Monthly Archives: April 2020

Memories of Ivan, from Michael Bean

For those of you who are truly old-timers, Michael was the person who began Behind the Steel Curtain, back somewhere in the mid-2000s. He is also one of the main people who is directly responsible for my Steeler fandom. Whether he should be congratulated or execrated for this I leave to you all to decide. 

Ivan was a giant in my eyes because he embodied many of the characteristics I hoped to be better at and grow into as I progressed through life. Pragmatic but optimistic. Serious but with a funny streak. Welcoming to others but intensely loyal to those in his original orbit.

On the website, everyone always wanted to raise their game a little bit when Ivan was involved in a conversation. To try to be a little more thoughtful with their analysis, a bit more crisp with their writing, and definitely to leave the ad hominum nonsense at the door.

Ivan brought people together. In my small little sandbox of the website, that meant bringing more readers into the site and making more people feel emboldened and safe to share their thoughts in a respectful way.

When I asked Ivan to write for the preseason magazines we did for three years, I learned through the stories he shared in his pieces that Ivan was the type of guy everyone knew and respected, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the campus, no matter the setting.

This impression has been strengthened in my cherished conversations with Ivan’s friend Mike Silverstein, who explained to me just recently that Ivan was able to connect him to a whole new wide range of fellow Yinzers even decades later.

Even though we never got to meet in person, I certainly felt like I knew Ivan. We talked like friends, but I always made a point to treat him like an elder whose respect I had to earn. I cherished our phone calls over the years, and I am especially thankful that Keith Thomas alerted me to the importance of trying to reach out a few months ago when Ivan was not feeling well. On every call we would talk football first and foremost, but he would ask about my life, my girlfriend (and now wife), and he would always have a new story to share about his daughter. Then we’d get back to football and I’d learn something new, or reconsider something I was passionate about with that year’s team or upcoming opponent.

So even though we never met, and even though it’s been awhile since I’ve been involved with the whole Steelers fan writing community, I say from the bottom of my heart that I loved the man.  I couldn’t be more appreciative of everything he taught me about the game, about how to tell stories, and about how to be a man at a time in my 20s when I was craving for role models just like him.

RIP Ivan and thank you for everything you meant to me.

A Tribute to Ivan Cole

by Mike Silverstein

His name on Behind the Steel Curtain was Rick(VA), and he was a regular contributor. Mine was HomerJ, and so was I. We were both rock solid Steeler fans.

He was from the East End of Pittsburgh. And so was I.

We were both living in the DC area, and we decided to take in a Steeler game together at one of the many Steeler bars in the area. 

It turned out we grew up in the same general area at about the same time, that his brother was a classmate of mine, and many of his closest friends in the DC area were high school friends and classmates of mine. Some of us had been friends since grade school. There was a strong connection.

Ivan and I grew up during the time of the great Civil Rights movement, when there was so much hope. Ivan, the introspective football player, navigating his way through high school and college as a black kid, seeking new opportunities. For me, the world brought opportunities my parents never had. Both of us had done relatively well professionally, 

And now, forty-some years later, we were able to reflect on our lives – the parallels and the differences, how race, class, and so many other factors came into play. And, from day one, we felt comfortable talking about these things with a liberating sense of honesty.

Ours was a deep and abiding friendship, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were the river that ran through it. Read more

In Memorium

Like many of you reading this, I “met” Ivan Cole many years ago on Behind the Steel Curtain, first through his comments (always intelligent and to the point) and then through his articles. After a while I noticed when he published a new article that the topic was frequently something I had been mulling over in my mind for a possible article. Ivan had basically written what I would have, only better. I commented to this effect after it happened several times, and he was kind enough to note that he felt the same way about some of my pieces.

We continued to communicate through the medium of BTSC articles and comments until one summer Ivan, an ex-pat Pittsburgher, expressed an interest in driving up from Virginia and attending training camp. I invited him to stay with my husband and me. Although my husband is lamentably uninterested in the NFL, he is interested in people, and he was also curious to meet Ivan.

Ivan showed up at our house the afternoon before we were scheduled to go to camp. I’m guessing he was, like me, slightly apprehensive as to what he’d gotten himself into, but mostly was excited to finally meet in person. The rest is history. Ivan was a “brother from another mother,” as my kids would say. Read more

RIP Ivan Cole

For those of you who don’t know, our longtime contributor and dear friend Ivan passed away last Wednesday. He had an injury last December which required surgery, and somehow things went from bad to worse—complications, multiple surgeries, and more. Eventually his body couldn’t support his great soul any more.

The stories of how his life became intertwined with some of ours, and what he meant us, can be found in various locations. My piece and one by Mike Silverstein are below. I know that several other people are writing about him for other sites, and when I get locations for them I will update this with links to the other articles.

I hope those of you reading this will also take the opportunity to look at some of Ivan’s work. I’m going to link a few of my favorites below, but there is much more available.

Training Camp for Fans Part 8: What is the Steeler Way?:

Comments on the Tree of Life shooting:

Training Camp for Steeler Fans, 2018:

The Real Issues Facing the 2018 Steelers:

The NFL’s Problem:

Packers@Steelers—Something for Everyone:

Pittsburgh Peculiarities, Part One:

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part V—Coaching in the Fog of War:

Roasting the Goose, Part 3