View Full Version : Super Bowl teams have little in common

01-19-2009, 05:08 PM
Super Bowl teams have little in common
by Kevin Hench

Kevin Hench is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com. An accomplished film and television writer, Hench's latest screenwriting credit is for The Hammer, which stars Adam Carolla and is now available on DVD.

Super Bowl XLIII: A tradition unlike any other meets no tradition whatsoever.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be gunning for an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title.

The Arizona Cardinals nee Phoenix Cardinals, nee St. Louis Cardinals, nee Chicago Cardinals will be trying to win the franchise's first championship since 1947. When the Chicago Cubs are the only sports franchise with a longer title drought, you know you've been wandering in the wilderness for a very, very long time.

With their crunching 23-14 victory over the Ravens in the AFC title game, the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years and seventh time in team history. With an incredibly talented, young nucleus more trips in the near-future seem likely.

The Cardinals' 32-25 victory over the Eagles, meanwhile, pre-empted a Battle of Pennsylvania Super Bowl and cemented their reputations as the most audacious party crashers in the league.

To appreciate the scope of Steelers history you need to know the history of the league in the Super Bowl era. To appreciate the scope of Cardinals history you merely need a game log that goes back three weeks.

# Steelers football is a sea of Terrible Towels.

# Cardinals football has been a sea of terrible teams.

# Steelers football is the Rooney Family. Your elegiac sentiment here.

# Cardinals football is the Bidwell Family. Your snarky joke here.

# Steelers football is the Steel Curtain.

# Cardinals football is paper mache.

# Steelers football is Bradshaw and Franco and Stallworth and Swann and Lambert and Ham and Mean Joe and L.C. and Noll and Cowher.

# Cardinals football is Larry Fitzgerald. (Fitzgerald has already broken Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a postseason with 419 and counting.)

# Steelers football is all about winning.

# Cardinals football was, until this season, all about losing. And losing. And losing.

This year's Super Bowl will match a team from a city whose fans travel all over the country to support their beloved Black and Gold against a team that has relocated across the country looking for fans that might actually care about it.

One could argue, I suppose, that the Cardinals also have a tradition unlike any other. With zero championships in 61 years and one playoff victory in two joyless decades in the Valley of the Sun it's certainly not a tradition anyone would want to emulate.

An optimist, and there can't be many of those in tiny Cardinals Nation, might like to believe that the team is building a winning tradition under Ken Whisenhunt. But can you really start building a tradition with a 37-year-old quarterback?

On the other side, the winning tradition looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. At 36, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is one year younger than Kurt Warner and the youngest coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl.

His quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 26, became the youngest QB to win the Lombardi Trophy when he did it at 23 in SB XL.

And while it is mind-boggling to think about Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Donnie Shell playing on the same defense, this year's top-ranked defense doesn't have to take a backseat to anybody.

Despite lining up in a 3-4, this Pittsburgh D seems fully wired with the original Curtain's DNA. Outside linebackers James Harrison (the NFL Defensive Player of the Year) and Lamar Woodley (two sacks in each of the playoff wins) have been unblockable beasts. Nose tackle Casey Hampton might be even more immovable than Mean Joe and Ernie "Fats" Holmes.

And then there's Troy Polamalu, whose pick-six sealed Sunday's victory. He hits like Donnie Shell and ballhawks like Mike Wagner (and Rod Woodson).

Polamalu was featured in the sports commercial of the year this season, a Nike spot set to Ennio Morricone's The Ecstasy of the Gold from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His spectacular knockout punch on Sunday would seem to merit a new spot with a remix, The Ecstasy of the Black and Gold.

On offense, Roethlisberger seems right out of the Terry Bradshaw mold: big, tough, gutsy and, above all, a winner. Like Lynn Swann before him, Hines Ward already has one Super Bowl MVP under his belt, though a knee injury may keep him from trying to make it two.

And Santonio Holmes has looked an awful lot like home run threat John Stallworth, delivering electrifying TDs in each of the past two weeks.

It's not that Fitzgerald, Warner, Anquan Boldin and Edgerrin James aren't also following in some impressive footprints. It's just harder to follow them when they were left in another city.

When the Steelers were winning all those championships in the '70s the St. Louis Cardinals had some studs of their own. Dan Dierdorf was a Hall of Fame tackle. Roger Wehrli was a Hall of Fame cornerback. Jim Otis won the NFC rushing crown in 1975. Terry Metcalf set a league record for total yards. Quarterback Jim Hart and wide receiver Mel Gray formed a lethal combination in what would become known as the vertical passing game.

But for all their talent the Cardinals played NFC bridesmaids to the Cowboys and Vikings in the '70s.

Then came the '80s, the fade into obscurity and the move to Phoenix, where obscurity would become oblivion.

But after a 9-7 regular season in which they went 6-0 against the Division I-AA NFC West and 3-7 against the rest of the league, the Cardinals now have a chance to spit in the eye of one of the league's giants.

Barring another superhuman effort from Fitzgerald, which is entirely possible, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals preventing the Steelers from experiencing the Joy of Six.