When I'm Wrong, I'm Wrong
Sunday, January 6, 2008
burghbaby in Steelers Baby

Many thanks to all of you who have sent your condolences after the debacle that was last night's game. I appreciate your sentiments. Our local news this morning declared that "tens of thousands of Steelers fans are now in mourning." While that may be true, I am not one of them.

If anything, this season has been a season of pleasant surprises and the Steelers proving me wrong. I would have never thought they would make the playoffs this year, so I'm willing to be content with that much. I was also proven mostly wrong on the hiring of Mike Tomlin. (I say "mostly" because there was that one play last night where they went for it on fourth and goal, even after the penalty. At that moment, I do admit I might have been perhaps yelling something to the effect of "LOOK AT THE CLOCK! There's no hurry. Ron Rivera wouldn't be doing that, you bonehead. I can't believe . . . I TOLD YOU SO! Tomlin, you suck!" There may or may not have been a few more expletives thrown into that statement, but you get the idea.) There is also one individual that proved me wrong on such a grand scale that I think he may just have been doing it just to spite me.

That individual would be James Harrison. If you are not in the football know, James Harrison is a defensive player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was not drafted, but rather had to prove his worth through numerous tryouts to make the team as a walk-on (that almost never happens). Not only did he make the team a few years ago, this year he became a starter (happens even less often). He kicked butt on such grand scale this year that he will be going to the Pro Bowl (the odds at this point are astronomical).

Before he was a Steeler, Harrison went to Kent State. Guess what . . . me too! At Kent State, Harrison was a student athlete and took a few Economics classes. Wouldn't you know it . . . I was an Economics tutor for the athletic department! So anyway, I was Harrison's Econ tutor for two semesters. I actually tutored quite a few KSU football players. I would characterize Harrison as the one that made the most lasting impression.

Making a lasting impression in that arena requires a bit of skill, you should know. I had the lovely experience of being asked numerous times for copies of tests, asked if I could just sit in on the class for somebody and do the test for them, and I even had one guy who was obviously illiterate and really didn't care. Harrison fell into none of those categories of lazy and "too big" to care. No, he made an impression for an entirely different reason.

The dude ain't too bright.

Now, that sentence looks all mean, but really it's a dramatic understatement. I have never met anyone else with such an inability to learn and remember things. The guy really did not belong in college at all. He just wasn't made to sit in a classroom and learn. I was not at all shocked when he showed up, six weeks into the semester, with the Microeconomics book when he was taking Macroeconomics. I was actually kind of impressed he managed to find a book with "economics" in the title. I had a nickname for him, "Rockhead."

I should mention that he knew I called him Rockhead. It wasn't a secret at all. In fact, we spent an entire session one time discussing whether or not he had a Plan B. In my mind, if you're going to Kent State, you probably aren't going to be headed to the NFL. KSU won a whopping four games the first year I tutored Harrison, and that was nothing short of a miracle; it was the winningest season they had had in a while. So for me to say KSU football players don't go to the pros is a pretty acceptable statement. I figured it might be a good idea for Harrison to think about what he would do if he didn't make it to the NFL.

He said he was going to the NFL. Period.

There was some back and forth and eventually I let up. I just didn't see how a guy who thought a pie graph sounded delicious could ever learn to play at a professional level. I mean, think about it, there is a certain level of intelligence required to learn defensive schemes and play-calling. I did not think Harrison had it in him.

Obviously, I was wrong--BIG TIME. I don't think I was wrong that the guy struggles to learn, but I definitely underestimated the power of hard-work, perseverance, and sheer determination. Dude worked his butt off and is reaping the rewards. Every single time I see Rockhead beat down the opposition, I'm reminded of just how hard I know he has worked to get there.

Thanks for a great year, James. I promise to stop calling you "Rockhead" now.

(Y'know, that picture would be a million times better if you could see that I'm wearing my Harrison jersey, and if there weren't a freakin' naked baby doll in it. Gah! Toddlers and their stripping ruin all the best photos.)

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