An Urban Fantasy Series that Allegories the Browns-Steelers Rivalry

An urban fantasy series at its core and full of both serious and lighter themes at its roots, the Browns-Steelers Rivalry is arguably the most prominent kind of sort of lighthearted allegory in Lord of Columbia. The news that broke with James Harrison the other day is sure to add fuel to the fire between Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the real world.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Harrison stated on Thursday that back in 2010, after he hit and knocked out Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, that Tomlin handed him an envelope. This implied but didn’t confirm Tomlin paid Harrison back the $75,000 find the NFL hit him with.

Harrison since backtracked on his statements which were first made on one of my favorite sporting outlets, Bar Stool Sports, and has since claimed Tomlin never paid any bounties. Whether it’s true or not, it definitely caught the NFL’s attention.

Background

Anyone who reads my books knows that the antagonist coalition is indeed a reference to the Pittsburgh Steelers as I’ve referenced time and again on this blog. Today, I’m giving you my take as to why that as I sat there constructing Northern Knights back in July 2015 that I had to include this allegory.

For one, I’ve always had a softer spot for underdogs my entire life, so supporting the Steelers, despite being a Pittsburgh-area native, was simply out of the question. Most of my mother’s side is in love with the team, but there are a lot of us wearing orange and brown as well.

Of course, know that Cleveland was the closest city to me in my home state of Ohio (Jefferson County, Ohio is considered part of the Greater Pittsburgh Region), it was only natural to go with the Browns when they returned as a franchise in 1999. Little did I know just how the next twenty seasons would unfold with Pittsburgh’s sheer domination.

Related: Trilogy I Allegories: The Browns-Steelers Rivalry

But at the same time, I learned a lot about the Steelers and their fan base. I’ve always felt them to be a self-righteous bunch, probably justifying or even disputing the whole envelope saga. But this same fan base turned around and thought Myles Garrett shouldn’t just get suspended after he bonked Mason Rudolph upside his head with his own helmet.

Many of my Pittsburgh-backing Facebook friends, to use a small sample size, felt he deserved a lifetime ban.

Yet I can probably tally to a hundred how many Steelers have hit and literally knocked out opposing players. Dirty or not, most fans in that same sample size justified every hit. At the same time, most of us in Cleveland circles knew Garrett went too far, even if we felt Pittsburgh deserved a taste of that medicine.

And yes, the Browns were headhunting in that game as they put Pittsburgh’s top two receivers out of the game with if I remember correctly, head injuries. I’ll acknowledge that not only did the Browns fail to play a clean game that night, but they also lacked class all season which helped contribute to their 6-10 record.

Garrett’s Suspension

Okay, so we thought six games was too much, but that’s because back in I believe it was 2006 that former Tennessee Titans’ defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth only got five games for ripping off former Dallas Cowboys’ offensive lineman Andre Gurode’s helmet and subsequently stomped on his bare head with his cleats, injuring Gurode and drawing blood for a wound that required several stitches.

You can neither confirm nor deny if Tomlin did give Harrison money in return for the hit as Harrison’s been contradictory over the past two days. But there was that time when Tomlin was fined for potentially trying to trip a return man, so the longtime Steelers’ coach isn’t exactly innocent here.

Lord of Columbia Theme: Cleveland’s Misery

Of course, the allegory is also there to give Browns fans a little bit of an escape from the pure misery of reality here even if this work’s themes do stretch far beyond just an NFL allegory. Anyway, let’s compare the Columbian Colonies’ relationship with the Southpoint Empire to that of the Browns-Steelers’ rivalry.

1) Southpoint dominated Columbia for two decades in the events prior to the work, much like Pittsburgh has to Cleveland.

2) Southpoint has controlled Columbia from within the colonies and holds a dominant presence in Columbia’s homeland, akin to Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s dominance in Cleveland Stadium (First Energy Stadium).

3) While Pittsburgh has won six Super Bowls, Cleveland has yet to play in one. However, the Baltimore Ravens played in and won two. As every NFL historian knows, the 1995 Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens because of a stadium dispute between owner Art Modell and the City of Cleveland.

4) The Browns were just 88-200 since returning to the NFL when I first inserted the allegory into Northern Knights.

And some strange things have happened to the Browns in freak, one-in-a-million events. During Bottlegate in 2001, officials reviewed a play that cost the Browns the game and a shot at the playoffs. The kicker is that the Browns ran another play on first down before the officials backtracked and decided to review the play two downs prior, which was a fourth-down conversion. The play was overturned and the ball was given to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In 1999, then-Browns right tackle Orlando Brown was hit in the eye with a flag thrown by NFL official Jeff Triplette. The impact blinded Brown, who then sat out the next few seasons before his vision returned in 2003.

