The Day You Became A Steelers Fan
May 7th, 2013 by Scott Sinclair
I was first going to title this post “When did you Fall in Love with the Steelers”, and perhaps that would be a more apt title, but I went with something a little simpler. Some of us can remember our first kiss, our first date, the day we graduated High School, etc. However, when it comes to identifying the moment we started following a particular sports team, most of us have a crystal clear memory of that day.
My favorite baseball team has always been the Cardinals, mainly because it was my favorite bird and they wore my favorite color (red). Over the years, I’ve grown apart from those simpler reasons for being a Cardinals fan. In the early 80′s I rooted for the Islanders in the NHL but now I am a Rangers fan but can’t remember why. I have no NBA team I root for, although in college basketball I have rooted for Duke since the mid 80′s, again with no clear reason why. In college football, it’s always been Penn State for me, ever since the 1981 Fiesta Bowl. However, all of those teams take a backseat to my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
I remember very clearly the moment I fell in love with the Steelers and why. It was January 4th, 1975, eight months shy of my 4th birthday. The Steelers were playing their arch rivals, the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. The game was at Three Rivers and it was cold and a blanket of ice covered the field. Typical of their usual contests, the game was hard-hitting, tense and close for most of the four quarters. The, Steelers WR Lynn Swann went over the middle to catch a pass and was leveled by the Raiders’ George Atkinson. I remember the announcers (Curt Gowdy and Don Meredith) remarking how that was a vicious, even dirty hit. I remember my mom remarking the same thing, saying “that was bad”. Well, being three and never wanting to be bad or have anything to do with being bad, I decided I wasn’t going to root for the bad team, I was going to root for the Steelers, the good team. And simple as that, I was a Steelers fan. And I have never wavered since.
As my childhood progressed so did my love for the black and gold. I dreamed about lining up next to Mean Joe and Lambert or catching a pass from Terry Bradshaw.For Halloween 1978 there is a picture of me in a Bradshaw uniform, complete with helmet and shoulder pads (designed naturally for kids), and for that brief moment captured in that photo I thought I was Terry. I lived and died with every Steelers game on TV. When the Steelers played the Rams in Superbowl XIV, my mom snuck me downstairs after putting my sister and I to bed so I could watch the rest of the game and then hid me under a blanket when my sister came into the living room (thankfully she went right back to bed or I would’ve missed the game). And then when the Steelers won the game, my mom and I (silently) cheered and jumped around the room. Being a Steelers fan in the 70′s made for some of the happiest days of my life.
Like all things we love, besides joy there is an element of sadness too. As the 1980′s came things changed that diminished the joys of the previous decade. I cried when Terry hurt his elbow and retired. I cried when the Steelers cut Franco Harris. I began to understand and read how football was a business and cutting Harris was a business move. As Mark Malone, Scott Campbell, Todd Blackledge, and Bubby Brister took turns taking snaps under center I longed for the days of Bradshaw winging bombs to Swann and Stallworth. I just couldn’t find the same enthusiasm for Walter Abercrombie as I could for Franco. Edmund Nelson and Keith Gary were no Mean Joe and L.C. And as the Chuck Noll years came to their dismal close, I felt a chapter in my life came to a close as well. I was graduating high school, uncertain the direction my life was taking, and unsure about the future of my favorite team.
And like all things we love, something comes along and rekindles it, ignites it and sends it to new and exciting places. For me, it was the Bill Cowher Steelers years. I loved Cowher, he was the perfect person to re-ignite the team and the fans. When Neil O’Donnell’s pass fell short in the end zone in the 1994 AFC Championship, I flung myself off the couch and landed on the floor crying. Yes, at 23 years old I was crying for the Steelers all over again. It was great.
From that day to today, I’ve broken many TV remotes after hurling them against the TV after a Ben interception, and I nearly had a coronary cheering James Harrison on as he ran back and INT against the Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII(that whole season in particular was a roller coaster for my blood pressure). And through the madness and the joy I realize I will never love, can never love any football team other than the Steelers. It’s like being a kid all over again.
So, I want to hear from you! When did you become a Steeler fan?