Sunday, January 23, 2011


I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm not a sports fan, and never was one. Nonetheless the local football franchise the Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into a big game on Sunday. It's a game against the New York Jets to determine the Conferencre Champion and who will go to the Super Bowl. It's sad that I'm so lost when it comes to football because the excitement around here is palpable.

Seven or eight years ago I went regularly to the African Student Association meetings at the University of Pittsburgh. A few of the friends I made there have stuck around this area but most have moved on. But it's fun to see on Facebook what big Steeler fans some of them are.

John Michael Greer has a recent post, The Onset of Catabolic Collapse. Catobolism is the breakdown of molecules, it's also the name used for wasting to death. Greer uses the notion of catabolic collapse to describe the process of empires falling, especially in connection to peak oil. Greer provides a very readable account of the process in the post and then makes a good point:
That being the case, the question is simply when to place the first wave of catabolism in America – the point at which crises bring a temporary end to business as usual, access to real wealth becomes a much more challenging thing for a large fraction of the population, and significant amounts of the national infrastructure are abandoned or stripped for salvage. It’s not a difficult question to answer, either.

The date in question is 1974.
Wow, he hits the nail on the head for people in the Pittsburgh area. The collapse of the steel industry here was huge and began right about then. More than two hundred thousand people were directly employed in the industry in the early 1970's in Allegheny County--where the city of Pittsburgh is--by 1980 there were less than five thousand employed. One of the results is there are Pittsburghers all over the country, they moved away to find employment. Lots of them are Steeler's fans to this day.

One of my brother's daughters is a huge Steeler fan. She's never lived in Pittsburgh and I bet that most of her school chums are Miami Dolphin fans. It's hard to account for it. My brother has a more normal interest in sports than I have, but he was never a rabid Steelers fan. My little niece could qualify as one though.

I was looking for a picture for this post and one way I was searching was to search photos marked as Creative Commons at Flickr. It was fun looking at the results, but I didn't find just the right picture. Lots of the pictures seemed related to particular people's experience. There were many pictures of new born babies dressed in Steeler branded clothing. We're maniacs around here for the Steelers. Wherever I've gone this week there have been folks dressed in Steeler clothing. The baby pictures at Flickr reminded me of Steeler Baby. It's a fun site to get the flavor of our town.

I have been reading up on conservatives. Nothing really to report yet, except my heart's not in it. One nice thing about enthusiasm for sports is that it seems to infect liberals and conservatives alike. Ha! And there's a certain working-class sensibility about the Steelers. People all over the USA are Steeler fans--probably many more loathe them. Still, tell someone anywhere in the USA you're a fan and it means something solid, maybe even a bit stodgy.

Go Steelers!

Update: The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the New York Jets to become the 2011 American Football Conference Champions. The Steelers will face NFC Champions the Green Bay Packers in the 45th Super Bowl February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.

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