"Steeler Nation" is one of the planet's most populous and intense sports-fan cohorts. There are many others, of course, and have been for many decades. But such groupings—what might be called "voluntary tribes"—are assuming a new importance in America. As neighborhoods and schools become more diverse, marriages become more mixed and social hierarchies break down, old lines are getting blurry. Voluntary tribes are a way of recreating a sense of community.
Voluntary tribes such as Steelers Nation are well suited for navigating our increasingly scattered sense of place. In this regard, Pittsburgh-ness travels well and provides a trust infrastructure for the geographically mobile. Generating trust is critical for doing business globally and Pittsburgh could position itself geopolitically as a nexus for this long-distance economy.
However, our traditional notions of community stand steadfastly in the way of activating the Burgh Diaspora. Real Pittsburghers question my authenticity as a Steelers Fan because of where I was born. The Urbanophile has run up against a similar impediment to his quest to help develop the economy of Indianapolis. Our political and cultural geographies are struggling to keep up with a globalizing economy. The dying landscape will not disappear quietly.