Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mid-week Blog Entry

That's about as bland as you can get for a blog title, eh? But, it's one of those days--rainy, cold, Beth's getting the sniffles (probably from me from the past few weeks), the kids were restless, and it's only Wednesday.

But, things look up from here:

March Madness is back in session tomorrow with my bracket hanging in the balance. I have #5 Purdue over #1 UConn in the early game and #3 Mizzou not only beating #2 Memphis, but going to the title game against UNC. So, with both being upsets and most people having UConn-Memphis, my bracket could be garbage or I could be in first place in my group by Friday morning. We shall see, but I'm not holding my breath.

Also on Thursday, #1 pitt (I noticed that I haven't been capitalizing the 'p' in that word lately) takes on #4 Xavier. It's a matchup of a former player vs his old team. I remember Sean Miller was the teenage heart-throb among the gals when I was in grades 8-10-ish. We'll see what they can do against pitt (there I go again). Remember, Xavier lost to Duquesne and faltered on the road down the stretch and didn't win their (easy) conference tournament. I had Florida State over Xavier, but FSU forgot to play against Wisconsin.

On Friday, #12 Arizona takes on #1 Louisville. Do they have a chance? We shall see I guess. You just never know which U of A team will show up. The team with two (or three) future NBA players that are willing to sell out on offense and defense or the team that looked lost losing 5 of 6 down the stretch?

Penn State made it to the NIT Final Four, but Davidson lost in the 2nd round to St. Mary's. PSU will play the winner of the ND-Kentucky game tonight. The year I went up for the NIT final four, PSU played ND (and lost). But, they came back to beat NC State in the consolation game the next night out.

We've got track meet #2 tomorrow. I'm excited to see how the kids do in this one after being through the first competition of the year and see what improvements and adjustments they make. Also, Saturday's our first invitational. While it's a long day, I'm excited to see how things go and see how we stack up with some of the other teams in the area. I always pack my triple-decker PB&J to nourish me on those long Saturdays.

Sunday, I've got my fantasy baseball draft. This is our 13th year. It's fun because we started it as a group of hall-mates in college back in the spring of my sophomore year (the 1997 season) and did all the scoring by hand. Now it's all done online. It's crazy to think it's been going on that long. We used to get together for the drafts, but now we're in Philly, Pittsburgh (me), Iowa, California, NYC, DC, and.... you get the picture. Last year, it was neat, we did a conference call through one of they guy's work place near Philly where four of five of the guys were able to meet. This year, I think it's just going to be an online chat. We're still working out the details. I had one shining year about four years ago where I won the championship. However, more often than not, I end up near the bottom of the standings as my superior mathematical analysis of baseball statistics usually gets trumped by the emotional selection of guys who I like to watch play. Playing favorites never wins championships!!!!

And, next weekend is Beth's first race out in Oceanside (outside of San Diego). It should be a fun trip as we've never been out to California. We've been to Phoenix and Portland, but never to SoCal. I'm excited to get back to the triathlon season and travelling. We actually just reserved a hotel for Tuscaloosa, Alabama in August for USAT Nationals. I know that while we're in SD we're eyeing up the San Diego zoo. Speaking of a zoo animal, my parents are going to take care of the pooch while were away.

When we get back from the SD trip, this leads right into baseball!!! Opening day is Monday April 6 and the Pirates will be taking on the Cardinals under the arch along the Mississippi. Look out St. Louis Cardinals--this is the Pirates year to...... maybe not finish last.....and....... maybe have a .500 record for the first time since '92........and........not be out of it by Memorial Day......and......nevermind. Preview to come in the next week or so.

So, now that I've made it through the early part of the week, lots of exciting things to look forward to over the next two weeks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First Round Observations

As it is just about every year, I had a mediocre first round. I got 21 out of 32 correct. The ones that hurt were the late ones Friday night--Florida State and Wake Forest. I had both going to the Sweet Sixteen. The other Sweet 16 I lost was WVU. So, 13 still alive heading into the second round.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Arizona team that showed up last night. You never know what kind of team is going to show up. Against Utah it was the team that could make it to the Final Four. Can they do that for five more games? Doubt it, but you never know with Arizona. They've got Cleveland State in the 2nd round and then perhaps a matchup with Louisville in the sweet 16

