A lot of people had their doubts about wearing this shirt on television. My chance at fame in LA and I go with a football jersey. But I just can’t be ashamed. I can’t and I’ll tell you why.
Personally, I was convinced that most of the doubters were just secret Ravens’ fans – a Wild Card team that hardly deserved a spot challenging the most historic franchise in the NFL. So, I thought, yes, I’ll wear this shirt. The black and the gold had momentum; I felt like this was the Steelers’ year, again. Heck, we have six rings, why not seven?
I was so confident that in the week before the game, while in Vegas, I checked the odds for yet another Steelers’ Superbowl run. The odds were great: $100 laid to win over $2,300. Call it over confidence if you will, or maybe ignorance of just how important Leveon Bell was, but I almost made that bet.
I’ve been a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan. My mother was born in Nemacolin, PA in the early part of the last century. She grew up as part of a hard-scrabble family with half a dozen kids and a coal mining father. Nemacolin, it’s wood-frame homes perched precariously among steep hills and narrow, winding roads, begin as a company town. You don’t hear about company towns anymore. They were carefully planned, including stores, theaters, schools and town halls, all of it company owned. In this case, the town was owned by the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. In Nemacolin, they operated one of the most productive coal mines in the state.
My grandfather epitomized the spirit of Pennsylvania, the spirit of Pittsburgh, working his way up out of the mines into an office. He worked the latter part of his life as the company bookkeeper and electrician. He eventually bought the home once owned by the company. Both my grandparents lived out their lives there.
My father was in the Army, so we moved around a lot. From time-to-time, we’d land at Grandpa’s. You can see my mom, my brother and I in this picture, standing next to the house, near our beat up car. (Is that a Pinto, a Gremlin? My brother would know.)
During my dad’s first tour in Vietnam, we lived nearby on a farm in Carmichaels, PA and later in the larger town of Washington, PA . In Washington, the rent was cheap because a woman had killed herself in an upstairs bedroom. This provided endless terror and fascination for my brother and I.
My father was never a sports guy. I had no allegiances. But, as we drifted ever closer to Pittsburgh during the later part of my first decade on Planet Earth, I was learning about two of the most important franchises in sports history. I was hearing great baseball names like Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente and following football legends like Mean Joe Greene and L. C. Greenwood.
At some point, someone took my brother and I to a Steelers game at Three Rivers. We wore the classic black-and-gold beanies you can still see today. I do not know if they won or lost, though at the time the Steelers were practically unstoppable. Still, to this day, I wear those colors proudly.
Some people question team allegiances, wondering why fans identify so passionately with the teams they love. For me the Steelers, like the hearty German-Irish immigrant stock of my grandparents, represent one important aspect of living: the art of getting up one more time than you fall down.
The Steelers will be back next season. I know they will. So will you and I. We’ll get up one more time than we fall down. Good luck. I wish you the best in 2015. Unless you’re a Ravens’ fan.