I was not born in Pittsburgh, but I became a Pittsburgher by marriage in 1983 even though we were living in Los Angeles at the time. My husband is from Pittsburgh and his parents and brother are die-hard Steelers fans.
We got officially engaged during football season while visiting his family in da ‘Burgh. One fine Sunday afternoon we all gathered back at my brother-in-law’s house to watch The Game.
When I say “we” I am not including myself as a game-viewer, because I do not “watch” football. I do not come from a family where rooting for any team is mandatory. The biggest sporting event in my life was on the day I graduated from college, which was when the Portland Trailblazers won the national championship DURING our commencement ceremony. I truly could have cared less, but it is a fun part of the memory of that day because a cheer went up from the crowd. Everyone had been listening on the highest tech device available in that day – a transistor radio!
Sheesh that dates me! Does it make it better that I now own a BlackBerry?
My father is the only male in our family and he is so laid back that if he had a game on the TV we could still carry on a conversation in the living room and he didn’t complain. He just sat in his chair and “watched.”
So back in Pixburgh as the new kid in the family I stretch out on the floor (the guys have already claimed all of the chairs) and my future father-in-law asks “You a football fan?”
“No, not really.”
“I feel sorry for you!”
NOT a good omen! I had NO idea what I was getting into with the whole Black and Gold Pride thing. I didn’t have to deal with it much living in LA for the next decade. It helped that the team never made it to the Super Bowl during those years. But when we moved back here, that was a different story. Now my husband and family could get together EVERY Sunday.
But they do not “watch” games. Not like my dad, anyway. They infuse themselves into the game by virtual mind-meld. They anticipate the commentator’s next words and say them before he has a chance. They scream out instructions to the QB. Right now the most commonly heard chorus from the men when the offense is on the field is “THROW IT BEN!!!!!!!” Then “Aaarrrrgggghhhh!” because Ben’s been sacked so many times this year.
I honestly do sit down and enjoy the game for a few minutes at a time. But I cannot just sit and watch, for I AM WOMAN and there is work to be done around the house. So I dance around the edges of the game as a kind of spectral image. Every now and then I interject something to let them know I’m around.
And every now and then they come out of their trance and realize they are hungry again. I have stopped trying to fuss over them about the food long ago. They don’t eat during games. It might be better described as “graze and guzzle.” So I put out the grub and tell them to come and get it. Then I leave them alone. Kind of like a zoo keeper slipping food to the lions under the door.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I AM A STEELERS FAN. But I have a moral dilemma in that I like to participate in the celebrations but I don’t fully understand the game. I like the community of it all, I like the Steelers Dress Down Days at work, and I like the way the mood of the whole city is elevated when we simply win a game on a given week. Does that qualify?
When we’re in the playoffs the mood here is not just elevated, it’s off the euphoria meter. This is a town where the mayor changed his name for a few days because it contained the name of the opposing team in the championship game that week!
After living here for more than a dozen years I have become a part of Steelers Nation. It grows on you. The players are great, they do a lot of charitable work in the community, they love the fans. It doesn’t hurt that they win a lot. And now we’re in the Super Bowl for the second time in my personal experience as a new-native of Pittsburgh.
This time seemed kind of anti-climactic. Like, yes, this is the way it is supposed to be. Of COURSE we won the division. That’s what the Steelers do. And I will be there sitting on the sofa and watching the big game like everyone else here.
But if you’re not into the game, go shopping – the clerks get lonely on game days.