Paul Frederiksen-US PRESSWIRE
Washington, D.C., resident and Pittsburgh native Homer J. knows life on both sides of the lines in Week 8. He knows life in Washington, and he knows it in the Burgh.
Homer is the model of judicial restraint today, wearing a black suit with a gold and white striped oxford shirt and an official Steelers black and gold tie featuring the Steelers' hypocycloid logo on the tie. He is a vision of black and gold, as he sits to hear cases on an administrative law panel in the nation's capital.
He begins writing this at lunchtime.
It was Sun Tsu who taught us in The Art of War that it is wise to spread confusion behind the enemy lines, and there are plenty of us doing so in Washington this week.
It's a four hour drive up I-270 and 70, and then the Turnpike to get back home to the 'burgh.
Physically that is.
Emotionally, many of us never left. And when we get together at the Pour House, the Alley Cat, Glory Days, the Mighty Pint, or any of more than a dozen other Steeler bars in the DVM, we are home. Anywhere you drive in the DC area, you see Steeler license plate holders, Steeler decals, and Steeler flags. On some days, you see more Steeler stuff than Redskin stuff. BTSC is heavily populated with DC/MD/VA folks. Steeler Nation may be everywhere - in the sense that you will find us in just about every state, every city, most nations, and even occasionally in outer space. But in the DMV, we are literally everywhere - in every neighborhood.
Part of it was the great migration. When Pittsburgh's manufacturing base declined and the mills closed, Washington was the nearest city where the economy was growing. The 240 mile distance was temptingly close. Tens of thousands relocated here. For them, the Steelers are the touchstone that takes them home every week.
"Where ya from?" Steeler bars are not only a place to watch games dahn here, they are also a place to meet people from the old neighborhood or even run into old friends. They are amazingly egalitarian. Race, religion, social status, and politics are only background noise on Steeler Sundays in DC. And that's a huge welcome relief from a city where race, religion, social status and especially politics are things that divide people on a daily basis.
The Steelers and the Redskins were longtime rivals in the NFL before the merger, but it wasn't much of a rivalry, probably because both teams sucked most of the time. One key difference was the Steelers had guys like John Henry Johnson and John Nisby, but the Redskins stayed all white until the feds threatened to take DC Stadium (now RFK) away from them unless they integrated. Only then did they hire Bobby Mitchell. And for years, the lyrics to "Hail to the Redskins" said, "fight for old Dixie."
The Redskins original owner, George Preston Marshall, was never considered among the most enlightened when it came to the issue of race relations. And even though much of Washington's large African-American population eagerly embraces today's Redskins, many others still remember the chant "Redskins? White Skins! How about some Brown Skins!" That's another reason you see so many Steeler hats and even Dallas Cowboy hats among DC area natives.
There is another owner who has brought DC area natives into the Steeler fold, and that is Daniel M. Snyder.Snyder is universally considered the anti-Rooney here in DC (although some consider him the anti-Christ), in that he spends enormous amounts of money on over-the-hill free agents, fritters away draft picks, raises hopes, and they have been dashed time and again when the skies of November turn gloomy.
Snyder's Skins visited Pittsburgh in 2000 for the final game at Three Rivers Stadium. Myron Cope called the Redskins the Redfaces. Cope found a note slipped to him in the boradcast booth saying he should stop calling them that and should call them by their proper name. Cope figured correctly the note was from Snyder or Snyder's people.
"If that boy billionaire thinks he can tell me what to say on the radio," fumed Myron, "he can go stick his head in a can of paint!"
The Steelers won that game by more than two touchdowns, and Washington Post sportswriter Tom Boswell wrote that Cope spoke for legions of Redskins fans.
Snyder is the guy who got rid of Ryan Clark, spending millions to replace him with a stiff named Adam Archuleta, who was so bad he couldn't even play on special teams. He paid big bucks for Albert Haynesworth, Jeff George, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Donovan F. McNabb when they were all clearly on the downhill. People eventually got tired of that game, and tired of Snyder and even tired of the Redskins.
Perhaps the greatest moment in recent Steeler-Redskin history was the Monday night game at FedEx Field, where Byron Leftwich came off the bench for an injured Ben Roethlisberger and led the Steelers to victory. It was memorable because Steeler fans appeared to outnumber Redskin fans and they took over the stadium.
The DC sportswriters and broadcasters, and sportstalk hosts wanted to know how this could happen, given that Snyder claims there is a 20-year waiting list for Redskin season tickets. The Emperor Snyder had no clothes, no fans, and apparently no waiting list.
Snyder changed course a year ago, and stockpiled draft choices and had a very good draft. The team was better but lacked a decent quarterback. This year, he bet the ranch and rolled the dice with the gamble of gambles. He traded away three years of first round picks for the second pick in this year's draft and came up with the most exciting and talented quarterback this town has seen perhaps since Sammy Baugh.
He also found a gem in the sixth round, a powerful and determined running back named Alfred Morris. RGIII was compared to Black Jesus by one well-known figure. Other folks may have gone overboard in their praise. He is not as good as you have heard. He is better.
He's a military brat, and his parents have raised him right. He may be the first rookie Homer has ever seen able to come in and take over a team. He has amazing leadership qualities. He also has 4.3 speed, a rifle arm, a soft touch, great vision, and great decision making abilities. He can do most everything short of fly and become invisible.He does fumble, on occasion, however. He has captivated Washington even more than wunderkind Bryce Harper did earlier this year for the Nationals.
So the Redskins head into Pittsburgh with an offense led by Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, and a defense that can't stop anybody. There will be thousands of fans following them from the DC area to Heinz Field. But those fans will not be wearing the burgundy and gold. They will be members of the DCSteelCityMafia and other groups who have paid premium prices to secure precious tickets to return home to see their beloved Steelers take on the Redskins.
There might be a few Redskin fans at Heinz Field this week, and Daniel M. Snyder will probably be sitting in the visiting team's box with his brain trust, but there is absolutely no concern that Redskins' fans will take over the stadium. The real concern is that RGIII will take over the game, which is expected to be a shootout between Griffin and Big Ben.
For Griffin, it will be the first time facing a defensive scheme devised by Dick LeBeau. It will be the first time he's been in a sea of black and gold. It will be his introduction to Renegade. He can run. He can't hide. But, oh, he can run. And fake. And pass.
Oh, mama, I'm in fear for my life....