Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Next Great Superhero Team

Despite living in Pittsburgh for nearly all my life and having a traditional Polish family that grew up in the South Side and worked in the steel mills, I really didn't come on as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan until the mid-90's when they played "America's Team", the Dallas Cowboys, in Super Bowl XXX, a game which they lost, sadly. A couple of years later, I started playing fantasy football and I've been a fan of professional football ever since. Now the Steelers are poised to make another run at the Super Bowl, to win their seventh championship. This week leading up to the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets has given me the opportunity to think about a thing or two.

Being a reader of comic books since 1986 and watching football pretty closely for the past decade, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between football teams and superhero teams. Like the groups of heroes and villains in comics, most football teams have very strong personalities that carry with them from game to game, even season to season. There are veteran teams that have a great legacy and newer teams that are still learning their way. You have teams full of heroes and legends and teams rife with scum and villainy. Some are considered dark horses, some are looked at as outlaws, and some are just plain losers. But week in and week out, these teams do battle against each other...honed skill versus raw talent, hero versus villain, legend versus legend.

Which brings me back to my original idea, that football teams and superhero teams share many of the typical types of team members. If you'll indulge me...


On a superhero team, when you think of great team leaders, you might think of Captain America or Superman. On the Pittsburgh Steelers, we have Ben Roethlisberger. Ben may have had some morally questionable off-season activities, but on the field, when it counts, he is unquestionably the leader of the team.


Let's face it, you can't have a superhero team with out some muscle, right? Comic book geeks might think of The Hulk, The Thing, Colossus, She Hulk, Thor, or Power Girl to name a few. In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I can think of few players who match James Harrison for sheer power and intimidation.


Some characters who excel at using the power of their mind are Batman, Mr. Fantastic, The Beast, Iron Man, and The Atom. These are men who have studied endlessly and use that knowledge to help their team in many ways. It's been said that Troy Polamalu is a true student of the game of football. He studies opposing defenses tirelessly and becomes an unpredictable part of the Steelers' defensive unit, an x-factor that other teams have trouble accounting for.


Wolverine, Midnighter, Wildcat, Grifter...these are guys who are born to scrap, to give as good as they get. They never back down, no matter the size, speed or skill of their opponent. When Hines Ward takes the field, defenses respect his skill and experience, but they also know they're in for one hell of a fight.


Many teams have an acrobat, an infiltrator, someone who's fast on their feet...otherwise known as a quick, sneaky bastard. Marvel has Spider-Man, Daredevil, Nightcrawler, Quicksilver, DC has The Flash, Catwoman, Nightwing, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have Mike Wallace, considered by some to be one of the fastest deep threats in the NFL.


Sometimes sheer power, speed or brains just isn't enough, sometimes you need a specialist, a professional, a person who can hit a bullseye in the worst conditions and under tremendous pressure. We're used to guys like Hawkeye, Deadshot, Green Arrow and Mister Miracle, but Shaun Suisham, recently acquired by the Steelers, is the man now called upon to deliver the killshot.

Feel free to agree, disagree or debate, but that's what I see when I watch the Steelers. Instead of a bunch of millionaire athletes, I see a team of heroes...in fact, I think I'll call them...


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