Big Lead Sports Bar



For some reason still unbeknownst to me, the vast majority of those who read this site prefer to communicate via email rather than through the comments section of each post. I have no problem with it, other than the fact that I love a good ongoing conversation (and occasional debate) amongst the readers.

But I started running into a problem. I was spending so much time answering email that it cut into the time I had earmarked for writing. I always figured that if a person took the time to write to me, especially at great length, I should at least try to communicate back. So I attempted to kill two birds with one stone and start a Mailbag column.

Mailbags were always a favorite of mine, hitting their peak last spring. They were always actually more than just emails...there were links, there were pictures, there were was sort of a melting pot of all the little things that make this site what it is.

They were always too long (one of my weaknesses), but for the legions of readers who were killing time at work, they didn't seem to mind. In fact, they encouraged it. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the Mailbag had to go away for a while. But I really missed it, and told myself I would find a way to bring it back, no matter how long it took. So after an all-too-lengthy intro, I present....the return of the mailbag!

Dave Zigerelli is a displaced Monacan (you know, someone from Monaca) now working as a producer for MTV in New York. He also does a podcast called "Burghcast!", which is very Steeler-heavy. And he sent 12 questions. Unfortunately, we can't get to all 12. But here are a few:

DAVE: Who has more clout... Boston Red Sox Fans for electing Jason Varitek to the 2008 All Star Team or The Christian South for electing George W. Bush to the 2004 Presidency?

MH: Whenever you get angry about a Pirate not playing up to his contract, think of the $10,442,030 that the Shawks are forking over for a .215 hitter.

Honestly, I've read so many anti-Varitek jokes recently that I couldn't begin to recall them all. He's actually been called the worst All-Star of all time. The naming of "JV" to the AL squad is nearly as laughable as former Pirate Mike Williams taking his 6.29 ERA to the "All-Star" game in 2003. Williams will always be my worst All-Star.

But you can't pin this one on Red Sox fans, unlike the election of DH David Ortiz, who hasn't played since, oh, MAY 31. No, this was the players' vote, as Varitek was chosen as a reserve. Are they even paying attention to the games they're playing in? Apparently not.

DAVE: Is the name Passion of the Christ(ian Okoye) a good name for my 2008 Yahoo Fantasy Football team?
MH: That's good, but the Pittsburgh Passion of the Christ(ian Okoye) is even better.

DAVE: Does Fox Sports plan to convert the "Pittsburgh Pirates: We Are Family" documentary in to HD?

MH: If they don't, they'll be sure to hear from the very vocal FSN audience that speaks up every time something isn't broadcast in HD.

From Stephen in Cincy:

While I was at work Saturday in a a restaurant in the "miserable" city of Cincinnati, my boss approached me saying none other than the Bubster, Bubby Brister was sitting at a table. I shot down his call saying he was full of crap, saying how can you call Bubby Brister of all people. So a female member of our staff approached Bub and asked him what his name was, and he replied, "Bubby Brister". Thats when me as a lifelong Steeler fan jumped in and introduced myself. I told him how he was the quarterback of the greatest franchise in sports when I first started watching football. I asked him for an autograph, which I haven't done in years, which he graciously signed "Bubby Brister #6". He seemed to be blown away that someone had actually noticed him. I'll forgive all the Bubby interceptions over the middle by the likes of Frank Minnifield, Hanford Dixon, Bubba McDowell, David Fulcher etc, etc, etc. Just for the mere fact he delievered in one of my most memorable games as a Steelers fan. New Years Eve 1989, Houston Astrodome, GA-WEE Anderson 50 yard field goal in overtime......nuff said!!!

Yours Truly,

Steeler Steve Stuck in Who-Dey Hell

MH: Steve, first of all, my condolences for your current living situation. I can't possibly imagine what that must be like for you. But I digress...

I picked this email because it gave a solid discussion point: Bubby Brister has a pretty interesting legacy. As a first-round QB choice of the Steelers in '86, he never met expectations, exciting Wild Card win in '89 and close call in Round 2 aside. Other than that, I think he was best known for buying his mother a black-and-gold car and that running joke that involved him being unable to get in his house due to an end zone being painted on the front porch.

