Dreamed that I was at this outdoor location that focused on the National Football League. Not the only one there, it appeared that thousands of other people were present. While the awakened me has scant grasp of what was going on, dream me was there and ready. Names were being issued for a very special honor, so I was listening with anticipation.
My name was announced. Pleased and proud to be selected, I went to my assigned position beside a large sculpture. The sculpture was of Steelers players. Ben Roethlisberger, number seven and the current quarterback, was the main figure but there were others. My job, as explained to me, was to explain the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with emphasis on their championship seasons. Then, from a special bowl, I was to select the future Superbowls that they’d win.
Other presentations began. I eagerly awaited my chance. The Green Bay Packers were right before the Steelers. Suddenly, as their presentation ended, something happened to disrupt the gathering. People began departing and the agenda was abandoned.
I refused to leave, hoping that I’d still have a chance. At last, though, acknowledging that I wouldn’t be presenting, I said, “I guess that means the Packers will win all of the rest, because no other team had been given a chance.
I don’t know what any of it means.
I was at the March for Our Lives event in Medford, Oregon, with about a thousand others yesterday, when I spied a Pittsburgh Steelers hat on a tall individual. It was a crowded space, but eventually, finding him beside me, I said, “Hey, a Steelers fan,” because so am I. Laughing, he pointed at my USAF Retired hat. “And you’re retired from the Air Force,” he said. “Like my Dad.”
His father had retired from the Air Force and moved back to Pittsburgh, PA. We chatted and uncovered that we’d lived in the same Pittsburgh neighborhoods decades ago. He was fifteen years younger than me, but we’d attended the same schools, including Turner Elementary School on Laketon Road in Wilkinsburg. Like me, he’d followed a convoluted path to reach Oregon. My last stop before Oregon was Half Moon Bay, California, and his last stop was Madison, Wisconsin. He’d only been in Oregon three years. As a military brat, he was familiar with the places where I’d been assigned, and I knew his locations.
Besides politics, we talked about the changes back in the Pittsburgh area, and the Google location there, which we’d both visited. Six degrees of separation, small world, et cetera. He was like a familiar face in the crowd, to finish the cliche trifecta.
Last night’s professional football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals epitomizes my frustration with the sport.
First, let me tell you. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I became a Steeler fan around nineteen sixty-nine, when I was thirteen. That wasn’t a good year for the Steelers. They finished with one win, and thirteen losses. Things began picking up the next year.
Second, about ten years ago, I began thinking that football has become way too violent. I tried watching less of the sport. I marvel at the players’ speed, grace, and athleticism, and enjoy the multiple levels of tactics and strategy continuing throughout a game even as I rue the violence. I’ve thought, like others, what is the solution to reduce the violence, especially the flagrant fouls, and the head injuries?
Last weekend featured a couple of them. Gronk of the Patriots was suspended for his hit. Other suspensions and fines are being issue. But how much do these mean to these players? Yes, they recognize that they’ve let their team down when they’re suspended, and that it could affect winning records, contracts, sponsorship deals, and championships, with all the collateral associated with a season, like home-field advantages, pride, rings, and trophies, but these same players are pushed to be aggressive and competitive. They’re amped up on adrenaline. To expect them to stop instantly, in the middle of motion, when the whistle blows — and is heard — and tamper their emotions is not always realistic.
Especially so in a game like last night, between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Their games have been especially tough and violent for several years. Memories of results and actions linger, affecting how the two teams feel about each other, and how they play one another. The game last night featured penalties, marked off in yards and loss of downs. Quoting Kevin Siefert on ESPN:
The game was also reminiscent of the playoff game due to the high number of penalties. The Bengals set a franchise record with 13 penalties for 173 yards. The two teams have combined for 1,088 penalty yards in their matchups against each other, including playoffs, since the 2015 season. Their 32 major penalties, such as unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct, in the same time span is nearly twice as much as any other matchup in the same period.
Wow, right? Yet, it keeps escalating. These penalties and suspensions aren’t working. Maybe something more concrete is required, like a loss of points instead of yards, or a loss of downs. Yes, flags can be thrown, and players ejected, but perhaps it’s not enough. Maybe a flag is required to warn them, one more personal foul, and you forfeit the game.
Too extreme? Perhaps, but that’s what the NFL is all about: winning and losing. Until something tangible is done to immediately affect that line, the escalations will continue.