Big Lead Sports Bar

10/21/2008

READERS RULE WEEK - READERS ROUNDTABLE, PART TWO

As part of Mondesi's House Readers Rule Week (Sponsored by Champion), I decided to pick a few of my loyal emailers out of the crowd and corner them for a few of their views on some "big-picture" Pittsburgh sports questions. Luckily, they took me up on my offer and contributed to what I think is a really interesting discussion about Pittsburgh sports.

This is the second of two parts.

The members of panel Group Two are as follows:

AJ of Pittsburgh, Art Campbell of Slippery Rock, Beej Gefsky of Los Angeles CA, Sean of Sean's Ramblings, "P Niddy" from Straight Outta Johnstown, Keith Debildt of Cincinnati, Zane Bloom of Pittsburgh, and in the name of nepotism, two readers with me since day one who happen to be related to me: my brother Dave Spagnolo and my father Angelo Spagnolo (who recently started his own blog).

This group will be answering four questions:

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

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

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

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).

Their answers are below. And please, feel free to add your two cents to any or all of these questions in the comments section.

AJ:
For the record, this may be one of the most difficult questions I've had to answer in years. Seriously, how do you pick just one singular moment? I am running every memory from Randle El tossing the TD to Hines in Superbowl XL, to Jerome Lane's backboard shattering dunk at the Fitzgerald Field House .

After much debate, I am going to settle on April 24th, 1996. Petr Nedved scores at 79:15 of OT to defeat the Caps. I recall this game because I was in college and it was a Wednesday night (aka: quarter draft night at Alexander's in New Castle). We watched the first period at a friend's house and drank before going to the bar. Continued watching the game while drinking at the bar. Got kicked out at last call and still made it home in time for the 4th overtime period. I'm sure the copious amounts of Milwaukee's Best helped fuel our joy, but the room absolutely erupted when Nedved scored that goal. Then I got the bright idea to call Stan & Guy during the post game show. My question: "What would have happened if the Zamboni ran out of gas?"


P NIDDY:
A winter trek from Johnstown to Pittsburgh can be treacherous, so my Dad and I only went to couple Pens games when I was growing up. However, we were lucky enough to see the 'five goals five ways' game on New Years Eve 1988.

I was pretty young, but I still remember how the place went bananas when the ref pointed to the circle for the penalty shot. It got even louder when Mario beat the goalie like a rented mule. I know the Devils were just so-so that year, but it was special to see Lemiuex dominate that team like he did.

It's hard to pick just one moment, so I also want to mention The Tackle, Kaspar's OT goal, and when James Harrison bodyslammed that assclown from Cleveland who ran onto the field.

SEAN:
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.

ANGELO:
It was Superbowl IX, hands down. All of my family was together at my grandparents' house (it was also my grandmother's birthday). Every play was extremely exciting. Coming after 40 years of drought, the celebration was pretty lively too as I recall. It was very low scoring and the stress was palpable.


BEEJ:
Take your pick: Mario scoring with 12.5 seconds left in Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals (to win the game after a 5-1 Blackhawk lead). When the Penguins beat the Bruins in 1991 to advance into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time. Mario scoring the first 3 goals in the 1990 NHL All Star Game (in Pittsburgh) including the standing ovation before the puck was even dropped. 1988 NHL All Star Game where Mario had a point in all 6 goals. 1987 Canada Cup, Game 3, Mario scored the series winning goal.


Mario's first all star game (Calgary), mvp

DAVE:
My father taking my brother and I to numerous Pirate, Steeler and Penguin games as a formidable youth. The experiences of Three Rivers Stadium and the Civic Arena are things that I wish every young Pittsburgh sports fan could have the means to experience. There were so many personable players on those teams that are too numerous to mention.

As for a single moment, God was watching over our shoulder that rainy afternoon when the Steelers hosted the Redskins at the Three Rivers finale. We got downtown late and miraculously found a parking spot very close to the stadium. We then were able to find two tickets together and one in the upper deck (three of us attending) at zero hour for a very reasonable price. We get to the spot where the two seats are and as luck would have it, the person sitting next to the two doesn't show and I got to watch the last Steeler victory at Three river with my father (Felipe) and brother (Raul). Nothing better than enjoying Steeler football with your family.

KEITH:
Not having lived in Pittsburgh until 1980, the Steelers winning the Super Bowl in 2006 has to be the most memorable, especially being able to watch the game with my son who was born a Steeler fan.


ZANE:
It's hard to pick one!

January 20, 1980. One of my first memories of ANYTHING was being five and attending a Super Bowl party for XIV in early 1980 against the Rams. I remember John Stallworth's 73 yard, over the shoulder touchdown catch and the place going NUTS.

