As a life-long Steelers fan, I remember the days when my favorite football team was the only sports entity that mattered in Pittsburgh.
While the Penguins and Pirates struggled for wins and popularity, the Steelers were always front and center. Steeler Nation was a tight community, and it was common to talk about the team on a year-round basis.
Even in March, April, May and June, I could pick up the local newspaper or log on to the Internet and find stories of NFL free agency and third-string quarterback battles dominating the headlines.
But I'm sad to say those days are gone and have been for quite some time.
Take the Penguins, for example. The local hockey team, one that had been good and competitive for years behind superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, is now three wins away from clinching its first NHL Stanley Cup since 2009 and fourth, overall, after a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks Monday night at Consol Energy Center.
And what about the Pirates? I used to count on them to roll over and give up by late April. For 20-straight years, they finished with a losing record and usually weren't considered much of a factor even before spring training was over.
But in 2013, the Bucs broke their two-decade run of futility by not only finishing with a winning record, but by actually making the postseason. Three-plus years later, they're still a top contender and are currently in second place in the National League Central Division with a 29-21 record.
Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates center fielder, is a five-time All-Star and former National League MVP. He's not only one of the faces of Major League Baseball, he might actually be the face of Pittsburgh sports.
Can you believe that? A baseball player.
Back to the Penguins. Did you happen to see what the people in attendance were waving at Game 1, Monday night? A gold towel. And not only were they waving it, they were doing it in a circular motion.
I was in attendance at PNC Park last October when the Pirates took on the Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game. I was appalled when, along with everyone else, I was handed a black rally towel. Not only did the fans have towels, they were twirling them in unison as if they were trying to support the team.
I thought that was bad, but for the Penguins to use a gold rally towel? Let's just say, if Myron Cope were alive today, he wouldn't take too kindly to the local hockey team stealing his idea that originated in the early '70s with the Dolphins.
As a writer, this is the time of year when I should get to do the really cool stories about some football game I watched when I was 11. Like Art Rooney said, BTSC is the place for "thoughtful discussion with a sense of history."
How can I write Steelers' history when the Penguins and Pirates are so current?
Who's going to read my stuff about former Steelers running back Frank Pollard, when some hockey writer gets to do a story on Shawn Micheals, the legendary wrestler known as HBK, showing up to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals last week, in-honor of the Penguins now popular and productive scoring line consisting of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, also nicknamed HBK?
Do you think anyone will read it, when, for example, Gregory Polanco, the Pirates third-year right fielder, is turning into a superstar before our very eyes and already has eight home runs and 35 RBI on the season and just hit his first career grand slam Monday night, in a 10-0 blow-out of the Marlins?
And what about the gem Jeff Locke, the soft-tossing lefty who has been inconsistent thus far in his career, pitched in Miami on Monday? He was the first Pirate to throw a complete game in almost two years. He also came within six pitches of throwing a "Maddux": a complete game shutout with less than 100 pitches, named after legendary pitcher Greg Maddux.
And check out how Locke took a jab at his critics with this post-game quote, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
"How close was I? One oh five? Aw, really? Oh well. That would've been pretty sweet. Then somebody would've complained that they called me in the same category as [Greg Maddux]. I'm sure it'd upset the city pretty bad if you said that."
That's good stuff. A baseball writer could take that quote and make a meal out of it.
The Pens are just so interesting right now, as are the Buccos.
Everywhere I look, people are happy. Pirates fans are happy and helping the team set attendance records at PNC Park. The Penguins have a consecutive games sellout streak that reached 429 games on Monday.
I miss the days when the Steelers were the only team with a sellout streak and their fans were smiling and filled with joy. I miss the days when the old Civic Arena was 75 percent empty and the Pirates had to give bobbleheads away to get people to show up to the ballpark.
I remember the times when it was Just Steeler Nation. Now, there's a Penguin Nation and a Bucc......you get the idea.
If all this happiness, attendance and success drags on, I may have to leave the city. Don't think I won't? They have a Steelers bar in Alaska, ya know?
So what am I saying to you, Penguins and Pirates? To tell you the truth, I don't really know. But if this continues, mark my words, there will be a day when the Pitt football team is ranked in the top 10 and the basketball team reaches the Final Four.
Every sports fan in town will be happy, and then what?