By Steve Czaban Special to Published Jan 19, 2005 at 5:06 AM

{image1} Former Bills head coach Marv Levy once had a famous line that went something like this: "Where else would you rather be, than right here, right now?"

For Levy, it embodied the thrill of the NFL, and the drama of the moment. Even though his Bills became the first team in history to lose four consecutive Super Bowls, his conviction in the phrase never wavered.

After all, the flip side to that coin is that no team before or since has even made it to four Super Bowls in a row. Only one other team (the Miami Dolphins 72-74) had even been to the final Sunday three straight times.

So the eternal question remains: Where would you rather be, as a football fan? In the shoes of a Steelers or Eagles fan, right now? Or safely at home, long ago excused from a shot at Super Bowl glory?

I've never been able to figure out a definitive answer as a football fan. Having had such a prolonged dry run as a Redskins fan (one playoff berth in 14 years, and yes, I know that other teams and cities have had much worse), my initial reaction is to say "hell yes, you would always rather die on the doorstep, than never even get close."

But I've never lived that nightmare as a fan. Even though my Skins endured Black Sunday, the humiliating 38-9 drubbing by the Oakland Raiders in Tampa, nearly all other deep playoff runs we made under Gibbs, ended in a parade. Coach Joe was 4-5 when it came time to close in on the NFC title.

So what do I know about how Eagle Nation or Steeler Nation feels right now?

The Steelers have been in this spot three times before under Bill Cowher and failed. That is three times with a home field crowd at their back, and 60 minutes between them and the Super Bowl, only to send everybody home silent and stunned.

Sure, they did get through once in 1995. But only after the Indianapolis Colts watched a Hail Mary pass from Jim Harbaugh to Aaron Bailey barely touch the ground in the end zone, to lose 20-16. The other three defeats were gut wrenchers.

The year before, the Steelers lost to the dark horse San Diego Chargers 17-13 at home, when linebacker Dennis Gibson knocked down a Neil O'Donnell fourth-and-goal pass in the end zone to preserve the win.

In 1997, Pittsburgh could not subdue a Wildcard Denver team with emerging star Terrell Davis and old hand John Elway, losing 24-21 at home. Then in 2002, as nine-point favorites, Pittsburgh collapsed in a slew of special teams breakdowns and Kordell Stewart interceptions to lose to the Patriots 24-17.

No NFL team has ever lost three title games at home. If the Steelers don't find a way Sunday against the Patriots this time, that mark of shame will only be etched deeper.

But where else would you rather be, than right here, right now?

Ask Eagle Fan. He has now seen three straight "this is our year" Sundays in January, quickly turn into pure misery.

In 2002, the suddenly very good Eagles under maturing Donovan McNabb played the heavily favored St. Louis Rams tougher than anyone would have thought. They had the ball inside Rams territory with time to spare. McNabb was picked off. Game over. And it was only going to get worse.

The following season, the Eagles were good enough to bring home field advantage with them. The Buccaneers were in town -- a notoriously poor cold weather team that had never won in sub-40 degree temps. It's opening kickoff, and Brian Mitchell nearly takes it back for a touchdown. Two plays later, the Eagles were in for a 7-0 score. This was the last game ever at the old Vet. They couldn't possibly lose. But they did, 27-10, getting shut out in the second half.

Another year, and another very good Eagles team was at home and ready for glory. The Carolina Panthers had just survived overtime the week before at St. Louis. They were ripe for the picking.

But everything went wrong for Philly last January. McNabb's ankle wasn't quite right. Brian Westbrook was unavailable, and the Eagle wideouts were embarrassingly inept. The crowning indignity was DeShaun Foster's two-yard touchdown run where he chugged almost backward into the end zone, with seemingly five Eagles on his back. It looked like the Panthers just wanted it more, even if that wasn't the case.

Who could ever want to live like this, Eagle fans wondered?

And yet here they are again, and there's plenty of reason to believe that this one might hurt worse than the previous three. Michael Vick is the NFL's ultimate bogeyman. A super freak who actually CAN beat you, all by himself.

I don't know how the fan bases of Pittsburgh and Philly are feeling right now, but I can bet they are eating light this week. Human nature is such that fear and doubt command far more of our mental energy than hope and confidence.

If either city wakes up losers on Monday morning, the pain will be palpable in workplaces and coffee shops everywhere. Fans will wonder if this sort of irrational commitment to a stupid game is worth all the grief.

The Patriots and Falcons will be playing with house money on Sunday. The Pats already have two Lombardi's fresh in their trophy case, and the Falcons were not even supposed to be here. To them and their fans, it'll be a free shot.

Not so for Philly and Pittsburgh. They don't just want it this year, they NEED it.

No matter how filled with dread these rabid fan bases may be, I hope they realize how many millions of NFL fans in other cities would trade a non-essential body part to be in their shoes. Eagles and Steelers fans will at least wake up on Sunday morning feeling more alive as a fan than ever. Excited, nervous, sick, joyous, anxious, pumped, depressed. The stew of emotions is only available to the deeply committed. Once you can no longer summon these feelings, you know that your inner fan has died.

Somewhere Marv Levy will be thinking "where would you rather be, than right here, right now?"

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.