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Old 01-20-2009, 08:42 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Morelli OnLion: Steelers Edition

January 20th, 2009
Christopher Morelli, editor of Blue White Illustrated
Morelli OnLion: Steelers Edition

OK, there was some news happening at University Park this week. Penn State football players Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans officially announced that they were going pro. And defensive line coach Larry Johnson announced that he was staying put in Happy Valley.

But let's face facts, folks. The big news this week across the state was the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to Super Bowl XLIII. It will be the Steelers' seventh trip to the big show. With a win over the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 1, the Steelers will become the first NFL franchise to win six Vince Lombardi Trophies.

Because I am a Pittsburgh native and a card-carrying member of Steeler Nation, I asked my editors here at gantdaily.com if I could do a special "Steelers Edition" of Morelli OnLion. Thankfully, they said yes. Quite frankly, I am not thinking blue and white at the present time. It's all black and gold right now. Therefore, in today's edition of Morelli OnLion, we will have our first-ever "Steelers Edition." But we cannot forget entirely about Penn State sports. With that in mind, we will have our second installment of "Hoops Improvement."

But first, the Steelers.

Bleeding Black and Gold
The year was 1980. I was 10.

It's been 29 years, but I can still remember Jan. 20, 1980 like it was yesterday. Super Bowl XIV, Steelers versus Rams. We watched the game from the den of my grandparents' house in Aspinwall, a suburb just on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

It was a relatively small crowd of Steelers fans watching my dad, stepmom, younger sister, grandfather and grandmother.

If you are a Steelers fan, you remember the game. If you aren't old enough to remember the game, then you've certainly seen the NFL Films highlights. The Steelers were down, of course, 19-17, heading into the game's final 15 minutes. I can remember sitting on the couch, head down, thinking that I would watch my team get upset by the Rams on this Super Sunday. How could it be? The Los Angeles Rams? You've got to be kidding me!

But as the fourth quarter began, my Dad did something I'll never forget.

He grabbed his Terrible Towel and raced outside in the cold, yelling and screaming in support of his Steelers. My sister and I, of course, followed his lead and chased him around the block three Steeler maniacs running around the block. I can only imagine what the neighbors must have thought.

Two Steeler touchdowns later, we were jubilant. After the Rose Bowl clock ticked to all zeros, we piled in Dad's Toyota and drove through the streets of Pittsburgh. Towels out the window. Horns honking.

Jubilation flowed in the streets of the Burgh. It was a scene I will never forget.

Just a few weeks ago, while covering the Nittany Lions in Pasadena, I got a chance to walk around the Rose Bowl. I stood and looked at that end zone as if it were hallowed ground. Bradshaw to Stallworth, I thought. I could still envision the game-winning touchdown in my mind.

Four titles in six years? We were spoiled. We were young, naive. We thought it would happen over and over again.

Of course, we were wrong. As the Steeler legends began to retire and move on, the franchise wasn't the same.

One for the thumb, it seemed, would never come.

It took the Steelers 16 years to get back to the big game and when Super Bowl XXX came, we were excited once again. But there would be no celebrations in the streets. The Dallas Cowboys would extract some revenge for Super Bowls X and XIII with a 27-17 win over the Steelers.

In the years that followed, Steeler fans endured three AFC Championship Game losses at home. The Steelers were 1-4 in AFC Championship Games under former coach Bill Cowher heading into the 2005 season, so you will have to forgive members of Steeler Nation if they were a bit skeptical when the Steelers traveled to Denver with the AFC title on the line in January of 2006.

But the Steelers exorcised demons that day and went on to win Super Bowl XL, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit.

Then, on Sunday, the Steelers got another chance to punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLIII. They did just that, defeating the rival Baltimore Ravens, 23-14, on a frigid night at Heinz Field.

As a member of Steeler Nation, I was skeptical once again. Heinz Field had not been kind to the Steelers, as the New England Patriots came in and defeated them twice, first in 2001, then again during the 2004 season.

But the Steelers exorcised more demons on Sunday night, so here we are once again.

I often think back to that night in Aspinwall, watching the Steelers win their fourth ring. My, how things have changed since Super Bowl XIV.

My grandfather is no longer with us and I have my own family to share these special games with. On Super Sunday, my 11-year-old son will don his Steeler jersey and sit glued to the television like I did, Terrible Towel in hand. His heroes are Hines Ward, Big Ben and Troy Polamalu. My heroes were Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Jack Lambert.

As much fun as it would be, I won't be able to be in Aspinwall or watching with my Dad.

But win or lose, I'll call him as soon as the game ends. We'll either console each other or celebrate wildly. I'm hopeful that it's the latter.

And when it is all said and done, I will hug my son and tell him to cherish the moment.

Because you never know when it will come around again.

(60 prevent, slot, hook and go, Bradshaw to Stallworth what a beautiful play. I'll never forget it. - mesa)
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