Eddies in the Steelers’ Time-Space Continuum

Justin K. Aller

In which a number of unexpected things become suddenly clear, and yet the picture is more muddied than ever...

I hate it when the Steelers play on a Monday night. My day job is conducting a professional chamber choir, and our rehearsals are on Monday nights. They have been on Monday nights since the late 80s at least, and will likely still be on Monday nights when I am dead and in the grave.

Hence, as usual, I had to miss the first half of the Steelers game vs. Kansas City. But I went to a nearby bar after rehearsal, along with two of the singers. We arrived right about halftime and we settled into the available seats. Actually, that wasn't quite true - they sat and I stood, because I was too nervous to sit. The girlfriend of one singer also joined us, which I was initially worried about, but she turned out to be a more-than-acceptable game-watching companion. The women of Steeler Nation are the best!

At any rate, I was in a prime spot to view from all angles and in slow motion the many many replays of Ben's injury. And as I expect you all remember, the rest of the game was not going well. During a commercial break, trying to lighten the mood, I suppose, I turned to one of the singers, who I will call "Roy," and mentioned to him some statistic on head injuries. We continued to talk about it as the next play began, and at the critical point in the play the word "concussion" was spoken. The play result was successful - I believe it was an important defensive stop. The other singer in attendance, whom I will call "Josh," looked at us and said "What were you just talking about?"

And so for the rest of the game, whenever something needed to happen, we began a discussion which ended with the word "concussion" being said at the critical point, and in each case the resulting play was advantageous for the Steelers. Fortunately Roy had sustained a concussion as a child and Josh, who had played football in high school, had sustained several of them. Just in case, we asked the bartender if he had ever had a concussion, which he had, so we kept it in our back pockets, as Mike Tomlin likes to do with 2-point conversion plays. Fortunately we didn't need it—the Steelers rode to victory on the strength of the accumulated concussions present.

So what does this have to do with anything at this point in the season? Well, it appears we inadvertantly discovered an important component of the Steelers' success. I received an email from Roy a few days later:

Wed Nov 21, 2012, 6:58 AM

I am afraid to admit that I think the latest rib injuries are my fault.

Recently I was pondering the statistical unlikelihood of two players experiencing broken rib injuries while one other player was on the sidelines with a rib injury from the previous week. And two of them quarterbacks to boot. Then I realized the awful truth.

On this past Friday night, sitting in the exact same seat at the bar where I sat for our concussion discussion, I ordered and happily consumed a half-rack of tasty ribs.

Apparently, this seat has a special place in the time-space continuum, and all actions are magnified, amplified, and/or transmogrified somehow to affect Steelers (or their opponents) somehow in ways that aren't clear to me.

At this point I am open to suggestions regarding what to do next, should I go back to the bar (I will) and the seat is available. Should I avoid it at all costs? Sit down and only have a coffee? Only eat vegan foods there? Can I consume alcohol? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Roy

Naturally Roy copied Josh on this email, and the ensuing discussion is, I believe, ripe for being revealed to the world at large:

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 2:01:17 PM

Roy, I am shocked at the blatant disregard for the health and well-being of the Steelers you showed. I wouldn't have thought it of a man raised in the Burgh. HOW MANY RIBS WERE ON THE RACK? Does this mean we have more rib injuries to come? I think we need to find out immediately how many total ribs were broken on Sunday night (between Byron and Jerricho) so we will know if there are potentially more to be broken. If the numbers align, it's all good. If not, we've got some quick work to do here.

As to the future of the chair, that's a tough one. The question is whether it is the chair, period, or whether it is the combination of you and the chair. I'm inclined to think the latter, as surely other patrons have used that chair to consume skeletal parts, without affect. Although it would be useful to know whether someone was eating ham there when Troy tore his calf muscle without being touched by a defender.

I'm almost thinking we need to purchase an identical chair, come in as a group some time when the bar is fairly busy, and do a quick exchange during a strategically timed distraction. Perhaps Beth [Roy's good-looking wife] could help us with this?

But maybe this is over-reacting. It may be only the combination of you and the chair. If that is the case, I think a careful choice of edibles (and perhaps even confining yourself to beer) would be the wisest course. Let's think this through a bit more.

You were in the chair; we observed Ben dislocate a rib; you later ate ribs in the chair; Byron and Jerricho sustained broken ribs in the next game. All of this happened while the Steelers were at home. I wonder if it reverses onto the other team when the Steelers are away? Mm, probably not worth the risk.

