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Beating the Steelers

December 11, 2009 - Zach Baker

My dad hates the Steelers.

For years, it was hard for me to figure out why.

When I was a kid growing up in the Cleveland area, the Browns were one of the best teams in the NFL. After a decade of dominance, Pittsburgh had started to slip in the 1980s. The Browns won every game between the two from 1986-1988, just as I was beginning a mostly unrequited love affair with the team about 12 miles from where I grew up.

Hate the Steelers? In my youth I felt sorry for them. Hate was reserved for people who deserved it, like John Elway.

Even after the Steelers returned to strength, I didn't really hate them. I even cheered for them in a Super Bowl against Dallas, just because I was so sick of the Cowboys.

In 2001 I still was surprised to find my dad cheering for Baltimore -- BALTIMORE -- in a playoff game in Pittsburgh.

"But Dad," I said of Baltimore, "they stole our team."

"I can't help it," he answered. "I hate the Steelers."

I know what he means now. My dad went through the '70s, when Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert and Lynn Swann were consistently in the hunt for championships -- and winning their share. The Browns were a ship without a direction then, and often were little more than the Steelers' whipping boys.

Steelers fans had a decade of championships. Browns fans had Joe "Turkey" Jones dropping Terry Bradshaw on his head.

Thirty years later, and the Browns are once again a joke. Coming into Thursday night's game, they had lost 12 straight to Pittsburgh and 25 of 28.

Whereas my dad learned to despise Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann, I feel pretty much the same way about Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward.

Most recent games haven't even been close. There was a 42-0 Christmas Eve drubbing, where then-Steelers coach Bill Cowher challenged a play, saw he'd lose it, and laughed. Why not? It didn't matter.

Too many times at the end of games, I'd see the Steelers l aughing and joking with each other. Maybe they weren't laughing at the Browns. But it sure seemed like it.

The 13-6 win over the Steelers Thursday doesn't solve the Browns' problems. It doesn't make one forget about coach Eric Mangini's miserable first (and perhaps only) season.

But for one night, it sure feels good to be a Browns fan.

All I can say is if the Browns are to only win two games this year, I'm thrilled one of them came against the team's biggest rival.

And tonight, it actually feels like a rivalry again.




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