ABOVE: What looked like potentially the greatest-ever of seasons in Pittsburgh history could degrade into a period of heavy drinking to cushion the pain.
In the mercurial world of sports, it is an ever-changing landscape fraught with land mines everywhere. Despite these dangers, we had every reason to believe, back in December, that we could potentially have been looking at a most-rare Triple Crown season in Pittsburgh this year.
Back then, the Steelers were chopping wood, destroying the Browns and Panthers. Meanwhile, the Penguins, were riding a tsunami that was created by Sidney Crosby as he was playing the best hockey of his already-prodigious career. The Pens were featured on HBO as they approached playing the Winter Classic on New Years Day in Pittsburgh, certainly one of the largest events ever held in the city. Yes, things were certainly looking as good as they've ever been.
ABOVE: It would have been a phenomenal story for the "City of Champions", but alas and alack, not this year.
Once January rolled around though, things started to unravel. The first victim was the Penguins. After Sid suffered two major hits starting off with a blatant cheap shot in the Winter Classic, he was soon to be lost for Lord-knows-how-long with a major concussion, if not worse. Will Crosby be back this year? Probably, but don't be shocked if it doesn't happen.
Once Crosby was injured, it set into motion an avalanche of injuries including such notables as Evgeni Malkin (out for the year), Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu, and others. In fact at one point, the Pens had to bring up four players on one day from Wilkes Barre and two of them are now hurt! In addition to injuries, the Pens also lost Matt Cooke and Eric Goddard to suspensions. In the now-historic Islanders clash, they finished the game with about three players on the bench!
Escaping with an overtime 3-2 win against the badly-slumping Colorado Avalanche last night, the Pens have now won two of their last six games. They've hardly thrown in the towel, but this team has suffered such upheaval and loss of scoring talent, that barring the return of Sidney Crosby, they would seem to have little chance to make a deep run in the playoffs, being realistic about it.
Meanwhile, after stirring conquests over the Ravens and Jets, the Steelers did the unthinkable, losing for the second time in the SuperBowl in a performance that was definitely not one of their best on the "big stage".
So there's definitely no triple crown and a double crown now has heavy odds against happening too. So what about a single crown?
This very possibly could be Pitt's year. A week or so ago, Ashton Gibbs, at 16.4 points-per-game Pitt's leading scorer, sprained his MCL and hasn't seen the court since. So what has Pitt done in Gibbs' absence? They just beat WVU and Villanova on the road and last night dispatched a game South Florida team 67-55. Not only did they defeat the hoopleheads in their insane asylum, they also beat #10 Villanova in their bandbox on-campus facility where they had only won 46 in a row. While Gibbs continues to rehab, the Panthers keep rolling on. Their tremendous depth is right now paying major dividends for them as they allow Gibbs the proper time to rehab his injury.
ABOVE: Somebody won this baseball tournament. Notice that we haven't mentioned the Pirates in this championship conversation.
This Panther team seems to be one of the most mentally tough and "unrattleable" units in memory. But the NCAA's are a place where dreams can be dashed with one mediocre performance as we well know.
We've already lost one golden opportunity and the second one is flickering. Don't ask me why, but this might be the year when Pitt claims its first national title in basketball. Maybe since it would be such a big deal it would be more appropriate to be a "stand alone" championship for the city?
Nah. Let's Go Pens!