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Author Topic: The Steelers have always been there for me  (Read 279 times)
VaBchSteelersfan
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« on: Jan 11, 2009 at 21:17 »

Just talked to my sister in the Burgh, she said it's crazy up there! She told me to read this letter that's on Post-Gazette.com; I think a lot of us can relate:


Here they come!" someone yells, the crowd turning to the scoreboard. Charlie Daniels' last line of "The Star-Spangled Banner" fades as a roar erupts at the sight of four Apache helicopters slowly passing over the field in a diamond formation, the last three displaying Steelers emblems on their underbellies. I look back towards the crowd, a golden sea of twirling towels, and know I am back in Steelers Country. It is good to be home.

I grew up inside the cold walls of Three Rivers Stadium and can remember, as a kid, being afraid of Steelers games. I wasn't afraid of the game, actually; I was afraid of the way Three Rivers Stadium would shake. The sound was terrifying. I remember my dad laughing when I would ask if the stadium was going to collapse, and the way his friends would laugh when I would cover my ears and stand in the shadow of the cheering fans around me. I couldn't see the plays when everyone stood up, but I could feel the sound in my chest.

It wasn't until the early '90s that I began to go to Steelers games regularly. One of the first I remember was against the "Brownies" (the Cleveland Browns). It was in November and the weather was bitterly cold. I met up with my dad's friends to tailgate before the game.

Walking through the open parking lot in the shadow of Three Rivers with my new Steelers Starter jacket and a Terrible Towel hanging from my back pocket, I felt a sense of pride. Countless fans reached to shake my hand or give me a high-five. They made me feel as though I belonged. The smells of charcoal, beer and cooking meat filled the air. "The Pittsburgh Steelers Polka" blared from cars and speakers.

My dad's friends were offering me pop, cookies and kielbasa when I heard barking and saw out of the corner of my eye two grown men wearing dog masks. The Browns were here.

"You believe these jagoffs?" the man with a beard said as he leaned down and his hand gripped my shoulder. "Hey 'Little Larry,' you know what else is brown, don't you?"

I smiled, the black and gold bands around my braces showing.

"Hey yinz guys, come check this out," my new friend shouted.

I stood showing my crooked teeth through chapped lips as friends and strangers stopped to nod in approval.


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All good things come to an end, or at least go away for a while.

When I grew into an angry, alienated teenager, I wanted distance -- from what, no teenager really knows. At Steelers games, I would sit with a blank stare, in black clothes, and give the illusion of listening to my own soundtrack of the game. I was embarrassed to be doing something so conventional. The Steelers didn't need me and I didn't need them. But I would watch.

Everything I did contradicted something else in those days. I didn't want to be like everyone else, to conform to what society expected, but I didn't have my own way. And while I hoped to break all ties with my innocent childhood, I saw the same friendly faces at Steelers games every season.

I told them I was working. I had quit school and was playing in a band.

"Really, well, you still have a lot of time to go back to school if you want," they would say, as if they knew me better than I knew myself. And they did.


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Years after my "black phase," I realized how the Steelers had kept me grounded.

I started a new life and went back to school in the fall of 2001, the year that Three Rivers would become nothing more than a memory. I was one of the lucky 50,000-plus people in attendance on Dec. 16, 2000, when the lights went out for the final time.

It was a cold and rainy day. The Steelers had beaten the Washington Redskins and the field was cleared. For an hour that seemed like seconds, the Steelers' most unforgettable moments at Three Rivers were played over the loud speakers. Sounds of my childhood echoed across the stadium.

I and the fans I grew up with at Three Rivers sat together for the fireworks, the black and gold confetti, the tears, the Terrible Towels and the cheers that shook the walls that soon would crumble. "We Are Family" played once more.

On Feb. 11, 2001, I watched as 30 years of history fell in 19 seconds.


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Heinz Field now stands only feet from where Three Rivers once stood -- the cold, stone walls of the past, now replaced by steel. Bricks with the names of season ticket holders lead fans into Gate A -- the brick with the names of my dad and myself rests just outside the massive gate. The lone pillar of Gate D, the only piece of Three Rivers left, stands in the shadow of the new stadium.

Still rising to my feet and cheering so loud I can't hear my own voice, I am reminded of how far I have come and how far I have left to go. In the aisle seats two rows up sits a young girl and her brother, both with bright eyes, towels in hand, hands over their ears.


Brought a tear to my eye

Logged

"Now that I'm here, I don't want to just be here, I want to be here for a long time." Hines Ward, 1998 4th round draft pick.
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