Tag Archives: NFL/Steelers football

It’s drafty in here

Tonight the Pittsburgh Celebrity Fantasy Football League holds its draft, which means I’m heading to meet up with fellow team owners, lists of favored players in hand.

I didn’t field a team in any league last year, and because I had no special incentive to follow any team but the Steelers, I paid zero attention to the NFL. It was like the 2006 season never happened.

So I feel a little wrong-footed going into this draft. Our scoring is also different from what I’ve played in the past, and we have ‘way more players than I’m used to fielding. Three WRs? Plus a TE and a flex player? I expect to be picking many, many players whose names I’ve never seen — let alone whom I’ve seen play.

Still and all, I’m not too worried. In years past, my key skill as a fantasy football team manager has been making clever free agent pickups. It’s OK with me to lose the first week, and even the second, if it means I can grab an unknown running back or wide receiver who has a stunning game early in the season. Ahoy, “Breakout Player of 2007”: You will be mine.

Miracle at the Hard Rock Cafe

The most amazing thing happened to me this evening.

I attended a business event in Pittsburgh, at the Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square. It was a networking happy hour, hosted by the local chapter of the American Marketing Association and sponsored by Yuengling. (All the beer was lagers and black-and-tans. Why no ale? That was the only down part of the event.) One hour of people standing around, chatting and exchanging business cards, followed by an hour of selected people speaking to the group, making lame jokes and using terms like “power brand.”

So there I was, surrounded by Pittsburghers, all of us searching for anything funny or interesting or even dull to say.

And not once during the entire two hours did anyone mention Ben Rothlisberger or motorcycle helmets.

It was glorious, talking about anything other than The Accident. I could have cheered in joy.

Pittsburgh marketing professionals, my hat’s off to you. (Ba-dum bum!)

Bug Ben

Candy-apple redThe highly stylish item you see to the left is my own personal motorcycle helmet. Pretty, ain’t it?

I can’t think of any reason not to wear a helmet while riding. A helmet is most useful when traveling at the slower speeds required on city streets: On a highway you’re riding fast enough that if you wreck, you’re going to be lucky to come out alive at all after impact, but at a lower speed you most need to be concerned with simple concussions, broken bones, fractured skulls and broken noses. Just as an example.

I don’t want to hear any arguments about impaired visibility — without a helmet you spend your time squinting due to bugs, dust, and air flow. And unless you’ve rigged the helmet with headphones for your iPod you can hear just fine.

The only thing sexier than a shiny glorious full-face helmet is the intelligent (and well-protected) brain inside of it.

Filling the time until kickoff

To help you while away the final hours until Super Bowl XL finally gets underway, some reading material:

Ben Roethlisberger has been updating his blog regularly all week, showing the media blitz and hype from the perspective of the other side.

As you can imagine, my schedule has been crazy out here in Detroit. So Tuesday was a day off, like our usual Tuesdays during the season, but during Super Bowl week that just means I didn’t throw any passes. Tuesday before the Super Bowl is traditionally media day, and let me tell you, it’s a spectacle. I didn’t really know what to expect, but now I understand where the hype around this game comes from. We got on the buses from our hotel at 7:45am and went to the Stadium. Ford Field will always be special to me, because that’s where I played my first NFL game, in the preseason last year. We went into our locker room and put on our game pants and jerseys. Yes, we are wearing white jerseys, and yes, that is fine by me. It’s pretty funny to see football players in their uniform without pads on. Not the most figure flattering sight. We did some short tapings and photo shoots for promotional stuff and the game telecast. From there, we went onto the field, and some of us had to sit individually at podiums and answer questions for about an hour. As we walked onto the field, what seemed like thousands of media people poured down from the stands to the field. I answered questions for the entire hour – many of which were repeated – but none that were too crazy. Lots of questions about my beard and hair. For the record, the hair will stay after the game, the beard will go, most likely on Monday.

