Those are the words my Mom’s coworker, “EZ” told me at my first NFL game in Ford Field, Detroit Michigan.
It was the Lions vs the Pittsburgh Steelers and I was attending the game with my parents who are Steelers fans. My Mom is a lifelong Steelers fan, she’s been cheering on the Black and Gold since she was just a kid in Toledo, OH watching Bradshaw sling the rock to Lynn Swan and John Stallworth and hand it off to Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Watching Chuck Noll and the Steel Curtain hoist up 4 Lombardi Trophys in the 70s, she became a fan for life. So much so, every Christmas growing up my mom received a gift from none other than Bill Cowher himself every year. Then when Mike Tomlin was hired he took over the tradition of sending her Christmas gifts.
EZ, my moms coworker, is a man who I highly respect, he is a Detroit Lions Season Ticket Holder and attends every Pro Bowl. At the time of this game I was just a lad probably 5 or 6 years old. EZ looked me dead in my young, brown eyes full of hope, innocence and aspiration and told me, “If you’re going to be a Lions fan, you need to have a good B team. You’ll end up hurt and longing to cheer for a team in the Playoffs come January” Almost 20 years have gone by and I live by those words to this day.
I decided that day to make my B team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Shortly after, I attended Antwaan Randel El’s Football Camp in Pennsylvania and that next football season in February of 2006, the Steelers came to Detroit, Michigan to play in Super Bowl 40 and win one for Jerome Bettis in his home town. My mom has since retired, but at the time she was working, and she was actually apart of the added security for the Steelers hotel during Super Bowl week. I was sitting in class and was called to the office for a doctor’s appointment. I had no clue my mom had pulled the ultimate con, she called me in sick for the week and put me in Steelers gear armed with a Souvenir Replica Helmet and a sharpie with the mission of collecting autographs from the players and coaches.
Now, that was one of the best weeks of my life. Meeting Big Ben, Art and Dan Rooney, and many more Steelers, at such a young age, was an experience I’ll never forget.
I’ll always root for the Steelers, unless they’re playing the Lions. In fact, when the parents and I made our way to watch the Lions play the Steelers at Hienz field I wore my Stafford jersey. I ended up leaving the stadium as the Steelers ended the game in victory formation as time expired. And on Sunday Night Football, I watched live with my mom as the Steelers beat the Lions with a Juju Smith-Schuster 80 yard Touchdown in his rookie season, while wearing my Stafford jersey.
I’ve shed many a tear over the Lions throughout my childhood. I believe having a B team to route for when the Lions eventually let you down, is good for your mental health. I picked my B team based on family history and the fact they are in a different conference than the Lions makes it so they dont often play one another or affect playoff spots.
I still watch the Lions every Sunday and for the most part end up feeling disappointed, hurt and almost hopeless. Than, I turn on the Steelers and all those things turn around. Having a B team that is almost the exact opposite of my A team has that effect. 6 Super Bowls, 3 Head Coaches since 1969, competent Ownership, it doesn’t get much differing than that.
Judge me all you want.