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May 23, 2009

Who is the Pittsburgh Person?

A corporation is a legal entity separate from the persons that form it. Similarly, a city is a legal entity with power, rights, obligations, personality, and quirks.

The good folks at Pittsblog 2.0 have a great post about Pittsburgh blowing things up and suggesting that if Pittsburgh were anthropomorphized, it would be an stereotypical young boy, fascinated by loud noises, trucks, things crashing into each other, and himself. (I couldn't say it any better). The boy's hairstyle is uncertain, but we know his uncle wears a mullet.

The question fascinates me. Who would Pittsburgh be, if Pittsburgh were one person? I think we need to be more rigorous. First, let's define Pittsburgh. For our purposes Pittsburgh is both the City Of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, removing for this discussion an ambiguity which should also be dealt with in the real world. (pace illyrias)

What are the attributes that this Pittsburgh Person would demonstrate?

  • Very Good with technology
  • Very Good with medicine
  • Parochial perspective
  • Mediocre in elementary schools, excellent in college
  • Budget problems temporarily solved with one-off workarounds, not filling the 401K
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Lots of competing voices in their head
  • Simultaneously a Used-to-Be and a Wannabee with an inferiority complex
  • Widely dispersed network (the diaspora)
  • Family oriented
  • Has supported non-profits to the point of regretting it
  • Loves and supports sports teams. Confuses self-identity with team marketing.
  • Tied into old relationships and neighbors that may hamper personal growth
  • Handles loss and adversity well
  • Believes they are quite distinct from indistinguishable peers (Cleveland, Buffalo, etc)
  • has a great model airport, but no planes


Who is the Pittsburgh Person? A few real people come to mind. Tom Murphy, Jane Pitt, Franco Harris, Sophie Masloff, Myron Cope - they all convey a large portion of the Pittsburgh zeitgeist, the Burgh spirit in our times.

I'm not sure who the person is that meets this profile, but I'm going to work on it. It's not Yarone Zober, Dennis the Menace, or Angelina Jolie. In fact, I'm not sure that any real person would fit the profile.


I thought about Gulliver, the giant who's potential is hamstrung by too many tiny factors, but there wasn't enough there to support his candidacy.

Our Pittsburgh Person is a bit of a schizophrenic, possibly a high-functioning schizophrenic.

It strikes me that Edward Norton's unnamed character in the movie Fight Club might be our Pittsburgh Person. He struggles. He fights. He has internal conflicts he's barely aware of. He's got to kill off Tyler Durden before he can get himself on track.


Looks like Pittsburgh to me.

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