There are two seasons for any Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Football season and waiting-for-football-to-return season. Football season has returned and you can feel it in the air. Locally, schools are back in session and this Friday night represented the first contest for many High School teams. Next week there will be multiple matchups featuring Top 25 teams to kickoff the 2018 College football season, and if that isn’t enough to get your old heart muscle pumping, the NFL starts playing for keeps the week after that.
Now unless you have been living under a rock, or just coming out of a coma, you know by now the NFL is in big trouble. Thousands of fans are plastering comments all over Facebook and Twitter, and passionately telling anyone who will listen, how they will never watch another NFL game because of the anthem protest controversy. Now you have even more disgruntled fans proclaiming they refuse to watch this new kinder, gentler NFL created by the new ‘Helmet Rule’.
I got a little secret for you. Not gonna happen. So why do they all waste their time making idle threats? Because sometimes people love to make grandiose promises they never intend to keep. I have a neighbor who keeps posting all over social media a picture that is supposed to show the Seattle Seahawks burning an American flag in their locker room after a game. Says he will never watch another game. I have a couple of issues with his impassioned plea. One, we have no idea if that really happened, or if the image has been doctored. Real news or fake news? Who knows? I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, not a Seahawks fan. Second problem I have with his agenda. Dude isn’t even a football fan! Probably hasn’t watched a game in twenty years. I believe him when he says he will never watch another game. He wasn’t going to be watching anyway.
Football has established itself as part of the American culture. Every Friday night moments witnessed on a football field become ingrained as cherished family memories. Lifelong friendships are bonded together around tailgating experiences and mutual support for your college alma mater every Saturday. Rooting for your favorite NFL team means you are a part of something much bigger than you. That you are a member of a group, the majority of which you will never encounter, that share a common passion and goal. Anybody that truly knows what it means to be a part of Steeler Nation knows that love for the Steelers and the game of football isn’t going away any time soon.
As I stated in the first article I ever wrote for BTSC, the NFL definitely has an image problem. They view the decline in participation among young athletes as potentially the single biggest threat to the longevity of the sport. They have responded by orchestrating the Heads Up program designed to teach proper tackling techniques starting at the youth levels. They have also installed new rules at both the college and professional levels in an attempt to make the game safer for the players. Or at least appear to be safer. These new developments were meant to benefit the NFL’s overall image.
Make no mistake about it, the NFL league offices are not filled with a bunch of Mother Teresas lovingly praying for the health and well being of the players. This seemingly new found emphasis on player safety has been generated solely to protect their bottom line. However, the initial reasoning responsible for inspiring change is irrelevant as long as it produces positive results. That possibility still remains in this situation.
The NFL is big business. Multiple franchises are now worth billions of dollars and the league itself can only be described as a financial success story and entertainment empire. The NFL will continue to make decision based on what’s best for their business, even if we view the game as something so much more.
Steeler Nation is not a business. Steeler Nation is a family. If I had a family crest, you better believe the Steeler emblem would be part of that crest. Being a member of Steeler Nation means you are emotionally invested in a lifelong endeavor. As long as the Rooney family owns the team and the franchise continues to reflect their core values, I will remain a Steelers fan. Players come and go, but true fandom remains.
So to all the fans proclaiming they are going to stop watching the NFL due to the anthem protests or the new helmet rule, let me get this straight. You are going to quit rooting for your team because of the actions of a few players and politicians, or because of a rule that potentially could have been penalized on only 3% or 4% of tackles last season?
Makes total sense to me. Arrivederci. I highly doubt you were ever a football fan anyway. Definitely not a card carrying member of Steeler Nation.