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Famous Author Compares Steelers and Skins Fans

(2008 photo by John McDonnell - TWP)

I've often been accused of writing excessively about the Steelers fans who invaded FedEx Field last winter. Guilty as charged, but it was one of '08's defining moments, especially for what followed: offensive linemen saying they had to use a silent count at home, columnists lambasting the team's fan base, and the team announcing a Redskins Rally Rag promotion.

Well, Saturday we got another shot, sort-of. Sure, the preseason doesn't matter, and sure, there are some other compelling sub-plots (kicker battle!), but you have to be at least mildly curious to see what colors predominate in the stands. Plus, there will be 50,000 more Rally Rags handed out to the first 50,000 fans!

Which all got me thinking about the fan bases of these teams. For help, I turned to Mike Tunison, a Steelers fan, D.C. resident and the author of recently published Football Fan's Manifesto. (Read excerpts at Deadspin and The Sporting Blog.) My questions, and his answers:

Describe the fundamental differences between Steelers fans and Redskins fans.

A lot of cynicism has built up among 'Skins fans throughout the Snyder era, so the difference in expectations isn't as pronounced as it used to be. I remember the early years of Snyder when every acquisition was supposed to herald in some unbroken 'Skins dynasty for decades to come. Washington fans still use the "Danny, gas up the jet" reference, but now with a healthy dose of irony, but back in the late '90s it was a major rallying cry.

For the most part, I think Steelers fans are a little more realistic, maybe even pessimistic, which sounds odd given the team's success. For example, last year, because of the team's O-line problems, I don't think there were a whole lot of Steelers fans that had the team going further than the second round of the playoffs. 'Skins fans also don't seem to fetishize defense as much as Steelers fans do. The Redskins typically have had one of the better defensive units in the league this decade, but I always get the feeling their fans would prefer they win games something like 35-31.

Are there any similarities?

They're both fiercely loyal, insufferably loud fanbases. They both hate the Cowboys. Each has a white running back they wax nostalgic over, be it Riggo or Rocky Bleier. They both have reasons for liking Russ Grimm. Antwaan Randle El is probably more fondly regarded by Steelers fans than 'Skins followers by now. That might be about it.

If a normal third-party individual had to choose between a day locked in a small windowless room with five drunk NFL fans talking about their team, better to be with 'Skins fans or Steelers fans?

It's a close call. The Steelers fans would probably be more annoying now because they have much more recent success to crow about. They'd spit on the guy while telling him how the Steelers were on "the Stairway to Seven". The 'Skins fans would likely just tell blubber on about how much they hate Vinny Cerrato and it'd probably just come off as kind of sad.

As a Pittsburgh fan living in DC, how'd you react to that Monday Night crowd last year? And what would you expect the crowd to look like this Saturday?

I knew the Steelers have a lot of fans in the region, having learned that from watching games each week in a packed three-floor Steelers bar on Capitol Hill and having been to previous preseason games when the Steelers came to town. But that turnout at the Monday Night Game last year was staggering. The Steelers hadn't played here in a regular season game since '88, and in the preseason games since then, the turnout of Steelers fans was good, but nowhere near that scale.

I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the general wretchedness of FedEx Field and how many local fans have been turned off the place, probably forever. If that game was played in RFK, that would've never happened. As far as this Saturday goes, I'd doubt it will be anything like last year, just because it's the preseason and not as many people are gonna want to make the effort

I think D.C. folks would distinguish between the Caps' fanbase and the Skins'. Is there a difference between Pens and Steelers fans? If so, what is it?

The Penguins, like the Caps, have in recent years done a lot to draw the younger crowd, though in ways not quite as gimmicky as Leonsis has with the "Rock the Red" stuff. So a Pens crowd is generally younger than a Steelers crowd. That said, I think Pittsburgh fans are generally more knowledgeable about hockey. I went to a couple Caps-Pens game here and for the Caps fans, it's a Sidney Crosby hate-fest more so than it is about the actual game.

Would you be more comfortable taking a young innocent child to FedEx or Heinz?

There's no Dead Tree Crew at Heinz Field, so that might be a big advantage for the Steelers. I don't know. You're gonna hear some obscenities and nastiness either way. Personally, I wouldn't bring a little kid to an NFL game, though if pressed I'd say Heinz is a better overall experience than FedEx. But then, that's not saying much.

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 20, 2009; 9:34 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , NFL , Redskins  
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The five season ticket holders who sold their tickets to those Steeler fans in that picture should forfeit their tickets. You're certainly no Redskins fan and you're no friend of mine.

Posted by: fushezzi | August 20, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Typical Yinzer who now lives in DC. "I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh - oh I forgot to mention - I live in DC now with the rest of Pittsburgh."

Its actually sad.

Posted by: capsfansince74 | August 20, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

How come no writers are writing about how many Skins fans were in Baltimore a week or two later? It was roughly the same amount as there were Steelers fans in FedEx?

Posted by: FlyersSuck | August 20, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"The 'Skins fans would likely just tell blubber on about how much they hate Vinny Cerrato and it'd probably just come off as kind of sad." hahahaha oh the agony of the truth

Posted by: Moco1 | August 20, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"Typical Yinzer who now lives in DC. "I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh, I love Pittsburgh - oh I forgot to mention - I live in DC now with the rest of Pittsburgh."

Its actually sad."

What's sad, rooting for your favorite team even though you don't live in the actual city presently?

If you moved from DC, you'd stop being a Redskin fan?

Posted by: RoachVA141 | August 20, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like jealousy of six rings (and three Cups) from the Skins (and Caps) fans. Sorry that Steelers fans invaded your stadium last year. Sorry that Pens fans invade Verizon every year. Maybe your teams should try winning (or at least beating teams from the 412) and perhaps the "legions" of loyal D.C. fans won't be so compelled to put their tickets up for sale on StubHub.

Posted by: Steelers36 | August 20, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jemshhhh | August 20, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse


Maybe your city should try finding jobs for your citizens so you Sh*ttsburgh people stop moving down here.

Posted by: fushezzi | August 20, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Can we get opinions from someone other than yet another pittsburgh native who now makes his home in DC? You could tell that Mr. Tunison was attempting to come off as unbiased in his comments -- but they sounded like just another guy from Pittsburgh commenting on DC's fans. Same old song - it is tired. How about a transplant from another city's opinion? The "sydney crosby hate fest" comment blew me away. First of all, that's part of the fun of going to a Caps/Penguins game. There's an easy target for animosity because you have a super villain to root against. Furthermore, try going to a game in Pittsburgh and see how this "more knowledgeable" fan base reacts to Ovechkin. Having done just that I can tell you it's an Ovi hate fest at the igloo as well. I also liked the backhanded dig at Leonsis and his "gimmicky" promotions. Mr. Tunison must have been irritated when all of his P'burgh relatives asked him to buy tickets since Ted won't sell to our Steel City foes with PA zip codes. Or maybe he's one of the fans who tries to buy only Penguin games every year and is turned down by the sales agents. Ha! I love it. I'm glad Stein got his interview with this guy out of the way. Cross it off the's done...let's move on and never hear from this guy again.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Puck Fittsburg!

Posted by: jonthefisherman | August 20, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

It's true, fushezzi, that lots of Pittsburgh natives moved out of that city in the late-70s / early-80s when the steel industry was dying and settled in this area because of great government jobs. You're really going to slag people for making a better opportunity for themselves? It's taken 20 years or so, but The Steel City has turned itself into a great health, engineering and technology center and is starting to attract the young people it lost a generation ago.

The simple fact remains: D.C. is a terrible sports town and if the "fans" really cared about their teams, you wouldn't see so much black-and-gold at games because they'd hang onto their tickets instead of selling them. Your vitirol should be aimed toward them, not the opportunistic Pittsburgh natives who happen to snap-up the tickets that your people are giving-up.

