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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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Reading through these comments --- Pittsburghers doth protest too much. Moved here from much bigger city a few years ago so have acclimated to the peculiar accent, the much grayer population, and the suspicion of outsiders. Yea, its livable. If you're 35, have three kids, married your high school sweetheart and your "Mum" lives "dahn" the road to babysit for you so you can go tailgate at Stillers games on the weekend, N aht.. Read this article and laughed so hard, then forwarded to 10 people. I'm very excited the G20 is coming to Pittsburgh, but am truly getting tired of all the hysteria over what a wonderful place this is to call home and do business.
- Reluctant Pittsburgher

It's a wonderful place to live if you embrace it.

Unfortunately Reluctant Pittsburgher doesn't follow the first two rules of Pittsburghers:
-you don't badmouth Pittsburgh to non-yinzers; and
-beat down any non-yinzers who speak in unglowing terms about the 'burgh.

The real story here is that Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney (one of the most influential people in SW Pennsylvania) campaigned hard for Obama in a very difficult part of PA when it was considered a battleground state. Obama remembers it (Dan Rooney is now the US ambassador to Ireland) and I believe he has a special place in his heart for Mr Rooney and Pittsburgh as a result.

im sorry, i couldnt read what you wrote. the glare from our 6 superbowl trophies and 3 stanley cup rings was shinening right in my eyes...

Hmm let's see:

[ ] Blogger's original intention was to make a point about politics, but he has instead angered an entire city for no apparent reason
[ ] Blogger knows nothing about sports or the city of Pittsburgh, which creates huge holes in his statements as he attempts to get his point across
[ ] Blogger's attempt at humor has failed
[ ] Article fails on all levels
[x] All of the above

That was an easy one.

As a professional how can you justify this as a legitimate article?

Completly ignoring the political direction and purpose of this article, I just wanted to say that its horribly written. It reads like a football player writing for his high school paper because he needs an activity to get into college, and writing for the paper looked easier than the debate team.

Do you have an editor or anyone proof reading your stuff, or have they all been laid off because noone reads print media anymore?

Colonel Sanders,
Not only does it shock me that you were up for a pulitzer prize, but it shocks me that the LA Times allows you to write for them. I wouldn't wipe my own behind with this article in fear of smearing more feces on myself. You're a hack of a writer, all Pittsburghers are glad our ancestors didn't make it to the Ohio boarder due to Ohio being the bunghole of the United States and the Stanley Cup (considered the most sought after trophy in all of sports) is something you need not explain. By the way there are no Kings, Lakes, and Angels in LA either.
Good Day

eh this could have pulled down a B- in my 9th grade english class.

Learn to swim.

We'll take our Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, and G20 Summits... Heck, I'm sure a large number will in fact cling to their guns and an even larger number to their religion. But those guns will be used for deer hunting and that religion will probably be used for prayer of another championship.

So you, bitter old man from LA, why don't you stick to your ill-advised and extremely unfounded humor, as well as your gang violence, rape, and the illiterate leadership from your FREELY eleceted governor. Because in the words of your fearless leader Arnold, when it comes to championships... Everyone in Pittsburgh knows...We'll be back!

Dude man

What's your beef with the city of Pittsburgh? Aside from slashing through crime statistics and pointing out the obvious, all that needs to be said is "Forbes" and "The Economist" disagree. "Forbes" says we're up there for cleanest city, and "The Economist" says we're the 29th most livable city in the WORLD, number one in the nation, and always number one in a Pens fan's heart.

What has LA given the world? Besides completely foul smelling loads of horrendous bull$@*! that is constantly churned out of Hollywood. That place helps with perpetuating race, disseminating useless ideologies, and ultimately aids in mankind's hindrance and advancement through the shameless silver screen, the terrible television, and the evil entertainment industry in general. Tell me what politics and the G-20 have to do with Pittsburgh Penguins hockey?

Now the city of Pittsburgh, a rich gem on three rivers, once a French fort, fought for and surveyed by George Washington, once the whiskey capitol of the world, and the jumping off point for the frontiersmen who would eventually steal your city away from Mexico. We were a beacon for industrialization, helped supply steel for some of the greatest work projects ever undertook by man, hell, we even helped you win World War II. We had a rough spot, rebounded, and now we'll probably keep you alive well into your 90's with all the excellent medical work and research we do. Top notch hospitals sir.

Could you imagine if the G-20 was in L.A.? It would have been like the Lakers winning a championship for an entire weekend. Everyday a riot, everyday more money lost to looting as your state casually slips into failure and you hold on to the coattails of Obama's jacket, promising to do something about the unemployment rate as long as he keeps the federal funds flowing fluidly.

Gfys buddy

From a "bitter small-town [loser] clinging to [his] guns and religion." Pittsburgh born and raised!


Ah. This is only more evidence that LA is a place with the most beautiful people who display the ugliest of humanity. You're a moron. The only problem is that you have a megaphone when nobody wants to listen to you. My guess is that people stopped trying to talk sensibly to you a very long time ago because they knew that it was pointless. I have to hand to Angelenos. You're probably the only community of people who know that you're living in a farcical joke. A big unfunny joke.

Good day from Texas.

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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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