“Our wedding day is almost here, my beautiful Hippolyta. We’ll be getting married in four days, on the day of the new moon. But it seems to me that the days are passing too slowly—the old moon is taking too long to fade away! That old, slow moon is keeping me from getting what I want, just like an old widow makes her stepson wait to get his inheritance.” (Theseus addressing Hippolyta modern text excerpt from; “A midsummer night’s dream,” by William Shakespeare)

On Aug. 4 and 6, the Pittsburgh Steelers held two very public exhibitions, rehearsals, practices or however one chooses to define the events that allowed the public-at-large to again get a small glimpse behind the “steel veil” of secrecy. Steeler nation sometimes appears as if they are an anxious groom, preparing to marry into tradition, impatiently waiting and wanting the inheritance of six NFL championships to morph into their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy. They want their inheritance and they want it now. As far as they are concerned their dowry is incomplete without a present championship ring. As I sat in the dorm room at St. Vincent College after the night practice at Latrobe High School, Aug. 4, observing a full moon, something hit me harder than Steelers linebacker James Harrison ever could.

There is far more to a stint at the Steelers training camp than bodies and sweat flying in opposite directions. Several years ago, I was interviewed for the pregame show of a nationally-televised Thursday night game between the Steelers and Ravens. During the exchange, I told the interviewer: “The Pittsburgh Steelers are not just a football team. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a culture.”

The spirits of Art Rooney Sr., Dan Rooney, Chuck Noll and Bill Nunn Jr. continue to freely roam the grounds of St. Vincent College in Latrobe as well as inhabiting the tunnels and bowels of Heinz Field. These hallowed grounds are more than present reservoirs of flesh. Many spirits remain on call as hopeful athletes petition a higher power for assistance, whether that power be within or without.

In the wee hours of the next morning I flashed back to the experience, meeting Steelers fans Jeff Gilmore and Jodi McGrew. They had driven four hours from Ohio just to see the Steelers practice. Not play, just practice! During their journey to Latrobe they were fully aware that due to the forecasted weather outlook, there was a distinct possibility that practice would be canceled. Whether they are legally married or not, it almost appeared as if they were on a second honeymoon when I was able to snap a photo with them and ex-Steelers nose tackle Edmund Nelson and his son, Quentin. After I texted the above photo to Gilmore he turned to me with a very serious look on his face and said, “We are from Ohio, but that doesn’t matter because we love the Steelers. No matter where you come from the Steelers nation rules.” McGrew nodded in agreement.

See folks, there is a personal connection by the Steelers fans to their team that cannot be easily explained. When thousands of fans entered Heinz Field for the Steelers Family Fest this past Sunday (Aug. 6), many of them also did not care whether the Steelers were playing another team. As far as they were concerned, practice makes perfect and they felt good just being part of the process…So goes the culture of the Pittsburgh Steelers social phenomenon. Lynne Hayes-Freeland of KDKA-TV pointed out that, “There was a lot to do on this warm summer evening. And the stars of the night, the Pittsburgh Steelers, came onto the field like rock stars.”

When camp concludes, there are many players that are going to be left stranded at the “altar” of possibility, being forced to face the “Turk” as the late Chuck Noll used to call the messenger that informed a player that his tenure with the team was over.

To the hopeful fans and players, the days are passing too slowly—the old moon is taking too long to fade away! That old, slow moon is keeping the young players from getting what they truly desire. They don’t want to be like a jilted bride abandoned at the altar, although in their dreams and their reality they know that they may be here today, but tomorrow is never promised because no sacred vows will be ever be exchanged between team and player. However, as the late comedian Dan Rowan might say, “You can bet your sweet bippy” that Steelers nation will always be there to welcome the next suitors that come calling, looking to start an NFL career and suit up wearing the armor and the colors of the Black and Gold.

 

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