Let’s travel back in time to the summer of 2012, when I was doing a weekly sports podcast with my good buddy Trent the Penguin. One of the gimmicks was that Penguin would do a hockey update and I would have no idea what the heck he was talking about. See, the extent of my hockey knowledge encompassed some Cincinnati Cyclones games I’d attended as a kid, and the NHL I’d seen on ESPN back when ESPN covered the sport. As years passed by my exposure to hockey had grown pretty much non-existent. I was an American, and the sport really died off due to the combination of lockouts & ESPN dropping it. It was what it was.
We have a lot of Canadians posting over at offtheteam.com, and they loved hearing about the hockey. I decided it would be a good idea for the podcast if I got more interested in the sport and was able to comment on what the Penguin was talking about. I also figured it would be easier to do this if I picked a favorite team. There were three main factors that led me towards my Nashville Predators fandom…
1. I needed to be able to watch the team on a regular basis. This narrowed my choices to the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose games are carried on Fox Sports Ohio, and the Predators, whose games are carried on Fox Sports South.
2. Jeremy Lambert suggested the Predators.
3. I was tired of rooting for teams from Ohio that regularly lost to teams from Pittsburgh. It was time to switch things up! The Predators play in the Western Conference & only see the Pittsburgh Penguins twice per season, so I don’t have to deal with Pittsburgh Fan much if at all. I hear more than enough from them during football season so it’s nice to get a break from them for part of the year.
I probably should have seen it coming.
Of course the Predators would have to go through a Pittsburgh-based team in order to lift the Stanley Cup. I could only avoid Pittsburgh for so long before they came back into my life and made their unwanted presence known.
The Pens/Preds all-time record is as close as can be. Pittsburgh has 12 wins to Nashville’s 11, with two ties thrown in because the NHL used to have them. Nashville dominated with a 8-3-1 record in the 2000s, but Pittsburgh holds a 8-3 advantage in the 2010s. There aren’t a lot of memorable moments featuring these two teams together, the main one that sticks out to me comes from October 22, 2016.
About half of Nashville’s team came down with food poisoning during their trip to Detroit the night prior to hosting the Penguins, and they had to scrap together a roster with a bunch of AHL players coming down from Milwaukee. I think one of the Preds’ radio announcers was tapped as the backup goalie. Not much was expected this evening, but the patchwork Preds somehow managed to blow the defending Stanley Cup Champions out of Bridgestone Arena. Viktor Arvidsson & Kevin Fiala benefitted from the extra playing time with two goals each, and goalie Juuse Saros did the type of job that had people wondering for much of the season if he deserved more playing time at the expense of Pekka Rinne.
The Pens & Preds also had a fun trade in 2014, when Pittsburgh sent James Neal to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist. It was one of those trades where both sides won, as Neal & Hornqvist have both been solid players for their squads and part of the reason why they’re here. Hornqvist missed most of the Eastern Conference Final due to injury, but is working his way back and hopes to be ready for Game 1.
Most of my fellow Predator fans may be in the process of learning how to properly hate Pittsburgh, but I’m way ahead of them here. I have had a bitter hatred towards the city of Pittsburgh ever since I can remember, purely based on sporting events. Each of my other teams has some sort of history with Pittsburgh, and I thought it would be appropriate to chronicle it now before the Ultimate Showdown between myself & the city Bret Hart correctly described as the proper place in the United States to stick the enema tube into.
(Big ups to mcubed.net for providing the numerical information and most of the dates for this column. God bless the Internet.)
Reds vs Pirates
Cincinnati has a losing record all time of 1142-1172 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Reds hold the more important victories in the series and haven’t had a losing decade against the Pirates since the 1960s. Pittsburgh dominated Cincinnati from the 1900s through the 1930s, with the Reds coming back in the 40s & 50s and holding the lead for most seasons ever since. More importantly than all that, the Reds hold a 13-8 playoff record against the Pirates, having topped the Pirates in the 1970, 1972, 1975 & 1990 National League Championship Series. The Pirates did get one over in 1979 and also won a Wild Card Game over Cincinnati in 2013, but for the most part the Reds have dominated the Pirates in October.