Two of many weird examples I can list here.

Is Pittsburgh Privileged?

The news caught New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton’s attention. Payton was suspended without pay for an entire year for his participation in Bountygate, which former Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams set up to incentive his defense to injure opposing players during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2009.

Obviously, Payton’s irked and he should be. “I would be shocked (if the league investigates Pittsburgh),” Payton says. “That’ll be something that’s tucked away under the rug (at the league offices) at Park Avenue. They’ll look into it briefly.”

As briefly as the NFL looked into Rudolph’s alleged racial slur at Garrett, which caused the defensive end whose worst crime before the incident involved throwing an open-handed punch at Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker when they stated they had zero audio of the incident.

Related: Browns-Steelers Rivalry is Lord of Columbia’s Most Memorable Allegory

Back to Payton for a moment, who believes the NFL investigating his Saints provided a one-off opportunity to scapegoat the team in the name of player safety. You can read more on that at the Saints Wire.

Of course, I’m not necessarily stating in this article that Pittsburgh’s getting away with things, but what I am saying is that it does appear that there could be a double standard in the NFL. Why look into one incident that a team was guilty of and not another that a team may be guilty of?

Especially when that fan base wanted to permanently ban Garrett. Hey, if Garrett connected with Rudolph’s temple and severely injured him, a year-long ban’s justifiable. I’m not defending Garrett, who deserved to be suspended. There are few things in the NFL you don’t do and ripping another player’s helmet off and subsequently using it as a weapon is one of them.

Browns fans know it and Myles Garrett knows it. But you can’t help but realize how fast the NFL swept things under the table for one of their more successful franchises in the last fifty seasons. Do the Steelers get privileges? You can’t confirm it, but you also can’t deny it, even if you are a Steelers fan.

To Be Fair…

Ironically, there are a lot of Browns fans who also support the Ohio State Buckeyes, and there are a few minor allegories in Northern Knights regarding the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, one of which involves the Santos Knights’ and Leistung Monarchs’ fight songs. Chapter Fourteen is entitled ‘The Game,’ which is a nickname for the OSU-Michigan game played annually toward the end of the year.

Like Pittsburgh, the Buckeyes claim to have fans all over the country, therefore they’re the best in sports. They fail to mention both teams are located in the Rust Belt, which experienced a mass exodus from the 1960s to the early-2000s when the area’s steel industry collapsed.

Cleveland’s in the same boat, which is what helped the team garner a nationwide presence with the Browns Backers organization, which is present in every major city across America. The organization has also gone global. It’s also worth noting that Cleveland has lost two-thirds of its population since the 1950s. Something both Pittsburgh fans and Ohio State fans fail to acknowledge and trust me, there are a lot of Steeler fans living in Ohio who subsequently support the Buckeyes.

Do I believe my Buckeyes receive identical privileges? Yeah, I’d think so, and you don’t have to look too far into history to realize it. Take 2014, the year the Buckeyes last won the National Championship. The team never should’ve been the playoffs that season. The honor instead should’ve gone to Texas Christian University or TCU. But who’s bringing in more money? The juggernaut in Ohio State or a small school with about 10,000 undergrads?

If Ohio State was TCU’s size, the Horned Frogs and not the Buckeyes, are getting into that Bowl Game.

The ESCAPE for Cleveland Fans

So, when you count Cleveland’s misery and Pittsburgh’s (alleged) privileges, I almost felt compelled when I chose the black and yellow color scheme for the Southpoint Empire to make them more Pittsburgh-like. Initially, the reasoning was different but once it clicked in my mind I was like, “Cain’s coalition’s going to be orange and brown.”

And it stuck.

Surprisingly, I have had Pittsburgh fans read the book and I think a couple even said they barely noticed the allegory until about a third of the way through the work. Most even said they liked it except for that tidbit, and understandably so.

Related: Theme Makes this Urban Fantasy Series Different

The book’s intended to be an escape for Cleveland fans but at the same time there are deeper, political messages within the work as well. One of which shows my support for an anarchocapitalist society, as is seen in North Columbia. However, it’s not front and center, nor in your face.

People with any political leaning can find value here and its overarching themes aren’t in your face or anything like it. The work is and will always be entertainment first. But for the Cleveland sports fan, they’ll find a nice laugh in Northern Knights and the rest of my Lord of Columbia works.

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