by Aubrey Bruce
For New Pittsburgh Courier
On Oct. 11, immediately after the Steelers clipped the wings of the Philadelphia Eagles by the score of 38-29, a few of the “rain men” pointed out that the win was significant because the Black and Gold hadn’t started a season 4-0 since the 1979 season.
The Steelers capped that 1979 campaign by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV by the score of 31-19. That victory also represented the final lap around the Lombardi track for the legendary Steelers head coach “Sir” Charles Henry “Chuck” Noll. Names like “mean” Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster as well as Mel Blount directly come to mind when thinking of the Steelers’ 1979 squad. By the way, did I mention that all the above are enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio?
Let’s stay on the nostalgic vibe. Super Bowl XIV was played on Jan. 20, 1980. I was just shy of my 26th birthday. It was also the first Super Bowl that I attended and “covered.” I am using the word “covered” loosely. After arriving at the motel in Santa Barbara, I purchased my game ticket for $45 from a nearby scalper. She was a beautiful, bronzed “ticket broker” who shall remain nameless. I had a feeling that she was selling a lot more than game tickets. Her “ticket manager” went by the name of “Lucky.” He sure as hell was lucky to have her. She probably could have sold 50,000 tickets if she had access to them. Also, back then, a Big Mac from McDonald’s was about $1; that price is ingrained in my memory because after purchasing a round-trip bus ticket from Pittsburgh to Pasadena, the only meals that I could afford were sodas and Big Macs and an occasional bag of chips.
Did I mention that I could only get a motel room in Santa Barbara which cost around $35 per night but was about an hour and forty minutes away from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena? I was blessed because two Steelers fans, Charles and Gretchen Wisniewski (I think his wife’s name was Gretchen) were staying at the same motel.
For the next several days I commuted back and forth with the couple to various fan-related activities in the days leading up to the game.
During the game itself I was unfortunately seated in a Rams “fanatic” section. For the entire game I was forced to endure the drunken rants about how the Steelers were the perfect representatives for Thugs Incorporated whose headquarters happened to be located in the “Smoky City,” and how Rams QB Vince Ferragamo sat just below St. Peter in regards to the Holy Hierarchy.
After the game was over, I thought that I would reconnect with the couple and hitch a ride back to Pittsburgh, but it didn’t happen. I ended up sleeping in the Pasadena bus station until my bus departed at around 3:30 a.m. the following morning heading back home.
Before I departed from Pittsburgh, I knew that I was going to be on the road more than 190 hours round-trip, so I was smart enough to bring several washcloths and towels along with plenty of soap and toothpaste as well. When we arrived in Denver for our layover, there were a few people on the journey that had become “unofficial,” “uninvited” and possibly “unintended” members of the inner circle of “Funkadelic” and George Clinton was nowhere to be found.
Hitting the fast-forward button now. A few years ago, when I delivered the eulogy for my brother’s memorial, I wrote and dedicated a poem to him. It was titled, “I was once.” An excerpt from the poem goes something like this: “I was once a young man, watching my mate with bright and grateful eyes as she bore and birthed the fruit of my seed. I am now an old man loving each sunrise more, fearing each sunset less, knowing the difference between life and living, respecting the difference between death and dying, caressing eternity.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers no longer fear the future because they, too, are caressing sports history as they continue to plant the seeds that are producing the fruits of excellence and success.