Monday, November 30, 2009

Concussions and toughness

I rarely agree with Ron Cook,Post-Gazette sports columnist, but in this case, I'm totally with him.

The NFL is finally taking head injuries as seriously as they truly are, and I'm really disappointed in Hines Ward for practically calling out his QB for not playing against the Ravens. We're not talking about Big Ben's sore pinky toe or a bruised rib. We're talking about the man's brain.

I've highlighted this in the past, but if you haven't read it, please read Jean Marie-Laska's GQ article on concussions in the NFL. It made me cringe and really see all of this game head-banging under a new light.

Depression sets in

The Steelers have dropped their third game in a row. My Monday mornings are beginning to feel more and more dreary by the week.

This is the fifth game this year the Steelers weren't able to protect a lead in the fourth quarter. All the games the Steelers have lost were close. They lost four games by only three points and one by six points. This means two things. One, the Steelers are really not a bad team at 6-5, but more frustrating is that the Steelers simply cannot win close games. They cannot seal the deal. That's ugly, period. Especially if there is any chance of going into the playoffs, I don't feel confident at all in this team winning even the first round. They are extremely talented and smart, but their minds are not in the game, especially when it counts the most.

Another scary stat is that the Steelers are 2-4 when Polamalu doesn't play and 4-1 this year in the games he starts. For one, it shows how valuable Polamalu is to this team, but it also shows how the rest of the defensive unit cannot seem to get the job done without him. This is supposed to be an 11-man unit. Polamalu should not count so much towards the wins and losses of a team.

Even more scary is the fact that this Defense has allowed 29 pass plays of 20 yards or longer, six of which were of 40 yards or more. Thats in only 11 games played. Last year, they allowed only 22 plays of 20 yards or more, two of which went for 40 yards or more throughout the course of the entire season.

The big plays have come against this defense way too often, and most of them seem to take place in the fourth quarter when the defense we know gets to the QB and forces turnovers or at least stops opposing offenses in their tracks.

I will say this, I'd much rather not see the Steelers in the playoffs this year than watch them blow games in the post-season in this fashion.

My heart simply cannot handle the stress. I'm 24 years old and my wife keeps finding more and more gray hairs on my head each week. I'm sure that's correlated (at least in part) to Steelers performances.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dixon gets a start

I thought it was a joke when I saw the PG headline read: "Steelers' Dixon to start against Ravens; Roethlisberger will serve as No. 3 QB"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens

The last time Rashard Mendenhall faced the Baltimore Ravens, he sent a text message to Ray Rice bragging he would have a big game against the Ravens D as a rookie. Just a few carries into the game, ILB Ray Lews broke Mendenhall's shoulder with a brutal hit.

The Steelers have always done a terrible job running against the Ravens in recent years, but that's because their defense have been able to contain Formerly Fast Willie Parker. This year, Fright Night (aka Rush Hard, aka Delicious) has been averaging a very respectable 5.1 yards per carry. The Ravens are not the defense they used to be, and even though they rank No. 5 in rushing defense, they have allowed 100+ yard games to Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson. I don't think Fright Night will break that mark, but I think that the team as a whole will.

If the Steelers lose to the Ravens things will be ugly for Pittsburgh. Both teams will be 6-5, but the Ravens will be ahead. Plus, this will be the third loss in a row for the Steelers.

On a positive note, however, I was watching the Mike Tomlin Show yesterday and Tomlin said he has all the confidence in the world in this team responding after a very, very ugly loss in Kansas City.

My biggest worry is Big Ben. Regardless of how our running game goes, Ben will be the key to our offense. If he has another bad day at the office, this will be an ugly game to watch. He'll be playing in a hostile environment after receiving a hit to the head in KC.

I have little doubt that the Steelers defense will show up. They always play great in prime time and especially when facing a team like Baltimore with a reputation of an aggressive and fierce D.

I do think Flacco will have some success because he's shown so much poise as a rookie last year. He will probably throw for more than 250 yards and can air it out like a pro. In this game, we have to absolutely avoid the big play. The secondary has to really step it up in a huge game where Polamalu will be missing. Without Polamalu the Steelers are 2-4 this year. It's about time the rest of the secondary step it up to fill that void.

Need your help readers!!!

Ever since starting photography at the Post-Gazette, I've started to become much more passionate about it. In Iraq, I wrote stories and a I took photos to match the stories, but in my mind I always considered photography secondary. Now I'm becoming really passionate about it.

I've also run into Jay's wordpress blog about journalism and online media, and I really love the extended features that wordpress offers over blogger.

My "dilemma" is that I really want to start a wordpress blog so I can do multiple things with it: continue talking about the Steelers, my faith and also add photography and fiction writing to the mix. On top of that, it allows me to use the blog as an online portfolio by uploading my resume and a list of my achievements.

