So, obviously, I haven’t been in on this Pittsburgh new media thing long enough, because R2P only just brought to my attention the rantings of disgruntled boomerang journalist Bill Steigerwald. This guy has about three things to say about his-hometown-and-mine, all nasty, and repeated again and again with only minimal change in syntax such that anything he writes about Pittsburgh sounds like it comes from the new magnetic poetry® set “local hatefulness.”* Yesterday he got out the “deindustrialized economy,” “religion of Steelerism,” and “inevitable decline into depression” phrase magnets and wrote a piece for newgeography.com accusing us of rearranging Terrible Towels on the deck of the Titanic:
Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the mighty Steelers and the upstart Arizona Cardinals – teams representing regions going in exactly opposite socioeconomic directions since 1950 – has eclipsed all non-sports news coming from Pittsburgh.
Pro football, which Pittsburgh continues to excel at despite 60 years of economic decline, brutal population loss and criminally inept public sector mismanagement, is a seasonal religion every fall no matter how well the Steelers do. But when the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, as they did this year for an NFL record seventh time, the region and its 2.3 million people are paralyzed by a religious fervor that can be culturally embarrassing.
This isn’t the meanest thing he’s ever said about the ‘Burgh though. Not by a long shot.
He got a lot of mileage on his assertion that Pittsburgh deserved a sympathy card instead of a birthday card for its 250th anniversary. He must have thought it was a clever little joke, since he used it twice – once for NewGeography and again for his day job at the Trib. Yes, they’re two different articles, but yes, they do both use the same little magnetic sound bites. He closes out the Trib column thusly:
But let’s face it: As our misgoverned core city turns 250, we Pittsburghers don’t have a whole lot to celebrate or look forward to — except maybe three or four Stanley Cups [sic] wins for the Penguins and the grand opening of the Port Authority’s half-billion-dollar North Shore Connector to Nowhere.
So instead of a 250th birthday card, on Tuesday someone probably should send Pittsburgh a sympathy card: “Sorry to hear of your long, slow socioeconomic death. Here’s hoping your next century is better.”
Now look here. I generally frown on the use of the perpetual ultimatum leveled at those who gripe about where they live – “Well why don’t you just leave [insert geographic location here] if you hate it so much?” – most recently worn out by suggesting anti-patriotism in anyone who questioned wiretaps or torture (“Why don’t you just go to Iran since you hate America?”). But seriously. He moved back to Pittsburgh. From Hollywood. I can’t think of anything worth saying except that tired old ultimatum (which, it appears, is the natural opposite of, “If you love Pittsburgh so much, why don’t you marry it?”, a phrase which I have often felt people in Austin stopped just short of saying to me for fear of looking immature).
Of course, Mr. Steigerwald is entitled to his superior little opinion and his series of cue cards that represent it. And he’s entitled to spin things that aren’t really negative as egregious downsides – an economy that’s these days based in health care, higher education, and the public sector; or slow steady real estate growth instead of a bubble – like a school-yard bully who picks on whatever he sees first even if there’s nothing actually wrong with it.
But if he would just happen to like to pack up all that gloom and take it back to sunny Los Angeles, well, that would be pretty much fine with me.