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Memo from a Steelers Fan: Black and Gold Will Rise Again

on February 07, 2011 7:35 AM

Like a lot of other Steelers fans around here, I've never actually lived in Pittsburgh.

Occasionally wish that I did, but I've never really had the honor of calling a 412 phone number my own.

Never had a home address within the delivery zones of the hometown-proud Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review, either.

But for the Centre County branch of the Steelers fan-family tree, rooting for the 'burgh isn't so much about precisely where we are.

It's much more about backing a tradition we see as grounded in character-driven greatness, gritty resilience, a working-class work ethic and a deep Pennsylvanian sensibility.

Before I fall any further into cheerleaderish boosterism here, however, let's underscore something on that character score:

None of us who genuinely reveres the entrenched Steelers character -- and what it stands for -- should tolerate any hint of criminal misconduct, including sexual assault. There's no defending that, no rationalizing it, no explaining or compartmentalizing it away. It's serious; it's unacceptable, And frankly, as a group, we can't say that enough.

Back when the Steelers first entered my consciousness, though, I wasn't aware that the human race could commit anything bad. It was the mid-1980s, I was a tyke, and Pittsburgh sports were the soundtrack to lots of weekend afternoons and car trips. The voice of Myron Cope is etched deep in my brain -- not exactly a lullaby, per se, but a bizarre comfort nonetheless.

My grandparents, who grew up under clouds of steel-mill smoke, have remained true to their Steel City roots. They've passed along the 'burgh ethos by example: hard work, good humor, a devotion to family, an unpretentious groundedness, little tolerance for nonsense in any form.

By the time I became a teenager, I began associating all things Pittsburgh -- including the Steelers -- with those qualities.

By the time I reached my mid-20s, I began striving more seriously to build those qualities -- those standards -- into my own life.

How well the inner sanctum of the Steelers organization actually matches those ideals -- well, we depend largely on what we read and what we're told to gauge that. In sports, what we know is what we want to believe.

And what makes us root for the teams we love, really, is what we perceive them to be, how we associate them with our own lives. Our perceptions -- no matter who we are, or where we live -- may be only marginally accurate. Who knows.

But don't tell us that.

For the Steelers and their fans, it was a brutal Sunday in Texas. The Packers played better; they certainly deserved to win the Super Bowl.

Like the city and region behind them, though the Steelers will rise and rise again. They come from a place with resilience in the genes, grit that's hard-wired into the collective character. You fall down; you get back up again and fight. (Hey, didn't Eminem's Chrysler commercial teach us that, too?)

And for the fans? The Steelers will continue to be what we want them to be.

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