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Sitting Ringside

The Sports Week that Wasn’t


When the Penguins presented their Stanley Cup championship rings in order of jersey numbers, Ray Shero stopped after No. 55 Sergio Gonchar, congratulated everyone and called it a night to laughter at the LeMont.

The Penguins general manager’s gesture delayed the gratification of the team’s superstars, Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby, from receiving their 167-diamond-decorated rings.

Thank goodness Shero has a sense of humor.

I was starting to think this unfinished business was contagious.

If not for those rings, Pittsburgh would have had to change its title from City of Champions to City of Chumps after a week of failure to finish:

Friday: Defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion Bethel Park loses at Woodland Hills, 21-17, when it allows a touchdown with 2:28 remaining and then fails to score with a first-and-goal in the final minute of the game. Who was Woody High’s hero? Lafayette Pitts.

Saturday: Pitt blows a 14-point late-third quarter lead at North Carolina State, allowing Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson to throw two touchdown passes to tie the game and scramble 21 yards on a fourth-and-14 at the Pitt 27 to set up the go-ahead points. The Panthers also fail to score on four chances from the N.C. State 8 in the final minute of the 38-31 defeat.

On the bright side, at least Dave Wannstedt got his annual defensive blunder loss to an inferior opponent out of the way early this season.

Sunday: The Steelers squander an 11-point edge in Cincinnati, giving up the second of two fourth-quarter touchdowns on Carson Palmer’s 4-yard scoring pass to Andre Caldwell with 14 seconds remaining in a 23-20 loss.

After the Bears loss, here’s an idea for new T-shirts: 45-Minute Men.
Making it worse, the Penguins lose at Detroit, 4-1, in their first meeting since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Crosby (groin) doesn’t make the trip and Malkin, Gonchar and Mark Eaton are scratches.

And Kris Draper is still complaining about the shake snub.

Monday: The Pirates manage to lose, even when they won. After allowing only four hits and one walk and throwing strikes on 74 of his 103 pitches, starter Zach Duke is pulled by manager John Russell only one out away from throwing a complete game in an 11-1 victory over the L.A. Dodgers. Russell said it was so the crowd of 16,696 can give Duke a standing ovation.

Instead, they boo Russell.

Tuesday: Miguel Angel Sano, the teenage Dominican prospect coveted by the Pirates, signs instead with the Minnesota Twins for a reported $3.15 bonus – the highest paid to a Latin American position player.

So much for building that baseball academy. Escoje me, por favor?

Wednesday: The Pirates, on pace to lose 100 games, make it look like a mortal lock after dropping 23 of 26 at one point. Instead, they pull a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. It’s their first in five years and first on the road since 1996.

They can’t even lose when it matters.

Thursday: With the century mark still within reach, the Pirates have a 3-0 lead over the Cubs when the game is canceled due to rain. Because neither team is in playoff contention, the game will not be made up. The Pirates, now 61-97, need only to win one of three in Cincinnati this weekend to avoid the indignity of their first 100-loss season since 2001.

Thankfully, we finally have reason to celebrate, starting tonight.

Pitt plays at Louisville, which hasn’t beaten a Division I-A opponent in its past seven games. The Penguins will raise their Stanley Cup championship banner tonight to open their final season at Mellon Arena against the N.Y. Rangers. And the Steelers are visited on Sunday by the San Diego Chargers, who only win here in the AFC playoffs.

Here’s hoping somebody who’s supposed to win can complete the job.

Otherwise, we will get a reputation as a town that doesn’t finish what it …

Now, where was I?



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