Cope-ing Mechanism | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Cope-ing Mechanism

Our correspondent's troubled history with a local icon

Myron doesn't like me any more.


I've had a weird relationship with retired sportscasting legend Myron Cope ever since he came on my old TV talk show in the late '90s. TV sportscaster Sam Nover suggested that I ask Myron about his real name, Myron Copleman. It seemed like a legitimate question; I wasn't aware of the intense rivalries between local sportscasters, rivalries that sometimes bordered on hatred. I assumed Myron changed his name for show-biz purposes, because "Cope" rolls off the tongue better.


On the air, Myron explained that at the time, the Post-Gazette was afraid of using Jewish surnames on its reporters' bylines. I asked how he decided on Cope. He said "just picked it out of a phone book." That made no sense; it was obviously just his old name shortened.


Then when we went to commercial, Myron began screaming at me. "Do you know how upsetting it is to have to tell your parents you can't use your God-given name on the byline? You set me up, you set me up! Where did you get that question? Nover? He's the kind of guy who'll smile to your face and stick a shiv in your back."


Whoa. To this day I'm, not sure why that question was out of bounds. But I do suspect Nover did give me the question for his own personal amusement. Welcome to broadcasting.


Years went by, but Cope wouldn't do my show. I'd call periodically, but he was still clearly upset over the incident. He indicated he didn't necessarily blame me personally; he was more upset at Nover.


Myron wrote about it in his book Double Yoi: He misspelled my name, but I was honored just to have been mentioned in this extremely funny, much-beloved local character's book.


And the book is the reason Myron finally came back on my TV show. He was promoting it and had to make the rounds. We had a pleasant enough on-air conversation, and this appearance ended without incident. "Whew," I thought, not wanting to piss off the icon twice.


But after Myron's appearance, I had a conversation with obnoxiously effervescent (and I say that as a compliment) radio host Mark Madden. He said he was disappointed in me for having Myron on the show after, in his view, Myron had been so rude the first time by yelling at me over the Copleman question. Here were yet two more sportscasters who despised one another, as both freely admit.


My TV show was not a sports show by any means, but you can't do talk TV or talk radio in this town without the occasional sportsy interview. I put Madden on the show from time to time. He invariably showed up wearing some colorful Hawaiian shirt to cover his substantial girth.


Mark is a funny interview, and one of the things he liked to go on about is his distaste for Myron. He would call Cope a "clown" or a "has-been" or various other terms of disparagement. I would laugh. Who else makes fun of the icon around here? Everyone tippy-toes around the inventor of the Terrible Towel.


Flash forward to a few months ago. Myron was being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. The ceremony was to be broadcast live on KDKA Radio, where I am now employed.


Myron agreed to do a brief phone interview that night. The interview concluded with me saying, "Have a toddy for me Myron," and him saying, "You must be a drunk." I explained that I was, but that I couldn't drink until I got off the air -- as he knew. Then I added, "Or maybe you wouldn't know about that," jokingly referencing his numerous on-air remarks about enjoying a "toddy."


"Yeah, thanks for that," he replied.


Because I thought everything was fine, I was taken aback when I called Myron for a pre-Super Bowl interview and was again subjected to a classic Cope tirade.


"Call me never," he bellowed, charging me with having been a "participant" in Mark Madden's disrespectful remarks on my old TV show. Curious, then, that he had come on when it was Hall of Fame night.


In Pittsburgh, old grudges never die. Nor do they fade away.


Goodbye, Myron. I'll have a toddy for you.

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