An Entangled Meditation on Browns vs Steelers Part Two
By Ivan Cole
It would have been a difficult weekend, even for those of us with the lightest, most superficial ties to the city and its culture (not to mention that of humanity writ large). However, for me and several others of this little online family of Steelers fans, it cuts closer to the bone.
Although I did not live in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I am an alum of Taylor Allderdice High School, and that community was a major player and influence in my adolescent coming of age. I need not go through the mental gymnastics of trying to imagine the physical layout of the place, its rhythms, the mysteries of the bonds of relationship that define Pittsburgh or that particular part of the city. I lived it.
That being said, my ties are not close to being the richest of those who reside and contribute to this site. While I am certain that I am acquainted with dozens of people with ties to the Tree of Life Synagogue, a facility I rode past every day on my way to school, I have been spared the more searing pain of a more direct relationship with those who perished on Saturday morning. Homer J, whose family has ties to the congregation for decades and who had his own Bar Mitzvah there, was not quite so fortunate. Rebecca lives a few blocks away from the facility, as does Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, and, I believe, Art Rooney II. When I make my annual pilgrimage to Steelers training camp I stay in the Rollett home. Rebecca’s son Adrian, with whom I connected on BSTC some time before I ever met Rebecca, is also an Allderdice alum.
I have never had the honor of direct contact with Howard Fineman, the former editor of Newsweek and the Huffington Post, who has been poignantly reflecting on events on NBC and the pages of the New York Times, but there are a few connections. Like Homer, he was a congregant of the Tree of Life, like me an Allderdice alum who had a Pittsburgh Press paper route when he was a kid, and the three of us contributed articles on Steelers football in an issue of Steelers Annual a few years ago.
All of this to reiterate the directness of this attack on my own experience and many close to me. Though not being Jewish could be considered a degree of separation, it is difficult to spend much time in Squirrel Hill without developing a healthy appreciation for the strengths and vulnerabilities of the Faith and the culture. The Pittsburgh Public Schools did not recognize Jewish holidays, but when eighty five percent of the students of a particular school are Jewish there is not much going on during Rosh Hashanah save for a day-long study hall. When my high school football team played for the City Championship, the game was rescheduled from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon out of respect for the Sabbath.
It even affected the slurs we were subjected to when we traveled to other schools. A pretty, blonde cheerleader from a Northside school eyed me slyly before I headed to the field before a game and said, “You don’t look Jewish to me.” How does a black Christian respond to an antisemitic taunt? Some of my acquaintances in Virginia are mystified with the vehemence of my pushback when someone casually mentions Jewish conspiracies.
It is within this context that the Pittsburgh community was given the healing experience of a Steelers game day. We can say ‘healing’ because Pittsburgh won, and it was Cleveland, that uniquely potent elixir combining the hatred of an archrival with the calming certainty of a Globetrotters/Washington Generals matchup. I am sure that a longitudinal study would prove that a steady diet of this sort of thing would cure cancer among Yinzers. So, despite what preceded it, and is certain to follow, it was an afternoon respite that was both pleasant and appropriate.
Once a year Hombre de Acero journeys from Argentina and graces us with his presence. There was some controversy associated with this year’s visit. Last year Hombre showed up for the Jacksonville game. After that spanking there was some conversation suggesting that this man may be a jinx. Bill Steinbach helpfully suggested that he had contacts at the State Department who could get this guy placed on a no-fly list. Don’t we have enough problems in this country without having some random person from the Southern Hemisphere showing up and infecting us with bad mojo?
After this game (which, minus the brain fart of the free kick was an unqualified success) it is now being contemplated how we can keep Hombre from leaving.
There was some joking around Steelers Nation that in fine Cleveland tradition if the Browns soiled the bed in Pittsburgh yet again, Head Coach Hue Jackson would be summarily fired and left to walk or take the Megabus home. Though he was spared that indignity, maybe because it’s the middle as opposed to the end of the season it was reported this afternoon that Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were given their walking papers.
Two things that are highlighted here: First is the impotence of the diametrically opposite approaches to leadership of the AFC North Ohio teams. There is Cleveland, who like Spectre in the James Bond universe, have little tolerance for failure and have turned Heinz Field into a boneyard for their mistakes. On the other hand, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis is some sort of zombie/vampire who should have been professionally dead years ago but is still animated and stalking the sidelines. Second is the validation that my attacks on Haley weren’t just the frustrated season ending rants of a Steelers fan crazed with grief.
Bob Labriola’s article supports the narrative that Pittsburgh’s recent success is correlating with the physical (meanness) factor.
It’s not how you start…(cont.)
After their loss to Baltimore earlier this season, this week’s coming rematch looked like a crisis moment, a must-win trial for the Steelers. Events of the past month have flipped the script as Pittsburgh has an opportunity to put the dagger to the Ravens’ division and post-season prospects. Which is another reminder that championships are rarely won or lost in September.