Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why I Love the Pittsburgh Steelers

I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have since the days when Big Daddy Lipscomb intimidated Alex Karras and John Henry Johnson dropped his son off on Ellsworth to join a neighborhood game. It’s partly because I love Pittsburgh that I love the Steelers. I mean, you grow up in a town and you know the back roads, the holes in the fences, who you can tease, where to stay away from, and how to drive under the bridges. You know where they keep the railroad signal bombs, what the “Flying Fraction” is, and who came from Pittsburgh. (Yes, all you Bears fans, Ditka’s from Pittsburgh, dahn the Ohio, where the steel mills are a mile long, and every kid who played football in that place was as tough as Ditka, if not as talented.)

We heard tales of Unitas, who supposedly impossibly threw a football over the Millvale Bridge. And the great Marino was a neighborhood boy who went to Central Catholic and was a classmate of one of the Cunningham brothers. And as the greater Pittsburgh area grows, so we claim Namath, and Montana, and even the Kent State guys who were closer to Pittsburgh than to Cleveland, and had loyalties outside Ohio. Jack “Splat” "Count Jackula" Lambert was such a guy, and I hear he lives out around Oakmont, both happily and quietly, with his family. I used to see Rocky Bleier and his wife at the Pittsburgh Public Theater on Thursday nights, when my wife and I also had season tickets. Andy Russell made bank ads, and who could forget Mean Joe Green’s Coke ad, or the latest fashions worn by Frenchy Fuqua. Then there was Franco’s Italian Army, and the conviction that Bradshaw could choose between Swann and Stallworth on any play and that either would be up to the task.

In Roethlisberger we have another Steeler “legend in waiting”, but Charlie Batch, a home boy from Homestead (the steel mills up the Mon from Pittsburgh), threw three TDs to Ward et al in the season opener and showed us we could win with him, too, when the starter was recovering from an appendectomy, and after the city lost a well-respected mayor earlier in the week to cancer. And who did the work on D? The fabulous linebacker corps and the secondary! They’re going to be around for quite a few years and are just going to get better. Bill Cowher is Pittsburgh, and his teams have been successful largely due to his work, and to the Rooneys. He's tough and aggressive, and he has a big heart. His team reflects that Pittsburgh bluster and heart, and the team looks to him to represent Pittsburgh from the sidelines.

Look, I don’t watch every game (although I have watched a few at Zack’s, in Millbrae, a Steelers bar here in the SF Bay Area), and I don’t know every player by number or by stats. I do know that Pittsburgh was a great town to grow up in, and that the Steelers made me happy. I had more to do with the Pirates, since I grew up near Forbes Field, and since Roberto Clemente was the best ever, and since Vernon “Deacon” Law was active in the Mormon Church across from my house and regularly gave us kids general admission tickets on Sundays, and since I liked listening to Bob Prince call the games, and since I was happy for all the people who managed to have “chicken on the Hill with Will” when Willie Stargell hit a homer. Just the same, I have always loved the rough and tumble of football. It better reflects the town than baseball, which is redolent of cow shit rather than steel. Yes, I love the Steelers, win or lose, because I love the town they represent, and they have represented us so well over the decades. The only things that keep me from getting a big screen TV and a football package here at the Patio is that I can't afford them, and that I don't want the 1-Pabst-per-4-hours crowd. Suggestions are welcome, except for cover changes.


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