Super Bowl XL

First and foremost, congratulations to Coach Cowher and the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team for winning the world championship. Congratulations to the Rooney family, for proving that the principles of dignity and class can still be upheld on a championship team.

Those that know me understand that I have a passion for the city of Pittsburgh. I refer to Pittsburgh as "home" even though I "grew up" in Iowa, and only lived in southwestern Pennsylvania for the first six years of my life. It has always been, and remains, a goal of mine to return to Pittsburgh as a resident. Growing up, I always tried to convey my admiration for Pittsburgh, and most people would give me blank or incredulous stares. However, when I finally had the opportunity to take some of my friends to visit Pittsburgh, they too were mesmerized by its scenic beauty and its nice people. Even the dilapidated steel mills and old towns of rural western Pennsylvania, and places such as Weirton, WV held special meaning for me. Many are modern day ghost towns, but the fabric of the region is rooted in a blue collar work ethic that I admire. Part of the reason that I am so passionate about the Steelers is that I feel like the team, especially the ownership, embodies the values of the town. I am not as naive as I once was, believing that each and every player on the team played for the pride of the city of Pittsburgh. However, I think if this quality exists anywhere in professional sports, it exists in Pittsburgh (and, possibly, in Green Bay, WI.)

It was so gratifying for me to watch the tremendous outpouring of support from Steelers fans in Detroit. I almost made the trip myself, knowing that I would not attend the actual game. I just wanted to be part of the environment. Granted, Pittsburgh is only about 200 miles from Detroit. However, the fact that there were nearly 100K fans in Detroit is simply amazing. Add to that fact the quarter of a million fans that turned out for the victory parade in downtown Pittsburgh, and I feel like part of a gigantic family. Steeler Nation, indeed!!

Last year, I wrote how football didn't hold the same importance for me as it once did. The agony of Steelers losses bothered me less than they used to. At the same time, I never became quite as euphoric as I used to after Steelers wins. Overall, I think this was probably good. However, on Sunday I feel like a decades long emotional investment in the Steelers franchise paid a huge dividend. Being such a fan is crazy, and maybe even irrational, but it sure is fun at times.

I can't go much further without commenting on the chatter that Pittsburgh earned a "cheap" win due to some bad calls and lackluster play. There is no question in my mind that the Steelers earned the victory. In fact, I think it was a gutty performance to be able to overcome some mistakes. The type of game they played reflected all of the values I admire on the team--teamwork, selflessness and resiliency. It was a tough victory for a tough team.

There were certainly some questionable calls. I think it would be stretching it to say that the game was full of bad calls. Most of the calls that went against Seattle could have went either way. The Steelers got some breaks, and the Seahawks had some breaks that went against them. This happens in every game, and it was hardly the reason that Seattle lost the game. The most talked about calls are the offensive PI penalty against Darrell Jackson, Roethisberger's touchdown run and the supposedly "phantom hold" against Seattle on a play that resulted in the Seahawks getting the ball to the two yard line. One of the most overused cliches in football is that the referees could call a penalty on every play. This may be the case, but they don't call a penalty on every play. Unfortunately, the penalites against the Seahawks occured on big plays for the Seahawks. While some of them may have been judgement calls, I don't think any of them were wrong calls. Offensive PI is not often called, however there is usually not a referee standing a foot behind the play as there was in this instance. The ref reached for his flag immediately, and Chris Hope was definitely pushed backwards. I have always wished that offensive PI were called more often, so I personally didn't think this was that big of a deal. Shortly afterward, the Steelers' Heath Miller was flagged for offensive PI away from the ball on a screen play. It wasn't for a touchdown, but it was a positive play in Seahawks territory. The call that I think should be least controversial is Big Ben's touchdown. This would not and should not have been overturned no matter how it was called on the field. It simply does not get much closer than what it was. The controversy seems to be that the line judge initially looked like he was going to rule Ben down at the one inch line, and then signalled touchdown. I don't see much of a problem with this. It's not like a different referee came in to overrule an intitial call. All in all, I am sad that this even has to be a topic of discussion. If anything, the Steelers are the ones that are being "robbed" by having their win supposedly cheapened. Now I understand why the Patriots always complained about not being respected because they were often criticized for not covering the spread. Who gives a damn. The best team one.

The Steelers run through the playoffs is probably the best playoff run ever. Winning four games in a row is damn hard these days. Add to that beating the best teams in the league, on the road, with the majority of those teams having had bye weeks....that is just unheard of. I wouldn't be surprised if it is a LONG LONG time before we ever see anything like that again.

It would appear that the Steelers have a pretty bright near term future. Big Ben is likely to only get better. This is a guy that has lost only four football games in two years----two of them to New England and one to Indianapolis. Not bad for 23 years old. When I was 23, I was working part time at a bookstore, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The Steelers have some tough decisions to make in the offseason, such as signing Randle-El, restructuring Staley's contract, etc. It won't be the same team next year, even without The Bus, and that saddens me. It is always hard to see players that you like move on to other teams. However, new faces will emerge for the Steelers next year also. It will be exciting!

