Family Practice: Family FootballWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | email@example.com
Never a bridesmaid, never the bride
My son, Jack, has defied one in 16 odds; his favorite NFL team is going to the Super Bowl. I am quite certain he has no real sense of the magnitude of his team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, actually going all the way the very first year he fell head over heels for football. As a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, I can attest to the fact that making it to the Vince Lombardi Trophy round of the contest isn’t the easiest task in the world.
I still remember jumping around my living room as a kid, first in excited anticipation and then in defeat and disbelief, as the Browns just missed going to the Super Bowl in 1987. And then again the next year. And then again two years after that. For a few years, we didn’t even have a team. Actually, since the Browns rebirth in 1999, we still haven’t had much of a team to speak of.
My son, however, may never know or even understand the vicarious trials I’ve endured just by following a can’t-quite-get-there team. Super Bowl XLV will be the third Super Bowl the Steelers have played in since my son was born seven and a half years ago. Despite his aptitude for math and probability, as far as Jack is concerned you make it to the big game every other year or so. He surely can’t even begin to grasp what it’s like to cheer loudest for the Cleveland Browns or the Detroit Lions, our two local NFL teams, and the only two non-expansion teams to never make it to the Super Bowl.
At least the Steelers have a history of dominance. The general public expects them to crush the rest of our dreams now and then. Honestly, it’s when a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints or, most painfully, the Baltimore Ravens (nee Cleveland Browns) wins it that it stings all the more. If they can do it, why can’t we? Sure the Buffalo Bills lost the Super Bowl four years in a row, but their fans were at least given a little taste, no matter how bitter that taste may have been.
If you can’t beat them, join them
It has taken quite a few years, but I have come to terms with the fact that I am now also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The changeover came slowly. I half-heartedly supported my husband as his team, the Steelers, would get the chance to walk down that playoff aisle and reach that Super Bowl alter time and time again. Before I completely realized what was happening, there came a confusing point when I wasn’t even sure who to root for when the Rock ‘n Roll Capital of the World would meet the Iron City to toss around the ol’ pigskin. I obviously had quite a history with the Browns, but it sure is nice to watch NFL football with something at stake all the way into the new year.
I’m afraid my own dual-fanship has all but ruined my original plan to raise any boys we had as Steelers fans and any girls we had as Browns fans. Jack was obviously happy to follow his father’s lead in becoming a Steelers fan, but even our could-care-less-about-football 5-year-old daughter, Elaine, has already informed me that she sees little sense in choosing such a mediocre team like the Browns as her favorite and has pledged her allegiance to Steeler Nation.
I will always be a Cleveland Browns fan, but my loyalty is not quite as loyal as it once was. On any given regular-season NFL Sunday, our house is a mélange of unlikely and somewhat nonsensical team allegiances, where Browns, Steelers and even Lions can be cheered on simultaneously in a strange and harmonious state. Brown, orange, black, gold, blue and silver may not be the most aesthetically-pleasing combination, but it works for us.
This Sunday, however, the focus is purely black and gold. Family allegiance trumps all others, and watching my little boy’s big dream come true is well worth making room for new loyalties along aside old ones.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.