Pittsnogle Paparazzied

You know a story is big when it spins off stories about the story. That's certainly the case with the birth of Kevin Pittsnogle's son, which shoved coverage of the UC game far into the background.

Follwing WVU's 66-57 win over the Bearcats, the Mountaineers' 6-11 center was the target of a media crush greater than any he has seen in his career, and that includes interview sessions during last year's NCAA tournament. The throng of questioners was three and four deep around the weary, yet still-smiling big man, and the questions approached the level of those lobbed at stars on the red carpet before the Oscars.

"What hospital were you at?" "How long was the labor?" "How much sleep did you get?" "Who was there with you?" "Are the pictures of the baby printed or digital?" (No, I'm not making these up.) I was surprised that no one asked what he was wearing.

That's not to blame the reporters in attendance. The arrival of a child is obviously a big event, and one that many fans of the team are interested in. It simply struck me that Pittsnogle has moved beyond being simply a star basketball player, and has moved on into the bright lights of being a true celebrity.

"Anywhere he goes, people are going to know who he is," head coach John Beilein said afterward. "I think he has handled all the attention magnificently. I can't imagine anyone handling it any better, and you have to remember that he is younger, a year and a half younger, than all of our other seniors."

Pittsnogle was likely the best-equipped student on campus to handle such a media storm. He was certainly the darling of WVU's NCAA tournament run last year, and has faced more interviewers than any Mountaineer athlete in recent years. He has been the subject of several feature articles, including a recent Sports Illustrated spread, and is almost always the first player mentioned when the Mountaineers are discussed. That spotlight certainly helped him prepare for and deal with the many questions and answers concerning the events of the past three days. He was even able to joke about it, when asked if being on the basketball team was like having another family that he had to keep up to date.

"Actually, I think it was more the media," he said, drawing an appreciative laugh in response. "I got more questions from them than I did everyone else. I kept the team up to date, and Mike and Pat and all the seniors, but they didn't have a lot of questions."

Also helping Pittsnogle deal with the crush is a down-to-earth philosophy that seems to keep him on an even keel. At least outwardly, he doesn't seem to let the repetitive questions bother him. He takes the time to answer every one, and stayed until the last questioner had shut off his recorder, even though he certainly would have liked to be heading back to the hospital to visit with his family following WVU's win. He also seems to live in the moment and not think too much about the significance of events.

For Pittsnogle, it was a night of firsts. The first time down the carpet as a father. The first shot as a father. The first block as a father. Yet, he said he was able to put those things out of his mind.

"I didn't think about that," he said. "But I am thinking more about when we take him home, and don't have any nurses around to help us. I think that is when it will hit me."

Hopefully, Pittsnogle will have some unfettered time to spend with his wife and child, because he certainly has crossed the line, at least as much as can be done in West Virginia, from athlete to celebrity. He probably isn't catching Jennifer Garner-level attention just yet, but he certainly will get more than ever before. As WVU rounds out the regular schedule and moves into postseason play, this will become a national story. He'll face the same questions again and again ("Why the different spelling of 'Kwynsie'?" "We wanted it to be unique.") and will have to deal with the spotlight even more than he did last year. Let's just hope that he gets to experience many of the things new fathers do without unnecessary interference from the media or anyone else.

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