Attendance seemed much lower than usual at the games The Fumbler attended the past few weeks, and he couldn't understand why.
He was thinking about this while on his way to the concession stand to grab a hot dog Friday, when an errant pass came whizzing past his head.
As the ball spiraled toward him, a fan yelled out, "Duck!"
And just like that, The Fumbler had his answer (and nearly a concussion, too).
Oh, that giant rubber duck. How dare you lure people Downtown and away from high school football games!
Agitated, yet curious, The Fumbler decided to see it for himself Sunday, the final day it was docked by Point State Park.
The Fumbler was amazed. Not by the duck, but by the excitement it sprung onto the thousands of onlookers. C'mon. The thing didn't talk, didn't blink an eye, and barely moved, yet it sent adults into a state of euphoria like they had just won the Powerball.
Call The Fumbler old. Call him cranky. But don't call him a fan of the giant rubber duck.
Thankfully, the rubber duck's reign on the Three Rivers is now over. And woo, it happened just in the nick of time.
The final week of the WPIAL regular season is here. The playoffs are a week away. The City League playoffs began Thursday night.
So long, duck. Welcome, the most exciting part of the season.
The Fumbler went 50-14 (.781) last week, moving him to 428-95 (.818) for the season.
Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:
Hempfield (6-2, 5-2) at Penn-Trafford (5-3, 5-2), 7:30 tonight -- The Fumbler went on the Penn-Trafford School District website and read that a charity dodgeball tournament will take place Saturday at the high school. The Fumbler loves the idea. If he didn't already have a whiffle ball tournament, he'd be there. Like the movie "Dodgeball," Penn-Trafford was a true underdog story last week against Gateway. The Gators tried to dodge Penn-Trafford, but whiffed. Hempfield, winners of three in a row, now will try to knock the Warriors out ... and will. Winner: Hempfield.
Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 7-0) at West Mifflin (8-0, 7-0), 7:30 tonight -- Movie stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell spent time at the now-closed West Mifflin Middle School (the old West Mifflin South High School to some of us) last year while filming a movie titled "Foxcatcher" scheduled to be released in 2014. It might be easier to catch a fox than to track down West Mifflin speedster Jimmy Wheeler, who has been a human highlight reel this season. Wheeler has not faced a defense as good as Thomas Jefferson's, but The Fumbler believes a storybook ending to the regular season is in store for the Titans. Winner: West Mifflin.
Kittanning (8-0, 7-0) at Shady Side Academy (8-0, 7-0), 7:30 tonight -- The Fumbler took his young nephew to McDonald's last week. The order consisted of a Happy Meal (toy included), a crispy chicken sandwich and fries. As The Fumbler waited for his food, he couldn't help but think of Kittanning, which has players named (Braydon) Toy, (Tyler) Fries and (Zack) Crispen. Shady Side Academy would be smart to not play around with this Toy, who has thrown for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 700 yards. But the Shady Side Academy defense will sandwich Kittanning, making their postgame meal a happy one. Winner: Shady Side Academy.
Aliquippa (8-0, 6-0) at Beaver (6-2, 4-2), 7:30 tonight -- Despite his team's win, the thought here is that Aliquippa defensive coordinator Dan "Peep" Short was not a happy guy after his unit gave up 28 points to Beaver Falls last week. The Quips had not allowed that many points in their previous 35 games. You probably couldn't have heard a peep from his players when he addressed them this week. Now the Quips face a Beaver team that has scored the second-most points in Class AA. Look for the talented Aliquippa secondary to put the clamps on Beaver's excellent passing attack, which will put Short in a more jovial mood. Winner: Aliquippa.
And the rest (home teams in capital letters):
CITY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS (Semifinals) -- University Prep over Perry.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) CONNELLSVILLE over Altoona; KISKI AREA over Latrobe. (Northern Eight) CENTRAL CATHOLIC over Butler; SENECA VALLEY over Fox Chapel; North Allegheny over NORTH HILLS. (Southeastern) Baldwin over BETHEL PARK; PETERS TOWNSHIP over Canon-McMillan; Upper St. Clair over MT. LEBANON; Woodland Hills over PENN HILLS.
WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) BELLE VERNON over Albert Gallatin; UNIONTOWN over Laurel Highlands; Ringgold over TRINITY. (Greater Allegheny) Franklin Regional over DERRY; MARS over Hampton; Highlands over KNOCH; Indiana over HOLLIDAYSBURG. (Parkway) BLACKHAWK over Ambridge; WEST ALLEGHENY over Chartiers Valley; NEW CASTLE over Hopewell; MOON over Montour.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) Burrell over DEER LAKES; VALLEY over Ford City. (Century) KEYSTONE OAKS over Burgettstown; Seton-LaSalle over SOUTH PARK; South Fayette over SOUTH ALLEGHENY; McGUFFEY over Steel Valley. (Interstate) Charleroi over BROWNSVILLE; GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC over Jeannette; YOUGH over Southmoreland; Washington over WAYNESBURG. (Midwestern) RIVERSIDE over Freedom; New Brighton over MOHAWK.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) Laurel over SHENANGO; Neshannock over UNION; STO-ROX over Rochester; Western Beaver over SOUTH SIDE BEAVER. (Black Hills) Brentwood over CALIFORNIA; MONESSEN over Carlynton; FORT CHERRY over Chartiers-Houston. (Eastern) North Catholic over LEECHBURG; AVONWORTH over Northgate; APOLLO-RIDGE over West Shamokin. (Tri-County South) AVELLA over Bentworth; Carmichaels over WEST GREENE; Frazier over MAPLETOWN.
NON-CONFERENCE -- CENTRAL VALLEY over Beaver Falls; MOUNT PLEASANT over East Allegheny; Elizabeth Forward over GREENSBURG SALEM; SHALER over Norwin; Pine-Richland over PLUM; Quaker Valley over ELLWOOD CITY; BETH-CENTER over Vincentian.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) SUMMIT ACADEMY over Freeport.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Eastern) Springdale over RIVERVIEW. (Tri-County South) Jefferson-Morgan over GEIBEL CATHOLIC.
OLSH over Wilkinsburg; Kiski School over WESTERN RESERVE ACADEMY (OHIO).
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Black Hills) BISHOP CANEVIN over Serra Catholic.