(Photo: Christopher Horner, Trib Total Media)
Saturday night wasn’t all right for a Steelers’ win, but it was another big show for our popular city.
Evening playoff games are the dread of all newspaper reporters, especially columnists.
It’s not that we have to file a story as soon as the game ends. It’s that we often try to file before the game ends. This helps our night desk get out the print product. This helps the readers in some parts of Western Pennsylvania get a print product.
My job on Saturday was to write a lot. And, candidly, I gave up on writing a lot well. Deadline writing requires the setting aside of ego, if not the complete ignoring of it. You pick an angle and hope it goes your way. And when it doesn’t, such as the Steelers pulling close at one point in the fourth quarter of what was a blowout loss to the Ravens, you start sweating.
This is the column I ended up writing. I filed it with about three minutes remaining in the AFC wild card game. Before filing it, I had written about 350 words – roughly half of a column – about a Steelers’ victory. I had written those words in about 10 minutes. They weren’t very good. I’m quite glad nobody had to read them.
I also wrote a news story based off interviews conducted in the Steelers’ dressing room. Didn’t have to do that, but offered because I didn’t feel my column required quotes, and because I felt our readers deserved to hear from Steelers greats who might not return next season. This story appeared only our web site. Free candy, or at least my version of it.
Some Trib readers might have found a completely different column in their print version. It was one I wrote before the game. We call it an “early column” here in Newspaper Land. It has nothing to do with the game because, obviously, it was filed before the game. Not knowing if the Steelers would win or lose, I agonized over a topic that could hold up. The topic I chose blended a personal experience with an interview I did with the city’s mayor, a diehard sports fan whose beloved Pittsburgh has had quite a star turn early in his tenure.
No reporter wants his work to go to waste. More than that, though, I’m including that “early column” in this blog because, as a Pittsburgher, I am aware how lousy the days after a season-ending loss by one of the local teams can be – and I, again as a Pittsburgher, wanted my readers to have something that might bring a bit of cheer.
Here it is:
Used to be that we needed nights like Saturday.
They would serve as a seeming affirmation of something that we loved about ourselves as Pittsburghers. And even if we’re not within city limits, we’re all Pittsburghers around here when the local teams bring the big games to our North Shore and Uptown. We’re all impacted, whether we like it or not.
I’m the guy who goes to Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon on the South Side and rolls his eyes when somebody starts talking about Pittsburgh being a great sports town. Maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s just as well time to eliminate the words “sports” from that conversation.
Yeah, try making that argument during the week leading up to a Steelers-Ravens playoff game.
The brilliant revival of our East End still will be around to enjoy Sunday. The Steelers, I was reminded, might be done playing Saturday night. So why wouldn’t I just try to enjoy something that hasn’t happened in a while.
(Photo: Guy Wathen, Trib Total Media)
Mayor Bill Peduto oversees a city that’s finally matching the success of its pro teams.
Good point. In fact, it made me think about what Saturday night was for our city: history.
Heinz Field was the third Pittsburgh facility that played host to a professional playoff game in a span of nine months. That had never happened.
The last time each of Pittsburgh’s three pro clubs brought their leagues’ playoffs here was January-October 1992. Losses by the Steelers (to Buffalo) and Pirates (to Atlanta) were sandwiched by a Stanley Cup defense by the Penguins.
That was a really cool year to be a Pittsburgher.
But nobody really talks about 1992. Maybe because the places where those games were played, Three Rivers Stadium and Civic Arena, are long gone. Probably, though, we have wiped 1992 from our memories because it still wasn’t a great time for a lot of us.
Population was in decline. The jobs that had emerged didn’t look like the ones that had been lost. A strike halted daily production of the city’s two major newspapers, leading to the introduction of a Pittsburgh edition of the Tribune-Review.
There was some stuff going on, to say the least. We looked to our teams to distract us from a lot of it.
Even that came with a price to pay: a psychological one.
Nobody really heard the term “small market” before the early 1990s, but by 1992 it was burned into the brains of Pittsburghers. The Pirates were losing their best players because of this small market we called home. Could the Penguins keep theirs? Would the Steelers be able to give it a go in NFL free agency?
In 1992, a young man named Bill Peduto left his beloved region to work in the nation’s capital. A sports nut with a hockey leaning, Peduto felt an odd mix of euphoria and disappointment a year before while watching from Washington while the Penguins lifted the Stanley Cup in May 1991.
“I decided I was coming back home,” Peduto said. “They weren’t going to win it again without me back in Pittsburgh.”
The Penguins’ Cup win in 1992 marked the last championship for one of Pittsburgh’s teams until the Steelers’ long-awaited fifth Super Bowl victory during the 2005 season. Saturday night marked the 61st NHL, NFL or MLB playoff game in Pittsburgh since “One for the Thumb.”
Peduto is now Pittsburgh’s mayor. He didn’t even know about the Penguins’ latest trade until after our conversation Friday, and he’s a season-ticket holder. He attended two Steelers and two Pirates games in 2014. He tries to stay up to date on the local teams by checking Twitter on his cell phone. He tries.
He was 11 in 1975. He remembers listening on the radio as the Penguins blew a 3-0 series lead to the New York Islanders. He recalls watching the start of the Steelers dynasty. He had seen the Pirates win the 1971 World Series and was sure he’d see them do it again soon.
“It seemed like the entire city was on top of the world,” Peduto said.
It wasn’t. And it wasn’t in the 1990s, either.
Pittsburgh has been the home to some great teams but never when Pittsburgh was also doing great.
“You’d be hard pressed to look back at the 1970s or the early 1990s and say those weren’t high points in some way,” Peduto said. “Now we’re having another one. What’s interesting is that all three of those periods have come when the city was at vastly different stages.”
On the last day of 2014, the city was given another of many recent endorsements. Conde Nast ranked Pittsburgh third among worldwide cities to visit in 2015. So this city of ours has been deemed hot, livable, worthy of tourism dollars and great for breakfast.
“We’re in a different place now,” Peduto said.
This isn’t just “Steelers Country.” Pittsburgh is having itself a moment and not just because the teams are winning.
But there’s that, too.
Give all of the Trib’s Steelers coverage a read, please.
Be EXCELLENT to each other (and Happy New Year),