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Stories that help us 'cope'

March 2, 2008
While Wednesday was a sad day in Steeler Country due to the loss of legendary radio broadcaster Myron Cope, it was also a day to celebrate his life and his impact.

Two regular contributors to ‘‘Front & Center,” Mike Dudurich and Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, joined me to talk about their beats (golf and hockey, respectively).

Before we got to those topics, though, I wanted to get their thoughts on the colorful Cope. What followed were stories that brought about the goosebump factor.

Dudurich talked about listening to Cope’s commentary on Steelers’ broadcasts and remembered reading his award-winning writing for publications such as Sports Illustrated and the Saturday Evening Post. The Tribune Review golf writer also admitted, while in his early 20s, he called a sports talk show Cope was hosting in Pittsburgh. Dudurich recounted that he felt like he was ‘‘walking on air’’ after getting to talk to the Myron Cope.

While conceding that Cope was an acquired taste, he went on to say the Hall of Fame announcer’s impact really hit home with him Wednesday morning.

That’s when his daughter, a freshman at Penn State, sent him a text message that asked simply:

‘‘Are you sad today?’’

Dudurich, who had heard of Cope’s passing moments earlier, wondered if she could possibly be referring to the practitioner of ‘‘Hmm Hah.”

So he played dumb and sent a text reply that said ‘‘Why?”

His daughter quickly replied, ‘‘Because Myron Cope died.’’ Dudurich was taken aback. He didn’t realize his daughter had paid much attention to the Steelers broadcasts.

Rossi also relayed several stories of Cope’s impact on his life. It began when his high school teacher gave him copies of Cope’s articles for Sports Illustrated and inspired him to pursue journalism.

It continued when the journalist-turned-broadcaster didn’t appreciate and understand the ‘‘Angry Young Man’’ columns that Rossi had ghost-written for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a budding journalist. Rossi said Cope’s reaction to those columns crushed him.

But the story ends well.

In his intermittent coverage of the Steelers for the Tribune-Review in the early 2000s, Rossi said he and Cope developed a ‘‘friendly’’ rapport. Then, when Cope retired in early 2005, Rossi was assigned to cover it.

A few days after the story ran, Cope sent a hand-written note to Rossi thanking and complimenting him. The note said something to the effect of ‘‘good to see the Angry Young Man is a fine young man and fine writer.”

Rossi still has the note.

Though I am a relative outsider not having grown up listening to Cope (or reading his work), I came to appreciate his style. He was colorful, candid, funny, mystifying and enjoyable—all at the same time.

No, he wasn’t a great analyst. He didn’t need to be. He was a fan in the booth with knowledge, originality and his own unique language. Most of all, he was himself, and he was Pittsburgh.

For all of his celebrity, Cope was likely most proud that his ‘‘Terrible Towel’’ creation made millions for the education of youth in the ’Burgh. Beyond the microphone, the typewriter, and the Towel, though, it seems his greatest impact was on people —many of whom he never met, several of whom he inspired.

Thanks for sharing the stories Mike and Rob and thank you, Myron, for being you.

Rob Egan hosts a daily radio show, Front & Center, on ESPN Radio 1430 Altoona and ESPN Radio 1450 in State College.

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