Just because you go into a game expecting to lose it doesn’t mean you are better prepared for actually losing, especially when the game could have easily swung the other direction. Not giving up the kick-off return for touchdown, not calling a shotgun run in the end zone in the final minutes of the game when only down by a field goal, not really selling the fake spike trick play on offense and then being burned twice on defense when the opposing team goes for the same bait-and-switch.
I spent the whole week preparing for the Steelers to lose to the Jets. “No way will the Jets drop three in a row,” I said to everyone who would listen. “We’re missing Heath, the offensive line is still a mess and Troy’s probably not going to play,” I pre-apologized before the game. I even pulled out my favorite late-season lie, “Better to lose late in December before the playoffs and get the loss over with now when it doesn’t matter. Remind the team what it’s like to lose so they can build on it. Plus, that way there is less pressure to win six games in a row.”
While the sting over yesterday’s loss to Jets should have been softened by the Steelers being only the second team to be ensured a playoff spot, (the first team being the New England Patriots, who received quite a scare from the Rodger-less Packers last night), all it did was remind me how little football is left and how precious our remaining time with the NFL is right now. The last two weeks of the regular season — which between a Thursday night game against the Panthers, the holidays, the Winter Classic and finishing on the road in Cleveland — will fly by in flash, and then it’s the playoffs. So depending on when the next loss happens, we as fans may not be cheering for months, or even years depending on how the 2011 lockout shakes out. Enjoy every win like it’s the last you’re going to see for a long, long while. (Now the official motto of the NFC West.)
Sfincione: Sicilian Christmas Pizza
Sfincione first popped up on my radar ages ago when Emeril still had a decent cooking show and wasn’t a cartoon character, but I never quite nailed the recipe until recently. Traditional sfincione, not the ingredient-heavy bread Emeril pushes, is a special Sicilian pizza made for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, with a very soft crust — sfincione meaning “sponge” — with simple toppings of tomatoes, sauteed onions, olive oil, oregano and breadcrumbs, and maybe anchovies and cheese if you like, but I’ve certainly seen enough sfincione recipes that omit either one or both.
After lots of lots of research, trial and error, and watching Silician Nonnas on YouTube, the sfincione recipe I’ve had the best success with comes from L&B’s Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn, as posted by the Morris County New Jersey Daily Record. It’s much easier to make than you think it will be — don’t be afraid of using yeast! — and despite the rising times for the dough, is easy enough to make during the early games if you plan on serving it at the afternoon or evening match-ups. (Despite having a pipe burst in my kitchen yesterday morning, I was able to clean up the mess and make a sficione with time to spare before the Steelers 1:15 PT kickoff, it’s that easy.) The lightness of the crust – even lighter than some focaccias, with the tang of tomatoes, the chewiness of the mozzarella and the crunch of the bread crumbs is a nice and inexpensive break from the usual take out pizza pie.
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