Since Pittsburgh's football team has won the trophy named for Vince Lombardi six times, many who live here are probably familiar with one of the great coach's most famous quotes:
"When you get to the end zone, act like you've been there before."
I would like to encourage my fellow Pittsburghers to follow that advice, especially when it comes to this meaningless "best of" lists, the most recent of which circulated over the weekend, courtesy of Buzzfeed: 16 Reasons Why Pittsburgh is the Greatest City on the Planet.
I didn't have to read the list to know it would mention the skyline, Primanti's sandwiches, and our sports teams (for the record, yes, I have read it). I also knew I would not have to wait long before the list was being circulated all over social media as "Hey! Look! Pittsburgh is the best, someone else said so!"
In the past few years, Pittsburgh has been on an endless number of lists that apparently span the life cycle: Most livable city. Best places to raise a family. Best places to retire (I didn't come across any "best places to die" lists, but I'm sure we'd be on that, too).
Since I am not a native Pittsburgher (but married one, and am raising my family here), this reaction to lists praising Pittsburgh puzzles me. Is it an inferiority complex? The writer of the Buzzfeed list makes reference to the famous 1868 quote by writer James Parton, who said Pittsburgh was "hell with the lid off." Not a nice image, but far from true any more. Does Pittsburgh still think it needs to prove Parton wrong, nearly 150 years later?
Or, is it still getting used to the idea of being a world-class city, as a colleague suggested: It's not comfortable in its own identity as a place with a lot to offer. Like an overachieving college kid, who's trying to get as many references on his resume as possible, maybe Pittsburgh is still not convinced of its own awesomeness.
So, let's return to our football comparison, and assume when it comes to shedding its collective insecurity, Pittsburgh is still making its way down the field, past Atlanta and Boston (New England, for the sake of our metaphor), but hasn't quite reached the end zone.
Hurry up and finish the run, though, Pittsburgh. Get used to the idea that you don't need anyone else to tell you how fantastic you are. Then we can act like we've been here before, and that we're not going anywhere.