ARLINGTON, Texas -- This game didn't have the Velcro catch of Giants 17, Patriots 14, or the scintillating drive and Santonio Holmes-catch of Steelers 27, Cardinals 23, or the Tracy Porter pick-six-ness of Saints 31, Colts 17. This game had a little letdown at the end, because we thought we might see some all-time drama from Ben Roethlisberger, again, in the last two minutes, and we didn't. But that's OK -- we've been getting spoiled with great Super Bowls. And compared to the crummy ones we saw for most of a generation, a B-plus football game with some great storylines in the last game of the year is just fine.
Great storylines. There were plenty on a night when Aaron Rodgers tied former Packer Brett Favre for career Super Bowl victories. I found one at the locker of Charles Woodson, about two hours after the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25 in what might be the last NFL game we see for a long while.
Fellow Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden and I had stood there, marveling at a guy dressing himself, right down to the tying of his shoes, with a broken left collarbone. And I don't mean a collarbone with a little chip fracture. I mean, the thing was broken all the way through.
At one point, Woodson turned his back to us -- his left arm already through the sleeve of his black jacket, his eyes closing to help bear the pain -- and said, "Now I'm going to ask your for a favor. Help me with my jacket.''
Layden and I both reached to help him lift the jacket in position so he could push his uninjured arm through the sleeve. Woodson did it, and there he stood, dressed in all black, happy with himself. Because he still had the one good arm to hug the Vince Lombardi Trophy with, and he plans to do a lot more of that in the next couple of days.
It's been an eventful week, with all the weather weirdness here, with the league and the players taking baby steps on a very long trip to get a new labor deal, with a seven-man Hall of Fame class that has left quite a few of you apoplectic and us 44 selectors needing a very long nap, and with the two teams with the most NFL titles in the last 50 years facing off in the History Bowl. Fun weekend, compelling weekend.
There are postgame things I remember as a writer from many of these Super Bowls, like...
...Dan Marino, in a dank locker room in Palo Alto after a loss to the Niners capped his second year, talking bravely about how the Dolphins would be back in this game; they never were.
....Bill Parcells, a year later, the morning after the Giants won their first one, riding to the day-after press conference with NFL security man Charlie Jackson and asking, "Last year, was Ditka as excited as I am right now, Charlie? Was he?''
...Jimmy Johnson, after his Cowboys drilled the Bills, telling me that night, "While Marv Levy's in there reading Shakespeare to his guy, my guys are up in their rooms, belly-laughing at The Flintstones.''
....Steve Young puking red Gatorade on the shoes of his agent, Leigh Steinberg, after throwing six touchdowns against the Chargers.
...Sitting on a luggage cart in a stairwell with Brett Favre at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans for 45 minutes, dissecting the 35-21 rout of the Patriots.
...Hanging with Jerome Bettis in Detroit at a Super Bowl victory party, with Mike Tyson in front of me in a drink line.
...And, last year, at a postgame victory party, Sean Payton hugging the Vince Lombardi Trophy so hard I thought he'd dent it -- and not wanting to give it to anyone. "Vince and I are sleeping together tonight!'' he howled.
The memory of being at a locker with Woodson, who cherished his first championship of a 13-year career, will be with me for a long time. For two reasons: Because he was in such obvious pain, and because he didn't care about the pain.
When Woodson came out of the shower, the last Packer to do so, his body was severely tilted to the left as he walked very slowly from the large communal bathroom at Cowboys Stadium to his locker. He began dressing, and you felt sorry for him. Because tasks that normally took 20 seconds took five times that. He moved at the pace of an 86-year-old. I timed him putting on his black dress shirt: 97 seconds.
"I'm a champion,'' he said while dressing. "It's all I ever wanted. We're going to go see President Obama. I hope he's got good doctors, in case I want to get a second opinion.''
Woodson played eight years in Oakland. He survived the Tuck Rule loss to New England in the playoffs, and an embarrassing slaughter by the Bucs in the Super Bowl. His arrival in Green Bay for his ninth season in 2006 was almost as big a risk for GM Ted Thompson as was Thompson cutting ties with Favre in 2008, because of the big money Green Bay was paying for a cornerback who might have been in decline. Clearly Woodson wasn't. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award last season, and morphed into the kind of leader few teams in any sport have.
