Their First “Hail to Pitt” – a tradition continues

Future Pitt Alumni

I remember my first Pitt game as a kid. The energy of the crowd at the old Pitt Stadium, the intensity of the game… I could feel the hatred for PSU grow inside of my 11yr old frame as the Panthers shut out the Nittany Lions. It was at that moment I knew I was going to, and did end up at, Pitt.

Once the rivalry ended in 2000 my emotions towards Penn State diminished and even after the renewal this year kicking off with Pitt’s upset 42-39 win, I find getting worked up over anything sports related as humorous (unless it’s the Flyers. God I hate Philly.)


Twenty nine years later I’m taking my boys to their first Pitt football game but at Heinz Field and for the last game of the season against Syracuse. Not really a big rival, in fact the stadium was barely 1/2 full, but they’re small enough that this would be a good environment to test the waters. Wait. Did I just say that? *UGH* I’m becoming THAT parent.

We were invited with friends of ours to the game which had the added perk of going out on the field for pre-game. Yeah, kids first game and they get on the field. We watched warmups, I explained to my boys the story of fellow Erie native James Conner fighting back from Hodgkin lymphoma to become a top draft prospect and how on Sunday the Steelers play here.

Teaspoon: “Will Big Ben (Roethlisberger) be here?”
Me: “no”
Teaspoon: “Oh, well maybe he’s tailgating with Uncle Bob?”
Me: “Good chance.”
Teaspoon: “Yeah I bet he likes a lot of burgers and dogs.”

First impressions of a Pitt game by the boys:

  • Those girls dancing look cold. They should wear jackets or they’ll miss school
  • Why are there ketchup bottleeeeeOMG THEY POUR KETCHUP ON THE SCOREBOARD!
  • (while in the bathroom) OMG YOU PEE IN A BATH TUB!
  • “We need more popcorn!” as the bottomless bucket was refilled twice
  • LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE DRUMS! – Cheeseburger. “What? No guitars? How can you have a band without guitars?” – Teaspoon

The temps at game time were a balmy 35 degrees and didn’t change for the rest of the day.

We made it until Halftime before finally caving and heading back with Pitt leading 35-21 and little did we know the scoring blitz wasn’t over. By the end of the game Pitt would win 76-61. You’re reading that correctly. SEVENTY SIX TO SIXTY ONE!

The boys asked if we could come back for more games next season so it looks like I’ll be busy on Stub Hub (seriously, tickets on the 50 are sometimes $6-$10) next season. Attention span is short at their age so making it until half time is a good milestone for us.


The stress of Jenga

“Come on out for a relaxing night of great local craft beer and fun games!” is what I was told about Wednesday night. Little did I know that I would go through one of the most intense games of my life and it was Jenga.

Jenga TowerThe fine folks at Spoonwood Brewing hosted a Giant Jenga competition as a part of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, Pittsburgh’s 10 day celebration of great local beer.

I have played Jenga 2-3 times in my life and have no idea what the rules are besides “dont knock it over!”. The game seemed pretty simple and with the libations flowing, we were all very relaxed.

8 people were slotted to play and divided into Team Should I Drink That, headed by myself, vs Team Noble Stein Brewing with captain Zack Morrow. After a week of Twitter trash talking it was time to get wood.

When my match started versus Megan we had a moment of truth.

Megan “Have you ever played this before?”
Me: “Twice that I can remember. You?”
Megan: “Same here.”
Me: “Fast game for both of us?”
Megan: “Probably!”

That wouldn’t be the case. Our game would go on for what felt like 45 minutes to an hour. Our hands were shaking and sweaty, we would tip-toe around the board and pretty sure we bit all of our nails off also. Dusk turned to night and if the pressure from the game wasn’t already high the ENTIRE BREWERY stopped what they were doing to watch. Patrons who were eating dinner grabbed their beers and came outside as word spread about the tower.


Moves went from seconds to minutes.


The what? What’s load bearing? Wait, what’s my name? Piece? I could go for a piece of pie. Pecan would rock right now. Rock! I’m playing next to a huge rock! Doug, concentrate! Concentrate… concrete. I need to fix the concrete by my steps.

We had several almost-crashes until the tower came down at Megan’s feet. I gave a huge sigh of relief and went back to my table. I was spent and when it came to game 2 I was wiped out mentally. I lasted 5 rounds before caving and knocking the tower over.

When the dust cleared Team Noble Stein Brewing won and Team Should I Drink That cheered as our friends accepted their prizes. We were all winners though because we had a great time with awesome food and good beer. It’s moments like this we wouldn’t have been able to experience 5 years ago but thanks to the craft beer boom and visions of places like Spoonwood Brewing, we’re able to eat, drink, and play while 100% supporting local businesses.

Thanks to Jason Cercone from PCBN & Spoonwood Brewing for images 3-5.

Collective Soul and King Washington rock Pittsburgh

Collective Soul has been a staple in my music rotation for years. During the 90s their self titled CD was deemed the ultimate mix to listen to while cleaning the apartment. After their 2001 Greatest Hits release, Seven Year Itch, though I stopped paying attention. It wasn’t that I fell out of love for their music but the relationship was more “out of sight, out of mind”.

I wasn’t buying many CDs, Napster and downloading whatever tunes I could get my hands on had me falling down the black hole of awful music. This was before legit digital downloads, iTunes and streaming services were available. The thought of only music in a non-digital platform may blow some of your minds today.

Adult Sippy Cup

Fast forward to 2015 and Collective Soul’s “See What You Started” tour supporting their 9th studio album rolled into Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead with jamming opener King Washington.

