September 6, 2011

Pittsburgh: America’s Best Sports Town

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In my 20 and three quarter years on this planet (hoping no one from Dunbar’s reads this), I have come across two universal truths that I think everyone can agree upon: 1. Barry Bonds is the biggest asshole to ever step on a baseball diamond, and 2. Lady Gaga is definitely not a human being. Other than that, I can’t really make any other definitive conclusions about sports, pop culture, politics or anything else that a good writer would talk about; however, for my inaugural column in The Sun, I am going to use the city of Pittsburgh, Pa. as the main topic, and make a case for why it is the best sports town in America.

Let’s pause for a second. If you are from the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, New York or Chicago, you are probably thinking something along the lines of “wow, I am already annoyed by this guy,”  and “wait, when was the last time the Pirates were over .500?” or “is Pittsburgh an East Coast city or is it in the Midwest?” Let me assure you that I really don’t care what you think or where you are from, and that whatever I say in this article and every article I write from now on, is basically the truth. So you can either choose to bang your head against the lunch table that you are sitting at in Trillium, or read some of the cold, hard facts (thank you Coors Light) that I am about to lay down about the most loyal fan base in the world.

When determining whether a city can be considered a “sports town” or not, there are three main factors that go into my decision-making process. They are: the strength of the fan base nationwide, a dedication to all professional, college, and high school teams in the city, and the overall success and historical achievements of the most prominent professional franchises. I know these criteria are somewhat subjective, but after about ten minutes of deliberation, I concluded that I didn’t really feel like coming up with more reasons, and even if I did, I would run out of room in this column.  So just deal with it.

Reason No. 1: Strength of Fan Base

Ever hear of Steeler Nation? This club consists of those people who don’t actually live in Pittsburgh, but show up to away games donning Steelers gear and wave a towel that annoys everyone in the stadium except for the players wearing black and gold. You probably saw them in Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks, where there were so many Steelers fans there that Mike Holmgren, head coach of the Seahawks at the time, thought he was playing an away game, and that the referees were giving in to the demands of the crowd. You definitely saw them in Super Bowl XLIII, where the entire crowd was wearing Steelers colors, intermixed with a little bit of Cardinal red. The bottom line is that Pittsburgh fans travel, and some, like, would say that they travel better than any other fan base in America.

Also, any Pittsburgher reading this article would probably kill me if I didn’t mention the 1500-plus bars and restaurants located around the world that are dedicated solely to Pittsburgh sports. Anywhere you go, there is a good chance you will be able to watch the Steelers, Penguins, or Pirates play. In fact, there are so many Pittsburgh bars, that every time one of my friends from Pittsburgh studies abroad, I always find the classic Facebook picture of him and all of his boys in front of a bar in Spain or Rome with a Steelers or Penguins logo. It is actually starting to annoy me.

Reason No. 2: Dedication to all professional, college, and high school teams in the city

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (the primary Pittsburgh newspaper), but if I see one more eight page spread solely dedicated to high school football, basketball, or baseball, I am going to throw up in my mouth. However, the point I am trying to make is that Pittsburgh is a city that is crazed about sports. When I played football, it was not unusual to have 20,000 people at playoff games and, if I even began to list the amount of professional athletes from Western Pennsylvania, I would run out of room in this article. From my high school alone, there are more than 19 students who have gone to play in the NFL, including Dan Marino and Marc Bulger. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh basketball team has sold out every single regular season game for the past seven years. These are numbers that you just do not see in any other city in the U.S.

Reason No. 3: Success of professional franchises

Six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups and seven World Series Championships. Need I say more? Well, I don’t feel like writing anymore, and I am pretty sure I am out of words for this article, so, in the words of Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa, “get on my level.”

Original Author: Nicholas Rielly