I was born in Pittsburgh. Raised in Pittsburgh. And writing this from a Panera Bread on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus. In Pittsburgh. This makes me a Pittsburgh expert. And as a Pittsburgh expert, I want to clear up a couple misconceptions about the city propagated whenever a nationally televised NFL game happens at Heinz Field.
1. If you’ve ever watched any nationally televised sporting event that happens to be in Pittsburgh — Steeler game, Bucs game, Pitt game (won’t include Pens games because I’m not quite convinced Versus airs anywhere other than Pittsburgh-area Applebees) — you’ve undoubtedly seen the obligatory shot of a Primanti Brothers’ sandwich being made. You know, with the generous helpings of the coleslaw and the fries and the regret and topped with a quart of bourbon barrel aged coal miner’s tears. Naturally, since this segment happens literally all the fucking time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Pittsburghers — all Pittsburghers — frequent Primanti’s so much that our fingers morphed into cabbage straws. This would be incorrect. Pittsburghers — actual Pittsburghers, not Peter King in Pittsburgh — treat Primanti’s the same way New Yorkers treat Times Square. You avoid it at all costs unless your inlaws are in town.
2. Yinzers exist and somehow manage to be both harmless and Darth. Yinzers are a paradox. They are not ubiquitous, though. When I leave my house, I do not have to duck, dodge, and step over swarms of Yinzers. They are not stink bugs. In fact, if you avoid certain neighborhoods — Brookline, Beechview, Beltzhoover…basically anything that begins with a “B” — and never, ever, ever, ever go to a Stiller game, you might not actually encounter one.
That said, there is at least one preconceived notion about Pittsburghers that is very true. I have not been to every major American city. But I doubt there’s a place that exists in America where a larger percentage of its residents are NFL fans. Not football fans, mind you. High school football is big here, but we’re not building 50,000 seat Sistine Chapels for high school teams to play in. (Basically, we’re not Texas.) And maybe the 17 people who aren’t current Pitt students or Pitt alum and actually attend Pitt football games might argue this is a great college football town. But they attend Pitt football games, so none of their opinions about anything matter.
The NFL fandom, however, runs deep. Which makes Pittsburgh’s general feelings about the NFL a suitable snapshot of America’s general feelings about the NFL. Which makes me confident in saying that the diehard NFL fans I personally know in Pittsburgh aren’t much different than diehard NFL fans in Ottawa or Orlando. Which also makes me confident in saying they exhibit the same annoying ass behavior every NFL season — the pissing contest between NFL fans to determine whose NFL fandom is the greatest.
Perhaps you noticed it too. Perhaps you, like I, couldn’t have a conversation with a group of friends the first Sunday of the NFL season without hearing someone claim “the first NFL Sunday should be a national holiday.” Only to have someone reply “It’s been a holiday for me. I didn’t go to work Friday, and I aint going Monday.” Only to have someone else reply “Man, my wife was due this weekend. That’s why we induced labor last week.” Only to have that person’s wife reply “Of course. First Sunday is worth a cesarean scar. Two actually, because our first child was also due First Sunday last year, and we did the same thing.”
You must be willing to distill the NFL into bath beads and rub it in your skin, giving you a full-body glisten.
The NFL has become such an amorphous entity that the mere act of being a diehard fan has become a status marker. A form of social currency. Because it’s apparently not enough to just be a person who watches the Steelers or the Seahawks play. And then, when that game is over, does other things with their day. You must be willing to distill the NFL into bath beads and baby oil and rub it in your skin, giving you a full-body Redzone glisten. And since you’re putting all this energy into your NFL allegiance, it’s only natural to want to measure it against others, publicly.
But, just try not to. At least not around me. I don’t need to know about how you haven’t showered or had sex since the first preseason snap, or how long it took you to install flatscreens on your infant’s crib. I don’t want to know about how many different fantasy leagues you’re in, and I damn sure don’t want to see any more first Sunday cesarean scars. Please keep your NFL fetish — and the accompanying fight to have the firstest and bestest fetish — private, and let me continue not to eat Primanti Brothers’ sandwiches in peace.