But if I make the switch, I'm not sure if I see a need to keep this blog going. That means that I would have to start from scratch and sort of lose the continuity that I've begun here.

I also have a website, with my own name as a URL, which costs about $100 a year to keep up. Wordpress is free. Should I make the switch completely and leave the website and this blog behind?

For those of you who have wordpress, how easy is it to use compared to blogger? What are the pros and cons? How interactive is it by combining photos and videos in your posts?

Friday, November 27, 2009


I recently bought a Nikon D300s and it takes phenomenal pictures. The images come out so sharp, the contrast is sick and it does a wonderful job with night pictures as well. I'm not even using any high-grade, professional lenses. Right now I'm working with an 18-55mm and a fixed 50mm F/1.8. The second shot below was taken with a very inexpensive 70-300mm Nikon lens.

If you want to check out more of my shots, browse through my Flickr account. Below are some recent shots I took.

This is my little niece Mira while we were waiting around for Thanksgiving lunch.

My wife, Heather, actually took this shot. I love it. I just bumped up the saturation of some of the colors and vibrance. The man in the picture is my best man, James, with his little girl, Lilly. The little boy was playing around with Lilly at the park.

I took this shot walking back to my car from a Monday night class. The greatest thing about this shot is that I didn't touch it up one bit with any of the software I have. It came out perfect.

I've made it a point to take my camera with me no matter where I go. I always park in the same place and it's always the same walk coming back from class, but I've noticed that if you keep your eyes open, you always find new things to photograph, even on the same stretch of road if you do it every day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mix up the tradition

I think it's about time the NFL mixes up the match-ups on Thanksgiving, or at the very least figure out better opponents for the Cowboys and the Lions.

Every year I can remember, the games on Thanksgiving have resulted in one-sided blowouts. The Cowboys play the Raiders today, and even though Oakland upset Cincinnati this past Sunday, I see no reason for why they will put up a fight today. Before that we have the Lions and the Packers. There is no worse team to watch than the Lions. The Lions are by far the least exciting football team to watch (unless they're playing the Browns, I guess). How did this tradition even begin?

I like NFL games on Thanksgiving, but my goodness, let's keep the games interesting! The NFL could do a lot better in figuring out these match-ups. The only game I'm looking forward to is the Giants at the Broncos, but kickoff isn't until tonight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Predestination: A matter of pride?

The subject of predestination in Christianity is certainly a touchy one. In a few words, predestination is the idea that God chose the people he would save even before the creation of the world. Often, this is a philosophy that's attributed to John Calvin, also known as Calvinism or Irrefutable Grace. More specifically, this philosophy believes that it is God who chooses men, not men who choose God. For previous posts on this, you can click here or here.

I can understand how predestination looks to someone (Christian or not) who doesn't believe in it. From the perspective of man, it comes across as an extremely prideful claim.

"God chose you? Really? What makes you so special? How are you possibly more deserving of salvation than me or the next guy?"

Not only that, but predestination can become an excuse for shutting people out. A Calvinist could simply say, "If you don't believe in Christ, that's not my problem. God simply didn't want you."

However, the true heart behind predestination is an utterly humble approach at God and man. Any genuine believer will say that man is nothing and God is everything. Most Christians understand that we are saved not by our works but by our faith in God. So regular logic will say that you must first have faith and then you can believe in God and then you will be saved. But from the predestination perspective, a Christian will say, "I'm not even good enough to have faith on my own! God granted me that faith!"

In other words, not only does God grant salvation, but he also grants the means of that salvation. A sinner is a man in the ocean without even a life jacket. It's God who throws over the rescue tube and pulls us in. He does everything. We do nothing to earn a chance at rescue.

In Ephisians 2:1 we discover that we are "dead in transgression and sins." Dead. Not at the doorstep of death. Not nearly dead. Not on our last breath. Dead.

To visualize what that means, think back to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John (Chapter 11).

Lazarus has been dead for four days when Christ arrives to Judea. By this point, his body had already begun decomposing. We know this because Martha, Lazarus' sister, tells Jesus they could already smell the body (11:38).

It is Christ who calls out Lazarus to come out. It is Christ who regenerates his life. Lazarus was dead. He had no way of asking Christ to come restore his life. There was nothing he could do to gain Christ's favor.

The same is true in our salvation from sin.

Now, yes, there are certainly moments where Jesus acknowledges people's either lack (Matt. 6:30) or greatness in faith (Matt. 15:28), but remember Jesus is also the one who said, "I have come to call not the righteous but the sinners" (Matt. 9:13 -- this was in reference to Jesus eating with tax collectors, but again it demonstrates God's choosing) and "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (John 6:65).

This idea is extremely explicit throughout the Bible, beginning from the Old Testament to the New.

