Great year in Pittsburgh sports
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Do we know how to do a victory parade or what?
Heaven knows we've had enough practice. The celebration yesterday in honor of the Penguins was our second in 132 days, dating to the February party for the Steelers after Super Bowl XLIII. It was the third in 40-plus months, counting the parade for the Steelers after Super Bowl XL in February 2006.
Cleveland hasn't had three in 40 years.
Actually, that's factually incorrect.
Cleveland hasn't had even one in 45 years for any of its major professional sports teams.
My gosh, how many have we had during that same period? Nine? 10? 11?
That's right, there have been 11.
Not to be snooty.
I probably don't have to tell you how fortunate you are to be living in Pittsburgh instead of Cleveland when it comes to sports. I just hope you realize how truly lucky you are, period. You're living through a sports year that very likely won't be matched the rest of your life.
The Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl.
The Pitt men's basketball team came within one terrific, length-of-the-court drive by Villanova's Scottie Reynolds of going to the Final Four.
The Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings -- on the road in Game 7, no less -- to win the Stanley Cup.
Amazing, absolutely amazing.
And here's the most surreal part:
If you're old enough -- probably 40 or over -- this isn't even the best sports year of your life.
That was 1979.
The Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in six years, a dynastic run that transcended sports. It didn't just show the rest of the country and the world that Pittsburgh no longer was the dirty, sooty steel city that so many had looked down their noses on for so long. It gave Pittsburghers a proud identity that endures and thrives to this day. Steelers Nation -- millions and millions strong -- overcomes all, from the painful closings of the mines and the mills to the all-too-slow transformation of the city to an academic and medical hub to these horrendous economic times.
The Pirates won the World Series in '79. It's almost impossible to imagine now, but they were once much bigger and more loved than the Penguins. Their championship completed a remarkable decade in which they won six division titles and also the '71 series.
We Are Family!
And don't forget the Pitt football team in '79. It went 11-1, the first of three consecutive 11-1 seasons and part of a phenomenal 62-9-1 run over six seasons that began with the '76 national championship orchestrated by coach Johnny Majors and driven by Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.
For me, '79 will never be topped.
Not that '09 is bad. And it's not even half over. How cool is that? Training camp starts in Latrobe in 45 days. Some will tell you that's when the real sports year begins around here.
It's easy to think this core group of Steelers will win another Super Bowl or two or three. Big Ben Roethlisberger is signed through the 2015 season. Two championships in four years do not seem like nearly enough for him. Wouldn't it be something if he matched the four that Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw produced in the '70s? Or topped them?
It's just as easy to think the Penguins will hoist the Stanley Cup again soon. Star players Sidney Crosby, 21, Evgeni Malkin, 22, Marc-Andre Fleury, 24, and Jordan Staal, 20, still are mere babies in their sport. Can you believe Staal couldn't drink champagne out of the Cup in Detroit the other night? Not legally, anyway.
Crosby and Staal are signed through the 2013 season, Malkin through '14 and Fleury through '15. Together, they might just win more Cup titles than the two won by the most legendary Penguins player of all -- Mario Lemieux -- in the early '90s. That, of course, would delight Lemieux the team owner to no end.
You really are lucky -- almost beyond belief -- to be living here.
As for Cleveland fans, well ...
Their time finally might be coming after those 45 long years.
They do have LeBron, right?
At least for one more season, anyway.
It would be a real shame if he left the Cavaliers as a free agent in 2010.
Yep, a real shame.