Since becoming more grounded, spiritual and self-aware, activities that once brought me pleasure are now sinking into the background noise of life. One such activity is watching and rooting for NFL football.
I was raised on the good old-fashioned American tradition of Sunday football and groomed into being a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, since my family hails from the Pittsburgh area. I have lots of fond memories from my crazy football fandom days.
I can remember as far back as kindergarten, when I got into a fist fight on the playground with someone over a Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys game – this was in Pittsburgh’s glorious heydays of being the team with the Steel Curtain defense.
That team had notables such as Lynn Swann, “Mean” Joe Greene, and Franco Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the reigning Super Bowl “first to four” championship winners in the 70’s and 80’s. Terry Bradshaw was, and still is, my favorite Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.
Many years later, when I worked at the strip club, I wore the hat of ultimate Steelers fanatic – I was in the perfect environment for this to grow and blossom forth in me. I proudly wore my team colors constantly and I was loud and raucous about my team.
I was always met with opposition, since I lived in the Cleveland area and the club always had tons of Browns fans in attendance.
In 2009, when the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl title, I took the day off of work to go to the parade in Pittsburgh, which was aptly renamed “Six-Burgh” for the day, to celebrate being the “first to six.”
Attending that parade was a thrill-and-a-half for me, especially getting to see my new favorite Steelers up close and personal. I even yelled, “I love you, Big Ben!” to “Big Ben” Roethlisberger as he passed me on the parade route.
In October 2010, I attended my friend’s wedding. I usually shrug off weddings, but this one was special – it was a Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns themed wedding.
I was of course on the bride’s side, wearing my Steelers colors from head to toe.
Others who were on the bride’s side wore plain clothing and put their team colors and jerseys on for the wedding, then promptly removed them afterwards to go back to their cars. Not me. I wore my colors with pride.
Long story short, I walked about a mile from where I parked to where the wedding was taking place during Browns tailgating.
Sneers and jeers were to be expected of course, because I was wearing Cleveland’s arch rival colors – what I didn’t expect was pure hatred and vulgarity from people.
On my way back to my car after the wedding, I felt as if I were in the midst of a social experiment.
I was walking against the flow of pedestrian traffic with people heading to the stadium for the game. People were making obscene gestures, spouting vulgarities and some even spit in my direction.
I had developed a thicker skin from my walk to the wedding spot earlier, so I walked and smiled with my head held high, holding up six fingers to represent Pittsburgh’s six Super Bowl wins.
Arrogance to combat ignorance.
What shocked me was that I never expected to get flipped the bird or told “Fuck you and your Steelers!” by children, while the parents laughed and egged their kids on.
I laughed it off at the time, but as I think back, I ponder the thought of people hating me for wearing a team logo or more importantly, the team colors. When you break it down, it all comes down to sports fandom being all about colors and a corporate team logo.
Why would parents teach their children to hate someone because they are wearing a team logo or colors?
It feels as if people have forgotten all about having good sportsmanship in competition and rivalries and instead have turned professional sports into a hate breeding past time. It blows my mind when I stop to think about it.
There are people out there that take professional sports way too seriously. Why do people put so much passion, purpose and feeling into rooting for professional sports teams? If your chosen team wins or loses, where does that actually benefit your life?
I can already feel my die-hard Steelers fan family members and friends giving me the stink eye.
Take a moment and just imagine what could be accomplished by applying that restless passion and energy into a worthwhile cause.
The NFL is yet another greedy corporate industry taking money from people to make billions of dollars every year. They drain tax payer dollars from cities that cannot afford upkeep on stadiums, like Cleveland, OH for instance.
The league and team owners should pay for these extravagances, not the economically poor city. Those tax dollars are better used to protect and/or beautify the city.
Ticket prices are extremely expensive as well; so on top of a “sin tax” to pay for upkeep, the ticket prices climb and drain people of their hard-earned money. I know it is the people’s choice to pay these prices. Hey NFL, if you’re going to gouge ticket prices, then don’t make the city charge a “sin tax” for stadium upkeep, or vice versa.
Our military put their lives on the line every single day, yet they do not make a fraction of the salary that a professional football player makes.
But I digress…
I hereby officially bow out of fanatical fandom this and subsequent seasons.
There are so many more important things in my life to give that time, attention and passion to. I’d rather spend my Sunday afternoons out enriching my life with art and nature and spending it with friends discussing more important matters, like life, love and happiness.
When the Steelers finally make that march up the “Stairway to Seven” and get that illustrious seventh Lombardi trophy, I will be proud, but not overly boastful as I was in the past.
That passion is now reserved for more worthwhile and fulfilling people and events in my life.
I even hope that one day Cleveland Browns fans will know the joy and happiness of having a Super Bowl win.(Please don’t kill me, Steelers fanatics!)