by Lucy Leitner
Notwithstanding those of Sienna Miller or Alex Ovechkin, most accounts affirm that Pittsburgh is a pretty glorious city. National Geographic named our town one of the top places in the world to visit. We have been told we resemble Gotham City. The Penguins are seemingly always Vegas favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Even the Pirates are getting positive national coverage.
Yet it seems that these prestigious accolades have gone to our collective, and possibly mulleted, head. As Pittsburghers, we are often inclined to believe our own hype and feel personally offended when an NHL free agent spurns the Penguins for a team in another city where he will make far more money over a far longer time. We don’t understand that offering less money and job security will fail to entice Zach Parise to experience the glory that is the Squirrel Hill Tunnels for the next decade. It’s a strange blend of narcissism and a persecution complex that could be described as the self-loathing Pittsburgher.
All this recent publicity has only reinforced our belief that everything revolves around Pittsburgh. We would have exiled Galileo if he had said otherwise.
Therefore, some Yinzers were hurt when Rob Zombie—a man with absolutely no discernible ties to the city aside from casting local favorite Dawn of the Dead actor and obligatory convention presence Ken Foree in his films—announced a film about the Broad Street Bullies as his next project. Horror fans were outraged, questioning how his incompetence (as they see it) in the most forgiving genre would translate into a more difficult mainstream sports film. Penguins fans were angry, calling local morning radio shows to rant, as if Zombie was pulling a Jagr and spurning Pittsburgh for Philadelphia.
However, this outrage is possibly even more unfounded than our hatred of Marian Hossa.
There are followers of two schools of thought among those oddly offended by this project: those who deem the Broad Street Bullies unworthy of a feature film and those who think Rob Zombie is a hack. The combination of the two can lead only to the conclusion that Rob Zombie is the ideal choice to write, direct, and produce a movie about the glory days of the hated Philadelphia Flyers.
Some horror buffs have trashed Zombie for giving his films a white trash aesthetic: He seems incapable of writing major characters who have lived outside of trailer parks or houses filled with a thousand corpses. Zombie’s previous work precisely qualifies him to capture the Filthydelphia that we see through dirt-tinted glasses from the rosy side of the state.
Violence in Zombie’s films is extreme, graphic, cartoonish, and macabre—in other words, ideally suited to the Broad Street Bullies. However, to our knowledge, Bobby Clarke never decapitated Rick Kehoe on the ice and carefully sutured the Penguin’s head onto the body of an actual Penguin to display in a roadside carnival. Fred Shero never ran a team of hideous, disfigured maniacs to brutally attack anyone who dared cross their path.
He just didn’t wear clown makeup.
Being based in history, there are limits to this film. Are we really worried about the Flyers being portrayed as a psychotic band of trailer park spree killers raping, murdering, disfiguring, and ritually torturing other teams in the Patrick Division? Do we really feel strongly opposed to seeing Zombie possibly turn the Bullies into a toothless version of the Manson Family on ice?
Maybe Dave Schultz will be played by Bill Mosely and to rile the crowd he’ll wear Mike Milbury’s face after cutting it off during a bench-clearing brawl against the Boston Bruins. Yes, we as Pittsburghers should leave this one alone. Maybe he’ll even put his much-maligned wife in a fat suit and cast her as Kate Smith and let her giggle and swear her way through “God Bless America.” Just imagine how the boo-happy people of the most unsuitably nicknamed city will react. Maybe batteries will be thrown at the local premiere and temporary jails will be installed at movie theaters.
As Pittsburghers, we are far too sensitive about any perceived slights. Whether we hate Rob Zombie or not (I happen to enjoy his movies, particularly his ability to veer each scene into a completely different direction from where it started—not unlike an offside goal in a playoff series), I think we can all agree that he is not likely to make the Broad Street Bullies look pretty. If we think he’s a talentless hack, then can’t we assume that he’ll make a forgettable movie that will be consigned to the annals of misconceived experiments outside of a filmmaker’s comfort zone?
Maybe the brutal memories of the past playoff series were still too vivid when this movie was announced a few weeks ago, when even the utterance of the name of our cross-state rival city caused a shudder like you had just name-checked Voldemort. But now that we’ve all watched with disturbingly gleeful schadenfreude while a couple of exiled Flyers hoisted the Stanley Cup, we have had time to reflect and blame Paul Martin for all our shortcomings, desensitizing ourselves to all things Philadelphia.
Now that we’ve seen Paul Holmgren inexplicably purge more young forwards, make another awesome deal with Columbus (because that worked so well in the past), and bring back perennial Vezina contender Michael Leighton to back up the $51 million bear-fearing cosmonaut, we should not allow our fiery hatred of the Flyers to get the best of us. We should support this film. We should see it as mirroring the Washington Capitals’ ill-fated Dale Hunter Experiment. Feeling slighted by this film is like feeling insignificant because of the lack of terrorist plots directed at our city.
And besides, do we really want Michael Berryman portraying a member of one of our illustrious sports franchises?