On the flip side of the coin, if we must have faith first in order to earn salvation, this alludes to the idea that certain individuals have an inner goodness already that others don't. In other words, if I have faith (which points me to Christ) and you don't (pointing you away from Christ) it means that I already have some kind of spiritual makeup that makes me better than you. How does that happen?

There's nothing in the Bible that can support that idea. Rather, the Bible always explicitly calls out man as "vile and corrupt", "evil" and the "enemy of God" (by continuing to remain attached to the ways of the world).

Now, as I've stated in my earlier posts, I do think that this question is much more complex than a few thoughts and reflections can present it. There are verses that call people to "seek" God or express praise for people who have faith. I would definitely encourage anyone to bring up these passages to help flesh out this discussion. I'm just expressing where I stand on the issue of predestination given the overall bulk and context of salvation.

Matt has already brought up good points in the past. Hopefully we can keep that going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whoo Hoo!!

I was just offered a paid internship position with the Post-Gazette for 13-weeks.

I'm pumped!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vince Young is no QB

Against the Texans, so far, Chris Johnson has run for more yards (151) than Vince Young has passed (116).

That's an insane stat. Good for Johnson, not so good for Young as a passer.

Just as long as they win, I'm happy though.

Least watched episode?

Go Vince

I'm a Vince Young fan tonight. I'm rooting for Tennessee to win over Houston, otherwise the Texans move up to 6-4 and are very much in the playoff picture.

Go Titans.

By the way, I'm sure they're seeing the same dropsies problems we saw with Nate Washington when he was in Pittsburgh.

Monday Morning Moody Membrane

I always feel so depressed after a Steelers loss. I couldn't watch the whole game yesterday because I had my Army Reserve duty. So I listened to part of the fourth quarter on the radio on my way home when Big Ben throws a touchdown pass to Fright Night to go up 24-17 on the Chiefs. The whole time I'm incredulous. I couldn't believe the Chiefs were actually hanging in with the Steelers.

The Chiefs for goodness sake!

Then the Steelers kickoff pinned them at their own 9-yard line. I'm thinking: "Nice! Perfect picking for the Steelers Defense to terrorize Matt Castle and company!"

Instead, the Chiefs had two huge passing plays and tied up the game in eight plays they cover 91-yards in a Patriot-like manner.

Finally, I get home in time to watch the Steelers make it to overtime. Big Ben is hurt but Batch is money in these situations. We make our way closer to a doable field goal that can win the game, but then, on a Third-and-Two we get stuffed for a three-yard loss!

I wanted Tomlin to go for the 53-yarder field goal, but instead we punt the ball away.

The Chiefs treated the Steelers defense like a joke as they throw the ball twice, and go deep on the third pass. Ike Taylor almost grabs an interception, but instead bobbles the ball as he comes to the ground. I'm thinking, "That's okay. No big deal. It's third down. It's time for the Defense to feast with a sack."

Instead, the Chiefs complete a 61-yard catch-and-run play that takes them down to the Steelers 4-yard line.

Field goal. Steelers lose.

I felt so sick to my stomach. Now we were looking at two back-to-back losses, and we'd just lost to the now 3-7 Kansas City Freaking Chiefs!?!

There was some consolidation at the end of the day, however. The Bengals also lost yesterday to the hapless Oakland Raiders, and we're still in the thick of things for a playoff spot even if we don't win the division.

The Broncos lost their fourth in a row and are now 6-4. We hold the tie-breaker over them since we beat them on Monday Night Football.

The Dolphins are a game behind at 5-5. That will be an important match-up against them at the end of the season for the Steelers. That may decide whether we make the playoffs or not.

Baltimore, fortunately, fell to 5-5 with a loss to the Colts. We face them next week in prime-time. That will be a HUGE game for both teams, and you know that the Ravens will come out with a fury on both sides of the ball.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 6-4 like us and fighting for a fifth or sixth seed since there's little chance that the Colts will lose the division now at 10-0.

Right now, San Diego leads the AFC West at 7-3 with a win over the Broncos. The good thing there, is that if the Broncos reclaim the lead, and the Chargers fall later in the season, we also hold a tie-breaker against them. I would rather see the Chargers keep winning though, especially in their Week-15 game against the Bengals. The Broncos still have a very tough schedule ahead (They play the Giants, Colts and Eagles through the next six weeks), and could very well miss the playoffs after staring the season 6-0. I'm sure there is turmoil in that locker room.

I still like the Steelers chances at winning a playoff spot, but they certainly didn't help themselves with a loss to the Chiefs. With a win, they might have still been able to win the division. Mathematically, it's not out of the question, yet, but still unlikely.

