Friday, April 14, 2017
I never met the person named Daniel M. Rooney, but I know the man. The people from around the world who met him, but had never been to Pittsburgh, know Pittsburgh.
The Rooneys are a wealthy family, but you'd never know it by the way they act, or live. Yes, they get to participate in events, go places, buy things most of us will never be able to, but you'd never know it interacting with them.
People born in Pittsburgh have an uneasy relationship with success. For themselves, it's not uncommon for a Pittsburgher having a good stretch of luck to be pessimistic, because generations of Pittsburghers learned that luck can change in an instant. A pressure vessel blows in the mill; a cable snaps, a breaker fails, all these things can happen, do happen. And in what for generations was a majority blue collar town, working men and women know that when these things happen, lives can be ended, can be changed forever.
So Pittsburghers are naturally uncomfortable with success, yet there is not one who had interacted in one way or another with Dan Rooney, his father, his brothers or his children would ever claim feeling intimidated or uncomfortable being around such a successful family. Because the Rooneys are Pittsburgh.
Dan Rooney, like his father Art Rooney Jr., ate lunch every day alongside the Steelers' players, groundscrew, admins, staff, etc. They drove themselves to work; they lived in the same kinds of neighborhoods as many Pittsburghers. They knew their neighborhood kids, their parents, their relatives.
Because that's what growing up in Pittsburgh was like; it's a small town disguised as a small city; a city where those who thought highly of themselves had their entitlements pricked. Where those who thought poorly of themselves had more people than they could count standing by to help them out.
Where people who needed help didn't have to ask; once word got out that a family was in distress, as many strangers as neighbors would pitch in and help, in large ways and small.
I know this is true because I lived it. When my older brother was injured falling out of a tree, one little article in a local newspaper brought thousands of volunteers to help my parents with his rehabilitation. For nine weeks, groups of five strangers would arrive in shifts around the clock at our doorstep ready to move my brother's limbs as part of his therapy while he laid deep in a coma. My brother would not be the self-sufficient, successful person he is today if it weren't for the people of Pittsburgh.
You can read elsewhere the many acts of generosity and selflessness Dan Rooney performed over his 84 years; I can't tell you directly about them because I never met the man.
But he was a Pittsburgher, as his family has been since 1884. That's all I need to know to know what kind of man he was.
R.I.P Dan Rooney, and my condolences to your family.