January 20, 2013 by Mike Lyles
This weekend the NFL will be featuring the AFC and NFC Championships. Being a football fan, this is an exciting time, knowing that the two winners will be playing in Superbowl XLVII.
However, it’s just not the same when your team is not in the race to NFL World Champions. Having the playoffs without your team in them is like going to the school dance without a date. It’s exciting, fun, and you will have a good time. But it’s better if you have someone there with you that you care about the most!
So let’s talk about my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. For those of you who don’t know them well, they are the only team in history to have SIX Superbowl wins. They gave us such great memories in the 1970’s and 1980’s. From the “Steel Curtain” to “The Immaculate Reception”, they have been a team to follow.
So you may be asking “Mike, you were born, raised, and live in North Carolina. Why are you not a Carolina Panthers fan?”. First of all, when I was growing up, we didn’t have a team. But most importantly, I was raised to be a Steelers fan from the very start. My grandfather, Charlie Lyles, was one of the biggest fans of the Steelers. I spent many Sundays, with my grandfather and dad, watching our team play on TV. Those are memories I will never forget.
Growing up, I didn’t know there was even an opportunity to be a fan of any other team. I watched the Steelers play their many rivals – the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns were the two that stood out as the one’s to beat. When these teams were playing us, we would sit glued to the TV, cheering on our team to beat the opponent. My birthday parties were soon themed as Steelers Parties. And all my friends knew who I felt was the best team in the land.
So now I’m much older than I was during those Steelers birthday parties at 11 years old, but the tradition of Black & Yellow still holds. I’ve followed this team for life, and don’t see it changing. I’m a die hard fan, and if you want some evidence, check out a few of my Steelers Notes below:
In the 90’s, I joined the Steelers Fan Club. The most memorable benefit of this membership was that you were granted one VIP pass to the Steelers training camp in Latrobe, PA. My brother and I packed up and took a trip to the camp, got to stand on the sidelines during practice, meet several of the players, and get autographs. I remember that our air condition broke on the car about fifteen minutes into the trip and we spent the rest of the trip in the heat, but I will never forget that trip with my brother
- In 2002, I had the privilege to attend my first AFC Championship game. The Steelers were highly favored to win over the visiting New England Patriots. I remember it was uncharacteristically warm that day – when Pittsburgh saw weather in the 30’s in January, this game was played with the temperature in the high 50’s. The game didn’t go in the Steelers favor, and the Patriots went on to win one of many superbowls in the early 2000’s. (this is when I added the Patriots to my list of rival teams which I could never support).
In 2003, my son, Wynston, was born, and in August 2003, the Steelers were visiting the Carolina Panthers. So my young son, at the time 7 months, got to experience his first Steelers game, in a full Steelers outfit, complete with a Steelers bib and bottle. Someday he can blog that his love of Steelers started at birth just like mine.
I have a t-shirt, which says “It’s Not Just Football, It’s Steelers Football”. This old t-shirt gets washed in the offseason. Then, when the season starts, I wear it every game, and then hang it up, unwashed, until the next game. I’ve worn it to live games and at home, and I’ve came to believe that it helps them to win. It’s a crazy superstition, but as the commercial says “its only weird if it doesn’t work”. I also have one of the famous Steeler “Terrible Towels”, a small square yellow towel, that has never ever been washed, and I carry it with me for every game. It’s traveled to many live games, and if it were ever lost, I don’t think the Steelers could ever win again.
- In January 2011, during the playoffs, I watched as the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots, making the Steelers the host of the AFC Championship game. I called up my friend, John, and we bought two tickets, drove to Pittsburgh, and prepared for the game. It was 9 degrees on the field that night, but the game was one to remember, as the Steelers defeated the Jets and moved on to the Superbowl. Unfortunately, they were beaten by the Green Bay Packers that year.
So, as you can see, it’s hard for me to watch the playoffs this year without my team there to cheer on. And two teams who always battle hard with the Steelers (the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots) play on Sunday. Who do I pull for in this game? Can I vote for both to lose? I guess not.
With that said, the playoffs these year have been so exciting so far. Close games, double overtime, and historical plays. We can only hope that this continues to happen in the AFC Championship and NFC Championship games as well as the Superbowl. But in the back of my mind, I’ll always wonder ‘what if the Steelers could have made it to the playoffs’. But unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Whoever your favorite team may be, if they are playing this weekend, I wish you the best of luck. For all of the fantasy football fans out there, I leave you with my predictions – not sure it’s worth much since I predicted at the start of the season that the Steelers would win the Superbowl – but here they are:
- AFC Championship Game – Baltimore Ravens 35, New England Patriots 31
- NFC Championship Game – San Francisco 49’ers 27, Atlanta Falcons 17
- SuperBowl XLVII – San Francisco 49’ers 24, Baltimore Ravens 21 (in Overtime)