With as bold a stroke as the custom paint job on a classic car–or as subtle as the jimmies on your doughnut–sides are taken and armament drawn. For it is here, dangling from front porches and stacked in the pop & chip aisle of Giant Eagle, that the enemy is engaged, troops fortified, and the City of Pittsburgh prepares for its annual fall campaign toward world dominance on the turf and sod battlefields of the AFC North.
Today it begins. Families bid tearful goodbyes to the husbands, brothers, and sons they’ll not see for the next four to five months–depending on how things go in the playoffs–as living rooms and finished basements are converted into makeshift bunkers where the foot soldiers of Coach Tomlin’s standing army perform isolation drills, practice daylight depravation exercises, and go on full intravenous diets of molten cheese and malted barley.
Yes: ladies will be there, too–right to the end. We haven’t forgotten the mothers, sisters, and daughters who populate these same bleachers, tailgate parties, and La-Z-Boys of conflict. According to one well-passed-around story, “Pittsburgh has, by far, the largest base of NFL fans who are women”*. But–and this is just a hunch–we think most of those women will have the good sense to go back to the rest of their lives after the clock runs out on Sunday afternoon. Men? Not so much. We’ll see you guys in February.
Oh, sure, the guys on the field getting paid the big bucks get all the credit, but who’s really winning these championships, huh? I’ll tell you, who, jack. It’s the lady who locates one black and one gold yard flamingo for the little grass patch in front of her house in Woods Run–no alarm system needed.
It’s the fourth-grader that spray-paints a set of tin cans black and then carefully strings them together as a mummy-wrapped Steeler robot. In New England they probably just buy pre-assembled Bradybots from China because everyone cheats anyway.
You want to talk about a Steeler fan? Just look up on the hillside, there’s a house there with yellow-gold painted walls and black trim on the roofline, window and door frames. Yeah, there’s probably a Jeep or maybe a big Ram pickup in the driveway with the same color scheme. No one drives a car that’s orange and brown. Those are loser colors.
A Steeler fan has a long, long memory–one that goes way back to the cold, bleak pre-Noll era when Sundays weren’t so optimistic, and Cleveland [shutters] might still have a chance to make the playoffs. There’s the ex-pat–now relocated to Virginia–who has to contend him- or herself with the occasional drive home in a dynasty-era black Cadillac. The Rock probably had one like this before he had to hock his Super Bowls rings in the divorce settlement. The vehicle’s other ornament is a cryptic custom license plate that’ll only make sense inside Pittsburgh radio range: DUBL YOI.
Whether today is the first of a season of Sundays spent with your keister on the couch or you couldn’t give a hoot about the galoots in the boots, The Orbit hopes you can still enjoy the annual spectacle of your friends, neighbors, and country(wo)men flying those most glaring of high-contrast hues, losing their minds over a fake-punt, dropped catch, or blown coverage, and head-bobbing to the throbbing monotony of this year’s re-write of “Here We Go”.
May all your towels be terrible and may we still get three points off Chris Brown’s toe. Let’s go out there and teach Cleveland a new lesson in losing.
* “Pittsburgh leads nation in female NFL fans”, NFL.com, Sept. 12, 2007.
- “On the Fence,” Steelers fences and back yards (Pittsburgh Orbit, Sept. 12, 2016)
- “Sudden Death, Over Time,” Steelers grave markers and grave decorations (Pittsburgh Orbit, Oct. 24, 2016)
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