Fighting 354 Blog

Just put together a blog for my Army Public Affairs unit, the 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. We'll be using the blog to post photos and stories about Soldiers in the Army Reserve.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

YLDS - Props to the Bengals

Jim Shearer provides us with evidence that even the mighty Steelers are human.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Touchdowns allowed

This stat, brought to you by Dale Lolley, is stunning...

That's seven consecutive games the Steelers have allowed a return touchdown, including three-straight home games that they've given up a kickoff return touchdown.

The defense has allowed 11 touchdowns all season.

Are we the '08 Ravens?

That question, actually stems from another question. Are the Bengals the '08 Steelers?

Now, naturally the Bengals defense is nowhere near as good as the Steelers defense was last year, but my goodness have they improved from years past. The Steelers were 0 for 4 in scoring touchdowns from the Red Zone, and already the Bengals have swept the Ravens and now (sigh) us. They are 5-0 in their division and there's no reason to believe that the Browns can upset them in their next match up.

Like the Ravens last year, the Steelers are still a very, very solid team despite being swept by the Bengals. If we don't make the playoffs as a wild card I will be completely shocked. I don't believe we can win the division now, even though it's still mathematically possible with 7 games left. We would have to win out and the Bengals would have to lose at least two games, but they're already sitting very pretty and the Browns are the only ones who can keep them from sweeping the AFC North completely.

That won't happen.

I've underestimated the Bengals all year. Now I'm a believer, and unfortunately now they can actually chant their obnoxious "Who Dey" chant.

Now the question becomes, can the Bengals beat the Steelers three times just as we beat the Ravens tree times last year on the way to the Super Bowl?

Man, do I hope not.

That will cause something very terrible to snap in my psyche.

The problem now for the Steelers is that we still have to face the Ravens twice, and they're not suckers of the division yet, even though their record is 4-4 pending tonight's game against the Browns (is that even worth watching?).

The Bengals' remaining games are against Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, San Diego, Kansas City and the Jets.

San Diego is playing like people expected them at the start of the season, so they'll pose a threat and my hopes is that Minnesota and the Jets will put a beating on Cincy. But I won't underestimate them anymore this year. They're very capable of finishing the season 13-3 if they keep playing like they're playing.

The Steelers, on the other hand, still have to face Kansas City, Baltimore (twice), Oakland, Cleveland, Green Bay and Miami.

I believe the Steelers are good enough to beat every one of those teams, but I know they won't.

What do you people think will be the Steelers' final record?

And will a record of 11-5 be good enough to earn a playoff spot?

We shall see. All I know is that I'm going to be watching carefully the rest of the AFC teams from this point forward.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preview: Steelers Vs. Bengals

I've been doing homework since 9:00 a.m. this morning and I'm finally coming around doing what I love doing best, breaking down Sunday's matchup between Steelers and their opponent.

I've been looking forward to tomorrow's game against the Bengals ever since they beat the Steelers in Cincinnati earlier this season. Now the rematch is finally here.

The Steelers lost that game 23-20 in week 3, the Bengals surged from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and ripped out a win that should have been held by the Black and Gold. 

Earlier this season, the Steelers Defense was coming apart late in the game, and perhaps this was because Polamulu was missing from the lineup, which allowed opposing offenses dink and dunk their way into our end zone.

Ever since Polamalu's return against Cleveland, however, the Steelers have been allowing only one offensive touchdown and no offensive points in the fourth quarter. With Polamalu in play, the Quarterback has to think twice about where to send the ball because Troy causes such a havoc in coverage.

The past few weeks, I've had a hard time believing that the Bengals are actually back and as good as they were in 2005. But with their record standing at 6-2 and with decisive wins over Baltimore and Chicago, I had to finally admit that Cincinnati is in fact a very good team.

I still hold that the Steelers are much better. Fright Night has been running out of his mind, and Big Ben plays so well at home when the crowd is on our side. Interestingly enough, the Bengals have the second best rush defense in the NFL. I'd like to see how Rashard does agains them. I predict another 100+ yard performance.

I really don't see the Bengals escaping with another win this time. 

In fact, not only do the Steelers win this game, but I predict they win big. Steelers by 11 points, which is what they should have had in the first matchup.


For those of you who are interested, I'll be now doing wedding photography and family or individual portraits.

Pass around the word if you know someone who's interested.

Here's the link for more info.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Predestination, a call from God

I promised a while back that I would do a few posts on the subject of predestination. Finally I'm able to devote a little bit of time to do a first post.

One of the most compelling aspects of predestination and election for me, is that, not only is it explicitly stated in Romans 8 , 9 and Ephesians 1, but we have evidence to support election since the beginning of the Old Testament.

