Fan–Short for Fanatic

Monday, January 19th, 2009, 5:24 pm

The game was over and I sat on the couch sipping a celebratory beer. I never drink during big games–perhaps the most unfortunate of my superstitions. The Steelers had just beaten the hated Ravens to secure a spot in the Super Bowl. The goddam SUPER BOWL. Was I happy? Eh, kinda. I sure was happy when Polamalu picked off Flacco and took it to the house. I was jumping up and down and screaming so loud I felt faint for a sec. Gotta remember to breathe.

I actually didn’t do much breathing during the game, to be honest. I’m usually a severely paranoid pessimist during Steeler playoff games and yesterday was no exception. First there was Holmes’ catch to the goal-line that was reversed–if taking two full steps, diving to the line, and then losing the ball when you hit the ground is an incompletion, then that rule needs to be changed. What a joke. Actually, the officiating as a whole was a joke. In addition to that play there was the usual hugging and mugging of James Harrison that wasn’t called, the late-hit on Roethlisberger that wasn’t called, and then Bryant McFadden’s ludicrous interference call. In the second half it was the Ravens who got shafted–the roughing the punter flag was about as bad a call I’ve seen all year. First of all, the Raven guy didn’t even hit Berger. Second of all, even if he had it probably should’ve been a five-yard penalty. It actually should’ve been an unsportsmanlike on Berger for his dive, but they never call that. The refs also rarely call pass-interference on the offense, and Limas Sweed sure as heck interfered with Frank Walker on that ill-advised pass Roethlisberger threw in the end zone. But they didn’t call it and Jeff Reed booted the FG.

Limas Sweed. That guy should be thankful he didn’t get shanked in the showers after the game. First, he drops a touchdown pass that would’ve really put the Ravens in a hole. That’s the second week in a row he’s dropped a perfectly-thrown pass when he was wide-open. Now, that was bad enough, but he decided to compound his mistake by lying on the field and pretending he was hurt, in an pathetic attempt to get some sympathy from the crowd who was booing him. That cost the Steelers their last time out, and cost us a chip-shot field goal when Moore got tackled at the ten after some really horrible clock-management by the Steelers.

After Baltimore scored it just felt like the last couple of big games the Steelers have lost, where they made stupid mistakes, blew chances for big plays, and lost a game they should’ve won. But this time the Ravens made some horrible mistakes of their own–the special teams personal foul that backed them up to the 15-yard line, and then of course Polamalu’s TD pick.

The play that sealed the game also contributed to the rather somber post-game mood. This was a viciously physical game (I think Peter King of SI said it was the most violent game he’d ever seen) and then at the end Ryan Clark put a hit on Willis McGahee that was like something out of a snuff film. A clean hit, went in with his shoulder, but Jesus Christ. We all went “OHHHH!” and no one even seemed to notice or care that the Steelers recovered a fumble that clinched the game and a Super Bowl berth. I thought the hardest hit I’d ever seen was when Anquan Boldin got hit against the Jets. I really thought there was a chance Boldin had been killed instantly. I thought the same thing when McGahee got hit. Violent game.

I feel more a sense of relief than euphoria. Especially when I’d probably be really, really depressed had the Steelers lost. The emotional equasion doesn’t seem quite equal. It’s a strange feeling to wake up and think that, by the end of the day, you’re either going to be incredibly happy or utterly devastated. Not too many events in life that present that kind of emotional Russian roulette. But that’s the lot of the sports fanatic.

Obviously this was a big win for the Steelers but I think it meant a even a little bit more than just a Super Bowl berth. Beating the Ravens is always, always a big deal. And winning a title game at home is huge for the city. We’d lost our last three AFC title games at home. Only won one home playoff game since Heinz Field opened. And then we beat the Chargers and come back and close the deal on our own field. Everyone was feeling a bit jinxed, that what should be a sizeable home-field advantage really wasn’t.

I had to stay up to follow the progress of UB’s Online Championship event, which ran until 5:15am. I, alas, was not awake to see the bitter end. I was running on empty and around 3am I decided to “rest my eyes” a bit, and didn’t wake until after dawn. Can’t imagine how the players feel after, y’know, actually playing the game. When you think about the physical trauma NFL players endure, and how that must affect them the rest of their lives…pay those guys their money. They earn it.

It doesn’t really feel like we’re in the Super Bowl. Heck, I’m having trouble remembering what number game this is (43, right?). I think a lot Steeler fans didn’t think we could get there with this offensive line, with no consistent running game. Now we have to beat the Arizona Cardinals…hard to generate the same kind of mass hatred that comes so easily with the Ravens. I’m glad the Steelers get two weeks to heal and prepare, and I’m glad I get a week where I don’t traumatize my nervous system.

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4 Responses to “Fan–Short for Fanatic”

  1. Pauly Says:

    Nice job, sir. And they covered, too!

  2. SteelerJosh Says:

    Gene –

    You nailed it. I am not feeling the excitement I did for Super Bowl XL. I am super pumped that the Steelers are in the big game again and have a real chance to be the first franchise to 6….. but the Ravens game was anti-climatic.

    My fear was that we would win the battle but through injuries, be set up to lose the war. That was brought home when Ward popped up gimpy in the first quarter. The family had a discussion three weeks ago when Ben went down and Leftwich came in against Cleveland. The concensus was that we were very comfortable with our backup QBs (Byron or Charlie) but losing Ward would be much more of a concern. I hope Hines and Clark are ready for the big one and I hope that McGahee does not suffer any lingering affects.

    I am 100% with you on Sweed. Spot on analysis… I was bitching up a storm about him in the game and that wasted timeout. He has the physicality and has shown flashes, but goddamn is it frustrating to watch him not get it done over and over and over.

    Lastly, I experienced the same sense of relief, not euphoria, at the end of the game. I chalked it up to having to reserve myself some since my parents were in town from Baltimore. Every play resulted in a simultaneous cheer/boo. It was not fun to watch the game with dissenting opinions. It was also sad that my parent’s team was done for the season after such an exciting year for Baltimore. That said, when it comes down to them or us…. I am happy it was them that had to pack it up for the season.

    I think the Cardinals will be worthy opponents for a few reasons. The coaching. Wisenhunt and Grimm know our offense and our offensive mindset well. That is a unique twist. The Cardinals offense. They seem to be peaking at the right time. I know they won’t be able to run on us and our cornerbacks have improved so much in the past few years, but Anquan and Larry will be a challenge for us to contain. I hope Coach LeBeau can cook up some defensive schemes that harrass, harry, and sack the shit out of Kurt Warner.

    Looking forward for one for the thumb in 2001. Oops, how about one would grand for the other hand…err, 6 will be fine in 2009, ummm, first franchise to six… Cleveland/Baltimore suck our dicks.

    That is why I am in IT, not marketing. Enjoy the upcoming hype and Steelers mania in the burgh.

    Josh

  3. Arctic Ghetto Says:

    I know someone who works with a guy who played tight end in the NFL for six years. Word was the not so old pro was in pain, daily. The player has to have a form of physical therapy for the rest of his life and said most of his NFL friends are in the same boat. Average a NFL salary, times it by, say, five, and subtract forty two years of intensive healthcare costs. Ouch. Add to that the fact that they all won a ligament lottery just make it to the pros. Yeah, they deserve a piece of the market.

  4. Arctic Ghetto Says:

    Thats one for the slong, Josh.

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