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What's with Obama and Pittsburgh, of all places?

Stanley Cup Pittsburgh Penguins

(UPDATE: Due to the interest in this article generated among Pittsburghers, a humorous video has been added below.)

President Obama, who couldn't muster enough interest to drive several blocks from the White House to watch the exciting Washington Capitals during the professional hockey playoffs last spring, has instead invited the hockey team from somewhere in western Pennsylvania all the way over to the presidential residence today.

The Pittsburgh team is champion of something called the National Hockey League, which really should be called the International Hockey League since it's got teams in the U.S. and Canada.

Last winter the American president, who grew up in those known hockey hotbeds of Indonesia and Hawaii, cheered for Pittsburgh's once-woebegone football team because its owner campaigned for him.

And later this month Obama has invited the G-20, the so-called Group of 20 really important global finance ministers and central bank governors, to hold a crucial two-day summit in that ... 

... place, if their pilots can find it on the map. Sure, Joe Biden fled the state. But Pennsylvania has a lot of electoral votes and that turncoat old senator who's now a Democrat.

But Pittsburgh?


The Pittsburgh Penguins are named for a bird unable to fly that doesn't live anywhere near that city. After losing ignominiously in 2008, this year the Pens won something called the Stanley Cup.

Winning that trophy is a very big deal -- in Canada, whose teams have been unable to capture North America's oldest professional sports trophy since seven years back into the last century when a club from somewhere in Quebec sneaked passed the Los Angeles Gretzkys, four games to one.

The cup is a very heavy trophy -- see the team captain struggle with it in the photo above -- awarded to the first NHL team to win 16 playoff games after 82 regular season games. That's a hard thing to do.

Welcome to Pittsburgh

And hockey is a hard game to play with sticks and armored elbows, skating at some 20 miles an hour around opponents approaching at similar speeds and, in between fights, shooting a 7-ounce chunk of rubber at 90+ miles an hour toward a man willingly standing there to stop it.

Which explains why every NHL club employs a team dentist.

The city of Pittsburgh was founded in the early 1800s by Pennsylvanians who weren't strong enough to make it all the way to Ohio or were rejected at that border.

There, at the junction of two dinky Pennsylvania streams that form the mighty Ohio River, they built a city based on making steel. They've had running water, sewers and electricity there for years now.

But when the steel-making thing didn't work out, the rusting burgh turned to building sports stadiums so its people could wave yellow towels and scream obscenities at visiting teams.

That has actually turned out pretty well for people into that sort of thing. As many Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters recall, the state of Pennsylvania is that place that primary candidate Obama was caught on tape saying was full of bitter small-town losers clinging to their guns and religion. He seems to have changed his tune now.

She won the Democratic primary there. But he won the party nomination and the support of the football team's owner. And Obama returned that support at his successful, taxpayer-financed White House Super Bowl party last winter, cheering against Phoenix. See what Arizona gets for electing John McCain?

In fact, the Pittsburgh football team has won so many Super Bowl trophies that the Democrat president may consider passing some of them out to other cities because in a country that can put a man on the moon, no one should feel left out or uncovered.

After nearly moving to Kansas City or back to Canada because they too wanted a new arena, this past year the Pittsburgh hockey team hired enough Canadians and Russians to defeat Detroit's Canadians and Scandinavians in the cup finals that so many people missed on TV.

They'll likely miss today's White House ceremony too because it's conveniently planned for dinnertime, which means fewer U.S. TV crews will bother.

-- Andrew Malcolm

For irregular mockings of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, click here for Twitter alerts on each Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot

Photo credits: Top, Associated Press; bottom, Pennsylvania State Archives (Pittsburgh before it could afford color).
Comments () | Archives (163)

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Mr. Malcolm,

You sir, have definitely completed your mission with success. Your "hits" to this particular article are most likely higher than usual, thus generating further through clicks to the LA Times home page. Although I would expect an article of a higher caliber, it is easy to see your motive. Maybe you can get into psychology in your spare time because the reactions (which I am guessing you were looking for) are truly classic, and probably predicted. I do have to say that the Pittsburgh people should be furious with you... Again, mission accomplished. With someone of your intelligence I am sure that you are able to research the facts for your articles. I am guessing that your lack of that in this article should convey to the readers something that is missed. Even though I did not care for this piece, I have to say that you have created something out of nothing.