Think about it. First we have to understand that it was God who chose Israel, despite Israel continually rebelling and disobeying His law and prostituting itself to foreign gods (Jeremiah 2). There, we have a case in which God chose a people. But beyond that, God also chose the individuals who would rule and lead His people. It was God who chose Abraham and made a covenant of faith with him. It was Him who chose Jacob (and renamed him Israel) over Esau, even though Esau was born first. It was Yaweh who chose Moses, even though Moses objected because he said he wasn't a good enough speaker to face Pharaoh. It was God who chose David, even though he was the youngest of his brothers.

And we could go on and on in just about every Old (and New) Testament book.

But then the argument could be, "Well, it's not that God chose those men strictly for salvation, but to fulfill a certain role."

In that case, we have to look at how the Bible uses the word "elect" which is the word most predestination supporters use to argue the stance of God choosing man.

I am not a Hebrew or Greek scholar, so unfortunately I have to rely on the English translations to see how the word "elect" is used.

In the NKJ version, the word "elect" first appears in Isaiah (in the NIV version, the word is replaced with "chosen" which is to show, at the very least, that it is God who elects, and not us). Here, the word is used to refer to the coming messiah (Isaiah 42:1), and to Israel as His people (46:4 / 65:9).

In Matthew 24:31, Christ speaks of the elect as the people God will gather by His angels.

In both cases, the elect is a term used specifically for those people God holds closely, and not just chosen for specific purposes.

On my next post I will look at Romans specifically which is when "election" and "predestination" are used together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Props and Drops: Broncos Game

Sorry for a lag in blogging the last couple of days. Been terribly busy with the Post-Gazette and other school assignments. I wanted to comment on the past Monday Night Football game played in Denver, but I won't be able to do it extensively. On my way to class in a few minutes.

First, let me start with the...


The entire first half was a disaster for everybody on the team except for Tyrone Carter who scored the lonely touchdown early in the game. Up until half-time, it really looked like we were getting it handed to us. Our running game was nonexistent. Receivers couldn't get open. Ben was getting harassed every time he threw the ball.

If I could point out one player specifically who deserves the Drops Award though for the first half is William Gay. He was getting terrorized constantly and his receiver always managed to create separation from him. He allowed three big catches to Eddie Royal in the first quarter alone, but he did recover well later on and even stripped a ball that resulted in an incomplete pass.


Just like the Drops title in the first half, the Props should go all around for the second half performance. This team adjusted so well. Ben moved around with some bootlegs to avoid pressure and receivers finally found some open gaps in coverage. Fright Night had an astonishing performance and tore up the formerly No. 3 rushing defense, finishing off with 155 yards on the ground. The Defense too (yes, with a capital D, they deserve it) rebounded nicely. After allowing 168 yards in the first half, they were staunch and allowed only 56 in the second. More than that, they allowed only 3 offensive points to a team that was managing a healthy 25+ points per game.

I was most impressed by how the offense responded to adversity. Finally they were moving the ball when Big Ben was stripped and Broncos DE Robert Ayers returned the fumble for a 46 yard touchdown. On the very next drive, Big Ben and company drove the ball a good length of the field and reclaimed the lead.

The whole team played with passion and intent.

Monday, November 9, 2009

After a very, very rough first half, this team is really establishing its identity in the second. And for once, the Steelers are actually closing out a game in the fourth quarter running the ball against a very good running defense (formerly ranked 3rd in the league).
Holmes is acting like a leader. He got after Fright Night for going out of bounds when we're trying to run the clock.
Steelers having a monstrous second half!
Now the offense is clicking!
Mendenhall not getting a ton of yards but getting them tough.
Let's see if the Steelers come out with the no-huddle. They need a spark.
FINALLY! James Harrison draws a holding penalty. Huge!
The Broncos are dominating the clock. I did not expect this. I anticipate some adjustments in the second half.
Casey Hampton is fat and out of shape.

No news there.
Other than Polamalu and Taylor, the secondary is whiffing on some detrimental tackles.
I thought Tyron Carter would be a a downgrade from Ryan Clark, but I stand corrected. Nice Pick-Six! You could definitely tell he was running winded in Mile-High, though!
Eddie Royal is embarrassing William Gay. Awesome interception by Tyrone Carter though!
Ben is getting terrorized. But mostly because of good coverage down field. But I expected the O-line to hold up a little better.
The Broncos secondary really is all pro. We gotta come up with some better schemes to get our WRs open.
Ike Taylor looking phenomenal in coverage. Gay was getting killed early. Surprised they didn't continue to attack him on the second drive.

That missed interception was a bit frustrating but understandable with both Gay and Polamalu going for the ball.

Texting blog

My text-to-blog isn't working right now... I wanted to do a play-by-play commentary during the game, but probably won't.

Here we go...

I absolutely love Monday Night Football. So far Tomlin is undefeated on MNF. Hopefully that streak continues tonight. Big game!

Preview: Steelers vs. Broncos

I didn't do my regular Saturday preview post because I was busy formatting and reinstalling software on some Army laptops all day long. One of them caught a virus right after I installed all the software it needed and I had to start over from scratch.

