A Steelers Fan's Passion: Bleeding Black and Gold Is All I've Ever Known

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IMay 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH - FEBRUARY 03: Fans react during a parade for the Pittsburgh Steelers to celebrate winning Super Bowl XLIII on February 3, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Roughly five miles away from my home in Canton, Ohio there’s a building and a football field. The building has a domed roof, and the football field is kept up throughout the year. Roughly nine minutes away from me is George Halas Drive.  And on that road lays Fawcett Stadium and, more importantly, the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Upon entering this famed structure, one's eyes are immediately greeted with a seven-foot tall sculpture of Jim Thorpe, the rest is completely up to your own personal explorations. You can be astounded, amazed, or simply overwhelmed by the amount of history enshrined in one building in a small Ohio city.

My first trip is still a very vivid memory. It was in 1996, I was five years old and accompanied my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin to the building. Little did I know that one trip would transform my life forever, in a number of ways.

I was all decked out in my Kordell Stewart jersey, which I had received that year for my birthday, and I couldn’t help but notice the repetition of the words "Pittsburgh" and "Steelers" among all of the jerseys, game balls, and busts.

As of 2009, there are 23 members of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

I watched every Steelers game I could from that visit on. Often times I’d have to sneak into the living room and watch the game, due to it being a school night.  And often times, I’d find myself falling asleep in school.

While all the other kids were playing with Pokemon cards and talking about the newest episode of Power Rangers, I was collecting football cards and anticipating the next time I’d be able to watch the Steelers play.

By no means am I saying I was a die hard Steelers fan back then, at least not in comparison to myself today.

I suppose I was lucky picking the Steelers as my team, as I’ve only had to witness three losing seasons in 13 years.

When I was in the fifth grade, I was given the opportunity to play the game I’d watched oh so many times on television. I remember playing and absolutely hating it.  It was cold, I had to run, and I was sore all the time.  But one thing my parents instilled in me is that once you start something you HAVE to finish it, you can’t quit.

“Never quit.”  I guess my parents are closet Steelers fans, eh?

One practice, our coach had told us to watch the NFL players that played our positions and emulate what they do, strive to be like them.

I watched Jerome Bettis run people over, spin off of them, and freeze them with a simple stutter step.  And I fell in love. I wanted to be like that, I wanted the power to run people over but along with that power, I wanted the elusiveness to be able to shake the checks off of their Nikes.

I studied the Steelers players, offense and defense, trying and hoping to be just like them. My school coaches didn’t teach me the game of football, the Pittsburgh Steelers did. They play the game of football the way that it’s supposed to be played.

You run early and run often, passing when needed, but always going back to the well that is the running game. On defense, you stop the run, first and foremost. All linebackers, at any level, are taught to step into their gap to defend the run before dropping back into pass coverage.

In any sport, winning is everything. The Pittsburgh Steelers epitomize a winning organization. That’s such a draw when you’re a young sports fan—jump on the bandwagon, right?

I’ve been an extremely lucky fan, watching the Steelers win so often, including two Super Bowls. It’s just a phenomenal experience, especially for someone with such emotional ties to the game and the team as me.

I’m not even sure I can classify my passion as "fandom."  It’s more love then anything else. It takes me back years upon years, sitting with my grandpa watching my Steelers beat his Cleveland Browns. It definitely brings back great memories for me.

Living in Canton, I’ve, of course, been surrounded by Browns fans and grew up in a house with casual sports fans. During high school, nearly all of my friends were fans of the Browns, and that certainly made any week that the two teams were playing extremely interesting.

I’m certain that for thousands of other fans, football isn’t just a "game"—it’s a brotherhood, a family.  It has it’s ups and downs, but in the end, I can’t control it anymore than I can control my heart and who it falls in love with.

I fell in love with the team as a young boy, and the years have simply breathed new life into that flame.  It burns passionately every day.

I love the game of football...and I love my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.


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