A Trojan Guide to Super Bowl XLV
Two teams are set to collide in the NFL season finale, and neither is a stranger to the bright lights of the grandest stage. Pittsburgh is seeking an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl title, while the historic Green Bay franchise is in search of its fourth. One will meet its preseason goal, and the other will fall short. But regardless of the outcome, there is a clear winner in the numbers game—and it is USC.
With the presence of Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews on opposing sidelines, it guarantees more championship jewelry for former Trojans. One head of locks will wear the season’s crown, and the victory will mark the fourth consecutive Super Bowl champion with a USC player on its roster—and ninth since 2000.
|2009||New Orleans Saints||Reggie Bush, Sedrick Ellis|
|2008||Pittsburgh Steelers||Troy Polamalu|
|2007||New York Giants||Steve Smith|
|2005||Pittsburgh Steelers||Troy Polamalu|
|2004||New England Patriots||Willie McGinest|
|2003||New England Patriots||Willie McGinest|
|2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Keyshawn Johnson|
|2001||New England||Willie McGinest|
Since its inception in 1966, USC football alumni have appeared on the winning roster of 30 of the 44 Super Bowl champs— nearly 70 percent of the time. Lynn Swann and Marcus Allen were the only players among those Trojans to walk away with MVP honors, and the odds would be against Matthews or Polamalu doing the same.
Nonetheless, both Super Bowl qualifiers are powered by defenses anchored by cardinal and gold names. But this “same time, same place” duo have also managed to power something else, and that is a division of rooting interests among the faithful followers of their college program.
Whom to root for has an obvious answer if you are a Packers or Steelers fan. But what about the others, as they plant their bottoms on sofas with chips and dip in hand? Through discussion and observation, I’ve gathered the reasoning that motivates Troy to root for one Super Bowl team over the other. And chances are, you will fit into one of the categories.
Troy Polamalu has already earned two rings. Clay Matthews, just a sophomore, is playing in his first Super Bowl. Using the “share the wealth” logic, you will root for the Packers as part of a conceived time-share plan. You will justify your selection by claiming a Polomalu loss isn’t as bad, because he has jewelry in the case to fall back on. Does it sound reasonable? A little, but after four quarters of alcohol consumption, it will probably make even more sense.
Ahh, yes. It’s the “Hall of Fame” logic. Using this method of selection, you’ve convinced yourself that a third Super Bowl title ensures Polamalu first-ballot entrance to the NFL’s house of elite. I can hardly disagree, but I’m not convinced that he isn’t a lock, even if his Steelers lose this game. Troy isn’t just another star defensive back in Pittsburgh. He ranks among the all time best players in the history of the game. Canton awaits him, regardless of the outcome of XLV.
Always the Bridesmaid
The saying “close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes” sums up the first two NFL seasons for Matthews. In 2009, he came up a little short in the vote for defensive rookie of the year. In 2010, he narrowly misses being named the NFL defensive player of the year. His trophy shelf is empty, and in both cases, he fell short to Trojan brothers. His former USC teammate, Brian Cushing, earned the rookie award, and Polomalu just took home the hardware for best defender. In a vote of sympathy, you will cheer for Matthews to finally get over the hump and pry an item from another Trojan’s hand.
The unbearable logic springs from the roots of the Pac 10. This one is simple in concept, because it’s driven by hate. If this is the factor in your rooting interest, you have no problem watching Polamalu’s champagne party, because it would deny one for Aaron Rodgers. The media has fallen in love with Green Bay’s gunslinger, but you despise him for being a Golden Bear, and it’s only proper to hate Cal. Cameras are glued to quarterbacks, and the thought of a football offseason filled with Rodgers facetime makes you nauseous.
Favre From Over
This is my favorite, and it’s simple, because it really has nothing to do with Matthews or Polamalu. This logic has everything to do with a Brett Favre legacy that has progressively tarnished since he first announced his retirement from Green Bay. A Packers victory will allow him to spend his days flipping through the pages of AARP’s monthly issues. A win on Sunday, and Wisconsin welcomes a new legend and releases the old. No more waiting for a decision. No more season ending interceptions. No more shadowy photos of the little dipper sent to your phone. You cannot tolerate another season of Brett Favre news and comparisons, and would pray for an NFL lockout if he announced his return. If ever there was a reason to cheer for cheese—this is IT.
Regardless of your rooting interest and reasons to support it, I hope you enjoy the game. And whether it be the cities of Pittsburgh or Green Bay trumpeting the sounds of victory, Super Bowl XLV will have provided more evidence of the Southern California impact at the professional level. There is no bowl ban in Texas, and the Trojans have arrived.