..is that you get to let your mind go to places that eventually take the rest of you on a fascinating trip. Several years ago I started dreaming about this guy – I named him Syd Jupiter – who was a former pro-football player and what happened to him began to unfold in my subconscious. I knew what I wanted the story to be about, more or less anyway, and the rest was just allowed to take its time developing. That's my favorite way to write – let stories tell themselves to me.
When I actually started writing the story down about a year ago I decided to make my character a former Pittsburgh Steeler because a.) I've been a Steeler fan since forever and b.) the whole “men of steel” from a steelworkers town thing is something I love. Anyone who has read my other two novels knows that I love writing about men who are real guys – fishermen, mariners, carpenters, mill workers. Plus I knew more about the Steelers than about any other team.
I went to Penn State and Franco Harris was on the team when I was there. I remember seeing him on campus a few times, he was so good looking! All the girls I knew drooled over him. Plus he had a reputation as being a nice guy, quiet and laid-back – all the right stuff. I've written on this blog before about the game in which he caught that amazing reception that became famous as the Miraculous Reception. After I was out of schools and working part time tending bar we used to look forward to Steelers games and everyone had their favorite players. One of my friends was nuts about Randy Grossman and another had the hots for John Banaszak. And then there were all the players who were just so awesome because they were just so awesome – Joe Greene and Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier and, of course, Franco.
I was thinking about all of this when I was working on my story. It gave me the perfect excuse to spend hours on YouTube watching videos and looking up information on the Steel Curtain defense and letting my imagination run wild. So it's sort of fascinating that, in the midst of all this, the Steelers beat the Ravens. And then they beat the Jets. And now they are on their way to their seventh Super Bowl. How cool is that? I know they did it just for me.
Football is different now than it was back in the Seventies (though I'm not sure James Harrison knows that) but even with the changes there are guys like Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger (spare me the comments about his alleged crimes and don't give me any of that “where there's smoke, there's fire" bull – the guy's a fantastic player who used very bad judgment and since I still live in a country where one is innocent until proven guilty that's good enough for me) make football just as exciting as it was back then.
So I'm having a great time revisiting a different time in my life when I was crazy-nuts-in-love with a whole team of awesome guys and I'm grateful to have been young and romantic and passionate then. I hope some of that comes out as I'm creating my Syd – he could have been one of them.
I found this great picture and I remember the game during which it was taken. It was in 1975 and the Steelers were playing the Raiders who had a reputation for being nasty. It was the last quarter and Lynn Swann got knocked out cold. Joe Greene picked him up and carried him off the field. Swann tells the story that later, when he tried to thank Joe, Joe said, “I had to – we couldn't afford to waste a time-out on you.”
Love those guys. Go Steelers!
Thanks for reading.