The reason this column has never met the idea of a new Igloo for the
Penguins head on is
ultimately pretty simple. It's because a new Igloo never makes it past
the "Well, duh" test most
American kids learn right around the third grade.
Will the Penguins benefit from a new Igloo? Will it keep them in town,
raise profits, enhance the
game experience for the fans, and allow the team to be more active in
signing free agents and
keeping top-tier talent?
Will a new multi-purpose Igloo also benefit the city not just in the
short term with construction
jobs, but in the long term as well?
Of course, the issue is somehow not that simple for the people who are
making the decisions so
there's been a lot of hand-wringing and head scratching going on around
town for a couple of
years. Unfortunately, as each year slides subtly into the next with no
new building plan in
place, the Penguins get that much closer to extinction and with every
self-serving sound-bite the
Sports and Exhibition Authority or the honorable Mayor Murphy trots out
whenever one of them
deigns to address the issue, Mario Lemieux ends up looking more and
more like a chump for saving
the team in the first place.
Maybe that's why Penguin fans probably shouldn't have been at all
surprised when the team recently
threw its lot in with the slot machine crowd. Hey, when you're not
getting the help you need from
the usual suspects, you've got to get creativeand creative is just
what the Penguins got.
There's probably some argument to be had about whether the Penguins
ever honestly had another,
viable plan for a new building before horseracing came thundering down
the stretch and to the
rescue, but at least now there's something on the table that would
solve the problem.
Ah, if only the story could end there we could all live happily ever
But it wouldn't be a story about the Penguins if didn't involve solving
one problem only to create
a few more in the process, now would it?
If the anti-arena folk didn't have enough to complain about, now there
is another reason to rally
against a new home for Pittsburgh's favorite fowl (although 'rally' is
mostly a symbolic term in
this case since the anti-arena crowd seems far more content to simply
write the occasional letter
as opposed to actually getting out of their easy chair).
Nonetheless, the reason for concern is whether or not the otherwise
utterly wholesome sport of
hockeyyou know, the one where a bunch of guys hopped up on Sudafed can
bloodying each other to a pulp for good moneyshould be sullied by the
likes of gambling.
Never mind the fact that slot machines are to gambling what McDonald's
is to a balanced diet, for
the self-appointed enforcers of America's collective moral rectitude,
if it walks like a game of
chance, it's gambling. (In all fairness to the aforementioned moral
jackboots, noted ethical
brownshirt Bill Bennett would have been asked to comment on this column
were it not for a massive
conflict of interest.)
In reality, slot machines are gambling's answer to competitive coin
flipping, only they require
less dexterity and feature worse odds. All you really need to know
about slot machines is that
Las Vegas can't put them in fast enough. If that doesn't tell you that
there's a sucker born
every minute, nothing will.
Still, at a time when the Penguins need all the support they can get,
they instead find themselves
in the unenviable position of playing moral relativist; pitching the
idea that, under the
circumstances, they've got no choice but to take this money if they
can. That their truth is,
this is the only way they survive.
Besides, the money would do far more for the Penguins (and in turn the
city) than it would lining
some politician's pocketswhich is an excellent point. Not to mention
that the state is
going to have slots in some form somewhere, so the money might as well
go to a local institution
like the Penguins. The Penguins have at least some ability to have a
direct, positive effect on
the immediate community as opposed to a corporation that may or may not
decide to reinvest in the
area, or the state which could easily take the money to Harrisburg
never to be seen again.
But that doesn't mean this debate is going to play better with the
people who heretofore had no
reason to argue with the moral standing of the Penguins' business
associates. Nor will it help
the Penguins' image much.
If only the scene involved orphans or kittens or something
unquestionably lovable lending a
helping hand to the Penguins instead of some smarmy stereotype who's
got an old cigar between his
lips and the Daily Racing Form tucked under his arm.
Yes, slot machines might be good for business, but there's substantial
evidence that they're bad
for pretty much everybody else. They don't create skilled labor
positions and anytime you're
selling the idea that someone might get rich for only a quarter (or, in
the case of the lottery, a
dollar) your target market is probably going to be made up of people
who'd generally be far better
served saving their money instead of closing their eyes and crossing
Unfortunately, that's the way things are for the Penguins these days.
There's a lot of wishing
and hoping, and there's this sort of unspoken fantasy that one day soon
everything's going to be
all right because money won't be an issue any more.
In other words, maybe the Penguins and slot machines were made for each
other from the start.
Of course, it's hard not to think that it would be nicer if Penguin fans
could spend the summer
discussing how the Lemieux era officially ended with the drafting the
first franchise Penguin who
will almost certainly never play a full season with Mario Lemieux. Even if fans could just
kick around ways head man Ed Olczyk might succeed in his rookie
campaign behind the benchor
dream about how the Penguins might bring in just one good free agent so that
Mario's grand finale could end
with one last scoring title (not that the Penguins will or should bring
somebody in just for that
reason, but it's always nice to dream).
But, no. Instead Penguin fans end up with two cherries and a lemon.
Honestly, only the Penguins could pull something like that off. Only
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com during the season and when he's
not knee deep in a Pick
Six at Santa Anita during the offseason. Come on, Number Nine, daddy
needs a new pair of