Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steel Curtain Rising

WARNING: Explicit pigskin and my life going terribly wrong content to follow.

I have to deal with the fact that in six hours, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have probably won the Super Bowl. It’s basically a fact at this point, as the AFC has dominated the NFC all year, the NFL wants Jerome to win this thing at home and Hines Ward has been waiting for this game his whole career. When you consider coaching ineptitude, Mike Holmgren is one of the few coaches in the league who can’t outsmart Cowher. This is going to be a long, long night.

So how did we get here? Well, I thought the Bengals would beat the Steelers, and who knows, they might have if Carson Palmer hadn’t gotten a little Kimo Therapy on his first throw of the game. Against the Colts, I considered it a toss-up, and as Indy managed to out-choke Pittsburgh, I grimly realized the Steelers were going to the Super Bowl. The match-up against Denver was perfect, as they could blitz Jake Plummer to high heaven and throw against the crappy Bronco secondary. I predicted the score to be 27-17, and if it wasn’t for the late touchdown, I would have been right.

Now I’m stuck rooting for Shaun Alexander and Don and Betsy’s son Matt Hasselbeck, and while I think the latter gives them a shot, I don’t think it’s a good enough one. Troy Polamalu, even if slightly dinged up, trumps Lofa Tatupu and even though the Seahawks probably played their best game of the year against a good team in the NFC Championship, that was a Panthers game more or less running on fumes. Barring some sort of minor miracle, it’ll be Big Ben and Bill Cowher hoisting the Lombardi Trophy while I throw up, curl in the fetal position and cathartically weep into Monday morning.

To make it worse, casual fans around the Bend are rooting for the Steelers because of the Bettis Factor. People at school wanted Mom to e-mail me and see if they were selling his throwbacks in the bookstore. She wasn’t happy about it. In fact, the last two weeks have been a living hell for my mom and sister. After watching a special interest story on Matt Hasselbeck, Patrick felt bad, because he was being pulled away from rooting for the Steelers as hardcore as he wanted.

“You want a special interest story, Patrick? Consider what my mom and sister and I will have to go through if the Steelers win this game. Tina said she’s moving if they win.”

That’s been my life for the last twenty years. The only thing that could compare to a Dolphin win on Sunday was a Steelers loss. Larry Brown and Neil O’ Donnell have turned in a couple of my favorite all-time playoff performances. Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, Bubby Brister. These are names I hold close in my heart to OJ McDuffie, Dan Marino, Pete Stoyanovich, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. And now I’m going to have to deal with an entire region completely and totally fulfilled in their quest to finally relive the 70’s.

90% Steeler fans in Detroit. They’re favorites. They should be favorites. They’re going to win, and when I go home for Spring Break – does anyone have room in a shiny, warm hotel somewhere? I’ll pay top dollar for that, and a place to hide out during Easter and the summer – I’m going to have to deal with seas of Black and Gold, and ignorant Steeler fans who now have reason to talk. Just this morning, Andy MacKrell, the only Steeler die-hard out here, remarked that they’d been in three straight AFC Championship games.

“You were 6-10 two years ago. That’s why I hate you Steeler fans, you’re ignorant to the game of football.”

Of course, not all of them are. Dill, Kody, Pete, Shane, Jo Bu, my dad, Uncle Glenn. They’re some knowledgeable ones out there, but the majority are just infused from birth that they should just cheer for the Supah Stees, and they don’t allow any other NFL knowledge to seep into their brain. They wave their towels and listen to their terrible local sportscasters and ignore everything else, and now they’re going to be Super Bowl champs.

It pains me to write this, it pains me to predict my situation around eleven this evening and it’s going to pain me more to watch this game, but I’m going to keep listening to “Sweet Shaun Alexander”, keep watching pregame stories on Milf of the Year Betsy Hasselbeck and keep praying for things to go the way of Seattle, a city that has as long of a championship drought has anywhere outside of Cleveland.

But alas, my prediction must be Pittsburgh 27, Seahawks 23, despite everything my heart wishes. My life is about to take a very bad turn, and I simply must deal with that. I’ll listen respectfully to all the taunts like a man, as I’ve certainly earned them over the years, but it’s not going to be easy.

How many of these girls will Ben eat in celebration of his victory tonight?

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