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Old 01-29-2009, 06:59 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Poole: Don't mess with Steelers fans

Poole: Don't mess with Steelers fans

Perhaps the best thing about being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan - no, it's not getting a shoutout in the line from that Charlie Daniels song - is that no matter where you are, you'll be able to find other Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

From Auckland to Atlanta, from Balad to Baltimore, no Terrible Towel ever flies alone.

Even Arizona, Pittsburgh's opponent Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII, isn't free of Steelers fans.

Edward Burns, bishop-elect of Juneau, Alaska, and a Lincoln High School graduate, said his parents, who spend their summers in Brighton Township, are wintering in Arizona. And they'll hold a Steelers' party on Sunday virtually in the shadow of the Cardinals' home stadium.

Think anybody around here is throwing a party to cheer for Arizona? And, no, George Novak, who coached Cardinals receiver/punt returner Steve Breaston at Woodland Hills High School, doesn't count.

Now, A couple of weeks ago, the Space.com Web site announced that astronaut Michael Fincke is rooting for Pittsburgh from the International Space Station.

Fincke, who comes by his Steelers mania honestly - he grew up in Emsworth - is in command until next April of an international team that includes Americans and Russians on the space station.

And he has already made it clear who is the favorite team in space.

"We'd like to say though, that up here, it's Steeler country," Fincke said, in a story that appeared on Space.com before Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 23-14 to reach the big game.

We'll forgive the astronaut's semantic error - it's Steelers; "Steeler" is not a word. Because as we all know, when your boss says you're in Steelers Country, you're in Steelers Country, even if that happens to be 220 miles above the Earth's surface.

Got that, Boris?

There's just one problem with Fincke's claim of outer space as "Steelers Country." That expression is so 2006. "Steelers Country" is old news. In 2007, the team sold more merchandise than any other sports franchise.

Last year, Pittsburgh dropped to third place, behind the Green Bay Packers and Boston Red Sox, but 2009 should see the Steelers rise back up to the top, thanks to this Super Bowl appearance.

What with Fincke's outpost of the Black and Gold Brigade becoming the NFL's first extraterrestrial fan club, we'll now have to start talking about the Steelers Galaxy.

Thanks to an uplink provided by Mission Control, Fincke will play host to the highest, if not the best, Super Bowl party anywhere.

By now, it's an accepted fact that the Steelers' nationwide fan base traces its origins to the team's Super Bowl years in the 1970s, just as western Pennsylvania's industrial base collapsed.

Without the steel mills and the decent-paying jobs they supported, Pittsburghers fanned out across the country, taking their Steelers' allegiance with them to places like Atlanta, Phoenix and Houston.

They're the ones who show up, Terrible Towels in hand, at Steelers' road games.

As I wrote in 2006, during their previous Super Bowl run, the Steelers don't play away games. They play home-away-from-home games.

And Fincke just might be a bellwether when it comes to the growing reach of the soon-to-be Steelers Galaxy.

Now that we're in the throes of an economic downturn that is threatening to engulf not just a region or the United States, but the world, which means that people looking for jobs might have to follow his lead into outer space.

Eric Poole can be reached online at epoole@ellwoodcityledger.com.

(Steelers Galaxy, I like it. - mesaSteeler)
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