The biggest concert to come to Pittsburgh will take place on Saturday when country music legend Garth Brooks plays in front of a record crowd at Heinz Field for his Legacy tour.
And it’s only appropriate that the man playing to that many people, in the home of the Steelers, is a Steelers fan himself.
Brooks, who received a Steelers helmet from team President Art Rooney II, talked about his love of the Steelers during a press conference on Friday, first off sharing how he became a fan of the team.
“Where I was from everybody was a Dallas Cowboys fan,” said Brooks, who is from Oklahoma. “If I am going to go against the grain, the two teams going against Dallas at that point were the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh had (Jack) Lambert and (Jack) Ham. If you are a little kid and see those guys, that’s who you want to be.”
His love of all Pittsburgh sports teams grew through the years, as did his friendship with players, from Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Keisel, to newcomers like Mason Rudolph and James Washington, who both played at Oklahoma State.
“I’m in love with Ben Roethlisberger,” said Brooks. “He’s my guy. Any time I get down, I look in the mirror and say, ‘I am Ben Roethlisberger.’
“Ben always told me the difference between this city and others is that they expect you to get up here. If you get knocked on your (butt) you’re in the game, which means you’re living.
“I think that’s why I like Ben. I like the people here. They’re the kind of people I want to be.
“Keisel might be one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. Thank God that God put a sweet soul in a man that size. He is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, at the same time one of the most feared guys I have ever seen. You put him around children, and he becomes this teddy bear. That’s the kind of guy I want to be around. It’s pretty cool.”
In every city Brooks’ visits he reaches out to the community through the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.
It’s an opportunity to share strong messages, based on the principles of attitude, character, courage, discipline, respect and love.
Brooks was joined by Coach Mike Tomlin on Friday at the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, speaking to a group of young people about the challenges they face in life and making sure that they don’t allow their differences to become a negative that divides but rather a positive that brings people together.
“It’s really great to be a part of something that is giving,” said Tomlin. “Garth comes to town and is entertaining and so forth. But for him to take time for this community and share some wisdom and some love, I feel honored to be included and glad to do so.”
The Squirrel Hill community was rocked last October when the lives of 11 people were senselessly taken at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Both of them shared the importance of diversity, accepting people for who they are, what they are, and sharing love.
“We need to focus on what we have in common, not our differences,” Brooks told the kids. “If you are going to focus on the differences, think of it this way. Nuclear war there are only 10 people that survive on this planet. Garth Brooks is one of those 10 people.”
Brooks went on to share that among those 10, you need diversity to survive because of skills, because of what everyone brings to the table.
“When there are only 10 of you against the world, you want diversity,” Brooks continued. “You want someone who is a dreamer. You want someone who is a defender. You need that. We need us all. We have differences, so what. The color of our skin might be different, so what. Our religions might be different, so what. In judging and separating, dig in and gain knowledge of other religions. Love one another. That’s it. It’s that concave part of love, the forgiveness, the tolerance. Be part of something bigger than you. That’s love.”
Tomlin, who lives in the Squirrel Hill area, related the importance of diversity to what happens in the locker room, where players come from all walks of life.
“There is a lot of diversity in an NFL locker room,” said Tomlin. “Guys come from various walks of life. We come together, but you don’t have to be in that locker room for long to know that we have a lot more similarities than differences. Most of the time when guys sit around and talk, they wish their family members had the understanding they have, the things that the game does as far as bringing people of various backgrounds together for one charge. I think the toughest thing is they want their loved ones back home to have the same understanding. They don’t realize how similar they are. But the men in that locker room do.”