Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: The Keys to the Keystone State

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book I Liked It Better When Home Run Hitters Drank Like Fish. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show 4th and Forever. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Within the week, we could witness something truly historic. Something that people have been waiting for, hoping for, some even praying for, for years. Centuries, even. And when that moment happens, I will stand and applaud with my fellow Americans, maybe choke back a tear, and wonder what wonders the future holds for all of us.

Of course, I’m speaking of the possibility of an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl.

Some people like to think of how far we’ve come, but I wonder why it’s taken us this long. Do you realize that before this weekend, two Pennsylvania teams had never even made the semifinals of any major professional sport at the same time? That is a shame our nation must live with.

I’ve been dreaming of this day for as long as I’ve been writing about sports. Some time in the late 70s, when both the Phillies and Pirates were contenders, I imagined how great it would be like if they faced each other in the World Series.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that they face each other in the regular season all the time, and that they couldn’t possibly face each other in the World Series since they’re both NL teams. Still, I was inspired to pen this:

The battle lines have been drawn in the Keystone State. From Broad Street to Liberty Avenue. From the Schuylkill to the Allegheny. From Veterans  to Three Rivers. From King of Prussia to Lebanon. From Geno’s to Primanti’s.

It goes on for another four pages, but you get the idea. I’ve been sitting on this literary gem for almost 30 years. And now, finally, I may just have the chance to use it!

McNabb vs. Roethlisberger: What else happening this week could possibly be so historic?

I’m not from Pennsylvania. I haven’t met too many people from there. In fact, I’ve only been there a couple of times, back when I was on the NHL beat, which was not a happy time for me. I don’t want to tell tales out of school, but it turns out that Bobby Clarke was not a very nice person!

Still, this event is bigger than Pennsylvania. This event transcends state lines. County lines, even.

It is a final reckoning that we have come to. It is the first real recognition that we, as a nation, have finally progressed to the point where we can allow two teams from the Pennsylvania to possibly face one another in the Super Bowl. And one day, you can tell your grandkids you were there to see it all.

As hard as it may be to believe, there are some people who don’t understand the historic import of this event. My editor, for instance. I told him I wanted to take a road trip next Tuesday, make a few stops in Pennsylvania and gauge people’s reaction. I even brought him a map of all the Wawa’s I planned to hit.

He gave me this funny look and wondered why I wanted to go on Tuesday. Apparently there’s some big political thing going on that day and he figures everyone should be as into it as he is. To each his own, I guess, but I don’t understand how someone could be so insulated that they can’t see the big picture.

McNabb vs. Roethlisberger. Reid vs. Tomlin. Dawkins vs. Polamalu. Westbrook vs. Parker. Are you telling me there’s something huger, something more historic than that happening right now?

If there is, I don’t want to know about it.

* * *

I also hope for a Philly-Pittsburgh Super Bowl because I’m having a hard time coming up with storylines for a Baltimore-Arizona Super Bowl.

For Baltimore, I thought I could compare the Ravens players to characters from The Wire, but I’ve never really seen that show. Then I thought about doing something similar with Homicide, but I never saw that show, either. I’d rent them and catch up, but the local Blockbuster doesn’t have either show on VHS.

I’ve played around with the idea of using some other famous Baltimorean. Like Barry Levinson, or H.L. Mencken. Except I’ve never watched or written anything these guys did either. I can’t remember–was H.L. Mencken a writer, or an actor, or a serial killer?

As for Arizona, I guess I could write a profile on Kurt Warner. He wasn’t even expected to start this year, and now here he is, one win away from the Big Dance, eight years after his last trip to the Super Bowl.

Kurt Warner: Not a Klansman. (Sorry, Kurt!)

Unfortunately, I doubt I could get any face time with Kurt. He’s still a bit miffed at me about the last time I interviewed him. It seems I misheard something he said, and my article accidentally implied that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

For the life of me, I still don’t know how that happened. Personally, I think the whole thing was totally overblown in the media. I’d refer you to the article and let readers judge for themselves, but it was removed from my paper’s online archives after our offices were nearly burnt down by an angry mob. Boy, it was hard pulling my keister out of the fire that time!

And I mean that literally, because someone actually tried to light my keister on fire.

* * *

Some things I think about things that I think:

* If Kevin James doesn’t get another series after Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you’ll know something awful has happened.

* Even if Manny Ramirez does sign a lucrative contract, I’m convinced he will never get into heaven.

* My doctor says if I don’t stop getting triple mocha lattes twice a day, they’ll have to amputate at least one of my feet. So I guess I’ll have to learn to walk on crutches!

* I have not watched a single NBA game this season. And yet, Kobe Bryant is better than ever.

* Everyone says The Godfather is one of the best movies ever made. But at the risk of being unpopular, I think I agree with that statement.

* I’d been thinking about upgrading from my VCR for a while, but I wasn’t sure what to get in its place. Luckily, this kid down the block sold me his HD-DVD player and 50 discs for only $2500. So take that, early adopters–sometimes it pays to be patient!

* Until Tiger Woods returns to action, I refuse to believe that the game of golf exists.

* Sometimes, it’s the simple things that pick you up when you’re down. Like milk and cookies. Nothing makes me feel better than milk and cookies after a long, bumper-to-bumper commute! Or when my wife comes home at 4 in the morning smelling like some other guy’s cologne!

* Is Danny Aiello doing anything anymore? If not, he should be.