Steelers Nation: Dad played role of secret savant in team’s success
September 5, 2014 12:00 AM
One family thinks Chuck Noll had play-calling help in the 1970s.
By Mary Kay Temmel
My memories of growing up in Pittsburgh are vast, happy and rich with tradition.
Being the only girl with four brothers — two older and two younger, all of us less than six years apart — I didn’t have much chance of being anything other than my father’s fifth son.
My mother did try to be a feminine influence, but there were no princess dresses or pretty pink parasols in my closet — black and gold became my favorite colors.
As most Pittsburghers know, being a Steelers fan is not something you teach — it is deeper than that. It’s innate. It’s in our DNA. We are just born this way, and there was no bigger Steelers fan than my father, A.L.
I have so many fond memories of sitting around our family room in O’Hara watching the Steelers back in the glory days of the 1970s — especially of our four Super Bowls and how my dad helped Chuck Noll coach his way to every one of those championships.
You might ask: So, who was your dad? Well, if the truth be told, he was just like all the other average dads sitting around on Sunday afternoons watching their favorite sports team with their families. But to me and my four brothers, he had the power to do more than any other dad. He had the power to change the game.
I can still remember how my father would pick up the phone during a crucial moment in the game. He would hush the room into dead silence as he dialed. We would sit quietly so as not to interrupt the gravity of the moment. Then you would hear him say something like “Chuck, Chuck, I really think you need to give Rocky the ball on the next play.”
And then he would hang up the phone as fast as he had picked it up and look at each of us, as if to say, he’s got it — it’s going to be OK.
As we would all center our attention back to the TV, it would happen as though he’d drawn it up himself. Terry Bradshaw would take the snap, step back and turn to hand off to Rocky Bleier, who would run up the sideline past the 20 to the 15, the 10 and into the end zone.
The room would erupt with cheers and hugs and the knowledge that our dad had just called the winning play of the game! While to most fans Rocky was the hero, to us, of course, it was Dad.
We lost our dad on Jan. 26, 2009. Just six days later, and just hours after leaving the church where we held his funeral, we sat in the family room. We were a much bigger family now, grown from the original five children with parents.
With Mother still present, we sat in front of the TV that Sunday and watched our beloved Steelers win their sixth Super Bowl. Once again we knew Dad was making the calls, only from upstairs this time.
At the pivotal moment in the fourth quarter, we watched Ben Roethlisberger drop back, look to his left and right and let go of the ball, floating it above heads to the back right corner of the end zone. Santonio Holmes waited patiently there before stretching out to pull in the ball while keeping both toes squeezing the ground, as graceful as a ballerina, and falling forward.
A prettier play I can’t remember ever seeing, and at that moment the room erupted into mass chaos. We were all hugging and jumping up and down with tears of happiness and sadness as all the emotions of the past week just poured out of us.
And we all looked up because we knew at that moment that it was our dad, A.L., who had made the call.
Mary Kay Temmel of Orlando, Fla., an accounting specialist, can be reached at email@example.com.
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