Big Ben had a horrible QB rating in the superbowl, but I still think he played a good game. (Believe me, I am capable of saying negative things about the Steelers. In fact, I do so quite often.) Anyway, I think if Ben would have thrown the ball about six inches higher on his second interception, for a touchdown to Cedric Wilson who was WIDE OPEN, he would likely have been in the running for MVP of the game. He had some awesome plays that only succeeded because of his ability and toughness. The Favre-like shovel pass that he completed to Ward was classic. So was his scramble to within the one inch line of the line of scrimmage to convert a 3rd and forever play. Add to that the fact that his receivers dropped some catchable balls (at least three, one of which could have been caught by Ward for a TD.) He also made an awesome block on the Randle-El pass and had at least two huge third down conversion runs. All in all, I thought he played pretty well, contrary to popular opinion. Sure, he's had better games, but he also didn't let his mistakes rattle him into complete disintegration. Every once in awhile he has to show us that he is still human.

There are several analysts and writers that were dissing the refs and the Steelers almost immediately after the game, and certainly the next day. Among them: Ron Jaworski, Chris Collinsworth, Tom Jackson and Skip Bayless. (Is it any coincidence that most serious analysts that I read (i.e. Jim Rome) think these clowns are idiots?) I guess they need something to set them apart from other TV talking heads----it might as well be their idiocy.

We had a huge party in Iowa. It was a blast, and I'm glad I went home for the superbowl. I even had the added bonus of seeing the Hawkeyes beat Michigan on Saturday night. My only complaint is that about 50% of the guests smoke, and our basement seemed to have absolutely no circulation. It was worse than watching the games at Minsky's in the bar area. I think this bothers me more than it used to since I am so rarely exposed to smoke anymore. Maybe I need to build up my tolerance by going to a bar at least once a week :) We had a pregame party on Saturday night, where I won about $120 playing poker. Doesn't get much better than that. We had lots of Iron City Beer, and popped champaign at the end of the game. We didn't have too much of a post-game party, as people were pretty much exhausted, and Mom, Dad and I wanted to watch the post game interviews. Sharon and I hauled all of our Steelers good luck charms to Iowa with us, and we decorated the house with them. Obviously, that is what led to victory :) I got to experience the game with my family and my best friends. Definitely, a time to remember.

Steelers fans are just awesome. I was happy to learn on Monday that the game had the highest number of viewers since the last Steeler's superbowl in 1996. Furthermore, I believe I heard that it was the second-rated TV show of all time, eclipsed only by that unbeatable final M*A*S*H episode. I wonder if NBC is rooting for the Steelers to reach the superbowl next year?

One final thought: I have never been a John Madden fan. However, over the past couple of years I had been pleasantly surprised by how he and Al Michaels (whom I love) paired up for MNF. I was looking forward to these two doing the superbowl. Sadly, I was disappointed in nearly every facet of the ABC telecast. I didn't think they leveraged their ESPN franchise well, in either the pre or post game segments. I thought the announcing was bland. One could argue that it wasn't the most exciting game, but then one could also argue that this is when great announcing is most needed. I was even dissapointed in Chris Berman, whom I almost always enjoy. Oh, well.....I can't have everything. I see that Madden and Michaels are going to be paired up for the Sunday night games next year on NBC, which likely means they will also be doing next year's superbowl. Hopefully, I have another chance to be disappointed in their coverage of the Steelers.

One final, final thought: I didn't think the Rolling Stones stunk nearly as bad as most people have opined. I thought the halftime show was one of the better ones of the last few years, and the best since U2.


Sean said…
i was wondering when i'd get to read this bad boy ;-)

point: it's easier to be nationally rabid when you've had a lot of past success. it seems to me that there are a lot of Green Bay, Dallas, and Packer fans out there. SF, i don't know about. you are a legitimate fan: you were born in western PA. but some of these Dallas and Steeler fans born and raised in the middle of Iowa, you've gotta conclude most of that is bandwagon.

i totally agree with your affection for Pittsburgh. i worked on the North Side three summers (urban ministry), and i love that town. wish i had more family there so it'd make sense to look more seriously for work, but i still have lots of friends.

'cheap win' accusations are baloney. while some of the calls were questionable or even wrong, good teams can handle that. the Seahawks made too many mistakes. they didn't capitalize enough when they had the chance.

the most impressive stat, as you mention, is that the Steelers came back from 7-5 to makes the playoffs as the sixth seed, then win 3 on the road agasint the 3 best teams in the AFC, then beat the best team in the NFC. no one can argue with that.

unfortuantely, sports coverage is mostly entertainment, and those talking heads have to have something to talk about. better to not watch or listen.

so mostly we agree. except i never like the Stones (and didn't even watch the halftime show ;-)
Eric said…
Thanks for your input, Sean!

I agree about the bandwagon fans. In fact, when I was growing up, some of the bandwagon Steelers fans would get on my nerves, because I felt they were not "true" fans. Of course, I was happier to identify with them than the bandwagon Cowboys fans. I saw the same thing with the Packers during the mid-nineties. All of the sudden, these supposedly long-time Packers fans came out of the woodwork. The true fans are the ones that stick with the teams during the bad times.

I didn't realize that you had worked in Pittsburgh. That's wonderful. Glad to know that you have an appreciation for that awesome town!

And, I have a correction for my post. I was thinking that the superbowl was going to be on NBC next year, but now I think I remember that it is going to be on CBS. I can't keep all of these networks straight anymore.
Hi... Seems like you put some time into your blog and it shows! I am out blogging looking for fantasy football cheat sheets blogs, but I just wanted to give you props for your nice blog. Keep it up!


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