Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cope was a friend to all who met him

By Mike Bires, Beaver County Times Sports Staff
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:52 PM EST

PITTSBURGH — Throughout the Steelers Nation, Terrible Towels are flying at half mast.

Everywhere we turn, those who knew Myron Cope are paying tribute to the raspy-voiced sportscaster who, in some way, touched the lives of so many associated in some capacity with the Steelers.

On one hand, it’s a sad time.

A local legend has died.

On the other hand, Cope has left us so many fond memories.

Bill Hillgrove, Cope’s long-time sidekick on Steelers radio broadcasts put it best by saying, “I don’t think Myron would want us hanging our heads. He’d want us to celebrate his life.”

By now, countless Cope stories are being rehashed by those who knew Cope or listened to him in the 35 years he broadcast Steelers games. Even a guy like me, who’s only been The Times’ official Steelers beat writer since 1999, has memories of the man, too.

Like most teenagers growing up in western Pennsylvania, I was an avid Steelers and Pitt fan who always got a kick out of Cope’s antics. For those too young to remember, Cope also got plenty of mileage out of Johnny Majors’ first stint at Pitt that ended with a national championship in 1976.

But by then, Cope had already given the Steelers the Terrible Towel and was just as popular as most of the players.

I had gotten the chance to deal with Cope on several occasions before I started covering the Steelers in ’99. But once I became a regular on the beat, I was fortunate to develop a good friendship with a guy who seemed to have countless friends.

After getting to know Cope, one of the things I admired most about him was his uncanny knack to find time to help all those who needed something from him.

Certainly, Cope was a wealth of information every time I ask him for insight. That typically happened when something significant was happening, like when the Three Rivers Stadium era ended or when Cope retired after the 2004 season or when the Steelers made it to Super Bowl XL.

It was thrill to be able to sit down with Cope for 30 minutes or so and listen to him give his version of so many stories and issues. He knew his football. He had an uncanny memory. He had a great sense of humor. He was a great story teller.

I remember once after I wrote a piece that included a bunch of Cope quotes, a female Steelers fan called me and said she could envision Cope speaking as she read the story.

The first time I actually met Cope was in January of 1980 in Newport Beach, Calif. It was at a party a few days before the Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams for their fourth Super Bowl victory.

At this function, I brought along my two cousins and a few other friends living in southern California at the time. At one point in the evening, we got to talking with Cope, and immediately he befriended us.

Before long, we bought him a cocktail or two. Not long after that, my cousins and friends were picking up Cope and passing him around like he was body surfing at a rock n’ roll concert.

As Cope was being tossed about, he kept yelling, “I love you guys! I love you guys!”

No, Myron.

We loved you.

Everyone loved Myron.

Mike Bires can be reached online at

Steelers broadcasting legend Myron Cope dies

By Mike Bires, Beaver County Times Sports Staff
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 10:06 PM EST

Clif Page photo 10/31/2005
Steelers vs. Ravens Former Steeler radio broadcaster Myron Cope before the game.

PITTSBURGH — On a cold, wintry night in December of 1976, Myron Cope made good on a promise and jumped into the icy Monongahela River.

At that stage of his career, Cope was fast becoming a legend throughout all corners of Steelers Nation. A diminutive man of 5-foot-4 with a shrill, raspy voice, he captivated listeners on the team’s radio broadcasts with a unique and entertaining style.

But on this particular evening in ’76, Cope proved that he was also a man of integrity.

For the Steelers to make the playoffs that year, they needed Oakland to beat Cincinnati in a regular-season ending Monday night game. So Cope vowed, “If the Raiders beat the Bengals, I’ll swim the Mon.”

The Raiders, who had already clinched the playoff berth with a 13-1 record, had nothing to gain by beating the Bengals. But Oakland still went out and won, thus eliminating Cincinnati and allowing Pittsburgh to clinch a playoff spot.

So a few days later, Cope donned a wet suit and goggles and arranged for a camera crew from WTAE-TV to drop him off right in the middle in the Monongahela.

“I had not announced the date or time lest I create a traffic jam along the shore that would plunge the police department into a fit of rage,” Cope wrote in his “Double Yoi!” autobiography. “But Channel 4 would have film in time for the 11 o’clock news.”

Memories such as that are being rekindled throughout Steelers Nation since Cope died Wednesday at a Mount Lebanon nursing home after a long bout with respiratory problems and heart failure. He was 79.

Even though he didn’t turn to broadcasting until he was 40 — he was a renowned print journalist before that — he served as the Steelers’ color analyst from 1970 to 2004. That’s the longest run in NFL history for a broadcaster with the same team.

Known for his quick wit and quirky phrases, Cope is the guy credited with first using the term “Immaculate Reception” to describe Franco Harris’ historic game-winning touchdown catch in the Steelers’ 13-7 playoff win over the Raiders in 1972. He’s the guy who, before a 1975 playoff game, introduced the “Terrible Towel,” a lasting symbol of the Steelers’ proud tradition

“Myron was Pittsburgh,” former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier said. “He is somebody all Pittsburghers claim as one of our own. He’s a guy who will always be remembered in the Steelers Nation.

“Over the years, very few people could talk about Myron without imitating that voice of his. People would watch Steelers games on TV with the sound off so they could turn on the radio and get the full flavor of the game the way Myron would present it. His stories will always be part of us.”

Born on Jan. 23, 1929, as Myron Sydney Kopelman, Cope was a graduate of Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill and the University of Pittsburgh.

He landed his first job writing for the Erie Daily News in 1951. He was such a brilliant writer that his story on sportscaster Howard Cosell was named one of the top 50 stories in Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary edition, which went to press in 2004.

But Cope’s life took a strange twist in 1968 when WTAE-AM radio hired him as a morning sports commentator. Two years later, he broadcast his first Steelers game.

From that point, Cope would become the conduit between the Steelers and their fans.

“Myron brought Steelers football closer to the fans,” team president Art Rooney II said. “More than any one person, he just made the fans feel part of it. Not just with the Terrible Towel, which was a big part of it. But his personality and the enthusiasm he brought to the broadcast, it was unique to say the least and made for a very special time.

“His memorable voice and unique broadcasting style became synonymous with Steelers football. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and no Pittsburgh broadcaster was impersonated more than Myron.”

Mike Bires can be reached at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Steelers broadcaster Cope dies at 79
Posted: Wednesday February 27, 2008 11:07AM; Updated: Wednesday February 27, 2008 11:14AM

Few broadcasters are more closely associated with a team than Myron Cope was with the Steelers from 1970-2004.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Myron Cope, the screechy-voiced announcer whose colorful catch phrases and twirling Terrible Towel became symbols of the Pittsburgh Steelers during an unrivaled 35 seasons in the broadcast booth, has died. He was 79.

Cope died Wednesday morning at a nursing home in Mount Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb, Joe Gordon, a former Steelers executive and a longtime friend of Cope's, told The Associated Press. Cope had been treated for respiratory problems and heart failure in recent months, Gordon said.

Cope's tenure from 1970-2004 as the color analyst on the Steelers' radio network is the longest in NFL history for a broadcaster with a single team and led to his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005.

"His memorable voice and unique broadcasting style became synonymous with Steelers football," Steelers president Art Rooney II said Wednesday. "They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and no Pittsburgh broadcaster was impersonated more than Myron."

Beyond Pittsburgh's three rivers, Cope is best known for the yellow cloth twirled by fans as a good luck charm at Steelers games since the mid-1970s. The towel is arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team, has raised millions of dollars for charity and is displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"His creation of The Terrible Towel has developed into a worldwide symbol that is synonymous with Steelers football," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said Wednesday.

"You were really part of it," Dan Rooney told Cope in 2005. "You were part of the team. The Terrible Towel many times got us over the goal line."

Even after retiring, Cope -- a sports talk show host for 23 years -- continued to appear in numerous radio, TV and print ads, emblematic of a local popularity that sometimes surpassed that of the stars he covered.

An announcer by accident, Cope spent the first half of his professional career as one of the nation's most widely read freelance sports writers, writing for Sports Illustrated and the Saturday Evening Post on subjects that included Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell and Roberto Clemente. He was hired by the Steelers at age 40, several years after he began doing TV sports commentary on the whim of a station manager, mostly to help increase attention and attendance as the Steelers moved into Three Rivers Stadium.

Neither the Steelers nor Cope had any idea how much impact he would have on the franchise. Within two years of his hiring, Pittsburgh would begin a string of home sellouts that continues to this day, a stretch that includes five Super Bowl titles.

Cope became so popular that the Steelers didn't try to replace his unique perspective and top-of-the-lungs vocal histrionics when he retired, instead downsizing from a three-man announcing team to a two-man booth.

"He doesn't play, he doesn't put on a pair of pads, but he's revered probably as much or more in Pittsburgh than Franco (Harris), all the guys," running back Jerome Bettis said. "Everybody probably remembers Myron more than the greatest players, and that's an incredible compliment."

