Listen to senior writer Johnette Howard tell stories about growing up in Pittsburgh during the early 1970s, and you learn why it was a wonderful place and time to be a kid: During that decade the Steelers won four Super Bowls and the Pirates won two World Series.
Johnette and any number of the 47 kids who lived on her block on Broadway Extension could always be found playing football or baseball on a makeshift field painted on the street. Twenty-seven of Howard's relatives lived on the block, and the family got together every Sunday at her grandparent's house for soup and Jell-O followed by a Steeler or a Pirate game.
"My favorite memory is of Grandpap yelling at the TV set," Howard says. When a ball would find the gap at AstroTurfed Three Rivers Stadium, Bob Prince, the late Pirate announcer, would cry, "There's a bug on the rug!" To which Howard's grandfather, Roy Davane, now 85, would rant, "Just say it's a double, dammit!"
Prince often told it like it wasn't. Says Davane, "Johnette always told it like it was. I wasn't surprised that she became a reporter." As a sixth-grader Johnette and her younger brother, Mark, published a newspaper, The Broadway Dispatch, and sold it for 15 cents from her red wagon. "We started a trend that other newspapers followed," she says. "We folded."
After graduating from Pitt in 1982, Howard, now 35, worked for the Detroit Free Press, The National and The Washington Post before joining SI last January. While she has often used wit in addressing subjects from figure skating to football, it is her strong reportorial skills that are most evident in her story on the burgeoning role of unregulated summer-league amateur basketball coaches, which begins on page 100 of this week's issue.
Today Davane watches the same Pittsburgh teams as he continues to follow his favorite sportswriter. "Of course it's been awhile since The Broadway Dispatch, so it's nice to read what Johnette writes in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED," he says.