So who had the worst weekend in Pittsburgh sports, Nasir Robinson, Matt Cooke, Mario Lemieux, or the Big East Basketball Conference?

I'm going to give it to Cooke by an elbow, for self inflicted loss of about $22,000 per-game checks coming up during his suspension. Not to mention a pretty awkward situation in his dressing room when the, "ahem," alternate captain returns at some point in the playoffs. Can his teammates trust him not to put them in a penalty-hole when it counts in three weeks? Can Cooke trust himself on the ice anymore? It's clear he has a Sean Avery or Ron Artest-like trigger he just can't control when the pads are on.

Mario Lemieux should be in filming for the next Southwest Airlines "Wanna Get Away?" TV commercial. I'd start with a shot of Mario sitting behind his big oak desk, crafting a letter to NHL Commish Gary Bettman and outlining his proposed franchise fine suggestions for misbehaving players. Then pan to a shot of Mario's high-def TV on the wall airing live action of Cooke's elbow on NY Rangers D-Man Ryan McDonagh. Finish off with a Wizard of Id cartoon-like shot of Mario staring blankly at the screen in disbelief. Lemieux might be on a plane to the Caribbean right now.

I'm not sure who I feel worse for, Nas Robinson or his senior teammates who had their season end in DC by Shelvin Mack and the British Bulldogs. Mack had more bullets than Gilbert Arenas in that game, but the foul call at the end is all that folks will remember years from now and Robinson's hack was the coo coo ca choo of the bizarre sequence. Credit Matt Howard for the embellishment, and give equal blame to Nas and Jamie Dixon (how about at least a 'don't foul' reminder, Jamie?) on the hack-a-Matt which led to Butler's winning free throws. At least Robinson can return next year to attempt to make amends with a (yes, I'm really about to go there) Final Four run (yes, I'm a sucker for Pitt hope). Think about guys like Gary McGhee, whose career is done with a collective 0-8 record against Howard if you include his high school / AAU days in Indiana. In fact, McGhee should be "McFly" from now on whenever he passes "Biff" Howard on the streets of Anderson, IN. "Gary, how could you loan me the car without telling me it had a blind spot!!?"

And the Big East Conference, with just 2 of their record 11 teams making the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs??!! An 18% graduation rate is embarrassing even for 2011 "student" athletes. With losses to Butler, George Mason, Gonzaga, Morehead State, VCU, and Florida State, the BE is now on equal par with the Mountain West Conference (BYU, San Diego State) in both football and basketball. Good thing the MWC is losing teams to conference expansion or the Big East should officially lose "Big 6" designation. The Big East is the deepest league in the country, not the most elite. That goes for its players and teams, and I'm starting to buy the theory that the three-month grind of a league schedule is indeed wearing BE teams out by March. By the time Madness starts, the Big East not only is lacking elite NBA talent that some other teams have, it's lacking the healthy depth that makes every team so dangerous any given night.

Posted in College Sports, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Steelers

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