© Potok’s World Photography
Pittsburgh embraces Steelers players, and it is no surprise that retired Steelers maintain close ties to the community. I imagine it’s not unusual to see your favorite players from yesteryear at games.
As an out-of-towner, however, I was jumping up and down with excitement when I saw Lynn Swann mingling on the sidelines before the Sunday Night Football game against the Ravens.
I grew up idolizing the Steelers receiver after seeing his gravity-defying catches on a Super Bowl highlights tape we had when I was a boy. I practiced catching passes for hours in our yard, repeatedly hurling myself to the ground diving to grab difficult throws. I wore No. 88 in high school in the hope that it would give my idol’s ability to catch any pass thrown my way. But I never imagined that I would have a chance to see my hero in person.
Sports never mean as much to you as they do when you’re young. The realization that your heroes are flawed and the grind of everyday life usually dull your passion for the game. But sports can occasionally surprise us and remind us why we liked them in the first place.
Gracious and accommodating, Swann took a moment to slap hands with the fans gathered along the fence separating the stands. When he gave me a high five, I felt, for a brief moment, the purity of my boyhood love for the game. And that rare treat wouldn’t have happened in a city that doesn’t appreciate its players the way Pittsburgh does.