If you’re like me, the last several weeks have been too much to handle in Pittsburgh.
With the Steelers 1-2 start, an NHL lockout that seems to extend by the day keeping the Penguins season from starting and, well ... the Pirates ... it’s been one bad relationship experience after another.
For you Pitt football fans out there, seems to me the jury still is out on whether it’ll be a good year. But if misery really does love company, even Oakland is screwed this year.
Sports — mostly football — around the region are a way of life. We build friendships over touchdowns and “defense” chants, and bond with co-workers Monday morning quarterbacking the previous day’s game.
In short, Pittsburgh is obsessed with sports.
And I’ll be the first to admit I’m OK with that. It is a relationship I’m committed to.
Our addiction to football grew during a time when the region’s landscape was changing — the economy was sinking as steel mills that once dotted the landscape began closing. One by one, more and more families were affected.
About the only thing offering any ounce of escape from reality was Steelers football. Of course, it also helped to rally folks, too, behind one uniting theme — Pittsburgh is our home and we’re proud where we come from.
Decades later, we’ve grown our trusty black and gold network worldwide. Red Sox Nation might be louder, but there’s no denying Steelers Nation is bigger. And better.
Much to my dismay, our love with all things black and gold isn’t necessarily received well by outsiders.
But that feeling of being united beckons.
Where else can you go and know that, if the Steelers lose Sunday, a majority of folks will feel exactly how you do Monday morning?
Sports offer bonding in ways other topics can’t and never will. I can’t begin to name the number of friendships that have grown thanks to sports — watching games in restaurants, in person and planning parties around kickoffs; sharing news stories about various players or current events; and just using Pittsburgh sports as a conversation topic.
In a world where so many topics divide even the best of friends (politics and religion to name two), Pittsburgh sports unify us.
Sunday, while riding a bus heading home, several passengers spent much of the time discussing the Pirates roller coaster ride of a season that appears to have crashed even before they’re regular season finale later this week.
With a dismal performance this weekend, the Pirates have extended their professional USA record of longest consecutive losing seasons (20 seasons, to be exact), when just several weeks earlier, the team appeared to be on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 1992 (when I was 9 years old).
Being a proud Pittsburgh native, I love the Pirates. But I grew tired of the win-less ways several years back. It wasn’t a popular opinion among friends and others who claimed I was a fair-weather fan, when in reality, I equated it to tough love, much like that of which a family member offer to another family member going through a rough patch.
It seems, with this season, many Pittsburghers finally have wiped away their delusions to face facts.
If you look at how the Pirates played our emotions this season, it really is no different than that of a relationship — pulling at our heartstrings, getting us to swoon over their victories. Damn them for leading us on then breaking our hearts.
But, like a family member who we’d never consider just dropping, we’ll be back for more in April, wishing for success, but with muted feelings.
And we’ll go into this weekend’s Steelers game knowing the Super Bowl will be ours. And we’ll do the same with the Pens when (or if) they’re season happens.
So why do we do it? Why do we let something like a sports team lead us on?
Because that’s love.
Nobody is perfect. So if we accept a spouse, partner, friend or family member for their faults, we’re bound to do the same with something such as the Penguins, Pirates or Steelers, who are just as much a part of our family as any anybody else.
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