I was so ticked.

But onto tonight's game!

Like I've said in a previous post, I'm actually quite a bit worried about this game especially because Denver got demolished by Baltimore in their last game and are going to want something to prove in this matchup.

Suddenly the critics are questioning the Bronco's physicality and toughness, even though they boast the number one defense in the NFL. This will be a game decided in the second half for sure, and it's certainly going to be one of those "most violent team wins" kind of games.

I think this is going to be a decisive game where we will find out a lot about our running game. The Broncos are ranked third against the rush, but the Ravens were able to churn out about 120+ yards on the ground. I believe Fright Night can take the load with several hand-offs to Parker and Moore here and there.

Statistically the Broncos seem solid in the Defense all around, although Blitzburgh from BTSC argues that it's more because of the opponents they played than their actual talent. I'm not sure I'm convinced by his argument, but I do believe we will move the ball effectively (not with ease, but effectively) when it counts.

These two teams are pretty even when it comes to sacking the quarterback, but I think our game plan is going to rely more on pressuring Kyle Orton than it is for the Broncos to attack Big Ben.

Ben is by far the better quarterback here, and Orton hasn't proven to be tested under pressure.

If we get to Orton frequently enough, we win this game. I will pin this win on the fact of us sacking and pressuring him more than the Broncos can pressure us.

Steelers (bold statement coming up) come out of this game with six sacks and a six point win.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yinz Luv... Jim Shearer

For those of you who have checked out my blog in the past will know I'm a big fan of the low-budget, no-budget Yinz Luv Da Stillers web show. I'm also gaining a lot of respect for Jim Shearer, the creator of the show. So much so that I wanted to write a feature story on him for the Post-Gazette. Unfortunately, the editors there didn't show interest (because, I think, they don't get the importance of the revolution going on online). So instead, I asked him to do a Q&A session with me regarding the world of web shows and web journalism in general.

Jim is 34 yars old, grew up in Pittsburgh, attended Shaler Area High School, and now lives with his wife in New York City. His day job is with VH1 hosting Top 20 Video Countdown. He started Yinz Luv 'Da Guins during the 2008 playoffs and had so much fun doing it, he started Yinz Luv 'Da Stillers when their season kicked off later in the year.
He has been working in television since 2001 when he started with MTV, and his dream is to come back to Pittsburgh if he had the opportunity to do a show here.

I got hooked on YLDS when I was in Iraq and couldn't catch all the games because of the time difference. So, onto the Q&A:

Q: Most journalistic reporters are not allowed to be “fans” of the team they cover. Your web show allows you the freedom to also be a fan. How would YLDS be different if you had to remain “objective”?
A: I don't think YLDS could exist if I had to remain objective. The easiest thing about doing YLDS every week is that there is always a good guy and a bad guy, a protagonist and an antagonist. The story curve is already written for me. The show takes a Pittsburgh fan's perspective, instead of an x's and o's approach, and as a Pittsburgh fan I can only be so objective to the opposing team.

Q: You’ve already done a two-part episode interview with Jack Ham for your show. What has that interview taught you about the direction of your show? Are there any other ambitions or projects you would like to take on?
A: I would love to interview more Steelers and people associated with the team (beat writers, training staff, ex-Steelers, dedicated fans, etc.), but living in New York makes that very difficult. If I could ever find my way back to Pittsburgh, you'd find more episodes like the one with Jack Ham--instead of me just sitting in my bedroom all the time. As for ambitions, my main is goal to to eventually find some type of media work in Pittsburgh; the reason I started the series in the first place.

Q: What motivated you to record and put together this weekly web-show in the first place?
A: Oops, looks like I already answered this question. After my contract ended with MTV I began looking for work in Pittsburgh. The consensus was I didn't have enough on-air sports experience (although I had interviewed a slew of athletes and worked on many a sports show while at MTV). I started the Yinz Luv series to create a make-shift sports reel and to gain the sports experience that I apparently lacked for the Pittsburgh market.

Q: You also have a career on actual television and experience with both VH1 and MTV. How is the production of YLDS different from your television work?
A: Instead of working with a team of many people, it's just me. Also, the equipment I use isn't nearly as expensive as the stuff we use on VH1. My eight years of professional production experience has helped me out a ton though. Conversely, Yinz Luv has helped me on the professional side of things. Since YLDS doesn't have a budget for a teleprompter (obviously), I'll memorize the script in my head, a technique that has helped me out on many a VH1 Top 20 shoot.

