I can feel it in the air. An electricity surrounding me at home and at work. Football season. The best time of the year. Not only do we begin to get a break from the ruthless Texas summer temperatures, we get that tingle of anticipation, wondering how our team will do this year. We get a fantasy football draft and a bunch of trash talk around the house. We get a whole new wardrobe of gear to support our team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I didn’t always feel this way. Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, I didn’t have a professional football team that I followed. I had one big professional sports experience in my childhood, and it was baseball—a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my dad. Incredible. The sights, sounds, smells, and the electricity—I will never forget it. The fans were insane. Their own personal happiness depended on the Cubbies winning or losing. I thought that all professional sports experiences would be like that. Not true. My first Cowboy’s game was a let-down. Other than the glamour and vibrancy of the Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders, it didn’t have the same vibe at all. The fans just didn’t seem as invested.
My husband and I moved to Pittsburgh, his hometown, when I was twenty-nine years old. We had only been there for a couple of months when he got me a Steelers sweatshirt for my birthday. I didn’t know what to think. I thought it was a joke.
A sweatshirt? Really? He actually looked hurt that I didn’t get it. I knew he was a fan. In his bachelor pad before we were married, he had a Terrible Towel and Iron City beer cans as part of his decor. I should’ve begun to understand the commitment of the Steelers fans at that point, but I was clueless. Then, the first fall we were in the ’Burgh, we got tickets to see the Steelers play the Ravens.
In a nutshell, the whole experience of that Sunday went like this: donning my new sweatshirt, driving downtown, buying my first terrible towel, tailgating with a bunch of friends around a black and gold RV, IC Light beer, shots of Jack, more IC Light beer, walking through the gates of Heinz Field, joining thousands of fans chanting “Here We Go, Steelers” as they walked to their seats, more IC Light beer, a game that can only be termed as a nail-biter, losing in the last seconds to a Raven’s field goal kick, my husband breaking up a fight between a Raven’s fan and a Steelers fan, and finally, a Primanti’s sandwich and IC Light beer on the South Side and a long ride home. It was absolute heaven. The perfect day … but I still and always will hate the Ravens.
An important aspect of the Steelers to mention is that they don’t have cheerleaders. This appalled me at first. I felt that the Rooneys were completely overlooking a very important part of the whole football game experience. I was a high school and college cheerleader for goodness sake! Before going to the game, I had put together a whole plan on how I was going to start a Pittsburgh Steelers Cheerleading Squad. How silly of me! The Steelers don’t need cheerleaders! The fans need no prompting to cheer. They need nothing else to concentrate on but the football. Cheerleaders at a Steelers game would only be a distraction. It feels like blasphemy for a Texas cheerleader to say that, but it is true.
Now I am a good West Texas girl. I love El Paso and Chico’s Tacos, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Shiner beer, and homemade tamales. But I have never had a sports experience like a Steelers football game. I was hooked. When we moved back to the Dallas, TX, area, one of the things I missed most about Pittsburgh was the unity of the Steelers fans.
For Christmas, I asked for a Heinz Ward jersey. I have a Terrible Towel hanging in my classroom where my students can ask me what it is. I have attempted to join my husband in a Cower Power Hour. We dress our children in Steelers gear and go to bars to watch all of the games that we can’t get in our area, which brings up another point. Go to a bar where a Steelers game is showing in any city, and you will find Steelers fans. We travel well. We are proud of our city and out team. The way the Steelers play reflects on the city. I can remember going to work in Pittsburgh the Monday or Tuesday after a loss. It was like a death had occurred. I still feel that way.
This year I am looking forward to the season as well as fantasy football. I will draft my favorite tight end, Heath Miller, and wear his jersey while my daughter wears her pink Ben Roethlisberger jersey, and my son will have on his Troy Polamalu onesie. My husband will look on with pride at the good work he has done. Here we go, Steelers!