You honestly add to people's comments? Wow... can't handle not getting in the last quip?

Maybe if you win a big award someday, the President will have a ceremony for you...

Pittsburgh is the greatest city in the world. I've been all over the country and a few places out of it and nothing compares to Pittsburgh. The city is beautiful, people are friendly, and the love the people have for their sport's teams are like nothing I've ever witnessed before. You have to deal with a little snow and ice every now and again, but sure beats having millions of acres of land destroyed every year by wild fires... Just another reason I will never purchase and or visit the LA Times website again!

Taylor posted my exact thoughts in an earlier comment: "using insults to make a point just makes you look unprofessional."


If hockey isn't for you that's fine.
If winning teams aren't your thing fine.
But go crawl back under the rock that you live under.
I can't believe that people out there read this garbage or that this article was even approved for publishing.
You are part of what is wrong with society.

you're a boy toucher

You are without a doubt the most unintelligent human being in the universe when it comes to sports. It disgusts me that you even talk about hockey, Pittsburgh, or anything sports related. Also, you write like a 6 year old. Why does anyone follow this guy??

WOW!!!! Who is bitter??????

Wow, way to rip on an entire city and their beloved sports team for no good reason. That's classy, top notch journalism there.
Let me ask you this. In your "research" for this article, did you somehow just miss the fact that it's tradition for championship sports teams to meet with the President every year or did you just choose to ignore that little fact for the sake of a bad joke?

I love these comments! brings me back to the Seachicks Superbowl which was not a great game but yes, the Steelers won it fair and square. The messageboards made me kinda hate Seattle.

Personally my theory is that Obama chose Pittsburgh because he likes Pamela's pancakes but I'm sure you'll never bother to taste them.
He had some Pamela's pancakes cooked up special for a white house breakfast this past spring.

The Steelers are significant not only for campaigning for Obama early on, but for being the team to play the Redskins for that game that has been a presidential predictor for decades. Look it up Malcolm. And while you're at it, why don't you fact check the rest of your article? Start with the French and Indian war. The mistakes are glaring, I can't enumerate them.

Great article...if your target audience was paris hilton. It's sad that Pittsburgh is 10 times smaller than your city, and 10 times more beloved in America.

He writes in LA but his biggest accomplishment is not quite winning the Pulitzer. Sounds like a Washington Capitals fan to me. What a joke.

Great job posting half-witted political banter with a twist of city envy. Aren't people supposed to be happier on that side of the coast? Not only does this article read like a Danielle Steele novel with a few pages stuck together, it has no point other than to show your overall distaste for Pittsburgh. Which, if you've racked up any senior citizen miles over there, you should come visit - we could teach you a thing or two.

Congrats that the only reason people are reading this article is because Pittsburgh blogs called you out about being a joke.

Some things to consider: First, the Steelers were asked to be called "America's Team" long before any other. They, however, felt it was not something that would portray the Rooney family. That is being a braggart. Second, Look at this economy. So goes steel, so-goes the economy. Pittsburgh has been hard hit by the economy in the 30's like everyone else. Then again in the 70's during the gas crisis and steel crisis. Now, Pittsburgh is sharing in the downturned economy like everywhere else. The difference? Pittsburgh is a city of champions. we don't brag. We don't run around and say; "we have the biggest stadium" We just win.
The most revered owners, hands down are the Rooneys. Surely not the owner of the Oakland Raisers or the Cowboys. Those owners love the spotlight. They stand on the sidelines looking for the camera, or hold press conferences to stage a soap opera.
No thank you. I'll take the city of steel. I'll take the city that has suffered. I'll take the cities like Cleveland and Detriot where the backbone of our country is located. Today we have computer-based technology. And the silicon valley. But what built this country?
How soon we forget.
The south can brag. They do that well. We will win and do it with class, like the Rooney family showed us.

I hope you die in a fire!!!!

If it wasn't for our city's founding, you'd be speaking French.

If it wasn't for our rivers, your population would be a third smaller than it is.

If it wasn't for our carbon based resources, you'd be cold and without electricity.

If it wasn't for our steel, your buildings would be made of wood.

If it wasn't for our medicine, you'd be probably have died of Polio.