Q: If somebody approached you and said, we want to pay you and take YLDS to television, and they offered you a half-hour weekly show, what would you do to make the show fill that half hour?
A: Oooh, that would be the dream. Believe it or not, content-wise it might be easier to do a 22-minute show (can't forget about those commercials) than a 10-minute YouTube show. There's a lot of stuff I end up cutting out for time constraints. With highlights, the gratuitous comedy skit, analysis, the occasional song parody, and interviews, I'd have no problem piecing together an awesome half-hour weekly show.

Q: What opportunities has the world of the web provided you in show production that regular media could not allow you?
A: An audience and not having a chain of command saying "no" to me for whatever reason.

Q: Do you ever run into people who recognize you from YLDS but have no clue you’ve ever been on regular television?
A: It's funny, I've been on VH1 for nearly a year now, was on MTV and MTV2 for six years, and every time I'm noticed out in public, it's for YLDG and YLDS. I don't even get a monstrous amount of views, so it's odd that I'm noticed more for a low budget web-show I run out of my bedroom.

Q: How is your television fanbase different from your web shows fanbase?

A: On YLDS and YLDG it feels like I'm part of the team, part of one big Pittsburgh family. On TV, it's a crap shoot. People will like or hate me depending on my music tastes, how my hair looks, or how well I did when interviewing their favorite artist.

Q: How do you push yourself to record a show after a Steelers loss?
A: I try to make a loss as entertaining as possible, and try to make the next game feel as hopeful as possible.

Q: Do you have any crazy pre-game rituals?
A: Whenever there's a big Steelers or Penguins game, I'll make a Roethlisweiner sandwich (smoked sausage, onions, tomatoes, hot mustard, saurkraut, salt-and-pepper). The Steelers and Pens have never lost when I made them; that's why I don't press my luck and eat them before every game.

Q: You have a degree in Journalism from Waynesburg College, so I’m sure you’ve noticed how, because of blogging and the web, many of the news industries are dying out or are forced to strategize new ways of delivering their information. Do you envision television shows ever having to face that sort of crisis in the future? Do you ever feel like YLDS is ahead of the curve in that sense (having established a web base)?
A: We're in such a weird place right now. I think, eventually, TV and the web will mold/evolve into one entity. When I was younger we had 13 television channels, then 50, now I have well over a thousand. Think of all the blogs and web-shows on the internet, there's the same number of eyes with a gazillion more outlets to choose from. Although it'll be easier to reach niche audiences, it's going to be tougher to reach the mass audience. Because everything is becoming so scattered, media professionals are going to have to know how to do it all, so in that respect, I may be a wee bit ahead of the curve, since I'm an on-air host, who can produce, write, shoot, direct, and edit.

Q: You’ve said (in a Pittsburgh City Paper interview) that the local sports media are sort of “missing the big picture” when it comes to sports shows. What is that “big picture” in your mind?
A: Whenever I've heard back from the Pittsburgh sports market, it's always comments like, "We could never do a skit with copyright material." The "big picture" is that I can handle myself in front of and behind a camera, fully capable of hosting any type of sports program coming out of Pittsburgh. Half of the stuff I do on YLDS couldn't fly on TV, I realize that, but I wish someone would say, "Eight years of national TV experience, three years of making sports web-shows in his bedroom, this guy's got more than enough professional tools to work on-air in the 'burgh."

The man inside the suit

This post doesn't have to do with either faith or football, but with writing.

I'm now in my final weeks of my internship at the Post-Gazette. Yesterday I had the tremendous pleasure of doing an over-the-phone interview with Anthony Daniels, the British star who played C-3PO in all six Star Wars movies.

He was an extremely charming and delightful man to interview. He spoke quickly (and with a British accent), which made it difficult at times to catch the whole quote, but I think I came away with a very good story. Mainly, it focused on his part-time role as adjunct professor at the Entertainment Technology Center, which is a graduate program run by CMU.

I focused the story mainly on that, which unfortunately made it difficult to include some of the funnier or more colorful tidbits that came up during the interview.

But this is why we blog, after all, isn't it? So that we can include and write about snippets and pieces that don't always fit elsewhere.

Right now, Daniels is on tour with with Star Wars: In Concert, a multimedia event that combines all six movies into a two-hour concert. The show will be coming to Pittsburgh on Nov. 29.

During our phone interview, Daniels was having trouble with his phone, which started beeping.

"It's R2D2 on the other line," he said.

A few years ago, CMU started the Robot Hall of Fame, which Daniels hosted in 2003. R2D2 was the first of four robots inducted into the Hall. C-3PO wasn't inducted until the following year in 2004.

I asked Daniels if C-3PO might be jealous that R2D2 was inducted first.

As a complete gentleman, Daniels answered charmingly, "No, no, no, no. ArToo was first because he had to tidy things up and make sure everything was ready for C-3PO to arrive. C-3PO was probably doing something important then."

Which is funny because he was in fact doing something important: He was hosting the awards.

