CREATED BY BUD LIGHT AND VICE DIGITAL SERVICES
Steeler Ron's tattooed body is a love letter to his favorite team. He has a bunch (including a full back tattoo) and plans on getting a bunch more. Unlike most superfans, his costume is permanent.
How did you fall in love with your team? What is your first memory around your NFL team?
It's been a long time. Naturally, when I was a kid my dad was a Steelers fan. My earliest recollections of the team go back to the 1960s. The very first player that I was really impressed with was a defensive lineman named Eugene Lipscomb. Big Daddy is what he was called. This guy was a monster! 6'6, 300 pounds, which was kind of unheard of back then, but I was very young, seven or eight years old, and for some reason that kind of caught my attention. It just sort of went from there and it just grew over the years. I pretty much suffered through those early years when they were without question [...] the worst team in the league. Then I got to enjoy the turnaround when it started to become a dynasty.
How, when, and why did you start dressing up, collecting, or becoming more than a regular ordinary fan?
I would say I got started in the 70s. At that point I started going to the training camp every year. Eventually I went to camp almost everyday. I started bringing 8x10 pictures and I would get the players to sign them, so that probably was the start of the main collection of Steelers stuff. I have the normal stuff. I have the hats and stuff, the regular stuff. But since it started in the 70's over the years I've probably accumulated to-date, I'm going to guess, 700 to 800 signed 8 x10 pictures of players.
What is your favorite NFL moment or team memory?
Okay! Memories, ... that's a tough question! If I were to try to pick out one single favorite memory it would have to be the first Super Bowl, because like I said, I saw them when they were just a terrible team. So to see them become winners - not only speaking for myself - but for most of Pittsburgh, that was just a dream that people didn't think would happen. Seeing that first Super Bowl win would probably would be the biggest memory.
What distinguishes you from other fans of your team?
That's a pretty easy one to answer. The tattoos!
This also might illustrate the level of fan I am. I've got four children. One son. My son is named after Mel Blount so that sort of says it all. My wife wasn't thrilled with the idea. I said, "With the girls... I'm flexible, whatever you're cool with naming them, that's good, but with the boy, he's going to be named after my number one favorite all-time Steeler." So my son's name is Melvin Cornell. Mel Blount knows this and to this day we keep in touch.
How did you develop your costume / get your nickname / develop your superfan persona?
I started getting my tattoos back in 1999. The first tattoo I bought was just a football on my upper right arm with the Steelers logo in the center of it. At that point that was all I was planning to get. I've been a Steelers fan forever; I love the team! So, I thought that a tattoo might be a pretty cool thing. I thought that was that. Then I decided I wanted something on my other arm, my upper left arm. So I had him put a big smelting pot pouring molten steel out of it and as it's pouring out the molten steel it becomes the Steelers logo.
Once I bought that one it just went on from there. I got tattoos on both calves and my entire back is covered. My upper chest, ribs, my whole right arm from the elbow down, most of my left arm from the elbow down. All told, I've probably spent 200 to 220 hours sitting in that tattoo chair. Chris Blix, my tattoo artist, did all my work. He's a big Steelers fan too, so, that's cool!
I see other people, they may have the Steelers logo on their arm or whatever or they may have a smaller thing, but I haven't seen anyone yet with the amount that I have.
What is your favorite keepsake or piece of memorabilia?
There has been personal stuff too over the years. From going to the camp, seeing these players a lot, sometimes on a daily basis, naturally you begin to know them. You have little interactions with them. One cool thing, which I kind of enjoyed, was I was at a signing at a local mall and Max Starks was there. He was a captain for the team a few years back. It was right around Christmas; I saw him and we were just kind of talking about Christmas stuff and family stuff – whatever. I showed him a picture of our Christmas tree, which was a white tree completely decorated with Steelers stuff. He thought that was pretty cool. For the ornament on the top we had an old Steelers helmet and Max said, "I think it's time for a new tree-topper." So he gave me a new mini helmet he had signed. He wrote Merry Christmas on each side. It was pretty cool. I took that home. We put that on the tree and people came over the house. They thought that was cool seeing it. That's a fun memory. As I mentioned earlier, because I went to the camp nearly everyday, my four kids grew up going with me. It was kind of cool that they too were around the players. My kids got to know the players, so they looked at them more as people than just these guys you see on TV. The players would be real nice to them and it was nice for my kids to see that the players are human beings, not just what you see on TV. That was really nice.
...I've probably spent 200 to 220 hours sitting in that tattoo chair.
What is your game day ritual? How do you prefer to watch the game?
Game day rituals? I enjoy going to games. I am not a season ticket holder though I would like to be. I do get to a few games a year. But I always will record the game. Then I can go to the game, watch it, more or less, and focus on enjoying the atmosphere; halftime, and have fun, all that good stuff, but when I get home then I can watch the game for real. It really makes it so I can pay much closer attention to things.
As far as game day superstitions, not so much. The only hard rule is if the family is over to watch the game that's cool, but my wife is extremely unlucky. When she comes into the room, bad things happen. The year in the playoffs we were playing the Colts, Jerome Bettis had the ball. They were in the process of running the clock out to clinch the game.
Jerome Bettis who rarely fumbles was there on the Colts two yard line and my wife walks into the room and immediately Bettis fumbles; nearly lost the game the second she came in. When he fumbled everyone in the room, my kids, even the grandkids, all start yelling for her to get out. So she's kind of learned over the years. If she's watching the game she will maybe stay in the dining room where she can see the TV, but she won't watch it in the same room. I mean you can't tempt fate too much. That's probably the only superstition I have. I don't wear the same thing for every game or anything like that
How does it feel to be known by your friends and peers as a die-hard fan?
My tattoo artist went to training camp with me for a couple of days. He kind of laughed about and got a kick out of the way players would be walking close by and people would take pictures of me! Chris thought that was pretty funny. There were famous players right there and the fans were more into taking pictures of the tattoos.
Also, once when Joey Porter (one of the guys that I always would talk to at the camp) was coming onto the field with the Steelers he brought out this new free-agent linebacker from Cincinnati they had just hired that week. Joey Porter brings this linebacker over with him and he says, "Now this is a Steelers fan! You've got to see this!" On top of my back I do have a big likeness of Joey Porter. So I showed the linebacker. He thought it was cool!
It's really just a fun thing that I'm lucky to get to experience and I don't think I would change it.
All images by Shaniqwa Jarvis.
See more of the Hall of Fandom here.
This content was paid for by the advertising partner and created in collaboration with VICE digital services, independently from the VICE Sports editorial staff.