I think perhaps the secret is not to consume any equivalent body parts after you have observed an injury in that chair. Did you watch the game there on Sunday? If not, that's a mercy, because if so you will now be unable to eat chicken or pig's feet, although I don't think they serve them, (Baron Batch injured his foot, and just because the team cut him, it's probably not safe.) Obviously you can never eat ribs there again during the season. I would not touch anything near the spine (Ziggy Hood had a lumbar sprain), so rack of lamb is out. Isaac Redman's concussion would preclude brains, if they served them, and if you would want to eat them in the first place. I would stay away from drumsticks or ham, just in case anyone had a minor, unreported leg injury, and wings, for the same reason, only arms. Which does seem to pretty much eliminate any meat whatsoever. Fish is probably too risky as well, even filleted. But the good new is that cheese should be perfectly safe, unless there is something I don't know about one of the guys.

Rebecca

Roy responded:

November 21, 2012 7:19:52 AM

Sadly, I don't remember the number of ribs exactly. A quick web search indicates 6 - 8 ribs are typical. I think it was 6, since it was on the smallish side. Good thing I didn't order the full rack! (Which I had been considering...) also, remember that Ben's SC injury involves the clavicle, which, although it's just above the ribs and kind of rib-shaped so to speak, is not a proper rib.

I'm sure Beth would be happy to help.

Roy

The whole SC joint business has been confusing, apparently, given that even Ben and Mike Tomlin seem to have differing opinions on what happened. I tried to set Roy right:

November 21, 2012 7:36:27 AM

No, but he also dislocated a rib, something one certainly has to do to eat a rack. Okay, so let's assume Ben's rib counts for one, and that the rack was 6. Byron fractured or broke two ribs, I believe, and Jerricho Cotchery broke "multiple" ribs. I think that would have to be at least three and perhaps more to qualify as "multiple," so I think your rack of ribs is covered.

But if you eat ribs again, I would suggest eating at one of the tables where you can't even see the bar. Perhaps you should give up ribs for the next few months...

Rebecca

Sadly, apparently the calculation was incorrect, as Emmanuel Sanders also sustained a rib injury. I don't know whether Roy actually followed up on the following suggestion. I guess I should find out, to compile the best data set available:

November 21, 2012 5:13:03 PM

Well yes, I knew about the actual Ben rib. So I think your rib counting is correct.

I am thinking maybe a nice Lake Erie fish, if they have one, would be appropriate if I go this weekend.

I only eat ribs about twice per year so I think we'll be OK rib-wise for the remainder of the season!

Josh finally chimed in:

November 26, 2012 8:35:52 AM

I was out of town and so unable to respond, but rest assured I am whipping something up.

Speaking of which, whose bright idea was it to try making a batch of turnovers yesterday during the game (ahem, Roy)? Clearly, there's a causal relationship between making a batch of turnovers and Batch making turnovers. I hope they were delicious, because the game left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

Josh

November 26, 2012 11:24:39 AM

This time I am innocent. I carefully avoided "the barstool" until 8:00PM. Even then I sat at the far corner.

Roy

At this point the discussion ended for a few weeks, at least via email. It was next taken up when Roy asked advice about how to proceed for the Chargers game:

December 9, 2012 9:02:12 AM

Fish tacos are very popular in San Diego, therefore I ate one last night near the vortex (the actual vortex corner was again occupied), after the concert. It was, by the way, very delicious. A substantial portion of grilled mahi-mahi with lots of fresh avocado.

We will see what happens.

Sadly I won't be able to watch the game in real-time since I will be at East Liberty Pres watching my nephews sing with the Children's Festival Chorus. Of course I am recording it and will watch it later tonight...

Roy

December 10, 2012 7:48:06 AM

No!!! No, no, no. You may have unwittingly caused the Steelers epic loss yesterday. Your words regarding the fish taco: "It was, by the way, very delicious. A subustantial portion of grilled mahi-mahi with lots of fresh avocado."

You're not supposed to enjoy the food you consume by the wishing stool unless it's Steelers-related! You're merely supposed to ceremonially consume it, like a ritual sacrifice. Because you savored the (undoubtedly) delicious SD staple, the football gods interpreted that action as a prayer to bless the hapless Chargers, who, rolling into Pittsburgh on a long suck streak, suddenly found themselves, like Achilles before them, nigh-invincible, as if they had themselves been dipped into the river Styx. And I'll bet they played Styx at the stadium! It all makes perfect, horrible sense.

Dear God...what...have we unleashed?

Josh

And finally, the bitter truth comes out:

December 10, 2012 7:52:53 AM

Furthermore, I was at the vortex yesterday during the game and the Wishing Stool was occupied by, get this...a Chargers fan. I'm not even joking.

Josh

So, Steeler Nation, there is no time to lose. Please send any and all advice for tomorrow's game. I trust "Josh" and "Roy" are going to at least make sure the vortex stool is not occupied by, heaven forfend, a Bengals fan. But what do you suggest they eat? And drink? And talk about? I unfortunately will not be there, as I will be watching the game from a Steelers coffee shop in Colorado Springs. (I'm not kidding, either!) Any and all suggestions will be welcome.

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