It's neat to be living in a city with pro football, and especially one housing a team that has made it to the Super Bowl. (Not that people are any less crazy about football in Ohio, but somehow it seems to be on a different level than college ball, maybe more legitimate.) But really, what is legitimate? The hoards of people dressed in ridiculous getups--bright yellow stilettos, mini skirts and black wigs, for example--screaming and hooting down the streets in the South Side last night? It was quite a sight, but before I could shake my head in disbelief I remembered my own passionate worship of a sports team as an adolescent. I lived and breathed the Chicago Bulls growing up, to the point that my parents found it more than a little disturbing when they found me beneath walls covered in posters of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and BJ Armstrong lying in a heap of tears if the Bulls lost.
This leads me to ponder underlying factors that cause people to hope so vehemently for sports teams. Sometimes, yes, it's just for the joy of the game. Sometimes the atmosphere of community is what draws people to huddle around the television to watch men throw a ball down the field. Other times I can see how it can be more than that. A few weeks ago I attended a showing of My Tale of Two Cities, a documentary about a prodigal Pittsburgher who left the town for Hollywood and is now back. In the quest to show what makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, the audience learns much about Pitt history--from William Pitt to Mr. Fred Rogers to the steel mills to the Steelers. What's interesting is that right around the time that the steel industry was dying (I compare this to what Detroit's going through right now), the Steelers were about the only thing people felt they could hope for. And those Steelers delivered, winning not only games but a place in every Pittsburgher's heart. And they continue to be the oldest and most championed franchise in the AFC. Today's win would bring Super Bowl title number 6, the record for most titles won by any single team.
In this bleak economy, when food prices continue to escalate, bus routes are cut, businesses and universities (Pitt included) freeze hiring, and every day more people lose their jobs and their homes, a Steelers victory would not only be in keeping with this town's history but also an emblem of what we seem to be at a loss for these days: Hope.