Imagine a land without football. I lived there. Well, not the football that I was used to.
I was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Ohio. No jokes yet, please! I didn't have to live in Pittsburgh to know that my team was the Steelers: it was in my roots, and the team was making history.
I gravitated toward watching the games, just myself and my Dad. His only rule was to listen and learn—questions would be answered during commercial breaks.
I was a member of Pittsburgh diaspora, watching the odd game, combing the sports columns of the Columbus Dispatch gleaning for articles on my team among the columns weighed down with news of the Buckeyes, Browns and Bengals. I subscribed to Sports Illustrated because it promised a chance of finding articles about my beloved team.
My life as a Steeler fan had always been that of one who loved the team from afar.
Thinking back, following the Steelers was not my highest priority when I decided to take a work study opportunity that would offer me four months living in Dublin, Ireland. It was just a bit further from Pittsburgh.
I landed in the midst of football mania completely oblivious to what I was walking into. This football, however was completely foreign to me.
I was about to experience my first World Cup in a European country that was taking its first ever trip to the finals.
I had no framework through which to understand the rules of the matches that I watched, but I had a team! The Republic of Ireland put forth a spectacular effort, exceeding expectations and advancing as far as the quarterfinals.
The experience of watching a city literally stop and pour into the nearest pub was enough to be a deciding factor in my decision to settle and stay in Dublin for a while.
Throughout the World Cup, the Irish lived up to their reputation. As the Irish say: "The craic was had" aka we took it over the top!
The dust settled and I satiated my love for sport by following the lead of most Dubliners and rooting for Manchester United.
The Internet was in its infancy so Steeler news came in the form of letters from home. I lived with that.
Keeping tabs on the team, I took a trip home to watch the team play in Super Bowl XXX. Feeling the devastation of losing to Dallas after the horrific play of Neil O'Donnell, it was easy to retreat to a Steeler-free oasis.
It didn't take long for the oasis to wither into a desert. I had seen my team get to a Super Bowl. Watching Ryan Giggs put in solid performances on the left wing for United paled in comparison to watching the Steelers.
Seven years after I had left, the time had finally come to return to the States.
Distilling the essence of my life abroad is another story to tell someone else. To my Steeler fan friends, an important lesson was learned. I never take an opportunity to watch the Steelers for granted.
I would not trade the chance I had to live in Dublin for love nor money. A broadened perspective brings insight where you may never have previously imagined.
I had grown up a follower and a fan but as an adult, I learned that life without Steeler football is simply unthinkable.