Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans will argue vehemently, even to the point of rabid foaming and torpedo-like spit-fire action, that the Men of Steel sport the greatest colors in all of sports: Black and Gold, capital letters!
Occasionally, many teams will brand alternate jerseys for both a fresh (albeit temporary) look and a few "hard-earned" bucks. The Steelers are among those teams. In fact, this offseason, they've already unveiled a garment that can be most respectfully described as... non-conservative?
Indeed, the upcoming 80th anniversary alternate uniforms look like a cross between an outfit from a prison break scene in the upcoming summer blockbuster "The Dark Knight Rises" and an off-color version of something that might be worn by the star character of the book series, Where's Waldo, albeit with a helmet instead of a winter cap. (Pssst... his name is Waldo!)
Nevertheless, even considering the visual attack on the corneas showcased by the newest Steelers wardrobe, those wearing the jersey this season will still be representing the team. They'll just be sporting a less aesthetically pleasing type of Pittsburgh jersey, still mindful of the proud Black and Gold tradition. You see, those colors say "Steelers!"
Pink...says something completely different. And, certainly that is not Steelers, albeit a jersey or anything else. Certainly, the pink Terrible Towel did not make my list of the top team rally towels!
A pink Steelers jersey is not a jersey at all. It's a pink shirt, fashioned like a jersey, that just happens to feature a athlete's name and number.
For those who wear it because they look great in pink, with no mind for the team and no intention of going to a game, so be it; a pink shirt is a pink shirt! But, for the proud fan sporting this uniform unabashedly around Heinz Field or at the local pub on select Sundays, I'd say two things:
1) Recognize you are not wearing a Steelers jersey.
2) Why not go with the Black and Gold? Just...why??!!
Anybody with a sense of history realizes that the pink jersey is an abomination of football culture and team identity. It's fine for a good cause (the color pink and sales of pink merchandise do fund breast cancer research, which I adamantly support), but not for a jersey, and certainly not for a jersey worn at Heinz Field opposed to team colors.
Yet, for every Steelers fan who stands by this conviction, a counter-personality on the topic honestly has the nerve to try to convince that a pink jersey is every bit the same degree of a proud team item.
Well, keep fighting the good fight, Black n' Yellow jersey lovers!
After all, every great identity has a counter-identity to deal with. Before finishing his famous invention, the general public felt that Thomas Edison had blown a bulb in the brain! In a basic analogy, for every person or thing that seems to make sense, there's a "Johnny Cochran" out there ready to argue that the glove doesn't fit.
I deal with droves of fans who insist nothing is wrong with a pink jersey being worn in support of the Steelers. They're my counter-personality.
Obviously, these keynote events were of historical importance. Am I inflating the need for understanding that a pink jersey is inherently not one in the Steel City? Sure. Undaunted, I will never give up the good fight that is bringing this concern to the surface, no matter the scope of its importance against other, more "worldly" topics!
Once upon a time, team colors were chosen. Some teams, like the Vikings, chose manly purple. Other teams showed some pride. One of these franchises was Pittsburgh. They chose a mascot to represent a work ethic and a blue-collar attitude. The team resembled that image: tough-nosed, gritty, hard-hitting, rocking, knocking, START BLOCKING or GET WALKING. Period.
Unfortunately, the "winning edge" part of the equation took a little while.
Until the 1970's, of course...
You know those images, don't you? Mean Joe looking across the line with those piercing eyes. Underrated Jack Ham finishing off the tackle. The images, memories and legacy that are associated with the Steelers illustrate a history of toughness and commitment to that image. Black with grit. Gold with success.
The Steelers' color scheme is extremely recognizable, an arguably perfect, unarguably meaningful and frankly historic garb that immediately evokes the emotions and memories of years of tradition. For fans, it's love; for enemies, that feeling is ire.
Here in Pittsburgh, being a Steelers fan is an identity predicated on an appreciation for a blue-collar team that shows its colors with pride and actions. Nouns such as tenacity, grit and perseverance come to mind. The pink Steelers jersey, as any sane person can already tell you, inherently counters this belief set all together, whether the notion angers the reader or not.
Frankly, there is a reason no NFL team's main color scheme features pink.
Frankly, I believe any true fan with even the smallest degree of reverence for the team's history and identifying attributes would not even consider this jersey, perhaps with the exception of a gift for a young, adolescent daughter who may someday (here's hoping!) realize that she wants a "real one."
