Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl 45: Lombardi's Trophy Comes Home

Clay Matthews III, Aaron Rodgers, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy

No, I'm not going to write about the Devils' impressive win over the Montreal Canadiens yesterday, or that disastrous soccer game: Arsenal 4, Phil Dowd 4. This time, when I say "football," I mean football, not futbol.

Super Bowl XLV (that's 45 to you and me): Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25.

That was the Packers' 13th NFL Championship, their 4th since they started calling them Super Bowls. 13 turned out to be a lucky number for them. They are now 4-1 in Super Bowls, and (since their 1929, '30 and '31 titles were before there were any playoffs), the are now 10-3 overall in NFL Championship Games. The trophy named for their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, has "come home."

The Steelers, playing in a record-tying 8th Super Bowl (shared with the Dallas Cowboys, who are 5-3 in them), fall to 6-2 in NFL Championship Games, all of them in the Super Bowl era.

Well done to the Packers: They deserved to win, and I say that having wanted the Steelers to do so. They were careful, they were disciplined (except at the start of the 3rd quarter), they did what was necessary and didn't get fancy and thus reckless. Vince Lombardi would be proud. So would Curly Lambeau.

The Steelers? They made a lot of mistakes, making for a very un-Steeler-like performance. 21 of the Pack's 31 points came off turnovers. They showed a lot of character in nearly coming back from an 18-point deficit, especially since the record for a Super Bowl comeback is 10 points. (That was done by the Washington Redskins against the Denver Broncos in 1988, and the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts last season.) But they couldn't quite finish the job. Not unlike the Jets, against the Steelers, in the AFC Championship Game.

And coach Mike Tomlin knew it. He was mad. He bears a striking resemblance to the actor Omar Epps, who tends not to play happy characters. Tomlin did lead the Steelers to win Super Bowl XLIII (Bill Cowher having guided them to the win in Super Bowl XL), and he's young, not quite 39, so it's not like his best chance for a ring was blown, but he's got some talking to them to do.

(UPDATE: Having won Super Bowl XLIII, at the age of 36, Tomlin remains, through Super Bowl LI in 2017, the youngest man to be a head coach in a Super Bowl, and the youngest to win one. Marv Levy is the oldest to coach in one, 68 in Super Bowl XXVIII. Bill Belichick is the oldest to win one, 64 in Super Bowl LI.)

And they can't complain about Ben Roethlisberger's injury, because the Packers had more, particularly to Donald Driver and Charles Woodson, 2 longtime veterans each getting their 1st ring. (Though Woodson did win the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship with Michigan in 1997.)

But this game was about 2 men. Aaron Rodgers -- or, as Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers calls him, "the new A-Rod" -- did not act like a quarterback in his 1st Super Bowl.

I was looking for The Fran Tarkenton Look, which is what I call the look that a quarterback gets in his eyes when he knows he's going to lose the Super Bowl. I've seen it in the eyes of Ron Jaworski, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Kurt Warner (when the St. Louis Rams led the New England Patriots 3-0 early in the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl XXXVI, which is how I knew the Pats were going to pull the upset and win that one), Matt Hasselbeck and Rex Grossman. (Cue Tony Reali of ESPN's Around the Horn: "Would you please lay off of Rex?") Too bad I didn't see it in that cheater Tom Brady's eyes until David Tyree and his helmet made that catch, but see it I did.

I did not see that look in the eyes of Rodgers. But, by the 3rd quarter, I was seeing it in the eyes of Roethlisberger. The Packers had given the Steelers a golden opportunity to get back into the game, and they didn't. In the Steelers' last 4 Super Bowl wins, they had to come from behind, and did. In their last 3 Super Bowl appearances, including this one, along the way they had comebacks in the Playoffs leading up to it. This time, they didn't finish the job.

Rodgers was calm and confident. And the other man who dictated the way this game went was Clay Matthews III., son of Clay Jr., who should be in the Hall of Fame; nephew of Bruce Matthews, who is; and grandson of Clay Sr. Clay III has bad hair, but he was a beast. He looks too skinny to play linebacker in the NFL, but then, so did Steeler legend Jack Lambert, and that was a Lambertian performance by Matthews. All that was missing -- or not missing, as the case may be -- was the front teeth.

Christina Aguilera, who grew up outside Pittsburgh, flubbed the National Anthem. The Black Eyed Peas' backing track didn't work at the halftime show. Maybe people will remember that instead of Pittsburgh's un-Steeler-like performance. (UPDATE: They don't remember the music.)

And, hopefully, they'll credit the Packers, who played the way a champion is supposed to. As Lombardi told them half a century ago, "We may not win, but we won't be losing with the same people." And, "Those who stay will be champions."

They are. Well done.

There were at least 3 legendary former quarterbacks in the Cowboys Stadium at the end. Bart Starr was in the owner's box. Terry Bradshaw presided over the awards ceremony for Fox. And the Cowboys' greatest legend -- or living legend, if you put Coach Tom Landry ahead of him -- Roger Staubach, presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

I liked that Starr was on hand. Whether intentional or not, his presence and Rodgers' MVP performance sent a message: Brett Favre is now a part of the Packers' past, just as Vince Lombardi and his men are: Rodgers, coach Mike McCarthy, and the current team are the present, and maybe the future as well.

Also in the owner's box were John Madden, George W. and Laura Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Gene Washington, Alex Rodriguez and Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.

Douglas did Fox's opening narration, "The Journey." He says he's beaten cancer. He now looks like a normal, healthy 70-year-old man. Of course, he's 66... Meanwhile, Catherine, as usual, looked like a goddess trying to look like a normal middle-aged woman.

Steve Politi wrote in today's Newark Star-Ledger that, with Cameron feeding him popcorn on-camera, Alex looked as bad as he did the last time he was in Arlington, Texas.

Hey, give him a break, he isn't used to championship settings! Then again, he does now have exactly as many rings as Brett Favre. One.

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