One fan's last request makes news

I've always considered Packer fans to be the most devoted and demonstrative in the NFL. But a news item this week told the story of a Pittsburgh man who proves that Steelers fans can also go above and beyond - literally.

The fan, James Henry Smith, passed away recently after a long illness. Before he died, he left specific plans for his wake. Very specific. What the 55-year-old Pittsburgh man asked for after his death was exactly what he asked for in life - his favorite chair, his favorite colors and, most importantly, his favorite team in high definition.

Smith, according to the Associated Press, arranged a viewing last week in which he was displayed wearing black and gold pajamas and slippers, "resting" in his recliner, remote in hand. A Steelers' logo blanket lie across his lap, and his favorite beverage was placed on a nearby table. In front of him a continuous loop of Steelers highlights played on a state-of-the art television.

Macabre? Maybe it sounds gross, but in reality, the Steeler fans' last wishes were not too different from what most in our culture consider normal - best dress clothes, makeup, you know the rest. It's just a matter of choice. Smith's friends and family were happy what they described as a celebration, and obviously, he would have been, too.

Over the next few days I thought about this unusual story quite a few times. As both a reporter and a sports fanatic, this tale really piqued my curiosity. I wondered which highlights Smith chose. Was it strictly "Immaculate Reception" and Super Bowls of the 70s, or did Smith have some smaller plays that he found just as heartwarming? For instance, one of my all-time favorite Packer plays probably wouldn't make most people's Top Ten. My highlight reel would have to include Walter Stanley running a punt back 83 yards for a touchdown in the Pontiac Silverdome on Thanksgiving Day 1986 to help the Packer beat the Lions. It was one of just four wins that season. So, I wonder if Mr. Smith had stuff like that. I'm guessing he did.

Another question: Did his family, friends or even the funeral home take any heat for the unusual decision? I hope not. Football isn't rocket science and won't deliver world peace, but it makes a lot of people happy. James Henry Smith obviously wasn't afraid to admit that.

My next question was will a devoted Packer fan ever follow suit? If so, I really hope they find room for Walter Stanley on their highlight reel.


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