Originally published on my ESPN.com blog on May 2, 2008
Also published by ESPN.com as part of their “Titletown” series on June 18, 2008 at: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/titletown/news/story?id=3448538
I grew up in a city more devoted to it’s sports teams than perhaps anything else. Until I was 18 years old, I never lived anywhere else and just assumed that everywhere was like Pittsburgh. I just assumed that people, no matter who they were, loved their local sports team. Ask anyone in Pittsburgh if they love the black and gold, and I can nearly guarantee that you will hear a resounding “yes!”
When I moved away to college, I met people from all over the United States. Every time I met someone, I would consider the sports teams in the vicinity of their hometown and ask, “So, you’re from (city), I guess you’re a (insert local team) fan, right?”
And for the first time, I heard “No, not really.”
Back home, I remembered the jubilance of an entire city after back to back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, the entire section in the paper devoted to Mario Lemieux following his first retirement, the stories of the legendary men that were the Steelers of the 1970s, the tears following Super Bowl XXX, and the sense of nostalgia the day they tore down Three Rivers Stadium. The whole city had this one thing in common, this complete solidarity no matter what. Two years ago, when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, I was watching from my apartment in Boston, MA. After the game, tears were streaming down my face. I was overwhelmed with happiness to see the team I loved so much win the big game, but there was a distinct sadness too. There was nothing I wished more than that I could be in Pittsburgh, because I knew it had to be an incredible sight.
I have heard the argument that “no town without the big four should even be considered for Titletown,” but I challenge you to find fans more dispersed throughout the world who maintain their loyalty. It doesn’t disappear when they transplant to a different city, it doesn’t so much as shake. I’ve found fans in Boston, MA and even so far as the Netherlands. To those who would still argue that fandom doesn’t make a Titletown, I say that Pittsburgh has grown athletes like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, and Ken Griffey, Jr. who have brought admiration to their respective franchises. It’s been the hometown of respected coaches like Marvin Lewis, Marty Schottenheimer, Terry Francona, and Dick Nolan. What’s more, that’s just a fraction of the talent to come out of Pittsburgh. Consider then, what Pittsburgh athletes have contributed to teams across the nation.
I live in Washington, DC now, and for the first time in a long time, I’m close enough to make the drive home every so often. Each time, I love to walk through Pittsburgh’s Strip District and watch the endless sea of black and gold caps, with a blue and gold thrown in here and there to salute the Pitt Panthers. They’re all there, remembering the 5 World Series, 5 Super Bowls, 2 Stanley Cups, and countless number of titles from the University of Pittsburgh’s sports programs. It’s the “City of Champions,” the “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” and it is most assuredly Titletown, USA.