Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Congrats, Troy: NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Congratulations to Troy Polamalu for being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press (AP). Well-deserved, although Troy himself probably feels uncomfortable about it and would prefer somebody else would have won it.

Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews finished second in a close vote, and the Steelers' James Harrison, who won the award in 2008, rated third in the voting this year. Hardly anybody would have squawked if either Matthews or Harrison had won it, and a strong case could have been made for several other players, including Chicago's Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher.

A number of other players who could easily have been in the conversation didn't even get votes, so far as we know. These include last year's winner, Charles Woodson of Green Bay, and Pittsburgh's own Lamarr Woodley. Hard to believe they didn't get any votes. Ditto Darrelle Revis of the Jets.

No matter. Troy deserves the award, and everybody knows it.

ESPN.com's James Walker heartily endorses Polamalu's selection in a story headlined "Troy Polamalu Right Choice for DPOY" ... which makes Troy sound vaguely like some kind of prize yogurt, but we know what Walker means.

Congratulations, Troy.

The following is from an e-mail that JPPBs received recently ...

There is a 10-year-old little girl - Heather - she has Ewing 's Sarcoma. She had surgery on Monday to remove part of her lung, three ribs and part of a few other ribs.

She is recovering now but Troy Polamalu (I know you all know who he is) has been an angel in her life. She has been in and out of the hospital and when Troy can be there, he goes to see her.

They play Guitar Hero and when he's not there, he texts her.

Before Monday's surgery, Heather got a surprise from him, he sent her his jersey -
signed - that he wore in the game against the Ravens.

Here are some pictures of him playing guitar hero with her. This is a very special guy, taking time out of his busy schedule to bring sunshine into this little girl’s life.

It's Media Day! Whoopee!!

Ugh. Media Day during the week preceding the Super Bowl is usually a tiresome affair.

Players often invoke predictable, mundane lines like, "Nobody expected us to be here. We get no respect." ... blah, blah, blah, as scores of "reporters" poke, prod and try to provoke players into a reaction and get them to say something truly unfortunate, regrettable, boastful or controversial, if not downright cretinous, foolish and stupid.

Today, Ben Roethlisberger takes the podium for this year's Media Day at the Super Bowl. Oh-oh.

We've been watching with some interest how Ben has been presenting himself in public statements. Following the AFC Championship Game, for example, both in the on-field TV interview and at the podium for the post-game news conference, Roethlisberger pretty much stuck to his (no doubt carefully prepared) Key Message
Points, which are, essentially:

"I -- we, as a team -- have been through a lot. We've overcome a lot, personally and as a team, injuries and everything else. I can't give enough credit to my teammates -- the offensive line, the receivers, the defense and the coaching staff. Everybody's contributing. We're a team, a family, and we're going to keep working till we bring a championship back to Pittsburgh."

That's almost verbatim, by the way, from two separate TV interviews after the Jets' game, and Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have noticed Roethlisberger stating these
particular Talking Points previously ... and repeatedly.

It is a fairly effective message: Simple. Clear. Concise. And consistent, if he sticks with it. Which we will find out, presumably, today. And, let us point out this is not to defend anything Roethlisberger may have done in the past. We're just noting that it will be interesting to see how he handles media inquiries about his situation, past and present, and whether he will stay with what appears to be carefully scripted messaging.

It's effective messaging, too, because it deflects the focus from "me" to "we," for one thing. It is clear that Roethlisberger is taking refuge in "team." The messaging works in part because it deflects criticism for his personal failures and defers credit (to his teammates) for the Steelers' current success.

Perhaps key to whether these Talking Points will stand up against the shrill shrieks of howling pundits, media wags and harsh critics with an agenda is, simply ... one thing: Consistency.

Roethlisberger must stay consistent with his messaging. So what if it becomes repetitive? The questioning itself is repetitive.

We can expect to hear the same message, over and over, and over, and over again.

If Roethlisberger sticks to the script, he should be okay, as long as he stays:
Concise. Clear. Consistent.

If Roethlisberger manages that, the media vultures may tire of picking at him (but probably not) and may move on to other potential carrion, such as ...
Aaron Rodgers?

My goodness, what's not to like about Aaron Rodgers? His only fault seems to be that he happened to be the quarterback next in line after
Brett Favre.

Favre won only one Super Bowl in 16 seasons with the Packers. Worse, as noted on this blog previously, he was a drama queen who jerked the Packers' organization and fans around for years before finally jilting them. And he ended up playing for
a division rival no less.

Yet many in Green Bay seem to cling to the "aura" left behind by Favre. The
Green Bay Press-Gazette even still maintains a special section on its Web site devoted to Favre. Why? That's like maintaining a shrine to the ex-girlfriend who dumped you. She's gone, man.

Do yourselves a favor, Green Bay fans: Let it go-o-o-o already.

For Rodgers, unfortunately, the media won't let The Brett Favre Question go. Today, Rodgers can expect a steady barrage of tedious Favre-related questions, which we expect he will handle with grace, aplomb and intelligence. Rodgers seems like a smart, pleasant guy, as well as a great quarterback, so he should handle these questions just fine.

Good luck to both Big Ben and Aaron Rodgers on Media Day. We're sure they'll both be glad when it's over. So will Joey Porter's Pit Bulls.

A Musical Interlude During the Run-Up to Super Bowl XLV: Impressions of the John Hiatt & Lyle Lovett Concert at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls went to see John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett in concert the other night, and a comedy act broke out.

This show was a real treat.

Old friends that they are, John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett sang their songs individually and together, interspersed with stories, wisecracks, yarns, puns, jokes and tall tales.