But the Bubster ended up playing 14 seasons in the league, including a seven game stretch filling in for John Elway in '98 that eventually resulted in a Super Bowl ring. I just heard Mark Schlereth say what a great teammate Brister was, and usually I take whatever Schlereth says with a truckload of salt; but it sounded genuine.

Brister was an enigma wrapped in a riddle and deep-fried with a question mark on the side. Although he was sorta before my analyzing time (although I crunched a surprising amount of statistics for an 11-year old), his career stats include a TD:INT ratio of 81:78, which isn't quite the level of atrocity that one might expect. And to say the Steelers didn't surround him with offensive weapons was an understatement, although they at least attempted with the great Tim Worley pick in '89. Professionally, I think of him a little like a Vinny Testaverde: a professional who could win you a few games in the short-term, but not a guy to single-handedly make you a better team.

And as far as the email goes, it's nice to hear that Bubby isn't holding a grudge against Steeler fans, who aren't exactly known for their kid gloves when it comes to treatment of quarterbacks.

From Ryan in Butler:

Hello, my name is Ryan Laidlaw and I have been a long time fan of your site and occasional emailer. The reason I contact you this time is to speak about a major sporting event that occurred last night in our area. I am from Butler and last night we were featured on ESPN2 "Wednesday Night Fights". The show was put together by a local heavyweight contender, Brian Minto, who is currently ranked no. 11 in the world. The show highlighted the small town pride and Steel City roots and pointed out that 4,000+ showed up to a fight in a town that only has 15,000 people. I understand that you were most likely unaware that the fight even took place yet alone reported on it. The lack of local Pittsburgh media support was quite shocking stemming the whole way from TV to the newspapers, however, I was hoping to start to change that. It turned out to be a fantastic success with Brian winning a KO in the first round in a newly renovated park which use to house the NY Yankee farm club team back in the 40's and 50's (think Mantle, Maris, and Berra). I, myself, think it would be something that your site followers might take an interest in especially considering the local lore that your site promotes. If you could take some time and perhaps write a story about the night I am sure your readers would appreciate it. Thanks for your time and keep up the tremendous work on the site it is by far the best site I visit all day.

Sincerely, Ryan Laidlaw, Butler, PA

P.S.- My friend who owns and operates the concessions for the fight last night reported that his take was $45,000+ in sales. Now if you take $5 for a 16 oz. beer and do the math that is one s***load of beer consumed by one little steel town in Western PA.

MH: I have to give it up: Ryan's persistence beat me down. I was holding his original email for the mailbag, and he then reminded me about the fight and included a YouTube clip. As per Ryan's request, here is video of Brian Minto vs. John Poorer on July 2 at Pullman Park in Butler. I guess this means we can now move on from our dated memories of local boxers like Paul Spadafora and Michael Moorer.
And congrats to the fine folks of Butler for their alcohol consumption. Well done.

From Mike in Lawrenceville:

I really enjoyed your AYCE article. It just gave a really good "fan" take on the whole endeavor. And speaking of being a fan, I see you took some heat for the article as well. My take: I'm a pretty tough judge of people in the media, be they big (PG writers, KDKA sports guys) and small (bloggers). I think your very even-handed in what you say, and even if it does result in a more critical tone for some teams (e.g, Pirates) than others (e.g., Penguins), it usually justified or has a logical reason behind it. That is, I have never sensed that you are taking a position just for the sake of being controversial, which I hate so much.

For example: The Pens just made a great post-season run, wrapping up a strong regular season, doing everything right for 3 rounds of the playoffs, and then making a superior Red Wings team work hard to win the Stanley Cup. I would expect positive comments about the Pens after all of that.

