View Full Version : The Steelers' Troy Polamalu: A Pittsburgher at Heart

Steelers & I
06-09-2009, 01:39 AM

Pittsburghers have a lot of pride in their city, much more so than many denizens of other U.S. cities who view their city as little more than a location, the place where they hang their hats and go to work.

We take pride in the city’s blue collar roots, in the fact that the steel industry, Pittsburgh’s signature industry for many years, was one of the key industries that built our great nation.

We take pride in the city’s tremendous sports heritage. Despite being a relatively small city, it boasts three of the most storied professional teams in sports.

Yes, I am even including the Pirates here. Despite their struggles of recent years, the team has one of the greatest traditions in all of baseball. I grew up on a steady diet of stories about players like the great Roberto Clemente and, to this day, one of my few regrets is that I never had a chance to see him play at the old Forbes Field in Oakland.

Even those of us who are scattered to the winds almost never lose our identification with the city of our birth. I’ve lived in Germany, Korea, Virginia, Ohio, California, and Colorado. And, in all that time, I have not once considered myself anything other than a Pittsburgher.

The elitest reporters in the White House press corps who are unaware that any U.S. cities exist that aren't named New York or Los Angeles recently laughed when it was revealed that Pittsburgh would host the next G-20 Summit.

But, for those who live or grew up there, no city matters more.

Trust me when I say that is a special quality about the Three Rivers City. Very few other cities inspire that same kind of intense loyalty.

That is why Troy Polamalu’s answer to a recent question on ESPN was so interesting. He was asked, “Do you consider yourself a Pittsburgh guy now, or are you a California guy in Pittsburgh?”

Troy answered, “I would say I’m a Pittsburgh guy, yeah. I live in Pittsburgh. I scrape snow off just like everyone else. I’ve had a Primanti sandwich. I’m a part of Pittsburgh. I get mad when the Pirates don’t win, when the Pens don’t win.”

I don’t think he could have given a better answer. My first thought was that this guy gets it. He is indeed a part of Pittsburgh.

Not only is he identifying with the city’s other professional teams, he is identifying with the activities of everyday Pittsburghers, like shoveling snow, and taking part in notable Pittsburgh traditions, like eating a Primanti sandwich.

That latter is one Pittsburgh tradition I can’t even identify with since I detest cole slaw, although I have made more than a few pilgrimages to the Original “O” in Oakland just for a hot dog or journeyed down to the Strip District for a Benkowitcz fish sandwich.

My only caution to Troy is that he needs to get over that getting mad about the Pirates losing thing for a few years or else he may need to schedule some anger management sessions with Jack Nicholson.

Troy’s answer is all the more remarkable considering he was once identified as a Southern California kid, another area that inspires its own sense of civic pride.

He’s not the first former Trojan to become Pittsburghized. Lynn Swann also pulled off the trick, later running for governor of Pennsylvania.

The way Troy answered that question helped vault him near the top of my all-time favorite athletes. Truth be told, with his class and sportsmanship both on and off the field, he was already near the top.

It was this same sense of civic pride that was on display when the Steelers hurried back from their visit to the White House so they wouldn’t miss the Penguins play.

It is also this same sense of civic pride that makes us smile when we see Mike Tomlin at the Penguins game in a Penguins game jersey or when we see the Penguins rooting on the Steelers in their playoff run.

It was this sense of shared Pittsburgh pride that caused many Pittsburghers to want to throw up when they saw Bill Cowher wearing Carolina red while cheering on the Hurricanes against the Penguins.

It wasn’t that he did anything terribly wrong. But, seeing a guy we think of as being a “Pittsburgh” guy rooting for another city’s team is a tough pill to swallow.

Plenty of Pittsburgh sports stars choose to stay in Pittsburgh. They play for the city and become part of the city.

I don’t think that sense of shared loyalty between teams is anywhere nearly as prominent in other cities that boast multiple professional sports teams as it is in Pittsburgh.

