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The heart of a Steelers fan

November 17, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

Editor’s Note:  Below is a story that was submitted by Beth Apone Salamon.  It is a tribute to her father, Carl Apone.  The piece first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and Beth asked if I would share it with my readers.  Once I read it, I immediately knew that any Steelers fan would appreciate this sad but touching story.

Her dad, Carl Apone, truly personifies “the heart of a Steelers fan”.  Enjoy!

From September through January, for three hours most Sundays and on the occasional Monday night, my father is alert, awake and engaged in a Steelers game. While this may seem like a small feat for a Pittsburgher, consider that this is the only extended period of time that he is alert, awake and engaged in anything.

Somewhere, deep down inside, is a Steelers fan who won’t let illness and exhaustion rob him of the chance to yell, “Atta boy, Polamalu!” at the television screen. He is hard-core.

My mother explained to my father’s cardiologist, a dour man who barely speaks, that congestive heart failure causes my father to sleep the entire day and night, waking only to eat. The one exception is when the Steelers play. Whether it is a day game or a night game, he is somehow able to remain awake to cheer for the entire three-hour event.

The cardiologist smiled, exercising facial muscles he rarely employs, and suggested that my mother put Steelers games on a recorded loop and play it all day so her husband could stay awake. Mother was not amused.

Three years ago, after the congestive heart failure began, my father became an old person. Before that he was an old person who never acted old. Hailing from a long line of small Italians who drink wine and live forever, he never seemed to age, even into his 80s. Most nights you could find him laughing with his almost 90-year-old sister, Mimi.

Then, a few weeks after his granddaughter’s first communion, Dad’s condition deteriorated rapidly. He now sleeps between 18 and 20 hours a day. At Thanksgiving last year I cleared the table and when I returned he was sound asleep in the chair.

There are moments of grace, when we see glimpses of the old fighting spirit. He still answers all of my mother’s spelling questions. If I ask him to remember something, he usually does, much like in my college days when he would call repeatedly to remind me of a test.

On a rare recent phone call he was delighted to learn that his granddaughter is taking up the violin and plans to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for him. As the former music critic for The Pittsburgh Press, a violinist and a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish band, my dad, Carl Apone, has had a lifelong passion for music.

He still receives communion every Sunday at his home. This is poignant, as he was a eucharistic minister to the sick for years. I remember that once the eucharist was in the car that he was driving to the hospital or someone’s home, he would not speak. It was a time for reverence.

But by far, the moments when he is most alive, most himself, are Steelers Sundays. My mother positions him in his comfortable chair and tries not to walk in front of the screen during key plays, a habit that has merited much arm waving over the years.

There is something beautiful about the way Pittsburgh embraces Steelers Nation. It is a love affair I’ve witnessed since childhood when the “Pittsburgh Polka” played and the priests at Our Lady of Grace Church wore Steelers stoles. It is personal to us, not just a sporting event where football players with fat salaries knock each other silly.

The players are part of our Pittsburgh family. We follow the legacy of the Rooney family, owners who know each player by name and show up every day to check not on the profitability of the franchise, but rather on the well-being of the players.


Steelers fans find each other, even in other cities. My parents once spent three weeks in Hilton Head during the winter. They met Steelers fans on the beach within 24 hours. By the next day they were invited to a Super Bowl party with a promise that Impy, the French bull dog, might wear his Steelers sweater.

Steelers fans are happy to stand in the cold and decorate the Terrible Tree on game days, because the Steelers’ success is our success. I went to the airport during some recent playoffs and every steward or stewardess at the check-in gate was wearing Steelers garb, as well as most of those boarding. It was a mighty sea of black and gold.

Sure, we complain now and then. Why does Ben have to put us through such agony only to pull off an 11th-hour win? Some of us are old and our hearts can’t take it. And why does the new stadium have that open side so we freeze our rumps? Some of us are old and we don’t make our own heat anymore.

But when the chips are down, Steelers fans can’t be kept from their appointed rounds. Even when congestive heart failure squeezes the last bit of energy from an old, tired body, the heart of a Steelers fan keeps beating. We are hard-core, and we are here, until the final play.


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11 Comments to “The heart of a Steelers fan”

  1. Dawn Mendez says:

    I am a 4th generation Steeler fan from So. California whose family is from Blairsville, PA…and have bled black and gold since I can remember…. I will always be a Steeler fan no matter how bad or how good it gets. I believe in the Steeler nation for better or worse. This article is the heart of a true Steeler fan…and you gotta love it… GO STEELERS… WE BELIEVE!

  2. John (Cleveland) says:

    This was a very touching story, and it just proves that us Steelers fans are diehard fans. Steelers nation is a proud and mighty force. I live on the east side of Cleveland and have been a Steelers fan all my life. Go Steelers.

  3. Sally McPherson says:

    Breath taking! Steelers Fan for Life!

  4. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Very touching and well wrote. Thank you for reiterating the power of our Great Steeler Nation.

  6. I went to the Denver/Pittsburgh game on Monday night. I live in Idaho, and it is amazing to me to see all the friendly Steelers fans come together, talk, share, and enjoy what we have in common. Fan since ’76!!!

  7. Jason Van Broeck says:

    I enjoyed reading this story. My thoughts and prayers go out to Carl Apone. He sounds like a tough, loyal, and compassionate man. I think he sums up what steeler nation is all about. I have lived in Chicago all my life, and i like all chicago sports except for football. I live and breathe steeler football. Pittsburgh Steelers are the only sports team that i love. My wife’s Grandfather (Harold Payne)has lived in Michigan all his life and is also loves the steelers. Carl reminds me of Harold Payne. Unfortunately, Carl passed away Oct 16th 2008, but i know he still cheers for the steelers in Heaven. I gave him a steelers blanket a few years ago, and Harold would have that blanket around him every time i saw him at his home. I think Harold and Carl truly encompass steeler nation. Thank you beth for this awesome article. GO STEELERS!!!!!

  8. I have been a steeler fan since 1975 the 1st year i played pop warner football here in Hawaii, I still reside in hawaii, and proud to bleed black and gold for life, what a amazing story, steeler nation lives well and proud in the 808 state…..

  9. I am a loyal and proud Steeler fan from Nova Scotia, Canada. I started following them in the 70′s when the Steel Curtain was formed. Steeler defense has been a constant and the reason I love this team. We may not always be able to deliver, as has been the case for the past couple of weeks, but it will never be because of lack of effort. God love the Pittsburgh Steelers, you make us proud every Sunday.

  10. Alfonzo (Atlanta) says:

    A very touching story. It shows the love and passion for the Black-N-Gold. I try to explain it people I meet as I have relocated throughout my career but they just do not get it. Carl Apone shows the life line connection that exists for many a STEELER fan through the world. It’s a family affair that the true fans feel, embrace and live 365/24/7.

  11. vicki jo conaway says:

    What a touching story kinda reminds me of my self I have a hard time stayin awake when I’m watchin tv at night but if steelers r playin I can stay awake no problem same with the pens it must be a burgh thing dedication its all about bein a true steelers fan 4 life once a steeler fan always a steeler fan


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