Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ode to Steelers Nation

Boomerang migrant Holly Brubach wrote a guest op-ed piece about Steelers Nation for the New York Times. Over the next week, that newspaper will gain a good idea of the size of the Burgh Diaspora. If you are reading this blog post, I'd bet that Ms. Brubach's story will end up in your inbox a number of times from a variety of contacts. So, I needn't make you aware of a diaspora tale that you might have missed. What I would like to highlight is, in my estimation, a significant observation:

It occurs to me now that the experience of hunkering down with fellow Steeler fans in Manhattan or Rochester or Toronto or San Francisco is a lot like celebrating Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July with other American expatriates during the years when I lived abroad. They were, for the most part, people I never would have met back home. We shared few, if any, interests; we worked in fields that were unrelated. The bonds we 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. Those were among the best holidays I ever spent, still vivid in memory.

It’s not that you can’t go home again, but that once you get there, chances are you’ll wish you were somewhere else when football season rolls around. Maybe it takes someone whose sense of home has been intensified by distance to understand the logic in leaving Pittsburgh to watch a Steeler game. I’ve already booked my flights.

If you've read any postcolonial literature from authors such as Salman Rushdie or Jhumpa Lahiri, you should recognize the theme. The diaspora experience engenders a dual or divided sense of place. Pittsburgh no longer feels quite like home. Instead, your neighborhood and family are located at the various Steelers bars scattered around the world. Steelers Nation is Pittsburgh's alter ego.

Ironically, Ms. Brubach has to leave Pittsburgh to go home. Yet, once at the neighborhood bar, she will share a longing for the Burgh with the other fans there watching the game. To be a member of the Burgh Diaspora is to live in a kind of limbo. More importantly, Pittsburghers are coming together in a way that would never happen back in the place where they were born. And that's why I think that the Burgh Diaspora will be the group to build New Pittsburgh, ushering in another golden era.

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