December 10th, 2007

Channukah icon

Of Sports and Men

My cousin, bless his heart, is a Yankees fan. He's a knowledgeable fellow, for that, but completely an optimist. I mention this by way of preface. As chance has it, and we have this conversation every year, he is also a Steelers fan. Suffice it to say, the trash talk began early this year. It also might be added as an aside that he is a UofK fan, where I was raised a UofL fan. I can forgive him this, given his upbringing, but it is a source of regular discussion between him and my father; although that is the nature of family gathering with us, because he married into the blue side of the family. My uncle, his father-in-law, was inter-mural coordinator for UK, my aunt, and all three of her children attended UK (as did my cousin Carol, and my mother, but my mother, it should be pointed out, got her masters at UofL, and therefore considers it fair and just to maintain her primary allegiance there and she and my father have season tickets to UofL football or basketball as it suits them. But all this is merely by way of introducing my cousin; the Steelers fan.

I was somewhere between hanging up my coat and greeting the assembled at the family Channukah party when I heard the familiar dulcet tones of my cousin. He was decked out in full Steelers regalia, including his official terrible towel, about which the only polite thing that can be said is that at least is not a white towel of surrender.

Of the many attributes of the mob that is Red Sox Nation, at least we can yet say this. We do not wave towels. Waving towels, stupid idea. How did it get started and how did it catch on, and why does it persist, is perhaps a subject worthy of research and discussion, but well beyond the scope of this piece.

"They've been exposed." says my cousin, "And today they are going down in the face of a superior team."
"I might believe that," says my husband, "but for the trash talk."

"The second the Steelers guarenteed a victory, no chance. The Patriots don't like that."
"If that's what they need to get fired up for a big game like this, they can't win it."
"Yeah, but no. You don't understand." I said.
"This is what motivates them." Hoppie said.

The trash talk continued throughout the day. We had to leave at the beginning of second half and listen to the rest of the game, what we could, on radio. I'm not sure I was ever able to properly to explain the New England mentality. I think you have to know New England a bit better to understand the sheer willfulness that goes into living there. It's not the harshest climate ever, but it's tough, and when people tell us we can't, we do. It's just how we are. It's one of the things I find most attractive about living up there. Individual families have individual stubborn people, but New England is a collective of stubbornness, and there's just no two ways about it, bless its heart. How a collection of football players from all over the US assembled into a team that embodies the New England spirit of "You can't tell us what we can or cannot do" is a mystery, but there is it.