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How Jimmy Carter and the Steelers started a new standard

The day Mr Rooney went to Washington

A White House visit is just another perk of being a champion in the NFL today, but that wasn’t always the tradition. On February 22, 1980, President Carter invited the Super Bowl champions to Washington DC for the first time, as part of a special celebration with both the Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

At that point, the Steelers had recently won their fourth title, just months after the “We Are Family” Buccos won the World Series. President Carter acknowledged the contributions of Steelers Nation.

“I want to include in this salute not only Pittsburgh itself but to the entire western region of Pennsylvania, because I don’t know of any team or set of teams that have had such overwhelming and constant and enthusiastic support than these two teams have had from the entire region of Pennsylvania—and I might say, looking at my own members of my family, not only from western Pennsylvania but from the White House as well and from Plains, Georgia.”

He also seemed to nail the essence of the Steelers way, long before Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin continued the standard.

“Excellence on a transient basis is much easier than excellence sustained over a long period of time, and it requires not only a great spirit but a deep and permanent commitment to sustain that kind of championship form. Not only have they brought honor and credit to their team but they’ve brought honor and credit to their community, because of a spirit of service to others. I think the reciprocal nature of that unselfish attitude has paid rich dividends for them as teams.”

Carter singled out Rocky Bleier for his service in Vietnam, and Art Rooney, for his commitment to the team and city.

“Art Rooney, the owner of the Steelers, has also made his unique contribution to his community. For almost 50 years he has kept his faith in the city of Pittsburgh, and for many of those years—I won’t mention how many—when the Pirates were not champions, he believed, sometimes alone, that the city would one day be the home of champions. And now he’s been proven to be right. In fact, he’s been proven to be doubly right, as is exhibited on the stage here with me this afternoon.”

Kyle Chrise is host of the BTSC podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes are released every Thursday. Check out the latest episode in the player below: