hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘football’

A Review of The Ones Who Hit The Hardest

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 4, 2016

The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's SoulThe Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the ’70s, and the Fight for America’s Soul by Chad Millman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What a dud! What a waste of time and money. What a bitter disappointment. And how about that subtitle — “The Steelers, The Cowboys, The ’70s, and the Fight for America’s Soul?” What a load of crap! What horseshit is that?

I’m a lifelong Steelers fan with a healthy memory and respect for the Pittsburgh/Dallas rivalry and that’s what I expected this book to be about. It wasn’t. It was a book about the Steelers, yes. It was mostly about the Rooney family, about Chuck Noll, Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Jack Ham, with mentions of Mel Blount, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Rocky Blier, Terry Hanratty, LC Greenwood, Dwight White, Fats Holmes, etc. Some decent stuff on the players and team. Almost all of it well known already. Virtually nothing new. How about the Cowboys? Equal treatment? Hardly! You get Tom Landry, Duane Thomas for a couple of years, for some unknown reason — literally makes no sense — and then, Tony Dorsett, who’s from Pittsburgh and who’s portrayed as a mega-asshole. That’s it. Okay, I guess we don’t need to know anything else about the Cowboys.

Well, if we don’t learn anything new about the Steelers and if we don’t learn much at all about the Cowboys, what is in the book at all? Um, the steel industry and labor unions. Literally. At least one third of the book, perhaps a great deal more, is a history of the steel industry and labor unions dating from the late nineteenth century centering in the greater Pittsburgh area. If you’re into Pittsburgh manufacturing history or even US manufacturing history, I guess that’s pretty damn great for you. Since it’s virtually not even remotely tied into the the alleged “true” topic of the book — the Steelers and the Cowboys — I don’t really give a flying fuck about it. That’s not why I bought the book. There’s more info in this book on labor union bosses, even on people who ran for labor union president and FAILED — like that fucking matters about anything!!! — than there is about fucking football in this stupid fucking book!

Oh, and the rivalry? There’s infinitely more spent on the “true” rivalry between the Steelers and the Raiders than there is on the Steelers and the Cowboys.That’s obviously the true rivalry. There’s a little bit about the first Super Bowl the Steelers win and then the book ends abruptly with the second Steeler Super Bowl win over the Cowboys. That’s it. There’s been this huge steel industry self destruction buildup and the battle of labor union bosses and the war of words between the two teams and then the game is over and there’s a paragraph or two following the game and that’s fucking it. No conclusions, no epilogue, nothing. It’s a stupid waste of a book, a stupid waste of time and money. I can’t believe these idiots wrote something like this. I hope they took a huge loss on this. I hope they didn’t make a dime on this. I hope I make something decent when I sell it to the used bookstore. This is easily the worst Steelers book I’ve ever read. The worst. Even though there’s interesting stuff about the history of the city and the ethnicities making up the city, that’s not why I bought the book. If you’re a Steelers fan and want to learn about the team and its rivalries, just skip this book, because you won’t learn a damn thing and you’ll feel screwed after reading it. Most definitely NOT recommended. Poor excuse to talk about steel labor unions using the Pittsburgh Steelers as cover. Bullshit. Biggest piece of shit ever!

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A Review of Andy Russell: A Steeler Odyssey

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 17, 2015

Andy Russell: A Steeler OdysseyAndy Russell: A Steeler Odyssey by Andy Russell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This much wanted book was a HUGE disappointment! I feel really upset about it. I’ve been wanting to get this book for two years, but it’s been out of print. I saw I could get a used copy via Amazon and put in on my Wish List some time ago, but recently decided to just go ahead and buy it for myself. It was only a penny, plus shipping. I waited eagerly.

For those of you who don’t know, Andy Russell, two-time Super Bowl Champion and seven-time Pro Bowler, was one of the all time great Steeler linebackers. Maybe the first in a long line of great Steeler linebackers. Drafted in 1963 out of Missouri, he played his rookie year, served in the army for two years, came back and was able to rejoin the team, played on some terrible teams in the 1960s and then on some incredible 1970s teams before retiring midway through the decade. He was a ten time team captain. He was a great player, a great leader, and a great person. And it just so happens that as I moved to the Pittsburgh area as a very young child in 1971, I grew up loving the Steelers and I remember hearing about him, but I really don’t remember seeing him play that much. I don’t remember many of those great early ’70s teams. I guess I didn’t really start watching until the mid-70s. So I pretty much missed out on his career, even though I had heard so much about him. And therefore I’ve always wanted to learn something about him. Thus, when I found he had written a book (actually two books), I had to get it. And here it is and I just finished it.

