Mar 18, 2011

Steelers Nation Essay

The following was written by a friend of mine in an editoral section of a Pittsburgh newspaper.
It was written before the Steelers lost the superbowl, but the content of it makes us all winners.

By Mark Fassio

One of your recent contributors talked about how she met total
strangers who ended up bonding with her because of a Pittsburgh
connection. As a former military officer who’s traveled worldwide, I
can attest to that fact.
I have seen the Terrible Towel in every location from the Berlin Wall
to Monterey Bay, and there’s usually a Pittsburgh accent attached to
the twirler. Each chance encounter with a stranger creates an
almost-instant friendship strictly because of the black-and-gold
connection; it is the ultimate icebreaker.
Here in north-central Kentucky and the surrounding Ohio/Indiana border
area — a mere 50 miles from Cincinnati — the supposedly second-largest
Steelers fan base outside of Pittsburgh has entrenched itself.

During a soccer game, a man noticed my Steelers apparel and we began
talking. Turns out he was a former classmate of my wife, who is from
Shaler. After 30 years, a random observance and a chance comment
reunited high school chums.

A Steelers bar in the local area had a collection of expatriate yinzers
one Sunday, and it turned out that one of them went to Kiski Area High
School with my cousin oh-so-many years ago; small world, indeed.
And the high school I teach in is a hotbed of Pittsburgh fandom. The
students are enthralled to know that my cousin, Eric Ravotti, played
for the Steelers in the 1990s. In our family, if you don’t become a
priest, being associated with the Steelers is the second-best honorable

The biggest kick I get out of the Pittsburgh connection is going to
Mass every Sunday. There are three other Pittsburgh families who go to
our church, Immaculate Conception Parish. (Coincidence? I think not.
Calling Franco Harris!)

Each week the locals notice our three different Steelers jackets, all
clustered in one small pew area. We’ve become fast friends all because
we wear the same colors, holding game parties at each others’ houses
over the years.
And I have to admit that religion has helped the team over the years.

During Super Bowl XL five years ago, I took in my Terrible Towel and
asked the priest to bless it. I mean, heck, St Francis blessed animals,
so why not some fabric?
He politely refused and said he’d bless me instead. But I waited for
everyone to leave, and afterward dunked it in the baptismal font. We
already know the outcome of that game.

I did the same to my wife’s new towel right before SB XLIII against the
Cardinals (that holy water works pretty well), and have the font in my
sights this weekend as well for new towel No. 3.
And it’s not only holy water that works, but fire as well. I light two
candles after Mass every week: one for my family and one for the
Steelers. When they were down 21-7 to Baltimore, I found my St. Jude
prayer card (the patron saint of hopeless and despaired-of causes) and
pledged that I’d light every candle in the sanctuary the next day if
the Steelers pulled it out.

Thirty dollars and three burned fingers later, I stand testament to the
belief that all the powers of heaven are, indeed, Steelers fans, and
that The Chief put in a few good words to The Man Upstairs.

You lucky ones who still live in Western Pennsylvania have no idea of
the empty spot we expatriates carry in us.
Each shot of Heinz Field and the towels twirling brings a mist to my
eyes because we’re not there. Each year I count the days until I truly
come back home and, like long-suffering Browns fans, I always seem to
say, "Wait till next year." Count yourself fortunate, friends.

God bless the Steelers, and God bless us, each and every fan.

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