Friday, January 23, 2009

Pittsburgh Pilgrimage

The Steelers Diaspora is planning to celebrate the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, not Tampa. This pilgrimage highlights the rather strange phenomenon of non-native Steelers fans feeling a deep connection to Pittsburgh the place:

Dean Vlaovich grew up a Steelers fan in New Jersey and now works for a trucking company in Arkansas. He and his wife, Cinthia, made the 14-hour drive to Pittsburgh for the Super Bowl in 2006, where they found themselves dancing on South Side streets with strangers after the win. They're making the drive again next week.

"Originally people down here thought I was nuts three years ago when we took the trip. But I told my new boss in October during a departmental meeting, 'I will require off the Monday and Tuesday after the Super Bowl if the Steelers are in it.' Everyone laughed," said Mr. Vlaovich, 35. "I said it again every Monday in the same meeting. Until this week. The boss beat me to it and said 'We know, you're off.'" ...

... Mark Rosenblatt, 46, is a lifelong Toronto resident who got hooked on the Steelers at age 12, sometimes following them on French-language broadcasts. He turned his father and two sons into fans, so three generations of Rosenblatts will fly to Pittsburgh Super Bowl weekend.

There is the sensitive matter of a family bat mitzvah that Saturday to contend with, which the immigration lawyer has been up-front about missing. "I'm not going to lie and say I'm sick," he said.

If you've ever been to a Steelers bar, then you've witnessed the performance of place. You see hard hats. You can eat pierogies and drink Iron City. You can listen to the polka fight song. Sure, you could watch your favorite team in the comfort of your own home, but you crave (for some strange reason) to soak up the regional culture and hang out with people from the Burgh.

If you were born and raised in another Rust Belt city, Pittsburgh-ness or even Steelers-ness is familiar. That someone from Erie would champion Pittsburgh isn't that strange. We all share the same postindustrial struggles and successes. Pittsburgh could be, might already be, the global center for the Postindustrial Nation. That's not just some meaningless sports fanaticism. That's an economic proposition and a driver of migration.

1 comment:

Danny Bill said...

I hear ya! I moved away from Washington, PA in 1971 to go to college in West Virginia, then returned in 81 when I was transfered by my company to Indiana PA. When I was laid off in 84, I moved to Richmond, VA. But every year the Steelers were in the Super Bowl I returned to my sisters, who still lives in the area. I will be going back this Friday. My son, born in Indiana, lives in West Virginia also feels the need to return to his native home to watch the Super Bowl!