Never confuse a football “fan” with a football “expert”.
A football fan, especially one who hails near The Confluence (and I dare any western Pennsylvanian to spell either Allegheny or Monongahela) will tell you that the “Patsies” have no chance this Saturday, and that they are already thinking ahead towards how their team will match up against the Rams (these folks can’t possibly pay their cross-state rival any respect, can they?) on February 3rd in New Orleans.
A football expert will tell you one of two things: they either know nothing about the Patriots, or see a way that they can win this Sunday. They’ll either level with you, or see through the “invincible” Steelers and take the “magical” Patriots seriously.
Patriot Nation is receiving a second onslaught of “smack” this week. If you thought the Raider fans were truculent, the Steeler crowd may make you think that last week’s bunch of Black Hole wackos use “golly” and “gosh” as strong language. The anti-props came rolling in as soon as Sunday evening, and their bite is stinging worse than the Raider rants from last week.
And Steeler Nation has every right to feel the way they do. The number one seed in the conference just finished dismantling and dethroning the Baltimore Ravens, 27-10 on Sunday. The Steelers dominated the hated Ravens in a game that looked more like the Ravens expecting to waltz to a second straight Super Bowl but instead came out flat and lazy. Condiment Stadium exploded in celebration, as their division rivals were vanquished.
The Steelers look pretty damn invincible right now. With that kind of bruising win over the defending Vince winners, how can any team be a match for them now? And all they have standing between them and their sixth Super Bowl is – the Patsies? Hah. Toss me that recipe you got for Jambalaya. And make sure we make it with only Heinz products.
Patriot Nation could not be less happier with this whole scenario.
Here we go again. No respect from anyone west of Burlington, Hancock or Danbury. No respect from anyone south of Westerly, Stonington or Cos Cob.
And those thugs in Philadelphia (and we don’t mean only those who cheap shot, albeit legally, the other team’s starting quarterback to help them win an otherwise unwinnable game) certainly don’t want the Patsies to throw a monkey wrench in the plans for an all-Quaker State Super Bowl. As long as the Patsies roll over quietly to the Steelers, that’s fine with them. By the way, Hugh Douglas, this week’s Right Shoulder Of The Week wears number 13. Take dead aim and don’t miss, or else no Big Easy for you Eagles.
As far as the northeast is concerned, the Patriots can be the “Patsies” all they want. The less respect paid to them, the better. The less intense the Steelers will be over this unknown opponent, the better. The easier Pittsburgh thinks their road to New Orleans will be, the better.
Except in Denver and in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots do okay as a disrespected dog. Las Vegas right now says Steelers by 8. This writer thinks that’s twice too many points. But if you recall Denver, where the Patriots get called “Patsies” and cannot do a thing about it, or when the spread in Super Bowl XXXI is Packers by 14 and they win 35-21, you cannot assume that dissing the Patriots spells automatic victory.
Bill Belichick should be collecting locker room fodder by the baleful this week. A rumour is flying around that the one loathsome Steeler, Kordell Stewart, resurrected his punk persona by saying that the Patriots “suck” on his website. Steeler head coach Bill Cowher is also rumoured to have informed his team to make its Super Bowl preps right now, and then begin preparing for the perfunctory task of whipping the Patriots.
But the most galling piece of smack was this Woody Paige-esque article written in Tuesday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Paige, the Denver “scribe” who greatly aided Jacksonville in their 30-27 upset playoff win over Denver that gave the Patriots the home field for the 1996 AFC title game, wrote a piece of slop that week that gave birth to the word “Jagwad”, and was generally degrading to the Jaguars and the city of Jacksonville. Jags head coach Tom Coughlin said that the article, which he posted in the Jaguar locker room, fired his team up and helped them pull off the huge upset win over heavily favoured Denver.
