I'm not a Steelers' fan by any stretch of the imagination...I'm not even a Bengals fan - but Myron Cope was hilarious to listen to.....but, every "hometown broadcasting legend" has to go at some point.
Cope quits; admits he's lost his edge
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
He has a gargle-with-gravel voice that clangs of vaudevillian shtick rather than the polished prose of his writings. He isn't much taller than a Lombardi Trophy. He has a face made for radio. Yet Myron Cope is as synonymous with the Steelers as anyone not named Rooney.
But plagued by health woes that hoarsened his voice and neutralized his once lightning-quick insights, Cope has thrown in the towel after 35 years as the color analyst on Steeler broadcasts. No more yoi and double yoi, you betcha, hmm-hah and Zounds. The Steeler Nation will be farklempt on game days this fall.
"I'm done, folks," Cope, 76, said in a scratchy, weakened voice.
At a news conference yesterday, Cope couldn't hear well enough to determine where some questions were coming from. He also coughed a time or two, audible evidence of recent bouts of walking pneumonia and a throat condition that required surgery, not to mention the years of smoking and his taste for a toddy or two.
But his anecdotes and one-liners filled the interview room at the Steelers offices with laughter in what turned out to be an appreciation for a uniquely Pittsburgh phenomenon.
After some technical difficulties, Dan Rooney called from his vacation in Ireland to send his regards and wish Cope the best.
"Myron always made it fun for everyone," Rooney said.
Team president Art Rooney II presented Cope with a game ball from the last game he broadcast -- the AFC title game against the Patriots that ended in a disappointing defeat but set a record for the waving of Terrible Towels, a Cope creation.
"Myron put color into color analyst," said Art Rooney, seated at Cope's right hand.
To allow fans an opportunity to show their appreciation to the man who analyzed 35,000 plays, give or take a couple thousand, the Steelers are holding a Myron Cope Night on Monday, Oct. 31, Read into what you will that the date falls on Halloween.
Most of the assembled media horde, which sat between eight TV camera tripods and Cope seated at a table, weren't born when Cope became a broadcast analyst in 1970, the year that Three Rivers Stadium opened. Those who remember Cope as a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or Sports Illustrated could be counted on one hand.
Despite episodes such as falling and suffering a concussion last November, Cope had intended to return to the booth this year, convinced that his voice therapy sessions would have him ready to go.
But he had made a pact with Joe Gordon, the former director of media relations for the Steelers, that he would retire if he lost his edge. And Gordon paid a visit to Cope's home on Friday, June 10, with a very specific purpose in mind.
That meeting went like this:
"You've told me many times that if I ever detected you slipping in your broadcasts, I should tell you and you would retire. Well, last year, maybe the last couple of years, you started slipping. At times, your focus on the field wasn't right. Your health has affected your work," Gordon told him.
Cope said he gave it about 10 seconds of thought, then replied: "That's that. I'm through."
Cope insisted he was OK with the decision.
"It takes a very special friend to tell you the truth when he knows it's going to hurt," Cope said. "He's absolutely right. I could see it in the tapes. There were situations in games involving the clock and strategy when I was shutting up. I wasn't sure of myself."
It was Gordon who helped Cope get the job in the first place, even though Cope had never been trained in broadcasting.
In 1970, the Steelers had moved from KDKA to WTAE because they felt they were playing second fiddle to the Pirates. Dick Stockton was lined up as the analyst, but he balked at sharing the play-by-play with the late Jack Fleming. When the job re-opened, Gordon recommended Cope, just as the Steelers were beginning their Super Bowl run.
Cope never fit the mold of the corporate broadcaster with a perfect coif and melodious voice. But Steelers fans found it a must to tune into his shows before and after the games, or the radio talk show Cope had for nearly 22 years. It was a custom to turn down the sound on TV games and listen to Cope on the radio.
"The reason he was so good was that nobody worked harder. Nobody cared more. And the reason he was slipping was he couldn't put in the prep time," Gordon said. "He had such high standards. He had such creativity. He survived in that jungle because he had respect for athletes, respect for coaches and respect for fans. In all the years he had the talk show, I never heard him insult a caller."
And Cope has shoes that can't be filled, no matter what direction the broadcasts go in the future.
"There will never be another Cope," Gordon said. "There's no cookie cutter here. There's only one Cope."
Cope had a clownish side. He once did a parody of M.C. Hammer and did a video of the Macarena. At Christmas, he'd perform football-themed carols such as "Deck the Broncos, they're just Yonkos, fah-ga-ga-ga-gah, ga-ga-ga-gah."
He's been published five times and is planning a sixth book during his retirement. Some of his books are sports classics, including "Broken Cigars," "The Game That Was," "Off My Chest" and his memoir "Double Yoi!" A profile he wrote of Howard Cosell in 1974 is being reprinted in an anthology by Sports Illustrated.
Inevitably, the question was asked about how he wants to be remembered, and Cope responded with humor.
"When I kick the bucket, there'll be a little story there that'll say, 'Creator of Towel Dead,' " he laughed.
Turning serious, he added: "I made it as a writer. That's what I was trained to be, and that's what I wanted to be most. I had a gift for it. I would like to be remembered as a pretty decent writer. This is what was dear to me."
At one point in the proceedings, Cope did a passable impression of coach Bill Cowher reading off player injuries, which was fitting in that Cowher proclaimed last year that "Myron is Pittsburgh."
That led to a Cope moment.
"Maybe some of you could deliver a message for me to Ben [Roethlisberger] and Tommy Maddox," Cope said. "Namely, if they still have a brain in their head, the brain God gave them, they'll take their motorcycles to the nearest bridge and push them off -- if for no other reason that they have 50-some teammates depending on them. And I don't know that that's ever crossed their minds."
Copeisms to remember:
Part of the charm of Myron Cope was his ability to create phrases that stuck not only with him but with his listeners. Here are some well-known Copeisms:
YOI: An expression to use when things are going bad.
DOUBLE YOI: When things are going really bad.
HMM-HAH: Signaling a pause or an end to the conversation with emphasis.
OKLE DOKLE: Okay
TODDY: A cocktail
COPE-A-NUT: An honor bestowed on a particularly brilliant talk-show caller.
DALLAS CRYBOYS: Dallas Cowboys
WASH DIRTYSKINS: Washington Redskins
WYCKY WACKY: Former Bengals Coach Sam Wyche
CLEVE BROWNIES: Cleveland Browns
BYE NOW: Goodbye
EMPEROR CHAZ: Chuck Noll
DUMB-KOPF: A not-too-bright person.
Cope was not the first to use the term Cincinnati "Bungals," he only popularized it. It was coined by former Pittsburgh Press sports writer Glenn Sheeley.