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Steelers, Penguins, Pirates

It's always been tough to rank my love for all of the teams. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my first love was baseball, and the Pirates were doing well then. The Pens were doing well, too, but weren't on TV nearly as often as the Pirates, which made it more difficult to watch. The Steelers… were third.

Then the Steelers became prominent, and the Buccos entered their dark period. Ditto for the Pens. The Steelers were the dominant team for nearly over a decade, and they ranked first in my heart, but I still followed the Pens and Pirates, of course. During this time I was also in Ohio and Florida, so actually watching the games became nearly impossible. The Steelers I could often watch (I got NFL Sunday Ticket in Florida for that purpose), but the Pens and Pirates, not so much. ((I remain a DirecTV customer to this day, largely because I wanted to watch the Steelers when I moved to Delray Beach, FL.))

Today, honestly, I split time between them, but the Pens have been the team I've supported the most. I was able to directly compare championships between the Steelers and Penguins pretty recently, and the Pens winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 felt about five times more rewarding (as a fan, believe me, I know I'm not a part of the team) than the Steelers winning their sixth Super Bowl a few months prior.

At various times I've been disillusioned with the NFL's rules ((They've gotten better lately.)) and with the way Mike Tomlin does things. Baseball had the steroid stuff. But hockey's always just been hockey. Yeah, they had that stupid lockout, and had they gone an entire year without a season, as they did not long ago, I'm not sure how that would have affected me.

And hockey is not without its problems. A Pittsburgh area columnist will say "best sport, worst league" and that remains true to this day. The refereeing is atrocious. Players are routinely and illegally hit in the head, back, neck, etc. without any calls or suspensions. The NHL is being sued, too, but they don't seem to care.

But played right, hockey is exhilarating. It's fast-paced. There's constant flow, and the only stops (two 15-minute intermissions) fly by while you do other things, then it's back to nearly non-stop action, unlike football and baseball.

And I think, in the end, that's what seals the deal: the speed of hockey, not just in terms of the players skating, but the game: it requires constant attention. Like an Aaron Sorkin script. If you turn away briefly, you'll probably miss something.