Super Bowl XLV (That’s 45 For Those In Mingo County)

What a weird Super Bowl it’s been so far. Strange. Odd. Peculiar.

And we’re still 2 days away from the actual game.

I am not a big fan of the two week build-up to the Super Bowl. The hype, the over analysis, the “human interest” stories to fill time…it’s just a bit too much, even for die hard football fans. However, I must admit to having found the past couple of weeks…shockingly…not all that obnoxious.

If you are looking for an objective examination of the world’s biggest football game you are in the wrong place. I have been a hardcore Pittsburgh Steelers partisan for over 30 years. Come this Sunday I will be sitting in front of a TV somewhere intently watching every snap of the ball. If the Steelers win I will be ecstatic, if they lose…not so much. But before we get to the final result or even kickoff it must be said that while the two weeks of hoopla hasn’t been as tedious as one might normally expect that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been objectionable in a way that was somewhat unexpected.

Let’s look at some facts & figures. Team A finished the season with a 12-4 record, won their division, had the #2 defense in football, won 2 out of the past 5 Super Bowls, has almost 30 players with Super Bowl experience, and dominated their opponent in the conference title game before letting up a little and allowing the final score to become closer than it should have been. Team B went 10-6, did not win their division, has the #5 ranked defense, barely won the conference championship game against an opponent forced to use a 3rd string quarterback, and has a grand total of two players who have played in a Super Bowl. Would it surprise any knowledgeable fan that Team B is favored to win the game?? It sure as hell shocked me.

Team A, of course, = the Steelers, while Team B is the Packers. Are the Packers a good football team?? Obviously. But why in the world are they the favorite?? And why are they getting so much love from an overwhelming majority of talking heads and media types?? The numbers simply don’t back up what The Hype Machine is trying to sell. So then the question becomes “What is the agenda??” Well, if I may borrow a phrase, I think what we have here is a little social concern. The media and the NFL are very desirous that a certain quarterback NOT do well.

I am not here to defend Ben Roethlisberger or excuse him from any past mistakes. However, I find it heinously offensive that there has been an obvious effort, one in which I believe the suits in the NFL office and their friends at ESPN and other outlets of sports “journalism” have both been complicit, to marginalize Roethlisberger specifically and to a lesser extent his team in general. I have never seen a recent two time Super Bowl champion treated with such disrespect in my life. Would the New England Patriots have been underdogs against Green Bay?? How about the New York Jets?? The Baltimore Ravens?? No, no, and no. But you know what those three teams have in common?? None of them are representing the AFC in the Super Bowl…the Pittsburgh Steelers are. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can’t stand it. Neither can ESPN or Fox because they don’t want to alienate the female or metrosexual demographic by saying positive things about Ben Roethisberger. The solution has been a hard sell in which fans have been duped into believing that the Green Bay Packers are some sort of combination of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 1972 Miami Dolphins with a little of the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf thrown in for good measure. Sadly it is a storyline that many are eating up. At first I was even a little concerned. The Steelers’ defensive backfield has needed an upgrade for years and it seems plausible that a pass oriented team could torch their average at best cornerbacks. On top of that their starting center will not play in the game leaving a backup to deal with Green Bay’s huge nose tackle. These things had me worried. But then I woke up.

One point of comparison that has been used for several days is a 2009 matchup between these same two teams in the regular season. It is difficult to rely on such evidence because so much changes in the NFL every year. Teams go from worst to first, from contenders to pretenders almost literally overnight. Coaches come and go. Free agents change teams, new players rise up, and once great players lose their mojo. However, Green Bay and Pittsburgh aren’t all that different than a year ago, so that game is interesting to examine. The Steelers defeated the Packers 37-36 in a shootout that likely made Vince Lombardi and Chuck Noll roll over in their graves (except for the fact that Coach Noll isn’t dead yet). But take a closer look. First of all, Pittsburgh was up 24-14 going into the 4th quarter before Green Bay exploded for 22 points. Secondly, Pittsburgh’s best player, safety Troy Polamalu did not play in that game. A safety isn’t normally much of a difference maker, but over the past two years the Steelers have won 80% of the games Polamalu has participated while losing 60% of the games in which he was on the sideline. Also, Green Bay will not have the services of tight end Jermichael Finley in the Super Bowl. Finley, who has been out for most of this season with a knee injury, had 9 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in that game. A real effort has been made this week to put Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers on the same lofty pedestal as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but the truth is that Big Ben outgunned Rodgers in that previous head to head tilt. I’ve even seen Rodgers referred to as “a football god”, which made me want to concurrently laugh and puke. Two weeks ago I really liked the Green Bay Packers, but I’ll be darned if all this unwarranted praise isn’t tempting me to loathe them on a Patriots/Cowboys/Ravens level.

The weather must be mentioned as well. While it will not factor into the game at all since the Cowboys’ billion dollar mega-stadium has a retractable roof that will be closed, it certainly adds to the weirdness factor. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex has been besieged with snow and ice, and the temperatures this past week have been colder there than in Pittsburgh or Green Bay, poster cities for wintry weather. Algore blames global warming.

So, it seems that most are expecting another high scoring shootout in which neither team runs the ball effectively and Aaron Rodgers is anointed as the next Joe Montana in a ritualistic ceremony presided over by Jesus Christ, Dan Marino, Oprah, and Elvis while poor Ben Roethlisberger curls up in a fetal position at the 50 yard line cursing the day he ever boozed it up with college girls. But wait just a doggone minute. Not so fast my friends.

29 of the previous 44 Super Bowls have been won by 10 or more points. My vibe is that is where we are headed. Most are forecasting a tight game decided in the last minute or even in overtime by 3 or fewer points, but I disagree. I concur that neither team will mount much of a rushing attack and will not be surprised if neither runs for 100 yards, but I do look for time of possession to be important. I think there will be atleast 3 turnovers by the loser, with one of those being a Pick 6 for the defense. I believe special teams and field position will play a key role, but field goals won’t be a deciding factor. Aaron Rodgers is a very good quarterback but these media types need to get up off their knees and quit fellatiating him because President Obama is getting jealous. I am not at all excited about the halftime show featuring The Black-eyed Peas, but am hopeful that Christina Aguilera will do a nice job with the national anthem. Ample cleavage would be a bonus. I am sure there will be some amusing commercials but most of them will range from forgettable to horrendous, although I am excited to see the trailers for Captain America and Thor. At the end of the day this game is all about the X Factor, the intangibles, the undefinable je ne sais quoi. And while Green Bay has a little of that, at the end of the day the Pittsburgh Steelers have more of it. It will be a huge pleasure to see that assclown Commissioner Goodell be forced to hand Ben Roethlisberger the Super Bowl MVP award after the Steelers win the game 34-13. That’s my story, your mileage may vary.




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