Stop it. I’m not crying, YOU are crying.
Ok, I’m crying.
Big Ben’s Last Dance is officially coming to an end. What a ride it’s been. From the ultimate of highs, raising his two Lombardi trophies, to some of the lowest lows – namely off the field, Ben has had a storied career – both good and bad.
Let me peel back the curtain here and reveal a few things. I grew up in the Harrisburg area (the capital of Pennsylvania for those not from here) where NFL loyalties are probably the most divided in the entire country. Harrisburg is situated virtually in the middle of 6 teams: 1.5 hours from Philadelphia, 1.5 hours from Baltimore, 2 hours from D.C., 3 hours from Pittsburgh, and 2.5 hours from North Jersey. So I would say a large part of your fandom is born in the Harrisburg area based on who your parents rooted for, unless you were the occasional loser who said they were a Patriots fan because they were good.
I would say the majority of people in my area were Eagles fans simply based on proximity, with the Steelers being a close second. For the first part of my life, I was heavily invested in the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles. I remember exactly where I was when I saw the Steelers win the Super Bowl in ’06, Ben’s 2nd season under center. I remember being angry because I didn’t want the Steelers to win. Why? I have no idea, other than the simple fact I was told to hate the Steelers as an Eagles fan.
Fast-forward 4 years, and I moved to Pittsburgh to start my freshman year at Pitt (Always Hailing, H2P). The Steelers had just won their 6th Super Bowl in 2009 before I had gotten there, and I can recall thinking how I was going to bring a taste of sunny Philadelphia to the mean streets of Pittsburgh.
And then I fell in love with the city, and with that, I fell in love with the incredible sports culture that exists in this city. You can legitimately feel the energy on game day, and I, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, slowly started to realize that I was becoming a Steelers fan.
The Steelers managed to make it to the Super Bowl my freshman year of college to face, who other, then Aaron Rodgers (ironic because I want the Steelers to get him now.) I was incredibly heartbroken that night and just wanted to experience the joy of winning the big game in a city I had quickly fell in love with.
Obviously, I didn’t get to experience that Super Bowl victory, as a city of Pittsburgh resident with Ben as the quarterback, but I did become heavily invested in the Steelers. As the years went on, I started to go to more and more games – I just loved the grittiness of the team. They always found a way to win, in large part because of Ben. The guy never had a losing season. I found myself listening to sports talk radio, screaming at the tv, ripping my hair out, laughing at Mike Tomlin pressers, and experiencing every range of emotion possible as a football fan with this team. Big Ben was that team. For 18 years, he led that team. Sure, he could’ve done a lot of things differently, I mean just ask Tom Brady:
But in reality, I can thank Ben (and my wife, shoutout Brit) for making me a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I am proud to say that I was at Ben’s last game at Heinz Field and it was just as emotional as it looked on TV.
Thank you, 7.
Thank you for an incredible career and the incredible memories. 7 has made a life-long fan out of me. But hey don’t take my word for it, see what else everyone is saying:
See you in Canton, 7.