Must Be Sump’n Spirical

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

  • Luke 1:26-38

“You shall have no other gods before me.

  • Exodus 20:3

“Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.

  • Exodus 23:13

But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.

  • Judges 10:13

“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.

  • 1 Kings 8:6-7

They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”

  • Jeremiah 25:5-6

My wife had just been diagnosed with shingles a few days before Christmas…  Yeah, big time bummer.

Anyway, we were at the wholesale warehouse, waiting for her prescriptions to be filled, something about making extra checks on the heavy-duty pain killers.  The doctor was concerned that sitting on the rash site for four hours during dialysis could be way too much pain to persevere.

So, I was killing time by looking at the Christmas candies and cookies display.  We already had everything that we did not need already.  Like I said, killing time.

When we were there, it was the day after they announced that Franco Harris had passed away.  For those who do not keep up with Pittsburgh Steeler football or the history of American Football.  You may be unfamiliar with Franco Harris.  Franco Harris’ father was an African American soldier in Italy during World War II who married a local Italian woman.  Franco was born at Fort Dix, New Jersey in the USA after they returned from the war.  Franco went to Penn State, mostly blocking for an All-American running back that never made it big in the NFL.  Franco was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he basically adopted the city as home, living in the elegant western suburb of Sewickley, PA.  At this point, the Steelers, known locally as the Stillers, had never won anything in the NFL, but they made the playoffs Franco’s rookie season.  They even hosted a game against the Oakland Raiders (now the Las Vegas Raiders).  Near the end of the game, the Steeler quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, threw up a pass (and maybe a prayer of desperation) and it bounced off someone’s helmet and maybe someone else’s shoulder, but it looked like it was going to hit the turf and end the game with the Steelers losing, yet again.  But the rookie running back, Franco Harris, dipped down and caught the ball.  For a while, everyone thought it wasn’t a legal catch, but when the officials did not blow a whistle, the Raiders began to chase Harris who was well on his way for a touchdown.  Only one Raider came close, but Franco stiff-armed him, nearly lost his balance, but then tiptoed into the end zone.  He scored a touchdown and Pittsburgh had finally won a playoff game.  They lost the next week, but for weeks they looked at every camera’s footage from every angle.  They could never tell whether Franco had caught the ball before it touched the ground.  Even with modern replay rules, of course a lot more cameras these days, it would have to be considered “the call stands as called, because they had no evidence to overturn the call.”  Of course, if you really want to know if he caught the ball, there is a statue of the catch at the Pittsburgh Airport, and it shows that the ball “did not touch the ground.”

To Steeler fans, it was a miracle.  It also gave the Steelers the confidence boost to go on to win four Super Bowls in the 70s: 74, 75, 78, 79.  As the buzz amplified on that one play, someone coined the phrase that stuck: The Immaculate Reception, playing on the phrase of Mary, a virgin, becoming pregnant with the baby Jesus, The Immaculate Conception.  I never liked the term, but that is it.

The fiftieth anniversary was going to be celebrated by the Las Vegas Raiders coming to town to face the Steelers, but in a new stadium.  The spot of the Immaculate Reception has a plaque in the middle of the parking lot, now a shrine for the late Franco Harris, where the catch was made.  But Franco was much alive earlier in that week before the game.  His jersey was going to be retired.  No one would wear the number 32 for the Steelers ever again.  But Franco died three days before the game was scheduled.

I heard this one-sided conversation.  I will try to write most of it in English, but I may then repeat some of it in Yinzer:

“It’s terrible that he died when he did.  They was gonna retire his jersey.  It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.  They was playing the same team they beat then.  I tell ya.  I tell ya.  Died!  Tree daze!  Tree daze!  (sorry, three days) It’s dead lock now.  The Steelers is gonna win the game.  Hands down.  They gonna win.  A dead lock certain.  I ain’t no analyst, an’ I ain’t betting my last dollar, but they gonna win.  Ya know why?  Ya know WHY?!  It’s something Spirical!”

Note: He meant “spiritual” in that “the gods” or “special forces” would never allow the Steelers to lose on that anniversary when the person who accomplished the feat died three days prior. A “Spiricale” with an “e” at the end is a breathing hole, an emergency hole when someone cannot breathe or a blowhole (as in a whale).

