- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

My birth town Pittsburgh Steelers are taking on my hometown Washington Redskins.

In the season opener.

On Monday night.

This NFL girl couldn’t ask for more — except a win, of course.

So does this Pittsburgh native and D.C. resident have to choose sides?

Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh are hardly rivals, although they were birthed, so to speak, by two generals — George Washington and Scotsman John Forbes, who defeated the French at Fort Duquesne, respectively.

Pittsburgh is an old-school, blue-collar city with wonderful, ethnic-rich neighborhoods. A city of three rivers, Pittsburgh is marked by renowned higher education institutions and the global manufacturer Kraft Heinz (think Quaker Oats, Dunkin’ Donuts, Gerber and ketchup, for sure.

As a little girl, whenever we were leaving family and on our way back to D.C., the only thing that would hold back the tears was when Daddy would pull into Isaly’s, where its “Skyscraper” ice cream cone (vanilla, please) did the trick. I also grew addicted to Isaly’s razor-thin chopped ham, and sometimes wonder why Oscar Mayer even bothers.

And I hope our local D.C. Giant Food stores continue to keep Isaly’s Klondike bars in their frozen food section.

Because Pittsburgh had our beloved AFC Steelers, our family naturally gravitated to the Redskins, a tough NFC franchise that drew a lot of heat for not hiring black players until Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Jackson came to town in 1962. The failure to integrate the Redskins is a major reason why so many D.C.-area football fans are on the bandwagon of a certain Texas team.

Still, it’s the diehard ‘skins fans who hail Washington, win or lose.

The opposite of Pittsburgh, which is a major sports city. However, D.C. is a white-collar, government-dependent town. Sure, it’s home to colleges, major nonprofit and the like.

And it’s home to the cultural mecca called the Smithsonian Institution, and monuments and memorials honoring every imaginable cluster — and it shouldn’t be any other way. And let’s not forget that the White House and Congress and federal dominions are here too.

D.C. also is more urbane than Pittsburgh. That is to say, upward mobility and class-conscious (and appearances for appearances’ sake) often lead city officials to chase rainbows and unicorns instead of change.

Pittsburgh had to change. When the steel mills went quiet and the blackish smoke stopped billowing, it changed itself.

Sure, many families were displaced after the Hill District lost its reputation for housing only the poor and downtrodden, but it relishes its ancestry as the birthplace to such legends as musician George Benson and Redskins great Larry Brown, who long after Leroy Jackson and before John “The Diesel” Riggins, wore down his knees outrunning opponents.

Brown, who attended Pittsburgh’s legendary Schenley High, credits his rearing in the rough-and-tumble Hill District for his style. (Hallelujah to that.)

While I had always been a Steelers fan, the team won my heart when Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to wide receiver John Stallworth that led Pittsburgh to victory over a certain Texas team in Super Bowl XIII.

The Redskins have had some remarkable victories over that team too. And I’ll be hailing, as always, when the Steelers take them on in FedEx Field.

I don’t have to choose a side on Monday night.

Or do I?

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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