Saturday, January 12, 2013

Here We Go...

A lot of my friends are Baltimore Ravens fans.  I'm a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  Unfortunately, the Steelers and Ravens have become rivals due to the fact that they are in the same division in the NFL's AFC North, and they are both pretty good year after year.  And when they play against each other, at least twice each season, the games are almost always bitterly close, with only a few points separating them.  But it also puts me on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to rooting for my team when my friends are rooting for theirs.  And that's fine, as long as we don't allow that rooting to spill over into and affect our friendships.  And that has been the case.  I believe we're all intelligent enough to understand how it works.  It would be  ridiculous to allow our love of our teams to affect our friendships.

There are, however, acquaintances of mine who can't understand why I can live in the Baltimore area and not be a Ravens fan.  And they especially can't understand why I can be Steelers fan.  Many believe that it's expected to root for the local team.  In fact, if that were the case, I should've been rooting for the Washington Redskins, since I actually live closer to DC than I do Baltimore.  It's really simple, though, and it has everything to do with the fact that I was raised by my Western Pennsylvania-native father as a Steelers fan.

I was born in 1969, which was the same year that Chuck Noll was hired as the coach of the Steelers, and "Mean" Joe Greene was his first draft choice.  One could argue that this was the beginning of the Steelers reign as an elite team in the NFL.  They started to really have success a few years later, with the "Immaculate Reception" in their first playoff win in 1972, and their fanatic fan base finally had a winner after almost 30 years of losing, since the team's inception.  My childhood was filled with Super Bowl wins by the Steelers, and by the time I was 10 years old, the Steelers had 4 Super Bowl wins, more than double what any other team had.  That made an impression on me.  My Dad and I watched many of the games together and those experiences were really wonderful.

Baltimore had the Colts.  I actually liked the Colts, but I really didn't pay much attention to them since I liked the Steelers better.  But I was sad to see them leave Baltimore for Indianapolis in the mid-80s.  It was brutally unfair to the city of Baltimore, and I shared their loss.  But football goes on, and though the Steelers were not having the success they had previously, I was still a diehard fan.

In the mid-90s, the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.  The Steelers were having great success at the time, and I paid little attention to this "new" team in Baltimore.  Of course, some of my friends, mostly those who had been fans of the Colts, adopted the Ravens as their team, and that's natural.  Since they no longer had a team in Baltimore until the Ravens came along, it would be easy to be a fan.  Since I had always been a Steelers fan, I wasn't about to all of a sudden change my allegiance to some new team, just because they were in the area I lived in.  As the Ravens got better and had success of their own, the games against the Steelers took on much more meaning, and a true rivalry developed, which exists to this day.

My Steelers remain successful, having appeared in three more Super Bowls over the past several years, winning two of them.  They are, as of right now, the only team with six Super Bowl wins.  The Ravens have had a nice run of playoff appearances, and even have a Super Bowl win of their own.  The teams have arguably the best rivalry in professional sports.  But I will never be a Ravens fan.  My Steelers continue to be my team.  I bleed black & gold.  I only hope my Ravens acquaintances can accept that.  And so I will NOT be rooting for the Ravens today in their second round playoff game versus the Denver Broncos.  Why would I root for a bitter rival?  Go Steelers!

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