Big Lead Sports Bar



John Steigerwald is a man who needs no introduction, but I will introduce him anyway. He is a Pittsburgh sports institution and has seen and done it all as a TV anchor, talk show host, and newspaper columnist over the past 30 years. But these days, he's getting some considerable buzz over his two newest endeavors: an upcoming book and a daily sports blog, which both go by the title, "Just Watch the Game".

Mr. Steigerwald was nice enough to answer a number of questions for me on a variety of topics, and our Q&A is below.

Mondesi's House: Your blog has made a huge splash in an unusually short amount of time. I attribute that to the perfect storm of someone with credibility giving a take that's very different from the norm. Is it safe to say that the concept of blogging is one that's growing on you? Is there anything about blogging that makes you uncomfortable?

John Steigerwald: Not really, other than the fact that my neck gets a little stiff from spending too much time sitting at the computer.

MH: I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this, but I'll ask anyway: if you had to do it all over again, would you still write the post about Ben Roethlisberger?

JS: I wouldn't change a word. I got criticized for accusing him of doing drugs, which I didn't do. I merely pointed out that, if you are going to continue to point out that Ben didn't appear to be drinking much on the night in question as a way of making it seem less likely that he could have been out of control, then you have to consider other things that COULD have caused him to do what the woman said he did. The 57 year old manager of the Texas Rangers was just busted for doing cocaine. Who would be shocked to find out that ANY pro athlete is doing drugs? I also got a lot of criticism for relating the story about Ben blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid. I wrote than in the context of the original premise of of my post, which was that, because of the ridiculous number of stories about Roethlisberger's poor behavior, the latest news didn't surprise me. I have since contacted Make-A-Wish and they gave me a big, fat no comment.

MH: Do you see any similarities between Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods?

JS: They both have a sense of entitlement that might be a tad out of line.

MH: We've had a lot of discussion recently about the role of blogs in today's world of sports media. What are your thoughts on the topic?

JS: I love blogs. I love the fact that our politicians are aware of blogs and how much more difficult it's going to be for them to get away with things, Dan Rather was brought down by a blogger who spotted the bogus story about G.W. Bush's National Guard service that CBS was peddling. I think most people are smart enough to take everything they read on a blog with a grain of salt. The great thing is that it's ridiculously easy to research any claim made on a blog and there are other bloggers out there who can shoot down misinformation.

MH: Your opinions on the Pirates and baseball in general are well known. Could you pinpoint where it all went wrong for you, and if there is anything that would bring you back to the game?

JS: In 1994, before the lockout, Kevin McClatchy told me that the National League teams had it within their power to prevent visiting teams from televising their games. I got the impression that the small market teams might try to use that to get a piece of the huge TV money that major market teams were getting. But McClatchy and the other small market owners caved and accepted a revenue sharing plan that would make it easier for them to make money but have very little effect on competitive balance.

Since then I've had no interest in talking about MLB because it's an insult to my intelligence. I can't see why any self-respecting sports fan would pay attention to any league that puts about 1/3 of its teams at a distinct disadvantage. That's why I don't care about the exceptions like Minnesota, Florida and Tampa. I just don't have patience for a league that requires a certain percentage of teams to perform miracles in order to compete for championships.

There's a perfect model for getting me interested in MLB again and it's right down the street from PNC Park. The Penguins. If the NHL had continued on the path it was on before its lockout, I would have stopped paying attention for the same reasons.

If MLB did an NHL-style makeover, I'd be back to going to 30 or 40 games a year. As it is now, I refuse to watch the World Series.

MH: You go by "The Sports Grouch", but there has to be a softer side of John Steigerwald. Tell us a few things you still enjoy about sports, and why you entered this profession in the first place.

JS: I'm happy to wear the title of Sports Grouch if it means that I'm a guy who's not afraid to talk about how bad things have gotten in sports. Am I grouch to point out the stupidity of Pitt playing Youngstown and Penn State playing Akron on a Saturday in September instead of them playing each other. I'm cursed by the knowledge of knowing what it was like when Pitt played Penn State including a time or two when they were ranked 1 and 2 in the country. Am I a grouch to point out that it's ridiculous for people to get excited about a tournament that creates a 0-100 record for a a group of teams over a 25 year period. That was the record of #16 seeds going into this year's NCAA tournament. The 15 seeds were 4-96. I don't think I'm being a grouch when I say I have no interest in watching that garbage. I think I'm preventing my intelligence from being insulted. I grew up watching and later covered the Pirates when they went into every season with a chance to win, Am I a grouch for trying to get people to understand that they are enabling the system that killed what used to be a real Major League franchise?

