From the time I first became aware of what football was, it has been my favorite sport, and from the first game I ever watched, my passionate loyalty has always been with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Growing up in Johnstown, Pa, we felt like the Steelers represented our city, as well as Pittsburgh, because of it being the hometown of Jack Ham, a fact we took great pride in. Every Sunday, during football season at least, I can remember begging my mom to not stop at the Richland Mall on the way home from church, in Windber, because I absolutely hated to miss any part of any game. Quite often though, I’d end up spending the better part of the first half inside an AMC Matador with my two sisters, listening to the game on the radio while my mom was, wasting my time, in the mall. The only silver lining was that the Matador had a fantastic radio, and I developed an early appreciation for Jack Fleming, Sam Nover, and Myron Cope. What I truly appreciate the most about watching NFL football in the 70’s, was that I got to watch Steelers grow into a dynasty, built from the ground up, earning every bit their greatness.
Back then, everything about the game felt legitimate and organic, much moreso than it does today, even with the announcers. Who wouldn’t get more insite about the game from Dick Enberg, Pat Summerall, and Merlin Olsen than they would from Phil Simms, Chris Collinsworth, or Joe Buck?, who talk primarily to hear the sound of their own voices. How many times has the outcome of a game in today’s NFL felt like it came from a script similar to one from a WWE Sports Entertainment event? When I think of traditional rivalries in the NFL, Steelers/Raiders, Cowboys/Redskins, Steelers/Oilers, Steelers/Cowboys, and Raiders/Broncos immediately come to mind. Back in the day these teams and their fan bases couldn’t stand the site of each other. Today, all but a few of the real rivalries seem to have faded away and are rivals in name only.
Nowadays, in a kinder, more gentle, and watered down NFL, most of these “rivals” now partake in pre and post-game hand shakes, joking, and small talk, leaving the hatred to their fan bases. Back when Monday Night Football used to mean something, when it was an event, and not just one of three prime time games each week, the classic rivalry games were featured. Who didn’t love hearing Howard Cosell and Don Meredith go on about a crushing hit on a franchise quarterback, and in the same breath admire him for bouncing right back up? How might they react to the preferential treatment that Tom Brady and the Patriots get today, or the 15 yard flags that fly when a defender inadvertently brushes up against Brady right after a throw? So how would Tom Brady fair in an era where players like Lyle Alzado or Mean Joe Green would be savagely slamming him to the turf six or seven times a game? I bet he wouldn’t be chirping about wanting to play until he was 45. It’s easy to go on like that, and to have a great career when it has basically been illegal for anyone to hit you, which can’t be an accident.
In a league that has been devolving into it’s current state since 2001, the Patriots are being lauded as one of the NFL’s greatest franchises ever, with 5 Super Bowl titles. About the only legitimate thing that is great about the Patriots is Tom Brady, which is where the greatness ends. With the history of documented cheating that surrounds this franchise, under Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams, how can anyone, with a straight face, call the Patriots great, let alone a dynasty? To label them in such fashion is truly an insult to the Steelers of the 70’s, the 49’ers of the 80’s, and the Cowboys of the 90’s. As Steelers fans, we may not like those teams, but we can respect the hardware that they earned. How many have the Patriots legitimately earned? How much of their “greatness” hasn’t been manufactured? Some suspect it started with the well timed application of the rarely used “Tuck Rule” in a 2001 playoff game against the Raiders.
If not for the “Tuck rule” being misused, it would have been the Steelers against the Raiders in that 2001 AFC Championship game. Could it be possible that the NFL gave an assist to New England? Is it a coincidence that, following the infamous “Tuck Rule” call, the Patriots were crowned Super Bowl Champions? Just a few short months after the largest terrorist attack in history on U.S. soil, is it just dumb luck for the NFL that a team called the Patriots comes out of nowhere to be world champions? It did come out that the Patriots filmed the Rams final walkthrough just prior to that Super Bowl. It’s one of the earliest documented cases of the spygate scandal. Certainly the Patriots were helped by the league when Roger Goodell burned the vast majority of evidence against them without viewing it, then basically gave them a slap on the wrist for a penalty.
Since Spygate, the Patriots have been punished for deflategate, been accused of tampering with other team’s players, the visitor’s radio frequencies in their headsets, along with other nefarious activities, which include stealing another teams playbook. Is it a coincidence that in their last two Super Bowl wins, the Patriots would have lost if both the Seahawks and the Falcons had just ran the ball at the end of the game, in obvious running situations? Is it a coincidence that Dan Quinn was the assistant head coach, then the head coach on each of those occasions? Despite the confirmed cheating and other accusations , the national mediots ignore it all and continue labeling them as great. You know what greatness is? It’s when a Houston Oilers playbook is lost by one of their players at Three Rivers Stadium, and it’s delivered to Chuck Noll in the Steelers locker room, by a janitor. When he threw it in a trash can, one of his players asked why he doesn’t use the information in it, Noll said to him, “Because nothing in that playbook matters to us on Sunday. The only thing that matters is that we execute our gameplan on the field.” It’s time the national mediots stop confusing greatness with being great at cheating, because there is only one way to truly achieve greatness in the NFL and that is to earn it. Anything else is an insult to every fan who has ever watched NFL football.