Monday, February 06, 2006

Cowher Retires From Bridesmaid Coaches Club

“Retirement” was a buzzword in Detroit Sunday night as native son Jerome Bettis ended his career with a Super Bowl championship. However, The Bus was not the only Pittsburgh Steeler to quit something last night. Pittsburgh’s 21-10 victory over Seattle means that coach Bill Cowher has retired from the Bridesmaid Coaches Club.

The club was founded by Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, who was 0-4 in Super Bowls. Marv Levy and Dan Reeves, also 0-4 in the big game, currently serve on the board. Members of the organization are all long-time, successful coaches who have done everything but win a championship. To knowledgeable sports fans, these men are highly respected. Or, as sports talk radio callers refer to them, losers.

While club members are happy for Cowher’s triumph, they lament the rapidly decreasing membership of the organization. In the past year, titles for North Carolina and Texas have removed Roy Williams and Mack Brown, respectively, from the club. Longtime major league manager Gene Mauch passed away last summer, moving on to a better place where the 1964 Phillies and 1986 Angels play for a World Series title. Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown are among others who have defected in recent years. However, before ending his membership, Cowher did ensure that Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy would be around for at least another year.

In fact, Dungy’s presence is emblematic of the organization’s greatest recent success: its commitment to diversity. Cardinals coach Dennis Green and Cubs manager Dusty Baker are fellow African-American members of the group. However, Green’s membership could be up for review. He was a frequent playoff visitor in Minnesota, but in Arizona his teams have not been good enough to be considered bridesmaids. They haven’t even made it inside the church.

Cowher’s exit leaves a huge void in the organization. Before taking over in Pittsburgh, he spent seven years as an assistant under fellow Bridesmaid Coaches Clubber Marty Schottenheimer. He became a member himself at the young age of 40 after leading the Steelers to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons. He nearly was ineligible even before then, as Pittsburgh outplayed Dallas in many ways in Super Bowl XXX. However, quarterback Neil O’Donnell’s ability to find the open Dallas defender paved the way for Cowher to join the Bridesmaids. Fortunately, new members do not have to actually dress as bridesmaids when they are inducted. Cowher’s mustache and famous jaw would not go well with a frilly pink dress.

Cowher’s exit from the group is permanent. Once a member wins a championship, he completely loses his eligibility. Therefore, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, no matter how many playoff eliminations they experience, are barred from the organization for capturing one World Series title each. Membership in the Bridesmaid Coaches Club is the same as virginity – once you lose it, you can’t get it back.

The organization was hoping to have a farewell dinner in Cowher’s honor. However, despite their best efforts, they weren’t quite able to get it done.