Cope and a rookie quarterback named Terry Bradshaw made their Steelers debuts on Sept. 20, 1970.

Just as Pirates fans once did with longtime broadcaster Bob Prince, Steelers fans began tuning in to hear what wacky stunt or colorful phrase Cope would come up with next. With a voice beyond imitation -- a falsetto so shrill it could pierce even the din of a touchdown celebration -- Cope was a man of many words, some not in any dictionary.

To Cope, an exceptional play rated a "Yoi!" A coach's doublespeak was "garganzola." The despised rival to the north was always the Cleve Brownies, never the Cleveland Browns.

He gave four-time Super Bowl champion coach Chuck Noll the only nickname that ever stuck, the Emperor Chaz. For years, he laughed off the downriver and often downtrodden Cincinnati Bengals as the Bungles, though never with a malice or nastiness that would create longstanding anger.

Many visiting players who, perhaps upset by what Cope had uttered during a broadcast, could only laugh when confronted by a 5-foot-4 man they often dwarfed by more than a foot.

During the years, it seemed every Steelers player or employee could tell an offbeat or humorous story about Cope.

He once jammed tight end Dave Smith, fully dressed in uniform and pads, into a cab for a hectic ride to the airport after Smith missed the team bus for an interview. He talked a then-retired Frank Sinatra into attending a 1972 practice in San Diego to make him an honorary general in Franco Harris' Italian Army fan club. He took a wintertime river swim in 1977 to celebrate an unexpected win, and was sick for days.

Cope's biggest regret was not being on the air during perhaps the most famous play in NFL history -- Franco Harris' famed Immaculate Reception against Oakland in 1972, during the first postseason win in Steelers history.

Cope was on the field to grab guests for his postgame show when Harris, on what seemingly was the last play of the Steelers' season, grabbed the soaring rebound of a tipped Bradshaw pass after it deflected off either the Raiders' Jack Tatum or the Steelers' Frenchy Fuqua and scored a game-winning 60-yard touchdown. As a result, play-by-play man Jack Fleming's voice is the only one heard on what has been countless replays over the years.

"He ran straight to me in the corner, and I'm yelling, `C'mon Franco, c'mon on!"' said Cope, who, acting on a fan's advice, tagged the play "The Immaculate Reception" during a TV commentary that night.

Remarkably, Cope worked with only two play-by-play announcers, Fleming and Bill Hillgrove, and two head coaches, Noll and Bill Cowher, during his 35 seasons.

Cope began having health problems shortly before his retirement, and they continued after he left the booth. They included several bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis -- he smoked throughout his career -- a concussion and a leg problem that took months to properly diagnose. He also said he had a cancerous growth removed from his throat.

"Wherever I go, people sincerely ask me how my health is and almost always, they say `Myron, you've given me so much joy over the years,"' said Cope, who also found the time to write five sports books, none specifically about the Steelers. "People also tell me it's the end of an era, that there will never be an announcer who lasts this long again with a team."

Among those longtime listeners was a Pittsburgh high school star turned NFL player turned Steelers coach -- Cowher.

"My dad would listen to his talk show and I would think, `Why would you listen to that?"' Cowher said. "Then I found myself listening to that. I (did) my show with him, and he makes ME feel young."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Myron Cope dead at 79

By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

His high-pitched screech was the most unlikely to serve as the voice of Steeler Nation.

Yet for more than three decades, Pittsburgh's football faithful muted their televisions and turned up the radio to hear the beloved icon known simply as Myron.

Hall of Fame Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope died this morning at a nursing home in Mt. Lebanon, said Joe Gordon, a former Steelers executive and a longtime friend of Cope's. Cope had been treated for respiratory problems and heart failure in recent months, Gordon said.

He was 79.

The diminutive creator of the "Terrible Towel," Cope entertained and informed fans with his manic style of color-commentary on the Steelers Radio Network from 1970 until June 2005.

"Myron touched millions of people throughout his life, first as a tremendous sportswriter and then as a Hall of Fame broadcaster," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said. "Myron was also a very close friend. His contributions and dedication to Steelers football were incredible. His creation of The Terrible Towel has developed into a worldwide symbol that is synonymous with Steelers football. He also helped immortalize the most famous play in NFL history when he popularized the term 'Immaculate Reception.'

"Myron was a very passionate person who truly cared about others and dedicated much of his personal time to help numerous charities."

Cope is survived by two grown children, Danny and Elizabeth. His late wife, Mildred, died Sept. 20, 1994, after a long illness.

"Myron symbolizes everything that is great about Southwestern Pennsylvania, and my thoughts and prayers go out his to family," Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said this morning. "Today, the entire Steeler Nation mourns the loss of great man and a great Pittsburgher."

An acclaimed newspaper and magazine writer who hosted his own nightly sports talkshow on WTAE Radio for 22 years, Cope said he wanted to be remembered as a writer.

He blended a knowledge of the game with an endearing sense of self-deprecating humor, once quipping that his nasal voice "falls upon the public's ears like china crashing from shelves in an earthquake."

Through the Steelers' first four Super Bowl championships, the listening public celebrated Cope's quirky on-air expressions -- "Yoi!" "Double-Yoi!" and "Hmm-hah!" are entrenched in the local lexicon.

"Myron is Pittsburgh," former Steelers coach Bill Cowher once said. "I remember when I first got the job here in 1992 having to go down to his studio and do his show that night and thinking, 'I remember listening to this guy when I was in my kitchen in Crafton.'

"My dad would be out there at night listening to his talk show, and I would be thinking, 'Why would you listen to that?' Then, I found myself listening to that."

Cope invented the best-known symbol of Steelers' pride, the Terrible Towel. The idea came before a playoff game in December 1975, when his boss at WTAE wanted a gimmick that would get the crowd at Three Rivers Stadium more involved.

Fans still wildly wave the black-and-gold cloths at Heinz Field and in bars and living rooms across the country. Cope sold the trademark for the towels in 1996 to Allegheny Valley School, an institution for the mentally and physically challenged. The school has brought in almost $1 million from sales of the towel.

"It became something that everybody in Pittsburgh could rally around," Noll said of the invention's impact.

Cope was born Myron Sydney Kopelman on Jan. 23, 1929, in Pittsburgh. He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School -- briefly boxing at the age of 16 -- and the University of Pittsburgh before launching a career in print journalism.

He started out in newspapers, working first at the Erie Times. In the summer of 1951, Cope was hired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where an editor suggested that his last name sounded too Jewish and that he shorten it. As Cope recounted in his autobiography "Double Yoi!", the editor began shuffling through the phone book and stopped at "Cope."

In 1960, Cope left the Post-Gazette to try his luck at freelance writing. He would always remember what his editor at the newspaper, Al Abrams, told him before he left: "Kid, you'll starve. You'll be back in six months."

Instead, Cope became a successful writer for Sports Illustrated and the Saturday Evening Post. During his time at SI, he wrote widely acclaimed pieces on the likes of Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) and sportscaster Howard Cosell. Cope was one of only two writers under contract for SI, the other being George Plimpton.

In 1968, Cope changed courses again and took a part-time job at WTAE Radio. He parlayed that into his job with the Steelers broadcast team in 1970 and into his career as a radio talk-show host.

Cope battled health problems for the last several years of his career, including severe arthritis, a chronically bad back, pneumonia and throat problems. He missed the team's first three exhibition games of the 2004 season while recovering from throat surgery and pneumonia. Then, he had to leave a game that season because of the after-effects of a concussion he suffered at home the night before, the result of a fall.

Prior to that, Cope had missed only five quarters of Steelers football: One quarter of a game early in his career to attend his brother-in-law's funeral and a game in 1994 after his wife died.

Steelers play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove said in 2005 it was hard to see his longtime broadcast partner struggle near the end of his career.

"We're going to have to work harder because nobody worked harder than Myron," Hillgrove said when Cope retired. "We're going to have to assume the responsibility of having his eye for news and knowledge of the game's history."

When Cope conducted his last radio show in 2005, the final caller was a first-time caller who had been waiting 13 years to say what Cope meant to her family.

One night, she said, her family was sitting at the dinner table and Cope was signing off. He began his familiar closing with, "This is Myron Cope " and the woman's 8-month-old son chimed in "on sports." They were the child's first back-to-back words.

"That was perfect," Cope said after the show. "The kid's first words -- 'On sports' -- I never could have planned such a perfect last call."

Obituary: Cope's career spanned newspapers, magazines, radio and TV

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tom Ondrey/Post-Gazette
Myron Cope works his WTAE final radio show in 1995.

Myron Cope, the much-decorated master of the written word, the ever-celebrated sand-blaster of the spoken word, and a pre-eminent Pittsburgh symbol of not only our selves but of our hopes and our innate joyfulness, died today.

Mr. Cope was 79. He had been in declining health since even before his 2005 retirement from the Steelers broadcast booth, where he spent 35 years. The cause of death was given as respiratory failure.

