Jim Wexell is a freelance writer who has covered the Steelers for ages, and now publishes SteelCityInsider.com. And he’s had an experience that inspires one specific emotion in Steeler fans.
Deep, profound, unadulterated envy for Wex’s journey across the country for the Steelers’ entire road schedule in 2007, going to Steeler bars all over America, tailgating, attending games, and hanging out with the ultimate Steelers insiders – the players’ friends and family.
Wex documents his odyssey in the book Steeler Nation, a fantasy travelogue that the rest of us can only daydream about. It’s eye-opening for ex-pats to see how very many of us there are out here, and how we find each other and come together everywhere. And it’s exceptionally engaging for the diaspora in that it meets us where we are, highlighting how much of our Pittsburgh identity we carry to wherever we land. And it also acknowledges the many ways that Steeler fans can be made instead of born – so many people grew to love what the Steelers have represented over the years, no matter where they are.
But the book is for all fans, in and out of Pittsburgh, because of the unbelievable fantasy-camp quality of Wex’s journey. For one thing, he gets to go to Hawaii – the ultimate dead-of-winter daydream for Pittsburghers. But more than that, he meets the families and friends of The Troy, The Harrison, The Ben, The Hamp, The Hines, and many more of our current icons. His interviews turn those larger-than-life personalities into people like us, with high school buddies and childhood mischief and triumphs and tragedies and heartache.
Some of the boys had golden childhoods full of love and fun and some had more pain and struggle than any child deserves. Either way, the book opens a window into the real lives of the men we so enthusiastically cheer on, and begins to make some sense of the personalities that we see peeking through on the field. And at least for me, it makes it harder to judge them when they act stupid or do wrong. I think it’s pretty healthy to be reminded that under every persona, there’s a person, just trying to do the best he can with the tools he’s been given.
All in all, it’s a dream trip with a good message that the whole Steeler Nation can appreciate. Plus, Hawaii!