Gene Collier: If Steelers fans are feeling frustration ...


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Among your major North American cities with fewer than four major franchises in the so-called four major sports, majorly speaking, none have won more championships in more sports than Pittsburgh.

Montreal has won more, but all 25 were in ice hockey.

Green Bay has won nearly as many, but all 13 were in football.

All this is according to the Wikipedia chart that looks as though it's going to disappear unless we all send $3 by 6 o'clock, by the way.

Pittsburgh, with 14 titles, has won multiple championships in all three major leagues it has been a part of, most recently doubling down in 2009 with the Super Bowl champion Steelers and the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Our little three-sport town owns more championships than four-sport Dallas and twice as many or more than four-sporters Oakland, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., Miami and Denver.

But are we happy?

Hell no.

If you've been around town at the start of 2014 you know there has been more complaining than on an entire season of the Real Housewives of Four-Sport Atlanta (total championships: 1).

As the new year dawned, Steelers fans turned their super-soaking vitriol away from Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley and sprayed it all over the part-time officials working the Kansas City-San Diego game, whose unforced errors might have cost the Steelers a place in the postseason.

In the continuing absence of A.J. Burnett and despite mostly positive prognostications from distinguished national analysts, Pirates fans seemed to be hunkering down for another couple of decades of cost-conscious losing while Penguins fans, despite the club's miraculous first-half record of 29-11-1, were fretting about an exorbitant number of man-games lost (does the WNBA keep track of man-games lost?) and bracing for another haunting hockey spring in which just one win can satisfy them -- the fourth win of the Stanley Cup finals.

If you hang around here long enough, you'll think Pittsburgh were some dystopian sports hell with the lid off, when in fact, even in this prolonged, embittered Steelers autopsy, we're much closer to the place Clark Griswold once described as "thine heavenly area up there."

The Steelers have lost as often as not in the past two years, but only the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles had a better second half than the Steelers' 6-2 in 2013. The arrow, as Tomlin would say, is pointing up. The Steelers might never fully match the majesty of their dynastic '70s, but they are one of only five teams in the past 10 years to win 100 times, one of only three to win 200 times since the 1993 roots of free agency.

Only the New England Patriots have an active streak of non-losing seasons (13) longer than the Steelers (10). In a league where 44 percent of the teams have never won a Super Bowl, no franchise has been to more (8) or won more (6) than Pittsburgh's.

So obviously, the league is out to get the Steelers.

Which I guess is why we're suing the NFL.

From prison.

You missed that story this week?

Daniel Spuck, currently residing at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer, filed suit to force the league to re-jigger the playoffs to include the Steelers. In his request for an emergency temporary injunction, Spuck demanded, according to a story in the Baltimore Sun, that Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop re-try a field goal from 37 yards after a penalty against the Chargers that should have been called but wasn't, and/or the Steelers play the Chargers at a neutral site to determine the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs, or commissioner Roger Goodell simply declare the Chiefs winners and put the Steelers in the postseason, and/or the NFL pay Spuck's legal costs plus $25,000.

Really, why not $25 million?

It's equally likely.

The Spuck suit was DOA, obviously, but when an 8-8 football season is considered such an atrocity that it depresses even the prison population, you might just have yourself an identifiable form of pathology.

Piggy-backing on a study that showed Steelers fans handle disappointment worse than just about anybody, some researchers at Emory University came out with a Twitter study that purports to quantify the way people feel about their NFL team based on internal vs. external vantage points.

Researching Twitter sentiment about every team from inside and outside each team's market, Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi of Emory Sports Marketing Analytics indicate that said research shows the Seattle Seahawks have the greatest positive distance between the way people outside the market view the franchise and the sentiment around Seattle, where the perception is overwhelmingly positive.

The Steelers are at the other end of the graph, where the fanbase in the Pittsburgh market is about one ton more disgruntled than Steelers fans elsewhere, who seem perfectly gruntled. Only San Diego's frustration with the Chargers exceeds Pittsburgh's negative karma.

"It is interesting to note that there are teams that have more positive sentiment outside their home market than within the market," the authors wrote. "For the Patriots, Raiders, Bears, Giants, Broncos and Steelers, this phenomenon seems to be partially due to have a large, widespread national fan base that is actually less critical of the team than the fans that still live in the home market."

For local fans then, it appears there are two options in the way of sports resolutions for 2014.

Option 1: Lighten up.

Option 2: Blame the media.

I think I know which way you're leaning.


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