By Jason Keidel
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A game built on John Facenda’s baritone, on the NFL Films philharmonic, ended in slop. Two teams with an ancient claim to victory squeezed the justice out of morality. Green Bay beat Pittsburgh on the scoreboard, but the Steelers beat themselves long before.
Like the odd weather that slid over Dallas like the white lid of a frigid box, the apocalyptic theme felled the Steelers. A team renowned for playing big in the biggest game became just another loser, a member of a long list of also-rans.
Fumbling with feelings the way the Steelers fumbled the football, I reach for the metaphysical answers to a physical game. The Steelers sucked. Sometimes the simple trumps the romantic.
A lot was made of Mike Tomlin’s mating ritual – Phil Collins whispering through a dim locker room. Like the original, from 1981, there was an insincerity to 2011, from the Black Eyed Peas jamming to equally old samples to the Steelers partying like it’s 1995, none of it was right all night.
I don’t know when Big Ben morphed into Neil O’Donnell. Don’t ask why we lost because I have no answer.
If this sounds like a hymn to Haterade, I apologize. Green Bay, tucking the Lombardi Trophy into its ancestral cove, deserves this. Not because of Aaron Rodgers or some abstract run that ordains champions from the sixth-seed, but because the immutable math of football punishes turnovers, a sporting euphemism for stupidity.
Give the 1999 Yankees an extra out and they gash you with runs. Give Mr. Rodgers the ball and the lead and you’ll bleed points. He’s too good without help. You can’t play the exact game Coach Lombardi loathed and expect a foam finger, a rubdown in Terrible Towels, at the end.
Perhaps it’s as simple as losing games to teams with rings predating the dynasty. Dallas and Green Bay won Super Bowls before Bradshaw, and perhaps there’s a spiritual mandate to reclaim a trophy not named after Noll. Landry once coached next to Lombardi – two giants on the Giants’ sideline taking their game and staking their claim on foreign lands.
So it’s fitting to lose to the teams who don’t recognize the Rooney Rule – win the game you (almost) never lose. Ben gave you the game on a Tiffany platter. And maybe there’s a karmic payback to the creep who crept just inside the law, taking with him millions of fans crippled by his incompetence. The Steelers won a nice batch on Charlie Batch before Big Ben got back on the clock. So the quarterback, as Lombardi always lamented, had too much power.
The system and mythology, from Myron Cope to Mike Tomlin, was shattered. Pittsburgh is about defense and running the football. Both were abandoned. And, at the moment, it feels like Roethlisberger brought one helluva hex on the team.
For those of you in Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia, this howls like the rant of a spoiled infant, a Bradshaw Baby. Guilty. When you’re used to winning, losing feels like a sword through the soul. My 1979 Terrible Towel is somewhere, solemnly folded like laundry, to be retrieved on a better day.
Perhaps this was ordained, from HBO specials to a Broadway show, the Packer mojo was too strong. The stench of cheese rolls from the frozen farms of the Midwest through the football world. As it should.
Congratulations, Green Bay.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com