Watching your favorite team can be one of the most painful things around. It is amazing how we become so connected to our favorites, watching our moods completely change based on their performance. We feel a connection. We begin to feel like they're our favorite thing.
We probably don't care all that much about some things as fans, as long as the team is winning. If a player celebrates a relatively minor play, we'll brush it off if it happens in the second quarter of a blowout win to extend a streak. We might grouse about it here and there but, rest assured, we're waiting to release the anger and resentment about displays of individuality occurring on the gridiron in the greatest team-game on earth when the player involved inevitably screws up. But, at its root, our emotions are based on whether the team wins or loses.
If the Steelers were undefeated heading into Week 6, sitting at 5-0, only to lose to the Browns, would we care as much if Ramon Foster said the Browns were just a bunch of guys who never won anything? The Steelers' record should have no bearing on the general - but probably overstated - truth of his words. But those words will generate anger when the team just lost its third game of the season, its 19th loss in the past 38 games. It makes this offense inexcusable and unable to be ignored, much like a whining child in the middle of a quiet movie theater.
Look at Steelers' wide receiver Antonio Brown, for example. No one can question his effort and dedication. Few would argue he's not among the showier players on the roster. His "Chest Up, Eyes Up, Prayed Up" (C.U.E.U.P.U) slogan is put on merchandise which he sells, complete with a shadowy figure of him in his "I just caught a first down" stance. Hard to think it isn't financially motivated. He's celebrating because he can make money from the attention it gets. On one hand, you can't blame him. He takes a beating for a living and, statistically speaking, there's a good chance of significant post-career health issues. Making all the money he can now is hard to judge negatively.
On the other, it's the oddity of the selfish act caught in the middle of a team game. His intentions may not to be intended solely to display arrogance, but that's how a decent chunk of the population will interpret it.
That's the pine needle inside a massive evergreen forest. It's one play in a sea of plays and, it seems, lately, the Steelers aren't making many of the kinds of plays, celebrated or not, that result in winning consistently. Maybe this team just isn't all that special and, therefore, is no longer afforded a silent pass for such celebratory behavior (Jerome Bettis did a post-first down dance too).
We no longer feel the Steelers will win every game like perhaps we did in the mid-to-late 2000s. And that's not even the issue.
I'm not exactly upset by the Steelers most recent loss but, rather, by the attitude that they're supposed to win just by showing up. We watch it every Sunday. Celebrations for a tackle, head slaps for a first down. And why? When you go to your job do you spike your pen because you got something right? Do you celebrate merely for doing your job? I don't mind celebrations for a touchdown. That never bothers me. But something irks me about a huge celebration after a mediocre tackle on a punt return.
Getting to a higher perspective, what's to celebrate? It's an emotional game and this isn't meant to decry any and all celebrations. But the more a team loses, the more tightly focused the fan microscope is on such things. It's as if the player is saying "ok, I just did something, get ready to bash me for all the other plays I didn't make while I celebrate the one I just did." It's less of an issue of the celebration itself but more begging the question as to why they feel the need to suddenly celebrate every correct choice they make, even if it's too little, too late. I've seen a defender throw a massive party-for-one after he stops a run too many times to count - even when said run results in a first down and his team is up three points with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Why celebrate that? Get back on the field and do your job.
It seems as if the Steelers' attitude has changed. Gone is the Cowher mentality of the past, the notion that we win as a team, lose as a team and, if we lose, answer to why. All I've noticed of late is arrogance. Arrogance in the coaching, arrogance in the players.
I don't expect my team to win every week. That's just unrealistic. But when you do lose, can you at least have some dignity in the process?
I'm finished. Excuse me, I need to toss my keyboard into the crowd.