Posted by: Steelers36 | August 20, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Duck FC

Did you see what I did there jonthefisherman?

Posted by: KellyBuchbergersHelmet | August 20, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

We have jobs.

We win.

Enough said.

Posted by: CapsNut | August 20, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"We have jobs.

We win.

Enough said."

Yeah, so I checked out the Local area unemployment statistics page on the Bureau Of Labor Statistics site, and it's as follows:

DC: 11.3% unemployed
Pittsburgh: 7.7% Unemployed

Here's the web site if you want to check for yourself:

Just scroll down to the US map and you can pick the area.


Posted by: RoachVA141 | August 20, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"The simple fact remains: D.C. is a terrible sports town and if the "fans" really cared about their teams, you wouldn't see so much black-and-gold at games."

Posted by: Steelers36 | August 20, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

um no it's because DC is a transient city
and people move here from all over the world to find jobs.
as opposed to pittsburg where there is no jobs just fat d-bags listening to polka music and eating sausages

Posted by: jonthefisherman | August 20, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Here's the question: Is he actually a Pittsburgher? Or is he a Steelers fan and DC resident, despite not having a huge Pittsburgh connection. There are plenty of Cowboy fans who've never set foot in Dallas...

Posted by: rjgianfortune | August 20, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Whats funny is I was in Pittsburgh for the Saturday Nats/Pirates game and The place was 1/3 Nats fans. Don't the Nats have the worst record in the league. No mention of that in this article

Posted by: JDB1 | August 20, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

1 more thing. Half the people at that game (Skins/Steelers) have never been to Pittsburgh.

Posted by: JDB1 | August 20, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"1 more thing. Half the people at that game (Skins/Steelers) have never been to Pittsburgh."

Awww, man! They must've missed me when they were polling all of the Steelers fans as they were leaving Fedex.

Posted by: RoachVA141 | August 20, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Best sign at one of the "Cindy Hatefests" last year:

"You can go home now, the job fair is over."

Posted by: CapsNut | August 20, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"Best sign at one of the "Cindy Hatefests" last year:

"You can go home now, the job fair is over."

Who won the cup?

Posted by: RoachVA141 | August 20, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear that P'burgh unemployment is only 7%. That is encouraging The comments on DC being a bad sports town, however, are unfounded. It's a great sports town. That's why there is an NFL team, a MLB team, an NBA team, a MLS team, two major college basketball programs and several mid-major college basketball programs that all do very well. Cripes, there's even an option for world team tennis and it sells out! When compared with a city like Pittsburgh, there is an enormous disparity in the competition for the market's sports entertainment dollar. A DC sports fan in November can choose to attend Redskins, Caps, Wizards, Terps, Hoyas, Patriots, or Colonials games. The MLS season may even stretch into November if the United have an extended playoff run. If the product isn't worth watching, we take our money elsewhere. Combine the competition with one of the worst game day experiences in all of sports from traffic to ticket prices at Fed Ex, throw in fan disillusionment with the organizational structure and there is a perfect storm that culminates in Steeler Fans at Fed Ex on a Monday night. Fans sell tickets to make up for the unfathomable cost of a season ticket package. What games do they sell...night games that prevent them from getting to bed until 3am against a team they don't care about, but for which lots of demand exists for tickets. For anyone to compare DC and Pittsburgh as "sports towns" is silly. One town was on the verge of losing two of it's 3 major league franchises just a few years ago. The other city just expanded it's major league franchises. I long for Pittsburgh to become a destination city with a large population of non-natives. If that ever happened we'd see the same phenomenon in P'burgh. To say Washington is a bad sports town or to comment on the knowledge of Washington sports fans, however, is ignorant and immature.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

you stay classy DC! skins fans, prepare for yet another beatdown sat night.