I got into this profession because I liked the idea of being paid to go to games. That's partly where the title of the book comes from. I like the games. I don't need to tailgate, I don't need to wear a $100 jersey with my favorite player's number one it. I want to JUST WATCH THE GAME. But I don't want to watch Pitt play Youngstown and I don't want to see a MLB team in name only (the Pirates) play anybody.

MH: We know who's rubbed you the wrong way, but which local athletes have been the easiest or most enjoyable to deal with over the years?

JS: I got along great with the Steelers from the 70s and 80s. When I started over 30 years ago, the guys who I was covering wre my age. Terry Bradhaw and I are within a couple of weeks of each other in age. I got along well with Chuck Tanner and Foge Fazio, both great guys. The only hockey player I can ever remember having a problem with was Tom Barrasso. I really enjoyed covering the Penguins.

MH: I get the sense that you think America has gotten a little "soft". What happened to our country?

JS: America is becoming more feminized all the time. Women getting involved (overly involved) in their kids' teams, Very few male elementary school teachers. You hear stories about tag being forbidden on school playgrounds. Effeminate men are celebrated (ever seen Adam Lambert and the fuss that was made over him?). I have a chapter in my book explaining why I would rather have the Three Stooges babysit my kids than Mr. Rogers because Mr. Rogers --who was a better person than I could ever hope to be and did a lot of great things--was a sissy. You're no longer allowed to discourage boys from being "sissies" because that would make you "homophobic". The country will get softer and softer the more we depend on the nanny state to take care of us.There are people in power now who want to take care of us from cradle to grave and they can't find their way to the supermarket. I'm a big self reliance guy and there's less and less of that going around every day.

MH: Are you aware that you are a YouTube star? How long did it take to shoot that spot?

JS: That promo was shot in 1980 by a guy named Jerry Smith. It won an international award of some kind. Smith was a genius. There are 14 uniform changes in that spot in 28 seconds. It took about 9 hours to shoot it and, by the way, the gold fish in the mask is real and alive. Please don't call PETA.

MH: Tell us a little more about your upcoming book, Just Watch the Game. When is it going to be released? And what's your target audience?

The title JUST WATCH THE GAME come from the times my dad would take me to Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium. When he would see me spending too much time looking for the popcorn guy, he would give me a nudge and say "Just watch the game". As I said in an earlier response, the title also sums up why I loved sports and why I decided to try to become a sportscaster. The book has a lot of stories from my 33 years of covering Pittsburgh sports and, to the surprise of no one, is also filled with lots of opinions, It'll be one of those books that you don't have to read from the beginning. You'll be able to pick it up anywhere and read a chapter. There's no real beginning or end. I guess it 'll be a pretty good book to keep by the toilet. I had originally planned to release it in time for Father's Day and Summer but I was talked out of it by a distributor who told me I should wait until the fall and Christmas. The response to the website has me thinking about releasing it shortly but I haven't decided. I think this book will be different from most of the books you see on the local "Pittsburgh Sports" shelves because it won't be in black and gold and it's not devoted to a championship season or team. It covers everything from my thoughts on women sportscasters to stories about riding the buses in minor league baseball.

-Many thanks to Mr. Steigerwald for taking the time to speak with me-

Where to find John's work:

Just Watch the Game Blog

Saturday Sports column in the Indiana Gazette

Sunday Sports column in the Washington Observer-Reporter and the Valley News Dispatch

Action Sports Sunday @ 11:30 Sunday nights on WTAE-TV


Spatula said...

I expect that Mr. Steigerwald will get in trouble for stating that America is becoming too feminized -- especially because it's true, and some folks don't like to be confronted with the truth. His examples are spot on.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Someone needs to do a photoshop with that Ben-Tiger pic.

SantoGold said...

I had a really hot 2nd grade teacher so I'm not going to complain about female teachers in grade school.

Unknown said...

sorry, I understand where he's coming from, but I still wouldn't waste my hard earned money on thoughts from someone so sour and negative.

Even when asked about his favorite athletes, he replied by singling out Tom Barasso as his least favorite Penguin. Maybe the guy just doesn't like sports as much as he thinks he does.

Steve said...

Ironically, If John played pro sports, he would be just as confrontational and annoying to interview as Barrasso.

He is right on about baseball though, which shouldn't surprise anyone. It's bad enough the Pirates are in that 1/3, but they make it worse by being bottom feeders in that percentage too. Kinda like being the slowest, one-legged sprinter, in a field of 10, although I would actually watch that race.

Judge Smailes said...

