More than football
This appeared in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette on January 25, 2005
What's the big deal about Steeler football? Being a Steeler fan means so much more than football. It means being from a corner of the world unlike any other. It means being from a place where the people are so tough-minded that they have survived the Homestead strikes and the Johnstown flood. These people have the DNA of hard work, in mills and mines, without the necessity of complaint. They live simply, with no frills. They don't have movie stars or fancy cars. Instead, they have simple traditions like kielbasa and Kennywood. They live in distinctive neighborhoods like Polish Hill and the Hill District. These people are genuine. They don't have chic internet cafes and cappuccinos, but they have The Original Hot Dog joint and Iron City Beer. People from Pittsburgh don't have sunny beaches or fancy boats, but the rivers roll gently, connecting the small towns of people whose histories have been built on strength and humility. People from Pittsburgh don't have the biggest shopping malls or the best nightclubs, but they'll take Friday night high school football and Steeler Sunday over anything. Steeler football means so much more than you think. It symbolizes a diaspora of generations who had the best childhood they could imagine. They ran free without a care or concern in the valleys of those Allegheny mountains. Their blue-collar world was easy ... there was no one to tell them that they lacked material things. There was no one to tell them that they needed more. As the steel mills closed and the jobs disappeared, some of these people had to leave. While the world benefits because they spread their Pittsburgh values, they long for their home where things were simpler and more pure. They teach their kids about Jack Lambert and Joe Greene in hopes of departing not just the knowledge, but the feeling that they represented. They are everywhere, those Terrible Towels. They wave, not just for the team, but for the hearts they left behind. They wave in living rooms in Fort Lauderdale and in the bars D.C. They wave all the way to the Seattle Superdome! They wave for the Rooney family, whose values mirror our own - loyalty, grit, and humility. They wave for football players like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward, whose unselfishness and toughness have allowed sports to be about the game and the team. Make no mistake that Steeler football is not just about football.
MARY STABLEIN LASWSON
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.