Superbowl

And so today, after the collapse of the Cincinnati Bengals (A hint to Chad and TO: Less VH1, more running your frakking routes when you two finally land somewhere. Amazing how brilliant Carson Palmer looks when your benched!), all of the Queen City becomes Packerland. Well, not everybody. A few brave souls are rooting for the Steelers. Now, I know what you’re thinking, especially if you live in Cleveland. (“Seriously? Do these people stick their tongues in light sockets for fun, too?”)

But I am a Packer fan today. And for more reasons than that team that has plagued me for 40 years – not counting the four years Mike Brown forced me to be a Steeler fan during the Browns’ absence* -in two cities rooting for two different teams. That comes into play, but it’s not the whole story.

We also have Bret Favre, who really would have done the NFL a great service by signing on with Fox, CBS, or ESPN as an analyst or doing play-by-play. I suspect if they based him out of Chicago, the folks in Green Bay would have welcomed him to the broadcast booth with open arms. But no, Bret had to play, like Michael Jordan with the Wizards, one season too many, then cap it off by being a pale imitation of Ben Rothlesberger. No, he didn’t rape anyone, but he does share Big Ben’s inability to keep it in the huddle when he’s out partying.

Favre decided to retire, then go play for the Jets, then come back to the Vikings mainly to spite the Packers. Boomer Esiason once did that in Cincinnati, but Boomer had an excuse not afforded to Bret. Boomer left town after playing for Mike Brown, possibly the worst owner in the NFL. (Yes, I may return to the Dawg Pound next year. How can you miss with Mike Holmgren running the show?)

So now we have Aaron Rodgers, whom many thought would never eclipse Favre. And believe me, my heart went out to the Packers that fateful night in 2008 when Eli Manning and the Giants summoned supernatural forces beyond anyone’s control to snatch the NFC Championship from Green Bay. (And then I sat in a Chicago hotel room watching Eli do the same to the Patriots, whom I picked to have an undefeated season. Man, being wrong was never so much fun to watch!)

The Packers are due. The Packers invented the Superbowl back when it was two words and not even the official name of the game. No, the first two “Super Bowls” were the NFL-AFL Championship, watched less than the Pro Bowl or any attempt by Fox News to imitate The Daily Show. But even with no one watching, Green Bay managed to create football legends. Why do you think they call it the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”? It’s not the Paul Brown Trophy (though it might have been had Super Bowl I been held a year earlier) or the George Hallas Trophy or the Don Shula Trophy. It’s Vince Lombardi, the man who not only coached some of the greatest teams in history, but spawned some of the greatest coaches since then.

The Packers are the NFL, both the old, pre-merger NFL and the new NFC-AFC version.  (Of course, how new can it be after 40 years?)

And are there anymore devoted fans in the NFL? You might make a case for those of the Cleveland Browns, who, after having their team kidnapped by a similarly abused Baltimore, grabbed NFL Commissioner Paul Taglibue by the elastic band of his tightie whities, shoved his head into an RTA station toilet, and kept flushing until he agreed to refield the team as soon as a new stadium could be built.

But Browns fans only have to endure a few Sundays of cold weather. Yes, I know all about the Ice Bowl against the Raiders under Brian Sipe and Bob Golic. I watched it. Packer fans, however, show up for weeks at a time shirtless at Lambeau Field, a place so cold even Ice Road Truckers won’t film there. Cheeseheads are dedicated in a way fans in the 31 other cities in the NFL cannot comprehend. -20 below at the game? Hmm…  Put on a sweater, maybe one extra cup of hot chocolate before switching to beer at half-time.

Packer fans are due. And Aaron Rodgers deserves to win a ring. He’s earned it.

That and anytime you can piss off Ben Rothlesberger and rub Bret Favre’s nose in it, it’s a good thing.

So, for today, just for today, ich bein ein Cheesehead.

*Between the death of Paul Brown and the dawn of the Marvin Lewis era, Bengals wins were spoken of much like some people talk of John F. Kennedy, Prohibition, and the Peliponesian War: In the long, long ago, in the Before Time

Live Blogging Superbowl 43

Opening credits.  Faith Hill is hawt.

Introducing the teams.  Arizona has the cooler entrance song.

Wow.  The flight crew from the Miracle on the Hudson brought out for the National Anthem.

National Anthem:  Welcome back, Jennifer Hudson.

Sweet!  The GI Joe movie commercial!

Arizona wins the toss.

Former Bengal Neil Rackers makes a tackle for the Cards on kickoff.

Heath Miller takes the Steelers to first and goal!  And then the Cards stuff them.

Ben Roethlisberger does his patented Terry Bradshaw imitation.  And now Cards coach Ken Whisenhut waits until the extra point to challenge.  Show boater!

Oh, bullshit!  Roethlisberger was in!  The refs don’t see it that way.

Field goal Steelers.  Should have been the extra point.

Ah!  The controversial “Free Doritos” ad!

I might be rooting for the Steelers, but it’s good to see Kurt Warner in the Superbowl.

Cards pull the first penalty and the first fumble of the game, but no turnovers.  Yet.

