Looking Deeper into The Heart of Steeler Nation: A Guest Article
Note from Rebecca—what follows showed up on Thursday as a comment to Ivan’s article, “The Heart of Hypocrisy? The Can of Worms Opened by the Michael Vick Signing,” which you can read by clicking here, if you haven’t already. I thought the author of the comment made some points which are very much worth making, and wanted to make sure more people saw it.
I’ve always wondered why we not only have to hate other teams but their players, and have noted that the players themselves don’t hate each other, except for the sorts of normal dislikes one might take to another person in any walk of life. After all, many of them work out together in the off-season, work together as player union reps, and so on. Furthermore, they know they could end up as teammates. And the picture? William Gay, a man many in Steeler Nation derided because he refused to hate Ray Rice, a man accused of same crime which had killed Gay’s own mother.
But my purpose here is not to write another article. Please read on:
[Ivan’s article is a] wonderful rant and while I agree with you on many levels, here’s my problem with forgiveness as it’s being shoved down my throat by Steeler Nation. (Wow, that sounds nothing like me.)
I really have no problem with [Michael] Vick. For reasons I might describe in a much longer comment, I was over that years ago. But here’s my problem with Steeler Nation. Or at least the visible parts of it on social media. Suddenly we’re all supposed to be about forgiveness, second chances, and redemption. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
But really? Where has all this forgiveness and belief in second chances been hiding? No one was more vile and condemning of Ray Rice than members of said Steeler Nation. He was an animal, a pig, a monster, excrement. He should be drummed out of the NFL, in prison, on and on. If you tried to show a little kindness or generosity, you were a deluded Raven fan, a tool of the NFL who should have immediately crucified him or maybe someone who thought it was great to beat the snot out of women.
If anyone should have been in favor of second chances and a little empathy, it should have been those fans who will tell you that Big Ben is a changed man, that James Harrison went through anger management classes and loves his kids…but that isn’t what happened.
I came across the Ray Rice stuff pretty late. I was busy, not paying attention to anything related to football. Then a friend read aloud to me a Steeler fan blog condemnation of Ray Rice–his brutality, the practiced swing indicative of a habitual abuser, his sad excuse for a human being girlfriend/wife who exhibited the usual abuse victim inability to stand up for herself. Or maybe the gold digger mentality that had her marry a man who beat her; and there was his callousness, the way he dragged her out of the elevator as if he’d done it a million times. I forced myself to watch the video of them in the elevator and then watch the press conference they first held.
I was shocked. Not by what happened but by the vindictiveness in the interpretation of Steeler fans who should have or could have felt a little more empathy or generosity because of what they have forgiven in their own players.
I saw a man hit a woman. I didn’t see anything as brutal as the witness description of another football player (whose name I can’t remember) grabbing, holding down and choking a screaming woman. No, the Rice thing wasn’t pretty or pleasant or acceptable behavior. But it was a single blow. It looked pretty fluid but she wasn’t terrified beforehand so it wasn’t as if he was moving in to take a second shot at someone he’d already frightened.
It knocked her out. I once knocked out a friend who was reading over my shoulder and I just meant to give him a good hard shove away from me because it annoyed me. I’m not that strong and he’s not that weak and while I didn’t intend him flowers and chocolates, I really didn’t expect to see blood spurt out of his nose as he lay flat on his back, and it scared me silly.
I can’t even remember what I did in the aftermath but I doubt I looked like a remorseful person, whatever that means. I just wanted to get him back on his feet and conscious again so maybe if we’d been in an elevator I would have just pulled him out by his arms or legs, looking poker faced. I didn’t see Ray Rice cackling in evil glee or grabbing her by her hair. I think at one point, he picks up her purse or puts her legs back together. I only watched it once and I despised myself for being privy to what may have been the worst moments of two people’s lives, now turned into a public spectacle so everyone could despise the both of them. Him as abuser, her as typical brainwashed victim.
I read other pro football team’s fan blogs because of other people in my household. Really, nobody hated Ray Rice as much as Steeler fans. Only once did I read a whole article/post that even mentioned forgiveness or empathy or understanding and that was Chris Carter’s article on Behind the Steel Curtain that focused on the reactions of Willie Gay and Troy Polamalu.
