Monday, July 18, 2011

Reveries of football past and future: Thoughts on the Giants, the Steelers, and the return of the NFL

I was clicking around the channels yesterday afternoon and came upon an NFL Network segment about the New York Giants win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008.

In one of the more famous games in Super Bowl history, my beloved Giants, huge underdogs, beat the previously undefeated Patriots 17-14 -- but you probably knew that.

It will always be one of the most exciting days of my life.

It looks like the lockout is expected to end next week, which pleases me. I never really paid much attention to the relative merits of the positions of management vs. the players. On principle, I always side with the union and hope these guys can get as much out of their careers before the inevitable sixth concussion or blown knee sends them back home for good.

Referring to a long-forgotten sports strike of years past, some wag once said, "no one ever showed up to watch the owners play." Quite so.

But I do love my football, and watching the rehash of how the Giants beat the Pats reminded me how much.

For me, it's all about the cycle of life. My year doesn't begin on January 1st. It begins with that first kick-off of the first game of the regular season.

Yes, I'm a Giants fan. The first superstar for the team I recall was quarterback Y.A. Tittle. There's even a family story about me at about 5 years old being angry with my dad about something and, knowing that he was a big Giants fan too, blurting out, as if to sting him in some way, that "Y.A. Tittle's not very good, either, so there."

And even suffering through some really bad Giants' football in the 60s and 70s doesn't matter. I've loved it all.

It is an amazing thing that grown men and women can obsess about their favorite sports team and have a lousy day or week because their beloved franchise lost a game - not necessarily a big game, just a game. But, I'm one of those. My wife even knows that if the Giants lose she should offer sincere condolences as if something really bad happened.

Crazy, I know.

As I said, I'm glad the league looks like it's getting back to business. When the weather starts to turn, and the leaves along with it, with the fireplace raging in the living room and the game on the big screen television, I am a happy man.

Let's get to it.



I was happy the Giants defeated the Patriots that day, but of course my focus is on my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. (The Giants? Whatever. I prefer to ignore them. As long as they beat the Cowboys, I'm fine.)

(Yes, that's Terry Bradshaw over there, their great QB of the '70s, one of my favourite players when I was a kid and fell in love with them.)

Now, it's been a rough stretch for the Steelers of late. Hines Ward -- arrested on a DUI. James Harrison -- saying some not-so-nice things about Commissioner Goodell and his own teammates. And, of course, Big Ben -- that whole saga last year. Not to mention Rashard Mendenhall's controversial tweets, though I'll still defend him.

But this is still the best and classiest franchise in the NFL, starting with the Rooney family, right on down through Coach Mike Tomlin and the players themselves. Ultimately, I trust they'll get their act together when it matters. Coming off a Super Bowl defeat earlier this year, I worry they'll collapse into mediocrity this year, as they have after recent Super Bowl victories, but, if they play up to their potential, they should compete for a playoff spot and could just make another run at the Super Bowl.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, I'm just happy the league -- owners, players -- seems to have come to its senses. There are billions of dollars to be made. Surely sacrifices can be made on both sides. Surely they can come to a deal that benefits everyone. And it looks like they have. This means we football fans can start focusing again on what we love. Well, we never didn't, but it's official again -- almost.

Honestly, what was I supposed to do without the Steelers? So much of my time, especially in the fall, is spent obsessing about them. And what was I supposed to do without fantasy football? I already have tickets for a game in Pittsburgh, and now I can look forward to that knowing it won't be cancelled. And, to me, there's nothing like going to Pittsburgh, a wonderful city with wonderful people, for a Steelers game. And I can also get my fantasy league going. That's serious business. I hardly wanted to face the emptiness of no season and -- gasp! -- no fantasy season.

So it's back. The NFL. Football. Football!!!!!

There is order to the universe again, a purpose.

Happiness indeed.

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