Friday, April 14, 2017

To Absent Friends - Dan Rooney

Dan Rooney
1932 - 2017

Does The Grandstander really need to recite all of the facts and figures relating to the life of Pittsburgh Steelers Owner and Chairman Dan Rooney, who died yesterday at the age of 84?  If you grew up in Pittsburgh and are a Steelers fan, you certainly know the story.

When Dan took over the business and football operations of the Steelers from his father, Art, The Chief, sometime in the late 1960's, the team began to change from the stumbling, bumbling "Same Old Steelers".  His first major decision as Steelers' boss was to hire Chuck Noll as Head Coach in 1969, and the Steelers were off an running to become what they are today - one of the great teams of the NFL's "Super Bowl Era", a team almost always in the mix for playoff and championship contention, and a franchise that is considered one of the bell weathers of the NFL.  

Personally, I never had an encounter with Dan Rooney.  However, I do remember one afternoon back in the 1980's when the Pirates were having one of those weekday afternoon "Businessman Specials" games at Three Rivers Stadium.  I was meeting customer for the game that day, and as I was sitting in a field box before the game, I looked a few seats over and there was Dan Rooney, taking a break form his office duties, eating a hot dog, and loafing and B.S.'ing with a couple of stadium ushers.  A real regular guy.

If you want to read better tributes to Mr. Rooney, I would suggest the columns in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Ed Bouchette, Gene Collier, and Ron Cook.  They do him far greater justice than I could ever do. And I will even close my piece with some posts that appeared on Facebook in the last 24 hours from a couple of friends of mine.

The first is from sportswriter John Mehno:

One Dan Rooney story. A few years ago the Steelers were playing the Giants in New York. As was his custom, Dan wandered into the press room at halftime, looking for familiar faces. A security guard blocked his path and told him he couldn't come in without a media credential. Dan Rooney didn't yell at the guy, he didn't pull rank, he didn't snarl, "Do you know who I am?" He turned and walked back to his seat. He learned that from his father. Just because you have a lot of money, you don't act like a big shot. A fond farewell to a true Pittsburgh guy.

And my friend Fred Egler also reposted this comment that he made last December 26:

When you volunteer for something, you sometimes draw the short straw. Thus it was my fate to serve as lector at the 8 :15 AM mass this morning at St. Paul Cathedral after a Christmas holiday and Steeler extravaganza. We ministered to a small audience, but there was at least one other guy there who had been at the game the night before. The celebrant, Father Kris Stubna, made a point of thanking Dan Rooney for making everyone's Christmas merrier. After church I saw him helped into someone else's SUV while his wife drove away in their Chevy Impala. Think about that the next time you hear some talking head singing the praises of Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft.

Both of these stories, I think, say it all about the kind of person that Dan Rooney was.  

RIP Dan Rooney.  As it was with his father, the NFL will not see his like again.

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