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Tim Gleason

October 12, 2011

Tim Gleason, Author, From Black to Gold (September 1,  2011):

First, can you tell readers about yourself and how you came to write the book From Black to Gold?

I am a die-hard fan from the early 1960s.  I remember Bid Daddy Lipscomb and the heartbreaking 1963 season.  I always wanted to write a book about a fan’s perspective of the Steelers.  

That’s what makes this book rather unique.  If you’ve ever worn a Jersey, screamed at the television or tailgated on the North Shore, this book is for you.  Fans will relate to this book Because it was written by one of them.

What surprised you most about the organization as you researched and wrote the book?

Surprise is probably not a fair word, but I was struck by how warm the Rooney family and organization is.  

I met Dan a couple times and talked to me as if I were someone important.  His son, Art II, also understands the importance of the connection between the team and Steeler Nation.  I met him walking around the stadium before a game.  You just don’t see that everywhere, or maybe anywhere.  

And Art Jr., he actually called me on the phone a couple times and agreed to write the forward for the book.  I took my daughter to meet him for lunch one day.  It’s incredible.  The Rooneys are just like the Chief.  He taught everyone to be humble and grounded, and they are.

Every fan has a positive and negative perceptions of their teams. What about your research helped dispel any of those perceptions?

Steeler Nation has very high expectations.  The fans don’t accept anything short of winning Super Bowls and that disheartens me a bit.  It’s not about the end, but about the journey.  

Sure, we all want to hoist the Lombardi at the end, but to me the joy is the Draft, the preseason banter, the tailgating and most importantly, the hope.  I talk about this perspective in the book.  

I urge fans to enjoy the ride.

How has the team changed organizationally over the years in its approach to team-building and it’s relationship with fans?

The team changed dramatically in 1969 and not ironically, my book is titled from Black to Gold, with 1969 being the watershed.  

Up until then the Chief hired his cronies and locals to coach the team and we were never successful.  In 1969, Dan took over and hired Chuck Noll.  The Steelers have had only two coaches since then.  Prior to 1969, the Steelers traded Draft picks like they were bubble gum cards.  Since then, the team has relied on the single focus of building teams through the Draft.  

They trust their Draft, give players a fair chance and then pay them well.  Stability is the cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s success.  There are many who read this who weren’t around when mankind first walked on the moon, and to think that since that day, the Steelers have hired only two head coaches and the second one is still young and hopefully will be around for a while.  That’s pretty amazing.

What changed in the late 60’s and early 70’s to turn the team from sad sack to Super Bowl champions?

The undercurrent was the efforts of Art Rooney Jr. and the scouting department.

The Steelers hired Bill Nunn in the late 60s.  He was the first African American executive hired in the NFL.  Nunn was wired into all the Black southern colleges, so the Steelers were way ahead of the game in drafting talented players from relatively obscure colleges.  Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes, John Stallworth, Mel Blount, on and on, came from small Black colleges.  

The trilogy was fascinating.  While three rivers were converging at Point Park in Pittsburgh, another threesome converged in the front offices of the Steelers:  Dan Rooney began running the team, Chuck Noll began coaching it and Art Rooney Jr. and his staff put together the best six years of drafting in NFL history.

What memories of the team, as a fan, most affected you?

All the losing in the 1960s.  I fell in love with the team unconditionally.  It made me appreciate the 1970s so much more.  

I’ll bet the same could be said for younger fans who fell in love with the team in the 1980s.  It made the 90s and 2000s that much sweeter.  Anyone can love a winner, but show me the fan who can name the head coach of the team before Chuck Noll and I’ll show you the best fan in the world!

What do you think the Chief would say about today’s NFL and Steelers?

I don’t think the Chief would be comfortable today.  

The NFL is a world of seclusion and lawyers and big money.  The Chief was more of a regular people guy.  He used to walk around with tickets giving them away to people on the streets.  He would collect those little whiskey bottles on airplanes and give them to the grounds crew.  He worried about whether the mailman had tickets to playoff games.  The Chief went to racetracks all the time.  Owners can’t do that
now.  

I think the Chief would choose to live in the era that he did, though he would be very proud of his sons and grandson.  Art II can’t be his grandfather.  The world has changed too much, but he still understands the values that the Chief instilled in him.  I talk about this a lot in the book, again, written by a fan for fans.

Where can readers buy your book?

Fromblacktogold.com

Any new books on the horizon?

No, this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, a “bucket-list” goal of mine.  I’ve been blessed to have so many great reviews.  I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead  

Any last thoughts for readers?

Enjoy the journey of being a fan.  Never let the disappointment of not winning the Super Bowl supersede the joy of following and loving the team.

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