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What is Class? Thoughts From a Steelers Fan

Originally a comment by steeler lifer in a previous thread. It's extremely well said, and can perhaps put to rest most Patriots talk 'round here until we meet down the road.

By: steeler lifer

In high school and in minor sports, my coaches would often try to explain to us what it meant to play with class. There were just a few rules of behaviour and comportment, and a few reminders during the season whenever we played against someone who didn't have class, or on a rare occasion when one of us failed to play with the respect, sportsmanship, intelligence and selflessness that class requires. It didn't seem that difficult to me or the vast majority of teammates, but once in a while there would be a kid who didn't get it. Then you would see their parents at a game or another function, and you'd understand why.

When it comes to pro sports teams and pro athletes, no one should have to explain to them what it means to play with class. If you do, it's already too late. They either have it, or they don't.

The Steelers have had it for a long, long time. It has started at the top with the Rooneys and it has permeated through their coaches and players through the decades. That's one thing you pick up as a Steeler fan, the sense that the club will consistently conduct itself with some class as well as high standards of play. That was one of the tough aspects of having Joey Porter on the team -- that was a guy who really didn't get it. Hey, there's room for a lot of different personalities on a team and he was a very good player ... but let's face it, he had no class and at tiimes it was embarrassing. Fortunately he played with better, and classier, teammates surrounding him.

The Miami Dolphins conducted themselves with class. So did the Minnesota Vikings, even through all the  years when they lost Super Bowls. The Bills were much the same. Certainly the 49ers. They all reflected their leaders -- Don Shula, Bud Grant, Marv Levy, Bill Walsh -- and, probably, to some extent, ownership. They also had top players who exhibited it: Bob Griese, Jim Kiick, Paul Warfield, Donnie Anderson, Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Andre Reed, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott. The Raiders had very little class although I've gotten to like John Madden. Obviously he just needed to get away from Al Davis, the ultimate classless owner. The Cowboys of the 70s had more class than the Cowboys of the 90s, just as Tom Landry had more class than either Jimmy Johnson or Barry Switzer.

The owner of the Patriots seems like an okay guy if blessed with too much money for his own good. But, if he is, he must cringe when he contemplates this overwhelming antipathy toward his team. Their fans think it's because everyone is jealous of their success ... well, nothing could be further from the truth, especially in this corner of the football world where we have been blessed with success and class from our players for nearly 40 years.

The Patriots, like all dynastic teams, reflect their head coach. Belicheck has always been an arrogant micro-manager, even as an under-achieving loser in Cleveland. He is a good talent evaluator, a good schemer (in more ways than one) and a good manager of Kraft's money. He is also a cheater who has yet to apologize to anyone for dragging down his organization and embarrassing any sensible fan. Instead, he has used it as a motivational tool (fine); as a petty excuse to conduct this season on the other side of the line that defines class in sports (not fine, but that's his prerogative). Can anyone really imagine the likes of Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Don Shula conducting themselves this way, or allowing their team's accomplishments to be diminished by their personal mistakes and agendas. I think not.

The Patriots will earn their place in history as a team whose accomplishments to date are tainted by cheating, and whose accomplishments this year, if any, are defined by the class they demonstrate in the face of some adversity. So far, it's close to zero.