I’ve now had over a week to fully digest the fact that the Steelers lost the Super Bowl. And I can now say from experience that time does NOT heal all wounds. It still hurts just like it did when the final whistle blew. Frankly, after reading this week’s Sports Illustrated and their love-fest for the Packers, I think I feel even worse.
But now that I’ve had time to reflect on all of the implications of the loss, I’ve come to realize that losing is even worse than it originally seemed. In fact, losing the Super Bowl may be the worst fate in all of sports.
Some of you probably think that I’m exaggerating. But I’m not.
Let’s look at some of the worst sports memories that I can recall, then I’ll show you why this is worse.
When the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup, that was pretty bad. But the team had a very young nucleus, and the team that beat them was aging in dog years. It was clear that in time, the Pens would overtake them. And that’s exactly what happened the next year. So losing wasn’t so bad. It gave a young team the experience they needed to win the Cup later.
Or how about when the Pirates lost their young stars Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla? While that seemed like a terrible thing, I was certain that it was only going to be a matter of time before the Pirates signed new star players and got back to their winning ways. Ummmm, I was obviously wrong about that one. But still, the pain the Pirates bring me on a daily basis is manageable. It’s not even in the same neighborhood as what the Steelers just put me through.
Dave Wannstedt got several extremely talented Pitt football teams to under-perform miserably. In fact, he seemed to have a special talent for that. No wonder he’s no longer the head coach. But I always felt confident that he would recruit another strong class the next year, and they’d under-perform once again. So Pitt losses were never truly painful.
But what the Steelers did was much worse. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud that they got to the Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin did a fantastic job with this team. Most fans didn’t expect the Steelers to make it to the Super Bowl this year. But despite the pride in seeing the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, I still think that losing the Super Bowl is the worst fate in sports.
There are several reasons that I feel this way. Firstly, the Super Bowl is the biggest stage in sports outside of the World Cup (and we know that Americans don’t care about soccer). So losing the Super Bowl is essentially failure of the greatest imaginable magnitude.
Secondly, the feeling of hope that being in the Super Bowl brings also leads to an incredible feeling of letdown when the hopes aren’t realized. The NFL drags on the anticipation by making us wait a full two weeks before the Super Bowl is actually played. That two weeks is about as enjoyable as Chinese water torture. If I had to listen to one more analyst ask “who has better hair, Troy Polamalu or Clay Matthews?”, I think I would have shot myself.
Frankly, unless your team actually wins it, the Super Bowl and all of the events leading up to it, are actually pretty miserable. Think about it.
Perhaps I’m the only one, but I think I’d rather have the Steelers lose earlier in the playoffs than lose in the Super Bowl. An early playoff exit just doesn’t seem to hurt as much.
And finally, the NFL essentially penalizes the team that loses the Super Bowl. Because they made it to the Super Bowl, the Steelers will get the 31st pick in the draft. So we have to watch Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland pick talented players while we wait patiently for the 31st pick to come around.
Do you think there will be a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle still on the board at pick #31? Neither do I. Or how about a top-tier cornerback? Do you think the next Darrelle Revis is going to be sitting there at pick #31? Neither do I.
When the Steelers first lost the Super Bowl, I comforted myself by saying that “30 other teams would have loved to have been where we were”. But now I’m not so sure about that.
When the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Indianapolis Colts are all picking ahead of us, do you think that any of them are going to envy the Steelers, or want to swap picks with them? That’s what I thought.
I know that this has been a bit of a rant. But I had to get it out of my system. Losing the Super Bowl sucks! And it sucks on multiple levels.
In the future, I think I’d prefer that the Steelers either win the Super Bowl, or get eliminated from the playoffs as early as possible. Heck, if we can’t win it all, then at least we can get a good draft pick to help us win the following season.
Hmmmmm, I wonder if Mike Pouncey will be available at pick #31?