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

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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…

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lynnswann

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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