Flashback! (Cue cheesy harp music and distorted cloudy video) It’s Jan. 28, 1996, and I’m at the tender age of 9-years-old. My chest proudly proclaims my allegiance with my children’s size Greg Lloyd jersey. A Steelers cap is placed snuggly on top of my head, ridiculously oversized in proportion to my skull. The entire outfit is cloaked in a Steelers blanket. Slowly I watch as the Cowboys dismantle the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. With each Neil O’Donnell interception (yes, Neil O’Donnell once quarterbacked my favorite team; I don’t want to hear any fan complain about their quarterback), a part of me dies inside.
As Emmitt Smith scores the Cowboys’ final touchdown, sealing the Steelers’ fate with a 27-17 Dallas win, I look around at my family and friends. All of my relatives from back east are staring blankly at inanimate objects. My cousin stares into the terrible towel clasped weakly in his hands. My uncle’s head buried in his Super Bowl X commemorative T-shirt, wondering if the glory days of the ’70s would ever return. For the first time in my life, doubt enters my mind about the Steelers. Maybe they weren’t the best team in the NFL. Maybe it wasn’t worth it to root for Pittsburgh – maybe it hurt to care so much.
Fast forward! (Cue crowd noises and confetti raining from the sky) It’s Feb. 5, 2006, and I’m watching the Steelers become the first-ever team to win a Super Bowl taking place in the month of February, other than the Patriots. (It’s those kinds of biased and irrelevant facts you should come to expect from me) I sit there, motionless at first, refusing to let myself believe it is really happening until the clock reads “00:00.”
Then, when I realize it’s over, I jump to my feet and let out a long, loud cry that must have resulted in several calls to emergency authorities all over campus. In that moment, I realize how it feels to have your team win the championship. An experience that can best be described as sweet, sweet vindication.
For those of you still waiting for your team to reach the top, I give you this column as motivation to remain strong in your fanatical devotion. You too, may soon know the feeling.
Pause at the present! The best part is that my brain is already editing and neatly arranging my memories of Super Bowl XL like a Steelers commemorative DVD. The Steelers have become like a wayward son; one who you’ve seen make some good decisions, some bad decisions (some horrible decisions). But when they finally turn it around and get a nice job and start a family, all is forgiven and all is forgotten.
Jerome Bettis? Only rushed for 43 yards?!? I’ve already forgotten that the bus sputtered, stalled and exploded like a Pinto when he had two chances to score from just outside the goal line. All I can recall is his post-game interview announcing his retirement that forced me to try to explain to my roommates why my allergies were acting up in the middle of winter.
Interceptions, two of them you say? By Ben Roethlisberger? Never! My subconscious has blocked out all memories of a heave that resembled my 7-year-old cousin trying to hit Steve Smith on a streak route (or the pass of similar skill that was unbelievably caught my Hines Ward at the 3-yard line). The drive that halted 7 yards from a touchdown when Big Ben inexplicably threw a floater to Kelly Herndon of the Seahawks? Never happened. I do remember Big Ben diving heroically for the touchdown. (The replay that shows him coming up short? I must have been too busy celebrating.)
Speaking of which, I am suffering from a mysterious case of selective amnesia when it comes to the officials of Sunday’s Super Bowl. Jokes alluding to the fact that the referees must have been heavily invested in pre-made “Super Bowl XL Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers” memorabilia do not make sense to me. The offensive pass interference call on Darrell Jackson that nullified the Seattle touchdown? The phantom offensive holding penalty that called back an 18-yard pass that would have set up an almost certain touchdown? Big Ben’s previously mentioned touchdown plunge that wasn’t? All wiped from my cerebrum.
Also forgotten are the commercials that suggested a Diet Pepsi can could record a rap album with Puff Daddy (er, I mean P. Diddy, er, I mean Diddy-whatever) or that an aluminum can could star in a movie with Jackie Chan (which, in all fairness, would probably be able to communicate its emotions slightly better than Chan).
But I can still hear the commercial advertising the opportunity to own the “Steelers Super Bowl Kit” for the mere price of 70 frosties ($70 for those of you whose vocabulary is not solely based on television). I know you’re just dying to know if I will shell out the $70 to own the official hat, T-shirt and DVD so I’ll end your suspense: yes, without hesitation.
So the question still remains: Was it worth it? Were the annual weekends spent with Mel Kiper Jr. analyzing and agonizing over every Steelers draft pick worth the stress? The four seasons that ended in losses in the AFC Championship game? Having to endure the Kordell Stewart Era? The brief (takes a deep breath) Tommy Maddox Era?
As I sit here watching Bill Cowher hoist up his first-ever Vince Lombardi Trophy, all I can bring myself to do is nod my head. Taking a cue from Wes Mantooth: For at least one night, I could spell redemption S-T-E-E-L-E-R-S.
Bradford Applin is a sophomore aerospace engineer. All hate mail from disgruntled Seahawks fans can be directed to the trash receptacle marked “Inbox” outside his door. He can be reached for feedback at email@example.com