There are fans--thousands of Steelers faithful for example--who spend years suffering through one heartbreaking season after another before they finally get to experience the thrill of seeing their team win a World Championship.
I'm not one of those fans. In-fact, I got to experience the ultimate thrill the very first time I sat down to watch my Pittsburgh Steelers. Before I continue, that last sentence isn't entirely true. I'm pretty sure Super Bowl XIV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams wasn't the first time I witnessed a Steelers game. It couldn't have been--I was already too much of a die hard fan for it to be my first game--but it was the first one I remember. How cool is that?
I don't recall how I became such a die hard Steelers fan, but there I was on January 20th, 1980, sitting in my kitchen watching the Steelers take on the Rams on a little black and white television. My mother and her then boyfriend were watching the game in the living room on a much bigger television. I don't know why, but for some reason, I wanted to watch it by myself. Maybe it was because my mom's boyfriend annoyed me and was cheering against the Steelers that night. I say "cheering against the Steelers" because I don't think he was really much of a Rams fan. He just liked to see the Steelers lose. I don't know what Mom ever saw in that guy.
As I said, I don't remember exactly how I learned to live and die for the Black and Gold, but it must have occurred some time after Super Bowl XIII. The night of that epic battle between the Steelers and Cowboys, I was watching a rerun of Tarzan in the living room. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my mom was watching the game on that same little black and white television. She appeared to be only half paying-attention as she washed the dishes and cleaned the house. I know I could have cared less about the outcome. I was only six years old and I didn't even know what a Super Bowl was.
However, a year later, I not only knew what the Super Bowl was, I knew of its significance and that the Steelers were going for their 4th title of the decade. I also knew the Rams were heavy underdogs for the game.
I sat there in front of that little black and white tv and took it all in. I was totally blown away by the fact that they formally introduced the starters from both squads before the game. I knew that meant it was important. And I couldn't believe they actually showed the coin-toss on television. They even televised the national anthem.
I don't think I moved the entire time the Super Bowl was on. My mom's boyfriend came into the kitchen to taunt me a little when the Rams took an early 7-3 lead. He did the same thing when they had leads of 13-10 and 19-17 later in the game.
For some reason, I didn't think the Steelers would lose. I figured it would be just a matter of time before they got the upperhand. And they did when Terry Bradshaw connected with John Stallworth on a 73 yard touchdown strike early in the 4th quarter to put Pittsburgh ahead, 24-19. And then they fought off LA's final charge and put the finishing touches on their 4th World Title when Jack Lambert intercepted Vince Ferragamo, Bradshaw connected with Stallworth again on 3rd down, and Franco punched it in to make the final score 31-19. I don't remember jumping up and down and getting too excited, but I was happy and knew that the Steelers had the best team in the history of the NFL. For whatever reason, I understood all of that.
The next day, when I got on my school bus, a kid sitting next to me said, "They did it!" That was my last memory of Super Bowl XIV.
I haven't missed many Steelers games over the last 31 years and I've experienced all the highs and lows of being a die hard fan. The Steelers have given me memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Watching them finally capture their 5th Lombardi Trophy in 2005 after their improbable march through the playoffs was way more emotional and special for me than Super Bowl XIV.
But it all started that day when the Steelers vanquished the Rams in the Rose Bowl. Not too many people can say their first memory of their favorite team was watching them win a championship.
Again, how cool is that?