|ESPN.com: Opinion||[Print without images]|
A week removed from their impressive defeat of the New England Patriots in Foxborough last Sunday, the New York Jets are in Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. The Steelers are winners of two of the last five Super Bowls and six overall. The Jets, winners of Super Bowl III in 1969, have not been back to the big game since. Among the millions preparing to watch the two defensive juggernauts are WNBA stars and football junkies Chamique Holdsclaw (right) and Swin Cash. (It was Cash who prevailed over Renee Montgomery in last week's faceoff.) In advance of Sunday's game, Holdsclaw, a Gang Greenie, and Cash, a Steelers die-hard, lay down their predictions.
Holdsclaw, a four-time All-American at Tennessee, helped lead the Volunteers to three consecutive national titles before being selected No.1 overall by the Washington Mystics in the 1999 WNBA draft. A 2000 Olympic gold medalist and a six-time All-Star, Holdsclaw now plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars. The forward, 33, grew up in Queens, N.Y., and proudly supports the Jets.
Care to offer a friendly wager to Swin Cash, in case your Jets beat her Steelers?
Chamique Holdsclaw: First things first, Swin has to put a picture of herself in a Jets shirt as her Facebook profile pic for a full month, and she can take me to dinner at a restaurant of my choice the next time I see her.
How long have you been a Jets fan, and why do you love them?
CH: I really started following the Jets when my fellow Tennessee alum Shaun Ellis got drafted [to the Jets] in 2000. Most of my family supports the Giants, so I definitely went against the grain. ... I really fell in love with this team after watching them on "Hard Knocks" on HBO. I loved the energy and charisma the players and coaching staff had.
Where will you be watching?
CH: My friends and I are going to hit this sports bar in Atlanta called Stats. They will know we're rooting for the Jets, no doubt about it. We won't be shy.
How do New York Jets fans differ from others?
CH: I just know Jets supporters are really brash and cocky and talk lots of trash, but most die-hard supporters do. We are definitely ride-or-die, because we haven't had the same success as the other NY team [Giants], and it's been a long journey, so we are enjoying this moment.
|Chamique Holdsclaw is willing to concede the opposition has the better hair.|
Who has better hair -- Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez or Steelers safety Troy Polamalu?
CH: OK, Jets fans have to deal with this one; it doesn't change my J-E-T-S allegiance, but I have to roll with the Head & Shoulders dude. Polamalu's hair is absolutely gorgeous.
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is always smiling. Who on the Jets defense would be the best candidate to remove that smile on Sunday?
CH: I'm going to have to roll with Shaun Ellis, aka "Big Katt." He played great last week. If I'm not mistaken, he had two sacks. [Editor's note: She's not mistaken.] He is the longest-tenured player on the team, and I'm sure he wants a ring and is going to be hyped.
If the Jets win, how would you celebrate their berth in the Super Bowl?
CH: I'll probably talk a lot of trash to all the doubters I know. I would also get me some fresh, new Jets gear and wear it out until they get sick of seeing the green and white. I did the same thing for the Lakers.
Who's your favorite current Jets player and favorite Jet of all time? Why?
CH: Darrelle Revis is my favorite Jets player of all time. I like him because he is a versatile, lock-down defensive player. He can cover speed, size and the most physical receivers in the league. He's a joy to watch and competes hard.
If the Jets advance to the Super Bowl, should Sanchez guarantee a victory like legendary Jets QB Joe Namath did?
CH: No. Let the rest of us Jets fans make the guarantee for him; we'll have that covered. Sanchez just needs to let his game speak for itself.
Why do you think your team will win Sunday?
CH: I think we will continue to play great defense, especially the defensive backs, and I think Sanchez will step up and make big plays.
What is your prediction for the final score?
CH: 24-17 Jets!
Do you have any superstitions when watching the Jets play?
CH: None. Don't need any when you know your team's gonna win.
Rex Ryan is the right man to lead the Jets because ... ?
CH: He talks the talk and walks the walk. Most importantly, we're now in the AFC championship and one win away from playing in the Super Bowl. What more can you say?
You're from New York, Swin is from Pittsburgh. Who has the better hometown and why?
CH: That shouldn't even be a question! It's New York ... all day, all night, and everything in between. Like Alicia Keys sang, "In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do; now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new, the lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York, New York, New York."
Did Alicia sing about Pittsburgh? Uh ... no.
