Monday, February 02, 2009

Opening the Sixth Seal.

Perhaps you are aware that I am not a big football fan. This is a longstanding condition for me, and one that puts me at odds with the majority of Americans. Still it is not an essential discordance because (subjectively) I have a lot of opinions and preferences that nudge me well outside of the mainstream. So I likely wouldn't fixate on my avoidance of watching the NFL (and the college and high school equivalents) if I didn't live in Pittsburgh. Admitting that you don't care about the Steelers is like claiming you don't care about the availability of clean water. It's the kind of statement that invites a combination of disdain, disbelief, and/or outright confusion. I'm well used to it.

One might assume that such a position would be wholly inconvenient. But actually I have found it quite useful as a convenient excuse to screen people completely from my personal life. Whether or not there is common ground to be found elsewhere, our incompatibility is made quite obvious by my almost total lack of concern for the outcome of the preeminent Sunday sporting event. I use this like a defensive barrier, the way that others employ religion (or the lack of it) for similar reasons. I have become quite satisfied over the years with my lack of alignment with this group. It is only occasionally that it becomes any sort of social problem for me, and even in these cases a negotiation is quickly struck.

When the Steelers won the Super Bowl a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by a sense of disgust in humanity. I considered it personally offensive that Burghers would prioritize something that had so little real significance (at least to me). I didn't understand yet how indelibly the team's success was wrapped into the self-identity of its fan base, and (as an extension) the region. Like virtually everyone I have ever met, I'm sometimes willfully ignorant of others, and consumed with myself. I put myself above such "irrational" loyalties, and I suppose I even adopted a condescending attitude toward those that (to borrow a term from a good friend) bought into "the construct".

The truth is that I've come to reconsider my views. I haven't yet decided to actively participate in following this team... but I will admit to having rooted for the Steelers for the first time in my entire life. They represent something to many of my closest friends, and to shit on their love for the team seems flagrantly disrespectful. I want to see my city happy, and if this is what it takes... well then so be it. It doesn't hurt that I have a newfound esteem for individual members of the Rooney family, who unaccountably turned out to share my political leanings. I'll happily disclose that their relationship with Barack Obama over the past year has been something I've appreciated substantially.

When I told one Terrible Towel-wielding fanatic about my change-of heart vis-a-vis the Steeler Nation, he responded that my reason was perhaps the worst he had ever heard. Although I stand by the original justification, I decided that it might be time to expand my rationalizations. Here's what I came up with: each Super Bowl victory the Pittsburgh Steelers win earns them one ring. Each ring opens up another seal. I'm sure you can follow the logic from there. In the mythology of this region, one more victory (by the year 2012) will allow a transmutation of the consciousness along the Three Rivers. I see this in something other than apocalyptic terms. The playing field has been expanded infinitely.

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