Tue Apr 12 07:54pm EDT
If you haven't already had the misfortune, meet John Steigerwald.
He's apparently been man about the Pittsburgh sports scene for quite some time, but until lunchtime on Tuesday, I'd wager that most of the country's non-Steeler fans had ever heard of him.
I sure hadn't.
But then a link started zipping its way through Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the natural sports blogosphere. And somehow Mark "Congratulations, Jaycee" Whicker actually had a competitor for the most brutally insensitive sports column you've ever read.
"Know When You've Outgrown The Uniform" was the title of the piece that Steigerwald wrote for a suburban Pittsburgh newspaper on Sunday. It focused on Bryan Stow, the 42-year-old San Francisco Giants fan that remains in a medically-induced coma after being attacked at Dodger Stadium on opening night.
In most hands, it would have been an easy slam-dunk column about heightening security at stadiums or cutting back on alcohol sales or the great ways that the Giants, Dodgers and their fans have raised money for Stow's medical care.
• ... repeatedly referred to Stow as "Snow" throughout the article and did not list his hometown of Santa Cruz correctly (mistakes that have since been fixed online).
• ... questioned Stow's decision to wear a Giants jersey to a Dodger Stadium, placing all the blame squarely on the victim with a "maybe it's time for sports fans to grow up."
• ... requested that someone "ask Stow, if he ever comes out of his coma, why he thought it was a good idea to wear Giants' gear to a Dodgers' home opener when there was a history of out-of-control drunkenness and arrests at that event going back several years."
• ... basically concluded that any adult wearing an opposing jersey — something that is now as common as seeing hundreds of fedoras in old baseball pictures — is contributing to building a hostile atmosphere on the road.
Of course, it didn't take long for the magical Internet to uncover an old video of Steigerwald wearing the jersey of every Pittsburgh team — as, gasp, an adult! — while promoting his television work in a Ron Burgundyesque clip from 1981.
(WTAE has since disabled embedding of the video, which is super weak.)
Steigerwald is no stranger to writing or saying offensive things. In 2009, his brother Paul — an announcer for the Pittsburgh Penguins — attracted plenty of criticism when he tried to make an on-air joke about hockey player Hobey Baker dying in a plane crash
Under different circumstances, John Steigerwald's point about adults wearing jerseys at sporting events might be a relevant topic. Perhaps he could even explain that he served as a vanguard for the trend in that 30-year-old commercial.
But as he's no doubt learning today, it is not acceptable to blame a man in a coma en route to shoehorning his way into an opinion. At the very least, Steigerwald owes Stow and his family an apology. But he and the Observer-Reporter of Washington, Pa., should go one further and also make a donation to Stow's ongoing medical care.