What's Better Than Being a Pittsburgh Steelers Fan?
All of that got me thinking: is there any franchise in U.S. pro sports over the past 20, 30, or 40 years that has been more fun to be a fan of than the Steelers?
If you've been a fan of the Steelers, you've been rooting for a consistent winner (only seven losing seasons in the past 35 years) that has had plenty of highs (five Super Bowl titles, six Super Bowl appearances and 14 AFC Championship game appearances) and very few lows.
Pittsburgh did have a drought in the 1980s, as the Steelers missed the playoffs for four straight years from 1985-1988, but even that, the worst stretch of the modern era, wasn't all that bad. Pittsburgh averaged 6.5 wins a season during that stretch, even though it included a 5-11 year, the worst season Pittsburgh has had since 1971. In comparison, the Bengals have had 11 seasons of four wins or less over that same period of time. So consider those few lean years as a necessary weeding out of bandwagon fans.
In the NFL, fans of the Cowboys (five Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl appearances) or the 49ers (a perfect five for five in Super Bowls) can make arguments as to why there team has been more successful, but Cowboys fans had to endure three straight 5-11 seasons recently, suffered through 3-13 and 1-15 in back-to-back seasons in the late 1980s, and are waiting for their first playoff win since 1996.
For the 49ers, as good as the 1980s and early 1990s were, the 49ers were a league laughingstock in the mid and late '70s (back-to-back 2-14 seasons) and they're working on a stretch of seven straight losing seasons right now.
The Yankees are the obvious baseball team that comes to mind as having had consistent success, but in their case, they went through a 13-year drought between playoff appearances from 1982-1994.
At this point, you could argue about whether the NHL really qualifies as a major U.S. pro sport, but if you are counting it, the Red Wings pose a challenge. Detroit has made the playoffs in all but two of the past 25 years, and has won four Stanley Cup titles over that time.
But if you were around before 1983, you saw Detroit fail to make the playoffs in the NHL (which seems to let everyone in) 12 times in a 13-year stretch.
In looking around, I did find one team that can challenge and really trump Steelers fans' claims to perennial happiness. The Lakers have won nine titles since 1971, and have only missed the playoffs four times in that stretch. And, just like Pittsburgh, even bad years for Los Angeles haven't been that bad -- the Lakers have won at least 40 percent of their games in every season since 1976.
So if you're a Lakers fan, you seem to have the bragging rights on everyone, but otherwise, it's hard to compare to the Steelers.
As Steelers fans try to figure out how to afford a flight to Tampa, the cost of a hotel room, and a couple of thousand dollars to buy a Super Bowl ticket at a time when many people are wondering if they're going to be laid off, it's hard not to point out that these are the kind of problems than fans of any team would love to have.
And these are the kind of dilemmas that Steelers fans have faced more than almost anyone over the years.