The reaction I will get from posting this will most likely be negative. I have dreaded, and avoided, posting this, because I have a very human desire to be liked and not ridiculed. But at the same time I have always wanted to say these things in a public forum of Steeler fans, just to put the feelers out there and see if anyone agrees with me. I don't know how else to say this so I'm just going to say it: I think it's time to retire Renegade, and to be totally honest, I was always embarrassed by it to begin with. There are several reasons for my position, but before I go through them, I want to make a few things clear. I was at the Dallas game in 08, one of the most magical, and famous, Renegade moments ever. I felt the electricity of the crowd following Renegade, and saw Downtown D-Town's game sealing pick-six no more than two plays later. Of the five games I've seen in person in 20 years (all wins, and all incredible experiences) the last two included Renegade, the first three didn't. So this opinion is not coming from someone who has never experienced it first hand. Also, because I've only spent about 40% of my life, on and off, in western PA, I have only driven through the Fort Pitt Tunnel roughly between 25 and 30 times. Why is this relevant? I'll get to that in reason number two. First though, I would like to start with a positive reason for retiring Renegade:
1) Retiring Renegade Now Would Give Us the Renegade Steelers: When we think of "The Steel Curtain," we think of a specific group of guys, from a specific era in Steeler history. Same with "Blitzburgh." By the way, the Chiefs blowing that lead made me think of this, have you noticed that all the teams that ended the Steelers' seasons during Blitzburgh (if you consider true Blitzburgh 92-95) have been cursed ever since? Seriously the chiefs haven't won a playoff game since, to say nothing of the bills, chargers and cowboys. Anyway, if we retire Renegade now, or maybe a year from now, we could us "The Renegade Steelers" as an era specific moniker. We could use it as a reference to a cohesive group like Keisel, Snack, Smith, Harrison, Farrior, Foote, Timmons, Woodley Clark, Polamalu, Taylor, B-mac, and D-town. Or just as a general term for the Steelers from '04-'11 (or 04-14, depending on how next year goes.) I think that would be pretty cool, but it can't happen if we're still playing renegade at games ten years from now. That would make the nickname confusing.
2) The story of how this Renegade thing came to be is incredibly lame: My first outrage against Renegade came when I first heard that it had become sort of unofficial Steeler theme song that was being played at games. I read somewhere much later that it started in 2002, but I was at the Ravens game that year, and I don't remember Renegade (I do remember Dwayne Washington doing a PSA thing on the jumbotron and getting booed,) so it wasn't until a couple years later that I found out about Renegade. When I did, I felt blindsided and a little disappointed. Partially because I had pondered and compared what song would be best for such a purpose for years, my best candidates were "Working man" by Rush, or "One" by Metallica. I felt like a fight song had been sprung on us without warning, or any sort of vote or input by the fans. "this is our team," I thought, "we don't get a say in this at all?? Styx!? Really, seriously guys?? Styx!??" I comforted myself, however, in thinking that there must be a good reason for this. Surely, there's a fantastic story about how the Renegade got its start. Some years later when NFL films did a piece on Heinz Field's Renegade tradition, sometime around one of the team's last two super bowl berths, it revealed what the genesis of the Renegade really was. I was sorely disappointed, and all the old wounds were open. This is where that personal tidbit about the rarity of my passage through the Fort Pitt tunnels comes into play. The story goes, according to the nfl films piece, that one of the sound guys at Heinz Field was driving into the tunnel when Renegade started playing on his car stereo. For those of you who don't know, i376 aka the Lincoln parkway enters Pittsburgh proper from the North, through these tunnels. Before the tunnel, you can't see the skyline, you're sort of sunk into the landscape, but upon exiting the tunnel, the whole vista opens up and the skyline explodes in front of you. The sound guy, whos name I don't recall, explains this in the interview. He goes on to say that when he reached the end of the tunnel, he got to the part where homeboy yells and the song explodes into the first chorus, just as the visual splendor of Pittsburgh explodes into view. He had achieved synchronicity between a song that has a sudden change in intensity, and the visual experience of exiting the tunnels. But how rare is this occurrence? I propose that it cant be rare at all, unless you listen to talk radio a lot, or are an oblivious person. In the few occasions that I have entered Pittsburgh in this way, no more than 30 times, I have achieved this synchronicity with SEVERAL songs on several occasions. (Much less girly songs at that, but i'll get to that.) This sound guy I assume, has lived and worked in the area for a long time. And if he was on his way to work, does he take that route every day? in any case, he has to have done that drive more than I have, and that's the first time that synchronicity thing has happened to him?? So just because of that, it has to be Renegade. What a lame story. I was expecting like the 79 team using the song to get pumped on their last super bowl run, or one of the guys from Styx is a Steeler fan, but no. Just because this guy had this little moment with himself in his car, the image of my beloved Steelers is sullied by glam-rock.
