In our lives, we go through a phase where we think everything we like and admire is superior to everything else. Cheering for a professional sports team is no different.
While living and growing up in the Pittsburgh area my whole life, I would constantly hear the boasting of the "Steeler Way" from grown men in jerseys drinking Iron City on Sunday afternoons and callers into radio shows during the football season. As a kid, I bought into it for a while.
Why wouldn't I feel like my team was special? Everyone around me told me stories of the four Super Bowls of the 70s, the Rooney family owning the team since their inception into the NFL in 1933, and how everyone on the team seemed to fly straight and were choir boys while everyone else was an evil enemy threatening the good guys that I cheered for. You were all probably the same at one time with your teams.
But as you get older, you start to look around, observe your surroundings deeper and realize it's not what it seems. From Roethlisberger to Pouncey, that didn't seem like the "Steeler Way."
I still like the professional sports teams in Pittsburgh, but I've learned that the "Steeler way," "Patriot way" or any team "way" is nothing more than a myth and has evolved into a joke as of late in pro sports, especially the National Football League.
As a kid, you're told by a lot of people (parents, family members, Barney the dinosaur) that you were special. A great confidence builder for you as venture through early childhood into the unforgiving adolescent era of your life, but it doesn't apply to everything.
The word "way" seems to point to a teams culture which fans are convinced could take a bad, troubled athlete and make him into a good one. Aaron Hernandez claimed, the "Patriot Way" had changed him. After some time, we realized that wasn't the case at all.
Deadspin does a yearly series in the NFL called "Why Your Team Sucks." For my Pittsburgh Steelers, the arrogance of fans in Pittsburgh and the so called "Steeler Way" came under fire. Every team in the NFL took hits from the writers at Deadspin, and the arrogance of the "way" was exposed in their own way.
From Hernandez to the Pouncey Brothers dumb photo op and the over 30 arrests made during the NFL offseason, the "way" has become a joke. The lesson to learn is that there is no perfect way of handling players and a system of doing it doesn't exist.
Barney may have told you that you were special when you were a little kid, but your favorite professional sports team is not. Putting them on a superior level because you feel there is a "way" they make themselves better than the other teams in their league shows you are living in a reality where your team is always great, everyone else is doing it the wrong way, and their "way" is the right "way."
There is no "way" for any professional sports team. It doesn't mean you can't still have pride in your team. Continue to cheer for your team, hate the opponents, especially your rivals, but don't be convinced that you and your team sit above everyone else when it comes to a set of morals.