Week XXI: Final Thoughts

January 29th, 2005

Week XXI: Final Thoughts

Is It Really Over?

When the clock ran out on the AFC Championship game, I was still inside Heinz Field. Even as the scoreboard showed no W for the Steelers, I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. So along with a small crowd of other fans, I went over to the Steelers bench to catch the last glimpse of our heroes walking off the field. As I looked around, I saw men and women on the verge of devastation. Some holding back tears, others covering their faces. Then as Jerome Bettis walked off the field, he held his helmet high, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Suddenly I was overcome by emotion. Filled with pride but trampled by loss. All I could think was that my last photograph could not be the face of a man crying. That image would not represent the amazing season. It could not end that way.

So I went home and locked myself away for a few days, wrestling with my grief.

First came denial: How could it end this way? It just can’t be over.

Very quickly followed anger: I can’t believe Cowher screwed this up again. That !@*!-ing [inset any player’s name who didn’t have a pefect game]!

Soon I was bargaining for another chance: Did I jinx it by saying “Super Bowl” out loud? What part of my ritual had I missed? Next year, I’ll never wash my jersey! Please find a way to to bring the Bus back. I swear on my father’s grave that I’ll never bad mouth Cowher again if he can beat the Patriots next year.

And like the rest of the city, I felt depression: All is lost. We might as well sell the team. No football, no hockey, no hope. I don’t even want to watch the Super Bowl commercials this year. I’ll never get so involved that it breaks my heart again.

Then acceptance. You can’t win them all. Wait until next year.

It is hard to remember that the NFL season is a lot like the Christmas holidays. You get so excited for Christmas day, but at some point you have to put away your Christmas decorations until next year. (Although you will see Steelers stuff all year if you live in Pittsburgh) Seasons last for a finite amount of time. I only imagined that I’d get sixteen Sundays. From start to finish I had twenty weeks plus preseason to experience the excitement of the Steelers 15-1 regular season. And I got to meet thousands of Steelers fans from all over the country. I knew it had to end at some point, but I never wanted that day to come.

The sour ending of a playoff loss was erased by the Steelers’ wonderful performance at the Pro Bowl. Hines Ward’s smile restored my hope for the future. Now as I look back at the photographs, I am excited for next year. My photographs stand as proof that it was an amazing experience.

The ending of one season does not end the saga of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Theirs is a long story filled with drama, suspense and celebration. My project was only meant to be a glimpse of sixteen Sundays in the life of a Steelers fan. And those days have come and gone. I have struggled with my ending though. So I will take some time to go over my photographs in preparation for next season. Maybe I’ll bring my camera with me next year. Maybe I’ll just bring some Iron City and enjoy the next chapter.

There is only one way to end this project, and that is with a sincere thank you.

Hopefully I’ll see you next season.

Special Notes:
If you didn’t get a chance to see the television interviews, they are now available in the video page.

Week XXI: Final Thoughts

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