Why Will the Steelers Win Sunday? Me, of course

Friday, January 21st, 2005, 2:19 pm

It’s unlucky to be superstitious

I could spend 15 column inches explaining in Xs and Os terms why the Steelers will beat the Patriots and go to the Super Bowl. But what do I know? These are two excellent teams, well-coached and stocked with players who show both skill and heart every time they step on the field. How can you not like and admire Tedy Bruschi? How can you not like The Bus? There’s been no trash-talking between the two teams leading up to this game, it’s actually been a love-fest, and yet we all know this will probably be the most physical game of the season (current holder of the title, Pittsburgh-Jacksonville).

So I can’t give practical reasons why the Steelers will win. I just have to go with what I feel in my gut. And what I feel is…a bubbling cauldron of acid reflux. I was near to puking the entire Jets game, in part as I’d made a tactical error and eaten the tacos my buddy Mark made for halftime. Good tacos, but spicy food is NOT a good menu selection when you’re riding a hellish emotional roller coaster. This week I will try to lay off the hot stuff, though I believe Mark is making meatball subs and I believe our friend Greg is bringing some kind of ninth-degree chili. Well, I have a bottle of Tums to bring along, anyway.

I made other errors watching the game last week. Like every die-hard (read:insane) sports fan, I’ve collected a formidable list of superstitions and talismans that constrict my behavior in maddening ways. For example, on Sunday I will be wearing my Jerome Bettis jersey, which I ONLY wear on game days. Today is Black and Gold day here at work, but the idea of my wearing my jersey today (and using up all its good karma) is anathema. I’d sooner strip naked paint #36 on my chest and jump off the bank into the Allegheny River. Really. I would.

Under my Bettis jersey I always wear a white long-sleeved T-shirt I bought when I was in Pitt’s MBA program. It’s a nice roomy T-shirt and I started wearing it one cool day when I was going somewhere to watch the game. Steelers won, and a fetish was born. You can see the “Katz Graduate School of Business” logo through part of my jersey, but I care not. This is about luck, not fashion. Steelers better win the Super Bowl this year, ’cause that shirt is getting a bit tatty. While I always wash the T-shirt before each game, I don’t wash the jersey. Can’t wash the luck away, right?

I have 2 Terrible Towels, one of which is lucky, the other cursed. The lucky one comes with me, the cursed stays at home, naturally. When watching last week’s game I committed one serious offense and forgot a bigtime luck-generating habit. The offense was drinking during the game. THIS IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN. I know, not drinking while watching a football game is like, I don’t know, not drinking before the consummation of a marriage, but for me it’s bad luck. I developed this insane tic during the Penn State-Michigan game in 1994, during the Lions’ national championship year (and don’t tell me Penn State didn’t win the title that year. Biggest sports ripoff in the last 25 years). I’m sucking down suds, the Wolverines take the lead. I stop at halftime and the Lions roar back to victory. I’ve been watching football sober every since.

Except last week. Had a few beers before kickoff, and then the Steelers race out 10-0 and it looks like the rout is on. No harm in keeping the party going. Right. I cut myself off as Reggie Tongue raced 86 yards down the sidelines. And the Steelers righted the ship (eventually) and won the day.

I watched them win not while sitting on the couch, but by standing and pacing behind it. Not much room back there, but I’m so constricted by stress that standing up and pacing and bobbing about help burn off a few thousand calories that otherwise would just go toward heating my blood. I started doing this at Mark’s house back in…’93 I think it was. It was the year the Steelers beat the Belichek-led Browns in the first-round playoff game. Steelers stunk against the Jets until I took up my position by the couch, victory soon followed.

The problem I face right now is that I followed most of these conditions 3 years ago, and the Patriots still beat the Steelers. But I think I have this all figured out. One, I wasn’t standing behind the couch, because we watched the game at my friend Matt’s house. Two, and this is the big one, NEVER, EVER WATCH A BIG GAME AT MATT’S HOUSE. My friend Matt and his wife Kris keep a lovely home, and it’s always a joy to visit and spend time with them there. Just not during a goddam big game. It’s the Bermuda Triange for our sports hopes and dreams. We watched Pitt get liquidated by Utah earlier this month. We saw the Penguins lose like a half-dozen playoff games there. So right there I think we’ve solved a major jinx, meaning I can be comfortable with all my other quirks and twitches.

So I think I’m ready to focus all my psychic and karmic power to the Steeler cause. We’re gonna have a big crew watching the game, and hopefully we’ll enjoy a rousing victory. Which would present another problem. Mark has decided that, should the Steelers make the Super Bowl, he’s going to the game. Come hell or high water, he’ll be in Alltell Stadium rooting on the Black and Gold. Meaning we’d have to watch the game somewhere else. I know our friend Mike is hosting a Super Bowl party, as he has the last six or seven years, but the Steelers weren’t IN any of those games. Would we shatter the harmonic convergence if we watched the game somewhere else? Or would two victories exhaust the karmic mine of Mark’s house and require us to decamp for fresh territory. I’m sad to say, these are the things that keep me awake at night. Well, they will Saturday night–the rest of the week I have other scary, unmentionable horrors to haunt me.

So I’ve done my part. It’s up to the Steelers to do the rest. And I’m confident they’re up to the task. The weather will be a big story leading up to kickoff, we’re due for 4-6 inches, maybe more, but it looks like it’ll hit on Saturday, not Sunday. I haven’t decided yet if that’s good luck or bad. To save myself a wee bit of stress, I’m gonna go ahead and call it good.

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