On Jan. 15, 2006, I was sitting on the couch with my dad watching the Colts and Steelers battle it out for a spot in the Super Bowl. I wasn't really rooting one way or the other since I happen to like both teams and both quarterbacks a lot.
Being Italian, Sundays revolve around what time the pasta gets cooked, not sporting events. However, on this particular Sunday, my dad was willing to make an exception. The plan was that when there were less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the water would get turned up and as soon as it boiled, the pasta was going in, even if that meant missing the final minute or so of the game. Ok, that seemed fair, considering it was me who requested to bump back dinner time.
The game was nothing like anyone could have expected. The Steelers scored on their opening possession of the game and stunned the Colts and their home crowd. Before anyone could blink, Pittsburgh was up 14-0 in the second quarter. By halftime, the score was 14-3 and my dad was starting to say that we were gonna be eating sooner than we thought.
The second half of the game is when it really got interesting. The Steelers went up another touchdown, but the Colts started clicking on offense. Manning hit tight end Dallas Clark for a 50-yard touchdown pass and all of a sudden the score was 21-18. With a little more than a minute left in the game, Manning was sacked on the Colts' two-yard line and the Steelers took over on downs.
At this point, my dad had gone and turned the water on for the pasta, and by the time the one-minute mark hit, the pasta was ready to go in. Then, something happened that put dinner on hold again.
Just when it looked like Pittsburgh had the game all wrapped up, and the water had boiled again for the pasta, Jerome Bettis fumbled as he was going in for the insurance touchdown. I jumped up and started yelling, "Turn the water down the Bus just fumbled!"
My dad came running into the room wondering what I was yelling about and the next thing he saw was Nick Harper, a defensive back for Indy running with the ball. It looked like he was on his way to scoring a touchdown when Roethlisberger came out of nowhere and tackled Harper by the ankles. All the Colts needed to do was kick a field goal to tie the game, and that seemed like a no brainer, considering how consistent Mike Vanderjagt had been all season.
The entire game had been anything but ordinary, so it was almost no surprise when Vanderjagt missed the field goal with under a minute left to play. Once that happened, the water got turned back on for the pasta, and this time there was a slim chance it would get turned off. Pittsburgh ran the clock down and was on their way to the Super Bowl and everyone was relieved we could finally have dinner.
Two years later, the Colts and Steelers are playing each other again. This time, they are playing in Pittsburgh, and it's not for a spot in the Super Bowl, it's just another regular-season game. All week, in advertising the matchup, networks have been showing clips from that AFC Championship game.
These two teams look nothing like the teams that played each other on that January day. Both teams have been bitten by the injury bug. Willie Parker hasn't been healthy the entire season and has missed practice for almost the entire week with a shoulder injury, leaving the Steelers with having to find other offensive weapons to go to.
Last week, Ben Roethlisberger separated his right shoulder and injured a ligament in the pinkie of his throwing hand, so he's not at 100 percent.
Peyton Manning has been recovering from his knee surgery over the summer, and Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai, both big parts of the team, have also missed playing time due to injuries.
That AFC championship game can't be duplicated. It was strange and exciting right until the final play. For me, the biggest indication of what a good game it was was my dad's willingness to push back dinner. Pasta waits for no one, but on that particular Sunday, it waited for the completion of one of the most exciting playoff games I have been lucky enough to watch.
It is unlikely that this game will be anywhere near as exciting as that game was. Then again, I never thought my dad would push back Sunday dinner for a football game, so anything is possible.
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