Pittsburgh’s sports bring together locals, students

Credit: Jessica Thurston/Art Editor Credit: Jessica Thurston/Art Editor
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Welcome to Pittsburgh, also known as Sixburgh, City of Champions.

I’m sure when many of you began your search for the perfect college, you looked at more than just the university itself: You looked at the city in which the school was located. There’s a good chance you also visited the school, not only to see what the college itself looked like, but to figure out what kind of area it was near, whether it was part of a city scene or a more laid-back suburban area.

And when you visited, or read about, Carnegie Mellon’s atmosphere, I’m sure they told you about the many benefits or being in Oakland — the restaurants and coffee shops, its proximity to the University of Pittsburgh, its position on a bus route that can take you downtown or to the Waterfront — the list goes on and on. They may have even mentioned the chance you’d have to go watch some of Pittsburgh’s sports teams — a football game with the Steelers, a hockey game with the Pens, or a baseball game with the Pirates.

What you may not have realized, however, is that to give you the most accurate picture of Pittsburgh, they should have started with the description of the sports teams and then stopped there. Maybe they could have thrown in a reference to Eat ’n Park or going “dahntahn” (read: downtown), but really, that’s all that is necessary. Even if they had done this, though, you probably still wouldn’t understand how important sports are to the city of Pittsburgh unless you grew up here, or witnessed it yourself.

I’m sure some of you that come from other cities with big sports teams will try to tell me otherwise; you’ll try to maintain that really, your city is the most enthusiastic about sports. But I beg to differ. As a Pittsburgh native and now in my senior year here at Carnegie Mellon, I really do know and understand Pittsburgh’s love for its sports teams. Growing up, Sundays in my house were spent downstairs, with me and my sister lined up on the couch with my dad, all wearing Steelers sweatshirts, munching on wings, and learning about how the game was played. And while I may not always have been able to continue that tradition my whole life, my love for the Steelers has only grown. And you can bet that when I’m not able to watch the game, I’ve got a friend or family member — or both — texting me updates on the score.

I’ve heard that it’s something in the water; maybe that’s why the Pittsburgh sports fanaticism begins at such a young age. Regardless of the reason, the lives of the people of Pittsburgh tend to revolve around the city’s sports teams, and it’s contagious.

While I think that anyone that wasn’t from Pittsburgh didn’t fully understand the ecstasy we felt after getting the “one for the other thumb,” the sixth Super Bowl win, that didn’t stop them from joining in the rioting that was going on in the streets. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon students alike poured out into the streets of Oakland and the South Side to celebrate the exciting win, and the same thing happened a few years ago to celebrate the original “one for the thumb,” although I wasn’t there to witness that one first-hand. While I’m not condoning the damage that was done during the riots, I think it’s great that Pittsburgh’s sports teams can work so well to bring people together.

It’s something that the people of the city can bond over: locals, visitors, and college students alike. Pittsburghers all share a common love for their sports teams that they are more than willing to share with college students in the city. Nothing brings people together better than gathering on a Sunday in a dorm lounge to watch the week’s game while taking a break from the day’s homework. It’s really the best way to learn what the city is all about, and to get the absolute most out of your four years here.

And it’s not just a “Stillers” thing, either; Pens fans were just as enthusiastic after their Stanley Cup win this summer, although they managed to celebrate with markedly less damage to the city. And even though the Pirates admittedly are not the best baseball team ever, that doesn’t stop people from heading to PNC Park to enjoy the fun atmosphere and possibility of fireworks associated with the game. It doesn’t matter if the team wins or loses. Pittsburghers can always come together afterward to celebrate the great catches and passes, or to commiserate over the lousy calls made by the referees.

I know that I sound like some crazy, obsessed Pittsburgh fan, but all I’m really trying to do is give you a glimpse of how important their local sports teams are to the people of Pittsburgh. And not only do I want you to realize how important they are, I want you to realize, at the very start of the year, how much more your years here can mean if you really try to be part of the city, and don’t just act like a visitor who’s merely popping in for a visit.

There are other ways to take in the city without following a sports team, of course, like going to Eat ’n Park or Kennywood, but sports are so much a part of Pittsburgh’s culture there’s really no better way. Pick any Monday morning during football season, and I can guarantee you that at least three out of the top five headlines on either the Tribune Review’s or Post-Gazette’s website will feature Steelers-related stories. Sports teams really do take over all aspects of the city’s culture, and it’s something that I love about my city, and I hope that you grow to love, too.

No matter what sport you prefer (except basketball... but who really follows that?), Pittsburgh has a team for you to bond over, and that’s an opportunity that I highly recommend you take advantage of. Maybe it is something in the water, so take a sip directly from the tap and see what happens. Even if the drink doesn’t magically turn you into a black-and-gold-wearing diehard Steelers, Pens, and Pirates fan (or any one of the three), maybe it will at least coerce you to watch a game and cheer for Pittsburgh, and then go out for a late-night celebration with your friends at Eat ’n Park. Then you’ll know what Pittsburgh is really about.