Friday, August 13, 2010

Steeler Nation? A Close Look at an NFL Hegemon

"Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days"
-Bruce Springsteen

Steeler Nation.

Two words that unite a group of people spread across the world. Two words that bring people together in common passion. Two words that for decades have defined a city. Two words that garnered respect, if nothing more.

Now we're left to wonder what those two words truly mean.

In the wake of perhaps the most tumultuous offseason in Steeler history, let me play the insider looking out. What does it mean to be a part of Steeler Nation in 2010?

In previous years, it was widely accepted around NFL circles that the Steelers were an honorable franchise that conducted their business in a proper and respectful manner. The Cowboys have always had the title of "America's Team", but could never match the nationwide (and worldwide) Pittsburgh Steeler movement. Travel to any big city in the US, and you'll find at least one "Steeler bar" that's filled with people who have defected from Pittsburgh but haven't had Pittsburgh defect from them. It's why we called ourselves Steeler Nation; it was the only fitting description.

As we stand on the eve of the (almost) beginning of the 2010 season, Steeler Nation has fallen. Hard. This offseason has turned a beacon of NFL superiority into a running joke; the merits of which flooded television and radio pundits. To say that the past 5 months have stained the franchise would be an insult to stains. Calling this offseason damaging would be a far better assessment. From Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, the Steelers methodology and mythology are being called into question. Can we still call ourselves a model franchise when our players aren't model citizens?

Believe me, I understand the lack of fairness in branding the entire team for the indiscretions of few. But that's just the world we live in. A player such as Ryan Clark has to answer for the actions of a Ben Roethlisberger. It may not be fair, but it's the name of the game in modern sports.

There is no doubt that the common fan's view of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been altered. The doubt lies in to what degree opinions have changed. Next year at this time, will anyone pick the Steelers as an example of how a franchise should work? Truthfully, I question if anyone will ever think that of us again.

Steeler Nation is truly a bubble. We live inside that bubble, and it skews the way we see the world, and the way the world sees us. I truly don't believe that Steeler Nation has lost too many of their own through this debacle of an offseason, we simply don't have as many immigrating to our world.

Throughout history, all great empires have fallen. They fall not through the power of somebody else, they collapse from the inside out. Greed and a sense of entitlement run rampant. That is the situation currently facing the Steelers. Perhaps not that the franchise itself is in danger, but rather it's just not the darling of the NFL anymore. No longer the shining light that it once was.

It's a basic inevitability that the Steelers will return to their glory on the field. They're just too talented not to. As for the glory days of the team off of the turf?

Well, they'll pass you by.

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