I have a confession to make. I am the reason the Steelers' dynasty of the '70s came to an end. That's right, it was me.
In 1980, the two-time defending champions were attempting to win an unprecedented third Super Bowl in a row and what would have been their fifth Super Bowl title in seven years.
They stumbled and ended the season 9-7, missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years. I single-handedly cost them three games that year.
Please allow me to elaborate.
It was the third week of the 1980 season, and the Steelers were playing in Cincinnati against the woeful Bengals. Pittsburgh mistakes had made the game closer than it should have been.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Greg Hawthorne scored from four yards out to finally give the Steelers a bit of a cushion at 28-20.
That's when I inexplicably turned to my brother and said, "Looks like they've got this one about wrapped up".
Almost immediately, the Bengals cut the lead to 28-27 with a Jack Thompson touchdown pass to Issac Curtis. Before I could apologize to my brother, Frank Pollard fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Cincinnati added a field goal to take the lead with 2:25 left.
As the Steelers drove toward field goal range, I tried to make my peace with the football gods, but it was to no avail. Matt Bahr's 51-yard field goal was wide. I blamed myself.
Three weeks later, Cincinnati came to Three Rivers for the rematch. Without thinking I blurted out, "There's no way they lose to the lowly Bengals twice."
The Steelers promptly dug themselves a 17-0 hole they were unable to climb out of. Bahr again had a chance to win with four seconds left, but he missed from 39 yards out as I had taken my lucky Steelers' hat off to scratch my head.
My brother hit me in the arm so hard I cried.
The real back-breaker came in Week 14 at Houston. The Steelers entered the game with an 8-5 record and in desperate need of a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
In the third period of a brutal defensive struggle, the Steelers got a first down at the Houston one-yard line on a pass interference call. I was so excited, I broke a major rule in regard to speaking during game action. As the next play began, I was still rambling on about the interference call.
To my horror, Bradshaw's pass into the end zone was picked off. The Steelers never threatened again and lost 6-0. The dynasty was over. Sleep did not come easily that night.
I have always been superstitious in regard to Steelers' games. I am not alone.
I have a friend whose whole family crosses their legs when Pittsburgh has the ball and changes legs at the end of each drive. That's a little crazy.
I know another Steelers fan who believes Pittsburgh lost Super Bowl XXX because his Neil O'Donnell poster had a tear in it. Who can argue with that?
I used to have a lucky pair of boxer shorts that I wore for all the Steelers' games. I wore them until they literally disintegrated.
Most recently, I have started a new ritual to help the Steelers secure a win each weekend. I have a team highlight video for the 1974 Steelers. In the video, a Steelers fan is asked who he thinks is going to win the playoff game between Pittsburgh and the Buffalo Bills with O.J. Simpson. The fan responds, "The Steelers are going to win because they're hungry, they didn't have no breakfast today...they've been waitin' for the Juice!"
I now say those words to myself before every Steelers' game. Don't laugh, it works. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls in the last four years.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put on my Steelers slippers and walk backwards into my sports room while reciting the scores of Pittsburgh's 1969 preseason games so that Evander Hood will not be a draft bust. I know what you're thinking, but it really does work.