Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.11

What I refer to as the dark days of the sports calendar haven’t been too awfully depressing so far…..

My residual mourning and bitterness about the outcome of the Super Bowl are still fresh, so I cannot bring myself to be magnanimous quite yet. However, let me say just one thing. I am already tired of the sports media wringing their hands over whether or not Bret Favre has, has not, or will ever call, text, or otherwise convey a congratulatory message to QB Aaron Rodgers. Who cares?? Favre doesn’t owe Rodgers a damn thing, and if he did call him what he really should say is “Don’t get too cocky son. As good as your stats were the fact is the only reason you got to hold The Lombardi Trophy is because the Steelers gave the game away.” As much as I love ESPN, I think that sometimes they struggle to come up with topics for their plethora of shows (Mike & Mike, First Take, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, et al). The Favre/Rodgers discussion has temporarily replaced the old “did Team A win the game or did Team B lose it” as the biggest time waster on “The Family of Networks”.

My abiding love for the game of football not withstanding, I am growing weary of the talk of impending doom vis a vis the possible NFL lockout. I suppose part of my disdain boils down to the fact that I am not an attorney and am not overly knowledgeable about economics, so unless & until both sides come to an agreement and just shut up & play I really don’t care. It is possible I will feel differently a few months from now, but by then…if the possibility of no pro football next fall becomes a more tangible prospect…my disinterest will evolve into anger & disappointment.

Pitchers & catchers report”. It’s a phrase that signifies that baseball, and more importantly spring, are on the way. I am by no means as big of a baseball fan as I am die hard football fanatic, mostly because my lifelong connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates has eroded my affection for the game itself over the course of the past 17 years. And I suppose rampant cheating & drug abuse in the sport has destroyed too much of the pastoral mystique as well. But atleast I have a team to pull for, unlike my completely aloof semi-enjoyment of the NBA and total lack of interest in soccer, tennis, and any sport involving sweaty lesbians.

This has nothing to do with sports, but Bryce in Minnesota needs to freakin’ get over the crappy pizza he received from Domino’s and the CEO of the pizza giant needs to stop apologizing. Maybe if his parents would have named him something other than Bryce he’d be more of a man than to take a stupid photo of a pizza and send it to the company.

Conspiracy theorists are out in full force concerning Dale Earnhardt Jr. capturing the pole position for this coming weekend’s Daytona 500. I enjoy a good conspiracy theory even if they are illogical and soul-crushingly dumb. This one is harmless enough seeing as how the past ten pole winners haven’t won the race and Dale Jr., a total disappointment to the legacy of his father whose only trump card is his name, hasn’t won a race in nearly 3 years and there is no reason to believe he will win this Sunday. However, it does provide me an opportunity to mark the ten year anniversary of Dale Sr.’s tragic death. I remember vividly watching that race, seeing the crash on the final lap, and being happy for lovable loser Michael Waltrip, who is 1000% less annoying than his older brother Darrell. After the race I changed the channel and spent the rest of a lazy Sunday doing God knows what. I never gave a second thought to the wreck because I’d seen dozens…alot of them involving Earnhardt himself…that were so much worse. A couple of hours later I was surfing The Internet and saw a giant headline on that I believe just said “EARNHARDT DEAD”. I was stunned. I had been a meandering Nascar fan as far back as the early 80’s when I cheered for “The King” Richard Petty. After Petty’s retirement in 1992 I had to find a new favorite driver and by then, for a variety of reasons, I had gone through a personal metamorphosis that made the hardscrabble, rapacious, anti-hero persona that enveloped Earnhardt appealing. His death hit me surprisingly hard, and I was taken aback at how sad I became. Ten years later and thoughts of that day still feel like a punch to the gut. I am sure there are fans out there much more invested in the Nascar product than I that were affected even more deeply. So as we mark this significant anniversary I’ll just say that I am glad that much good, i.e. more extensive safety regulations that have undoubtedly saved countless lives, resulted from Dale Earnhardt’s death, but I miss his unique contribution to the sport and more importantly I miss what stock car racing used to be, a rough & tumble thrill ride with rich personality and an unrefined yet colorful edge, instead of the tedious corporate exercise in banality it has become.

My Super Sunday


I wake up woefully late and am not going to make it to church. I was up way too late for reasons that I won’t go into but I trust God understands.