Chuck Klosterman has been posting an alternative blog for ESPN’s Page 2. Primarily he whines about having to cover an event he doesn’t plan to watch (although he does seem to know a lot about the game and teams) and highlights the surreal world of the pre-game hype.

One of the gimmicks of Super Bowl week is something called “The NFL Experience,” a massive exhibit of interactive footballesque activities located in downtown Detroit’s Cobo Hall. I did not have an intense urge to see The Experience, but I did want to visit Cobo Hall; while some people aspire to visit legendary sports stadiums, I intend to visit the location of every venue included in the 1987 documentary KISS Exposed (these venues include the Houston Astrodome, Rio de Janeiro, and at least one soccer stadium in Australia). The 1976 KISS performance from Cobo is especially moving, as Ace Frehley performed two autonomous solos during “Strutter” (one in the usual place, and then an abridged reprise at the conclusion). I sure do love football.

I went to the NFL Experience thinking it would be mildly ridiculous, but I was wrong; in reality, it was totally idiotic. I obviously assumed this kind of promotion would be primarily geared toward children (Note to readers: I loathe children), but it seems the NFL Experience is exclusively a twerp’s domain: It’s a bunch of miniature humans trying to kick footballs while simultaneously begging their parents to buy them overpriced Chad Johnson jerseys

Over on SuperBowl.com, Nick Bakay, sounding like he’d jump at the chance to switch places and save Klosterman from his misery, has been blogging the weeks away from the comfort of his couch.

Y’know, everyone talks about the intangibles in football — but what about the Man-tangibles:

What’s a Man-tangible? Hidden advantages that exist in a parallel universe, somewhere between the boundaries of a late hit, and your fourth Ketel One.

Mantangible, Exhibit “A”: Big Ben’s Beard:

While certainly not in the same class as Jake Plummer’s moody drifter special, I like Ben Roethlisberger’s scruffy, nappy, high school “first beard” presumptuousness.

Of course, the beard didn’t work out so good the last time the Steelers went to the Big Dance — anyone remember Neil O’Donnell’s separatist cult-leader special? How about the picks he threw with no receiver in the same zip code?

Regardless, I like a bearded QB — always have. I lived in Dallas a few years back, not in the greatest part of town, and there was this crazy donut shop that was set up just like a bar — jukebox, women with way too much eye shadow smokin’ 120s, a long counter with a TV on the wall — and every stool was filled with dudes who looked like Big Ben — bearded, haunted wildcatters sittin’ there all night nursing a coffee and a plate full of personal demons. The kind of place that made you feel lucky if you made it back to your car without getting your nose broken … and the mantangibles say that’s the kind of QB you like to see playing in January …

Advantage: Steelers.

Drink of the Super Bowl: No. 43 Trophy Cup (aka The Polamalu)

I wanted to create a special drink for the Super Bowl. Here were the criteria I set:

  • The ingredients should somehow reflect on the Steelers, the Pittsburgh area, and football.
  • The recipe should be original (although it could be roughly based on a not-well-known drink).
  • It should taste good.

Football and western PA are nearly synonymous, and there’s an easy link to both of them: Iron City Beer. The trouble is that I hate Iron City Beer. Not as much as I hate Bud or any of the various Miller products or (heaven forfend) Coors, but it’s a strong distaste all the same. I’m sorry to offend but c’mon: It’s thin and bland, an ailing brew. And yet, it’s the hometown brew, the bottle (or can, or disposable plastic cup) that the true believers of Pittsburgh will be raising this weekend. If I could work it into the drink, I’d be well on my way to my best-ever Bowl beverage.

As avid Googlers (welcome, handsome strangers!) and faithful readers (hello, all five of you!) already know, I am terribly fond of our mad-sexy Troy Polamalu. So of course I wanted to somehow connect the drink to him.

But how to bring these elements together and at the same time make the drink irresistably quaffable?

The answer: Pimm’s No. 1.

