If you are on this site, it is because you are an avid sports fan.
If you are reading this story, it is most likely because you are a diehard NFL fan with the desire to satisfy your curiosity as to how a regular joe can rub shoulders with owners and be allowed to wear Super Bowl rings.
It’s easy, but it’s a long story.
Growing Up A Steelers Fan
I spent my days as a child entrenched in the sport of football in any way possible. While everyone else was playing Super Mario and Street Fighter, I was deep into the next season with my 15th team in the latest edition of Tecmo Bowl.
Just for fun I would sometimes pick the crappiest team in the game and begin a season just to see how far I could take them. I got so good that eventually I could take any team to the Super Bowl. When not doing that, I was at the football field playing pick up games literally every weekend.
Football was life, and I just knew that with all the time and practice I had put into it that one day I would be wearing a Super Bowl ring.
I grew up in East Texas about an hour and a half northeast of Dallas. The Cowboys had begun their reign of supremacy when I was 12 years old. They won Super Bowls in 1992, 1993, and 1997. East Texas was abuzz back then due to the success of the beloved Dallas Cowboys, and every teenage football fanatic had a reason to celebrate.
See, I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Those weekends spent at the field and playing Tecmo Bowl came with the company of my uncle who was a diehard Steelers fan.
Sundays consisted of searching for raw satellite feeds for a glimpse of the Steelers game and checking the 10 minute ticker (remember that?) for score updates. The Internet was not as common back then and ESPN just wasn’t what it is today. The NFL Network wasn’t even around. To keep up with the latest info, we had to subscribe to editions of Steelers Digest that were mailed from Pennsylvania, and the content was always at least a week old by the time we got it.
Needless to say, growing up a Steelers fan in Cowboys Country in the 90s wasn’t an easy thing to do, especially following Super Bowl XXX. Our family’s allegiance to the Steelers never waivered, however, and we continued to support the Steelers in spite of our location.
When I was 11 years old my uncle drove me from Texas all the way to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the opening day game versus the San Diego Chargers. We won. Though my team wasn’t the one winning Super Bowls, I was still getting to do stuff no other kid my age was doing. I mean, really — who else rides across the country at 11 years old to watch a football game?
I would be a Steelers fan for life and hope one day to witness my team do what the Cowboys were able to do — win a Super Bowl.
As time passed and the information outlets became more accessible, the Steelers became easier to follow. Sunday Ticket became available, and with the Internet, NFL Network, and 52 ESPNs, I could keep up with them almost as if they were a local team.
But something was still missing.
It was the tail-gating, the terrible towel waving, the screaming your head off in the stadium and losing your voice the next day experiences that we were missing out on. Our only way to make this happen was to travel.
So travel we did.
“Road Warriors” Are Born
Now we were just working stiffs, so we didn’t have money to go to every game the Steelers played, but that makes my story much more memorable. We could only realistically afford to go to one game a year. The price of good seats alone runs us around $300 a piece, and that is not factoring in the fact that we have to make incredibly long road trips at $3.65 a gallon.
Our first “Road Warriors” trip was in 2006. The Steelers played the Atlanta Falcons. We drove there, found a hotel, and went to the game the next day. The Steelers suffered a heart-breaking loss due to a stupid penalty that resulted in a 10-second runoff late in the game, which killed our chances at a field goal. My uncle and I made this trip alone, and the long ride back was miserable.
The next year we decided on St. Louis. It was a night game broadcast by NFL Network. The head count for this trip was four. After a 12-hour drive, we ended up in St. Louis and began looking for a hotel. As luck would have it, one of the first ones we tried had availability the night before the game…and guess who else was staying there?
None other than Pittsburgh Steelers themselves.
After checking in and heading back into the lobby we were interviewed by a Pittsburgh News Station once we told them the story of our travels all the way to St. Louis from Texas to watch the Steelers. Pretty cool.
The hotel staff was not very strict about anything, and we pretty much hung out downstairs for the night. We were sitting in the lounge area chatting when Mike Tomlin walked past. My family was able to walk right up to him, shake his hand, and chat for a minute.
It wasn’t just Tomlin that was out roaming the hotel lobby. The entire organization was, and there were only a few of us Steelers fans there to recognize them. My cousin took an elevator ride with Troy Polamalu and I was chatting with Aaron Smith.
Meeting Dan Rooney
Our heads were almost spinning. What an awesome way to spend the night before a Steelers game, we thought, when this little old man came walking by escorted by a chaperone.
The little old man was Steelers owner Dan Rooney.
Mr Rooney stopped and spoke with each one of us while posing for pictures. He isn’t exactly the most charismatic man in the world as you can tell.
Mr. Rooney told us we should go upstairs to the private area reserved for the players if we wanted to hang out with more Steelers. It was a nice gesture, but it was hard getting up there. We weren’t about to ask him to walk us up there himself.
We all went outside to the smoking section to talk about an unexpected night of events. A guy in a suit walked up and began talking to us. We could tell he was a member of the Steelers organization, but we didn’t know to what extent. After telling him our story and how far we traveled, he let us know he was a member of the Steelers PR team.
Wearing A Super Bowl Ring
“Have you guys ever seen an actual Super Bowl ring?”, he asked us.
Well of course we hadn’t.
“No, we haven’t”, we said “not in person.”
He then pulled a Super Bowl ring out of his pocket and let us examine it close up. This was the ring from Super Bowl XL when Pittsburgh defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10.
“Wanna try it on?” he asked.
So here we are, about to put on the World Champions Ring from Super Bowl XL, just as I used to envision as a child.
In case you think I’m kidding:
The Steelers went on to pound the St. Louis Rams 41-24 the following night, which was the perfect ending to an unforgettable trip.
Since then our Steelers gang has grown, and we have continued our tradition of yearly “Road Warriors” trips to attend Steelers games. We have been to Atlanta, St. Louis, Cincy, Kansas City, and Houston.
Although road games have their drawbacks…
You get to let that city know who’s in town…
Each year we try to find the hotel the Steelers are staying at in hopes of reliving our experience in St. Louis. This last season we made the not-so-far trip to Houston, and it took us quite a while but were were able to find them once again.
We did happen to meet a guy that worked with the Steelers again. We couldn’t help but tell him the story of how we got to wear the Super Bowl Ring from Super Bowl XL, knowing that they had since won another Super Bowl in 2008.
Looking back, it really payed off sticking with the Steelers back when I was kid. My NFL fandom has rewarded me many times over with memorable experiences with my family.
My son was born last November. I can’t wait until he is old enough to take down to the football field and send him on fly patterns, just like I used to do, while we begin our dreams of one day seeing him fitted for his own Super Bowl ring.
If you are a hardcore fan like me and want to give your family a memorable experience, travel to an away game, find the hotel your team is staying at, and check in.
You never know what might happen.