When it comes to the Penguins, none of those guys are native Pittsburghers now that Ryan Malone is no longer on the team. Heck, most of them aren’t even Americans.

It doesn’t matter. They become part of the city’s culture and most of them love it. They embrace it.

The players we like the best are those who act like it is a privilege to play in Pittsburgh, as opposed to those who act like the city should feel privileged to have them.

If a player embraces the city, the second part takes care of itself and we do indeed feel like the city is privileged to see them play.

When a player is drafted by a Pittsburgh team, he isn’t just being drafted by that team. He is being drafted by the city.

If a player doesn’t get this, in the tradition of Barry Bonds and Plaxico Burress, our collective response is, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of town.”

One caveat to this is that plenty of players do embrace the city and still find themselves leaving town. This has been especially true of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who seem to field a new team every year. That is the sad reality of today’s salary cap/free agency/financial environment.

It is also why Pittsburghers are having such a hard time identifying with the Pirates. It isn’t so much that they aren’t very good. While that is a part of it, the bigger issue is that there isn’t any stability.

It is hard to root for a player and a team that could and probably will change in the next five minutes.

That Pittsburgh civic pride is one reason why we embrace a guy like Sidney Crosby so much, a player who despite his incredible skills accepts less than his market value so that the Penguins have more money to sign other players.

That is why we feel a sense of pride when players like Hines Ward and Casey Hampton say they would like to retire as Steelers.

That is also one reason it was so easy to continue to root for Rod Woodson long after he was no longer wearing Black and Gold due to no choice of his own. He still maintained a restaurant in the city and raised his family there.

He never said a bad word against the city despite, perhaps, having some cause for it.

That is why we are so excited to see one of the greatest hockey players in the history of the game, Mario Lemieux, in the Penguins’ owner’s box.

They all became Pittsburgh guys. And we love them for it.

I won’t soon forget how Troy Polamalu answered a seemingly innocuous question.

Troy is one of the best safeties to ever play the game. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion. He is one of the most important players on the league’s best defense.

But, most importantly, he is a Pittsburgher.

06-09-2009, 09:02 AM
Great read...

I've lived in New Orleans. Now I live in Nowhere, Alabama.
But I am a Pittsburgher---I haven't lived there for 20 years (and it KILLS me), but everybody knows that when I say, "BacK Home" I am talking about The Burgh

I went back home last week and was able to go up on Mt. Washington to get a good look at the city...always takes my breath away.
Went to Primantis too!

06-09-2009, 11:20 AM
Excellent story.

After having to relocate to the DC area upon graduating from Pitt in 2003, I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to both come back home and forward my career. I've travelled to just about every major city in the U.S., and this is truly a special place to live...and once it gets in your blood, you're done for. I just hope that my Pittsburgh ex-Pat friends in D.C. and elsewhere can get the same opportunity I did and finally come back home.

06-09-2009, 11:34 AM
hey im from mexico ive been in pitt 4 times im just 20 and my dream is to live in pittsburgh, but im far away from that still im visiting the butrh once a year

great post btw

06-09-2009, 10:08 PM
Nice read. Thanks so much. Makes me want 2 buy Penguins jersey 4 my son so bad. Since he practically calls my Pirates baseball hat as his own, I guess he's halfway 2 become a Pittsburgher. :thumbsup:

...When it comes to the Penguins, none of those guys are native Pittsburghers now that Ryan Malone is no longer on the team. Heck, most of them aren’t even Americans...


hey im from mexico ive been in pitt 4 times im just 20 and my dream is to live in pittsburgh, but im far away from that still im visiting the burgh once a year ...

Same here. :wink02:

Galax Steeler
06-10-2009, 03:27 AM
Thanks for sharing good read.

06-10-2009, 10:17 AM
What a totally awesome and inspiring read! :drink:

Pittsburgh is a great place to settle down and raise a family and I think a lot of our athletes are well aware of that since many of them have set up permanent residency here.

