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Winning & losing

| Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008

Will it fly in Pittsburgh?

Politicians would be wise to keep that question handy and ask it before making major political or governmental decisions. If their plans do not pass the Pittsburgh test, they should reconsider.

There is an innate fairness in Pittsburgh. Those roots extend back to the simple values of the immigrant steelworkers. They and their families worked hard, earned what they received, dreamed a bit, won some and lost some.

Most personal victories were received quietly and most defeats were met with dignity. They always knew that there were things worse than losing. And one of those things -- trading honor for success -- simply did not fly in Pittsburgh.

This is a lifestyle that the Hillary Clinton campaign -- desperate for victory -- should adopt during the inexorable march to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22. If the dispatches from the campaign trail are correct, there have been a few boneheaded tactics up for her consideration.

One Clinton adviser has advocated counting the delegates from Michigan and Florida. All of the Democrats' candidates had agreed to not campaign in either state because both states had violated party rules.

Clinton won those states without a real contest and now that she is losing to Barack Obama, her campaign wants to count those victories.

That will not fly in Pittsburgh.

Both Obama and Clinton are fighting for the party's uncommitted superdelegates -- usually old party hands appointed by state committees. In this year's close race, Clinton reportedly is hoping to use those appointed delegates to override the will of the voters if she is behind when the convention starts.

Eight years ago, when Al Gore won the popular vote over George W. Bush, some Democrats bemoaned the fact that the Electoral College might trump the will of the voters. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court trumped the will of the voters and gave the job to Bush.

That is something Democrats never will forget. Is the Clinton superdelegate strategy any different• Not at all.

And that will not fly in Pittsburgh.

Last week, a Clinton aide suggested that Hillary's campaign might even pursue the committed delegates who are already in the Obama column. Most voters would be astonished to learn that the "committed" delegates are committed in name only; they have always been free to vote as they choose at the convention.

That may work in theory but the reality is that Democrat voters across the nation believe that there is a pact that honors the results of the state primaries. Any transparent attempt to disrupt that process will not fly in Pittsburgh, either.

What will fly is a plain old, knock-down, drag-out, slugfest -- winner take all. And while losing can be tough, Pittsburgh can even serve up a lesson on how that should be done.

In 1964, quarterback Y.A. Tittle and his New York Giants played the Steelers at Pitt Stadium. Tittle, near the end of a great career, threw an interception and was hit hard by 270-pound Steeler defensive end John Baker.

Morris Berman's award-winning photo of Tittle right after that hit says it all. Alone in the end zone on his haunches, with his arms at his side and his helmet on the ground behind him, Tittle is broken but not bowed. With rivulets of blood running down his bare head, he looks like he could be pondering his entire career -- or even the meaning of life -- in that moment.

Y.A. Tittle had given his all. He lost. But he won a lot of Pittsburgh hearts that day.

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