Pocket change: How the Immaculate Reception influenced my life
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
By Travis Boariu
Steelers Fever Columnist
Dedicated to my dad, “Roach.”
Week 3 of the 2012 football season marks the 19th meeting between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders (Oakland leads the overall series, 10-9.) Once a bloody and disturbing rivalry in the 1970’s, the two teams have abruptly went into opposite directions since the start of the new decade. Pittsburgh traveling North; Oakland traveling South.
Chuck Noll and John Madden had some epic battles in the 70’s. Marquee teams with marquee attitudes
Oh it was real. It was damn real.
You couldn’t find two nastier teams on the football field than the Black and Gold VS Silver and Black. Both teams equally loathed each other, and both teams wanted to walk away victors in massacre.Even though things have died down between these two teams in the new era, there was one game in particular that not only lifted a City of Champions off its roots, but lifted the NFL into higher grace.
The Immaculate Reception.
December 23rd, 1972. Three Rivers Stadium. 50,327 in attendance. Of those 50,327 bodies that invaded Three Rivers that day, unknowing of what was about to take place in front of them, was my father. He was 15 years of age. 1 week before his sweet 16.
I could go on and on with the historics of how immaculate that day was. Yes, it was Pittsburgh’s first playoff victory in franchise history. Yes, Franco Harris caught that ball (no matter HOW BAD John Madden wants to pout otherwise.) Yes, the game was BLACKED OUT (shown on television that next day)! Maybe, the ball DID hit a Raiders defender FIRST (the world may never know.) We all know how it went from a game perspective and the sheer importance in NFL royalty. What I am about to tell you was told to me over a million times. Others included. This is different.
This is my fathers story.
Section 660. This is where my father and his brothers kept gazing skywards in the direction of their parents after all 3 of them ran the never-ending circular funnel that is Three Rivers Stadium. By this time, my father was standing right smack dab in the middle of the Steelers logo on the 50 yard line.
“Nobody will believe me.”
Next to him in the frantic frenzy was my Uncle “Beads”, rolling on the logo and staining his skin with the paint that dewed off the turf. It was his way of telling people his story whenever they would call him a liar whenever that time would come. He had the stained paint on his arms to prove it.
2:00 to go into the game, my father and my uncles convinced my grandparents to run down to field level. They agreed, as long as they would meet in a convenient place after the game was over. “Meet us at Gate A!” Gate A it was.
As soon as the 3 little rascals got to the first level, Oakland has just takin’ the lead. Kenny Stabler scored on a 30 yard QB scramble as the score read 7-6 Raiders before a stunned Pittsburgh crowd.
What happened next changed everything.
Not only did this moment change the Steelers franchise. Not only did it change Steelers Nation. But it influenced my life.
Facing a 4th and 10 from their own 40 yard line, Pittsburgh lined up as the rest of Pittsburgh crossed their fingers and silently prayed to the Football Gods from above. My father was standing on the first level, right next to a beer guy who dropped everything he was doing for this last moment of the season. He looked up at the bright scoreboard with the yellow-numbers flashing: “0:22”.
22 seconds remained in the game.
As the ball was snapped, Bradshaw rolled out to his right and acrobatically ducked under a Raiders defender to keep the play alive. My father squeamishly explained how he thought how Bradshaw had been sacked and the miserable feeling of defeat was setting in. After a split second, all he could remember next was seeing the number 32 running down the sidelines after this ginormous static of climactic proportions ROARED inside the home stands.
God must be a Steelers fan after all. Pittsburgh’s prayers were answered. Franco Harris just scooped up the football after the ball ricocheted off of Raiders linebacker Jack Tatum and Steelers running back Frenchy Fuqua (who it hit first, the world may never know.)
The ball was literally CENTIMETERS from hitting the ground as Franco stumblingly and bumbly ran it in for a touchdown that propelled the Steelers to a 12-7 lead with seconds remaining. The crowd was in ballistic-mode and so was the beerman my dad stood next to.
There was my dad, on his hands and knees, in the middle of NFL history, scooping up what seemed to be massive amounts of quarters and pocket-change flying out of the beer-mans kangaroo pouch in the first-level aisles.
People flooded the field. Some black man jumped on my dads shoulders and wanted to get on television. My dad actually went through with it until he decided it was time to drop that bum.
As this mad panic was occurring, the referee’s had to get the fans off of the field. There was still time left on the clock. The game was NOT over by any means. Now, it’s off to the sidelines. There he was, all 6ft 4, 275 pounds of him scowling up and down the white-line.
“Mean” Joe Greene.
Next to him? My 15 year old daddy, barely being able to reach Greene’s shoulder pads as he pounded them with his fist. Some maniac that crashed the field moments earlier offered Greene a little bit of the bubbly (a brown paper-bag of whiskey if you want to get cute with it).
“No man, I have to go out for kickoff!”
My father looked down and was literally toe to toe with Joe Greene on the Steelers sidelines, feet parallel with the out of bounds mark. He was in utter-shock at what was taking place in front of his eyes. A true out of body experience.
The gun sounded and celebration ensued. My father, standing inside the chaos, stood right in the middle of the Steelers logo as my uncle rolled around on it for evidence.
“Nobody will believe me.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers stunned the visiting Oakland Raiders, 13-7 as the game was immediately nicknamed “The Immaculate Reception” first being used by the one and only, Myron Cope (God rest his soul.) Controversially followed and controversy still remains even to this day about that faithful moment on December 23rd, 1972.
As for my family, they all went to Burger King afterwards and mingled about this gleeful moment. After meeting my grandparents at Gate A after the game, my dad couldn’t help but remember the look on that beer-man’s face as he was scooping up his allowance money. 6 dollars and 50 cents.
Most memorable pocket-change he’s ever had.