Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rationalizing the Pens v Steelers Result

I've been meaning to address the feedback we got from our "Pens vs. Steelers" exile vote for a while now. The Pens were winning it for a while until the Steelers pulled out a narrow victory. Some people got pretty fired up about the whole thing and the strange dichotomy between definitively Steelers and definitively Penguins fans reared its ugly head. A few thoughts about the results and then I will let the NFL picks take over for the weekend...

- We are not that big of a blog. This poll meant absolutely nothing in the larger scheme of things because the sample was so small.

- We get more hits from hockey blogs than football blogs. We have written for some other hockey blogs and lord knows that we get a good chunk of ThePensBlog readers over here (third best hockey blog in the country, congrats guys). Though we try to keep our coverage balanced, we get more hockey-related hits.

- There are cultural factors at work here. If you want Steelers coverage, you're first source of info is most likely not a blog. The local media covers the Steelers so extensively that if football was the only sport that existed, there might not even be sports blogs. Anyone that actually thinks the Penguins are more popular or culturally important to Pittsburgh is delusional. The Steelers are, and unquestionably so. This is coming from a diehard hockey fan.

But...

This produces an interesting situation, I think. Because football is such an inherent part of the culture, because so many more people in Western PA play football than hockey, and because NFL commentating has evolved to the point where any shmuck can figure out what a cover 2 is after listening to some pregame, there is a fairly uniform level of football knowledge among Pittsburghers. My grandma knows when the o-line isn't playing just the same as the 'stache does. I would say that a huge majority of Pittsburghers can watch a football game and tell if Ben plays well, regardless of their football knowledge.

With hockey, that is not always the case. In fact, I feel as if it rarely is. I cannot ask my neighbor how Talbot played if I didn't see the game and he did - he doesn't have the level of hockey knowledge to make such a judgment. ANYbody can tell me how Willie ran or Ben played or etc, etc. Hockey is a game with more nuances and, because it admittedly has a smaller following, there are less people who understand it at a high level.

So what do people do who are passionate about something but cannot find others to talk about it? They seek out forums where people like themselves exist, i.e. blogs. The hockey blogging community is an incredibly passionate one, albeit a somewhat small one. If I want to talk about the Steelers, I can find somebody with remarkable ease. For people that want to talk about the Pens, it is a harder endeavor, thus causing a larger percentage of Pens fans to seek out blogs as opposed to Steelers fans. If I don't see a game, I NEED Seth at EmptyNetters or ThePensBlog. If I miss a Steelers game, I generally just need a stat sheet or any yinzer around.

The impact of the '91 and '92 Cup Teams. I firmly believe that much of the peculiar and mostly playful animosity between Penguins and Steelers fans exists largely because of the way that Pittsburgh's younger generation only has two Stanley Cups to take ownership of whereas the older generation has 4 Super Bowls (I am completely disregarding SB XL because it is too soon to judge its effects on the Pittsburgh sports psyche at this time, I feel). I know that it always pissed me off a little as a kid to hear stories about how great the Steelers of the 70s were and how no one will ever be better and yada yada. I loved that the Steelers have such rich history, but I hated that I missed it.

If the reaction to my Against the Odds and One from the Heart articles are any indication, the younger generation of Pittsburgh holds onto those early memories of two Stanley Cups like a steel trap. Because bloggers are generally younger, many of our childhoods were shaped by those victories, as is the case with most of the young people that read us. I'm certainly not saying that young people in Pittsburgh are bigger Steelers fans than Penguins fans - again, nothing will ever beat the Steelers for popularity in this town. But our average reader would have a hell of a time rationalizing a decision to vote out of town the team that gave him what was likely his earliest and perhaps greatest memory in sports.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the shirts, Sam! Christmas is coming!!! You guys are doing a great job!! Watch the language, Pat! Aunt Karen