Let me tell you what I was expecting. I was expecting to hear about his great college career at Missouri, his rookie year with the Steelers, the army years, trying to make the team again when he returned from the military, becoming a starter, playing on all those losing teams and then playing on all of those amazing winning teams and the differences between them, stuff about the players from both decades, the coaches, opposing players, maybe the fans, the city of Pittsburgh, the media, what it was like to be selected for playing in the Pro Bowl, and even year by year details on important games. That’s what I expected. That’s not what I got.

What I got was a chapter about him that touched on his college career, where he got a lot of interceptions for a very successful coach and team, where he was drafted low but made the team, went to Germany, came back and made the team again, negotiated his own contracts, terribly, suddenly fast forwarded to winning a Super Bowl and then retirement. That was pretty much his life. He kind of left a shitload of stuff out. I have no idea why.

The next chapter came as a shock. It was about a 1968 USO tour to Vietnam with four other NFL players where they arrived in Saigon on the eve of Tet and everything got blown to hell and they got shot at and they got flown around to bases surrounded by Viet Cong and had to run from helicopters into the bases, where they got mortared, where they were driven around by maniacs intent upon not being killed by VC snipers, etc. When he went, he was a conservative hawk. When he left, after seeing all the senseless carnage and deaths, he was a dove and thought maybe all of those disgusting long haired hippies were right after all. It was an interesting chapter. It would have made an excellent chapter in another book. But not this one.

The next chapter began a series of player profile chapters with his best friend, center Ray Mansfield. It was interesting and I enjoyed it, like I enjoyed all of the player profile chapters. Those were the best chapters in the book. The players profiled in the book included Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham, Rocky Bleier, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, and coach Chuck Noll. The best one may have been on Noll, whom he respected more than just about anyone else he ever met.

After the Mansfield chapter comes another USO chapter, from the same tour, this time in Thailand with a group of American pilots. One night. A whole chapter about one night. He gets really introspective and thinks that instead of these men worshiping him and his NFL colleagues, they should be bowing down to the pilots and their colleagues, who are giving their lives daily. An interesting chapter, again, but for another book.

And then begins the most disappointing aspect to the book. Aside from the few player profile chapters, each chapter is basically about Russell and his post-retirement business partner traveling to mostly Asian and third world countries looking for investment opportunities. They hit the Middle East, where they’re basically laughed out of town by the super rich Arabs, and they finally strike it rich in Germany at the end of the book, but each chapter is about trying to do business in Japan, Singapore, Calcutta, and so on and so on. Like I give a holy shit about that! Honestly, does anyone buying this book, virtually all of whom are undoubtedly Steeler fans, give a shit about Russell’s post-retirement investment business opportunities?

There’s NOTHING about the teams and players from the 1960s, almost nothing about the teams and players from the 1970s, a little bit — just a little — about the first Super Bowl, nothing about his second Super Bowl, nothing about the fans or media, nothing about the city of Pittsburgh, virtually nothing at all about the Pro Bowls, practically nothing about opposing players, virtually nothing at all about specific seasons or even big games in his career!!! I mean, WHAT THE HELL???!!! What kind of football biography is this? What the hell does he think he is writing? How dare he? Why does he think people are even buying this damn book? What an asshole.

