It’s time for another edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings in this, the most political week in the history of Pittsburgh sports. But in the spirit of Sidney Crosby not wanting to get into political discussions, this week’s column will attempt to completely avoid all issues outside of the games and athletes themselves.
Of course, that’s not really possible in 2017. And “avoiding” politics in the era of Trump, the president who has gone out of his way to politicize sports, actually is a very strong political statement in and of itself — and one that will follow Crosby for the rest of his career. Perhaps that fact will dawn on him soon. If an online Power Rankings column can realize that, hockey’s smartest player should be able to, as well.
Okay, on to the #stickingtosports!
10. Ivan, Anupama and Dennis
Friggin’ Ivan over here doesn’t know what NFL team Mean Joe Greene played for?
And how exactly are we supposed to stick to sports if people like Anupama think the Colorado Rockies are an NFL team? These people don’t know sports at all. There’s nothing to stick to. Trebek is Canadian and even he’s embarrassed by your lack of NFL knowledge, Anupama. Shame!
9. Really pathetic excuses
Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats said on 93.7 The Fan this week that the team’s anthem strategy on Sunday contributed to their loss to the Bears:
“We truly lacked the focus we needed to. We spent a lot of time from Saturday to Sunday … discussing the anthem issue and how we were going to handle it. I think guys lacked a little focus when it came to playing the game.”
Okay. So if this loss to an overmatched opponent was because of the anthem, I wonder what the other approximately 398 losses to bad teams during Mike Tomlin’s era, losses which force the Steelers to play on the road in the playoffs every January, can be attributed to. Maybe the Steelers had been planning their 2017 Week 3 anthem strategy for the entire decade?
8. Artie Burns
Watch how distracted by the national anthem Artie Burns was on this play:
7. Beating Pitt football
Penn State and Oklahoma State are — or were, in the case of the Cowboys — considered college football playoff contenders. Both were flying high after defeating Pitt early this month. In fact, in the case of Oklahoma State, experts wondered if anyone could stop their offense after they hung 59 on Pitt at Heinz Field. But then on Saturday, OK State lost at home by 13 to TCU, Penn State barely slipped by unranked Iowa … and Pitt got destroyed by Georgia Tech.
The moral of the story is this: Pitt is very bad at football and, going forward, any team that fails to defeat them by a margin of less than 50 points should be immediately eliminated from national title consideration.
Or maybe I have it all backwards. Last year Clemson lost to Pitt and then won the national championship. That could mean Youngstown State, the only team to lose to Pitt this year, is America’s best team. Congrats to the Penguins!
6. Losing the right way
Did you hear the news about Louisville and other college basketball problems getting nailed by federal corruption charges? Pitt basketball wasn’t one of them! Huzzah! Enjoy it, because it will probably be the biggest Pitt basketball win of the 2017-18 season.
5. Bringing the sport of college basketball down
While Pitt is not one of the programs implicated in the scandal, a Pittsburgh resident did start the whole thing. Pittsburgh financial advisor and Ponzi scheme enthusiast Marty Blazer got everything rolling. So one has to wonder: did he ever reach out to Pitt? If he did, the program’s recruiting history suggests nothing came of it.
4. Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen is signed through the 2018 season, but there is a chance Wednesday night was his last game ever at PNC Park in a Pirates uniform. After a nice bounce-back season – McCutchen will finish 2017 with something like 30 home runs, 90 RBI and an .850 OPS – he will have real value on the trade market, and definitely much more than he did last year. But if the Pirates trade him, what and when are they building to? The farm system isn’t exactly flush with talent set to make the team a contender in 2020. The better approach might be try to improve the Major League roster and contend while McCutchen is still in his prime. But it’s the Pirates. That is unlikely to happen.
3. Greg McKegg
Pens free agent signing Greg McKegg is the story of training camp. Why? Because his name is Greg McKegg, of course. What kind of question is that? But not only is his name Greg McKegg, his nickname is “Kegger.”
The surprising story about Greg McKegg, though, is that he is apparently a very fast skater. A man named Usain Bolt? Sure, it’s not surprising to learn he’s fast. But Greg McKegg? Greg McKegg should be plodding and hungover at all times. But this Greg McKegg is fast. Just goes to show you: never judge a Greg by his McKegg.
2. Hockey hockey hockey hockey
The Penguins season officially starts next Wednesday. So, let’s go back to Mike Sullivan for the best analysis of the 2017-18 season:
1. Ruining things for people you don’t like
Great news! The Pirates are peaking just in time for the playoffs, having won five of their last six games. Unfortunately, some 150 games came before these last six games, during which the Pirates were quite bad at baseball and, therefore, they are mathematically eliminated from making the postseason. Sad! (Failure bonus points: By having no shot at winning a championship, the Pirates don’t have to consider an offer to visit the White House.)
However, during the Pirates recent run of success, they’ve won three of four against the Cardinals and Brewers, all but knocking both teams out of wildcard contention. So while ideally it would be neat if our very fractured country came together as one, if that would entail not being able to laugh at the misfortune of the Cardinals and Brewers, I’m not sure I want any part of it.