As latter-day Steelers seasons go, this one can't compare, for my money, with the improbable wild-card to top-dog run of 2005. But any year that ends with a Super Bowl win most emphatically doesn't suck, and the amazing theatrics of the Steelers-Cards game itself made it much better than most.
In fact, it even totally justified my probably unwise decision to leave my neighborhood to watch the game: I live in the South Side, which at halftime gets walled off by cops, and after watching the 2006 game at a bar in Homestead I spent about two hours trapped in traffic within two blocks of my house, unable to either park or exit the vehicle.
This time things worked out better -- and that was before I found two $20 bills on the 18th Street sidewalk. I watched the game with a big crowd at a friend's place in Squirrel Hill, and it had everything you want in playoff football: An unbelievable play (Harrison's touchdown run); a bizarre play (a safety on a penalty?); a nutty statistical anomaly (Warner's record-setting passing in a losing cause); and two lead changes in the final minutes.
As for the three hours of "Super Bowl" time when the game clock wasn't ticking, the funniest commercial was that "I'm good" one, even though I can't remember what it was for. The Conan O'Brien "beer commercial" commercial (I think it was actually advertising Conan O'Brien) was pretty good, too. (Sadly, the Polamalu "remake" of that old Coke comemercial was half-assed; it didn't work because, unlike the Mean Joe Greene original, it didn't play off its protagonist's public persona.) Springsteen was swell, especially the crotch-first slide into the camera and that corny delay-of-game skit.
But what's with the Seahawks colors on the winner's gimme caps? And how is it that, when most players were still in shoulder pads for 11:30 interviews, just 20 minutes after the game ended, Kurt Warner was on camera, moussed and in a suit with a pocket hankerchief?
The most memorable thing, though, might have been the trip home, made in the knowledge that a car had been overturned and couches torched in Oakland. After taking a back route to the South Side, my ride dropped me off partway down 18th, which I walked high-fiving drunken strangers (and finding that $40). On carless Carson, amidst the ersatz Wards and Roethlisbergers and Millers, there seemed to be a half-dozen cops at every barricaded intersection, and their main function seemed to be holding big sticks and posing for revelers' snapshots.
It was just after midnight. Mostly this was a parade, people cruising on foot. Only a handful of bars and eateries were open. A guy wandered by in a Polamalu jersey, his hair exactly Polamalu's (not a wig). Between 14th and 15th, an inexplicably huge clot of people had set up in front of a clothing boutique whose plate glass was barricaded; they were waving Terrible Towels and hopping about and crowd-surfing, and it appeared that the only reason they were there rather than somewhere else was five idiots hanging out the second-floor apartment window over the store, also waving Towels and blasting that inane Steelers-cheer song and "We Are the Champions."
The guy in the Polamalu jersey and his girlfriend, wandered past again. Somewhere over toward the Slopes, someone shot off firecrackers.