That leadership was invaluable in Sunday's game. With two minutes left in the first half, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw deep up the left sideline to wideout Mike Wallace, with Woodson in stride-for-stride pursuit. Woodson dove trying to make a play on the ball, and he landed on his chest and left shoulder, cracking the collarbone. Woodson could feel he was badly hurt, but he stayed in one more play before the pain got to him. He went in for X-rays, and there was no doubt about it. Busted.
When Woodson found out the extent of his injury, he was inconsolable. The Super Bowl was one thing in football he hadn't won. He won the Heisman and a national championship in 1997 at Michigan, playoff games in Oakland and Green Bay, and the Defensive Player of the Year award last year. But no Super Bowl -- and though the Pack entered halftime with a 21-10 lead, weird things have happened to Woodson in his attempts to win the silver Holy Grail. Now he wouldn't be able to finish the game, and a couple of raw kids, Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee, would have to finish the job in the last 32 minutes, with Woodson and nickelback Sam Shields (shoulder) wounded.
"I haven't cried that much in I don't know how long,'' he said.
But he wanted to address his team at halftime. Coach Mike McCarthy let him.
"You know how bad I want this, guys ...'' Woodson said, and that was it. Bawling again.
The Packers, given their druthers, obviously wouldn't have wanted to give up 15 points in the second half. But under the circumstances -- no Woodson, safety Nick Collins suffering from dehydration, Shields able to make only a cameo appearance in the second half -- 15 was better than 27. And that allowed Woodson, his left arm in a sling, to walk into the locker room postgame, clutching the Lombardi Trophy. Hard.
"I feel like I've reached my rightful place in history,'' he said.
I asked him what he thought Al Davis might be saying tonight.
" 'I should have never let him get out of here,' '' said Woodson, channeling his inner Al.
A couple of equipment men helped him pack up, and slowly, Woodson was out the door. As he left, he yelled a joke to the one of the Packers' team medics. "Hey doc!'' he said. "If we had a game next week, would you shoot me up?''
But there's no game next week. In fact, there's only a parade in Green Bay this afternoon, and then a celebration in Lambeau Field on Tuesday. After Woodson left, director of corporate communications Aaron Popkey fiddled with his Blackberry, sending an appeal back to his contacts in Green Bay, asking for shovelers to show up at Lambeau on Monday so the place would be clear in time for the big community party in the stadium Tuesday.
When the stadium's clear, and when it gets packed with the faithful, celebrating their seventh NFL title in 50 years, they'll all be looking for the silver trophy with the name of the famous local coach on it. That won't be hard to spot. It'll be in the right arm of Charles Woodson, who deserves the moment.
Five observations from the 45th Super Bowl:
1. Aaron Rodgers outplays Ben Roethlisberger. There weren't a lot of big throws made in this game, but Rogers completed an impressive postseason with the victory. I counted four drops among his 24-of-39, 304-yard, three-touchdown, no-pick game, and what was most interesting, I thought, was how Rodgers continued to play so well without relying on the position he'd grown so reliant on in his first couple of starting seasons. Tight ends caught two balls for six yards for the Packers in the Super Bowl.
It's hard to overstate how well Rodgers played in this postseason -- he had a 110.7 rating in four games, none at home. He has officially made anyone but residents of southern Mississippi realize just how smart a decision the Packers made when they stuck to their guns and chose Rodgers over Favre as the starting quarterback in the summer of 2008.
2. Rashard Mendenhall lost this game more than anyone for Pittsburgh. With his second lost fumble in three games this postseason, Mendenhall showed he's a nice running back but not a great one. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Steelers looked like they were on the verge of taking the lead for the first time in the game. Down 21-17 with the ball at the Packer 33, Roethlisberger handed the ball to Mendenhall, who looked for a hole off right guard. He found one -- but then got the ball punched out and lost it. Green Bay recovered and scored the clinching touchdown eight plays later. "It just happened and should not have happened,'' he said. Of the loss, Mendenhall said, "We did it to ourselves.''
Mostly, Mendenhall did it to his team. That's about as big a turnover, at as crucial a time, as a player can have.
3. Roethlisberger got humbled, but he'll be back. "I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down -- the fans, my coaches, my teammates. It's not a good feeling,'' he said. Roethlisberger wasn't awful, but he threw an interception early that Collins returned for a touchdown, and that play haunted the Steelers all game.
He very nearly made up for it with a ridiculous off-balance throw into the right corner of the end zone to a leaping Hines Ward, but when Steeler fans waited for Roethlisberger to make another historic drive at the end of the game, down six with two minutes to go and 87 yards of field in front of him, he just couldn't do it. His numbers on the last drive: two of five, 20 yards, ball lost on downs. "They did a great job of taking away anything deep and anything outside,'' Roethlisberger said.
