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02-04-2011, 06:21 AM
Fans, expert agree: Steelers beat winter blahs

By Chris Togneri
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, February 4, 2011

Without the Steelers, life in Pittsburgh would be miserable.

Depression would run rampant. People would cower inside their homes, away from the bitter cold. Life would barely be worth living.

That's what some Steelers fans at two rallies Downtown on Thursday had to say.

"The suicide rate would be so much higher," said Kevin Johns, 27, of Mars.

"We'd all be moles," said Denise Scriva of Rochester.

"Oh, man," added Mike Santorella, 50, of Mt. Lebanon. "If I lived in a place like Cleveland with these winters, I don't know what I'd do."

Thankfully, the Steelers have won more Super Bowl trophies than any NFL team and will play Sunday in Dallas for a seventh title during Super Bowl XLV.

All that winning, apparently, boosts immunity to frigid winters.

"Cold? Nah. I'm just getting psyched up," said Charles Puff, 45, of South Park, who wore a T-shirt to the "Shred the Packers" rally at Forbes Avenue and Ross Street, even though the temperature hovered in the mid-20s.

"Someone said to me, 'Mayor, where's your coat?'" said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who wore a sweatshirt. "I said, 'We're from Pittsburgh. We don't need coats!'"

That's debatable. But the fans might be on to something when they talk about the Steelers making winter easier to stomach.

"Absolutely," said Dr. Kurt Ackerman, medical director of adult mood and anxiety services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland.

"For a lot of people, (watching the Steelers) helps them connect to a larger community, gives them a common sense of purpose," he said. "It can be as if you have a role in the game -- sort of like people who have children and feel great pride in their children's accomplishments."

The Steelers make winter so enjoyable for some fans that they prefer the cold weather to summer.

"June is terrible -- all we have is the Pirates," said Santorella, who brought his son Michael Jr., 13, to the rally.

Johns brought daughter, Abigail, 3, to Market Square, where 1,300 fans attempted to set a world record for simultaneous high-fives. They were 400 fans short, but no one complained.

"Hey, I don't see anybody with a frown on their face here," said Johns, who dressed his daughter in layers but wore shorts himself.

A Steelers loss, however, could mean a long, dreary February.

Some fans could succumb to depression, Ackerman said, adding that studies suggest fans of the losing Super Bowl team are more likely to suffer heart attacks.

"For most people, I'd expect them to bounce back in a couple days," Ackerman said. "We're buffered by the fact that we have had so much recent success. This is the City of Champions, and we all have memories of those teams winning."

Ravenstahl acknowledged concerns about risking a curse on the home team by tossing a replica of a cheesehead -- the beloved symbol of Packers fans -- into a high-powered shredder during the rally.

Green Bay Mayor James J. Schmitt does not plan to defile a Terrible Towel, "because he doesn't want to jinx the Packers," spokesman Ken Dax said. But hundreds of fans who cheered on Ravenstahl clearly did not care about any curse.

"Shred the cheese!" they chanted.

And the mayor responded: "The cheese is shredded! Go Steelers!"

Chris Togneri can be reached at ctogneri@tribweb.com or 412-380-5632.

Read more: Fans, expert agree: Steelers beat winter blahs - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/print_721330.html#ixzz1CzZQHgxJ