Archive for November, 2009

A contrarian’s confession on his Steeler fandom

Since young, I was never into the popular sport or the popular team or anything that was agreed upon by a large group of people as “the thing”.  It’s probably why working with startups, since these are always the underdogs of any industry, has always been the most fascinating phase of their development to me.  My contrarianism manifested itself in various ways, including being very anti-establishment or anti-authority, though with age all things mellow out and I’m likely less vehement on more general issues and remain focused on channeling these energies into helping and making early stage companies.

It was with this thought in mind, that I harkened back to my youth.  It struck me that I had been a serious Pittsburgh Steelers fan since my 3rd year living in Pittsburgh.  Though actually, I had rooted for the Steelers through all of their previous Superbowl wins in the ’70s.  As a New Yorker growing up, the New York Jets were my team, but the only thing a contrarian like was sure to hate more than an inter-conference rival is “America’s Team”.  Yep, I hated the Dallas Cowboys, where the Pittsburgh Steelers felt like a gritty team that even when beating my Jets.  The Cowboys on the other hand represented all of the hubris, arrogance, and carried all of the establishment baggage in being called “America’s Team”, that really made my skin crawl.  One of my best friends growing up was a Cowboys fan, and it would have been easy to join his bandwagon, but I’d have none of it.  It’s this same contrarian nature that kept me away from being a Yankees fan and instead lay my loyalty with the Mets.  It kept me cheering against the L.A. Lakers in basketball, the Montreal Canadiens in hockey, and Germany in soccer.

In moving to Pittsburgh still a Jets fan, it was infectuous to see how dedicated people there were to their team despite some aweful years of loosing records.  Names like Mark Malone (the “Magnum P.I.” of pro-football) and Bubby Brister still ring in my head.  While the Steelers were never quite as bad as the 0-16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a prideful town like Pittsburgh it was difficult to take.  And yet, it’s times like those that you really earn your stripes of fandom.  Persevering and keeping the faith that next year will be better.  Well, after living in Pittsburgh for 11 years and suffering through loosing record after loosing record, I stuck with it and remain a fan to this day.  This perseverance has paid off and the rewards of a winning team have come. And yet, even with all of their recent Superbowl wins, they don’t come across like the establishment, but rather those who fought the establishment and won.

I recently took note that it’s been 14 years since I’ve lived in the Bay area, and yet, the Black & Gold has remained my team.  The 49ers community never instilled the sort of passion that the Steeler nation did.  The Raiders perhaps come the closest to a team I could get behind (as a a contrarian), but Al Davis is no Rooney family, where the Rooneys always seemed to embody all that was good about the game and the loyalty in the management they chose to shepherd their team.  Perhaps it’s that football season out here isn’t as fervent as it was back in the ‘Burgh.  Perhaps it’s the nicer weather that makes folks less hardcore than in Pittsburgh.  Whatever it is, the contrarian in me still feels like the Steelers represent the team of effort, never the favorites, and they never come across as arrogant or like “America’s Team”, they just feel like a hard working team that earns every win.  That’s what keeps me a Steeler fan.

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It’s a really “horny” town

Being away from your hometown for many years really helps to bring back some sensibilities you might have previously been impervious to. And so it has been for me on this latest 36 hour trip to New York.

Most noteworthy this time around however has been how often horns are used as a form of communication. It’s used say anything from “hey, light turned to green”, to “move that f—en car out of the way”, to “hey, you can’t see the pedestrian light is red a–hole?”, to “hey, I got there first”.

And so it’s been the whole time, whether “horning” as a nudge or a more blatant yell, it seems that no one is content to move through this congested city, very quietly. Perhaps some drivers are concerned they won’t be noticed on their way through life, or maybe just didn’t get picked for the last reality show they auditioned for (“I’ll show them that they can’t ignore me!”), who knows?

Suffice it say, in New York, the lion does not sleep tonight.

Suits not dead, just stranded on the island of Park Avenue

As I strolled through the New York City streets to the next appointment I came to cross 51st & Park Avenue, and like the whiff of a strong perfume, I was suddenly surrounded by men in suits and ties hurriedly moving all around me. Living in Cali and being an Internet company executive for so long, has jaded my view of men in suits and ties. Generally relegated to attorneys (some) and investment bankers (most), from my perspective, it was strange to see the minions of suit clad young & old guys moving through the streets here. Even in my recent visit to the venerable institution of Reuters, not a suit & tie to be found in the lot.

This harkened me back to the days when I was one of them, these suits & ties, awaiting the word from the chairman of Coke (I believe) as to what color the year’s power tie would be. Crazy.

In this sea of suit-n-tie-ness, I remained the exception even with a suit but no tie. Like clouds dissipating to unveil a warming sun, so it was with the suits the more westward I walked. The expressions of wealth were still abound, minus the pretentiousness that the suits, ties and slicked back hair carry with them. You know, that Gordon Gecko look. It was like flying through a patch of self-righteous turbulence before reaching the smooth skies on the other side.

I guess my discomfort in seeing this lies with the fact that so many of these folks work for financial services firms, but seemed to lack humility in their demeanor. Something just felt wrong about that, but I wasn’t passing judgment, just had a desire to see this uptight looking crew chill out a bit.

This brought up memories of the “go go 80s”, where movies like “Wall Street” hit a note. The lesson on why greed was bad was totally lost to the slick characters, fancy clothes, expensive penthouses and memorable one-liners that made greed seem good. It feels like not much has changed except that perhaps the island within the Island of Manhattan I just passed, has gotten a tad smaller, noticeably so.