Saturday, October 31, 2009
By Angelo Spagnolo --Publisher
The thought occured to me that we are most definitely in another "Golden Age" of Pittsburgh sports right now. At the very least least, it's as good as we last experienced in the '70s which before now was the greatest period ever in this city's long and storied history of sports.
With the clear exception of the Pirates; a franchise that who knows when it will right itself (if ever) every other sports team is either the best in its' respective league or right near the top.
ABOVE: PNC Park is a beautiful venue to see ugly baseball.
The Steelers and Penguins, both coming off championships are showing no signs of self-satisfaction or complacency. To the credit of both organizations, they have successfully managed to convince their players that what happened last year has no impact on this season. The Steelers are 5-2, just beat what is probably the second toughest team in the league, and are tied for their division lead. The Pens are off to their best start in history with an 11-2 mark. They are also still undefeated on the road with a 6-0 record! They'll finish off this year then move into their new Consol Energy Arena.
This will be the fourth new venue in the last nine years for Pittsburgh. In Heinz Field, PNC Park and Consol Energy Arena, Pittsburgh will have, arguably, three of the finest professional sports venues in the country...and Pitt also has the Petersen Events Center, which is certainly no slouch there either.
ABOVE: "The Big Ketchup Bottle". One of four outstanding sports venues in Pittsburgh.
Even fishermen have the Three Rivers which provides a most scenic background for Bass Masters Tournaments! So what more could anyone ask for?
In addition to our professional teams, the University of Pittsburgh has been experiencing halcyon days there as well. Last year their highly successful basketball program enjoyed its' most successful season ever, making it to the Elite 8. The football team, under Dave Wannstedt has been making steady progress during Wanny's tenure as well. This season, Pitt is currently 7-1, up to number 15 in the rankings and off to their best start since the days of Danny Marino.
ABOVE: "The Pete" on the Pitt Campus. No slouch here either.
While Pitt has made itself "bowl eligible" with seven wins already, a Big East title and BCS berth are looming in their near future. So far this year, Pitt's offense looks absolutely deadly and their defense has been making steady progress after losing a couple key players to injury. In short, this Pitt team has the capability to be one of the greatest in school history. Next week, by the way, we'll be covering their game against Syracuse and to say that we're looking forward to it would be an understatement!
Speaking of Pitt, I'm so happy for Bill Stull, a Pittsburgh native, who's finally having a great season at quarterback. It seems that new offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti Jr. was all that Stull and the offense needed to really get things going. Stull had struggled mightily in prior seasons, so his success hasn't come easily. Wanny hasn't had it easy either, but it looks like his ship is finally coming in too. I couldn't be happier too for this Pittsburgh native and all the other WPIAL players who came to Pitt to help make this program strong once again. Dave Wannstedt has cleary proven that if he "Put up a fence around Western Pennsylvania" that there's plenty of talent right here to help build a successful program. While Pitt has many out-of-state players as well, the team has a distinct Western PA. feel to it.
Without question, the fans of Pittsburgh have been blessed to have so many extraordinary athletes on their respective teams' rosters, but even more so, with the glaring exception of the Pirates, to have such tremendous front office capabilities as well. Believe me, I want the Pirates to have success and I'm not trying to rain on them any more than has already been done over the last 17 years, but until they start having success on the field and aren't pointing to three more years down the line, I'll unfortunately have to keep deriding the current administration until they manage to turn things around.
I think what really irks most people about the Pirates is that they continue to deal players such as Nate McLouth, who could have instead been shifted to another position to make room for, say, an Andrew McCutchen, in order to get "prospects". This team has no credibility with the fans right now. Until they can start drafting good players consistently and they get their minor league system loaded with prospects the "natural" way, they simply are going to have to open up those cheap purse strings and start acquiring players who have the ability to compete at the major league level. Besides, who ever heard of sacrificing things on the big club because the minors have been run so badly in the past?
In a city that knows only champions, the Pirates remain a pariah on the local sports scene as they continue to stand out as an ever-growing sore thumb.
The only disappointing thing about Pitt's football season has been that the schedule, by some freak of nature, has both Pitt and the Steelers off this weekend. It would have been great if the Panthers would have played this week and had last week as their off week. Pitt would have then had the entire local football center stage all to itself for two weekends (since the Steelers next play on Monday Night, November 9th). Maybe they would have then gotten more of the attention which they so richly deserve.
Oh well, if that's the worst thing that happens to Pitt this year, they won't have to worry about getting enough media attention. That's what being in a BCS Bowl is supposed to do for you.