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Everyone is on the bandwagon, please jump on

October 14, 2010

Discussions surrounding fandom are sticky situations often set up for ridicule.

Why do we root for the teams we do? Why do we refer to the teams as if "we" are a part of them? Why can an entire week be completely ruined when the chosen squad lays an egg?

It is almost impossible to explain. Fandom can be a fickle mistress. Rhyme or reason are rarely included. For example, the Ohio Valley region is a quagmire of illogical devotion.

Undoubtedly, the two most popular football programs near the Ohio River are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Yet, the two do not have an inherent connection to one another. Still a myriad of untold fans root for both passionately.

Both teams are entering the week as focal points of the sporting world.

Ohio State is now ranked No. 1 after the Alabama Crimson Tide stumbled with a loss to South Carolina. Junior quarterback Terrell Pryor is still in the Heisman conversation.

And the team may be facing its toughest opponent in the regular season, traveling to one of the most advantageous home fields in Camp Randall Stadium, facing the 18th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The team will be in the national spotlight playing at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile the once repugnant, now much anticipated, return of Ben Roethlisberger is firmly entrenched in the crosshairs for Steeler fans. Questions have arisen just how important Big Ben truly is to the team after the eye-opening 3-1 start to the season. The inquiry will not be answered against a struggling Cleveland franchise. But the conversation surrounding the play of a two-time Super Bowl winning signal caller will persist into the near future.

The question remains, what mitigating circumstances can branch two teams, particularly these two.

Most are swayed in their choice of teams by two forces, distance or location. They are not necessarily one in the same.

First is the distance one can travel to enjoy the team they love the most.

From Steubenville, Pittsburgh is less than an hour drive. A relatively quick trip for most to enjoy all the frills of a major city. Columbus, on the other hand, is approximately 150 miles away correlating into a two-and-a-half hour jaunt. Universities such as Pitt, West Virginia, Akron and Kent State all require shorter distances to travel.

Thus, this argument is rendered irrelevant to the combination in question.

Second is location. State allegiance often comes into play.

Ohio State is the pride of the Buckeye State. While the two professional football teams in the same state are obviously not the Steelers, but rather the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. If one were to abide by these guidelines, then it would negate the relevance of the outlined dynamic duo.

There are obvious loopholes to this irregularity.

If one were to attend the university, one cannot question allegiance. Also, transplants are given a free pass. Those situations are not as prevalent as those who pick and choose their teams arbitrarily.

Some may want to claim ties to players who have passed through the gates.

In their 77 year history, Pittsburgh has selected only 15 Buckeyes. Santonio Holmes being the biggest contributor just a few seasons ago.

None of the team's 16 Hall of Fame players are products of the largest university within the Buckeye State. In fact the team's closest tie to the state is being the birthplace of Chuck Noll who played at the University of Dayton and coached for the Browns prior to his historic run as head coach of the Steelers.

The Cleveland Browns have a much stronger tradition linked to the Buckeyes with names like Paul Brown, Lou Groza, Dick Schafrath, etc. playing such an integral role within the franchise's history. Cincinnati does as well.

So what does tie these two particular teams together?

The answer is simple and fairly obvious.

Six Super Bowl rings and seven national championships dot the historic landscape of both programs.

Winning accrues all.

Maybe the great Mark Twain had it right, "Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it."

Although another of his quotes may be more applicable, "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."

(Sobleski, a Cadiz resident, is a sports writer for the Herald-Stat and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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