Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part V)

Today's topic: Sports

There is only one organized sport in Pittsburgh: Steeler football.

Sure, there's a hockey team (the Penguins), and a baseball team (Pirates). There's a Division III soccer team (Riverhounds) and minor league baseball (Wild Things) nearby. Colleges (Panthers, Dukes, Tartans, and others) compete at various levels. I'm not going to try to be exhaustive; if you're a fan of a given sport, you probably already know what the team is and where to find it. I'll post later on recreational sports.

(One bit of trivia: Why do the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates all wear black and gold? Because black-and-gold are the city's official colors.)

But even if you're not a sports fan, then you still need to know something about Steeler football. This region and this football team are matched culturally to a degree that may be unparalleled in the U.S. -- though Green Bay may be just as intense. Pittsburgh thinks of itself as honest, hard-working, loyal, and it likes to think that it avoids the flash and glamour of the big cities on the coasts. We're a working town. And we like to think that we see that ethos reflected on the football field. We have an ownership family (the Rooneys) that is as stable (since 1933!) and beloved as any ownership interest in all of professional sports. We have a coach (Cowher) who is a Pittsburgh native. (Unbelievably, the team has had only 2 head coaches in the last 35 years.) Many of the top players from the glory years of the 1970s adopted Pittsburgh as a place to live, and have remained members of the community. Today, that kind of loyalty and work ethic is still rewarded. Prance and dance and we'll run you out of town. Lower your head and take a beating for the team, and you will own the city.

I don't know what percentage of the region tunes in to watch and listen to games on Sunday afternoons in the Fall, but I do know that stores and roads are noticeably empty when the Steelers are on the field. (Local note: Lots of Steeler fans used to "mute" the TV commentary and watch the game while listening to Bill Hillgrove, Myron Cope, and Tunch Ilkin on the radio. With Myron's recent retirement, will we still listen to Bill and Tunch? My guess is -- yep.)

Even if you don't watch or listen, glance at the sports page from time to time, because you'll hear references in casual conversations to Cowher (the coach, and natives pronounce it "Caaher") and Hines (the man who catches the ball, not the condiment) and Big Ben (the man who throws the ball, not the clock) and Jerome, a.k.a. "The Bus," (the man who runs the ball, not the saint, or the vehicle for public transportation) and Duce (the other man who runs the ball, not the coupe) and Antwaan (the man who spins with the ball). There's Faneca (defined as "he who knocks your helmet off") and Kimo ("the immovable one") and Farrior ("the one who is all over the field") and Troy ("the other one who is all over the field, and who is faster than a speeding bullet").

I had a colleague whose wife is not a sports fan and who decided to master one Steeler-related phrase that she could toss knowledgeably into any sports conversation. She settled on "How about that Immaculate Reception?," which, as any Pittsburgher knows, is a sure clue that you're 30 years out of date. If you want a better phrase to sound like an insider this year, try "If Ben is going to carry the future of Pittsburgh on his shoulders, he should wear a helmet when he gets on his bike," or, "Ben's an adult. If he wants to ride without a helmet, he's entitled, and the law says he can." Take your pick.

Previous installments:

Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part IV)
Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part III)
Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part II)
Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part I)


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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