CHICAGO, ILLINOIS O'HARE AIRPORT GATE B-51:
Despite reports to the contrary, NO, I'M NOT DEAD!!! It might seem that way since it's been a week since I last posted here, but alas and alack I had to do something really boring last week, like making a living!
So I'm on my way home today and in between flights (there's no such thing anymore as a direct flight) and I thought I'd take advantage of the internet thingie here and try to get caught up a little...
Here's a great suggestion for you the next time that you're traveling: Bring a couple Steeler shirts with you, not the game jersey, something simple like a black shirt with a small Steeler logo on the front, then get ready to hear the comments!
ABOVE: No, I don't have this shirt, but this sucker's nice!
I left Pittsburgh before the San Diego game, so all was not happy and chipper in Steelerland. When I was going through "Checkpoint Charlie" at Pittsburgh International, a black, pudgy, security guard, upon seeing my shirt said, "That's what I love to see, a man who loves the black and gold no matter what!" As I was putting my shoes back on (a process that causes me to constantly curse terrorists over) I replied, "Hey, I'm no fair-weather fan. I've been a Steeler fan for life."
This guard (by now assured that I was no threat to the national security) continued, "My wife taught me how to get on Facebook and you should hear the people crying on there! Hey be a fan or don't be a fan, right?"
"You got that right my brother. I feel bad for San Diego too. They're going to get the brunt of two weeks worth of frustration this week," I said.
"No doubt, no doubt." We parted company as members of the same brotherhood called "Steeler Nation".
As dinner approached I went into one of Houston's finer restaurants, the Post Oak Grill. The waiter, a 35-40 year-old fellow named Jade Castleberry, was most gracious. However, I couldn't help but notice that under his white apron that he wore (gasp) an Oakland Raiders tie. "Good Lord," I thought, "What a thing to wear!"
After he had refilled my drink, I said to him, "I realize that you're a fan of the Raiders, but can you tell me one good reason why you are still a supporter of that team?" "All we can hope for is that some day Al Davis dies. But I think his mother lived to be over a hundred, so it might be awhile. He has no heirs either, nobody to turn the team over to. Why do you ask, what team do you like," he asked?
By this time of the day I was now wearing a sportcoat over my black Steeler shirt. I slowly opened the jacket to reveal my beloved logo. It was like a vampire suddenly seeing a crucifix.
"STEELERS! Oh I should have known! We're still trying to figure out that "Immaculate Deception" when we got robbed by Franco and the officials." The conversation then went into a lengthy discussion of past (and present) bitterness between the fans, dirty tricks (by both sides) and how in "the good old days" the AFC title was always decided between Pittsburgh and Oakland. I also told him how much we loved John Madden here (the crybaby) and how Pittsburgh still decides who wins the title unlike the Raiders.
An engaging waiter he most certainly was, one of the best. Lucky for him that it was a Tuesday night and things weren't that busy so that he could pontificate at length on his beloved Raiders. Unfortunately though, I had to withhold any tip because of his team allegiance (only kidding of course).
The following Sunday, I found my way to St. Michael's Church for the 9:00 Mass. I was wearing a black Steeler logo shirt (no, it wasn't the same one). In the vestibule of the church, the parish priest (actually his name was Father Michael too) saw my shirt and said, "Ah, Pittsburgh! Are you visiting?" "Yes Father, I'm here on business," I said. "I spent 18 years in Pittsburgh at Duquesne University," he said. "I just loved the city and I still love the Steelers."
Later, during the "Handshake of Peace," the fellow in front of me turned around to greet me and seeing my small Steeler logo remarked, "Hey, you're from Pittsburgh! I grew up in Upper St. Clair!"
And so it continued to go. That night I watched the game at a friend's place and was relieved to see the Steelers trouncing the Chargers so convincingly. I didn't know about Willie Parker's foot injury, so I was surprised to see Rashard Mendenhall playing such a huge roll, especially after being called out the week before by Mike Tomlin. I guess some guys just need a kick in the rump every once in a while. It certainly did Mendenhall's career a lot of good. He looked great as did the offensive line. Thank goodness. Now we can move on to hearing Steeler fans complain about something other than the offensive line and the running game. I know, let's all jump on Limas Sweed's back!
One thing is for certain, wearing the Black & Gold's logo will always get you a reaction, wherever you go around the United States...they're calling my flight now (finally) so I have to go. One thing's for certain, it'll be good to be getting back to the Burgh!