Talk about being conflicted.
Oh man, this is tough.
For years here in Pittsburgh, it hasn’t been a conspiracy theory by many who have held onto it, but leaning more toward what they thought was fact.
In 2004, we know the Steelers lost the AFC title game to the New England Patriots, 41-27. We also know many in Steelerville have held unfaltering to the notion that Spygate — uncovered a few years later — was the primary reason the Steelers were robbed of a chance to go to a Super Bowl that season.
Bill Cowher, the head coach of the Steelers from 1992-2006, poked a big hole through such a belief by what he told 93-7 The Fan on Wednesday.
“We didn’t lose the game because of any Spygate, because of them having any additional things,” Cowher said. “I think if they’re guilty of anything, they’re guilty of arrogance, because they were told not to do something. But it was something that everybody does. The only thing they got caught [was] doing it with a camera. We had people that always tried to steal signals. Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game, and everybody attempted to do that.”
Again, this is a tough one — and it forces profound confliction.
You see, if Bill Cowher isn’t Our Lord and Savior Yinzer Christ, he’s decisively one of the Apostles. He’s revered, respected, appreciated and admired that much in these parts.
And he should be — he’s one of us who never acted as if he wasn’t one of us, which here in Pittsburgh is the noblest quality one can possess.
If someone set out to build Pittsburgh’s sports Mount Rushmore, Cowher’s chiseled chin would be one of the most distinguished features.
But what he said on the radio ….
Man, what he said to the Fan Morning Show the other day …
This one is tough.
Undeniably, Cowher is entitled to his opinion and it’s an opinion that carries substantial value as he stood on the sideline and commanded those Steelers on that day in 2004.
However, there is a converse opinion to Cowher’s that, if you hold it, I’m probably more willing to agree with you than the Patron Saint of Crafton.
Going to be hard for many Pittsburghers — and inhabitants of Steeler Nation wherever they might dwell — to accept Cowher’s words.
And how can you blame them?
After all, this is a narrative that many have held onto; the true chronicle (as they tell it) as to why the Steelers lost that day to the Patriots.
And even with Cowher coming out and speaking those words, telling us it might not have been the contributing factor that we thought it was — and in a way hoped for — I can’t shout down the people who still hold solidly to their thoughts that the Steelers lost in 2004 because the Patriots cheated.
Because the Patriots cheated.
Perhaps, as Cowher said, everyone else was doing it. But no one else got pinched and, certainly, no one else was doing it to the detestable degree the Patriots were.
I’m not making this claim — the National Football League did.
Those findings in 2007 that the Patriots had been videotaping defensive signals by opposing coaches are real.
That $500,000 fine issued to Patriots coach Bill Belichick was real.
That $250,000 fine imposed on the Patriots — yeah, real too.
The draft pick the Patriots lost in 2008 wasn’t a creation either, it really happened.
Lastly, all the documents, notes and tapes relating to Spygate that the NFL asked for and then destroyed? Uh huh, that really happened too; not a creation.
So I know this: Just because Bill Cowher tells you to get over something and move on doesn’t necessarily mean you have to.
You have that right to hold a grudge if you’d like.
Cowher will, deep-down somewhere, understand those who continue to hold a grudge against Belichick and the Patriots.
Remember, Bill Cowher is one of us; he’s a Pittsburgher. And he has to know that another quality of everyone in our fine city is that we can hold a grudge with the best of them. When we feel slighted or cheated, we will hold a grudge; we will most likely never get over it.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.