After the Steelers were blown out by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game on January 22, my way of coping was to attend my Sunday night bowling league two weeks later, while New England took on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Apparently, I was one of the few people in Pittsburgh who used diversion therapy as a coping tactic.
In case you didn’t know, Pittsburgh scored the highest ratings for any city during Super Bowl LI, with a 57.9 share (or over three points higher than the Boston market—54.7).
That’s just crazy, because I know you weren’t tuning in to be entertained by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones or whoever the Falcons’ head coach is. You had schadenfreude on your mind, meaning, you wanted to watch Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick wallow in miserly, once they came up short in their attempt at a fifth Lombardi trophy since 2001.
And, you know what? Your decision to cope in such a fashion almost paid off...until the Falcons decided to do things like pass on third and one with a 28-12 lead early in the fourth quarter and pass at all, once Jones made an impossible catch much later in the final period that set Atlanta up deep in Patriots territory, complete with a 28-20 lead and needing only a Matt Bryant field goal to all up secure the franchise’s first Lombardi.
Mere moments after Ryan was sacked, the Patriots tied the score, the game went into overtime and the inevitable became a reality, you, Pittsburgh, reacted as if, well, Pittsburgh lost the Super Bowl.
I saw the social media activity. I saw the Facebook memes.
You were angry and so emotionally wounded by the outcome, you actually called for head coach Mike Tomlin (or at least offensive coordinator Todd Haley) to be fired on the spot (you know who you are).
My question is: who cares?
Yes, like you, I wanted the Patriots to lose the game because I hate them and they stank (I hired Mecham as executive producer of this article just so I could use that last line), but I didn’t care enough to cry.
So what if the Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl and are now that much closer to tying Pittsburgh’s NFL record of six Lombardi trophies?
Twenty two Super Bowls ago (long before the Internet and Colin Cowherd existed), the 49ers crushed the Chargers to claim their fifth Lombardi, thus besting Pittsburgh’s original record of four, set 15 years earlier in Super bowl XIV. I don’t recall nearly as much angst and gnashing of teeth over San Francisco setting the Lombardi record with five back in the mid-90s, as there now seems to be after New England claimed a fifth to close to within one of the Steelers current standard of six.
Guess what? Even if the Falcons hadn’t acted like the Falcons in the waning moments of Super Bowl LI and enjoyed a nice parade in the streets of Downtown Atlanta a few days later, the odds of the Patriots winning a few more Super Bowls in the upcoming years would have still been pretty good.
Why? Because the AFC East is just awful, for one thing.
Think about it: the Dolphins just made the playoffs for the first time since George W. was still president; the Bills haven’t made it to the postseason since Clinton was in office; and the Jets haven’t played meaningful January football since folks still believed Mark Sanchez was a future franchise quarterback.
In other words, the AFC East hasn’t offered much in the way of resistance to the Patriots in quite some time and doesn’t figure to for many years to come. And what that means is New England already knows it’s guaranteed five or six wins within the division once the 2017 season kicks off, which makes for a great head-start on yet another AFC East title and a bye into the divisional round of the playoffs.
It’s a little easier to make it to six-straight AFC title games, when you only have to win one postseason contest each year in order to get there.
That’s been the Patriots reality since Obama’s first term in office.
To put it another way: ever see one of those movies where the good guys escape an intense car chase from some very bad guys, only to encounter another intense car chase, moments later?
That’s the Steelers current reality, with regards to their standing as the NFL’s standard-bearer for Super Bowl success.
In other words, if Pittsburgh doesn’t experience Seventh Heaven in the near-future, chances are, another franchise (probably the Patriots) will.
Records (even the Steelers record of six Super Bowl titles) are made to be broken. The Super Bowl is now 51 years old, and, when you really stop and think about things, six championships in a little over five decades isn’t really that many.
Sooner or later, someone is going to come along and make those “Got Six?” knock-off t-shirts sold in the Strip District obsolete, and that’s okay.
The good news is that nobody really goes around bragging about the most titles in league history (well, except for Steelers fans, and when it comes to that, the Packers have a bone to pick).
Championships feel good, regardless of whether they give your favorite franchise the most or if they give your favorite franchise its first.
Forty-two years ago, when fans were crowding the streets of Pittsburgh to celebrate the Steelers first Super Bowl title, did anyone really care that the franchise was still behind many other teams in the NFL?
I doubt it.
Even if the Steelers next championship leaves them one or two Lombardi trophies behind the Patriots, it will still be pretty darn special.
The best part: it won’t involve any sort of sick schadenfreude enjoyment, because you’ll be too darn happy to care about any of that.