My mother asked if I was nervous. I hadn’t really looked at it that way … until she asked.
Casey Hampton asked if I was crazy. Now that’s getting a little warmer.
But I still needed something positive, so I asked Troy Polamalu.
“I think it sounds like a cool idea,” he said.
Then cool it is.
So we’re moving forward with a crazy plan that’s apt to make me nervous: an RV adventure through Steeler Nation.
For 45 days I’ll be attending games, tailgates, Steelers bars, anti-Steelers bars, hometowns of players, hometowns of legends, of ghosts, while living out of an RV.
“We Ride” was taken some time ago, so tentatively the title is “A Steeler Nation,” with a subtitle that sounds about right: “The Story Behind America’s REAL Team.”
The hope is for a Hollywood blockbuster, but the more conservative estimates say that a book with a DVD insert is more likely.
Along those lines, Steelers marketing genius Mike Marchinsky reminded me that Hollywood producer Thomas Tull is a rabid Steelers fan (excuse the redundancy) and that he may have some ideas along those lines. So I e-mailed Tull, the executive producer of “We Are Marshall” and “300”, among other films. I wrote of my idea and why I hoped to interview him – the CEO of Legendary Pictures -- about his favorite football team.
Fifteen minutes later the phone rang. It was Tull.
“This is the only subject that could make me jump out of a board meeting,” he said.
Tull’s more than happy to help with the project. I asked him for a quick tip on the videography. “I’ll ask my buddy Davis Guggenheim,” he said of the man who won the Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“You’ll have the best mind on the planet in on this one,” Tull said.
Someone mentioned from the start that people will line up to help once the project idea was put out there. So now I’m thinking that Steelers fans Michael Keaton and Adam Sandler can play the lead roles of me and my buddy, RV driver Jan Jones.
“But who’s going to write that little notes column of yours on SCI.com?” asked Aaron Smith.
Smith, of course, is part of the tour. I’ll be talking to his brothers in the Denver area. Maybe they’ll write the notes column. In fact, they will. I’ll be reporting from the road for SteelCityInsider.com on this six-week tour. Anyone might find their way into “my little notes column.”
The tour actually began with the Hall of Fame Game. Turns out James Harrison is a legend in the Akron-Canton area, so that’ll be documented. The opener at Cleveland carries tremendous potential as well.
The RV tour will begin the day after Sunday’s home game against Buffalo. We’ll head south to Swords Creek, Virginia, and check out Heath Miller’s hometown. He once told me there’s a stoplight there. I want to see it.
From there it’s on to Clinton, N.C. Willie Parker promised me his people will take me to the place where he used to race pit bulls.
The road will take us through Florence, South Carolina, and the Lawrence Timmons clan, then into Atlanta where I hope to survive a chat with Greg Lloyd. He’s teaching karate and I’m hoping not to end up as a classroom prop. Hines Ward gave me the number of his high-school rival. Verron Haynes gave me the addresses of the best Steelers joints in the area.
Through John Mitchell’s Alabama and into Deshea Townsend’s Mississippi we’ll travel with the goal of reaching New Orleans by Friday night. Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark and Alan Faneca have volunteered to help there. But the capper of the first week will be “Sunday at the Hamptons” in Galveston, Texas.
Casey, while convinced I’m crazy, invited me to his mom’s place to watch the 49ers at Steelers game. Word is there’ll be no better Game Day party in the country that day.
We’ll snoop around Houston the next day, poke sticks at Cowboys fans in Austin, double back through The Alamo and get on our way to Phoenix where “the whole world’s coming” to watch the Steelers play the Cardinals of Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.
From there, it’s on to Hollywood. Tull will introduce me to Paul Sams, the COO of Blizzard Entertainment and a proud Steelers fan.
Up the West Coast, we’ll continue past Neil Young’s ranch in Northern California. The world’s greatest living rock musician is most likely a Steelers fan, and in a way he inspired this project. In the middle of Kevin Chong’s tremendous roadtrip book “Neil Young Nation,” I paused and looked at the title. I wondered why no one had written a similar book on Steeler Nation. Then I slapped my head like Homer Simpson and said “Doh!”
By the way, Homer’s a Steelers fan.
Into Oregon we’ll drive, past the town where marbles roll uphill and into the town of Tenmile, where Polamalu grew up. From there I hope to reach Seattle by the weekend. The Seahawks will be in Pittsburgh but there ought to be plenty of whining over a particular Super Bowl loss. But I’ll move east a bit to watch the game at Kimo von Oelhoffen’s bar in Richland, Washington.
A bye the following weekend affords us two weeks to explore Brett Keisel’s Wyoming and the Wild, Wild West before we settle into a condo at an off-season ski resort outside of Denver. My wife and daughter will meet up with us for a break before the game against the Broncos.
From Denver, it’s a ride east on Route 70 to Cincinnati for the Bengals game, and then it’s a quick shot up to Findlay to chat with Ben Roethlisberger’s people. That should leave me a few days to examine some of the legendary sites of Ohio that spawned Chuck Noll and Jack Lambert, just to name a few.
Home for Halloween, but the hope is the Steelers’ road swing will just be warming up, because we know the story will end with a trip back to Phoenix.
By then, the preferred mode of transport will be the black-and-gold jet US Airways just put on America’s runway. And after the club wins that second game in Phoenix, I’m counting on parades in every major city in the nation -- the Steeler Nation.