Still, with Woodson and Shields out of the game, the Packers were at a severe disadvantage, and Roethlisberger couldn't take advantage of it.
4. Clay Matthews erases the family curse. Well, curse might too strong a word. But family members had played 44 years in the NFL without winning a pro football championship (grandfather Clay Sr., four; father Clay Jr., 19; uncle Bruce 19; cousin Kevin, one; and this was Clay's second year in the NFL). Now they've won one, and the family was in the locker room afterward to celebrate. The kid's a heck of a football player, and as usual, he made huge plays to help his team.
5. Green Bay's won more titles than any team in the last 50 years. You can look it up: Since 1960, Green Bay's won seven, Pittsburgh six, Dallas five, San Francisco five. It was interesting hearing the respect for history this team has. Player after player talked about bringing the Lombardi Trophy back where it belonged. In a year when a play about Lombardi opens on Broadway, and HBO does one of its best documentaries with a Lombardi piece, and interest in the old man's hits an all-time peak, it's fitting that the Packers win a close one and rekindle everyone's love of the cheese nationwide.
You want to start Hall of Fame debates? You ain't seen nothing yet.
Of all the things that struck me in the wake of Saturday's election of seven men to the Hall's Class of 2011 -- linebackers Les Richter and Chris Hanburger, running back Marshall Faulk, tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive end Richard Dent, cornerback Deion Sanders, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol -- I was left to think about how difficult the job of the 44 selectors is going to be in 2013 and beyond. That's when a motherlode of strong candidates will hit the floor over a three-year period. Looking at the leading candidates to become Hall finalists over the next four years:
2012: Drew Bledsoe, Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells, Marty Schottenheimer, Will Shields.
2013: Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan.
2014: Shaun Alexander, Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Mike Holmgren.
2015: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace, Junior Seau, Kurt Warner.
With five very strong skill-position players left over this year -- running backs Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis are four-five on the all-time rushing list, while Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed stand third, fourth and 10th on the receptions list -- that's going to be difficult to sort through when Marvin Harrison and the Rams receivers, Bruce and Holt, become eligible. That brings me to my first of four points arising out of Saturday's selection meeting, which, at seven hours and 28 minutes, was the longest I've ever sat through:
1. I'm starting to think some men -- some, not all -- who catch 1,000 balls will never make the Hall. I've always thought eventually we'd begin thinning the herd of pass-catchers by putting one of the three big-stat guys (Carter, Brown, Reed) in. Now I'm not so sure. Cris Carter caught 1,101 balls in his career, with 130 touchdowns. Before Randy Moss arrived in Minnesota, he had back-to-back 122-catch seasons, and even when Moss came in, he averaged 90 catches a year for five years. Yet, this was the second straight year Carter didn't make the cut from 15 finalists to 10 on our first vote of the session.
(The way the process works is this: We discuss all 15 candidates, then vote for 10. The top 10 vote-getters then are discussed further, and a second vote is taken, cutting the group from 10 to five. Then each of the five is voted on individually.)
Obviously, the arguments on Carter simply aren't working. And I'm getting the feeling more and more that it's possible receivers are being seen as interchangeable parts in a league in which teams are throwing so much more than ever. I fear Carter and Brown and Reed may end up being viewed as compilers rather than legitimate game-breaking players.
This leads me to think that Marvin Harrison might have a tough road too. Harrison: 1,102 catches, 128 touchdowns, 13.2 yards per catch playing with Peyton Manning ... Carter: 1,101, 130, 12.6, playing with much lesser quarterbacks. So why will Harrison be viewed differently by our group? I'm not saying I agree; I have supported Carter's candidacy because of his acrobatic sideline and end zone ways, and his tremendous hands, and his consistent production. I'm also one of 44.
2. While I support some sort of separation for contributors, I was thrilled, obviously, to see Ed Sabol get in. Currently, we lump all modern-era candidates together -- players, coaches, owners, commissioners, league officials and people like Sabol, whose visionary film-making made legends out of people like Jim Brown and Vince Lombardi at a time when football was struggling to be seen as a sport with the cache of baseball and college football. But Sabol is only the second contributor elected in the past 11 classes.
