By Jason Keidel
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I live five minutes from Secaucus Junction. And as I waited for my friends who braved the tattered transit system to watch the football game with me, I saw a resplendent procession: all manner of men marching from the train station, swathed in Steelers garb, boarding Steeler-color school buses which shipped them to MetLife Stadium.
It felt like Pittsburgh lurched eastward for a few hours. I honked and grunted toward my implicit brethren, while many clad in Lawrence Taylor and Eli Manning jerseys regarded me and my Troy Polamalu gear with clear contempt.
And while I predicted that the Giants would beat my beloved black & gold, I said Pittsburgh would score 23 points. They scored 24.
And had Manning done what he almost always does — captain his Big Blue brethren to a fourth-quarter touchdown — they would have scored the 27 I predicted.
I’ve never been happier to be incorrect. Between the moral and emotional prerogative the Giants had as the home team of the aggrieved hometown, the script seemed rigged for a rugged afternoon. A confluence of physical and metaphysical hurdles awaited the Steelers: the almost unprecedented same-day travel from Pittsburgh, the phantom pass interference call, the bizarre penalty called on Ryan Clark for having the audacity to knock out salsa-sensation Victor Cruz, and Big Ben’s fantasy fumble. Yet we were only down 20-10 in the fourth quarter, which soon became 20-17 on Mike Wallace’s catch-and-dash down the left sideline.
Then Mike Tomlin, a normally prudent yet violently unhappy man (at least superficially), made one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. With Pittsburgh down, 20-17, he ordered a fake field goal from the five-yard-line, which ended disastrously.
Yet the Giants couldn’t move the ball on our stout defense, which gagged leads to the lowly Raiders and Titans earlier this season. And Ben did what Ben does: move the chains. Our conga line of running backs found enough holes through which they plowed with the pigskin, eking out an essential win. You can parse the particulars, from the Giants’ 182 total yards to their wretched special teams. But strip the stats and you’ll see that the Steelers just wanted to win more.
And as I dropped my pals off back at Secaucus Junction, I crossed paths with solemn Giants fans and smiling Steelers fans. I nodded discreetly at Lambert, Greene and Bradshaw replicas. Few fans are glued to a team and a time the way Steelers fans are to the 1970s dynasty.
This is what the Steelers do. Every year is supposed to be their last near the top of the totem pole. Yet they always survive, if not thrive, in the chaotic fishbowl of pro football.
And I must giggle at the gaggle on talk radio. Just two days ago, the Giants were easily the best team in the NFL, jogging from the NFC pack, each game serving as Eli’s Canton coronation. And though I forever view the world through black & gold goggles, I still think the Giants are a better team. So should you. Yet the airwaves are flooded with fuming fans who lament Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks and even St. Eli.
A little perspective, please.
And yet after the game there was no gloating. The win was comforting enough. Maybe the notion of waking up at 3 a.m. the next morning for work kept me grounded. Maybe it was the notion of a curling gasoline line somewhere in Hudson County. I have an odd-numbered license plate, after all, which means Monday is my day in this apocalyptic world of rationing.
Maybe I’m growing up.
Did the Steelers just want it more than the G-Men? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…