One of the last of the great sports characters, a genuine oasis in a sea of ever homogenizing media-ocrity, Mr. Cope's life and career were nothing less than book-worthy, even if he had to write it himself. Twice.

"Double Yoi" it was called both times, the second an updated version of the original 2002 volume, the title immortalizing one of Cope's signature exclamations, which, along with "Okle-dokle," "Dumbkopf!", and "How do?", became go-to standards of a singular TV and radio language that often seemed entangled in an impossible dichotomy: it was uniquely Cope and yet it was intrinsically Pittsburgh.

"Donair, huh?" an acquaintance once asked of Mr. Cope. "I'll have to check that out; I'm not familiar with a Dallas restaurant named Donair."

Mr. Cope looked confused, perhaps because he himself was the source of the confusion.

"Oh Dallas, yeah," he'd just finished telling the acquaintance. "We went to the great restaurant dahn 'ere!"

National writers and broadcasters all but outdid themselves trying to describe not only Mr. Cope's voice and dialect but his wit, wisdom, and everyman genius, and not even their best attempts delivered the reliable magic of whatever it was Mr. Cope was delivering at the time.

"I've lost the most creative person I've ever known, a loyal and generous friend, and joy to be with," said Joe Gordon, the retired Steelers executive. "His accomplishments were just incredible. The characteristic that I most admired was his intensity to get things done, his durability to hang in there with his book, the DVD, the piece that he did for the City Paper; he really had to labor for those.

"He was such a perfectionist. I'd say to him, 'Myron, all you're doing is changing one sentence and it's taken four days.' "

He was best known as the squawking talisman of Steelers football and had the good fortune of arriving on the scene just as the ballclub was escaping some four decades of losing. Cope hit the glory road sprinting in 1970 and never lost momentum for the next 30 years. Locally, his celebrity dwarfed many of the players, even those of Super Bowl pedigree, and was surpassed by only a very few.

"He was a true celebrity," said Roy McHugh, the former columnist and sports editor of the Pittsburgh Press. "In the '70s, he and I went to closed circuit telecasts of big fights at the Civic Arena. One night as we were leaving we fell in step with [former world light-heavyweight champion] Billy Conn. We couldn't get three or four paces without people wanting Cope's autograph. Conn they ignored."

Regardless of the ever-more-corporate-imaged NFL he'd walked into, Mr. Cope remained a wag and raconteur of a sporting era from the other side of that transition. Though he was riding the new Pittsburgh wave of Dan and Art Rooney Jr.'s strictly business acumen and seasoned football calculations, he still had both feet in the smoke-filled rooms and occasional "toddy's" of Art Rooney Sr.'s world, which thrived on seat-of-the-pants adventurism.

Once at halftime in Cleveland, Cope found his intermission routine interrupted by an occupied restroom on old Municipal Stadium's roof, which is where the radio booths were situated. His long-standing para-military ritual of urinate, get a hot dog, and get back to the action now jeopardized, he improvised. Without being too graphic, let's just say that anyone walking by Municipal Stadium near that portion of the roof in the ensuing minutes had to wonder from where that sudden shower had come.

Born Myron Kopelman in Pittsburgh on Jan. 23, 1929, Mr. Cope lived all but seven months of his life here, the short period in 1951 when he took his first job after graduating from Pitt at the Erie Times, where an editor changed his byline to Cope. His next job was at the Post-Gazette, where his immense writing abilities soon dwarfed his salary, and Myron Cope quickly got the idea that he could do better himself as a free-lancer in the burgeoning sports magazine industry.

"Kid, you'll starve," an editor told him. "You'll be back in a six months."

Mr. Cope's magazine writing took its inevitable place among the nation's very best. In 1963, he won the E.P. Dutton Prize for "Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation" for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay.

"Cope's columns in the Post-Gazette were in contrast to what had ever been in the paper, they were dazzling," said Mr. McHugh, himself a writer of immense skills. "In the '60s, there was a certain type of magazine style that no one was ever better at than Myron. He could talk to someone and extract all the humor possible from that person."

In 1987, on the occasion of the Hearst Corp.'s 100th anniversary, Mr. Cope was named as a noted literary achiever, among them Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederick Remington, Walter Winchell and Sidney Sheldon.

His style, simultaneously elegant, robust, and humored, landed him on the original full-time staff of Sports Illustrated, which, with the Saturday Evening Post, became the primary conduits of his work. At its 50th anniversary, Sports Illustrated cited Mr. Cope's profile of Howard Cosell as one of its 50 all-time classic articles. Only Mr. Cope and George Plimpton held the title of special contributor at that magazine when Mr. Cope left due to the demands of his burgeoning radio career, and in no small part due to health insurance concerns as they related to his son, Danny.

Mr. Cope's legendary charitable work, which ultimately led to his being awarded the American Institute for Public Service's Jefferson Award in January 1999, began with his son's enrollment at the Allegheny Valley School, an institution for the profoundly mentally and physically disabled. He served for many years on the board of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Autism Society of America and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, the charity auto race he co-founded, along with the Myron Cope/Foge Fazio Golf Tournament for Autistic Children.

The Terrible Towel, long since a worldwide symbol of Steelers passion and often the Steelers artifact with which Mr. Cope is most identified, is now a trademark that benefits the Allegheny Valley School.

"He was always concerned that his legacy would be the Terrible Towel rather than his writing," said Mr. Gordon, "but his legacy is the joy and pleasure he brought to thousands and thousands of people for 35 years. My brother was dying of cancer in 1977, in really bad shape; that was when Myron had his talk show for only an hour each night. The only thing that would bring a smile to my brother's face or brighten his days was that hour with Myron, and that was still relatively early in his broadcast career."

Though his literary skills were muscular and his broadcast aptitudes somewhat initially debatable at best, Pittsburgh grew to know Mr. Cope far more through the airwaves than from his pristine prose. His WTAE talk show aired for more than 20 years, dominating its time slot. When the Steelers added his voice to their game broadcasts, Mr. Cope thought the only issue was whether he'd have the latitude to be an objective observer. But the only real question was whether there was a frequency that could deliver his signature irascible rasp, gentle and shrill, squeaky and yelpy, often in high emotion fueled by sometimes illogical bursts of excitability.

"He's a horse; he can fly!"


Mr. Cope wound up broadcasting five Super Bowls and was the only broadcaster appointed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, which he served for 10 years. He became the first pro football announcer elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame, which he considered his greatest broadcast honor, as its honorees include Bob Hope, Edward R. Murrow, Orson Welles and Vin Scully. At the enshrinement dinner in November 2005, he was presented by Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris.

It was his broadcasting that opened the many facets of his persona to what grew to be an adoring public. His one-of-a-kind creations, songs and skits and admittedly goofy promotional gimmicks played as though Mr. Cope were Rodney Dangerfield in the late comedy great's Manhattan club. Mr. Cope's annual Christmas Carol, written around the year's general Steelers story line to the tune of Deck the Halls, included unforgettable passages such as "Deck the Broncos; they're just Yonkos," and "Pete Rostoski show 'em who's bosski," all followed with the beloved and routinely inexplicable, "Fug-a-gah-gah-gah, Guh-ga-ga-gah!"

"Another thing about him was his modesty," Mr. Gordon said. "It was unbelievable for a guy as popular and successful as he was, the way he related to people. He always had time for people, always was patient."

For all of this sometimes spastic public theater, Mr. Cope kept his journalist's eye and social critic's perspective on his experience and ours. His beloved wife Mildred, who died in 1994, once asked him after a Steelers playoff loss in Oakland if it was all just too depressing sometimes.

"No," he said. "It's just the way it goes. By the way, what did the vet say about the dog?"

"Gonna need surgery," she reported. "Probably cost $700."

"Now that's depressing," Myron said.

Mr. Cope's final months depressed many of his friends. He'd overcome some misdiagnosed back trouble a few years ago and was able to extend his Steelers career, but his health began failing in stages not long after he retired. Until his final weeks, which he spent in intensive care, it was confidently said of Myron Cope that he enjoyed life immensely and had little patience for those who didn't.

In its collective ear today, Pittsburgh can virtually hear his signature sign-off.

"Bye now!"

Mr. Cope is survived by two children, Daniel and Elizabeth A. Cope. Another daughter, Martha Ann, is deceased.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

First published on February 27, 2008 at 10:02 am

Shero shows some serious guts

By Joe Starkey
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slovakian star Marian Hossa, pictured in January 2008, was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday in a six-player National Hockey League trade with the Atlanta Thrashers.
(AFP/GETTY IMAGES/File/Jamie Squire)

Memo to those who believe the Penguins gave up too much for Marian Hossa in Tuesday's stunning trade with the Atlanta Thrashers:

That was Angelo Esposito, not Phil or Tony.

Most of us didn't believe a blockbuster was imminent. Some of us didn't think it was necessary. But when you look at the particulars, you have to be impressed.

If you're a fan, you have to be downright giddy.

As ESPN analyst Barry Melrose put it, "The biggest prize went to Pittsburgh."

