We've all been there. There's a co-worker, classmate, or friend that you've known for years. You always thought of this person as just a buddy or pal. But one day, you start to have these "feelings" for your friend. Romantic feelings that you don't know what to do with. You can't explain it, but now you think of them differently and know that you will never be able to look at them the same way again
I know that's a pretty weird first paragraph for a football blog, but I'm just trying to make an analogy. Just like with love, sports is a pretty passionate subject. If you're into a particular sport, there's probably one team that you are devoted to, a few teams that you hate because that's how you were raised, some that you may even kind of admire, and most that you probably feel indifferent towards. But there are certain events that could cause your feelings for some teams to go from admiration or indifference to out-and-out hate. It could be a playoff game where that team knocked your team out, a few new cocky players that always seem to come up with big plays at key moments to make your team lose, a loud-mouth coach that thinks he invented football, or a whiny, obnoxious fan-base that thinks their team is God's gift.
Speaking of events, will any Steeler fan really be able to look at the Green Bay Packers the same way after that team denied the Steelers their 7th Super Bowl trophy this past February? I always admired the Packers prior to Super Bowl XLV. They're a class organization with a fan-base that's on-par with Steeler fans in how loyal and devoted they are to their team. I'm not saying I hate the Packers now, but I will certainly have a hard time looking at a Cheesehead without getting at least a little depressed from now on. It may be psychosomatic, but I've been lactose intolerant for the past few months.
The Green Bay Packers are just one mild example. I have much harsher examples that I'd like to share in no particular order:
The Dallas Cowboys.
As a child, I actually liked the Cowboys. I rooted for them to win more often than not back in the 80's (when they weren't playing the Steelers, of course). Tom Landry was their coach and a class guy. Most of the players seemed to conduct themselves the right way. But then one day everything changed. Jerry Jones bought the team and cleaned house. Landry was out and Jimmy Johnson was in. Just like Jones, Johnson was cocky and arrogant and with the help of players like Michael Irvin, Leon Lett, and Nate Newton, that arrogance became the new attitude of the Dallas Cowboys. You want to hear some world-class arrogance? Find a copy of the NFL Film's highlight show of Super Bowl XXVII where Johnson and "Them Cowboys" defeated the Bills for their first Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. Johnson narrated part of the piece and to hear him tell it, he knew the Cowboys were going to win even before he put any gel in his hair that morning. I started rooting for them to lose in 1992 and I haven't stopped. I can't stand Jerry Jones, and I loathe their fan-base. They walk around acting like they just won the Super Bowl and they haven't even been to one since Super Bowl XXX. And no, hosting Super Bowl XLV doesn't count, Jerry.
The Denver Broncos.
I loved John Elway as a child and jumped for joy when he led the Broncos on that 98 1/2 yard drive in Cleveland that helped catapult them to Super Bowl XXI. Each time the Broncos made the Super Bowl in the late 80's, I pulled for them. Even into the 90's this continued. But that all changed when my brother-in-law came into the family in the late 90's and told me he was not only a life-long Broncos fan but a long-time Steeler-hater. And we're not talking about a person that's from Denver or the Colorado area. We're talking about a man who grew up on the North Side of Pittsburgh. In-fact, he told me that the day Elway and the Broncos knocked off Stewart and the Steelers in the 1997 AFC Championship game at Three Rivers Stadium, he drove around the streets of Pittsburgh celebrating and honking his car horn. I've rooted hard for the Broncos to lose ever since then. When the Steelers returned the favor and destroyed the Broncos in the 2005 AFC Championship game in Denver, I drove around the streets of Pittsburgh and wound up at my sister's house to subtly rub it in my brother-in-law's face. This is all good-natured, of course. My brother-in-law is a good man. You ever wonder why so many people around the country who aren't even from Pittsburgh love the Steelers? Well, maybe my brother-in-law, the Pittsburgh-native, is just trying to balance out the universe. Still though, I hate the Broncos and I'm relishing the fact that they're one of the jokes of the NFL these days.
The New York Jets.
This is a fairly recent edition to my loathe-list. The first 28 years that I watched football, I thought of the Jets as a perennial Cinderella team that lived in the shadow of their NFC counter-parts and co-tenants, the New York Giants. I didn't mind the Jets. They were rarely a serious threat in the AFC and the Giants always seemed to grab most of the headlines in the New York area. But that all changed when they hired Rex Ryan as their head coach in '09. Suddenly, the Jets went from a sort of underdog franchise, to this big bully. Only problem is their bark has been bigger than their bite under Ryan. They still haven't advanced to the Super Bowl since the late 60's, but for some reason, they think they've accomplished something. And that firefighter guy in the stands. What's his deal? Isn't he ever on call? He's a real firefighter, isn't he? How can he travel to all the games? Anyway, I didn't agree with all the lofty praise the Jets received last season after sneaking into the playoffs the year before, yet, there they were playing at Heinz Field for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Rex Ryan accepting the Lamar Hunt trophy on the Steelers' turf would have been a tough pill to swallow. Instead, I got to witness Sexy Rexy smash his headsets down in anger after he realized that he would be a part of the losing team in the AFC Championship game for a third year in a row. That sight was almost as rewarding as seeing my Steelers advance to the Super Bowl again.....almost.
The New England Patriots.
Before 2001, I was indifferent towards them. After 2001? Well, do I really need to explain this one? I mean, they have every element that I talked about in the beginning of this post: They came into Heinz Field and denied the Steelers a trip to the Super Bowl 2 times in 4 seasons. They have an arrogant, golden-boy quarterback in Tom Brady who not only beats the Steelers just about every time he plays them, but seems to love rubbing it in their faces. They have a coach in Belichick who may not be a loud-mouth, but who sure does act like he invented football. And their fan-base. Oh, how I love to hate them. Ten years ago, the only thing anyone cared about in the New England area was the Red Sox. Now that the Patriots have had a nice little run, suddenly, the people of that area act like they are Football Town, USA.......at least until Spring Training starts.
The Seattle Seahawks.
For years, the Seahawks were just that feisty little team from the Northwest that would occasionally have a nice playoff run, but were never really taken seriously as a contender. Yeah, the Kingdome was a tough place to play in the 80's and the Steelers would look foolish up there from time-to-time, but I didn't really have an ax to grind with the Seahawks organization. That all changed in the aftermath of the Steelers, 21-10, triumph over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. You would think that the Seahawks and their fans, bit-players in the NFL for years, would embrace being the opponent that the Steelers destroyed on their way to their legendary "One For the Thumb". You talk about a fan-base that has an ax to grind! Seahawks fans are freakin Paul Bunyan. They've done nothing but whine and cry about the refs screwing their team out of the Super Bowl and how they were the better team. Well, Seahawks fans, answer me this: If your team was so gosh darn good in 2005 and should have won the Super Bowl that year, why haven't they been back since? I mean, freakin Rex Grossman beat you in the playoffs the following year. The Arizona Cardinals made the Super Bowl out of the NFC in '08 with a 9-7 record. Where were you? Where have you been since '05? They say cream rises to the top. Why haven't you risen? By the way, great job on making the playoffs with a losing record last year.
Damn these teams for bringing out so many emotions in me! I better stop before I get a headache. It's bad enough I'm lactose intolerant.
Well, that's my list. What's yours?