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JAR
01-12-2009, 01:48 PM
By Tim Sullivan (Contact) Union-Tribune Columnist

2:00 a.m. January 11, 2009

PITTSBURGH — What a difference six weeks makes: It's hard not to wonder whether the Chargers are this season's team of destiny. D1

Terry O'Neill is not a Steelers fan. He is, he says, the Steelers fan.

O'Neill is the guy whose heart stopped – literally – on the floor of Cupka's Café when Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line during the 2006 NFL playoffs in Indianapolis. He is a fan so fanatical that when he awoke from his near-death experience at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, O'Neill remembers his first question to the doctor as, “Who won?”

“I remember watching Jerome Bettis fumble the football and then (quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger tackled the guy and I just fell over,” O'Neill recalled yesterday afternoon. “It wasn't so much Jerome fumbling the football, but when Ben made the tackle, I couldn't take any more.”

Three weeks after his heart attack, O'Neill returned to Cupka's to watch Pittsburgh win its fifth Super Bowl. Three years later, awaiting this afternoon's divisional playoff game with the Chargers, O'Neill's perspective remains strikingly Steeler-centric.

“I've been a fan since the glory days, since the '70s,” O'Neill said. “The Steelers are the heart and soul of Pittsburgh.”

There is no denying that and no easy way of avoiding it. Airline passengers arriving in Pittsburgh pass a pair of statues en route to the baggage claim. On the right stands George Washington, the father of our country. On the left is a likeness of Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, posed at the point of his “Immaculate Reception.”

Below them, at the base of the escalators, stands a skeletal model of a Tyrannosaurus rex, currently clutching an oversized “Terrible Towel” in Steelers solidarity.

“If you asked people around here, 'We're going to put two statues of great Americans in the airport. How about George Washington and Franco Harris?' We're OK with that,” said Jon O'Data, a Merry Maids franchisee from Rochester, Penn. “You might get some argument about Terry Bradshaw or Joe Greene. I'd say it's about a five-or six-way tie.”

O'Data's wife, Judy, customarily wears a replica Hines Ward jersey beneath her choir robes at Grace Lutheran Church.

Pittsburgh produced Gene Kelly and Andy Warhol, Heinz ketchup and an estimated 95 million tons of steel during World War II, but professional football has been a primary source of civic pride for 35 years. When the steel industry collapsed and much of Pittsburgh's population left town in search of employment, the success of the Steelers gave the city a new identity and an enduring bond with a generation of emigrants.

Because so many Pittsburgh fans have been compelled to relocate – University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem estimates the net population loss reached 50,000 annually in the early 1980s – Steelers fans frequent quasi-official Steelers bars in many NFL cities and several foreign capitals. The standard observation is that the Steelers “travel well,” but wherever the team goes, its displaced fans are already there.

“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”
Is this you LVG? agdci981?

It wasn't always thus. Before Harris' “Immaculate Reception,” the deflected pass that beat the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 playoffs, the Steelers never had won a postseason game in 39 seasons. They had defined futility and deserved derision for such shortsighted decisions as the release of Johnny Unitas and the trade of Len Dawson.

The two quarterbacks Pittsburgh rejected both would compile Hall of Fame credentials in other cities. Not until Chuck Noll was hired as head coach preceding the 1969 season did the Steelers begin the foundation work of a successful franchise.

“When I was growing up, you didn't have a lot of people who identified themselves as Steelers fans because they were embarrassed,” O'Mara said. “They were criticized constantly for having let Unitas get away. When I was in high school, kids were (Green Bay) Packers fans.

“But once the Steelers started winning, it was a different thing. My plebe year at the academy (1970), they went 5-9 and we were ecstatic. I left town and when I came back, everybody was a Steeler fan.”

O'Mara credits some of the transformation to Noll's first draft choice, an intense and intolerant defensive tackle named Joe Greene – later renowned as “Mean” Joe Greene.

During a lopsided loss to the Chicago Bears, Greene had the temerity to spit in the face of the ferocious Dick Butkus. He was repeatedly ejected from games for fighting. Yet he succeeded in setting a standard and a tone. Losing no longer was acceptable in Pittsburgh.

“He turned around the mentality,” O'Mara said.

Greene would lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships during his Hall of Fame career and now serves the team as a special assistant for pro and college personnel.

“When I got there, we played at Pitt Stadium and I'm thinking somewhere around 25-30,000 people would show up,” Greene said in a telephone interview last week. “As boisterous as 30,000 people were, they were usually shouting their disfavor at us. . . .

“I had a hard time with losing. Coach Noll would probably call it immaturity. He understood my motivation was winning, and a lot of times I reacted very poorly to not winning. (But) I think the message got through and many fans recognized it.”

As the Steelers defense rose to dominance, and the team's losses became more infrequent, the city's blue-collar fans came to see the team as a reflection of themselves. They reveled in the rugged reputation of the “Steel Curtain” and the power running of backs such as Harris and Bettis, disdaining more modern offensive approaches and more provocative personalities.

