PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — We’re going to learn some things about ourselves here in Pittsburgh in the next few weeks.
Will we maintain? Can we believe in each other and count on each other to stay away from each other?READ MORE: 'Sounded Like A Freight Train': Washington County Residents Say Storm Lasted Just Minutes, But Cleanup Will Go On For Days
I don’t know, but I do have a hunch.
This is a city that overcame wrenching, economic upheaval not all that long ago.
So maybe overcoming long odds is in Pittsburgh’s DNA.
And if such a spirit lives on, it may have been sparked on a winter day 47 years ago. Pittsburgh woke up that morning ready to believe in a dream, only to be hit with heartbreak.
It came courtesy of Ken Stabler, quarterback of the hated Oakland Raiders.
Hang with me now. Yes, I’m going to talk a little Steelers for a moment. But this is bigger than football.
So Stabler, leading the Raiders late in the fourth quarter, got free and ran for a 30-yard touchdown, putting Oakland up 7-6 over the Steelers with a little over a minute remaining in the game.
The Steelers were looking for the first playoff win and they were about to blow it after holding Oakland scoreless for more than 58 minutes.
Hopes were fading in Three Rivers Stadium, dreams dying.
For how could anyone have known that with just 22 seconds to go, on 4th-and-10 for the Steelers at their own 40-yard line, something was about to happen in the middle of that field.
Something immaculate.READ MORE: Free Dental Clinic Expects Large Turnout At David L. Lawrence Convention Center
That catch, that iconic moment, changed everything. The magic of the “Immaculate Reception” fueled a belief that propelled the Steelers to unprecedented glory. And the key was a player who wasn’t even close to where the ball was thrown.
In fact, it was his distance from the crush of other players – his social distance, if you will – that let him spot the deflected ball and scoop it up.
I ran this novel notion past the hero of the play that would later be celebrated as the greatest in NFL history.
“I see it so clearly now,” I told Franco Harris. “Social distancing allowed the immaculate reception to happen.”
“Ha! Well, yes, it did,” Harris said. “Because where I wasn’t really part of the action of the play, I did involve myself when things started to unfold differently. And voila, look what happened.”
Harris and the Steelers maintained that day. They did not quit early, they did not let up. And something special happened.
Today, with challenges of an entirely different magnitude, Harris sees the same mindset in first responders, medical professionals and grocery clerks.
“These times and these moments call for special people to step up and do special things. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now,” he said. “I mean people are stepping up.”
What we’ll need now is the resolve to stick with what we’re doing and believe that it’ll make a difference. The same way that in 1972, we became believers in our team and in our city.
Believers, to this day.
“We will not forget this, this time period,” said Harris. “We really won’t forget the people who are stepping up and making a difference, making sure that we come out a winner.MORE NEWS: 6 Tornadoes Tear Through Western Pennsylvania
“And together, with all of us doing our part, we will get through this,” Harris said.