Sports & Outdoors

NFL Week Two: Quarterbacks Under Siege

There are a number of variables that play into the Super Bowl equation. You have to win the close games—a win’s a win whether by 30 points or by 3. You have to be lucky—moments that happen in the blink of an eye can decide the fate of entire football games. Above all, you have …

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Your Fantasy Football Guide to Week One

So you played John Ross over Davante Adams, and benched Aaron Rodgers for Lamar Jackson’s five touchdown performance? Me neither. Week one showcased a lot of favorable performances, many of which were left on your bench or waiver wire. The trick is in deciding whether or not these are indicative of a trend or a …

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The NFL: Week One Report

It’s hard not to think of a horse race during NFL opening week. With all the analytics in the world at our disposal, there are still underdogs who come out of nowhere and overwhelming favorites who stumble right out of the gate. And then there are the Patriots. A lot happened in week one of …

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For the Joy of It

I recently read that the audience for baseball is shrinking. The author did not cite any particular franchises or cities where there were fewer fans in the stands, nor did he cite any reasons or statistics. As someone who loves baseball, I wondered what prompted the article. Could the author have seen the proliferation of …

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Moment in the Sun

One hundred years ago, Pittsburgh native son S. Davidson Herron defied expectations that rising young superstar Bobby Jones was too much for him and won the prestigious National Amateur championship at Oakmont Country Club, shocking the golf world in the process. The 1919 National Amateur was the first since 1916 due to World War I. …

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The Price of Nature’s Beauty

Second in a three-part series: Even modest exploration of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests reveals their gifts: hidden waterfalls that appear along hiking trails, imposing rock formations bolted with anchors for climbing, lakes created by dams for swimming and boating on warm summer days, and rivers and streams stocked with fish for the catching. Some …

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King of the Woodpeckers

The pileated woodpecker burst out of nowhere just as I thought my students’ field exam was over. As soon as we were aware of it materializing from the canopy of a tree on a green at the Pittsburgh Field Club, it flew like a black bolt into denser woods and disappeared again. A great last …

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Catching Critters

The second floor office window of my home looks out over a lovely rural valley 25 miles east of Pittsburgh. Immediately below my window is a field that slopes away to a line of trees about 50 yards away. From my perch, fauna appear intermittently and behave as if I’m not there, as if I’m …

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The Fly Fisherman’s Workout

Big-woods trout fishing takes the fisherman to spectacular natural places. Wild brook trout, in particular, demand we hike deep into the forest, improving our physical and mental health by walking long distances, relaxing our minds and feasting our eyes on one beautiful vision after another. The sun’s morning rays angling down through dark green hemlock …

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Beavers Don’t Get Headaches

“A beaver sits on the riverbank watching all of this unfold.” —from “Cairo” by Sara Miller In my small and random survey, people know, at the very least, that beavers chew wood, build dams, have big teeth and large tails. That’s about all I knew, until beavers moved into our farm pond. Turns out North …

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The Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr., Trail

There is a beautiful new trail to hike, just outside Confluence, a quaint town in the Laurel Highlands situated at the confluence of the Casselman River, Laurel Hill Creek and the Youghiogheny River, in Somerset County. Confluence is a popular area for hiking, paddling and fishing, and it is one of the notable stops for …

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Best Stadium in Baseball

It was a bone chilling January afternoon when Kevin McClatchy climbed to the top of Three Rivers Stadium in 1996. McClatchy, the new owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, posed for some magazine photographs with the cavernous soup-bowl-shaped stadium that within two years would become rubble. He smiled frequently, shivering in the cold wind as he …

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Is It Okay for My Growing Son to Lift Weights?

Question: “My son will be entering his freshman year of high school in September. He plays sports and is interested in getting stronger. What are your thoughts on lifting weights for a teenage child who is still growing? I’ve heard it is dangerous. Should he simply wait until he is older?” A controversial issue among …

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The Cicadas Are Back

“I think they’ll miss the party,” said John Wenzel, director of Powdermill Nature Reserve when I sent him these photographs of a cicada nymph shedding its skin. The nymph hatched too early, he told me, and will have difficulty finding a mate. No doubt my photos were commonplace to an entomologist, but I had never …

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Crown Jewels of the Commonwealth

A stand of old-growth hemlocks with trunks nearly four feet in diameter towers over a trail cut along a creek shrouded in mountain laurel that ripples through Laurel Hill State Park, part of one of the largest state park systems in the nation. It rose from a Depression-era work program that employed young men desperate …

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Hiking in Laurel Hill State Park

Second only to Alaska, Pennsylvania hosts more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers. Our state also provides hundreds of hiking trails covering elevations from near sea level to the highest point in the state, Mount Davis. While ridgeline treks often offer sweeping vistas, Pennsylvania’s best hikes also include forested trails along our beautiful streams. …

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Cigars With Wings

“But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’ ” —from “Swifts,” by Anne Stevenson At first I thought they were bats, and I was thrilled because bats are nearly nonexistent on our farm now. But something wasn’t quite right. How high they flew. …

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Look for the Canada Warbler

Imagine you’ve somehow found yourself in Ecuador. You desperately want to get to Pittsburgh. You weigh a third of an ounce. You can fly. You’re a Canada Warbler. Starting north on a spring night to avoid daytime predators and take advantage of cooler temperatures, you set out across the isthmus of Panama, over Costa Rica, …

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Against the Grain: The Tale of a Fallen Maple

Just after dawn on the beginning of a humid day, the copse below my hilltop home appeared out of order—something just not right. I crunched about 100 yards down my gravel driveway to investigate. The large maple, one of the bigger trees on my property, had toppled over, pulling up its roots when it fell. …

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Be Alert for a Fast and Active Winter Visitor

I was walking where the paved road turns to dirt at Hartwood Acres one winter day. The trees were creaking with cold. Dry leaves were tinged with a dusting of snow. The sky, all gray. Suddenly, there was a bird, small, moving fast. It landed on a sapling no more than 10 feet away and …

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The Tionesta Natural Areas

The largest remaining uncut forest in Pennsylvania is the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. This remote 4,000-acre area is almost equally divided between the Tionesta Research Natural Area and adjoining Tionesta Scenic Natural Area, which are managed for science and aesthetic values. Situated along creeks at the top of the 2,000-foot-high Allegheny High Plateau, …

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Death in the Back Yard

I had been an outdoors guy all my life, until Donna Rae found “our dream house” in the city of Sharon in 2006. The compromise was that, for a place in town, this property had a bit of wild land and some wildlife: dozens of squirrels, occasional deer, raccoons, skunks, and—some years—hawks roosting in the …

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