God's Deep Fryer
by Tommy Coleman (6/20/01)
For many seasons now, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, as well as many of the other fine Confluence condiments, have been a part of the Steeler Nation (Michigan branch) tradition.
About 1986 or so I saw a TV ad for a Heinz Ketchup bottle that turned into a space ship (aka, a "Burger-Blaster") and I had to have it. A few weeks later, I came home to discover that my then-girlfriend had taken it upon herself to open my package and assemble my Burger-Blaster... this after she berated me for spending something like $12 or $13 for a "stupid toy". Stupid girl! Of course I was pissed, 'cause anyone knows putting a model together is half the fun. She is long gone now, and thank you, God, for Amy, my beautiful and understanding wife... okay, so she may not totally understand me but, I'm greatful none the less!
In any case, from that day on anyone who would see the bottle, no matter where it might be, would pick it up and try to open it up, get frustrated and say something like "What's this suppose to be?" or "why is that ketchup bottle blinking?" You see, the only tell-tale sign that something was astray, other than the locale of the bottle, was a small red light between the upper and lower labels that I could fix to blink or not.
You have to twist the bottle top a certain direction while pushing on a hidden button that then turns and a canopy bubble (complete with a little pilot inside) pops out and the light starts to blink. Then you open and close and open again, and the two hatch doors on the side and a tail section and two blinking green tail lights pop out and the hatch doors become wing/fins sort of like the space shuttle. Now you tell me... $13.00 well spent, or what?
I even have videotape of people proclaiming the virtues of Heinz Ketchup as they ponder the Burger Blaster. One kid swears he likes to snort it while some young women were eager to rub it up and down their legs stating no ketchup but Heinz would do. I think they got the idea we were filming a commercial, to tell the truth. I had planned on submitting it to Heinz, but I'll get to that later.
The power of ketchup? Nah. I'm here to tell you it's MORE than that. It's PITTSBURGH!
Yes, Pittsburgh, a place I found to be beautiful in 1991, my first time there. A town that some called hell with the lid off when the Steel mills were everywhere. A place that gave birth to great people and institutions as well as some not so great (the Jehovah's Witness cult as well as the cult classic Book of Mormon, to name a couple). This isn't a history lesson, but if you've never been to Pittsburgh, it's a special place to say the least.
At some point around 1987, I actually noticed on the label that Heinz was from Pittsburgh. Yeah, I know it's bottled other places as well, but it says Pittsburgh right on the label people, and if you're lucky, you get some of the real deal. I started noticing whether or not restaurants served Heinz Ketchup or some other brand and without fail, if it was another brand, something about the place wasn't right. Maybe the food, perhaps the service or the overall sanitary (or lack thereof) appearance.
I've read the labels, folks. Hunts: "Neil" Jersey. Cost Cutter/store brand: who knows, but if you got Kroger's, remember, it's from Cincinnati... it is the same water after 10,000 'Burgh flushes and a 500 mile aging process. Then there is the worst of the worst, Sysco or "House Recipe:" Houston, Texas... need I say more (given a choice between drinking a bottle of House R. or Al Gore I'd have to pray about it!). By the way, did you notice the owner of the Hotown Texticles flushed the first toilet in the new stadium (Toilet Dome2) last week and... well, don't blame Allison.
But I regress... or is it digress? Whatever. As the Michigan chapter of Steeler Nation formed, we would always request Heinz ketchup and demand any others be removed from our sight. It got to the point that the wait staff would put a fresh bottle of Heinz on every table in or room. Then the place was sold, and one week we arrived early as usual to put up the Black 'N' Gold, get Fleetwood 'n' Julio a couple of drinks, and light the candles, etc. and we were told that the Heinz was too expensive and we would have to have HOUSE FREAKING RECIPE.
I SAID "NO"!
After some major freaking out, the one cool waitress brought us a basket of Heinz to-go packs and removed the Hose Rancidpee. Of course, in all major power struggles there are prices to pay and we were told the candles were against the fire codes for open flames. The next week, Ambassador Priscilla Kulback arrived with two "electric" candles (one Black and one Gold, extra batteries and bulbs too). Now THAT is dedication! It's not hard to weed out the pretenders, whiners and complainers when they show up to eat and watch the game and a complete stranger takes their ketchup from them and tells them he will get them some Heinz or they will go without.
The Steelers then drafted Hines Ward and after every catch he made, I would toss... okay, throw with the velocity of a 5-50 yard Bubby Ball, a packet of the Heinz at Mike Gandley across the room. He would then, ever so kindly give it back on Hines' next catch. At one point, Priscilla asked what we throwing at each other and of course we were happy to include her and her table across the room in the now tri-fecta. Wanna watch a game with us? One week the bottles of Heinz Ketchup reappeared and were plastic no less! Tempt us? Innnnnnnnn coming!
I'm in Pittsburgh for the JackO'Lia game in 1999 and I'm walking through Station Square. There is a kiosk selling beanie babies and what do I spot? A Heinz ketchup to-go pack beanie with a leather jacket and shades on... hmmmmmm. Even after a cell phone call to the owner from the clerk, I had to buy the set of three, which included, a pickle and a saucy little flirting tomato. I return to Michigan and just couldn't wait for the lights to go down and the game to begin the next week. The offense takes the field and... POW... before you know it, Kordell hits Hines and... POW... I hit Mike Gandley with the "King of the Packs" leather-clad bad boy ketchup right in the #'s and just as Mike started to register what it was that hit him... POW... Priscilla hits me in the neck with a Heinz Ketchup "Bottle" Beanie Man that she got in Johnstown the week before... and Tim calls me crazy.
