All Eyes on San Diego

October 11th, 2005

All Eyes on San Diego

Though not a “Sunday,” I couldn’t miss the Steelers first Monday Night Football appearance of the Roethlisberger era. So why would I travel two thousand miles for a game? Sun, sand, and black and gold fans.

California provided a beautiful Monday setting for a Steelers tailgate organized by Bub’s Dive Bar and Grill and the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Baltimore. While I found Black and Gold pride spread throughout the parking lots, Bub’s Corner party was magnificent point of convergence for the Steeler Nation. Even though it was the farthest point from Qualcomm Stadium, people kept coming. Navigating thousands of parked cars to find it, they emerging wide-eyed at the little taste of Pittsburgh they saw before them.

The night before the game many of us went to Bub’s Dive Bar and Grill in Pacific Beach. Though the Steelers weren’t on television, the bar was filled with black and gold, spilling out onto the sidewalk. Up and down Garnet Avenue, cars passed sharing their feelings for the Steelers. For all the cars that yelled,” Steelers Suck – Go Chargers,” there were as many yelling, “Go Steelers,” along the same drag.

Most people are born Steelers fans. Those who were raised in Pittsburgh families inherited their fanaticism along with their eye color. But elsewhere in the world, people choose to be Steelers fans because they identify with what the team represents. One of the reasons I travelled to San Diego was to see how fans differ in areas remote to Pittsburgh. Because the Steelers don’t play in California as often as they do in Cleveland, a game anywhere in the state brings out fans from all over the West Coast.

Take José for instance. He was born in Southern California, has never been to Pittsburgh, has no family from Pittsburgh, but at the age of 7 chose to be a Steelers fan. His father and his brothers aligned themselves with either the Cowboys or the Raiders. But José choose the Black and Gold instead. He may have been too young to know why he respected the team, but even now as an adult he still identifies with the Steelers blue-collar work ethic that hard work will persevere. To him, the Steelers aren’t just the team of Pittsburgh, they are the working-man’s team.

And I met three flag-caped men from New Mexico: Eddie, Leo and Randy. Their head-to-toe uniforms and hand crafted hard hats stood out as a testament to the Worldwide Steeler Pride. Their banners declared that the Steelers were in fact “America’s Team.”

Then there are Shaun Horrigan and Walt Cavalier from Tacoma, Washington. They were both in search of a football team in the early 1970’s before the Seattle Seahawks got started. Shaun was 9 years old when he became a fan, and was also inspired by Rocky Bleier’s book Fighting Back. At a young age, Walt was impressed by the Steelers dominance. Wanting to be a winner, he choose to be a Steelers fan too. Shaun and Walt eventually started the Black and Gold Express, a fan club in Washington State. [Read an article about the fan club].

Monday Night Football promises exciting match-ups. As always, the Steelers delivered. The Steelers came into the game regrouped from a tough loss to the Patriots and the Chargers off a big win over the same New England team. Simple logic made San Diego the favorite at home, but the Steelers live for big games, and produced an ending that looked like a final play from Coach Belichick’s book. Once again the hopes of thousands of Steelers fans was determined by one kick in the final seconds. This time it was good off of Jeff Reed’s toe…Here we go…!

Final Outcome:
Steelers Defeat San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football 24-22

All Eyes on San Diego

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