Pimm’s No. 1 is a gin-based liqueur, deep amber in color and cloyingly sweet. It tastes like Moxie. Actually, I’ve never had Moxie (the drink, that is), but Pimm’s No. 1 tastes precisely how I imagine Moxie to taste, and it has a solid alcoholic kick to boot.

How does it solve my mixological dilemma? Well, Pimm’s No. 1 is a critical component of what Britons drink at sporting events. OK, at Wimbledon and various cricket matches, but those are big events there. The Super Bowls of Britannia. So, it’s a sport-oriented drink. Plus, it begins with “P” so it ties in Polamalu (tenuously). And the name says “No. 1,” which is what the winner of the Super Bowl is.

And most importantly, it makes thin beer taste good. The typical way to drink Pimm’s No. 1 is to add it to lemonade, ginger ale, tonic, champagne… any mildly flavored mixer. I found that if you put some No. 1 in a couple of ounces of lager, you’ve got a close approximation to a Belgian beer. (It tastes even better after you’ve had two.) It’s perfect! I’m going to bring a flask of it to all future softball games.

And so, without further ado:

Pimm’s No. 43 Trophy Cup
(a My Brilliant Mistakes original)

1 part Pimm’s No. 1
4 parts western PA lager (Iron City, Rolling Rock, Yuengling)
half a lemon slice

Pour Pimm’s in a rocks glass; follow with lager, pouring down the side of the glass to avoid creating a big fizzy head. Put lemon garnish on glass rim or squeeze at nearby Seahawks fans, as appropriate. Every time Polamalu causes a Seattle player to hit the turf, drink.

Be advised: This drink has an honorable kick. I’m having one now (OK, my third), and it has taken me three tries to type this sentence correctly.

Go Steelers!

The very best Steelers song EVER

Can't you just hear the impact?Hines Ward will always be first in my heart, but I sometimes stray and cast adoring eyes on the speedy, hard-hitting, and mad-sexy Troy Polamalu. So I’m terribly, terribly pleased to find that this year’s best new Steelers song focuses on the NFL’s best strong safety: Please enjoy “Puhlahmahlu.”

With a creative work of this importance, it’s essential to give proper credit. The band is Mr. Devious (playing at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern this Saturday at 9PM — be there or be square). The song was played for me first by my dear brother Anthony, who heard it god-knows-where but probably on some sports radio show; but I located the mp3 via Sully (whom I shall treat to a drink at the next Pittsburgh BlogFest).

Brief culture lesson for the under-30 crowd: “The Polamalu Song” is a parody of a song performed memorably by the Muppets, “Mahna Mahna,” which is itself a parody of “Mais Non, Mais Non,” a French song from the 1960s, which is an adaptation from a song from a Swedish “documentary” from even farther back. Details on the original song and variations can be found here, and a video clip from The Muppet Show can be found here.

Incidentally, if you can find and share an online or offline version of “Mais Non, Mais Non,” I’ll be forever indebted to you.

First and goal to go

Untitled-1.jpgI have full confidence in the Steelers winning at Mile High Stadium this weekend.

Or rather, I did until I read the championship picks from Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy on ESPN.com. He’s taking the Steelers over the Broncos (scroll past the mailbag for the predictions). I dislike The Sports Guy, mostly because he’s a childish and extremely irritating Boston sports fan.

But more importantly, he went 1-3 in his picks last week. With that kind of record, I want him picking against my team. But instead, he says his gut tells him that “Pittsburgh seems like a team of destiny.”

Fortunately the rest of the football gambling world does not agree: The current betting line has the Broncos as the favorites by 3. The Steelers seem to play best in the playoffs when they’re the underdogs. As long as Vegas is betting against them, I have a good vibe.

And if Joe Theisman picks Denver, the Steelers can start booking hotels in Detroit for Super Bowl weekend.

In other Steelers news: Ben Rothlisberger is auctioning off one of the cleats he wore in his first Monday Night Football appearance as a starter — the game against San Diego on October 10. That happens to be the game in which he injured his knee. He’s auctioning the right cleat, complete with grass stains and a Big Ben autograph. It could be yours! Bidding is currently at $735 and climbing….