Penn State and Davidson are still alive in the battle for the 66th best team in the country. It's nice they have it though. PSU made it to the NIT final four the one year I was there and I took the offer for $10 for a charter bus to the NIT & back, the NIT double header, and a t-shirt. Not bad for $10. We got there early and even had a chance to roam around NYC for an hour or so. I tried pizza slices at three different pizza places (surprise, surprise)

I'm still in my "off-season" as I don't get as much time to train during track season while I coach the jumpers. But, my ankle's just coming back to 95% anyway, so it's not like I could've done much lately anyway. Last week, I ran 30 min with Beth on Friday, swam about 1000yds on Saturday, and aqua-joggged 90 min on Sunday. This week I ran 25 min on Tue picking up my car after practice (beautiful day!) ran again 30 min with Beth on Friday and ran 30 min with Beth on her brick today. Tomorrow we have a 85 min run planned.

Like it showed in the last post, the girls won the state championship. I didn't realize this but Cardinal O'Hara had all 5 starters going to Division 1 colleges (Vanderbilt, Maryland, LaSalle, Monmouth, & LaFayette). That's impressive but also shows how the catholic schools recruit (even though it's not obvious illegal recruiting). Our girls just didn't back down and took it right to them and had the lead for most of the first half and then pulled away when O'Hara's 6-4 Vandy recruit went down in a heap and twisted her ankle. She tried to get back in, but just couldn't put weight on her foot (I've been there!). The exciting part is that there was just one senior in the top 10 in the rotation. Look out for next year!

Our boys lost in the State semifinals, so it was a great year for both teams. They had a lot of underclassmen starters, so they'll be back next year, too.

In track, we had a beautiful day around 70 degrees for our first meet on Wednesday. It was a little windy and the jumpers were jumping right into it, so that was a bummer. Despite this, a lot of the jumpers picked up around distances/heights they left off at last year. That's exciting! Beth always wants to know how the 800, 1600, 3200 go and I can't ever help since I'm in my own jumping world. I see the runners going around the track but half the time I can't even keep track of what event is even on the track!!!!

This week, we've got an away scrimmage on Thursday and then the first invitational on Saturday. It should be fun.

We'll leave you with a picture of Roxy the Dog. In this picture, she's doing her impression of a duck/goose/flamingo where her head is wrapped back around on her body. What a goofball!!

Okay, back to watching the NCAA tourney!


Congrats to our girls hoops team--state champs. There are articles from the P-G and the Trib.

Photo from the P-G:

Photo from the Trib:College hoops update later today after track practice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Almost Without a Dance Partner

Just to make clear, the title is referring to college basketball--nothing about a close encounter for Beth.

Anyway, Sunday's selection show arrives and I figure that Penn State might make it, but Arizona & Davidson were out. Sure enough, somehow Arizona makes it in and continues their consecutive years of making the tourney (although most of the country felt that Arizona was the one team that shouldn't be in). Oh well, Arizona's in and PSU & Davidson were out. I think PSU was a better pick than some of the at large teams, but they were hurt by two things: First, teams like Mississippi St, Temple, USC, and Cleveland St won their conference tourneys, taking away at-large bids. Secondly, they let slip out of their hands TWO chances (at Iowa and in the Big Ten tourney at Purdue) to virtuallly lock their NCAA invite. Both times, they came up short, perhaps showing they didn't deserve to be in.

Regardless, Arizona's in, so I'll be rooting for them even though I thought I would be without a team to cheer on for the first time since I started following college hoops back in 1988 when I was out in Phoenix with my dad visiting my Aunt and we watched Sean Elliot and Arizona lose to Stacey Augmon and Oklahoma in the Final Four (Oklahoma then lost to Danny Manning & Kansas in the final). Truth be told, I have Arizona picked to lose in the first round based on my confidence (or lack thereof) in them.

By the way, if you're interested in joining an NCAA tourney bracket just for bragging rights and not for money, check out my facebook page or email me. I'm not going to put the private login on the blog since it would then no longer be too private. Duh!

In other basketball news, the girls hoops team just won 59-45 against Cheltenham in the state semi's and are now on to the state finals at the BJC!!!!! The boys are still in it and their semi is Wednesday night.

Our season opener is on Wednesday with an unheard of forecast high of 70?!?!?!? I can't believe it's going to be that nice. We've had some great days of training the last two weeks. Even though it's the first meet, we should see some half-decent performances. I'm excited for a group of jumpers. I've got some new people on the guys side and a core group of girls are now juniors and seniors. This should be fun!