Spoke too soon.  Arizona punts after Warner throws away the ball.

Conan O’Brien is humiliated by Swedes to sell Bud Lite.

You no can blitz Big Ben!

Steelers fake out the Cards on the blitz and take a five yard penalty.  Roethlesberger does his patented Fran Tarkenton imitation.

End first quarter:  Steelers second and goal up 3-0.

Land of the Lost ad looks cool, but I’m going to miss the hinge in Grumpy’s mouth.

Despite getting stuffed on the goal line, touchdown Steelers!  10-0 Pittsburgh.

Attention, Pepsi.  Real men drink Coke Zero.

Cool!  The new Star Trek movie!  Looks like it’s gonna rock!

Cards start past their ten.  Squeak out a first down on the first series.  Second first down looks like Warner’s going to go airborn tonight.  The Cards always get stuffed on the ground, but cover a lot of yards in the air.  Cards get a holding penalty.  Warner throws and gets the Cards inside the Steelers’ ten.  Another throw.  Touchdown Cardinals.  10-7 Pittsburgh.

Cardinals nearly nail the Steelers runner, but Pittsburgh gets a first down.  Arizona’s defense is stepping up their game now.  Steelers lose a first down to a holding penalty.  They get five back on a Cardinals penalty.  Steelers punt; Breaston runs it back inside the Steelers’ fifty.

Warner throws it away on second down, the Arizona takes a chop block penalty for 15 yards.  So much for that great punt return.  Warner gets sacked on the 45.  Arizona timeout with 2:59 left in the half.

And now Arizona’s turn to punt.  But first, a false start by the Cards.  Steelers taken down at their 16.

Roethlisberger intercepted?!?!  WTF?

Kurt Warner throws some nice passes.  Too bad he doesn’t have any receivers to catch them this series.  Hands off to Hightower and gets a first down.  I suppose no one expected Arizona to do anything running.  Fitzgerald gets his first catch of the game for a second first down.  Arizona first and goal at the two.

OMG!  Pittsburgh intercepts in the end zone and runs it back for a touchdown! AND Arizona gets a facemask penalty!

The refs are reviewing the play, but it looks like Harris was in.

TOUCHDOWN PITTSBURGH!

End of half.  Pittsburgh 17, Arizona 7.

Halftime ads.  Great.  Wish I got those 3D glasses today.

Halftime show:  Is it just me and my Cleveland upbringing, or is there something really poetic about Bruce Springsteen playing his classics when Pittsburgh is playing?  The man is pushing 60 and moves better than I do at 42.  At least he doesn’t do his classic “I forgot the words to ‘Born to Run'” bit anymore.  I’m pretty sure Bruce doesn’t age, kinda like Keith Richards, but without the aid of vampirism.  That was pretty cool.

One of these years, they should have Tom Waits do the halftime show.  Yeah.  I wanna here “16 Shells From a Thirty-Aught-Six” at the Superbowl.

Arizona starts the second half at their 24, squeaks out a first down on the ground to the 37.  Cards cross the 50, but have a hard time getting the first down.  Ouch.  Fumbled, Pittsburgh recovers.  Or did they?  Whisenhut challenges.  Fourth and six.  Arizona punts.

Steelers lose three on first play.  But they get 22 yards on a 7 yard pass and an Arizona face mask penalty.  Roethlisberger sends it over the 50-yard line, then narrowly avoids a 15-yard sack only to gain ten on a roughing-the-passer call.  First down.  Big Ben hands off to Holmes and gets another first down on the ground.  Cardinals stuff Pittsburgh right at the edge of the red zone, but the Steelers go down to the 5 on the next play.  Getting nasty on first and goal.  Fourth and goal.  I’d go for it, if only to make it hard on Arizona if they don’t do it.  Looks like their doing the field goal.  It’s good with a penalty against Arizona.  Again! They lose half the distance to the goal.  First down.  Parker gets stuffed inside the 5.  Roethlisberger narrowly avoids an interception.  I’d still go for it to make Arizona start from their own goal.  Otherwise, Pittsburgh will be up 24-7.  Field goal.  Pittsburgh up 20-7.

The careerbuilder.com ad SUCKS!

Arizona on the ground?  Bad.  Arizona in the air?  First down.

Fourth quarter.  Arizona get yet another holding penalty while having the ball.   And now they have fourth and thirteen.  Punt.

And now Arizona manages another penalty.  Roethlisberger is finally sacked.  Time for a punt.  Steelers whack the Cards’ punt returner at the 13.

Sign of how bad the economy has gotten.  cash4gold.com runs a Superbowl ad.  And boy does it make Ed McMahon look pathetic.

Kurt Warner going airborne and no-huddle.  And they’re going down the field.  Arizona goes all the way to Pittsburgh’s 28.  They will not go quietly.  Fitzgerald gets down to the ten and Pittsburgh gets a penalty.  They still lag behind the Cards’ 96 penalty yards.  Arizona on the 5 calls a timeout.

It’s official.  Taco Bell has the worst ad of this year’s Superbowl.

