Forgive Bill and welcome him back on Penguins' bandwagon

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Do we have room for just one more on the Penguins bandwagon? Sure, we do. We can always make room. Ma'am, could you take a tiny step to your left? Thank you so much. Sir? Please? There you go. Thank you. Son? Thank you. OK, Bill? Bill? Bill, step right up. Welcome back, my man! We've got your old spot ready for you right here. You know you're always welcome here. We're all friends, right? We love having you on board. The Penguins are going to need you and everyone else to beat those lousy Red Wings and win the darn Cup ...

What?

You don't want Bill Cowher back on the bandwagon?

Please, tell me you aren't that spiteful.

I'll give you that Cowher made quite a spectacle of himself the other night. Dressed in red and positively beaming, his store-bought white teeth more brilliant under the television cameras than they ever were when he coached the Steelers, he revved up the silly hurricane warning siren before his new favorite team -- the Carolina Hurricanes -- played the Penguins in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series. How do I put this politely? He looked ridiculous, more ridiculous even than Stormy, the Hurricanes' goofy mascot who was by his side, probably trying to avoid the flying spittle that's inevitable when Cowher gets riled up.

Of course, the media jumped all over this. We're pretty slimy that way, especially when there's no hard news coming from the series and precious little competition on the ice. It became evident early that the Penguins were the vastly superior team. Was it just me or did it seem as if Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby was scoring a goal every time we blinked? That's why the Penguins swept the series and are moving on to the Cup final. That's also why Cowher has asked for and been granted permission by me to reboard the bandwagon.

But more on that in a moment.

Let's go back to Cowher's relationship with the Hurricanes for a second. Who didn't know it was going to turn into a love affair? He moved to the Raleigh, N.C., area after the 2006 NFL season. The Hurricanes are the only pro team in town and were fresh off a Stanley Cup season. Former Penguins star Ron Francis -- now a Carolina coach and front-office big wheel -- was an old friend from Pittsburgh. It turned out Hurricanes center Matt Cullen lives in Cowher's new neighborhood, which means relatively nondescript hockey players must be making big jack these days. One thing led to another and before you knew it ...

"I've adopted this team," Cowher said.

You got a problem with that?

I know, a lot of you do.

Sales of "Benedict Cowher" T-shirts soared here in the past week, proving there really are suckers around every corner. Other geniuses saved their hard-earned money and merely hurled vulgarities at Cowher for turning his back on his hometown Penguins. The braver tough guys in that faceless crowd -- their kind is always faceless, right? -- even dared him to have the nerve to come back for any of the reunions of the '05 Steelers.

You know, the team Cowher led to Super Bowl XL.

The highlight of his 15 mostly terrific seasons here.

If you ask me, Cowher owes Pittsburgh nothing. He fulfilled his contract here and then some. If he wants to cheer for his new hometown Hurricanes, God bless him. Heck, if he wants to give up the easy life of TV work and get back into the brutal world of coaching with, say, the Cleveland Browns, let him have at 'em. Who are we to think poorly of him?

If anything, Pittsburgh owes Cowher. He and his teams provided many wonderful memories, memories that will last a lifetime. His preferred choice of hockey clubs should not tarnish those.

It's not as if Cowher has bailed completely on the Penguins, anyway. I, for one, was glad to hear him say he would go right back to cheering for them if they took out the Hurricanes. Well, that time is now. The powerful Detroit Red Wings are looming. The bandwagon needs Cowher. The Penguins need him on their side. They are going to need all of the energy and passion they can find to get past such a worthy group of opponents.

Datsyuk. Zetterberg. Lidstrom. Franzen. Osgood. Hossa ...

That rotten Hossa.

I don't know about you, I'm thinking Cowher and Stormy will be long forgotten by the weekend.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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