Monday, March 21, 2016

TV, movies, DWTS & identity of Pittsburgh's greatest athlete

“Dancing With The Stars” returns tonight and I again vow to not watch until network promos tease that Dick Cheney will be puttin’ on the Ritz.
Lots of my fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fans, however, will be watching to see star wide receiver Antonio Brown. He’s in a few short years become one of our greatest and most popular athletes, right up there with Hall of Famer Hines Ward, who won the show’s ’11 season.
• The show highlights what a great athlete you need to be to succeed as a dancer. And that’s part of the argument I’ll use to reveal the identity of the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history. Answer at bottom.
• While I won’t be watching DWTS, we have been watching a lot of TV. There’s “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” (very good); “Better Call Saul,” (I like the stuff when Mike’s on, but watching it makes me miss “Breaking Bad;” and “Walking Dead,” (crackling dialogue, but I wish I was refined enough to be turned off by society-degrading gruesomeness — I’m not).
• Two shows I really love are “The Grinder,” starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage,” and “Last Man on Earth,” starring Will Forte. “Grinder” is as funny as anything I’ve seen on TV. Just uproarious. I keep thinking the premise — self-delusional Hollywood TV attorney comes home to join brother’s Boise law firm — will thin, but it never does. It’s perfectly over-the-top.
• Dick Groat isn’t the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history. He is one of only 13 players to have his number retired by Duke University men’s basketball, was an 8-time MLB all-star and the MVP of the 1960 world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. I’m partial to Groat, too, because he owns Champion Lakes Golf Course near Ligonier, one of my favorite courses from my entire life. I have many great memories of going there with my Dad and watching the old man melt any time the great Groat would say, “It’s my old friend, Paul!” He treated my Dad like a king. That makes him a great guy, but not Pittsburgh’s greatest athlete.
• Not only have I been watching a lot of TV, I’m now on it. Sort of. My hour-long talk last week was filmed for Bethel Park TV. The talk went really well and got a lot of laughs and a wonderful ovation. But you’d barely know it from the YouTube clip you can check out right here. Because the audience wasn’t micced it seems like I’m standing on a stage blabbing aloud to myself. I swear that’s not the case. Honest. I’m looking into adding the laugh track they use for “Two Broke Girls” to really juice it up.
• Been looking for a reason to buy “The Last Baby Boomer: The Story of the Ultimate Ghoul Pool?” How about this: Send me $20 and I’ll send you a signed (and personally corrected) copy and will throw in for free a promo card that’ll entitle a tech-savvy friend for a free digital download. Be one of the first 10 to send me an e-mail at and we’ll get the ball rolling.
• Mario Lemieux isn’t the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history, but he’s done more for the city than any other. Besides being our best hockey player he twice saved the Penguins from moving out of town — and we love our hockey here. Plus, he beat cancer and remains one of the most inspirational stories in the city. Still, not the greatest athlete.
• My wife and 9-year-old loved “Zootopia,” and Val, Josie and I loved “The Walk,” about Frenchman Philippe Petite and his 1974 high wire walk between the newly-opened World Trade Center towers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars and, as always is wonderful. Also, we just again watched “Whiplash,” about a tyrannical band teacher. The starring role earned J.K. Simmons the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role. He is riveting. Also, great dialogue.
• I am not the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history. I was captain of my high school hockey team and have achieved some things hungover that many far more accomplished athletes never could. But, no, it’s not me.
• Roberto Clemente isn’t the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history. Neither is Tony Dorsett, Arnold Palmer, Mike Ditka, Roger Kingdom or Honus Wagner. No, the greatest athlete in Pittsburgh history was someone who didn’t even engage in professional athletics. His name is …
• Gene Kelly. I’ve for years argued Pittsburgh should erect a Gene Kelly “Singin’ in the Rain” statue at Market Square. It’s never happened because Pittsburgh has always been at heart a blue collar city that considers its sports heroes to be superior to our artistic ones.
That perception is changing with the popularity of DWTS.
And by those measures there can be no doubt that native son Kelly is the greatest. Watch him in either “Singin’ in the Rain,” or “An American in Paris.” Clearly, he could catch a long touchdown pass or track down flies in centerfield, but none of our sports heroes can do what he does.
Grinder rests.

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