No fan can ever be sure how a game will end up, but at least going into it this year’s Super Bowl is perhaps the all-time classic matchup of hard core, old style, rock’em, sock’em National Football League play.
Two of the most storied franchises in the NFL will hit it off in Dallas—perhaps only the Chicago Bears and New York Giants have the same level of history as these two clubs.
The Steelers have won the most Super Bowls ever, while the Packers have the most overall championships in pro football history.
Both teams play hard, tough, physical football, and are symbolic of what postseason play has come to be.
They come from cities that are rock solid in terms of values and hard work, and in no way are suggestive of anything cool or chic.
People know that the Lombardi Trophy is what the winner of this game gets to claim, but sometimes one forgets that the trophy is actually named after a real person, in this case the legendary coach whose Packers teams won the first two Super Bowl games.
I remember watching how Green Bay dismantled the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I when the Chiefs were a dominant American Football League team, following it up the next year with a pasting of the Oakland Raiders.
But pro football is about constant adjustments and the AFL adjusted quickly with wins by the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings in the next two championship games, bringing parity to the Super Bowl and to the pro football merger itself.
The Steelers of course had a woeful pro history until the “Immaculate Reception” catch by Franco Harris to defeat the Raiders and advance to a championship game loss at Miami—but that catch established the foundation for Pittsburgh’s now illustrious pro football history.
When the Packers played their first season it was 1921 and the NFL was in its second year of play. They finished 3-2-1 in a ramshackle 21-team league that featured teams playing as many games as 12 and as few as one—the Tonawanda Kardex (I do not know where Tonawanda is, and I don’t know what a Kardex is, either), but they played one game and lost it in 1921.
There was no championship game played in those days, they just finished the season and moved on.
The Pittsburgh Steelers began play in 1933, when the NFL was actually taking shape as the league we would recognize today. That was the first year of two divisions, and Pittsburgh finished last in the five-team Eastern Division with a 3-6-2 record while the Packers finished third in the West with a 5-7-1 mark.
Gone by this time were teams such as the Louisville Colonels, Hammond Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Columbus Tigers, Racine Tornadoes, Dayton Triangles, Akron Indians, Milwaukee Badgers, and Hartford Blues, with just as many forgotten teams left off this list as actually noted. Suffice it to say early pro football was a very tough but rag tag assortment of teams and players that came and went as quickly as the day’s receipts were tallied and split out of the cigar box.
The great and legendary (he was both) Art Rooney, whom I am proud to say I had the great fortune to meet in the earliest years of my career, eventually purchased the Steelers after a particularly good day at the horse races.
The team that was purchased with racing winnings had very rough beginnings, failing to make the playoffs in the first 39 years of its existence—imagine, 39 straight years out of the playoffs, and now they are renowned as royalty, and there is no mosre respected ownership in the NFL. Art’s son Dan not only is the primary owner within the family structure bur serves as the American ambassador to Ireland.
The Packers had claimed 11 NFL championships before the Steelers ever made their first playoff appearance.
But the Steelers, as we all know, have been a dominant team since then.
No two franchises have a hold on any more history than do these two, and Super Bowl Sunday will be a legitimate, genuine throwback clash worthy of the NFL’s beginnings.
This year’s Super Bowl is a throwback to that era of legendary teams and legendary players as well.
Tags: Super Bowl XLV