There are some worthy candidates -- Ron Wolf, Gil Brandt, Paul Tagliabue -- not getting a sniff these days, and I think one of the ways we could remedy this would be to take a contributor's slot, say, once every two years, and in that year, have only one Seniors Committee member put before the selectors instead of the usual two. I don't believe there's enough of a backlog of strong candidates to make it an annual thing. But I would like to see one contributor come before us as a finalist at least once every two years.
3. I'm in favor of total transparency with the voting. In other words, I'd be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn't want us to do. The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn't vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it's incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we're going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.
4. The rhetoric intensifies. The other day, Emmitt Smith was on Sirius NFL Radio, and like many former players, he was highly critical of the selection process of the Hall. Many former players either want players or coaches on the panel, or they simply think we do a poor job picking the classes.
Putting players and coaches on the committee is a dubious idea unless we put 32 of them, one per team, on. That's because if, say, a player who spent most of his career with Pittsburgh is on the committee, Baltimore and Cincinnati fans would cry foul unless there were someone on the panel representing their interests. Let's say you add 32. That brings the number of debaters and voters to 76. Unwieldy, in my opinion.
I have said this for years, and I was glad to see Jim Trotter of SI.com write this after Saturday's vote: If you are inflamed by the result of the vote, take a list of the 15 finalists and strike 10 off as not worthy this year, or not worthy forever. When you look at the list and say, for instance, I believe Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk and Ed Sabol need to be in, that leaves 12 candidates for a maximum of two slots. And you'd leave off either the fourth-leading rusher of all-time or the second-leading tight end, or a center with more All-Pro nods than any modern center (Dermontti Dawson), or the only player with five Super Bowl rings (Charles Haley) ... and you get the idea.
It's not easy. I want to emphasize that I'm not complaining. I'm saying, simply, that so many of you react to the voting like, "My God! Why can't you guys get it right?'' And I'm not sure that something subjective can ever be "right.''
I don't know what Roger Goodell's talking about
I've thought all along that the majority of fans don't really support the idea of an 18-game schedule. In an injury-free world, they would; who wouldn't? But Commissioner Roger Goodell keeps saying fans favor the 18-game schedule. They only favor it, in my opinion, in order to NOT have four preseason games they have to pay regular-season prices for. But that's a different story than actually saying you want 18 games when so many players are getting hurt every week. And so on Friday, I asked my Twitter followers if they favored either:
a. Two preseason games and 18 regular-season games.
b. Four preseason games and 16 regular-season games.
c. Two preseason games and 16 regular-season games.
The results, over a 40-hour voting period, give us a pretty good sample -- 1,200 votes in all. How the voters came down:
C (2+16): 622 votes, 51.8 percent.
B (4+16): 363 votes, 30.3 percent.
A (2+18): 215 votes, 17.9 percent.
That means 18 percent of 1,200 football fans (presumably they are if they follow me on Twitter), less than one out of every five, want what Goodell says they want. And 82 percent want to keep it at 16 regular-season games.
You can color these numbers any way you want. You can say, Well, King is crusading against 18 games, so his followers would do the same, naturally. Maybe, but you have to read my followers. Seems at least half of them call me names you wouldn't call a rabid dog. I absolutely do not buy that because I favor 16 games that they'd blindly follow -- and certainly not to that overwhelming degree.
"Sick of injuries killing our season,'' wrote a reader who voted "C,'' @cookidge. "Why add increased chance with more reg games? So owners can make more money? No thanks.''
"Anybody with a pulse can tell that too many games will dilute the product, not enhance it,'' tweeted @sethcross21.
The NFL is going to have to come up with a better reason than "fans want 18 games'' to push the 18-game agenda.
One final note: Rumors were flying Sunday of Sean Payton taking some sort of undisclosed role with the Dallas Cowboys immediately. With Payton working the Super Bowl for ESPN, stories started that he was talking to the club about jumping from the Saints. Payton told me this morning he was "absolutely not'' jumping ship, and would be back with the Saints as coach this year. So there you go.
1. Green Bay (14-6). Remember how the low seeds could never win it all? In the past six years, here are the seeds that won the Super Bowl: 2005, six (Pittsburgh) ... 2006, three (Indianapolis), 2007, five (New York Giants); 2008, two (Pittsburgh); 2009, one (New Orleans); 2010, six (Green Bay). Think of that: One team with home-field advantage through the playoffs has won the Super Bowl in the past six seasons.
2. Pittsburgh (14-5). For a defensive player of the year, Troy Polamalu had a minuscule impact on the 2010 playoffs for Pittsburgh.
