Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not Dead Yet

The plan is coming together nicely. After becoming the first team to start 7-5, win out in the regular season, win three straight road playoff games as the wild card and then win the Super Bowl, the Steelers look better that record this season. After a 2-6 start, Pittsburgh has won two games in a row since … well, the 2005 postseason.

At 4-6 all we have to do is sit back and watch everything fall into place. Okay, it probably won't play out exactly like that, but at least we have a reason to watch next week other than the sole purpose of hoping for a Ravens collapse. That'll still be on the agenda, but now it's secondary to Pittsburgh Keeping Hope Alive for one more week.

Alright, enough with the day dreaming. Here's something I meant to write about last week but I never found the time. After some discussions in the comments – I think Adam Gretz was complaining about how absolutely dreadful Joe Bendel and Tim Benz were as a radio team – I got to thinking about how these here internets have changed things. But before I get to that, a few words on B & B from Adam:
I've talked about this before, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why Stan Savran lost his post game radio show for Tim Benz and Joe Bendel. Sweet jumping Jesus are these guys awful. Maybe Stan wasn't "hip" enough...perhaps he's not edgy...maybe he isn't in touch with the MTV generation...but holy shit he's better than Joe freakin' Bendel and Tim Benz.
Since I don't live in Pittsburgh, I guess the good news is that I'm not subjected to Bendel's radio idiocy. And to be fair, I've only heard him once, when I was driving home from training camp. He and Benz were giving each other reach arounds while not talking about anything remotely interesting.

The fact that Bendel no longer writes for the Tribune-Review is also good news. He's the primary reason I started the Captain Pantload Watch. I can't stress enough how utterly useless he was as a beat reporter. I suspect he's not much better on-air, and while I know radio stations are driven by ratings – with things like moral decency and common sense coming in a distant second – I have no idea how a Bendel-Benz show makes sense on any level.

I guess this is how the competition combats Mark Madden's stranglehold on the local media ratings. By the way, does anything scream "Man, how dumb are sports fans in this town if this guy has the highest-rated radio show?" than Madden's tired act? I've lived in Boston and DC in addition to Pittsburgh and all are rabid sports towns. Granted, metropolitan Boston and DC are much larger than Pittsburgh, but their sports talk is infinitely better, too. Sure, Boston has their share of dumbass radio guys, but not every one of them sucks. DC is probably the least ridiculous of the bunch and this is a town that calls the Washington Redskins the hometown team.

Anyway, maybe the Pittsburgh media outlets are finally realizing that Madden's a fat slob not good for anything other than making stuff up and cleaning up at the buffet table. Old man Smizik recounts the latest – which includes Channel 4 firing Madden for being a prick. My only question is what took so long?

Seriously, when do ratings trump common sense? I know, I know, I ask this question every year, but I have yet to get a good answer. Or even an answer, for that matter. Who are these people that enjoy listening to him? Has anybody met them? Do they have three heads? I just don't get it.

Anyway, the point of this post was to ask a very simple question: Where do you get your sports news. And specifically, your Steelers news?

For me, my routine, especially during the football season, was to fire up the computer and read the Post-Gazette followed by the Tribune-Review. In 2003, my first year out of Pittsburgh, I actually subscribed to Black & Gold Insider, a $20 scam perpetrated by the PG under the guise of "insider content." Okay, whatever.

Because I'm not very smart, I spent $30 in 2005 for the Trib's version and it was infinitely less informative. Yeah, I thought that was impossible too, but it's not. Not even close.

Now, I get most of my Steelers news from skimming headlines, Bill Cowher press conference transcripts and any Wexell interviews/notebook columns. (Doesn't that tell you something about the state of news reporting when I just prefer to listen to Cowher blow smoke up guys' asses for 30 minutes instead of reading the exact same thing in Wednesday's paper?)

I'll also check the Football Outsider stats to get an idea of who's doing what, how the different units are fairing (except special teams, I know they're awful) and maybe how the opponent looks. I might also read the opponents' local paper just to see what they're up to.

And if I have a particular question, I'll usually look up the data and write something up if it's interesting. I think it's telling that I read the Washington Posts' Sports section every day and I loathe all things Redskins. Sure, I'm sitting on a subway for an hour a day and I need to kill time, but I could just as easily read a book or act like I actually know how to solve Suduko. The Posts' Redskins coverage is light years better than what anybody at the two big Pittsburgh papers is even thinking about doing. Why is that? It's not like the Post has a monopoly on all the good beat reporters.

(I think part of it has to do with the area. DC's a big market and if the Post's coverage slipped, people would go elsewhere. In Pittsburgh you get the sense that this is how things have always been and why change something that's working, even if it's not working all that well. It's thinking like this that leads to voting with my feet mouse. But I digress … )

But as far as local coverage, I sometimes go days without reading the two papers. And like I've said before, I'll check out Eddie B's Daily Question and Chat transcript only if I need a good laugh.

I think it says something when reading the paper in no way enhances your appreciation of the football-viewing experience. It still amazes me that the old school reporters still regurgitate dumb stats like total yards and points allowed when we know they're not a true measure of a team's true abilities. And when you throw in all the hysteria that is ESPN (and shows of their ilk) I'm pretty sure too much exposure will actually make you dumber. (Right Michael Irvin? Of course, doing blow has that effect to … or so I've been told.)

Anyway, here's my little midseason mini-tirade against the mainstream media. If all goes according to plan, I'll be running things in short order. I approve this message.