BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer email@example.com
The cities are separated by 2,500 miles and have as much in common as Wool Growers Restaurant's oxtail stew and a Primanti Brothers sandwich.
But aside from the geographical, historical, cultural, social, dialectical and gastronomical differences between Bakersfield and Pittsburgh, they do share one key element: Pittsburgh sports.
As with so many of life's quirks, this shared affinity defies easy explanation.
Arguments could be advanced about the blue collar mentality of both cities, their shared ethos of hard work, their immigrant underpinnings (more than a million Okies came to the Central Valley in the 1930s), their small-town mindsets.
Then, too, Pittsburgh sports, particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers, carry a tradition that transcends location. Six Super Bowl victories -- more than any other franchise -- will do that, as will organizational excellence. The fan base even has a name: Steeler Nation.
But it's really much simpler than that.
"I was playing Little League football when I was about 9 or 10," said Darren Everett, who was remembering Sunday while wearing a black-and-gold Ben Roethlisberger No. 7 jersey and sitting at a table at B Ryder's with two of his four children, two "Steeler buddies," a pitcher of beer and a huge plate of nachos, with the Steelers-Vikings game on an 180-inch screen in front of them and a half dozen other NFL games blaring TVs around the sports bar.
"I saw Jack Lambert make a hit so hard that it near about knocked somebody out. And I thought, 'That's my team from here on out.'"
And it has been ever since, even though Everett was in Sacramento at the time and has lived in Reno, Nev., Santa Rosa and Rialto before settling for good in Bakersfield.
He is also a fan of Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates, who, in one of life's delicious vagaries, have supplanted, at least temporarily, the Steelers as darlings of the Pittsburgh-centric sports world.
The reason is empirically simple: The Steelers, after Sunday's loss to the Vikings, are 0-4 for the first time since 1968 while the 2013 Pirates not only completed their first winning season since 1992, but also made the playoffs as a wildcard team.
It would be similar to Bakersfield overtaking San Luis Obispo as California's garden spot, or Kern Medical Center turning a profit. Either would be considered miraculous, but possibly not on the level of the Pirates' accomplishment.
"I'm happy for the Pirates," Everett said. "It took them 21 years. But when you're loyal to an organization you support them whether they're good or bad."
He tried mightily to explain his connection to Pittsburgh. He's never been to the city of Carnegie, Westinghouse and Warhol.
No matter. He's watched Bradshaw, Bettis and Roethlisberger. He remembers Stargell, Drabek and the pre-nutritional supplement flaxseed oil Bonds.
Everett's kids come by it genetically. There are pictures of Ben, now 18, as an infant dressed in Steeler finery. Breanne, 23, wears black-and-gold eye shadow and Steeler earrings for games, although there is no apparent connection between her blue, purple and black hair and the team.
"I was born into it," she said. "It's never going to change."
"If any of my kids was not a fan, they move out of the house," Everett, 49, said.
His wife was a harder sell on the Pittsburgh theme, he said, holding out for 10 years before she finally gave in.
"She's worse than I am now," said Everett, who owns the Earl Scheib Paint & Body on 34th Street. While he does own Steeler sunglasses and a Steeler cellphone cover, she owns Steeler underwear.