Monday, March 21, 2011

The Pulse of a Pittsburgh Sports Fan

ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote a column several years ago stating that you can’t complain about your sports team for five years after they win a championship. Does that apply to all sports teams in the same city after one wins a title? What if two teams win championships? The Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowls in the 2006 and 2008 seasons while the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in the 2008-2009 season. Nevertheless, when the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers last month, it hurt as a fan. The consolation in the defeat was that Green Bay outplayed the Steelers and definitely deserved to win, and I shifted my focus to the Penguins and Pitt basketball.

Nearly 24 hours after* Pitt lost in dramatic fashion to Butler on Saturday night, I’m still amazed at the ending. Actually, I’m amazed at the entire game. This was the year that Pitt was supposed to reach the Final Four. The team started 3 seniors and 2 juniors and had one of the deepest teams in college basketball. Pitt won the regular season Big East Championship in arguably the toughest conference ever. Even the loss in the Big East Tournament was fine since you figured that the team would be well-rested for the NCAA tournament and focus on the mistakes made against UConn and work to correct them. Then, Saturday night happened. (Sorry to interrupt this post, but Butler's Matt Howard just flopped as I was typing this.) As was the case in most of Pitt’s losses this year, they fell behind early and extended a lot of energy and emotion to come back. However, Pitt did come back against Butler. If you follow basketball, you know what happened during the final 10 seconds. I’m not going repeat the game story here, but I don’t remember a game with such a drastic range of emotions over such a short period of time. The end result is one of the most painful defeats in Pittsburgh sports history.

So 2011 has not started well for Pittsburgh sports. Sure, feel free to make the argument that the Cleveland Browns would love to have been in the position to play in a Super Bowl. There are also 300 college basketball teams that would love to reach the NCAA round of 32. That doesn’t make me feel better. I’m already waiting to see what spectacular way the Penguins will lose in the playoffs. Will Sidney Crosby return only to get another head injury in a game 7 against the Flyers or Capitals courtesy of Mike Richards or Alexander Ovechkin and then that same player scores the game-winner moments later? Yes, that’s where I am right now. I guess that way the year has gone so far, but maybe I’m looking at everything wrong. Maybe the unthinkable has yet to occur. Perhaps the Pirates can be a .500 team!

You know, what makes me (and hopefully you too) feel better? Jerome Lane’s dunk (and reading about the dunk)!

Read more about the Pitt-Butler game on the Pitt Script blog & Sports Illustrated

* I’m either writing this on Sunday night or I travelled to Australia and somehow changed time. Your choice.

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