Donkeys Hate Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh Doesn't Care

Looking ahead to next Sunday's AFC Championship game, Denver's Rocky Mountain News sent a columnist to find the true Pittsburgh, and all he found was an out-of-date stereotype.
I will tell you this, something I would never tell one of the locals. Pittsburgh is one butt-ugly town. It is precisely the type of town that would name its professional football team the Steelers. Old mills, long stilled, dot the town. Weeds spill from smokestacks. Across the Ohio River from where I write this rises downtown Pittsburgh, as dark and forbidding a skyline as you will ever encounter.
Sure you're in the right city, Bill? Because that's not my city you're talking about. For Donkey fans looking to start a fight with Pittsburgh, here's a clue to the truth: We don't care about you. No one in Pittsburgh thinks that Pittsburgh is a better or nicer or more successful city than Denver is. But no one in Pittsburgh cares. No one in Pittsburgh thinks that Denver is a lousy football team. Anyone with a sober moment to spare knows that Denver has had a hell of a season. Sunday's game is going to be brutal -- regardless of the outcome. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Hines Ward hitting John Lynch coming over the middle. (That's right: Hines, the wideout, hitting John, one of the most fearsome hitters in the game.) Imagining that collision is painful. But no one in Pittsburgh cares. Pittsburgh fans don't sit around agonizing over the talent on the other side of the line or the hits that our guys are going to take. Steeler fans -- and this includes Steeler fans everywhere, even in Denver -- are Steeler fans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, world-wide, win or lose. Steeler fans believe that the Steelers are going to win every game, every season, regardless of the opponent. Oh, we walked around last week trying to keep our expectations low. The Colts were the best team in football this season. But beating them wasn't a miracle. The heart attacks provoked by the last two minutes of that game notwithstanding, we always knew that we could play with the Colts. Get the running game going, get the blitz working, and we'll be OK. We're proud of our guys -- Ben, Jerome, Willie, Troy, Hines, Joey, Alan, Aaron, Kimo, and I could go on, but I've got only a typical Pittsburgher's take on the team; I'm not a real fan -- and we'll still be proud of them, and we'll still be fans whether or not they go on to the Super Bowl. Real Steeler fans don't hate the other team -- unless the other team is Cleveland, including old Cleveland and new Cleveland -- and they don't go around perpetuating old stereotypes about other cities. Because the game isn't won in the newspaper columns. Steelers by 4.


10 Responses to "Donkeys Hate Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh Doesn't Care"

Diceburgh said... 1/19/2006 12:12 AM

Hey Prof. Madison,

I just blogged about the same evil Rocky Mountain News article & was surfing Pgh. Blogs...& happened upon (one of) your blogs. As one of your current Copyright Law students, it kinda freaked me out, to be honest.

Anyway, you'd better work on becoming a "real" Steelers fan...seriously.

See you Monday, that is, if we win.

Go Stees!


Jonathan Potts said... 1/19/2006 8:36 AM

This kind of thing drives me nuts in part because most of the out-of-town press Pittsburgh gets is positive. (Though this has changed recently in part because of the financial crisis, and last year's Times article on the eve of the Jets game was a brutally honest account of the city's fortunes.) But when an article like this appears, it vindicates those who say that Pittsburgh's biggest problem is its image, outsiders' perception, when in fact we have much more tangible problems that can't be solved with a marketing campaign or a "brand promise."

Anonymous said... 1/19/2006 11:39 AM

"as dark and forbidding a skyline as you'll ever see"?

Maybe too too much oxygen rushed to the writer's head.

Like you, I'm an import, from the Northeast, NY and Boston areas. The J-E-T-S are still my #1 team, but I watch or listen to all the Steelers games (not much choice there) and it's fun to live here when they're in contention.

There are things I miss from home (as you know too well, Frank Pepe's clam pizza would near the top of that list) do know that if I was working with the CVB, I'd likely be sending out a different message than what they're using to attract meetings and conventions here.

