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Korean Immigrants Embrace Pittsburgh Football


Ross Lee wearing Steeler colors at his store in Pittsburgh

Ross Lee wearing Steeler colors at his store in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a city with a long history of immigrants. Greek, Italian, Polish and Slovenians were drawn more than a century ago to the thriving steel mills and mines. Today, Pittsburgh has a much different feel, but the city still attracts immigrants including many from Asia, and with an unusual connection to American-style football.

A stroll down Pittsburgh's Strip District reveals two basic staples of life in the so-called Steel City - ethnic foods and Pittsburgh Steelers merchandise. The black and gold colors of the popular National Football League franchise are seen in every part of town.

Ross and Marie Lee are two South Korean immigrants who proudly wear the Steelers colors. "We came from [Seoul] Korea. I came in 1980. He came in 1988," she said.

Watch Video from the Lee's Store in Pittsburgh:

The Steelers had already won four Super Bowl championships by time the Lee's arrived in Pittsburgh. The championships in the 1970s came when the city was at the height of its depression from the collapse of the steel industry.

The Lees were initially not aware of what the team meant to the city. But they quickly learned. "We did not know. We did not know anything about the Steelers. Over the years we could see what is going on here and what kind of things [the] people wanted. So we ended up with a Steelers store," she said.

The Steelers merchandise store they opened in the Strip District is one of the most recognizable and busiest - thanks to the Steelers' continued success. "We have been here over 10 years. This is our third Super Bowl season already. We are kind of lucky," she said.

Medicine, financial services and high tech companies have shaped modern Pittsburgh. Immigrants are now likely to come from places such as India, South Korea and China. But the Steelers remain a big part of the Pittsburgh community.

Pittsburgh has more Super Bowl wins than any other team and is seeking an unprecedented 7th title.

Marie Lee says their client base includes Pittsburgh fans around the world. "We have a huge Steelers fan [base] all over the country, even over the seas. Some of them even come from Italy and Germany to watch the games," she said.

The Lee's store has been quite busy this NFL playoff season. The Steelers defeated the New York Jets Sunday to earn a trip to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, Texas on February 6. Pittsburgh will face the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League championship game.

The Lees will be cheering for the Steelers and the brisk business they hope the team will provide for many years to come.

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    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

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