I became a Steelers fan in college. All of my roommates and most of my friends were from Pittsburgh, which if you’re from that area, you know implies they are also Steelers fans. I was easily indoctrinated watching players like Heinz Ward, Jerome Bettis and Ben Rothelisberger (in his early days) crush every other team and win a Super Bowl. I’ve been a big fan ever since. The kind of fan that would spend an entire season traveling from Boston to Pittsburgh to sit in season tickets the year they didn’t think there would be a season and a weary ticket holder sold his at a great price.
Being a Steelers fan opens you up to a series of jokes and torments. I can’t get on a plane with my Steelers neck pillow without someone saying something about the Steelers, pro or con. I get the same level of haggling from any of my friends that cheer for any NFL team besides the Steelers. My friend Carrie and I, specifically, have had this going for years now – she’s a bengals fan.
On my way home from my Texas road trip, she texted me a picture of her wearing a Steelers hat – what I would consider true blasphemy for a Bengals fan. You wouldn’t catch me dead in any shade of Ohio orange. Then, of course, we started talking shop about the regional teams and their fans, specifically the Browns.
The Browns are an easy target when it comes to the NFL. I can’t remember the last time they had a winning season yet their fans have innate pride. Browns fans are proud, like-long fans of their losers. They don’t have fair weather fans because they have never actually experience fair weather when it comes to winning.
This is not my competitive nature at work – they really do suck. There are children’s books to help their children understand what it means to lose. It’s called “Why is daddy sad on Sunday?” all about disappointing moments in Cleveland sports coloring books. They suck as a fact.
So in our pondering what Carrie said next really caught my attention: “I should start considering that as a good quality in people. You know when they say “I’m a Cleveland Browns fan.” You can already assume that they are extremely reasonable and rational people with very low expectations.”
And it’s true. They’re remarkably loyal people. It also highlights a bigger thought – that if you are a passionate fan about your NFL team, it’s somehow a reflection of your personality. Every team doesn’t have such a distinct reputation but I still wonder if being a fan of the under dog is a quality you want in people. It’s better than thugs from Oakland and bullies from New England, that’s for sure.
In all sincerity, I want to hire Browns fans. The people who believe, even when things consistently go wrong. They’re the kind of people who trust their managers and missions. They’re loyal to a fault. It’s a choice who you have faith in- who you follow, chant for and show pride in regardless of the arena. There’s something to the fact that there are people out there who choose to cheer on a well-known loser and still have hope. That hope, all hope, is powerful. It makes teams do things you don’t expect. It changes outcomes.
And no, I don’t want to know what being a Steelers fan says about me.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.