Antonio Brown woke up this morning, threw his legs over his bed, sat for a second and rubbed his eyes, thinking to himself, "what if I just didn't score a bajillion points today?" As he walked down to get his breakfast—a combination of medium salsa, fossil fuel, and Wheaties—he contemplated what it would be like to just walk out of a football game, not having to talk about his lightning-quick speed, or his flamboyant touchdown dances, and thought, "you know, that would be nice and efficient."
As he walked into his four-car garage, and selected his custom Rolls Royce that reads "business is boomin" on the side, he traced his finger along the door, carving out a fly route in the light layer of dust—then doubled back, wiping the whole thing out with his hands. "Nah."
The drive to the Steelers facilities was fairly breezy—a cow winked at him on his way in, as if to say, "do it for the slow guys." Antonio Brown laughed to himself and said, "I see you, cow." The layer of snow coating the brutal Pennsylvania landscape made it seem like Brown had made it to a kind of b-side heaven, and he realized that a life of sinful excessive celebration was behind him.
Mike Tomlin greeted Brown with an anxious "hey, buddy" tone—the territory of a coach whose star has outgrown him. The way Tomlin said, "You good?" may as well have translated to an impotent, "you're going to make me look good again today, right?" Brown winced a bit, tasting a stale blood tinge in the back of his molars.
As Brown passed Roethlisberger the second hand towel from the locker room stack—their quirky pre-game ritual—he worried he may have infected it, sewing in Ben seeds of doubt. But Brown thought better of it, "this is my journey and my journey alone."
"You've studied up on 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' right?" Ben said, referring to a play Tomlin chalked up for the Dolphins earlier this season. Brown had, but forgot if it went left or a right, and then realized that it didn't matter. "Yeah, definitely."
But then something changed when Brown took the field. It wasn't the smell of grass, the flashes of yellow towels, or the spine-tingling surge from the crowd—he felt all those things, but their worn route through his neuropathways spoke to the cliche.
It was a vision of Ryan Shazier—dressed only in sweatpants and a ski mask in one degree weather—that moved him.
There was something visceral about the moment, something poignant, something mystical. Shazier's was the raw emotion of a man who was about to go into battle, but knew the only way to survive the thronging, huddled brutality was through dance.
In an instant, Antonio Brown sloughed off his existential dread—the earlier feeling that maybe points didn't add up to anything, really—and instead understood his place among the many. His fibre of being in the curtains of steel.
It was then that he said to himself, "fuck it—I'm going to score a fucking shitload of points today." And so it was true.