Obviously I wasn’t around for the 1970s, but the 1990 NLCS holds a special place for me as one of my first vivid Reds memories. This play in particular by Eric Davis that saved a run and possibly the series for the Reds is one of those plays that I’ll never forget:
One of my personal favorite Jack Buck calls. The Pirates have gotten better recently after years of dwelling in the cellar of the NL Central, but have also developed a penchant for throwing at people for no good reason. The Reds occasionally decide to defend themselves, and hijinks ensue. As far as Reds rivalries go they’re pretty high up there due to postseason history and general dislike between the cities.
Louisville vs Pittsburgh
When my Louisville Cardinal sports teams moved to the Big East Conference in 2005, one of the many adversaries we gained was the University of Pittsburgh. I figured it would be natural to hate the Panthers just like I hated everything else coming out of Pittsburgh, but even though both schools moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference and still play each other yearly in sports except football, the rivalry hasn’t really caught on.
The football Panthers hold a 9-8 lead over Louisville, with a 5-4 record since they’ve been in the same conference. They played every year they were in the Big East, but have only played once since entering the ACC due to being in separate divisions. They won’t meet again until 2022. It’s tough to build up bitter feelings towards somebody you only see every seven years. There aren’t even any memorable Louisville vs. Pittsburgh games I can mention off the top of my head either. They were all just kind of there.
The basketball rivalry got off to a pretty good start, as Jamie Dixon had the Panthers ranked more often than not during the 2000s. They were always a threat in the Big East Conference and gave Louisville headaches while winning five of their eight games from 2006-2010. January 2010 was the last time Pitt beat the Cards in basketball, as Louisville holds the last ten victories in their series with the Panthers. Their most recent meeting was a 55-point beatdown in Pittsburgh. The ACC schedule rotation currently has Pitt & Louisville as permanent home & away opponents, so at least it’s an active rivalry if not very competitive lately.
The most memorable U of L/Pitt game (other than the 55-point victory, which was just delightful to watch as a Card fan) had to be their meeting on February 27, 2011. The Cards managed to get the win over the fourth-ranked Panthers in overtime, but not before an over-excited male cheerleader spiked the ball on the floor and got a technical foul with .3 seconds left to give Pitt two free throws and the ball.
Fortunately it didn’t matter as far as the result went, but there was like a minute there where everybody wanted to murder that kid.
Bengals vs Steelers
You know what? I’ve already covered this one on numerous occasions, so we really don’t need to get into it. Suffice it to say that the Steelers rank as my most hated professional sports team by a pretty wide margin. I might even rank them ahead of the University of Kentucky. It’s an amazing statement to make, but the Steelers just really grind my gears.
Pittsburgh Sports Fans
For the record, I don’t have a problem with the Pittsburgh sports fans that I actually know. Larry Csonka has been one of my biggest supporters & closest associates for years. A number of past & present 411 writers also fall under the Pittsburgh tent, and they’ve all been perfectly fine to deal with outside of football season. Something about those towels makes most of them completely insufferable for a few months. Other than that, my Pittsburgh friends are A-OK with me. I have no problem with the city itself except for their sports teams, except for one blight on humanity that I had to put up with on WCW television and for some reason still has a radio show in the Pittsburgh market.
This fricking guy. If there’s a radio host more annoying than Colin Cowherd, it’s this fricking guy. How you Pittsburghers put up with that voice on your airwaves on a daily basis, I’ll never know.
I should mention that there is one other guy I know that’s a Penguins fan. Remember Trent from the first paragraph? Yup. If I remember correctly, he started rooting for them because he has this obsession with penguins going back to when he was a child. It’s a little weird, but it’s probably one of his fan choices that made the most sense. Usually it’s whoever he liked playing as on Nintendo. I have yet to come up with a wager on the series with the Penguin, but it might involve one of us leaving offtheteam.com forever.
It should be noted that the Predators have already defeated two teams representing cities that I have ongoing issues with. Chicago has been a thorn in my side lately ever since the Cubs started winning and their fans got big heads about it. I’ve been dealing with St. Louis fans longer than I care to remember thanks to the Cardinals’ dominance of the NL Central in the twenty-first century. Hopefully the Preds can run the NL Central gauntlet and find their way to the most improbable Stanley Cup victory since I’ve been watching hockey.
And if they can’t, I’m going to get Bret to find that enema tube.