I’ve never known what it was like to be part of the home town team. Though I was born in Pa, I’ve lived in rival MD since the age of 5, not counting 3 of my 4 years of college. I got my love of football from my dad and my dad brought me up a Steelers girl. I now pass this legacy onto my four children. I just love this pic of our newest Steelers fan, I had to find a reason to sneak this in.
But, I gotta tell you, it isn’t easy living behind enemy lines. I like to think it makes us stronger. We don’t go with the flow, we stand our own. We proudly sport our black and gold in this land of purple. It really doesn’t bother me in the week leading up to the game. I will gladly talk trash with my neighbor, hang our flag in front of our house and wear my jersey all over town – in fact, I kinda like it.
But, once the game starts, it is a different story. And it really hit me this year. During the second quarter of the game on Saturday, I was literally sick to my stomach. We went into half time down 14 points facing a tough Ravens defense. The game was far from over but we had to admit it wasn’t looking good. And the thought of going to church the next morning, seeing all my friends in purple, made me ill. The Steelers just had to pull through.
I hate losing in the play offs. Hate it. I hate it in part because I can still taste the bitter loss against the Patriots in the AFC Championships in 2002. It forever changed the playoffs for me. We had home field advantage. We were on top of the world and I was sure, SURE we were Superbowl bound. That loss stung. It stung bad. I remember Scott and I sitting in our apartment shell shocked and speechless. His dad had come over to watch with us. When the game was over, he just politely slipped out to leave us to wallow alone. He then sent a condolence card later that week. I am sure that sounds melodramatic to some, but we were so sure, SO SURE we were going to win and just like that our dreams crashed when our season was over early. We didn’t want to chit chat. We didn’t want to listen to our friends gloat. We lost, it stunk and we needed time to get over it. (Scott and I had a conversation post season discussing whether we have perhaps let Football have too strong a roll in our happiness).
Because of that, and b/c we lost again to the Patriots in 2005, I can’t go into a play off game cocky. I am always guarded. I know anything can happen and nothing is certain till it is over. I refuse to count my chickens until they hatch.
And because I know how awful it feels to lose, I also try to be respectful of the losing team. I told my son last night, (after we rebounded in the second half to win the playoff game against the Ravens) that we can be happy about our win (and trust me, it is still very loud here at the circus), but when we go to church tomorrow, we can not gloat. Talking trash is fine before a game, but after a game it is just rude. We will not gloat. (My son – who can trash talk with the best of them – said “Ok mom, I won’t rub it in. I will be nice. I’ll say, the Ravens did well. It is so good that they made it to the play offs.”) Ok, so it’s amazing how patronizing that sounds coming from a 6 year old… I then suggested he just not bring it up AT ALL.
How great it must be to live with home field advantage. It stinks that I had to coach the kids not to talk about the game. It stinks that I felt like we couldn’t wear our celebration loud and proud today. Even though we were bouncing on the inside, I felt like we needed to mute our celebration so as to not be rubbing our happiness in our friends faces. And I thought to myself, “Man I wish we lived in Pittsburgh.” I wish we could walk cheering and singing and sporting our colors after a Ravens game. I wish we could be free to fully celebrate when we beat our rival, holding nothing back. (in hindsight, perhaps that’s part of what made this 2009 trip to PA a bit more special).
As we march forward in the play offs, I want to win next week for so many reasons. I want to win b/c I want to go the Superbowl, I want to win b/c I hate losing, I want to win because it probably means we got to avenge our 2002 loss to the Patriots, and I want to win so I can celebrate, and party and dance in the street waving my towel and holding nothing back.
Until next week, all should know, our fight song is playing loud and proud behind the walls of the circus.