Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“Bumblebee Blitz”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a slow day at the Icehouse home office.
I had finished a trio of newspaper projects, and found time to organize a bit of the clutter left on my oversized desk. A new computer, purchased one week before, took up less space than the decade-old unit it replaced. So suddenly, the accumulated mess had been exposed.
I responded by filling a trash barrel with discarded magazines, travel brochures, and political literature. Redundant accessories went into a box for Goodwill.
Then, a moment of relaxation seemed in order.
I had just begun to sip a cup of Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea, when my telephone rang.
“Hello?” I answered gruffly.  
A familiar voice boomed in my ear. “Goin’ to the playoffs again, you bet!”
It was my erstwhile neighbor from Pittsburgh, Al Luccioni.
“Hello, Al,” I sighed. “Do you think it will ever stop raining?”
“Hey, it’s rainin’ victories here in the ‘Burgh!” he cheered.
“My yard is a swamp,” I complained.
“So, you behavin’ out there, kiddo?” he laughed, quizzically. “It’s NFL football time. That always makes me think of you.”
I rubbed my eyes. “Football makes you think of… me?”
“Every week, I know you’ll be cryin’ in your beer.” He snorted. “And we’ll be marchin’ to another Superbowl.”
“The Browns have actually won a couple of games,” I said in correction. “Brandon Weeden is looking better each week. And we have a new owner. One who actually has some history with your team.”
“Hey, I know Hablam spent some time with us,” he observed. “Big deal. Rooney didn’t give him no secrets.”
“His name is HASLAM,” I said, sternly. “James Haslam III.”
“Yeah,” Al agreed, while popping open a can of Iron City beer. “Hablam has a truck stop. Whoop-de-doo. I don’t think he knows too much about football. He don’t scare me none.”
“Mr. Haslam’s brother, Bill, is governor of Tennessee,” I interjected. “They are from a hard-working, successful family.”
“You wanna know about work?” he huffed. “Try keepin’ up with Ma’s gardens here. She had me busy all summer. Now we got a pantry full of canned stuff. Yinz people in Cleveland like pickled squash and kielbasa?”
I shuddered thinking about his concoction. “Ummm… more likely hot wings with pizza.”
“Hey, whatever!” he growled. “We know what’s good in the ‘Burgh.”
“Really?” I grinned. “Like… those throwback uniforms you wore while playing the Washington Redskins?”
“Pound salt!” he roared. “That was the 1934 Steelers look. Show some respect, kiddo!”
“They were called the Pirates back then,” I reflected.
“So what?” he barked.
“It’s kind of funny,” I continued. “That team only won two games all season. In fact, they were shut out five times. Luby DiMeolo’s Pirates finished 2-10, a miserable record. What was the point of honoring a group that lost?”
“WIN-NERS!” Al shouted. “Pittsburgh is a town full of win-ners! You hear me?”
“Your team’s winning average from 1933 to 1969 was 39%,” I said. “They only made the playoffs once in 36 years, and lost. Fans knew them as the doormat of the league.”
“SIX SUPERBOWLS!” my friend exploded.
“Sure, sure,” I agreed. “You’ve got some rings now. All I’m saying is that you’d be better off pretending the franchise didn’t exist before Chuck Noll came to town.”
“We was toughenin’ up for the future,” he insisted. “Like hammerin’ out a piece of steel.”
“Noll was born in the Cleveland area and played for legendary coach Paul Brown,” I explained. “There’s no doubt where his knowledge of the game developed…”
“A PIECE OF STEEL!” he howled.
“The Pirate-Steelers were actually a piece of something else…” I said dryly.
“TAKE THAT BACK, KIDDO!” he thundered.
“All I am saying is it looks silly to bring back memories of a team that couldn’t beat anybody,” I concluded. “Especially when they wore uniforms that made them look like bumble bees in jail.”
“TAKE THAT BACK!” he threatened. “Or so help me, I’m gonna jump in my Dodge and drive out there RIGHT NOW!”
“Easy does it,” I cautioned. “You’re about to spill that Iron City beer.”
“BACK BACK BACK!” he yowled. “TAKE IT BACK!”
“Okay,” I submitted. “Do you want me to sing the Steelers fight song as penance?”
He was at the point of cardiac arrest. “Loud mouth kid! Yinz was always like that! Even back in New Kensington.”
My head bowed from memories of high school. “I’m fifty-one years old now, Al.”
“Hey, the years fly by, kiddo,” he said, quieting down.
“Yes they do,” I agreed.
“Anyway, Ma is slowin’ up a bit,” he confessed. “For the game we just ordered out from Fox’s Pizza Den. She don’t take the time to do her homemade sourdough pies no more.”
“Ah,” I replied. “Well, she has earned a break.”
“Yinz people ever come back here to visit?” he asked, suddenly.
“Not in a long time,” I answered. “While traveling a couple years ago, we stopped at Robinson Township to see the Giant Eagle Market District store. It was impressive.”
“We got the best of it all in the ‘Burgh,” he boasted.
“Notices come about my class reunion,” I said. “But there’s never enough time…”
“Make time,” he insisted. “Keep up with important stuff. Family and friends. Everything else will be there for later. Listen when I tell you.”
“Good advice,” I acquiesced.
“Okay,” he wheezed. “One of the grandkids just tracked mud on Ma’s kitchen floor. She’s hoppin’ mad. Gotta go. Be good, kiddo!”
“Take care, Al,” I whispered.
My tea was cold. But now, I felt warm inside.

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