TO THE SUPER BOWL!!
What a great year to start a Steelers Blog! I get to run the whole gamut on here, from tough losses during the regular season, to Big Ben’s uncanny ability to get it done in the playoffs. My last post about Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben suddenly became more relevant, didn’t it? Things happened just about the way we expected them to. Most people picked the Packers to beat the Bears, and the same with the Steelers against the Jets. Both winning teams though, played pretty ugly games. I always say, great teams find ways to win, even when they play like crap. Both the Steelers and the Packers proved that today.
Today is an emotional day for me. The last time the Steelers were headed to the Super Bowl, my Dad had a heart attack two days before the game. I remember where I was when I got the call from my mom, and I remember the last thing my dad and I talked about: The Steelers, of course. We talked about how it was a shame we couldn’t all be together to watch the game. My dad predicted that Santonio would have a breakout game and become a star. He wore Tone’s jersey the whole week before the game at work. He was right.
Two days before the game, I got a call that he had collapsed playing in his regular morning basketball game. There was an EMT on site, and they got his heart going again in a timely manner. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to tell that his heart was beating irregularly and there wasn’t enough oxygen getting to his brain. I quickly called my wife, picked her up, and we drove down to IL, where my dad was in the ICU.
My whole family was there. My aunts and uncles from Pittsburgh, old friends, siblings, church family, neighbors…everybody. We gathered together and rallied around my dad in hopes that he would start to respond to neuro exams. Any kind of sign would do, but we had no such luck. I slept on the hospital floor, next to my best friend Andew (a Packers fan), who had recently lost his own brother to Crohn’s Disease. He knew what I was feeling.
We watched the opening kickoff from my dad’s hospital room. Terrible towels draped from his hospital bed, and a flashing Steelers pendant that I bought at a gas station in Wisconsin on the way down to Illinois. We were all wearing it. I still wear it to every game.
We left my dad’s room to finish watching the game from the hospital lobby. We moved the couches, tables and chairs to create a Super Bowl Party atmosphere. I made my dad’s famous Meckler Dip. We cheered. We laid all of our hopes on the boys in Black and Gold, because none of us wanted to think about the news we’d been given that morning. Dad was gone.
We watched as Arizona took the lead late in the 4th quarter. My brother looked at me and said, “Its not supposed to end this way.” Then Big Ben, with fire in his eyes, completed passes to Santonio. One after the other, just as my dad predicted, until they were one play away from the lead and their 6th Lombardi trophy.
The first pass slips through Tone’s fingers. The second is a thing of beauty. I remember so vividly how it felt to see Tone grab the ball out of the air and touch both feet down before getting pushed out of bounds. I saw Big Ben look, point once, point twice, scramble, and then throw in to triple coverage. I still can’t believe it happened. My wife’s parents immediately called to say they felt like it was my dad, holding Tone’s toes down as he came down with the ball. I don’t know about that, but I do know that the moment was magical, and it was exactly what my family needed, in order to forget about life for a while…if only for a minute.
Ultimately, its about my dad.
He was a servant, on a mission. He believed that it was his mission to help people. He owned a small cell phone business called Talking Wireless. He was a brilliant salesman, but rarely let a sale go by where he wasn’t giving away free accessories, and lecturing the young kids about talking on the cell phone while driving. People loved my dad. I had the pleasure of working for him for 3 years. I used to tell him that there was no way he’d ever make any money if he just kept giving everything away for free. He looked at me one time and said “you know what Adam, you can’t take it with you when you’re gone.”
What a man. What a wonderful roll model. What a friend. And what a Steelers fan.
So, with the Steelers earning yet another Super Bowl appearance (they just tied the Cowboys for #1 all time), and the game 2 weeks out, all I can think about is him. I imagine watching the Steelers will never be the same for me. Win or lose next weekend, I will always love the Steelers.
That being said, they’re gonna win.
Love you Pops.