The cheap seats are where I am the most comfortable. Every sporting event I attend, you can find me walking up to my seats rather than down to them. Sure, it’s a long walk, but the advantage is never having to worry about tipping someone for wiping off the seats; that’s for fancy people. Dealing with parents screaming at their bratty kids would be the downside, but you can’t beat the price.
Still, the best thing about sitting so high up is getting a great vantage point to see absolutely everything that’s going on. And that’s what I want to do with this column each week. Sure, I’ll be talking plenty about the sports you know, but hopefully I’ll enlighten you a bit on the other games in town.
Pittsburgh is an incredible sports town filled with passionate and opinionated fans. Here’s how I break down the local sports scene.
The Steelers are the unquestioned kings. Recent proof came last week when the Steelers’ preseason game against the Vikings beat the Pirates in the ratings. And the Bucs were playing a meaningful game against the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Penguins are second most-loved. A proliferation of Lemieux babies have taken over and the region is even producing NHL players — an absurd notion a decade ago. A few winning seasons have catapulted the Pirates to third place. Five years ago, their popularity ranked somewhere behind professional wrestling and cornhole.
Pitt football and basketball come in fourth and fifth, respectively. And finally, the Steelers playing basketball for charity is unscientifically our sixth most-watched sport.
While I’ll be taking a look at all of those sports from the cheap seats, I’ll also focus on some of the Rodney Dangerfield sports. Robert Morris has an outstanding hockey program, and its hoops team is on the rise. Duquesne basketball gets little respect even though it’s quality basketball in a respectable conference.
When it comes to secondary profesional sports, this city has a “proud” history. The Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL lasted as long as the Confederacy, and our glorious days of pro basketball with the Pittsburgh Renaissance/Pipers/Condors are as forgotten as The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. If you remember the Shamrocks of the American Hockey League, you might be older than the Duquesne Gardens.
I think today’s other pro-sports options are more exciting and varied than we’ve ever had. There is new blood in town, like the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, an Ultimate Frisbee team playing at Cupples Stadium on the South Side. They’ve had a tremendous year, even setting a league record for points scored in a game versus the hated Detroit Mechanix. (I hate them so much.)
Another great local team I’ll be following is the Pittsburgh Passion, our women’s professional football team. The team, co-owned by Steelers great Franco Harris, has been around for 13 seasons and won three world championships. In addition, there are two rugby teams — the Sledgehammers and the Harlequins — plus the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a professional soccer team that plays in beautiful Highmark Stadium, and the Steel City Yellow Jackets, of the new American Basketball Association.
And I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you know of a team or a sport that is not getting the coverage it deserves, please let me know. I’m looking forward to talking local sports with you each week from that part of the stadium where the hot-dog gun rarely reaches: up in the cheap seats.
Mike Wysocki is a standup comedian and member of Jim Krenn’s Q Morning Show each weekday morning on Q92.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @ItsMikeWysocki
Editor’s note: Pittsburgh City Paper and Q92.9 FM are both owned by Steel City Media.