Posted by: pensovercaps | August 20, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what is up with this comment, Mr. Tunison: "Each has a white running back they wax nostalgic over, be it Riggo or Rocky Bleier."

Just for the record, we Steeler fans also have some black running backs we wax nostalgic over like Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis. And I know Redskin fans also like some of their previous black running backs like Larry Brown and Bobby Mitchell, amongst others I'm sure.

Not a cool comment. Not cool at all.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | August 20, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The mayor must be slipping. He hasn't responded to defend the DTC. He'll be here soon enough.

As far as the apathy that Redskins fans have, there is one reason for it: Dan Snyder. He's single-handedly ruined a once proud franchise.

Posted by: Randy_Hawkins | August 20, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg - I take issue with the headline for this post. I had never heard of this Mike Tunison before today's blog. That certainly doesn't mean Tunison isn't famous or well regarded. So I decided to search for his other works on amazon. Well, he doesn't have any works available on amazon. So, I googled him thinking perhaps his fame was derived from periodicals or some other medium not available on amazon. I've discovered there's a good reason I've never heard of him. He isn't famous. YOU are more famous than this guy. Was the headline a joke? Is this guy just a friend of yours looking for some publicity? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Update on Tunison Fame: So I've now bing'd Tunison and got what I think may be a legitimate hit on page 3 of the results:

Is this guy seriusly just a hack blogger who got fired from the WP?

If that's the case - wow.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

LionelMandrake: I only mentioned that because white running backs are a rarity (at least over the last 40 years) and that it's a coincidence that the two teams have each had a relatively famous one. No knock on any black players or any suggestion that they aren't just as beloved.

DisgustedinArlington: Steinberg linked to the Amazon page of my book in the post. But no, I'm not "famous" any stretch of the imagination. He's just being wry in the headline. Though I gotta question your Googling skills if you can't find anything about me.

Posted by: miketunison | August 20, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't necessarily call into question my googling reading skills on the other hand may need some work.

Just my opinion...I think the title would have been more interesting had it read, "UN-FAMOUS AUTHOR COMPARES STEELERS AND SKINS FANS". But, to each his own.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Update on Amazon search:
To my must search for MICHAEL Tunison, or simply TUNISON to find your book on Searching for MIKE Tunison is no good. Live and learn.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@ LionelMandrake he's not racists

"Hines Ward: Rongrastname, why you standing and crapping at terevision?"

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | August 20, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

*he's not a racist

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | August 20, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Wait, Franco Harris is black? I always thought he was Italian. Hmmph. I need to hang out on this blog more often. I could really learn something...maybe even a little something about myself.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I was worried with the strasburg signing happening this week that this blog's snark levels would fall to a dangerous low, but luckily Steinberg was able to trudge up a year old story to satisfy his thirst for negativity.

Posted by: Andymr | August 20, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I was being sarcastic.

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | August 20, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

So I learned something else today - Franco Harris is black AND Italian - just like Kobe Bryant.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | August 20, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

MikeTunison: Okay, I accept your explanation. But just as a friendly warning from one Steeler fan to another: That comment can come out looking real bad for you, I'd suggest dropping it from your future answers.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | August 20, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

If you are talking about demographics, more specifically jobs and income levels, you are going to have to include Northern Virginia or all of Virginia for that matter. The amount of Redskins fans that actually reside in the 10 square mile District of Columbia border is only a drop in the bucket.

However, the "not famous" writer was spot on with the statement that the stadium seating issue is simply a product of a horribly degraded stadium experience at Fed Ex. It's just not worth it to me to spend 4 hours on the road roundtrip (if I'm lucky), pay $20 for parking, walk 30 minutes from my car to the stadium, and sit in nosebleeders or obstructed view seats. My couch at home is highly underated.

Never would have happened at RFK.....I'll second that.

