‘Everybody has one’

first_imgThis time of year is “purgatory” for sports writers. All of us who rely on pro football for our weekly injection of testosterone are presently making our way to the back alleys of bootleg DVD land where we wait patiently for the bootlegger to whisper in our ears, “psst, got those uncut copies of Super Bowl XLVI.” That particular product will probably continue to be a hard sell around this neck of the woods in consideration of the fact that “dem dere Stillers” did not make it to the Promised Land to close off the 2011 campaign. I was truly interested at what the fans might have to say to embellish the underachieving year of the Black and Gold. Armed with my digital recorder I invaded “dawntawn.” I was not disappointed. Simply put; opinions are like, let’s just say everybody has one.I hovered around Market Square in the hope of at least hearing an argument or a siren or two. I was truly disappointed in how the day was going until I ran into Reginald Portis, brother of the “Duke” of Portis, Richard and the “Duchess” of Portis, Connie. Richard once was a practitioner of the “pugilistic” arts and at age 70 informed me that he still works out religiously and to these cataract laced eyes still appeared to be quite fit.I asked him to give me his assessment of the current day Pittsburgh Steelers and his comparison to the teams of old. He looked at me with a gleam in his eye. “Well,” he said, “the philosophy of the Steelers is a far cry from when Chuck Noll was the head coach. The playbook was usually run, run, run and throw deep. They would put you to sleep with the run and put the sleeper hold on you with the pass. It was more of a chess game. Plus you didn’t have all of the rules to help the offense score and make it a more exciting game.” Portis went on to say that, “ball control is good as long as a team holds the lead but if the opposing team happens to somehow grab the lead late in the fourth quarter, chances are the team that held may wish that they could recover some of those ball control minutes.”Maybe not from the mouths of babes but certainly from the mouths of fans.Cedric Stinson from Blawnox overheard our conversation and shadowed me as I was exiting the square. “Hey,” he shouted, “I’m a Steelers fan too. I heard what the other gentleman was saying and I agree with a lot of it but I have issues with a few of the things that he said.”I was finally able to catch my breath long enough to ask him: “what might those issues be?”“Point number one for me is that the offense that Chuck Noll ran was good for those days but it would be hard to run that same offense and use that same playbook against these pass happy offenses and eight men in the box defenses. Just look at Tim Tebow and how the Broncos manhandled the Steelers last year in their playoff game at Denver. The Steelers put seven and sometimes eight men in the box and they got smoked with the pass by a running quarterback.” I said, “can, I can I?”He continued on, “plus the Steelers who are supposed to have better wide receivers and a more experienced quarterback looked as if they had the less experienced guy and Tebow looked like an old vet. And the defense,” my tape recorder was smoking now, “looked old and tired. Everybody was crying crocodile tears when Hines Ward finally gave up the ghost and James Farrior met the ‘Turk’ as Chuck Noll used to call him.”It seems to me as if this guy never met a mike that he didn’t like. My cell phone mercifully rang. It was a bill collector who at that very moment probably thought that I had lost my mind or that she was losing hers by the way that I answered the telephone, “Hey baby what was that; you want me to pick up the baby from school?” That bit of improv was crafty on my part being as though my youngest is fast approaching 30. The customer service rep on the other line was now becoming assertive. “Is this Mr. Aubrey Bruce?” she asked. I was smiling now because I was killing two birds with one stone. “Yeah baby of course it’s alright you just caught me at a weird time. Okay, see ya when I get home.”Cedric jumped right back in. “Can I say one more thing, before you go?” By this time I had come to know him on a first name basis. “Cedric I wish I had the time,” I said looking at my watch just to maintain my sanity, “but I have to pick up my little one.” I was now praying hard for God not to leave my toes crossed permanently at the telling of this little “white” lie.As I left the city center and proceeded to turn and walk back up Fourth Avenue a huge smile broke out across my face. I have been fortunate and blessed to have covered and reported on one of the greatest, maybe even the greatest professional football franchise in the history of sports. The Steelers Nation even though showing an obvious bias for the home team still has an uncommon intellect about the game and an unparalleled passion about their team. Steelers’ fans love talking about and rooting for their team, with or without a shot and a beer.(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: [email protected] or 421-583-6741.)last_img read more

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