As a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, how did it feel to wake up Monday after possibly the best Super Bowl ever, in the “surprisingly hip”* ‘Burgh perched at the confluence of Three Rivers?
Pretty good, actually, but as my Dad used to say used to say after a Big Game, “Well, I still have to get up and go to work tomorrow so I better get to bed.” Maybe not the hippest comment, but true nonetheless.
If you are not from the stomping grounds of old William Pitt, you may not have any idea how big a deal the Steelers are. Truly, they transcend everything around them: A No. 1 ranked Pitt Panthers basketball team, French fries on sandwiches, kielbasa, pierogis and maybe even high school football.
Last week, Steeler Black and Gold was everywhere. Everyone sported the colors on their bodies, on their cars or in their front yards. Wanting to participate, I hustled out to get more yarn to make another Steeler scarf since my original one fell apart in the washing machine. Prepping for the game was a lot of fun and maybe, if we are looking for the simple answer as to why this is so important around here it just may be: What else is there to do in wintry Pennsylvania in January and February except go a little nutso and root for the home team?
The Cardinals, hailing from Arizona - which is warm and beautiful at this time of year, don’t really need a trophy to have a good day. They played a great game and since they have so many connections to the Pittsburgh area, no one here was bad mouthing the team like they would have been if the opponent had been the Dallas Cryboys. Everyone has respect for Larry Fitzgerald � a former Pitt player; Coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm � former Steeler coaches, and Steve Breaston � a local boy who I saw run in a high school meet against my son,
And under any other situation they would have been the team of choice. But with the Steelers at the Big Show, they had no chance.
I had to laugh after the game when Coach Mike Tomlin thanked the Steeler Nation for its support. It’s a term we bandy about kind of as a joke around here but in a lot ways, it may describe something that is bigger than we realize. The Steeler faithful “travel well,” as they say, meaning if you attend any NFL game anywhere there will be crowds of crazy Pittsburgh fans waving Terrible Towels and dressed up like tipsy Vikings.
Analysts from world of sports are trying to explain this fan loyalty, but I think that it is a phenomenon that sprouted from a blue collar city which is changing its negative image but not its roots. The Rooneys, the family that owns the team for now, are down home kind of people and they tend to draft the same kind of players, and in a former steel mill town, that earns respect.
Dan Rooney, the owner of the team, still lives in his parents’ old home in a neighborhood which has deteriorated over the years, and he doesn’t even own a second home. He gives out his personal cell phone number to each Pittsburgh player so that if they need him, he is there. Old school, yes, but enough to have the team in the hunt most years.
I can remember back to those old SOS (Same Old Steelers) days in the 1960s when my Dad would get disgusted with the team and my mother would ask him why he bothered to watch if he got so upset. He, like so many others around here, was just waiting for the glory days of this franchise so dear to their heart. They were rewarded in the 70s and it’s happening again in this new century. Talk to a Steelers fan and there’s no doubt about it: This ride will go on and on.
Truly, the Super Bowl win was big for our fair city, and what I really would like to see is that we can finally put to rest the talk show image of Pittsburgh as a dark and smoky place. That hasn’t been true for a very long time. Maybe now the city will get some of the positive attention it deserves as a great place to visit and an even greater place to live.
Welcome to Sixburgh. Can’t wait to see what will happen next.
* The Lonely Planet guide said that Pittsburgh was “surprisingly hip.” Nice to know!
By Teresa K. Flatley