3. New York Jets (13-6). I was with Rex Ryan Saturday night. Let's just say the two-week-old loss to Pittsburgh has not stripped him of one shred of confidence in his Jets.
4. New England (14-3). Tom Brady 50 MVP votes, The Rest Of The League 0. For those ripping the voting, remember: It's based on regular-season only.
5. Chicago (12-6). With 36 inches of snow on the ground, denizens of Chitown must really like seeing a mobile Jay Cutler in shorts and polo shirt, loving L.A.
6. Baltimore (13-5). The sun will come up tomorrow, Joe Flacco. You will be coached fine.
7. Atlanta (13-4). Good job locking up Mike Smith for three more years. Just hope he has some people to coach this summer.
8. New Orleans (11-6). Liked what I saw of Sean Payton on ESPN over the weekend. You got a future, kid.
9. Philadelphia (10-7). Kevin Kolb's not getting traded anytime soon, obviously, because there can be no trades. But it would be nuts to deal him anyway ... unless the Eagles know a lot more about Mike Kafka than the rest of us.
10. Indianapolis (10-7). Franchise tag feels about right for Peyton Manning.
11. Tampa Bay (10-6). Glad to see Raheem Morris take runner-up for coach of the year. Very much deserved the votes he got.
12. Kansas City (10-7). Bill Muir being named offensive coordinator tells me Todd Haley's got to be thinking about calling the plays again. The system worked pretty well with Haley being the overarching coach and not the playcaller.
13. San Diego (9-7). That city has to be worried about losing its team to Los Angeles.
14. New York Giants (10-6). One of the best beat writers of this generation, Vinny DiTrani of the Bergen (N.J.) Record, has covered his last game, and a few of his acolytes (me included) took him out to the Blue Goose, a Mexican place here in Dallas, the other night. When it came time to pay the bill, seems it had disappeared. The Giants picked it up. Class guy, class move.
15. Seattle (8-10). I've thought all year the Seahawks made a mistake trading Josh Wilson away in August. Never changed my mind. You don't deal corners who can play for a fifth-round pick.
"Personally, I felt like I let a lot of people down.''-- Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw two interceptions and had a generally uninspired performance against the Packers.
"I've never felt like there's been a monkey on my back. The organization stood behind me, believed in me. I told [general manager] Ted [Thompson] back in 2005 he wouldn't be sorry with this pick. I told him in '08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity at a Super Bowl.''--Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, on getting the Brett Favre monkey off his back, and talking about the organization's decision to go with him and trade Favre in the rancorous summer of 2008.
"What beard?''-- Hairy Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel, who has the longest beard in Super Bowl history and who, after discussing his ultra-long beard for most of 45 minutes at Super Bowl media day last Tuesday, was asked by one TV reporter, "I just got here, and I wondered if you could please talk about your beard for a minute.''
A few hours after Tom Brady won the 2010 Most Valuable Award unanimously, Aaron Rodgers went out in the Super Bowl and played a lot like him. In fact, in this 4-0 postseason, the Rodgers numbers are quite comparable to Brady's for the year, if you consider the kind of pace he'd be on if the numbers were plotted over a full season.
Offensive Player of the Week
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay.
In accounting for 304 of 338 offensive yards for the Packers, and in accounting for all three offensive touchdowns, Rodgers completed a post-season in which he showed he'll be a force to be reckoned with. When you rank the best quarterbacks in the game, he's got to be in the discussion now. Not saying he should be second or third or whatever, but his accuracy and coolness on such a grand scale over the past month are very Brady-like.
Defensive Player of the Week
Nick Collins, FS, Green Bay.
Not only did Collins give the Packers a big boost with his 37-yard interception and weaving return for touchdown late in the first quarter -- the single biggest play of the game -- but also on the ensuing Steeler drive, he may well have saved the Pack four points. Pittsburgh, down 14-0, had a third-and-seven at the Green Bay 19. The Steelers, obviously, didn't want to settle for a field goal on this golden chance. But Collins corralled Mike Wallace after a gain of four, and the Steelers could get only three points. Big, big play. For the game, Collins had four tackles and a halftime IV for dehydration. He was a vital factor in the Packers win, even if he was largely invisible in the second half.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brett Swain, WR, Green Bay.
Not only for his three special-teams tackles, a game-high, but also for his consistent swarming around the ball on kick and punt returns in a game in which field position was going to be vitally important.
Coach of the Week
Mike McCarthy, head coach, Green Bay.
