The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa
September 1, 2015 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Over five decades of economic decline and racial conflict, a Western Pennsylvania mill town has found unity and hope on the football field. "There is no drug dealing at the Pit, and rarely any violence," Walker says. "It really is sacred ground; it's like a miracle. You've got guys that, any other time of the day, they're going to try and rip each other's throats out, but they just walk past each other in the Pit. They're there to watch those kids play."
posted by ellieBOA (5 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Poor Aliquippa. I'm not sure if there's any long-term hope for it or any of the other scattered little dead mill towns that ring the Pittsburgh metro area. Without the giant J&L Steel Mill on the river, there's just no reason for it to exist.
posted by octothorpe at 5:15 AM on September 1, 2015

Looks like Aliquippa is making all the right moves.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:32 AM on September 1, 2015

This is a pretty tough read. I live in Pittsburgh and part of my last job included a lot of driving for sales calls. The difference between the near-downtown area I'm in and some of these small, former coal towns was shocking.

Another town nearby Pittsburgh of note, without the football history, is Braddock. It's been on the radar nationally a little because their mayor, John Fetterman, has been on The Daily Show at least once and has made some national media appearances for his efforts to turn that city around. He also looks like the leader of a Hell's Angels group but is a Harvard grad - a phenomenal dichotomy whose inconsistency with expectations I love.

I come here as a Buffalo born, Ohio-raised kid used to people with easy, friendly smiles and ready conversations. I wasn't ready for the fact that people here are rough, and it's totally understandable to me now because they come from lines of people who worked hard in horrendous conditions fetching coal or dealing with incredibly dangerous steel mill jobs - all long hours with shocking mortality rates.

It makes sense it translates to both football success and a certain attitude of "the strong survive." This article captures extremely well the people and the attitudes here in Western PA.
posted by glaucon at 6:56 AM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I live about five miles from Aliquippa. The changes in the steel industry have absolutely devastated it. There are lots of other small river towns that are managing to get by - definitely not in a golden age, but hanging in there - but Aliquippa looks like a neutron bomb was dropped on it.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:14 AM on September 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

In a previous thread about Penn State I was adamant that the football program should be dismantled, because, well, that was some heinous stuff. But this article illustrates the reasons a football program should be lauded and applauded. It is tough to support football at a high level, but at the same time football is a whole hell of a lot better than other things to do after school.

All that is to say, I'm conflicted. And that is because this article does a fine job of highlighting the benefits of a football team. Great post, thanks.
posted by zyxwvut at 10:13 AM on September 1, 2015

« Older How to make Mario levels, by negative example   |   "Seriously, fuck it," explains the paper’s... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments