Aug 202013
RGIII, Redskins icon?

I’ve talked before about how college football (and basketball) programs are either institution-defined or coach-defined. The bluebloods are institution-defined – think Michigan, USC, Ohio State etc. Those just below that threshold are largely newcomers who haven’t (yet) proven they can rise above their iconic coach or who never did prove it – think Virginia Tech under Beamer or Arizona State after Frank Kush.

RGIII, Redskins icon?

RGIII, Redskins icon?

An interesting parallel is the idea of a coach or player defining the image of a professional sports franchise. In an article yesterday on Behind the Steel Curtain, Anthony Defeo contended that some franchises are more iconically identified with a certain coach or player than others.

In the 60s, Vince Lombardi was the face of the Packers franchise, so much so, in fact, even today, it’s hard not to talk about those championship teams without saying “Lombardi’s Packers,” with his fiery presence on the sidelines of Lambeau Field being the first image that pops into your head. Lombardi was such a larger than life figure, the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.

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Jan 052007

I remember very little of the pre-Bill Cowher days.  I didn’t start following football in earnest till Chuck Noll’s last year in 1991; seeing the malaise of the team in his final games, thinking on what it must’ve been like in the glory years of the 1970’s before I was born.

I’m one of the lucky ones.  I’ve been to at least one Steelers game every year since Cowher took over.  I can’t imagine anyone else roaming the Steelers’ sidelines.  I can’t imagine not seeing that Jaw jutting out, the fire in Coach’s eyes.  As much as Dan Rooney’s silent, steady leadership, Bill Cowher’s tenure taught me the “Steelers Way”, our city’s way – hard work, team work, leadership, intensity, fundamentals with just a little bit of strut thrown in to keep people off balance (after all, it was a WR to WR pass that defined Superbowl XL).

I remember the coaching search after Coach Noll resigned and thinking who was this assistant from Kansas City who could possibly replace the Legend.  I thought the trendy candidate, Mike Holmgren of SF at the time, would’ve been a better hire.  Fifteen years later, I still marvel at the wisdom of the Rooney’s.  Holmgren also won a Superbowl and sooner than Cowher but he could never have shown a 12yr old football neophyte “how we do”.

I hope and pray and trust that the Rooney’s will once again find another Man who embodies “our way”.  It surely won’t be easy to hit the jackpot three times in a row (and this guy would like to see Russ Grimm as the next head coach).

You’re probably thinking that I’m over-eulogizing.  But you can’t know how it is until you’re one of us, one of the Steelers Nation.  I won’t like it one bit if/when Cowher comes back to coaching with a different team.  I’ll hate it when he coaches against his hometown team for the first time.  But Bill Cowher won’t ever be anything but a Pittsburgh Steeler to me.

Jul 082006

“HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!”  It’s a mantra that Pittsburghers chant throughout the year, even during Pirates and Penguins games, Pitt or high school football games. Few things define Western PA better than our love of the Steelers. I can’t begin to describe how it felt for us to win the Superbowl; you’d have to be one of the Steelers Nation to understand it.

But now the draft has come and gone and the players are talking about next season and staying hungry and getting after it again. I would expect nothing less from our organisation. But whereas some of my fellow Steelers fans are getting all up in arms over the lack of respect being afforded the Steelers since the Superbowl, I don’t think I care. For instance, Peter King recently gave New England & Indianapolis better Superbowl odds than the Steelers even though NE suffered some big free agent losses and Indy lost Edgerrin James and didn’t significantly improve their secondary.

Maybe I’ve lost some of my hunger for the game now that my team has reached the pinnacle. I don’t read the papers as diligently or watch Sportscenter several times per day. I know all the arguments against the Steelers – Ben didn’t cross the line, the pass interference call was ticky tack, that wasn’t a holding call – but it’s not those in Steelers Nation making those arguments. If you’re not one of us, I really don’t give a d*mn about your naysaying. I’m just not debating with you if you’re gonna hate on us so bugger off and let us enjoy our turn.