So you really didn’t care who won the Super Bowl, played a few short days ago in sleezy old Tampa Bay, Fla.? The strip club capitol of the universe? Well, I know a few people who did care about the tilt’s outcome. I know I did.
I was born in Pittsburgh (circa 1956) more than 20 years before the Steel Curtain, The Immaculate Reception, Franco’s Italian Army and well before Pittsburgh commenced its reign of terror on the NFC, engaging in six previous Super Bowls, prior to the one last weekend, winning five of them.
When I lived there, Pittsburgh was a smelly, sooty, industrialized hamlet, whose skies and buildings were scarred with black death belching forth from steel mill smokestacks. Make no mistake, this was a good 20 years before the Environmental Protection Agency even came into being. The sky always looked like something out of a sci-fi flick.
Pittsburgh’s crowded streets were bustling with blue collar German, Irish and Italian immigrants, who toiled in that labyrinth of sweaty steel mills. For them, football wasn’t merely a game, but a blood sport. A gridiron war, often fought with seemingly religious ramifications and a darn good way to fill a Sunday afternoon on the sofa, resting your weary bones from working the previous six days.
Your garden variety Steeler zealot still proudly waves the “Terrible Towel” with the same gusto they employ when wolfing down a gastronomically perfect Primanti Bros. (to die for) sandwich during their lunch breaks.
The Terrible Towel isn’t just any old 15×10 remnant of terry cloth. Instead, it is a hallowed artifact that holds an almost mythical mojo, representing the Steeler mystique.
Pity the malcontent who makes light of the mind-boggling voodoo associated with the dark side of “The Terrible Towel”.
Case in point: Tennessee registered a regular season 31-10 triumph in Pittsburgh and two belligerent Titan dolts, apparently unfamiliar with the formidable properties belonging to the fierce Steeltown flag, were caught on camera intentionally wiping their muddy, spiked gunboats on a Terrible Towel that somehow had materialized on their sideline.
I gasped when I saw this blasphemous act of defiance. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I murmured under my breath, “These maniacal and heathenistic gladiators have committed sacrilege and thus sealed their team’s fate, by desecrating the black and gold shroud of Steeltown.”
Sure enough. Look what happened to Tennessee, the pro pigskin contingent seemingly destined to claim the cherished 2009 Lombardi Trophy.
The Titans got a bad case of fumblitis against a hard hitting Baltimore gang, in front of their adoring, toothless, hillbilly fan base in Nashville. Woe be to those who trifle with the terrifying Terrible Towel.
You would never see Ken Whisenhunt, the coach of the Arizona Cardinals, doing something so foolhardy, for he himself was once a disciple of tyrannical Pittsburgh coaching legend, Bill Cowher, who led the Steelers to glory in 2006 against our very own Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
Whisenhunt was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator at that time, so he would know better than to fly in the face of such a vaunted venomous viper as a fully unfurled Terrible Towel.
When Whisenhunt spent a cold, blustery and dreary afternoon in New England’s Gillette Stadium watching his then-floundering squad getting dismantled by the Patriots 44-7, you knew there was going to be a tongue lashing.
Low and behold Whisenhunt did call out his troops, asking them who really wanted to don the stern-looking Arizona helmet for the remainder of the season.
The next day, much to the chagrin and of the befuddled Cardinal gridders, Whisenhunt had them working out in full tackling gear, a sight rarely witnessed, especially in mid-December, when a team is on the threshold of a playoff appearance. From that point on though, the freshly disciplined Cardinals, were respondent giant killers, leaving destruction in their wake, en route to pro football’s most cherished prize.
Cardinal fans watched in stunned disbelief as first the Falcons went down in blazes, followed by the Panthers.
Most astonishingly of all though, the Cards prevented an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl by taming a talented Philadelphia squad.
I would say that Whisenhunt lit a fire under his boys. I guess you can take the coach out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Steeler out of the coach.
I hammered out this missive prior to Sunday’s extravaganza, so I couldn’t later come back and change this fearless prognostication: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23.