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Monday, November 12, 2012

How I Became A Pittsburgh Steelers Fan

I started watching NFL Football in 1978 when I was 9 years old.  At that age, my bedtime was 9pm.  We had two TVs in the house - the one in the front room (or as I always though it was called - "the French Room") that was connected to the antenna in the roof and a small TV on the back porch that was not connected and got bad reception.  My mom spent most of her time watching the TV on the back porch - usually ironing or sewing at the sewing machine or multitasking something else.  My dad, of course, was master of the front room TV. 

When dad watched football on Sundays, I generally was outside playing with friends.  But then there was Monday Night Football.  I distinctly remember lobbying my mom to stay up late on Mondays to watch the game.  Of course, I was usually doing something else during it - like sorting through baseball or football cards - but dad had my back and suggested I stay up way past 9.  So, I became a fan of football mostly as a way to stay up past my bedtime on Mondays.

A funny thing happened with the Superbowl that year - the Dallas Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers, and my dad was rooting for the Steelers!  Rooting for a team other than the Bears was an odd concept to me at the time, but my dad talked about Terry Bradshaw and John Stallworth and Mean Joe Greene and how great they were.

By the time the 1979 season rolled around, I started to watch the Steelers when they were on.  Oh, sure, I was still a Bears fan - who would not be a Bears fan with players like Mike Phipps, Rickey Watts, Brian Baschnagel and Len Walterscheid on the team!
Oh, and also Sweetness.
The Steelers made it to their 4th Superbowl that year and it was the first year that I was REALLY excited for the game.

Of course, the hiring of Mike Ditka as Bears Head Coach starting with the 1982 season revitalized the team and turned my attention primarily on the Bears.  The 1980's Mark Malone-Bubby Brister era was a tough one for Steeler fans anyway.  1992 was the last season for Mike Ditka as head coach of the Bears but also the first for Bill Cowher as head coach of the Steelers.  When the villainous Mike McCaskey made the bad decision to fire Mike Ditka and hire the personality-challenged Dave Wannstedt, I turned my back on the Bears.  They lost their heart and soul (no, not Ditka) and felt soft.

Meanwhile, Bill Cowher's Steelers dominated from 1992-1997 with a smash-mouth style that Chicagoans love.  Sure, they continually fell short of the Superbowl, but Neil O'Donnell and this exciting new guy Kordell Stewart were fun to watch.  I became such a big Kordell fan that starting in 1999 until 2003 I made sure he was always on my Fantasy Football team - the Montana Lizard-Men.  Unfortunately, Kordell was exciting but just not good enough to captain the Steelers to the 'Bowl.  In 1999 Dick Jauron replaced Dave Wannstedt as Bears head coach.  While Wanny had no personality, Jauron sucked the life out of the room.  It was like painting a beige room over with another, more horrible, shade of beige.   Thank you, no. 

A couple of great things for the Bears and Steelers happened during the 2004 season - first, the Bears finally got a good head coach in Lovie Smith.  Now I could start to enjoy the team again.  For the Steelers, their rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger came off the bench for an injured Tommy Maddox and ripped off 14 straight wins until losing in the AFC Championship game.  I couldn't get a Big Ben Steelers jersey fast enough. 

The successful Cowher-era (Superbowl win in 2005) led right into the successful Mike Tomlin-era (Superbowl win in 2008) and even though Lovie Smith had the Bears playing "Bears football" again, it's the Steelers that have been #1 in my heart most of the time.  Sure, I could not sell my Big Ben jerseys fast enough a couple years ago after he failed to heed the phrase "No Means No", but just because I don't respect the QB doesn't mean I don't love the team.

Go STEELERS!