Friday, June 12, 2009

City of Champions

Though I'm not much of a hockey fan, I lived in Pittsburgh when the Penguins won their Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992, and by happenstance, I'm in Pittsburgh the day they win it again, in 2009. It's the first time teams from the same city have won the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup in the same year, so Pittsburgh is the City of Champions again. They were the City of Champions in 1979 when the Steelers won the Super Bowl and the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. That World Series win was also the last time that a team in any major pro sport won the deciding 7th game of a championship series in the other team's city. The Pirates won in Baltimore--a night I remember well--and tonight the Penguins won in Detroit.

The local TV news is showing the celebrating crowds on the South Side and in the student quarter of Oakland. The police are out in force, trying to keep control. Out where I am, there were local fireworks and screams in the street. In a way it's too bad that it's a long weekend because the grownups have their fun when they go back to work.

Pittsburgh is surging in other ways at the moment. The downtown is full of construction projects, the city has been named the Most Livable again, and President Obama is sending the G 20 summit here in September, which will give the city an international spotlight. I saw the newly expanded convention center and it's pretty impressive. The North Side has the two new ballparks, restaurants, the Carnegie Science Center and children's museum. The downtown cultural district is pretty solid. As the hockey game began in Detroit, the Pittsburgh Symphony was playing its final concert of a successful season.

There are some not so wonderful things about this area. There is quite a bit of recessive racism that comes to the surface now and then. But the emphasis on family is not entirely fictional. The Steelers clearly draft for character as well as talent. The young star of the Penguins, Stanley Crosby, actually lives with the team's owner and his family--who happens to be Mario Lemieux, the star of those two Stanley Cups champions in 91 and 92. That's part of what Pittsburgh is about.

As for that other series--in a sport I actually understand--the Lakers took game 4 in overtime, in a kind of classic comeback. The Orlando Magic didn't distinguish themselves late in regulation and in overtime, leading to one of their key players issuing what has to be the quote of the year, when he said that one reason they lost was "our stupidness."

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