Blogs, Creative Writing, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, sports, Sports Fans, Steelers, Uncategorized

Remembering Franco Harris

This weekend in my city, plans were scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. Former Pittsburgh Steeler great Franco Harris played in the game that would set the Steelers on a future winning course. I was saddened to wake up this morning and hear that Franco Harris passed away the day before, on December 20, 2022. Franco was a 4-time Super Bowl champion and 9-time Pro Bowl athlete. He passed away just short of highly anticipated celebrations scheduled in our city to commemorate the Immaculate Reception. Franco had done recent interviews regarding that well-known milestone of that 1972 game. December 23, 1972, was the date of the game between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. The iconic play by Franco won that game with a final score of 13-7. The Steelers went on to play in the AFC championship game with the undefeated Miami Dolphins on December 31, 1972. The Steelers lost the game to Miami 21-17. However, the immaculate reception play began the historic future seasons of the 1970s championship Steeler team’s legacy. Coincidentally, the new Las Vegas Raiders are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend December 24, 2022. Some are saying today, with the news of Franco’s passing, a Steelers win this weekend would be symbolic and fitting for Franco’s memory.

The much talked about game in 1972 was held in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. Unfortunately, at the time, the local games were blacked out for Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Radio coverage was the only way for Pittsburghers to enjoy the game unless they were present in the stadium. I was a pre-teen during the game, but I already loved football since my older brother was a huge fan.

Franco Harris was considered a legend by many in the Pittsburgh area – my hometown. I’ve seen many Pittsburghers talk positively about Franco over the years of how he impacted their memories. He was well-known for more than football by the Pittsburgh community. I met Franco in a local mall’s food court, of all places, back in the 1980s. He had his then-young son with him. I had my young daughter who was pre-school age. I said hello, and Franco asked, “how are you?” That short conversation highlighted my memories of Franco, not counting his years with my favorite team – the Pittsburgh Steelers. I had the pleasure of seeing him play in person while working at Three Rivers Stadium in the late 1970s.

After he retired from professional football, Franco became active in the Pittsburgh area with community organizations. I could go on, but I’ll bring this to a close.

Pittsburgh Steeler fans lost a legend, but more importantly, his family has suffered a great loss. My prayers and condolences go out to Franco Harris’ family and loved ones.

Rest In Peace – Franco Harris.  

Blogs, Creative Writing, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, sports, Sports Fans, Steelers

Playing Football is to Win. PeriodT.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the Raiders/Chargers game on Sunday night (January 9,2022). Being a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, on the morning of 1/9/22, I knew there were three scenarios that needed to happen for my team to have any hope of playing in the NFL Post-Season. The first was the Steelers needed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens. A second scenario was for the Indianapolis Colts (9-7 record) to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14 record). The third scenario, and what some said was the most unlikely outcome, was for the Sunday night game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders to “not” end in a tie. Yes, a tie!

If you talked to the people watching the odds, I am sure they’d say the Raiders/Chargers game ending in a tie was highly unlikely. Those same people would’ve gone on to say this year’s Jaguars team would be a long shot at best for defeating the Colts. But, if you’re a football fan like myself, you know that on any given Sunday, miracles can and do happen. Both the Steelers/Ravens and Colts/Jaguars games were played simultaneously. Like a true Steelers fan, of course, I was monitoring the scores of the other game that would decide my team’s fate. When I saw the 13-3 lead by Jacksonville at halftime, I had hope. Still, my focus was on the Steelers game. At halftime, Pittsburgh was tied with Baltimore at 3-3. Hope came in the 4th quarter. Ben Roethlisberger and the entire team seemed to get even more energized. My Steelers didn’t stop battling and the game ended in NFL regulation time in a tie. (I’ll let the experts explain the details). Now, by that time, the outcome of the Colts/Jaguars game was final. To the surprise of myself and from what I heard some broadcasters mention yesterday, a Jaguar win was highly unexpected. But, the Jaguars went on to defeat the Colts 26-11. I can’t say it was a complete surprise to myself since I’m one of those people that believe that anything can happen in football. So, one scenario was down, and two more to go.

To say the overtime period of this Steelers/Ravens game was a nail-biter would be an understatement. With Baltimore winning the coin toss for overtime play, the pressure was on the Steelers to stop them. The wacky NFL overtime rules didn’t help any in the frustration of having to go to overtime for this fan. As it goes, if the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over – fini. There’s no chance for the other team to even try, no matter how much time is left of the ten-minute overtime period (that’s in regular-season play). Thankfully, the Steelers were able to hold the Ravens and go on to get those coveted points needed to win the game 16-13. I need to say winning that game was a complete effort by every Steeler involved to get the team where they needed to be yesterday.

So there my team was, the Steelers, with only one more scenario to happen where they’d live to play another game – but in post-season. Before the upcoming Chargers/Raiders game kicking off at 8:20 pm EST. even started, there were some I heard say that the odds of the game ending in a tie were astronomical. In the hours before that night game, there was already talk of the Steelers going to play “probably Kansas City” in the Wildcard playoff game the following week. But, nothing was settled until the Los Angeles/Las Vegas game was to be over.

Let’s fast forward to the end of the Chargers vs. Raiders game on Sunday night (mainly because I hadn’t intended for this blog post to go so long). The score at the end of regulation time for the game was 29-29. This is where Steelers’ fans like me started to get nervous again. A tie score in regulation happens often, but an overtime tie – not so much. Now, the dreaded scenario of that game ending in a tie threatened to dash the hope we die-hard Steelers fans had for the last few hours after the win over the Ravens. At one crucial point in overtime, the score was matched at three points each. As time winded down, it appeared that the Raiders were going to take a knee and let the game end in a tie. For reasons I haven’t read about yet (and don’t care to know), the Chargers called a time out. For whatever reason, only the Raiders organization and coaches know – the Raiders decided to play to win the game. (It’s how it should be in my book, but who am I?). The Raiders went on to kick the game-winning field goal in overtime.

Why the fuss? Because what I’ve heard from football players throughout the years and especially last night is competitive sports is about winning and not trying to end in a tie (on purpose). I can’t exactly pat the Raiders on the back for doing the Steelers a favor, as I had seen some fans discuss on social media last night. The past history from the Steelers vs. Raiders aside, I was glad to see football being played. From what I understood, there was a chance for the Raiders to get into post-season with a tie in that game with the Chargers. What I do admire is the character of a Raiders team that plays the game as it was intended. Play to win. What else is there?