The Pirates on the other hand, are plodding along as usual and, with no hope in sight, I would expect dismal comments to be presented. Being "fair" doesn't mean finding an equal amount of good/bad to say about each team in those situations. In regard to matters of opinion however, I can tell that you make an active effort to present both sides. I know you are a big Mark Madden supporter (I am not) but even during the whirlwind surrounding his termination at ESPN1250, you were very even-handed in discussing it. Which is not something you have to do because hey, its your website, you can do whatever you want. So, the way I see it, you have developed a nice blend on issues of the day. On factual issues, you reward the good ("Lets Go Pens") and criticize the bad ("Raise the Jolly Roger"). On matters of opinion, you give your opinion, but show both sides of the argument. Can't do much better than that. Bottom line for me is that I enjoy how you do things and that's why I check in at least once per day. Honestly, I prefer your information on an issue more so than most of the major media outlets.

The ice cream sandwich that started it all

MH: I'm blushing. But to get back to Mike's original thought, I was caught a little off guard by some of the reactions to the All You Can Eat article. I would have never guessed that a piece focusing more on long concession lines and melted ice cream sandwiches would result in me defending my Pirate fandom a short time later. [And by the way, to the wise guy that said I should expect my ice cream sandwich to melt on a hot day, you're absolutely correct. Although the Pirates should realize that an invention called a "freezer" does exist and one would think that I could at least be handed said ice cream sandwich in somewhat of a frozen condition.]

Keeps things frozen, even on a hot day. Might want to invest in this futuristic gizmo, Bucco brass.

But I'm glad I addressed things the way I did, because they had to be addressed. Mike's right, I do tell both sides of the story. At least I try to. But the Pirates conversation has been pretty one-sided for a long time now. Sure, I could cheerlead and say how great things are and how fantastic they will be (which some outlets do). And then you can look at the standings, and see the Pirates once again are a game out of last and 11.5 out of first, and think, "That guy who writes that blog is rather delusional, no?" (Actually, most people would say "He's full of ****", but I thought I'd clean it up a bit.)

It's like the commenter who criticized me every time I criticized Tom Gorzelanny. I guess I was being too hard on him too. As I've pointed out a time or 10,000, SI's Tom Verducci called Gorzo's implosion back in February. It wasn't hard to see that this guy was not going to improve overnight. But he kept getting trotted out, night after night, and the results were the same nearly every time. His ERA's low point was 4.50 on opening night and the closest it ever came to that number was the 5.97 mark on May 10.

And now for the biggest nut-kick to Pirate fans: he led the team with six wins. Which tells you: 1. The wins stat is almost meaningless and 2. The Pirates have awful pitching.

Another AYCE email from Michael in Irving, TX:

The AYCE was a good piece. The Pirates WERE my favorite team growing up also, and your commentary has been spot on. You can’t be “too tough” on a team that is on the verge of losing 16 straight. The underlying problem with all these comments is that management has accomplished their ultimate task. They have managed to win the hearts and minds of the fans despite fielding a sub-par product year in and year out. That is not apathy I am hearing, it is sympathy. By marketing the PNC experience, management has been able to sell family entertainment and minimize the importance of wins and losses. No doubt this fan base is calloused to losing, and maybe if the Pittsburgh media was tougher and held management accountable, things would change. However, I am not expecting things to change much in the future, but I am sure you can count on more fireworks and bobbleheads.

MH: I'm not sure exactly how many fans are still willing to be tough on the Pirates. The number is decreasing daily. As I noted with my orginal thoughts on the topic, apathy is a far bigger fan crime than anger, and it's been contagious among Pirate fans (with good reason). With each passing day, they are less and less relevant in our city. Not only did they have to contend for years with the Steelers' training camp shortening their summer coverage, but now fan interest in June and July has been deservedly dominated by Penguins hot stove news. What interests you more: discussing the possible destinations of Marian Hossa and Jaromir Jagr or talking about Consecutive Losing Season #16?

