Friday, February 10, 2006

THEY HATE WE (Steelers Postscript)

It wasn’t so long ago when we all enjoyed a hearty chuckle when that player who we didn't know, playing for a team we couldn't remember in a league we didn't understand or care about made a nation know him, remember him and understand him, all because of a unique name on the back of his game jersey:

We later came to learn that the player's real name is Rod Smart and, to date, he's done enough to stick around as a quality kickoff return guy in the NFL.
Many of us still don't remember which team Rod Smart played for in the now-defunct XFL, but just thinking about seeing HE HATE ME on the back of his jersey still makes us smile.
My personal postscript to that story surrounds the time when I was watching 15 minutes of a game in which HE HATE ME was playing -- and a player on another team which I can't remember had a cool name on the back of his jersey:
That … is some great hate

Classic stuff.
Then again, when we look inside ourselves, we find that WE LIKE HE WHO HATE HE WHO HATE HE.
Got that?

We can simplify this complex equation -- but, we'll need the help of the dismayed Seahawk fans who felt that the refs betrayed the 'Hawks in SBXL.

Dismayed and betrayed, Seattle fans are getting their game jerseys re-personalized with the name: THEY HATE WE.
Well, that is … the people who wear Seahawks jerseys which aren't #129 … which don’t already have the name “IL” on the back.

True, it is everybody's Constitutional right to bitch about the reffing, but a trick which has proved to significantly reduce F-bomb dispersal is to allow Greta Van Susteren (and Greta Van Susteren’s Facelift) square off against Nancy Grace (and Nancy Grace’s Super-Annoying Drawl/Twang) in a national debate.

Hey, they're the ones who sent Scott Peterson to The Big House, so this is right up their alley.

Anyway, every time I hear/read that SBXL was one of the worst-officiated and poorly-played SB’s of all-time, I maintain my even keel and remember: 1) 'Tis better to win ugly than to lose artistically and 2) When somebody else calls out the Beloved Black N’ Gold for bein' ugly, I’m obligated to mock each source.
And that’s not very difficult.

Addressing the "lack of glamour" angle first: Ya had people like Dan Patrick and Tony Kornheiser, among others (probably Skip Bayless, too), nitpicking at the so-called ugly nature of SBXL. This happens when you lack “context” - - or when you can’t grasp that “context” is remembering something which happened more than 15 minutes ago.
Well, if you saw Dan Patrick during that Super Bowl special last week, you recoiled in horror as you saw D.P. standing in a dimly-lighted L.A. Coliseum, an effect which highlighted his Bela Lugosi widow's peak which, working in concert with his hair dye, gave us a “SoThat’sWhatEddieMunsterLooksLikeNow!” look.

Now, if you've ever watched "PTI" (the question is: “why?”), you’ve noticed that dreamboat Kornheiser combines all the elements of jagged bottom front teeth, scraggly beard and disorganized baldness (and that's to say nothing of the pasty-pale skin tone).
Just thinking of their combined creepiness makes me wish that I could clear my mind with “The Sports Reporters” allowing Bill Conlin to give us his opinions as he sits nude in his swivel chair.

With his legs uncrossed.

The problem with those affiliated with EspyTime is that most of the talking heads there are still so very peeved that Kilborn was taller, blonder, funnier and hunkier than them. So, it’s only natural that their frustration and resentment would have a spill-over effect (and Patrick struts around like he’s cock-of-the-walk only because Herbstreit is a seasonal hire and, therefore, not threatening his Dracula action until autumn).

Speaking of hunk-a-licious beefcakes, I read recently where The Famous Dr. Z. nitpicked the bejeezus out of SBXL … somehow failing to tap into the inner-beauty of that game.
Again, I never take any "W" back to where I found it because I’m probably not going to get a cash/credit-card refund and I may not even get store credit or an exchange.
By the way, Dr. Z mentioned on that
”neiither quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Hasselbeck, was much good. Oh, they made plays every now and then, but there was no consistency to their game. Neither one of them could get the ball to go where they wanted it to go. You were just as likely to see an interception in a big moment as a turnover."

Powerful ... insightful ... crisp ... did he type "neither quarterback was much good"?
What does “you were as likely to see an interception in a big moment as a turnover” mean?
No wonder WE HATE HE.

