Big Lead Sports Bar

10/12/2006

A Recent History of Sports Hatred in Pittsburgh

READER SUBMISSION
By Worstavid
"A Recent History of Sports Hatred in Pittsburgh"
Okay, so let’s set some parameters on this list. My range of personal experience extends from about 1960 to present. I must first say that I wonder if there was less pure hatred in the old days or if I was just less aware of it because I was young?
My first real dose of hatred came in, I believe, 1968. If I’m not mistaken, this was the year that the Pittsburgh Penguins had their first major altercation with the St. Louis Blues. All I can say is, "WOW!"
I had the very great good fortune to be seated in the first row near the red line when former Pen and future Edmonton Oiler Coach Glen Sather got into a boxing match with Barclay Plager, one of the soon-to-be-reviled Plager brothers who populated the Blues rosters for several years. They had Barclay, Bill, Beano and Zeppo. I believe there were other, illegitimate ones too.
Anyway, Sather squares off with old Barclay who just LOVED fights. The just stood there juking and boxing, bare-fisted, for a few seconds, then Sather proceeded to beat the living hell out of him. Of course this was in the days of full goon hockey, so you know what happened next…mass mayhem, that's what. It was almost surreal. Players would square off, groups would get involved. The refs would get things under control and then…you guessed it, here goes another fight in another area of the ice. These fights were so out of control, that the refs sent the players to the locker rooms BEFORE THE END OF THE PERIOD! There was about a minute and a half left, so they came back, played a minute and a half, then had another brief stoppage before starting the next period.

When you get hit by Plager, are you Plagerized?
The pure hatred that this game spawned spilled over into the playoffs where the Penguins found themselves playing, you guessed it, the St. Louis Blues. What an exciting series this was if you loved pure goon hockey. The Pens lost in six, but it was still great. We had a rookie named Michele Briere who was phenomenal. I often wondered how the Pens’ future would have been different had he not been killed that off-season in an auto accident.

Hatred for the Flyers has been strong over the years too and still continues to this day. Evidence the emotion in the Pens’ opener against them. Can you imagine that the Pens will play them eight times this year out of 82 games? That’s 9.75% of their games against a hated rival! The possibilities for hatred that this could generate would be similar to that river of “ectoplasm” (pure hatred) running under New York City in “Ghostbusters”. In this case, the river would stretch the entire length of the Keystone State.

We're ready to believe you, Worstavid
My other major memories of sports hatred involve, of course, our beloved Steelers. I really have no hatred memories involving the Pirates, other than the Braves playoff losses. Sure, we hated losing to the Braves in the playoffs, but I never got to the same hatred levels involving this “non-contact sport”.
Boy, when you talk about sports hatred, there was no love lost between the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. In those days football was a different game from the watered-down version we’re treated to today. The Raiders were famous for the techniques they employed with their secondary. In fact, one drill had them using a “forearm shiver” in repetition on their tackling dummies’ heads. They had some real mean dudes like Alonzo “Skip” Thomas (also known as “Doctor Death”), Jack Tatum and George Atkinson who Chuck Noll once called a “Part of the criminal element in the National Football League.” He wound up in court over that remark, that’s how bad things got. Al Davis was the man everyone hated. Today he’s the pathetic loser with a walker that Steeler fans still love to hate. John Madden was a big mouth back then too and he was always ranting and raving at the officials. He never shut up. Yes, we still hate him even today.


The stories about the dirty tricks are legendary. The Raiders greased their jerseys, their receivers used “stickum” on their hands. They supposedly had under-inflated balls that made it into the game for the Steeler’s punter, Bobby Walden. One of the best stories ever involved the Steelers grounds crew at Three Rivers supposedly spraying the Raiders sideline so that it was an ice-skating rink for a playoff game. Everybody was getting into the hatred act. Of course the Steeler fans had to get into it too and their contribution involved finding out where the Raiders were staying in town and making life totally miserable…all night long. Boy that series was REALLY full of hatred.
Of course the Browns have long been hated, but that hatred has waned as they have fallen into a complete state of incompetence as a rival. But they had some decent teams back in the 70s too and one play I’ll never forget that really enflamed things for years around here involved a lineman by the name of Joe “Turkey” Jones. I never did find out why he was nicknamed “Turkey”, but after he literally spiked Terry Bradshaw on his head/neck along the sideline in one of the most vicious tackles I’ve ever seen. He was called a lot worse things than “Turkey” after that.

