i was wrong. the steelers season is over. they looked pathetic in a disasterous loss to the raiders last night, sinking to 2-5, and effectively ending any realistic hopes at repeating their super bowl run of last year. so, i'm in a bit of a funk this morning.
now, many of you may not care about this football team from the steel city. or you may not care about football at all. even as i write this, i am aware of your skeptical eyes skimming over these words, wondering to yourselves, "what is the big deal about football, and why is he so into it?" in fact, i can see the look on your faces as you wonder about it. i can see the look because i saw it on the face of the woman at the table next to me last night. i was at chelsea's, a steelers bar/restaurant about ten minutes from my house in new jersey (there are rabid steelers fans everywhere). it was a 4:15 game but i didn't arrive until almost 5:30, and the place was packed with black-and-gold clad steelers fans. i had jack, my son, with me, so they found us a little two-person table in the corner. i got him out of his red-marshmallow coat, revealing his steelers attire, which elicited oohs and aahs from the few people around us who didn't have their eyes glued to one of the 6 tvs showing the game. we sat down and ordered. i had a roethlisburger. he had chicken nuggets. in dinosaur shapes (they taste better that way). about midway throught the third quarter, a family came and sat down at the table next to us. they were clearly out of place: nowhere, on their entire persons, were they wearing any black. or any gold. so, they didn't get off to a good start. it only got worse from there. at one point in the miserable excuse for a football game, big ben roethlisberger (hence the hamburger name) threw an interception that the defense returned 100 yards for a raider touchdown. the place was silent. except for the table next to me. the matron of the out-of-place family was clapping and cheering. realizing that she was suddenly the object of at least a hundred violent stares, she said, not so quietly, to someone at the next table, "i don't know anything about football, i just wanted to root for the other team."
she's lucky she left that place with breath in her lungs. but my point here is that i saw the look in her face everytime the steelers did something good (which you could count with about two fingers), and the bar went wild with cheers, and it was a look of confusion; a look of just not getting it. that's the same look i imagine on your face as you wonder to yourself,
"what was he doing at a bar with his 21 month-old son?"
well, its simple: i'm a fanatic. i mean, the short answer is that the game wasn't on tv out here in jersey, so i had to go to the bar where they have direct tv (i can't get direct tv at my house because of the tree line). but the longer, more honest answer has to do with my fanaticism for this franchise of footballers. i have been a hardcore fan of the steelers since the age of 10 or so, when i started taking an interest in professional sports. so, that is 20 years of commitment. and it isn't just that i casually follow the team, watching the games when i have a chance. no, it's way more than that. for example:
-i have a steelers credit card.
-i had professional pictures of my son taken with a terrible towel and a steelers helmet(wanna see?)
-i wanted to name my son hines. he ended up being a jack. i say he is named after lambert.
-i have a couple of steelers scrapbooks that i have made, complete with photos, newsclippings, stickers, etc.
-i have the entire radio broadcast of all 4 steelers superbowls of the 70's on my ipod.
-i own about 14 steelers shirts, several pairs of socks, 4 hats, a coat, and a pair of shoelaces.
-i record the games that i can get on tv and watch them repeatedly, studying them in preparation for the next game.
-i take my 21-month old son to sports bars and make him sit for hours on end in a high chair while i watch the game ("eat your chicken nuggets!").
i could tell you many more incredibly embarassing things about my allegiance to this team (as if the fact that a 30-year old man scrapbooks wasn't enough), but that will have to do. the only thing that remains is the question, "why?"
i have thought a great deal about this, and all i can say is that it is part of my identity. i have poured myself into this team, into their success and their failure, into their trials and their obstacles. i win when they win. i feel real pain when they get hurt, or worse, lose. maybe this isn't healthy. in fact, i'm sure it is not. but i don't care. it's part of who i am.
so i am in a funk today. the season is over. all that's left is to listen to myron cope on my ipod. yoi.
5 months 'til spring training,