Years ago, an old girlfriend of mine called me from her house because she was very upset that she couldn't watch the Penguins play a postseason game thanks to a power outage in her neighborhood.
I tried to console her by saying things like, "they won the game. Isn't that all that matters? It was only the first game of the first series of the NHL playoffs." Turns out, it really wasn't all that mattered, as my girlfriend held on to this disappointment for quite some time. Of course, I'm not much of a hockey fan, so maybe it's easy to see why I didn't understand this woman's plight. Now, if this was a Steelers preseason game, and my then girlfriend called me crying because she couldn't see it, I'd probably have a more measured and educated response, such as, "are you crazy? It's a stupid preseason game! Let's break up!"
But that's just me. As much as I love the Steelers, preseason football has become a take it or leave it proposition. This week it will be mostly "leave it," since the game starts in the afternoon on Saturday, and I will be working for the majority of it. When you factor in the Hall of Fame game, which I watched about six plays of thanks to Tweeting; the Jaguars game which I also worked the majority of the time that it was being played; and the preseason finale against the Panthers on September 3, which I might fall asleep watching, that's not a lot of August football to analyze.
But, again, it's because the games are just so yawn-inducing.
You might say, "How can you be a Steelers writer and not watch the preseason games for analysis and breakdowns?" Did you actually see Pittsburgh take on the Packers on Sunday? How many replay challenges should have been overturned on both sides but weren't? Seemed like a lot. And if I had to pick a reason, it probably had to do with the lack of clear camera angles provided to the referee thanks to the game only being broadcast by local affiliates in both Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Can't do much analysis without the proper camera angles and Phil Simms illustrating stuff.
But hey, to each his or her own. Judging by my Twitter feed during the past three Steelers preseason games, people seem to get excited whether it's Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown or Landry Jones to C.J. Goodwin.
I was leaving the gym Sunday morning, when I overheard a conversation between a local couple and some people from out-of-state (Florida, I believe), who drove all the way to Pittsburgh to attend the game at Heinz Field; as they were talking about the game, they were stocking the trunk of their car with a ton of tailgating brew bought at the local grocery store. To drive all that way for an exhibition game is part of what makes Steeler Nation just that.
So, I have some questions for you, Steeler Nation. For starters, will you be in attendance at Ralph Wilson Stadium this Saturday at 4 p.m. when Pittsburgh takes on the Bills in the now famous dress-rehearsal game, when the starters play the first half? And if you are going, will you be traveling there from a great distance, such as Pennsylvania or even Florida?
When the Steelers finish out their preseason schedule a few days later in a game that's usually only played by people named Cameron Clear, will you be in attendance at Heinz Field? And if you are, will you arrive there from a great distance, like, say, Buffalo or Florida?
The real crazy thing about Steelers preseason games is that it's probably not so crazy when people drive over state lines to attend them--if television ratings are any indication, I would expect nothing less from my fellow black and gold faithful. There is statistical data that shows Steelers preseason games trump Penguins playoff games in-terms of TV ratings, which seems unbelievable, even though it's true.
I can actually see the charm in attending preseason games (and maybe even loading up your trunk with a lot of brew), because the regular games are just so hard to get tickets for so many folks. I've always said that, for fans who rarely get to go to games, preseason football can mean as much to the people in attendance as the hopefuls on the field, trying to impress the coaches during perhaps their only chance to make it as professional football players.
So, Steelers fans, do you get upset if you don't get to watch some August football because of work or other duties? Do you drive over state lines to see the black and gold even though the games don't count in any way except in your heart? Do you get angry if someone tells you that left tackle Kelvin Palmer uses poor technique on pass blocking?
If you are in attendance in Buffalo this Saturday, cheer extra hard for Palmer and Cameron Clear. Like you, they may be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.