PittGirl: Michael Vick Signing is More of the Same from Steelers
She says the past decade has been a rude awakening into what "The Steeler Way" now means.
In my screeching, frantic anonymous days, I would start a blog post about the latest ridiculous Steelers controversy with something like, “OMG. MY FACE IS MELTING OFF, THE WORLD IS ENDING AND I WANT MY MOMMY.”
That’s not going to happen here.
No, while your Facebook feed and Twitter stream right now might look like any number of fiery catastrophic events described in the last book of the Bible, you and I are going to sit here and stay calm and take a look at a very divisive issue like actual adult human beings.
Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Michael Vick to a one-year contract in light of backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski’s preseason injury.
Michael Vick. I don’t even need to explain to you who he is or what he did, right? His dog-fighting ring? The torture and painful deaths some of those dogs experienced, some personally at his hands? You already know. You’ve seen the pictures. He went to prison for his actions. The end.
Of course it’s not the end. The Steelers gave his story a sequel Tuesday, and that’s when many fans stopped bleeding black-and-gold and started pooping it in the general direction of an oscillating fan.
I would mine for you the most ridiculous of fan comments from both sides of the issue, but reading comments on the Internet is like choosing to drive the Parkway East at rush hour even when you know the back way. Why CHOOSE to suffer, you sick masochists?
Here’s the issue in Pittsburgh. The rich history and winning ways of the Pittsburgh Steelers in a blue-collar, hard-working town have fostered a sports-mad culture that looks at the team as a sort of unifying, familial body of heroes who bring us together each Sunday when we step away from work to stand shoulder to shoulder with both kin and strangers forgetting differences and arguments and Monday-to-Friday troubles.
When Pittsburgh was a steel town then hit the bottom before rising out of the depths of the steel industry collapse, the Steelers were a constant in a world of uncertainty.
Here was a thing we could cling to with pride.
The Steeler Way became a Thing.
We are better than Them.
The past decade has been a rude awakening. We are not better than Them. We are just like Them. We have a drug offender on offense and an accused woman-beater on defense.
We have a team chairman that said to the media after James Harrison was selected to stay with the team after a domestic altercation with his girlfriend, “What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it. He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it.”
While you might not want to admit it, this next sentence is a Truth. Capital T.
First and foremost, above all else, the Steelers are a business; money and winning come first.
This is true of every team in the NFL and the NFL itself. If you don’t believe me, explain why the NFL punished Ray Rice for only two games until fans got angry. Explain why the Steelers kept James Harrison but fired Cedrick Wilson for his domestic-violence altercation. Explain why the Steelers would sign Michael Vick. Explain why they hired a supervillain the season after the superhero retired.
Because of winning. And winning means money. And as a business, money comes first.
So if you’re livid and claiming you’ll never watch another game, fine. It was the culture of misogyny in the NFL that did me in, but if dog abuse is your issue, so be it. You don’t have to support this business with your dollars. This absolutely can be the final straw in your support of a brain-damaging, greedy, woman-marginalizing league. This can be the thing that you simply cannot support. But remember that for some, they don’t care if a business employs previous offenders so long as the final product works and is worth their money.
If you’re totally cool with the signing, or if you’re mad about it but can’t bring yourself to stop being a fan, that’s fine, too. Putting away a lifelong fandom is hard, unless you feel wronged deep down in your core … then it’s easy. Don’t let those who are livid make you feel guilty for supporting this business. He is one imperfect man on a team of imperfect men who are working to make a living and to make money for their employer. He is one backup. By all accounts, he now works to end dog fighting.
If you’re mad but can’t bring yourself to stop being a fan, and you feel guilty about it, that’s fine as well. Steelers football is more than football alone. I explained why. It’s our culture. It’s you sitting with your dad once a week, yelling things about miserable refs and boneheaded offensive coordinators. It’s the potluck and the towel-waving. It’s the high-fives and the camaraderie. It’s OK that you don’t want to put that aside. It’s OK if you value that tradition so much you don’t want to walk away.
Everyone must decide for themselves what this decision means for their support of this business, and we must not judge those who find themselves on the opposite side of the issue.
For better or for worse, Michael Vick now is a Steeler, and you can absolutely deal with that like an adult. Weigh it in regard to your personal belief system and then make a decision and then no matter what your decision is, know that it’s just fine.
Unless your decision is to become a Browns fan.
God help you then.