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Old 12-11-2008, 05:29 PM   #1
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Default Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/spor...o_world_t.html

Sometimes the beauty of being a journalist is that you never know, when you wake up, what kind of rabbit hole you're going to stumble through that day. You have to be ready to meet all kinds of weird characters, and your only sidekick is usually a notebook or a laptop that helps you jot it all down and return to tell the tale.

A few years ago, on a June afternoon that seemed normal in every other way, I got a call from an editor informing me that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been in a motorcycle accident in downtown Pittsburgh. Details were sketchy, but all indications were that it wasn't good. It was unclear if he was going to make it or not. Could I jump in my car, drive to Pittsburgh and quickly pull together some kind of story?

On the four-hour drive to western Pennsylvania, my mind was filled with countless possibilities of what I might find, but at no point was Nichol Mitchell one of them. That's her in the picture you're looking at, a diehard Steelers fan who remains my most memorable character from that day.

Roethlisberger, obviously, did not die despite the fact that he wasn't wearing a helmet during the crash. By the time I reached the Steel City, it seemed like he was going to live, but his football career and perhaps his long-term health seemed in serious jeopardy. And so, outside Mercy Hospital, on a hilly street that overlooks the Monongahela River, Mitchell and a few friends did what comes naturally to Steeler fans.

They tailgated.

They cooked hot dogs on a grill. Pittsburgh players would pull into the parking lot and the media would rush forward to record their "no comment," but Mitchell and a few others calmly held vigil into the night. I remember looking at the lighter fluid and the bottle of French's mustard that day and thinking this was the most surreal thing I'd ever experienced. Tailgating outside a hospital. Whose first impulse, upon hearing the news, is to load their grill into their car and grab meat and condiments before heading to the hospital? Someone who really takes their football seriously, I guess.

"This is something that's tragic for the whole city," Mitchell said that day. "We're just here for all the people who are praying for Ben right now and can't make it. I want to know for myself that he's alive, and that he's going to come out of this OK. Because he's like family to us. He really is. I'll wait here all night if I have to."

The next morning, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg saw my story and had a hearty chuckle about the whole thing on ESPN Radio and I got a few emails from flabbergasted friends who had heard the broadcast, asking me if Mitchell really was tailgating. Yes, she most definitely was.

You have to respect that kind of devotion though, I guess. While I'm not sure Ravens fans would tailgate outside Shock Trauma in a similar situation, they might, and you can understand feeling that kind of emotional connection to the players on your favorite team. It's that kind of dedication that makes it so frustrating for fans when so many players skip town for a better contract or don't play hard as soon as they get paid.

All fans ask is that players care half as much about them as the fans do about the players.

So even though you may loathe the Steelers this week -- and you should because that's what fuels rivalries -- tip your cap to their rabid, strange, passionate devotion. Sometimes love means hot dogs and lighter fluid and hospital tailgates, I guess.

Pass the mustard.

(Sounds like a serious case of Steeler Nation envy to me. They are just jealous of our passion and insecure in their own support of the ratbirds. - mesa)
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

I can remember, back in the old days, of hundreds of people standing outside the fence at Friendship (now BWI) Airport at 3:45 AM in the blinding snow and bone-chilling cold to welcome the Baltimore Colts back home.........after a crushing loss.

(BTW, try that now and TSA and Homeland Security will cart you off to the clink)

Trust me, if any city can understand that kind of devotion, we do. Although I doubt that we would steam crabs in the parking lot.
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Old 12-12-2008, 07:14 AM   #3
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

Great read Mesa and thanks for posting. While that is great to see fans dedicated to making sure Ben is alright that is a little different tailgating outside the hospital. God bless them though.
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Old 12-12-2008, 07:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

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Great read Mesa and thanks for posting. While that is great to see fans dedicated to making sure Ben is alright that is a little different tailgating outside the hospital. God bless them though.
Be honest. You didn't expect them to eat hospital food, did you?
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:09 AM   #5
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

Steelers Nation is unlike any other fanbase in any professional sport and I'm proud to be and to have been a member for over 40 years!
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:17 AM   #6
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

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Be honest. You didn't expect them to eat hospital food, did you?
Hell no!
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Old 12-12-2008, 11:47 AM   #7
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Default Re: Tales from the bizarro world that is Steeler nation

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Originally Posted by Crow-Magnon View Post
I can remember, back in the old days, of hundreds of people standing outside the fence at Friendship (now BWI) Airport at 3:45 AM in the blinding snow and bone-chilling cold to welcome the Baltimore Colts back home.........after a crushing loss.

(BTW, try that now and TSA and Homeland Security will cart you off to the clink)

Trust me, if any city can understand that kind of devotion, we do. Although I doubt that we would steam crabs in the parking lot.
It was the same way back in April when a huge crowd came to Memphis International to welcome the University of Memphis basketball team back after losing the national championship game. We are divided by a lot of issues here, but our university's basketball team is not one of them. It's the one thing this city can agree on.

GO STEELERS
GO TIGERS!
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