feeling thirsty?

Some of you — mostly the ones who are running in the Pittsburgh Marathon or the half on May 7 — know this drill already: When you get to the fluid station at Mile 6+, look for the guy with the beard and the silly red Ohio State bucket hat for hugs, high fives and a cup of the best water on the course.

The guy in the red hat is me, by the way. See?

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For those of you who aren’t running but might not be completely averse to waking up at 4:30 a.m. and handing off hundreds of cups of water to people as they walk by … you should join me. Yes, the hours are rough, but we’ve done this for several years in a row now, and it’s my favorite annual event in Pittsburgh. And it’s a truly gratifying experience; even if you don’t see people you know running the course, everyone is grateful that you’re there and helping out. Seriously — it’s the most fun five hours you can have on an early Sunday morning on the North Side.

How do you sign up? Get to the Marathon’s volunteer page (I filtered this link to make the course water stations easy to find in the list), and scroll down to “COURSE Fluid Station at Fulton Street between Ridge Avenue and Western Avenue (North Side; Approx. Mile 6.2).” Click the button, fill out the info and you’re ready to go. And of course while we’d be happy to have company, if you’d rather volunteer at a station closer to you, that’s perfectly acceptable. We hope we see you there.

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And if you’re running this year, keep in mind that the North Side part of the course is a little different, so you won’t see us on Western Avenue. We’ll be on Fulton between Ridge and Western, just before you guys make a hard left turn to head over the West End Bridge. Just look for the hat, people — I’m easy to find.

one down. one to go.

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That’s me. At Piper’s. I’m not hard to find.

A thing I should have done last night: Take a photo of the wings-and-beer spread we brought over to AJ’s house. It was … impressive. And delicious.

I don’t think four dozen wings will be part of the second AUCNFFC payoff Thursday night, but it could be fun regardless. As a reminder: Two seasons ago, winner Kewyson opted to donate his winnings to a night out for Pittsburgh AUCNFFC players … and we’re going to make good on that Thursday.

As I said before, if you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, show up at Piper’s Pub Thursday night — I’ll be there around 7:45 or 8 — and I’ll buy you a beer. I can’t imagine we’ll get there, but I’ll buy one beer per person until I hit $50 … or until it’s time for me to go home.

And if you want to stay for another, and maybe watch some basketball … or not … please do. I hope I see you there.

Hoops ain’t happening.

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It would start sometime around now.

This week would normally be when the first posts about my annual college hoops contest — this year would have been the Twelfth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) — would start showing up on the blog.

For several years now, that last part — the BTYBB part — has become pretty important to the annual shindig. The support of Chris Dilla, the owner of Bocktown, has make the AUCNFFC pools a lot more fun for me … and, I’m sure, for you guys too.

Bocktown closed earlier this year. I’m still bummed about it. And that, combined with an insanely busy schedule this spring, means I’m going to skip doing the pool this year.

My intention is to bring this back after a one-year break … but no promises, boys and girls. We’ll see how things are going next March.

The other thing I need to take care of: the winners of the past two AUCNFFCs. To last year’s winner, AJ: I’ll give you a $50 gift certificate to the bar/restaurant of your choice. Or I will buy $50 worth of wings and beer and Mrs. Crappy and I will show up for dinner at your place. You pick.

And as you may recall, Kewyson, our 2015 winner, graciously donated his $50 winnings to be shared communally by whatever AUCNFFC participants could make a date of our choosing. I’m going to make good on that promise on Thursday, March 23. If you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, come to Piper’s Pub that evening and I’ll buy the beers until my $50 tab runs out.

I hope to see you there. And I hope to see you back here for TwAUCNFFC (Brought To You By Something Else) next spring.

someone stopped.

You know how a bad surprise can leave a pit in your stomach for hours?

I’ve had one since this afternoon.

I spent the weekend in Columbus, mostly to see a Picasso exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. After a couple of beer-related stops this afternoon — and a White Castle lunch in the car — I hit the road back to Pittsburgh, anxious to see Mrs. Crappy and Mr. Charlie, both of whom I missed like crazy since I left on Friday.

There’s an odd stretch of I-70 between Newark and Zanesville where the freeway balloons to three lanes in each direction … for no apparent reason in a sparsely populated part of central Ohio. It’s great when you’re trying to make good time, but there is, inevitably, a brief bottleneck when the highway narrows back to two lanes.

And that’s why I was stuck in the passing lane just after the merge. When I spotted a tiny moving thing right on the far shoulder of the freeway.

It was a kitten.

Traffic was heavy. I couldn’t get over to stop. If I had pulled over on the left, I would have had to run across the freeway to get back to the tiny cat.

I sped up. There was an exit just ahead. I turned around there and headed back to the west at 120 miles an hour, looking for the first cut in the jersey barrier so I could turn around again. After that illegal U-turn, I eased over to the right lane and plodded along the shoulder, looking for the kitten, while other cars passed and honked.

I didn’t see it again.

Part of that is good; I didn’t see a dead kitten on the shoulder of the freeway, and that’s a whole lot better than the alternative. But I hate not knowing, and that’s the stone that sat in my gut for the rest of the trip home.


It’s easy to not stop. I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw the baby cat — and maybe I wasn’t the only one who tried to do something — but we’re all on the interstate because we’re going somewhere: Zanesville, Cambridge, Wheeling, Pittsburgh, someplace further east. We’re interested in making good time, getting to where we’re going, seeing the people we haven’t seen all weekend while we were away. I can’t blame anyone for that; I was thinking the same thing when I left my folks’ house this morning.

But I’m so grateful for the people who stop. The ones who notice. The ones who see the strays and leave a dish of food outside. Or the ones who grab the strays from an overgrown yard in front of a vacant house or from a sidewalk along Penn Avenue or from the shoulder of the freeway and take them to a shelter.

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We shared our homes with Miles for 14 years because someone in Indiana County stopped. We share our home with Charlie because someone stopped somewhere in the East End, grabbed him and his brother and dropped them off at ARL. I’ll never know the circumstances. I’ll never know who it was. But I couldn’t be more thankful that someone did what they did.

It’s going to bother me for a long time that I won’t know what happened to that kitten. Maybe it ran back into the woods along the highway. Maybe its mother grabbed it and hauled it back to safety.

Or maybe, in the six or seven minutes it took me to get back to the spot where I saw it, someone stopped. I’ll never know for sure, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

2. one.

A couple nights ago, I was flipping channels and came across Urban Meyer’s B1G kickoff luncheon news conference from Chicago last week. After watching Urban’s far-too-brief presentation, I started feeling the familiar twitch that i seem to come up with at around this time every year.

I type the schedule into our calendar. I start thinking about tailgating food. I note the Saturdays when we won’t be traveling … but when I’ll still need to be in front of a television. The players don’t report until next week … but I’m starting to get ready now.

And if the Big Ten Network turning towards football isn’t enough, there is this surprise treat from the Associated Press: A ranking of the top 100 college football programs of all time.

Guess who tops the list?

And guess who’s now really ready for the season to start?