Thursday, October 22, 2009

Excuses, excuses...

I don't want to go all yinzer on your ass... but I'm going to anyway.

There's bumper stickers that say Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a football problem. I don't believe in bumper stickers, and I don't believe in that saying. I also don't believe in the chupacabra.

It's not just football that Pittsburghers go crazy for, and as evidence to back up my claim, I present to you last years Stanley Cup champs: The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yinzers love em.  When they won it all last year, there was a parade and some moderate rioting (ok, more like drunken stumbling, but the National Guard was there to keep an eye on them, so I say that counts).  So is Pittsburgh just a sports town, maybe?  A city that embraces the sporting lifestyle and all that goes with it?

And we don't even have an NBA team.  If Pittsburgh was a sports town, there would be professional basketball and the baseball stadium would have more fans than players on an average night.  So why all the drunken revelry for the Steelers and the Penguins?  Perhaps Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could help explain.

I put it to you that Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a drinking problem, and I think Ben would enthusiastically agree.  It can get cold and boring in Pittsburgh during the winter, and we have a cultural history of absolutely hating our slavish industrial jobs.  I mean, there's a reason a "boiler maker" is called a "boiler maker", and not a "starving artist" or an "interior decorator".  For about a century, Pittsburgh jobs were oppressive and soul-crushing, but would support your family well.  So you toughed it out, and after a particularly tough day at the foundry, coke furnaces, or rolling mill, you'd drink Imperial and Iron City until your cares eased up just a little.  Those jobs are gone, for good or for ill, but the attitude is permanently ingrained in Pittsburgh culture.

So what does that have to do with football and hockey?  Nothing, really.  And that's my point. You see, sporting events just are a good excuse to get together and booze it up.  And in Pittsburgh, this shows in our sports broadcasts.  Let me show you.  Below are pictures of Pittsburgh's most famous sportscasters:

Now here are pictures of Pittsburgh sportscasters who never spent a sober moment on the air:

The one on the left is Myron Cope, long-time Steelers announcer.  He's dead now, may he rest in drunken peace.  The one on the right is Penguins announcer Mike Lange.  He was fired for being too drunk on the air too often.  And by "too often" I mean every game from start to finish.  He calls the Penguins games on the radio now, drunk as ever, and they replaced him with these guys:

Bob Errey, a former Penguin, and Paul Steigerwald, Mike Lange's original sidekick.  The station was hoping to bring a little more sobriety to their broadcasts, and they were sorely disappointed.  Bob and Steigy did their damndest to drink as much as their predecessor, which we estimated by how audibly drunk they were, must have been shots at the periods and shots for each Penguins goal.

After that year, the station waited till the very last minute to renew their contracts, and Bob and Steigy definitely played it more sober after that; to the detriment of the broadcasts, I feel.  But don't get me wrong, they still booze it up like pros.  It's just not every night that they show up already tanked, though that does sometimes still happen.  When Bob shows up too drunk, they put him between the benches of the two teams to sober up.  It's his own personal penalty box.

Hell, there's even a blog dedicated to amusing things Bob says when he gets too drunk on the air!  But Steigy is no slouch.  Nosir.  Often by the wrap-up commentary, he has dry mouth and is a bit uneasy.   You can usually tell who drank most of the booze that night by who does all the talking.  If the wrap-up is all Bob, you'll often see Steigy leaning towards Bob, looking up at him as if Bob were made of solid chocolate and Steigy was thinking about taking a big bite.  Once he asked Bob to show the people his "pretty teeth", as he had survived a career in the NHL with all of them in-tact.  Bob wasn't quite sure how to react.  One night Steigy was visibly starting to throw up a little and was swallowing it back.  Now that's dedication!  I bet as soon as your lunch starts to rise in your throat, you call off work.  But not Paul Steigerwald!  And when Bob drinks the lion's share of booze, he slurs his speech, says confusing or inappropriate things about the other team, or sometimes just sits in silence and tries not to fall over.


The station tries so hard to remove intoxication from their broadcasts, but every attempt fails.  This is Pittsburgh!  It's expected.  It's integral.  It's necessary!  What they don't understand is that, for the viewers, it gets the party going.  Two excited guys on the air having a good time, interested in the same stuff you are, stewed to the fucking gills.  And when another station like NBC or VS shows a Penguins game, everyone in the city bitches until they get their next fix of Bob and Steigy.