January 22, 2006. My favorite Steeler memory, the '06 AFC Championship game. The Super Bowl was sort of anti-climatic because the game was boring, but the first half dismantling of the Broncos while I dismantled a case of Yuenglings with my work buddies in the Woodcliff Lodge in Rochester, NY, where I had to be for a meeting was awesome. The elation of realizing that the Steelers were going to the Super Bowl was euphoric.

But the greatest Pittsburgh sports memory has to be May 25, 1992. 8-0 dismantling of the North Stars. I'm 17 and watching at my house with all my high school buddies and it was the first Pittsburgh Sports Championship that I had the opportunity to enjoy. While we watched the celebration and the players drinking champagne from Lord Stanley's Cup, my sister, 14, behind the couch quipped, "Jaromir Jagr isn't old enough to drink." True statement and thankfully Minneapolis police let him slide. We took off in our cars, honking the horn, driving towards the airport to greet the team, only to find utter gridlock. It was a Monday and we had school the next day so we returned home.

ART:
Let's Learn From the Past: The 1976 Pitt Panthers

1976 Pitt vs. Penn State FSN Pittsburgh

Where are they now? 1976 Pitt Panthers


My most memorable Pittsburgh sports moment is going to the Pitt-Penn State game in 1976. I think it was the first major college football game I saw live. I was 11. My Dad took my brother and me, and a neighbor and his two sons went together. It was the first year I can remember really following a team. We sat in the top row at Three Rivers. It was a night game and it was the last regular season game of the year. If Pitt won they were going to the Super Bowl and had a chance at the National Championship. Penn State had dominated Pitt for years, but not this night. My memory was that Dorsett started the game at fullback, but I did a little research to see that Dorsett actually came out to start the second half at fullback (time has a way of distorting memories a bit). I have only been to a handful of Pitt football games and this was the only one at Three Rivers. It was exciting to be there with my Dad and the crowd was excited throughout the game and following the game.

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

AJ:
Actually, I wish I could forget this. Without question, October 14th, 1992. Francisco Cabrera rips my heart out. Sid Bream's name becomes a curse word at my family dinner table. Since that night, Barry Bonds will forever be a noodle-armed pansy who couldn't throw out a cripple. Stan Belinda is a douche. Smokin' Jim Leyland will always be the maligned leader of possibly the biggest group of underachievers ever to wear Pittsburgh uniforms. Sixteen miserable years later and the franchise still hasn't come close to recovering. But I'm not bitter.

P NIDDY:

'Operation Shutdown'.

That was a turning point for me as a Pirates fan. The Derek Bell signing really got my hopes up. Lloyd told us it was going to send 'shockwaves' through baseball. It did -- but for the wrong reasons. I really thought they were turning a corner, but everything seemed hopeless when Derek Bell retired to his boat and refused to play. One good thing came out of the situation: Mark Madden's line about how Bell is 'the ultimate Pirate: lives on a boat and steals money.' That's a classic.


SEAN:
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 freakin’ 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.

ANGELO:
Most forgettable? A couple years prior to losing to the Braves, the Pirates lost to the Reds in the ninth when Carmelo Martinez, I think, hit a ball up the right field wall. The right fielder scaled the wall and made the catch. My two young sons, (one named Raul, the younger, Ramon) were shaking their "green weenies" at the time of the catch. Ramon was so angry that he threw down his green weenie to the floor and stomped on it, smashing it into a hundred pieces. So much for good luck emanating from green weenies. The Mondesi family never did take losing easily!

BEEJ:
Pittsburgh Pirates vs Atlanta Braves, NLCS, 1992

1993 Penguins vs NY Islanders, losing in OT in the playoffs. Pens score 2 goals in final 3 minutes to go to OT and Dave Volek scores for the Islanders to win the series.

DAVE:
Co-leaders on this question. I'd have to say that the last umpteen seasons of Pirates baseball has made me somewhat disillusioned towards my primary sport growing up. For some strange reason, I'm still glued to the tv for 100 some odd games a year. Does that make me an idiot? I'll leave that up to you to decide. But there's a lot of people in Pittsburgh that absolutely love baseball. If you don't believe me, talk to anyone from Fayette County that can give you a preseason outlook on the County League teams that play each summer. Make no mistake, this is a baseball team that hasn't reciprocated the love of the game back to it's core fans. Yeah, they "try hard" (as Ronnie Florian eloquently calls it), but at some point they need to field a winner instead of REO Speedwagon.

I'll steer away from the obvious (Sid Bream sliding into home) for my other co-leader and go with walking out of Heinz Field as the New England Cheatriots emerged victorious. Talk about a groin kick.

