Summer carves a football-free stretch in the year of the die-hard football fan. That is, if you are a lucky football fan.
During the lazy days dedicated to golf, tennis, and baseball, the rabid faithful should be praying for precious little news to surface from their camp.
On rainy summer days, I immerse myself in watching summer sports or movies, but I have to admit, I still miss football. I would rather live in the moment yet every so often, like a film buff who seizes an opportunity to watch Hitchcock's "Vertigo" for the millionth time, I cannot resist tuning into my favorite Steeler games.
Coaches and players analyze game film, gleaning for tell-tale moments illustrating weakness and strength. My favorite games are really favorite moments. Moments that seem to last forever because upon them, months of work pivot.
Number one in my book comes from the 2005 AFC playoff game between the Steelers and the Colts. It was a heavyweight David and Goliath epic featuring the Steelers' chance to avenge the regular season beat-down that they suffered at the hands of Indy.
Yet, revenge is never perfectly linear. As Bruce Willis' boxer in Pulp Fiction discovered, things are either put perfectly right or go horribly wrong when a guy who lives by his own code finds himself in a certain place at a certain time.
The divisional matchup featured an overflow of occasions that epitomized the strengths of both the Steelers and the Colts: None stronger than Roethlisberger's tackle, none weaker than Vanderjagt's shank.
Yet the moment that symbolizes the 2005 Steelers' season for me follows Joey Porter's sack of Peyton Manning on fourth down at the Colt's two with 1:20 left in the game.
The camera pans toward the Steeler bench giving fans a view of Cowher hopping around at the thoughts of this game being all but over. In the slow motion replay however, there is a shot of Roethlisberger making a B-line for a coach.
Ben doesn't reach out for Bill Cowher or Ken Whisenhunt, instead he grabs Dick LeBeau in an effort to channel his palpable emotion. Ben yells out his homage, and in return, LeBeau calmly slaps Ben on the chest—I think he may even say: "Stop."
For me, the moment is full of the timeless emotional gravity of James Stewart pulling Zuzu's petals from his jacket pocket in It's A Wonderful Life with one major difference: George Bailey's nightmare has come to an end, while Ben is oblivious to the Steelers' tribulation that is about to unfold.
Roethlisberger trots onto the field with God knows what swirling through his head, and seconds later, the kid has the presence of mind to thank LeBeau with his actions when he snagged Harper's foot and made that tackle.
I could watch it forever.
The 2005 playoffs feature other moments upon which drama pivots and character is revealed. Hines Ward, also playing the role of a defensive player, is a highlight of the opening drive of the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos.
Ward stripped the pick from Champ Bailey, made the impossible catch, held on after a brutal hit, and stood up with a smile on his face. Composed and classy, lethal, and tough as nails. Ward so frequently is right there just when you need him the most. I would have to say, he is pure James Bond.
Let's hope for a long summer, filled with bright days spent outdoors. But on those rainy weekends that pop up, I strongly recommend kicking back with some classic film.
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