It must be in the water.

I’m still a Pittsburgher, even though technically I live too far east these days, just 20 minutes or so from Latrobe, PA — home of St. Vincent College, which is better known as the home of Steelers training camp. You can’t live in the ’Burgh and not know about this annual ritual: The swallows flock to Capistrano; the Steelers — and their minions — flock to Latrobe.

I’ve never been there to watch training camp practices and scrimmages, snag an autograph, or see the boys up close. But I’ve been to the campus a couple of times to see a play (just last Saturday in fact) — that would be a stage play not a hut-one, hut-two play. It doesn’t take long to understand the attraction of the place. It’s beautiful (even without the Steelers in view), and the revamped field is a dream (is that Lambert coming out of the corn?). You can picture hanging out there and looking down on the field, talking ball with the guy (or gal) sitting next to you, with the Laurel Mountains as the backdrop.

The campus is also home to the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media — yes Mister Rogers. Oh yeah, there’s a magnificent Basilica as well — stunning at night. The Steelers and Mr. Rogers and God — an embarrassment of riches.

Before the play, we ate at a nearby restaurant, Sharky’s, popular with the locals and the players. Of course, it’s decorated to the hilt with black & gold (including the waitresses) and has TVs all over the dining room showing current Steelers news coverage as well as highlights of past events — games, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions, ceremonies at Three Rivers & Heinz Field, player interviews, etc.

It’s amazing what a magnet those screens are. Show any highlight from any game in the golden years and it’s hard to keep your eyes off the sets. Show any aging player and it’s sure to spark a memory of some game, play, or event. It’s 30 years later, for goodness sake, but people are mesmerized. How can you explain such devotion?

I’m guessing it’s something in the water. I drank it 30 years ago and was hooked. Me and about a bazillion other Steelers fans — at home in Pittsburgh or wherever their lives led them.

But that doesn’t quite explain the many, many fans who have never set foot in the ’Burgh at all, let alone in the sleepy little town of Latrobe (that’s LAYtrobe). 

OK, how about this: It’s the water if you ever lived here; it’s the thirst for it — the thirst to be part of that big-awesome-love-hate-black-n-gold-towel-waving-Steeler-nation-madness — if you haven’t.

And, yes, there are those of you who live here and don’t give a hoot about the Steelers — those of you rolling your eyes all “What’s wrong with these people?” I’m afraid you’re on your own. Find your own magic potion. Wave a towel for whatever it is “you people” root for. Look down on us black & gold crazies. Whatever. Just don’t stand in front of the TV. And pass the water pitcher.

I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.
                                             ~ Henry David Thoreau


  1. robbie said,

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I’m hooting now! I admire the passion Steeler fans have throughout the land. I just wish a little of that passion could be reserved for important issues like high taxes, too much regulation, way-too-big government, crooked politicians, etc. Our republic learned one thing from Rome; keep the masses entertained to divert any interest in government. Go gladiators!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Do you think the government could manage to win a Super Bowl, because I’m sure we would pay attention then…

  3. robbie said,

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Every day is a super bowl win for government! Did you see the “stadium authority” (whoever that is) is selling choice property to the Steelers for below fair market value? Another WIN for them and LOSS for us. That’s after building a stadium against public votes for a team that’s worth $1B. Government keeps on winning at our expense.

  4. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 11:53 am

    At least the Steelers have the courtesy to win more games than they lose — unlike the perennial basement-dwelling Pirates. I think the taxpayers would lose more if the Steelers left and took their related tax revenue-generating powers with them (parking, entertainment, hospitality, service, drink, sales). Hey, I’m not saying we needed a new stadium, and we certainly didn’t need that stupid tunnel (city of bridges, remember?) — but the Steelers do SOMETHING for the city (and the whole region, really).

  5. kevie said,

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    grow up you two!

    the roman or greek was right, bring on the christians, let loose the lions…….oops, lions are they a sports team?

    i guess i will never be a pittsburgher knowing nothing of the ‘flocking’ to latrobe. i have never been a fan of the masses and their games… surprise to many. turn off the tv and bring on the champagne!!!

    also, what kind of eatery has the tv on during dinner? must serve to deflect attention from the food…….cloth or paper?

    i must admit i would like to see just how much revenue these teams generate and what the cost has been to government, i.e. taxpayers…..

    i will be waving my empty champagne flute…..

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