First Person: I'm over it

Working through the five stages of Steelers grief, in 12 hours

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Sunday 10:09 p.m. Denial:

I sat in my icy, yellow seat for a good 15 minutes after the game had ended. Couldn't bear to watch the Patriots get the championship trophy, but worse, couldn't bring myself to leave this wonderful and tortured place. That I won't return until August seems inconceivable.

I was the last to leave, along with some other dude in section 510 wearing a tattered No. 95 Greg Lloyd jersey. A perfect stranger, we hugged (a manly hug) and agreed over raw larynxes that we'd cheered our guts out, and aggravated our Terrible Towel-waving elbows -- the fandom equivalent of a Hines Ward effort.

Sunday 10:39 p.m. Anger: Why does this always happen to my teams? I was 2 when the Steelers last won a Super Bowl. Francisco Cabrera is seared into my brain and since then baseball has been bastardized via money and the drugs that turned skinny Barry Bonds into the Michelin Man. JoePa's Nittany Lions didn't catch my eye until high school and they stink now. I have truly fond recollections of the Penguins Stanley Cup runs, but I mean c'mon -- it's hockey, and that sport is going the way of typewriters and landline phones.

Should I become a front runner? Would it be easier to switch allegiance like Don King after a fight? Wait until the night before the Super Bowl and then pick my team? Become a Yankees fan? Vote Republican? Apply to Michigan for grad school in the fall for football, then transfer to Duke in time for hoops season?

Furthermore, am I the problem? Is it my tortured existence as a Pittsburgher? I read stories with annoying frequency about the exodus of folks from places like ours, the old economy towns long on character and bad weather but short on prolific job growth. Maybe I should uproot to some faceless, soulless Atlanta subdivision, work for Coca-Cola and annually adopt whatever NBA team Shaq is playing for that year.

Sunday, 11:51 p.m. Bargaining: All I really wanted was one Super Bowl victory. Just one. Not two. Not a dynasty. I'm not that greedy. Just one to enjoy with my friends and family while I'm still young. I had already decided that if we won, I would savor it like the finest of cognacs, remember it forever as a truly treasured memory, and then get on with my life.

Oh, I'd still be a fan, still keep my season tickets, but I'd have that look that the older Steelers fans have. They love our team, but are somewhat nonchalant about Sunday's result, because they've been there. They know. Like folks who have celebrated mass with the pope or bought pre-iPod Apple stock, they are experienced and wise. Black & Gold Yodas, if you will.

Had we won a Super Bowl, I'd put a minimum 10-year moratorium on complaining about anything even remotely related to sports. Big Ben could steal my girlfriend and I'd tell him to take care and to look after that thumb. All that space in my temporal lobe, that shockingly inordinate amount of gray matter devoted to things like: Weegie Thompson's number (87); Merril Hoge's alma mater (Idaho State); and Keith Gary's birthday (Sept. 14) -- I'd free up those synapses to do things that I've always wanted to do, like learn Italian, read Faulkner's works and pay my cable bill on time.

Just one.


Monday, 12:47 a.m. Depression: The first real wave started to set in when I got home. I live on the South Side, just about a block off Carson Street, which is usually a 24/7 cacophony of cars, buses, drunken college kids, whiny old people and even whinier hipsters. It was just after midnight, the street silent, the streetlights reflecting an eerie pinkish-orange hue off of the snow, which had encased our neighborhood. I unloaded the car, still freezing, the only person on the street.

There's a scene in "Fargo," when a broken Jerry Lundegaard, played by William H. Macy, trudges alone across a bleak, snow-covered Minneapolis-in-winter parking lot, a shell of a man. That's about how I felt, except I was wearing a Mean Joe jersey and had frozen chili stains on my knee. Twenty-seven messages of condolence are waiting on my answering machine.

Monday, 9:43 a.m. Acceptance: As with many matters of the heart that need soothing, I turn to the Dave Matthews Band. I popped on "Under the Table and Dreaming" as I sat in gridlocked Monday morning traffic on the Fort Pitt Bridge, staring over at Heinz Field.

Dave came on: "Hey my friend / It seems your eyes are troubled / Care to share your time with me? / Would you say you're feeling low and so / a good idea would be to get it off your mind ... / And if nothing can be done / We'll make the best of what's around."

The lyrics might as well have been a dialogue between me and the personified stadium, though I'm not sure which one of us would have been speaking the comforting words. Probably the stadium. I sniffled a little. Then a little more when I later heard a clip of Hines Ward's press conference on the radio.

Then, I gained some perspective.

There are worse things. Much worse. That my biggest source of discomfort this week (or this year, to be honest) is the result of a football game, well, that's a good problem to have. And gosh wasn't this season fun? And isn't that the point?

I mean, we didn't lose for FOUR MONTHS. Four months of high-fiving strangers, tailgating with grade-school friends, post-game cell-phone chalk talks with buddies in Tampa and San Diego, road-tripping, Myhrn, Polamalu's 'do, and the Bus. Four months of Mom fawning over Coach Cahr, talking blitz packages with my old man, of being captivated by a 22-year-old from Western Ohio, of asking folks, "So, what are you doing for the game on Sunday?" the way normal people discuss Thanksgiving or Christmas plans.

And if that's the best of what's around, then I'll take it with glee.

Six months 'til Latrobe. Here we go.

Dan Gigler is a Post-Gazette staff writer in the PG West bureau ( ).


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