It is unlikely I am going anywhere today but there is a chance, so I decide to bathe.



Bathing was exhausting. Time for a nap.



I love Super Sunday counter programming. There is a lot of great stuff about food on The History Channel today.



The time has come to decide whether to watch the game at home or venture out to a local establishment for the festivities. My preference would be to attend a party at someone’s home with friends, but I really don’t have any friends, atleast not locally. I am the token cripple that folks generally believe to be a nice guy but don’t actually try to get to know, spend time with, or invite anywhere. I have decided to stop hating this and embrace becoming a recluse. People annoy me anyway.



Speaking of annoying, Facebook is really pissing me off today. Too many Steeler haters and Packer bandwagon jumpers. I have deleted the feed of atleast a half dozen people. Yes, I take my football very seriously.



I notice that Papa John’s has an ad on their website saying that they will be awarding a free pizza every 45 seconds. I haven’t ordered Papa John’s in a very long time (my deep affection for Domino’s chocolate lava cakes is hardcore), and it is unlikely that my 38 year streak of lousy luck will suddenly end, but I take a chance.



I finally decide to check out Fox’s pregame show and am greeted with the sight of Barack Hussein Obama. I’m already in a mood, so I change the channel to the golf tournament.



My not free Papa John’s arrives. Their wings are pretty tasty. Better than Domino’s anyway. If they had some sort of delicious chocolate dessert they could rule. I really need to stop eating any & all fast food, as I know I am overweight and unhealthy. But really, besides food and my dog what do I have to fill the meaningless empty void that is my life??



Terry Bradshaw picks the Steelers to win, while the rest of the talking heads pick Green Bay. One hopes Bradshaw’s pick was genuine and not an attempt to kiss the collective ass of Steeler Nation.



Reflecting back on my earlier decision to stay home instead of sit in some bar with a bunch of people I don’t know I realize I made the right call. I like hanging out with Rocco better anyway.



Sam Elliot?? Really Fox?? Way to appease that over 60 demographic lol.



I hate Glee, but the chick singing America the Beautiful is yummy and sings pretty good.



Christina Aguilera apparently needs remedial National Anthem 101. On the plus side she actually looks classy as opposed to a total whore.



Just deleted another feed on Facebook. How the hell did these people become “friends”?? I have nothing in common with them.



The coin toss with the newly elected members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sadly neither Jerome Bettis or Dermontti Dawson were voted in this year. I can’t help but wonder…when Shannon Sharpe makes his induction speech will there be interpreters and subtitles?? The Packers win the toss but defer to the 2nd half. The Steelers get the ball first and I’d REALLY feel a lot better of they had an 8 minute drive that ended with a touchdown.



No such luck. 3 & out. Crap.



So far the commercials have been unsurprisingly mundane. There was a cute Doritos spot, but that’s just because Rocco is a pug so I am a sucker for anything pug related.



I am not a fan of throwing the ball on 3rd & 2. If you need two yards and you can’t ram it down their throats then you don’t deserve to be in the Super Bowl.



Green Bay scores the first TD. It occurs to me that Pittsburgh should spend atleast 3 draft picks in April on cornerbacks. This is by no means a new thought process…I’ve felt the same way for a few years.



Big Ben throws a Pick 6. I have a very bad feeling. I declare “game over” on Facebook.



Eminem is doing commercials now??



It has become obvious that Commandant Goodell let the stripes know there’d be a little extra something in their paychecks for making things more difficult for Pittsburgh.



Joan Rivers in a tank top. No one needs to see that.



Hold me closer Tony Danza.



WRs Emmanuel Sanders for Pittsburgh and Donald Driver for Green Bay are both injured. Advantage Steelers.



Roseanne Barr is no Betty White.



Roethlisberger is picked off again. Wow.



Green Bay scores another TD. 21-3 close to the half. I feel the strong urge to seek adult beverages.



Two things: A) Chevy Cruze allows one to stalk women on Facebook. Awesome, and B) Captain America looks like it might be a decent flick.



Roethlisberger throws to Hines Ward for a TD with less than a minute left in the half. Good things happen when half of Green Bay’s defensive backfield is in the locker room. 21-10 at halftime. I think I’ll change the channel since I’d rather hear Rocco snore than The Black-Eyed Peas sing.