At one point, Lovett, tongue in cheek, said, "It seems the whole tour has been like this. I'm not sure this is even a show. We should just issue a disclaimer at the beginning of each night: 'This is not a show.'"

Each guy -- and that's how they came across on stage, just a couple guys hanging out, playing guitar and swapping stories -- each guy sat on a chair with his acoustic guitar. No band behind them; no backup singers; no hi-falutin' electronics; no dancers; no flashy pyrotechnics, no fancy lighting, and no video backdrop. The acoustics, however, were stellar in this intimate but magnificent little theater. Very crisp and clear, but warm, too.

Throughout the evening, each guy took turns singing his songs and playing his guitar. Every once in a while, depending on the song, Hiatt would don his harmonica, strapped around his neck. As the evening wore on and Lovett sang and played his songs, Hiatt would start picking his own guitar for background harmony. After the first time this happened, Lovett said appreciatively, "Thank you for your help." To which Hiatt replied, "You didn't need my help."

Lovett is a fine guitarist, a good picker. HIatt, however, is a great guitarist, which Lovett acknowledged admiringly and graciously: "I'd buy one of your signature guitars, John, but only if it came with a guarantee that I could play like you."

The mutual compliments, wordplay and self-deprecating humor continued throughout the show. At one point, as Hiatt alluded to Lovett's "meteroric" career. Lovettt paused, then replied, "It's nice of you to say that, John. I would have described it as my 'mediocre' career, but it was nice of you."

During the course of the evening, the two discussed their respective backgrounds, including growing up -- Lovett as a Lutheran in Texas; Hiatt as a Catholic in Indiana. Hiatt told a couple of off-color stories involving childhood experiences with girls "at the tool shed," then sang a song, after which Lovett remarked, "Y'know, John, I like how you worked in one of my favorite words there in that song."

After just the right pause, Lovett said, "Panties."

Lovett was deadpan throughout the show. He came off as smart, wry, witty, ironic, droll, gracious and absurd all at once. He was absolutely hilarious but self-deprecating. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls had no idea Lyle Lovett was so funny, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Just a nice guy. It seems like his heart's in the right place.

Lovett's a fine singer/songwriter, of course. And Hiatt remains in great voice, gritty and gruff, with that deep-throated, dusky, soulful voice that has remnants of the road and too much time in dark, smoke-filled places -- some of which, you get the impression, are in his soul.

The songs of both Hiatt and Lovett cover a lot of territory -- growing up, learning music, life on the road, religion, heartbreak, redemption, loss of love, found love, and hope. Eyes wide open on both these guys; time-tested, a little rough around the edges and a bit beat up; but ready for more; quick to smile, and ready to laugh. That's how they came across in this show. And very, very relaxed.

Much of the banter between songs covered the vagaries of life, including religion, sin, forgiveness, redemption and faith. At one point following one of Hiatt's songs about stealing a car (which he acknowledged that he actually did, when he was 14), Lovett asked, "How can we be certain of our faith, if we are never tested?"

Lovett then said, "See, John, now I have to change my song selection again, based on your story." ... whereupon he started playing the song, "God Will," which contains the line, "God will forgive you, but I won't."

That's just one example of how, as a songwriter, Lovett can be poignant and reflective (when he chooses to be); whereas Hiatt tends to be more bluesy and rocking, albeit with clever and powerful lyrics, as well.

Both are great songwriters and lyricists. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are not as familiar with Lovett's songs as Hiatt's, but one thing is obvious: Many of Lovett's songs are wickedly funny in a twisted, ironic, warped-perspective sort of way -- "One-Eyed Fiona" is just one example.

Lovett seems to enjoy life in general, and the self-inflicted absurdities of the human circus in particular. He is very clever. Tom Waits and Warren Zevon (if he were alive) would fit right in with this show, as would Bonnie Raitt, whom they both know well and have played with on numerous occasions.

Here's a Lyle one-liner that wrapped up a story that dovetailed from a song: He was relating how his uncle had a knack for abusing the English language, one example being an unfortunate malaprop that somehow twisted the word "obese" inadvertently into "o'beast."

Musical highlights included, but were not limited to, the following songs:
  • "The Open Road" by John Hiatt, on guitar and harmonica
  • "If I Had a Boat" by Lyle Lovett, on guitar
  • "Memphis in the Meantime" by John Hiatt
  • Lyle Lovett: "Where My Horse is Home"
  • John Hiatt: "Tennessee Plates"
  • Lyle Lovett: "Cream in My Coffee"
  • John Hiatt: "Don't You Talk About My Baby"
  • Lyle Lovett, with the haunting "She Had Already Made Up Her Mind"
  • John Hiatt, with the achingly beautiful "Angel Eyes"
Also, of course, the encore, which included three songs:
  • Hiatt and Lovett in a long duet covering "Are You Ready for a Thing Called Love"
  • John Hiatt singing an exquisite "Have a Little Faith in Me"
  • Lyle Lovett, with help from John Hiatt on guitar and vocals, singing a catchy and stirring "My Baby Don't Tolerate" with the classic opening line, "A skinny girl is misery" and some extended and amazing, virtuousic guitar work by Hiatt
All in all, a good time was had by all. If you get a chance to see these guys some time, go, treat yourself. It's a fine evening of entertainment by a couple of characters who happen to be excellent musicians, master songwriters, soulful vocalists and, apparently, just regular guys who are good friends and enjoy each other's company, and one another's music.

The music just happens to be great.
Photo courtesy of Steeltownrock.com