Here at Pittsburgh Beautiful, we attempt to capture the heart and soul of the city through images and articles that highlight the best of Pittsburgh, but one essential part of Pittsburgh’s identity has been missing, until now.
Pittsburgh Beautiful has ventured into the Pittsburgh sports scene with a new column from a lifetime Pittsburgher and lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan.
Now that I am finished referring to myself in third-person, a quick, mini-bio. I’ve played some ball, still play old-man dek hockey where I occasionally dominate but really just wait for my Achilles to tear, and coach some basketball at the high school where I teach English.
Now to the focus of the column – my wife, Erin.
When gathering ideas for the first column, I turned to Erin for advice. You see, Erin literally couldn’t care less about sports. She refers to hockey periods as innings, chooses her favorite teams based on their costumes, and chooses Mario Lemieux to score the Pens’ first goal of every game. So naturally, her insight on Pittsburgh sports should be the column’s moral compass.
“Why don’t you start with Ryan Shazier?”
And we’re off . . .
In a week where the Pirates moved from first, to fourth, and back to first, the Penguins pulled off another unlikely comeback win in Washington in the playoffs, and the most over-watched, over-covered, overblown “sports” event of the year – the NFL draft – occurred, the most significant moment was certainly the bittersweet gait of Shazier’s walk to the podium last Thursday night to announce the Steelers’ first-round selection – a football player from some college.
Shazier’s recovery is inspiring. While some outlets have focused on the NFL’s passive indifference to the cause of Shazier’s spinal injury, Pittsburgh sports fans can focus on Shazier’s progress from a human perspective instead of a sports perspective.
Then there’s Phil Coyne – “Uncle Philly.”
Coyne ushered at Pirates’ games for 81 years. Let that sink in. My father worked at the family bakery for 70 years, but 81 years – at the same job – is something that is hard to imagine. Coyne turned 100 last week and the Pirates honored the well-loved usher with a pre-game party, and by naming “his” section at PNC Park for him. A plaque in his honor marks the section and stands as yet another reminder that sports is more about the human experience than the game. Pittsburgh is a city with a heart, and Phil Coyne received the love he deserved from the city and the Pirates.
There were some games played last week, too. The Buccos began the week hanging onto their good start by a fraying thread, but managed to climb to a safer spot by beating the Detroit Tigers two out of three and a sweet sweep against that team Pittsburghers enjoy beating so much – the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps the biggest story so far for the Pirates, besides the good record, is the play of newly acquired left fielder, Corey Dickerson.
Since coming to the Pirates – aptly named after the bit of thievery that landed Dickerson for a bad relief pitcher and a minor-league shortstop – the former all-star has become a key contributor in the Pirates’ lineup. Of course, Dickerson started well last season and then suffered an identity crisis that had him confused with someone the Rays found wandering outside of Tropicana Field with an old fungo and beat up glove. Hopefully Dickerson can remain consistent and the Pirates can continue to pitch well enough to remain competitive.
And then there are the Pens. After dispatching the hated Flyers – let’s pause just a second to revel in thinking about the Game 6 win in Philadelphia . . .
Okay – after dispatching the hated Flyers, the Pens began their annual series against No-Neck Trotz and his band of regular-season champions, the Washington Capitals. According to script, the Capitals dominated the Pens, and, according to script, the Pens won. The Pens have that charming ability to let teams back into a series, so of course they laid an egg in Game 2. By the way, if anyone finds Phil Kessel, would you please remind him that the Capitals’ series has begun – the Pens will need him in Game 3 on Tuesday.
As a Pitt alum, and long-suffering Pitt sports fan (they will break your heart EVERY TIME), I would be remiss if I failed to mention the initial impact of new men’s basketball coach, Jeff Capel. As stunning as it was that Pitt appeared to hire the right man in Capel, it was a bit more stunning to hear Capel announce his first recruit, four-star recruit Trey McGowens, a 6-3 shooting/point guard from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. The McGowens’ verbal lends credibility to Capel’s reputation as a top recruiter and shines the first glimmer of light that could awaken even the likes of Kevin Stallings after his sleepy two seasons at Pitt.
So there it is – Pittsburgh Beautiful’s first sports column. It can now be said that the website, Facebook page and Instagram account all officially bleed black and gold. Go Pens, H2P, raise the Jolly Roger, and here we go, Steelers, here we go.