Posted by: jahs4fun | August 20, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I friggin hate Steelers fans. I've grown up in Northern Virginia as a Skins fan. I was in school in Western PA for 5 long years. Steelers fans are loyal, I'll give them that... but boy are they ignorant. A typical conversation with 90% of Stillers fans...

Me: I have a lot of respect for the Steelers, they're probably the best run organization in the NFL.
Steeler Fan: You got that right.
Me: I think the Skins are gonna be decent this year though. Campbell's in his second year in this system, finally, and our defense is much improve with Hall/Haynesworth.
Steelers Fan: Yinz suck ****.
Me: Dude. Come on... we got a, b, and c reasons.
Steeler Fan: Jason Campbell is a **** and Clinton Portis ***** ****. Now get out of the yinz ******.

Posted by: STisMyMainMan | August 20, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Remember boys and girls, hockeytowns aren't made when your team is declaring bankruptcy and the team is moving to Kansas City, they are made when your team has the league rewrite the draft and rulebook to hand you the cup.

Posted by: FlyersSuck | August 20, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Much as I get annoyed by steelers fans around here, tunison gets major props for throwing that ravens hat on the bbq around the 2:45 mark. C'mon, seeing a terrible towel burn AND a ravens hat?

Posted by: WrongDog | August 20, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Compare the unemployment to VA (specifically Northern VA), not DC. Whenever someone talks about moving to DC for a job, that's what they really mean.

Posted by: SupremeWu | August 20, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm so turned off by the drunken jerks at NFL games it's not worth going.

Posted by: BrooklynSkins | August 20, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I feel terrible I contributed to the fiasco last year. To defend myself FedEx's traffic situation is horrendous, getting to my house in Baltimore at like 130 2 am was not attractive on a monday night. I sold my two season tickets to a steelers fan at my work, WILL NEVER HAPPEN FOR AN EAGLES GAME I ASSURE YOU. Eagles fans are scum of the earth!!

Posted by: drewkinnear | August 20, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Besides the parking I don't know why everyone is kveetching about the "experience" im in section 417 and love it, what do you people want? The Saints game last year when Jason threw a bomb to Moss and the crowd went wild was all I needed or how about when they stopped the Eagles on the 1 to end the game last year and all those scumbags who were flapping their "wings" had to go home mumbling under their breath?

Who cares about the crappy food? I smuggle bourbon in a flask to add to a Pepsi I buy and im good.

Posted by: drewkinnear | August 20, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Mike Tunison = Christmas Ape on Kissing Suzy Kolber, which is by far one of the best football related blogs out there.

Posted by: rawk | August 21, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Is there really any difference between PA and WVA. Especially Western PA? Damn Philly almost resulted in the US losing WWII because they were so bigoted and stupid. PA higher taxes and pols almsot as crooked as in NJ!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | August 21, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I was glad the Stillers fans took over our stadium. I'm a diehard Skins fan, born in DC, who is disgusted with the awful facility my team plays in, with the ridiculous charges tacked onto everything there, and with Snyder's horrible handling of a once-great organization. Maybe if we ALL stay away from FedUp Field and refuse to give him any of our money for a while, Snyder will get the message he needs to change how he does business.

The Steelers are a well-run team that has my respect (full disclosure: my Dad was from W. Pa., and Coach Tomlin went to W&M, my alma mater). I don't blame its fans for traveling to support their team. Heck, I sat in PNC Park in bright red Nats gear Aug. 1, I saw lots of similarly dressed Nats fans there, and we all had fun talking with Bucs fans about the Milledge-Morgan trade and wondering whose baseball team is worse("Oh, yeah? My sucks WAY more than yours does!").

Posted by: post5 | August 21, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Mike Tunison = Christmas Ape on Kissing Suzy Kolber, which is by far one of the best football related blogs out there."

You'd have thought Steinz would mention that in the article, since that would help reference him as a "famous author."

another reason not to blog under a pseudonym. That and it might get you fired when your employer sees the kind of stuff you write.

Posted by: metatext | August 21, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

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