At 7:37 pm central time on Sunday evening, my plane form Wichita, Kansas to Orange County, California was schedule to take off. At 6:24, the Green Bay Packers took their first lead of the game, 36-31 on a 24 yard TD throw by Aaron Rogers, his third of the game.
'[Insert expletive]," I mumbled to my girlfriend. "It's going to be pandemonium in Steelers Nation after this latest late game collapse and loss. I guess the lone bright spot about this mess of a season is it will make finding a central theme for next year's Maple Street Press publication that much easier to identify and stick to. Unbelievable. We better get to the airport."
With my cellphone dead, I wasn't even tempted to check how the final two minutes of the game transpired. I couldn't help but let my mind wander towards thoughts about just how incredible it was that the Steelers kept finding ways to lose games despite (most weeks at least) playing quality and spirited football for large portions of the game. For the most part though, I was focused on spending a final few minutes with my adorable lady friend whom I'd spent had an incredible weekend with.
After saying goodbye, I hustled into the predictably unintimidating and uncrowded Wichita airport with no boarding pass printed and about 35 minutes until departure. My mind's now on my great weekend and thoughts of her. I'm also relieved that it won't take more than 2 minutes to get to the gate. There were maybe 3 people in line and just a few other folks that didn't look like they were traveling anywhere. They had no bags and were just staring intently at something I couldn't see from where I was standing.
Is that the look of men watching football? It is! And it doesn't look like it's a commercial break or a segment where Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are talking judging from the looks of their faces. Steelers highlights on NFL Network!
I hadn't forgotten but my phone was dead and I wasn't expecting to have time to find a bar with a TV, let alone have enough time to wait for what I was looking for. Anyway, I look up and it's the game winner from Big Ben to Mike Wallace!
I'm really not going to try to describe my elation and astonishment in words. No need either, as I'm sure we all reacted in more or less in the same ecstatic way - an exuberant (and often really silly) outburst followed by long-lasting satisfaction about the whole experience and future prospects. I suppose I was surrounded by a small group of entertained but still very stoic old men in boots and demeanors that suggested they laughed no more than once a month. So i had to reign in my nerd-tastic celebration dance or ridiculous outburst of any sort to make sure I didn't get my ass kicked and miss my flight.
I sure was thrilled though.
Had I given up on the Steelers? Not at all. I dutifully showed up to watch and cheer on the team like I do every week. And I was awfully impressed and entertained by the quality of football being played. We were also reminded once again just how much this year's defense is struggling and how unlikely it is at this point that they'll be able to overcome their deficiencies on that side of the ball in order to make another run to the Super Bowl if and it's still a big if they were to sneak in to the playoffs.
There's all offseason to think and talk about those kinds of things though. For another week at least, the Steelers proved why they're the defending champs and how they're not going to go quietly this year. It just so happens that certain key Wild Card hopefuls fell on their face today, including my favorite fraud, the Denver Broncos.
We'll get in to some of the particulars of the playoff picture and more thoughts about this game itself, but for now, I rest. Happy.