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Ask a question, get an answer

| Saturday, April 14, 2001

The answer man is inspired by a radio ad, one in which children question where chicken fingers come from and where dot-coms go to die. The answer man admits he can't recall what product or service is being promoted in the commercial, but he does enjoy a good question, even if he must ask it himself.

Q: In the wake of all the excitement over PNC Park and the work in progress currently known as Steelers Stadium, and the desperate needs those two facilities were said to address, how can the Penguins be so successful playing in ancient Mellon Arena•

A: The answer man has pondered that very same question from the heights of PNC Park's press box, where a gaze uptown provides a view of a small slice of the Mellon Arena's signature stainless steel dome. In 1961, when the then Civic Auditorium opened, there were no Penguins, not even PNC Park predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium. The way the Penguins look at it, they're two new buildings behind the baseball and football teams. But, by making the playoffs 11 consecutive years, perhaps they're hurting their cause. Better, it seems, to miss the playoffs as the Pirates have done since 1992, and the Steelers, since 1997.

Q: I realize the golf crowd is a different animal, but this Tiger mania confuses me. When the New York Yankees dominate Major League Baseball, winning four of the past five World Series, they are said to be ruining the game as World Series television ratings plummet. When Tiger Woods dominates the PGA Tour, clicking off Majors wins in one-two-three-four fashion, it is hailed as the best thing ever to happen to golf and ratings for The Masters soar. What gives•

A: I'm blaming the Winnie-the-Pooh effect. Baby boomers confuse Tiger with Tigger, the lovable story book character so prominent in Pooh tales. They had the stories read to them when they were children. They now read the stories to their children. Meanwhile, their literary connections to New York's favorite team are Jim Bouton's 'Ball Four' and the movie/play 'Damn Yankees,' neither of which portrayed the Yankees in warm and cuddly fashion. Besides, the most wonderful thing about Tigger and Tiger is each is the only one.

Q: I attended a Pirates game and thought it was a nice touch that the home fans tend to throw back the balls when a hated opponent hits a home run. What do you think•

A: While it's not exactly original, I suppose it shows a certain level of support for a home team in need of such. Certainly, it's better than booing Derek Bell. But, the answer man has a question. Why don't the fans throw back foul balls hit by the other team's players•

Q: This former Pittsburgh guy who owns the Dallas Mavericks, what's with him•

A: You refer, of course, to Mark Cuban, who is walking, talking, pouting proof that money doesn't buy common sense. The NBA ran his fine meter to $505,000 this week after Cuban had made what was described as a 'derogatory' gesture. By contrast, Dan Rooney, Kevin McClatchy and Mario Lemieux are shrinking violets. And gentlemen.

Q: The Pirates have packed in the fans for their first three home games this season. The new ballpark really does make a difference, doesn't it•

A: Ask me again when the Pirates approach the since-ended run of 455 consecutive sellouts the Cleveland Indians had at Jacobs Field.

Q: Wow, that Penguins' loss to Washington Thursday sent me for a loop. Are they in trouble now•

A: Probably not, but ask me again after a couple of games.

Sam Ross Jr. is a columnist for the Tribune-Review.

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