With all the drama and trauma of this past week's ice storm, I haven't really gotten excited about the Super Bowl until the last day or two. But Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and my thoughts have turned to the four years I spent in Southwest Pennsylvania.
Bruce's job took us to Pennsylvania from 1993 to 1997. We lived in Charleroi which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. We bought our first house on top of Speers Hill in view of the Monongehala River. To a girl who had lived most of her life to that point in Kentucky, it seemed like we had moved to a foreign country. Our first winter brought 96 inches of snow. 96. Inches. And they don't even call school off. There might be a two hour delay, but the plows roll through and life goes on.
The region we lived in saw economic hard times long before the rest of the country. There is nothing sadder than seeing a region that used to boom with industry after that industry is dead. All of our neighbors used to work at the steel mills, but now did something else. They were very ethnic, ate foods I'd never heard of, and talked funny.
So alone in an alien land, I wondered if I would ever adjust. How would I connect to these people who seemed so different from me?
The answer to that question came when they discovered Bruce's profession. Football coach? Y'ens are football fans? Uh...yeah. We'ens are. That's when we became part of the Steeler Nation. Or I should say "Stiller Nation."
Folks in Southwestern PA love their Steelers. I have seen rabid Kentucky basketball fans, rabid fans of our red-jerseyed stepchild, Louisville, rabid fans of all brands. None of them hold a candle to Steeler fans. It truly is a religion.
When f'n Neil O'Donnell (his name is always preceded by f'n in Pittsburgh) threw the interception that lost the Super Bowl to Dallas in '96, my neighbor Tim took his lawn mower outside and mowed down his wife's prize rose bushes. In January. Our friend Billy started throwing the living room furniture off the deck. I'm not kidding. His wife Sandy called Bruce, freaking out, because she had locked him in the basement and needed someone to calm him down. We left the party early when things started going south.
But as bad as things were when they lost, they were joyous when they won. Lots of hugging, high-fiving, firing of weapons in the air ( again...not kidding.) And drinking...although there was a lot of that win or lose. And they embraced my family, and made us part of it.
I will always be grateful for these crazy, rabid fans. They took me in and treated me as one of their own for 4 years. They gave me a baby shower when I was pregnant with Connor, and helped me keep my sanity when I was alone with two small children, spending long summer days hanging out in the back yard or swimming in Tim and Carrie's pool. No matter how miserably Bruce's team lost a game, Tim and Billy were always waiting with an IC Light or a Rolling Rock.
So here's to you, Pittsburgh! Go Stillers! And just in case...barricade the rose bushes and make sure the basement locks work.