The year 2016 will be known as the time Lord Stanley made his return to Pittsburgh. But it wasn’t all good news. The city of Cleveland came within a game of being called the City of Champions, the Pirates took a step back, and the Steelers stumbled out of the gate. James Connor’s season brightened an otherwise gloomy year, but things always have a way of balancing themselves out. So we here at Cheap Seats don’t just award the good times; we also recognize those we’d rather forget. Without further ado, we are proud to present the Second-Annual Besties and Worsties.
The Bestie for “Best Steelers Running-Back Performance After a Controlled-Substance Suspension” — also known as the Tim Worley Award — goes to Le’Veon Bell. After a nice three-game rest, Bell came out and attacked the record books. He had a 236-yard game against Buffalo, breaking the team record for most rushing yards in a single game.
The Worstie for “Worst Pirates Trade of the Year” — also known as the Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback, and Bobby Hill Award — goes to the Neil Walker trade. The Bucs sent the hometown kid and second-most recognizable Pirate to the Mets for another Jeff Locke, although this one was named Jon Niese. In fact, he was so Locke-like that they traded him back to the Mets. But in return, we didn’t get Neil Walker; we got Antonio Bastardo, a pitcher the Pirates let go earlier in the year.
The Bestie for “Best Beating-Up of a Bully” — also known as the Bill Mazeroski Award —goes to Duquesne men’s basketball coach Jim Ferry. Ferry ended Pitt’s bullying dominance in the City Game as the Dukes brought bragging rights back to Uptown. The last time Duquesne beat Pitt, people were talking on their landline phones about floppy disks and hanging chads.
The Worstie for “Most Painful Championship to Watch” — the Ravens vs. 49ers Super Bowl Award — goes to the World Series. It was the Cubs, a division rival and perennial loser, against Cleveland. There was nobody to root for. It was like watching a Capitals/Flyers playoff game or the Browns playing the Bengals. You just root for the one you hate so much more.
The Bestie for “Best Beatdown of the Orange” — also known as the 2016 Pitt Panther Award — goes to the 2016 Pitt Panthers. Pitt beat (I refuse to say “squeezed”) Syracuse 76-61 in a football game with a basketball score. Syracuse allowed a Pitt touchdown almost every four minutes of the game. It’s a wonder Pitt’s defense was on the field long enough to allow 61 points of its own.
The Worstie for “Multiple Infractions of the Law in One Year” — also known as the Paul Spadafora Award — goes to Paul Spadafora. As this issue was going to press, Spadafora had been arrested for allegedly stabbing his brother in the leg, assaulting his mother, and threatening to kill police officers who had to use a Taser to deliver a knockout punch to the former world boxing champ. In April, he was also accused of putting a 63-year-old woman in a headlock at a McKees Rocks bar, drinking her beer, and then dragging her outside and throwing her to the ground. Earlier in the month, a convenience-store employee said the pugilist was holding a blueberry muffin in one hand and a “tactical knife” in the other. His lawyer told reporters that Spaddy was using the knife to spread butter on his muffin.
The Bestie for “Being Able to Bring the Stanley Cup to a Bar When You’re 22 Years Old” — also known as the Jaromir Jagr Award — goes to Matt Murray. Jagr had a Cup even before he could legally drink or gamble. But winning a Stanley Cup while you’re turning 22 isn’t bad either. Lord Stanley would make a great wingman or conversation-starter for a young guy at a bar.
And the Worstie for “Worst Loss of the Year” goes to the passing of Arnold Palmer. Arnie was a common man from Western Pennsylvania who infiltrated the country-club elite and then dominated them. Besides the astonishing career accomplishments, Arnie was simply good people.