Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Commence Silliness

Well, that took all of one week. Every conceivable national media outlet has spent considerable space extolling the greatness of the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers. Momentum started picking up after the Patriots win two weeks ago and then all hell broke loose after they spanked the Eagles in week nine (see here, here, here and here for just some of the examples).

You could spend the better part of an afternoon reading all this nonsense -- and by the end you might actually start to believe some of it -- or you can just let me give you the 10-second recap:
"The Pittsburgh Steelers are the greatest team in the NFL right now, but that doesn't mean this team is without weaknesses. For one, their all-world QB, Ben Roethlisberger, has yet to be tested. Granted, he has won six games in a row, but we haven't seen how he reacts to his team being down late in the game. When he has to throw the ball 40 times a game and mount a Herculean comeback, then he'll truly be considered great. They're primed for an upset."
It's this kind of writing that drives me absolutely insane. And it inevitably comes from the national guys who've seen one, or at the most two Steeler games this season (I'm guessing either the Pats or Eagles); the local beat guys see the daily goings on and are less inclined to propagate such silliness (they reserve their dopey commentary for things like bad-mouthing the Bus -- see below).

First of all, how's this for a Roethlisberger comeback: during week six in Dallas, the Steelers were down 10 points going into the 4th. During the last two drives Roethlisberger was 5-5 with 1 TD (Jerame Tuman) and set up another rushing TD (Jerome Bettis). If that doesn't constitute a comeback, then I don't know what does -- especially when you consider people were less certain of how Roethlisberger would handle playing on the road against a Parcells team in week six than they are going into week 10.

And whenever someone says, "...this team is primed for an upset," that's a euphemism for "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, so I'll just repeat this phrase every week until it happens." Guilty dope #1: Pete Prisco. Here's what he said yesterday:

"Two things to remember, however: The (Steelers) were at home for both games and, despite all the hype, their quarterback is still a rookie. A rookie-type game is coming. It's inevitable. It happens to all rookies at some point, a game with forced passes, bad reads and uncertainty. Ben Roethlisberger is special, but it will happen. Take that to the bank. Nobody is immune from it. And when it does, the Steelers will lose. Word of warning: Watch out in Cleveland this week."
Sage-like wisdom indeed from the learned Pete Prisco. The Steelers may very well lose to the Browns, but it will have nothing to do with the drivel described above. The good news is that as long as the Steelers keep winning, Prisco can keep regurgitating this same dopey paragraph. All he'll need to do is change the name of the Steelers' opponent in the last sentence. This should give him more time for his other pursuits, which after reading this column I can only assume include amateur lobotomies and heavy drug use (I just made these up, but you get the point).

OK, maybe I was a little hard on Prisco here, so let me mention something he wrote that I agree with:

"It won't stay this good forever. So let's stop the great team of this decade talk. It is a little premature, don't you think? The Steelers are good, very good, but there's a long way to go, and we've seen top teams at the midway point fall off badly. That won't happen to the Steelers, but let's put a cool down on this greatness talk for now."
He's exactly right about this, and to hear Bill Cowher give a press conference you'd half believe that he spends most of his time pleading with his team not to get caught up in all the hype. Which reminds me of some really ridiculous questions Cowher had to field at his Tuesday press conference:

Q: Do you have time to savor and reflect on what Ben Roethlisberger has done?

Cowher: No. Why? What purpose would it serve, honestly? I don't think Ben has either, he shouldn't.

Q: Does that dynamic change when everyone anoints you as the best team? Is that going to be tough for you to deal with as a team?

Cowher: It only changes if you start to read it and believe it. We have been anointed nothing. We really haven't. We have got here because we understand and we are very respectful of every team we played. We are in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business and it can change weekly. It is not a concern as long as we don't get caught up in it, and we won't, trust me.
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Cowher learned something from the 2001 season -- especially the disastrous loss in the AFC Championship game when they were heavy favorites. Either way, I'll take it.

VS. (round 2)
After writing several laudatory columns on the Steelers and Roethlisberger -- which must have been excruciating for the Fat Phantom (yet another unsuccessful attempt at humor here), Mark Madden has returned from his vacation on Pluto (where even he, due to lack of gravity, can weigh less than three bills) to pen his usual assortment of inanities. His latest victim (although not the first time he's been victimized) is the Bus.

Here's what the Hamburglar had to say after Jerome's 149-yard rushing performance against the Eagles:

"His performance was much closer to last hurrah than new beginning. Yet, instead of marking the occasion with class and humility, Bettis met with the media and went off on a 10-minute chest-thumping diatribe where he said, repeatedly, how "damn good" he still is...Bettis also berated those who had "turned their back on the Bus," saying they should have stuck with him through tough times. What, exactly, does that mean?

When Duce Staley came to Pittsburgh and got the starting job at running back, did Bettis want Steelers fans to not support Staley? Did Bettis expect his true believers to boo Il Duce? To exhort Bill Cowher to reinstate Bettis to his starting job regardless of how Staley was doing? That's sure how it sounds to me."
It sounded that way to Madden because was too busy stuffing krullers in his mouth to listen to Jerome's entire press conference. When the Bus mentioned "fairweather fans," he wasn't referring to people now pulling for Duce because he's a Steeler; he was referring to those fans who applauded the Bus from 1996 until 2001, and then called for his head on a stick when he showed signs of slowing. What exactly is wrong with supporting a player when he struggles?

Isn't the opposite of that the definition of "fairweather fan?" Why is Madden calling out the Bus for telling the truth? And who in there right mind thinks the Bus wanted fans to boo Duce and "exhort Cowher to reinstate Bettis to his starting job."

Maybe it's Madden who's the bumbling, washed up has-been when he inaccurately portrays Bettis as bitter about his role:

"...If Bettis is genuinely bitter because "his" fans started cheering for Staley, he really is living in the past...Afterward, he proved he's an opera singer: "Me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me!"...Have you heard Ben Roethlisberger talk about himself even once this season?

If Roethlisberger gets hurt and Tommy Maddox comes in and shines, do you think he'll "celebrate" by blasting those who had "turned their back on Tommy Gun"?"
Nice point fat-stuff (Madden not Jerome), but who did more crowing this offseason when the Steelers went out and acquired their RB of the present and their QB of the future? If I recall, Tommy and his agent spent a few days crying on each others shoulders over the whole Roethlisberger selection, but I don't recall any similar antics from Jerome when Pittsburgh signed Duce. But hey, don't let the truth get in the way of you making an obscure point. Of course Madden finishes with a resounding thud when he says the following:

"Look at Bettis not as the beloved Bus, but objectively. As you would look at any athlete. Do that, and you'll realize the view ain't so great. Bettis is Terrell Owens without the Sharpie."
This is the type of crap that should've gotten Madden fired from the Post-Gazette (instead of the alleged budget cuts). If anyone can explain to me how Jerome Bettis is anything but the antithesis of Terrell Owens I'll buy Tons-of-Fun a week's supply of Krispy Kreme's (which for mere mortals would work out to roughly a lifetime's supply). Otherwise, Madden should stick to what he does best: talk about hockey and..., well, talk about hockey.