On a Loss, and Losing

And in ten seconds it was gone.

For a minute I pretended that the TiVo remote was a time machine and that, perhaps through some mysterious algorithm a wormhole could be ripped wide open in the fabric of the universe, and with a simple press of my index finger I could rewind time and bend it to my will.

Maybe in this alternate reality Shaun Suisham drills a 45-yard field goal as regulation expires, the clock reading 00:00 as the ball tumbles lifelessly through the uprights, CBS television cameras focused en masse on the deflated face of Holy Roller Tebow in glorious 1080 HD as he engages in a very testy rhetorical confab with God’s Other Son.

Perhaps, if I go back just a scant few seconds far enough, Ryan Mundy will be playing the deep middle on That Play, the one that will haunt my dreams in super slo-mo ten years from now.  In this version of revisionist history, #29 will come flying across the middle of the field, a fixed bayonet of black & gold, and he will have the angle on Demaryius Thomas, holding him to an ultimately forgivable 15-yard gain.

But, no.

Despite my drinking all of the rum currently available in the tri-state area and wishing it were so, TiVo apparently does not hold any sway over the space/time continuum.

Damn you, TiVo.  And I thought we were friends.

Denver 29, Steelers 23.

Another season ended abrupt.  And now I feel like the world’s greatest pumpkin salesman on October 32nd.

This, of course, is the way that all seasons end.  Fans of thirty-one teams hurl expletives down from the cheap seats, reigning obscenities at the television until their voices grow hoarse, and winter turns into pitchers and catchers reporting in Sarasota, Winter Haven, Port St. Lucie.  Only one team gets to rejoice.  Only one fan base gets to build a bandwagon sturdy enough to hold all those who will come pouring out of the woodwork to celebrate the long, slow climb up the mountaintop that lasts for eternity and is commemorated with a Sports Illustrated special edition DVD and increased season ticket prices.  And the rest of us, well, we just find another way to occupy the sad transmission of days from that first weekend in February until training camp opens in July and we can feel whole once again.

 In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote her masterpiece, a treatise entitled “On Death and Dying”, a scholarly attempt to explain how the terminally ill and their loved ones prepare for, and cope with, a catastrophic loss.  In this masterwork of modern psychoanalysis, Kubler-Ross breaks down the mourning process into five commonly shared stages.  Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that I sped through all five of them in the time it takes for Casey Hampton to consume his weight in sippable side-by-sides at Steak n’ Shake.

Let’s start at the beginning:    

Step One:  Denial. 

Okay, the game’s not really over now, is it?  I mean, with all of these new, convoluted overtime rules who can really be sure?  Certainly Ron Winter didn’t appear to have a firm grasp of the new OT rules as he nervously fumbled through them at midfield.  He looked as if he were reading a hostage note from a heavily fortified bunker in an al-Qaeda complex just outside of downtown Damascus rather than giving a deft explanation of a rule change.  Besides, isn’t it part of the new rules that the game isn’t officially in the books until the Steelers win?  I could have sworn I read that somewhere.  Right?  Right??  Oh god, who needs a cocktail.  MOVING ON.

 Step Two:  Anger.

 Oh sweet, sweet anger.  How I have missed your cool embrace so much.  Now this part comes easy.  It’s a chain reaction of events and people that are inter-related only in the crazy recesses of my mind.  Ryan Mundy was out of position which means he was put there by Dick LeBeau who was hired by Cowher who cost us god who knows how many Super Bowls by playing Kordell Stewart who claimed he was going to the Hall of Fame by throwing hundreds of touchdown passes to Yancey Thigpen who ran the wrong route against Dallas in the Super Bowl in the godforsaken Arizona desert leading to a game ending interception thrown off the arm of Neil O’Donnell and…NEIL EFFING O’DONNELL??!!  The Venn diagram of every bad Steeler memory I ever had or will ever have will always intersect with Neil O’Donnell.  And now I’m officially angry.  (Pause for effect while I scream four letter words in my living room both confusing and enthralling my neighbors.)

 Step Three:  Bargaining.

 This is always the easiest part.  There has yet to be played a meaningful game where the Steelers fell behind in the second half where I haven’t promised god that I wouldn’t trade five years off the end of my life in return for a victory (IMPORTANT NOTE TO GOD:  By this I only mean the last, final, dementia ridden five years of my life.  Those slow last five where I’m shitting in the linen closet, vomiting up diabetes and slow dancing with the vacuum cleaner, trading war stories with the China Hutch—which invariably ends in a shoving match with me accusing the dinette of being “inscrutable” and calling 75 lbs of stained oak “Charlie”.)

 Step Four:  Depression.

 Right about the same time that Ike Taylor spontaneously combusted at INVESCO Field, a massive, soul-disheveling depression had begun to set in.  Faced with seven months without Steeler football (as well as the very real possibility of a Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl parade—during which syphilis will be tossed instead of confetti), I began suffering from a malaise so dark that I felt as if my symptoms and side effects should be described by the faintly familiar voice of character actor Kevin Bacon in an overly detailed TV commercial voiceover:

Are you depressed?

Constipated?

Wondering why Big Ben wore a fedora to his post game press conference?

Unsure why Coach Tomlin keeps sprouting platitudes like, “The standard is the standard?”

Openly weeping at the thought of Ray Lewis hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and exclaiming, “I’m going to Disneyland”?

Have trouble getting out of bed in the morning?

Wonder why Coach LeBeau called a Cover Zero on the final play of the season?

If you suffer from any (or all of these symptoms), you may be clinically depressed, suicidal beyond all reach of modern psychiatry, a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, or perhaps you just live in Cleveland, Ohio. 

 STEP FIVE:  Acceptance.

Ah, acceptance.  Always a fashionably late guest to any party that I throw.  In my case, acceptance seldom comes and when it does, it is always chased by a shot of a bitter tasting memory (i.e. Dewayne Washington running into Joe Nedney).  We lost, okay, it’s time to move on.  But if only Ben hadn’t rolled his ankle and Ryan Clark had not lost the genetic lottery to the sickle cell and Fumble Machine Mendenhall didn’t put the ball on the carpet in the Super Bowl and Kordell Stewart unilaterally decided to throw the ball exclusively to people in New England Patriots jerseys and…

The bottom line is the only people who will ever accept losing these sort of heartbreaking, vasectomies minus a localized anesthetic of football games are fools, idiots, non-fans, or as they are more commonly known, tax-paying residents of Cleveland, Ohio.

See you next year, Stiller Fans.