Just as important: The Penguins didn't lose a single high-impact player from their roster or a critical piece of their future in order to obtain a gifted goal scorer to skate with Sidney Crosby.

If the Thrashers had demanded Jordan Staal or even a hugely talented, NHL-ready prospect such as defenseman Alex Goligoski, I would have balked.

Hossa, who makes $7 million this season and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July, might only be here for a few months, a possibility that seems to have plenty of Penguins followers troubled.

It shouldn't.

First, you have to believe general manager Ray Shero would only make this deal if he believes he has a shot to sign Hossa long-term.

Secondly, even if the Penguins don't win the Cup and lose Hossa, guess what? They can go out and sign another player to team with Crosby. The new arena, with its promised revenue streams, is only a few years away, which means this ought to be the last year the Penguins stay well under the NHL's salary cap.

The riskiest part of this deal was jettisoning Colby Armstrong, a beloved member of the club, close to Crosby and a pretty good player. You don't know how the team dynamic will be affected.

But come on.

We're talking about two third-line players (Armstrong and Christensen), a future low first-round pick in a league where half the first-rounders flame out and a past first-rounder (Esposito) whose stock plummeted faster than Enron's before the draft and who was cut from Team Canada's World Junior Team for a third consecutive year.

In return, the Penguins got a world-class sniper (and a respectable forward in Pascal Dupuis).

"It's a big, big deal," Shero said. "I think our team's better today."

Penguins opponents will have to agree, as they try to devise strategies to contain two turbo-charged lines, one powered by Crosby, the other by Evgeni Malkin.

As Hossa put it, "There's so much talent, it's almost scary."

Shero also took measures to improve a glaring weakness -- the penalty kill -- by acquiring 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenseman Hal Gill. Hossa, too, is an excellent penalty killer.

As for all the talking heads on TSN -- Canada's version of ESPN -- saying the Penguins mortgaged their future, let's be serious.

These guys are the future:

Crosby, 20

Malkin, 21

Marc-Andre Fleury, 23

Ryan Whitney, 25

Jordan Staal, 19

Kris Letang, 20

It's not like Shero gutted the farm system, either. We're not talking about the Pirates here.

Meantime, isn't it refreshing to see a Pittsburgh sports team actually make a bold move that has everybody talking? When was the last time any one of them went after the top player on the market, either in free agency or in a trade?

This was, without a doubt, one of the more dramatic trades in this town's recent sports history. It was the Penguins' biggest impact move since acquiring Alexei Kovalev in 1998 and their most dramatic deadline deal in 15 years, since picking up Rick Tocchet in the trade that sent Mark Recchi to the Flyers.

That move fueled a Stanley Cup run.

Who knows? This one might do the same.

Joe Starkey is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at

Shero's bold moves were the right ones

By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa, center, of Slovakia, breaks away from Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Frantisek Kaberle, left, of the Czech Republic, and David Tanabe (45) as he makes his way for a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game in this March 4, 2007 file photo, in Atlanta. The Pittsburgh Penguins, desperate to add another scorer to Sidney Crosby's line, acquired forward Marian Hossa from Atlanta in a trade Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, that sent forwards Colby Armstrong and Eric Christensen to the Thrashers.
(AP Photo/Gregory Smith, file)

There will be people who insist Penguins general manager Ray Shero made a mistake in trading for free-agent-to-be Marian Hossa because it's just not smart hockey to deal for such a player unless a team is on the cusp of Stanley Cup championship contention.

Those people are missing the point.

The Penguins are on the cusp of playing for the greatest team trophy in all of sports.

That's why Shero made the trade. That's why he must be saluted today for having the courage to pull the trigger on a deal that brings to the Penguins exactly the kind of winger Sidney Crosby needs.

It would have been easy for Shero to stick to his master plan of patiently developing the Penguins' mother lode of wondrous talent and seek a championship further down the road. But he has been watching the same hockey we've all been watching of late, which means it's easy to see why he came to the conclusion this team was ready to win this year, not in 2009 or '10.

Shero has seen an injury-ravaged team play just about as well as any club in the Eastern Conference. He has seen it more than hold its own without Crosby. He had the foresight to realize that with Crosby and now with Hossa the Penguins have the potential not just to be good but to be great.

Who knows what the future might bring in terms of injury or defection. This year, the talent is here. The time to strike was now.

Yes, the price was steep. Just a few minutes before yesterday's 3 p.m. trading deadline, Shero sent two of the team's top nine forwards, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen; last year's No. 1 draft choice, Angelo Esposito; and the team's first pick in the 2008 draft to the Atlanta Thrashers.

The price is steeper still because there is no guarantee Hossa will re-sign with the Penguins.

Still, the deal was a good one and potentially a great one. It's a deal people might be talking about for decades. It's a deal that can put the Penguins into the Stanley Cup final.

The Penguins aren't just a better team today than they were before 3 p.m. yesterday, they could well be the best team in the Eastern Conference.

In addition to Hossa, the Penguins acquired Pascal Dupuis, a small, speedy forward whose strength is on the penalty kill from the Thrashers. In another deal, Shero gave up second- and fifth-round draft choices to Toronto for 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenseman Hal Gill, who is as slow as he is big. Gill gives the Penguins a physical presence it lacked, but him being slow on his skates is not in sync with their style.

Those who might think Shero mortgaged the team's future for nothing more than a possible chance at glory this year need to rethink their premise. Armstrong and Christensen were complementary players. They can be replaced. Giving up first-round draft choices can be dangerous, but let's not forget that from 1996-2001 the Penguins' No. 1 picks were Craig Hillier, Robert Dome, Milan Kraft, Konstantin Koltsov, Brooks Orpik and Colby Armstrong.

As for chemistry concerns, and Armstrong, in particular, was important in that regard, nothing ramps up chemistry like winning.

Besides, how has a team mortgaged its future when it still has Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar?

"I still feel good about our future," Shero said. "I still feel good about the assets we have. Not many teams ... not any team can sit there with a Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Letang, Whitney and Gonchar. We've got great assets here. I think we'll be a good team for a long period of time."

The key, of course, is Hossa, a gifted sniper who is almost certain to play alongside Crosby. Hossa had 26 goals and 30 assists in 60 games with Atlanta. He scored 43 goals last season and had 45 in 2002-03. His production only figures to increase playing beside the best playmaker in the league. Crosby, too, when he returns from injury, will prosper by playing with a veteran world-class goal-scorer like Hossa.

With Crosby and Hossa making up two-thirds of one line and the highly productive unit of Malkin, Malone and Petr Sykora another, the Penguins will present enormous defensive challenges to opponents.

Shero didn't speak at length about the possible signing of Hossa to a long-term contract. Considering how many younger players must be satisfied financially, it will be difficult to keep Hossa, who is earning $7 million this year and seeking a long-term deal at an annual salary of at least that much.

But that's for the future. It's the present that counts. And the acquisition of Hossa has made the Penguins' present one that is rich with promise.

It's a great day for hockey in Pittsburgh.

Bob Smizik can be reached at
First published on February 27, 2008 at 12:00 am

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Latest setback threatens Roberts' career

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Gary Roberts -- Penguins winger won't try to skate for two more weeks.

With the NHL trade deadline later today, it seemed like the perfect time to ask a question of Penguins winger Gary Roberts, who had such a huge impact after joining the team in a deadline deal a year ago.

Do you think you'll be able to provide the same lift down the stretch that you did last year?

Roberts' answer was troubling, to say the least.

"Well, I was hoping to -- until this," he said, pointing at his left foot.

Another high ankle sprain.

"Our fourth of the season," Roberts said, sadly.

You know all about Sidney Crosby's ankle injury and Marc-Andre Fleury's and even Maxime Talbot's, but news of Roberts' must come as a stunner. It sure shocked Roberts and Penguins officials, who had hoped he would be back in the lineup for the past weekend's games. They thought he was just dealing with a broken left leg from a game Dec. 29 against Buffalo. Team doctors had told them the swelling and weakness in Roberts' ankle was from that leg injury. It wasn't until he tried to skate for the first time two weeks ago -- and crumpled to the ice in a heap -- that he knew something worse was wrong. Further examination revealed a ligament tear in his ankle, another result of that same collision with Buffalo's Tim Connolly.

"All that time I was waiting for a bone to heal I could have been doing rehab for my ankle," Roberts said.

He said he won't try to skate for two more weeks. His new target date to play again is March 27, a home game against the New York Islanders. "At least that would give me five games before the playoffs."

So much for that big push for the team down the stretch.

Roberts acknowledged there's no guarantee he will make it back. He'll be 42 in May. Although he works out maniacally -- "His muscles have muscles," Penguins teammate Erik Christensen gushed upon first watching Roberts train last season -- jumping back into the games just when their intensity is starting to soar is a lot to ask.

If Roberts can't make it back, it would be a big loss for the Penguins, even if they have managed to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference standings without him, Fleury and Crosby. The leadership he brought after the trade last season was incredible. The toughness. The energy. The Penguins could use all of those things, not to mention his playoff experience.

