Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Secrets Of Love Affair Revealed

"Clearing My Desk"

By Angelo Spagnolo, Editor

"Pittsburgh's Black and Gold"

Above: Steeler players engulfed in a sea of Black & Gold, the most beautiful color combination in the spectrum.

Below: Unbelievable mass of humanity showing love and appreciation for their team. The Steeler fans are so passionate that they literally force the players to perform "over their heads"... Not that they're not good to begin with!

A lot of people around the country see the fandom that has metastasized into "Steeler Nation" and just don't get it, I'm certainly convinced of that. Yesterday's parade was just another example of how Steelers footbal isn't just a following, it's a second religion in these parts.

Pittsburgh ("Sixburgh") had a parade yesterday for their conquering heroes that Julius Caesar himself would have been proud of. An estimated 350,000 fans jammed the "dahntahn" streets just so that they could cheer their beloved Steelers. Amazingly, there was not a single arrest! Where else could that happen? Not that Pittsburgh doesn't have criminals, it's just that they're typically not Steeler fans. Steeler fans are usually too busy partying and enjoying football. Remember what our masthead says, "Pittsburgh is a hard drinking town with an all-Pittsburgh-sports problem."

There are a couple different reasons why this crowd was so huge. First, the Steelers had just become the winningest NFL franchise since the merger of the two leagues when the first SuperBowl was held 43 years ago. Second, not only had these guys won, but they did it in such dramatic fashion that the nearest thing that any Pittsburgher could compare it to was Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series and that happened oh 48 years ago!

Above: One of my favorite Topps Cards from 1961.

Now of course there are still a lot of Pittsburghers alive who remember that day, but probably a lot less than you might think. Even though I was only six years old at the time, I do remember that there was a lot of frenzy and relatives yelling "Beat'em Bucs" all the time. Unfortunately, that's about all that I remember. The game was not televised.

Since it was around 20 or so degrees yesterday, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that probably less than 10% of these parade viewers actually had memories of the day Maz won it all for the Pirates. So my point is that for the other 315,000 people, this kind of a conquest was a heretofore never -before-experienced sensation, a jolt of adrenaline second to none. The only difference is that it happened in Tampa. Had it happened at Heinz Field...well I don't even want to think about it.

Above: The proud flag of the City of Pittsburgh. Now you know where the Steelers got the idea for their team colors!

If you thought Steeler fans were "crazy in love" with the Steelers before SuperBowl XLIII before, well as the old Bachman Turner Overdrive song goes, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." The reason that these fans are so enthralled is because in their minds, the Steelers are actually a miniature version of what we all wish the world, our country, our jobs and even our own personal lives in many cases were really like. The Steelers, quite simply, are the only nearly-perfect thing on earth!

Above: Big Ben with Art II (President) and his Dad, Chairman Dan Rooney.

It starts out with the Rooneys; classy businesspeople who obviously know how to treat their employees. They have profound respect for everyone around them and as a result, they are the most revered owners in all of sports. As the old saying goes, "You get what you give."

Then there's the front office, head coach and coaching staff. In all of these areas, superb individuals man their posts and are among the very best in their professions. They are all highly respected, especially by the people they coach, their players.

The players themselves are so committed to their jobs that they are practically a 53 man roster of model employees. Of course, like everything else in life though, nothing's perfect and there can be problems occasionally such as Casey Hampton coming to camp overweight, Santonio's arrest earlier in the season or Willie Parker's complaining about the team not running the ball enough. But these issues are dealt with quickly and fairly by Coach Tomlin. The Steelers don't have prima donas. They have players that have big egos just like every other team, but they have to check them at the door because that's the Steeler way. Steeler fans would not accept anything less.

I heard a national talk show host, Colin Cowherd, mock complaining the other day that the Steelers and Cardinals were, "Boring teams. You know, Ben Roethlisberger isn't going to say anything controversial, neither's Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu, Kurt Warner or Larry Fitzgerald either. It's a boring SuperBowl". True.

Well guess what Colin? We like not having controversy in our locker room. If you think that anybody in this city would tolerate a Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson soap opera around here, you're kidding yourself. The last guy that we had who marched to his own drummer just accidentally shot himself in the leg a month ago. The Steelers aren't immune from having a player being shot at. But when Joey Porter was shot outside of a Denver nightclub, this didn't help our club either. It wasn't so long after, that Porter was not offered a contract by the team and was cut loose. I'm sure that in a meeting that Steelers upper management decided that Porter had become too egocentric and was getting to the point of being a distraction to the team. So Joey's been gone a few years now. He's still a good player, just not on the Steelers. He gets to continue with all of his antics, but he doesn't get to win SuperBowls. You see the Steelers, to the man, are all about the word, team. The ownership, the coaches, even the players themselves won't allow any player to put themself ahead of the team.

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is a man who despite being a multimillionaire is incredibly stupid in my estimation. He collects misfits, rejects, malcontents and lawbreakers because they may have athletic ability. So what? What good are they if they're arguing with their quarterback during a game? What benefit to the team is it having a player giving the coach or an assistant grief because they're not playing? These types of players quickly depart the scene if they ever become Steelers in the first place because it's just not the Steeler way. But truth be known, the Steelers avoid these types of people like the plague itself.

Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, is so far in outer space that he can't even attract a top-of -the- line coaching applicant because of the chaos he chooses to run his franchise with. Davis is another NFL owner who has historically picked up other teams' malcontents thinking that team chemistry is not important. Guess what Jerry and Al: Team chemistry is important, so is having an owner that you want to kill yourself for. In Jones and Davis you have two reprehensible people who get just the results they deserve. Again, they just don't get it.

The Steeler team, on the other hand, plays with such exuberance and passion for excellence that when they finally had a chance to uncork their pure elation and thanks for the support of their fans, this team once again went all out in celebrating the absolute joy of being a Pittsburgh Steeler. Have you ever seen players more joyful than them?

This feeling is so infectious that it can actually work like a narcotic on the players. The other day in a newspaper interview, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich said, "You know everybody keeps saying that I'm going to leave so that I can become a starting quarterback somewhere else, but I'm still not so sure about that. This is such a great city, the fans are so great, the team is so good and I have a chance to win a ring. What a great place to be playing football. I've never had more fun playing anywhere than what I'm having here."

Above: Byron Leftwich knows a good thing when he sees it. Who knows, maybe he'll stay?

Now Byron Leftwich, he gets it. Being a Steeler means playing for the greatest franchise in the NFL It means winning SuperBowls and being idolized by fans. It means having Hall of Fame owners and the Coach of the Year. It means having a 70 year old defensive coordinator who's showing no signs of slowing down. It means having the game's most dangerous quarterback when the game's on the line. It means having a group of wide receivers, of all people, who, at the instruction of the "Leader of the Wide Receivers" have become the most lethal downfield blockers in the league. It means having players like Jerome Bettis taking a young player such as Willie Parker under his wing and mentoring him. Now Parker is mentoring his protege, Rashard Mendenhall.

Above: Willie Parker (left) breaks in rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall into the fine art of Steelers mumbley peg.

I could literally continue writing this post for hours, citing examples of why the Steelers are what they are. But remember this, it didn't happen overnight. It's been over 75 years in the making. But you already know that. You get it too! Congratulations to all Steeler fans on your greatest season of support ever in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Above: "Sixburgh", America's most beautiful city, appropriately decked out in its' heroes.