Myron Cope 1929-2008: Time for one last, heartfelt yoi and double yoi
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By amiable pre-arrangement, he would pick me up behind the Bob Evans in Cranberry and we'd drive to Cleveland, and, as simple as that sounds, nothing ever quite prepared you for the arrival of Myron Cope.
This one came in a splashing October rain, the night before Steelers-Brahnies, as Cope steered his enormous Crown Victoria into the back lot. It must have been gray, the Crown Vic, because I remember in the gloom thinking that it looked like a tank stolen by an 10-year-old chain smoker.
All day yesterday and today, with terrible towels at half-staff, anecdotes and memories of the great writer and broadcaster covered Steelers Country more thoroughly than the fresh dead-of-winter snowfall.
Sam Zacharias called to remember Andy Russell's 30th birthday party, at which the linebacker's friends and teammates presented him with a large box containing ... yes, Cope, who popped out, stared gleefully at Russell, and squawked, "Kiss me you fool!"
Entrances and arrivals were unforgettable, but this final departure stings like hell.
The withering roster of people who really know how to live, how to enjoy life's every minute, is down one today.
"Absolutely," said Jerome Bettis. "He really enjoyed calling the games; it wasn't work for him. He always told me he was one of the most privileged people. You know, people say athletes get paid for doing what they love to do, but Myron was the same. He had so much fun. We'd sit and talk, and he'd tell me about the teams in the '70s and all those stories. He was a historian. And I'm privileged because it was Myron who started calling me 'The Bus.' "
Cope found the joyfulness and humor in everything and everyone, created his own characters (even if he had to nickname them himself) and directed his own interpretative production of more or less continuous entertainment. In that sense, he was really of another era, when raconteurs and characters abounded on the American landscape.
"It really is a loss," Steelers chairman Dan Rooney was saying yesterday. "We just don't have characters like that today.
"I remember going places with my father, and he'd always be with a big group of people. Newspaper guys and athletes. We'd be in Toots Shore's [in Manhattan] and Broadway show people would come in. You'd hear all the talk. It was a really great time.
"People just seem too serious anymore. We would accomplish a lot more if we had people like Myron to find the humor in things. Even in the presidential election."
While Myron took great joy in finding life's absurdities, of illustrating them when he could with his famous radio and TV antics, he was at his core a gifted writer and an inveterate truth-teller. A journalist.
"I'm probably no different than most people, who, when they first heard Myron wondered, 'what in the world is this guy doin' on the radio?' " said Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene. "But it didn't take long for you to know he was special. Myron was one of those guys who gave you the truth. He could get on your case, but you knew he had a good foundation for doing that.
"A lot of time, in today's sports world, that kind of honesty is probably missing, or people are just trying to hype themselves. He wasn't trying to hype himself; he was just stating his position.
"I remember a bus ride once, from the stadium in Miami to the airport, and Mel Blount was a rookie and hadn't had a very fun day against Paul Warfield. Some of the writers were asking questions of Chuck Noll about Mel, and Chuck was saying, 'Don't worry, Mel will be all right.' And Myron, even though he was reporting, was taking Chuck's side, and I don't even know if that ever got on the air. But that was just one occasion where he again had the insight that we all grew to love and respect."
I don't remember love and respect ricocheting around the interior of the Crown Vic on the way to Cleveland that night some years ago. I never took for granted being in the presence of one of the great American writers of the 20th century, but love and respect were losing that night to fear and muffled screams.
Cope drove hard on the Turnpike, puffing away, gabbing away, peering through the steering wheel that seemed to arc over his head, big thunderheads pounding water off our windshield as we negotiated between 18-wheelers.
"My God," I thought. "He's enjoying this, too."
At the end of it came the typical payoff.
Don't know if you ever witnessed the arrival of Myron Cope at the team hotel the night before a road game, but for some sense of it, look up video of Lindberg landing in Paris.
Yoi we'll miss him.
And double yoi.
IN TODAY'S 'A' SECTION
Myron Cope was one of the last great sports characters.
Cope's Steelers, TV and radio co-workers will miss him.
The inventor of The Terrible Towel benefited many.
Go to www.post-gazette.com for a video celebrating Cope's career, for readers' memories and to sign a guestbook.
First Published February 28, 2008 12:00 am