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Here’s the big deal about Steelers football

October 9, 2011
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

You can't drive down the highway without seeing a Steelers bumper sticker or logo on about half of the vehicles. And on their playing day, there are many decorations on the lawns of fans, including the big blow-up player with a fierce look on his face.

Last year, before the ill-fated Super Bowl, someone sent me an e-mail on "What's the big deal about Steelers football?" I'm glad I kept it. It gives me something to write about while we are vacationing. But I'll be back in time to read this on Sunday.

"Being a Steeler fan means so much more than football. It means being from a corner of the world unlike any other. It means being from a place where the people are so tough-minded that they have survived the Homestead strikes, the Johnstown flood and the recent Etna floods.

"These people have the DNA of hard work, in mills and mines, without the necessity of complaint. They live simply. They don't know movie stars or have fancy cars.

"Instead, they have simple traditions like kielbasa, Kennywood Park and celebrations. They live in distinctive neighborhoods like Polish Hill and the Hill District. These people are genuine.

"They don't have chic Internet cafes and cappuccinos but they have the Original Hot Dog Joint, Primanti's, Eat n' Park and Iron City Beer.

"People from Pittsburgh don't have sunny beaches or fancy boats but the rivers roll gently, connecting the small towns of people whose histories have been built on strength and humility.

"People from Pittsburgh don't have the biggest shopping malls or the best nightclubs but they will take Friday night high school football and Steelers Sunday over anything.

"Steelers football means so much more. It symbolizes a composite of generations who had the best childhood they could imagine. They ran free, without a care or concern in the valleys of those Allegheny Mountains. There was no one to tell them that they lacked material things. There was no one to tell them that they needed more.

"As the steel mills closed and the jobs disappeared, some of these people had to leave. While the world benefits because they spread their Pittsburgh values in far-flung places, they long for their home, where things were simpler and more pure.

"Terrible towels are everywhere. They wave, not just for the team, but for the hearts they left behind.

"They wave in living rooms in Fort Lauderdale and in the bars of Washington, D.C. They wave all the way to the Seattle Superdome. They wave for the football prayers like Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward, whose unselfishness and toughness have allowed sports to be about the game and the team.

"Make no mistake that Steelers football is not just about football, I could not be prouder to be from the Pittsburgh area than I am right now! And deep down in your heart of hearts, you can still hear the super bowls of times past, the excitement in everyone's voices, especially our fathers, cousins and anyone else who gathered around the television on football Sunday.

"It's just as exciting right now. It's not just about rivalries and who is better than the other, it's about family, tradition and roots.

"And maybe you grew up in Pittsburgh, or 'Picksburgh' as some pronounce it, if:

- "You didn't have a spring break in high school.

- "You often go down to the 'crick.'

- "You've told your children to 'red up' their rooms.

- "Your mother or grandmother has been wearing a 'babushka' on her head.

- "You've 'worshed' the clothes.

- "You know Beaver Valley, Turtle Crick, Mars, Slippery Rock, Greentree and New Castle are names of towns. And you have been to most, if not all of them.

- "You know the three rivers by name and understand that 'The Point' isn't just on a writing instrument.

- "Someone refers to 'the Mon' or 'the Yough' and you know exactly what they are talking about.

- "You remember one of the following blizzards, either of 1936, 1939, 1950, 1976 or 1993.

- "Someone starts the chant 'Here we go Still-ers!' and you join proper cadence, waving the appropriately colored towel.

- "Bob Prince and 'There's a bug loose on the rug' hold special meaning for you.

- "You drink pop, eat hoagies, love perogies and one of your favorite sandwiches actually has coleslaw and french fries on it.

- "You expect temperatures in the winter to be record-breaking cold and temps in the summer to be record-breaking hot.

- "You order 'dippy eggs' in a restaurant and get exactly what you wanted.

- "You went on a school picnic to either Luna Park, Kennywood, Westview, Sand Castle or Idlewild.

- "You've been to the Braun's Bread plant or Storybook Forest for a school field trip. And to the Heinz plant and the Isaly's plant for Cub Scouts.

- "Chipped ham was always in your refrigerator when you were growing up.

- "You refused to buy any condiments besides Heinz unless a Pittsburgh athlete's picture was on the side of the container.

-"Franco, Roberto and Mario don't need last names.

- "Food at a wedding reception consisted of rigatoni, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut and polska kielbasa."


Next week I should have some exploits of our bus trip with the Gable Foundation group. Nan Mattern and Jackie Rocchi are fun tour hosts.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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