Thursday, January 29, 2009

Steelers Diaspora: National Flag

Nationalism is irrational. It inspires great violence. But it can also fuel economic might. The Terrible Towel is an icon of a similar passion:

This is the story of how the disparate worlds of the Allegheny Valley School, where communication is often difficult, and the thunderous, full-throated ecstasy of Pittsburgh's fanatics are tied together by a common, 100 percent-cotton thread, the very fabric of Steeler Nation.

"This towel is very, very powerful," said Regis Champ, the president of the school. "The people of Pittsburgh understand what this towel does and they love the Steelers. It's a great combination for us."

The Steelers themselves are acutely aware of the power.

"I think every great nation has a flag," Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu said. "I think the Steeler Nation, it's obvious that that's our flag."

Added Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "When they wave that towel, it's just something that comes from in their soul and tries to reach out to us players."

While the importance of a sports team might seem silly, it also demands respect. The mayor of Phoenix already regrets his attempt to disgrace the Terrible Towel. Perhaps an aid pointed out to him how many people from Pittsburgh live in his city.

Rallying around a flag can be a destructive force. It can also be used to win a space race or even raise a country out of poverty. What is needed is the leadership that provides the Steelers Diaspora with something more to do than cheer for their team.

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