Commentary

Split allegiance puzzles an old pal

Updated: February 2, 2011, 11:14 AM ET
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

Author's note: Parts of this story have been fictionalized to either protect the innocent, or create an air of humor or mystique. Please be advised to "lighten up" a small bit.

[+] EnlargeJerry Cantrell
Frank Micelotta/Getty ImagesFeel the glove: Jerry Cantrell couldn't lose at the 2006 Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl for me, since childhood, has really been only an event that seemed somewhat distant and folklorish. My team, the Seattle Seahawks, since the expansion in 1976, had never even gotten anywhere close to the championship game.

But then the season of 2005 happened -- the one where everything went exactly right and in our favor. We were going to the damn Super Bowl at long last, and I was completely immersed in the fervor, of course.

My fellow Seattleite buddy living in Los Angeles that year was Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell. If you know anything about Jerry, then you will also know that he is a huge NFL fan, and heads an ESPN.com fantasy football league that benefits charity. During that 2005 season, Jerry and I were in tandem with our measured optimism as the season progressed. When the playoffs and ultimately Super Bowl XL became a reality early in the new year, we were probably the first guys on the phone and computer, looking for good tickets to that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Through a connection I had through Velvet Revolver, I found four first-row seats at the 40-yard line … for only the face value of the tickets. We were in! This was going to be a kick-ass trip. My wife, Susan, was coming [hotel time away from kids with your wife is always good … but that is another story], my best friend, Eddy, from Seattle would meet us there in Detroit, and Jerry would fly out of LAX with me and Susan.

I got my Hawks jersey. I got my long-sleeved Hawks T-shirt. I even wore my dumb-looking Hawks baseball hat. Time to go to the airport; Jerry was going to meet us down there at our terminal. Right on. This is it! TIME FOR THE SHOW!

As Susan and I walk to our departing gate, I have a watchful eye out for Cantrell. I catch sight of a leather jacket with Jerry's telltale long hair protruding from a baseball hat.

"Hey, pal," I say.

As he turns, I feel good about the fact he is wearing his Seahawks hat on the flight. I didn't want to be the one nerd, alone on that flight with a football hat on. But as Jerry came closer, I noticed he had on black gloves. It is odd to ever wear gloves in L.A., so I took notice. As he got closer still, I could clearly see they were Steelers gloves.

"Yeah, that's funny, dude … ha-ha. Whatever, man. Take that s--- off though, dude … the joke's over, Jerry," I said.

I had thought, of course, that he was playing some sort of prank on me. Right? How could I really think anything else. I knew Jerry to be a Seahawks fan of the highest order, and his band even hoisted the 12th man flag at Qwest Field that season.

But it wasn't a joke. As he spoke, the dark picture of his colliding fandom started to take shape. Here is the deal.

Jerry grew up in Oklahoma, where everyone around him was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Being the dude he is, Jerry decided to pull for the Cowboys' archenemy of the '70s, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His family then moved to Tacoma, Wash., about the same time as Seattle got its expansion NFL team. From day one, he was a Seahawks fan … as well as a Steelers fan. What I didn't know the whole past 15 or 16 years of us knowing each other was that Jerry had been secretly dreading the day if and when the Seahawks and the Steelers had to play each other in the Super Bowl. Ever since 1976, the dude had been silently gripping. So here we were.

To be honest, I was kind of pissed off. How can a guy pull for both damn teams at the Super Bowl? And, I had scored these tickets for us. With maybe a bit more seriousness than the occasion called for, Jerry explained it to me this way:

[+] EnlargeDuff McKagan & Jerry Cantrell
J. Kempin/FilmMagicDuff McKagan and Jerry Cantrell had been pals for years, but Cantrell was hiding a dark, black and yellow secret.

"If you love your dad, it doesn't mean you love your mom any less, right?" he said.

All right, if you put it that way.

During the game, Jerry seemed to pull for the Hawks a bit more than the Steelers. I think probably because we Seattle fans were so damn outnumbered, he felt a duty to do it. I think it was also because he was sitting with Susan, Eddy and me.

But I could see a certain pain and confusion in his demeanor, which was an all-new experience if you know Jerry and NFL football. He is usually out of his chair and screaming and carrying on like the rest of us … probably more so.

As the game came to a close, and the reality that the Seahawks would not be victorious sank in, Jerry came over to me and said that he was sorry and something about "there is always next year" … I didn't want to hear it then, and there has been no "next year" to date.

After the game, Jerry took off his hat. "The gloves won," he said.

Good luck with your "gloves" this Sunday, pal.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."