First and foremost, Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. I certainly hope you are more of a Dad to your child or children than you are a Father and you know exactly what I mean. If that bothers you, then look in the mirror guys.
For this life-long Steelers’ fan, Father’s Day always takes on a little more significance because much of my love and passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been passed on to my children whether they have enjoyed that or not. I have a teenage daughter and a son who will be nine in two months. They are both named after former Steelers’ players and have been subjected to “Steelers’ Sundays” since birth. Steelers’ Sunday was actually my wife’s doing as the kids must wear the black n’ gold on gamedays. Yes, there is often rebellion, especially by the teenager, but she typically comes around.
Over the last year and half, I’ve been walking the fine line with my son in terms of his love of the game of football and his love of the Steelers. While I obviously want him to be a Steelers’ fan and he is for the most part, he also enjoys players from other teams in both the college and professional ranks. I don’t want to squash his love for the game by limiting him to “just Steelers” but I have to admit there is some pain when tells me he wants a Charles Woodson Packers’ jersey.
We have family in Wisconsin who love the Packers so I think it was natural for him to be affected. Also, I like Woodson. He’s a University of Michigan guy which we love and he does the right things off the field so it could have been much worse. He knows the mere mention of a Browns, Bengals, Ravens, Patriots and/or Cowboys’ jersey entering his collection is grounds for a serious intervention so he stays away from those which I obviously am proud.
Is it odd seeing his Woodson jersey hanging among his Heath, Ben, Troy and Jerome jerseys? Yes it is, but knowing that his Heath jersey is his favorite one warms my heart. In fact Heath Miller is his favorite player so I can let a few missteps go along the way. He has also become a huge football card collector and the look on his face when he finds a Steelers’ player in a pack is priceless. Our nearby card shop has a box of player cards from the fifties and sixties and he has really enjoyed looking for the old Steelers in there as well.
My daughter and I had a Steelers’ moment I will never forget and I doubt she will either. If you’ve ever been to training camp in Latrobe then you’ll know the visual well. We visited camp in 2009 and she has always loved Hines Ward so as practice wound down we tried to make our play to get his autograph. Of course about 100 other people had the same idea.
As he approached the fence about 40 yards from us I told her “This is our chance.” With hats and Sharpie’s in hand, we sprinted along the fence line where we were met with other excited Steelers’ fan looking to get Ward’s autograph. Among the throng of flying elbows, footballs, jerseys, pennants and hats, my daughter got separated from me.
The funny part was that I could hear her and she me through all of the shouts of “Hines! Hines!” She sounded like she had things under control so I thrust my hat forward not knowing if he would sign it or not, but my height allowed me to see him coming my way and sure he enough grabbed it, signed it and handed it back in the matter of a few seconds.
Of course now I faced a serious dilemma. If he has moved in my direction as opposed to hers, there was a really good chance she didn’t get his autograph and now I’ll have to live with the fact she didn’t get it while I did. Suddenly, I heard “Dad! Dad! I got it! I got it!” She came running around the mob of fans with her pink Steelers’ hat in tow with Hines’ signature on the bill.
I gave her a huge hug as we raced back to where Mom and brother were waiting.
While a few of the Steelers’ posters in her room have been moved from ‘prime locations’ in favor of One Direction posters, she still keeps the hat in the spot for all to see. No matter what happens going forward, I will always have that and other memories of how the Steelers pulled us closer on that day.
I’m sure fans of other NFL teams have similar stories to share but for some reason, Father’s Day in the Steelers’ Nation just feels a little bit different.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.