View Full Version : Steelers Nation: Team bonded him first with father, now with his son

01-29-2011, 06:52 PM
Steelers Nation: Team bonded him first with father, now with his son
Friday, January 28, 2011
By Kevin Drapcho
Rob and Kevin Drapcho bonding at the playoff game vs. the Ravens.

It was 1967 and the summer of love was coming to a close. But just as important to me, and more important to my dad, I was going to accompany him and my uncle and their friends to see their team, the Steelers, play the Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Although I had been to baseball games in Cleveland when growing up just outside it in Berea, I had never been to a football game. But now, my dad had deemed me old enough at the age of 12.

And against my mother's better judgment I was going to experience the rowdiness of a Steelers-Browns game. My uncle and his friends had driven from Clarence, Pa., near State College, to join us.

We piled into two cars and drove to the nearby Cleveland Rapid Transit station to travel to the game. I remember surly looks from everybody on the train. It seemed we had ventured into a sea of hate.

I was used to my neighborhood friends teasing me about the Steelers, but this was a whole different environment. This was mean-spirited to a 12-year-old, and I suddenly felt very scared. But I gained courage from my dad, uncle and friends. If they weren't afraid, then neither was I.

My mom and dad had moved to Cleveland from Clarence when I was 2 years old. It was OK for us to root for the Indians; after all, one of my uncles had played for them in the minors and they were in a different league from the Pirates.

But it was clear from an early age, we were Steelers fans and proud of it. Though the Steelers were still in the midst of many losing seasons, we actually scored first at that game in Cleveland. But by the end, the Browns had taken charge and won. Gloating Browns fans made the ride back on the train worse than the trip there.

On the car ride home, I remember asking why everyone didn't seem more sad that we had lost the game. My uncle's friend explained, "Because more of them were carried off the field than we were."

My dad laughed and said, "Tonight they had the last laugh. Someday we'll have the last laugh when we win."

It took some time for that to come true, but by the end of the 1970s we were having the last laugh most times, with four Super Bowl victories. In 1985 my own son was born, and 10 years later he got to experience the excitement of a Steelers Super Bowl season.

We drove to Pittsburgh that year to make sure we had enough Terrible Towels for everybody in the family. Though we cheered as hard as we could, it obviously wasn't enough to beat the hated Cowboys.

As the 1990s came to a close I wondered if my son would ever experience what I enjoyed in the '70s. And then came Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

Though my son was at college for the win over the Seahawks, he was home to see the game two years ago. My dad's health was deteriorating, but on that Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, surrounded by his two sons and two grandsons, he was once again the dad who had lifted me on his shoulders to watch that game in 1967.

Dad died on Dec. 18 and was buried back home in Clarence. At that time, I realized that though my son and I had been to Steelers-Browns games in Cleveland, we had never seen the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

So I went online and purchased tickets through NFL.com for the Steelers-Ravens playoff game two weeks ago. After all, they are the "real" Browns, having moved from Cleveland. What better first game at Heinz Field than a Steelers-Ravens divisional playoff game.

And what a game we picked. My son and I will never forget it, just as I will never forget that first Steelers game I went to with my dad. All during the game my son kept asking if I was OK. I think he was afraid I was going to suffer a stroke like his grandfather.

When the game ended, we lifted our glasses to the sky and toasted Dad, my grandfather and "The Chief," Art Rooney. And I remembered my dad's words: "Someday we'll have the last laugh when we win."

Here's to more laughter, Dad ... all the way to Super Bowl XLV and beyond.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11028/1121183-294.stm#ixzz1CTXSmh63