Conference Championship Week Thoughts and Ernie Holmes


In case you haven’t heard by now, the local television station in Green Bay, Wisconsin pulled Saturday’s syndicated episode of “Seinfeld” because it’s New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite show. Apparently they hoped to throw off Manning’s game (and didn’t realize that the show is actually available on DVD now). But what they should have worried about is the very real possibility that Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Farve might also be a “Seinfeld” fan, because he was definitely off during the NFC Championship game last night. Farve seemed bothered by the sub-zero temperatures and played sloppily all night, culminating in an overtime interception that ended up giving the win to the Giants. Despite Farve’s lackluster play, the national media seems to have largely given him a pass on that, probably because they spent most of the season building him up. And the build-up wasn’t undeserved, but don’t be mistaken, Farve played badly last night and was as responsible as anyone on the Packers for their loss.

I would expect that Pittsburgh Steelers fans should be able to get excited about a football team with a young quarterback who throws to a wide receiver named Plaxico Burress that had to win three road games to advance to Super Bowl XLII, where they’ll have to face this decade’s version of evil incarnate, the New England Patriots. I know I’m excited.

And speaking of Seinfeld, the idea that Jessica Simpson distracted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and was somehow responsible for the Cowboy’s early playoff exit is a lot of talk about nothing. Romo’s coach suggested the vacation, and teammate Terrell Owens paid for it, so quit trying to blame the blonde. I’m reasonably sure that if Romo hadn’t spent his week off cavorting in Mexico with a famous blonde, he would have spent it with a non-famous one anyway.

Ben Roethlisberger is entering into off-season contract negotiations and with his spectacular play this season, he’ll pretty much be able to name his price, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rooneys would prefer to have an average quarterback instead who wouldn’t effectively force them into writing a check for thirty-plus million dollars. But Big Ben will get his big payday, and as much as any quarterback in the NFL does, he deserves it. I don’t think that any quarterback has done more with less this year; he does have to throw to Cedrick Wilson, after all. What Ben won’t get, however, is a contract extension for Alan Faneca or the tall wide receiver he wants. The Steelers simply don’t do things that way, and this year won’t be any different. Even though signing Ben without giving him people to protect him and people to throw to is a bit like buying a new Ferrari and not getting insurance, the Rooney way has never involved spending any more than you need to in the off-season. The New England Patriots are also a team that never spent a lot in the off-season before this year. The results of their spending are both undeniable and spectacular, and although I would hope Pittsburgh notices, I would be very surprised by any change at all in the way things are done. If anything, the big contract that Ben will surely be signed to may serve to reduce off-season spending.

If you needed any proof that the Pittsburgh mainstream media wears black and gold colored glasses when covering the Steelers look no further that the coverage of Cedrick Wilson’s girlfriend flipping out and shooting at a wall in Wilson’s house. All the local coverage droned on about the situation ending peacefully and how something dire was averted, but the fact remained that she fired shots, they called in the SWAT team, and they evacuated over seventy neighbors. If I started shooting at the wall in my house and they called the SWAT team in, I’m reasonably sure the media coverage would not use the word ‘peaceful’ at all.

Tragically, Ernie “Fats” Holmes, defensive lineman, member of the Steel Curtain, and two-time Super Bowl champion died in a car crash this week. Shortly after he died, I spoke to someone who knew him during his time in with the Steelers. He said that Holmes was ‘a crazy animal’, and told me several entertaining stories, none of which are probably appropriate to print here. And Holmes certainly didn’t live a trouble-free life. But he was a complex individual, and seemed to inspire great loyalty in the other members of the Steel Curtain. After football, he became an ordained minister and seemed to settle down. Dwight White may have said it best when he said, “You know, it’s all about where you end up, and Ernie blossomed into an individual that I respected, admired and will miss.”