BTSC writers are collaborating on a series highlighting their favorite memories involving Steelers games. Whether these are wins or losses, in this decade or the last, Steelers games mean something different to everyone. Here is an installment in that series. - nc
I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in this series. Unlike my fellow authors and most of you readers I’m not a lifelong fan. In fact, I can tell you exactly how many Steelers games I have watched—53 in all, including the post-season.
My first game ever was certainly noteworthy, because my choir sang on Heinz Field before the game began. It was the final game of the 2008 season, vs. Cleveland at Heinz Field. It was exciting to actually be at the game, but frankly I had no idea whatsoever what was happening, except I knew it wasn’t good when they had to haul Ben Roethlisberger off the field on a cart. (Concussion.) Basically I was cold and mystified, not a great combination.
But there is another Cleveland game indelibly etched on my memory, in a good way—the last regular season game of the 2010 season. The game itself perhaps lacked dramatic tension, because it was one of the few Steelers games I have ever watched in which the outcome was never in doubt. But the experience of watching it was definitely memorable.
I’m not a social person when it comes to football games. I prefer to watch them alone. I didn’t have a TV until I became a Steelers fan, at least not one that functioned as a TV. (We bought a cheap TV for watching videos and disabled the antennae. We didn’t want to have to monitor our children’s television watching. It was sheer laziness.) When I realized I would need some way to watch Steeler games, I bought a gadget to hook up to my computer, which resides in my home office.
That’s where I watch games, under the watchful gaze of my Polamalu Fathead. If someone special and trustworthy is around they are allowed in the office, but they are not allowed to make stupid remarks or attempt to divert my attention from the game. My sons can watch with me when they are in town. Not too many other people have been admitted to the inner sanctum.
But for the Cleveland game there was no choice. I had accompanied my husband to Puerto Vallarta (he had a conference there.) As a towel-waving member of Steeler Nation my first priority upon arriving at our hotel the to suss out a place to watch the game. Fortunately the "Champions Sports Bar" in our hotel was bristling with televisions of all sizes and was willing to put on whatever game you wanted.
Our youngest son, who lives in Mexico, had joined us for several days and was naturally eager to watch the game. About fifteen minutes before the game was scheduled to begin Edmund and I headed for the hotel sports bar. As we entered the bar we could see a couple parked expectantly in front of one of the giant TVs, and we headed their way. It was rather dark, and we couldn’t see the Ravens jerseys they were wearing until we got fairly close. They, in the meantime, had greeted us with enthusiasm, until they noted the hated hypocycloid on my shirt. Seeing their dismay, Edmund stuck his hand out, solemnly shook the hand of Mr. Ravens Fan, and mournfully said "I guess this means we can’t be friends."
We then headed over to one of the other large TVs after asking the bartender to put the Steelers game on it. The picture shortly appeared, but there was no sound. When we asked for sound we were told the Ravens fans had already requested sound, and they only put sound on for one TV. But after all a picture was good enough.
A few minutes after we had settled into our seats a man and woman and their two children walked into the bar. They immediately began checking the screens to see what game was on. The pater familias was wearing a purple shirt, and naturally Mrs. Raven loudly claimed them. When he got a look at their jerseys, though, he informed her, in accented but excellent English, of his allegiance to the Steelers.
Mrs. Raven was exceedingly indignant, and asked him why, in that case, he was wearing a purple shirt. "It’s okay," he assured her, "I’m gay." The family then discovered our screen and sat down to enjoy the game.
Over the next half hour or so maybe a dozen people trickled into the bar, looked at the TVs, and came and joined our table. Most of them were local. No one joined Mr. and Mrs. Raven, nor the lone Jets fan at the bar. It was a rout for the Steelers, both in Cleveland and in Puerto Vallarta.
Not long after the game started, both the Ravens and the Steelers TVs began having problems, and strangely enough, when they started working again the Steelers TV had sound and the Ravens TV didn’t.
I would love to tell you about my generosity that day, and how my heart bled for the Mr. and Mrs. Ravens Fan as they watched Joe Flacco stink it up. I looked over and noticed the Ravens had finally managed to put 3 points on the board, about the time the Steelers were up to a billion or so. (The final score of the Steelers/Browns match was 41-9.) I want to tell you I felt bad for them then, but I can’t in all honesty. To the contrary, I believe this may have actually enhanced my enjoyment of the game. I’m not proud of this. I’m hoping Troy Polamalu, whose interception started the game off with a bang, is going to write a self-help book when he retires to teach us all to be as nice as he is. Until then, I guess it will be business as usual.
I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Ravens Fan took comfort in the Steelers’ loss to Green Bay four weeks later. It was certainly a sad ending for Steeler Nation. But it can’t erase the memory of a wonderful experience, when I waved "La Toalla Terrible" in Mexico.