Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Leslie's Other Love

Apart from the kids and I, Leslie's other love was the Steelers.  When I moved to Pittsburgh, one of the first ways in which Leslie and this City changed me was supplanting my old sports allegiances with new Pittsburgh versions.  We went to Penguins games, and Pirates games, and Steeler games.  And she loved all of the teams...but chiefest of these loves was the Steelers.

Leslie was a bit of a tomboy, or at least as much of a tomboy as a princess can manage.  Leslie was a daddy's girl.  Daddy was a big time sports fan...and Leslie was too.  I retrieved her first ever Terrible Towel and took a picture of it.  She made it.  In fourth grade. 

You don't wash terrible towels.  It would wash the excellence out of them. 
I don't know...and I don't WANT to know what horrible things have stained this one since 1979 (ish)
Her dad got season tickets back before the team had rings, and Leslie (and I, ultimately) benefited.  I don't remember when we officially took over the other two seats (from my father-in-law's friends), but I know I've been going to Steeler games regularly since probably around 1997. 

Ritual and tradition (one way in which Emma and Leslie are very similar) were so important to Leslie, and Steeler Sunday at the field (first Three Rivers, now Heinz Field) had little rituals all their own.

We used to leave the house at 10 for 1 o'clock games.  When they were at Three Rivers we'd park in the lot and find our friends the Miletics for Root Beer (flavored Everclear, if we're being honest) and tailgating before the game.  At Heinz, we ultimately ended up going to a bar named Finnegan's Wake about a half mile from the field. 

I'd order the steak chipotle wrap.  I think we went the the Super Bowl the first year I started ordering it (maybe the second) so I never changed.  Steak Chipotle wrap and a Smithwick's (pronounced smiddicks).  Leslie would order a Harp and whatever looked good that morning.

She bought me my Terrible Towel.  And lots of team jerseys.  And I bought her jerseys too...and they were almost always cursed.  Every year she'd get a new jersey, and then that player would almost immediately get injured, retire, or get traded...so she'd need a new one. 

But here's the thing I want to talk about.  I shared the "Little Things" post on facebook, and a friend mentioned this little thing Leslie did that I know I'm going to miss like crazy.  Leslie, devout fan that she was, refused to watch or listen to ANY pivotal play.  If the play had game winning/losing consequences, she retreated to a do-it-yourself sensory deprivation chamber, squeezing her eyes shut so that they wrinkled at the corners, curling forward in her seat into a ball, jamming her fingers into her ears...until the play was over.  She was present during some of the most amazing plays in Steeler history...but didn't actually see any of them happen.  At the game or home watching TV, it didn't matter.  If the game was on the line...she was in the blackout mode. 

Sometimes, the Steelers would have a huge play.  Like say the other team was about to score.  Say it was first and ten on the one and they were going to run it in to take a 1 point lead with no time left.   I would watch the play.  I would always watch the play.  Let's say the Steelers forced a fumble, picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.  I would "punish" her.  I would sit stoically closed-mouthed.  The play would end.  No cheers...no yelling.  She would assume the worst. 

She'd open her eyes slowly and glance up, her fingers slowly coming away from her ears.  She would look confused at first and then glance at me and I would say in mock anger, "Yeah, fumble.  We picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.  Game over.  We win.  THAT is what you get for not watching!!"

And she'd call me an ass and laugh but then we'd high five and scare the shit out of our kids with our yelling.  (Emma would leave the room during Steeler games because Leslie's cheering/jeering was so.  goddamned.  loud.  that it frightened her.)

In her lifetime Leslie got to see Willie Stargell and Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Troy Polamalu, Jerome Bettis and Barry Bonds, all in person.  After the Stanley Cup, Leslie (who used to party at a bar called Froggy's (which is no longer in existence) kissed Bryan Trottier on the mouth and drank from the Stanley Cup.  THAT is living life.  That is unbridled joy.  That is sports, baby!  And Leslie was game!

Lookin' sassy at training camp

Father's day present...her dad, my dad, and her.

We went to a Klout event!  Because I'm a "Steeler" expert apparently.  We met
Larry Foote and listened to him speak, and tried on a Super Bowl ring.

After the first bout of cancer.  She hated this hat because it was a cancer
survivor hat and because she didn't want to be identified as "cancer ________".  She
felt like it called her out.  She just wanted to live her life.

Tipsy sleepy Leslie, resting her head on a Steeler blanket
four stories above the gathering crowd at Heinz Field

Just Leslie being cute and fun and happy at Three Rivers

We're so cute.  Look at that sweater.  LOOK AT IT

One of my first games I assume, because that coat came with me
from Montana, and I think I might have still had it at the cottage house,
but not much longer than that...

Not sure how long ago this was, but it's in Heinz field, and she's got on her
Hines Ward jersey (the only one she ever had that was "valid" more than one year)

Les and her dad...not game time yet...those seats will fill up shortly with
drunken, stupid, obnoxious fans.  She missed going to the games.


  1. Truly, this is one of the best love stories ever...keep the chapters coming!

  2. These photos are so great! You guys are adorable. I loved reading this, especially because I had such fun learning about football from Leslie (yes yes calm down, you taught me some stuff too). Every time I see my Steelers jersey in the closet it makes me smile and think of her.

  3. such a special life to celebrate. your an incredible story writer keep sharing.