Although they got a taste of the postseason last year, they still are a young team. Come April, it would be mighty comforting for the other players to look across the room and see Roberts pulling on his equipment.

"I just want to be a piece of the puzzle," he said. "Even as a third-line player ..."

Roberts has much more at stake than just the tail end of this season. His career could be on the line. Although saying he wants to play next season -- "There's no way I want to pack it in under these circumstances" -- he conceded, quietly, "I know I have to show them something this year to be back next year."

Roberts probably could have signed a two-year deal elsewhere before this season but took one year to stay with the Penguins because "this is a great city to play hockey in. It has exceeded all of my expectations." Even before his injuries, his season had not gone well. A respiratory infection on top of his asthma sapped him of his energy. For a long time, it looked as if he had hit the wall that even the great players eventually do. It wasn't until just before that Buffalo game that he started to feel like he had his legs again. He had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 win Dec. 23 against Boston.

"They haven't shot me or put me out to pasture yet," Roberts said, forcing a smile. "I have a couple of close friends in this game. I've told them, 'If I'm really losing it, tell me so I don't embarrass myself.' No one has said anything yet. I'm thankful for that. I still feel like I have some game left in me."

And if Roberts doesn't? If this is his final season?

The man will have no regrets.

Remember, Roberts retired after the 1995-96 season because of a serious neck injury before making a Lemieux-like comeback in 1997-98.

"Here I am, 41, almost 42, and still playing," he said. "I'm grateful for the second opportunity I've been given. If I don't get next year, I won't feel gypped. Hockey has been too good to me and my family to ever feel that way."

If anyone can bounce back from two bad leg injuries, it is Roberts. "You can be damn sure I'll give it my best effort," he said. Of that, Penguins coach Michel Therrien has no doubt.

"Some guys have the capability of upgrading their game when it's crunch time. Gary Roberts is that player," Therrien has said. "He plays for real. He doesn't play for fun. He plays for real."

Make no mistake here.

This really is crunch time for Roberts.

Like never before in his career.

Ron Cook can be reached at
First published on February 26, 2008 at 12:00 am

Faneca set to move on after 10 seasons

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Those weren't dollar signs Alan Faneca saw yesterday, but a decade's worth of memories. His days with the Steelers have come to an end, and he will sign elsewhere, almost surely accepting another team's offer Friday, the start of another round of free agency in the NFL.

The Steelers could have made him their franchise player and forced him to work for them at least one more year. But they decided they could not pay him the kind of money he will earn as a perennial Pro Bowl guard and did not want to have him as a forced laborer. There has been virtually no contract talks going on because of it.

"No, nothing's happening," Faneca said yesterday from his home in Louisiana. "I've been preparing for this day for a year now; it is what it is."

Faneca, who made the past seven Pro Bowls and turned 31 in December, should receive a whopping contract in a free agent class bereft of top offensive linemen.

Still, he has spent time recently reflecting on his days with the Steelers after they drafted him in the first round from Louisiana State in 1998. He has started at left guard -- and in an emergency, left tackle -- every season since.

He has discarded the bitterness that occurred last spring when he realized the team would not extend his contract at the price he and agent Rick Smith believe he is worth.

"You spend 10 years somewhere and, you know, you go through the things you've been through with the guys there -- 10 years is a long time to make friends inside and outside the organization," Faneca said. "You know, it's 10 years! Ten years is a long time."

Faneca will join a list of Steelers stars who departed as free agents through the years, along with those who were released because team officials felt they no longer fit their salary structure or were injured. They include Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Hardy Nickerson, Chad Brown, Leon Searcy, Carnell Lake, Joey Porter, Plaxico Burress, Levon Kirkland, Kevin Greene, Neil O'Donnell and more.

Faneca was the only guard who made the Steelers' 75th Season Anniversary Team last year.

The Steelers did put the transition tag on offensive tackle Max Starks last week, but that, too, might do little to keep him. Starks, who started two seasons at right tackle before losing that job to Willie Colon at the start of last season, might have resurrected his marketability in free agency by playing well down the stretch, particularly when he filled in for four games at left tackle for injured Marvel Smith.

Kevin Colbert, the club's director of player personnel, said they put the transition tag on Starks because they felt they had a better chance of signing him to a long-term contract. However, if Starks does not come to terms on a contract with the Steelers or sign their one-year, $6,895,000 tender required under the transition tag, he also will become an unrestricted free agent Friday.

Again, with the dearth of good linemen expected to come onto the market, Starks could quickly sign elsewhere for much more money. If he does, the Steelers could opt to match the deal or, if not, receive no compensation in return.

The Steelers have refrained from using the transition tag for most of the past 15 years of free agency because they felt it meant little, something the rest of the league also discovered. Starks is the only NFL player to receive the transition tag this year.

Faneca mentioned how, in 2006, Seattle put the transition tag on guard Steve Hutchinson but were helpless to match an offer Minnesota made because of a so-called "poison pill" inserted into the contract. Teams can make such contract offers in those situations, structuring a contract that would, say, guarantee Starks is the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team for the length of his contract.

"They'd have to hope his offer comes from a -- quote -- honorable team," Faneca said, "and that they not put in a clause that stipulates he can't play at Heinz Field."

The Steelers made a last-ditch effort to sign Faneca to an extension in August in a secret meeting with him. Colbert has said the team talked to Faneca's agent recently about a long-term deal, but there was not much substance to it.

"I think there was a brief conversation about where everything was headed," Faneca said.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at
First published on February 26, 2008 at 12:00 am

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pirates’ New Management Team Asks Fans to Hope Against Hope

The New York Times
Published: February 24, 2008

Al Behrman/Associated Press
Pirates Manager Jim Tracy was replaced by John Russell, left, with new General Manager Neal Huntington.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Frank Coonelly, the new president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was soaking up the sounds of bat cracking ball and ball popping leather on Thursday when a fan pierced the paradise.

“Hey, Frank!” the man yelped from behind a Pirates-gold chain guard. “Frank! Hey, we make a trade today with the Chicago White Sox?”

Coonelly turned his head, grinned and said: “I don’t think so. Was it a good one?”

“Nah,” the man grumbled. “We don’t make no good trades.”

The crowd around the fellow laughed, Coonelly walked over to absorb some abuse and offer some encouragement — “Just trust us,” and “We’re going to build with youth” — before conceding that for long-suffering Pirates fans, placation will come in wins, not words. This once-proud franchise has not posted a winning record since 1992. A 16th straight losing season this year would tie the major league record held by the positively wretched Philadelphia Phillies of 1933-48 — raising the hackles of Pennsylvanians everywhere, or at least Arlen Specter.

Sitting in his office several hours later, Coonelly considered the fan’s frustration.

“It isn’t discouraging, it’s encouraging,” Coonelly said. “He’s here in Bradenton on the second day of full training camp. He loves the Pirates, and he’s so passionate that he wants to yell at the club president. I take that as an encouraging sign that the fan base is not apathetic. They’ve heard a lot of this before, but they haven’t given up.”

Mining for good in the ghastly has become a necessity in Pittsburgh, which has not won anything since its obscure ace, Tom Gorzelanny, was in fifth grade. Regardless of its small-market status, the club has spent the past 15 years handing out horrific contracts, squandering draft choices and watching its top pitching prospects’ arms explode.

Last year’s Pirates celebrated their surprisingly competent first half by losing 14 of 16 games immediately after the All-Star break when they “just got complacent,” in the words of Jason Bay, one of the team’s few recognizable players. The Pirates finished 68-94, in last place for the fourth time in 10 seasons. If this were British soccer, they would have long been demoted to the International League.

“The city of Pittsburgh, I don’t know how much longer they’re going to wait,” the right-hander Ian Snell said. “The losing’s got to stop somewhere.”

Robert Sullivan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Since the Braves won the N.L. title in 1992, when Sid Bream scored past Mike LaValliere, the Pirates have not had a winning year.

Rather than blow up the roster, the Pirates detonated everything but. Coonelly was hired from Major League Baseball’s central office, where he had supervised all 30 clubs’ financial issues and contractual decisions. He selected the relatively unknown Neal Huntington to be the general manager, in large part because of his role in reviving the Cleveland Indians’ minor league pipeline. Manager Jim Tracy was replaced by John Russell, a minor league manager known for his intensive preparation, as well as an entirely new scouting and player-development staff.

It was no accident that most of Pittsburgh’s hires came from Minnesota, Oakland and Cleveland, operations that have succeeded despite limited revenue. Milwaukee and Colorado, two National League franchises that have rebuilt through astute drafting, also serve as blueprints.

Images of what the Pirates want to avoid lie closer to home.

Two regimes ago, signing the likes of Pat Meares and Kevin Young to bamboozling long-term contracts gummed up the payroll for years. The team spent its 1999 through 2002 first-round draft choices on pitchers who all later had major surgery, raising questions about the Pirates’ scouting and development approach. More recently, marginal veterans like Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz were signed to significant contracts when commitment to youth was called for, and the right-hander Matt Morris was acquired at last year’s trade deadline, despite having $13.7 million left on his contract.