“Any new style of offense bothers a lot of folks, particularly when the running game falters,” wrote a Steelers fan named Joe, who asked that his last name be withheld because he is performing classified work in Baghdad. “However, one thing remains certain: Ask any native Steeler fan, and there is a good chance that he/she will tell you that defense is the way to heaven.

“Defense. I can't express in words how sacred this is to the city and the fans. . . . That hard-hitting defense on the field in a way reflects a lot of folks in the region who grew up taking a few punches in the mouth.”

Ted Karabinos, tending bar yesterday at Cupka's, calls it “that grinding, tough-guy deal” and emphasized that it's not for everybody.

“If you're a 'me-me-me' guy, you're done,” Karabinos said. “Look at Plaxico Burress (the former Steelers receiver recently suspended by the New York Giants after he accidentally shot himself.) He's a good player, but he doesn't fit the profile.”

If it has become a cliché that character counts, Steelers fans still see this as an effective business plan.

“We might not be the best team. I don't claim that,” Terry O'Neill said. “But we know how to win. . . . You don't see any showboats on this team. You don't see any of those Cincinnati jackasses. We know how to win and how to be decent human beings. . .

“We've got five rings. We're working on six, and we might get it this year.”

Heart failure may have chastened O'Neill, but it did not change him.

“It's my hope that San Diego has the good time with its team that we've had with ours,” he said. “But not at our expense.”

http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/ ... s-somethi/ (http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/jan/11/1n11sullivan23254-fans-get-behind-steelers-somethi/)

proudpittsburgher
01-12-2009, 02:54 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.

stlrz d
01-12-2009, 02:56 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.

I can translate that for you:

1) Dan Rooney didn't hire Whiz as HC.

2) I wanted Whiz as HC.

3) I don't know a winner when I see one.

Class A doosh!

Oviedo
01-12-2009, 03:18 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.

I can translate that for you:

1) Dan Rooney didn't hire Whiz as HC.

2) I wanted Whiz as HC.

3) I don't know a winner when I see one.

Class A doosh!

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

I wonder if that guy has a multiple personality problem. Then again he is a Navy vet so probably just spend too much time in very close quarters with hundreds of men who are not named Rooney, Tomlin or Roethlisberger. I guess he feels jilted.

feltdizz
01-12-2009, 03:27 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.


I don't think these are fans of the Steelers, they are fans of themselves..
It's not about winning with them or cheering the team.. it's about being right or saying "I told you so"

They are not fans...

Oviedo
01-12-2009, 03:36 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.


I don't think these are fans of the Steelers, they are fans of themselves..
It's not about winning with them or cheering the team.. it's about being right or saying "I told you so"

They are not fans...

You're probably right. They are "fans" as long as the Steelers win. A few losing seasons and they would be "fans" of someone else.

proudpittsburgher
01-12-2009, 03:41 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.


I don't think these are fans of the Steelers, they are fans of themselves..
It's not about winning with them or cheering the team.. it's about being right or saying "I told you so"

They are not fans...

You're probably right. They are "fans" as long as the Steelers win. A few losing seasons and they would be "fans" of someone else.

Agreed. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. There are way too many in this fanbase who are leading the chants after the super bowl, only to point the fingers after a disappointing loss. Look, both No 1 seeds fell this weekend and one of the two number two seeds fell this weekend. Yet, if ther Steelers dropped a game yesterday, or even to the Ravens in the AFCC game, that must mean than Ben Sucks, the O-line is terrible, Tomlin is horrible, yada yada yada. Could it just mean that they lost the game? No, some people are only happy if they can make themselves feel better by pointing a finger. Well hows bout this . . . I got a finger to point for all of you.

Djfan
01-12-2009, 04:57 PM
I don't think these are fans of the Steelers, they are fans of themselves..
It's not about winning with them or cheering the team.. it's about being right or saying "I told you so"

They are not fans...

That is the best explanation of these clowns I have ever heard. Well said.

feltdizz
01-12-2009, 05:16 PM
“I have no desire to live in Pittsburgh, but I couldn't give up on the Steelers,” said Dave O'Mara, a Naval Academy graduate who settled in Virginia. “I've taken a distaste for the owner (Dan Rooney), taken a distaste to the coach (Mike Tomlin), taken a distaste to the quarterback (Roethlisberger). By all rights, I'd like to reject the team, but I can't. Once you're from Pittsburgh, it's like you're enslaved.”

Seriously, I can understand not liking one of them for whatever reason, but how in the hell could this guy have taken a distaste (BTW, who actually says that anyway?) for the winningest Qb in his first five years in the league, a coach who is 2-2 in playoff appearances in two years, and the Rooneys, who by most accounts are the most respected owners in the NFL? This is the type of Steelers fan I just want to shake.


I don't think these are fans of the Steelers, they are fans of themselves..
It's not about winning with them or cheering the team.. it's about being right or saying "I told you so"

They are not fans...

You're probably right. They are "fans" as long as the Steelers win. A few losing seasons and they would be "fans" of someone else.

actually I think they stop being fans the more we win... you know them on here...
or from the Trib... posting every week until the team won more games then they predicted.. then "poof" they disappear..

they only appear after another coach or former player has a good game and acts like it translates to a loss...

when we lose... they gain energy....stick around...