The Penguins winning the Stanley Cup capped off an incredible year of sports in Pittsburgh, as two out of three of Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams captured titles.
It was time to break out the Iron City Beer, or if you are a more cultured sort, the green-bottled Rolling Rocks.
Pittsburgh is Title Town…the City of Champions.
It is also the City of Parades. And who doesn’t love a parade, especially when your favorite players come bearing championship trophies?
The city came dangerously close to capturing another of sports’ most coveted titles when the Pitt Panthers’ hoopsters advanced to the Elite-8 during the NCAA Tournament.
Alas, that team met its Waterloo against Villanova but should be positioned to make another great run in 2010.
Now, all we need is for the Pirates to catch fire and finish the Trifecta.
That is less likely to happen than seeing Raiders’ owner Al Davis suddenly announce that speed is a vastly overrated commodity in NFL wide receivers or finding a Washington Capitals’ fan who doesn’t think Alex Ovechkin is the best player in hockey.
Some things just aren’t going to happen.
Regardless, Pittsburgh sits alone once again at the top of the sports universe. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 30 teams in the NHL. And Pittsburgh’s two squads are number one in both.
That is an amazing accomplishment, especially in a relatively small city that is all too often overshadowed by behemoths like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston.
Pittsburgh, a traditional football town, is now also hockey town.
It effectively has been a hockey town since 1984 when some guy named Mario Lemieux came to town, but nothing quite reignites that hockey passion in a city as seeing your team win the Cup.
There is a whole new generation of Penguins’ fans to join those of us who became diehards during the Super Mario years.
As for us more seasoned fans, I doubt most of us thought we’d actually get to see three once-in-a-lifetime players suit up for the Penguins in Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin.
Even before the Penguins finished their historic run, I started to think about what it would mean to recapture the City of Champions label…and Sports Illustrated covers.
One of my all-time favorite SI covers, and there have been some great ones, was the cover from December 1979 in which the late great Willie Stargell and Terry Bradshaw appeared together as SI’s Sportsmen of the Year.
The time has come to for SI to once again honor Pittsburgh, and what better way to do it than with a new version of that cover?
I realize this can’t happen immediately.
The Penguins deserve to have a cover all to themselves after finishing up one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of sports.
Living in Korea, that magazine should be in my mailbox in about two months. I’ve promised the SI with Tom Brady on the front to a Boston coworker, but it has also yet to arrive.
No doubt Sports Illustrated will also want to squeeze in a cover or two inspired by the Los Angeles Lakers capturing the NBA crown.
But, after they check off those boxes, the magazine should put together a tribute to the City of Pittsburgh as the latest, and historical Title Town.
The Steelers and Penguins are both popular teams nationally, so the cover would have national appeal.
Those who don’t love it will probably really hate it, causing them to buy it so they can attach it to their dartboards, especially if it features Sidney Crosby and/or Ben Roethlisberger.
Either way, the cover will sell magazines.
So, who should it be Pittsburgh fans? Who would you pair on an SI cover honoring the City of Champions?
My vote would be for a cover in which Crosby appears with either Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu.
That cover would feature two of the leaders of this generation of Pittsburgh sports icons to take the place of two of the beloved sports figures of a past generation in Bradshaw and Captain Willie.
They could even one-up it and put Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the cover together with Roethlisberger and Polamalu.
I wouldn’t even be adverse if they chose two underrated players, like Mad Max Talbot in his full ZZ Top beard or “The Piece” Rob Scuderi paired with Casey Hampton or Aaron Smith as part of a story that highlights the unsung heroes that brought two titles back to the ‘Burgh.
Perhaps the best option would be a cover that featured Mike Tomlin and Dan Bylsma, with Tomlin wearing his Penguins’ jersey and Bylsma donning a Steelers’ jersey.
That story would practically write itself. Pittsburgh wins two titles by going with young no-name coaches while passing over a host of better known coaching retreads.
Just as Tomlin’s success started an NFL trend of teams looking for the next great young unknown assistant to become their head coach, Bylsma’s success will no doubt cause plenty of teams to eye the AHL ranks for potential breakout coaches who can relate to and inspire the players to greatness.
That one might actually be easier for SI since by the time they can get around to running a “City of Champions” cover, the story will have turned somewhat stale. Using the coaching angle would keep it fresh and provide a new news angle.
It would become an instant classic, at least in Western Pennsylvania.
I’m already visualizing it framed and hung in my office.
So, how about it SI? Can you give us the cover that Pittsburgh fans want?
If you honor the city in that way, I would not be at all surprised if you win some subscribers for life.
It worked the first time, why not bring back an absolute classic?