This is my initial foray into the world of blogging. Here, as the title suggests, I'll discuss those things that occupy me mind, body and soul.
Life - My wife, my kids, parents, family and friends. What it means to be from Pittsburgh, and basically the triumphs and travails of a U.S. citizen swept up by the ever blowing winds of change in today's Information Age.
The Universe - From the beauty of a Luna moth in my shrubbery; to the majestic photos from the Hubble Telescope, whose images force us to come face to face both with our insignificance, as well the incredible splendor of the Universe around us; to the physical, philosophical and ethical implications such discoveries as the Higgs-Bosun particle may, and will, have on today's world, as I see it.
and the Pittsburgh Steelers - I'm a product of the Pittsburgh Diaspora, and damn proud of it. The Steelers, and the Rooney family represent the quiet dignity, work ethic, and basic goodness of the people of Pittsburgh, and have done so since 1933. No other organization, in the sports world or otherwise, better represents, honors, and carries forth proudly the basic essence and traditions of the people of its birthplace, than the Pittsburgh Steelers
In no small part, and in no particular order, I dedicate my musings to be found herein to my Wife, my Family, and the People of Pittsburgh, for without all of them, I would not be who I am today. The comments, thoughts and opinions contained herein are solely my own, with all faults or blame laid only at my own feet.
Friday, April 14, 2017
I never met the person named Daniel M. Rooney, but I know the man. The people from around the world who met him, but had never been to Pittsburgh, know Pittsburgh.
The Rooneys are a wealthy family, but you'd never know it by the way they act, or live. Yes, they get to participate in events, go places, buy things most of us will never be able to, but you'd never know it interacting with them.
People born in Pittsburgh have an uneasy relationship with success. For themselves, it's not uncommon for a Pittsburgher having a good stretch of luck to be pessimistic, because generations of Pittsburghers learned that luck can change in an instant. A pressure vessel blows in the mill; a cable snaps, a breaker fails, all these things can happen, do happen. And in what for generations was a majority blue collar town, working men and women know that when these things happen, lives can be ended, can be changed forever.
So Pittsburghers are naturally uncomfortable with success, yet there is not one who had interacted in one way or another with Dan Rooney, his father, his brothers or his children would ever claim feeling intimidated or uncomfortable being around such a successful family. Because the Rooneys are Pittsburgh.
Dan Rooney, like his father Art Rooney Jr., ate lunch every day alongside the Steelers' players, groundscrew, admins, staff, etc. They drove themselves to work; they lived in the same kinds of neighborhoods as many Pittsburghers. They knew their neighborhood kids, their parents, their relatives.
Because that's what growing up in Pittsburgh was like; it's a small town disguised as a small city; a city where those who thought highly of themselves had their entitlements pricked. Where those who thought poorly of themselves had more people than they could count standing by to help them out.
Where people who needed help didn't have to ask; once word got out that a family was in distress, as many strangers as neighbors would pitch in and help, in large ways and small.
I know this is true because I lived it. When my older brother was injured falling out of a tree, one little article in a local newspaper brought thousands of volunteers to help my parents with his rehabilitation. For nine weeks, groups of five strangers would arrive in shifts around the clock at our doorstep ready to move my brother's limbs as part of his therapy while he laid deep in a coma. My brother would not be the self-sufficient, successful person he is today if it weren't for the people of Pittsburgh.
You can read elsewhere the many acts of generosity and selflessness Dan Rooney performed over his 84 years; I can't tell you directly about them because I never met the man.
But he was a Pittsburgher, as his family has been since 1884. That's all I need to know to know what kind of man he was.
R.I.P Dan Rooney, and my condolences to your family.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Nine score and two days from now
On thy spacious esplanade,
Midst the home team's promenade,
Will stand tall Harrison's peers
Watched by fans; eyes wet with tears,
Wishing for a chance to show
Love for him at Heniz' green tableau.
Renegade plays o'er their head,
His visage, foes came to dread
Portent of loss, bloody fray
Worn on many a hard-fought day,
By the man adorned in black
Known by friend as Silverback
Forced by fate the man let go
Far from loyal Heinz’ green tableau.
