Changing the Name is No Game

It seems a little hokey and goofy at first. The Mayor of Pittsburgh dropping the “Raven” from his last name – replacing it with “Steeler” – and changing his name for AFC Championship game week to Mayor Luke “Steelerstahl”.

However, it became very clear as the day went on the Mayor’s decision to play along with a local radio station promotion was a stroke genius and a public relations coup.

Good publicity is what every politician seeks … and Mayor Ravenstahl received it on a national level when he became the youngest mayor of one of America’s oldest cities. He was interviewed on radio stations nationwide and made an appearance on “Letterman”. However, the buzz cooled after that – as did the mayor’s profile. Most recently, as many as three people believe Ravenstahl is ripe to fall and are, or are considering, putting their hats in the ring at a run for mayor.

Then along comes the AFC Championship – and the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, every political figure is looking to get in on the action – usually in the form of a bet with his or her opposite in the other  city. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh’s mayor, his opposite in Baltimore was just indicted by a grand jury. Not the person with which you want to make a playoff bet.

So a local radio station comes up with an idea – why not change the name of the Mayor for the week? Make “Ravenstahl” into “Steelerstahl”. They even have some history behind the move. Turns out “stahl” in German means “steel”. So today, the mayor legally changes his name, going through the formal procedure to make it official.

Well what might draw a chuckle, and perhaps fire up a few fans, hit the news wires later Wednesday morning … and then it took off. In our days of instant information and 24/7 news, you could not turn on your tube or radio without hearing about the new name of Pittsburgh’s mayor.


You can call him Mayor “Steelerstahl” for the week.  ( Courtesy Pittsburgh Tribune-Review )

From national sports talk radio, which played the stunt for laughs, to CNN and Fox News, the Mayor’s name … and new name .. were everywhere. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann puts the mayor’s move on his nightly “best” list. At last check, I goggled 138 articles about the story.

So why do I call it a stroke of genius? Whether the Mayor came up with the idea or not, it wound up playing into the stereotype that people outside of Pittsburgh have of the city: a town where football rules above all else. It also puts the mayor’s name back in the national conversation – at least for a day. Finally, it puts the spotlight on Pittsburgh in an ultimately positive way.

It may never win him national office, but when people outside our region think about Pittsburgh, mayor Ravenstahl’s name cannot help but come up.

I’m sorry. Make that mayor “Steelerstahl” … at least until Monday.

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