If it wasn't for our technology, you'd be using a typewriter for this article.

And if it wasn't for the passion of the people who know Pittsburgh, I guess this might have been your last article.

Your editor thew you to the wolves, and allowed you to publish this not because this article has any real substance or value, but he knows how to attract hits to this site. You've been used. As your editor, I would be ashamed to have you write this trash.

My Western PA family taught me to think before I speak. Consider that the next time you try to sound educated in your writings.

I don't see why you have to bash Pittsburgh so much for no reason. Im guessing it is out of pure jealousy since your city has been unable to accomplish the feats that Pittsburgh has.

"The city of Pittsburgh was founded in the early 1800s by Pennsylvanians who weren't strong enough to make it all the way to Ohio or were rejected at that border."

Are you kidding me? The city of Pittsburgh was founded before Ohio was even established. Therefore there would have been no "border" for them to get rejected by. The city is also a strategic point due to the converging of the rivers which helped made it a center of trade. Please if you are going to jealously insult one of the greatest cities in the world please at least try to find some facts to back up your argument and not b.s. opinions that you pulled out of your ass.

This is just an example of poor writing. Random puns and descriptions jumbled together to form a hodgepodge of disorganized thoughts.

Worst of all its not even funny.

Your writing skills are astonishing.
Just in case you missed the sarcasm, here it is in plain terms: you know nothing about writing, or Pittsburgh for that matter, and any other topic you might have addressed.
Stop writing. No one wants to read it.

Pittsburgh is the place to be LA is overplayed and overhyped. Get behind a real city for your 30 something-lounge-attending-martini-drinking yuppies and yes i said yuppies cause the new generation hasn't yet come up with anything shitty enough to call you and your friends yet.

I would rather be caught in South Side Pittsburgh, than South Central LA, wooooo!

Pittsburgh is about more than just city limits or geographic borders, sorry for your misunderstanding.

P.S. - We Won The Cup! The summer of WOOOO continues.

2008: homicides in la - 304
homicides in pittsburgh - 79

I'm not hoping you get shot, because i figure you're almost 4 times as likely to get shot out there than we are in pittsburgh.

i found it amusing that you spent your whole article badmouthing our two championship teams and completely failed to mention the Pirates (No Pirates in Pittsburgh! OMG!!) who have the longest losing streak of any team in any professional sport. you would have at least been justified in trash talking our lousy sports team.

(former pittsburgher that thinks the author is upset since 3 NFL teams left LA because they didn't want to get shot)

Oh... I get it. He doesn't know what hockey is and Pittsburgh is a decrepit steel town, so this blog is HI-LARRY-OUS!

Note to author; cloaking ignorance as irony is not only incredibly lazy but embarrassingly unfunny. I'm sorry you lost your previous job writing for Everybody Loves Raymond, but at least the White House understands the rebirth of Western Pennsylvania as worldwide leaders in education, medicine, and technology.

Yeah, I'm still trying to find the humor in this blog post...insulting a whole city is always a good idea. Especially Pittsburgh, just ask Sienna Miller.

So how is LA's football and hockey teams doing? Oh don't have either.

I really question your talent for writing, as well as, your editor abilities:

"The Pittsburgh team is champion of something called the National Hockey League, which really should be called the International Hockey League since it's got teams in the U.S. and Canada."

It should read: "since it has teams in the U.S. and Canada"

nice grammar

Why not Pittsburgh, of all places? Have you been here lately? Apparently not, or you would still be here. Of course, that is good for us Pittsburghers -- we don't tolerate stupidity stink very well here Besides, what do you know about hockey, anyway?

Hey brah, I remember LA, its that town in california by the ocean with the dudes in tights playing hair metal in some prostitution zone called sunset strip right? yeah the 80's were cool. remember LA gear, those were cool just like the city.

just caught Girl Talk and Wiz Khalifa at the pool parties in Brooklyn. that was a pretty good equation for cool, but somehow LA didn't seem to fit in that equation anywhere.

get real bro! write an article when LA matters again.

The Cup weighs 35 pounds. It is not very heavy for a world class athlete, but maybe that is heavy to a loser columnist?


