Central-West Pennsylvania Triumph: The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins & Penn State Football
In 1979 we celebrated the city of Pittsburgh for the championships of the Pirates and Steelers. We’re going back to this market in 2008, but with a different twist. There’s still a Super Bowl champion Steeler team anchoring the sports year. Only now we shift to hockey, where the Penguins reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
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And we’re going to another little twist—this applies only to those Pittsburgh fans who live in the central-western part of the state, where college football loyalties go to Penn State. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl, in what we now know to be Joe Paterno’s final appearance in a major bowl game.
We should also note that it wasn’t a bad year for the central-east part of the state either—you still had Penn State, and the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. But Pittsburgh and Philly are too far apart to have too many crossover fans, so you have to tilt one way or the other. The Penguins success shifts the balance of power west when it comes to top fan market of 2008.
While future success is not a requirement for winning this award, it should be noted that the Penguins’ run to the Finals looks all the better in light of the fact that they returned a year later and finished the job. The Steelers made it back to the Super Bowl two years later, though 2008 was their last title. Only Penn State football, which saw the unspeakable crimes of Jerry Sandusky, and the subsequent media effort to tarnish everyone associated with the program, did not have better days ahead.
For one year in 2008, the Penguins, Steelers and Penn State all came together to make central-west Pennsylvania a truly Happy Valley.
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