So much of this sport is mental, and McCarthy was superb this year in making it impossible for his team to make excuses or lean on injuries as a crutch. "What a phenomenal job Mike did,'' said trainer Pepper Burress, who I've known for two decades, in the locker room afterward. "We had 206 games missed by players due to injury this year, and it's like it never mattered. It was an unbelievable year. [Defensive coordinator] Dom Capers looks at me and says, 'Who's next?' But Mike never let it be a factor for us.''
One more thing about McCarthy: Imagine you grow up in the heart of Pittsburgh, a few blocks away from Dan Marino's neighborhood, and you cheer for the Steelers as a kid so hard you're hoarse on Sundays, and then you have a chance to play them in the Super Bowl, and you beat the team of your dreams as a kid. McCarthy is as stoic as they come, but this had to have been one of the great moments of any coach's life.
Goats of the Week
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh.
You simply can't fumble with the Super Bowl on the line, with your team driving to take the lead in the fourth quarter. But Mendenhall did, and it was the single biggest factor in the Pittsburgh loss.
The NFL, in the seat debacle.
There is no excuse, and never can be one, when you sell tickets for seats that are not valid. That's what the NFL did with 400 people who had valid tickets for seating areas that were not deemed safe by the local authorities.
It doesn't matter that the league put them in areas where they could stand and see the game, or sit and watch on TV inside the stadium. Imagine people who sacrifice and scrape money together for the chance (maybe the only chance) to see a Super Bowl, and they get to the game and are told they have no seat. The league needs to be quick about this investigation, find out who dropped the ball, and do more than give the fans who got jobbed three times the value of their ticket.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this morning that the 400 displaced fans will attend next year's Super Bowl as guests of the NFL. That's a good gesture, but if I'm that Steeler fan from Erie I read about last night, and I'm getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis to see Atlanta-San Diego ... I mean, I'm still not happy.
Saturday night, SI dinner for staffers/friends of SI/clients, luxury apartment near downtown Dallas:
I'm at a table with, among others, SI swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen and her boyfriend, singer John Legend, a huge football fan. At one point we're talking about the bombastic Rex Ryan -- who is in the room too -- and his performance in the HBO Hard Knocks series last summer. I tell Teigen if she hasn't seen the "Let's go get a God---- snack,'' video, she simply has to. So she whips out her iPhone, finds it on YouTube, and watches/listens to it, and begins howling with laughter. So I go over and get Ryan, and tell him he has to meet Teigen, and explain the snack thing.
Legend, Teigen and Ryan meet, and Teigen says: "That is the greatest quote of all time!''
Chrissy Teigen, Rex Ryan, John Legend, in a Dallas apartment, on a Saturday night in February. Only at the Super Bowl.
I figured this was not going to be your typical Super Bowl week when I got off the elevator at the Sheraton Dallas and saw my breath. Faintly, but there it was. Among the many things about Texas, one is this: They simply don't heat their buildings well here.
Now, I'm not one of those who say there should never be a Super Bowl in City X because there was a rotten week of weather. But here, I'd actually think about it. One meteorologist on the local news said this was a once-in-20-years weather event. Kevin Kolb, who lives an hour or so west of the city in a small town, came to Dallas and said, "I was fishing in short sleeves five days ago.''
All that being said, and understanding that this was a freakish storm, it's hard to fathom for an event that was this ballyhooed, by a region that is dying to get in the regular Super Bowl rotation, that they don't have many (any?) plows down here, they don't salt the roads when there's an ice storm (and there was a doozy Tuesday morning), and their energy grid is ill-equipped to handle the drain on the resources the region faced late in the week.
But the good news is, the governor here is really bright. In the middle of a four-day weather crisis, Rick Perry was in sunny southern California, apparently working on his national profile. Now that's some great timing.
The highlights of our week in Antarctica, after a severe ice storm coated every road Tuesday and five inches of snow added to the mayhem Friday morning:
• Went to four stores on I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth looking for a real winter coat on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sold out everywhere.
• As the AFC pool reporter for the Pro Football Writers of America, I was assigned the Steelers practice in Fort Worth. (One reporter watches practices for both teams and writes a daily report of what happened, not delving into great football detail, but giving the 4,000 media people some idea that they're here for a football game.) From door to door, from my hotel in Dallas to the TCU campus in Fort Worth, the trip was 39 miles. On Friday, the road connecting the two cities, I-30, was what I'd imagine driving on the moon is like. Windswept, blowing snow, just trying to stay on the road by following big vehicles in front of you in low visibility. And a bunch of idiots driving 25 mph too fast for conditions, three of whom spun off into ditches or the median. Luckily, my Chevy was a beast for the conditions, and I've spent my life driving in this crap, and I got the job done pretty easily.
