Brian O’Neill of the Post-Gazette took on an impressive duty today – to be Pittsburgh’s ambassador to the Arizona reading public, to explain what it is to be us, and therefore what it is to be a Steeler fan. He did a lovely job. His Arizona Republic counterpart, E.J. Montini, wrote a similar epistle from Phoenix to Pittsburgh – interestingly, it’s a letter home. Mr. Montini is part of the diaspora.
Mr. O’Neill perceptively speaks of “the Pittsburgh of the mind” to describe the way that Pittsburgh is bigger than its actual size, greater than the sum of its neighborhoods, and it’s a term that resonates. He’s right. Pittsburgh isn’t just literally bigger, encompassing a whole Western Pennsylvania culture and way of life as well as the vast diaspora of the Steeler Nation. It’s figuratively bigger too. It means something more than just an old city built where the rivers made it convenient. For people like me who want to return, and people like E.J. Montini who seemingly don’t, and people like Brian O’Neill who are already there, it is a framework within us on which to hang every experience. Everything is measured against an undying reality: we are Pittsburghers.
It is as unfortunate as it is fitting that many fewer Arizonans are likely to read the two columns than Pittsburghers. The PG has both stories at the top on their webpage, in the Super Bowl box they have been running for two weeks. The Republic required me to tunnel through many links and wrong turns to find the essays there, where the first reader moved to comment spat that Mr. Montini should “go back to Pittsburgh so you can root for your Steelers.”
He’s already here. In the Pittsburgh of the mind.