"Pittsburgh's once-woebegone football team"

The only time our football team was anything near woebegone was around the time you should have considered retirement in the 60's. Ever heard of a Lombardi trophy? We have six (6), that's more than any other team in the league. Ever heard of a World Series we have five (5), and (3) of the things you think are supporters and it weighs thirty-nine (39) pounds (lbs.). I guess your mother never told you think before you speak (or write) but then again that cliche most likely wasn't around in the 1800's. Also, by claiming burghers weren't strong enough to make it to shitty ass Ohio, just makes you sound idiotic, we were all just to smart to move there. In conclusion, stick to making funny little jokes about our funny little president and stay away from making fun of our teams. Tommy Maddox threw an interception in a playoff game (if you know what those are) and his house was littered and he was run out of town, and WE LIKED HIM. No one knows who you are, no one ever will, stay away from sports because you weren't "strong enough" to play, leave it to the athletes (people not like you).

City of Champions - and the Pirates

You probably were hoping for the type of outrage that you received in the previous comments but wouldn't it just be low to stoop to your level? All I can say is that what you just wrote was the most uninformed piece of writing that I have ever encountered. President Obama was indirectly refrencing people like you with that gun comment because you seem to find your words as daggers however to me they are just ignorant and humorous, think about it; bitter- that's you! losers- that's definitely you! Some of the most significant medical discoveries have been made in PGH, such as the polio vaccine. If we had known you would bash a city whose only transgression is loving their sports teams a bit too much for your liking then maybe we shouldn't have given the vaccine to everybody if you know what I mean.

I saw some slides once of Los Angeles. My Pap from Muse went there with my Gram for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

I thought that thus article shows how ignorant people are about Pittsburgh. Though this sounds like a defunct Ohioan to me. Because the only person to say that Pittsburghers are weaker than Ohioans is an Ohioan. But that's ok. When was the last time the kings hoisted the cup? And at least we can keep a football team. Two different teams didn't like LA. The Rams and the Raiders. Humorous this article was not. Stupid? Objective complete.

Please read a history book, then consider rewriting this article.

This may be the most pointless article I've ever read. Clearly, you've never been to Pittsburgh...a growing city with kind people, culture, history...the city of champions. You wanted to get us Pittsburghers fired up? Too bad we could care less of what some idiot in LA thinks of us.
You must've had a girlfriend from PGH break up with you or maybe PITT didn't accept you! Good luck trying to make friends.
Go Pens! Go Steelers!

Moron...the President invites the winners of all the major sports leagues to the White House. It's a tradition that's been going on for years and will continue for years to come (unlike print media which is about 10 years from going the way of the milk man).

And if you knew anything about Pittsburgh you would know that it has contributed more to this country in terms of industrial innovation than any other city in the nation! People went west because they couldn't hack it in the East. Your lame, half-hearted attempt at "journalism" epitomizes the kind of lazy, uninspired work ethic California and the west coast is know for.

PS - it's a bad idea to bash our city when you have a comments section in your blog - you're just asking to be jobbed!

I smell a big pile of, well, ignorance-based jealousy here. This was obviously written by someone who knows absolutely nothing about Pittsburgh.

How about compare the Penguins to the Kings? Oh, yeah, the Kings stink on a consistent basis while the Penguins overcame huge obstacles to reach the pinnacle of their sport. They showed the positive results of HARD WORK.

How about compare the Steelers to the Rams? Oh, yeah, last time I saw the Rams in LA was sometime shortly after the Steelers beat them for their 4th (of 6, yes, 6) Lombardi. And yes, the Steelers were bad, and then they became oh so very good through HARD WORK. That is still their reputation - blue collar.

How about we talk about Pittsburgh itself? Pittsburgh used to be all about Steel, but when that went away the city transformed to education and medical/information technology. Pittsburgh overcame huge obstacles through HARD WORK. However, this author knows nothing of that because he is speaking from a clearly high level of ignorance. In fact, Pittsburgh has largely been unaffected by the current recession because its people generally live within their means by earning their keep and spending only what they earn. How are things going in LA?

So Obama grants Pittsburgh an international stage with the G20, meets with the Steelers, and the Penguins. Maybe, just maybe, Obama appreciates HARD WORK, sees that Pittsburgh can be a role model for places like LA, and thinks the story of Pittsburgh can enlighten ignorant people everywhere, including Andrew Malcolm?

