Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Buy Sam a Drink: 3rd String QB vs. 1st Line Winger

I normally run this column on Wednesdays, but I don’t know exactly what I will be doing tomorrow for the fourth. Additionally, since many of these have been rather depressing topics, I thought I would choose a more cheery topic on the eve of July 4th. Some might argue that the job market in Pittsburgh is a little down, but regardless of such criticisms, two of the best jobs in town always seem to be open every year. The question is, which one is better?

With winner’s buying the drinks, it’s time to find out…


See who really has the dream job after the jump.

It is a rite of fading summer that one hears the following argument from a fellow yinzer: “Ya know, ‘at kid dey got back ‘air behind Chaz Batch/Tommy Maddox/Kordell/Kent Graham/etc. looks good. They oughta give him a shot”. It is even more likely that you hear a radio talk-head say something to the effect of “yes, well, we all know that the 3rd string quarterback of the Steelers has the best job in town”.

There is certainly some verity to such a statement. The likes of Anthony Wright, Mike Quinn, Tee Martin, and hometown favorite Pete Gonzalez (admit it, you wanted to see Pete Gonzalez get some garbage time) held the position as admirably as they held the starter’s clipboard, attaining a cult-like following of Steelers fans whom irreconcilably thought they deserved a chance.

The obvious glory behind being the 3rd string QB is that the first time the starter falters (and the starter inevitably does falter every pre-season), the third amigo starts looking like a better option. Of course, there is no way in Ron Cook’s Column (hell, for the out-of-towners) that the 3rd stringer will have any significant weight placed on his shoulders, but a few 4th quarter completions against the Panthers undrafted safeties and the 3rd stringer suddenly has a good release, a strong arm, a calm presence…all while retaining no chance whatsoever of altering the team’s fate in any way.

Conversely, the first-line winger for the Pens over the years has had an enormous impact on the Penguins fortunes, although such impact is hardly derived from the winger’s own ability. In 1984, Warren Young was likely fresh off food stamps as a 28 year old rookie, and yet he scored 40 goals playing next to a 19 year old rookie fresh off a 83 kajillion point season at Laval. Rob Brown had 49 goals and 66 assists in ’88-89 playing next to Mario, a statistical aberration by all accounts. Kip Miller had a modest 42 points next to Mario, a far cry from his 102 point breakout season with the Utah Grizzlies, but by far his best NHL numbers. And obviously players like Stevens, Tocchet, Jagr, and other stars flourished while on Mario’s line.

The jury is somewhat still out, so to speak, on Crosby. Ryan Malone has struggled playing with him (the struggles being, oh, I’d say 100% Malone’s own doing) and Recchi had stretches where he couldn’t find the net. The NHL is different now, though, and it is harder for one player to dominate at will and set up teammates like Mario did in the open-ice era of ‘80s hockey. Yet for anyone who has watched Penguins games live these past two years, it is an elemental NHL truth that Sidney Crosby will make many, many horrid hockey players very, very wealthy.

Although ultimately all 3rd string signal callers and unskilled first line wingers have unsuccessful careers, one or two have been able to cash in. Anthony Wright has made some dough, mostly because of the atrocious quality of NFL quarterbacks. Warren Young cashed in with the Detroit Red Wings, and then proceeded to have 32 goals the rest of his NHL career. As for the rest, Rob Brown would be in the minors a few short years after playing with Mario, Tee Martin is coaching small-time college football, Mike Quinn was released by a CFL team last year, and, as painful a joke as it is to make, Pete Gonzalez is probably bagging groceries in Uniontown (if someone knows his true whereabouts, do tell). Both jobs are nice for a while, but as the fun begins to wane, reality, like a drunken college friend, always seems to knock on the door, puke in the bathroom, and crash on your couch with no intention of going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

So which job is better? The no-pressure, all-glory iconic status of being the Steelers unlikely 3rd string hand-off man? Or shoveling pucks into the twine as the Civic Arena erupts and Mario Lemieux smiles at you like the lucky son of a bitch you are? From a pressure standpoint, the QB job is the obvious pick. Nothing is expected of you, whereas if you fail to produce whilst taking the ice with the greatest player in the game, you might as well start memorizing the local garbage truck route.

But while the third string QB is obviously an easier job, which one would you honestly rather do? Hold a PAT here and there and carry a clipboard? Or take passes from one of the greatest players in the game, be it Sidney or Mario, whether you produce or you don’t? Both jobs land you in no man’s land once you are through, so you might as well have some fun while you’re doing it. My grandkids would likely sit in amazement as I told them about playing in a tight game in the third period with Mario/Sidney. They would probably question the circumstances and logistics of their birth if I told them I stood on the sideline and slapped Ben Roethlisberger’s ass every time he came off the field.

So hey, Penguins first line winger!


(Ryan Malone, Brian St. Pierre, and Sam sharing a drink…only at Doubt About it could this ever be plausible)


Anonymous said...

Pete Gonzales has been found! Its possible he is bagging groceries in Unionville but he definetly dropped off his dirty clothes at the local dry cleaners in downtown Mars, PA on 9/20/2007. He was ahead of me in line as I was dropping off a few items. I didn't recognize him but after he left the lady at the dry cleaners asked me if I knew who he was and I said no. She explained that he was Pete Gonzales the ex-Steelers quarterback. Being that I never saw him in person before that day I was a little bit skeptacle so I went home and looked him up on the web. After all, how many people out there could recognize an ex-3rd string QB in person 8 years after he left the league! OK OK I know what your saying "Well the Dry cleaner lady recognized him so why didn't you?" right? I'm guessing he is a regular at this dry cleaners and she just recognized the name from seeing him all the time. Sure enough the pick I found of him on the web confirmed the dry cleaner's observations. It was him! My guess is he probably lives in the Mars/Seven Fields/Adams Ridge area in Southern Butler county. If he lived in the larger metropolis of Cranberry he would probably be a regular at one of the many dry cleaners in Cranberry Twp. but he didn't and choose the only dry cleaners in Mars.

Unknown said...

Pete is a vice president of a prominant local oil and gas company. Making more than Brian St. Piere I can assure you!