The link between, Karma, Big Ben, the Superbowl, and a guy named Paterno

Posted by By at 8 February, at 15 : 56 PM Print

On a desk in my first grader’s room, there is a sign that says, “Just because I think it doesn’t mean I have to say it.” The thought cracks me up, as if we are teaching media training at age 7. Its wisdom is inescapable, and so is my inability to heed the same.

I have tried to avoid any direct football writing in the months since I started this column. With a last name like Paterno, any football talk risks being viewed by the men and women who actually cover the sport as a layman with a football name cashing in on the same – so let me be clear, I write today as a FAN only. Specifically, a Steeler fan – one who’s open wound hopefully affords me a few observations and thoughts about the game and the Grandest Spectacle in American Sport.

First, let me start with the observation that I am not a Johnny come lately fan of the Stillers (not Ben and Jerry – da Burghers know). In fact, I can remember the exact moment I chose my allegiance for all time. I was 7, and there was an ad for my favorite drink. When Mean Joe Green threw that Jersey, I was tied to Black and Gold (and Coke) for all time. The fact that the team was close to my mom’s hometown of Latrobe, that it drove my brother the Cowboy fan nuts, and that two of its iconic players – Franco and Jack Ham – played for my dad made it an easy call, I’ll admit.

With that in mind, here are my observations, both positive and negative, from the game and the hoopla around it.

1. Karma is alive and well. I said at the beginning of the season that I did not want the Steelers to win the Super Bowl this year because I was in the release Big Ben camp. I thought that having an immature beast (in the best light) at QB was beneath the dominant Steeler franchise and that we would be better off we had a decent but not great year.

As the year wore on, and my love for guys like Troy and Coach Tomlin overshadowed my disdain for the QB, I started to want the Steelers to win as long as it was in spite of Ben. I did not get my way.

Which brings us to the Super Bowl. All week I told buddies that I thought the Steelers were doomed by Karma. The Big Ben thing in the off season. The beat up o-line. Hines and crew at the strip club the first night of Super Week. Ben at the Piano Bar juxtaposed against invoking Jesus at every turn. None of the sins were material – except when viewed against the bad karma build up you brought with you.

Then, to top all, Pittsburgh native Christina Aguilera screws up the NATIONAL ANTHEM before the most watched television event of all time. I almost shut the game off – except that I wanted to see the ads.

Did Karma attack the Steelers? Nope, they offended Karma and reaped what they have sown. Here’s hoping that the Football Gods are appeased. Still, I would entertain a trade of Big Ben and our #31 pick to Buffalo for its #8 and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

2. Mike Tomlin is going to win a lot of Super Bowls in his career. The man is as intense and focused as a cheetah stalking a gazelle. Sometimes the Cheetah wins, sometimes the Gazelle does. But eventually the Cheetah eats – and eventually Coach Tomlin will win another Lombardi. He is backed by the best front office in football ,and if you have any doubt about his leadership skills, remember all he navigated this off season and season – trading your #1 WR, seeing your QB suspended, an o-line that was savaged by injuries, and facing a league that is increasingly designed to beat the Steelers above all others.

3. The Steelers defense has a big weakness. It has been there for a couple years now, and it was why I felt the Steelers were in trouble all week (you know, other than karma) – the pass defense is beatable if you have a smart QB who can handle pressure. Its why Brady gives the Steelers fits, why Sanchez was able almost to win twice in the Burgh, and it’s the big reason why the Lombardi is headed to its vacation home (sorry Cheeseheads, you are three SBs away from it being more at home there than in da Burgh). The Jets are built to stop QBs on the front and back end. The Steelers? If the pass rush doesn’t get there, the team is beatable – and if GB’s receivers had a little stick-um that’s a blowout Sunday night.

4. I am sick and tired of subsidizing celebrities and sports millionaires. I watched the game on TV and was sickened by one ad in particular: Eminem’s Chrysler ad. The Ad is beautifully done – shot like a short film on the “gritty” streets of Detroit; we watch a shiny new car cruise through an iconic American town with the throbbing rhythm of “Lose Yourself” as an undertone. The narrator sounds tough, the ad is compelling, and the images memorable – so memorable that it bugs me.

Chrysler spent a fortune on this ad. Let’s assume for this that Eminem did it for free (he, of course, did not). Let’s assume they shot the ad on an iPhone (again, they did not). Just airing it cost an estimated $10M+ (ad rates were $2.9M/30 second spot).

And that is $10M of your tax dollars. Chrysler was one of those “too big to fail” companies that we bailed out – for the second time in the last 30 years. I know that advertising is an essential part of selling cars, but there is a limit to what is in good taste. When the airtime is the equivalent of providing unemployment benefits to an additional 250+ people for a year, well, you have to wonder whether our priorities are screwed up. I am sure that the execs in charge will tell you the buzz is worth it; that’s all well and good if you didn’t need our money to create that buzz and if the only high paying job you created wasn’t Eminem’s’ pitch man gig.

And in case you are wondering, I was just as harsh on Citibank for sponsoring the Rose Bowl in 2008 when Penn State played in that game. The simple fact is my tax dollars do enough to support the modern opiates of the masses, sports, through stadium levies, higher education funding and the like – we don’t need to do more.

5. Finally, why the Steelers REALLY lost. I mentioned before that I am writing as a fan, but I will note that I have watched enough football to sense when games really are over.

For this past Super Bowl, I was almost certain the Steelers had no shot when Ben missed a wide-open Mike Wallace for a chance to take the lead late in the 3rd. It was 1st down, and there was lots of time left in a 4-point game. But more than the result of that one play in and of itself, what it demonstrated was the fact that the Steelers were just a little off – enough that you weren’t going to win the game.

In a typical Big Ben performance, in a tight game, the whole bang and grind of the offensive rhythm is designed to spring a handful of huge plays. To win, they way this Steeler team plays, you have to hit them when you get your shot. The play action worked, Ben had all day to throw, and Wallace was in the clear. Ben just flat missed him.

In the end, that play – both psychologically and in actual terms of points – was a death knell. Of course, for those of us who know how to read Karmic tea-leaves, we know as soon as “so proudly we watched the twighlights last reaming…”.

(If you need another fix of Sunday’s Superbowl, click on Rock The Capital.)


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This post was written by:
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Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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