Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Six-Time Champion Elephant in the Room

Memories of better sports days
Okay, I'm back to the sports posts that aren't really about sports.  But I figured many of you are sort of wondering what my reaction to the Steelers worst season in half a century is, and in particular wondering how I'm handling the most points put up on them in their 81 year history by a team I absolutely hate.  Well.  I'll tell you.  I'm not happy about it.

But, really, it's not as catastrophic as I thought it would be.  There are a few reasons for that:  the Penguins are doing well (last night being an exception - they were killed by the Rangers, but that's the way it goes in hockey sometimes and the season is a long one, so a bad game here or there just doesn't ruin one's outlook).  Then there is truth to the concept that misery loves company.  It's easier to survive a down period like this in one sense while surrounded by others who are equally as shocked and dismayed, as opposed to having to deal with the teasing and chiding of Cowboys fans.  Of course, as I've said before, Steelers fans practice tough love with their team, so there is the aspect of having to deal with their complaining and armchair quarterbacking.  I've come to learn it's just part of the culture here to speak openly and frankly.  Someone from the outside would call it speaking without thinking maybe.  But, people here are just completely earnest and expect you to have the same thick skin they have adopted all their lives.  If they think you're a dumb ass, they'll tell you.  To your face.  Deal with it.  So there is a lot of that going on and everyone from Todd Haley to Ben Roethlisberger's wife seems to fall into the dumb ass category and share some responsibility for the current predicament depending upon whom you talk to, and I don't always, or even often, agree with it, but there is the sense that we're all going through it, not just the team.  Because one thing I will say:  they truly do bleed Black and Gold here.  And I didn't dilute that any of course; my blood runs as thick as any native.

There seem to be two schools of thought however:  the group who are mad and more intent on finding blame and gritching about it, to the group who are desperately trying to show that they remain loyal to the team, win or lose.  I fall into the latter category, intent on draping myself head to toe in black and gold whenever I'm out and about and still hanging out all my trappings every Sunday so that anyone driving down the street will know that a REALLY BIG STEELERS FAN lives here.  But, no matter what camp you're residing in, you're just sort of shell shocked.  There's really no other way to put it.  And there's no other way to be.  I mean there are reasons for the slide.  Back when I was writing the sports blog, I covered them in a couple of posts:  they've been playing shell games with the salary cap for years for one thing.  But, just like happens when you're carrying your personal finances on credit, the bill comes due eventually.  And then there's just the parity in the league thing where we've been on the top of the pile for a long time and eventually the pile just shifts.  For everyone but the damn Patriots, it would seem.  Yet, even though it was our time to languish a bit, no one - and I do mean no one - saw this coming.    I could not have imagined it, I can tell you.  And even if I could have, I couldn't have imagined that I could have survived it.  I need the team and their success, I would have told you.

But, here's the thing.  I do hate it.  I hate it for myself, I hate for all of the team, most of whom are good people who work hard.  I hate it for Coach Tomlin.  I hate it for the Rooney family.  And I hate it for all the fans.  Yet, I'm surviving.  The sun comes up.  I laugh about other things.  I cry about other things on occasion.  I walk the dogs twice a day.  I struggle to keep the leaves raked up.  A battle I'm losing by the way.  I work, I watch TV, I try to read when I can (still trying to get Arya away from Harrenhal), and I fit some sleep in there.  Just like I would if the Steelers were 6-2 instead of 2-6.  And I'm doing all of it with a relative calm.  Turns out, I don't need the Steelers to be my happiness.  I have more control of that myself than I knew.  They don't need to be my prop to shield me from grief or hardship.  Maybe I did need them in that first couple of seasons after Kelsey died and when my mom was sliding, but now I don't really.  And I don't know if I could have ever realized that if the Steelers hadn't taken a one way dive off a very steep cliff.  So maybe I ought to be grateful that I know I have that strength now.  But maybe I won't go so far as to say I'm happy to have learned the lesson this way.


  1. Hey, Cheryl - I'd like to hear your take on this whole Martin/Incognito thang.

    1. Well, all I can tell you is that the local sports talk guys had a former Pitt player on who knows Incognito and said he was a great guy. I read recently that all kinds of players are saying the same thing. So, who really knows what's in his heart, but one way or the other he's become the poster child for bullying and there are a lot tween boys watching to see what happens. We're probably at the point where the NFL has to send a message to them about bullying and racism, and he needs a very long suspension.