Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Stanley Cup, the man, reluctant spokesman

May 20, 2006


— Stanley Cup - the man, not the trophy - just can't relax.

It's been that way ever since the Outdoor Life Network tracked down the publicity-shy steelworker a couple weeks ago and talked him into promoting the cable network's ongoing Stanley Cup playoff hockey telecasts.

"I'm just a private person," said Cup, whose father, Stephen Stanley Cup, named him for a close friend 57 years ago, not hockey's championship trophy, which is twice as old. "I like to keep to myself and the few friends that I have and that's about it."

But now Cup gets three or four calls - three or four! - each night from the media. That's hardly enough to tickle a Madison Avenue Blackberry, but Cup finds it positively jarring. Bred from coal-mining stock in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, his excite-o-meter peaks when riding his Harley or downing beers with the guys at The Lone Star Bar.

Cup's unusual name has drawn a few calls over the years, mostly from sports radio or "morning zoo"-type rock-and-roll jocks when the National Hockey League playoffs roll around. Every now and then, a Canadian newspaper reporter would try to wring a story out of Cup, who shares his given name with the Great White North's Holy Grail.

But until OLN called this year, Cup just said, "No."

"I thought maybe if I started (saying 'Yes') it would lead to what it led to this year," said Cup, whose friends call him "Stush," a common Rust Belt nickname for Stanley. "I'm getting half scared to come home from work. I'm not used to all the attention, really."

Stanley Cup, the man, poses with Stanley Cup, the trophy. Cup, a steelworker from Saltsburg, Pa., has done hockey promos for Outdoor Life Network.

Stanley Cup, the man, poses with Stanley Cup, the trophy. Cup, a steelworker from Saltsburg, Pa., has done hockey promos for Outdoor Life Network.

Experts on television advertising and the reigning king of America's "regular guy" pitchmen, Jared "I lost 235 pounds eating Subway sandwiches" Fogle, say Cup has nothing to worry about.

Except for being himself.

"OLN needs to let Stanley be Stanley," said Professor Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "You don't polish Stanley Cup - you let him be out there in all his oxidizing glory."

And if Cup never gets comfortable, that's OK, the spotlight won't last long, said Professor James Twitchell, an expert on advertising and celebrity at the University of Florida.

"I just think Stanley has his moment in the sun, he has his 15 minutes of fame and that's it," said Twitchell, author of "Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism." In the book, Twitchell argues that Americans increasingly look to commercial brands, not religion or family heritage, for their identities.

The network arranged a few promotional appearances in New York for Cup and his daughter, Stephanie Barber, 33, who helped talk Cup into the deal. He spent Wednesday making some live national TV appearances.


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