Arizona down to the 1 after the timeout.  Third and goal.  Fitzgerald makes the touchdown catch.  Pittsburgh 20, Arizona 14.

Roethlisberger sacked again.  Mike Tomlin looks nervous now.  They need a touchdown and to run out the clock to put this away.  4th and 6.  Shades of Superbowl 42.  Punt.

Attention, MacGruber.  Real men drink Coke.

Arizona goes airborne and no huddle again.  Tomlin’s sweating on the sidelines.  Oooh!  No Arizona penalties, and their inside Steelers territory!  Spoke too soon.  Cards get a ten-yard holding penalty.  They’ve basically erased an entire drive on penalties alone.  Warner gets a pass slapped down on 2nd and 20.  Another incomplete.  3rd and 20.  This is just not Warner’s series.  Yet another incomplete.  They’re punting.  Flag down.  A Steeler just punched the kicker.

Pittsburgh is working in their own end zone.  If they can get out, they need to run down the clock, definitely get another touchdown to pad the score.  Pittsburgh just squeaks out of the end zone.  Time out Arizona.  Pittsburgh gets a penalty – holding in the end zone.  Safety, first one since Superbowl XXV.  Pittsburgh 20, Arizona 16.  This game is wide open now.

Not good.  Arizona starts from their 36.  Dan Rooney has his jacket off.  In hi-def, you can see the sweat stains under his arms.  Fitzgerald takes the ball in for a touchdown.  Arizona 23, Pittsburgh 20.  The Steelers have two minutes to salvage this game.

Steelers are now racing the clock.  They go into the two-minute warning on an incomplete pass.  You no can blitz Big Ben! The wind is now in play, but so is Roethlisberger’s arm.  Steelers take a time out.  They want at least a field goal to go into overtime.  Holmes takes it down to the 5.  At 49 seconds, the Steelers use their last timeout.  Incomplete pass into the end zone.  Holmes catches it in the corner.  Refs check.  Looks good.  The refs call it.  TOUCHDOWN PITTSBURGH!!! Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23.

Arizona now has 35 seconds to turn it around.  Fitzgerald catches Warner at the 32.  Warner tosses another first down to the 44.  Last time out.  Arizona needs to get a touchdown in 15 seconds or it’s over.  Fumble!  Pittsburgh recovers with 5 seconds.  But Pittsburgh loses 15 yards on a helmet rule penalty.  Like it matters now.

The clock is down.  Pittsburgh becomes the first team to win six Superbowls.

Good game by the Cardinals.  They deserve to come to the big dance after so long.

This is Jim Winter signing off saying “Suck it, Ravens!”

Yes, Someone In Cincinnati Will Be Pulling For The Steelers. And He’s From Cleveland.

Cincinnati is overwhelmingly rooting for the Cardinals in tomorrow’s titanic struggle.  There’s a good reason for that.  In the AFC North, one does not root for the Steelers unless one lives in Pittsburgh.

Right?

Well…

I grew up hating the Steelers.  I screamed in triumph whenever the Steel Curtain came to the old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, only to get stomped on by the Dawg Pound.  However, I also would have my heart broken when my beloved Browns would lose in Three Rivers Stadium.  When I moved to Cincinnati, I brought my loyalty to the Browns with me (telling my then-girlfriend the Bengals would have to earn my loyalty.  Living here isn’t good enough, since no one on the Bengals had helped me move.)  My hatred of the Steelers, though, fit in nicely in the Queen City.

A funny thing happened in those intervening years.  Two funny things, actually.  One was the Bengals Lost Decade.  So much for earning my loyalty.  The other was the outright theft of the Cleveland Browns, kidnapped to Baltimore, a city also the victim of theft and kidnapping of its football team.  For four years, there were no Cleveland Browns.  And I learned to hate the Ravens.  I still hate them.  I despise them with every fiber of my being.

How much do I hate the Ravens?  I have offered to join any Baltimore or Cleveland writer at the 2009 Bouchercon in going to Robert Isray’s grave and “toasting” the late owner of the Colts for originally causing this sad state of affairs.  Were there still a Baltimore Colts, there would still be the original Cleveland Browns.  (Seriously.  Los Angeles would not have been an option for Art Modell.)

So with the Bengals unable to muster even an 8-8 record, I became a Steelers fan for four years.  For a Cleveland boy living in Cincinnati, it was horrendous.  Then the Browns returned, a shadow of their former selves.  The Bengals managed to earn my loyalty, though Mike Brown will rue the day that happened, for now I consider him beholden to me.

But in 2009?

The Steelers – who showed solidarity with Browns fans in their final game before the Great Abuduction to Baltimore – beat the loathsome Ravens in the playoffs.

Now they just have to beat the Cardinals to rub the Ravens’ collective nose in it.

And that, friends and neighbors, is how I can live in suburban Cincinnati and root for the Steelers.  It’s a moral imperative.

(Apologies to Laura Lippman, David Simon, Marcia Talley, Tony Cheatham, and Jack Bludis.  I love your city and think they should rename an NBA team “the Browns” so basketball can return to Charm City.  Hey, it’s worked since 1953.)