Pittsburgh is a sports town. Sports are the heart, soul and spirit of our old steel town.
Upon the publication of this newspaper on Wednesday Nov. 14, 2018, it has been 18 days since the Tree of Life Synagogue hate crime in Squirrel Hill.
The flag flew at half-staff that day, and it remains that way today.
That shooting sparked a fire in the soul of our city, and in the sports teams that make up a huge part of our identity.
The most followed of those teams are the Steelers. They played the day after the shooting. If anyone could help the city heal in such a time of grief, it would be the biggest third of the glue that holds the city together.
Littered around social media was the now-infamous “Stronger than Hate” graphic – a play on the Steelers’ logo, with the star of David replacing the uppermost yellow diamond from the preexisting logo.
The Steelers held a moment of silence at their game… but that was it. Among so much hatred, the Steelers wanted to keep as much normalcy as possible. Fans still tailgated, terrible towels still waved and the Steelers still won.
The Pirates are in the offseason, but that third of the glue still did its part.
Hours after the shooting, they sent out a tweet that read: “Our hearts break at the news of this morning’s tragedy in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this horrible event.”
The final third of that city-unifying glue is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they sure did their part.
The Pens hosted a donation drive before one of their games, with the players’ wives and girlfriends stationed at all of the entrances collecting money to be donated to both the Jewish Federation and the Pittsburgh Police. They also bumped up a pre-scheduled blood drive to donate to those who were being treated from the shooting.
Players sported a “Stronger than Hate” patch on their jerseys for their first game back in Pittsburgh after the shooting, and raffled off jerseys on their website to accumulate more donations for those affected.
Other NHL teams that played the Pens, including the Vancouver Canucks on the day of the shooting and the rival Washington Capitals, collected donations that would make their way back to Pittsburgh.
Former players and representatives from all three major sports teams were present at last Friday’s memorial at Point State Park as well, including Colby Armstrong, Roberto Clemente Jr. and Brett Keisel, among others.
The soul of the city did what it does best and kept the city united in such a time of hatred and grief and despair.
On a personal level, this kept me going. Covering Point Park sports and my love for these teams kept me sane.
Usually this column is dedicated to all things Point Park sports, but this week, I wanted to tackle something much bigger than all of us.
Sports are the fire of the city, and it is that fire that keeps us alive.