The country was storm-tossed for a decade. A gas crisis. An energy crisis. Unemployment woes. A car industry taking on water. A controversial faraway war. Betrayals by political leaders. A hostage crisis in Iran that, with each passing day, gave the nation a creeping feeling that it was losing its power and — with it — its sense of self.
By 1979, a 43-year-old country rock star from Wilmington, N.C., named Charlie Daniels had grown tired of his country’s flagging self-esteem. He wrote a goose-bump raising song called, “In America” that gave people a kick in the ass and a reason to puff out their chests.
One part went like this…
“From the Sound up in Long Island out to San Francisco Bay, and everything that’s in between them is our home.
”And we may have done a little bit of fighting amongst ourselves, but you outside people best leave us alone.
“Cause we'll all stick together and you can take that to the bank. That’s the cowboys and the hippies and the rebels and the yanks.
”You just go and lay your hand on a Pittsburgh Steelers fan ... and I think you're gonna finally understand.”
The perception of Pittsburgh was a city built on hard, physical work — steel and coal mining. A place where, even as the city’s industry was crumbling, the citizens stayed loyal to it because it was home. A place that knew who it was and wasn’t going to smooth back its hair and change out of its boots to put on airs.
Pittsburgh was like the toughest friend you had. Might not be particularly funny, smart or handsome, but if the stuff was hitting the fan, you knew Pittsburgh wouldn’t cut and run.
America’s going through some déjà vu, no?
We’re wrestling all of those '70s demons again. But there’s some glinting hope these days that the cowboys and the hippies of the 00's — the radical right and loony left — will meet in the middle now so that we can fight our way back out.
Funny thing is, as much as the face of Pittsburgh’s changed in the past 30 years, the link to that time when the Steelers were winning Super Bowls and people (‘Burghers and beyond) identified with them is unbroken.
The Steelers as representatives of Pittsburgh pride still mean a lot to people nationally.
Friday, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin’s words were infused with pride when asked about the Steelers following.
“I embrace (the national following),” the 36-year-old said. “Steeler nation drives me on a day to day basis. They are why...we do what we do. We appreciate it. There is nothing like going into a hostile environment and seeing so many rabid, friendly faces (of traveling Steelers fans) so that is a pleasure to be a part of.”
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