The only thing that saves this book from getting a one star review are the last two chapters. The next to last chapter is simply a chapter detailing information about other players he played with who he didn’t profile, including Hall of Famers like Mike Webster and John Stallworth, as well as lesser known players like JT Thomas and Mike Wagner. It was interesting to read the synopsis on each of the players and that was the type of stuff I had been waiting for throughout the whole book. The last chapter was his outlook on “today’s,” game, bearing in mind that this book was published in 1998. First, Russell states that current players, with their larger size and faster speed, could undoubtedly beat the better teams of the old days. But then he goes on to say what I’ve been saying for years. Despite their talent, they’re basically glory seeking, asshole fuckups. He doesn’t use those exact words, of course, but he bemoans the players who have to celebrate like idiots every time they make a damn tackle, saying — like me — isn’t that their job? Why are they celebrating for doing what they’re paid to do? Maybe if it was a big touchdown or something, okay, but just a simply tackle or a simple first down run? Seriously? Idiots. And they don’t know how to tackle anymore. They’ve lost their technique. They go for the big time tackle and simply miss half the time, and my wife knows I’m always screaming at players on TV to “wrap up.” For the life of me, I don’t understand why players don’t realize that the easiest way to make a sure tackle is to wrap up, but instead, these dolts, going for the big shots, lead with their heads or even their shoulders and the runners or receivers evade them or bounce off of them and keep going … because the stupid defender didn’t WRAP UP! It’s called tackling technique. And today’s players don’t have it. Russell also gets annoyed with the attention seeking players who get “injured,” lying on the field for five minutes, having to be helped or carried to the sideline, only to be back in the game three plays later. Frauds. He states that Mean Joe or Lambert would have never put up with that shit. When he was a rookie, Hall of Fame defensive lineman Earnie Stautner got a fractured hand where his the bone was sticking out through the skin of his hand and he just went to the sideline, after making two more tackles, wrapped some tape around the fracture, and went back in and played. A real man. It’s different now. Russell admits that every generation says the previous generation was better and he sounds like an old fogie, but that’s just the way he feels and I can’t help but agree with virtually everything he writes in this chapter. I despise most of today’s players and I hate the way they go nutso when they make a play or taunt their opponent after a play, etc. It’s pathetic. It’s not football. The 1970s Steelers played football. And so did Andy Russell. It’s just a shame he didn’t write about it in his book. One more thing. The publisher sucks. This is the worst excuse for a professionally edited and published book I’ve ever seen. There are so many grammatical mistakes and typos, it’s unbelievable. I can’t believe they apparently decided not to hire an editor. One example from a late chapter. Something should have “seemed” apparent, but in the book, it “seamed” apparent. Stupid mistakes like that are all over this book. And the few photos in this book are a joke! All black and white, the photos and text accompanying them bleed over each other on back to back pages, so when you’re looking at a page of two photos, you’re actually seeing four from two pages, with four paragraphs sitting on top of each other. It’s beyond unprofessional. It’s an embarrassment. As a former editing and publishing professional, I’m appalled. I’ve deleted his other book from my Amazon Wish List. If you’re a Steeler fan, don’t waste your time and money on this book. It’ll be a major disappointment. Definitely, definitely not recommended.

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A Review of Lost Sundays

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 3, 2015

Lost Sundays: A Season in the Life of Pittsburgh and the SteelersLost Sundays: A Season in the Life of Pittsburgh and the Steelers by Sam Toperoff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting experiment of a book about the 1988 season of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a disaster of a season if there ever was one. The author, a New Yorker who is a former professor and now a free lance writer, set out to write a book about an NFL team starting out from the bottom and working its way to the top and he both liked the city and people of Pittsburgh and the team had been pretty mediocre the past three or four years, and by all accounts, they were poised for a resurrection in 1988, so he landed with the Steelers. And that’s where it begins.

First, he introduces some interesting local Pittsburghers, including a Japanese immigrant who stands out in the city and an ethnic blue collar worker, the exact type of man the city is known for. He becomes friends with the latter, enjoying his company over that of his grown son’s because the older man loves football while the younger man simply loves watching “winning” football. Right there, you know Toperoff isn’t a football fan, never has been. He’s a journalist, plain and simple. He likes the game but could care less about the outcome.

He then goes to the Steelers’ headquarters and admires the beautiful and intimidating presentation of four Super Bowl trophies, evidence of ghosts of the recent past, of Hall of Famers, of having to live up to that tradition. It’s imposing.

He meets the coaches, Chuck Noll, who came to Pittsburgh in 1969 and led the team to four Super Bowl wins, now in a down cycle. He meets Mean Joe Greene, a defensive line coach now, and defensive coordinator Tony Dungy, future Colts head coach. They have big plans for the season.

He then starts writing about the players, about how they’re the youngest team in the league, have a lot of unproven players, no real leaders, hope people will step up. How Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Merriweather is doing the unthinkable and holding out for a new, better contract and how that’s impacting the team. How Merriweather held out the whole season and was traded the next year to the Vikings. How Pittsburgh’s top defensive lineman got injured in the first preseason practice, out for the year. How last year’s top rookie and a hot shot defensive back broke his wrist, but has to play the season anyway due to lack of players and is totally ineffective. How one of the better offensive linemen is sidelined by bad ulcers. How their top draft pick is inexplicably some no name defensive end from some small school in Kentucky who predicts he’ll get 18-20 sacks that year — and gets one and a half. How their starting quarterback is a loudmouth, splashy, overconfident braggart with a big arm from Louisiana, reminding everyone of Terry Bradshaw of course, but he’s had only two NFL starts and has a lot to prove. And on and on it goes.

Toperoff also introduces us to the local media, the local TV analysts, who he doesn’t spend much time with, and the two dozen or so newspaper reporters who go to each game, travel with the team, yet remain objective and, when necessary, quite critical. He spends a lot of time with them and writing about them in this book. Sometimes a bit too much.

