At one time in my life, a confusing time, when a man known as Kordell Stewart was quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers, I was in search of an idol. Stewart was no where near that, despite my loyalty to the Black and Gold.
I came to admire Drew Bledsoe and his capability to dismantle defenses with the New England Patriots. Bledsoe was my idol, and the New England Patriots almost a second team.
Yet, as I grew older, things began to change: the 2000s brought on a sinister team that I turn in revolt and disgust whenever I hear the name. Yes, they are the same New England Patriots, but I cringe at the team of the past decade.
My memory takes me back to a game that the Steelers were playing the Patriots—my team against my idol. Bledsoe left the game with an injury, and I was somewhat disappointed; not only was my Bledsoe injured, but it unleashed the monster that we now call Tom Brady: the seventh-round draft pick from Michigan.
Brady led the Patriots not only to a victory in that game, but to many more. Over the past decade, he has quarterbacked the team to three Super Bowl victories in four chances.
In 2002, however, irony was never so heavy. The Steelers were playing the Patriots for the AFC Championship and looking to win it. Brady was injured in at the start of the second half, a bad omen, bringing in my once revered Drew Bledsoe, who systematically dismantled the Steelers' secondary to a victory, stunning Pittsburgh of its chance for "one for the thumb."
In 2004, the Steelers beat the Patriots due to injuries, and I couldn't have been happier. Yet, once again, the tides turned. The Patriots not only beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship, they demolished them by a margin of 25 points and ended Ben Roethlisberger's win streak at 15—the most for a rookie.
I had never been so emotional about a game, and I sat in tears watching my team fall short of the Super Bowl by the hand of Tom Brady.
I stowed the jersey as far back into the deepest depths of my closet and had to force myself to refrain from burning it because of the nostalgic value I knew it will hold in the future.
My mood changed over the next year to elation at the long awaited "one for the thumb" where the Patriots had no say in the Steelers' season. Pittsburgh was a Super Bowl champion once again.
Even after the mediocre 8-8 season the following year, I wasn't completely deflated. Perhaps I was still hungover from the Super Bowl victory of the previous season, and maybe it was because I was privileged to watch Peyton Manning keep the Patriots out of the Super Bowl.
The only competition was my hate for the Dallas Cowboys, whom I found myself rooting for against the Patriots! I was even pulling for the Ravens to beat them.
After watching the Ravens game, I thought the Steelers had what it took to beat the Patriots: a strong running game. Yet, the incompetent, second year, backup free safety, playing for the injured Ryan Clark, Anthony Smith, had to open his mouth and "guarantee a win" against the unbeaten, unblemished New England Patriots.
The game turned into a debacle where the Patriots used a trick play used two years before by the Steelers against the Bengals in the AFC wild-card game. Tom Brady hooked up with Randy Moss several times for two touchdowns, beating none other than the ignoramus Anthony Smith himself.
This year, I was elated when I found out that Tom Brady was out for the season and that Matt Cassel, whom I had never heard of prior to this season, would be taking over. I saw the dangerous Randy Moss's numbers drop and the annoying Wes Welker's as well.
Yet, just as I was getting my hopes up, Matt Cassel posts back-to-back 400-yard passing games, in consecutive weeks prior to the Pittsburgh-New England faceoff. I had been looking forward to the Steelers finally destroying the New England Patriots and satisfying my hunger for their destruction...until Sunday.
Though the Steelers have the No. 1 defense in the NFL and are ranked so in every possible defensive category that could even be thought of, but I can't help but worry that the Patriot Pests of old and the Bill Belichick magic will once again turn the tides in an unfavorable outcome for me.
The Patriot defense could actually pose as "Patriots" being that they are 1770s ancient, but the Steelers' offense has been struggling with sudden signs of hope.
I just hope that Big Ben can play like his old self and like he did last Thursday against the Bengals. I hope that Willie Parker can return to being Fast Willie and break off a couple long runs with some added touchdowns.
But if anything, there won't be any guarantees this time, will there Anthony Smith?