I rank Sunday's Super Bowl among the top five ever. I just hope it's not the last before the owners and players turn one of the dumbest labor disputes in sports history into a work stoppage that kills the 2011 season and messes up pro football's future.
Even before it started, the Packers-Steelers game was going to be remembered anyway given the matchup between two historic franchises.
That it wasn't aesthetically perfect made it better. Mistakes are part of football and this game had almost everything: some spectacular offensive plays, some good ones on defense (think Clay Matthews' strip of Rashard Mendenhall that turned the game) and a remarkable performance by Aaron Rodgers. His perfect strike in the fourth quarter to Greg Jennings between Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu is one of the best passes I've ever seen thrown. Anywhere at any time, let alone in a Super Bowl, the antithesis of my other favorite Super Bowl pass: Eli Manning to David Tyree -- a broken play that will forever remain in the history books (or rather the history tapes.)
Most of the great games are recent.
My favorites have always been the Giants over the Bills in 1991 and the Rams over the Titans in 2000, just for the endings: a missed field goal and a play that came up one yard short of a tying touchdown. Until the final quarter (Manning to Tyree), Giants-Patriots was a snoozer, though the ending makes it a classic. And Steelers-Cardinals two years ago is up there too -- a 100-yard interception return, then a pendulum swing in the final minutes, capped by a last-minute game-winning touchdown pass by Ben Roethlisberger, who provided a lot of moments Sunday, both good and bad.
-- An interjection --
Immediately after Sunday's game, the networks, notably ESPN and the NFL Network started throwing around the "L'' word, "L'' as in "legacy.'' I don't want to hear it. Ever again. It was invented by the folks at the so-called "worldwide leader'' and is applied to every star in every sport --- in this case to Rodgers, a starter for all of three years; Roethlisberger, who is 2-1 in Super Bowls, and even Brett Favre, the quarterback Rodgers succeeded in Green Bay.
I'm not quite that old, so I don't remember what they were saying about Babe Ruth around 1933, but I'm sure the "L'' word wasn't involved.
On to the other "L'' word, labor.
Every week this season, we've gotten e-mails announcing that the NFL has set another ratings record: on CBS, Fox, ESPN, even "THE NETWORK.''
A couple of weeks ago, the league agreed to a $2 billion a year contract extension with ESPN.
So when someone from the NFL says they have to fix the "business model,'' my eyes glaze over. When DeMaurice Smith says, with a reporter present, that the union and owners are "at war," I wonder why he's trying to inflame an already delicate situation. No, I know what he's doing -- rhetoricizing (if that's a word.) a dispute that will go into the spring and disrupt the free-agent period. Then maybe into the summer.
Then I suspect they will finally do what they should be doing now: settle in time for an abbreviated training camp in which players will hastily sign contracts, hastily get into shape and play a sloppy half-season.
And that's if we're lucky.
No, this wasn't the last Super Bowl.
Please get the thing done. You're both making tons of money. All your greed is doing is angering the fans. And they're the ones who pay the bills.