During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union rattled their respective sabers for 70 or so years and in doing so they helped build one of the greatest rivalries in sports’ history. In the 1970’s, then-Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford started a process with the USSR called ‘detente.’
Detente of course is a French word that means ‘relaxing of tensions.’ At a time when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens’ rivalry should be at an all-time high, there appears to be a detente of sorts taking place. Sadly, it appears the Steelers are the ones forcing the issue.
Since the two teams split their season series this past football season, we’ve learned a couple of things.
First, Steelers Safety Ryan Clark apparently spent time after a 13-10 loss in the Ravens’ locker room less than an hour after the game.
Clark would later defend Ray Lewis when people attacked Lewis about his alleged criminal activities in 2000, yet seemingly had nothing to say when his own quarterback could have used some support.
Steelers like Charlie Batch and LaMarr Woodley openly rooted for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Most recently, Keenan Lewis tweeted about how much love and respect he has for Ray Lewis which of course immediately set Twitter on fire in the Steelers’ Nation.
Look, if you competed in athletics, there’s a good chance you competed against friends. There’s also a good chance you might have had friends that other teammates or fans didn’t care for. It happens and most of us get it.
The problem is how it looks.
Even if Jack Lambert were best buds with Cliff Harris I don’t think they were going to be hanging out in the locker room after Lambert threw the chirping Harris to the ground in Super Bowl X. Now maybe they would get together a month or two later over a beer but by then no one would really care.
Are you aware that Ben Roethlisberger and Ray Lewis are friends? I don’t believe they are vacationing together, but they get along. They text and talk occasionally. It happens and its part of a new generation that people like me are struggling to deal with.
I prefer my team to be more like the days of 1970’s Steelers and Raiders where there was pure hatred and no doubt as to who the enemy was. Free agency has certainly had a hand in destroying this feeling but I think Roger Goodell’s assault on the game has forced all players to pull in their ranks. A recent poll said an overwhelming majority of NFL players don’t trust the Commissioner.
Regardless of which of the 32 teams you play on, something like this unites you as a football player. It’s your living and you want to be around those who can sympathize and empathize with you.
The problem for our guys today is of course social media and the need to be heard. If Keenan Lewis really, truly feels that way about Ray Lewis, then that’s his prerogative. Whether or not he should put those feelings out for public consumption is another matter all together.
With the Ravens coming off a Super Bowl win, the Steelers rivalry with them should be at a level of unprecedented heights. Instead, we have guys ‘wishing them well and chatting with them like buddies’ after games.
This is not what many Steelers’ fans are used to and it isn’t hard to understand the anger and betrayal they feel.
I do struggle with NFL players today in terms of how they approach opponents and rivals and that in and of itself frustrates me. Just because Oakland’s Gene Upshaw and the Steelers’ Joe Greene fought to the death many times didn’t mean there wasn’t a level of respect between them. I don’t believe they exchanged Christmas cards and well-wishes though either but you see my point.
I miss those rivalries.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.