Okay, enough for tonight. More reports on the NCAA tourney, high school hoops & track, Pirates, and the great one-liners from the sermon the last two weeks to follow this weekend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back from sickness (almost)

My apologies for no posts in the past week. Between track during the week and then becoming deathly ill (okay not that bad) over the weekend, it's been a rough go of it. I'll try to go chronologically to get up to speed--after I layout my crazy weekend.

Okay, you have to remember that this is coming from the perspective of someone who RARELY gets sick. Once a year is often for me.

So, I go running with Beth and Roxy the Dog on Friday morning before school. Probably not the best idea to take Roxy with us, but she had missed some walks due to my ankle and it was a nice morning. But, Roxy tugging did not make for a good debut on my ankle. However, I survived. I get to school and notice that I'm coughing some. What. The. Heck. (to steal a phrase from Beth) I didn't even go swimming I shouldn't be coughing or congested or anything! Last week it was my ankle. This week it's my coughing! I hope this doesn't last all weekend I thought......

So, I go through my day and practice, but by the time I get home I'm getting those sickness "chills" even though it was 60 or so degrees. Bummer. We ran a couple of errands after dinner and got a blizzard at DQ. We got home and I could barely finish my blizzard. Let me write that again: I COULD BARELY FINISH MY BLIZZARD!!!

We go to bed, but I'm getting the chills and sweats and then, in the middle of the night my stomach starts killing me. I go over to the bathroom, but no luck on helping the situation. So, I didn't want to go to the whole way back to bed, so I just laid down on the floor/carpet outside the bathroom. Roxy came by to visit, but when she realized that I wasn't going to feed her at 1am, she went back into bed with Beth. Apparently my groaning from my stomach got so loud Beth said she needed to get some sleep and was going to go downstairs. I volunteered instead since our extra room has a couch and a bathroom--the two things I needed the most at the time.

After another hour or so of this torture, the pain subsided enough that I got off the floor of the extra room and slept on the couch down there until my alarm went off for track practice Saturday morning. The weird part was, other than being a little tired from only getting 4 or so hours of sleep, everything else felt fine. Stomach was fine. I ate a granola bar and off to track practice.

So, since it was the first day of Saturday track practice, I felt compelled to go. Plus, I felt fine. We had a wonderful sunny day as the rain stayed north of us and the kids got long jump, triple jump, and high jump practice in and now know what to expect for next Wednesday.

I get home and can feel that I'm starting to get a little congested, but not bad. Saturday night we go to church (a couple of GREAT one-liners from the pastor I'll share later this week) and then Hoss's afterward. I'm a little congested still, but not bad--still planning on running at least half of Beth's two hour run on Sunday. I wake up Sunday morning and WHAM-O!!!!! the flu bug hit. Achy all over, hot, cold, you name it! By Sunday afternoon I wasn't blindsided anymore, but still felt dizzy and it's been the same through today. I'm hoping that it's now clearing up and I can get back to school tomorrow.

This is the first time since 11th grade that I've had to "call in" sick two consecutive days. Unbelievable. But, BIG thanks to Beth for tolerating all of my groaning and sickness and helping me on my road to recovery.

Again, keep this all in perspective. I'm not used to being sick so I think it's almost entertaining. I feel bad for people who repeatedly get sick or pneumonia or anything of the like. My heart and prayers go out to you if you have to endure what I endured this weekend more than once every ten years.

Okay, where did I leave off from the previous blog? That's right--Tuesday. Track was really cold the first two days, but the weather finally started to break on Wednesday. On Wed, we rearranged the high jump mats so that it would be jumpable. Thursday, we uncovered the long jump pits to find that the sand was still frozen after you got about 3 inches deep. So, we left it open overnight and on Friday we had a rare opening week opportunity to get into the pit as it was in the 50's. Our first meet is a week from tomorrow (the 18th). Early season track meets are always interesting....

The ankle's coming along, but not perfect. It's to the point now where I forget that I hurt it and I go to demonstrate something to the kids but then remember mid-jump that it still isn't 100%.

Both the boys and girls won in their opening game round over the weekend. The girls play round 2 tonight (not being broadcast on the internet--boo) and the boys play Wed night. Good luck!


The picture I saw when I woke up Monday morning on's main page said it all. Penn State and Arizona are about as much on the bubble as you can get and Davidson looks like they're not going to have a chance to repeat their magic from last year. How did they get there?

