Naylor: Tradition has won the day at Super Bowl XLV

Dave Naylor
2/1/2011 8:57:55 PM
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Sometimes things don't go as people imagine them.

Let's assume that when Jerry Jones pictured the very first Super Bowl week in Dallas, it featured the Cowboys in their shiny new stadium and a mild week of North Texas sunshine.

Instead he got an ice storm and a showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, two teams that have done their share of beating-up on Dallas over the years and whose identities couldn't be more different than his beloved Cowboys.

Yes, if you are a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, coming off a season that went off the rails quickly for your team, this Super Bowl might be a little tough to take.

The Packers of course captured the first two Super Bowl titles only after defeating the Cowboys on their way to the championship game, including in the famous Ice Bowl game that still ranks as the coldest game in NFL history. And the Steelers, well they spent the 1970s earning two of their four Super Bowls during that decade over the Cowboys and forging the first dynasty of the Super Bowl era.

Sure the Cowboys earned some payback during the 1990s with several playoff wins over Green Bay and a Super Bowl victory over the Steelers.

But while Cowboy fans pine to see their team atop the NFL world, the two teams here this week can each make a much stronger case. The Packers hold the record for most NFL championships, having won 12 in all, including three during the Super Bowl era. The Steelers, meanwhile, are here gunning for their seventh Super Bowl title, having eclipsed Dallas that once led the pack with five.

Yes, if Dallas was doing a guest list for its first time hosting a Super Bowl, Green Bay and Pittsburgh would have to be somewhere near the bottom.

And besides, the Packers and Steelers are kind of like the anti-Cowboys in every way imaginable.

Both Pittsburgh and Green Bay are ancient franchises whose roots go back to the mists of time, long before pro football was the runaway No. 1 sport in America. They come from an era when the NFL was a mom-and-pop kind of league, long before anyone could have imagined the prosperity that began to emerge in the late 1950s.

That prosperity is what gave birth to the Dallas Cowboys, a 1960 expansion team that quickly evolved into a cultural icon as "America's Team" and helped re-shape the image of pro football.

While traditional teams such as the Packers and Steelers were down and dirty, the Cowboys were shiny and new. In fact the only thing prettier than the Dallas Cowboys was their cheerleaders who today remain only slightly less famous than the team for which they wave their pom-poms.

The Packers and Steelers? They don't even have cheerleaders.

Both those teams play on dirt and grass, the Packers in ancient Lambeau Field and the Steelers in newer Heinz Field, a place built along the three rivers that invites all the elements into a football contest.

By contrast, Jerry Jones team plays in a spectacular palace that defies description, the world's largest indoor facility which, even in a world of rapidly evolving technology, still feels like something from the future.

But chasing the future has always been Jones' style, even when it comes to building his football team, pursuing one quick-fix after another since it won its last playoff game back in 1996.

The Steelers and Packers, by contrast, have taken the slow and steady approach with teams built almost exclusively through the draft which, combined over the past 10 years, have had just three sub-.500 seasons. 
Their owners, which in the case of Green Bay is the actual fans, and in the case of Pittsburgh is the Rooney family that founded the franchise in the early 1930s, couldn't be more different than Jones. The Texas billionaire bought the Cowboys back in 1989 for $140 million and now is the owner of the most valuable team in all of North American sport.

No doubt Jones would trade some of that equity to have his team starring in its own show this week.

But it simply wasn't meant to be.
In a Super Bowl that will be played in the most futuristic structure on the planet, tradition has won the day.

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