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Old 01-22-2011, 11:33 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011, 12:00 AM
The Patriot-News By JOHN LUCIEW
http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/ind...fans_make.html

PITTSBURGH — The singsong refrain rains down from the rafters of frigid Heinz Field: “Here we go, Steelers. Here we go!” Perhaps the black-and-gold faithful should add the word “again” to their familiar chant.

Sue Clausen of New Cumberland has been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan since the 1960s and has a room in her house devoted to her collection.



The National Football League team with the most Lombardi Trophies on the planet is vying for yet another trip to the Super Bowl. Today’s showdown with the New York Jets marks the Steelers’ 15th AFC Championship Game, the most for any team since the 1970 merger of the NFL and the American Football League.

The winner goes to Super Bowl XLV, to be played Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Tonight's game will be televised on Fox at 6:30 p.m.

In Pittsburgh, the team’s quest is known as the “Stairway to Seven,” or “Knocking on Seven’s Door.” Customized song lyrics have been written and recorded to the melodies of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

These tunes, along with the latest updates of old-standards such as “The Steelers’ Polka” and the “Here We Go” song, are but a few of the signs of the black and gold buzzsaw that’s revving up in this football frenzied city.

Yet, with the Steelers long ago having risen from lovable losers to NFL royalty, does Pittsburgh’s perennial playoff party ever get old?

Yinzers in Strip District of Pittsburgh decorated its store's bathroom in Steelers memorabilia.


And after converting basements to black-and-gold man caves, stuffing closets with countless Steelers coats, hats, scarves and jerseys and even redecorating bathrooms into Steelers johns, could there be any more room in fans’ lives for more memorabilia?

Might Pittsburgh’s football fanaticism have reached its limit?

“Do people ever get tired of celebrating New Year’s?” retorted Jon Rubin, director of the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University.

‘Pervasive Steelers culture’

The Miller Gallery is running an exhibit exploring Steelers fans’ seemingly boundless enthusiasm.

Steelers faithful do not simply cheer on a football team. They see themselves and their city reflected in the team’s mixture of blue-collar work ethic, family ownership and tough-as-nails mentality.

So when Steelers fans want to show their black-and-gold allegiance, they don’t just don jerseys and leave it at that. They make themselves part of the team, intertwining their own life experiences with those of the Steelers until the two are inseparable.

After months of trolling Steelers Nation for artifacts, Rubin and co-curator Astria Suparak assembled an eclectic exhibit of fan memorabilia that doesn’t just blur the line between fan and team, it obliterates it entirely.

It features a dog groomer who dyed her puffy poodle until it looked as if the canine was wearing a Steelers’ uniform, complete with a bite guard that resembled the face mask of a helmet.

Two towering exhibit walls are filled with color photographs of elaborate tattoos, all with Steelers themes and images of players, Lombardi trophies, team founder Art Rooney and the city’s skyline.

Each one is a fan’s flesh-and-blood attempt to become part of the team.

Perhaps the most audacious and intricate example of team bonding is the man ave Rubin and Suparak excavated and reassembled archeologist-style from fan Denny DeLuca’s Pittsburgh area basement.

Far more than a collection of store-bought memorabilia, it details one man’s life as it intersects with the Steelers.

Torn ticket stubs from decades of Steelers’ games are strung around the room. Hand-painted figures of Steelers’ players are frozen in various poses on a shelf.

In sculpting these player tributes, DeLuca was sure to use extra Play Doh to fill out defensive lineman Casey Hampton’s beach ball belly. He embellished ferocious Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert with plenty of dripping blood. And he applied tufts of cotton to the feet of former running back “Fast” Willie Parker as if smoke were billowing from his sneakers.

Taken together, the exhibit shows a level of allegiance and obsession unlike anything Pittsburgh transplants Rubin and Suparak had ever seen.

“Both of us had the same experience, noticing how dominant and pervasive Steelers culture is here,” Suparak said. “I just don’t think this happens in other cities. It’s at all levels of daily life here. It’s a fact of living in Pittsburgh.


‘We know we’re blessed’

City buses don’t just flash with the route number; their electronic signs alternate with the words, “Go Steelers!” Similar messages blink on traffic alert signs hanging over I-376 heading into the city.

Fridays before playoff games are black-and-gold dress-up days in offices, retails stores and virtually every school, public or private, in Western Pennsylvania.

In fact, one woman was overheard confiding to a friend that if she didn’t buy her daughter a Steelers’ T-shirt ahead of the championship game, the girl risked being teased mercilessly. This mother promptly picked over tables of Steelers’ merchandise outside shop after shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, a street of riverside warehouses known for it deals and its diversity of team gear.

Steelers fans, it seems, just can’t stop themselves from buying.

“You can never have enough black and gold,” insisted life-long fan Dawn Phillips of East Liberty, who was combing packed racks at the Yinzers store in the Strip District.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” she added of all the Steelers’ successes. “We know we’re blessed, but we know we’re No. 1, too.”
‘You don’t see this in L.A.’

When in the ‘Burgh, out-of-towners often do as the natives do.

