There's no denying that Pittsburgh is a sports fan's city. You've got a calendar year chock full of pure, unadulterated sports enjoyment - from the Pens, to the Bucs, to a little-known football team we like to call the Stillers (maybe you've heard of them?). All boast histories of humble beginnings and are symbolic of the things that make me proud to be a Pittsburgher - dedication, diversity, and determination.
...That being said, I must admit that I am far from what you'd call a sports fan. I'd rather read a book than jump on a couch shouting for this so-called Big Ben or Polamaluwhowho? I tend to think that overindulging in alcohol, red meat, and gratuitous violence is barbaric and a sign that the human race has not evolved as much as we pretend. But I cannot deny that Sunday, February 1, 2009, I found myself ecstatically shouting and pumping my arms in the air. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the Yuengling, but I felt for the first time that I might understand how fans catch the Black-and-Gold fever.
I doubt I will ever spend thousands of dollars on a football ticket. And I truly don't see myself sitting outside in 8 degree weather to cheer for anything, but somehow...somewhere...there is a Steelers fan lurking inside me. Maybe it is best said that I am a tried and true Pittsburgh fan. That anything showcasing this city is something that can make me feel wholly good. Whether it is the greatness of a city or a team of small-town heroes - believing in something and being proud of something makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. And isn't that a great and comforting feeling?
And here's where the archives come in...Archives are a part of something bigger. They are rooted in our human nature, a collecting tendency that seems programmed into (almost) everyone's DNA. Sports memorabilia and paraphernalia can make up a large portion of many archival collections. Better yet, many people (my father-in-law, for example) have created their own archives in their basements and attics...unaware of the connection to our profession. I think these sports fans are closet advocates for archives and could be a great source of patronage.
Unfortunately, here in Pittsburgh, these fans (or amateur archivists and museum curators) seem relatively untouched by the stories collected and displayed at the Heinz History Center's Sports Museum. Located in a relatively unassuming brick building at the end of the Strip District, too many Pittsburghers are unaware of the museum's existence. I don't know if I'm just completely oblivious or if the Heinz History Center is doing too little to promote its events and collections but I've heard very little about what the Sports Museum is doing to celebrate the Steelers' victory. There is mention of events on the museum's website but how is this reaching the people of Pittsburgh (and any other Steelers fans) if they don't look at the website?
But how should the History Center go about making itself more well-known? Are there untapped possibilities for connecting to the collectors hidden in their basement galleries?
Baseball card expos hosted at the History Center? Tutorials for taking care of sports-related ephemera?