Forrest Gump is on TNT. Yes!! My evening just got a little better. Now THIS is excellent competition for a crappy halftime show.



Lots of folks on Facebook are belittling the halftime show. Looks like I made a wise choice.



Rashard Mendenhall scores after the Steelers spend a drive proving that they can run against Green Bay. 21-17. Now, the question becomes, can the defense stop letting Aaron Rodgers look like Joe Montana?? The Terrible Towels are out. Game on.



Thanks for the jinx Joe Buck. Big Ben gets sacked, the Steelers miss a 52 yard field goal. Bad sequence.



After a some good defense & special teams Rashard Mendenhall fumbles. That’s three turnovers for the Steelers, which is very difficult to overcome.



Hey Steelers…the blitz ain’t working!! Cover the receivers!! Rodgers throws for another TD. Holy crap. Can Roethlisberger pull some magic out of the hat??



The storylines thus far: Steeler turnovers, Packer dropped balls, and not a single commercial anyone will remember three days from now. Also, where the heck is the real Troy Polamalu been??



Roethlisberger hits Mike Wallace for a touchdown and then gets a pitch to Antwaan Randle-El for the 2 point conversion. 28-25 with 7 and a half minutes left. The Steelers’ calling card…dating all the way back to The Steel Curtain 35 years ago…has always been d-e-f-e-n-s-e. Now would be the time to validate that.



After getting torched on a few pass plays the Steelers hold Green Bay to a field goal. 31-25 with just over 2 minutes left. Pittsburgh has one time out remaining. Big Ben can either end this thing with a bang or a wimper.


10:03pm Wimper…..

Super Bowl XLV (That’s 45 For Those In Mingo County)

What a weird Super Bowl it’s been so far. Strange. Odd. Peculiar.

And we’re still 2 days away from the actual game.

I am not a big fan of the two week build-up to the Super Bowl. The hype, the over analysis, the “human interest” stories to fill time…it’s just a bit too much, even for die hard football fans. However, I must admit to having found the past couple of weeks…shockingly…not all that obnoxious.

If you are looking for an objective examination of the world’s biggest football game you are in the wrong place. I have been a hardcore Pittsburgh Steelers partisan for over 30 years. Come this Sunday I will be sitting in front of a TV somewhere intently watching every snap of the ball. If the Steelers win I will be ecstatic, if they lose…not so much. But before we get to the final result or even kickoff it must be said that while the two weeks of hoopla hasn’t been as tedious as one might normally expect that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been objectionable in a way that was somewhat unexpected.

Let’s look at some facts & figures. Team A finished the season with a 12-4 record, won their division, had the #2 defense in football, won 2 out of the past 5 Super Bowls, has almost 30 players with Super Bowl experience, and dominated their opponent in the conference title game before letting up a little and allowing the final score to become closer than it should have been. Team B went 10-6, did not win their division, has the #5 ranked defense, barely won the conference championship game against an opponent forced to use a 3rd string quarterback, and has a grand total of two players who have played in a Super Bowl. Would it surprise any knowledgeable fan that Team B is favored to win the game?? It sure as hell shocked me.

Team A, of course, = the Steelers, while Team B is the Packers. Are the Packers a good football team?? Obviously. But why in the world are they the favorite?? And why are they getting so much love from an overwhelming majority of talking heads and media types?? The numbers simply don’t back up what The Hype Machine is trying to sell. So then the question becomes “What is the agenda??” Well, if I may borrow a phrase, I think what we have here is a little social concern. The media and the NFL are very desirous that a certain quarterback NOT do well.

