Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Football, Love Go Together

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Football, Love Go Together

Article excerpt

There are Pittsburgh-specific truths we've long held as self- evident, such as the one about not standing under the Fort Duquesne Bridge in the middle of the night, the same going for sitting or sleeping under it, among other things.

Unless, of course ... anybody?

It has something to do with the Steelers, bingo.

"My friends and I used to tailgate, probably before we should have been doing that, and we'd be the guys lined up right under the bridge at 3 a.m. in 1994," Keith Cossrow of NFL Films was saying over the phone the other day. "The Steelers were just so much a part of my background and my identity as a person. Growing up around sports just gave me that love of Pittsburgh."

Growing up in Mt. Lebanon, Cossrow claims he learned to read from the sports columns of the Post-Gazette and the late Pittsburgh Press, which worked out well since some of us were learning to write through the very same vehicles.

By the time he'd found his way to Duke and discovered that a lifelong love of sports added nothing to the understanding of organic chemistry, nor to a million other challenges along the pre- med track, it was becoming evident that Cossrow would emerge from there a writer and storyteller.

He wrote about the role of sports in the life of Pittsburgh, and he wrote elegantly and compellingly enough that he intrigued the late NFL Films co-founder Steve Sabol, who hired him right out of school.

"Steve Sabol specifically looked for storytellers," Cossrow said. "He felt writing was most undervalued thing in the culture. I didn't know the first thing about film making."

The reason I'm telling you this story is because Cossrow recently finished telling some of the best football love stories ever put to video, stories he considers among the most important he's presented in a now 17-year career that's included 10 Emmys as a producer, writer, director, and editor (he's also senior producer for HBO's football essential, "Hark Knocks.")

Four million people watched the finished product, a one-hour film called "Football America: Our Stories," that ran during Fox's Super Bowl pre-game lineup. You can see it at

The people featured in this film walk right into your soul, and though each is surprising and life-affirming in their unique relationship to football, the game is often mere subtext to a far more poignant narrative.

"They were far more meaningful and powerful than any of us thought they would be," he said. "It began with a national ad campaign asking the question, "Why do you love football?" There were a bunch of celebrities -- Condoleeza Rice, Joe Montana, Dr. Oz that helped us get some unbelievable spots, but that wasn't where we were headed.

"We made it a contest. As the carrot, you could win a Super Bowl trip. We had no idea what the response would be. …

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