Can the Penguins challenge the Steelers for popularity in Pittsburgh?
By John A. Phillips
It's not often that a subject like this gets discussed; that any professional area sports team can trump the popularity of our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
Well guess what? It's happening right now as the star-studded lineup of the Penguins has made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 16 years.
And I can't blame people for discussing it. I mean, the Penguins are chasing Lord Stanley. When any local team succeeds, fan support swells. For the Penguins, it's rising yet again.
But are the Pens more popular than our Steelers?
Football has always been and always will be tops in this 'tahn. More kids play football at an early age than they play hockey. Area parents have been known to place a pigskin along side a newborn boy in delivery rooms for years. You ever see hockey skates dangling from young Johnny's bassinet?
Didn't think so.
Let's face it. Hockey was an afterthought before the arrival of a young French Canadian lad some 24 years ago.
Hockey continues to gain in popularity, and because of Mario Lemieux and the Pens success in the 1990s, the sport has grown substantially. About 40 area high schools offer hockey as a club activity, sponsored by the PIHL.
By comparison, 135 schools offer football as a sport, sanctioned by the WPIAL.
See what I mean?
No matter how many Stanley Cups are won, no matter how many Hart Trophies Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin capture, Steelers Nation will always rule.
The success of the Black-n-Gold took time. Forty years of losing had to occur, but after the Super 70s, there's been one clear choice in overall popularity here in Pittsburgh.
Bradshaw, Harris, Bleier, Greene, Lambert, Hamm, Swann, Stallworth & Greenwood are just some of the names from the past that set this love fest in motion. Players like Roethlisberger, Ward & Polamalu keep its ferocious momentum rolling downhill today.
The numbers tell the story.
Steelers Nation is king.
John Phillips is a freelance writer from Braddock Hills who works for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.