The Steelers go 3-1 in the preseason and everybody feels pretty good, even with all of the injuries. Then they play their first game of the season and win it, so things remain good. Their second game is with defending Super Bowl champion Washington, whom they beat in the preseason, but this time, they make all sorts of mistakes and essentially give the game away, losing just barely. It’s a hard pill to swallow. They do the same thing in the third game, getting something like seven offsides penalties and two blocked punts. In fact, they set an NFL record in blocked punts that year. It was unbelievable how many of their punts got blocked, how their players couldn’t block the opposing players at all, how many blocked punts got turning into winning touchdowns. And then things really fell apart. They started getting their asses kicked. It was brutal. All sorts of stupid penalties, turnovers, mistakes, special teams screw ups, missed tackles. You name it, they did it. They got killed. They started their season 1-6, something not seen in Pittsburgh since the 1960s and it was shocking. People were shell shocked and were trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Were the players that bad? Was it the injuries? Had the “game passed by” Coach Noll? A lot of people thought it had and as a life time Steeler fan who remembers those awful years, I recall thinking exactly that as Noll led his last few teams to awful records by not changing with the times, by not adapting, by rigidly sticking with his 70s-era football that no longer worked in the new pass-happy NFL. He was the only coach in the NFL who didn’t use the shotgun with his quarterback. He refused to. Absolutely refused to. And he ran the ball. That’s all he did. With poor runners and a poor offensive line, that’s hard to do. When your quarterback is getting beat up because he can’t play out of the shotgun, it’s time to make some changes. So, for the eighth game, Noll shook some things up, threw in some trick plays, loosened the reigns, if you will, and they won. So, in the first half of their season, they went 2-6. Pretty bad.

After getting that second win, they went back to losing. The mistakes reappeared. The penalties mounted. The turnovers occurred, the punts were blocked, the stupid fights occurred, resulting in unsportsmanlike penalties, etc. And it became apparent to most that these football players had no leadership and were uncoachable. They didn’t learn what their coaches taught them, or tried to teach them. They kept making the same stupid mistakes. It was unreal. Speaking of uncoachable, the author got some things wrong and some things right. This book was published right after that season, so hind sight is 20/20, but he wrote repeatedly about how recent first round draft pick, Rod Woodson, a super fast and mega-talented defensive back from Purdue was talented, yes, but made mistake after mistake and couldn’t adapt to the NFL-caliber competition, how he was most likely going to wind up a bust. Of course, Woodson went on to snag a Super Bowl ring and is in the NFL Hall of Fame. So too, he raved about then-guard, soon to be center, Dermonti Dawson, a recent draft pick from Kentucky who started the season injured, but then came on and learned a lot as the season progressed and showed a lot of promise. He predicted a long NFL future for him. Like Woodson, Dawson has a Super Bowl ring and is in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Steelers went on to lose four straight games, so that their record stood at 2-10. People started whispering that they should throw their remaining four games so they could get the number one draft pick, rumored to be UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman. Chuck Noll would have none of it. The Steelers came back and won three of their last four to finish with a 5-11 record. The season nearly broke Noll’s spirit. Three of his assistant coaches were fired, two defensive coaches and the special teams coach. The new owner, Dan Rooney, was most unpleased.

The book ends with the next NFL draft. The Steelers were drafting seventh. They were guaranteed to get a good pick. The Steelers chose Georgia running back Tim Worley, a super college running back with size and speed, sure to be their featured back for the next decade. That was a long time ago, but as I recall, he was largely a bust and lasted just a few short years, accomplishing next to nothing. Like most of the other draft picks of that era. If I remember right, Noll went on to coach three more unmemorable years before retiring with most Pittsburgh fans breathing a sigh of relief. Bill Cowher took over as coach and had the team back in the Super Bowl within a few years, barely losing to Dallas, before several years later, winning the team’s fifth of six Super Bowl titles.

The book is interesting, but it’s kind of unfocused and all over the place. It’s obviously a “human interest” piece and somewhat scattered, neither a true football book, nor a coaching book, nor a journalism book, nor a real social studies book, perhaps a study on the people and mindset of Pittsburgh football fans, but it rambles and doesn’t spend much time on the actual games themselves. Which I found a bit disappointing. A lot of time is spent shooting the breeze with the other reporters. I guess that’s where the info is, certainly not with the players, right? It’s not a bad book, but it’s not a great book at all. It’s written with an interesting premise, but I’m not sure what it actually accomplishes. What did it set out to do? Did it succeed? Did it even deserve to be written and published? I’m not sure. If you’re a longtime Steelers fan, you might find this interesting. If not, then simply don’t read it. Not recommended.

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A Sports Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 10, 2014

Here’s another sports update.