UPDATE: I may have to take back my comment about Joe Theisman. He is still the very, very worst pro football commentator, and generally a dip. But he has picked the Steelers for both of the last two games — one of only two ESPN analysts to pick them for week two of the playoffs. Keep an eye out for his picks for this weekend’s games.

“We tried everything to give that game away, but they darn well wouldn’t take it”

Things I lost at the Steelers game against the Jets last night:
1. My Terrible Towel
2. My voice
3. My sense of the inevitability of Steeler wins

The towel was no big loss. I bought it at the Pittsburgh airport in January 1996, when I was traveling around the country with my grad school program, touring manufacturing plants. The Steelers, you may recall, had certain troubles in the Super Bowl that year, a noticable pile of bad luck. So ever since I’ve wondered if it carried some kind of bad karma, or maybe loser cooties. I rarely brought it out — in fact, I had to search for a half hour Friday to find it.

Even with the potential of poor karma on it, I had to bring it to the game, as it was my first in-person Steeler game (indeed, my first in-person pro football game anywhere) and having a Terrible Towel was absolutely required. I worried the whole way to the stadium and all the way to my seat about losing it, and in fact nearly dropped it many times.

At halftime I took a potty break, sought out a fresh $5.75 beer, walked around a bit in the massive crowd, and suddenly realized that I was towelless. I gave a cursory look about at places I’d been, but I knew the towel was gone. And I felt free: freed of the responsibility of carrying it, free of its potential loser cooties, free at last.

I missed having it in the second half and overtime, when I had nothing to wave in support of the team. But I made up for its absence by screaming at the top of my lungs to help rattle the Jets. I like to think I contributed in my small way to the win. (This is my personal favorite yell: YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!!!)

And thus it was that I lost my voice. It hurt to laugh for the rest of the night — not that I had much energy for laughing, having screamed and shouted and shivered through nearly five quarters of football. I was completely wiped out, and completely thrilled to have been in the stadium to see all the drama. I would have seen much more of the game sitting at home — from our sky-high seats near the non-riverside endzone I barely spotted the ball’s flight on any of the kicks, although I did watch and enjoy the Jets kick that bounced on the goalpost — but I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

As for that sense of inevitability: This season has been strange for me in that, from the third game on, I’ve felt fully confident each game that the Steelers would prevail. This has never happened before; usually I’m a nervous wreck during games and have to sedate myself or even leave the room when things get tense. But this year, even when they fell behind, even when they seemed to have lost rhythm and taken to making too many mistakes, I’ve caught myself calmly thinking, “And how will they pull it together this week?” I’ve never been really nervous.

Then last night, with seconds left in the fourth quarter, when Doug Brien was setting up to kick the winning field goal for the Jets, I felt the first stab of doubt. The playoffs are the worst: sudden death, one and done, no next week. Maybe the Steelers wouldn’t win. This could be it.

And then the kick went. I didn’t see it fly. I didn’t see it land. And before I could search the field for some gesture from the officials that would tell me what the hell was going on, the stadium erupted.

From then on, my confidence returned. Even when the Jets won the coin toss for overtime, I felt in my core that the Steelers defense would hold, the offense would get the ball, and the team would march down the field and score. Which is exactly what happened.

Even so, that crack in my certainty remains. The title to this post is something that my friend Natalae overheard: Two older ladies were talking in the stands after the game, shaking their heads in amazement that the Steelers won in the end. Whichever team the Steelers play next week will be good, very good. From now on, it’s anyone’s game.

That’s OK though, because it’s all football, it’s all good. I can’t wait for the next game.

Things that I gained at the game last night:
1. Memories of a fantastic, hard-won playoff game
2. A new Troy Polamalu (#43) jersey
3. An invitation to go back next Sunday for the AFC Championship

YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!!!