Willie said only the victims mattered and he wasn’t interested in punishing Rice. Troy said we’ve all sinned and should forgive. Only a few people commented, although those few comments were moving and honest and worth everything else ugly. Then someone hijacked comments with a “WOW, you made Yahoo News!” and something that mattered became something that didn’t. Then it all went back to hating Ray Rice the monster.
If the NFL and the Ravens organization are guilty of anything, it’s not using the opportunity to have a real national discussion about men hitting women. It’s not done by monsters. It’s done by men who use physical force or threat to deal with anger or frustration.
Some may be monsters. Some might be decent men who did terrible things or bad things or stupid single time things they would be ashamed of immediately afterwards with no pressure to confess or apologize. Some women who get hit or shoved or threatened can no longer stand up for themselves and believe they deserve it. Some are nothing like that “typical victim,” but women trying to keep their families together—who genuinely love men who need to learn how to manage their anger. None of us know where Ray Rice and his wife fit into that spectrum–but very few of us were willing to allow him or them a chance.
Now I’m supposed to believe that all these Steeler fans who at the very least didn’t object to descriptions of Ray Rice as a pig/monster/whipping boy were really people who are personally committed to forgiveness and redemption?
Steeler fans don’t forgive Neil O’ Donnell for something that happened years ago and (most likely) wasn’t intentional. They don’t forgive LaMarr Woodley for injuries that most likely caused his weight gain and loss of mobility, but instead insist he was lazy and fat and got his money, so now he just lays around on the couch eating cream pies. They don’t forgive Rashard Mendenhall for fumbling in the Super Bowl (“Fumble Machine,” although statistics prove otherwise), for making a few twitter comments they didn’t like (terrorist sympathizer, race card player, weirdo) or for being so alienated from the team he didn’t show up for a game (quitter/pansy/coward).
They don’t even forgive Manny Sanders or Mike Wallace for being a couple of mouthy kids who moved onto to different teams. Second chances? Blount apologized for his behavior–did anyone say he deserved a second chance?
It’s not even just ex-Steelers who are treated with contempt and viciousness. There were several articles and hundreds of comments on a Steelers blog attacking Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch as a classless thugs, following situations which had nothing to do with the Steelers, and from people who knew very little about either player.
I’ve read long long attacks on the city of Cleveland, the fan base of Cleveland and the Browns, things that went on–literally–for three days and hundreds of comments and there were very few comments that said “Come on, this is ridiculous, not the whole city, not every fan, not the whole team.” I’ve seen those kinds of objections on a regular basis on other fan blogs when people made absurd generalizations. Who cares that much in trashing Cleveland?
But it’s not just that city. Read a Steelers fan blog. They hate every other team and all the fans. And again, while it may be a few that start these attacks, lots of people chime in and there are very few voices calling for reason.
I’ve spent most of my adult life living outside Pittsburgh so I’ve watched games for years in bars in the cities of the teams they were playing against. I’ve never been treated badly, I’ve never formed a bad impression of other city’s fans, and often I meet people I like even though we cheer for teams who are competing that day.
And it’s not just teams, fans and cities. Steelers fans hate every single announcer and color commentator. They’re all idiots—they know nothing. They hate the Steelers. Tunch and Bill Hillgrove? Idiots and homers.
In fact, Steelers fans hate each other. Homers or Debbie Downers. Bandwagon fans, even though the Steelers have millions of fans world wide because they were successful in the past, so, um, a lot of those fans got on the bandwagon at some point. Or my favorite. Want to know how to sneer at other Steeler fans? They DIDN”T BUY THE RIGHT JERSEY THIS YEAR!!! You need to know the rules!
So I find it difficult to believe all these professed deep personal beliefs that everyone deserves another chance, that all it takes is paying your dues and you should be accepted back into the fold, that we should forgive and forget.
I think people with very few real values who like to believe in their own superiority because they are fans of a professional sports team are trying to deny real issues of morality and discomfort to make it easier for themselves to sit, half drunk, on Sunday afternoon and yell at their televisions.
Further note from Rebecca: I haven’t been able to identify the author of this, but if s/he will let me know I will happily credit it.