Well, the regular college football season is over. Tennessee finished strong to finish with a 6-6 record, good enough to make a bowl. This is big, because we haven’t been to a bowl in four years. This year we’re going to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly the Gator Bowl, against Iowa, a tough opponent. I can remember playing them in previous bowls and going 1-1 against them, I think. We’ve been bad for too long. We used to be great. We used to have 10 win seasons consistently and in 1998, we won the national championship against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. I was there for that game. It was awesome. Those were our glory days. We’ve won six national championships and have had some other great seasons, but for some reason we’ve fallen on hard times. However, we have a new second year coach — Butch Jones — who seems good, has gotten some excellent recruits, and seems on the right path. We’ve played 23 freshmen this year, more than any other team, so we’ll have experience in coming years. Next year, I expect us to win 8-9 games and challenge for the SEC East.

UT is now also in the middle of the men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The men’s team lost most of its players from last year and has only one decent player and a bunch of new ones. So far, we’re 3-3. The Lady Vols have been decent, but not great, and are ranked 11th in the country so far.

Meanwhile, my Steelers have had a schizophrenic year. They’re 8-5 and in the middle of the wild card race for the playoffs. They just had a great win against division leading Cincy. The problem is, we play great against the best teams and have gotten beat by some of the worst teams in the league, teams we should easily pound, like Tampa Bay. It’s been really frustrating. Still, some of our players are having outstanding years. Career years. Ben Roethlisberger has passed for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. He became the second player in league history to have two 500 yard passing games in the same season. Second year running back Le’Veon Bell has rushed for over 1,200 yards and five touchdowns and with his receiving totals, has nearly 2,000 yards, which is outstanding. Last week, he became the second player in league history, joining Walter Payton, to have three consecutive 200 yard games. And wide receiver Antonio Brown has 105 catches for 1,375 yards and 11 touchdowns, all of which lead the league. In fact, Brown is the leading receiver, Bell is the second leading rusher and Big Ben is the fourth ranked quarterback. All of this is really exciting and I hope they all make the Pro Bowl, because they really deserve it.

Additionally, my Pittsburgh Penguins are having an excellent year. They’re 18-6-3 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is second in the league in scoring, after leading the league last year. Evgeni Malkin is fourth in the league in scoring. And goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is fourth in the league in wins and is having perhaps his best season with a great goals against average of about 2.07. That’s  awesome for him because he’s taken a lot of criticism over the past few years for fading in the playoffs, even after helping the team win the Stanley Cup a few years ago. Even though we make the playoffs every year, we haven’t been to the Stanley Cup in five years, so I’m hoping this year we can do it. One of the problems, however, is we have tons of injuries. We’ve lost so many players to injuries that it seems these three great players are playing with all minor league players surrounding them. It’s amazing we can win any games at all. Hopefully we’ll get some players back soon because this has been ridiculous.

I guess that’s about it. I’m happy UT has made a bowl and hope we win. I’m hoping the Steelers make the playoffs and then anything can happen. A Super Bowl would be awesome. And the Penguins will go all the way to the Stanley Cup again, barring continuing injury problems. A good fall. Here’s to a good winter.

 

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Sports Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 2, 2014

I grew up a huge baseball fan. Specifically a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as I lived there during the 1970s. I enjoyed seeing the team win two World Series during that decade. I followed the team religiously until the early 1990s, when they broke up a great team led by MVP Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke. They stopped winning circa 1992 and went into a 20 year losing streak unseen in any sport. They gave away all of their best players every year and didn’t even try to win. It was disgusting and it really turned me off to the team and the sport. However, last year, the Pirates fielded a competitive team and had their first winning season in over 20 years and made the playoffs — and I suddenly discovered my enjoyment of watching baseball. And I’ve been watching a lot of baseball this year. Currently the Pirates are 57-51 and three and a half games out of first, behind Milwaukee. However, I also enjoy watching the Orioles play, mainly because that’s my wife’s team. When we were in Baltimore in April, we went to a home game there and it was very enjoyable. The stadium’s nice and the fans are great. So I’ve now been to baseball games in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, St Louis, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. And I’ve been to minor league games in Knoxville and Chattanooga. Baseball, for me, is still kind of boring, especially compared to hockey and football, but it’s still nice to be getting back to liking it.

Meanwhile, football season is coming up and I’m excited! I’m actually probably more excited about the NFL season than I am college football, which never happens to me. But I’m a Steelers fan and we’ve made a lot of personnel moves during the offseason and had a good draft, so I’m hoping we can improve on last year’s 8-8 record and I think we will. I think we’ll make the playoffs again, which is where the Steelers belong. My college team is the Tennessee Volunteers, as I’m a UT alum. We’ve been down the past few years, which has been tough, especially after seeing a spectacular 1990s decade with Peyton Manning and a national championship. However, second year coach Butch Jones had a good recruiting class and I’m hoping we will be better. Actually, I think we’ll be better, but we won’t have a better record because our schedule’s so brutal. We have to go to #3 Oklahoma for the second game and we’ll get creamed. We have to play Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, etc., etc., and we’ll be lucky to win one or two of those games. So even though we should be better, I think we’ll still have a pretty rough record…. It doesn’t help that we don’t have any decent quarterbacks.

