How I became a citizen

Some people are born citizens. I was naturalized.

It all started back in the ’70s. I was a diehard Bucco’s fan, complete with pictures of my favorite players on my bedroom wall. (José Pagan was up there — I think because his picture was really cute.) I remember the ’71 World Series, although, ahem, I was a mere child. Also the shock and sadness when Roberto Clemente died. And being outside on a summer night, hearing the voice of Bob Prince on the radio, wafting through the air from all the open windows — Chicken on the Hill with Will.

But suddenly, all that changed. The Steelers started winning. And winning. And winning. Down came the Pirates pinups and up went the Steelers — Lynn Swann was (and forever will be) “my” Steeler. Conveniently, my close friend Colleen loved Terry Bradshaw. Our walls were covered with photos cut from the newspaper and magazines. Somewhere, I have the “official” team photos from those years, along with the commemorative Iron City beer cans.

A highlight was at age 16, when Colleen, Sharon, and I went downtown to Kaufmann’s (Sharon drove, at night!) to get Lynn Swann’s autograph at a book signing. Colleen snapped this picture, among others, and that’s the autograph — and memory — I’ll always treasure. (And, he would have made a great governor, too!) You’ll notice Franco’s signature under Lynn’s…we stood in line at the Hill’s store (remember them? Like K-Mart.) in the North Hills to get that. He was handing out those pictures, and I asked him to sign my book, too. When he saw that Swann had signed with his number, he added #32 to his signature as well…

bookfrontcover1

lynnswann

8832autographs

I used to while away the hours in class listing all the players by number in the margins of my notebook. So forgive me if I still think of Mike Wagner as #23 instead of Tyrone Carter, or 89 as Benny Cunningham instead of Matt Spaeth, or 78 Dwight White instead of Max Starks, or 68 L.C. Greenwood instead of Chris Kemoeatu. (Looking up roster numbers just now [for the new folks, ha ha] made me realize they aren’t even using a lot of the Steel Curtain numbers, like 58, 59, 75, or my beloved 88 and 82 and of course, 12. I hope that’s intentional!)

Over the years, I also collected my share of Steelers kitsch. My favorite — the classic tossle cap I crocheted in high school, complete with glued-on, hand-drawn paper emblem — who said I wasn’t crafty? I can’t take credit (thank god) for the frilly, pom-pom creation — it’s a pin! And the little “Think Superbowl” fuzzy guy still has the faintest writing on the back: “Chris, Happy 16th Birthday! Luv ya, Colleen.” (“luv ya” — isn’t that so 16? I love it!)

steelerskitsch

So, by virtue of all these things, I became a naturalized citizen of Steelers Nation. I can’t say I was born to it — my parents couldn’t have cared less about sports. But I, with the help of 3 brothers, became a Steelerite just the same.

People wonder why we’re so obnoxious devoted. That’s easy. My story is not unique. All over Western Pennsylvania, and now the world, grown-ups who were once little girls and boys have their own memories of their own inductions into the Steeler Nation. Many of them were lucky to be born citizens, a legacy from mum, dad, grandma, and grandpap. Many, many more are like me, naturalized…some never having set foot on the “hallowed ground” of Western PA.

I said once I think Steelermania is in the water. I’ll stand by that. But even more, it’s in our blood. (Which is mostly water…so it all fits.)

But now, I better go. I need to turn up the national anthem for a minute before getting back to work. Here’s to a six-pack kind of weekend. This one’s for you, Myron!

‘Twas the Night Before the Super Bowl

     ‘Twas the night before the Super Bowl, when along the gulf shore,
              Steelers fans were praying for “just one more;”

               The players were nestled all snug in the sack,
                  With visions of the first NFL Six-Pack;

              Coach Tomlin was young, but wise for his years,
                So I drifted off to sleep without any fears;

           When at the stadium there arose some strange chatter,
                 The Cardinals feared, what was the matter;

               We heard “Okel Dokel”, we heard “Double Yoi,”
            We jumped from our beds, our hearts jumped for joy;

               He stood at the fifty with a grin ear to ear,
                 Steelers fans everywhere started to cheer;

                    Then in an instant to our surprise,
                 This little old man had tears in his eyes;

               He went to the booth and there took his chair,
                  While Terrible Towels waved in the air;

               Then over the airwaves came his shrill voice,
                   The Steelers Nation began to rejoice;

              He said, “I am back, but you know I can’t stay,
                    I just had to see my Steelers play;

                From my home up above, I have a great view,
                  But I wanted to celebrate here with you;

              So bring on the Birds, we’ll send them a flyin’,
             On the way back to Phoenix , they will be cryin’;

                Ben, Hines, Troy, Jeff and all of the rest,
               No matter the outcome, to me you’re the best;”

                The airwaves went silent, the stadium still,
                 Was this just a dream, it seemed so real;

            In our team we have faith, in our team we have hope,
              But the game’s not the same without Myron Cope.

                                              ~ Written by A.K. Young, 01-23-09

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4 Comments

  1. robbie said,

    Friday, January 30, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Who would have thunk? I want to see you wearing that tossle cap soon!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, January 30, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I should note that the tossle cap is also a pin — about 3″ tall! I won’t hesitate to wear it on my coat when we go to the bar tonight!

  3. Facie said,

    Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I had never thought about my foray into the Nation, but this brought back a memory. I think it happened when I was in 5th or 6th grade. My family was driving around Three Rivers Stadium trying to buy some tickets from some scalpers (none of us had ever been to a game). I recall saying a silent prayer that if we got the tickets, I would promise to do well in school, which is odd because I did not even like football at the time. And even more strange because I was not a good student. We ended up getting two sets of tickets (I sat with my mom, and my brother with my dad), and after that, I became a fan AND started getting straight A’s! A few years later, we were lucky enough to become season ticket holders.

    I was probably not a diehard until many years later; in high school I was into high school football; in college it was mostly PSU, though I did try to watch as many games as I could while in Happy Valley. It was not until I moved back home and then to the Burgh that I became forever embedded in the greatest nation.

  4. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I was an adult before I got to go to my first home game. I’ve been to 2 regular season (at Three Rivers) and one pre-season (the first game at Heinz Field). One away game in San Diego (it was like 92 degrees and at least half the stadium was Steelers fans) and a couple pre-season in D.C. against the Redskins (again, many Steelers fans).


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