Cash, who won two national titles with the Connecticut Huskies before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2002 WNBA draft, led the Detroit Shock to its first WNBA title in 2003. The forward now plays for the Seattle Storm. A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Cash, 31, grew up outside of Pittsburgh and is a lifelong Steelers fan. She's currently playing in China.
Will there be a friendly wager between you and Jets fan Chamique Holdsclaw? What will it be?
Swin Cash: Well, since 'Meek lives in Atlanta, she can just buy me dinner at Entice A restaurant. They represent Steeler Nation all day, every day. I will take the crab cakes, please.
Chamique says her hometown is better than yours. Defend the Steel City.
SC: Well, obviously New York is a great city. I'll never deny that, but the last time I checked the Jets played in New Jersey, so why's 'Meek talking about them again? ... I love the Pittsburgh area. We're not a huge market, but our work ethic, family, and cheering for our sports team is unmatched. And in my best Coach [Geno] Auriemma voice, I'll remind everyone, "We have the Terrible Towel and you don't."
As UConn and Tennessee alums, you and Chamique know a little bit about rivalries. Any pregame trash talk you'd like to offer up?
SC: No. I'll leave that to 'Meek's Jets. They always give nice reading material for the bulletin board! We like to keep our focus and do our trash-talking, hard-hitting, etc., on the field.
What are your thoughts on former Steelers player and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes returning to face Pittsburgh with the Jets?
SC: Well, I'm a fan of Santonio's game, and I'm happy that he was blessed to find a good situation in New York. I think we all remember his Super Bowl catch in Tampa. But make no mistake: He knows more than any of the self-proclaimed flight boys how hard Sunday's game will be. I heard Santonio said that Troy Polamalu is the best player he has ever played with or against. So even when you leave Pittsburgh, you can't help but show respect. Well, like TO [Terrell Owens] would say, getcha popcorn ready!
How important is it to have home-field advantage in this game?
SC: It's important to have home-field advantage during the playoffs in every sport. Tell me a coach that doesn't want home-field advantage, and I'll introduce him to a lie detector test or a pink slip!
Why do you think the Steelers will win the game?
SC: We have experience, we're home and by the time Sunday comes someone from 'Meek's beloved Jets will have said some "foolishness" and written a check they can't cash. Wait for it ... Wait for it ... (in Katt Williams' voice).
What is your prediction for the final score the game?
SC: I don't care about the numbers. Like Al Davis said, "Just win, baby!"
How do Pittsburgh Steelers fans differ from other fans around the league?
SC: I would say we have the most loyal fans. I'll never forget watching a Snoop Dogg video and seeing him rock a Steelers jersey with the "Terrible Towel" hanging out of his pocket. I said to my cousin, "That's crazy; he's from Cali!" My cousin said, "We worldwide, baby girl. Steeler Nation is bigger than just Pittsburgh; it's internationally known."
Are you the biggest Steelers fan among your friends and family?
SC: No, unfortunately I'm not. That would probably be my 1-year-old nephew, KJ, in Texas. Our fans are born into Steeler Nation.
You're playing in China this offseason. ... How will you be watching/following the game Sunday?
SC: I'll be following on my laptop, blackberry or iPad (whichever one is working at the time). Y'all know I have restrictions out here. If all else fails, I know I can always count on my Tweeps to keep me informed, @swincash on Twitter.
If the Steelers win again this week, how will you celebrate their berth in the Super Bowl?
SC: Really?! Who am I going to celebrate with? My translator?! I'll probably be on Skype with my family and friends cracking jokes and talking about the game. Example: "Girl, did ya see Coach [Mike] Tomlin's shape up? He looked like he was ready for the prom. ..." My family has a bunch of comedians. And FYI ... We love Coach Tomlin.
You were there in person when the Steelers won Super Bowls in Detroit and Tampa. Could you make it back from China to see them play in the SB in Dallas?
SC: Man, I'm sick about that right now. I knew by coming to China, missing the Super Bowl in Dallas would be part of the deal (doesn't mean I won't explore all my options to make it). My teammate, Ashley Robinson, is from Dallas, so she'll be there. She's a Cowboys fan (I know, I know ... stop laughing). So, I feel it is my civic duty to show her how to celebrate a Super Bowl.
Anything you want to say to Renee Montgomery after your Steelers beat her Ravens?
SC: Miami, Prime 112 and a mango virgin Daiquiri ... xoxo.