I walked to another aisle.  I apologize to the wholesale warehouse store.  I might have bought something, but I didn’t want the guy to hear me laughing.  When I told my wife, she said, “That’s sad.”

Why?  Something I have hinted at in other posts, but now I will boldly state.  Franco Harris is not God.  He is not a god.  He was a down to earth person who made himself available to the public.  He was a well-liked man.  But I doubt if he would claim god-like status, and only he knows whether he legally caught the Immaculate Reception or the ball hit the ground first.

The Steelers are not gods either, present players, past players, or the team in general.

Dressing up and going to church with a Steeler hat, Steeler jersey, Steeler jacket, and gaudy, extremely improper for public view, Steeler leggings (which are meant as underwear, not outer wear!!!!) with no pants or shorts covering any part of it…  That is showing what you worship, and you were offending God by rubbing His nose in it at church.  That might be your most expensive clothing, but spending that much on Steeler gear also confirms your true loyalty.

Did I say that?!  Yes, I did.

I have two Steeler neckties.  One was given to me and the other I found on a bargain rack.  I do not have a Terrible Towel, even after nearly 27 years of living here, but I have bought a couple and given them away as mementoes of family visits with us in Pittsburgh.  I have never attended a game, not even in preseason.

I will watch the games because it is almost a requirement to live here.  I enjoy watching football, but in the last couple of years it has been my cure for insomnia, even sleeping through a couple of Super Bowls, but the game was on.  I blame it on the recliner being deformed perfectly to fit my frame, and caress my sore spots as I relax to “watch” the game.  And to add to that, living in the immediate area, you see every Steeler game locally, and very few other teams more than twice.  But even then, it took a few years to become a Steeler fan.

Okay Stiller fan, but that is Yinzer for Steelers.  Or is it?  In 1791, George Washington, who has a county and town named after him in the Pittsburgh area, established a liquor tax to fund the fledgling republic.  The people of the Pittsburgh area rebelled violently.  The Whiskey Rebellion was not quenched until 1794 as President Washington led the troops against their own people in western PA.  So Stiller being Steeler in the local dialect of Yinzer (or Pittsburghese) may not be accidental.

What does Yinzer have to do with anything?  I grew up in the South.  If you greeted a group of other people, you said, “How are y’all?” short for “How are You all?”  In Pittsburgh, “How are you ones?” is shortened to “How’re Yinz?” thus people speaking the language and the language itself becomes Yinzer.

In about a month, I will have lived here 27 years and I am still perplexed by Yinzer.  The classic is “Dahn Tahn” instead of “Downtown”.  The Dahn is almost “Don” but with an edge to it.  Incidentally, “Don” in Pittsburgh is a two syllable word “Doo-ahn”, but like I say, I have never mastered Yinzer.  As for God, it is either “Gahd” or “Goo-ahd”, I have heard both.  The contraction “N’at” is short for “and that” and can be used for many things.  “Etc.” is a natural to become “N’at,” but if you get tarred a tahkin (tired of talking) you can say, “N’at” and then someone else can pick up the conversation.  N’at has many uses … n’at.

I better not say anymore bot dat (about that), I might have trouble leaving my hahs (house).

But as for the Steelers or Stiller being a god, that is just one of many and an easy one to spot.  Do you have a favorite television show that you schedule other activities around?  I have had a few in the past, even a couple in reruns.  Do you occasionally miss church services, but you have never missed a #### concert when #### comes to town?  I do not do concerts, except I have gone to a Gaither gathering once.

Okay, as it turned out, the Steelers won the game (13-10, the game in 1972 ended 13-7) with a touchdown pass, coming from behind, but there were still more than 40 seconds left in the game. Was is Spirical? I doubt if it was Spiritual, but God’s hand is in everything. It could have been the Italian bread my wife and I ate for a snack before the game – to fuel Franco’s Italian Army. No, if Franco Harris’ passing had anything to do with it, the team might have found a little extra energy to win the game (like the old “win one for the Gipper” speech – Knute Rockne), and they were driving down the field all through the game, just not scoring.

But getting back to the Spirical, I went to the University of Mississippi for my undergraduate degree.  If Archie Manning ever dies, and he will someday, I have a feeling that there will be more mourning on campus and other places that have honored him than there was when the Queen of England passed away.

Please, let us keep our eyes on Jesus.  When a stupid football game becomes “Spirical,” we have gone too far.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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