Coonelly witnessed all of these debacles from his chair in the commissioner’s office.

“Looking at Pittsburgh,” he said, “my issue with the club was that at times it seemed as if there were a plan in place, and because of various pressures — fans, media — deviations were made to that plan that were costly.”

While teams like the Brewers and the Marlins have rebuilt by dumping any recognizable names they had for prospects and starting over, the Pirates are expecting their new management team to energize a disappointing 2007 group that returns almost unchanged.

The biggest news in Pittsburgh this winter might very well have been when the Pirates’ owner from a century ago, Barney Dreyfuss, was elected to the Hall of Fame; their roster’s somnolence is marked by how their most recent signee, pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, is a virtual narcoleptic.

Gorzelanny (14-10, 3.88 earned run average) and Snell (9-12, 3.76) provide a young, decent front of the rotation, and Matt Capps (18 saves) has emerged as a promising closer.

The lineup, however, features more midcareer veterans than most floundering clubs typically prefer: Bay in right field, Jack Wilson at shortstop, Freddy Sanchez at second base, Adam LaRoche at first base and Xavier Nady in right field. The team considered trade offers for those players this winter but found few palatable deals.

The new front office decided to keep these players and try to inspire them by proving management’s commitment: The spring training complex in Bradenton is being rebuilt, for example, and a new Dominican academy will open next summer. Bill Mazeroski, Manny Sanguillen and Kent Tekulve, all members of the Pirates’ last three World Series champions in 1960, 1971 and 1979, respectively, are in camp as instructors trying to remind players that the team was not always horrible.

Some skepticism remains, though. Coonelly and Huntington addressed the players last Thursday and promised that their commitment to smart player development would not wane — recent history to the contrary — and were understandably met with some rolling eyes.

“The players are kind of looking at us like, ‘We’ve heard this before,’ ” Huntington said. “They’re right. Most general managers and front offices come in and say they’re going to win through scouting and development. We believe it’s the execution that’s going to set us apart.”

Bay, a former All-Star who has been a Pirate since 2003, said that while he had indeed heard the message before, this year’s “feels different — it’s hard to explain.”

“But different is good for us,” he said.

Bay insisted that the team was gunning for a division title this year in the relatively weak N.L. Central, but acknowledged that finally winning 82 games to finish over .500 would provide some relief.

“I’d like it so that we don’t have to hear about 16 or the record anymore,” he said. “But we’re not going to pop Champagne and have a party. No one aspires to be average.”

For inspiration, the 0-for-15 Pirates appear to have tapped none other than Aristotle, who knew a thing or two about potentiality. On a clubhouse bulletin board, a quote attributed to him begins, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Dangerous words for a not-yet-dangerous team.

Penguins don't need blockbuster trade

By Joe Starkey
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Petr Sykora (17) and Evgeni Malkin

No, it wasn't pretty watching the Penguins blow a three-goal lead Saturday to the visiting Ottawa Senators in a 4-3 overtime loss.

But the game should have absolutely no bearing on general manager Ray Shero's mindset going into Tuesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

This loss was representative of nothing and need not have long-term implications, just as the Senators blowing a three-goal lead to the Penguins on home ice last March -- and losing two subsequent nail-biters to the Penguins -- didn't linger.


And know this: Regardless of what happens before the trade deadline, no team is about to add more talent than the Penguins.

The roster influx will include the NHL's defending scoring champion (Sidney Crosby), a 40-game winner in goal (Marc-Andre Fleury) and a hardcore playoff specialist (Gary Roberts).

That's pretty a good deal for a team that has flourished of late -- yesterday's hiccup aside.

Could the Penguins use a scoring winger for Crosby? Of course. Vinny Prospal comes to mind as a potential rental player, and several reports have the Penguins pursuing Tuomo Ruutu, Jarkko's younger brother. That would be a logical move, because Tuomo - a top-line talent -- has underachieved (six goals in 58 games) and thus could be had for a reasonable return.

Remember, the bigger the name, the heftier the price. A future first-round pick or even last year's first-rounder, Angelo Esposito, should be in play. Jordan Staal should be off-limits. Core prospects, such as defenseman Alex Goligoski, must be retained.

At worst, Shero needs to find a physical defenseman and a maybe a faceoff specialist.

Meanwhile, though nearly a quarter of the season remains, it looks as if the Penguins have as good a chance as anyone in the wide-open Eastern Conference and will be a significantly better team than they were heading into last year's playoffs.

Ty Conklin

The top five reasons, in descending order:

5. Experience. The youngsters who form the nucleus of the club were shell-shocked last spring (remember the first period of the Ottawa series?). Now, they know what to expect.

4. Another option in goal. In all likelihood, you'll see plenty of Ty Conklin and Fleury before the season's final buzzer. A lot can happen in 20 games, plus the playoffs - which constitute another entire season.

3. More depth up front. Petr Sykora was an excellent offseason addition who thrived in an expanded role when Crosby went down. He gives the Penguins an entirely different look from what Ottawa saw last season. Ask Senators goalie Ray Emery, who still hasn't reacted to Sykora's rifle blast from the left circle at 1:47 of the first period yesterday. Ryan Malone has solidified himself as a legit top-six forward. Tyler Kennedy adds youthful vigor and a decent scoring touch in place of last year's late-season burnout, Mark Recchi. Several role players will generate a healthy competition for available ice time.

2. Upgraded defense. The puck won't stay buried in the Penguins' end as long because guys like Kris Letang and Darryl Sydor can move it quickly.

1. Evgeni Malkin. This time last year was about when Malkin started to fade - understandably so, given all he'd endured over the previous seven months, including his adjustment to the North American game. Now, he's a bona fide star and eager, one would assume, to prove it come playoff time.

The Penguins might not reach last year's regular-season total of 105 points, but they should be steeled for a better playoff run, no matter what happens by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Joe Starkey is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at

Dapper Dan: More history for Crosby; Berenato honored again

Sunday, February 24, 2008
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Among all the Hall of Famers, champions, dynasty-builders, MVPs, medalists, team leaders and legends with retired numbers who have been chosen the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, the only figure to be honored in consecutive years was Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh.

Not anymore. That lofty distinction now includes Sidney Crosby, whose list of honors and achievements -- considerable as it is, all before his 21st birthday -- just got longer because fans have chosen him for the second consecutive year.

The Sportswoman of the Year involves some select company as well. For the second time in three years, Pitt women's basketball coach Agnus Berenato is the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year. She joins McKeesport's Swin Cash, who was honored last year and in 2002, as a two-time winner.

"It's a big honor," said Crosby, who is still rehabilitating an injured ankle that has kept him out of the lineup for more than a month. "It's something that's unique to Pittsburgh. The fans participate in the voting, and I can't say enough about the support we've been given. I can't say enough about how well I've been treated since I came here. I just always felt welcome."

Berenato was on the ballot with one of her players, Marcedes Walker, the team's first All-American in 16 years. Although she called the Dapper Dan the "most prestigious award in Pennsylvania and one of the most prestigious in the country," Berenato was as quick to parcel out credit.

"If I win, Marcedes wins. If she would've won, I would've won," Berenato said. "When you're involved in a team sport, no individual receives an award. When you win something and you're part of a team, you share it. This is a great honor that belongs to this team, this staff and this university. It's not me."

The time for being surprised at anything Crosby achieves has long passed, although it never stops being remarkable. He became the youngest player in any sport to win a scoring title last year when he led the Penguins to a remarkable turnaround and a return to the playoffs. He also won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player in the National Hockey League, which has embraced Crosby as the new face of a resuscitated sport.

Pittsburgh can be tough on its sports figures. But it also has a blue-collar legacy that embraces talent, hard work and humility, which are among the traits Crosby brought with him from his native Cole Harbour in Nova Scotia.

"We're fortunate that we have a lot of guys who take pride in working hard, who leave it all out there, to represent our city the best we can," said Crosby, who was tied for the NHL scoring lead when he went down with a high sprain to his right ankle Jan. 18.

Murtaugh, who skippered the Pirates to a pair of world championships in his various stints at the helm, was a three-time winner of the Dapper Dan. First honored in 1958, he was lauded in 1970 and again in 1971, when he shared the award with Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. In addition to Murtaugh, three-time winners include Clemente and Mario Lemieux, the Penguins owner and Crosby's landlord.

Those who have won the men's award twice include boxing champion Billy Conn; "Bullet" Bill Dudley, Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis of the Steelers; Ralph Kiner, Dick Groat and Willie Stargell of the Pirates; and football coaches John Michelosen and Joe Paterno.

For the 2006-07 season, Berenato coached the Pitt women to 24 wins, the most in school history. The season also included the team's first berth in the NCAA tournament and its first tournament win.

"I've said it before. Our goal is to win the national championship," she said. "I think the people of Pittsburgh believe in us."

In the voting, Crosby finished ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, Duquesne coach Ron Everhart and high school sensation Terrelle Pryor. Berenato out-polled Walker, Penn State volleyball star Christa Harmotto and the Pittsburgh Passion, which completed a perfect season by winning the championship of the National Women's Football Association.

Voting continues until March 1 for the best moment in Pittsburgh sports history, the best team and the best athlete. Each winner will receive a first-time award called "The Danny," and winners will be announced at the Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction April 1 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Ballots can be cast at

The event will celebrate the city's 250th anniversary -- the Penguins have been wearing a "250" patch in this, their 41st season -- and the best in its sports history.

Tickets are $200 for premium seating, $150 for general seating and $100 for those under 18. Proceeds go the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania for the benefit of flag football, basketball, field hockey, golf and wrestling.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at
First published on February 24, 2008 at 12:00 am

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spring Training: Blass' speech floors players

Nutting, Coonelly stress accountability in meeting

Friday, February 22, 2008
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' players know Steve Blass as a broadcaster and, away from the booth, as one funny individual. Yesterday, they saw a different side when he addressed them inside the Pirate City cafeteria.

They saw the pitcher who blew away the Baltimore Orioles in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series, ending it with his famous leap in front of first baseman Bob Robertson.

They saw the pitcher who two years later began battling an inexplicable loss of control that soon would result in his retirement. The pitcher who, by his telling yesterday, was reduced to tears not because he might be finished with baseball but because he no longer would be among his teammates in Pittsburgh.

They also saw, perhaps, a bit of themselves.

"Probably the best speech I've ever heard," reliever John Grabow said. "For Steve to talk about the pride he had in putting on a uniform every day for the Pirates, what it meant when that was taken away ... it was pretty emotional in there. He came right from the heart, and we felt it."

"I had chills, especially growing up a fan of this team," said reliever Josh Sharpless, a Freedom native. "He told all of us what it means to be a true Pirate."

The annual spring gathering of the Pirates' top brass and the players -- behind closed doors -- covered a half-hour, just as it covered 122 years of history.

As players entered the cafeteria, they saw freshly hung images of Sports Illustrated covers featuring Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and others from the glory years. Next, owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly gave speeches. Then, a short video was shown that overlapped written messages such as "Five World Series titles" and "Fifth-most wins in baseball" across images of players from the present such as Jason Bay and Jack Wilson, as if to make a connection.

But all concerned, Nutting and Coonelly included, conceded that Blass stole the show.

Which, from the sound of it, reflects how high he had set the bar for himself.

"For all the speaking I've done, I've never spoken to a major-league team," Blass said. "And I'd never prepared for a speech for two weeks. I've been walking up and down the beach practicing this, I was practicing with my wife, and I woke up at 4 a.m. today thinking about this."

No jokes this time.

"Serious as a heart attack. I've wanted to do this for a lot of years, and I'm honored they asked."

Among his many points ...

• Do not forget that the baseball world did not always look down upon the Pirates: "It's a great franchise, and you need to know what your heritage is. I'm still living it. I've got loyalty to this team that I can't even begin to describe to you."

• To that end, do not squander the opportunity to learn from alumni Bill Mazeroski, Kent Tekulve, Manny Sanguillen, Bill Virdon, Chuck Tanner and others in that cafeteria: "That professionalism, that Pirates pride ... it's written all over those guys. Shame on you if you don't go to them. They've been there. They're champions."

• Do not settle for simply making it to Major League Baseball: "Find out how good of a player you can be. Don't just be satisfied to be here. Push yourself, and push the guy next to you."

Nutting called the speech "amazing." Perhaps even more meaningful, director of player development Kyle Stark approached Blass immediately afterward and told him, "You have got to give that speech to every one of our minor-league teams this summer."

Blass' response?

"I'd be proud."

Nutting and Coonelly each stressed accountability in his speech.

With Nutting's first such address last spring, a month after taking control of ownership, he promised there would be change if failure persisted. Since then, nearly every face in the upper tiers of management is new.

"I hope they can see in the year that's gone by the real changes we've put in place," Nutting said of the players. "We're committed to being a first-class organization, from the new leadership to the new coaching staff to the tools we're giving them. And now, really, the responsibility, the accountability is shifting onto the field. It's time for everyone to perform."

That will start, he added, by not being bogged down by the past decade and a half.

"We have a 15-year stretch that we can't dwell on. For most of our history, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been a tremendous, respected franchise, with players who were proud to wear the uniform and had an expectation of excellence. I believe we're in a position now to begin that execution."

Nutting had dinner Wednesday night with manager John Russell and his staff, and he said he came away with a feeling that the Pirates can contend in 2008.

"I certainly believe that. I've never professed to be an evaluator of baseball talent, so I trust the guys we have in place to make those decisions. But the optimism I've heard, the enthusiasm I've seen, certainly gives me a wonderful feeling."

Nutting reiterated that he will increase the payroll above $50 million if his baseball people ask but added that it will "depend on the circumstances," referring to the Pirates stressing that each player is worth the investment.

"We're always going to have to live within market-appropriate means, but we have not tied our hands so much that, if that opportunity comes, we can't take advantage of it. When we do that, it's never going to be about the total dollars, it's going to be about the right choices."

Coonelly told the players that, just as the Pirates will judge their performance, he welcomes the reverse.

"They've heard a lot about accountability, but I told them that accountability starts with us," he said. "Are we going to stick with our plan? We're saying things, we're telling people that we're doing this right by building a foundation, but are we? We can't worry about skepticism, As I told the players, they do not own the last 15 years of losing baseball in Pittsburgh, and they shouldn't be defined by it."

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at
First published on February 22, 2008 at 12:00 am

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Malkin remains a force to be reckoned with

By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin celebrates assisting on Colby Armstrong's third-period goal against the Florida Panthers in an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008. The Penguins won 3-2, with Malkin getting two assists to become the NHL scoring leader.
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

No sane student of the NHL would have traded a vintage Robbie Brown bobblehead for Pittsburgh's chances of overturning a two-goal Florida lead in the third period last night.

It wasn't that the hole was too deep; it was more that the Penguins had poured 40 minutes of sometimes dubious energy into excavating what appeared to be a perfectly inescapable predicament, given their lack of urgency as it paled against the desperation of the Panthers.

Michel Therrien's face still wrinkled 20 minutes after it was over.

"The first two periods," winced the Penguins coach, "our execution wasn't there. The transition game wasn't there."

But Evgeni Malkin was there, and for all the heroics that went into three Penguin goals in the game's final 16 minutes, two in the final four, this 3-2 victory was the essential evidence that Therrien's team is simply never out of a game that Malkin is in.

Malkin's sweat-soaked mitts were all over this third period eruption, assisting on the first two goals and drawing the hooking penalty on Jay Bouwmeester (cq) that set up the only successful power play of the night.

"When the game's on the line," Therrien said, "you want your best player to be at his best. There's no doubt that in the third period, Malkin was outstanding. He wanted to win."

Dominating the puck, the flow, the play, the game, and dictating the roiling emotions of another sellout crowd, Malkin began by sliding a nifty centering pass around Bouwmeester to Colby Armstrong early in this little monument of a third period; Armstrong whipped it over the shoulder of Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun to finally put the Pens on the board at 4:43 of the third.

It seemed the Pens had merely avoided a shutout, but when Malkin's improbable cross-ice pass to Ryan Whitney was completed 12 minutes later, Whitney slapped in toward Vokoun and the fortuitous stick of Ryan Malone, who got the game-tying goal at the 16:40 mark.

It was Malone's ferocious drive to the net around Branislav Mezei with 22.4 second left that won it, with Florida's Bryan Allen toppling Malone onto his can for the trouble, but Florida lost these two points because they could not control No. 71.

"Once we got that first goal it was a completely different game," Malkin said through his interpreter. "We had so many chances before that."

Twin forces were at work early in last night's hockey proceedings, and neither seemed to be indicating a happy ending for the Penguins, who'd been outshot in four consecutive games coming and had historically struggled in their own building against these Panthers.

One had to do with the splendid scoring chances Pittsburgh was eschewing in the first period, as though awaiting the appearance of an actual silver platter, the metaphorical kind just not getting the Penguins' persistent attention.

Malkin, skating short-handed, beat Steve Montador around the right point and broke loose, then allowed a two-on-one to develop with Max Talbot, but fired harmlessly into Vokoun's pads.

Less than a minute later, Jordan Staal rang the left post despite an expanse of open net. Though no scoring chance was better, there were at least two more of nearly equal allure, and it was no small issue that the Penguins allowed the Panthers to get the first goal instead. When the Panthers have failed to get the first goal this year, they're 9-21-2.

The second mini-trend illuminating itself before the first intermission was the danger implicit in the long rebounds Conklin was allowing. The first came when McLean whipped a slapper from the high slot and the rebound came back nearly as far. A Ruslan Salei shot produced another long rebound, and when Kamil Kreps' wrister resulted in a third toward the near edge of the left circle, David Booth buried it for a 1-0 Panthers lead at 16:24 of the first.

