Bumbling Christina Aguilera forgot the words to the national anthem, the bumbling NFL forgot to make sure all the people who had tickets had seats, and the bumbling Pittsburgh Steelers forgot what to do with the football, which is not turn it over.
Cobble together those errors, and the Green Bay Packers found themselves with an exquisite ending to Super Bowl XLV, a Sunday evening that — even filled with mistakes — couldn’t have been more perfect for the Pack.
Green Bay built leads of 14-0 and 21-3 before coming up with just enough plays and tenacity to defeat the Steelers 31-25 and then hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell proclaim, “The smallest [league] city in the country won the biggest game. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming home.”
Home to the Wisconsin town where Lombardi coached and won the first two Super Bowls, in 1967 and ’68. Home to a place where the waiting list for season tickets is more than 40,000. Home to the area where football is less a game than a religion. Home to the burg where the nickname “Titletown” resonates anew.
This Super Bowl was played at Jerry’s Joint — Cowboys Stadium, the $1.3 billion sporting palace half a mile from the Ballpark at Arlington where a shade more than three months ago the Giants were celebrating a World Series triumph.
Announced attendance for what, depending on NFL labor negotiations, could be the last football game in a long while, was 103,219. Whether that included the 400 fans who had tickets but, because the installation of temporary seats was not finished, “could not be accommodated” inside the stadium and were offered refunds of triple the $800 face value is uncertain.
Problems everywhere this week in Dallas and Fort Worth — Arlington is about halfway between the two: Temperatures as low as 11 degrees; a snowstorm that closed airports; falling ice and snow from the stadium roof that injured workers; fire alarms going off at 4:20 Sunday morning at the headquarters hotel, the Dallas Sheraton; and Aguilera botching the line in “The Star Spangled Banner,” which goes, “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.”
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger botched two throws, the first interception returned 37 yards by Nick Collins to give the Packers a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. It was readily noted no team in the 44 previous Super Bowls had overcome a lead larger than 10 points.
On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Desmond Bishop, formerly of Cal and City College of San Francisco, recovered a fumble. While it may not have had quite the impact of his ex-Cal teammate Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 304 yards and three TDs and was named MVP, it came at a critical time.
Another Bay Area player, James Jones of San Jose State, made a third-down catch in the fourth quarter to keep alive the drive that resulted in the Packers’ final touchdown.
“Rodgers made plays,” said Mike Tomlin, the Steelers’ coach, “and we didn’t get turnovers.”
Rodgers grew up in Chico, a 49ers fan. “It’s what I dreamt about as a little kid,” said Rodgers, “watching Joe Montana and Steve Young, and we just won the Super Bowl.”
Could anything be more perfect?
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.