Super Bowl No More
As promised, I will not write about the Super Bowl after this day. Probably.
When he was in Vegas back in May my friend Mark put a bet down on the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. The money he just won paid for his seat in Ford Field...through the first quarter.
I'm interested to see what the league does with Mike Holmgren. Saying that his team had to play against the Steelers and the guys in the striped shirts would normally earn Mike an automatic fine, but when the NFL let Joey Porter's comments pass after the Indy game they set a dangerous precedent. Porter should've been fined, even though the league admitted the call on the Polamalu interception was wrong. The league came out yesterday and said there were no officiating errors (hey, it wasn't me, it was the league, go yell at them), and add the fact that Holmgrem is a coach, is on the Competition Committee, and made his comments not in the heat of the moment but a full day later, and he might be looking at a big hit to the wallet. But the league giving Porter a pass puts the NFL in a tough situation. Which is fine with me, let 'em squirm.
I had a not-very-sportsmanlike thought as I watched the victorious Steelers ride by during the parade. I thought back to Roman days, when a general would arrive home after winning a war and would be granted a triumph, a huge parade where the whole city would turn out and sing his name to the heavens and see all the booty he brought home. Often the defeated ruler would be in the parade as well, dressed in his royal finery to show Rome the mighty foe they'd just conquored. I thought it's be kind of funny to see Mike Holmgren, dressed in blue and wearing a Seahawks ball cap, draped with chains while sitting in the back of a convertible. It would add some spice to the game, yes? Especially if, as in Roman days, the enemy leader was executed one year to the day later. A bit of absurd humor that made me laugh...until I realized that Bill Cowher would've been ritually strangled in Dallas nine years ago. I let the thought go.
I made a comment about new balls being rotated in and some said I was making excuses for Big Ben's Bad Ballgame. Not at all--in fact, I said specifically I wasn't using that as an excuse. I heard about this because Matt Hasselback talked to other QB's who played in the Super Bowl and they all urged him to get his hands on some of the official balls so he could get used to how slick they were. The guy on the radio said this wouldn't affect Roethlisberger as much because he wears a glove that has some tackiness to it. It's a stupid thing to do and should be stopped.
There was also a rumor floating about that the NFL is thinking about moving the conference championship games to neutral sites. This would be an abomination. It seriously dilutes the advantage the best teams earn during the regular season, and, far worse, it threatens to turn the AFC/NFC title games into mini-Super Bowls, with Ashlee Simpson singing at halftime and even more desperate, self-perpetuating hype.
I loved how after the game all these reporters went on and on about Joey Porter made up the controversy about Jerramy Stevens. Um, Stevens said something fairly innocuous, bored reporters breathlessly told Porter, he responded in typical fashion, and the media spent the next five days regurgitating it as though Porter had called for a nuclear strike on the Space Needle. Who really cared about the Porter/Stevens feud? The players, a bit. The fans, yeah, some. The media? Good lord, it saved their asses. At last, they had SOMETHING to write about.
The Steelers won their last eight games of the season. If they had lost any of them, their season would've been over or effectively over. They had to beat the five best teams in the NFL during that span (Chicago, Cinci, Indy, Denver, Seattle). They traveled to Minnesota to beat a Viking team who had won six straight. They had to go to the home of their most detested rival, Cleveland, and annihilated the Browns 41-0. They beat the Lions...well, hard to make much hay about that, although Joey Harrington looked like an actual NFL quarterback during that game. My point is this--is this the greatest stretch of games in NFL history? Surprise, surprise, I think it is.
Which leads me to my final point. Earlier in the season much, much was made about Indianapolis trying for an undefeated season. A perfect season, one that would match the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Let me tell you something. Any season that ends with a Super Bowl win is a perfect season. I've been going back and re-reading game stories from earlier in the year, and the ones I was immediately drawn to were those from the games we lost. We lost to New England. To Baltimore. Indy. Cinci. Lost those games, games where you hung your head and sighed and wondered what went wrong.
And in the end, those losses were just obstacles in the journey to the championship. A team should try to win every game it plays, but the most important thing is to win the title. I would feel no different about the Steeler victory right now if they'd gone undefeated. In fact, I might not feel as good--overcoming the odds is certainly a big reason to be proud of this team. Before the season Ben Roethlisberger--who really should get his own psychic hotline--said that this Steeler team might not win as many games as the team that won 15 straight the year before. But they might end up winning the last one. And that's what happened. You try to win every game. But even if you don't, you'll find that winning the last one makes all the difference.