The idol worship is strong
One of my first brushes with fandom came while I was waitressing at Marty’s Market in the Strip. I served plenty of famous people, including Rose Leslie, or, as most know her, the pale red-headed Ygritte from Game of Thrones. I immediately recognized her and proceeded to trip all over myself in glee.
My reaction to the badass, sole-female Wildling paled in comparison to the frenzy that arose when Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins came into our restaurant. Everyone in the place -- patrons, staff, infant children -- seemed overcome by his celebrity as they nervously whispered and gawked and snapped photos. I continued to bus tables in a state of utter confusion.
I firmly believe there is an unspoken level of commitment amongst Pittsburgh’s sports fans that makes them stand apart from the rest. And keeps me completely isolated.
According to my sports guru Faith, the sports culture of the city can’t be talked about without mention of icons like Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby. “People name their dogs after these men. They are not athletes; they are worshipped.”
Being a fan in Pittsburgh means you love your team and players unconditionally. “Even when they lose for 20 years straight, you are a fan.” Pittsburgh-based fans make a “commitment like a marriage to [their] Pirates, Pens, and Steelers. We're scary, but we're loyal.”
About that time they flipped a car...
Since moving here, I’ve heard stories about Steelers fans being violently faithful to their teams -- i.e., setting the nearest object on fire in a fit of rage or glory. What I have seen is the small but constant gestures Pittsburgh fans make to prove their loyalty. Like the horrendous (and overpriced) Steelers purses I used to sell when I was working at a boutique in the South Hills. A store, I should mention, that considered itself upscale, yet still carried a slew of Made in China sports-themed accessories, including Penguins earrings. These flew off the shelves.
Faith, whose mother has both a doctorate and a visible Steelers tattoo, also believes that the rabid fandom is more evident in the mundane acts than the extreme ones.
“I know a lot of people with Steelers tattoos, Steelers basements, and jerseys for every day of the week. It's the consistent, year-round craziness and everyone's in on it -- even if you're not, you are.” Faith also added that, at 14, her parents brought her to a celebration for the 2005 Super Bowl. A car was turned over, people jumped onto said car, and subsequently lit a teddy bear on fire, in that order.
Thus far, I’ve never had any overtly negative experiences with fans in Pittsburgh. Despite hearing about gnarly fights between Steelers and Browns fans, I think my neutrality is regarded as a mild annoyance at best. And the same can be said for my feelings towards most fans. Sure, I’d rather not have to listen to you and your 15 closest friends talk loudly about the baseball game you’re en route to as you all manspread me into the tightest corner of the trolley. My feelings towards the general sports atmosphere in Pittsburgh only reaches disgust levels when it begins to inundate my everyday life.