For all of Conklin's rebound problems in the first 20 minutes, he was still enough of his remarkable self to make the kind of save that might have changed the momentum on a night when the Penguins were actually, you know, paying attention.

Nathan Horton crashed in on Conklin from the right wing eight minutes into the second period, and when Conklin stoned him many in this latest Mellon Arena sellout thought they felt a seismic shift in the flow, but the Penguins soon dissuaded them by turning their own power play in an all-out assault on the wrong net.

With Booth off for hooking at 10:53, Florida's Ville Peltonen swiped the puck near his own blue line and fled in alone on Conklin. Ty stopped the attempted stuffer, but with the Penguins trying to set something up in the Panthers end just 40 seconds later, Darryl Sydor took his eye off Jeff Taffe's soft drop pass and looked up in horror to see it find the stick of Brett McLean, who broke up alone, again.

McLean's backhander found the net behind Conklin for a 2-0 lead that had the near unmistakable look of permanence.

The mistake was forgetting the full capability of Evgeni Malkin. Few will make it again.

Gene Collier can be reached at or 412-263-1283.
First published on February 20, 2008 at 12:00 am

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obituary: Bill Currie / 'Mouth of the South' sports commentator here in 1970s

Died Feb. 11, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bill Currie on KDKA-TV in the 1970s.

Dressed in sports jackets as loud as a Three Rivers Stadium crowd with ties as wide as the Ohio River, Bill Currie would pin a boutonniere into his lapel and, in a voice that dripped corn pone, mix Scripture with Shakespeare in sports commentaries that were folksy, rambling, irreverent and laced with color and the off-color, all at the same time.

"He was eclectic," said Margaret Currie Granger, the youngest of his three children. "He made sports interesting for people who didn't follow sports. He was a nut. He was crazy. He was outrageous. He always was a character and was a character until the day he died. He had a very full life, and I'm going to miss him very much."

Mr. Currie had suffered a series of strokes in recent years. He died of a brain hemorrhage late Monday at St. Peter's Hospital in Yelm, Wash., where he had lived with his daughter. He was 85.

A journalist and a sports announcer, he was a staple at KDKA-TV during the sports glory days of the 1970s after he was the play-by-play announcer for University of North Carolina sports.

To those who loved his idiosyncrasies, he was Sweet Ol' Bill. To those who despised him in the way fans loathed Howard Cosell, he was simply known by the initials, S.O.B. But he had a Technicolor personality and rather enjoyed getting a rise out of people, which helps explain why his office was once adorned with a poster-size photo of him lying in a coffin.

"He didn't care if people talked about him in a good way or a bad way, as long as they were talking and kept tuning in," said his daughter. "He didn't start out doing sports. He just happened to be good at it."

In Pittsburgh, where Frenchy Fuqua of the Steelers wore outrageous platform shoes and Dock Ellis of the Pirates wore hair curlers under his baseball cap, Mr. Currie found his niche. Some viewers tuned in just to see what combination of plaid jackets and polka dot ties he had donned.

"The thing I remember most about him was that he was a lot of fun," said Joe Gordon, the Steelers' longtime public relations man. "He kept sports in perspective. He kept it in the toy department and never thought of it as World War III. He was creative, entertaining and obviously very unique. He was one of a kind."

A native of High Point, N.C., Mr. Currie began his career as a reporter for The High Point Enterprise and later at the Salisbury Post. He later went into broadcasting and developed a what-will-he-say-next style that earned him the nickname "Mouth of the South." But he wasn't all schtick. He was also named North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year eight times.

Frank Deford wrote about him in Sports Illustrated twice. One North Carolina columnist dubbed him "The Reverend" because "he could preach you a hellfire and damnation sermon or sing you a hymn with an angelic look on his face, a tremor in his voice and a drink in his hand."

Around 1976, Mr. Currie left -- briefly -- for a stint in the Philadelphia market, and he was essentially run out of town by irate viewers who chafed at his style.

"That was a disaster," said his daughter. "The greatest time of his life was in Pittsburgh."

Mr. Currie returned here and continued sports commentary until 1990, mixing in talk about his divorce, face lifts, his hairpiece and his experiences with psychotherapy. He also ran a broadcast school from 1981 to 1988.

In addition to Margaret, he is survived by a son, Robert, of Wimberley, Texas; a daughter, Susan of North Carolina; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Currie donated his body to science at the University of Washington. The family is planning a memorial service to celebrate his life.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at
First published on February 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

Malkin's play spurring trophy speculation

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Evgeni Malkin's performance has bouyed a team many thought was sunk with the injury that sidelined Sidney Crosby.

Forget the debate about whether Evgeni Malkin is more reminiscent of Mario Lemieux or Jaromir Jagr.

The person Malkin most resembles is his mother, to an almost uncanny degree.

But Natalia Malkin, who watched the Penguins practice yesterday with her husband, Vladimir, from the Mellon Arena stands, never won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's scoring champion -- something her son might accomplish in his second season in the league.

Lemieux and Jagr had that trophy pretty much locked up for the Penguins from 1992-2001, except for a guy named Wayne Gretzky sneaking in there to win it in '94.

Lemieux also won it in 1988 and '89, and Sidney Crosby won it last season. That means the Penguins have produced the league scoring champion 12 of the past 19 seasons. (The 2004-05 season was canceled because of the NHL lockout.)

When Crosby's right ankle was sprained Jan. 18 and he was projected to be out six to eight weeks -- a time frame still considered valid -- it looked as if the team would have to grudgingly let the Art Ross Trophy go to another club, along with the Hart Trophy, the most valuable player award also picked up by Crosby last season.

Not necessarily.

Malkin, clicking at center with linemates Petr Sykora and Ryan Malone, has 21 points in the 10 games since Crosby was hurt, going into a home game tonight against Boston. That line has combined for 47 points in those 10 games.

Through Monday, Malkin, 21, the NHL rookie of the year last season, had climbed into a second-place tie in the NHL with Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson at 73 points apiece, three behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin. Malkin has played one game fewer than Ovechkin, a fellow Russian and friend.

While Malkin's teammates are eager to champion him as a solid threat to win the Art Ross -- "I don't see why not; he's got the tools," winger Colby Armstrong said -- MVP talk comes a little less easy even though Malkin's play could accurately be described as invaluable as the Penguins have gone 6-2-2 and taken over the Atlantic Division lead in Crosby's absence. Malkin is on the top power-play unit, added penalty-killing to his repertoire this season and already was on pace to top his rookie point total of 85. He had 13 points in the seven games leading up to Crosby's injury.

Penguins coach Michel Therrien thought Valentine's week was too early to talk about Harts.

"Whoa, whoa," he said, raising his hands.

"We are talking big words, but of course since Sid went down and hurt his ankle, Geno stepped up in a big, big way," Sykora said of Malkin.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik believes Malkin's torrid pace without Crosby merits a Hart candidacy.

"After Sid got hurt, on TSN [a Canadian sports network], there was a poll -- Are the Penguins going to do better, the same, or drop out of the playoffs? -- and everyone voted for dropping out of the playoffs," Orpik said. "I think everyone in the room stepped up a little bit, but he's the one that really jumps off the charts and really, really picked up his game -- and that's not saying he wasn't playing well before Sid got hurt. He'd be the first to admit he's playing the best he's ever played in his career."

Malkin has said he has never had a stretch like this, in the NHL or with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, his hometown team in the Russian Super League. Then again, no one has handed him a pro team and allowed him to carry it on his shoulders.

"He was playing on the second or third line, so he never got the opportunity he's getting right now," said Sykora, who played with Malkin on Metallurg during the lockout season.

With the Penguins, there was always Crosby, who was playing center with Malkin at left wing before the ankle injury. Therrien has declined to speculate whether he will leave Malkin's line intact when Crosby returns.

Of all the Penguins, Crosby knows what a scoring championship and MVP season looks and feels like. He's willing to say Malkin has a shot at both.

"Yeah, I think so. He's really stepped it up," Crosby said. "I don't think he's worrying about it. He's playing great hockey. That's all he's got to worry about and those things will take care of themselves at the end of the season. He's definitely been a dominant player."

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who is Malkin's landlord, said Malkin "obviously has the talent" to be the NHL's MVP and confirmed Crosby's assessment that Malkin seems unaffected by his recent rise toward the top of the league.

Malkin, who does only occasional, limited interviews without a Russian interpreter, didn't have to answer out loud when asked in English if he was going to win the Art Ross and Hart trophies.

He simply smiled, raised his eyebrows and nodded. Only the mischievous look in his eyes conveyed that he was just having fun with the question, with hockey, with everything.

Since you've been gone

Here's a look at how Evgeni Malkin has played since Sidney Crosby's injury:






Shelly Anderson can be reached at or 412-263-1721.
First published on February 13, 2008 at 12:00 am