As I sit here and try to recreate the most amazing Mexican food that I’ve been eating for the last 3 weeks right here in my own kitchen, I can’t help but think about the meaning of Steeler Nation. I spent the better part of 3 weeks touring around Mexico from Mexico City (or DF as the locals call it) to Guadalajara, Queretaro, Aguascalientes, and eventually Los Cabos. I was playing music with a jazz/rock group called A Love Electric and we dazzled large crowds all throughout the country. It was amazing. Needless to say, I thought it would be who of me to look in to how far south Steeler Nation really goes and what I found was pretty amazing.
From what I could find, there are 5 Steeler bars in Mexico (I’ll list them at the bottom of this post in case you ever go down there during the season). Now, I’m not just talking about the places with mostly Americans and English speaking Mexicans like Los Cabos. I’m talking about real Mexico.
That bit is important.
The biggest of the 5 bars is Boix Noix, right in down town Mexico City. Unfortunately, being a musician and having shows every night I was in Mexico City, I was never able to visit the bar myself, but I found some pretty cool stuff on them and met some pretty cool Steelers fans while I was there. I walked around sporting my Steelers gear during the day only to have people stop me in the street to say “hey man, here we go Steelers!” Which I can only assume is literally the only English those people speak at all.
I found that most people in “real” Mexico don’t really speak English at all, unless working in a hotel or sometimes restaurants, and since I don’t speak much Spanish I had some communication issues while I was down there. You see, I spent 5 years studying French, and even spent some time over there, but that doesn’t really do ya much good when everyone speaks Spanish.
After about a week of total immersion I was able understand about half the things I would hear. I was getting better at recognizing certain situational talking, and could pick up on most things the dudes in the van (4 of the dudes I traveled with were from Mexico) were talking about. Needless to say, I was always relieved when someone would yell “Go Steelers.” It gave me something to connect with people on, even though we really couldn’t communicate.
During the games over at Boix Noix you can hear chants of “Here we go, Steelers, Here we go!” and “Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl” among other adopted English chants. I know most of them don’t really speak the language, so it was interesting to me how they would adopt English chants for their team. Apparently the owner of Boix Noix organizes a trip to Pittsburgh every year to see a game. He gathers up all the money and tickets and they get over the boarder and to Heinz Field. Their Field of Dreams.
You see, the Steelers are more than just a football team. The Steelers give hope to people who struggle every day in one of the most polluted cities in the world. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t want to paint an ugly picture of Mexico. The people in MX City were beautiful, kind, warm, and welcoming. I fell in love with DF while I was there for that very reason. These people know how to live. A two hour lunch break from 2-4p where they can watch whatever football (soccer) game is on and then go back to work. They often go out on the street and lay down for a nap (construction workers to businessmen in suits), and they have what seems to be a tireless work ethic.
From an early age they learn to hustle on the streets, selling cut off sleeves to drivers at a stop light, meant to protect your left arm from getting burned while it hangs out the window. They sell candy, gum, toys. They break-dance and play with fire. They wash your windows….anything to make an extra buck. I when I go to the store to buy some food and drinks, I rarely every spend more than 30 pecos, or just under $3.
It’s a different world.
I world in which the love of a sports team can be the hope that a family needs to keep pushing on. It’s not unlike the United States in that way. It’s a tough time in this coutnry, and sometimes we rely on sports to give us hope. If nothing else, to give us something to look forward to, and something to believe in.
The Mexicans who crowded around to see Daniel Sepulveda, Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis, who were in Mexico City for a youth football event recently, were there just to lay their eyes on the “Hombres de Acerero,” or “Men of Steel. Here’s the extended PG article on Boix Noix and this event.
In the wake of all this bull shit in professional football – Lockout restored, Rashard’s twittathon, Roethlishberger’s Lake Tahoe trials surfacing again – I sit here, eating my home made Huevos Rancheros, wondering if all these guys remember who they are affecting when they make the decisions they are making. Football is bigger than any one player or one team. Football is hope. Without the Steelers, I never would have been able to make it through my dad’s passing. Plain and simple. I have a feeling there are many more stories out there of people just like me, and people just like those men and women who gather at Boix Noix week in and week out to watch the Men of Steel.
In the words of the people who chanted as Goodell walked on stage for the beginning of the draft: “We want football. We want football!” This thing is bigger than you and me, and it’s bigger than the NFL and it’s bigger than the USA. Players, coaches and owners should start acting that way.
Gringo Dave’s – Puerto Aventuras, Mexico
El Torrito – Old Town – Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
Boix Noix Steelers Place – Calle 3 #6 Valentin Gomez Farias – Mexico DF – Website
Mezquite Stop – Ave. Garza Sada 2338A Monterrey, Neuvo Leon, Mexico
Tequila Barrel – Avenida 5 @ Calle 12 – Playa del Carmen, Mexico