Note: this will only appeal to a limited audience. You know who you are.
Old friend Steve Galpern wrote the following from Denver, addressed to many of us in the diaspora.. It prompted lenghthy dialogues, which I present you in a highly edited form, believe it or not.
I was just interviewed by Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, while I was walking outside of ESPN Zone in Downtown Denver, about the upcoming Steelers-Broncos/Broncos Steelers Game (film at 6 p.m. tonight). I realize that most of you will consider this a traitorous act, worse than leaking information about a patriotic campaign to spy on Americans without warrants in order to prove that freedom isn’t free or giving the Soviets the secret of the atomic bomb (just call me Julius), but I admitted, finally without shame, on local television in the Tri-State area no-less, that I am ambivalent about this Sunday’s game. There, I said it.
In my defense, before you put out a Pittsburgh Fatwa on me, the black and gold helicopters arrive at my door and throw a giant Terrible Towel over my house, I’ve lived here almost 17 years, more consecutive years than I lived in the Pittsburgh. As I have pointed out many times before, when my grandparents left Bolshevik Russia, they were not expected to root for their ‘home team” during the Berlin airlift or the Cuban missile crisis. Who should Archie root for if Eli places Peyton?
And except for Pittsburgh Todd, all of you have left your birthplaces and decided to live in other parts of the world. Is this undying loyalty to a home team that you have left a guilt reflect ? Have you decided to leave the old country but don’t want to admit it? You make the call.
Now, I would never root against the Pirates. Baseball is sacrosanct. And I couldn’t defile Roberto Clemente’s legacy. But I might be willing to toy with Mean Joe, Franco’s and Roy Gerilla’s.
Michael Drescher replied, from Israel I believe:
You are a member of the Pittsburgh Diaspora. Nothing can change this. You can try and assimilate but all you will lose is your dignity. They may smile in your face, that high altitude, hypoxic glassy stare they have, those Denverites (Denverians? Denverlings? nobody knows). But they will never fully accept you. Therefore you must accept yourself.
And I chirped in:
Remember that Galps rooted for ther COWBOYS in the SB while actually living in Pittsburgh. He is close to but not at all perfect.
Got to go.. black and gold helicpter arriving any minute so I can fly
around the world to throw a burlap sack over that redhead and whisk him off for a good beatdown. Meet at Big Jim’s at noon tomorrow and bring the biggest, meanest hunkie you know.
Then Steve came back with this:
From reports from the Galpern homestead in the old country, I was on the 6 o’clock news last night, but my 10 seconds of fame was “spun” by the biased local media. Apparently, either the reporter or anchor followed my comments about divided loyalties by proclaiming that even people in Denver were rooting for the Steelers. I plan on reporting this twisting of the facts to the O’Reilly Factor and Rupert Murdoch. On the flip side, the Rocky Mountain News included a nasty anti-Pittsburgh column this morning, so maybe it’s even.
To paraphrase Pittsburgher Andy Worhol (who also left the city and reportedly rooted for the Giants while he lived in New York), I have 14:50 minutes left to be famous.
In response to everyone’s comments, no one exactly provided Solomonic advice to help me solve my problem. Answers ranged from “pick one” to “you’re dead to me,” both sentiments that I understand, but I am still unsure what to do on Sunday, even as I anticipate the arrival of the helicopters. I do admit that once I rooted against the Steelers in the Super Bowl. This incident continues to be one of the biggest regrets of my life. Like Ted Kennedy and George W., I chalk it up to youthful indiscretion. For once in my life, I rebelled. I never smoked pot (I was so square that no one ever thought to even offer me any), never committed an act of vandalism, never even rode in a car without a seatbelt, but somehow my original sin continues to be remembered. Needless to say, I never rebelled again.
So how do the Pirates’ chances look this year.
And I responded:
Your rebellion was far deeper. the rest of us smoked pot, rode without seatbelts, lied to our parents, and maybe even broke some rolling trock bottles against wightman school, thereby making none of it all that rebellious. You, on the other hand, cried when jackie smith dropped the ball in the end zone. True rebellion.
My true solomonic advice is meditate pregame, drink some chamomile tea, and enter the game in a blissed zone of neutrality. then follow your heart. it will take you to the right place. and feel free to lie to all of us on Monday morning.
But we were not done yet, for Rabbi David Osachy weighed in from the Deep south.
I’m a little late to the conversation, presently recovering from sinus surgery. While they were knifing around my insides last week I asked the surgeon to cut out the Pittsburgh from this rapidly aging boy once and for all. He said he couldn’t. It was just too big a part of me.
Like most of y’all (that’s Southern for yinz, by the way), I have now lived the majority of my life away from my native shtetl of Squirrel Hill. Unlike a certain Mrs. Wolynn, my own mother once let me ride the 61c all the way across the Monongahela (Scary! Avert you eyes, Todd) and I’ve never looked back since. Having prematurely “retired” to a comfortable Florida exile, I have finally become all those wonderful, “normal” things I longed to be but never was as a child: middle-class, middle-American and — alas — now middle-aged as well.
Yet as I traveled the world over these many years, a curious thing happened: I found rabid Steelers fans in every corner of it. Throngs of people, speaking a gaggle of tongues, who couldn’t give you directions from Forbes and Murray to the Manor Theater or produce an adequate translation for the phrase, “Quit jaggin’ arahnd wit’ dat Jumbo,” can tell you nonetheless how many sacks Mean Joe Greene had in 1979 or who was the Jewish tight end back in The Day. The Steelers continue to symbolize something important to the world, something about toughness, teamwork, perservering through years of hardship and adversity to find victory on the other side.
Of course, these good folks didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood of “Czarist Russia” that our friend Steve did. Yes, I remember it well — the Cossacks, the child conscription into the Imperial Army, the veritable weeks of suffering dry and thickly sliced corned beef between the closure of Weinstein’s and the re-opening of Polonsky’s. Oh, the oppression of life in Squirrel Hill in the olden days! I can see why Steve has become so ambivalent.
And so it is sad to hear that we have lost you, Steve Galpern, for you were once one of our own. You asked for a Solomonic solution to your dilemma. This rabbi hasn’t a clue as to what Jeff Solomon would advise. But, as for me, I say: Go, for legions line up to take your place. Farewell to you, my red-headed friend! May you find the right combination of therapy, booze, pills, Jesus and riding in seatbelt-less cars to ease you into your new life as a Broncos fan.
But remember this, too: Our holy tradition teaches, “The gates of repentance are always open.” Let’s all get ready to welcome Steve back into the Steelers fold after the Broncos get creamed on Sunday.
(Disclaimer: The above message should be taken as an example of why you should never to write to old friends while under the influence of heavy pain medication. :-} )
And I closed it down by saying, in awe:
You are the same brilliant lunatic who once unfolded a term paper from his back pocket to hand it in to Dr. apple, an act for which you
gained my undying, eternal respect. thank you for brightening my day in Beijing.