On the Rape of Pittsburgh


In today’s Times, we read an opinion piece — “Where Everybody Knows Your Team” — by an author who grew up in Pittsburgh and — having now returned — wants us to know how watching the Steelers has long been an important thread of her life. “As any native can tell you,” she declares, “we take our football seriously.” She describes watching the team in sports bars all over the country, where “[t]he bonds we [i.e., she and the other Steeler fans] formed were based on solidarity — not a flag-waving patriotism but an awareness of our similarities, inherent and deep, which in the moment outweighed our differences.”

Are you vomiting yet?

We are here to reassure you that not all native Pittsburghers — and yes, we are one of them — do not take our football seriously and, despite all reports to the contrary, remain vehemently opposed to the completely superficial sense of “community” propounded by the author and others of her ilk throughout the world, all sadly duped by a trademark and Oz-like mythology designed to produce the largest possible amounts of revenue for its owners (such as ____ Rooney, with whom we attended grade school).

The author writes: “When I was a girl, my dad, a former high-school halfback, watched Steeler games from an easy chair opposite the television in the family room, where I divided my attention between my homework and the action on the field. The quarterback dropped back. My dad’s feet began to move. Then the handoff. The defense swarmed the ball carrier. My dad juked in his chair. All this took place in silence, punctuated by the occasional clap or groan. That was the extent of our collective viewing experience.”

Are we the only reader struck by a certain desperate sadness in this image of a girl watching television with a father completely oblivious to her presence? Did you too note the oddly literate way she described the action — particularly her use of the term “ball carrier” — as if she were trying to convince us that she really learned something from him? Are we the only one with the sense that her continuing lust for the Steelers is a fruitless quest for her father’s attention?

How we wish she would have talked to us of rejecting the horrible conformity represented by the Steelers, one that suffocates Pittsburgh and has driven so many of us from its ancient hills and winding rivers! How we wish she would have used The Times to declare the truth, which is that the Steelers and their brethren have time and again raped Pittsburgh, not only financially but spiritually, turning the city into a junkie, a whore, a beggar who would spend his last dollar on a lottery ticket. We have several times driven into the city on a Monday in January and seen the tattered banners hanging from the toll-booths and the dingy, dilapidated porches of the sad houses that line Route 19 (even after a Super Bowl win). We too have proclaimed our love for the Steelers — and the Pirates and the Penguins — and wondered why we felt so hollow and bereaved the next day, as if we really had given away our soul.

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