In the stands the crowds first'd stun
Swells to shouts of "Harrison";
Then silence reigns, everywhere
In the restless autumn air
Choking sobs, but half suppressed,
Came from many a faithful breast
At the overwhelming blow
Dealt them here at Heinz’ green tableau.
How could this be, is it true
No chance we, to bid adieu?
Would our idol and team pride;
He whom we had deified,
Leave his fellow linebackers,
And loyal fans these half score years?
Bereft are we, spirits low
From the hole in Heinz’ green tableau.
"Comrade, brother, must we part?";
(How his power thrilled each heart!)
"It were wrong for you and team,
To let money come between;
Or so the team did quite state
Thus you chose to abdicate,
Without you no more may know
Fierce-som days at Heinz’ green tableau.
Thus to part is quite obscene;
Did you silence Ravens' dreams,
Opposing fans' hopeful screams,
Knock senseless Cleveland players,
Deny Warner's fervent prayers,
And survive injuries' blow--
Just to yield at Heinz’ green tableau?
"Hero of great games, farewell!
Remorse we must learn to quell,
No hostile words we decree
Will estrange our hearts from thee;
Free Agent you are, exiled
Through our tears you well may smile
At the realm our team bestow,--
Never more on Heinz’ green tableau!
"Now of all who once were true
We could count alone on you;
Would that one might take the place
Of the Backer we embrace!
Let the tears which on him fall
Move the souls of one and all!
Never Steeler Nation so
loved one at Heinz’ green tableau."
Extinguished his flame; no more,
Nor his fury, vengeful glore
Fill with fear, Steelers' foes eyes--
Smouldering flames of sacrifice;
As his emotionless face
Vanishes ghostlike into space,
And a dreary sense of woe
Settles over Heinz’ green tableau.
Gone is now the Renegade;
Free'd Goodell is of his Shade;
By the Styx the Legend sleeps;
Steeler Nation with him keeps;
But the river entrance pier
Still preserves its sombre air,
For the Harrison we know
Walks no more on Heinz’ green tableau.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
As tradition bound as the NFC North may be, as competitive as the four teams are with each other in the NFC East, or as un-inspirational as the supposed rivalries in the AFC West are, no other division in the NFL has as incestuous a set of lineages and such deep rooted rivalries and dislike for each other as the AFC North.
You couldn't find a more dysfunctional family of personalities if you merged Dr. Phil's weirdest patients with Jerry Springer's trashiest guests.
The Steelers face Baltimore this Sunday, with the Ravens and their fans feeling cocky about their chances for a second straight sweep of the Steelers and potential second straight divisional crown. The Steelers lead the overall series of regular season games 21-15 (8-8 in Baltimore, 13-7 in Pittsburgh). While the Ravens have been in the playoffs the past four twice in that span they have faced and lost games to the Steelers, including the 2008 AFC Conference championship game.
The remaining games on the Steelers schedule include rematches with their other two division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
Four teams sharing histories with either playoff hopes on the line, or nothing to play for to salvage a season but bragging rights in defeating a hated rival:
The Favored Son: The Pittsburgh Steelers are the oldest team in the division, being the first of the group to be part of the National Football League, and by far the most popular (bandwagon fans notwithstanding). With a difficult childhood long behind them, the Steelers have matured over the last 42 years into the most successful team in the entire league since the merger.
The Jealous Second Child: The Cleveland Browns are the second oldest franchise in the division (aided by an NFL act of reincarnation and the legal right to the original version's records and history) having been formed in the 1940's. Stereotypically in large families the second child grows up with numerous issues and is commonly the source of much of the strife between siblings. Just as a second child can harbor resentment and jealousy towards its more successful elder rival and shows a propensity to self destruct as it seeks its own identity, they've had 14 head coaches in the past 42 years, the Browns are certainly the source of most of the internecine issues embroiling the division. Its fan base has yet to come to grips with the loss of the original Browns, and the lingering resentment and depression pervades all of its public utterances.
The Quiet One: The Cincinnati Bengals are often overlooked in the division, usually because of their bland, wall-flower like performance on the field. The team exists in part because of an internal struggle inside the first incarnation of the Cleveland Browns, the by-product of which was the team's head coach Paul Brown (after whom the Cleveland team was named), being fired after 16 years by the new owner of the Browns, Art Modell in 1963. Three years later, Brown led an investment group to form the Bengals. More often than not, it's the quiet ones you have to watch the most, as the Bengals proved in 2009 and are proving to be in challenging the Steelers this season.
