An email I sent to Mark Madden of ESPN Radio about the Penguins getting a new arena which I don't think he got so I'm posting here


I don’t get a chance to listen to your show very often. Between working a retail job and trying to make it as a freelance writer, I’m usually taken me away from a radio during the hours of your show. But I’ve caught it more often recently, and I’ve found myself shouting in agreement towards the radio as you have taken up the cause of the new Penguins arena.

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh every day of the 24 years I’ve been on this planet. I grew up with baseball and hockey, but instantly became a Penguins fan after going to my first game with my younger brother and my dad in the mid- to late-‘80s. It didn’t matter that the Penguins lost. Instead, I got to see Mario Lemieux play and I got to go to a sporting event with my dad.

My Penguins fandom -- or perhaps fanaticism -- has been wholly rewarding. They’ve won two championships -- as of now, the only Pittsburgh team to accomplish that since 1980 when the Steelers won their last Super Bowl -- and they’ve been constantly competitive.

But now, I’m faced with the prospect of, after 2007, of being a fan of a dead team. This crisis is different from that of the late-‘90s. I have a real bad feeling about what’s happening now. Unlike seven or eight years ago, I see these nefarious forces of Yinzer-dom -- and, worse, kickback politics -- aligning themselves against the most important major sports team in Pittsburgh -- and, indeed, against Pittsburgh itself.

When I look at the Penguins’ situation, I don’t see much hope. Instead, I see lies, corruption, and shame. Or Ed Rendell, Dan Onorato and Bob O’Connor, if you will.

It’s pretty clear that Rendell never had any intention on building a new arena. I’m sure he figured he could postpone any real discussion of it until the slots legislation passed -- because, gee, how nice would it be to tie one to the other? -- then postpone it some more until his man O’Connor -- who worked for Rendell, remember -- got into the mayoral seat. Tom Murphy, by the time Rendell got into office, had little to no political clout, so such a task was surely easy.

And then you have Onorato and O’Connor, who might as well be the same person. They’re the before and after pictures for a poster about how long your life in politics can be if you play ball with the right people. They’re Yinzers who are more interested in getting friends into office and their careers than actually bettering the city and region.

O’Connor is bad for Pittsburgh. The only reason he won the race this time is because Tom Murphy wasn’t there to stand in his way and, as Jerry Seinfeld put it when talking about Cosmo Kramer running for Condo Board President at Del Boca Vista, he was running against common sense and a guy in a wheelchair. Maybe there wasn’t a wheelchair-bound candidate in Pittsburgh, but being a Republican running for mayor is as close to being handicapped you can be without actually being so.

The bad thing is, common sense lost. O’Connor is an embarrassment that should’ve been run out of town long ago. He makes the city look bad every time he gets up to speak and Pittsburghese drivel comes drooling out. I was stunned when I heard him say at his inauguration that Pittsburghers need to start being happy more than just the Monday after a Steelers win. Thank you for generalizing an entire population as nothing more than Terrible Towel-waving cretins.

But it doesn’t matter what I think or you think or anyone with a head on their shoulders capable of complicated thought and engagement of issues thinks. Career-driven politicians always triumph. They might leave destruction and chaos in their wakes, but it doesn’t matter. They’re off to be Senator or run for President. My god, imagine Ed Rendell as President of the United States.

The fact of the matter is that career-minded attitude is what makes the current situation with the Penguins so hopeless. How can a team that does so much good and that is so ignored by Steelers Nation possibly have a chance with politicians who constantly divert our attention away from the issue of the Penguins leaving by wrapping themselves in the Terrible Towel the way neo-conservatives wrap themselves in the American flag?

For what it’s worth, I hope the cooler heads of those 18 Pittsburgh politicians that support the Isle of Capris plan prevail. I hope Rendell, O’Connor and Onorato are embarrassed mightily when their plan for a casino to be built at Station Square, an area that doesn’t need anything else to draw people to it -- unlike the Hill District, but there are black people there, so stay away! (I wonder if race has anything to do with this?) -- falls flat in competition with the better Isle of Capris plan. I hope the Penguins stay here and someone buys the naming rights and names it the “FU Pittsburgh Arena.”

But I doubt any of that will happen.

These assheads are aligning themselves against the only good thing left in Pittsburgh, and they’re being treated like conquering heroes at Steelers pep rallies by the bonehead mass audience because they scream “One for the Thumb!” like it still means anything. (Newsflash, these Steelers are going for “One for the Ring Finger.”)

If the Penguins leave, I won’t be able to have the joy of taking my kids, whenever I have them, to their first Penguin game and seeing their eyes light up as Sidney Crosby dazzles the crowd with an amazing play. I won’t be able to show them the giant 66 hanging from the rafters and tell them about how amazing Le Magnifique was. I won’t be able to pass on my Penguins jerseys because they won’t know who the “Penguins” are. That thought, coupled with the idea that I might never be able to see the Penguins play again, is sickening.

If the Penguins leave, Rendell, Onorato and O’Connor won’t stand alongside great politicians, but instead next to Art Modell as traitorous wretches that sold out their region and its people. They will have taken away from me the only thing I still like about Pittsburgh. And that is unforgivable.

And I can’t pack my bags and get out of here fast enough.

Thanks for reading, and keep fighting the good fight,

Dante A. Ciampaglia