Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Bi-football Couple

Courtesy of
Oh.  My.  God.  I have been listening to fall out from Thursday night's Steeler game for days now.  I am so sick of hearing about it, both from inside my own house and from the media and various fan bases, that I cannot even begin to tell you.  The outside chatter is whether James Harrison deserved that suspension for a hit on Colt McCoy (pretend you hear angels singing at the mention of his name).  Not surprisingly, most Ohio residents are calling for his head and think he got off easy, most of us east of the border are incensed that he even got flagged for the play.  The rest of the country is sort of split depending upon how badly the individual hates or loves the Steelers.  The inside-the-four-walls chatter is about that plus just in general what thugs we members of the Steeler Nation are.

Here's what happened:  Greg went to his first - and likely last - Steeler game in Heinz Field Thursday night.  I had gotten him tickets for his birthday so he could see his boy Colt McCoy (again, queue the angels singing) play.  I stretched the plastic on the credit card until it screamed and got us great seats!  I was a little worried about the weather - a December night game - but it turned out to be cold, but not too cold.  Crisp and clear.  We rode a ferry across from our parking space downtown ($6.00 baby - try getting parking in Dallas for a game for just $6.00!) and joined a happy throng of people milling around in that oblivious pre-game glow where everybody is happy because nobody has lost yet, and for a while everything looked like it was primed for a great night.  I had cautioned Greg that wearing Browns gear was not advisable, and he's not a Browns fan anyway, he's just all about Colt (angels on high...), so he settled for a Longhorn jersey and some people actually flashed him a Hook-'Em sign on the way to the stadium.  Others joked good-naturedly with him, but it was all fairly innocent and friendly.  So far, so good.

Well, then the game started.  And, if you'll pardon the pun, it turned out to be a dog fight (if you have to ask why that's a pun, you're not really into AFC North football, so don't worry about it and just skip to the end).  Suddenly that euphoria of everyone walking in thinking the home team was going to steam roll over the lowly Browns gave way to grave concern on behalf of the home crowd and gave rise to some actual tense hope by the few thousand Browns fans brave enough to show themselves (the woman sitting next to Greg actually was one, but she was incognito).  Now add to that the fact that the season ticket holders for the seats in our section had long ago looked at this game and said, "Oh, hell no, I'm not going to the Browns game in December on a work night," and the results were that we were not surrounded by the cream of Pittsburgh society.  Those enviable seats were occupied generally by a group of young, rowdy, mostly very drunk people who had shelled out way more than they could comfortably afford to see the Steelers and, by God, had paid to be there and would act like they damned well please, too young and drunk to know better.  Most of them had probably started drinking as soon as it hit 5:00 and were hammered well before kick off.  Those who weren't soon found themselves caught up in the mob mentality as tensions rose.  Now add to that our Pro Bowl center and Pro Bowl quarterback getting injured and things began to really turn.  You could feel it like an electric current, and Greg caught some of it himself.  What he will leave out in his version of the story was that at one point he was vehemently yelling at the Steelers.  Now mind you, I've heard the Steeler Nation say some insulting and often ignorant things about and to their own players, but it's all keeping it in the family, so the mentality seems to be that it's allowed.  Let someone else try it, one point, I turned to Greg, a bit panicked, and said, "Shut up!  Remember where you are!"  I was pretty sure if he'd kept going at that clip, we were not going to make it out of there without police protection.  To my great relief, he did shut up, but he was sullen about it.  Then, of course, came the hit heard round the world:  that high hit James Harrison put on Colt McCoy that lead to the suspension.  James touched the precious Colt (queue angels), so Greg has been all over that hit all week.  He did have the good graces to let up yesterday when the one game suspension came down.  Already devastated by the bad news about Sidney Crosby being back out indefinitely and heading into what turned out to be super bad workday, I wasn't in the mood, and I'll give him credit for realizing that and letting whatever he wanted to say drop.

But, by the end of the night we had been pelted by ice, the Browns had been pelted by our defense and their inability to catch passes, Greg was miserable and pissed, I had my feelings hurt because this was supposed to be such a grand birthday present and he so clearly hated it, our quarterback could barely walk, but we had a division win.  I'll take it.  I will grant you the Steeler Nation misbehaved that night.  I've spent the days since being reminded how much classier Packer fans are.  I have to acquiesce, they are.  But, neither the Cowboys nor the Steelers are a division opponent.  Who knows what happens when Minnesota comes to town.  I'm not proud of how the mob behaved, but I weigh it against what all my other experiences with native 'Burghers have been, and I recall how I had ice thrown on me in Irving when I was pregnant no less, so whatever.  Now we know first hand how intense the division rivalries are around here.  For Greg, he seems intent on using that night to pass damning judgment on all of us as a collective group, and I've pondered over the last several days what he's really working over in his head.  I worry that he's homesick, too deeply entrenched in the town he was born and raised in, and where his family and friends still are, to put down roots in such different soil.  I worry that he's realized that the depth of his sorrow and anger over losing Kelsey was in no way mitigated by picking it up and moving it 1,200 miles.  I worry that he'll use that crowd's bad behavior as an excuse to throw in the towel - again, if you'll pardon the pun - and go back.  And, of course, I worry that if he does, he'll find that he just picked up that anger and sorrow and moved it back across 1,200 miles.  So, ever since that fateful night, my mind has been troubled, and I'm not sure what to do to help either of us.  And, I'm struck yet again by how The Beast just can't seem to let go of us and let us have some peace.

Funny.  All I wanted to do was take my husband to a football game.

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