The Resentful Little Brother: The youngest team in the division the Baltimore Ravens are the second incarnation of the Cleveland Browns, having been relocated from the shores of Lake Erie to a waterside tourist trap in Baltimore in 1996 by the late Art Modell. Treated with indifference by the NFL much like a child of divorce, the Ravens were given "expansion team" status as a means to resolve the legal and ethical morass created by Modell upon his split up with the City of Cleveland. The Ravens' departure from Cleveland left the team under a dark cloud and except for one moment of success since arriving in Baltimore, the Ravens have spent the better part of its 16 years seeking approbations from its more successful rival and role model, the Steelers.
Since the league's realignment in 2002 which created the AFC North, the Steelers have won the divisional title five times, the Ravens three and the Bengals twice. The Browns last won a divisional crown in 1989 and the memory of that achievement is fading away, much like the legitimacy of its four AAFC titles which the NFL refuses to recognize.
The Browns have a miserable 68-141record since their re-birth in 1999. The Browns and their fans appear to resent everyone and everything not born or made in Cleveland. They resent the NFL for not recognizing four of its championships from antiquity; for allowing Modell to relocate the real Browns to Baltimore. They hate and resent anything and everyone associated with Pittsburgh or the Steelers; the Steelers for their continuing success, and the city of Pittsburgh for being the face of the industrial northeast (you never hear of Cleveland being called the Arsenal of Democracy, do you?). They hate the Ravens with a passion for being wrenched from their city, and they probably resent the Bengals for trying to co-exist in the same state, although Paul Brown was beloved as a coach during his 16 years with the Browns. But most of all, the Browns fans hate Art Modell, so much so that the public outcry at the team's suggestion of a moment of silence commemorating Modell's passing forced the team to cancel its plans.
The Bengals may reignite a rivalry with their elder brother in the division, as they prepare for a show down in Week 15 which could determine who claims one of the wild card playoff slots, but they haven't been successful enough on a consistent enough basis to raise the ire of the Steelers. The Bengals and their fans still harbor resentment towards the Steelers for its 2005 playoff loss, their first appearance in the post season in 15 years and the injury to its quarterback Carson Palmer on the second play of the game. While they see the Ravens as a rival to surpass, there isn't much bad blood between these two teams.
The Ravens however, are a different story. As younger brothers often feel, the Ravens resent the success the Steelers have enjoyed since much of it comes at their expense. They'll do everything possible to bring down big brother, from wearing away jerseys at their 2004 home opener, to hiring outside consultants to teach them how to be more like the Steelers in order to defeat them.
The Ravens represent a foster child, forced to live with distant relatives with kids of their own. Such a tragic founding can't help but lay heavy on the subconscious of the Ravens fan base; to receive a team in as unfair a manner as theirs was lost?
Just as in Shakespeare's Richard III the main character laments his un-natural birth "...Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deform'd, unfinished, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,...", so must the deliverance of its current team warp Baltimore's unconscious perception of itself. What else would explain the delirious joy the Ravens get out of defeating the Steelers in a regular season game as they did in their home opener last year; defeating the Steelers in what was ultimately an insignificant game, since both teams still made the playoffs.
Baltimore, having focused so much on beating the Steelers, and claiming the divisional crown, must go to sleep at night after defeating the Steelers with the soliloquy Shakespeare wrote for Richard in their dreams:
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths..."
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Even though the Ravens struggle to imitate the Steelers success, their bratty little brother attitude and lack of dignity show them to be the upstart imposters they are. Just as Richard undergoes changes in character throughout the play, from an engaging and witty raconteur in Act I, to the universally despised scheming perpetrator of regicide in Act VI who is ultimately overthrown himself, the Ravens insistence on being shown the respect and admiration the Steelers enjoy, which they and their quarterback Joe Flacco have yet to earn, will only fuel the fires of their rivalry with Pittsburgh, and could ultimately backfire on the Ravens as such behavior backfired on King Richard.