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Letter to Editor: To Pittsburgh Sports Fans, From a Coach’s Wife



View from Grand View Scenic Byway Park — of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline, from Mount Washington. -- Bobak Ha'Eri | CC BY-SA 2.5

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh Sports Now received the following unsigned letter from the wife of one of the former members of Pitt’s basketball staff. It is being published unedited.

“Could you live in Pittsburgh?” he asked me one day. “Pittsburgh?” I replied, “I love Pittsburgh.” I had visited multiple times for work and vividly remember standing in the banquet hall at Rivers Casino, overlooking the 3 Rivers and Heinz Field while on the phone with him as I declared “Pittsburgh is a cool town, I could live here.” Little did I know that one day, only a few years later, I would be.

Next thing I knew, we were driving through the Fort Pitt tunnel, him for the first time ever (yes, that’s right, he took the job sight unseen). I watched his face light up as we emerged to that breathtaking, first view of the city. He didn’t know anything about Pittsburgh aside from what I had told him, but he did know one thing: Pittsburgh is one of, if not the greatest sports town in America. And how could he not want to be a part of that?

This is a city where all 3 professional sports teams boast the same colors.
Black & Yellow.
No other city in America can say that.
This is a city with 6 Super Bowl titles.
No other city in the world can say that.
This is a city with back-to-back Stanley Cups.
THIS…is the City of Champions.

And though the accolades are many and great, the real champions of this town are the fans.

I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Pittsburgh sports fans are the biggest sports fans in the world as far as I’m concerned. Case in point: two years ago, when the Falcons played the Patriots in the Super Bowl, guess which city was ranked #1 in viewership for the game…HINT: it wasn’t Atlanta or any city in New England.

Within months of moving into our little Bloomfield home, we had people literally showing up at our door to give us Steelers gear. “You’re one of us now,” they proudly declared as they shoved a Terrible Towel in my face.

The overwhelming sense of community among Pittsburgh sports fans is one of the many things that make this city truly one-of-a-kind. We are strong when we are together. Ask anyone who has ever walked onto the North Shore wearing the opposing team’s colors. But with that power comes great responsibility.

Pittsburgh sports fans matter. Your voice matters, and it is a powerful voice. What you say, whether it’s to each other, on a message board, in the newspaper, on social media…it’s heard far and wide. And it grows, and it spreads. When that voice is used to build your team up, it does exactly that. When that voice is used to tear your team down, it does exactly that. Think about that for a minute. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to be frustrated. Nobody gets frustration more than a coach’s wife. I’m simply saying that your voice has the power to affect change, and what you choose to do with that power creates a butterfly effect, for better or for worse.

To every Pittsburgh sports fan out there who has used their voice to spread negativity, it is time to realize that the only thing standing in your way of achieving the greatness you so strongly desire for your city and your team…is yourself.

No great player is going to want to come to a place where it’s possible that his own fans will turn on him the second he makes a mistake.

No great coach is going to want to come to a place where he feels his job is in jeopardy the minute he starts losing.

The environment that’s been created here is such that, if you don’t achieve immediate success, you’re out. And here’s the reason that doesn’t work.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Great things take time to build. Some day, the Liberty Bridge will become fully functional again. And we can complain, and yell, and honk and be as frustrated as humanly possible that it’s not fixed RIGHT NOW, but you can’t rush progress. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to drive across a bridge that was rebuilt in a day.

Give more credit to the athletes and coaches in this town who show up every day and compete at the highest level regardless of what their record is or what you’re saying about them. Recognize the fact that they’ve spent the entire year in a foxhole together, growing along the way. There are more lessons to be learned in losing than in winning. Imagine how great we could be if we allowed our teams to learn these lessons and get better because of it.

There is a contingency of you out there who I would like to acknowledge without calling you by name. You know exactly who you are. I will never forget your loyalty and unwavering belief in us through thick and thin. I know how difficult and unpopular it is to be a positive voice in a sea of negativity. But it is because of YOU that, for a brief moment, we got to be a part of the incredible culture that is Pittsburgh athletics, and I will always cherish that. I am going to miss a lot: our charming neighborhood and incredible neighbors who brought us spaghetti and homemade wine when our house flooded the week we moved in; Pamela’s Diner; The Great Pierogi Race; everything from Little Italy Days to ice skating downtown on Christmas Eve.

I regret that we will never be given the chance to prove to you that we could’ve been exactly what you wanted all along. I never doubted that we would get there in time…if given the time.

Pittsburgh sports fans, give yourselves the chance to succeed. Understand the power of your words, and use it for good. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only ones standing in your way of ensuring that Pittsburgh remains the greatest sports town in America and the one and only City of Champions.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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