Myron Cope: Mario, do the right thing
Money won't make you happy; emulate The Chief and keep the Pens in Pittsburgh
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I hope somebody reading this is close enough to Mario Lemieux to call it to his attention.
Mario, I've known you since your rookie season and have always found you a fine fellow, so I'm going to ask a lot of you. In these cynical times when the bottom line so often rules, it's perhaps silly to ask, but consider emulating The Chief -- the late Art Rooney Sr.
Actually, this is a follow-up to a letter I wrote that the Post-Gazette published a year ago. I wrote that The Chief, saying not a word of it publicly, rejected highly lucrative offers from five cities entreating him to move the Steelers. He loved Pittsburgh and felt the city would be greatly diminished by the loss of a big-league franchise.
I also pointed out that Art Modell suddenly moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore after politicians for years did nothing to renovate ancient Cleveland Stadium. I faulted Mr. Modell for not hanging in longer, but I said that the silence coming from then-Mayor Bob O'Connor, County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Gov. Ed Rendell on the matter of a new arena was shaping up as a repeat of Cleveland. I hope I'm wrong. (Mr. Rendell's Plan B, by the way, has seemed to me all along to simply muddy the waters.)
At any rate, Mario, I assume you have a great affection for Pittsburgh, or else you would not have made it your residence. Perhaps unfairly, I'm asking that you disregard bottom-line offers and keep the Pens here, simply because it's the right thing to do. Disregard our political leaders staying on the sidelines for so long. I doubt you'll ever regret doing the right thing. You'll feel good about yourself.
Some people protest the use of taxpayer money to give huge subsidies to club owners. Or they don't care about hockey. Their arguments are understandable. But, folks, the realities are that this has been the way of America for many years now and losing the Pens would be a severe blow to our region in too many respects to enumerate.
Mario, you've got the politicians over a good-sized barrel. Reason one, they sat as silent as stone pillars while you sought an arena agreement for years. Reason two, the state Gaming Control Board, by rejecting a casino bid that would have led to an arena, rendered a decision so stupefying as to cause me to wonder: Had board member Sandy Rivers behaved similarly when he officiated NFL games, might he have led the league in calls overturned by instant replay?
Anyhow, Mario, get the deal done in Pittsburgh.
America still includes many who do the right thing. Do it, Mario, and I'll even forgive the time you stood on a high tee at a par three and saw a runt on the green below standing over a 2-foot birdie putt. You cried out: "Cope! Choke!" As you know, I made birdie.
It's your turn for a Pittsburgh birdie. It's a hard one; more's the reason you'll be proud of it.
The Chief put it this way: "Money has never been my god -- never."