Week XVIII: Steeler Nation Unite!

January 9th, 2005

Week XVIII: Steeler Nation Unite!

Another bye week, another time for reflection, partly precipitated by the fact that we can’t go a week WITHOUT thinking about the Steelers. So bear with me. There is a point to all this.

The full experience of being a Steelers fan includes entering hostile teritory. Traveling to away games, I’ve overheard many conversations between fans wearing opposing colors. Many are childish but true (“Cleveland Sucks!”); some are even witty. Here is a recent encounter from Buffalo:

Walking into the Buffalo stadium, a group of Steelers fans proudly chanted, “Here we go Steelers. Here we go! …14 and 1, baby…One for the thumb!”

The opposing response mumbled from inside the crowd was, “Were you even alive for any of those Super Bowls? You guys haven’t won anything in 25 years.” A weak argument but factually based.

The banter continued as a man wearing a Jack Lambert throwback jersey held up his pack of cigarettes, upside down with the wrapper pushed up. “You know what this is?” he said to the crowd of non-believers. “This is the Bills trophy case.” And the empty wrapper underscored the sting.

But were any of us alive during the American Revolution? Yet we live with the legacy of our founding fathers. We carry the stars and stripes and proudly support our troops. And we support our football team with the same fervor. For the Steeler Nation, names like Harris and Greene are as much a part of our history as Washington and Lincoln. It is the culture we grew up with. It is our great past.

Another comment I overheard stuck in my memory. During rival chatter, I over heard one man say, “It’s a Steeler Nation.” To which an opponent responded, “Hey I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.” “What?” I thought. Do you see the towels that color YOUR stadium yellow?

Being deeply embedded in the Steelers experience I may be biased, but I was amazed that this person wasn’t aware of the enormity that is the Steeler Nation. No one is saying that everybody in the country is a Steelers fan. But we are a distinct group of people with our own culture, colors, and football heritage. And the most important point is that it brings us together. While Pittsburgh is the location of our roots and our most holy football site, we have grown beyond Pittsburgh.

If you look towards the Point while you are inside Heinz Field, you’ll see Big D’s sign along the top ramp declaring, “Worldwide Steelers Pride.” He hangs that sign for his brother who is stationed in Jacksonville, FL and every member of the U. S. Armed Forces around the world who is a Steelers fan. I have had the privilege to meet many service men at games this season. They are veterans, soldiers on leave or enlisted men just out of boot camp. I have received e-mails from some of them in Iraq, and I assure you they are watching and longing for a Steelers victory. It may seem inconsequential to tailgate while men fight for our freedom thousands of miles away, but soldiers in Iraq cherish the news from home. For soldiers, it is one of the things that gives them hope. The Steelers success adds to their pride of our country.

If you were an alien visiting Pittsburgh right now, you’d think you had landed on the Steelers Planet. Everywhere you go there are signs showing the city’s support for the Steelers. From homes to businesses, everybody is showing their pride. A street vendor in the Strip District told me that the frenzy started in the beginning of November and hasn’t slowed done since. “How much Steelers stuff can they buy?” he said. Remember November 1? The day after we beat the New England Patriots. 21 and Done! The Steelers grew from men to giants that day, and today, two months later, the drive for five is alive.

The pride is swelling. The “thumb” has re-entered the community’s collective consciousness. A home in Lower Lawrenceville had a sign in the window saying, “Gimme Five.” Two young boys in the strip district wore Big Ben hats. Dogs in Bloomfield went home from the groomers in Black and Gold. The South Side, the North Side, they’re all proud. A new generation is being introduced to the Black and Gold.

The Steelers fans are everywhere. And we are a powerful component to the Steelers arsenal. To the dismay of many opposing fans, the Steeler Nation has shown up for away games in numbers exceeding 20,000. We can turn a road game into a home game with our Terrible Towels. And when the game is close, every fan counts.

It’s time for the playoffs. Time for the Steeler Nation to Unite! Home field advantage. Our home! As of right now there are eight NFL teams that the country is focused on. Soon, every eye will be on Pittsburgh. So bring out your Black and Gold and do your part to support the Steelers. Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy has proclaimed Friday January 14, 2005 Black and Gold Day. Even the Armed Services are showing their support. The coin used for this Saturday’s coin toss is a gift from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16 which is deployed in Iraq. So, whether you’re a dynasty die-hard or a new member of the Steeler Nation, stand up and be proud. Whether you live in Pittsburgh or serve in Iraq, be proud. You are part of the Steeler Nation. You are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Final Outcome:Playoff Bye

Special Note:
The Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau (GPCVB) is urging the faithful from across Steelers Nation and around the world to show their true colors by participating in the largest simultaneous wave of The Terrible Towel(TM) ever attempted. Steelers enthusiasts everywhere are being asked to stop, stand and swing their Terrible Towels in unison just as the game begins at approximately 4:35 p.m. EST.

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