I find myself more nervous prior to today's Steelers/Broncos game than I remember ever being before. More than the Steelers Super Bowl appearance in '95, more than any of the 49er Super Bowls, and I'm not sure why.
Part of me keeps saying, It's only a football game. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a deal. But the other part of me wants this win so badly, not only for Pittsburgh, not only for Jerome Bettis, for whom a win today means he gets to play what would probably be his final game in his hometown of Detroit, but also, mostly, I want the Steelers to win today, to win again in two weeks, for my father.
My father grew up in Pittsburgh. He would go to Pirate games in the summer and Steeler games in the winter. He bled then like he bleeds now, Black & Gold. Part of him never left that city, despite all the moving around he did after getting married and starting his family. You can take the boy out of the 'Burgh, but you can't take the 'Burgh out of the boy, as they say.
Not counting the two hockey titles in the early '90s (because the city is a football town first, baseball second, and hockey a distant third), Pittsburgh hasn't seen a championship in a little over 25 years. That's nearly all my life. Some of my earliest memories are of disappointment at the end of another long season. Nothing would boil my father's blood quite like ineptitude on the field. I remember heartbreak in the late '80s and early '90s, as the Pirates just couldn't get past the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. I remember outrage and disbelief as Neil O'Donnell gave away the '95 Super Bowl to the Cowboys.
I remember always coming thisclose, only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
My father would be bummed, depressed, for about a week or so, and then, as always, life would go on. After all, it's only a game, and the elation of success doesn't last much longer than the agony of defeat.
Seems that there's a lot of anger and depression in my father these days, stemming from what, even he couldn't honestly say. There are many factors, certainly, with sports not even registering on the radar, yet I cannot help but hope for a Steeler Super Bowl. It wouldn't fix anything, and the day after the game, things would be back to "normal." But for those few hours on Super Bowl Sunday, I imagine pure, honest happiness for my father (until, of course, the Steelers turn the ball over or the refs blow a call), which seems to occur less and less often lately.
It's a great story for the city of Pittsburgh, this year's Steelers team, with Big Ben and "The Bus" leading the way (by all accounts they're stand up guys, and I would be happy for them), but, for me, this is about more than just One for the Thumb.