The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls. The Dallas Cowboys have won five…and they'd have won seven if Pittsburgh hadn't beaten them in Super Bowl X, and again in Super Bowl XIII. According to Chad Millman, co-author of The Ones Who Hit the Hardest, those were grand days, indeed.
“Those two Super Bowls they played, especially XXXIII, were the epitome of what championships were supposed to be,” said Millman. “Both games were won by a total of eight points, and they were, by far, the greatest Super Bowls that had been played up to that point.”
So it's a big deal that the Steelers and Cowboys are playing each other on Sunday, right? Actually, not so much, in terms of the next Super Bowl, as neither team may even make the playoffs this time around. Each stands at a lackluster 7-6...a circumstance that delights only those fans who root against both former champions…fans like former Only A Game producer Gabe O'Connor:
“I respect the Steelers. I grow weary of their fans sometimes. I absolutely loathe the Cowboys and every single day that they are bad is a great, great day."
So, has this been a terrific season for O'Connor? No. "This has been a terrific decade,” he said.
Ugo Perotti, father of Only A Game technical director John Perotti, doesn't agree. He has been rooting for the Cowboys since 1970, when he was 14. He lives in Phoenix now, but it has never occurred to him to switch allegiances and root for the Cardinals:
“No. I mean, as much as I've had some bad years with the Cowboys, I'm a die hard Cowboys fan. No matter what, I'm always going to root for them, you know. I went to one of Cardinals games, and half the people there had Cowboys shirts on. It's just amazing how many Cowboys fans there are here in Arizona.”
Only A Game producer Karen Given's high school friend Kim Papit, who lives in Dallas, is likewise unlikely to switch allegiances:
“Absolutely not. I grew up in Illinois and I'm still a Cubs fan, if that tells you anything.”
I asked Kim if her small daughter was also a Cowboys fan.
“Well, she's definitely got plenty of Cowboys onesies, and I was putting them on her, but I've decided that it's child abuse to keep doing that.”
Unlike the Cowboys, the Steelers have appeared in the Super Bowl in recent memory. They even won one in 2009. But according to long-time Steelers fans Bill and Judy Atlee, that doesn't make dealing with this season's disappointments any easier.
“No, it makes it worse. Because they seem to have this incredible skill at playing down to rotten teams,” Bill said.
Still, neither Judy, who wears a Steelers jersey when she watches games, nor Bill, my brother-in-law, can imagine rooting for another team. In part, that's because they regularly drive across Pennsylvania to attend games in Pittsburgh, no matter the team's record, no matter how well the considerably closer Eagles or somewhat closer Jets and Giants are playing…and no matter what sort of weather is bearing down on the Steel City:
“We sat through the AFC playoff game between the Patriots and the Steelers when it was -10 at kickoff, and we sat through the entire game. I just can't imagine ever walking away from that team," Bill Atlee said.
If they can beat the Cowboys Sunday, and if various other results fall their way, the Steelers could still make the post-season. But would that be preferable to falling short and getting a better draft pick by doing so? Life-long Steelers fan and technical director for "Here and Now" Doug Shugarts doesn't think so:
“No. I'd like them to take someone out. Somebody who's expecting it. I think that would be fun.”
Sunday's game will help determine which of these two former champs, the Cowboys or the Steelers, can continue to avoid, at least for another week, disappointing some former or far-flung member of the Only A Game extended family, and continue to dream of a return to glory in February 2013.
This segment aired on December 15, 2012.