Alas, I do have one thing in common with Rush Limbaugh and, less damningly, with Howard Fineman: I am a Steelers fan!
I am indeed in strange company, but as a football fan only, although on Sunday I will be suffering with millions of Steelers fans around the world. And when I say suffering, believe me, I know what I am talking about.
I am a relative newcomer to football, meaning that I started following it in the 1980's, though I am a bit older than that. But I only started following football with a passion only when I came to the United States and fell in love with a Pittsburgher. And, I have to say, it was love at first sight. And I don't mean just with my soon-to-be wife. I mean the city that I landed in was nuts about its Steelers. Black and gold everywhere you went, even though the Steelers' best years seemed a bit distant, with memories of the Dynasty starting to yellow somewhat.
Never mind the fact that the Steelers' quarterback when I moved to Pittsburgh was Neil O'Donnell, a guy with the mobility and the athleticism of a post, who got screamed at by home fans every game for holding on to the ball for so long that even my dead grandmother could have sacked him. His second interception to the Cowboys' Larry Brown on a busted slant play to Andre Hastings cost the Steelers their 5th Super Bowl ring and one of the most improbable comebacks in the history of the game.
And never mind that to get to Big Ben's era we had to endure a few years of Kordell "Slash/Crybaby" Stewart's antics and Tommy Maddox's limited ability.
We had to wait ten years for the next chance at "one for the thumb", and did not blow our chance against the Seahawks in the last game of the Bus's career, in his hometown no less. Three years later we got the sixth ring, to start "dressing" the other hand. Today the Steelers will try to successfully climb the "Stairway to Seven", which for anyone who has ever listened to FM radio in the 'Burgh, particularly to DVE, is a sweetly humorous reference to the fact that Pittsburgh is still, in many ways, stuck in the 70's.
No one, in my opinion, epitomizes the spirit of the Steelers of the last 10+ years than Hines Ward, who has dished out and absorbed some of the hardest hits in football lore. Whatever happens to him, no matter what brutality he has to endure, Hines does it all with a smile on his face, a fact that has earned him the well-deserved nickname of "Psycho 86". It is no wonder that Steelers fans love him and everybody else hates him.
I don't expect today's game to be a cakewalk, for either team, and I don't think anyone does. Suffering is in the DNA of the Steelers organization. The players, coaching staff, owners, and all fans know that Steelers glory does not come easy. I am still reeling from the rollercoaster ride that was Super Bowl XLIII, when the Steelers clinched a game we had already won--and then were on the way to losing--against the Arizona Cardinals captained by coach Wisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator, only thanks to the magic concocted by Big Ben and Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left in the game.
No matter how things go today, and no matter who ends up lifting the Lombardi trophy around 10 pm EST, the Steeler's legend can only grow because of today's game. If it is a Rooney or coach Tomlin, then the Steelers' place in the history of world sports will be further consolidated and I will have millions of happy Steelers fans around the world to celebrate with. If on the other hand, it is a Packer who gets to do it, I know they will have deserved it, and that it will not have been for the lack of effort on our boys' side. Because one thing's for sure: nobody can accuse anyone who has had the good fortune of wearing a Steelers jersey of not having left everything they had on the field.