Friday, June 24, 2005

Myron Throws In the Terrible Towel

I'm a little behind this week and that, in part, explains why Bassett gave me the business (and rightfully so) concerning the announcement a few days ago that Myron Cope -- who is to Pittsburgh what Harry Caray was to Chicago -- called it quits after close to 200 years of doing Steelers games. What's even more shameful is that Bassett -- who runs a Jets blog -- beat me to the punch with a Cope tribute. That's kind of like a Yankees fan pimping the Red Sox ALCS comeback while I sat their with a blank stare. Anyway, it's still not too late.

What's interesting is that Cope was a writer who happened to stumble into broadcasting. And I'm guessing if you'd ever heard him go on one of his seemingly incoherent rants with that voice, you'd understand why. But after you get over the fact that that's how Cope really sounded, he quickly became endearing. And he was an unabashed Pittsburgh homer, which made listening to the games even more entertaining. I read somewhere the other day that Bill Hillgrove is the play-by-play guy (and he's a really good one), but Cope personified the color analyst. If you wanted to know what was going on in the game, you looked to Hillgrove; if you wanted funny anecdotes, silly nicknames, and some mention of alcohol, it was just a matter of seconds before Cope broke out a story that was more unbelievable than the one he just told.

Tunch Ilkin, the former Steeler and current broadcast partner of Hillgrove and Cope, rounded out the trio and it was always a lot of fun listening to he and Myron go back and forth like a son and his father discussing who their favorite player was and why. Since I don't live in Pittsburgh anymore I've only had one chance to listen to Cope do a game and that was last year during the Steelers - Miami Hurricane Bowl via internet radio. As I re-read what I wrote while listening to that game, here are a couple of stories that typify what Cope brought to the telecast (and something that guys like McCarver or Berman could never, ever pull off without sounding like, well, McCarver or Berman):
8:02 PM EST
Bill Hilgrove is talking about how bad the field is. He talked to a local sports guy and he said he's never seen the field in such crappy condition -- and it's raining. This could be a mud bowl. Hilgrove, after talking about Hurricane Jeanne, then introduces Hurricane Cope -- who proceeds to tell four different stories at the same time. One of the worst is about how he ordered a Reuben in the hotel yesterday and the power went out. Riveting.

9:20 PM EST
Cope is now talking about all the drugs he has to take, even though he doesn't know what type of medication it is.

9:30 PM EST
Cope just announces the Oakland - Tampa Bay score and then asks what quarter there in (even though that game also started at 8:30).

10:07 PM EST
Myron Cope tells a ridiculous story about when he was a kid, he was at Forbes field and he saw the grounds crew try to dry the field by throwing kerosene on the infield and then lighting it (presumably to burn off the water). Cope incorrectly points out that Field Dry isn't intended for the infield (um, it is though).

The third quarter is being delayed while the grounds crew tries to dry off the field.
This is what makes Cope Cope. Everyone who's spent a minute listening to the guy can tell similar stories. When he wasn't inventing the Terrible Towel, naming the Steel Curtain, making up words, and doing rap videos, Cope was, in his unique voice, calling football games like he saw them -- from a distinctly Pittsburgh perspective. There certainly are worse things.