I GIVE THE FINGER TO 'ONE FOR THE THUMB'
Anyone who knows me well knows there are four things in life I hate: mayonnaise, Michigan, the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That said, I am going to search deep inside myself to find these words: Congratulations, Steelers fans.
You might be thinking, 'Wow, John, you did that with such grace? How?' After all, I wear my allegiance to all things Cleveland on my sleeve, including the Browns. I am traumatized by the fact I have only seen the Browns make the playoffs twice in my lifetime, and both times, they lost out to the Black and Yellow.
Here's what takes the edge off: I picked the Steelers to go to the Super Bowl in September. Sure, I missed wide left on my pick of the Vikings, but I was dead center on the Pittsburgh prediction. That never-know-when-we'll-blitz defense, a consistent running game, a quarterback who now has my complete respect and a tough coach who was due all had me thinking the Steelers were the team to beat. It pained me, but it was what my gut said.
I wavered when the Steelers were 7-5 but not enough to stray away from the prediction. Forget the prediction, though--I was hoping, praying for a Browns upset when the teams met on Christmas Eve; it would have, no doubt, kept the Steelers out of the playoffs. Of course, it looked like the whole team had been carousing in the Warehouse District the night before. Pittsburgh pulvarized them 43-0.
OK, so Pittsburgh was headed to the playoffs at 11-5, but there was no way they were going to beat the Colts, I thought. I wasn't even sure if they could beat the Bengals again. I stuck with the prediction, but oddly, I started to root against it. The inner Cleveland fan inside of me could not be silenced. Any day Pittsburgh would fade, I thought, but they didn't.
The steel city fairy tale is now complete, it appears. Bettis has his championship, an almost certain hall-of-fame induction and the dignity of retiring on top (like John Elway.) Cowher has his championship, cascading him among the elite coaches of the past two decades. Ben Roethlisberger is all set to de-throne Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana--at least, that's what ESPN will have you believe. But to all the post-Super Bowl hoopla, let me just be a good sport and tell the Pittsburgh fans to enjoy their moment. For this entire off season, you can claim to be the champions.
But when September rolls around, the Steelers are champions no more. You heard it here first: no repeat.