by Kathryn Miller Haines
I’ve never been a sports person. I like to play them, I just don’t like to watch them, especially on TV. Part of this probably stemmed from my upbringing. I grew up in San Antonio, TX, where we didn’t have any professional sports teams until the Spurs came along. So when I moved to Pittsburgh I was in for a rude awakening. Suddenly, everywhere I went, people were talking about sports, rearranging their lives to watch televised events, planning their wardrobe to show team support. When the Steelers lost, the mood shift was palpable. When they won, the city became electric.
Frankly, I found the whole thing maddening. What was wrong with people? It was only a stupid game. My husband tried to sway my thinking. He appealed to the historian in me by trying to explain the cultural significance of sports in an economically depressed region – how the 1970's Steelers gave hope to a city that desperately needed it. It was a great story, but it still didn’t keep me from looking forward to going to Target at 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon.
Well something in me changed. I caught, what I believe the experts refer to, as "Steeler fever."
It started late. AFC playoff game late. We were invited to a friend’s house to watch the game and I only agreed to go because said friend can cook. Oh, can she cook. I toted my laptop and some reading material along, anticipating a long, bored night that would be supplemented by a little writing. But as I sat in the living room enjoying the amazing delicacies manufactured by Frito Lay, I found myself getting into the game. Paying attention. Asking questions. Making jokes. Shouting at the television (I mean seriously – what was Limus Swede thinking?!). The laptop went untouched (though, let’s be frank, I’ll do anything to avoid work). At the end of the evening my husband, a tear in his eye, remarked that he was proud of me for sticking it out and actually enjoying myself.
I assumed it was a one time thing, and that by Superbowl Sunday I would be over it.
And then something bad happened (the details aren't important). Our friends invited us to return to their house for the Superbowl, and despite the fact that I wanted to mope and dwell in my pit of despair, I said we should go. And coming off a uniquely terrible week, I threw myself into that game with everything I had. I cheered. I danced. I screamed. I challenged referee calls. I forgot everything but the game in front of me. I began to believe that if they could win this game, anything could happen. And I suddenly got it. This was why sports had become so important to Pittsburgh. Because when things are going bad, you need that little glimmer of hope that comes from a team that, let’s be honest, was sucking hard but still managed to pull it off at the last second.
They made me an optimist again, and for that I thank them.
So what about you? Did you watch? Did you care? Or are you upset that you have to wait until September to once again enjoy that free window of time to get your grocery shopping done?