Jumat, 10 Juni 2011

A Golden quarter-century, with plenty of memories to come

Friday, June 10, 2011

Had I been born and raised somewhere other than the Golden Triangle, and had I not spent the past quarter-century covering the city's sports scene, I probably never would have had the chance to humbly introduce myself to you this morning as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's newest columnist.

I also never would have ...

» Sneaked up to the box seats at Three Rivers with my dad — plenty of room with only 4,523 on hand — to marvel at a spirited pitchers' duel between Nolan Ryan and John Candelaria on May 16, 1984. Ryan and the Astros prevailed, 1-0, and it otherwise was not at all a memorable result. But we all have those that resonate for family reasons, don't we?

» Experienced that Heinz Field crowd in January essentially change the course of the Steelers' playoff triumph over the Ravens: They stood, screamed and waved towels as if they were one with the suddenly surging defense. As LaMarr Woodley told me that night, "Believe me, we felt it out there."

» Climbed the snowy hill leading up to the white-capped Civic Arena from Fifth Avenue with my brother or friends. It will forever be the iconic image of hockey here.

» Bundled up one frigid morning on Neville Island, where Mario Lemieux and Jay Caufield crammed in one last session before Lemieux would gloriously retake the ice the next night. His father, his son and I were the only witnesses to the Rockwellian image of his tossle cap caked with snowflakes.

» Gone out to sit on the front lawn and cry, along with my dog, right after Sid Bream's slide. I'd swear the dog was crying, too.

» Received a letter postmarked Aug. 2, 2007, from Myron Cope. He was quite ill, but he took time to type some exceedingly generous words about my baseball writing. The best part: He cited another writer from a half-century earlier who, in his estimation, was better than me. How very Chuck Noll.

» Had a rinkside vantage point at the Vancouver Olympics for Sidney Crosby's golden goal. First thought: Wow. Second thought: This article had better be good.

» Seen Charlie Morton teach everyone why you never give up on a great arm. And not just because the guy strums a wicked acoustic guitar.

» Spent a February afternoon inside a near-empty Petersen Events Center hearing the bounce-bounce-swish of Pitt's Ashton Gibbs making 10, 20, 30, 40 ... for all I know, he's still in there hitting 3s without a solitary miss.

» Met DARYLE before a Pirates game in San Francisco a couple years ago. DARYLE is one of many readers who have corresponded with me over the years by email, social media and in person. He also loves to type in ALL CAPS, so I felt compelled to shout his name upon shaking his hand.

» Watched my daughter have a blast with Ben Roethlisberger and his dog in his backyard. Different time, different Ben.

» Contorted my body as an 8-year-old to avoid sleeping on the many Vikings logos on my NFL bedsheets. Small wonder the Steelers took Super Bowl IX.

» Prompted former Pirates manager Jim Tracy to weakly defend Jeromy Burnitz's jog to first base by replying, "What did you think, Dejan, that he was going to be safe?"

» Witnessed the real turning point for these Pirates with Pedro Alvarez's riveting three-run home run off Huston Street last August that shook PNC Park.

» Been able to casually name-drop a slew of Pittsburgh Spirit players, from my time as a season-ticket holder. Try this with a friend, but spot them Stan Terlecki.

» Sat on stools beneath the Bradenton sunrise to talk ball with Chuck Tanner and Bill Mazeroski.

» Lugged my Radio Shack TRS-80 up to wooden football press perches across the WPIAL and City League, from Aliquippa's Pit to Oakmont's Riverside Park, maybe the most scintillating stadiums of any scope in our region.

» Scribbled on my notepad after the 1997 AFC title game at Three Rivers when the victorious Broncos' Shannon Sharpe remarkably ad-libbed this: "Stay away from the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela! I hope they freeze those three rivers tonight because I'd hate to see anybody plunging to the bottom."

» Gotten a bear hug from an old hockey player. Part of what makes the Penguins successful is the family atmosphere they foster. Pierre Larouche, Kevin Stevens and so many alumni don't greet familiar faces with handshakes. They pick you up off the ground.

» Received this text from Freddy Sanchez upon his initial return to Pittsburgh with the Giants: "Just drove through Fort Pitt Tunnel. Feels like home."

» Had the privilege to write for an audience so knowledgeable about the city's sports to realize that I chose 21 entries this morning for a reason.

Read more: Kovacevic: A Golden quarter-century, with plenty of memories to come - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_741401.html#ixzz1OsHVFo4G

Dejan Kovacevic joined the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as a sports columnist this week.
Kovacevic, 45, was born in Pittsburgh and was an award-winning reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 26 years, including six years on the Pirates beat, seven on the Penguins before that, as well as Steelers games, colleges and high schools. He also covered the 2004 and 2010 Olympics.
His columns will appear Mondays and Fridays through the summer. He also will write feature articles and a blog at triblive.com.

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