I dare the moderator to post this.

LA has nothing on the Steel City.

We are PITTSBURGH not L.A.

This article offends me as a Pittsburgher and as a hockey fan. I hope these thousands of negative comments ruin your blog...before your posts do.

(The traffic is great! Thanks for helping out and showing the real Pittsburgh.)

You have no sense whatsoever and hopefully some Pittsburgh fan living in LA "accidentally" hits you with a tractor trailer.

Why pick on a small city that is just trying to make it in this crazy world? Pittsburgh has experienced a lot of problems during that last 50 years and so a little good publicity is a blessing to us. Your article is worthless drivel that fosters negativity and lacks humor. I'll never read this newspaper again.

Ours is a city that has not only remained nearly untouched by the recession, but has grown even stronger during it. You live in a city that was brought to its knees by a writer's strike and in a state that had to declare bankruptcy. In Pittsburgh, we care more about our families, our friends and our jobs than we do about the latest celebrity sightings. We are a sports town, an arts town, a college town, a medical town and a sciences town. We pride ourselves in our ability to learn from our mistakes and move forward. We take the time to talk to strangers and wrong numbers. Pittsburghers love their city and the people in it, and we do not tolerate being used for the cheap laugh. Sienna Miller could have told you that.

Amazing you have a job with a newspaper. I expect to see you fired in the next round of print media layoffs.

(Not possible. This isn't print. This is online. You can tell because no paper. But thanks for reading.)

Wow, completely ignorant?...I'm actually amazed someone lets you write for them.

A few things about Pittsburgh:

It takes me 17 minutes to get to work in the morning...Yeah, that's 17 minutes to get to the other side of the city. ( Jealous yet )

I live in a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house with a mortgage under $ 100,000. See, pittsburghers didn't go crazy with houses going up 200% or flipping or ridiculous housing mortgage schemes, while you have a million dollar mortgage on a house worth now half of that, we sit here in dumb-old Pittsburgh and chuckle to ourselves.

If you ever make to Pittsburgh, and happen to have the opportunity to attend a sporting event, you'll be surprised to find that Steelers/Penguins/Pirates fans are rather cordial. Even if your in the opposing teams jersey, you may hear a few jibes about your team, but in general you will be treated pretty nicely. Most Pittsburghers would rather roll out the welcome mat and share a beer or a story with you than start a fight. ( Please note, Philadelphia is the exact opposite, Philly you will probably get punched in the back of the head ! )

Finally, should actually visit a place/city before you write about it. I could easily pen an article about Los Angeles traffic jams, or gangs, or smog, or any other national-media hyped sterotype,..but, I think I'll just hold my opnion of LA unitl I visit your city and see for myself.

Good thing that you do live in LA, because you would be run out town on a steel rail snapped in the butt with a Terrible Towel. JERK!!

When you are dying of some horrible disease and they fly you into Pittsburgh because we have the best and most advanced doctors, we are gonna accept you and treat you. Don't worry we will give you the same treatment as we would with someone who was not retarded.

Sounds like a whole lot of jealousy to me. We are proud, hard-working people who love their families and neighbors. It's an added bonus that our sports teams rock. We may not be the largest or most glamorous place, but we love our city.

It is delicious irony when a newspaper man from California pans Pennsylvania for its political backwardness. The rest of the country is laughing at all of you.

I am appalled, sir, at your utter disrespect towards the city I love. I have been to a great many cities; I always have been and always will be proud to call "the rusting burgh" my home.

I would think that someone who has your experience and who has studied as extensively as you have would have more sense than to dig for relevance by smearing Pittsburgh and its sports teams. I would think that someone in your position would refrain from attempting to make a point using subjects that are completely unassociated with each other.

That aside, the piece itself is a complete mess. It doesn't even flow properly, you just jump around insulting Pittsburgh and hurling random jabs at Obama.

But, I confess it's not the first time I've been surprised by the ridiculous spewing of hatred and cynicism by political old windbags such as yourself.

I must truly express my appreciation, however, for the hearty laughs I enjoyed while reading this frail and pathetic attempt at an article.

At least it got you some exposure, right? Too bad it's all negative. Next time please, for your own good, stick to things you're knowledgable on, and I'm sure someone, somewhere, will read your useless rants.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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