David RatliffeBy Lou Bouris
October 23, 2009
Every Sunday, Steeler fans gather around their TVs and eagerly watch the Black and Gold take the field. On the edge of your seat, nail biting tension, and at times having a “life or death” feel with each passing week. For some Steeler fans however, each week truly is a life or death battle. For this Spotlight, I was able to talk with David Ratliffe, who is currently battling brain cancer. A true Steeler die-hard, going through surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his brain and facing tough chemotherapy sessions couldn’t dampen his spirits or dim his Black and Gold aura. We”ve all known somebody that has had to face this challenge, so to David and all other cancer survivors, always remember that the full force of Steeler Nation is squarely behind you in this battle. Remember, the power of the Terrible Towel not only helps out the team, but also looks after those in Steeler Nation that faithfully wave it every Sunday!
- How long have you been a Steeler fan, and what was your earliest Steeler memory?
Ratliffe: “I have been a Steeler fan for 25 years. My earliest Steeler memory was looking thru Luann’s childhood photos as she was wearing Steeler pajamas at age five (See, I married a good woman)! As far as Steeler football game memories, we went to the Georgia Dome to see the Steelers and Falcons play dressed in our beloved black and gold waving our Terrible Towels high in the air! That was our first experience looking at a sea of black and gold in a stadium! WOW!”
- Do you have a favorite current player and/or all time favorite?
Ratliffe: “My favorite player is Troy Polamalu. He is the current day "Lynn Swann” because he is all over the field. "If a man needs to be tackled, Troy is there to get his man just like Lynn was there to catch that ball. My all-time favorite player is Lynn Swann. He was like an astronaut defying gravity when going after the ball. I also like Franco Harris, as he seems like an all around genuine guy and because Franco is Luann’s favorite player.”
- Do you have any game day rituals, or do anything special for Steeler games?
Ratliffe: “I thoroughly enjoy going to Johnson City’s Fanatics Sports Bar, home of the Steel City Mafia to watch every game. I always wear my autographed Pittsburgh Steeler’s cap, signed by Carlton Hasselrig and Mike Merriweather. I always wear my Steel City Mafia t-shirt underneath my #43 jersey. We win most of the time when I wear this! I also wear my Pittsburgh Steeler socks that we bought in the Pittsburgh Airport and wave my Terrible Towel which was signed by all the SCM members in Johnson City before my brain surgery.”
- How long have you been in the Mafia?
Ratliffe: “One year in November.”
- What does being a member of Steeler Nation mean to you?
Ratliffe: “It means I am part of a family! Since my illness, this family has shown much love in many different ways. I appreciate their support and their concern since I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Boss Kennedy has been a great friend and has always shown genuine concern for us. Boss Hertzog has also been a good friend, as well as all of the Johnson City SCM. Even Steel City Crusade’s Marcello was very understanding and helpful once we found out our news (we had to cancel the Sit-Down Banquet Weekend in Pittsburgh that we had looked so forward to attending).”
- How do you think Tomlin is doing as a “new” coach and is there anything you would change within the organization or the playing style?
Ratliffe: “I think Tomlin is a great coach. Although, I would run the ball up the middle less often.”
- With the Steelers” “rocky” start this season, how do you think the rest of the year will play out?
Ratliffe: “It’s the Steelers! It will be fantastic and we are going to win our seventh Super Bowl and get a seventh ring (two for the other hand)!”
- Any personal stories about the Steelers or anything else you would like add?
Ratliffe: “We actually flew into the Pittsburgh airport on our way to Las Vegas just to see the Franco Harris statue. We took lots of pictures to go into our “Steeler room” at home. We almost missed our flight due to shopping and buying a lot of Steeler merchandise, but it would have been worth it!”
- Anything else you would like to share with the SCM Family?
Ratliffe: “On a personal note, I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor on July 20, 2009 without having any symptoms. I had my surgery at MD Anderson, in Houston, Texas. The surgeon was able to remove 100 % of the tumor in what they call the "Brain Suite.” This is a new operating room with an MRI machine. Two days after surgery, I was walking 20 laps around the nurses” station wearing my SCM T-shirt and my Terrible Towel over my shoulder right in the middle of Houston Texans’ territory! I am now undergoing six weeks of radiation in Houston, Texas. Being away from home and the SCM isn’t easy. I miss all of my family and friends. We are going to try to locate a place to watch the games. We have had one of the SCM members offer hospitality while we are in Houston. The Steelers are our extended family. NO other fan base would ever do this or be like our family. The Steelers Fans are the GREATEST!
You can find me on Facebook under William David Ratliff, Kingsport, TN network. There are plenty of Steeler pictures while I was in the hospital and I would LOVE to welcome new friends and family. I also wanted to add something very special concerning my wife. About this time last year, she too had surgery. She had two total knee replacements and was in the hospital on Fan Appreciation Day when Carlton Hasselrig came to Johnson City to visit. I explained what she had gone through and how much she hated missing Fan Appreciation Day and meeting him. He was nice enough to agree to go see her in the hospital. Steelers are a very special team!