So one night at Paddy's, we all decided to try to keep pace with Bob and Steigy.  It started out with shots of whiskey and vodka for the first goal.  Then another for the second, and a third round for the end of the first period.  By the fourth goal, we had to use dark and spiced rum for the shots, as the vodka and whiskey were gone.  The fifth goal and end of the second kicked the rum.  By the third period, we had to use random liqueurs and puckers for the last two goals, and the end of the game was toasted with whatever we could find.  Paddy was pretty much out of liquor, and we were all fall-down drunk.   If you want to realize how truly gifted these two announcers are, give it a try yourself sometime.  Make sure you give your keys to someone who isn't playing along.

And if folks were really interested in the game for the sake of the game, they wouldn't go to bars and parties to watch.  Richard's wife is that way.  She is fanatical about all Pittsburgh sports.  She often doesn't want to join us at a bar or a party to watch a Penguins or Steelers game.  Why?  Well, because we do stupid shit like I just described.  She feels she doesn't really get to watch the game in those settings.  And she's absolutely right!  You don't really get to see much of the game.  It's loud, people are talking and distracting, and if you're drinking heavily you're going to miss the nuances of the game.  So if she's genuinely interested in the game, what about everyone else?  Are they more interested in drinking and socializing than they are in the game?  Yes.

Sports aren't really the point, they're just the excuse.  Like going to a Halloween party.  Are you more concerned about the quality of the sexy police woman costume, or the fact that it covers nearly none of the girl wearing it?  The costumes are just an excuse, not the reason.  And to most Pittsburghers, sports are the same way.  Sure, I like to see the Steelers and the Penguins win, and I think it's awesome that they're both the national champs this year; but I wouldn't refuse to go out drinking if a game wasn't on.  Some would, though.  They need that excuse.  "I'm not getting plastered on a Tuesday for no reason, the Pens are on!"  Me?  I need no excuse.  So gimme a call, and we'll head dahn tahn and get all fucked up n'at! 

I'm not ashamed to say Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a drinking problem.  And I'm a proud part of that problem!  And to those teams that are seeing low attendance in Pittsburgh *cough* Pirates *cough*, maybe the reason isn't entirely that you are the losingest team in North American sports history, maybe you're also not incorporating drinking into your sport as much as you could or should.  Maybe you should try, I dunno, 10 cent beer night?  What's the worst that could happen?


  1. You forgot about the most recent Pittsburgh drunken escapades. To support your theory, after this past Sunday's biannual smack down of the Cleveland Browns, two Pittsburgh Steelers had a little run in with the law. Kicker Jeff Reed was arrested for a variety of different charges on Sunday, but to simplify it, he got fuck'n drunk and belligerent with with the cops.

    Why, you may ask? Well you see, he didn't take too kindly to those mean old cops giving his teammate, Mat Spaeth, a citation for urinating in public.

    Now of course this all went down at a local bar (which happens to be owned by and named after a former Pittsburgh Steeler) that sits pretty much in the shadow of Heinz Field. Hell, people were probably still post gaming in the parking lot when this took place. I'm honestly surprised they even bothered to change out of their uniforms before boozing it up.

    And the public's reaction to all this? "That's our Jeff, what a character! Can't wait to watch him play this Sunday." Yeah, they could care less.

    gotta love this tahn!

  2. I did indeed forget about that! What I didn't forget about was an incident where pre-game locker room footage showed number 13, Billy Guerin of the Pittsburgh Penguins enjoying a Coors Light before the first period. He noticed the camera and tried to hide it, but I caught it. And I think they won that game. And that's why Billy is my hero. But I couldn't find a picture if him with his silver bullet, so he was left out. But Jeff was just a terrible oversight on my part. Thanks for pointing it out!

  3. Dumbest piece of shit I have every read. So many lies and made up stories here....
    As for that 6 goal Pens game, that crazy...
    3 goals a game is considered a lot these days...
    Fucking liars.
    A pinch of truth sprinkled on a ton of made up shit....