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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rocky Bleier - The Play

I happened to see this the other night...and thought I would share some thoughts bopping around my head on it.

To quote someone in the attached video "If someone had come to us with the Rocky Bleier story as a work of fiction, we would have found it to far fetched."

Rocky Bleier is, for those either not interested in or those that don't follow sports, perhaps one of the greatest living Pittsburgh Steelers of all time.  He played on the dominating teams of the mid and late seventies where he won four Super Bowls and was elected into the football Hall of Fame. 

Susan won tickets during a giveaway at a local watering hole where we will go and watch the games with other "Yinzers" and Pittsburgh sports fans. 

He was also awarded the Purple Heart in Vietnam for the injuries he suffered in the battle field, where a grenade severely damaged his right foot and a bullet damaged his thigh. 

"The Rock's" comeback story is inspirational and sometimes hard to believe.  He was told he never walk again...much less play football.   He was told he never be good enough to make the first team, he was actually cut by the Steelers several times, yet he fought back.  

Even after catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, the words out of the announcer's mouth were "He's not that good of a player."

What surprised me in the play, if you indeed can call it a play....think of it as more as a one man's life story seen through the eyes of sports....and how sports reflects on culture.  

1)  Bleier was born and raised Catholic.  While he doesn't swell on his Catholicism, actually not bringing it up much at all, he's really not thanking some higher power.   Concentrating more on chance and probability.  "What," he asks "are the chances of a football deflecting just right and into the outstretched arms of a man of Italian American history being in just the right place at the right time?   Or that of a grenade rolling off the back of my commanding officer to land, unexplored, between my feet?

2)  Being a Vietnam veteran and suffering so, Bleier has the right to go on an anti-war triad if he wants so, it's the only political moment in the play and is handled with honor and respect.  "The country chose amnesia over history" he states.  

Bleier's story is remarkable in a lot ways, even if he had never played football for the Steelers. It is also something that is truly unique to Pittsburgh in a lot a ways. Not the tropes about some blue collar kid doing good.  Or when life knocks you down,you get up and move on.  The biggest disappointment you can ever have is not believing in yourself.

When people ask me, "Why do Pittsburgher's love their Steelers?"  You can point to Rocky in a lot of ways.   Rocky Bleier's The Play is a talk about his life, and in a lot of ways a story about rebirth and renew.  

Pittsburgh was a dirty steel town, so dark it's been said that the streetlights never turned off.  Then the citizens said, "No more" and it wasn't.  The Pittsburgh Renaissance started in 1947 and continued all the way through till 1973.  That's when the mighty steel mills started to shut down, unemployment started to run rampant.   I was 7 at the time, and although I don't remember my family suffering much...I know there was suffering.

I do know that as I was growing up, into the late 70's and early eighties one beacon of hope was the Mighty Steelers, and I also remember the city investing in things like Education, something new called "robotics" and how we, as a city, were building towards the future.   Oh yes, we were knocked down...but we win in the end.

Pittsburgher's shyly smile at each other because we know, that no matter where we go those three rivers run in our blood.   That you find strength in teamwork, in building for the future.  In hard work and dreams and sweat. 

You make your own probabilities. 

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