Friday, February 27, 2009

RAVEN-YOI DECLARES MYRON COPE DAY

PITTSBURGH- Never one to shy away from glomming onto another man's popularity, even if that person is now deceased, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, A.K.A "Steelerstahl", A.K.A."Raven-yoi" officially declared today "Myron Cope Day" on this, the one year anniversary of the death of the most exciting broadcaster in Pittsburgh sports history. I have to be fair to Jim and Randy over at WDVE radio. They came up with the "Raven-yoi" name and I just couldn't resist using it myself since it was so appropriate for this column.

On this day of reflecting on the life of Myron, I want to share a couple of personal Myron Memories that I have...

Myron's morning commentary was always "must listening" every day, so you can imagine how flabbergasted I was one morning when the morning commentary was about me!

The year was 1985 in early March and I was one of four finalists at the time for the inglorious title of "America's Worst Avid Golfer". I was at this point being besieged on a daily basis by radio stations, newspapers, you name it, trying to get some insight into this bizarre golf event. Of course being a Pittsburgh area resident, the story was getting a lot of play locally as well.

Above: The year was 1985. Myron, during his morning commentary "tears me a new one".

In his commentary, Myron lambasted the editors at "Golf Digest Magazine" for putting on such an event. He said that ,"Anyone could go out and hit balls into the woods or the water, take divots and whiffs and shoot a round of 150. What "Golf Digest" should be doing is finding a person who plays bad golf but with a flair and have them compete...a person like me, for example, not this Angelo Spagnolo character."

He continued his whole commentary assailing my credibility as a true contestant and when it was over, I can remember just shaking my head and saying, "How in God's name did I ever get myself into this?" At the time, before this event took place, there was always the inevitable question for me such as, "Are you going to try to play bad or good?" Hearing that question about 500 times really started to grate on me because who in their right mind would want to go out and purposely play bad...especially when it came so naturally while trying to play good?

Anyway, later that morning I called the station and got Myron on the phone. Now you have to realize that Myron was one of my absolute favorites and I had just been mortally wounded and embarassed in the media by my hero that morning in front of the entire City of Pittsburgh. I couldn't believe that I was actually talking with him...I began. "Myron, this is Angelo Spagnolo. I can't believe the way you harpooned me on your commentary this morning."

His response, "Mm hah, Spagnolo, it was all in good fun, all in good fun." I said that I realized that but that I thought that in fairness that I should have a chance to defend myself on his evening talk show. He agreed and that evening, for about a half hour, Myron and I debated about my golf "abilities" or lack thereof and the legitimacy of the "Worst Avid Golfer's Tournament" in total. The listeners had a field day with it. One thing led to another and before you knew it, I wound up challenging Myron to a grudge match at what was my home course, Linden Hall Golf Course in Dawson, PA.

Myron and I played that match together. He showed up in resplendent bright red knickers with knee-high socks and a tweed golf shirt. He wore a white beret-type hat and really looked like the character that he was. He also had Eartha Jackson, his longtime-producer, at his side as his "caddie". Looking unlike any caddie I had ever seen before, Eartha, I vividly recall, was wearing hot pants and stilletto high heels. This did wonders for aerating the greens at Linden Hall by the way. We played a five hole match for the channel four cameras that Myron won by a single stroke. While he was a lightweight hitter (he couldn't hit a ball far enough to lose it) I on the other hand I had my usual fair share of screaming liners sprayed all over the property that was typical of my normal game.

When it was over, my family and friends took the usual photos with Myron and I. He was really great to play with and a real performer for the cameras. A few months later, after I had "brought the title" back to Pittsburgh, he agreed to play in my own tournament for the benefit of the Multiple Sclerosis Service Society. We played our first event that year at Seven Springs Resort and we flew in the other "Worst Avid Golfers" from around the country who had played in the original match in Florida. After that first tournament in Pittsburgh, these fellows, by now lifelong friends, would end up coming back for over 20 years helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for MSSS. Every year that they'd come back they'd always ask, "Hey, how's that Myron Cope fellow that's the Steelers sportscaster? He was a real hoot to play with."

Myron had that kind of an effect on people.

Our paths crossed at many different charity golf events over the years too and I have this memory of a relaxed Myron etched into my brain: He'd be standing somewhere near the bar area, engrossed in a lively conversation with a scotch or whisky-type toddy as he called it in one hand and a cigarette always burning in the other. That was Myron Cope...a throwback to a different era of sportwriters and broadcasters. A man who to this day is still sorely missed and fondly treasured. His voice, his excitement for Steelers football, his overall enthusiasm for life itself will always remain as one of the better memories of my own lifetime's experiences. I'll always be thankful that our paths crossed...even if he did take me to task!

Above: The gravesite of Myron Cope. As always adorned with his "Terrible Towel". Rest in peace Pittsburgh icon and fellow lousy golfer!