Here’s the scoop: SBXL had many hidden charms, but if you don’t have the world-renown Dracula Dan, Jaggy-Tooth Tony and Dr. Zzzzz hittin’ ya over the head with a two-by-four (or instructing you what to believe and when to believe it), you coulda missed it.
Not me.
It was picturesque.
No complaints here.

Although I preach “maintaining gap responsibility” and “putting a hat on somebody” and “wrapping up” as I remain low-key and possess inner-calm and quiet confidence, yup … Antwan-to-Hines made me chuckle and prompted me to share a fist-punch with my viewing co-pilot, Mrs. PF7.
In Dr. Zzzz vernacular, we call this the outcome “very much good.”
The only drawback, as far as I can see, was that the Steelers didn't shut out the Seabirds.
That one TD was gift-wrapped.
Which hurt about as much as allowing the Rolling Stones to perform at halftime instead of opting for the sensible, family values preached by Led Zeppelin.

Make no mistake, Super Bowls always seem to expose the over-analytical side of every over-analyticizationist. But, if everyone is so worked up about X's and O's, why not give a Super Bowl MVP to an offensive lineman? To quote one of my previous rants, it's because the NFL too closely mirrors the real world and the process becomes: stat-collection, quote-gathering and opinion-offering.

I don't spend very many games ridin' the emotional roller coaster which goes from giddy high-five-dom to rage-filled, F-bomb-ism and back again. That’s because I like to set a good example for my super-pup. Mostly, though, I remain composed and stress-free because I really don't know the 3-inch-tall people I’m watching on my non-HDTV.
Which isn’t to say that I’m immune from getting a lump in my throat when it finally hits me that the Cowher Family is up on the midfield stage and Hines is holding a toddler and there are confetti cannons going off all over the ballpark.

It may sound funny, but I was happy as heck for secondary coaches Ray Horton and Darren Perry. Horton was the Bengal CB who got beat by John Taylor on that last-minute TD pass from Montana in Super Bowl XXIII - - and that was shame because the Bengal DBs who punked up that day were Fulcher and Billups and the mighty Solomon Wilcotts more than Ray Horton.
Perry, on the other hand, was a safety for the SB XXX Steelers, so, what the hey … good for both of them.

Now, as to choppy play and uneven officiating in SBXL? Actually … choppy and erratic is what the Steelers were in that Green Bay win. The win over the Bears was less slick than it was sledgehammer.
The win over the Vikes wasn’t too glamorous, and the win over the Ravens was a little touch-n’-go throughout.
And when I hear/read goofs saying Big Ben had a bad game … or was overcome by the enormity of the Super Bowl … c’mon, that’s sports-psychology psycho babble.
We can’t really know what’s on someone's mind or in someone’s heart … unless we hook them up to an EKG.
Or one of those other heart/brain machines.

If Tom Brady shows the wherewithal that Ben did while making a shovel-pass to Hines … or while converting that 3rd-and-28 with that tap-dance along the 40-yard-line stripe … or while performing the designed rollouts or QB draws … jeez, if Brady does that, America is dropping trow and saluting Tom Terrific (that is, the America which isn’t booing him during the pre-game coin toss).

To reiterate: It’s about “context.” After the way he performed in Indy and in Invesco, Big Ben could’ve thrown three picks on his first three pass attempts and I still would NOT have jumped off the BenWagon.
Indeed, the INT which led to a 76-yard runback was a daffy toss, but, whaddya want, America? Should the Steelers have brought in Kordell to conduct the goal-line offense? Was it too late to activate Tomczak or Brister for a perfectly-placed pass floated to the proper spot to the open Cedrick Wilson?

Benny threw a bad ball … not necessarily because he was nervous, not necessarily because he’s only a 23-year-old kid, not necessarily because he’s got some ball-gripping issues with the injured thumb and his protective glove.
Sometimes QBs make bad throws for reasons other than nerves or youth or mechanics, isn’t that right, Neil O’Donnell?

