Monday, August 10, 2009

Friendly Encounters

This is another in a series of meetings of my friends and celebs.

I met Daniel X. O'Neil several years ago when I was running the NIE program at Lerner Newspapers. O'Neil was a performance poet and author and was spending a couple days trying to inspire students with his unique and dynamic brand of poetry.
I was impressed by the effort he gave and the reaction he received. It was a pleasure getting to observe O'Neil in action and getting to know him a bit as well. I recently reconnected with O'Neil through Facebook, where I saw a great old school photo of O'Neil with Roy Gerela, former kicker with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I loved the old school photo and I asked O'Neil to share the pic and story. I'll let O'Neil take it from here.
My father worked for the United Way In Pittsburgh. He came up with the cheesy idea for a "kickoff" of a fund raising campaign. In 1975 Pittsburgh, everything revolved around the Steelers. They had just won their first Super Bowl that year, and they were ramping up to greatness.
As far as I know, the boots I was lacing up were actually Roy Gerela's, although looking at them now, they certainly don't seem like athletic shoes. They may have been props. I remember that the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium was spongy and surreal. And the concrete was about 1/4 inch beneath the turf. Very hard on my knees.
All hail the Pittsburgh Steelers!
In 1975, Gerela was in the middle of a solid 11 year NFL career. After 2 seasons with the Houston Oilers, Gerela joined the Steelers, who won 3 Super Bowls during his stay. Gerela finished his career in 1979 with the San Diego Chargers. Currently, he is an Assistant Coach at New Mexico State University.
As I have written many times, I just love these old photos. I really appreciate O'Neil sharing the picture and telling the story.

The Caption on the picture reads:

Kickoff:Danny O'Neil of Northside laces up his kicking shoes in a symbolic kickoff for the 1975 United Way campaign. Roy Gerela holds Danny's target -- a football bearing the campaign's goal of $18 million, which represents the needs of the United Way's 70 agencies. The campaign ends Nov. 6.
Daniel X. O'Neil and Roy Gerela in Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA-1975.

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