Wearing a Pink Steelers Jersey Requires the Act of 5 Different Sins, in This Order
1. Acknowledging the jersey's existence. (Which isn't so bad. I'm technically doing this by talking about the jersey. Don't relax, yet... the acts get progressively worse.)
2. Touching the jersey. (Historical recounts seem to show that Johnny Tremain's hand was burnt not by a metal-shop accident, but by touching a pink Steelers jersey!)
3. Considering purchasing the jersey. (Tsk, tsk!)
4. Purchasing the jersey. (Tsk-er, tsk-er!)
5. Wearing it. (Possibly the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity! But, then again, this action is its own sort of infidelity!)
Before I go any further, let me clarify a key, possibly uncomfortable point, that simply cannot go unstated. Fair or not, the reality is that Americans condition the concept of pink being for girls and blue for boys. I'd be almost as against a key lime jersey if the team wasn't associated with that color in any way. And, if a distributor unveiled a brand new bright red Steelers jersey, I'd be hot under the collar just the same over it.
Yet, I'm not going to tell you that pink isn't a bit more bothersome to me, because it is. We are socialized with concepts for colors, and that same attitude about those colors is a reason that pink is not a part of any team's standard color scheme, I guarantee you. Like it or not.
Likewise, I realize the NFL players wear pink gloves, shoes, bands and other paraphernalia during Breast Cancer Awareness month, but note that there are no fully pink jerseys worn on the field. Imagine why!
Breast Cancer Awareness is one of the strongest forums used by those who debate my stance on pink jerseys.
Let it be known that I'm all for wearing pink, especially in support of a great cause. Just not pink jerseys...
Likewise, I love players' participation in raising awareness, money and hopefully education regarding a disease that far too many people are stricken with.
But don't try telling me that my argument against a pink jersey in some way diminishes the efforts of a great cause. My issue rests in the jersey's inherent hypocrisy, particularly when worn at the field on game day by those who don't feel there is any difference.
For those who still don't recognize this hypocrisy, I can recite a true story as if it happened to me yesterday, and not years ago as is actually the case.
I was walking down Philadelphia Street in a town near Pittsburgh (the irony of that statement is not lost on me), and I saw a woman who was wearing a Jack Lambert jersey. The name Lambert evokes images of that toothy snarl, that menacing stance and his passionate tenacity, and play the image of his dominance again and again in your head. The iconic linebacker wore his team's jersey proudly, playing for the team as much as himself—fact. There was one problem with this young lady's choice of attire:
The jersey was pink.
I repeat: Jack Lambert.
I repeat: It was pink.
A PINK JACK LAMBERT JERSEY.
Replay those Lambert slides in your imagination, but put him in pink. Don't worry if you can't do that. I failed as well. I think some sort of mental defense mechanism kicks in.
The concept of a pink Steelers jersey is a complete oxymoron traditionally and an utter marketing sell-out stylistically. Those who love pink should wear pink, but teams have colors to create an identity and sense of tradition. Tradition should be honored. Jerseys should not be pink.
If I wore a pink jersey in Jack Lambert's presence with his name on it, I'm almost certain that I'd get discipline dealt to me. That would fall under the category "fatal wish."
Still, people buy 'em up!
The sales market is a place for trends, and the trend today is glamour. Is pink the perfect solution for those too caught up in their own identity to wear team colors?
In my ears ring the rebuttal of the wearers: "I just don't look good in black!" Raise your hand if you've heard it followed by "...but I look great in pink!"
My response is typically, "In my opinion, those jerseys can be made black and gold again in a hurry... by dumping some oil on them and topping with gasoline (and a lit match)."
The great answer for those who want to fit in at the tailgate but not wear black and gold (or whatever color may apply) because it draws attention to their pale skin due to contrast (or any number of reasons that shouldn't matter) is this: it makes you look like a "fan-fake" to anybody who actually gives any sort of a damn about the team.
If you don't think that is true, then you are one of those who would surely have no issue with anyone else going along with the trend. Well, how about everyone else?!
Imagine as droves of fans have the nerve to show up to games... TO GAMES!... at Heinz Field, the place where a Steelers atmosphere is supposed to be created! Instead of the big ketchup bottle, Steelers fans would take in NFL entertainment at the venue dubbed "The Pink Punch Bowl."
What's next? "I don't think light colors look good on me! Let's wear black to the wedding!"
Sometimes, colors just fit an event.
So, for those of you who own or have worn a pink Steelers jersey, remember: Mistakes are okay so long as we learn from them. Do the right thing.
Convert to Black and Gold.
Oh, and I think green ketchup is stupid, too.......