You heard it here first; Super Bowl XL will go down as one of the classic games. How is that possible, you say? Seattle and Pittsburgh aren't even the first choice of a lot of experts to even be here, but they are. I'm glad that the Super Bowl roman numerals are XL this year, as there are a ton of great stories just waiting to unfold.
Bill Cowher is now in his 13th season as the head coach in Steel Town. Through thick and thin you always knew that a Cowher-led team was putting on their work boots and coming to play. The Steelers under Cowher have always had a flair for the dramatic playmaker too. From Kordell 'Slash' Stewart then to Antwaan Randle-El now, the Steelers have always found a way to beat you in the trenches, then throw it or run it downtown.
Speaking of downtown, will there be enough of a story surrounding 'The Bus' over the next couple of weeks? If you are just coming out of your cave now, Steelers running back and emotional Buddha Jerome Bettis was coaxed into playing one more year. Play one more year they all said and we'll let you finish your career where you grew up playing ball, in Detroit. First of all, the tarot card readers that believed the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be in the Big Game had better have laid a couple of bets in Vegas, as the odds I'm sure were long for the Steelers in August. Secondly, if you were Bettis, you would have had to drink an awful lot of Kool-Aid if you thought that your team could be the AFC representative, what with Brady's bunch in Boston and the Peyton Manning love fest up in Indy. But represent the Steelers are. After not even winning their division, they march through #3 seed Cincinnati, stun #1 seed Indy and pound #2 seed Denver to enter Super Bowl XL as the first #6 seed to ever play in the game. If that wasn't enough, the early line has the #6 seed Pittsburgh as a 4 point pick over the NFC #1 seed Seattle Seahawks to win the whole thing.
Talk about a lack of respect, Seattle has to be used to it by now. Long considered an afterthought even when they used to play in the AFC West, the previous ownership tried to move the Hawks to Los Angeles. When that didn't work, the owner almost scuttled the franchise, leaving frustrated, disenfranchised fans and no corporate ties to speak of. That was until Paul Allan arrived. Actually, he was already there and quickly showed Seattle what money could buy. Bringing in Mike Holmgren to assemble the team, Allan re-established the franchise as a viable entity in the Pacific Northwest. Cutting a deal to get the White Elephant Kingdome destroyed, Allan had the Beast replaced by the beauty that is now Quest Field. When Holmgren was struggling with his juggling act of being both GM and coach, Allan did the right thing, keeping Holmgren around. Holmgren accepted that his strength was coaching and from that point on, the Seahawks have been interesting to watch.
This brings us to Matt Hasselbeck. One of Holmgren's first acquisitions, Hasselbeck chafed under the pressure of being the next Brett Favre. Struggling then losing his starting job to Trent Dilfer, Hasselbeck looked like he was about to enter the Seattle QB graveyard, where the likes of Dan McGwire, Rick Mirer and John Kitna still haunt many Seahawks fans. Hasselbeck's defining moment wasn't this year; it was that snowy day in Green Bay. You remember…it was almost Jedi-like. Holmgren as the Emperor, returning to Green Bay to vanquish Obi-Wan Kenobi (Favre) once and for all. Hasselbeck played a great game, and then called his shot in Overtime. After winning the toss, he told the referee, who of course was miked up for national television, 'WE'RE GONNA TAKE THE BALL, AND WE'RE GONNA SCORE!!!' When Hasselbeck threw the game winning score, an interception returned for a touchdown to end his team's season, he didn't hide. He stepped up and became the leader Holmgren always knew he could be. A growing season in 2004 led to this season. For my money, even with a 1800 yard running back in Alexander in your backfield, when you lose your number 1 and 2 wide receivers to injury, then reel off eleven straight wins, the division title and the NFC championship, your quarterback just might be the reason.
To the Skip Baylis' of the world; we all know that your half mocking, half serious hissy fit rant about the Seahawks was meant to sell copy. What are you going to do if and when they win? I would bet that about 2 million Seahawks fans have a bridge you could jump off.
These next two weeks will bring you a plethora of stories, just remember this. The two best teams are here, and the game will be better because of it.
Let the fun begin.