Sunday, October 15, 2006
Before all you Steeler fans get mad, hear me out...This is not a hit piece and there is nothing worth debating in this post.
I am a huge Steeler fan. I could go toe to toe with anyone in Pittsburgh about the subject.
The first time I met Adam, we talked for 5 hours about the Willie Williams tackle in the 1995 AFC Championship Game. We didn't even talk about the Penguins.
I watch every Steeler game (15-1 seasons or 6-10 seaons) in the same place: At my house, in my dad's game room, with the same people...my brother, my dad, my friend Tim, and his brother. We sit in the same seats, and have all the rituals...
But this year is different. The Steelers are coming off a world championship, the highest of highs. The sad thing about this Steeler season is that the people that jumped on the bandwagon from the Chicago Bears game on don't want to come to terms with the fact that the Steelers might not win every game. We always hear about the free agency era of the NFL; how it is nearly impossible to have long stretches of elite status. Fans are actually booing the team at games this year...are you serious? I was ashamed to be a part of Steeler Nation when I heard boos at the end of the Cincinnati game.
No one will ever question true Steeler fans loyalty or their right to dicuss the subject, but we do have the right to discuss why if you're a true Pittsburgh sports fan, you aren't more concerned with the Penguins and their battle to keep the franchise in Pittsburgh.
Here are our reasons:
5. The Five-Year Grace Period
This is something that I learned of when reading Boston-Homer Bill Simmons of espn.com
To save you the reading
"After your team wins a championship, they immediately get a five-year grace period: You can't complain about anything that happens with your team (trades, draft picks, salary-cap cuts, coaching moves) for five years. There are no exceptions. . You win the Super Bowl, you go on cruise control for five years. Everything else is gravy."
This makes sense. The Steelers gave us an incredible ride last winter. What more could we have asked for? I am not going to get all worked up over 3 losses.
The Penguins last won in 1992, couple that with the win in 1991, and that got us up to 2001.
Two wins = 10 years.
And seeing that McClatchy doesn't make the Pirates worth it right now, the Pens should be people's main focus.
You may not agree with this next statement...but there is nothing better than your team being in the Stanely Cup Playoffs. You better respect it. A seven game series that makes you go up and down faster than the Mt. Washington Incline is the most emotional experience a fan can have. We haven't had this feeling for a while now. I was nine years old when Lord Stanley was last raised; I want to see it again.
4. Bandwagon fans and competitive fans
I love the Steeler Nation, but something struck me as odd the other night before the Sunday night game against the Chargers
When I was in school, I remember there were all these people who were self-proclaimed Steelers fans. They had pictures at tailgate parties, the jerseys, you name it. And when the Steelers lost to the Patriots in the 2004 AFC championship game, those fans were nowhere to be found. I couldn't move for 5 months after that loss. I felt like I broke up with every girlfriend in my life in one night. But these people were acting like they didn't care all of a sudden. They dropped the "oh, it's only sports" thing. Screw that.
I was watching TV; watching all these people guarantee wins in their local bars, saying the Steelers are number one. What crap.
Most Pens fans aren't bandwagon. But bandwagon fans are everywhere. All I am saying is that the 13,000 or so true Penguins fans in this area, and the thousands elsewhere, have watched every game no matter how bad they are. I watched every game last season, good or bad. Just wait until the Penguins break out...it's going to be like a convoy on the Oregon Trail.
In 5 years, a lot of people are going to be dying of dysentery when the Pens are great again.
Another issue is the un-spoken competitive nature between Steeler fans.
How many times have you heard this:
"I am the biggest Steeler fan on the planet. I have all their jerseys, I touched Jerome Bettis one time, you should see the shrine in my house."
