Every year, I look forward to Cardinals-Cubs, Rams- Niners, Blues-Wings, Kansas-Missouri, and Missouri-Illinois on the local level. There are others, Avs-Wings, any Duke- North Carolina game, the Army-Navy game, even good rivalries created in individual sports, like when Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi battled for all those years on the tennis court, that are fun to watch because of the high level of passion and competition between both sides.
Then there are rivals that the schedule maker really, really, wants to work, but it just doesn't happen. No matter how many dozen times the Cardinals and Brewers play each season, I could care less.
As much of a rivalry as the Jayhawks have with the Tigers, it just isn't the same when Kansas State fills in either spot. Maybe because Manhattan, Kansas is remote, and maybe because MU and KU are so focused on hating one another, I just don't get as excited when K-State plays the state college I love, or the state college I hate as I do when they play each other.
Just like when playing the Brewers, I think the exact same thing every time the Cardinals play Pittsburgh. PNC Park and Busch Stadium are 600 miles away from each other, yet the two franchises play nineteen times each season.
I harbor no ill will towards any residents of Pittsburgh. I've never visited, and while I don't rule out visiting, there are other places on my list far ahead of the Steel City.
Before I start ripping on Pittsburgh, let me exclude the Super Bowl Champion Steelers from anything negative that is said. The Steelers could build a 65,000-seat stadium on Jupiter and it would still sell out. The Rooney family, and players and coaches from Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll to Ben Roethlisberger and Bill Cowher, everyone associated with the Steelers' organization personifies the word "class." They are a hard team to root against, and deserve a great deal of credit for keeping Pittsburgh on the professional sports map.
For a long time, the Steelers and Pirates played in a dump of a stadium. Three Rivers Stadium ranked up there with the Vet in Philadelphia, Riverfront in Cincinnati and yes, even our dearly departed Busch as just terrible places to watch both football and baseball.
The state and local government decided to bail out the Pirates by building them, and the Steelers, new stadiums. From what is said about it, and can be seen on television, the new Chez Pirate is beautiful. PNC Park seats about 38,000, which for Pittsburgh is plenty. It sits on the Allegheny River and overlooks downtown Pittsburgh, but there's one problem. It is still empty most of the time.
The novelty of the new park wore off after the first year or so, and empty seats in the lower bowl are very easy to see. It's a never-ending cycle. The small-market team is bad, so no one goes. The team has no revenue, so they won't win, and no one will go.
Players get developed by the Pirates, and leave, because they can't afford to pay them (Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, Aramis Ramirez, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles to name a few), and other than Randall Simon hitting the sausage in the head with the baseball bat in Milwaukee, and the Pirates hosting the All-Star Game this year and in 1994, what have the Pirates contributed to MLB since the early nineties?
Unless something drastic happens, like owner Kevin McClatchy calling Mark Cuban to see if he was serious about wanting to buy the team, the Pirates will never win the National League Central and never be in the playoffs.
As if the baseball team isn't bad enough, in January, Mario Lemieux unofficially changed the Pittsburgh Penguins' logo from a skating penguin with a hockey stick to the white surrender flag by saying the following in a statement:
"I think we've done everything we can do as an ownership group, as far as setting up the franchise for the long term here in Pittsburgh."
Translation: "There's no way in hell we are going to make any money on this and we're tired of losing our shirts."
In leagues infancies teams were in places they shouldn't be, or places that weren't ready for teams. The Montreal Expos, the Fort Wayne Pistons, the Minneapolis Lakers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, even our once beloved Big Red all moved because of lack of interest and better deals offered by hungrier towns. I think its time for the Penguins to pack up the Igloo and head west.
I don't want Pittsburgh to turn into Jacksonville or Green Bay and have only the NFL there. Paying attention to the current sports climate there, it seems that if not for PNC Park, Pittsburgh would be down to just the Steelers, and maybe after hearing Lemieux say, "I think we've done everything we can as an ownership group," it might be time for the NHL to go west once again, and it only seems a matter of time before the Pirates sell off Jack Wilson and Jason Bay.
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