It seems like the sports world has become a zero-sum enterprise where the phrase “If you’re not first, you’re last” has taken root as a mindset among those who follow, cover and compete in this popular entertainment genre.
In my opinion, the Super Bowl, a destination that will be the goal this Sunday when the NFL determines its two participants during the conference title games, is the grandest stage of the sports world (at least in America).
Who will be the two combatants? Which fans will get to celebrate in the streets on Sunday evening? What two cities will take on a holiday-like atmosphere over the next two weeks while gearing up for the Big Game?
Yards will be decked out in team colors. Banners will be made in support of the hometowns and their representatives. Billboards will be lit up (not painted—we are in the digital age, after all). Buses will have “Go (insert team here)!” as the text of choice for the next two weeks while filled with passengers on their daily commutes to and from work.
I am already jealous of those two cities and those two fan bases.
There’s nothing like the two-week build-up to the Super Bowl when your team is in it.
In my case, that team is the Steelers, and I remember how I felt the last time Pittsburgh clinched a trip to the Super Bowl when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on third and six in the final minutes of the AFC Championship Game of the 2010 NFL season against the Jets at Heinz Field.
Jets coach Rex Ryan may have slammed his headsets to the ground when reality sunk in, but while he was doing that, I was jumping up from my knees and screaming, “We’re going to the Super Bowl!” Yep, I may make fun of fans who say “we” all the damn time when talking about the Steelers, but I feel as if it’s more than appropriate when experiencing the joy of seeing your favorite football team advance to the Super Bowl.
My then-girlfriend warned me to not jinx it because there was still time left (she didn’t understand the Victory Formation, or, then again, maybe she knew all about the Miracle at the Meadowlands), but my joy couldn't be contained. There’s a numbness that comes over you at that moment— a very good numbness— and you almost want to pinch yourself to see if it’s all real.
I remember everything about that night. I remember Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier joining in on the fun of the Lamar Trophy presentation. I remember the players taking their shirts off and running around Heinz Field. I remember the texts I got from family and friends.
I even recall my girlfriend asking me to “cuddle” later that evening, not because she wanted to celebrate (she was more of a Penguins fan), but just because.
Hey, I got to see the Steelers advance to the Super Bowl AND “cuddle” all on the same night. Throw in a pizza, and Heaven may have actually had some competition from that moment on.
I went out and bought a newspaper the very next morning to commemorate the evening (back when you still did that sort of thing).
I recall a conversation with my mom that week where she said she went into a bank or somewhere, and everyone just looked so happy that she couldn’t help but comment on it (this is the same woman who went right up to Roethlisberger and shook his hand when she spotted him at a Walmart after his rookie season).
Anyway, those two weeks were tremendous fun... and Pittsburgh actually lost Super Bowl XLV to the Packers.
But that didn’t take away from the festive feeling I had over those 14 days. They were just as much fun as the two-week build-ups to Super Bowls XL and XLIII.
In all honesty, the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXX were probably my favorite. Why? I couldn’t believe the Steelers actually made it after 16 years.
It was the time of my life.
What’s my point? Some team is going to lose the upcoming Super Bowl, and that team will spend the ensuing years being mocked and ridiculed for some strange reason.
Silly thing to mock a team about.
The Jets haven’t been to the Super Bowl since before we put a man on the moon. The Lions have never been there, nor have the Browns (in the years before they became the Ravens, as well as the years since they came back as an expansion franchise).
Again, there’s nothing quite like the Super Bowl, and just getting there is a tremendous accomplishment.