Shawn Spinda's Pittsburgh Steelers infatuation is unparalleled.
And, believe it or not, that's an understatement.
Donning an affable smile, he'll glowingly bounce around his basement, bursting with childlike excitement about showing off his incomparable collection of Steeler stuff.
Dressed in flip flops, gym shorts, T-shirt, gold necklace and autographed baseball cap all featuring his favorite NFL team, Spinda will proudly point out his 150 personally signed footballs, or 40-plus John Hancock-ed (or Rocky Bleier-ed or Louis Lipps-ed) jerseys or hundreds of hats clinging to the ceiling. There's an entertaining story behind almost every one.
A lifesize Jerome Bettis adheres to a wall, which has two actual seats from Three Rivers Stadium parked in front of it.
Spinda's fandom makes an average fan's following of a team seem as miniscule as a fiber in a straw of hay in a haystack.
Spinda has his own creative way of displaying the Steelers’ six Super Bowls on his fingers. Let him show you sometime.
Spinda is the pinnacle of Pittsburgh Steelers obsession, and he'll dare you to match it.
He can barely contain it himself.
From a motorized cart cooler to a decked-out Toyota pickup, Spinda makes one, and to some painfully, aware of where his allegiance lies.
That's why, while an Ashland resident since age 11, he was recently received a “Fan Spotlight” by Steel Nation Magazine, a Pittsburgh-based publication.
“I like to call myself the Ambassador of Steeler Nation,” Spinda said as humbly as possible.
Growing up in Dubois, Pa., Spinda has been a Steelers fan all his life. For the past 20 years, his intense passion has earned him an induction into the Steelers Fantasy Camp Fan Hall of Fame — he’s attended the camp five times.
Spinda also regularly attends training camp in Latrobe, Pa. He almost always travels in his now famous truck.
On one occasion at training camp, Spinda’s truck caught the attention of then head coach Bill Cowher and several players. In all, the whole team inked up his truck with autographs (Spinda has since sold that one to a Pittsburgh resident and bought a new one).
One particular season, Spinda hung out and had beers with players Brendan Stai, Will Wolford, Justin Strzelczyk and Jim Sweeney after every home game. Partly because of that, Spinda was easily able to swing a charity basketball game in Ashland featuring several Steelers against local police.
This summer, former Steeler Greg Lloyd Sr. treated Spinda and his family to dinner while vacationing in Florida.
On average, Spinda attends nine total games (home and away) a year, and he can't remember the last time he's missed a minute of a live game, whether witnessing on TV or in person. He’s frequently given tickets and a place to stay by former Steelers in the Pittsburgh area.
When at his home — and his neighbors have finally, and somewhat begrudgingly, grown accustomed to this — he sounds a din fire horn every time the Steelers score.
“Sometimes, I’ll be watching a game and the other team will score, and I’ll hear a car alarm sound or something,” Spinda said with a laugh. “I’ll look outside and it’s one of my neighbors.”
Tonight, when the Steelers open their season at Denver against the Broncos, he'll nestle into a spot in Pittsburgh. He's already been invited to a golf event there.
It's not uncommon for Spinda to spend ample time with former Steelers, much of it through golf scrambles. He's on the committee of the Tony Dorsett Celebrity Golf Classic.
Resulting in an awe-inspiring and memorable occurrence, former University of Kentucky and Steeler great Dermontti Dawson invited Spinda to his recent induction into the Hall of Fame.
“That was quite an honor,” said Spinda, a 1985 graduate of Raceland.
Spinda won't shy away from flipping through his several Steeler-laced photo albums, which typically contain eight photos per page — don't think Spinda doesn't have a story behind each one.
While fingering through, a few photographs will depict Spinda's gameface, a black and yellow mask capped by a crazy hat.
Just this past week, Spinda painted his face in 49ers red and gold and posted a picture on his Facebook page as a result of a bet lost to former 49ers receiver Reggie Givens.
Some of Spinda’s most cherished pictures were taken alongside paraplegic fans, of whom Spinda has grown fond meeting through charity events and accompanying to games.
Spinda's cell phone, which plays a portion of “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa as its ringtone, contains countless former/current Steelers' contacts.
“Sometimes former players will call me about other former players,” said Spinda, who added that he probably has 150 Steeler contacts in all.
Some of his favorites include Dwayne Woodruff, now a judge, Lipps, Dawson, Bleier and others.
His favorite moments? While there are many, he easily recounts having been in attendance for the final game at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000, when the Steelers beat the Redskins.
He primarily deals with former players rather than current ones but still enjoys regularly attending games. His business “Autograph Signing Connections” involves the coordination of celebrity signings, appearances and motivational speeches.
He's been invited inside the house of Bleier, and he, just last month, tagged along with Frenchy Fuqua for a mini-tour in celebration of the 40th anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception,” a famous catch by Franco Harris in a 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff defeat of the Oakland Raiders.
Dan Rains, a member of the Super Bowl Champions 1985 Chicago Bears, extends Spinda an invitation inside his suite box at Heinz Field about two games a year.
Asked what his family (wife, daughter and son) think of his obsession, Spinda laughed and then answered, “Well, my wife says she needs a lot of medication. And my children are Steelers fans, but they still like to give me a hard time.”
Spinda’s favorite current Steeler is Troy Polamalu. Asked about his most hated teams, Spinda replied “the Ravens. And I hate the Patriots. The Bengals are starting to get better so I may have to start hating them more too."
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
Pittsburgh magazine recognizes local fan
Shawn Spinda's Pittsburgh Steelers infatuation is unparalleled.
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