And of course I’m really excited about the upcoming hockey season. I love hockey. I think hockey players are the best athletes there are. They have to be strong, tough, fast, graceful, durable — they’re amazing. And they often play into their 40s. I don’t know how they do it. My team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We’ve been making the playoffs every year, but ever since we won our last Stanely Cup in 2009, we’ve had great regular seasons and have tanked in the playoffs, so the team fired the general manager and coach and hired new ones. Hopefully this will help. We also got rid of 11 players, including several very good ones I had hoped we would hold on to, and have imported a number of new players, although none that are great, like I had been hoping for. We need a top line goalie, as our goalie is good, but not great. However, we signed a backup goalie, which really ticks me off. We need someone better than that. You can only go as far as your goalie takes you and I’m not convinced with can win with Fleury in the playoffs anymore. Oh well. Still, I’m stoked about hockey season and can’t wait for it to start. Even my wife has gotten into watching it with me, which is very cool.

I guess that’s it for today’s post. Just thought I’d share my excitement with the world. Cheers!

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Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll dies at 82 – ESPN

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 14, 2014

Legendary Piitsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll dies at 82 – ESPN.

NOOOOOO!!! One of the greatest coaches who ever lived. This is so sad. RIP, Coach Noll.

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A Review of Pittsburgh Steelers: Men of Steel

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 19, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers: Men of SteelPittsburgh Steelers: Men of Steel by Jim Wexell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really excited when I got this book. It was supposed to have chapters that were stories about some of the more prominent Steelers and I was excited to read about Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, Hines Ward, and others. However, the first half of the book was crazy. It focused on players from the 1950s, most of whom played one to three years with the Steelers and who had no impact on the team whatsoever. I have no idea what the author was thinking when he did this. Some examples: Pat Brady, a punter from 1952-54; Ted Marchibroda, a quarterback for four years; John Lattner, a running back from 1954 who gained 237 yards; Len Dawson, the famous quarterback who spent three years with the Steelers, throwing a whole 17 passes during his time with them; and on and on. Now, why in the world waste half a book on people who made no contribution to the team??? It makes no sense. The author thought they had good “stories,” but they really didn’t. It’s sad. This book could have been good.

On the plus side, Wexell does write some chapters on some more recent Steelers who didn’t get much press, but did make contributions such as strong safety Donnie Shell, from the late 1970 Super Bowl teams. He was a Pro Bowler many times and should have made the Hall of Fame, but didn’t. It was interesting to see what he, and the others, did after retirement and where they are now. Shell has worked for the Carolina Panthers for years now, but I remember him as the player who intercepted more passes (51) than any other strong safety in history. I wore his number, 31, when I was growing up playing football. Other forgottens include wide receiver Louis Lipps, who was great but whose career in the 1980s was cut short by injuries, offensive lineman Tunch Ilkin, cornerback Dwayne Woodruff, strong safety Carnell Lake, one of my all time favorite players, sack monster and outside linebacker Kevin Greene, who should also be in the Hall of Fame and who always gets close as a finalist in voting. I don’t think he’ll get in though, even though he holds the record for most sacks from a linebacker, beating out Lawrence Taylor.

However, another disappointment with the book was that it was written in 2006, after Jerome Bettis’s Super Bowl win. But it was updated in 2011. I knew that, and I thought it’d be a great idea for the author to update all living Steelers’ info that he had written about. However, he didn’t do that. He only added two players: Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward. (Why not Troy?) Honestly, this book could have been so much better and it should have been. The author didn’t do it justice. He chose players unwisely and didn’t update info when he could and should have. Huge mistakes and that’s why I’m only giving it three stars. Indeed, I don’t know if it even deserves that. Not really recommended.

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More Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2013

I know, I know, I haven’t actually blogged here in a long time. It’s been mostly book reviews. But that’s what you people like, right? So anyway, this week was the 14 week anniversary of my dad’s death. And I finished up a grief support group I had been in for eight weeks. I’m not sure how helpful it was. Some of the people were there who had loved ones die years ago. I honestly think I’m handling this much better than many of them. And mine was the most recent. Of course, I miss Dad a lot. But I’m moving forward. It’s the only way to go. Meanwhile, Mom’s going crazy on the weekends, which is when she and Dad used to do things together. She’s very lonely. She’s considering moving back to Knoxville, where she has hundreds of friends and where her home church is. We had all talked about moving together, but Gretchen and I like the house that we’re in and we’re not that keen on moving, so Mom might go on her own. Which would make me worry and feel guilty. *sigh*

