yeah. so i'm sure many of you either watched the game on saturday night or at least heard the score. and i'm sure that as you've checked the blog over the last few days you've expected to read words of pain, but have found not even a mention of the crushing defeat. there's a reason for this: denial. i just turned off the tv saturday night and haven't really thought much about it sense.
but in the back of my mind i've known that i'm going to need to do this. so here goes.
this sucks. it really does. i mean, i know i'm not a player. i know that i don't go through the intensive off-season workout program. i know i'm not the one going to minicamp studying a playbook. i know i'm not the one sweating my very soul out at training camp in august, trying to earn a starting spot, a salary, another year. i know i'm not the one under tremendous pressure in the locker room as the entire team watches my performance week after week on film. i know i'm not the one dealing with questions from skinny little media people who think they understand the game. i know i'm not the one who leaves it all out on the field each week, waking up monday barely able to walk. i know i'm not the one sacrificing my family for most of the months of the year. i know all of this. and yet...
somehow i feel like i am one of them. i don't say that "they" lost on saturday night. i say that "we" lost. i am one of them. no, i may not be on the field, but i would be if i could. as it is i practically jump through the tv trying to make tackles for the defense, reads for the offense and special teams plays. oh, special teams plays. don't even get me started on that.
i know i'm not out there ruining my body each week, but i can tell you that i wake up on monday mornings sore and tired. my brain has run through the plays all night. i have imagined how it could have gone differently. i imagine how i might have made better plays, better catches, better cuts. i don't imagine how the players might have done it. i imagine how i might have done it. delusional? maybe. fantasy? absolutely. avoidable? no way. its just how it is for me.
i get way too into these things. i watch film just the way the players do. i have taped steelers games from way back, and during the week leading up to the games i watch old games against the same opponents, studying how they do things. i watch key players and see how they are successful. i imagine that i am in team meetings with the steelers and i am offering my opinions about how we might be able to defend against their strengths and attack their weaknesses. to put it in a nutshell: for better or for worse, i am invested in this team.
that being said, nights like saturday are difficult for me. to be honest, i had low expectations. the steelers have been so injured (willie parker, roethlisberger, marvel smith, max starks, aaron smith, troy polamalu, ryan clark, alan rossum, and so on and so on) and they have played such mediocre football over the last several weeks that i just didn't have high expectations about this game, especially with jacksonville coming in so hot. and so when the jaguars dominated in the first half, i wasn't really surprised. i was watching what i was afraid i was going to have to watch: a good team riding a hot streak beating up on a good but injured, tired and broken team.
the second half. the steelers came out with heart. i tend not to get my hopes up very easily (its a defense mechanism), but deep in my heart of hearts a flicker of hope began to burn. and each time the defense came up with a big stop, and each time the steelers converted a third-and-7 with a slant to hines or heath, the flame burned a little brighter. it wasn't long before i believed that the steelers could win this game. it wasn't long after that that i began to believe that the steelers should win this game. and it wasn't long after that that i began to believe that the steelers would win this game.
with the lead with 4 minutes to go, the steelers began to play 'not to lose' instead of playing to win. they got conservative. they abandoned the attacking style of offense that had allowed them to dominate the second half. they tried to run out the clock. and they made a really awful play call in the process (a quarterback keeper on third and 5 deep in your own territory? are you freaking kidding me?). then they punted. then the inevitable began to unfold. a missed call by the refs, a hole you could drive a truck through, and a 4th-and 2 quarterback run that sealed the deal. game over. burning flame of hope doused. childlike heart of joy and wonder crushed by the bludgeoning blow of defeat.
would someone please hit the lights on your way out?
see you next year.