• Ice cascaded from the roof of the stadium Friday, injuring seven, including one critically.
• Three days I peeked into the school bookstore at TCU, wanting to buy a Horned Frogs hoodie. Three days, closed. Campus closed. The NHL could have played the Winter Classic on about three locations on campus. The place was a rink, from end to end, and it never even began to melt the entire time the Steelers were there, from early Wednesday to Saturday noon.
• At one point on Wednesday, it was 17 degrees warmer in Juneau than in Dallas.
• On Saturday morning, beginning at about 10 and stretching to Sunday morning at 4:23, fire alarms ravaged the hotel. False ones, apparently from a short somewhere in the system. Swarms of people had to walk down 20-something flights of stairs for one of the pre-dawn alarms Sunday.
"I told y'all Packers would exploit that secondary!! But don't listen to me though, I only played the Steelers 3x this season.''--@DonteStallworth, Ravens receiver Donte' Stallworth, after Aaron Rodgers made the score 21-3 when he threw his second touchdown pass of the first half and was abusing the Steelers secondary.
"At NFL-Xperience and Phil Simms just threatened 2 hit me b/c I said his son was 1 of the worse QBs in the SEC. I told him 'LET'S GO!' ''--@desmond_howard, ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard, who angered Simms last fall by calling his son, Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms, one of the three worst quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference. In a later tweet, Howard said Simms "wanted 2 take a swing at me!!''
Simms, though, remembered the incident differently, telling SI.com's Richard Deitsch that "at no time was there ever a chance of a physical confrontation'' with Howard.
Whatever, it sure livened up a dull Saturday at the Super Bowl.
"I'm watching your Real Sports episode. You're awesome. That is all.''--@Alyssa_Milano, actress Alyssa Milano, commenting on my star turn on HBO's Real Sports.
Well, yes. I guess I am. And darn it, Hollywood's finally noticing!
1. I think this is what I liked about the Super Bowl:
a. Line of the night: "First fumble of the day,'' wrote our Phil Taylor, "belongs to Christina Aguilera.'' Messed up the National Anthem. That's gotta hurt.
b. Jordy Nelson. One of the most valuable Packers on a night full of them. (Though he did have three drops.)
c. Liked that Bridgestone beaver commercial. It's the only ad spot I saw, so don't expect much of a review from me.
d. Charlie Peprah, with a game-high 10 tackles. Amazing kid who grew up needy in the Dallas area and came home to win an NFL title.
e. Ted Thompson, Reggie McKenzie and the Green Bay personnel staff, for looking under the right rocks to find the top four tacklers of the night in a Super Bowl victory -- Peprah, Desmond Bishop, Tramon Williams, Frank Zombo. They combined for 29 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
f. Aaron Rodgers' poise. It'll serve him very well.
g. Doug Legursky, the Pittsburgh center. The loss of Maurkice Pouncey was supposed to be devastating. Legursky played so well it was a speed bump.
h. The big screen. This was my first game in the new stadium, and the 180-foot-wide, high-def TV was riveting.
i. The Green Bay offensive game plan, which was so smart in attacking the Pittsburgh edges all game long.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about the Super Bowl:
a. Dallas bad-weather preparedness. In a nutshell.
b. The NFL censoring James Harrison's sarcastic remarks about laying down a pillow and gently placing opponents down instead of tackling them, and making sure "Mr. Goodell'' paid attention.
c. I mean, 947 quotes about Brett Keisel's beard (many of which I thought were funny), and we can't read one of the most interesting four or five quotes of Media Day from one of the biggest stars in the game?
d. Green Bay's run defense. It was ridiculous to see Pittsburgh have four runs of longer than 15 yards when the Steeler offensive line was riddled with injuries and the Pack had been playing so well against the run.
e. Heath Miller. Where was he?
f. I mean, two catches, 12 yards? Miller absolutely should have been more of a factor.
g. The stadium turf. Slippery, hard, harsh.
h. The waiting and the waiting and the waiting to get into the stadium. Ask any fan who who went to the game. Chances are he/she wasn't pleased.
i. Alex Rodriguez being fed by Cameron Diaz, caught by the FOX cameras. How embarrassing.
