PNC Park

Nearly seven years ago, Pittsburgh took me by surprise when it grabbed my heart and squeezed.

All I knew of the city came from my college geography and history classes. At the time, I was struck by the role of rivers in the formation of cities. Pittsburgh doesn’t just have one river, but three, and during the Industrial Revolution in the United States became known for its ‘dirty’ industry. The rivers made it an attraction and strategic location and the seam of coal sitting underneath created an important industrial capital. Despite my interest in the location, I never thought about visiting, and I certainly never considered living in the Steel City.

Yet, life had other plans for me when I reconnected with a love from my teenage years. That’s the other thing I knew about the city. I knew more than forty years before that he’d left me to make a go of his life in Pittsburgh. After I graduated from college, I headed south to Florida. And that was my connection to Pittsburgh until 2009.

Fort Pitt TunnelWhen we reconnected, I visited Pittsburgh for the first time. Once my husband drove me through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and I came out on the other side into the magical land of the three rivers, I was a goner. I became more familiar with the downtown of the city than my husband, who’d lived in the north hills and only came downtown occasionally.the view

I shopped in the Strip district every month, stocking up on seafood, freshly roasted coffee beans, cheese, stuffed grape leaves,  and craft beers brewed nearby. Walking down Penn Avenue that cuts right through the heart of the Strip, dodging vendors’ tables piled high with Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins gear and indulging in impulse purchases of scarves and hats, put me in mind of a Moroccan or Chilean market.

For years, I’d denied my sports-dominated childhood. I grew up with four older brothers–athletes all–where I existed as the physically ungifted girl. But that all changed when I moved to the ‘Burgh. I went back to my roots, except this time instead of cheering for the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings, I’d become a fan of all things gold and black.

Go Steelers!

Go Steelers!

There is nothing quite as exciting as attending a Steelers game at Heinz Field and watching the ketchup bottle spill the red stuff whenever the home team made it to the end zone. The coolness of entering Consul Energy Center gripped me and kept me cool while the Penguins melted the ice, playing stellar hockey and entertaining the fans with the likes of Crosby and Malkin. I never really liked hockey until these boys made it impossible to sit back and ignore.

But nothing made me more of a fan of Pittsburgh than going to PNC Park and watching those Pirates grow into a team that could be a contender. My husband took me to my first game in the spring of 2010 on a Friday night. Along with maybe one hundred other fans, we had our choice of seats to watch a lackluster team. Except for two new players: Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. I felt a rush of adrenaline when either one of them came to the plate. Within two years, the Pirates rose from laughing stock to winning team. It’s been a pleasure to watch them play and revel in their victories. This past year, thirty thousand fans often packed the house of Friday nights.

PNC Park

PNC Park

Last month, we left Pittsburgh physically. We’ve been in the process of leaving for six months, but in December it became official. Each thing I did in those final weeks became poignant with the thought I may never pass this way again.

Seven years ago, I’d never imagine the sadness I felt about leaving.

The move is positive, but as with most things in life, change is still a form of loss. I will mourn the loss of Pittsburgh in my life, but will be forever grateful for the home it provided me in the past six years as my husband and I began our life together. I will always view the Steel City with the soft chewy center as the place of my honeymoon that never ended. Steelers Fans

Thank you, Yinzers. I will always be a fan, and you will always be a part of my heart.

Heinz Field

Heinz Field from the Allegheny River

Raccoon Lake in western Pennsylvania

Raccoon Lake in western Pennsylvania

The abundant garden

Our abundant garden


And always the bridges of steel

And always the bridges of steel

#Pittsburgh Made Me A Sports Fan Once Again

myPittsburghSportsBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

Sports Fan? “No way,” she said before she moved to Pittsburgh.

This is a tale of a woman who rebelled against her upbringing with four older, and athletic, brothers.

For years, I hated sports because they took most of my family away from me on weekends and holidays. They might have only gone as far as the living room floor, sprawling out in front of our black and white television set adorned with rabbit ears. (For those of you too young to know, the rabbit ears were antennas, pointed toward the nearest television stations.) My brothers and father focused solely on the game at hand. Sports also took my parents away as they attempted to attend every sports event of each of my brothers.

Yes, I hated sports, with certain conditions. I loved the Detroit Tigers because one of my brothers signed with them in 1965, and we went to many games during his two-year stint in the minor leagues. I only loved them live – not on the television.BigBrotherTigers

My first husband was not an athlete, and he didn’t share my family’s obsession with professional and college football, basketball, golf, hockey, and baseball. I buried my head in the sand when we moved to Florida to the land of Gators. I worked with folks who wore orange and blue underwear, and still I resisted through the Spurrier years and Tebowdom.

Then something miraculous occurred. I moved to Pittsburgh and married a man who’d grown up with my brothers in Michigan, yet lived in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than three decades. He indoctrinated me when he took me to a driving range for my first attempt in forty years at swinging a club. I missed and nearly spun myself around on the fake grass. Embarrassed, I looked at my Pittsburgh man.

“Come on,” he said. “You come from a long line of athletes. You have this in your genes.”

At first, it ticked me off. And then, it clicked. I swung and hit the ball more than 200 yards.

Thus began my re-indoctrination into the sports world.

The training continued with my first Steelers game at Heinz Field on downtown Pittsburgh’s northside. How could I resist a stadium where the glittering lights of downtown skyscrapers reflected in the three rivers of Pittsburgh? How could I resist the giant Heinz ketchup bottles at one end of the stadium that open and pour out ketchup when the home team makes it to the red zone?

My rebellion halted the first time I saw a giant plastic bottle with fake red ketchup pouring out of its top.Steelers Fans

We went to an August 2009 Pirates game at PNC Park, which is rated as one of the top baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball. It was a Friday night at the end of yet another losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We were nearly alone in the seats and moved as close as we could to the action. I saw Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in action and wondered why the team couldn’t do better. We went to more games in 2010, 2011, and 2012 as they continued to lose, with short glimmers of hope when the bats of Pedro Alvarez and “Cutch” slung balls into the bleachers. I slowly became a fan.

PNC Park

PNC Park

Then there were the Penguins. We went to several games each season. Last year, they were contenders once again for the Stanley Cup only to lose badly to Boston in post-season play. I was sad for Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of the young men who played so hard for Pittsburgh.

To put salve on the wound, expectations began rising for the Pirates in spring 2013. I refused to hope for anything but a win at the games I attended. We went four times this season, and they lost each time. We waited for two months, and then couldn’t resist heading down to PNC Park for one more try a few weeks ago. This time – four years after my first game – the stadium was filled with cheering fans, and they won.

A few weeks ago, the Pirates and their fans could boast about their first winning season in twenty years. They most certainly will be in the playoffs once the regular season ends next weekend.

I can’t explain how it happened, but it did. I’m almost a bigger fan than my husband because I always hope for the win. He gives up early in the games, but I hold on for the miracle. In my miracle, the Steelers beat the Bears despite a two-touchdown deficit; the Penguins win at least one game against the Bruins in the playoffs; and the Pirates make it to the World Series.

If my miracles continue to occur, the Tigers and the Pirates will slug it out for the top honor in October.

If this happens, there’s no way I’ll lose.

My husband was right this one time. It really is in my genes.golfpros