Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the Denver Broncos. And yes, I know Tebow plays for Denver.
Normally this is a political blog, and I was all set to write about the Republican candidates’ debate earlier tonight, when a friend alerted me to this article about my hometown, Pittsburgh, Pa., and I started to ponder what it is about the town that inspires so much loyalty. Is it the fine cuisine?
Since there were no big surprises in the debate anyway (”Romney has the support of about 25 percent of RepublicansZzzzzzzzzzzzz”), I decided to write about the terrible internal conflict I will face later when rooting for my team, the black-and-gold emissaries of a city where people may say “yunz” and “dahntahn” but at least are not pretentious bores.
Of course, some Pittsburghers are snooty, in certain enclaves like the private girls’ school where I did hard time as a child. But they usually don’t get away with that for long. After all, Pittsburgh and ’snob’ or ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’ are not words that really belong in the same sentence, and that is part of what makes it a great hometown. Being any of those aforementioned things takes a lot of energy which is better spent on trying to find true fulfillment, have authentic (as opposed to stylized) fun, and act like a decent person.
Which brings me to my present conflict. Later today, the Steelers will go head to head with the Denver Broncos. The Steelers’ quarterback, “Big Ben” Roethlisberger, the proverbial “bad boy,” will square off against Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, the ultimate “good boy.”
It’s not that I think Tebow’s stance necessarily makes him better than anyone else, but I respect anyone from Harvey Milk to Thomas Sowell who does not live to be accepted by others or make his most intimate decisions and beliefs–whether about politics, spirituality, sex, marriage, relationships, etc.–ride on conventional standards or the perceived opinions of others. Such a man or woman is living authentically.
In a world where every other popular film or song celebrates the individual fighting the system, standing up to the crowd, etc., and yet the vast majority of people will generally never stand up and say–much less do–anything that will subject them to the scorn, criticism, or potential ridicule of others (whether in the general culture or their subcultures), it is inspiring to see someone be himself. (I know his virginity is not against the grain of his own Christian subculture, but still. It took as much guts for him to be ‘out and proud’ about being a virgin in the NFL as it does –possibly more–for any gay activist to be “out and proud” these days, and that’s not to minimize the courage it takes to come out).