A rare shining moment for the Browns
We used to hate the Houston Oilers pretty good around here too. They beat us a few times in regular season games, but we owned them in the playoffs. They had the most annoying fight song that they’d play in Houston when they scored a touchdown, it used to really get me riled up. “We’re the..Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers number one! We’re the …well you get it. It sucked, totally. I was glad when they moved from Houston just so that song would never be played again.
I used to love when Dan Pastorini, their quarterback, was coming to town. So did the Steelers, apparently. I never saw a man get maimed as repeatedly as Pastorini by the Steelers. He got legendary beatings from them. I’m surprised he survived them, or that he’s not a quadriplegic by now.
A really vivid memory I have from my newspaper days involved a Monday Night Football game against the Earl Campbell-led Oilers. Campbell was in his prime and I had the good fortune to have a sideline pass. I watched a collision at the goal line between Campbell and Steelers Safety Mike Wagner. Wagner made a tremendous hit, head-on and I swear that Campbell didn’t score. Believe me, I had the best vantage point in the stadium to make this call other than the back judge who was right there as well. Apparently, the 50,350 in attendance (the every week capacity back then at Three Rivers) didn’t agree with this call either. I heard a crash right behind me and spun around. Someone threw a whiskey bottle from the stands and it shattered into a million pieces on the rock hard astro turf surface. Had it hit me, I wouldn’t be writing this but would be sipping my dinner from a straw tonight.
So let’s recap: We seriously hated the Blues and still hate the Flyers in hockey, The Oilers, Browns and especially the Raiders conjured up strong feelings in football. Yes, admittedly we hated the Braves too, come to think of it. But in retrospect was it hatred for Sid Bream or Barry Bonds or more hatred knowing that our shot was lost at winning a World Series with that team and that it would be…forever…before we ever got another chance!




UPDATE:
Our friends at The Pensblog have decided to further rub salt in the wound that is the Pirates with the Youtube Video Clip of Sid Bream, Francisco Cabrera, and Barry Bonds. That was difficult to watch. I guess that further proves the point on hatred for a team. And thanks to Pensblog for the video link.

7 comments:

Bern1 said...

Even the Pittsburgh Police would get into it with the Raiders. In the '70s, they had a tight end named Bob Moore who had to sit out a playoff game because the cops billy-clubbed him conga-style the previous night outside the Hilton downtown. His gourd was so mashed, swollen and sore, he couldn't put his helmet on. Now THAT's a rivalry!

And I still hate the Browns, even the ones in Baltimore; maybe especially them.

eh jeh said...

Arrrrgggh! That damn Houston Oilers fight song is now stuck in my head.

I hated that wretched ditty! Apparently, I still do.

Louis Lipps is my Homeboy said...

I was raised to hate the Cowboys and the Browns.

A lot of people have said the Browns thing has died down lately. But I say they're still our biggest historical rival no matter how good they are.

The current Cincy rivalry is just the product of two teams being good at the same time.

But put it this way, if the Cincy fans and players are annoying you now JUST WAIT until the Brownies finally get good again.

The Browns and their fans will make you wish nothing short of a scorching case of the clap for the entire city of Cleveland.

bucdaddy said...

"Friends," you say? With friends like that ...

I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing the Bream play again, but with it right there ... well, it would have been like speeding past a particularly grisly wreck without a glance. Can't be done. And Barry's throw was a little more off line than I remembered but it was still a hell of a throw. There are a lot of things you can hate Barry for but that throw isn't one of them.

Back in the day, we despised the Islanders for a certain playoff series I've spent maybe 30 years trying to forget. I have, mercifully, forgotten who got the only goal in game 7 -- was it Ed Westfall? You could make a case that goal was responsible for the Penguins' (first) bankruptcy.

Islanders = bastards

Always will.

Ricarus said...

What about the dreaded "Big Red Machine" from the 70's I still hate Johnny Bench and Pete Rose...

Or the PennState-Pitt-West Virginia threesome??

I can still hear the Arena crowd bellowing "Baaark-leeey"

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pensblog! I love seeing the Bream/Cabrera play, if nothing else to see Barry Bonds, Stan Belinda, and Jim Leyland choke! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Oiler fight
song. In the early 90's, I
changed that to "Houston
Chokers" instead of Oilers
when they had those talented
teams who would blow it consistently in the playoffs
with a load of talent on their
team.