Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oh those Bears

Item first: A newspaper article about our Clairton Bears who tiptoes into Texas aboard their first flight EVER (no kidding, It was the first airplane ride for every single one of the 14 Bears who traveled).

South Xtra: Clairton stuns 'big boys' in Texas 7-on-7 tournament
Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Nicholas Tolomeo, Tri-State Sports & News Service
Mid-July brought a lot of firsts for the 14 member seven-on-seven football tournament team contingent from Clairton High School.

The group hopped on an American Airlines direct flight from Pittsburgh to Dallas. It was the first time any of the 14 players had flown.

They spent two nights in the Hyatt Summerfield Suites, the first time many of the players from the dying steel town stayed in a new hotel complete with rooms featuring 32-inch flat-screen, high-definition TVs.

Other firsts included dining at the well-known Campisi's Italian restaurant in downtown Dallas and touring Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

But once the Bears stepped between the lines and tournament play began, they were right at home. Clairton shocked nearly everyone involved with the tournament by finishing as runners-up in a field of 161 teams, most representing schools that are much, much larger.

The Clairton High School team will open the 2011 season riding a 31-game winning streak that includes back-to-back PIAA Class A titles. The squad features Pitt recruit Trenton Coles and Tyler Boyd, a rising junior. Coles and Boyd are recognized as two of the top athletes in the WPIAL regardless of classification.

One player who didn't make the trip was Karvonn Coles, a junior projected as the Bears' starting tailback this season. He sustained a serious knee injury before the trip and will likely miss the upcoming season.

"They are so good," Clairton coach Tom Nola gushed. "They were as good as anybody down there."

Coincidentally, Coles, Boyd and the rest of the Bears almost never got a chance to get down there.

Thomas Jefferson was the only team to defeat Clairton at the Woodland Hills seven-on-seven tournament and TJ was in line to receive the bid to the Dallas tournament. But the Jaguars had another commitment. Then those involved with the tournament heard of Clairton's record over the past few years and extended an invitation to the Bears.

With a $10,000 price tag for flights and hotels, it was unlikely the Bears would get to see how their talent stacked up against the rest of the country.

Then some Clairton alumni led by Bill Bennett stepped in. A 1960 Clairton graduate and former Bears quarterback, Bennett, a Phoenix resident, heard of the news online.

Item second: Bill Bennett, who deserves the bulk of the credit for putting the package together and lobbying Red Bull until they considered giving them a fair look sent the following email:

If you will bear with me for one more article re the Clairton Bears miraculous performance in the Red Bull 7 on 7 National Championship, I promise you will not be bombarded with their every success in the future. Here's the recap that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

If Red Bull follows through on their promise to cover the Bears opening game and then feature them in a five part series about the tournament that is supposed to air in November on national tv, I will forward email about that and one more if they win another PA state championship.

To those who have offered to "donate", before starting a funding campaign I am trying to get a 501(c)(3) number and aggregate all emails for Clairton alums in one place. After that is accomplished, I will forward email with directions. Just when you are about to give up on mankind, the generosity of "strangers" keeps one working on worthy causes. I assure you the Bear players are most appreciative of even the smallest donation. They literally have nothing but the ground they practice on. Thanks for your interest and help.


We will provide further information once a mechanism has been decided upon to offer donations to support the victorious trip to Dallas.

Item third: It is with deep sympathy that we offer our condolences to Sue Wessel on the recent loss of her husband James. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sue and her family.

Item last: Everybody I talk to about high school alumni is amazed at the cohesiveness of CHS alumni; their loyalty, their reunions, and the annual Reunion in the Park. This year the reunion will again be held at Clairton Park over the Labor Day weekend. Information can be found at:

A little blogging music Maestro, From the musical, "My Fair Lady," On the Street Where you Live.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Bear Accolades

Never say never: Bill Bennett has a personality disorder. He refuses to listen to what “they” tell him. He’s been that way as long as I can remember. In gym class more than half a century ago “they” told Bill he was too short to dunk a basketball. He took a running start and like Spiderman, “walked” himself up the pads behind the basket, and dunked the basketball. “They” told him he was too small to play football on the vaunted CHS Bear team, but he consistently zigged and zagged his way up and down the field, including one touchdown run that he completed minus one shoe. (see yearbook photo above) He continued his football pursuits at Rutgers University then moved to Sacramento where he started Clairton Financial, Inc. and later to Phoenix where he continued his investment career. But Bill still refused to listen to what “they” had to say.

Bill recently heard that the Bears had won a 7 on 7 football tourney in the Greater Pittsburgh area but “they” said that since TJ had defeated the Bears in an early round of the double elimination tourney, the Bears would not be invited to the prestigious Red Bull sponsored Gamebreakers tourney on the SMU campus in Dallas. Besides, even if the Bears received an invitation there was too little time to plan the logistics and no money to send them, “they” said.