Like I said, the Pirates at least appear to be somewhat comfortable with their role in Pittsburgh's sports hierarchy, because at some point they decided to sell the experience rather than the game itself. Face it, that's all they can sell. And I will repeat that their marketing department does a fantastic job of drawing customers into the stadium, year after year. But we're fully into an entire generation unfamiliar with what a competitive Major League Baseball team looks like, yet all too familiar with a Super Bowl-winning football franchise and a fan-friendly, youth-dominated, Stanley Cup-competing hockey team. Is this a problem for a future fan base trying to decide where to allocate their ticket buying dollars? You bet it is.

Mike from Lawrenceville also sent a compelling follow-up email:

One more thing about the Buccos. My son is 9 and asking a lot of sports questions. He is real big into "who are our 2nd, 3rd, 4th favorite teams (other than Pirates, Steelers, Pens, Pitt, etc.), who are are arch-enemies, etc.

While making an enemies list for the Steelers and Penguins is easy, I realized that things are so bad and apathetic with the Pirates that I really couldn't name an arch-rival for the Pirates. Can you? I can't say that any of our division rivals (Cubs, Cards, Astros, Reds, Brewers) really juice anyone up when we play them. I guess I carry a grudge against the Braves for what they did to us 16 years ago and how good they've been since then compared to our record, but is that really make them an arch-rival? The Mets used to be a pretty good rivalry, but with them now in a different division than the Pirates, not to mention being so much better, they are really just another team. With Bonds no longer with the Giants, there's no incentive to get worked up about a game against them. I guess the Phillies would qualify as our biggest rivals by default, but does anyone raise an eyebrow when they come to town?

Isn't that really depressing? We have no arch-rivals in baseball because we've sucked so bad for so long that no one even cares enough to get fired up about us.

MH: You can't have a rival when you never win and never compete with any team for a common goal. The Pirates absolutely are without a rival. They can't even get a forced rival for interleague play, because Cleveland gets matched against Cincinnati.

The only thing even closely resembling a rival was St. Louis and Tony LaRussa, and that was more of a LaRussa-Lloyd McClendon thing. I guess I should take back that "can't have a rival without winning" statement, because I forgot that there's always a bench-clearing brawl to stir up some bad blood. But that is usually a short-term thing.

Possible rivals? As I said, LaRussa is on about the same level as Brian Billick in my book, so that's a fantastic place to start. And you have to include the Cubs, being that they're the top dog in our neighborhood these days. Cincinnati? Meh. Milwaukee? Well, it was the site of that Randall Simon weiner-whacking incident, but I don't see that one panning out either. And Houston looks to be going nowhere fast.

Beyond that, if we can dream that the Pirates would ever be in a Wild Card race or playoff series, the Mets could rekindle memories of "Muck the Fets" quite easily, and the Braves would revive instant/bad memories as well. I wouldn't dare venture into the AL. I have a feeling that the World Series in Pittsburgh might be a longshot.

Here's one from Hicks in Slippery Rock:

Onto the Bucs. They will continue to miss the .500 mark and never make the playoffs until they take drastic and immediate action:

1. Admit that Doug Mientkiewicz is the Pirates' version of the Penguins' Gary Roberts. He's tough, has a cool/strange beard-thing, and plays hard. (He would've throttled that mulleted-giraffe Randy Johnson given the chance.) The Bucs need to play up the "What Would Doug Mientkiewicz Do" thing--t-shirts, posters, slogans on Dairy Queen signs, etc. Both Doug and Gary have those emotionless, flat shark eyes. Both go for the jugular and know how to win. The Bucs must install Doug full time at first (Who cares about home runs when Doug can hit .300? More than we've been getting from the Rip-Van-Winkle of April and May (La-la-la-roche!).

2. And with the uniform change, get rid of that greasy, swarthy looking Pirate logo. Bring back the bold, brash "handsome" Pirate logo of the 70s!

After all, we won two World Series brandishing that studly logo. ( I heard it appeared on some of the paper used for batting lineups in spring training this year. Bring it to PNC Park.)

Thanks for reading my rant. Please help us 40-somethings bring back the memories of our mustard-colored youth!