Caroline Pina and Dustin Perry blew in to blustery Pittsburgh from laid-back Los Angles, and made a beeline from the airport to the Strip District, which they called “Steelers’ Street.”

In town for a grandparent’s 80th birthday, the couple happened to score tickets to the championship game. Now, the pair with only loose ties to Pittsburgh were getting crash courses in Steelers culture.

“You don’t see this in L.A.” marveled Perry of the legions of similarly dressed Steelers fans. “We don’t even have a team.”

“There’s a lot more camaraderie,” added Pina, already wearing a Steelers cap. “You go up the street, and you can feel the amount of pride.”

Black and gold wardrobes

While some teams’ fans fly their colors on game days, Pittsburghers (and Steeler Nation - mesa) wear their loyalty on their sleeves year-round.

Such mania for Steelers merchandise helped Jim Coen rise from a street merchant peddling T-shits in shopping carts to the owner of Yinzers, which stocks thousands of black-and-gold items and moves truckloads of T-shirts.

“When you live in Pittsburgh, black and gold is part of your wardrobe all year long,” he said. “It’s the loyalty. People are so proud.”

But the consumerism reaches a crescendo when Pittsburgh plays in a championship game and is poised for a Super Bowl. Coen already has his orders in for all the gear to go with it.

“It’s a little like gambling, but I know how to order,” he said. “If we win, we’ll have days of peak craziness.”

As the grand-daddy of sporting good stores in Pittsburgh, the Honus Wagner store on Forbes Avenue is a 93-year-old institution. But the black and gold in its windows has nothing to do the Steelers. Instead, it colors the signs announcing the store’s going-out-of-business sale.

“I put those signs in the window and started crying,” said store clerk DeDe Metro, a life-long Steelers season ticket holder who relishes her job.

“You work here and see all that Steelers merchandise. It’s not work; it’s fun,” she added. “People come in here, and they’re happy. Nobody’s grumpy.”

Now there’s an air of loss hanging over the store that long outfitted the City of Champions.

Veteran Honus Wagner employee Joe Melcher declined to discuss details of the store’s closing. But he hinted that it had more to with the owners’ advanced age than it was any sign of Pittsburghers’ waning demand for Steelers gear.

Fans seem as connected to the team as ever.


That’s why Cheryl Doerfler wears the same pair of Steelers socks for every game. She’s convinced her footwear — and even the seating arrangement at the Steelers parties she throws at her house — have something to do with the team’s success.

So as her guests begin arriving for this evening’s Championship game, expect Doerfler to pull out the seating chart from last week’s playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Doerfler said she wants everything just do for another Steelers win. What’s more, none of her guests will give a second thought to such a request, as if her seating chart strategy were perfectly logical.

“It’s hard to explain if you’re not from Pittsburgh,” Doerfler said.
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Old 01-22-2011, 11:39 PM   #2
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Cool Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

The sad part is, people neurotically believe they actually *are* part of the team.
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Old 01-23-2011, 02:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

You just don't get it Haullace..... we are part of the team, the 12th player...
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Old 01-23-2011, 02:23 AM   #4
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Cool Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

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You just don't get it Haullace..... we are part of the team, the 12th player...
No, trust me. I get it. I know all about 'The12th Man'.

Hell, the term was coined 30 miles from here.

Being loud and unruly certainly does help teams. Being part of the loud and unruly crowd does not make you part of the team.
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Old 01-23-2011, 06:09 AM   #5
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

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Originally Posted by MikeHaullace View Post
No, trust me. I get it. I know all about 'The12th Man'.

Hell, the term was coined 30 miles from here.

Being loud and unruly certainly does help teams. Being part of the loud and unruly crowd does not make you part of the team.
But paying their salaries does. Just sayin'.
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Old 01-23-2011, 06:29 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

Quick, picture 0 fans in the stadium for football games. Would the game mean as much? Hell no. The fans are just as part of the game than anything else.

"Ben, drops back, he waits, fires and it's CAUGHT BY HINES WARD 20, 10, inside the 5 and down at the 2 yard line! And this place is silent! (cricket, cricket.)
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

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Quick, picture 0 fans in the stadium for football games. Would the game mean as much? Hell no. The fans are just as part of the game than anything else.

"Ben, drops back, he waits, fires and it's CAUGHT BY HINES WARD 20, 10, inside the 5 and down at the 2 yard line! And this place is silent! (cricket, cricket.)
Well said!
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Old 01-23-2011, 03:59 PM   #8
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Cool Re: Pittsburgh Steelers fans make themselves part of the team

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Quick, picture 0 fans in the stadium for football games. Would the game mean as much? Hell no. The fans are just as part of the game than anything else.
You're absolutely right.

That's not my gripe though. Apples and oranges, bro.

I'm talking about people that honestly, neurotically, believe because of their rabid fandom, they are an actual member of the team. No. You're not, rabid fandom guy. You're a fan of the team. There's really nothing to argue beyond that. Anything else is just reaching and nonsensical.

I guess I'll change my perspective on the matter when all professional teams worldwide proclaim their respective fans as parts of their team.

Until then... I understand where you all are coming from, but I disagree.
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