Now, if anyone is interested in the complete list of “QBs Who Forever Tarnished Super Sunday,” we can begin with then-NFL MVP Rich Gannon (five INTs, three TD passes to the wrong team) and work our way down the list.
Then again, in what order do we rank the collection of counterproductive, non-threatening QBs who we KNEW were going to melt down right from the get-go? Tony Eason? David Woodley? Boomer Esaiason? Joe Kapp? Chris Chandler? Craig Morton? Stan Humphries? Kerry Collins? Ron Jaworski? Jim “Out ‘Til 4 In The Morning Of The Big Game” Kelly?
Where do we put Hassebrick?
Seriously, you’re just asking for trouble if you march into Super Sunday with those Bubby Brister equivalents.
So, in conclusion, I can rattle off 30 Super Bowls off the top of my head which had a greater “this sucks” variable than what we saw Sunday.

As per alleged questionable refereeing, again … this is a matter for Greta Van Susteren (or maybe Wolf Blitzer in “The Situation Room”). An aspect of sports which probably never gets addressed in Holmgren’s 100-hour work week is one which pre-dates, ummmm, the acknowledgement that Holmgren is some sorta super genius.
Y’see, whether I'm watchin' the NFL or playin' rec-league softball, it’s often necessary to budget into the game plan that there will be five blown calls. It's human nature for guys in stripes or for guys calling balls n’ strikes to muck up five calls in a few hours of game action. Officiating/umping is tougher than it looks - - and anyone who doesn’t believe it should go out and try it sometime.
Hence, a player/team has to factor into the equation that five calls will go “the wrong way.”
So, if less than five register on the “bad call meter,” hey … you’re playin’ with the house’s money.

Since the Seahawk cultists can’t cope with their inability to do the basic mathematics exercise of The Five-Against Factor, they ran to Mommy whining about matters not going their way. Hence, Steeler Nation is supposed to feel regret, guilt and inner-conflict because a third party acted in some sort of duplicitous, underhanded manner (if only I knew what those two terms meant).

A girl who I used to work with was givin’ me the you-oughta-be-ashamed-of-yourself biz about a tarnished Super Bowl victory. But, in the (sub-titled) words (grunts) of the boss caveman in the FedEx Super Bowl commercial:
“Not my problem.”
She’s not to blame. She’s merely another victim of Prof. Billick, Inventor of the Game, performing a lot of heavy petting in an attempt to steal her cerebral cortex before she realizes that it’s missing or before she realizes that Kyle Boller is not (and never will be) a valid NFL QB.
On the other hand, maybe it’s a chick thing - - y’know, only caring about games in which Tom Brady’s playin’ or PMS-ing about games in which Tom Brady isn’t playing.

Another thing about chicks: Except for the sweet petunia that I married, they don’t exactly grasp the goodness of Cowher finishing No. 1. They see the jaw and then add to the list of 1,000 jaw jokes because that’s easier than looking deeper to see his relationship with either his players or his three daughters.
Definitely true: Bill can get a little kooky out there on the sideline … and he has those moments when he might surrender to emotional whims over a more-rational approach (i.e. he did get a little giddy and giggly before the clocked ticked down to :00 a few times in the postseason, which, for my money, is less-preferable than the way that Noll was always so stoic … but all of this is nitpicking, that’s all).

It seems as though, through the years, football scholars (Dr. Zzzzz, et al) maybe don’t appreciate the coaching acumen of Cowher when compared with the “brain power” of a Holmgren or a Shanahan or a Belichick. If it’s true what Bum Phillips said about “he can beat your’in with his’in and he can beat his’in with your’in" (translation: he could perform a “coach swap” and beat you with your players more easily than you could win with his), I think that Cowher could lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl before Holmgren could lead the Steelers to one.
It’s only a hunch, but I think that Cowher’s players have always responded to that fact that since Coach played in the NFL, maybe they’ll give that 113 percent in the ya-gotta-give-110-percent arena. Another factor is that Cowher has seven assistant coaches who played anywhere from eight to 15 years in the NFL, which, in a lot of ways, goes against the norm of NFL coaching staffs which have at least seven pencilnecks on staff whose only NFL experience is breaking down 5,000 hours of game film.
It stands to reason that an ex-NFL’er knows what it takes to compete/survive/prosper in the NFL because an ex-NFL’er – with apologies to The Mighty Inventor Of Football, Brian Billick – actually played in the NFL.
That means actually enduring two-a-days during an insane July heat wave, not just watching two-a-days and breaking down 5,000 hours of game films.

