Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pittsburgh Sports Memories

As part of Mondesi's House Readers Rule Week, I was invited to answer the Pittsburgh-centric questions listed below. I think that this will be posted on the site sometime Tuesday (update: it has been posted; click on the link above), but I wanted to share my responses here anyway.

1. What is your all-time most memorable moment in Pittsburgh sports history?

On Tuesday, May 8, 2001, I was living in Columbus, Ohio and watched game six of the Eastern conference semi-finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres with some friends. After the Penguins won in overtime, the ESPN announcers innocently stated that there were still tickets available for game seven. My friends and I looked at each other, decided to call the Sabres’ ticket office and managed to buy tickets in the last row of the arena. We all left work around noon on Thursday, drove the 325 or so miles to Buffalo and watched live as the Penguins defeated the Sabres in overtime when Darius Kasparaitis beat Dominik Hasek and dove on the ice in celebration. After jumping around and making our way down to the lower section (where I happened to be in the background of ESPN’s interview with Kasparaitis), we drove back to Columbus, had a horrible 4:00 am breakfast at Denny’s and made it to work on Friday.

1A. What is your all-time most forgettable moment in Pittsburgh sports history?

Everyone is going to write about the Francisco Cabrera, Sid Bream and the 1992 National League Championship Series. I still remember staring at the television in disbelief and watching Deion Sanders chase Tim McCarver around the locker room. While this is definitely #1 on my list, I’ll share my #1B least memorable moment in Pittsburgh sports history: the 1994 AFC Championship game between the Steelers and San Diego Chargers. The Steelers were huge favorites, and as we later learned, had plans to create their own "Super Bowl Shuffle" style video. However, Stan Humphries, Tony Martin and Alfred Pupunu ruined it. Trailing 17-13, the Steelers had one final chance on fourth and goal, but the Neil O’Donnell pass was batted away. I never heard Three Rivers Stadium and 55,000 people so quiet. It was silent walking out of the stadium.

2. What makes the city of Pittsburgh special to you?

The pride that people have in the city and its citizens. Maybe it’s just me (though I don’t think so), but we love to tell people about famous Pittsburghers such as Mr. Rogers, Andy Warhol and August Wilson. We love our teams and players from Western Pennsylvania like Jason Taylor, Curtis Martin and all of the legendary quarterbacks (Marino, Unitas , Montana , Kelly, Namath, etc.). I get so excited when I see positive things written about the city as was the case earlier this year when the New York Times and USA Today each published stories about traveling to Pittsburgh . Conversely, we get defensive when an outsider speaks ill of the city as a Seattle writer did prior to the Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl. Again, I don’t think I’m alone on this. We even have pride in our food and restaurants like Primanti’s, The O and Eat ‘n Park! Maybe other places have this, but I haven’t seen it.

3. What would you consider your all-time favorite Pittsburgh sports team, specific to a single season? (For example, the '90-91 Penguins or the 1979 Pirates)

The 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins. I was too young to remember the Steelers’ Super Bowl championships so this was my first opportunity to celebrate any type of Pittsburgh sports title. I have several specific memories during the season. John Cullen was probably my favorite player on the team, and I remember being upset that he got traded to Hartford . Since the Penguins received Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson in return, I guess things turned out pretty well, but at the time, I knew very little about these guys. I just didn’t understand why the Penguins traded one of their best players. I also remember being at Kennywood during game one of the Stanley Cup Finals (it was our school district’s Kennywood Day) going around the park trying to listen to the game. Finally, and probably the reason why this team is my all-time favorite, the Penguins were all that we talked about during high school after each playoff game. I guess we had tests and homework but there seemed to be nothing else going on in our lives besides the Pens.

Feel free to provide your own answers to these questions in the comments or, if applicable, your own blog, and I'll be happy to link to your post.


Dave Pierce said...

Don't forget you can be a part of the Steelers family...kinda...make me a trade (for anything!) http://www.SteelersTrade.com

Hand of Godard said...

1. October 24, 2006. I was at the game when Malkin scored this goal:
I was in section B right behind the net the Pens were shooting on and saw the whole play unfold. I still have my ticket and hope to get Geno, Sid and Whitney to sign it. That is the first memory that pops in my head even though being at game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final is right up there with it.
1A. David Volek. I was at the hospital because my grandmother was having some kind of problem. I was only 12 at the time, but I still remember sitting in the waiting room listening on the radio and just being stunned. I couldn't believe the season was over.
2. The views, the people, the fact that I can go anywhere in the country and find a steeler bar. The fact that I've been asked in both Houston and Niagara Falls, CA if I was from Pittsburgh because of my accent. I think it's mostly the people, though.
3. I would say the 90-91 Pens for the same reason you said, but I was 10 at the time and I think I would be picking them just out of nostalgia. I'm going to put up last year's Penguins. I've never had so much fun as I had going to most of the playoff games last season. I also love the personalities of the players on the team. As far as I can tell, they all seem to be very humble individuals who genuinely see hockey as a gift that's not to be taken lightly. Players from other sports can learn a thing or two from hockey players.

Anonymous said...

Ask and ye shall receive...

Sean said...

Dave - I've heard about you. I'll be in touch.

Hand of Godard (awesome name!) and Captain - Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories!

HOG - The Volek goal was a rough one especially after Francis scored two goals in the third to tie the game.

Billy said...

And what about Roger Clemens getting popped for perjury and not growth hormone?