I was planning on doing some sort of 2011 review where we look back at the sports year and talk briefly about what happened with all the sports teams in the city but I got sidetracked (by a nap and Penguins game) and here a few minutes before I am walking out to ring in 2012 with some friends (and beverages) I figured I should at least put something up as I have been majorly slacking the last couple of weeks with posts with any substance to them. So here is a quick cap of some of the highligths, good and bad.
-It was a miserable year for the Penguins organization. It all started last year at the Winter Classic with Sidney Crosby and since that time he has only played in nine games (I count the Tampa game) and the Penguins were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by the Lightning. The injury bug was unreal over the calender year and it isn't getting any better. The Penguins are at the top of the league in man games missed this year but through all of that Dan Byslma has got this team playing pretty good hockey and if they can ever get healthy for more than a few games this is going to be a scary good team. Hell, they are already good.
-You can't go the miserable route without talking about the two big colleges in the area which are Pitt and Penn State. I think we all know what is going on with Penn State as that will be in the news for a long time and we haven't even heard half of what has gone on. At Pitt the football program has another sub par year and the coach that just came in 10 months ago is now gone and Pitt is on its like fourth coaching hire in the last year. Really bad time for the Panthers.
-Talk about bad time for the Panthers do you wonder if Jamie Dixon and that team can ever get over the hump and be the true national contender that Pitt has thought they could be. This year they were bounced by a Butler team that went on to the Final Four in the worst way possible. A gut punch of a loss that still hurts to think about. In 2011 the Panthers have struggled and are coming off back-to-back losses to Wagner and Notre Dame coupled with the loss of its top recruit because he wasn't getting enough playing time. Jamie Dixon is one of the best coaches in the land so the last thing I am is worried about where the program is going. The regular season was amazing for the Panthers last year but they tailed off at the end and it wasn't a fitting end for what was a pretty damn good team.
-The NFL and NBA really threw things for a loop in 2011 with both lockouts. These were bitter lockouts that pushed into the preseason for football and for the regular season for basketball and it wasn't pretty. You knew they were going to come back but I think we all learned a little something about the business portion of the sports world. When people were saying that these athletes were being paid to play a game they love that is true, but this is also their career and they fought for what they thought they deserved.
-The Steelers were the Steelers in 2011. They started 2-2 and everyone was saying they might not make the playoffs but they went through the 2011 calender year 11-4 and can earn a first round bye. Ben Roethlisberger is having the best year of his career (arguably) and the young talent that is on this team is going to be fun to have around in the future. The city is spoiled with the success on this team and nothing short of a Super Bowl is considered a good season. While I sometimes get uptight about that kind of stuff I like that people expect a Super Bowl every year. It's a great thing to be a part of.
-In other Steelers news it has gone a tad under the radar but Hines Ward might not play another regular season game for the Steelers after the game tomorrow. Ward's play has totally fallen off the cliff this year but his career as a whole has been outstanding. He is in the Steelers record books all over the place and he is one of the best overall receivers in the game and is looking at a HOF career. Don't let the disappointing 2011 season overshadow what he has meant to this franchise.
-The story in Pittsburgh over 2011 could easily be Sidney Crosby but you can't discount what the Pittsburgh Pirates did. They were in first place after the All-Star break and baseball was back in Pittsburgh. Hell, just thinking about the Mike McKenry home run walk off is giving me chills right now. The Pirates didn't have a ton of talent on that team but they gave the city the first bit of winning they haven't seen in some time. Sure, they went into a major tailspin to end the year and that sucked, really bad, but you weren't expecting them to get into the playoffs or even contend for anything. It caught everyone by surprise and it was one of those times where the entire city was "living in the moment". I am a huge baseball fan and watch them regardless but that feeling you got when they were rolling and you were getting ready to watch them play, looking forward to the games, was something that a lot of the younger fans have never seen. The Pirates aren't going to contend in 2012 (if they do I would be surprised) but you can't discount what they did for this city for the few early months this year.
I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. If you are going out please be safe and if you drink please call AAA for a ride in the Pittsburgh area. I want to thank all of you who read the blog and follow me on twitter. You guys are what makes this so enjoyable and while I don't always agree with everyone that is what makes this so rewarding. We get to watch some incredible sports teams in this city and while 2011 wasn't a great one overall for our sports teams a lot of cities would say this was one of their best years. We are spoiled and it is awesome.
Be safe everyone and please feel free to put some of your best moments of 2011 in the comments section.