3. I think James Starks has found a future in Green Bay. He's a hard-running back, tougher than his angular build would suggest. He averaged 4.7 yards per rush on the best run defense in the NFL in years.
4. I think I wouldn't be surprised if Donald Driver retires. Saw him in the locker room afterward, and he seemed entirely happy with winning a title, even if he only made it through 25 minutes and left the stadium in a walking boot due to his high ankle sprain. He's been a class player, standup guy and durable as they come for his size.
5. I think I would be very surprised if the Arizona Cardinals didn't take a quarterback with the fifth pick in the April draft. Ken Whisenhunt hasn't given up on Max Hall, but he also knows he's got to give Larry Fitzgerald a chance to be great again, and the only way to do that is to up the competition ante at quarterback and get a guy with a better chance to be the long-term answer at the position.
6. I think the best candidates to open the season on Sept. 8 (and I use that phrase advisedly, because I, like you, fear the season won't start on time because of the labor saber-rattling) would be these: 1. New Orleans at Green Bay; 2. Tampa Bay at Green Bay; 3. Chicago at Green Bay. Just a hunch.
7. I think I had an interesting postgame chat with Clay Matthews. It started with him saying, "Hey, I heard you voted Julius Peppers defensive player of the year. What's up with that?'' Big smile. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Good man.
8. I think, from the sound of it, Green Bay may lose receiver James Jones, who is a free agent, if there's free agency this year. (Which is definitely not a done deal.) If the Packers do lose him, they'll likely invest in Jordy Nelson long-term. Wise move, if they put some stickum in his locker before every game.
9. I think regardless of what every player says now about how solid they are with their union, and I do believe most players are, the real test would come in middle- and late-September, when players are losing big dough. How's Peppers going to feel, for instance, when those weekly $676,490 paychecks don't show up, especially knowing he could be on the last contract of his career?
10. I think these are my non-Super Bowl thoughts of the week:
a. Five for Fighting Update: Thanks to my good friend Phil Parisi at the USO for reaching out to Army First Sgt. Mike McGuire and preparing to send him all of the recreation and downtime equipment that all of you so generously raised money to donate last year. McGuire has recently been assigned another dangerous tour of duty with his platoon, which works to scout out and eliminate improvised-explosive devices (IEDs) from the roads of Afghanistan. I'll let you all know when the equipment is in place, giving the troops a little bit of relief after their 12-hour daily shifts doing one of the most dangerous jobs on earth.
b. And thanks to The Common Ground, the Dallas restaurant that hosted my Tweetup Thursday night at the Super Bowl. Owner Corey Pond and his staff were terrific hosts, and my readers and I had too much fun. To all of you who both like and bash what I write, it was good to see so many of you.
c. Congrats on winning the NFL Man of the Year, Madieu Williams. Totally deserving. The man knows how to give back.
d. Would the Rangers really trade Michael Young? Love the way he plays. All he does is get 200 hits, like Ichiro.
e. Next two books on my list: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand; The Last Boy, by Jane Leavy. Can't wait to read both.
f. Coffeenerdness: The one saving grace to the frigid week in Dallas was having a Peet's Coffee in the lobby of the Sheraton Dallas. Thank you, coffee gods.
g. Beernerdness: Very nice beer selection at The Common Table. I wanted to try a Texas beer, so I got handed the Hefeweizen, from Austin's Live Oak Brewery. I'm not a Hefeweizen aficionado in the least, but this was one of the most interesting beers I've had in a while. A cloudy yellow, with kind of a citrusy taste, fruity without being obnoxious. Liked it a lot. Must be tremendous in the summer.
h. If you want to know how to NOT make the Hall of Fame with class, study Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin. Neither man got in this year and they handled it well.
i. Sorry for all you 'Burghers this morning. It would have been a terrible day in either place, Green Bay or Pittsburgh, that lost ... but I know Pittsburgh, and I know there is mental black crepe paper all over town.
j. Finally: This is the end of the 14th season of Monday Morning Quarterback, but do not fret. I'll be back every week this offseason except four. Just don't expect them to be 7,500 to 9,000 words. They'll be saner, more compact, and allow me the chance to get a little bit of sleep on Sunday night. I love writing the column, and I love your tremendous encouragement (and rip jobs too). You're the best audience on the internet, and I'm grateful to have this space to empty my football brain every Monday. See you next Monday. Oh, and about the labor situation? I'll be covering it, but I'll be sure to not hit you over the head with it for all of every column.GALLERY: Defining moments of the 2010 playoffs.