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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Save the Brawl

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Wednesday column is a bit off the beaten path, but it was something I thought about a lot during the recent road trip: Why do so many prefer autographs to an actual personal interaction?

No, I’m not getting into the usual adults-as-children criticism. It’s much more about simply having a better, more memorable experience.

Quite interested in your feedback, especially experiences you might have had.

>> And next went West Virginia.

Good for the Mountaineers for finding a new home in the Big 12. It’s not a bad fit geographically, and it spares further embarrassment such as the apparently snub from the SEC. They weren’t going to have their choice of conferences, given the really small size of the West Virginia TV market, so this is about as good as it will get.

Now, let’s take the next step, now that Pitt and West Virginia both will be heading their separate ways: At least strike a handshake agreement to try to keep the Backyard Brawl. It could be played early if late doesn’t work. But it really should be played. It helps both schools financially, it maintains a great traditional rivalry that will help ease the transition for players and fans, and it’s feasible.

>> I know it was other guys who got the goals, but isn’t it amazing how different the entire Penguins team looks when Evgeni Malkin is flying around like he did last night on Long Island?

The truly great ones make a difference even when they don’t score.

>> If you have any tiny sliver of reservations about Pitt leaving the Big East, check out the atmosphere Heinz Field will hold tonight.

Yes, the Panthers have to become a better program to draw more fans. But they also need to create the sense of big-time college football being played around here, and that generally takes two.


  1. Austin says:

    I have and will never ask a professional athlete for an autograph. They are people too, and being hounded to sign a peice of paper or an object does not show much respect as fans. It is a part of their job I guess, but I would much rather have a 5 minute conversation and talk about sports than have a signed peice of merchandise. Knowing more about an athlete is more fascinating to me than having their name inked onto an object. And, if you want proof to brag to your buddies about then get a photo. I would imagine that most athletes would rather take a picture with you than sign an autograph that will most likely end up on the internet, and I am sure that they would feel more respected if you ask them a sports related question rather than fanning a scorecard in their face. If you are going to ask an athlete for an autograph, however, do it in a polite manner and refer to them as Mr. Last Name, not Hey Joe sign this card.

  2. JAL says:

    JAL’s Stay Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

  3. JAL says:

    6 Bucs Dugout

    MLB Trade Rumors: Yankees’ Francisco Cervelli Could Be A Fit At Catcher For Pirates, NY Post Speculates

    7 Why Gavs



    Does StubHub Help or Hurt Major League Baseball?

  4. JAL says:


    8 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    La Russa, Duncan accept blame for bullpen fiasco

    Burwell: Cardinals’ big bats need to sizzle

    Cardinals pin their hopes on Garcia for Game 6

    9 Dallas Morning News

    Why Rangers feel no start is better than start and stop in Game 6

  5. JAL says:

    10 Fort Worth Star Telegram

    Rangers know they have to play their game and forget about celebrating

    One suit, one win fit Wash, his team

    11 Altoona Mirror
    Hurdle savors growing enthusiasm at PNC Park

  6. JAL says:


    12 CBS Sports

    Game 5 ratings rout Monday Night Football

    13 WRTA

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Clint Hurdle reflects on an ‘Electric Summer’ with fans–Clint-Hurdle-reflects-on-an–Electric-Summer–with-fans/9573589?pid=94417#.TqfiiISVIoI

    14 Rant Sports

    What the Pirates Should Do With Catchers’ Options: Part 2’-options-part-2/

    15 Through the Fence

    Babushka Power, Green Weenies and aspirin tablets: May baseball broadcaster language live forever

  7. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    16 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Memorable Games from 25 Steelers Legends: No. 21 — John Henry Johnson

    Steelers—Patriots: The Same Old Story or a Fresh New Chapter?

    17 Steelers Depot

    Breakdown Of The 95 Yard Touchdown Pass To Mike Wallace Against Cardinals

    18 Steelers Gab

    Belichick Talks Steelers Offense in Conference Call

  8. JAL says:

    WVU Blogs

    21 Metro News

    Hoppy’s Take On WVU To Big 12

    22 WV Illustrated

    Oklahoma’s View on WVU to the Big 12

    WVU in the Big 12 by the Numbers


    23 Pensburgh

    Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury Blank Islanders 3-0

  9. Thundercrack says:

    Very nice article today DK. And I agree. I just don’t get it with those grownups wanting all those autographs and spending so much time trying to get them.