It's great seeing our beloved players from one team supporting and cheering on their comrades in other Pittsburgh sports! :applaudit::hatsoff:

That latter is one Pittsburgh tradition I can’t even identify with since I detest cole slaw

P.S. You can always do what I do when ordering a Primantis sandwich and ask for the slaw on the side. :thumbsup:

For those of you who may come in for a game this season, most definitely take a trip to Benkowitz in the Strip. I don't even like fish but they do have the best fish sandwich in the Burgh.

06-10-2009, 10:31 AM
*more warm fuzzy*

Pittsburgh ranked tops in U.S. by The Economist
British magazine gives city a jolly good No. 1 rating
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
By Mackenzie Carpenter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato was calling -- no, crowing -- from his cell phone, in full, gleeful, salesman-for-the-region mode, ticking off the number of recent surveys declaring Pittsburgh the nation's most livable city (four or five); the number of front-page New York Times stories about Pittsburgh in the past three months (two) and the value of such publicity to the Pittsburgh area (priceless).

Given that abundance of good publicity, the news that Pittsburgh once again is the most livable city in the United States -- and 29th worldwide -- in a 2009 survey by British magazine The Economist was "great news, but not a surprise," Mr. Onorato said.

"This is now the fourth or fifth independent survey from outside the region talking up the Pittsburgh metro region. You have the stories in The New York Times, the president picks us to host the G-20 summit, now you have this magazine, plus others over the years. It's amazing."

The Economist Intelligence Unit -- which publishes numerous surveys and studies for paying clients -- has ranked Pittsburgh first in U.S. livability ratings since it started measuring them in 2005, said Jon Copestake, editor of the survey.

Of the 140 cities considered, Vancouver, B.C., took the top spot worldwide, followed by Vienna, Melbourne and Toronto. Cities in Asia and Africa fared the worst, with Harare, Zimbabwe, followed by Algiers and Dhaka, Bangladesh (tied), thanks to "civil instability and poor infrastructure," the report said.

The Economist's ranking is just one of many kudos Pittsburgh has earned recently: In 2007 it was rated as "America's Most Livable City" by Places Rated Almanac, and in January Forbes Magazine cited it as the sixth best city in "Ten Cities For Job Growth In 2009."

Of course, there was that survey by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project, which found Pittsburgh one of the least popular of places to live -- in the bottom 10 of 30 cities surveyed -- with only 17 percent of those surveyed saying they wanted to live there. And Business Week magazine reported that Pittsburgh is the 14th "Most Unhappy City" in the nation.

In The Economist's report, between 30 to 40 indicators were considered under five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. The Economist used its own analysts plus statistics and input from correspondents in each city.

"The idea was that the city presenting the least challenges to your lifestyle would be deemed the most livable," said Mr. Copestake -- in other words, cities that aren't too big, too crowded or too crime-ridden. Pittsburgh's medical centers and its cultural amenities -- unusual for a city of its size -- helped propel it up the charts, he added.

The actual differences in scores between U.S. cities was fairly small, he noted. "All of the cities in the U.S. are comparable in livability terms," he said, noting that the lowest scoring city, Lexington, Ky., at 85 percent, was only a few points lower than Pittsburgh, at 92 percent.

While Mr. Copestake obviously hasn't experienced our famous tunnel traffic, he noted that because of our population loss, "that means less people needing services so they're not overburdened."

And that's exactly the problem with these "most livable" contests, countered Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

"Livability is in the eye of the beholder," he said, noting surveys tend to overvalue cultural institutions -- which benefit relatively few people -- and undervalue economic indicators such as job growth and low taxes, which benefit many. Places like Charlotte, N.C., attracted people for that reason, he said.

"I would think that livability would have to do with finding a good job. If you're just looking at cultural things, sure, Pittsburgh is a nice place to live, if you can afford to send your kids to private schools or live in the suburbs and pay high taxes for good schools, but people tend to go where they can find work."

Nonsense, said Mr. Onorato.

"No one is claiming Pittsburgh is perfect," he said, noting that Mr. Haulk "bragged a few years ago about how great Charlotte is, and now Charlotte is in total collapse."