Of course, the Circle of Life dictates that next year’s Super Bowl champion will feature the offensive coordinator who’s spent 5,000 hours breaking down game films and, gosh … what a mind, what a skills set.
Still, my heart continues to ache because when Butch Davis was fired by the Browns last year, along with him went his quarterbacks coach who was in my 10th-grade geometry class. The sad part is that I’m pretty sure that I got a higher grade in that class than he did, so when the Browns axed that guy, it was as though they were axing me.
And, now – because the NFL has systematically blackballed me – no NFL teams are phoning me to come in and interview for the position of “offensive quality control.”
Not that I’m not qualified.

My sob story aside, let’s suppose that it is true that the refs, Tagliabue, higher powers, etc. wanted (or needed) the Steelers to triumph. Then, shouldn’t the Seahawks be a little more gracious that they were allowed to play a part in this coronation?
They sure as hell didn’t earn the right to be there.
The Seahawks played six scrimmages within their own division, then looked pretty iffy in two home playoff games against two wild-card opponents. The Steelers hit the road, ran a few stop signs and T-boned the jack of diamonds, the queen of clubs, the king of spades and the ace of hearts.
They tore up some asphalt.

I heard someone say recently that the Steelers were left for dead when that 3-game losing streak put their record at 7-5 with a month left to play and the Bears (ridin’-an-8-game-win-streak) coming to Heinz.
Dead? At the time, it didn’t take much more than some 10th-grade geometry to see that the Bears had no offense and that the final three games of the regular-season were against opponents (Vikings, Browns, Lions) who were just begging to have the Steelers put them out of their misery.
An 11-5 record or a 10-6 record was gonna do just fine when the main competition was the always-chasin'-their-tails Chargers and Chiefs as the main wild-card competitors.

Therefore, I remained calm and confident and assisted negotiators with talking stressed-out Steeler fans from off of the window ledge.
Sure, enough … on the Sunday when the Steelers body-slammed the Bears, the Chargers lost at home to the Dolphins and Chiefs lost a winnable game at Dallas … and I was being hailed as the new messiah.
Four regular-season wins … four postseason wins … we’re not re-inventing the isoceles triangle, people.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, want us to respect them (except when they’re sea-squawkin’,“We don’t want your respect!”), but, honestly … what exactly is their appeal?
I mean, other than the cool neon-green racing stripe on the collar-sleeve-pantleg of those difficult-to-appreciate metallic-blue, metallic-gray, metallic-whatever-coloured jerseys and the helmets with the big scary bird profile on the side, there simply isn’t enough there for America to risk accepting that big, scary bird as part of its “Super Bowl Memories” just yet.
Who knows? The Seahawks just might make it back to The Big One – that is, if Holmgren is half the coach that they say he is (which, in truth, would make him twice the coach that he was last Sunday night … cue laugh track).

What people beyond these steel walls of SteelTown need to do is to stop disgracin’ and start embracin’. America didn’t get its Brady Brokeback or Peyton On Parade , but, again …
“not my problem.”
As for the girl who gave me the “what-gives-you-the-right?/how-dare-you!” ‘tude, well … I had to set her straight about contract laws. I did this by explaining to her that the plot of land where she currently lives was once the property of either the Cherokee or the Chippewa or the Navajo or the Arapaho or the Sioux or the Shawnee, but that land became “her” land after the white man stormed in during the 1700s and the 1800s and introduced tribal elders to the new-sheriff-in-town methods of genocide and deforestation.
You gonna give it back to the Indian, Sister?

No doubt, it’s a brutal lesson in the game of finders-keepers, losers-weepers.
Perhaps our truest sense of “words to live by” comes from the band which was frozen out of the he SBXL halftime -- Led Zep.
They told us that: “Cryin’ won’t help ya / Prayin’ won’t do ya no good …”
Strange thing is, that the lyric comes from “When The Levee Breaks” … which, in an odd way, became an underlying theme for the NFL season.

Seahawk fans, though, they so hate we that they wish that the Monongahela would rise about 15 feet and overflow, etc ...
If they can't erase the hate, can they at least sign some sort of a neutrality agreement?

Greta? A little help?

No comments: