The Five Stages of Steeler Fandom in 2015
Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote “On Death and Dying” in 1969. In it she postulated a model of how people experience (and eventually come to terms with) the death of a loved one. I believe we can trace in this the ways we have attempted to cope with this unusually difficult season.
Although it seems as if this season has been even more of a roller coaster ride than usual, the truth is, it isn’t easy being a Steeler fan. Even in the best years they seem to be the Cardiac Kids.
If you’re a 21st century Patriots fan, you can just about bet your team is going to make the post-season, and if they are a top-two seed they will almost certainly go to the Super Bowl. Of course, unless they win it, (which they have done a suspiciously large number of times in the last decade and a half) you are going to have a huge letdown at some point. But there is comfort in knowing that as long as Tom Brady is healthy (and he generally is) your team is going to win a lot of games. After all, they even won a lot of games with Matt Cassell at QB.
It could be a lot worse, though. If you root for, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you know the chances are not good they will even make it to the playoffs. They have made it to the post-season 10 times in the 40-year history of the team. (Conversely, during the same 40-year period the Steelers have made the post-season 23 times, the Patriots 21 times.) And of the 10 times Tampa Bay made the playoffs, they only advanced beyond the first game three times, and only made the Super Bowl once (but then won it.) The last time they made the playoffs was 2007. This season’s 6-9 team isn’t going either.
So as not to tempt fate, I won’t mention today’s opponent. Let’s just say it REALLY hasn’t been easy to be a fan of the Factory of Sadness since they re-emerged in the late 90s. They have had a winning season twice during this time, made it to the playoffs once, and lost in the wild-card round.
To return to Kübler-Ross, her five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think we can all relate to these this year.
As I noted in my opponent preview, pretty much no one expected the Steelers to win this game [Steelers at Patriots.] They didn’t. The final score of 28 – 21 looks better than it really was.
And yet, perhaps the most frustrating part was it looked for most of the game like they had a decent chance to compete.
That looks rather like denial. “Denial” can also include a goodly dose of questioning the officiating:
But there were a lot of passes which should have been complete which weren’t. The Seattle secondary is very aggressive, and they made a lot of good plays on the ball.
I noted the refs were happy to let them be aggressive, too. Seattle had a lot of penalties for one thing and another, but not a single pass interference call, despite draping themselves on the receivers at various points and a seriously egregious incident where Antonio Brown was shoved to the ground before he touched the ball.
Next comes Anger: (Courtesy of Ivan):
52 Steelers played well enough to win.
It’s not often that my reaction to a Steelers loss is one of such anger and frustration. What Josh Scobee just learned the hard way is that the margin of error in Steelers vs Ravens is too narrow to accommodate what he put out there last night. And while there were some other issues out that one might criticize, mostly having to do with some play calling decisions, it would be hindsight and nitpicking to say that those things were significant.
It would be a matter of tough luck if Scobee missed a makeable field goal once. Heinz is a tough place to kick. But he did it twice.
The Rams aren’t setting the league on fire…but…indoor pyrotechnics is simply insane. it should be banned by the fire marshals, but there isn’t a fire marshal in the nation who has the political clout to stand up to the NFL and still expect to have a job on Monday morning. This should serve as a wake-up call to the NFL that this type of nonsense should be banned. Indoor pyrotechnics killed 100 people at a nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI a few years ago, and doing it in a place with 60,000 people or more in a closed area is absolute insanity. Almost criminally insane.
I think we can all remember plenty of instances of anger this season, both our own and others. Last week is still too fresh. Next comes:
I’m afraid I can’t think of any quotes off-hand for this, because this is something we all do in the privacy of our own thoughts. It probably relates best to the superstition article. The following was from a pre-season Asked and Answered:
Bob, I need your help. Back in the 1970s, my grandfather gave me a Terrible Towel for Christmas. I don’t remember the exact year, but my dad always told me it was the first year the Terrible Towels were sold. The problem with mine is that it seems like every time I’ve pulled it out over the last 8-to-10 years, the Steelers have lost, no matter the opponent and how overwhelmingly impossible it seemed they would lose – the 4-12 Oakland Raiders in 2012, anyone? My question is, what can I do to shake the bad mojo out of this Towel so that I can fly it on Sundays without having to feel like it’s my fault the Steelers lose? I KNOW that it’s not really my fault, but being the superstitious former athlete I am, I can’t help but think my Towel is a jinx.
Labriola advised he retire the towel with honor.
Last Sunday Adrian and I went to early church (I was visiting him and his family in Colorado) so we could make it to his friend Donna’s house for the 11 am kickoff. Hopefully I was kidding, but afterwards I commented that it didn’t seem right that the Steelers would lose when we had done our part and gone to church first. Hopefully…
Bill S. skipped the previous step, as he commented after last Sunday’s loss:
I have gone from angry to just plain depressed. What a waste. Good teams don’t lose games like this. The wins against the Bengals and Broncos were illusions.
There are only too many examples of depression. Here’s the most recent, from Homer J.:
About the best thing you can say about Sunday’s loss is that they have closed all access to the Greenfield Bridge in Pittsburgh, and they are going to blow it up on Monday. So that negates one final exit route for those Steeler fans who believe they have no reason to live after this totally unexpected loss.
Of course, Pittsburgh – as the social scientist Reggie “Crusher” Lisowski once observed, is the only city where a guy can commit suicide jumping out his basement window, because there are so many places to end it all after this Gloomy Sunday.
For Homer, this also means listening to the incessant yammering of Redskin fans in DC, since the .500 skins have won the NFC Least Division. They will be going to the playoffs, while the Steelers will be playing golf in two weeks. Until the ‘Skins are one and done, Homer will have to bear the pain of listening to these idiots and he will envy the deaf.
If that isn’t depression I don’t know what is.
And finally, Acceptance.
As skyfire said in response to the 5 Smoldering Questions this week:
I will let DeAngelo Williams answer this question. (DeWill said after Sunday’s loss): “What bothers me is that people overlook 4-10 teams like they aren’t allowed to play good football or play up to a team that is hot or has a winning record. This is the National Football League. It is any given Sunday, and it is not always the best team that wins on Sunday. It’s the team that plays the best on Sundays.”
George Siegal commented on the same post:
The Steelers only lost to one team when they were favored this season and that was the Ravens last Sunday. The Steelers won four games when they were the underdog, including the last Bengals game and the Broncos. Under Tomlin they average 10.6 wins per season. Rebuilding a team with records of 8-8, 8-8, 11-5 and (hopefully) 10-6 is amazing, granted the secondary still needs to be finished.
I think perhaps acceptance includes making excuses, as I did in this week’s Stats ‘n At:
Hopefully Ben Roethlisberger will look more like himself next week. I found myself wondering if he had the flu, since it has been going through the locker room, and in fact Ben went home sick yesterday. So hopefully we can attribute his bad game to not feeling very well, and hopefully he will feel better Sunday. Much better.
But true acceptance can’t come until after the Steelers are actually officially eliminated from the post-season, as may very well happen later today, however things play out in Cleveland. At that point I’m guessing the entire cycle will begin again, and we will perhaps have made it all the way to Acceptance by the Pro Bowl or so.
Maybe this just isn’t the Steelers’ year. But given how well they played for the majority of the year, and the very surprising victories over what have continued to prove to be strong teams (such as the Landry Jones-led Steelers beating the Arizona Cardinals), and Ben being able to return after escaping not one but two potentially season-ending injuries, it just seemed like kismet. As I write this, I’m hoping it is, and somehow or other we will see at least a few more weeks of football this season—that the early Week 17 games will end in the resurrection of the Steelers’ hopes and not the as the final graveyard.
If not—well, let the grieving begin.