Monday, September 5, 2011

So It Begins

And finally it is here.  September.  Which means one thing around here.  Football.  I knew this already:  you watch football three days a week (high school, college and Steelers), and talk about it the other four.  The Pirates must be so relieved, the spotlight suddenly and irrevocably turned off their stunning slide from first to worst.  The Penguins will get some press when training camp starts later this month, but for this brief moment, it is all about the pigskin.

And, of course, this is what I have waited for all of my life.  To be here and part of this.  I worried that I would miss being the big Black and Gold fish in a Cowboy pond, and there is no denying there is nothing whatsoever that stands out about me until I open my mouth to a Texan-like drawl.  I drive the same car about one in four people do here, it even now has a Pennsylvania plate on the back and a stunning Six Time Super Bowl decorative plate on the front, I dress like EVERYBODY else, in one of the "oldest" counties in the country I'm about the median age, and I love my team.  Nothing special here.  But, I find I am, so far anyway, happy to be a member of the herd, because at least I am close to the action.

I do feel the inner competitiveness creeping in with this strong urge to out black and gold my neighbor, however.  When I first moved in, I thought we had the potential to be great friends, as I may have mentioned before.  He had his house decked out in equal parts Steeler and Penguins, he is about my age and has an adult child that lives at home.  With so much in common, I figured we were sure to click.  Wrong.  We call them The Mikes.  Mike, Mike Jr. and Mrs. Mike.  We call them that because the husband, Mike, is the only one any of us have been truly introduced to.  Mike was cordial enough initially.  Mike Jr. can be fairly nice in passing, which he should be since we didn't call the cops on his beer pong party that got a little out of hand a few weeks ago, but Mrs. Mike?  Well, she's a stone cold [deleted].  I would put it down to them not liking the dogs, which I don't think they do, or being upset about the fence, which I think they might be, but they were like that in the four months before the fence went up and the dogs got here.  And, I understand they were not too warm and fuzzy with the woman who lived here before.  Of course everyone in the neighborhood talks about her by saying, "well, she was really old."  Or, "she really didn't want to give up the house."  I always picture someone who was pretty much like Mom in her later years - stubborn, proud and senile enough to be infuriating.  Nonetheless, I don't particularly take their snubs personally, they are just less-than-friendly people.  But, there can be no denying that the two male Mikes are big sports fans.  So, at one point during the summer they acquired wind chimes like my little Steelers ones, only theirs are about four times as big.  So, now his big ass wind chimes sit out there next to his gas grill cover that looks like a Steeler jersey and just sing to me to meet the challenge.  I am trying to fight the urge to try and outdo them in their Steeler-ishness and just accept it takes all kinds to make up a nation and his bigger wind chimes don't make me less of a fan, but I will probably lose the fight to some regard.  I already decorate the front of the house pretty elaborately on game days, and I have naturally gathered up some new swag during the off season.  My guess is that I will have enough of a chip on my shoulder that I will feel compelled to make sure that, whatever the Mikes put up as of next week, I've got one more banner flying than he does.

From the PPG Zoo and Aquarium Blog
But, for me, banners and wind chimes aside, as the fall begins to enter the area and slowly the leaves on the trees begin to turn, deciding what to do balanced out with work may be the biggest worry.  I've written about the battle of pulling myself out the door and allowing myself some fun.  As the festivities of an NFL town that loves its team ramped up this weekend, the city seemed to have answered me and made it impossible to stay cooped up.  It's like an orgy of activity:  we had the Steelers Pep Rally at the zoo on Saturday, Pitt opened its season that night,  the Steelers 5K was the next morning.   Going forward, there will be player appearances and other little charity events during the week and, of course, real, live football on Sunday.  I'm like a kid in a candy store suddenly, some of the weight of a tough summer falls away with the promise of this new season.

For Greg it is completely different.  This fall may be the true litmus test if he can make it here, or if he even really wants to.  On Saturday, as he and Marissa struggled to find a feed on the Internet of the Texas-Rice game, I think we all had a taste of how hard it will be for him to be away from what he knows and loves.  He's spent the summer telling me it doesn't matter to him, he was ready to leave.   He said it because he believed it. But, the rubber is now hitting the road.  I'm not sure he won't feel the sting of homesickness more poignantly than he thought he would.  I don't know if it is really football he will miss, but everything that has defined him for a half century, which includes Longhorn and Cowboy football.   The game, or rather the lack of it, will bring all of that cascading down on him.

I have to try and be sensitive to that as we move forward, me reveling in the newness of being at the heart of the Steeler Nation and him finding himself an outsider in a foreign land.  Maybe he'll end up relishing the role of being the Blue and Silver fish in the Steeler pond, and then my only worry is making sure no one beats him up because they really don't like the Cowboys around here.  But, for now, I think as I dress up the house for the opening weekend, I will need to remember to hang a Cowboy flag alongside my four Steeler ones.

And, Comcast, you could help a little if you'd only offer the Longhorn Network...

Courtesy of (it was better than anything I took)

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