Even with the impending lockout, doesn’t it seem as if the National Football League is headed back into its prime?
That prime was a hard-hitting, well-balanced style of play with a mix of muscle in the middle and speed on the edges.
Sunday night’s Super Bowl proved that this style is starting to make a comeback, if only because of the two teams playing.
Never mind that the referees were average, Christina Aguilera messed up the lyrics to the national anthem, the stadium had sound issues during the halftime show and some fans with legitimate tickets got denied access. The 60 minutes of play was all that was needed.
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, in a game that returned two historically-successful and tough teams to football’s brightest stage.
Maybe it’s easy to say that all is right with the world because the two teams used to have dynasties and used to be successful in the NFL’s earlier days, but I think that it’s how the teams play and what they stand for that makes me feel good about the league today.
The Super Bowl matchup certainly made me feel better than if I had been preparing to watch the San Diego Chargers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Packers were the team of the 1960s, when they won the first two Super Bowls ever and were coached by the awe-inspiring Vince Lombardi.
The Steelers were the team of the 1970s. Their “Steel Curtain” defense led them to four Super Bowls during the decade.
The game itself held true to form, too. The Packers forced three turnovers in the game, making them the 31st of 35 teams to have three or more turnovers and win the game.
To this day, these teams are each about hitting hard on defense, making tough catches across the middle and running the ball with physicality. Both starting quarterbacks do that too.
Neither team is about being flashy or having style. Aaron Rodgers throws to a bunch of unknown or veteran receivers and hands the ball off to an unproven running back.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t put up Hall of Fame numbers, but he does throw to a Hall of Fame receiver in Hines Ward.
The Packers couldn’t even keep their starting lineup on the field for one game this season.
They lost starters in the first and last games of the season.
The Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season due to a suspension.
Granted, each team’s top defensive playmaker—Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews, respectively—has an advertisement for shampoo, but they each make people feel pain, so I’ll overlook the glamorous endorsements.
The reason for the way these teams are viewed is also due to the culture of the two home cities.
The Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay—literally. They are a community-owned, non-profit franchise owned by approximately 112,000 Green Bay residents. The Steelers are owned by the accessible and genuine Rooney family.
Now that it’s all said and done, here’s how these two teams and their styles brought American football fans back from the brink of completely forgetting the roots and origins of the league: the franchise with the most Lombardi trophies in NFL history lost to the team who won the first two and whose iconic former head coach had the trophy named after him.
The American people needed this type of game. They needed young quarterbacks, gang-tackling defenses, physical running backs and proud tradition.
America did not need another Brady or Manning appearance, and it did not need the Dallas Cowboys playing a Super Bowl on their home field trying to reclaim their “America’s Team” label.
America needed good football, and we got it.