Why no question about man crushes on Kordell and Tom Donahoe? Way to serve up soft ball questions to a self-important, know-nothing talking head...

BTW, the Big East is officially OVERRATED? Pitt should start getting the paperwork signed for the Big Ten transition.

Glaucon said...

Did you give Steigy a foot rub when you were finished with your softball interview?

Steigy is a talentless hack who benefits from being a recognizable ginger muppet in a small market.

... still love Mondesi's House though.

Robert Ullman said...

Wow, I've already spent too much time on this crank. Any salient points made are canceled out by his embarrassing "Blame the fags!" nonsense. America'll be a lot better off when dinosaurs like this are extinct.

Robert Ullman said...

Nice cover, by the way. As an illustrator, I find it offensive.

chris said...

Boy, the moment when he cited one of the most important public figures to child development as an example of turning children into sissies was the part when I realized I was thankful that this man is not employed by a media outlet in this city any more. What a despicable thing to say.

Dallas Mike said...

Steigerwald is certainly correct about America becoming less self reliant. I don't know about America becoming softer, but the current nanny state that our politicians are creating is a disgrace to the founders of this country. How large can the safety net get? We already tried to give everyone a house. I can't wait to see the next batch of entitlements that I will have to subsidize. Matter of fact, it kind of reminds me of Major League Baseball: Let the successful few subsidize the incompetent bottom feeders who refuse to help themselves. Keep electing these politicians who are economically illiterate and watch the purchasing power of your fiat currency continue to decline. America softer? Maybe. Dollar softer? Definitely.

JRD said...

The man is an ass

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I wonder if he has a phonebook to sit on his desk chair so he can see over his keyboard?

I think that this interview is funniest due to the fact that he is probably absolutely 100% serious about all of his contentions.

Anonymous said...

The banner on his blog looks like a lame promo for Anchorman 2.

E$ said...

How does "softer" equal "feminized"? It's 2010, buddy.

Koz said...


Well put. I thought that was a painfully anachronistic description of our culture. I get the point he's trying to make, but to call it "feminized" is just ignorant.

Also, I still don't get his point on the "Ben on drugs" thing. His explanation seems like a backpedal to me. Even if he weren't backpedaling, how do you introduce something like that and not expect everyone to react like you're accusing him of using drugs? That's just awful writing.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Dallas Mike. Has anyone seen the story recently of the 450+ pound mother whose "goal" is to get her weight up to 1000 lbs? Nice to know that we'll all be subsidizing her fat ass once the gubment takes over health care.

Blame the fags? I think he made a pretty solid point about everything having to be politically correct in today's day and age. There's nothing wrong with having a government program as an option to help you get on your feet. But waaaay too many people use it as a source of dependence. At drill before christmas, I worked at a warehouse for the Toys for Tots program and some of the Marines told me that I'd be surprised at how many people show up to pick up toys driving pimped-out SUV's and the such, and how sick it made them to see that...

I think it was a good article, Don. And if you don't agree with me, you're probably a racist homophobe that feeds babies to Nazis...

Red Eye bitches

Unknown said...

what a tool.

schigne said...

It's so nice to see a man stand up to those evil women who want to work jobs. Almost as bad as those uppity negros.

Unknown said...

Tom Barrasso is the greatest goaltender in Penguins history.

Justin said...

The man's a jackass and frankly I'm surprised this blog would waste any time bothering with him. He hasn't been relevant in years, and he apparently can't answer a question as asked.

"Tell us a few things you still enjoy about sports."

(what follows is a rant about stuff he hates)

"Which local athletes have been the easiest ... to deal with over the years?"

(names a couple people, but then bitches about Tom Barrasso)

And who in the hell has the right to complain about Mr. Rogers? Seriously?

If I were you, I'd have buried that interview so far up his backside he'd never have been able to sit down at his computer again. At least he wouldn't have to worry about a stiff neck anymore!

Unknown said...

What a clown. Is it me or does this guy seem to have a different view of himself than everyone else has. He talks like a big macho bad boy, yet he has the most "sissy" looking stache I have ever seen.

Robert Ullman said...

I took a page out of the John Steigerwald handbook this morning, and got up before dawn to venture out into the woods with my son, where I killed a deer with my bare mustache. My son was a little rattled by the sight of the bloody deer, and began to cry, so I told him to stop being such a queer.

Unknown said...

It all makes sense now! Steigerwald was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of his male 4th grade teacher and then his dad beat his ass when he tried to confide in him. He's been doing drugs ever since to try to quash the pain, but Tom Barasso's steely blue eye's remind him of said teacher. Just watch the game indeed. Watch the game and it will all be okay.