Week XV: Home for the Holidays

December 19th, 2004

Week XV: Home for the Holidays

The Holidays are a nice time to go home, and this past week I spent some time with two fans that make as many appearances as Santa. There are a small number of Steelers fans that are elevated to a level of celebrity. These fans have recently been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of fame in Canton, OH. “The Ultimate Steeler Fan” and “Steeler Man” among others, fill the important role of super fans on Sundays. These men get the regular fans revved up before games and act as sages about all things Steelers. But who are these men at home? That’s what I wanted to find out.

If you have recently passed near the Sports Works on game day, then you’ve undoubtedly gotten the thumbs up from the “Ultimate Steelers Fan.” You’ve probably stopped to have your picture taken with him and admired his Li’l Steeler Car or his van. If you are a collector, you’ve probably offered him large sums of money to buy a rare lapel pin that you don’t have. Bud Recktenwald and I spent Sunday together at his home. You probably wouldn’t recognize him without his giant sunglasses and hat, but he carries his thumb with him everywhere. He lives in Whitehall and on game day you can’t miss his house. After meeting Bud at the games, I asked if I could see more of his collection and he graciously let me come to his home. He has a small corner of the house that is dedicated to his Steelers collection. And like all men, he is thankful that his wife let’s him. To Bud, these things are more than just trinkets; they are memories. From his neckties to his lapel pins, there are twenty-five years of stories behind each item on display. Next time you see him, point to your favorite item and ask him about it. He’ll tell you why he won’t part with it for all the money in the world.

On Sundays Ted Gouza is Steeler Man. On the other six days of the week, he is also Steeler Man. He told me there is nothing in his closet that doesn’t say “Steelers” on it. So on a Wednesday morning I paid a visit to Ted in Clinton, PA to see his Steelers Basement. Ten years ago when he and his family moved back from Philadelphia, he decided he wanted to create the ultimate Steeler room and dedicated the entire lower floor of his house to it. And his collection is so large that I was overwhelmed just looking at all the details. Ted’s basement differs from Bud’s in both size and purpose. Ted’s room is half sports bar, half museum. This room is designed to let you experience Steelers football. Here you can be transported into an alternate reality that contains only black and gold.

Besides enjoying the hospitality of a few Super Fans, I was able to peer into the past and witness the legacy of everything “Steelers.” Generations of children and adults grew up with these items as part of their life. They ate Wheaties for breakfast, drank milk from Super Bowl glasses, slept in Steelers pajamas, and collected bottle caps. Holding on to these trinkets lets us hold on to our youth, and finding a new item to add to the collection is just like Christmas day all over again. If some people think these men aren’t acting their age, they’re right. Bud and Ted are still having as much fun now as when they were kids.

Special Note:
Photographer Kevin Sweeney will appear on KDKA-TV’s “Pittsburgh TODAY Live” with Jennifer Antkowiak on Monday December 27. Kevin is the photographer behind “Sixteen Sundays: Worshipping the Pittsburgh Steelers” a photo essay and website about Pittsburgh Steelers fans. The program will be broadcast from 9 AM to 10 AM on KDKA channel 2 (PGH).

Final Outcome: Steelers beat New York Giants 33-30
Steelers 13-1

Week XV: Home for the Holidays

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