I was the best player and as I said I had some pull with the coach, so I had plenty of say in how and why that team was tight. It was the way I imagined all teams to be, only we were a bit closer because we were good and went on to win the league championship.
My idea of team unity changed over the years, but only because it was forced upon me. By the time I finished high school, I had lost the concept entirely. Teammates, the stars, would talk to the other team's stars before and after the game, and then were condescending to players who didn't play such a big role on their own team. They may have been cool, but I had become disillusioned with the entire concept.
I'm happy to report it has returned, thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers. You know, I always thought Joey Porter was a bit psychotic. He'd break off into laughter over something he thought was funny that just wasn't. But he'd laugh and laugh and laugh at something he'd just said as we reporters would wait for him to stop and continue answering our questions.
Anyway, I presume that's how the rest of the world's looking at Porter right now – as some sort of whack job. But frankly, I'm looking at him as a guy who would've fit in with us 10-year-olds on the Bees in the Lancaster, N.Y., State League.
He took offense to something someone said about his team's leader. It wasn't that Jerramy Stevens said anything harsh, or had wronged Joey or his family in one of his many youthful indiscretions as I at first had imagined. But rather it's that Stevens said anything at all about Jerome Bettis. Joey Porter loves his team, and right now he doesn't care if he looks like an ass to the rest of the world, because to his teammates he's the crazy diamond.
This morning I sit here and listen to flatulence coming out of the mouth of Jim Mora about how this war of words won't mean anything on Sunday. I think it will mean everything. The Pittsburgh Steelers were tight before Joey went off, but now they are galvanized.
It's not going to be a nice game. There aren't any friends here. No one will be meeting before the game and talking about how cool each other have been and how crazy the media have been. Now, no one's coming into this game pretending to be friends at all.
Thanks, Joey. Thanks for eradicating a bad dream, one that's recurred since my high-school days when stars only talked to each other and not to their teammates. Thanks for reminding us that a team should be tight, together and alone in its quest.
Some people take one for the team, and Joey Porter did that. But more important to me, he took one for the definition of the word. Shine on, you crazy diamond.