The Healing Has Begun

Troy Polamalu was honored last night at a Pirates game in a stirring moment that marked his first public appearance since he retired.

Last night was just a night out at the ballyard for us, but my daughter and her friend were on high alert: Someone from the band All-Time Low -- in town for a concert they're both attending tonight at Stage AE -- tweeted that they were driving around Pittsburgh looking for something to do.

My daughter, knowing everything about this band, including the fact they are big fans of the Baltimore Orioles, tweeted back that they need to stop in and see the Pirates at the world's most beautiful park.

Next thing she knew, the band posted photos of themselves at batting practice.

Oh, this was a big night out indeed as the two 15-year-olds scanned the expensive seats for the band. They instead found the stage crew sitting 15 rows behind us, but got a flat "No!" when the girls asked if the crew could direct them to where the band was seated.

So, the search was on, but I told them that before they roamed too far they had to make sure they were in their seats and paying attention in the sixth inning. That's when, I had been told, the real star of the night would come out, and I'm not talking about Andrew McCutchen.

The girls listened to me and were in place for the sixth inning, and after the Pirates batted the scoreboard began playing "Renegade."

In my opinion, the song is so played and has served its purpose as the Pittsburgh Steelers' fight song of the past generation, yet the fans gave it their cursory Pittsburgh applause.

The fact that the accompanying highlights focused on Troy Polamalu didn't mean much to the fans, and then the highlights faded and just "Thank You Troy P" was posted.

OK, another sprinkle of applause, but this seemed a bit out of place and time -- until the screen showed Polamalu at the game. He was seated next to Thomas Tull in Tull's private box with Franco Harris, Cameron Heyward, Chris Hoke and Ryan Shazier. That's when the crowd rose for a raucous standing ovation. Polamalu spent the next several minutes doffing his Pirates cap and hugging his friends in the box.

Of course, it was a chilly night against a dull Minnesota Twins opponent so the crowd wasn't large, but it became loud. I was filming the experience on my cell phone and turned to see my daughter and her friend standing and applauding enthusiastically. It was a touching moment, and a bit of a healing moment as well.

Polamalu, as I wrote early in April, was not happy with the Steelers and how his retirement went down. He probably still harbors resentment. And it's perfectly understandable. But some of the bitterness goes back to the 2011 contract negotiations. It wasn't all about Troy being told he couldn't play anymore when he thought he still could. And Polamalu told the Steelers that day, at the 3 on 1 meeting, not to expect him to appear at any planned function this coming season.

That's what he was saying back then. Right now, those feelings might be different. He's just endured his first public appearance and it went over spectacularly. It had to grease the skids because the fans reaffirmed their love for him, and the Steelers -- in the persons of Tull and Harris -- have embraced him without any expectation of reciprocation.

It was a step.

Not that it means anything to the team on the field, but off the field it means plenty. It means family, and that's what this franchise has been built on. Troy is family. Has to be.

Meanwhile, my family is much happier today as well. My daughter did find the band, thanks to the Kiss Cam. She spotted the bass player on the scoreboard behind one of the kissing couples and deduced their vantage point. But she and her friend merely plotted ways to "bump" into them, before I told them just to "man up" and simply ask if they would pose for a picture with them.

They did. And they did. And all ended well at the yard last night.

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