The State of Steelers Nation
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Friends, guests, potentates of all 130 fiefdoms in Allegheny County, distinguished residents of the far-flung Steelers Nation, my fellow Pittsburghers:
Today I want to begin by congratulating the teams who will be playing in Super Bowl XLV. It is well known that many of our children do not learn other languages in school despite the demands of the global economy, but thanks to the Super Bowl, they can at least learn Roman numerals.
It's no secret that our football teams have had differences over the years. The seasons have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our victories. We have come down hard on mom-and-pop enterprises that try to horn in on our profits by printing unofficial T-shirts at a fraction of the cost. That's what a robust NFL demands.
But every year, amid all the noise and passion of football's biggest extravaganza, we in Steelers Nation are reminded that no matter where we live, how far we've traveled or how long it's been since we had a chipped ham sandwich, each of us is a part of something greater -- something more consequential than the drink tax or potholes.
I am speaking of our total conviction that Pittsburgh has the greatest football team of all time (APPLAUSE); the fact that we have already won more Super Bowls than any team in history (WILD APPLAUSE); that we should have won ALL the Vince Lombardi trophies over the years (SIRENS), and that if we don't win this one, it will be because of bad officiating or outright cheating (ZAMBELLI FIREWORKS).
I appreciate the applause, but please hold it till the end or we'll never make kick-off.
My friends, it is true that we revere our current players and coach. Who wouldn't? But we loved the Steelers before Mike Tomlin, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward joined up, and we will love the Steelers after those men have moved on.
That, my fellow Pittsburghers, is because the Steelers are bigger than one constellation of heavenly bodies. They are the Milky Way of football, the galaxy that contains the solar system of sports, the painful metaphor to end all painful metaphors.
Yes, we have suffered the collapse of the steel industry and the jobs that went with it. We have witnessed the great diaspora of Steelermaniacs who fanned out across the globe in search of employment, better weather and directions that don't involve turning left at some landmark that's been gone for 20 years. Yet wherever we are, we take our Steelers pride with us and never let it go.
Let me introduce you to my friend Phyllis, who grew up in New Kensington but now lives in Los Angeles. Last Sunday she watched the entire play-off game against the Jets while holding a four-way voice Skype session with her brothers in Seattle; Sebastapol, Calif.; and Jerusalem. That, my friends, is what I'm talking about.
And this is my nephew, Avi, of New York City. At age 6, he attended my wedding with a transistor radio and an earplug. He spent the reception running around from guest to guest, announcing the Steelers game with breathless excitement. His family moved away 20 years ago, but he remained steadfast and devoted amid a sea of Baltimore Ravens fans. When his son was born, we sent him a Terrible Towel to use as a little blanket. Now he watches every game with his buddies in Queens, waving the towel as if he'd never left.
I am not telling you anything you don't know. Doubtless you have your own stories of Steelers loyalty, and the subjects of those stories have other stories. Even the Mormons couldn't diagram them all in a Steelers Nation family tree.
My friends, it is true that Pittsburghers are famous for our level-headed, common-sense down-to-earthiness. We would not, for example, take offense at a press release pushing a $7,900 Super Bowl package for two that reads as follows:
"With the Steelers now officially on their way to Super Bowl XLV, I'm sure Pittsburg is buzzing on just how to get tickets and access to the game weekend's greatest events."
Normally, we would laugh off the misspelling. But during Super Bowl season, normal is off. Practical people go nuts with black-and-gold clothing, wigs, body paint and Barcaloungers. Frugal people burn money on game tickets and travel expenses. Quiet people become screaming maniacs. Humble people become chest-beaters and trash-talkers. Sober people get wasted on adrenaline. And laid-back people will insist on that "h" on the end of Pittsburgh, even if it is silent.
Some of the above may be true of the truest-bluest fans of other teams. But we have more of them in more places, and they buy more paraphernalia than anyone else. And so today, I stand before you to say the words you came to hear.
My friends, the state of the Nation is strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Steelers and all who believe in them. Pass the pierogies.
First Published January 30, 2011 12:00 am