The story of Sean Spence, the Steelers linebacker drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft, isn't sad.
It's a line drawn for fans.
Like most fans, I felt sick watching Spence's knee buckle in the middle of a rather impressive performance in the Steelers' final preseason game last year. After mopping up the floor with Carolina's taxi squaders with easily the game's most impressive individual performance, Spence was tragically out of the game the next day, just like the healthy players he dominated less than 24 hours earlier.
There are two ways to look at his predicament, now that he took another step closer to a second straight inactive season when he was placed on the preseason PUP list.
1. Spence is a woe-is-me, hard-luck case who came within a blade of grass of experiencing what had to be a dream of lacing up his cleats in the NFL's regular season.
2. Spence was knocked down for the purpose of rising up from the depths of an extremely unfortunate circumstance (relatively speaking), and can serve as a motivation not just for his teammates, but for fans as well.
While I feel the first side is a fair opinion to have, I'm going with the second side.
I'm doing that because that's why I watch sports in the first place.
Reviewing (and battling) on Twitter or in the comments here on Behind the Steel Curtain as well as competing against other sites for readership and attention seems like a fun diversion from my day-to-day. There are plenty of times, though, when I find myself speaking excitedly about Steelers games of the past, or any athletic achievement I find particularly amazing.
It isn't just about being a fan of sports. It's a lesson in human achievement. No athlete accomplishes great things without an extreme level of dedication and commitment. That's worthy of my praise and admiration.
Sometimes the back-and-forth between fans of teams or other writers or really anything else associated with sports (I can swear there was a time not too long ago when people rooted for their team more than hating another team or athlete, but maybe it was a dream) gets old.
That's when a story like Spence's grips you. It's the ultimate three-act play. A build-up of great things leading to tragedy in Act I. A slow, grueling and arduous process that stretches one to the brink of insanity and emotional limitations fills out Act II. Then....what's Act III of Spence's play going to be?
That's why I watch. That's why I'm rooting for Sean Spence.
We all need something in which to believe that's outside the effects of our own day-to-day lives. I could (and sadly, often do) hack away at my worn down keyboard defending the Steelers, their players, their coaches or even sometimes their fans.
Sometimes you just want to point to something that may actually matter. Spence, by all accounts a good guy. A smart guy. He was described to me as a gutty player and leader. You can see it in his college highlights, even if that fourth preseason game didn't do much for you.
If you see him come onto the Heinz Field turf at some point this season, that should be all you need. Not only was he branded too small, but now, he's facing the considerably taller issue of re-strengthening a critical joint that was, by all accounts, shredded that late August evening.
Join me in cheering for a real comeback story this year. I'm going to cheer for Sean Spence to get out onto that field one time, to hear the knowledgeable fans of Pittsburgh go berserk when they see No. 51 come onto the field.
The ones screaming the loudest will be the ones who follow more than just the rings that usually follow people with the character and determination to aim for a return after such a grotesque injury. I don't even care if he gets completely blown up on that one play, a victim of the lack of size everyone told him would prevent him from making a impact.
I don't know Sean Spence personally, but I get the feeling he'd feel the exact opposite as me. He absolutely would care if he got blown up.
But just like the far more difficult task of making it onto the field, he'll approach his new goal - staying on the field - with the same amount of heart and courage as he did just to get in pads.
That's why I'm rooting for Sean Spence, and that's why you should too.
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- Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: Fourth quarter
- Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: Third quarter has two tough road games in short time frame
- Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: second quarter of season will be make or break
- Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: First quarter includes tough match-ups with Bengals, Vikings
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- 2013 Steelers position preview: Specialists
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