Conference Championship Round: 1-1
It’s finally here. The culmination of the NFL season. The pinnacle of professional football in today’s world. The Super Bowl. After 6 months of football, two teams have scratched and clawed their way to the finish line in Tampa Bay. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals are playing for football glory – and I could not be less enthused.
I’ll start with the Cardinals. The fact that this team has somehow made it to the Super Bowl after plodding to a mediocre 9-7 record in the septic tank that is the NFC West is wrong in so many ways. Kurt Warner, who appeared to be washed up about three years ago, has suddenly taken to the dry heat of Phoenix and resurrected his career. The artist formerly known as Edgerrin James has suddenly turned back into the real Edgerrin James, and the always laughable Cardinals franchise has somehow become a story of success and perseverance. This franchise has been terrible year after year, decade after decade, but yet managed to sneak into the playoffs and turn into an NFL powerhouse. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to figure out how they can botch the 6th pick in the ’09 draft, Carson Palmer is trying to avoid the “Ki-Jana Carter Curse”, Chad Ocho Cinco is devising a way to be even less productive but with more media attention, and Mike Brown is using the dollars of his loyal Cincinnati fans to blow his nose. As you can gather, I’m slightly bitter. How does a team that was the Bengals’ brother-in-disappointment for so many years suddenly turn it around for three weeks in December and January? How does a team that barely won an atrocious division stumble into the most hallowed game in all of sports? How can the Cardinals find triumph in a half-century’s worth of filth? The entire concept is mind-boggling. The Arizona Cardinals, led by Pro Bowl and resuscitated quarterback Kurt Warner, are playing for an NFL Championship. There are so many things wrong with that sentence. And yet, I will be rooting for them the entire game. I’m glad that the parody of the NFL and the under-achieving of everyone else in the NFC have given the Cards this opportunity. I’m glad that Kurt Warner, who seems like a genuinely good guy, has been able to revive his career and revive the hearts of Cardinals fans that have wallowed in pity for years. I’m glad that the Pittsburgh Steelers, genuinely terrible guys (yes…all of them) will have the chance to lose to such a much maligned franchise. I’m glad that Arizona’s success gives me the hope and faith that the same thing could happen to the Bengals, just as long as Hell freezes over in the very near future. I’m happy for the Cardinals. Confused, but happy.
Now for the Steelers. I hate the Steelers. I will be openly rooting against them in this game, simply because they have embarrassed and harassed my Bengals for years on end. When an opponent just abuses your team the way the Steelers have abused Cincy over the years, you grow too bitter and too angry to have any respect or compassion towards them. Watching the Steelers vs Bengals during the last decade-plus has been like watching Drago murder Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, over and over again. I’ve even grown to hate members of the Steelers individually. For instance, Mike Tomlin seems like a great young coach in this league. But in my eyes, he’s just an obnoxious punk in a “George Costanza-esque” puffy coat (It’s Gor-Tex). Dick Lebeau, hailed by many as a defensive genius and wonderful guy, is the same Dick Lebeau that I watched as head coach of the Bengals for three years, as he stood on the sidelines, starring into nothingness while his team got beat like the neighborhood pansy. I would probably really like Lebeau if I ever actually met him. But I haven’t met him, so I hate his guts. And if you put me in a room with Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward, and said that I could kick ONLY one of them in the face, my brain would malfunction from trying to decide which one I’d rather go after. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tremendous organization, a hard-nosed team, and a beacon of what other NFL franchises should strive to be…and I wish them nothing but the worst. Go Cards.
(P.S. Kimo Von Oelhoffen’s hit on Palmer’s knee in the ’05 playoff game was definitely a cheap-shot. That fat slob ruined what will probably end up being the Bengals only chance for a playoff win this millennium. And yes, we would have won that game. Years from now, I just know that Kimo will be having a good laugh about it with the Prince of Darkness as he burns in Hades for all eternity.)
As for the predictions…
I predict that Bruce Springsteen will play four songs; “Born to Run”, “Glory Days”, “Born in the U.S.A.”, and “Working on a Dream”, from his new album (which is fantastic by the way). I also predict that he will make one comment in remembrance of recently-departed E Street organist Danny Federici, two “pro-Obama” comments, at least one “anti-Bush” comment, and exactly ZERO explanation as to why his concert tickets still cost like $142.
PIT 27 ARI 20 – I would love to witness the Steelers losing this game, but I just don’t see it happening. I think Pittsburgh has too much experience and too much talent on defense to let the Cardinals steal this one from them. The Cards have an explosive offense and an experienced quarterback, but I think the strength of the Steelers ‘D’ outweighs the Cardinals attack by just enough. I do think that it will be a close game throughout, with the Cardinals possibly leading for a decent chunk of the contest. However, I just have a gut feeling that at some point, the Steelers defense will make a big play - whether it be by James Harrison or Troy Polamalu or whoever - that puts the Steelers offense in a position to win and take over the game. I hope it will be a good game, and I think it will be a good game, but I see the Steelers coming out on top in the end.
And I really hope I’m wrong.
Two-part "Random Thoughts" post coming soon. Enjoy the game.
Thanks for reading