Up until now, the only time I’ve actually used a hashtag was to make fun of hashtags, and I've found us as a society rushing to insert a portmanteau (mashups like tween, pornado and Brangelina) into every possible nook and cranny of the vocabosphere.
But Steelers Nation is family to me, and when events hit close to home, people embrace the hashtag-mashup (#hashup anyone?) as a coping mechanism. So, when I saw Ryan Shazier's initial “thank you” on social media concluding with #Shalieve, I immediately joined the portmanteau posse.
But what does #Shalieve really mean? Of course, it’s the mashup of Ryan's surname and believe...that's obvious. But look a little deeper. This can't be just a catchphrase to put on t-shirts and signs. (By the way, shame on those selling "50" knockoffs already online. Nobody should profit from this terrible event except maybe a nonprofit that researches or aids in these situations.) #Shalieve needs to be a rallying cry for Ryan Shazier to work, fight and will himself back to good health. It also needs to represent hope to Ryan that he might one day run onto the field again and resume his career.
Now, his football career is in NO WAY the primary concern here. I only cheer for the man to walk and lead a productive life. For a competitor such as Shazier, however, I would think a goal like that has to be on his mind and will push him, even though it might not be a possibility. It’s human nature to strive to get back what you've lost when it seems gone.
So in this sense, #Shalieve most likely represents hope and determination to Ryan and his family.
To Ryan Shazier's teammates, it represents the same thing, but in a slightly different manner. This has been a bickering bunch for most of the calendar year. Between a star not reporting for camp, another throwing Gatorade containers in anger, the QB and OC possibly feuding, a player wanting traded, and a PED suspension....this has been Team Turmoil. A group that lacked a lot of perspective.
But it seems Shazier's injury has shaken these guys to their very core. They watched, and continue to wait, as one of their own is now faced with one of their deepest and darkest fears. They seem now to realize that this could have quite possibly happened to any one of them, and that other petty problems are just that. The outcry of support from the players themselves has been tremendous. They've cried, visited, FaceTimed, voiced, worn their messages of hope and have come together as a band of brothers.
Ben Roethlisberger mentioned the inspiration that they all seem to get from their teammate. They need Shazier to hope and fight as well...for them too. So to the Steelers, #Shalieve should represent hope and perspective.
This team has dedicated and celebrated its division title to Shazier. They have voiced their desire to win for him. It seems to give them the sense of a higher purpose to live out their injured brother's dream for him. The Steelers winning it all (although not as important in the overall scheme of things as a young man's health) seems to be a priority for Shazier as well. Mike Tomlin indicated that Shazier still continues his role (off field) as a team leader and wants to talk game plan from his hospital room. It seems the Steelers and Shazier are drawing strength from both.
This holiday season be thankful for the gifts of life, family and physical health that we often take for granted. It can be gone just like that. Put petty differences aside and embrace life and hope.
In other words...#Shalieve.