He also said that he never understood the underlining webbing of the Star Wars storyline until he became involved with this concert. I've never been a big Star Wars fan (gasp!), but the way he talked about the concert, he really made me want to go catch the show.

As he talked about the concert, and the lighting and the live music, and the standing ovations the show has received, he said, "I'm getting goosebumps just thinking of it."

He is also a big fan of Pittsburgh, but not so much of the road systems here (I did include this in the story). And, he doesn't know the difference between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shame on you, Mr. Daniels.

By the end of the interview, which lasted about 45 minutes, he made me feel very at ease. I came away from it thinking I had interviewed a friendly college professor rather than an actor involved with one of the biggest epic stories in movie history.

The article I wrote should come out sometime this month in the Post-Gazette. I'll let you know...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jesus Loves...

Matt sent me a link to a T-Shirt that has a picture of Jesus, and reads: "Jesus Loves The Steelers."

He asked what I might think of the shirt, and quite honestly, I find it revolting. There's several reasons for why I feel this way, but the main one is this: Christ came on Earth to sacrifice His life so that we may gain ours. He died for the atonement of our sins. He is the incarnate God. He is the King of Kings. And to commercialize God for the promotion of a football team (even my very own personal favorite football team) is a ridicule of His reign. It is to use God for personal pleasure and gratification.

I actually want to thank Matt for providing the link. Don't think I'm mad at you for doing so.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bill Cowher question resurfaces

The Cleveland Browns recently fired their GM, who apparently was hand-picked by coach Eric Mangini. That's an absurd scenario, but let's move on.

I was listening to Tunch Ilkin with Craig Wolfley on 970 AM this morning, A caller came on the air saying he's a long time friend of Bill Cowher and still talks to him and Cowher said he's interested in returning to coaching within the next couple of years, but only under a couple of condition. One, he wants to go into a team that requires rebuilding, and two, he wants to have total control, both as coach and as GM, I imagine.

It didn't sound like the caller was BS'ing (though he could have), and both Tunch and Wolfley seemed very intrigued by the call.

Do you guys think the Browns will be calling up Cowher soon? It's a couple of years now that we've been talking about this, but hey, seems more possible now than ever. If not the Browns, what other team?

Redskins and Panthers are definitely two other options.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Predestination: An unpoular truth

I would say that all Christians can agree on the major doctrines of the faith, in which we know that we are sinners and Christ died on the cross in order to atone our punishment so that, if we believe, we may receive salvation and enter Heaven.

This, as Christians, we know.

There are, however a slew of topics that have brought forth heated discussion and debate throughout the years. Three that come right to mind are child baptism, observance of the Sabbath (which many Christians now call the Lord's Day), and whether Salvation can be lost.

None of these topics, however, have generated as much opposition as the discussion on predestination.

In the most basic terms, "predestination" means that believers in Christ were predestined for salvation even before the beginning of time. Even before the first sin, God knew we would be saved.

Now, the debate becomes heated on the matter of choice, or as some want to refer to as free will.

In other words: Does the Believer choose God, or is it God who chooses the Believer?

This is not your typical "chicken or the egg" question. This is a question that really confronts who we are as human beings before God. And in the next following weeks I'd like to bring to light passages that help shine the light on the answer of predestination.

Do we choose salvation? Or are we chosen for salvation?

I've already alluded to where I stand on this by the title of this post, but I'd like people to discuss and talk in the meanwhile. If you know of any particular passage that may be helpful in answering this question, please let me know.

On my next post on this topic, I will take a look at Romans 9, which, I believe, is the most explicit in discussion predestination.

And then ther was one...

Until last week, there were three different undefeated teams in the NFL. Yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens bumped the Denver Broncos off that stool, and now only the Saints remain. They play tonight on MNF against rival Atlanta Falcons at home.

The Saints are still phenomenal, so I'll give them the nod for tonight to remain undefeated.

My bigger concern is actually the Broncos.

With a decisive win over Denver, the Ravens established that they are not the scum of the division. Even after they lost three games in a row, I didn't think they were all that bad. All losses were in close games against good teams (yes, I'm willing to say the Bengals are a good team).

Their win over the Broncos worries me for two reasons. One: The Ravens (4-3) are back in it with confidence and an important win, and they are now only one game behind the Steelers (5-2). Two: The Steeler face the Broncos next on a Monday night showdown, and after they were exposed by the Ravens, they're going to come after us a little bit harder. I would have liked to see the Broncos win over the Ravens in a tight and physical game so the Steelers could roll into Denver and knock off an undefeated team two games in a row.

Despite losing to Baltimore, Denver is still a good team. They allowed a lot of points in this one (30 points), which is uncharacteristic for them this year (They had been averaging 10 points per game). I expect an aggressive and physical game once we fly into Mile High.

I'll break things down as we go through the week.