    I went by myself to Jim Leyland’s last home game as Pirate manager. When I left 3 Rivers Stadium I saw a bunch of people waiting by players’ exit/entrance so I decided to wait around. Leyland finally came out and stopped and signed a BUNCH of autographs. I got in “line” and when it was was my turn I said to him “Jim, I just want to thank you for all that you did for the Pirates, wish you well, and shake your hand”. He shook my hand and said “thank you very much”. I’ll never forget that. When I finally got to my car and was driving away from the lot, I looked in my rear view mirror and there was an SUV type vehicle behind me and I couldn’t see into the car. But then there was a small flash of light and I could see the driver’s face: The skipper was lighting up a cigarette for his ride home.

    BTW, I now REALLY wish I had a sharpie with me when I met you two years ago in the lobby of the Bradenton Marriott. Torture in person! :-)

  10. Jandy says:

    In the early 90’s when Kasparaitis played for the Islanders, being the avid Pens fan I was (and am!) I hated his guts. Then, he was traded to the Pens, and I instantly fell in love with him. All the ladies did. But I wasn’t a fresh faced screaming 20 something, I was a bit older.
    One of the few games I managed to attend, my sister and I waited in line for autographs after the game. We like to joke with the guys, and almost all of them loved to banter back. They were just human…you know. Anyway, I finally got up to where Kaspar was, and was telling him how I hated him until he became a Penguin, and he was laughing at me pretty good. I noticed a stray hair on his jacket collar (remember he had longish hair) and I reached over and plucked it off…when the 3 girls behind me erupted screaming. I looked at him…he was grinning madly…then I tucked the hair down my jersey. The girls only screamed louder. I thought he was going to bust his gut laughing. I told him I’d take good care of his hair. I got my autograph and moved on.
    But really, all the guys are human if you don’t push them. They’re people too. Some are just more human than others.

  11. TheSaltyRogue says:

    So the probable bad atmosphere at Heinz Field tonight is because UCONN is the opponent? Clearly that will improve when Boston College or Duke comes to town.

  12. cfuller21 says:

    Dan – Great column today that was in my opinion way overdue. Im 33 and have been going to Bradenton since my early 20’s. I have always been amazed at the same people year after year that hang out in Pirate city with their binders. I am always relieved when I see players sign for the kids first and not these “dorks” hounding players. I have had the pleasure of meeting many players over the years and never once asked for an autograph, flat out Freddy, Nate the great, Cutch, Jack Flash, all extremly nice and willing to mix in small talk about being a big leaguer. No Pittsburgh sports celebrity has ever been as enjoyable as Bob Walk, Walkie talked to me and my father for probably 20 minutes last year wile people were hounding him for autographs, Walk answered all our questions and thanked us for our continued support, a real class guy and truely made our trip to bradenton

  13. DannyMoe says:

    Good article, DK. I’m on board with you. I get to see a lot of this here in Florida during Spring Training. The autograph hounds are everywhere and, frankly, can make it tough for a guy like me with little kids to get close and shake the hand of a player.

  14. JAL says:

    A group of WVU fans are doing Occupy Heinz Field for the UConn game

  15. JAL says:

    Since the backyard Brawl has been played for 103 years, most with the two teams in different conferences, they should be able to keep it going as a non-conference game.

  16. Milo Hamilton says:


    Maybe the WVU fans should occupy the Big 12 to make sure they don’t get backdoored by Louisville.

  17. Milo Hamilton says:


    Outstanding column this morning.

    I was about 15. After a Pirate game my friends & I heard sirens in the circle around Three Rivers. We followed the crowd to a car parked outside the players entrance smoking & badly overheated. Over my shoulder I heard a very deep voice say, “boy, I’m glad I’m not that guy.” It was Rick Monday. When I said that I didn’t have a pen he said, “that’s OK, you’ll end up losing that stupid piece of paper anyway.” I shook his hand & told him I thought it was cool that he saved the flag.

    Great memory, no autograph needed.

  18. Dan says:

    I always think the same thing with pictures. So many places… traveling to Europe, going to Ohiopyle to look at the fall leaves, etc… people are obsessed with pictures. They seem more concerned with getting a picture of themselves in front of whatever they are looking at, than actually looking at it! This is getting even more intense with smartphone cameras, Twitter & Facebook… Live in the moment. A picture doesn’t compare to the experience. Sort of like meeting someone vs. an autograph.

  19. JAL says:


    That might be their next move.

  20. PhillyJake says:

    Three years ago, I went to see the Lynchburg hillcats playing in the single A finals against the Wilmington Blue Rocks the last year they were a Pirates affiliate. It had rained that afternoon, it was a bit cold and not many fans came to the game. But, there was still that guy with the binder collecting autographs.

