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A Conversation with Randy Grossman

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Randy Grossman played tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the team's 1970s Super Bowl heyday. In eight seasons, he had 119 receptions, including a TD pass in Super Bowl X. Today, he's a financial adviser with a passion for ... knitting. He and his daughter, Sarah, will conduct a class in knitting a "Terrible Scarf" as part of the Feb. 24-25 Pittsburgh Knitting Festival (www.pittsburghknitting.com/festival.html).

 

 

And yes, he totally showed me one of his Super Bowl rings.

 

How did you get interested in knitting?

Actually, my mother is a gifted, creative knitter. Some of my earliest memories are of holding my arms out with yarn, waiting for my mother to roll the yarn into a ball. I guess I never forgot that.

 

But my daughter goes to the Waldorf School, and an integral part of their program is handiwork. Knitting is part of that, and a little over a year ago, she got the idea that she could teach me to knit. Before that, I'd never really picked up needles, except maybe to stab my sister.

 

Are you any good?

I'm very much at the scarf stage. There are really only two basic stitches -- a knit and a purl. I'm still just doing the knit stitch: My daughter is trying to teach me the purl, but it was easier to catch the ball over the middle.

 

So how did you end up teaching a class?

I was joking with my daughter, "You want to teach men how to knit scarves?" She thought it was a great idea. So now I'm going to be the special assistant. We're having this class for 15 guys: There are going to be 14 Steelers fans and one Cleveland Browns fan: my brother-in-law. This [indicates a black-and-gold scarf Grossman made himself] is going to be the model, though we have to redo it: It has only four gold stripes, and after Sunday, we'll need five. For the class, we're going to have needles, yarn, and a case of Miller.

 

You're giving beer and sharp needles to novices? Is that safe?

I figure we'll have to be anesthetized. We're going to meet a month later at a bar, and everybody will have to bring their finished scarf. We figure that one way or the other, this is going to be a Terrible Scarf.

 

Was it hard to take up knitting? People often think of it as a woman's thing.

I can spit and scratch myself right along with Arnold [Schwarzenegger]: I don't really consider myself a girlie man.

 

I don't either. And if I did, I would keep it to myself.

Historically, knitting was actually a popular thing for sailors to do. That's a manly model: sailors. Depending on how long the journey is, of course. When I was playing, one year I took up a needlepoint project; I took it on the plane with me.

 

You can actually watch a game, knit and drink at the same time. Well, not at exactly the same time. But guys are always getting grief from their wives about watching football on TV. If they took up knitting, their wives couldn't say a thing. Especially if they made a scarf for their mother-in-law.

 

Is knitting like football in any way?

One thing is that they're both amazingly boring, but at the end you have something of value. Football is tremendously monotonous: Practice is just the same thing over and over. But if you don't execute that monotony well, you don't end up with anything.

 

So would learning to knit help the current Steelers?

Somehow, I have a hard time imagining Joey Porter knitting -- even with a beer next to him. Maybe I'm not giving him full credit, but I imagine him ripping his scarf to shreds after his first dropped stitch. Kickers, though, I can imagine doing it. They sit around a lot. And if they lose the game on a missed 20-yard field goal, they can use the yarn to hang themselves.

 

What about your former teammates? Have you tried to interest any of them?

No, they're all troglodytes. They wouldn't be interested. Although I'm thinking about asking Lynn [Swann]: He could use the exposure.

 

What's your prediction for the Super Bowl?

My prediction was that if they got to the playoffs, they'd go all the way. I never predict point spreads, though. I'd make a bad bookie.

 

You're a financial adviser. Isn't that kind of the same thing?

I get the money up front, which is good. I don't have to go collecting.

 

Would betting on the Steelers be a sound investment strategy?

Historically, if you've been picking the Steelers to win, you're way ahead. Actually, the Steelers organization is the fundamental success story for investing. It's a conservative strategy that allows time to work. It's not a day-trading strategy. It's long-term, and not high-risk. But the results have been obvious.

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