee-on-knee hit. Currently living in DC, I told my Caps-fans-friends they had just sealed their own fate with that low blow. The Penguins won the series in 7 games. Don't mess with Pittsburgh.

At the end of the day, I truly believe in life you should be a good and kind person and in sports a good and sporting player. If these past examples and Thursday night's game are any proof, it matters.

Monday Night Football = a disappointment


As a Steelers fan, I adamantly hate both the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. However, my instinct for self preservation causes me to hate the Shitriots [sic] more, as they are the better team. For this reason, on this particular night I found myself rooting for the lowly Bills to trump one of my most-hated teams in the NFL lead by none other than the perpetually hoodie-clad Bill Bellicheat [sic] and the Anti-Christ of football / pregnant-girlfriend-abandoning Tom Brady.

I was actually tossing around a football in the backyard with my father until there were about 2 minutes left in the first quarter. We came in and as we turned on the tv, he predicted a 13-3 Patriots lead and I predicted a 7-0 Bills lead [a score admittedly, against all odds, but one I adhered to resolutely as a perpetual sports optimist]. Lo and behold, the Bills were up 7-0. This caught our interest because the Bills leading anyone who isn't the Detroit Lions is newsworthy. We glued ourselves to the couch. Game on.

The rest of the game we were shocked to find the Bills not only held their own, but were actually in the lead as the result of a Patriots' missed field goal, Brady sack, and Bills interception, among other things. The game stats at halftime showed the Bills being outrun, out thrown, out third-down-conversioned, nearly 2-1. If I were a fan at the game, however, I would have completely ignored all this and resorted to the chant referring to the only stat in the Bills favor, and the only one that ultimately matters, "Scoreboard."

A firm believer in sports karma [see the Patriots cheating scandal in which they were caught red handed using electronic methods to steal signals and monitor other teams, thus making all their previous accomplishments null and void in my eyes], I really believed the Bills could pull this off. It seemed like that thought could become reality as Brady threw a touchdown with approximately 3 minutes left in the game, and the Patriots failed to make the seemingly-necessary two point conversion, leaving them trailing The Bills by 5 points, 19-24...

All Buffalo had to do at this point was not screw up...

All Leodis McKelvin had to do was return the punt and hold onto it...

This is why Buffalo and Leodis McKelvin can't have nice things...

I shalln't rehash the remaining time in the game. Suffice to say the next few moments in my household were loud, expletive-laden, and scared the dog from the room. The Patriots pulled off a 25-24 win, beating Buffalo for the 12th straight time...

Terrell Owens, the Bill's newly acquired wide receiver (who was only thrown to 3 times) stormed out of the locker room after the game. Not that he's exactly known for his sportsmanship, team spirit, or friendly demeanor, I would have too, a la - "I'm taking my ball and going home! Hrumph!"

Perhaps my father summed it up best when he stated, "Thats why they're the Buffalo Bills. And they're the New England Patriots." Thank God I'm a Steelers fan.

Kanye West apologizes: Time to forgive


Tonight, West gave a genuine and heartfelt apology on Jay Leno for his actions re: the Taylor Swift incident at the MTV Video Music Awards. For those who missed the incident, you can read and view it here: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1621389/20090913/west_kanye.jhtml . Its worth noting separately that later in the VMAs when Beyonce won "Video of the Year" for "Single Ladies", she graciously called Swift up on stage to share in her moment.

I was very impressed with the sincerity with which West spoke. At one point he almost reached tears as Leno asked him what his mom would say about it. It's time for everyone to forgive a good person who means well who made a mistake.

This public televised apology followed upon the heels of his blogged apology in which he wrote, "I'M SOOOOO SORRY TO TAYLOR SWIFT AND HER FANS AND HER MOM. I SPOKE TO HER MOTHER RIGHT AFTER AND SHE SAID THE SAME THING MY MOTHER WOULD'VE SAID. SHE IS VERY TALENTED!"

He made a mistake out of adoration for a fellow artist and friend, Beyonce, not to ruin the moment for Swift. The damage, admittedly, was done. As Jane Austen wrote in Pride and Prejudice, "Without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error and there may be misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people's feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business."

And for this reason, an apology was needed. West apologized. It is time for the rest of us to forgive. Life is too short to be pissed off all the time. [American History X] The Bible says to forgive your enemies and those who trespass against you. Its doubtful many of us have room to judge another for thoughtlessly doing something that resulted in the unintentional hurt of another.

West is a good man who tries to do good things and say what he believes and he isnt above admitting a mistake and apologizinig. Time for the rest of us to move on.