Our cat, Toby, has been having some problems. I took him to the vet three weeks ago. He has kidney damage. He’s overweight at 21 pounds and drinks water incessantly. Of course, he is a Maine Coon, and they like water, but still, it’s amazing to see how much he drinks. He actually gets in the shower with us, gets in the sink to drink from the faucet, drinks from my wife’s bath water. It’s crazy! We’ve put him on some kidney food the vet prescribed. This is actually the third one. The first two, neither cat would eat. They went on two three day hunger strikes before I caved and fed them their old food. The vet said don’t let them starve — if they don’t eat the “right” stuff, feed them their old stuff. Fortunately, this third type of food they are eating. I don’t know how this will help Toby, but we want him around for awhile. He’s only six.

My Steelers have won two in a row and play the Browns tomorrow. I really think we’ll win that one. My Vols play Vandy tonight and it’s a must win game. If we win this and beat Kentucky next week, we should get to a bowl game. If we lose, the season’s pretty much over. And Vandy’s no longer a pushover. They’re pretty good. So, I don’t have high hopes. Still, go Vols! Meanwhile, my Penguins have won three straight and are now 15-8 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, which is cool. I hope he wins another MVP this year. He deserves it. Of course, he has to stay healthy, but hopefully he will.

I was having trouble with my car seat. It wouldn’t move forward. Instead, it turned to the right, thus twisting my body right and making it impossible for me to see. Therefore, I had to put my seat all the way back at its lowest position and couldn’t see over the steering wheel. In any case, it was dangerous, so I took the car into the garage. I also asked them to check a window and to replace my two windshield wiper fluid jugs, both of which had cracked (for an astronomical price). Turns out they wanted to charge me a fortune just to take my seat out and apart because it was so complicated. It’s a Nissan dealer, but I have a BMW (which I’ll never buy again). They told me it was either a motor or a track issue and the part to replace it from the BMW dealer would be about $1,000 and all the work together would come to almost $2,000! I was astounded. Still, I had to have it done, so I said go ahead. I’d just have to put it on my credit card. So I was elated to get a call from them a couple of days ago telling me they could fix the front to back tracking and the recline, but not one other thing, but if I was okay with that, they wouldn’t need this extra part and it would save me a grand. Naturally, I jumped at that! When I picked it up yesterday, it was considerably less than I expected it to be, so I was overjoyed. Still, I’m never buying another BMW as long as I live.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been reading the usual sci fi. I’ve been reading biographies. They’ve been pretty interesting. I’m in a zone.

This poet I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago — Cliff Brooks — and I have exchanged some books we’ve written. I got an email from him yesterday saying he really thought the books I sent him were awesome and wouldn’t mind featuring me on his radio show. That’s pretty cool. I was once interviewed on Air America for 30 minutes, but that was years ago. Still, it was a national show and that was neat. Who knows?

Gretchen and I live in a nice middle class neighborhood, but there’s a shocking amount of crime here, and that’s disturbing. You may recall that our house was broken into in August and some things were stolen. They kicked in our front door, which was wooden. We subsequently got a metal door. And an alarm service, which makes us feel a lot safer. It’s possible we may have a handgun for emergencies, but we really wouldn’t have much need for it, other than target practice. I found out a couple days ago, I’m going to be getting my old .22 rifle (with scope) I used when I was young pretty soon. It was a great rifle and it’ll be fun getting out on a range again with that. And it can be used as home security too. Can never be too safe. We also each have pepper spray. We carry that with us all the time. The crime really is worrisome. And the cops don’t seem to care very much. They care about the rich areas of town, but the rest of us can go suck it, right? *sigh*

Ending on a positive note, there’s a large likelihood I may be selected to serve on our church’s vestry in a few weeks. If so, it would certainly be an honor and a responsibility I wouldn’t take lightly. I might even attend church more frequently. LOL! Gretchen’s in the new bell choir they just started. She’s also in the flower guild, and I serve as the church’s webmaster. We’re fairly active there.

I guess that’s all for now. Cheers!

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A Review of Their Life’s Work

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 7, 2013

Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and NowTheir Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now by Gary M. Pomerantz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Their Life’s Work is a good book by a good author about the greatest football team of all time — the ’70s Steelers. However, I think the book could have been better, which I’ll get to in a moment.

The book starts with the Rooney family. Art Sr. bought the club for $2,500 circa 1932 or 1933 from money he got gambling on horse racing. Of course, the Steelers have remained in the Rooney family ever since, and Art Sr. went on to become one of the most beloved team owners ever.

