It’s More Than Just a Game

By Andrew Gardner

On April 29th, 2023, at Highmark Stadium, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds defeated the Madison Radicals when Jon Mast connected with Max Sheppard in the back of the end-zone with no time left.

For a Thunderbirds team that had historical trouble with the Radicals, there was reason to celebrate. When the dust settled, and the celebration began to wind-down, Dr. Tracy Neuendorf, owner of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds since the team was founded back in 2015, was photographed in an embrace with Sheppard after the game.

A moment in time captured where had you not known the context, you would have assumed it was a defeat, a loss, a breakdown. But this was a moment of raw emotion, jubilation for all of the hard work that culminated into a singular event that everyone in the organization had worked so hard to achieve.

"99% of the time, owning and operating a sports team is hard work, it's tough, it's not fun," Dr. Neuendorf would say. "But it's the 1% on the field success that keeps you coming back for more."

Like someone who plays a terrible round of golf but strikes a 5-iron from 200 yards out a foot  from the pin on 18, you can't help but let emotion creep in. I'd like more of this.

On Saturday, May 11th at Highmark Stadium, the Thunderbirds will once again face off against their long time rivals, the Madison Radicals.

The stakes are forever high for so many involved, and it extends beyond sports. It's a moment etched in history, feelings that stain the consciousness for a lifetime. And we will all remember the time we were there, at Highmark Stadium, on May 11th, watching the Thunderbirds vs the Radicals.