    This was the year Tony Sanchez was drafted. He came over and chatted with me for a bit. He hit a HR in the 6th. Nice shot.

    The next spring, I had good seats near the Pirates dugout for one of the preseason games here in Phila. Before the game, Cutch & Milledge were signing autographs along the rail. Neither one of them smiled, neither one took answered a question from any of the fans. There was a automaton-ness to the whole thing. Machines working their way down the line.

    Had a nice chat with Josh Harrison, though. Come to think of it, I had a nice chat with him & Jordy Mercer after the game in Wilmington, too.

  21. JAL says:

    Here an opinion on Occupy Heinz Field from Metro News

    Opinion–The Problems With “Occupy Heinz Field”

  22. leefoo says:

    I was never much for autographs. I figure these public figures get bugged enough.

    I remember seeing Franco in a Mickey D’s. My buddy was bugging me to get an autograph. I said ‘Why”? I see him in person. That’s enough. He looks busy (I think he has some franchises, or did?).

    So I passed. They’re just people who happen to be well known. It’d bug the heck out of me if, everytime I went out to eat, I had a line of folks coming up for an autograph.



  23. Drew71 says:

    I go for pictures and conversation. I don’t do autographs. If I can get a picture WITH the player, all the better. Easier place to try to hold conversations: Pirate City during the two weeks of spring training before they move to McKechnie.

  24. sms says:

    when i worked at the civic arena & 3 rivers – i got to be in a position to see players up close and personal & had some brushes with conversation……..picking up my pay and parking next to joe greene one friday was strange to say the least & finding out matt bahr went to college with our shop teacher kept us talking……and p’d off the teacher because we had dirt on him…

    while i accumlated autographs because thats what you did when you were a kid (for proof maybe you actually saw them) it never crossed my mind then to drum up conversation………

    now i would think it rare that a player would stop and spend time chatting unless the circumstances allowed – you hear so many stories of players getting peaved about interruptions etc…(rothlesberger & polamalu come to mind)

    nick eason used to come into a bar i frequent and it was cool to ask him inside info like when ben got his nose busted……but it was still a bit intimidating.

  25. MrB says:

    The last autographs I remember getting were when I was 10 and they were Clemente’s and Maz’s.

    In either 98 or 99, I was in Vegas at the MGM Grand the night of the Tyson vs Bothra fight. The casino floor was jammed as people have to walk through to get to the arena. I spotted Jerome Bettis with a friend, whom I did not recognize. Bettis was wearing a denim Yankee’s cap. I followed/stalked them through the casino. I believe they spotted me, stopped, sat down at a couple of slot machines and allowed me to timidly approach.

    From about ten feet away, I looked at Bettis and said “Hey Bus, do you have a minute for a lifelong Steelers fan?” He said “Sure,” and I walked up to them. Bettis immediately looked down at my hands expecting to see a pen and paper for an autograph. I said, “I don’t want your autograph. I just wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh and us fans.” He seemed genuinely touched by that and thanked me in return.

    I remember making some small talk about his knee (as it had been recently scoped) and he felt good about it. I wished them well and went on my way. My other recollection of that encounter was the size of Bettis. He’s not very tall, but the man was broad shouldered and extremely solid. One could easily see why he was both hard to bring down and the punishment he could dish out. I remember thinking that I would not want to attempt to tackle that man up high.

    Looking back at it, maybe I should have gotten a future HOFers autograph when I had the opportunity.

  26. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    DK-thank you so much for the autograph article. It truely gave me goose bumps. One thing I noticed when I took my son’s to a spring training game in Brandenton was the Ebay hounds. I had my 2 young sons trying to get autographs. This was the Matt Morris era, there he was, a huge adult, professional at its best (even if his performance didn’t show for the buccos.) The difference between him and the other guys, Ryan Doumit especially was,the he actually spoke to the kids and other adults there standing around. Doumit, just signed, didn’t say a word. My oldest told him he wanted to be a catcher as well, he just kind of shrugged it off. Nyjer Morgan was actually a fan favorite at that time. He signed, then later came back and gave my youngest son, one of his wrist bands. Pretty cool, considering how he’s been acting.

    The article also reminded of my youth as well. After we moved to Florida, we were 45 minutes from Bradenton. I stood around trying to get autographs from the players, the last winning season as well. I got all autographs from those early 90’s guys except for of course, Barry Bonds. He was too busy talking to the women. But I saw Jose Lind take a small boy over the fence, back to the dressing rooom and the boy came back with all kinds of Lind stuff, very cool.

