Meeting the 'Family'By Lou Bouris
March 27, 2009
The Mafia's annual Sit Down Dinner. Just the sound of that conjures up images in my head of some extremely overweight guy named "Fat Tony", in a 3 piece suit that doesn't quite fit, getting whacked while eating a spaghetti dinner. Man, what was I about to walk into here? Then I remembered what Boss Hertzog said the day before while giving a TV interview at the 1st preseason tailgate party of the season. He said, "The SCM is all about family!" In essence, he said that basically we're people of all ages and backgrounds getting together, having fun, and are united by the enjoyment we get in watching the greatest football team on the planet.
As we walked into the restaurant, I realize that they couldn't have picked a better location for something dealing with the Mafia. DiSalvo's is an old train station turned into an Italian restaurant, and every nook and cranny was dripping with a "Goodfellas" feel to it. As we signed in, someone behind me commented on my boldly printed Steeler tie. I turned around and realized that it was Steeler legend Andy Russell. He shook my hand and welcomed us, and we then spent the next few minutes just hanging out and talking. Wow, what a way to start the evening. I am a quiet person by nature, so as more people arrived, I realized that I really didn't know anybody here. Sure I've 'talked' with a few people online thanks to MySpace or Facebook, but talking online is a lot different than meeting people face to face. My nervousness soon subsided when it finally dawned on me that this truly was a Family Reunion. Even thought I have never met most of these people, the Black and Gold bond is so strong that everybody seemed like a long lost cousin. The Bosses could be seen moving around the room, welcoming everyone personally, and in general setting a great tone for the evening. During this little mingling session, one thing became very apparent to me: there are some extremely sharp dressers in the Mafia. People wore everything from personalized Steeler jerseys (always a great look no matter where you are) to decked out 3 piece suits. There were Bosses from all over the country here, and each one had their own stylish flair. From Boss Hertzog's entirely white suit to Boss Kennedy's gangster-like black pinstripe, to Boss Ironhead's unbelievably stunning purple suit complete with top hat and cane. It was almost like a mini-Mafia fashion show.
After a spectacular Italian dinner, the real entertainment of the evening began. Andy Russell took the mic and wowed the audience with his stories. From his beginnings with the Steelers through the Super Bowl Champion teams of the '70s, we were treated to extremely humorous stories with insider details from someone who was actually on the field. He filled us in on what goes on in the huddle, the locker room, and what some of the other Steeler legends were like on and off the gridiron. One of the main points that he hit on is that whether or not we realize it, the players feel very fortunate and really appreciate having fans like those in Steeler Nation. He said that no matter where they played, he was positive that there would always be plenty of Black and Gold in the stands. That carried on to life after football for him as well. As a successful philanthropic businessman, he has traveled around the world giving seminars and lectures, and no matter what country he is in he always ends up talking with Steeler fans.
After Mr. Russell finished answering questions from the audience, we were then treated to a true Mafia event: an SCM Made Man/Woman Ceremony. The Bosses would call up members, and while they would tell us the contributions that the member made to the organization, they would be pinned and 'Made' by Andy Russell. These members were being recognized for not only recruiting new soldiers into the SCM, but also for their efforts at various SCM events and charity functions. Getting made not only showed that they went above and beyond to held the SCM grow, but also to help others that aren't quite as fortunate along the way. A great honor and something that each SCM member could really strive for. That led to the culmination of the night, and why we were really all there. The whole night was for charity, from the Sit Down tickets to the raffle tickets, and the Bosses were able to present Mr. Russell a check for about $5000 for his charity.
To wrap up the evening, there was an open bar in the basement Cigar Lounge. Everybody used this time to have a drink, wind down, and end the night with more casual conversation. As I sat back at the bar, enjoying my drink and watching the Family members laughing and having a great time I realized that this was indeed a first rate gathering. A true Mafia-style atmosphere, a Steeler Legend telling stories and just hanging out with the fans, and new found family members that already seem like old friends. I am already looking forward to this coming August and the 3rd annual Sit Down Banquet.
So, for those SCMers who are on the fence about going, or are debating whether or not to spend this weekend with the Family, do yourself a favor and make your reservations ASAP. With Mafia events going on all weekend, and training camp at Latrobe only a few minutes away, it is without a doubt a great way to spend a Black and Gold weekend.
One World, One Team, One Family. That says it all, and is the perfect way to describe this weekend spent with the Steelers and the Family.
Me (Lou Bouris w/ Andy Russell at the 2nd Annual Sit-Down Banquet)