So Bill contacted the folks at Red Bull and provided them with the rich football history of the “Little Class A School That Could.” He showed them that CHS had not only won the Class A State Championship two years running but had also defeated teams from much larger schools. But “they” were still reluctant. You see, participants in the Red Bull Tournament which was being held on the Southern Methodist University campus were the giants of high school football from Texas, California, Louisiana, Florida, and other football power states. The 5-A teams would surely crush little old Single A Clairton “They” said. But Bill invoked his personality disorder and persisted until the folks at Red Bull took a deep breath and invited the mystery team from the Pittsburgh area.

Bill had gained support from Bob White, Sue and Jim Wessel, and other current and former Clairton residents and Bear Supporters. Community businesses and friends of the CHS program dug into their own pockets to front the money to pay for the plane fare, motel rooms, and other expenses. CHS alum and current Dallas resident Bob Yaksick became the “local” anchor man to help with ground activities, and the Bears arrived at the tourney as the smallest school to march like lambs to the slaughter at the hands of the giant 4A and 5A teams from football power states.

Some of the 23 teams represented large schools from Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Colorado that brought a couple dozen kids each as well as cheering sections and supporters galore. CHS brought 14 players which meant the Bears often had to play both offense and defense using the same players during the worst heat wave in the history of Dallas. The CHS lads played well and when the Public Address announcer said that CHS came from a community of only 8,000 residents and had a graduating class of 60, the crowd gave the Bears a standing ovation.

The Bears started their 7 on 7 games as one of more than 160 participating teams and knocked off Goliath after Goliath until they got to the Final Four. They won again, defeating another large school, Houston’s Westside, by a score of 26-14 putting them in the grand finale against nationally ranked powerhouse Arlington Martin. Finally, the Bears went down to defeat, taking second place in the tourney. Powerful Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA finished fourth. ESPN reported, “Martin then handed Clairton its first loss of the double-elimination semifinals, 24-12.

“Clairton, a Pittsburgh-area school with an enrollment shrunk by the closing of nearby steel mills, earned its way in the finals by defeating third-place Westside, 26-14.”

Congratulations Bears. Hold your heads high. You are the champions of Greater Pittsburgh, of Western PA, of PA, and now you've brought home the Silver against some of the most powerhouse teams in America. Bravo!

On a related note, Clairton’s own Desimon Green, as well as McKeesport linebacker Branden Jackson will head for Lubbock, TX in a few weeks when they report to Texas Tech University as freshman football players.

There weren't only coaches and family watching the games. Reggie Bush (Saints) and DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) were among the celebrities who cheered and inspired theCHS players.

The student athletes at CHS have demonstrated their academic prowess as well as play on the field. About 1/3 of the team has earned a grade point average of 3.5 (A-) or higher and another 1/3 are at 3.0 (B) or better. This is a special team. They share the legacy of the outstanding student athletes who have gone before them - student athletes like Bill Bennett - whose personality disorder - not listening to what “they” say and exceeding all expectations was pivotal in getting the Bears to Dallas. Here’s hoping that disorder affects this year’s team as well.

A little blogging music Maestro, How about the Clairton fight song? "It's Clairton High School. It's Clairton High School the pride of every....."

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, July 10, 2011

If you can read this thank a teacher

Occasionally I cpome across something that is worth sharing. Today's blog is such an item. I wish Mrs. Bayless, Miss Chottiner, Mr. Balta, and all the teachers who played such an important role in my live, but who now are gone, could read this tribute to them. Read and enjoy.

By: David Reber

I’m going to step out of my usual third-person writing voice for a moment. As a parent I received a letter last week from the Kansas State Board of Education, informing me that my children’s school district had been placed on “improvement” status for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law.
I thought it ironic that our schools were judged inadequate by people who haven’t set foot in them, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Predictably, my letter elicited a deluge of comments in the paper’s online forum. Many remarks came from armchair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists quick to discredit anything I had to say under the rationale of “he’s a teacher.” What could a teacher possibly know about education?

Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession….” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education. Due process and collective bargaining are favorite targets, as are the erroneous but tightly held beliefs that teachers are under-worked, over-paid (earning million-dollar pensions), and not accountable for anything.
In what other profession, indeed.

In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer”, or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”

In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before”, and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure”.

In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job? You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients”, or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team.”

But look around. You’ll find droves of armchair educators who summarily dismiss any statement about education when it comes from a teacher. Likewise, it’s easy to find politicians, pundits, and profiteers who refer to our veteran teachers as ineffective, overpriced “dead wood”. Only the rookies could possibly be any good, or worth the food-stamp-eligible starting salaries we pay them.
And if teachers dare ask for a raise, this is taken by many as clear evidence that teachers don’t give a porcupine’s posterior about kids. In fact, some say if teachers really cared about their students they would insist on earning LESS money.

If that entire attitude weren’t bad enough, what other profession is legally held to PERFECTION by 2014? Are police required to eliminate all crime? Are firefighters required to eliminate all fires? Are doctorsrequired to cure all patients? Are lawyers required to win all cases? Are coaches required to win all games? Of course they aren’t.
For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.

If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burns down his house, suffers third degree burns, and then goes to jail; we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault.

And if someone – anyone - tries to tell you otherwise; don’t listen. He must be a teacher.