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Smorgasboard, October 2013 edition

This is a drive by announcement. I am back. Not that I was ever really gone, just captivated by an extended baseball season in Pittsburgh for the first time since Krog and I were freshmen at Penn State. Ok, so that's not the whole reason for by perceived invisibility, but it sounded good at the time.

I will make this a smorgasboard of posts, touching on several brief topics that had I attempted separate posts for them all would never see the light of day:

Pennsylvania: 

Corbett is running a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" type campaign in hopes to be re-elected in 2014. He's so butchered things in the state, including the Sandusky investigation and his drive to cover up the truth by scapegoating administrators at Penn State in the process, to supporting the NCAA's illegal act in 2012 to being against it early in 2013. I smell a Democrat landslide in 2014 if Corbett is still on the ballot...

Penn State football:

Make no mistake  - Joe Paterno built the house but it is now Bill O'Brien's team. They played a see-saw homecoming game on Saturday against the hated Michigan Wolverines, taking an 11 point halftime lead into a 10 point fourth quarter deficit. O'Brien's Lions then managed to get the ball back, now down 7, with 80 yards to go to tie, and only 50 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. They managed to get down the field in only 23 seconds of game clock, with a pair of spectacular catches by Allen Robinson and another spectacular one by Brandon Mosley. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg took it in for the tying score, forcing overtime after a Michigan field goal attempt was short from 52 yards.

It was only then it really got crazy. Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime, with Penn State blocking Michigan's attempt for the win. They traded field goals in the second overtime. Penn State went gadget play on ther 3rd overtime possession, and fumbled the ball. Michigan again had the game on the feet of their kicker, and he missed a 42 yard attempt. Michigan got a field goal in the fourth overtime, which yielded the "O'Brien moment": Fourth and 1 from the 16 yard line, O'Brien chooses to go for it rather than kick a tying field goal to force a fifth overtime. And they get the first down on a second effort by running back Bill Belton. After a pass interference call in the endzone, one I thought was ticky-tacky at real-time but on replay appeared to be the correct call, Penn State had a first and goal from the 3. They wasted no time, as Belton bounced to the near side for the winning touchdown.

PENN STATE HOCKEY:

Friday marked the first game at the newly built Pegula Ice Arena at Penn State, built with funds donated by Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula. Seating approximately 6000, its sole purpose is to support the mens and women's Division 1 NCAA hockey teams, whose scholarships were also funded by the Pegulas. The opening game was versus Army, and there was much debate and doubt whether the Obama administration would let them travel because of the optics of the government shutdown, nothwithstanding the fact that service academies' athletic programs are privately funded. Army made it in time for the game, and Big Ten Network aired the game live, as the lead game in the new Big Ten hockey conference, finally possible with a 6th team in the sport (the minimum to have a conference champion). The others with programs on the men's side are Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State, three of which are currently ranked in the top 10. There are a total of 59 schools that play NCAA Division 1 hockey, and 35 women's Division 1 teams. Prior to the jump to D1 in 2012, Penn State had fielded a club level team, the Icers, for men back to 1970 and women to 1999, competing in the ACHA. Previously, their last varsity-level hockey team, pre NCAA Division 1, laced 'em up in 1946.

Government shutdown:

Gallup and Rasmussen don't show Obama getting away with it, but it sure seems so by the media. The Harry Reid-led US Senate refuses to even vote on any funding measures, while the Obama administration spends extra money to shut down open-air monements in DC, redirect government websites to "unavailable" pages, and kicks private citizens off of their homes they own on federal lands (where they pay ground-rent). None of these things were done in prior shutdown battles, not even the infamous 1995 battle between President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich.

Obamacare:

Who in their right mind got fleeced for $643 million (give or take) for the Obamacare website? Between the abject failure of the site, and the false hit data being given out by the administration, it's a wonder anyone has actually signed up at all.  One example I heard was Iowa, where the administration claimed over 67000 hits but only 5 people had signed up in the first 10 days.

Baseball:

I led this post off with baseball, so I will come back to it. After rough collapses the last two seasons, in July in 2011 and August in 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates did not collapse in 2013. Improving 15 games from 2012's 79-83 record, they finished 94-68, just a single win short of manager Clint Hurdle's preseason prediction of 95 wins.  It was a heck of a season, led by would-be NL MVP Andrew McCutchen in center field, and A. J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano on the mound, they led the NL Central for 45 days of the season, and were tied for first as late as September 16th with eventual division winner St Louis.

The current postseason system in baseball is a weird system where three division winners advance straight to 5-game divisional series, while two more teams are considered "wild cards" where the one with the better record hosts a single winner-take-all game. For most of the last 20 years, there was a single wild card, the best record in each league that did not win a division, who would get a spot in the divisional round against the best record team. Now, the additional game is played for that spot, and the Pirates left no doubt that they would take it, beating the Cincinnati Reds in their first playoff game in 21 years, and earning a spot in the divisional round against the St Louis Cardinals. Including the season-ending 3 game series in Cincinnati, that determined homefield for the Wild Card Game, the Pirates took four straight from the Reds.

While the Pirates did not win the series versus the Cardinals, they took them to the brink, leading 2 games to 1, before the Cards pulled away late in game 5. It was a heck of a series for Pedro Alvarez, who had RBIs in each of his first six playoff games, the first time that's ever been done, including three home runs. The addition of Marlon Byrd paid instant dividends in the Wild Card game - homered in first postseason at-bat - and even Justin Morneau had his fair share of hits. They are free agents, and no telling if the Pirates will be able to sign either one, or bring back pitcher A. J. Burnett, also a free agent.

On the night of October 14, 1992, the Pirates season ended at the hands of Sid Bream and the Atlanta Braves on a disputed play at the plate. We all knew Barry Bonds was gone that offseason, even if he was the only one who never said so. We knew that was the end of the window. We never realized the window would be closed for 21 years. At the time, they had 30 more winning seasons than losing seasons in their history, and going into 2013 that number had shrunk to 10. As disappointing as it was to lose to the Cardinals, this loss has a completely different feeling, one more akin to 1958 or 1970 or 1988 in Pirates history, years that were the beginning of competive windows. So here's to McCutchen, Marte, Alvarez, Cole, Walker and the boys in 2014.

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