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Tag: Super Bowl

The Bittersweet Nature of Being a Pittsburgh Steelers Fan

The Pittsburgh Steelers football team won 13 games this season, won their division and had a bye week to set up a home playoff game.  Pretty good season, right?  Wrong.

They lost a bitter game to the New England Patriots when they were jobbed by the NFL which meant they would not be playing the Tennessee Titans but the Jacksonville Jaguars.  One of only three teams to beat the Steelers in the regular season when five interceptions (two pick-sixes) led to an embarrassing 30-9 loss. One of two teams with a winning record against the Steelers at home (the other? Yes, the Patriots).

That is what is called foreshadowing. So naturally, any remaining positive feelings from winning 13 games and the division is flushed down the toilet in demoralizing fashion when they lose again to the Jaguars 45-42.  One and done. End of season. Poof.  All of that offensive talent finally healthy and it doesn’t matter.  Fans who desperately wanted revenge against the hated Patriots, were instead handed another depressing loss to the Jaguars.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth will last for some time. Anger, depression, confusion, a swirling sea of emotion as fans come to grips that football is over for the year.

For fans of dozens of teams these bitter tears are sweet.  Browns, Bengals and Ravens fans are all enjoying this moment I am sure.  There are no shortage of fans who hate the Steelers and their fans (who often dominate visiting stadiums across the country thanks to all the Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania folks who left to find job during the economic slide the region experienced).

But many of those same fans would also laugh at the bitter complaints of Steelers fans.  Who are not known for their calm and balanced reactions.

And it is a weird feeling to be so bitter about this franchise when they have experienced so much success.

In my lifetime (1970), the Steelers have won something like 23 division titles (my rough count), played in 8 Super Bowls and won 6.  They have won more Super Bowls than any other team in the NFL. They haven’t had a losing season since 2003.

After the legendary and dominant Steelers of the 70s, the Steelers are once again a perennial contender in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl wins in three tries.  Most fans would love their team to have this kind of record.  Heck, Roethlisberger has more wins in Cleveland than the Browns do.

And yet.  The fact of the matter is that Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have dominated the NFL and the Steelers since Brady came in to replace an injured Drew Bledsoe to beat the Steelers in 2001.  17 consecutive winning seasons, eight consecutive 12 win seasons, 15 division titles since 2001, and five Super Bowls and counting.

Losing at home, after a bye, with all your stars healthy hurts.  To again commit critical turnovers and mistakes and to let a pretty mediocre QB beat you adds to the pain.  To watch helplessly as the defense gives up big play after big play, is demoralizing.

But what really pours salt in the wounds is to know that the Patriots are still favorites to win the Super Bowl.  It is the knowledge that the Patriots don’t seem to lose these games, don’t seem to let these type of seasons slip away, that lingers.

Today felt like a chance for the Steelers to reassert themselves as the team to challenge the Patriots.  Ben Roethlisberger’s career is coming to a close and he won’t have this much talent around him forever.  But instead of setting up the rematch everyone wanted and was expecting, they will be spending the offseason thinking about what might have been.  Even as Tom Brady seeks to add hardware to his already crowded shelf.

And that is a bitter pill for any fan to swallow.

A Collected Miscellany Of Football Books

Day three of our February blogapolooza brings us to Super Bowl Sunday. So in honor of the big game I figured I would hit the archives for some books on football. This helps in two ways: 1) it might give you some reading during the off-season and 2) you get to read a blog post you might have missed [3) I will have posted today].  Not surprisingly  they deal mostly with my favorite teams: The University of Michigan Wolverines and the Pittsburgh Steelers (neither of which exactly covered themselves in glory this season).  But I think the books would be enjoyable for any fan of the game.

Three And Out: Rich Rodriguez And The Michigan Wolverines In The Crucible Of College Football By John U. Bacon

Lloyd Carr retired at the end of the 2007 season and Michigan eventually hired West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez. In one of those quirks of fate, a former student of Bacon’s worked for Rodriguez’s financial adviser. This connection led to the idea of Bacon’s writing a couple of articles about the spread offense coming to Michigan, and then maybe collaborating on a book.

It is the height of understatement to say things did not work out as planned.

For most Michigan fans (myself included), that makes this book particularly painful. It is like watching a replay of your car accident in slow motion, on repeat. You know both the ultimate end result and the final score of every painful game and yet you force yourself to read the excruciating details as you relive the nightmare.

But if you are simply a fan of college football, or interested in big-time college athletics more generally, it is a fascinating read. Ohio State fans might find it entertaining and strangely cathartic.

The Ones Who Hit The Hardest By Chad Millman & Shawn Coyne

Cover of "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: T...

Cover via Amazon

This is one of those books where the whole almost seems more than the parts. Not every section works, and all the threads are not neatly wrapped up by the end, but the stories along the way are so interesting that you don’t mind.

In the end what you get is a snapshot history of the NFL in the 1970s through the lens of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys with the labor movement of the steel mills as a background. For Steeler fans I think this is a must read – although those with a strong knowledge of the team in the 70s might already be aware of much of the history.

Anyone interested in the NFL or sports history, however, would find this a fascinating read.

Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

If you had to pick a weekend to discuss football you would be hard pressed to find better one that this one. We are coming to the end of college bowl season and tomorrow will see the last spots filled for the NFL playoffs.  This is a season of either great joy or great sorrow for most fans (a few are saddled with a lingering depression as their teams suffers in the cellar out of reach of bowl games or playoffs).

For those that love the game and not just their chose teams this is a great time of year; full of days on end of football.  But with this enjoyment comes the bittersweet recognition that the season is coming to a close – there are only so many games left and then the dreaded off-season.

If you are a football fan there is a resource that might help you get through the off-season and come out even more knowledgeable about the game you love. Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture edited by Edward J. Rielly is a treasure trove of information for fans and history/culture lovers alike:

Football. Far more than a game, America’s favorite spectator sport is an intrinsic part of the nation’s popular culture—a proving ground for high school athletes, a springboard for stars, a multimillion-dollar business, and a vast entertainment enterprise. Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture provides a detailed look at America’s pastime through the lens of pop culture, a fascinating A-to-Z inventory of how certain aspects of the game affect and reflect broader society.
From African Americans in football to the meaning of Zero in the sport, this volume profiles players and personalities, teams and events, games and football concepts, and sociological and technological changes in the sport. The goal is not to name every Hall of Famer or to retell the game’s entire history, but to give a clear and detailed account of where, in football history, the importance of people and events extends beyond the playing field. Its wide-ranging entries examine such names as Joe Montana and Byron “Whizzer” White and phenomena from concussions, mascots, team names, and literature to U.S. presidents and football’s presence in television commercials. The encyclopedia covers all levels of play—professional, collegiate, high school, and youth—offering a from-the-ground-up, gridiron look at the game of football within the matrix of American culture.
More after the jump.

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