Normally, I would be snooping through the internet looking for the latest news, rumors, and hot topics going on right now in the NFL offseason. Just like every other member of Steeler Nation, my mind is consumed with Steelers football 24/7, 365 days of the year, and 366 days in this particular year. But my mind has been preoccupied as of late with thoughts, prayers, and hopes for my father. My dad is my hero, always has been and always will be, and right now he’s in a battle bitterer than even the ugliest of Ravens games. He was diagnosed with a stage 4 aggressive lymphoma a little over a week ago and since being admitted into the hospital, has been stricken with pneumonia that has all but completely taken over his lungs. I wouldn’t be the person or the Steeler fan that I am today without my father and at this point; I’d take him getting better than even the most satisfying of Steeler victories.
My father is originally from Trafford, Pa. It’s a very small borough in Westmoreland County just outside of Monroeville. He joined the Navy in 1977 and served 23 dedicated years. When we weren’t living there, Trafford was the vacation destination of my childhood. We never took family trips to the Grand Canyon or Disney World; if it was a holiday or a break from school we were packing up the car and headed home. Growing up in the military, this is where I came to develop my love affair with Pittsburgh because I always associated the city with my father. I loved driving through the mountains and tunnels to see the city emerge before our eyes, and then we knew we were home. In my grandparent’s house, my Pap had his cellar dedicated to the Pittsburgh sports teams. Posters, pictures, and banners of the Steelers of the 70’s, the ’79 “We are Family” Pirates, and the Penguins memorabilia were displayed along with my uncles’ football and wrestling pictures sprinkled in throughout the walls. I used to look at these in awe and amazement as a child. The love affair with Pittsburgh grew to the point that although I graduated high school in sunny Orlando, I headed off to the University of Pittsburgh. Watching a Steeler game at my grandparent’s house was an event. We would all be in the living room except for my grandmother, who would stay in the kitchen and in between preparing food for us; she’s be cursing and swearing at the TV louder than the rest of us.
I learned at a very young age to not ask a whole lot of questions during the Steeler games. My Pap or my dad weren’t interested in having to explain the game while they were trying to watch, so I learned to just sit back and pay attention. I watched as much as I could and took in everything. I even started watching college football to keep up with the PA teams and follow the players where they ended up in the NFL. I always wanted to impress my dad so I memorized all kinds of stats and all the Steelers info I could consume. The 80’s and early 90’s weren’t the best times to be a Steeler fan. I remember more swearing at the TV than anything else. When Bill Cowher took over coaching, I hadn’t seen my Dad that excited about anything. Cowher was a yinzer just like us. He talked like us, he got emotional during the games like us, he was a young guy but he showed a lot of promise. In 1995 my dad was stationed in New Orleans and we lived in Slidell, LA. I’ll never forget watching the AFC Championship game against the Colts and when Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary fell to the turf of Three Rivers my dad got goose bumps knowing the Steelers were headed to the Super Bowl.
I always equated Steelers football with family. Any given Sunday I can tell you where just about every member of my family is, if the Steelers are on. My dad is my favorite person in the world to watch Steeler games with. The first game I ever went to with him and my mom was Ben’s first ever start in Miami in 2004, which also happened to be right in the middle of Hurricane Jeanne. Even though that was one of the crappiest played games on a sloppy field with feeder bands of rain covering the stadium for most of the time, it will always be one of my most favorite games ever. Last season, he traveled to Indianapolis to see the Steelers play with a Navy buddy of his who happens to be a Colts fan. They ended up in the same hotel as the team. The night before the game he was in the hotel bar and started chatting up a guy that turned out to be one of the PR guys for the Steelers. My dad scored 2 pregame on filed passes just because he’s that kind of guy that can make friends with just about anybody. I waited anxiously for each picture he sent while he was watching the pregame warm-ups wishing I was there with him. As the proud father he is, he gave the guy this website and encouraged him to read his daughter’s writings.
So I apologize to those of you that might actually enjoy my weekly spiel. I can’t think of anything else right now except for wanting my dad to get better. I’m asking for Steeler Nation to help me out. I need prayers, good thoughts, and encouragement right now and so does my dad. We have an uphill battle ahead of us but there’s not a doubt in my mind that he will come through this and we’ll be watching the Steelers on their quest for that 7th Lombardi very soon. I appreciate you indulging me as I gushed about my hero for a bit.