This article really deserves no publicity from this column. At least Paige writes professionally, albeit acerbically and detrimentally towards visiting teams. Paige can be insulting, but at least his prose is respectable. This article, entitled “Names & Games: The Patriots; How exciting!”, insults the Patriots at every turn, laments the fact that the Raiders aren’t coming to Pittsburgh instead, and portrays a writer who probably paid his dues at some party school’s newspaper which de-emphasizes literary quality and emphasizes the fine art of “running smack”.
It is an insult to this column to even mention this piece in question. But it is mentioned for a reason. If Belichick is collecting bulletin board fodder, this piece will do fine, just as the Jagwad piece helped Coughlin in ’96. If Steeler defensive coordinator Tim Lewis lies to his players to get them fired up, posting slop like this should be an easy and respectable duty for Belichick to perform.
Here is a sampling of what Steeler fans read this morning:
“The guess here is most Steelers fans fear Jerome Bettis’ next cortisone shot more than a team commonly referred to as the Patsies.”
“The Steelers belong to Pittsburgh. They are not the Western Pennsylvania Steelers. The Patriots are a team of nobodies (save Ty Law) playing in a nowhere town, and no one wants to claim them.”
“Let’s face it, if the NFL played by rules that made sense, we wouldn’t be trying to come up with reasons to dislike the Patriots. We would have Steelers-Raiders. Maybe that is reason enough to hate these Patsies?”
One sidebar from all this slop is that this writer was bummed that there was no reason to “hate” the Patriots, like there was to “hate” the Ravens. If the Steelers have to be pushed to the level of hatred for them to win, and the Patriots cannot provide that kind of inspiration, Patriot Nation will take that all the way.
So, fine. Let’s make with nothing but platitudes all week long. No more remarks by Lawyer Milloy about coming into his “area of pain”. Law will be the goodwill ambassador of the city of his youth. Mike Vrabel will wax poetic over the good old days when the Steelers laid a 7-6 pasting on the Patriots five Januarys ago. He will call his stripping the ball from Drew Bledsoe “the highlight of my career”, and heap all sorts of praise on the team that gave him his start in the NFL.
Yeah. Stuff like that. The more sugary, the better. Let the city of Pittsburgh fall in love with us. Hatred? Leave that for Ray Lewis and Tony Siragusa.
But don’t stop there. All week long, treat Bettis like Franco Harris. Refer to Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress (and remove the word “plexiglass” from your vocabulary this week, along with Heinz ketchup and Kathleen Heinz Kerry) as the best receiving tandem in NFL history. Label Jason Gildon’s fumble recovery as the greatest single play in Steeler history next to the Immaculate Reception. Proclaim your unabashed fear for Kris Brown, and tell the world that if you needed a 45-yard field goal to tie an important game in wintry conditions, Brown’s your man.
And finally, tell all of Steeler Nation that Myron Cope is the greatest thing since Johnny Most. (But don’t say he’s the greatest thing since Gil Santos – let’s not get ridiculous.)
And if you really want to let Steeler fans feel love and happiness instead of raw hatred, tell them that you love Minnie Ripperton. In fact, why don’t they call a joint press conference, and have Belichick sing “Loving You” to Cowher? We’ll even get a voice coach to teach Belichick how to sing the high F-sharp that the late singer hit.
Ridiculous? Not on your terrible towels. Remember, this was a Steeler team motivated by hate this past Sunday against Baltimore. The Steelers and their legions are worried that they have no reason to hate the Patriots. Take away the hate element, and the Patriots will be facing a far different team this weekend.
So, let Steeler Nation run their smack. Raider Nation did, and Walt Coleman made them pay. The rest of the country looked on and saw the Patriots get, in their opinion, a “lucky win”. Fine. Show me a lucky win and I’ll show you a win.
The Patriots lead the league in magic and luck right now. That right there could be just enough for the Patriots to punch their third ticket to the Big Show.
Or, the Patsies could go Minnie Ripperton on the Steelers. Whatever it takes.