The Steelers stunk for years. It wasn’t until they hired Chuck Noll as their coach, and he made “Mean” Joe Greene his top draft choice that things started to turn around, and even then, not in their first year. Pomerantz writes at great length about many of the major Steeler players (and even not so major), such as Bradshaw, Harris, Blier, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Greenwood, Holmes, Lambert, Ham, Blount, Shell, Russell and the others. That part of the book is enjoyable. So too is the part of the book leading up to their first playoff appearance and Franco’s Immaculate Reception against the Raiders, capped off by a detailed rendering of Pittsburgh winning their first Super Bowl (IX) against the Vikings. I expected more though. I expected a chronological account of each season of that magical decade, similar to other Steeler books I’ve read. But the author essentially stops with the first Super Bowl win and barely mentions the other three. He instead goes on to spend entire chapters profiling certain players, including Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Mean Joe Greene, and Mike Webster, all Hall of Famers. (Nine players from those Steelers teams made the NFL Hall of Fame!) The player profiles were in depth and largely interesting, but I couldn’t help wondering why he left other players out, most notably Jack Lambert, in my opinion, the greatest inside linebacker to ever play the game, and certainly the meanest. Why not Jack Ham, one of the greatest outside linebackers of all time? Why not Mel Blount, possibly the greatest cornerback of all time, for whom the rules were changed in 1978 to make it harder on defensive backs to defend wide receivers. Why not Swann? Donnie Shell? Dwight White? Why did he choose to profile these particular players while ignoring other equally important players? I don’t know the answer to the question; only the author does. He profiles Noll, who doesn’t come off well (cold hearted) (neither does Lambert, considered aloof and irritable by the author), and makes him seem pathetic in old age. He does this to discuss the player’s “life’s work,” a phrase Noll used when talking about what players should concentrate on after football. And I guess he does a good job with the players he does profile. It’s interesting reading, but I wanted more. I wanted more on the seasons, the games, the other Super Bowls, and the other players. I want to give this book five stars, but I can’t for the reasons I just mentioned. Still, it’s a decent book on the Steelers and you’re sure to learn a thing or two you didn’t know. Recommended for fans.

View all my reviews

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An Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 25, 2013

So after our break in of two weeks ago, we now have a home security system in place. We signed with ADS Security, a regional home security company with a good reputation and we now have an alarm system in place on all four doors, as well as interior motion sensors. We also have signs in our yard. We feel a lot safer now. Yeah, you can have all kinds of weapons in your house and plans for robberies when you’re there, but those don’t do any good when you’re not around. The break ins in this neighborhood have been happening between 10 AM and noon on weekdays when people aren’t around. Ours was on a Tuesday in broad daylight! How brazen. ADS responds in 45 seconds or less, so we feel like this security system is a good investment and we feel a lot safer now.

Meanwhile, we’re still trying to get used to Dad’s death three and a half weeks ago. It still feels so unreal. I can’t believe he’s no longer around. And I can’t get the image of him on the ground gasping and moaning as he died out of my mind, and of my mouth to mouth as he was obviously dead by then. I feel helpless and guilty. I feel a great sense of loss. And my mom is trying to do her best, but she’s been overwhelmed and is a little OCD about many things. I’m trying to be patient with her.

Mom had a DVD made of Dad’s funeral service and we got a copy. We watched it a few days ago. It seemed surreal. I’m glad we have it, but it’s a little weird too.

We got the items that were stolen replaced, and my external backup worked for my computer, so I’m happy about that. There was only one software program I had to buy again, as it didn’t transfer over. That’s okay.

I had a lot of poetry submissions to Ray’s Road Review to go through. They had really piled up. I accepted poems from two people and rejected many from quite a few people.

Yesterday we went to a seminar given on the Affordable Care Act to educate people about the details. It was pretty informative. Since neither of us has employer given insurance, we’re hoping this will really help us out come January.

Mom sold Dad’s car. That was kind of sad. Next up, it’s time to sell his fishing boat. I have no idea how to find out basic information on it and how to determine what to ask for it. I need help with this. Mom’s going to be donating Dad’s books to the library of their home church in Knoxville and I guess she’ll be giving his clothes to Goodwill. She’s going to get rid of his tools, although I think I’ll take a number of them myself. Mom’s freaking out about finances, because she’s never had to worry about this before, but I’m trying to remind her that Dad left her in good shape. She doesn’t seem to get it sometimes.

We didn’t go to church today. Gretchen went biking and I want to cut the grass, but it poured last night and I think the grass is too wet to cut. I think we’ve had one day all summer long without rain. It’s been crazy! You’d think we live in Seattle or London. I’ve never seen a summer like this. I can’t wait for fall. At least football’s here. That’s something. I do think, however, that my Steelers are going to suck this year, and I have no idea how UT is going to do with their new coach.

I guess that’s all for now. Just wanted to give an update. More book reviews to come later this week. Cheers!

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