Tailgate Topped with Playoff Win

January 12th, 2009

Tailgate Topped with Playoff Win

This one is for you Joyce. Better late than never.

I love the playoffs. The fans have more intensity and every moment seems more charged with importance. The noise builds when the defense is on first and second down, not just big third & fourth downs. The Steelers faced the “Stay Classy” San Diego Chargers last Sunday in the AFC Divisional Playoff game. After a bye week, the steelers came out fresh and played convincing football, defeating the Chargers 35-24. But there were moments when every heart sank. Like when the Chargers scored within 2 minutes of the opening kickoff. “Oh well! It was nice to be here. See next season,” I thought for an instant. But as they say there was a whole lot more football to be played. It felt like the Steelers were back in action: running the football, good protection, mistake free, stellar defense. The steelers controled the ball on offense for all but 17 seconds in the third quarter. The best defense is a good offense, right? I could tell they were having fun out there. Jeff Reed dyed his hair pineapple blond. And it was good to see Jerome Bettis clowning around on the sidelines with his old teammates. Hope he comes back this week to rev up his old teammates. I can see Bus crying a tear or two of joy if they win the AFC Championship.

When the temperature dips in January, tailgating also intensifies. How else do you keep warm? While everyone may have felt unsure of a win, we all appreciated one more game in Pittsburgh. Over the last five years, I have joined quite a few tailgates, but my home has always been in a corner of the ghetto. That’s not it’s official name or even a politically sensitive name, but it is a little corner under the highway. It is tucked away between a now dilapidated bar and the railroad tracks. On any other day, the only people you would find there would be homeless. In the beginning, way back when Heinz Field first opened, there was lots of open parking. The kind you needed a pass for, but a nice open atmosphere for tailgating, where you could enjoy an open fire. Those who didn’t have a pass for the reserved lots, found sanctuary under the bridge, in the ghetto. Now the area dubbed the North Shore, has been highly developed and consumed with massive construction sites, vertical garages, and towering buildings. But the ghetto remains, and that is where I have friends who will feed me and provide me with shelter. This week I wandered around the parking lots, but came back to enjoy the comfort of friends. And for this game I was asked to take a group portrait.

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The Steelers victory means they will host the AFC Championship game against our old rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. Their third meeting this season. I for one am not about to book my tickets to Tampa yet. The Ravens are the exact team I did not want to see in the playoffs. So for now I am thankful for one more game. I’ll enjoy seeing all my ghetto friends one more time. But don’t be surprised if you see me warming my hands by the burn barrel this week, looking deep into the flames and quietly hoping for one more game. That would be sweet!

Up Next:

AFC Championship Game: Sunday January 16, 2009. CBS 6:30 PM.

Tailgate Topped with Playoff Win

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