Why do Steeler fans always try to one-up each other? What I like about Penguins fans is that we band together. We are not in some type of competition to get as many pictures with the Penguins as possible, to build bigger shrines, or argue that we know more about the Penguins and can analyze everything better than everyone. Go to a Steelers game, and then a Pens game. Which place would you be more inclined to slap a stranger's hand after a TD/goal? At Steeler games, everyone has their little posse and cheering sections. As Pens fans, we're all there for one reason: to help our team win. You will hear the occasional boo from Pens fans, of course, and you'll hear the crowd groan in unison when a defenseman can't take a pass and it goes out of the zone, but we also forgive. For example, everyone was on Gonchar last year, but I know a lot of people willing to forgive him. Pens fans aren't going to do what "Steeler fans" did to Kordell Stewart (unless your Robert Dome). Even fans booing Ben when he throws a pick are jokes. Roethlisberger helped the Steelers win the friggin Super Bowl. He has 3 bad games, and that's it? He's supposed to be Tom Brady all of a sudden? After barely working with his new receiving corps? He hasn't gone through the NFL growing pains yet.
I just think Penguins fans are a little more level-headed than Steeler fans when it comes to expectations.
3. Ratings Overkill
Let's face it. Football in this area will always be bigger than hockey. For example: I hate high school football, and do not understand how someone other than the people playing the games can get excited about it. But, not trying to be a hypocrite and criticize something I don't understand, I'll stop.
But what I do understand is that the Steelers are used as a rating ploy by everything. Every news station...every broadcaster is obsessed with the Steelers because that's how they get more people to watch.
It has become ridiculous.
It's fine to a point, but when the Steelers have become a bigger story on the news than someone being murdered in my neighborhood, I am not sure I want to be a part of something like that.
Big Ben got in an accident. That's a one day story. That's it. He's alive. Move on. News stations were making 3-D models of the scene of the accident. That was too much.
When did this get so bad? When we were kids, it wasn't like this. And that was only ten years ago. If Ben went through the Kordell Stewart gay rumors (which didn't get any major media coverage) right now, not only would the media be all over it, half the men in Pittsburgh would become homosexuals just to get a shot at "Big" Ben.
2. The Future
We have a responsibility...not only to ourselves now, but the future.
The Steelers will always be here, but now, more than ever, we have to pump our Penguins.
There are thousands of young kids out there caught in the Steeler mania, which is fine. We were when we were kids.
But, what if a generation of fans doesn't get to experience a 7th game overtime goal or even a heart-breaking loss?
These are the moments that made my childhood. And while not important to some, I know it is important to others.
Why should the Penguins future be pushed aside because the Steelers aren't winning? It's not right, and cannot be tolerated.
The Penguins for too long now have been the city's third child. It's time to realize that they are every bit as important to Pittsburgh as the Steelers.
1. The Arena Issue
Where to begin on this issue. What is frustrating is that is is still an issue.
Think back to when Dan Rooney was crying for a new stadium. They couldn't have built one fast enough.
If tomorrow, the Rooney family said there were gonna move the Steelers if they didn't get a second stadium, people would be lined up to donate. People might even start building it on their own.
"Hey, it's me, Dan Rooney. I need a new stadium." (Book of Genesis, Chapter 6, Verse 15)
But when Mario Lemieux asks for a new arena, he is a greedy Canadian.
Who cares about hockey, they say. They don't need anything, it's only hockey.
The fact that this arena business has gotten to this point is shameful, embarrassing, and disheartening.
Just because people don't like hockey, it's not worth using the taxpayers money?
It's only sports.
But, oh my God, the Pirates can't stay competitive in Three Rivers and baseball is America's pastime. Gotta give Kevin McClatchy a new stadium. We can't lose the Pirates.
The Pirates needed PNC park so they could become a contender...........done laughing yet?
Screw that Lemieux guy, they say. Banding together with a typically annoying argument on why they wouldn't give 10 cents to the Penguins cause. Lemieux's not even from here.
We built a Pirates stadium and they suck.
Professional sports are not as important as the war on drugs and poverty in this area.
But have they really done anything on that? Take a walk through Homewood. Let me know how that goes.
Professional athletes aren't like us hard working Pittsburgh steel people, they rally. We are a steel town. We take our lunch pails to work.
Yea, well, you'd be taking your lunch pail to the Hill District when you get a job building the Penguins new arena. Think about it.
Pens fans are having to undergo the worst waiting any sports fan should have to go through.
I'll end with this:
The Steelers will always be here, so will the Pirates.
Even if you hate hockey, and the Penguins, just put yourselves in our shoes. How's it feel?
Derek of the Pensblog
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