It used to be I’d get really depressed after the Steelers’ season officially came to an end.
I’d log on to BTSC to write my article about what just went wrong for Pittsburgh, and usually the first thing I’d see was another author crafting a mock draft. You talk about reality setting in. You talk about adding numbness to that feeling of depression.
“Is it really over? Have those Super Bowl dreams been dashed, yet again?”
Now, for those of you who want to write something about “Fire Tomlin!” just know that the majority of football fans ask that same question at the end of each and every NFL season. It’s the nature of being a football fan—a sports fan, really. You go into it knowing that, much like gambling, there’s a very small chance of actually breaking the bank. Yet, we do it, anyway, we invest so much into this football team—the Steelers—hoping that investment will pay off “this year, I just know it!”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. I love the National Football League. I love that the Steelers are part of such a great corporation. I realize not everyone will agree with that sentiment. When you factor in the concussion people, the anthem people, the “The game is too damn long!” people, the “It’s fixed!” people, the anti-penalties people, the “It’s too violent!” people, the “It’s flag football!” people, the “They’re all domestic abusers!” people and the “Screw Godell!” people, it’s a wonder the NFL has any fans left.
But the league does have a ton of fans left. Why? Because all of those aforementioned people represent a vocal minority—sometimes a vocal and deranged minority. As for the rest of us, I think we love the NFL too darn much to be permanently put off by the problems—or the perceived problems in many cases—the NFL faces annually.
We adapt. We evolve. We learn to deal with the issues.
Will the issues ever become too great or abundant and force yours truly—and the vast-majority of NFL fans—to walk away? I doubt it.
Football is a beautiful sport. The Steelers—despite their decade-long run of non-standard seasons and current circus-like atmosphere—are a fantastic organization. When I think about the millions of sports fans that exist today and the billions who came before me, I am actually quite saddened that so many of them missed out on just how much fun it is to love this football team. As for those that do and have, you get it. You know what I mean. You know why we do certain ritualistic things—many of them involving the Terrible Towel—in the days or hours leading up to an important game (“Let’s see, I went to Happy Hour last Wednesday, and they beat the Patriots. Therefore, I must organize a new Happy Hour for this Wednesday.”).
You know why some of us may even break our flat-screen TVs and become infamous on Youtube.
Anyway, I don’t get as sad as I used to about the end of a Steelers season. But I still mourn when the entire football season comes to an end, as it did on February 3, when the Patriots defeated the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl LIII. The end of the Super Bowl used to mean there was one game left—the Pro Bowl. Now it marks the end of the season, at least the competitive phase.
Now, it’s the offseason, which means free agency hype (or, in the case of Steelers fans, free agency wallowing), a few months of draft hype (followed by angst-filled comments from fans who thought the Steelers should have drafted the other guy) and then a bunch of voluntary (or mandatory, if you’re a fan, coach or quoted teammate) team activities that don’t involve pads and hitting.
Don’t get me wrong. As a writer saddled with a quota, I’ve learned to embrace this time of year. But don’t get it twisted. Free agency, the draft and those non-pad-wearing activities ain’t got jack on training camp and then the start of the NFL season.
I realize, given their most-recent (not to mention, sixth) Super Bowl victory, the Patriots will open the 2019 NFL regular season at Gillette Stadium vs. a patsy which will be named when the NFL releases its official schedule in late-April, but I simply can’t wait.
God, I love the Steelers and the NFL.
Get me to September.
I miss you, already, NFL.