Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: A final thought

By Mike Batista

"Poor Mike had to leave the 'Burgh," were the first words I heard from Nick Nery.

On the morning of the Steelers' eighth Super Bowl appearance, the fifth that I have followed, I'm thinking about that phone conversation I had 20 years ago.

It helps demonstrate just how important today is.

I've never lived in Pittsburgh, but I can understand why Nick thought I did. I was calling him for ideas about getting bars in Boston to show Steelers games. I had just turned 19 and was about to enter my sophomore year at Emerson College.

I became a Steelers fan in 1979 and watched them win their fourth championship. Then came the mediocre 1980s. Now, finally, it looked like the Steelers were returning to prominence after a decade of irrelevance.

Seven months earlier, the Steelers came within one point of the AFC championship game. A rag-tag 9-7 team upset the Oilers in the wild-card round of the playoffs and lost 24-23 to the Broncos in the divisional round.

Many of you yinzers are probably familiar with Nick. He himself had to leave Pittsburgh and find places to watch the Steelers in other parts of the country. This was before DirecTV. So growing up in Rhode Island, a Steelers game on TV was a special treat. But it looked like they were finally getting better, so I wanted to watch them more.

That phone conversation expanded my vocabulary. I learned that natives call Pittsburgh "the 'Burgh" and that "yinz" is often used in place of "you."

I also learned that establishing a Steelers bar in Boston was more than I could handle. My education kind of got in the way.

The Steelers' playoff run of 1989 turned out to be a tease, anyway. It would be another five years before the Steelers reached another Super Bowl and another 15 years before they won another Super Bowl.

During that time when I was rarely able to watch the Steelers, it was hard to envision completely missing just two of their 106 games during a six-year period, and that during those six years, they'd have a chance to win three Super Bowls.

It's not something to be taken for granted.

We should appreciate how far the Steelers have come in the last two decades.

They just need to come a little bit further by winning today.

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