3) Styx just doesn't seem to mesh with Steeler football: Look, when I'm disparaging Styx, I am in no way insinuating anything about the band, or their fans, and I am not prejudiced in any way toward anybody. I promise you, in my daily life I am the most hippy-dippy, free to be you and me guy you will ever meet. My social politics skew liberal, and I'm all about women's liberation and everything. It's just that, when it comes to my Steelers, I feel a certain level of masculinity, intimidation of the opponent, a war-like violent sentiment, is more appropriate. Is that so wrong? And this argument has nothing to do with whether I like Styx's music, that's irrelevant. I like a band called the Knife, they're a kind of euro-pop, happy, bouncy, type deal with a female lead singer, but I would NEVER set a Steelers highlight video to one of their songs. I also like the musical stylings of Amanda Palmer, she's incredibly talented, but once again, NEVER to a Steeler's highlight video. My dad is the son of a Snyder's of Berlin truck driver, and he grew up in the 60's and 70's on the wrong side of New Castle, PA, so he's a little rough around the edges, and a typical old-school Steeler fan. When I told him that Renegade by Styx had become the teams new fight song, his face crinkled up like he had just smelled feces. The words my dad used to describe Styx? Let's just say his language was offensive and I can't repeat it here. Personally, when I think of Styx, I think of guys with big hair covered in makeup and glitter. Does that really fit over a video of Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons clobbering people? From '04-'11, when the Steeler's were physically dominant and intimidating, this contradiction was masked a little. It was like a huge scary looking guy driving a pink Miata, you're not gonna make fun of that guy's car, cause he'll bash your head in. In the coming years though, if the Steelers lose that little extra punch of physicality that once set them apart, having Renegade by Styx as their fight song becomes a little more exposed. Why not Zeppelin? or Ozzie? Or Slayer? or really anything but Styx?
4) Its time to bring back the Pittsburgh Polka: During the 4-11 streak the Steeler's endured over nearly a calendar year, I noticed they were missing a piece of their identity. A little extra something that makes the Steelers the Steelers. I found myself searching for a spell, some kind of incantation that can resurrect the ghosts of Steelers past. That describes the Pittsburgh Polka to a tee. If you've never heard the original Pittsburgh Polka, and shame on you if you haven't, go look it up. If the big screen went black and you heard the song that most symbolizes the spirit and core of Steelerdom, would you be any less pumped?? I think not. So, all that being said, I leave you with a timeless refrain, Polack poetry that never ceases to bring a tear to my eye:
Da-Da-Da-Da-Ta-Da - Charge! We're from the town with that great football team, We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chuck Noll and all his friends are all on the field. Go out and get them Steelers.
Bradshaw, and Rocky, and Franco and Lynn, We love you Pittsburgh Steelers. It's been many years in coming, just keep that Steelers machinery humming
Defense, Defense, make them scramble, intercept that ball. Defense, Defense, keeps the Steelers always best of all! Mean Joe, Mean Joe, do your thing against the other team, You start from year to year, we're so glad you play here, Now join with me, and sing the Steelers cheer-er-ER!
We're from the town with that great football team, We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winning's a habit, not only a dream, Go out and get them Steelers!
Gerela's Gorrilas are here for the show, and so is Franco's Army, It's been many years in coming, just keep that Steelers machinery humming.
Offense, Offense, take that football whole way up the field! Offense, Offense, let's score and score and never ever yield! Franco, Franco, can you believe we have a running game? The Steelers are so great, and and they play the best of all, Today are Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl. Da-Da-Da-Da-Ta-Da - Charge!