Prior to last Thursday I had no idea the album or the tour were taking place but something told me I should open the City Paper weekly email. “WIN TICKETS TO SEE COLLECTIVE SOUL IN PITTSBURGH!”. Sure, why not. Later that afternoon I received the email saying I won the tickets so date night was now set – Sunday night at 8pm.

Before kids this would have been a no-brainer. After kids my thoughts are “How will we find a sitter on a Sunday night?”, “What is the parking situation like?”, “What time do I have to be up for work in the morning?” and the most important part “Who won’t be tethered to their phone all night?”. You’d be surprised how often that last one is the deal breaker.

Since it was short notice we flew solo on this trip and had a great time reliving our college days. King Washington is new to me so every song was a treat. I liked their stage presence and most of the songs but I enjoyed their sound more once I got home and checked out their music online. Now I’m kicking myself for passing up a chance to chat after the show.

Collective Soul exceeded expectations (geez that sounds like I’m doing an HR performance review) and kept the crowd going for close to 2 hours. Lead singer Ed Roland is one helluva entertainer and painted the stage like an artist. The show reminds you of going to see your buddy’s band and feels like he’s playing just for you. They played the classic singalongs and mixed in the new release which had me in a mad rush to download when I got home. Joining Ed from the original line up were his brother Dean and bassist with mad skills Will Turpin. Rounding out the band is drummer Johnny Rabb who had me mesmerized and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett who could freaking THRASH! Not kidding. Every song was like a contest between Johnny and Jesse to see who could outshine the other. They both turned it up to 11.

The night ended with an extended version of Run which made the experience come full circle. I stood there looking at these guys not much older than me (well, except for Ed) and realized that we all grew up but not old. I now understand and appreciate what my brother feels when he goes to see bands from his younger days. We have shorter hair and even a few grey ones, but music is still bringing us together and for 2 hours everything in the world was good.

Derda boys hit the Pirates final home game

PNC Park

Fan Appreciation Day (a.k.a. final home game of the season) with the Pittsburgh Pirates was as much of a tradition as attending Opening Day when I was younger. I could dream of playoffs but next to the 90-92 run, the reality was that I was there for the giveaways or “Clean out the promo closet for next year!” day. Last Sunday I was able to relive those times as a kid with my oldest son.

Spoon and Teaspoon at the Pirates gameTeaspoon has been on me all summer to attend a ballgame and on Sunday the stars (and our schedules) finally aligned to make it happen but going isn’t cheap for a family of four. After a quick search of StubHub I scored 2 seats to the right of home plate for $20/each. Two not four? Cheeseburger was more interested in spending the day with his mom so I got lucky on this one.

Quick trip on the Red Line brought us down to the North Shore where we took part in the Sunday Pirates Kids Zone. Bouncy houses, face painting and plenty of fun activities for kids.

Having burned his energy outside, Teaspoon was ready to kick back and watch some ball. Actually he wanted food and he wanted it NOW! Since we were working on many firsts for this game I got one in for myself. A meal I’ve dreamed about for years but could never stand in line long enough to justify hunger over waiting. I finally had a Manny’s BBQ and the bbq pulled pork sandwich (pictured below) lived up to the hype I’ve been hearing. The secret is getting to the stand behind center field when the gates open to 45 minutes before first pitch otherwise you could be waiting awhile.

Before the game kicked off the Pirates saluted A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez who will be ending their careers at the end of the season. A.J. didn’t spend a lot of time with the Pirates but quickly won over the fans and team with his gritty presence. He’s a badass. This team would not be as successful as it is now without his leadership.

A-Ram came to the Pirates in the 90’s and bounced around the majors before returning here for one more season. He’s the last of the Pirates who can say they played at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park.

Just before first pitch came the last surprise, a monstrous weather balloon from the Carnegie Science Center which they launched 96,0000 feet into the mid-stratosphere! Cameras were attached to the balloon which you can watch in the breath taking video below.

Oh yeah there was a game too. Pirates held on to a 4-0 win against the Reds which leads to the NL Wild Card game tonight against the Cubs in Pittsburgh. Buctober is taking the country by storm and I’ll be on my couch with the boys catching every minute of it. They may get a pass to stay up late but they’ll have to clear it with their mother first.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review crossed the line

Pittsburgh Tribune Review 082715

There are countless times when I’ve said I would quit/unsubscribe from a publication because of something they printed and never did. I’d cool off, say eff it and move on but this morning I couldn’t. I was pissed when I opened up the Pittsburgh Trib.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review 082715That photo is the moment before reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Virginia-based WDBJ-TV were executed by Vester Flanagan during a live TV report.

There are so many ways this story could have ran and the Trib decided to go with the view from the gunman which he broadcasted to the internet. You could have used just the profile pictures of the two journalists and made your point but no, you had to sink this low.

I’m absolutely disgusted by this move. I tried to hold onto my subscription because there are a handful of really good reporters there but this was too much. I called this morning and broke up with the Trip. Told them to keep whatever I still had left and take me off all future calls.

This isn’t a post to be all “oh look it me. I’m doing something *hrumph*!” it’s to say, what the bloody hell. I know click bait and “shock” sells and you need to make money but there are sites like TMZ who should deal with the trash, not the local newspaper. Journalists and reporters nationwide asked that people on Twitter not to watch the video and here you are eating up your own kind. I was in a seminar this past spring where I heard a Trib employee say “it’s about the clicks” (which is pretty much why they keep Rossi around). Now I see that it’s true.

UGH I’m so frustrated. You can’t just get straight up news anymore. It has to be right or left wing and be a SHOCK piece to make people go *BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP* crazy insane and fear the world. No wonder everyone is on edge. You’re now the equivalent to those “What happens next will amaze you” website ads.