"So glad hockey is back!"
This was one of the more popular comments written and said last week after Super Bowl XLVII between the 49ers and Ravens was set. I guess most Steelers fans couldn't wrap their heads around a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl (can't really blame them), but this kind of thought-process isn't just exclusive to Super Bowls involving story lines fans find less than desirable.
In fact, it seems that anytime Pittsburgh's NFL season comes to a disappointing end, some folks immediately look ahead to other things such as hockey, the draft, and heck, even the Pirates.
I bowl every Sunday evening at 7, and last week, while the AFC champion was being decided between Baltimore and the Patriots, the people at the bowling alley wanted to watch the Penguins/Rangers hockey game instead. I was a bit annoyed. There was another television set out of my view that had the football game on, and anytime I wanted to know the score, I had to walk all the way over to it. And even then, if I asked someone nearby what transpired to make the score what it was, the general response I got was, "I don't know, and I don't care. So glad hockey is back!"
The Penguins were playing in only their second game of the season (thanks to the just concluded NHL lockout), but the way people were reacting to every goal, you would have thought it was Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
As far as the NFL Draft, admittedly, I haven't been paying much attention to the Steelers' potential draft prospects.
And baseball? I love the Pirates and all, but there's snow on the ground in Pittsburgh, and I can't think about who will be the team's set-up man or who will platoon at first base.
There's a time and place for all that stuff, but right now, I want more football.
I just love the NFL postseason. For my money, it's the best tournament around. The NCAA college basketball tournament is pretty awesome, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are a wonderful grind, but there's just something about the NFL playoffs.
Anytime the Steelers aren't a participant in "Conference Championship Sunday," or whatever they happen to call the NFL's final four, I still make it a point to plop my butt in front of the television (whenever I'm not bowling) and take in all the drama and emotions that are involved in those games. While watching the 49ers and Ravens celebrate their respective berths in the Super Bowl, I thought to myself, "Man, I envy their fans right now."
And the Super Bowl? Forget about it. In my opinion, it's the greatest sporting showcase in the entire world, and the fact that it transcends the sports world makes it even more appealing.
Every season, during the two weeks leading up to the Big Game, I re-watch old VHS tapes of NFL Films highlight shows of Super Bowls gone by. I taped about two dozen or so of these shows back in the 90's, and years before the Internet really took hold, they helped me learn so much about the history of the event--did you know that tickets for Super Bowl I between the Packers and Chiefs were selling for as low as $6?
This past week, I went to the local library and took out "The Ultimate Super Bowl Book." It chronicles every Super Bowl from I-XLIII, and the author, Bob McGinn, is brilliantly thorough in his research. Every chapter has tantalizing little tidbits that even a huge football fan such as yours truly didn't know about. If you're as big a fan of the Super Bowl as I am, I certainly recommend at least trying to find this book at your local library.
The great thing about being a Steelers fan--especially over the past two decades--is you just never know what next year may bring. Three seasons ago, as I watched the Pittsburgh-less playoffs unfold--including Super Bowl XLIV between the Saints and Colts--little did I know that just one year later, I'd get to watch the Steelers play in Super Bowl XLV.
For my money, appreciating the history of the NFL--and watching the playoffs and Super Bowl even when Pittsburgh isn't involved--makes me appreciate the accomplishment even more when it actually does happen for my team.
So, how do you handle things when the Steelers aren't involved in postseason drama? Do you take a sabbatical from all things football until the next time the boys bunk at Latrobe? Do you immediately look ahead to the NFL combine in February and the draft in April? Do you quench your thirst for fandom by following another team and another sport such as hockey or basketball?
Or, like me, do you want to see every last chapter of the NFL season unfold--even the Super Bowl chapter that includes the Ravens and a couple of Harbaughs--before calling it a football day?