Originally run July 24 as part of the 2014 Renegade, BTSC's season preview issue
Every morning, I wake up around 5 a.m. I have a structured routine down to the point I wonder if the first few hours of my day I'm consumed by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that turns off when I get tired in a few hours. Coffee maker, bathroom, brush teeth, mouthwash, turn cell phone on, check emails, locate iPod, turn on Steelers Playlist, head upstairs, take the dog out, stand on deck reading emails or Twitter until dog is finished, come inside, locate coffee cup, fill with appropriate amount of cream, give dog food and water, fill coffee cup with coffee, unplug laptop, sit on couch, move legs for dog to join me, and begin writing.
During that process, and with the aid of the surge of caffeine and loud, up-tempo music, I'm fired up. I'm envisioning every scenario the Steelers may face. I'm flying through story ideas in my head and angles I can take. I pace around a bit on the deck and feel energy just coursing through my veins, much like the coffee I'm almost done with already.
I want The Renegade to be the embodiment of that feeling. I want it to be surging with energy, power and enthusiasm. Not really just one, gigantic homeristic approach to the team, but convincing and guiding people toward a similar feeling. I want them to be willing to strap on pads and go hit someone not wearing black and gold. I envision them, in an ideal scenario, cranking up their own iPods and taking an extra long sip of coffee (burnt lips be damned because we feel no pain in Steeler Nation) thinking " DAMMIT, DUDE! THIS IS GONNA BE AN AWESOME SEASON!"
That is the root of NFL fandom. You don't get that in the NBA, where the lack of players involved and the culture-accepting nature of glorifying the individual is Priorities one through three. The day training camp starts, all fans of probably 26 teams can make at least an intelligent argument of why their team can make the playoffs. Unlike the NBA, NFL fans are artificially inflating the value of their team's fourth round pick. "He's gonna make an impact this year! Just watch! He's the guy no one knows about! He's vastly underrated!" That's hope and optimism.
It isn't based in reality or rationality, but it's still real and rational. It's based in exactly what we all want, and what the NFL (and despite the NFL, in many ways) directly provides. A reason to be manic. Justification for outward displays of aggressive, instinctive and raw emotion. We want to bump fists, slap hands and talk trash to images on TV. Our tribe wants to maul your tribe because yours is close to ours, and we own this land. It appeals to our lost senses of togetherness, unification and competition.
The Renegade goes over every inch of this team and provides a thick layer of commentary surrounding a team that, for all we know, will be Super Bowl champions come February 2015. It marks the first step toward the possibility of up to 20 opportunities we have to join together with like-minded individuals who crave contact, confrontation and aggression - things we're not allowed to act on in society. Within our own minds, though, we can experience the raw savagery of acting on those impulses like the warriors of our respective tribes can.
At some point this season, newly acquired Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell will destroy a running back who made a catch. That running back will be trying to turn upfield when Mitchell knocks the year 1999 out of his memory. Mitchell will have made that hit because of several reasons. His exceptional qualities as an athlete, his skilled recognition of the actions taking place in front of him, the proper positioning of his teammates and the correct defensive call from his coaches who saw the possibility of that very play coming up next. He will lower his shoulder into the chest of that running back, roll his hips and snap his ass in a downward motion, transferring the huge amount of force his body has generated through the use of physics into the body of that unfortunate running back.
That running back will thank the laws of gravity because a hit of that magnitude in an environment with less gravity would launch him into the stratosphere with no way to prevent him from reaching outer space. He'll hate gravity because that's what suctioned him to the ground, providing a nearly equal level of force to his ass and back as Mitchell put on his chest. Mitchell will acknowledge us, the fans, who are waving yellow towels and hysterically indicating our appreciation of the play. He'll raise his arms triumphantly, as if he just made the kill that will provide food for the tribe for the winter.
And we'll love him for it.
He won't acknowledge the part the fans had in his successful play. We didn't lift the weights, or study the film for the sake of preparing for the game. We did give him the same level of thrill he gave us through our roars of appreciation. That thrill is addicting. He wants more of it. After informing the running back it would be unwise to again catch the ball when he's around, he'll reset himself, looking again for the opportunity to create that roar. To soak in the attention. To inflict his will and superiority on a rival from the Other Tribe.
We're right on Mitchell's shoulder when he makes the hit. We're on top of slain running back. We're with him in the weight room and we're mimicking him in the crowd by wearing his battle gear.
We're standing side-by-side with him, under the flag of Steeler Nation, boldly and defiantly daring all challengers to take what's ours, all to the tune of our war song.
The jig is up, the noose is out/They finally found me
The renegade who had it made/Retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray/This will be the end today
Of the wanted man
Welcome to The Renegade 2014.