FSN blogger makes Sports Illustrated-wife not impressed


How often does a small town loser make Sports Illustrated? Obviously that answer is simple.  Never.  And this isn’t some regional issue, no it’s big fella.  You can buy a hardbound version at www.sipittsburghbook.com.

The guy in the one inch by inch photo isn’t wearing gloves.  He is staring directly at the cameraman.  And weeks later he now knows it is SI photo supergenius Rob R0sato.  The kid that grew up in the tiny coal mining town that was so small they combined the towns (Philipsburg Osceola),  never made the Faces in the Crowd section of Sports Illustrated.  Never once did Peter King mention his service in  the US Army.  (And rightfully so. His ten years of Army service pales in comparison to the St. Louis Rams loving/IED destroyer First Sgt Mike McGuire.  “Top” serves in the 40th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. Peter King did well when he met Mike at a Cardinals game and then stayed in touch with Mike while covering his service to our country in the pages of Monday Morning Quarterback in SI for years.)  Yeh, SI sticks with big stories and hot women with big eyes to capture the hearts of American sports fans. 

Many times the young manwould  squint  at the Steelers fans in the background on those SI glossy pages during the five Super Bowl seasons, but no matter how many games he attended, he always ended up on the cutting room floor.  He  would see the Zero Tolerance gang-what a wild bunch of fans they are.  He would see the Hines Field guys, even when he was young he would look so enviously at the fans that made up Lamberts Lunatics, Gerelas Guerillas, and Francos Italian Army.

But never once did he make it on an SI page.  He was always left out.

So he had his mind set.  This was the year.  With the Steelers in the playoffs and a young coach that had a defining grip on his team, he was determined to do his part.  He had to make an impact when it counted.  The NFL Playoffs.

In Pittsburgh, we love Mike Tomlin and what he represents to all of us during cold winters and the past few years of difficult times in our country.  Excuses are not accepted.  We like that around these parts.  Mike exudes confidence.  He wears his jacket unzipped.  We like that too, well the fathers do anyway.  Mike needed a fan club.

Mikes Masked Maniacs was born.  I was going to do what I had talked about doing since Mom had taken me to see those crazed NWA wrestlers at the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona on that cold February night so long ago when Tommy Rich, Dusty Rhodes and Buzz Sawyer inspired me.

I was going to buy wrestling masks.

We would create one of the legendary Pittsburgh icon/fan club/tailgatin lovin gangs like Frenchy’s Foreign Legion and Bradshaws Brigade.  I would gather a few teammates and we would pattern oursleves after Pittsburgh’s own Masked Superstar.   Wow.  Really?  Surely I was dreaming.  It still is hard to write,  let alone read I’m sure.  We Steeler fans are bizarre.

I have heard that back in the 70’s the camerman could never bring enough film to Pittsburgh.  I felt it important to continue this tradition.

I talked  with my fellow Steeler faithful, Chef and Nick, and the original horsemen were born.  On January 11 we dashed to our front row seats that Maniac Nick had scored for us in section 107, and sure enough, didn’t those camera guys see us.  The rest was history.  Well, in our eyes anyway although Nick and I didn’t know for certain until we went to grab nachos at halftime.  It was then that  we checked our phones and sure enough John P was the first to confirm and along 17 voicemails and countless emails, the Maniacs had made it.  We had made the lead in on national TV.  Heh, it worked.  Oh yeh, and while we were gone Chef got another cameo.

We were tackled by some happy fans.  We signed an autograph or two.  And of course we answered the question, ”where did you get those masks?” about fifty times. Two days after the Chargers were sent back to San Diego, the Ebay site with ”the new rage in Steelers country” was born.  Somebody was  selling wrestling masks for $100.  WoW!  I guess he sold six hundred masks in a few days and I am happy for that capitalist Steeler fan.   We were official.  Well I am not certain official is the right phrase as the NFL could own the rights to the phrase.   They own everything else it seems.  Please don’t sue me, not during my fifteen minutes of fame.

The next week it was time to upgrade as the Ravens were coming to town.  A few new masks and a homemade banner was in the works.  We added carefully selected props that week as well: Two 21 inch tall mail order ravens to signify our conference victories during the season over the Ebony Birds.

On Game Day we dashed to our same seats and the cameras followed.  We hung each of the Ravens from one half inch rope that we tied in makeshift nooses from the steel rail in front of our seats.  (And we added one raven to throw out joyfully AFTER we captured the victory.  And ohhhhh did we throw that third Raven from our gloveless hands joyfully when Polamalu intercepted Flacco and hoisted the pigskin skyward as he crossed the goaline in the final minutes to seal our trip to SBXLIII.)

Sure many people will say how do we know it’s really you Smitty? You are wearing a wrestling mask for God sake!  For those 600 other Maniacs that bought the $100 masks, go ahead and say it’s you, it’s ok.  We are all Mikes Masked Maniacs now.  We all share in this sixth championship.

Except one person.  Except you.  My wife. My Eagle loving wife.

She could care less. Of course that is my fault for marrying an Eagles fan.  She still can’t believe the defense that stuck it to us in Philly earlier in the season (as she celebrated her birthday) couldn’t stop the Cardinals.  Why in the world can’t McNabb win when it counts?  I will tell you why.  There wasn’t a dedicated fan base that was willing to sacrifice their identity and become Andy’s ..  well, … it could be Andy’s uhhh…. hell, I don’t know what would a  band of Libre’s be called who loved the Eagles Andy Reid?  So maybe that explains it.

The Rooneys have to be barrell chested proud of their guys from Colbert to Berger.  I know Tomlin is proud.  The Steeler Nation still can’t believe it, although it is starting to sink in that we are as SI’s Damon Hack says, (on page 51 just nine pages from Mike’s Masked Maniacs first appearance in SI), ”the NFLs marquee franchise of the Super Bowl era. ”

But I have to believe it.   There I am on page 43 of the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl XLIII Champion Commemorative Issue with my fellow Maniacs.  Forever.  In a Casey Hampton jersey.  Waving the terrible towel.  And on my face is the September Negroe Professional Wrestling mask that was purchased for nine American dollars. Plus shipping.  What a feeling.