I gazed across the gym at the reporters I knew sitting at the table and felt grateful I was no longer in their shoes covering high school sports.
I was once a sports editor at a suburban paper and we did a good job covering the local schools. The paper's folded, like most of the rest, and the parts are scattered throughout the Pittsburgh journalism scene. Our peerless leader, Vic Ketchman, recently retired following his stint with the Green Bay Packers.
Vic tried to teach us the fine line of Care Enough! and Who Cares? and I usually straddled that thing on the side of Care Enough!
As I watched the local team lose for the first time all basketball season -- in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs after a season of perfection -- I detected lethargy. I detected the smell of "This season has gone on long enough and I've had enough, thank you."
Not in all the girls. But some.
And I looked over at those reporters who had a job to do and I was so glad I was done with covering local sports because I would've had to rip those young girls.
Yeah, after a season of perfection, I probably would've done something stupid like light into them for lethargy and pompousness and arrogance at a time of the year when they should've performed with the exact opposite.
That wouldn't have gone over well in the community in which I reside, but that's the kind of jerk I am.
So I was really, really glad I didn't have to be that jerk. I could just walk out the gym with the rest of the fans and go eat ribs somewhere. (Or, as it were, some kind of awful lentil veggie burger with a bun that had no gluten.)
Anyway, I found out the next day that there's no escaping jerk status in my field, even if you cover the Pittsburgh Steelers, because today I must be a jerk to a young guy who can't get his head out of his own, well, bong.
I say "whatever" because I don't know the details of Martavis Bryant's substance-abuse issues. I don't know what drug has caused him to be suspended by the NFL for a year, and I really don't know the man well enough to do what I think I have to do, which is rip him.
I could just say "whatever" with a shrug of the shoulders and simply let it go. Why in the heck should I care one way or the other? I mean, I'm -- as Casey Hampton would say -- a grown-ass man. What, is Bryant on my fantasy team or something? Why the heck should I really care, at age 55, whether some millionaire jock can't break free from an addiction? Seriously, I have my own life to lead, my own demons to shake, and I have a child to raise. And, frankly, she has her own team to entertain me.
Why do I need this break from reality every Sunday known as the Pittsburgh Steelers?
And, really, it's just my job. Bryant's life is not MY life, so why should I care?
But it is. It is MY life, and, to be quite frank, I'm a little ticked off that I can't enjoy a superior product on the field just one more time.
Ben Roethlisberger's not getting any younger. Neither is Antonio Brown. Nor Maurkice Pouncey. Nor Le'Veon Bell's knee.
This was going to be the year this group put it all together and made perhaps one final Super Bowl run before things start breaking up and we settle into our next version of the 1980s.
Perhaps the window isn't that dramatic. But perhaps it is. And Bryant, to use the great Reggie Jackson line, is the straw that stirs the drink.
Am I overstating his status?
Maybe. But in my mind probably not. This guy was Randy Moss without the bad mood. Bryant's that good, and this was supposed to be the year we saw it for a full 16 games. And we all know how much Roethlisberger loves, and utilizes, a tall, fast, deep threat.
But Bryant couldn't break his addiction.
Maybe now we know why Bryant didn't have the bad mood.
The word is that Bryant is depressed and seeking help. And I am not, as your New Age, gluten-free sportswriter, supposed to criticize him for that or his alleged addiction.
On the other hand, as your sportswriter in the Age of Trump, I am not supposed to feel sad, because as one tweeter expressed to me, "Calling it sad is tacit excuse making. He was handed a lottery ticket. Pissed it away. Deserves the worst. Useless."
So, there's that.
Care Enough! Or, Who Cares?
Rip the young girls in your own community for one bad night out of 28? Or give them a participation trophy?
My life is so very hard.
Bryant's life was so very hard.
Perhaps the answer came to me from someone whose life actually is very hard.
It was only a movie, but we can all understand the horrors that come with war, even if those horrors are expressed fictionally. And in this bit of fiction the war veteran without any legs was confronted by an apologetic journalist whose guilty conscious -- for the loss of those legs -- was standing in front of him begging him to blame her for his horror.
"You embrace the suck and you move forward," he said.
And that's all we, the horror-stricken supporters of the local sports club, can do:
1. Embrace the suck.
2. Move forward.