A sweet story — #GoSteelers!

If you notice my tweets in the left column here, you know I was watching and tweeting about the game last Saturday. (As was nearly everyone else — #GoSteelers was “trending” worldwide on Twitter — the 4th most tweeted topic in the WORLD!) I happened to be watching the game alone, as Mike was away, and it was nice to feel connected to Steeler Nation, if only in a small way. (If you read Ginny at That’s Church, you know that the debate about whether it’s Steeler Nation or Steelers Nation is a hot one.)

Here’s a sweet story from today’s Post-Gazette online that brings to life what the team means to Pittsburghers far and wide — as in, Pittsburghers who actually live here now, have lived here before, or have never even lived here at all. (I love how he talks about his “mum” — a Pittsburgh thing if ever there was one.)

Steelers Nation: Timid boy grew up to be lifelong fan with a Steeler’s help
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
By Travis Nagy

I am a son of the Pittsburgh Diaspora. Mum went to South Florida in the 1970s, and that’s where I was born.

I’ve lived nearly all my life down South, save for a few little clips in Butler County when I was very small. Still, Pittsburgh was always part of my life, as Italy or Poland might have been to Pittsburgh folks my mum’s age. For me, it was the “old country,” my ancestral home.

Kay was a family friend who looked out for Mum and me down in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She was another transplant from the ‘Burgh, and it was at her table where I first ate city chicken. She had to move back North, but what she couldn’t do in person, she made up for by sending me regular Pittsburgh care packages.

I was 12 in August 1993 when Mum and I took the train from Lauderdale to Pittsburgh. We stayed for a week, and Kay filled up the days showing me everything that the PAT buses could get us to: Downtown, the Carnegie Museum, Soldiers and Sailors.

When we went to the Carnegie Science Center, we got done around 2 or 3 p.m. and were waiting a few minutes for a bus toward Harmar to get us back to Kay’s rowhouse.

“Boy, something’s goin’ on over there … football players,” Kay said, looking over toward Three Rivers Stadium.

I heard her but didn’t think much of it. Then Mum piped up.

“The Steelers! Trav, look, I think that’s the Steelers.”

I looked toward the stadium, and I saw them mostly in shoulder pads and black jerseys walking into the stadium. I couldn’t believe it. From where we were standing, they appeared about the same size as they were inside the TV on any given Sunday.

“You think you could make it over there?” Mum asked me. I hesitated.

Kay pulled from her bag a pen and a skinny notepad, with pages about the size of a gas station receipt. “Here,” she said, “go get ’em to sign something.”

I don’t know how much of a run that was, and I wasn’t the most athletic 12-year-old around. But, buddy, I rumbled my fat butt down there. Halfway there, I had to stop and catch my breath. I summoned all the energy I could to run the rest of it. My lungs were on fire.I got right up to them, and it seemed surreal that Rod Woodson and Barry Foster walked right past me. I was half afraid I’d get shooed away by cops, and half afraid of trying to get an autograph from somebody. I’d heard so many stories of mean football players telling kids off.

For a measure of time, I just stood there, watching. I finally got the courage to stop one I recognized: No. 20, Dwight Stone.

“Hey, number 20, ‘scuse me …”

He twitched his head back, stopped, and pivoted toward me. I was dumbfounded. I think I just pointed the notepad and pen at him, nervous as heck. The other Steelers walked around him, oblivious to the fat kid. He asked my name.

“OK, Travis. Good to meet you.” Something like that. He took my pen and started to sign that little paper I had. I wanted to say something.

“You’re Dwight Stone, right?”

He nodded and handed the paper back.

“This is awesome!”

I bet Dwight Stone probably stopped for kids a hundred times in his career and gave no thought to it. But it made my day, probably even my year. So long as I live, I’ll never forget it. I felt like a pest, so I turned away as soon as I got the autograph.

He started to walk off also, then stopped and said, “Oh, hey — here.” He handed me a pair of his wristbands. I’m sure it was nowhere near the theater of the Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial, but I was so high, I ran back to that bus stop even faster than I ran from it, and without stopping.

Kay passed away a few years ago, and there’s no longer anyone in Pittsburgh who has a spare couch or a spread of city chicken waiting on me. The names of the big buildings Downtown have changed, and some of the places that were special to my family are gone.

But those wristbands that I still have are proof positive that the Steelers Nation is built around a very real thing. I’m proud to know that wherever I go, I’ll always be a part of it.

Travis Nagy, an attorney in Greenville, S.C., can be reached at fungoking@hotmail.com.The PG Portfolio welcomes “Steelers Nation” essays this month from readers about the bonds the football team has forged among family, friends and strangers. Send your submissions to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11018/1118746-66.stm#ixzz1BQHvy2Vq


#Go Steelers!

So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.
~ Bahá’u’lláh

Potato, potahto n’at

Last night, I woke up just in time to see David what’s-his-name on CSI Miami say about the victim du jour, “His name was Steve Lancaster.”

It perked me right up. He said Lancaster like Burt — langCASter. But not like the town in Pennsylvania. Folks there call it LANGkister — all run together, veddy British. And if you’re from Latrobe, you call it LAYtrobe. And if you’re from the Laurel Mountains, you say Donniegol (the Irish way), while the typical PA Turnpike traveler simply says Donegal (DAWNigll). 

Of course, the natives are pronouncing it correctly. But I think it’s funny that we ‘Burghers, who are quick to laugh at a new newscaster who says MUNroeville or KITTENing or North Versigh, are almost universally wrong about Lancaster, Latrobe, and Donegal. (I met a girl in college, and all of us thought it was so funny when she said, “I’m from LAYtrobe.”)

I always notice accents. Also pronunciation, though I’m not always right in what I think is correct. After my diatribe against pronouncing verbiage “verbage,” I learned that was OK — the #2 way in the dictionary. Just like my husband’s pronunciation of compass to rhyme with pompous (but you’d think an eagle scout would know better), or saying aunt like taunt, or vase like voz.

At my husband’s church, while everyone was AHmen-ing, I was AYmen-ing. I’m still studying that one — maybe it’s a Catholic thing or a ‘Burgh thing? We (my relatives) were praying aloud at the funeral home a few weeks ago and we all AYmen-ed while my husband AHmen-ed.

I can always pick out a Western PA accent, even a latent one, though I didn’t know I had one of my own until 7th grade, when Mr. Klebaha amazed our entire English class by pointing out our Pittsburghese. I’ve learned to suppress it in the years since, but there’s still something comforting (although funny — Stanley P. Kachowski funny) in hearing someone who’s going dahntahn or doing the worsh or taking an ahr to get to work on a slippy day. These are the voices of home — and I’m proud to throw in a yinz or a “needs fixed” or a trip to the Sahside every now and then — it’s my right as a native. It bothers me when people equate those terms with being uneducated (or downright unwashed) — no one accuses Southerners of that or Chicagoans or Bostonians. We Pittsburghers share a unique voice (all the linguists agree), and it’s OK to be proud of that!

Why just a couple months ago, Mike and I saw an unfamiliar weatherman on The Weather Channel, and I immediately said, “He’s from around here.” Yep, according to his profile on weather.com, Severe Weather Expert Dr. Greg Forbes was born and raised near — you guessed it — good ol’ LAYtrobe.

Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of
dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs,
ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity,
and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground.
                                        ~ Noah Webster