Pittsburgh Penguins Fans: Loving Sidney Crosby and Hating Tom Brady

Oct 6, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby speaks at the stakeout position outside the West Wing after a ceremony honoring the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the East Room at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK
Oct 6, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby speaks at the stakeout position outside the West Wing after a ceremony honoring the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the East Room at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK /
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Is it hypocritical that Pittsburgh hates Tom Brady as much as we love Sidney Crosby? Outsiders love to make the comparison, but it is about as fair as comparing Obama to Trump.

For me, it happened at a bar in Denver, Colorado. The Pittsburgh Penguins were getting absolutely slaughtered by the Washington Capitals and I wasn’t taking it so well. I’m not sure if it was the jersey or the yelling, but somehow the guy next to me identified me as a Penguins fan and started talking to me about his distaste for Sidney Crosby.

It’s happened to all of us, I bet. Either because of his combination of skills and looks or his many reputations earned and otherwise, Crosby is a favorite target for hate. And one of the common ways of voicing that hate is the age-old comparison “He’s the Tom Brady of the NHL.”

The reason this is such an offensive comparison can be traced back to two essential truths about Pittsburgh:

  • Pittsburgh hates Tom Brady.
  • Pittsburgh is a blue collar city that lives by blue collar values.

Hating Tom Brady

That first one should make sense. Now, I know everybody hates Tom Brady (even, it seems, Patriots fans), but Pittsburgh hates Tom Brady. We’re trained from a young age to hate Tom Brady, and it’s not entirely because of that time he beat the Steelers in the playoffs. Or that other time. It has a lot to with how he wears his skill. Sure, he’s good, but he seems smug and fragile. He is the antithesis of our own quarterback, who is rough around the edges and seems to work best under pressure and when getting knocked around. Brady is the antithesis of Pittsburgh of what believes itself to be.

Pittsburgh is a Blue Collar Town with Blue Collar Values

Which leads to the second point. Even in a time where the steel industry has all but vanished from the region, Pittsburgh still embraces the Steel City image. The blue collar values of strength, hard work, and integrity are our core expectations of ourselves, each other, and, especially, our heroes. In short, Pittsburghers believe in rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work.

The effect this has on our sports is pretty clear. Our heroes are Mean Joe Greene and the Steel Curtian, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis. Mario Lemieux Guys with grit, guys who played in the most intense of circumstances but weren’t afraid to eat dirt and do whatever it took.

Perfect For Pittsburgh

It makes sense that a superstar like Crosby would fit right in on that list. From the moment he stepped onto the ice in the igloo, he has been the best player in the world. Yet, he has never been content in that. When he entered the league, he couldn’t be counted on as a penalty killer. Then he worked at it, until he was one of our top penalty killers. When he entered the league, he wasn’t the guy you count on to win face offs. Then he worked at it, until he was one of our top guys in the face off. Even as the undisputed face of the sport, Crosby still plays with the ferocity and dedication of a kid trying to earn that last varsity spot.

And I think our all-in attitude is why Pens fans so easily turn an eye to the aspects of Crosby’s play that are less… legal. Pittsburghers, like hockey coaches, really believe that if you’re not cheating that you’re not trying hard enough. And not trying hard enough is a crime worse than cheating.

Crosby’s ethic is an essential reason why Pittsburgh has embraced him. And boy, have we embraced him (when Team Canada plays Team USA, Pittsburghers are willing to put patriotism on hold). Because it doesn’t matter if you’re the best in the world if you aren’t trying to be better.