Being a life-long Pittsburgher, I witness, on a daily basis, the passion most local residents express for all three professional sports teams--the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates. There are some people who love one team and, for whatever reason, have a disdain for the others and want to see them fail. But mostly, if you're local, you probably bleed Black and Gold for all seasons and all reasons Pittsburgh.
However, the Internet is quite a different animal. I'm a regular contributor on BTSC, and I often forget that, just like Neil Walker, whoops, I mean, Charlie Batch, being a Steelers fan AND a citizen of Western, Pa., might be more the exception than it is the rule, and being a Steelers fan doesn't necessarily mean you're going to give a hill of beans about the other local teams.
Every summer, I'll try and slip in an article or two about the Pirates, my favorite baseball team, and it normally goes over about as well as a mock draft in July--the reactions range from tepid, to "Screw the Pirates!"
But they do call it Steeler Nation for a reason. Fans are everywhere, not just in Pittsburgh, and because the Steelers are such a marquee franchise with a great tradition, the ones that aren't local aren't necessarily transplants who moved away. If you're a regular to this site, you no doubt know of transplants like Ivan Cole and Neal Coolong and their ties to Pittsburgh at an earlier age, complete with a love for the Steelers that has never waned throughout the years. There are literally tens of thousands of people around the world, like Ivan and Neal, with ties to Pittsburgh who share this same passion for their football team, and that is quite evident at just about every Steelers' road game each and every season.
Conversely, you may also know the story of Rebecca Rollett, a Pittsburgh resident who hails from New Mexico and became a Steelers fan fairly recently. I know many people with stories similar to Rebecca's, people who moved to Pittsburgh and eventually got swept up in the tidal wave that is our love for all things Steelers.
But what about the Steelers fans who have no ties or real affiliation with the Pittsburgh region, people who grew up and live in other parts of the country or world but are just as die-hard as someone who lives a short drive from Heinz Field?
Many people on blogs such as this one will discuss their favorite teams from various sports, and a good deal of the time, these fans will have no affiliation with any of the cities these teams represent. A typical example may be, "I'm from Atlanta, and I root hard for my Steelers, Mets, Clippers and Maple Leafs!"
And I'm not knocking this phenomenon, because, as I alluded to earlier, it's obvious these fans are very dedicated to their teams--just go on any BSTC game-thread, and it's not only quite apparent Steelers fans are everywhere, it's quite apparent that even the ones from places like Germany are VERY passionate.
I'm familiar with this kind of far-reaching love. I may be a Pittsburgh sports enthusiast, but when I was a kid, I was a huge Lakers fan. If a blog like Silver Screen and Roll existed back then, I probably would have been a regular there, complete with a name such as "Steel City Laker."
I've never been to Los Angeles, but when the Lakers were involved in a big game in the 80s, I cheered for them like they were the home team.
I guess it was easy to become a Lakers fan with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helping to create Showtime, but then again, Pittsburgh's never had an NBA team, so who knows if I would have been as passionate about the Purple and Gold if I had a Black and Gold hoop team to cheer for.
So, how did it happen, Steelers brothers and sisters from different motherlands, how did you become such fervent ambassadors for your favorite football team?
Was it the marquee status of the team, the winning tradition or something else?
Maybe it was a personal encounter with a player or coach--I have a friend who is from Baltimore but is a huge Dolphins fan, and the main reason is because he met Don Shula as a kid.
This might seem like a cliched topic to discuss in the second week of July, but I'm honestly fascinated. I often have a hard time separating my civic pride from my favorite sports teams, but I have a great deal of respect for the passion expressed by Steelers fans who do not call Pittsburgh home and never will.
Share your stories. This Pittsburgh boy really wants to know.