Back in the day there were Gladiators like Spartacus who led a slave uprising against the Roman Republic. We know Spartacus from the Starz series' Spartacus: Blood and Sand in which he becomes a crowd favorite fighting for his life in front of huge Coliseum audiences. In Gladiator Russell Crowe portrayed the hero General Maximus who commands his men about to enter battle "What we do in life echoes in eternity!”
In Roman Times war was constant and inevitable, it was necessary to protect Rome and provide wealth by plundering and taxing countries near and far. Gladiators were Roman entertainment and became more popular during times of peace and economic stress. I believe it is all relative, Roman soldiers were like our financial analysts and traders while NFL players are our modern day Gladiators. Only difference is you don’t die if you lose on the gridiron (at least not right away:) Let's be real, we love violence in sports, movies and video games. And don’t kid yourself women love violence too, take a close look at Spartacus: Blood and Sand when a favorite Gladiator excels many young women flash their breasts. That is awesome, I wish I were famous enough that women would flash me without having to hand over many beads:) Back then women longed to bed a Gladiator, today we call these women gold diggers and baller groupies. You can observe them on shows like Basketball Wives always with one eye on the younger competition.
Many of us long for glory and fame, it starts at age five with Pop Warner Tiny-Mite tackle football. There are other less violent sports like soccer and football but we Americans hold football sacred. It’s hard to get parents to coach sports but every time I see a Pop Warner team they have like 10+ coaches. Hell, they even have a coach for the water boys:) It's because there are so many fathers wanting a piece of that lost glory and hoping their sons let them re-live those most precious moments.
9/11 was a shocking, random event for Americans, people still don’t want to believe it. This is arguably the worst day in American History. Why do you think there are so many crazy conspiracy theorists? For those experiencing Pearl Harbor 9/11 was probably not as shocking, both were “surprise” attacks but 9/11 targeted civilians. Terrorism was foreign to us, yea there were events like Oklahoma City or the first WTC bombing, but nothing near the scale of 9/11. This was the first "major" event our generation had to deal with. Many of our parents experienced JFK's death first hand but even that was minor compared to the shock of 9/11. We grew up with seat belts fastened and riding in rear-facing child seats, we were always safe, right? 9/11 was a rude wake-up call, safety in life is an illusion.
Most of us we are not talented or lucky enough to experience the Sunday glory of an NLF player. Closest we get is a “great job” from our boss or a loving wife telling us "you're a great dad." A lot of life can be very mundane like your wife's text requests: “honey luv u, pls pick up milk and maxi-pads on your way home.”
Sports are a release from life and the NFL has positioned itself as the top dog. When we watch NFL football we not only forget about our problems but we also release a lot of pent-up emotions. 9/11 reminded us how vulnerable and random life is but football helped us forget about it, especially right after the attacks. Football is full of tradition and history. Things like the Steel Curtain Era and Mean Joe Greene’s devastating sack attacks and his classic Coke commercial. What about footage of Vince Lombardi yelling “What the hell is going on out there?,” I still get chills. This is what we love about football, it is grounded in past glory and the NFL never lets us forget it (think NFL Films). By far the NFL has done the best job of maintaining established fans while staying relevant to the younger generation. Baseball has even more tradition but is too long and boring for today's teens. Wanna waste a few bucks? Just take a teenager to an MLB game, i bet you $100 they never look up from texting and playing Angry Birds on their i-phone.
I believe this is a major reason our generation gets pissed off about NFL rule changes; every rule change moves us further from the football we grew up with and it rudely reminds us of our age. I saw it last night when we watched a Packers-Saints game closer to Madden 12 than our defensive style of football. This was definitely no Steelers 13 / Ravens 10 battle. Yes it was entertaining but it was more like playing a slot machine than black jack or poker, you knew it would eventually come down to the last possession. High scoring shootouts will be necessary to attract the kids now playing Madden 12 and Call of Duty 7. I know from casual observation that video games are hurting kid participation in sports. Sadly, this will almost inevitably mean that defensive teams go the way of the buggy whip and vinyl records.
For a while at least, Steelers will continue to buck this trend. You see it's our identity, it's what we do and it's who we are. Just look at all the big contracts we handed out to the defense this year, until we are forced to we will remain a defensive minded team. And the Steelers tradition is chock full of those qualities we remember on 9/11. Steelers are a blue-collar franchise. Who do you think rushed into the World Trade Center knowing they would die? Bond traders? Nah, it was blue-collar police and firemen, these are the real heroes. We know the Steelers aren’t sacrificing their lives (maybe their bodies) but they are our surrogate heroes. They remind us of days long gone by where we could sprint the field full-tilt without thinking about pulling a hammy or popping an achilles.
There is no more passionate fan base than Steeler Nation and being a fan automatically makes you part of something bigger than yourself. You are part of a community and you see that clearly on BTSC. 9/11 was a devastating day in American history but NFL football brings us together. It helps us forget about life for a while, drink a drop of sweet beer (Homer J) and bind with our Steeler Nation family.
Yea, football is just a game but sometimes that is enough to help heal the wounds of something as devastating as 9/11. Is the NFL exploiting 9/11? Maybe. But I'd rather believe that for those who lost someone on 9/11 an NFL game can bring a smile in remembrance of those they lost, many avid football fans. And for those facing job loss or financial distress football helps you leave it all behind if only for a short while. Nothing can erase the pain of a tragedy like 9/11 but if football helps even a little bit then that’s a good thing. Football is something we can count on, like the Steelers fielding a great defense every year. That's just the way it is.
Roman Gladiators were cheered before Christ was born (BCE in PC form). On the gridiron we have Gladiators like Ben who is General Maximus and Troy who is our Spartacus.
They remind their teammates before each game: “What we do in football echoes into eternity!”
P.S. I guess that makes Flacco Commodus. (the cowardly, incestuous Emperor played by Joachim Phoenix:)