Even retirement can’t keep Myron Cope down
After 35 seasons in the Steelers’ broadcast booth, color analyst Myron Cope pulled the plug on his radio and TV career before the 2005 football season.
That doesn’t mean the inventor of the “Terrible Towel” with the repertoire of unique catchphrases has run out of opinions on the local sports scene.
“I’m still kicking,” he said Tuesday with his familiar, raspy delivery. “I have various projects that I’m working on. I’m not at all in retirement, but I am retired from radio and TV.”
A Pittsburgh native and graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School and Pitt, Cope is the only pro football commentator to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
Cope started as a journalist before becoming a broadcaster, most notably for Sports Illustrated. He hosted a popular sports talk show for years, which aired from 6 to 8 p.m. five nights a week on WTAE-AM.
Cope shared some current opinions in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Question: Do you have another book in you after your autobiography, “Double Yoi”?
Answer: I’m too old. Fortunately, none of my problems are life-threatening. But they do slow me down, and it takes me four times as long to accomplish anything as it used to.
Q: Did Bill Cowher’s decision to “retire” as Steelers coach surprise you?
A: It didn’t surprise me at all because when the story got out that he had bought that home in Raleigh, and that his wife and 15-year-old daughter were moving down there as well, I figured it was a given that he would move down there. I figured, in usual fashion, that he’d take a year or two off, do some TV, and then get back into coaching, and be in great demand. The only thing that surprised me was that I later learned that he, I guess, would have stayed if he had gotten the kind of money he wanted, like $6-8 million, like (Seattle coach Mike) Holmgren was making. The Rooneys aren’t about to give somebody a contract just because somebody else is paying that. If they think the other guy is crazy, they’re not about to be crazy themselves. But they’ve been forced by the economy from time to time to do just that. But in this case, I suppose, they didn’t care to.
Q: Will we see Cowher on the NFL sidelines again?
A: I fully expect it. They’ll be bidding like crazy for him because he won a Super Bowl. He was very successful.
Q: What’s the first advice you’d give to new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin?
A: I’d give him no advice, except, “Be yourself.” I learned a long time ago, winning coaches vary a great deal in their approach and methods. Bill Cowher was a motivator. Chuck Noll would have nothing to do with motivation. Noll said all the time he wanted self-starters, and if you had to motivate a guy, he shouldn’t be there. Tomlin, obviously, is a guy that just blew away the Rooneys. All of sudden, he jumped over the other candidates. They’re pretty good judges, I would think, the Rooneys are. Tomlin, obviously, brings something with him, but you never know what a coach will do, whether he’ll win or lose. That’s impossible to predict with a guy who’s never been a head coach.
Q: What’s your take on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s rocky season?
A: There’s the theory he was brought back too soon. There’s a theory that the (motorcycle) accident and the appendectomy were what ruined his season. But in my view, the thing that ruined the season was that the offensive line – not each man, but as a unit — the offensive line stunk. He got no protection in many of the games, that is.
Q: Do you question the coaches playing Roethlisberger the way they did, starting him in so many early season games?
A: The guy’s a football player. The doc said he was ready. So play him. I still believe he’s going to be a great quarterback. I may be all wet on that, but that continues to be my belief, as it was from the beginning.
Q: Is it time for Mario Lemieux and the Penguins to get the deal done with the city and state and secure their future here?
A: The sooner it gets done the better I’ll feel, because I think it’s very important when you look at Pittsburgh as a city and region. That’s where I’m coming from. It’s still a major-league team. I hope it’s concluded in a positive way. Not only do the Penguins have a team that looks like it’s going to be special for a long time, it’s important to businesses around town. But I’ve always been a lousy negotiator from the time I sold my first house, so who am I to sit here and guess what’s going to happen over there?
Q: Many golfers would sell their second car for a tee time at Oakmont Country Club, the site of this year’s U.S. Open. You’ve often said you don’t care for the course. Why’s that?
A: Understand that I still haven’t broken 100 (anywhere), and I never will. So putting me out on Oakmont, you’re putting the wrong guy out there. After playing the place several times, I came to the conclusion that it was no fun spending the day in sand. So for at least 15 years now I’ve turned down invitations to play there because when you go out to play golf, you should have fun. And I had to give up golf five years ago because my legs won’t take it.
Q: Where do you see Pitt’s football program headed under coach Dave Wannstedt?
A: First of all, the Big East has turned out to be a much tougher football conference than anyone expected. It may be tougher than the ACC, where the faint of heart, or the greedy, moved to from the Big East. So far, the Big East is looking like one tough league, so Dave’s job ain’t going to be easy. It appears Dave has always been very good at recruiting because he does get his character across to these recruits. And since I’ve retired from radio and television, I’m no longer a journalist when I’m at a football game or watching one on TV. Now I can be a fan. And I’m a Pitt fan and alum, and I’m rooting like heck for Dave. It’s a luxury that I have now.