KEITH:
The inception of the Pittsburgh Maulers and hearing the auspicious moment announced live on the radio. Unforgettable. Who can forget their first Maulers game?


ZANE:
October 14, 1992. I was a freshman at Gannon University, staying on the 3rd floor of Wehrle Hall watching in the dorm across the hall as were a bunch of others as Room 314 seemed to be one of the few rooms with a TV. The elation and excitement of being 3 outs away from the World Series only to have my heart ripped out of my chest after a Lind error and a hit by someone who ended with 89 career hits and ten at bats that entire season before that AB. This low remains greater than any high I think.

May 14, 1993. A close second. I had sort of taken for granted that the Penguins would beat the Islanders and I wasn't watching game 7. I had just returned from college for the summer and I was reconnecting with my high school buddies. We were hanging out at Eat 'N Park near Robinson Town Center after when we heard the game was in overtime and we started driving towards my house in Imperial to watch the end. We were driving down the hill on 22/30 towards the Hankey Farms exit, listening to the radio, when Volek scored over Barrasso's shoulder. Stunning. Beating the Islanders was a forgone conclusion because that 92-93 team was the best they ever had!

ART:
1994 AFC Championship game loss to San Diego. Pgh was a much better team and had the lead 13-3 midway through the 3rd quarter. The Steelers should have been leading by more at that time based on the way they had outplayed them, but it didn’t work out that way. San Diego pulled off a couple of long passes and the Steelers came up the famous “3 more yards” short and lost 17-13. I still do not know how a team can have over 400 yards of offense, only one turnover, and only score 13 points. The other AFC Championship games losses under Cowher hurt, but this was the worst, because the Steelers were such a superior team and blew it.

The Pirates loss to the Braves on the run scored by Sid Bream is a close second.

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

AJ:
A city is just a bunch of buildings, it's the people that make a place special. Being a Pittsburgher is like being in some strange cult. No matter where you go, you will ALWAYS find another Pittsburgher (most likely wearing a Lambert jersey). I absolutely love that. I love our pride. You can be complete strangers, but if you're cheering the black and gold or swapping stories with a goofy accent in some foreign land, you have made a new best friend. Don't believe me? Enter any sports bar in America when the Steelers are playing and belt out a hearty "Here we go Steelers", you are guaranteed to get a "Here we go!" in return... like some kind of yinzer mating call.

It seems like other major cities always have these strange inferiority complexes. Philadelphia wants to be New York. Milwaukee wants to be Chicago. Chicago wants to be L.A. or New York. Baltimore lives in the shadow of D.C. Pittsburgh on the other hand is very comfortable in its own skin. If we have a fault, it is trying to convince outsiders what they are missing out on (even though you have to be here to really "get it").

P NIDDY:
I've heard people say that everybody is a New Yorker, because NYC is always there for you. New York is a place where you can go and find 100 people who are just like you, no matter who you are.

For Western Pennsylvanians, Pittsburgh is our New York. Many of us had to leave the state to find jobs, but we know the Burgh will always be there for us.

Sometimes people in our new locales don't understand us. My friends in Florida tried to understand why I would throw a kielbasa sandwich at the tv during a Steelers game. Well, I did it. I make no apologies -- the ref made a terrible call.

Pittsburghers understand why a kielbasa sandwich could become a projectile. They understand the bond that we have with our city and our teams. That's why Steelers bars are so popular across the country. That's why we filled Ford Field for Super Bowl XL. That's why most of us want to move back as soon as we can.


SEAN:
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.

ANGELO:
What makes Pittsburgh so special? Two things: 1) All of the pro teams wear the same lovely black and gold and 2) There's no more picturesque city anywhere.


BEEJ:
The pride that Pittsburghers take with them when they travel and/or move to another city. You can take the kid out of Pittsburgh but you can't take Pittsburgh out of the kid.

DAVE:
Traveling to different cities. I had a blast high fiving numerous inebriated Steeler fans on the streets of Detroit who I didn't even know. The following season, I was present in Charlotte for the Steelers/Panthers game in December when there was a 50/50 fan split. People in other towns know that this is a very passionate sports city and I loved being a part of "Steeler Nation" on that afternoon.

KEITH:
Moving to Pittsburgh as a 17-year old, I wasn't happy about it at all. I was mystified by the accent, having moved from Detroit, and didn't appreciate the fervor of the fans being an angry teen. But living there for a while and going to Pirates, Pens and Steelers games made me appreciate the fire the city has for its sports teams. I gravitated to the Steelers and Pens as my teams in their respective leagues and haven't turned back. Now living in Cincinnati makes me appreciate even more what a great team the Steelers are and what great owners the Rooneys have been. How people who live here can be fans of a team like the Bengals that has mostly lost in the past 40 years with no real commitment to winning is unthinkable. Oh yeah, I turned all my family into hockey fans with the run the Pens made this year too, so thanks Mario for sticking with the city.