So when I say I do my job, I mean it! Win or lose, I take care of the "little" things, the "off the the field stuff" that DOES matter. I'm not quite sure how, but it does effect the game. So if I see stuff that the front office "can control" like selling a Steelers truck hitch cover (2000 catalog) with a blue Dallas star on it, I'm pissed! Or crap that has the Steelers logo on the left side! I say, give me the job Mr. Rooney... not on MY watch. And when Jerome Bettis came to Pittsburgh, he started selling BUS mustard and cookies, etc. I said to myself... you (Jerome) are in the condiment capitol of the world and you want to sell your own?
Well, for all I know he has a deal with Heinz and the jokes on me, but I think a bottle of Heinz Ketchup with a 3-D BUS running out of the label sounds a lot cooler than, frankly, the poor portrait of Jerome that's on his labels and that matching poster we got at the game. It doesn't even look like Jerome!
The date is at the top of this story, so check it, and if a collection of Heinz Steelers bottles, 3-D or not, come out you heard it here first. I never did send the video of the ketchup lovers to Heinz, but I gave out a scrap of ad-wiz wisdom once a few years ago. I asked Oilers CB Chris Dishman on a call-in TV show on ESPN if he smelled Rod Woodson's shoes at Purdue like in the commercial where Dennis Hopper is smelling Bruce Smith's shoes. [Editor's note: This is legit, folks... I have the videotape of the show. The interviewer busts out laughing and Dishman is literally speechless. An right there on the screen, it says in yellow letters, "Caller: Tommy from Ann Arbor."] Rod got a check and a new commercial appeared a few weeks later. I hope my check from Heinz doesn't get tangled up with my "McMillen & Wife Staff Writer" pay check at the post office, come to think of it. I might owe Tim for having to coorect all my type-o's. And when you ad in the time it took him... thanks Sandy! I must tell you all this... I'm more than happy with the name Heinz Field. They didn't name the Stadium Heinz. They named a road after the Chief so, why not call the the stadium "Confluence Stadium at Heinz Field!"
We watched the games at Three Rivers Stadium and as the lights came up and the sun went down, no matter what network had the game, they would show the classic blimp shot of the glowing old girl, TRS, Mecca. Priscilla would call out in the darkened room, "Tommy, what's that?" And I would answer back, "THE SHINNING EYE OF GOD!" I meant it people!
Some people talk of what the Steelers stand for or what the Rooney family traditions mean, but you know what? Some of them are as phony as they come. I'm not the judge, God is. But I know this much... I've heard a someone call a man a nigger because only white people were in the room! Is he a Steeler Fan? When someone hopes a Steeler Player gets injured because he hates him, is he a man?
People talk of honor and then lie, cheat and steal (that's steal with an "a")their way through life, more concerned about masks, saving face and the flesh than in the truth. It's time to check it, y'all (Revelation 3:3). No, I'm not perfect and I lived as a retch myself... was blind but by the grace of God, Jesus Christ. I am forgiven and not ashamed to call it out. And by that same grace, I'm grateful to be a Steeler Nation Peasant. I want to be the kind of man that I see in some of the Steelers Greats. The man God intended me to be, before time... can you dig it? Not in words, but deed and honor. Do you? I looked at the new Stadium going up and thought, what will I call it? When Priscilla calls out, "What's that, Tommy?" It's not round, so I can't say "God's other eye," but if we have to eat Teal Tongued Spotted Rat, Detroit Cat Burger, Sea Pigeon or even Modell's Meatballs, we've got the sauce, baby, and it's the best, so I'll say, "IT'S GOD'S DEEP FRYER!"
"That's not grease in there... it's STEEL, Molten Steel!"
I heard somebody say, "It's just football, Tommy." Is It?
Gettin' Biblical On 'Ya!
Take the power back!
The "Power & the Glory" don't belong to NFL Films!
Your faithful reporter,
P.S. -- Phil Knight & Rod Woodson, send me my money!
P.P.S. -- Dennis Hopper, don't sweat it man. Smell the SHOE!
P.P.P.S. -- Check the fridge! What kind of ketchup do you have? Read the label!
Fan Comments & Responses|
The following articles are listed in the order they were received (with the most recent entries at the top). This isn't a "guestbook" format... I read and manually insert every message, so you may not see your submission show up immediately. Thanks a million for your comments, people!
Submitted by outback0577|
You're weird, man.
Submitted by Glenn Walther
Loved your Heinz story. I grew up in Pittsburgh but unfortunatly moved away in
93 to Frisco Texas (just north of Dallas) and I will not, ever use any ketchup
but Heinz. I was even in London a few months ago on business and guess
what... if you request Heinz ketchup... you will get it there too!
Submitted by Tom Hayes
Amen, Reverend Coleman! I feel the power! It's the incredible tingling, fizzy sensation of the Holy Spirit of Football coursing through my head. No. Wait. That's just from the Diet Coke I spewed when I got to the "Hose Rancidpee" bit. Anyway, thanks from all Steeler fans everywhere for "takin' care of the little things."
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