What a difference a year makes

Is there a big football game or something this weekend?

I might have heard a brief mention of some such event on Channel 2, in between Armageddon snow reports. Maybe something on WYEP — no, it wouldn’t have been on YEP…must have been on one of the other radio stations, you know, the ones that aren’t cool enough to ignore sports?

Seriously. Last year at this time, we in the ‘Burgh had lived, breathed, ate, slept, washed off, and immediately rerolled-around-in all things Steelers and all things Super Bowl. By now we were all so hyped up we couldn’t really speak — just look at each other, high-five, and yell WHOOOOOO! THE weekend was finally here.

Last year at this time, Mike and I were strategizing about what time we should arrive at our local hangout on Sunday to be sure to get a good seat. I had downloaded and blasted Here We Go at least 3 times a day for the last week, mixed in with a few Muppety Pa-LA-ma-lu (that’s Polamalu)‘s and “We’re from the town with that great football team….” (bum-bum-bum-BUM)s. I had tried to buy black and gold Smiley cookies at Eat’n Park, only to find that all they had left to offer was some lame Valentine hearts. My friends and I had exchanged 7,429  e-mails offering everything from “notes” to give to your boss to excuse you from work on Monday to pictures of how fans had decorated their houses/cars/bodies in black and gold to poetic tributes to Myron Cope. And we’d shared 2,728 links to 2,728 videos along the lines of this one.

(And, I should say, I got goosebumps trolling through YouTube just now…)

What a difference a year makes.

This Sunday night, I don’t expect I’ll be jumping up and down screaming at the bar. I don’t expect I’ll be hoarse for 3 days after. I don’t expect much of anything. I’m just hoping for an exciting game (I don’t really care who wins), a good half-time show (I just had to Google to find out it will be The Who performing), and some funny commercials featuring talking babies and Clydesdales.

I hope the folks in Indianapolis and New Orleans will have a lot more fun than that.

But I guarantee, it won’t be NEARLY as much fun as Stiller fans have when it’s OUR team in the spotlight. Was that only a year ago? Seems like forever.

It may be that all games are silly. But then, so are humans.
~ Robert Lynd

Savoring Sixburgh

OK, so you non-football types are sick to death of all the game talk and can’t wait for it to be over. Don’t worry, it almost is. We just need a little time to savor (or sigh, depending on your allegiances).

Mike and I ended up at our local bar hangout for the game. First time we’ve done that and it was pretty fun, although I really missed hearing Tunch and Bill call the game. It’s so much more personal (and biased!).

Am I the only one that noticed that not once did the cameras pan the stands to show the fans, and not once did we see a sea of Terrible Towels waving (except briefly and out-of-focus in the background), nor did the network announcers talk about the ratio of Steelers fans to Cardinals fans? I had to listen to the post-game accounts to confirm that yes, there really were more Steelers fans there! I know the rest of the world gets sick of Steeler Nation and the tremendous support we give our team, and the NFL wants to downplay it to make it seem more “fair,” but to ignore it is just plain wrong. After all, nothing is stopping any other team’s fans from doing what we do.

But, back to the bar. Every table had some of these on it — after all, it was Sunday and Pittsburghers are God-loving/fearing people:steelerprayer3

I was worried people would be standing in front of us — we were sitting at a table just across from the bar (and the taps), with a great view of one of the TVs. I should have known that ‘Burgh fans are way more considerate than that. There weren’t many standers at all, and everyone was careful not to block anyone’s view.

I was surprised fans weren’t more rowdy. We didn’t hear “Here We Go” once, although they did play Renegade at the end of halftime. Someone had a horn that sounded like a moose, and someone else had a New Year’s Eve noisemaker. Other than that, it was just your typical yelling and towel-waving. I’m sure I embarrassed myself during Harrison’s impossible-yet-there-it-was interception return — a middle-aged woman screaming and jumping up and down. (That was the beginning of the throat pain that persists today.) In fact, that was one of the reasons I was a little worried about going in the first place — I’m a vocal fan, and I didn’t know how that would play out in public. I’m still not sure, but oh well.

What can you say about the game that hasn’t already be said, or felt, by everyone who was there or who watched it? Mike gets all caught up in reading the blogs and media accounts afterward — he so wants it to be a “clean and clear” victory with no controversy. Unless it’s a blowout, that never happens. He hates reading that people think the NFL (via the officials) gave us the game, or that Harrison or Santonio didn’t really deserve those touchdowns, or that Harrison should have been thrown out of the game for his behavior, etc. Or people who call us the “Stealers.”

I’m much more pragmatic: How many bad calls went against the Steelers this season? How many plays has James Harrison NOT been held this whole season? Do you think he might get a little frustrated about it from time to time? And didn’t we have as many crucial penalties called against us that reversed touchdowns and cost us points? Am I biased? Of course! But yesterday, things worked out our way, even though at one point all I could think of was, “This is how New England felt last year.”

We’re all still in shock, I think. And how can we top that victory parade and celebration from last time? (That one has to go down in the annals of football fan history.) Not counting the ceremonial Pro Bowl next Sunday (with very few Steelers in it), we now have a loooonnnggg, football-less winter to get through. At least I can do it wearing a new Sixburgh shirt from time to time and with a new sticker adorning my car to admire. I may even have to buy some Steelers Smiley cookies before they disappear (assuming they’ll be around for a little while yet), because when I stopped at E&P yesterday, there were none to be had. (The kid at the counter actually said, “We have Valentine hearts [Smiley cookies].”…..Uh, thanks but no thanks. Where are the Keebler elves when you need them?)

So, a little black-and-gold shopping is in order to wrap up this heart-stopping, surprising, highly improbable season. And some throat lozenges would be nice about now.

Those last couple of yards were probably tougher than
anything I’ve done in my life, but probably more
gratifying than anything I’ve done in football.
                         ~ James Harrison, talking
                               about you-know-what play

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…




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!)


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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