I am not here to defend Ben Roethlisberger or excuse him from any past mistakes. However, I find it heinously offensive that there has been an obvious effort, one in which I believe the suits in the NFL office and their friends at ESPN and other outlets of sports “journalism” have both been complicit, to marginalize Roethlisberger specifically and to a lesser extent his team in general. I have never seen a recent two time Super Bowl champion treated with such disrespect in my life. Would the New England Patriots have been underdogs against Green Bay?? How about the New York Jets?? The Baltimore Ravens?? No, no, and no. But you know what those three teams have in common?? None of them are representing the AFC in the Super Bowl…the Pittsburgh Steelers are. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can’t stand it. Neither can ESPN or Fox because they don’t want to alienate the female or metrosexual demographic by saying positive things about Ben Roethisberger. The solution has been a hard sell in which fans have been duped into believing that the Green Bay Packers are some sort of combination of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 1972 Miami Dolphins with a little of the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf thrown in for good measure. Sadly it is a storyline that many are eating up. At first I was even a little concerned. The Steelers’ defensive backfield has needed an upgrade for years and it seems plausible that a pass oriented team could torch their average at best cornerbacks. On top of that their starting center will not play in the game leaving a backup to deal with Green Bay’s huge nose tackle. These things had me worried. But then I woke up.

One point of comparison that has been used for several days is a 2009 matchup between these same two teams in the regular season. It is difficult to rely on such evidence because so much changes in the NFL every year. Teams go from worst to first, from contenders to pretenders almost literally overnight. Coaches come and go. Free agents change teams, new players rise up, and once great players lose their mojo. However, Green Bay and Pittsburgh aren’t all that different than a year ago, so that game is interesting to examine. The Steelers defeated the Packers 37-36 in a shootout that likely made Vince Lombardi and Chuck Noll roll over in their graves (except for the fact that Coach Noll isn’t dead yet). But take a closer look. First of all, Pittsburgh was up 24-14 going into the 4th quarter before Green Bay exploded for 22 points. Secondly, Pittsburgh’s best player, safety Troy Polamalu did not play in that game. A safety isn’t normally much of a difference maker, but over the past two years the Steelers have won 80% of the games Polamalu has participated while losing 60% of the games in which he was on the sideline. Also, Green Bay will not have the services of tight end Jermichael Finley in the Super Bowl. Finley, who has been out for most of this season with a knee injury, had 9 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in that game. A real effort has been made this week to put Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers on the same lofty pedestal as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but the truth is that Big Ben outgunned Rodgers in that previous head to head tilt. I’ve even seen Rodgers referred to as “a football god”, which made me want to concurrently laugh and puke. Two weeks ago I really liked the Green Bay Packers, but I’ll be darned if all this unwarranted praise isn’t tempting me to loathe them on a Patriots/Cowboys/Ravens level.

The weather must be mentioned as well. While it will not factor into the game at all since the Cowboys’ billion dollar mega-stadium has a retractable roof that will be closed, it certainly adds to the weirdness factor. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex has been besieged with snow and ice, and the temperatures this past week have been colder there than in Pittsburgh or Green Bay, poster cities for wintry weather. Algore blames global warming.

So, it seems that most are expecting another high scoring shootout in which neither team runs the ball effectively and Aaron Rodgers is anointed as the next Joe Montana in a ritualistic ceremony presided over by Jesus Christ, Dan Marino, Oprah, and Elvis while poor Ben Roethlisberger curls up in a fetal position at the 50 yard line cursing the day he ever boozed it up with college girls. But wait just a doggone minute. Not so fast my friends.

29 of the previous 44 Super Bowls have been won by 10 or more points. My vibe is that is where we are headed. Most are forecasting a tight game decided in the last minute or even in overtime by 3 or fewer points, but I disagree. I concur that neither team will mount much of a rushing attack and will not be surprised if neither runs for 100 yards, but I do look for time of possession to be important. I think there will be atleast 3 turnovers by the loser, with one of those being a Pick 6 for the defense. I believe special teams and field position will play a key role, but field goals won’t be a deciding factor. Aaron Rodgers is a very good quarterback but these media types need to get up off their knees and quit fellatiating him because President Obama is getting jealous. I am not at all excited about the halftime show featuring The Black-eyed Peas, but am hopeful that Christina Aguilera will do a nice job with the national anthem. Ample cleavage would be a bonus. I am sure there will be some amusing commercials but most of them will range from forgettable to horrendous, although I am excited to see the trailers for Captain America and Thor. At the end of the day this game is all about the X Factor, the intangibles, the undefinable je ne sais quoi. And while Green Bay has a little of that, at the end of the day the Pittsburgh Steelers have more of it. It will be a huge pleasure to see that assclown Commissioner Goodell be forced to hand Ben Roethlisberger the Super Bowl MVP award after the Steelers win the game 34-13. That’s my story, your mileage may vary.