"didn't you grow up in Cleveland?"
"then why are you a Steelers fan?"
good question. actually, I was born in Allentown, PA, and the Steelers were my team before my family moved to Cleveland when I was 5 years old.
"but that's eastern PA, shouldn't you be an Eagles fan?"
I've been dealing with these questions for as long as I can remember. I myself have often wondered how I became a Steelers fan (Dad likes the Packers and Mom roots for the Browns) Then, one day, my older Brother recounted the story to me (I was too young when it happened to remember), just as I'm now recounting it for you. Enjoy:
It was January 20th, 1980, and I was just under 3 years old. The Pittsburgh Steelers (defending champs) were playing the Los Angeles Rams for the Superbowl title. Gathered at my parents' house were a collection of their friends who had come over to watch the game. Living in eastern PA, many of them were Philadelphia fans and they had given my brother and I matching Eagles jackets in an effort to bend us toward the dark side. Apparently, when Pittsburgh won 31 to 19, I took off the jacket, threw it to the ground and declared to all assembled that I was a Steelers fan. And so it has been ever since. Even at such a young age, I knew a winner when I saw one.
At the age of 5, my family moved to Cleveland so my Dad could attend podiatry school here and my allegiance came with me. My Mom took up an affinity for the Browns and we've bet on nearly every game the two teams have played since. In 1987 we went to a game at the old stadium and I was on the news for being a little kid who was stupid/crazy/ballzy enough to wear black and yellow in a sea of brown and orange--folks kept threatening to throw me into the dawg-pound. In grade school I caught no end of crap for wearing Steelers garb on special "Browns dress down days" in the late 80's when Cleveland was reeling in the Kosar years. I've been yelled at, threatened, hit, shunned and hated all for staying loyal. Of course, this city's football record doesn't really offer much to induce traitorous thoughts, but that's another story.
See, the Steelers are my team, but Cleveland is my city.
I've now lived in the Cleveland area for almost 85% of my life, and regardless of my football team, it is my city. I grew up here. I'm hard pressed to find a building downtown in which I haven't worked or a parking lot where I haven't changed outfits for a gig. I've lived through the surrounding passions and let-downs of every major sports team being almost good enough. I know where to find free parking. I know which exit to take. I live on the east side, but I'll still drink on the west side. I understand how unusual that last sentence is. I know the people throwing the parties and I know the sound techs, too. I'll easily navigate University Circle. I'll get to Coventry faster than you. I'll tell you at any time how close you are to a Subway or Chipotle. I live in the 440, but I am always 216. I partied in the Flats. I've danced in the Warehouse. I've drank in the dives. I've skied in the lake. I've watched some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world from illegal rooftops. I've lived in East Cleveland and been a guest in Bratenahl. I know this town probably better than you. And so I, still a Steelers fan, even want the Browns to be good again, because it means so much to the people around me, with whom I have grown, lived, laughed and loved.
And I congratulate you on your win last week.
Enjoy it, cause we're gonna kick your ass next year. Twice.