For them Cowher acts like a witness against the mob. "I don't want my face all over town," he says, "because when I'm not working, I just want to be their dad in the stands. Nothing else."
Somewhere, his agent weeps.
And so here we are at the end of Lauren's game last Friday night. As usual Cowher is in the stands, yet not a single person has come up to him for an autograph or a photo. "They know me here only as Lauren's dad," he says, happily.
Actually, a lot of people know him as the Guy Who Tries to Keep Lauren's Mom Calm. That would be Kaye Cowher (n�e Young), the former North Carolina State and Women's Professional Basketball League star. Kaye gets a little, uh, enthusiastic. Bill won't even sit in the same row with her. "Otherwise, she hits me all night," he says. There may be a maniac in the Cowher family, but it's usually not Bill. Except on Sundays.
"My friends ask me, 'Do you get that face if you don't do your laundry?'" says Lauren. "But the only time we see that face is on TV. He'll be going a little crazy, and my mom will kind of cover her eyes and go, 'Oh, Bill!'"
On Saturday, when Pittsburgh hosts the New York Jets in the AFC divisional playoffs, Steelers fans will pray that Cowher won't make 65,000 at Heinz Field cover their eyes and go, "Oh, Bill!" The playoffs are to Cowher what Bugs Bunny was to Elmer Fudd. He's 7--8 in the postseason and has lost three out of four AFC Championship Games, all at home.
Not that he'll get fired anytime soon. Because the only people with more antiquated ideas than the Cowhers are the Rooneys, the family that owns the Steelers. They have this lace-doily notion that loyalty and stability mean something. In fact, when Cowher went 6--10 in 2003, the Rooneys extended his contract another two years. The press howled. Cowher repaid the Rooneys with the first 15win regular season in AFC history.
Hmmmm. The Rooneys have had two coaches in the past 36 years, and they're still winners. Anybody want to mention that to the Washington Redskins? Or Notre Dame?
And if the team ever does fire the Pittsburgh-born coach with the world's worst poker face, Cowher would still belong to a family that he loves--and vice versa.
"My dad is one of my best friends in the world," says Meagan.