Sunday, February 05, 2006

"HOLY CRAP, WE WON THE FREAKIN' SUPER BOWL!"

That's the phrase that I've been repeating in shouts and screams and whispers every thirty seconds or so since the game ended. "Holy crap, we won the freakin' Super Bowl!" when Hasselbeck threw incomplete on fourth down. When Coach Cowher got the Gatorade shower. When Mr. Rooney held the Lombardi Trophy. When, when, when...when everything.

I was at work when the Steelers beat the Colts in the playoffs. We - employees and customers alike - were gathered around the counter, listening to the game on the radio and watching the stats update on the computer, and I remember the Steelers sacking Peyton Manning twice, taking over on downs inside the Indy five-yard line, and Bettis fumbling, and Big Ben making The Tackle.

And now I can add Super Bowl memories, more ups and downs. Roethlisberger diving head-first for the touchdown that almost wasn't, and throwing an interception for a long return while deep in Seattle territory, resulting in an eventual Seattle touchdown instead of what might have been a game-icing Steeler TD. An earlier Seattle touchdown that was called back for offensive pass interference, with the Seahawks eventually getting just a field goal on the possession. Fast Willie Parker getting nothing going in the first half, and breaking loose for 75 yards and a score on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Two missed field goals by the Seahawks. Antwaan Randle El taking a hit that looked like it might have broken him in half, and then throwing the long touchdown pass to Hines Ward. Ward himself with three big plays to spark the offense - the long run early, the huge reception on 3rd and 28 that set up Roethlisberger's touchdown run, and of course his touchdown catch. Hasselbeck's fumble that was overturned, and rightly so, but still frustrating because the defender only got a handful of jersey on the play. "Couldn't you whiff, just once!?" And The Bus, always The Bus, pounding out 43 tough yards on 14 carries in his last game. He wasn't the MVP, even though maybe he should have been despite the numbers, but no matter. He retires a Super Bowl champion, The Bus making his last stop where it all began, in Detroit.

I haven't felt like this since I was twelve years old, when I watched the beloved of my youth UNC Tarheels defeat Michigan to win the NCAA Tournament. I remember sitting on the arm of the couch in living room of the house I grew up in, all decked out in Carolina gear, afraid to move from that spot because my team was winning and I didn't want to jinx them by moving. I remember Chris Webber calling the timeout he didn't have, sealing the UNC victory, and I remember the final score. 77-71, Tarheels.

This wasn't quite like that, but it's the closest I've been to twelve years old since that night. Living and dying on every play. I...it's impossible for me to describe just how I feel. Yeah, it's just a game, but for some reason which I couldn't even begin to explain, this team means something to me. These Steelers...they're important. They spark a passion in me. I don't know why. They just do. Somehow, I feel a part of it all.

I haven't felt this way since I was twelve, and to truly feel like I'm a kid again at twice that age...it's something special. I want to savor it because it's so special and so rare. You don't get many championships as a sports fan. I've waited thirteen years for my second one. Some never get any.

And I may never pass this way again.

And I know that I had absolutely nothing to do with the success or failure of this football team. But in this moment, in this place, in some small way, I too am a Super Bowl champion.

21-10, Pittsburgh. Holy crap. We won the freakin' Super Bowl.

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