Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rest in Peace, Myron Cope

Myron Cope. What a character.

Seriously accomplished author, newspaperman and prolific, brilliant writer for Sports Illustrated and other magazines long before he entered broadcasting. The highest-paid writer, in fact, for Sports Illustrated, for quite a few years.

A great writer, first and foremost, but so much more: Broadcasting legend, of course. Originator of the Terrible Towel, of course. Colorful raconteur and man about town, of course. Highly entertaining story-teller and radio talk-show host. Devoted husband and father, of course. Quietly benevolent. Generous. Kindly. Irreverent. Witty. Fun. And very, very funny.

Blessed with the ability to make total strangers feel comfortable, he was genuinely interested in everyday people ... just as much, if not more so, as he was in "big-shot punjab celebrities," as he might call them, whom he would gleefully skewer with happy enthusiasm. Myron: Unabashedly colorful in garb, banter and demeanor.

A Pittsburgh guy. Truly.

He made Steelers broadcasts unique, to say the least. And to say they were highly entertaining would be an understatement. Billy, Tunch and Wolf would be the first to say that Steelers game-day broadcasts haven't been the same since Myron left the booth. It was largely because of Myron that legions of Steelers fans began the uniquely Pittsburgh tradition of turning down the TV sound and listening to the local radio broadcast ... listening to Myron and Jack Fleming, and later, Billy, Tunch and Wolf.
  • "Yoi and double yoi!"
  • "A little birdie told me ..."
  • "Deck those Broncos, they're just yonkos!"
  • "Hmm-hah!"
  • "The little Cleve Brownies ..."
  • "The Dallas Cryboys ..."
  • "The Cincy Bungles ..."
  • "Cope-ascetic!"
  • "Okel-dokel, that makes you a Cope-a-Nut!"
  • "How do, ya got Cope here, what's on your cranium?"
  • "Welcome to the Cope-a-cabana!"
Myron was famous for personally writing handwritten letters to the many individuals who wrote to him. I was one of them. Fourteen years ago, a one-year-old black Labrador Retriever came into my life. The previous owners had named this puppy, "Damian." One look at this sweet, cheerful, tail-wagging dog, and I knew he needed a new name. Only one name would do: "Myron." Yup, I named my dog after Myron Cope.

The following holiday season, I sent Myron a Christmas card with a picture of my dog and a note explaining how Myron now had a canine namesake. A few weeks later, Myron sent me a gracious note saying how "honored" he was that Myron was named for him.

"And a good-looking pooch he is, too," Myron wote.

Myron the pooch is still with us, just as Myron Cope the legend remains with us in spirit.

Myron Cope. The quintessential Pittsburgh guy.

Rest in peace, Myron. It's quiet, too quiet, without you.

Links ...
More Links ...
Still More Links ...
"I'm sure that right now, somewhere in the afterlife, Myron Cope and William F. Buckley are trading bon mots. Assuming, of course, they could ever understand each other."
  • The Post-Gazette's Blog 'n Gold runs a nice collection of Myron articles, video, audio and tributes from across the blogosphere
  • Also in the Post-Gazette, Pirates beat writer Dejan Kovacevic wrote the following to lead off his post in Thursday's edition of Pirates Q&A ...

"My very deepest condolences to the family of Myron Cope.

"I had the chance to meet the man formally only once, back in 1992 while covering a Steelers training camp, but I was extremely fortunate to have formed a more meaningful connection with him this past summer when he wrote me two personal, handwritten letters last summer. I will keep the contents to myself, but suffice it to say that one is framed and hanging above my desk back home. I have had no higher honor in this business.

"Our city has lost a giant, not just in broadcasting but also in writing. That aspect of his career was immensely underappreciated, I always have thought, but it should not be. Anyone wanting a taste of that brilliance should look up his poignant piece about Roberto Clemente for Sports Illustrated from the 1960s. It can be found in many compilation books, not the least of which is one appropriately entitled, "The Best American Sports Writing of the Century.""

*** *** ***

"This is Myron Cope ... o-o-on sports. Bye now!"