I've been described by some as a controversial Steelers writer.
If the Steelers just did something good, and I write about it, I'm called one of the brainwashed sheep. If they just did something bad, and I write about it, I'm considered "dangerous" or "divisive." If I write a satirical article such as an April Fool's mock draft in-which Pittsburgh takes Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd in the first round, I'm considered "edgy" or a "troll."
Yes, it seems I can't steer clear of controversy no matter what I write about these days.
But there's one truly sensitive topic I've always tiptoed around for fear that I will be forever blackballed by the Steelers writing community.
What's that, you ask? My always close proximity to the Steelers headquarters the past 45-plus years.
Before the Internet and social media, I never knew this was a big deal. Heck, the house I grew up in as a teenager in the West End of Pittsburgh was close enough to old Three Rivers Stadium, I could hear the PA announcer say things like, "Pollard, three-yard carry."
However, since becoming a writer for Behind the Steel Curtain and discovering just how massive Steeler Nation really is, I now know what a privilege it is, one akin to, say, a TV character such as a fairly broke Thomas Magnum living on beachfront property in Hawaii; or two 20-something girls—one an often unemployed chef, the other a waitress at Central Perk—living together in an enormous apartment in Manhattan.
Much like those broke TV characters living in really envious places, I guess I've taken for granted how easy it has always been for me to see a Steelers game, whether on TV or in person.
You know how you plan trips months in advance to see the Steelers at Heinz Field? When my friends call and ask me to go, I'm all "Cool, see you in 10!"
I've never actually appreciated just how unstable the NFL's flex scheduling can be for a person who plans a trip months ahead of time. To me, a switch from 4:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. is just a change of announce teams from Ian Eagle/Dan Fouts to Al Michaels/Cris Collinsworth. But to you, it could be the difference between keeping your plans to come to Pittsburgh or jumping online to say "Son of a b****!" before selling your tickets on StubHub in the hopes you'll get at least face value for them.
Since I was a little boy, I've just turned the TV on at game time, and there they were: my Steelers.
I couldn't imagine what it would be like living in, say, New Mexico, and suddenly being agitated by the sight of the Browns playing at Arizona (CBS regional coverage) on my TV screen, while, thousands of miles away, my beloved Steelers were battling the Ravens at the exact same time (also CBS regional coverage for some damn reason).
I don't even need to pay for any fancy viewing package in-order to see my Steelers. I've never once threatened any broadcasting subscription service with doing that word you're not really allowed to say anymore, but a good example of the definition would be vowing to never shop at Walmart again because they didn't have fudge Twinkies on a particular Wednesday.
"Where can I stream the game?" is something I've never had to ask.
That has to be a horrible endeavor. Sure, you find a streaming service, but it's kind of shady and originates in Greece, which means you're either going to see the Steelers take on the Patriots or an old re-run of Perfect Strangers.
And what about trying to follow the game by following the comments of others online? You know that poster who goes by the name Steelers58FortheThumbForever, the guy who is so irritating on game-threads because he's always saying stuff like, "Told ya', they suck!"?
I never have to worry about that guy.
You want to know how privileged I am? Even when the Steelers play their annual games that are broadcast on ESPN and the NFL Network—two channels that aren't included with very basic cable—I STILL get to watch these games due, to, I guess maybe the "Cheapskate Local Viewer" clause?
If I want to watch the WTAE Monday Night Football pregame show—hosted for many years by the legendary Sally Wiggin—I can do so in the comfort of my own living room, or I can be outside of Heinz Field in, again, 10 minutes!
Even preseason games. I mean, who cares about them, right? Lots of people, including me sometimes, but other times, not so much.
But I can turn on KDKA to watch Bob Pompeani, the guy who has been doing play-by-play of August Steelers games for years (I've actually passed him on the street a few times—snazzy dresser) whenever I want, or I could wait a day or so and just catch the replay on The CW.
So, there you have it.
You can call me a troll, and maybe I am, but I'm a troll who will watch every single Steelers game next season.
But if it makes you feel any better, there's a great chance I will miss the entire 2018 season because my car will be swallowed up by a giant pothole outside of Heinz Field.
We all have things we take for granted. You have roads. I have the Steelers.