MH: Hicks is always good for some inspired banter. On to his thoughts:

1. Mientkiewicz is quite the fascinating character. He played high school football with A-Rod, there was that whole "final out of the 2004 World Series ball" controversy, he hit the game-winning home run in the 2000 Olympic semifinals against South Korea (later winning the gold), and he called out Randy Johnson this year. That's more than enough to qualify as a cult hero.

And that brings me to Gary Roberts. Was anyone else at least a little disappointed at how quick Roberts left for the "Pittsburgh South" Lightning (who just added Mark Recchi, by the way)?

It's been interesting to watch fan reaction to the Penguins' free agents. I heard Mike Prisuta say on WDVE this morning that Penguin fans should not be bitter about Marian Hossa leaving for Detroit, which I could not fathom. And he wasn't saying it in a Skip Bayless, just-trying-to-disagree-for-the-sake-of-disagreement opinion. He honestly believed it.

Penguins fans took it personally, but I'm not going to criticize them for it. They were emotional; the guy gave some impression like he actually might re-sign with the team. But in the end, he proved to nothing but a mercenary. If he were a baseball player I'm 99% sure he'd play for either the Yankees or the Red Sox. And if you think I'm wrong, he signed with Detroit for a grand total of one year, which lets him woo all prospective teams again next summer.

2. I'm not 100% sure I'd go back to the old logo, but I know that if I would go back to an old logo it would be the '68-'86 model. That being said, I have no fond memories of the current version, in play since 1997, so if they would move on I would not complain.

Brendan in Wexford writes:

I was very appreciative of your website's local sports media polls a couple of weeks ago. The reason for my appreciation was that it confirmed about 99% of my pre-poll predictions.

1. The vast majority of our local sports newspaper writers stink. Of couse there are a few exceptions (some Steelers beat writers), but most of our fair city's columnists write using the same constant structure and verbiage. It's like I am always reading the same article with different names and statistics. I think the Post-Gazette sports section has a work-share program with the dinosaur room at the museum and with Penn State University as well. Everything seems old, including all the columns about Joe Paterno (who by the way, is the most over-rated sports figure in Pittsburgh over the past 10 years. He has done next to nothing, literally, and he gets more coverage than the pope for God's sake. But that is just the PSU hater in me coming out.

2. The most important thing...Mike Lange! He should never have been removed from TV. The only logical reason I can think of is that he can paint a more vivid picture of the game over the radio for people unable to watch. That being said, that is not why he was moved to the radio, it was because of some young punk station manager that wanted to make a splash. Thankfully that splash was into the "you got fired kiddie pool". Mike Lange IS the best live sports announcer this city has ever had (all due respect to Bob Prince) and he deserved more. The fact that he remains here on the radio is truly a testament to his character.

MH: Yeah, the sports media polls were fun. I was a little surprised that so many of them came back positive, given the collective "disapproves" that most of you give them on a regular basis.

I think the general acceptance of blogs has resulted in the newspaper industry slowly accepting the format and utilizing their vast resources to take full advantage. For instance, they weren't included in the poll, but I know the PG's Empty Netters blog would've scored very high.

Now, whether or not more blog-type content finds its way into the actual newspaper is up for debate. But I can assure you that newspaper have noticed what's going on in cyberspace.

As far as Mike Lange, I was overwhelmed at his rating. I knew he was popular, but WOW!

I happened to be on the road for portions of Game 5 of the Cup finals (THE overtime game), and listening to Lange was simply awesome. He deserves every compliment offered. The man is an icon and it's an injustice to have him limited to radio duty.



OK, that was long, and I didn't come close to hitting all of the emails. But as usual, it was a lot of fun.

Like I said, there's some other interesting stuff in the works this week, most notably Thursday's interview. And no, it is not Ronnie Florian, Tim Worley, the cotton candy guy from the Penguin games or any of the other names suggested. I promise you will not be disappointed. I have lots of research to do on my subject, so hopefully this post will keep you occupied for a while.

Before I go, I must give a mention to all of the Geibel HS alumni who apparently read the site on a regular basis. Let me see your alligator. Now can any of you give me the inside scoop on the dismissal of hoops coach Ken Misiak after a Paterno-esque 45 years on the job?

One last thing...I had to make a movie recommendation, since we can't all watch sports all the time. It's been running on Starz over and over lately, and I think I've watched at least parts of it four times this week. It's called The Brothers Solomon and I'd call it a combination of Dumb and Dumber and 40-Year-Old Virgin. It was a complete box-office bomb, but it was the most I've laughed out loud in a LONG time.

Feel free to send an email for the next mailbag. The address is if you're so inclined.


Anonymous said...

My Bubby Brister moment was when he was with the Broncos and a reporter asked him why t was so hard to play at 3 Rivers Stadium. Bubby's answer: "because the wind blows off of the lake". That's classic.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Add Doug Mientkalkfnsdfanf yelling at Ian Oquendo on Mic'd Up Night to his list of accomplishments.

ManBearPig said...

Mondesi: Do you realize how many thousands of man hours you've effectively xost employers today?

I LOVE the mailbag. By the way, if you want to see the best Pirates logo, all you have to do is check out the 1960 version. Now THAT was a pirate, not that homo in the 70s or that lunatic-looking guy we have now. He was regal, he was swarthy, he was loaded...he looked bad!

AJ said...

anybody catch Doug Manischewitz bitching out Ian Snell in the dugout after he got pulled in the 4th?

Classic. Snell was throwing a temper tantrum and DM got in his face and went off on him.

Finally, a player's jersey that I want to own... too bad his last name would not fit on my back.

Unknown said...

Was anybody besides me watching when the Pirates won their game last night? When it ended at 1:11 a.m. it seemed that there were about 200 people still in the park. These of course were those who were a)drunk, b)homeless or c)true dyed-in-the-wool Pirate fans.

It was another great comeback by the Battlin' Buccos to say the least.

Watching how the last few innings played out, I can only credit John Russell for having instilled great mental toughness and a never-say-die attitude with this team. They may not be the most talented club, but they will fight you. If only they had one or two better starters... From a fielding and hitting standpoint they're probably the best they've been since the beginning of the "spell". The bullpen, though hurting with Capps out, is performing well. Even their bench is the strongest it's been in years. The veteran leadership they now have is very positive too (see A.J.'s comment above regarding one of my favorites). Hint:It's not Ian Snell.

Even more important than all of the important things I've just mentioned is that it seems that they finally...finally!!!...seem to have front office leadership that knows what they're doing. They've already made a ton of good moves including several that they DIDN'T make that Littlefield guaranteed would have already done by now (involving the trade deadline).

I'm not drinking Pirate Kool Aid when I say that given a little bit more time, the present regime has the brains to make this team a contender again. It doesn't have to take five more years either.

The recipe I recommend: Keep the good veterans you have even re-signing them as free agents as they come up; acquire two starters via free agency and keep drafting smart and wait for the farm to start producing. This team can win again and contend. That's NOT the Kool Aid talking either.

One final thing: See if you can trade LaRoche and Bay for some pitching, then promote Pearce and McCutcheon. Move Nady to first base and then have this for an outfield: McLouth in left, McCutcheon in center and Pearce in right. Between left and center you'd have two awesome fielders. Pearce could handle the short right field.

Snuke said...

aww aj's just a lil guy if he can't fit DM's name on his back...come on now, you know all real pittsburghers are over the very least...hahahaha

Also Raul, I'm watching your movie pick on On Demand right now...I'll let u guys know whether Big Snack approves (I'm sure you all really give a ****...haha)

Anonymous said...

"Doug Manischewitz"

He's awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is a very special day. We just had our first David Fulcher reference on Mondesi's House.

tasj7045 - I remember it well. That was right before the Jan 1998 AFC Championship Game.

More mailbag, Mondesi.

Unknown said...

A small correction in the article about Bubby. You mentioned that he was a first rounder. He was taken in the 3rd round. The first rounder probably had a worse career than Bubby....Rhino Rienstra.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Come on Big Snack, we want a second opinion on the movie.

Unknown said...

I think Tony Danza could be the Buccos mascot if they go retro.