Penn State had a HUGE come from behind win at the BJC against Illinois last Thursday. I said to my teaching "neighbor" the next room over (also a PSU alum) on Friday that they needed two more wins to make me feel comfortable making it into the tourney. Well, win #1 didn't come against Iowa on the road on Saturday. They were down by 9 late, somehow came back to tie it, but then lost it in double overtime. Had they won that they would have been the #2 seed in the Big Ten Tourney this week. Instead, they are now the #6 seed and no bye. Their path now is a matchup against #11 Indiana and then (hopefully with a win) a second round matchup against Purdue. I still say they need two more wins to feel safe.

Arizona stumbled down the stretch and lost to Cal but beat Stanford. They're the #5 seed taking on #4 seed Arizona State. They need to win that game and have a strong showing against the #1 seed Washington.

Davidson ran into a tough defense against Charleston and never got on track and lost in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament. The projections have them out of the NCAA tourney right now, but not by much. So, we need to cheer for bubble teams everywhere to lose (except for PSU and UA) so the Wildcats and Stephen Curry can get another chance.

If you're curious, here are the teams that you should root AGAINST and hope the LOSE:

ACC: Miami, BC, Maryland (can't root against VT since Beth & I went there for a semester)
Big East: Providence
Big Ten: Everybody but Penn State
Big 12: Oklahoma State, Kansas State
SEC: Florida, South Carolina, Auburn
Mountain West: San Diego St, UNLV, New Mexico

And root that all high seeded teams win the automatic bids (no 4-12 Georgia teams winning the SEC, okay?)

We'll see what happens. Things will change so much between now and Sunday. Welcome to the madness!

I'll save the Pirates update for another day...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ankle, Hoops, & Baseball Update

First of all, thanks for all the kind thoughts with the ankle (and sorry about the ugly picture!!). It's to the point now where the swelling is down and I'm just about back to normal. I'm planning on running with Beth on Sunday.

The Lebo girls won the WPIAL (District 7) title in convincing fashion. On to the State playoffs Friday against the winner of a play-in game tonight.

The boys lost a tough one at the end by six or so points. They still qualified for the state playoffs and play Saturday against the top city league team.

The district where we live (boys team) is also alive in the state playoffs after making it to the AAA district finals.

The downside with the teams still in the playoffs is there's less indoor space for the next few weeks. It's a bummer that it's cold and there's nowhere to go, but good luck to the teams and I hope they keep playing until March 20th at the BJC.

Davidson played better this week and Stephen Curry looks like his ankle is healed (I now know a little something about that). He also became the all-time Davidson scoring leader this past week. Not bad for a junior! They're getting ready for the Southern Conference tournament that starts Friday and ends with hopefully a victory on Monday night on ESPN in the SoCon Tourney Final. I don't know that they would be in the NCAA tournament without the automatic berth.

Penn State is still keeping hope alive. In the most recent "bracketology" the Lions are listed in the "Last Four In" group and a 12 seed. We shall see. They've got a tough one Thursday at home against Illinois (need to validate that 38-33 ugly win) and then Saturday at Iowa (always tough to play on the road). I think they need to reach the semi's of the Big Ten tourney to feel secure about making it to the Big Dance.

Arizona has fallen flat on their face, losing 3 in a row after winning 7 in a row (business as usual for the streaky team). They've got Cal on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday and need to win both and make some noise in the Pac-10 tourney.

It should be an interesting next two weeks leading up to Selection Sunday on March 15.

One other note was I heard on ESPN radio this morning that Seth Davis (basketball guy for CBS) wrote a book about the 1979 NCAA Championship game (aka Magic Johnson & MSU vs Larry Bird & Indiana State). It sounds good. I may have to check it out.

The Pirates are now 6-1 in spring training action for what it's worth. The interesting part will be to see how the starting rotation works out and how the regular season begins. Not that there's much of a chance, but the MUST get off to a good April. Adam & Andy LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, and pretty much all the pitchers have to set the tone the first couple of weeks and the "franchise guys" (Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, and Paul Maholm--all signed to extensions) need to repeat what they did last year. We shall see.

More updates on the buccos as we get closer to the regular season.

In another note, I've become a follow of a blog written by 2007 Pirates 1st round draft pick Daniel Moskos. I'm hoping he has a good year this summer and works his way up through Altoona and hopefully Indianapolis.