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Season starts for the Pittsburgh Power; enjoy them while they're still around 

I'm the only person in my circle of friends to own a Pittsburgh Maulers shirt, know that the Pittsburgh Pipers won it all during the American Basketball Association's inaugural season, and have childhood bragging rights after my dad drove a member of the Pittsburgh Spirit (the city's professional indoor soccer team) to practice after his car broke down in the city. 

Given all of this, you'd think I'd be excited about our latest non-major sports team, the Pittsburgh Power. Well, not so fast.

I do appreciate that our brand-new Arena Football League team wears black and gold -- the colors that should be worn by every Pittsburgh sports franchise. However, I can't fully support them because, honestly, I'm still kind of bitter. 

In eighth grade, a friend and I dreamt up a team of the same name, although our Power was going to be an NBA expansion team. That summer we planned to go door-to-door to have people sign a petition, which we were then going to send to NBA Commissioner David Stern. 

By the end of the summer, all we had was a logo and the determination that the pre-game lay-up music was going to be the hip-hop/dance hit, "The Power."

Back then I never would have guessed that Pittsburgh eventually would field an Arena League team named after my imaginary NBA franchise, because we already had a top-caliber squad in the Pittsburgh Gladiators. In the league's first three seasons, we went to the Arena Bowl twice. It sounds more impressive than it was, considering there were only four teams in the league when it began.

Wide receiver Russell Hairston was my favorite member of the Gladiators, and imagine the excitement I felt when he was hired as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL strike. For a few weeks he became my favorite member of the Steelers, too.  

This is all starting to sound eerily familiar, isn't it? Come September, the Power might not only be the lone football team in town, but many of them may end up being Steelers just like Hairston. If anyone needs to be going to Arena League games, it's Mike Tomlin.

Speaking of seeing the Power live, during the team's last home stand, not only were fans treated to the franchise's first victory (over the Iowa Barnstormers), but they also were entertained with a fireworks-filled starting line-up celebration; complimentary black dish towels; the gyrating Sparks Dance Team (whose uniforms seem to pay homage to 1980s heavy-metal band Stryper); live announcing by radio-personality-turned-Power-hypeman Bubba; and a halftime performance by local hip-hopper Mello Mac, who fittingly performed a song called "Power." Oh yeah, and it was "Blackout Night," which, in hindsight, doesn't seem like a good play on words for a team named after electricity.

More than 9,000 fans half-filled the Consol Energy Center for the historic win, but how many of them were there to just enjoy the amenities of our brand-new arena? How many were there because they knew Pitt would just choke away another tournament game that night? How many were there out of curiosity? How many will return?

For a guy who once created a Gladiators mural on his bedroom wall, I don't have much hope for the long-term survival of this team. Besides having a logo that looks like mediocre clip art and a website that takes days to be updated following a game, it's not a good sign when my friends -- some of Pittsburgh's most diehard sports fans -- can't tell you who won Monday night's game in Milwaukee. 

Is anyone aware that on June 4, the Cleveland Gladiators come to town? Fans should bring double the hatred, because not only are we conditioned to despise our turnpike brethren, but how dare they call their Arena League team "the Gladiators"! 

One week later the vitriol should continue to flow when Pittsburgh travels to Tampa. Before they left town in 1991, the Tampa Storm used to be our Pittsburgh Gladiators. I'm sure many of you remember exactly where you were when you found out the news. 

Or maybe not. 

With the Penguins and Steelers and Pirates and high school and college sports to pour your passions into, you may not have even realized the Gladiators ever left Pittsburgh. That's why you probably won't notice when the Power experience a blackout for real.

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