ZANE:
When someone says, "I hate driving in Pittsburgh, I always get lost," and you have just such an intimate knowledge of the city that you can get anywhere. It's your old reliable friend and while it changes a bit from time to time (ie I can remember when Robinson Town Center was nothing but woods) it's always there for you.

ART:
I think of not just the city itself, but the overall Western PA region and the way fans get involved. From youth and high school sports, up to the colleges and pros. I have never lived anywhere else so I really don’t know how it is other places, but I think the fans here are more involved. Fans don’t just watch the game, they really follow the teams. They go to practices, listed to and call in to talk radio, and they know their teams and understand the games.

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)

AJ:
The '90-91 Penguins. After so many years of struggling, they finally triumph. Winning a Stanley Cup was something so foreign and new to the city, it lead to complete madness. That team will always mean to me Lemieux finally getting his name on the Cup. Frank Pietrangelo with "The Save". Badger Bob. Running into Bryan Trottier at Ross Park Mall after a loss against New Jersey and him promising me that they'd win the series. Jagr's young rookie legs just dominating late in games. Game Six against the North Stars when even Jim Paek scored. As a Penguins fan, the only thing that could have made that season better was if The PensBlog had been around back then to make What Would Ulf Samuelsson Do bracelets and Cam Neely photoshops.

P NIDDY:
The Pens are my favorite team, but my all-time favorite team is the 2005 Steelers. The Road Warriors. For that year, I was marooned in Fort Lauderdale working a job. South Florida is a heckuva place for a polak from Johnstown to be. I used to get homesick sitting in the beach bars watching Steelers games, staring at a snow-covered Heinz Field. I wanted to get back home.

Well, just like many Pittsburghers had to hit the road to find work, that Steelers team had to hit the road too. Their three road playoff games were unforgettable, especially the Indy game. Before the Super Bowl, Route 70 West was jam-packed with a convoy of Southern yinzers. People were speeding to Pittsburgh, honking their horns, waving their terrible towels out the window --- and this is all at 70 mph.

The Steelers have extremely loyal fans, and that Super Bowl win felt like a validation for all of us. They came close so many times under Cowher, and when they finally got a Super Bowl win, I think we all felt a relief. I don't think we'll ever have that feeling again --- at least until the Pirates win another World Series.

ANGELO:
The 1976 Steelers had the greatest defense in history. Look up their numbers, they're mind boggling. This was the team that lost both Franco and Rocky for the AFC Championship due to injury. We lost to the hated, vile-smelling Oakland Raiders.


A very close second was this year's Penguins team. They too, would not quit.

BEEJ:
Any Pens team that had Jim Paek on it. Without him, odds of winning Lord Stanley diminish. Sorry but truth is truth.

DAVE:
2006-2007 Penguins. Yeah they got bounced in the first round and were rather overmatched in the process, but the Pens grew up before our eyes that season. That team was oozing with personality and grit and were easy to fall in love with Not to mention, they absolutely dominated the Flyers that year.

KEITH:
2004 Steelers. Purely unbelievable what they did with a rookie quarterback. My Bengal fan wife was even in awe and she hates the Steelers. Too bad our house is full of black and gold stuff, even a signed Ben and Bus helmet she bought me.


ZANE:
2005 Steelers. It's the best Steeler season I've seen personally. The '04 team was pretty awesome, having gone 15-1. Big Ben was coming into his own and you knew there was a chance that this team could win it all. But the odds were stacked against them. 3 straight on the road: one against the hated Who-Deys, one against the heavily favored Colts with the most amazing ending of a game ever, and the crushing of the Broncos in Mile Hile. Then the XL victory. Steeler football is king in Pittsburgh Sports and seeing them win a Super Bowl personally (Being 34) was a great memory.

ART:
This really relates close to question #1. My most memorable moment being the Pitt – Penn State game at the end of the 1976 season, and my favorite team being that 1976 Pitt team. That team had the great Tony Dorsett and other big name players, and they also won with their third string quarterback Tom Yewcic, who came to Pitt as a walk-on and played a big role in winning a couple of games after Cavanaugh was hurt.

Many thanks to Panel Two for their participation.
Check back soon for "Things No Longer in Pittsburgh" - a list you created

2 comments:

Sean said...

Thanks for including me as part of this outstanding group!

deese057 said...

I just wanted to say that I love this feature! I just wish more people would comment about thier favorites. The comments are always fun to read.