As a parent and as a person who counts a number of educators as friends, I don't believe in the phrase, "Not my kid". You know the situation. Your offspring has been deservedly labeled as the problem child in school, but you absolutely refuse to believe it and shift the blame to anybody and everybody else. It's a hard thing to recognize and accept when the fruit of your loins has inexplicably gone rotten.
On the other hand, I do subscribe to the principle of unconditional love. No matter how ugly your baby...you love it, you care for it, you cherish it, you protect it and you accept it. That's what we as people do. We do it to a greater extent as sports fans, in some cases to a fault.
But when do we take a look in the mirror and admit that "where there's smoke, there's most definitely fire"? At what point do we realize that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" or maybe Green Bay with all that cheese? When is it that we realize that the team we root for are the bad guys? Who Dey Nation haven't and probably never will in Cincinnati, although they really should after what the football world witnessed last week.
The question that I'm truly asking as a die hard Pittsburgh supporter is (and I'm still not convinced that I know the correct answer)...Are the Steelers considered villains around the National Football League?
Before you get your Terrible Towel underwear (if they existed, I'd have a drawer-full of those drawers in boxer-briefs) in a collective bunch, this is nothing but an inquiry that is the product of a lot of negative chatter that I have been exposed to lately online and from people that I have come across outside of Steeltown. I even had an extensive and objective text-versation with the editor of BTSC regarding the perception of the team we support and write about. Thus the genuine inquiry.
First of all, let's define the term villain. I'm not going to spout off the Webster's Dictionary definition, when the only Webster that I respect wore No. 52 for the Steelers from 1974-1988, and I don't reckon that Mike ever published a book of word meanings.
A villain is the bad guy, the antagonist, the tyrant or the scoundrel in the story. We are taught to despise the villain. We loathed Darth Vader for chopping off his son's sandwich-grabber and choking dudes with his gloved hands. We booed Ric Flair (Woooooooooo! It's mandatory at the mention of his name) for using brass knucks that he stashed in his sweaty trunks thus cheating our heroes out of championship gold. Hans Gruber (RIP Alan Rickman) shot Mr. Takagi (no, not the wax on/wax off guy played by Pat Morita in 1984's Karate Kid) and took the entire thirtieth floor hostage on Christmas Eve. We didn't quite care for that chicanery. Nor did we like it when Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter time after time, when the Joker screwed with Batman, Johnny Lawrence swept the leg of Daniel Larusso and Ivan Drago showed no remorse after bludgeoning Apollo Creed minutes after James Brown got his funk on in Vegas.
We also didn't like it when Steinbrenner's Yankees won, when Mike Tyson snacked on lobes of ear, when Al Davis' Raiders headhunted, when Ray Lewis danced, when Tom Brady got off scot-free and when Vontaze Burfict tried to "kill" our entire roster.
We are sports fans. The team we cheer for, buy the merchandise of and live-and-die by can do no wrong. "Not my kid".
But really, what are people outside of Steeler Nation seeing?
In Cincinnati, they see Mike Mitchell and Ryan Shazier as dirty hitmen with the sole intention of maiming their orange and black-clad choir boys. They also see Joey Porter as the only individual that did anything wrong last Saturday, while their players were innocent bystanders. They also believe that the officiating crew were paid off by Mike Tomlin and the Rooney family the previous two games. You don't believe me? It's all displayed prominently as insane rantings on their message boards.
In Baltimore, they are still belly-aching over Hines Ward leveling Ed Reed. In the Charm City, Hines is a cheap-shot artist. I attended the December 27th debacle in B-more and it was glaring that their fans hate us, much more than we could ever hate them.
In Cleveland...well it's Cleveland. James Harrison in 2011 and a history of domination...enough said.
True, there will always be sports hatred among division rivals. But other teams seem to scuffle a lot with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Case in point, the Denver Broncos want revenge on Cody Wallace for a helmet-to-helmet, late hit on David Bruton on December 20th at Heinz Field. Wallace was assessed a 15-yard penalty and fined $23,152 for his actions.
The victim, Bruton, was quoted in the Denver Post as saying, "That's just what they do. They're dirty and he left his feet trying to take me out. So, I just know if we have to play them again, it's not going to go well. We're definitely going to make sure that he's going to feel it ."
Teammate Malik Jackson also said at the time, "They're conniving. They definitely know what they're doing. You just have to go out there and have your own bag of tricks to counter their tricks."
To quote Travolta's Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, "That's a bold statement".
At the time, I found it to be a dirty hit. Even though I respect that Wallace was defending Antonio Brown and that it set a tone in the game, I was disappointed in Cody's action that Ben Roethlisberger later described as a lack in judgement that is not typical of the Steeler center. But Wallace has displayed that lack of judgement before. Remember in late 2013 when he infamously grabbed Dolphin Randy Starks by his family jewels? That's a sight that sadly I can't ever scrub from my memory.
As far as penalties go, the 2015 Steelers seem to be a disciplined bunch on paper, with 20 teams having been penalized more, according to nflpenalties.com. When it comes to being flagged for unnecessary roughness, the Steelers are tied for fifth with Carolina and Denver. Those teams had ten such penalties. No surprise that Baltimore, Cincinnati and Seattle rank first, third and fourth respectively.
Five Steeler players (Wallace, Mitchell, Chris Boswell, Aurthur Moats and David DeCastro were docked a combined 81,028 frog skins for unnecessary roughness in 2015. Burfict, alone, committed football sins that cost him $119,454.00. If you combine the upcoming three-game ban in 2016, Burfict will be minus $622,395. Besides the $50K fine for the hit on Baltimore's Maxx Williams, $572,395 in fines came in two games against the Steelers. Cincy fans, would you like to rethink who the dirtier team is?
So, are the Steelers really dirty as alleged by teams with the same or more transgressions? Sounds a lot like a battle between pot and kettle. Or is it merely a case of jealousy for consistently being a top-echelon team for over 40 years? I like to think that's the case. You never want to think that you root for the bad guy, but my priest has even politely hinted that the Steelers are sinful and he's gone to seminary to study the exploits of the devil. So I'm majorly confused. It's a question that may never be fully answered due to a plethora of myopia among biased sports fans.
Regardless of the answer, I am black and gold even after I am dead and cold. Maybe I'm metaphorically draped in a steel shroud of hypocrisy, but in my eyes...they are white knights in black helmets. They are the good guys, the heroes and the protagonists in the story that I'm reading and I'm not going to waver from it. In fact despite my confusion as of late, I prefer to embrace and return to my own brand of black and gold myopia. If others can prove that my team is certainly infested with villany (and I know they will surely try), then Darth Vader was misunderstood, Ric Flair and Johnny Lawrence were targeted by the officials, Hans Gruber was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I absolutely love my ugly baby.
Therefore, #herewego. And more importantly and most definitely...."Not my kid".