Athletes live in a strange universe.
Take NHL players, for instance. They can spend years pounding the teeth out of one another as members of opposing teams, but once they find themselves in the same locker room, thanks to free-agency or a trade, all is forgiven. "That's hockey," they often say through the gaps in their smiles.
For the fans, sports can also be a strange universe, thanks to players changing teams on a regular basis.
As a fan of the Steelers, I find it weird that receiver and return specialist Jacoby Jones is actually a member of the team now, and that I've been forced to hope that he can put some life back into what has mostly been an abysmal return unit, one that has averaged 7.3 yards on punts and 24.2 on kickoffs.
I simply don't like Jacoby Jones, or at least I didn't before he became a Steeler last week, when he was claimed off waivers from San Diego.
Why don't I like Jacoby Jones? He used to play for the Ravens and did a lot of things that antagonized me.
Jones was the guy who scored the game-tying touchdown on a pass from Joe Flacco in the final seconds of the divisional playoff game against the Broncos in January of 2013, thus keeping the Ravens' season alive and paving the way for a double-overtime victory. Jones was the guy who went 108 yards and scored on a kickoff return to open the second half of Super Bowl XLVII, a touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 34-31 victory (and allowed the Ravens to win their second title and Flacco to enjoy "elite" status for at least 10 minutes).
And, of course, most famously, Jones was the guy who claimed that head coach Mike Tomlin prevented him from scoring, when Tomlin made the curious choice to stand a little too close to the field-of-play during a Jones' kickoff return in a Thanksgiving game between the Steelers and Ravens two seasons ago. Jones complained something fierce, and Tomlin was quickly branded a cheater on par with the likes of Bill Belichick and eventually fined $100,000.
I'm sure Jones isn't the first Raven to wind up in Pittsburgh, but he's clearly one of the most annoying (at least from afar). I don't know Jacoby Jones; I just know of all those things he did that brought fame to the Ravens. No, he didn't knock my teeth out like an NHL player, but he may as well have.
Now I have to cheer for the guy? I've found myself screaming some unusual names while watching the Steelers this season. For example, "Come on, Landry!" But I never thought I'd find myself screaming, "Do it, Jacoby!"
However, I am willing to let bygones be bygones if Mr. Jones (still not on a first name basis with him) can somehow spark Pittsburgh's return team. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, while the Steelers offense was mostly flying up and down the field, the return unit was its usual old stick-in-the-mud self. Jones averaged just 20.8 yards on kickoff returns (or 3.5 less than the just released Dri Archer) and a mere one yard on his two punt returns.
I know what you may say: Jones' problems on Sunday were symptomatic of a larger issue of poor blocking on returns (I saw the Twitter fights during the game), but it still does nothing to fix my dislike of the man.
Should I protest? Should I cut up my Terrible Towel and send it back to Heinz Field as a symbol of my disdain for a Steelers organization that I thought I knew, but then went ahead and brought a Raven into its locker room?
I won't be doing any of that, because I love the Steelers more than I hate the Ravens and their former players (although, it's close), and you know what Bill Cowher used to say about that fine-line.
How many great love stories have developed over the years between two people who initially didn't like one another (or in this case, it's my hatred for Jones vs. his obliviousness that I even exist)?
That could be you and me, Mr. Jones.
Now, go out there and start winning my love this Sunday by returning something for a score against the Browns (a punt, a kickoff, anything), and maybe then we'll see about that first name basis situation.