By Chaz Bolte AFCNT.com writer (Originally published August 28th, 2010)
I was born and raised in Shaler, Pa just 15 minutes away from Heinz Field but I now reside in Denver, Co. Throughout the week I have had the odd experience of being a Steelers fan in enemy territory. This week has made me appreciate the fact that I was born into the Steeler Nation as I have heard radio stations publicly beg Broncos fans to not sell their tickets to Steelers fans. I have been told that, “the Steelers suck” by Broncos fans that seem to forget their two recent Super Bowl victories. But what I’ve realized most about the sports fans of Denver is they have no clue what it means to be a Steelers fan or why we live for it. They have never had the experience of driving to the North Side at 7 AM to find a $25 parking spot so they can set up their camping chairs and crack an Iron City while they cook brats and Polish Sausage on a tiny grill with the sounds of WDVE echoing from car to car. They’ve never been to a wedding or family reunion where the men can’t be found because they are in a backroom, shirts untucked, crowded around a 13’ TV waiving Terrible Towels. They’ve never been to a Penguin game in March and heard, “Here we go Steelers here we go!” echo through the igloo. They’ve never bought their 8-month old nephew their first terrible towel for Christmas. They’ve never done these things because they do not have the tradition we have.
I’ve sat in a Steelers bar in Boulder and watched web designers, lawyers, college students, and professors drink imported I.C. Light and fall back into their yinzer ways, smiling as they remember how much fun a simple football game gathering could be in Western Pennsylvania. People who have never met and may never see each other again are bonded as best friends as they wave terrible towels and remember a simpler time when Sunday meant food, friends, and football. They share stories about their family’s ridiculous obsessions with the Steelers and laugh together about the superstitions they saw on a weekly basis. The first two times I saw my father cry where when the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup and when he thought the Steelers lost the 1995 AFC championship on Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary. Our Christmas decorations always include the Steelers season ticket holders Christmas card signed by the team and the Rooney’s. Broncos fans can never understand these types of things because it is a world that does not exist to them.
While there are die-hard Broncos fans they are both few and far between and noting compared to the black and gold loyalists. I give the Broncos fans credit because they truly believe that Tim Tebow will be their savior and the next John Elway. When his name comes up in conversation I don’t have the heart to ruin their enthusiasm for their 3rd string QB by telling them I think that he will be a flop and that many people will lose their jobs because of his selection. They live in a paradox of reality in which the Broncos always have a chance to win the Super Bowl, much like Steelers fans. but less fact based. They try to have the traditions we have, but cannot because tradition is something Denver lacks. For all of it’s natural beauty and modern luxuries Denver is a town of transplants, many of whom wish to still root for their hometown teams. But the question I get asked the most is, “Why don’t you switch teams now that you live in Denver?”
A Pittsburgher can’t comprehend these questions. To us the thought of selling tickets to the away teams fans is sacrilegious. To turn your back on your hometown is to deny your past. The citizens of Denver do not feel the same. Partially because of their lack of tradition and partially because their faux hippie, laissez faire attitude doesn’t allow them to get excited about things as beneath them as professional sports. In comparison a Pittsburgher will gladly live and die with the Steelers and not question if it was worth it. I’m not saying either side is right, I’m sure it’s healthier to fall somewhere in between. We don’t make sense to them and they don’t make sense to us. But when the Steelers come to town I feel a pride in my hometown and am thankful for my upbringing. I’d rather drink an Iron City than a Blue Moon, I’d rather be the son of a factory worker than a trust fund hippie, and I’d rather wave a terrible towel than buy medical marijuana. Steelers vs. Broncos week is the one time a year that I get to feel like I have something better than my peers in Denver, even if they don’t understand why.