    Go back a few years before that, my older brother and I were standing in line to get Pirates autographs in Winter Haven, FL. Tony Pena came by signing, I had a Pirates hat on, he tapped me on the hat and asked me if I was a Pirates fan….of course I shook my head yes. I was 6 years old and still remember that like it was yesterday. I get goose bumps thinking about it. How awesome of these guys to take the time to talk to the kids and do stuff for them. They have a gift and most kids that go to those games want to get at that level. Its an experience of a lifetime for any child. At least it was for me.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories DK. I needed that today.

  27. Great article on autographs, DK. To be honest, I’ve never been one for autographs so I’ve never really sought them out. I’ve never really sought out pictures, either. Asking a sports figure to pose with you for a staged photo always seemed like an imposition, especially if you just happened to run into the person by chance. Besides, autographs and photos feel like something you do for other people: showing off the signature on your wall, posting the photo on your social network. Like taking out your camera phone at a concert, it immediately takes you out of the context of the moment.

    I prefer a handshake, a good look in the eye, and a few honest words of appreciation. That moment will mean more to me than any autograph or photo.

    A number of years ago I was living in Tampa, Florida. It was NFL playoff season, and the Buccaneers were preparing to play the Eagles the following day. My wife and I were at a local restaurant having dinner. I excused myself to use the bathroom, and ran into then coach of the Bucs Tony Dungy on my way out of the men’s room. I smiled at him and gave a simple “Hey, coach!” Exchanging anything more in the men’s room would have been uncomfortable, to say the least.

    On the way out of the restaurant, Dungy was seated in the waiting area with a few members of his family. I approached him, shook his hand, and said “Coach, just wanted to wish you luck tomorrow. We’ll be cheering from our living room.” Tony, gracious as ever, thanked me. And at that, I left him be.

  28. DMac says:

    I’ve had a few photos signed, but those are from events I’ve attended that the player was at and they’re cherished.

    I know not many folks are fans of Andy LaRoche, and you can say what you want about his stats, but he is a fantastic person. I had the chance to meet him first at the Pirates bowling event last year and have had the good fortune to talk to him a couple of times since then. I’m not the most outgoing person you’ll ever meet, so it means more to me than I can say for someone to reach out to me, take my hand and genuinely say they’re glad I stopped them to say “hello”. He does this and it’s not feigned or forced.

    I’ll go back to lurking, but I totally agree that the handshake and actual interraction trumps all else. Some of these amazing athletes are also amazing people, but I think a lot of times, we don’t stop to find out.

  29. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    I am in the Air Force and was stationed in a little po-dunk town in Oklahoma. The great Jason Gildon’s home town. I ran into Jason on multiple occasions and did the same thing, shook his hand, told him was from Pitt and enjoyed his play.

    He was a great guy around those parts. Came to the base, signed autographs for servicemembers and their families and actually worked out at the base gym. I don’t believe the town itself had a gym and of course the military facilities are far greater, for the most part, than any other gym you’d go to.

    He was always hanging out, whether it be at a local restraunt or the wal mart, always nice to people.

  30. Hey, DMac!!
    Great to “see” your voice again!!
    Too bad this set-up doesn’t allow us as much interaction.

    Don’t crawl off that Andy Bandwagon. Good story about Andy being a real person.

  31. aglebagel says:

    I hope that Pitt and WVU are able to work out the same agreement that my Alma Mater, BYU, has going with our rival (and “little brother”) Utah. Utah was always the last game on the schedule when we were both in the same conference, but now that Utah’s in the Pac 12 and we’re Independant, they play the game in September. It felt weird this year playing that game so early, but it’s definitely worth it.

  32. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    Thanks to all for kind words about the column, but especially for your own anecdotes. Wasn’t sure what kind of reaction this piece would get.

    Oh, and to you newcomers, I apologize for the delay in your comments being posted. It only happens with the very first one. Everything after that is instant.

  33. CWalton_67 says:

    RE: your column this morning. Well done, sir. And totally on target.

  34. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    Here’s a pleasant surprise: The guys at the local blog Get Out To Our Game found the video of that Lemieux goal I described:

  35. Milo Hamilton says:


    Great to see that goal by 66. Not to mention that great outlet pass – We’ve Got “Moe” mentum. And awesome call by the great Dick Irvin.

  36. DMac says:

    @Groat…Thanks! Great to “see” you again as well! :-)

    And I have no plans to. ;-)

  37. JAL says:

    I always enjoy talking to people. Haven’t gone for autographs since I was kid though I have some cherished ones from then–Bob Friend, Roy Face, Dick Groat, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor.

    Now when I meet athletes I talk to them and that is what I enjoy.

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