Please forgive the "theft" of the opening words to "Maniac", but to explain how or why I've became a fan is best summed up in these words, because, in my heart, I'm "just a steel town girl".
How anyone can grow up in Western Pennsylvania and not have embraced one sport is beyond me. Whether it was at high school level, college level or professional, sports ruled. Society seemed to have rotated around the Friday night high school football games. We embraced a college, whether it was University of Pittsburgh or, if your father attended Penn State, then you automatically seemed to become a Nittany Lion fan.
To try to remember when I began to love sports, would be like searching through the archives of some ancient library where there was no catalog system, so for the most part, I will say, as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was because the men in my family always had either the Pirate baseball game on the radio or the Pittsburgh Steelers games on the tv. Bob Prince and Myron Cope had seemed to be as much members of our family as favorite uncles were. Perhaps it was because I was nothing more then a tom boy, that exchanged baseball cards with the neighbor boys, coveting my beloved Roberto Clemente cards, and using opposing team cards in the spokes of my bicycle.
One thing I can say is that I was a fan of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers at that time. Perhaps more so of the Pirates when I was younger, because, the time I was coming of age was in the mid-60s and 70’s. How can you not love a team that had Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargel, Roberto Clemente and Dock Ellis on it? Indeed, even though I had yet to be born for the 60’s World Series, Mazeroski’s homerun had just seemed like it was done yesterday.
I had never attended a game at Forbes Field before they tore it down, but had gained fond memories of attending Pirates games when Roberto Clemente had played. Later in life I would get to see Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla and other “great” Pirates play, but it was that era that I recall the best. Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the cheap seats of Three Rivers Stadium, throwing peanuts at the boys in front of us, watching the game. The day it imploded, my husband had to console me.
It was in the mid 70’s when the shift-evened out. Perhaps like the balance of a seesaw. The Steelers had finally had a team that was actually winning and there was excitement to watch the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and so many more playing. Seeing the infamous Jack Lambert smile. What a time it was to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh.
Somehow the stars aligned in 79. The Steelers had gone on to win their 3d Superbowl ring, the Pirates would take the pennant, my high school football team made it to the State Championship and I was graduating from high school. Our graduating class had taken on as our class song Sister Sledges, “We Are Family” and we were relishing in the fact of not only the end of one era for us but also the excitement associated in the area with sports.
Soon I’d see the transition in players on “my” teams. Pop Stargell and Terry Bradshaw would eventually go on to retire. Yet my love for Pittsburgh sports teams stayed intact, but it shifted as I moved on also.
I found myself more then passionate about Steeler football right after I joined the Air Force in 1980. Not only did Steeler football become something I enjoyed but it was a link I had to home. When I watched the game or when I met other Steeler fans, we had this bond, and for just a time, the home sickness went away. And I looked forward to any time I could catch a Steeler game on tv.
It wasn’t just Steeler football that I came to love, but the game as a whole. This I give credit to some “hometown boys”. Watching Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Tony Dorsett play was what attracted me to watch other teams and soon I developed a true love of the game as a whole. There was still that hometown pride, when I’d point to any player that had come out of Pittsburgh, regardless of what team he was on.
Yet it’s Steeler football that is my most passionate love in sports. Perhaps for their history and tradition. Perhaps for their style of play. Perhaps for the ties to home. Perhaps for what and who they represent. It is this team that I will scream myself hoarse over in my livingroom every Sunday during the season. It will be the retirement of these players and the induction into the HOF that I will cry the hardest on.
What can I say...where ever I go...I'm still "just a steel town girl".