Post-Gazette sports reporter Paul Zeise blogs about the world of sports, and Pittsburgh sports in particular, with an assist from Seth Rorabaugh and his Morning Links. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulZeise and Seth @emptynetters.
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I was very sad to hear that Beano Cook passed away this morning, apparently in his sleep. Here is a quick obituary from Ray Fittipaldo summing up the life of Beano and why he is so well known - and beloved in these parts.
I had the pleasure, however, of calling Beano Cook a friend, and few people in this business influenced me as much as he did, especially when I was just starting on the Pitt beat and getting my feet wet.
Beano was the one who told me who to get to know at Pitt, how to get to know them and who were the people in and around the University who were truly power brokers.
He was also a wealth of knowledge and any time I was writing a historical story, something thay needed context historically or anything regarding the history of college football or Pitt I would call him and he always had an answer.
If I needed to write an obituary of some old guy that I didn't know much about, I'd call Beano and he seemed to know everyone.
But beyond that, Beano was a wealth of knowledge about a lot of things, really just about everything.
You wanted to talk about the history of World War II? The history of Rome? Art? Music? Theater?
Just about any subject you wanted to talk about, he knew about and not only did he know about it - he seemed to be an expert on it and that's because he was one of the most well-read people I've ever met.
They just don't make them like Beano any more.
The best was, even though I spent a lot of time either on the phone with him or in person - sometimes I would meet PG assistant sports editor Terry Shields, Colin Dunlap and Beano for lunch and Beano would obviously hold court -- he never really mastered the art of pronouncing my name....
"Hey Zikes....." he would say and he would always begin the conversation that way.
Beano worked at Pitt for ten years in the 50's and 60's as the SID and he also attended Pitt before he began his career in broadcasting and as an analyst and his love of the University was always evident - even when he was scorching the University for something it did that he didn't like.
One day, for instance, he called me up and said "Hey Zikes, when are you gonna have the [courage] to write about this nonconference scheduling. I mean, Steve Pederson should be ashamed of this and I told him as much."
These were the kinds of calls I'd get, then we'd spend the next 30 minutes on the phone catching up.
That was just Beano - he was passionate about a lot of things, but Pitt seemed to be his biggest passion.
He always took pleasure in getting the Pitt fan base (and coaching staff) riled up each year leading up to the Notre Dame-Pitt game when he would make his remarks about "Notre Dame has more material than Pitt" and go one step further "Not one player at Pitt would start for Notre Dame".
That may have held true long ago but even Beano knew that the talent gap between Notre Dame and Pitt had closed considerably but tweaking people was what Beano did well and he knew this was a good way to tweak people who cared about Pitt.
That worked the other way, too -- one time I wrote about how ridiculous it was that Ed DeChellis - then the head coach of Penn State basketball - had ended the series with Pitt.
"Hey Zikes, I just want to thank you for finally having the guts to write something about those people at Penn State not playing a Pitt team. It is absolutely ridiculous that they get away with it. I bet that one didn't make Micco happy....."
Micco, of course, is my boss Jerry Micco who attended Penn State, which of course meant he was often the object of Beano's wrath. But with Beano, wrath was always more like friendly banter and he always liked to remind me - and Micco for that matter - that my boss was one of those Penn State guys.
As an aside, I assure you Beano understood the business well enough to know that my boss's alma mater has nothing to do with editorial decisions we make here but Beano was always in roast mode.
Some of the funniest roasts I attended were impromptu roasts by Beano at the Pitt media social events. This is where a bunch of writers and broadcasters got together with Pitt coaches and athletic administration types and had a few adult beverages, let their sleeves down a bit and just sort of got to know each other.
Beano was always a staple of these events and would always, at some point in the night, gather everyone around and roast all of us. He'd say stuff like "Dulac may have something good to say but nobody ever reads what he writes because it is always buried under Ed Bouchette's stuff..."
He also handed out a "Silver Bucket" award to the person who, um, had the most fun at the event. I'll let you figure out what the bucket was for.
Beano was always quick with one liners as well. Many of them were clean, many of them not fit for family newspaper.
When I told him I was getting remarried his response "that makes you twice as dumb as the average man, Zikes...."
When I told him I couldn't make an event because I had to cover a women's basketball game he said "why does Micco hate you so much..."
His classic line about money was "I don't worry about money because I don't have three things most men do - a car, a wife and an ex-wife."
And once when I asked him about why he liked to do radio he said "it is like prostitution only better - I can do it from my bed and don't have to take my underwear off...."
That was just Beano, one of the funniest and most honest men I have ever met.
One other thing - much like Beano liked to give "Micco" - as well as "Borghetti" a hard time - he also was a harsh critic of Joe Paterno, but he respected Joe Paterno and that made his barbs at Paterno funny because they riled up Penn State fans, even though it was just Beano being Beano.
One of my favorite lines from Beano was "Joe Paterno has won more than any Italian since Julius Ceaser."
So this is a sad day for me and should be for anyone who is a college football fan because the world lost a truly great one today.
RIP my friend.
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