Saturday, February 5, 2011

You WILL Root for the Packers

In which I inform you of why you will root for the Packers.

One of the teams that the Steelers knocked out of the playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl was the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens lost and deserved to lose. They had their moments, but were eliminated by a pile of missed opportunities. A fumbled snap by Joe Flacco. A holding penalty on a punt return touchdown. Giving up a 58-yard bomb on 3rd-and-19. A goal-line hold by a defensive lineman. And, of course, the now-famous drop by T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

The entire game was one big clump of missed opportunities by both teams, really. It's just that the Steelers' mistakes came in the first half and the Ravens' came in the second. Ballgame.

After Housh's drop, I threw up my hands and admitted to myself that the Steelers had made fewer mistakes and had played better when it mattered. They deserved to advance.

And then I thought of all the people who had said the same thing about my Seahawks five years past, and I wondered to myself...Is this how some other fans saw Super Bowl XL?

Seattle made its fair share of mistakes in that game. Valid holds, dropped passes, two dropped passes. Shaun Alexander wasn't the non-factor some claim he was (since when does 95 yards on 20 carries, instead of 100 yards, make you a non-factor?), but his nose for the end zone did seem to go numb that night. It was enough to convince some that the Seahawks didn't earn a win.

But then I thought about it some more and

The Seahawks weren't undone by their own mistakes, not critically. Their mistakes were different from the Ravens'. Seattle won the turnover battle at XL. They didn't fumble any snaps, they didn't suffer from holding penalties by defensive linemen, and they certainly didn't drop any laughably easy basket catches. They also didn't limit themselves to the Joe Flacco Playbook of Chuck It Deep Or Check Down. When it mattered, when the Seahawks did indeed advance towards the Steelers' goal line, or when they stood up Ben Roethlisberger on the goal line, they were thwarted by a referee crew who was far too worried about disproving Joey Porter's accusations of bad calls against the Colts two weeks prior. It wasn't Seattle's fault. Two different kinds of games entirely.

And so I felt validated.

XL will stay with Seahawks fans forever, and it should. It's forever etched into NFL legend, a cautionary tale for future generations of football fans. And it is a central component of Seahawks fandom, a pervasive chip on the shoulder to everyone who dons a Seahawks jersey and defies the Seattle rain to fill Qwest Field and cheer for their team. There is no being a Seahawks fan without forever remembering XL. It comes with the territory.

The Packers, on the other hand, have never beaten the Seahawks without deserving to. In their last six playoff appearances, Seattle has exited the playoffs at the hands of Green Bay, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, and Chicago respectively. 2003's contest was exciting but swung on the hinge of one fateful play, as so many games do. 2007's showdown proved once and for all that Seattle had benefited from playing far too many backup QB's during the regular season and that their defense was not as great as some thought. But neither win was dishonest. Screamingly frustrating to the max in their separate ways, but not dishonest.

The Steelers have slipped and dodged their way to their seventh Super Bowl, while the Packers' trail has looked more like domination of the best in their surprisingly respectable conference. The Steelers lead with their helmets on every hit and then gripe about NFL safety guidelines; the Packers shrug and fill their team with excellent depth and home-grown talent, overcoming horrific injury situations without excuse. The Packers have a stand-up guy at QB who wins with more than 9 completions.

Two of the best defenses in the league, two of the hottest offenses, two of the best coaching staffs. It's a simple collision of talent and coaching, blessedly short on controversy and smack talk. May it stay that way.

The Super Bowl is here, folks. That great shining day that every NFL fan dreams of at the beginning of the season, the very culmination of the year, and the one game that every fan, no matter how well his or her team did, can somehow get behind and be a part of. It's a phenomenon.

Go Pack Go!

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