In the four years I've lived here I've been continually surprised at the vitality of the region, but a reporter would probably have to look hard for it. It's not in downtown, it's in the neighborhoods - and strong neighborhoods are something that a reporter from Denver would have little familiarity with.

I'm ambivalent about Denver. But I'm happy I don't live there. Try to head west on a Friday night or return Sunday night. It's actually worse than driving on the Long Island Expressway. And if the report wants to get into industrial pasts... guess which city has better air quality today.

Anonymous said... 1/19/2006 2:47 PM

Remember the movie "Miracle"? It's about a hockey game that took place in a small town in the Adirondacks in 1980. But that's just the subplot.

The real miracle is what was pulled off by that little town in the Adirondacks, because they did what the biggest town in the Rockies couldn't. They successfully staged the 1980 Winter Olympics. Anytime anyone tries to tell you that Denver is a good sports town just remind them how Denver won the bid for the 1980 Winter Olympics and then failed to perform.

Scott said... 1/19/2006 5:46 PM

Let me start out by saying that I live in Denver, I was born in Denver, plan on dying there, and am a life-long Broncos fan.

That said, I've got to say that I found the Rocky Mountain News' reporter's take on Pittsburgh to be totally wrong.

I've been to Pittsburgh on business quite a bit, and have seen a side of Pittsburgh that the reporter obviously missed. People are genuine and friendly, the neighborhoods have a soul.

I love my town, but the town is filled with transplants from other states that don't have the deep roots that you'll find in Pittsburgh...

Looking forward to a good game on Sunday...Go Broncos

Amos_thePokerCat said... 1/19/2006 9:35 PM

So, Mike, how long did it take you to stop being a SF footbal fan, and start bleeding black and gold, instead of red and gold?

Sorry, but PIT is a ugly town. Not as bad as the writer makes it out to be, but it is run down, dilapidated, and ugly. Fluorescent lights on buildings downtown don't make up for it. I bet we have 10x as many boarded up buildings, and store fronts than Denver does. Heck, even on the Mexican War street, which is supposed to be some sort of booming showcase, has numerous boarded up houses.

Mike Madison said... 1/19/2006 9:58 PM

I don't bleed black and gold and doubt I ever will, but I've been a Steeler fan since our neighbors invited us to join them listening to Myron and Bill. Give up the Niners? Why assume that I ever cared that much? No one is a Niner fan like Pittsburghers are Steeler fans. (Unfair comparison. No one is a Niner fan like people in St. Louis are Rams fans.) I grew up rooting for Brodie and Washington, but San Francisco was and is bandwagon country through and through.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 1/19/2006 11:37 PM

I just assumed that if you are a fan here, you must have been a fan in CA.

Since I lived in Denver for most of 20 years, I think I can safely say that Bronco fans are possibly more hard core than Steeler fans mainly because it was the only professional sports team there until recently. That and four (90, 88, 87, and 78) embarassing Super Bowls losses, seems to make the fans more hard core.

The only fans more hard core are the Ohio State Buckeye fans in Columbus. Again, they had no professional sports team until recently, if you count hockey. No fear about a college team leaving town either, unlike CLE. A Sports radio show in Columbus once gave out the home phone number of the Michigan coach. Thousands of crank calls on his machine.

Anonymous said... 1/30/2006 9:53 PM

Cleveland Brown fans like all the other teams..We always root for them to beat the crap out of the steelers....

Anonymous said... 2/04/2006 10:40 PM

Pittsburgh fucking SUCK"S! There's nothing to do dahntan, people are fuccking shallow as hell, and everyone fuckin has a steeler's jersey on, with a fucking mllet to match. can't walk down the street without the fuckin ugly ass pittsburgher's blowing smoke in yunz face. fucking ugly woman, ugly men, racist white people, ghetto black people, fucking moody ass bitches. ther beloved shadyside is two blocks worth of fucking snnobbery that "thinks" it's a New York. God forbid your a beautiful, successful woman like myself. Fucking bitches jealousy is maddening! Seattle is going to whup Steeler town's tight mullet having asses!

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Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

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