Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Super Bowl XL-2006
The Fortieth American Football Championship is set to start on Sunday, February 5th in Detroit. The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Seattle Seahawks for the national title of the United States.
The Canadian issue was settled months ago when the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup game---with considerably less fanfare.
The world stops for the SuperBowl. People watch the game to see the new commercials. Others watch to catch the entertainment at half time. There are a few of us who are interested in the game.
The Steelers as a franchise have been there before. This is the first trip for the Seahawks. There are a few Steelers with four SuperBowl rings. Having been to the dance on several previous occasions has its advantages.
Jack Lambert was there for the four Steelers wins in SuperBowls 9, 10, 13 and 14. (I will dispense with the Roman Numerals. They tend to confuse the issue, although it has become an American tradition to use them for the big game.) Lambert was the inspirational leader of the “Steel Curtain”---the Pittsburgh defence. Several others played on all four winning teams---L. C. Greenwood, “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Donnie Shell, Ron Johnson, Mel Blount, Dwight White, and J. T. Thomas.
When they had the ball, the quarterback was Terry Bradshaw. Always in command, and never a man of few words, Bradshaw now works as a commentator on American Football telecasts. He provides us with insight, knowledge, and plenty of humour. But Bradshaw did not work alone. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal, and used them all---Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, John Stallworth, Lynn Swan.
As visible as Bradshaw is, Lambert is just the opposite. He enjoys his life in the Pennsylvania, often working alone as a game warden. He is a true outdoorsman, often shunning the bright lights. For several years, he attended a golf tournament in Trenton, Ontario, to raise funds for Camp Trillium---raising funds for children with cancer. I met Lambert on one of those occasions, and was astounded by his size. He was small. Relatively so.
But he played large. He is listed at six feet four inches, a little generous. He also played his career between 210 and 220 pounds. Over the years, however, he developed a reputation as a fierce competitor, and was dominant. He was the middle linebacker---the core of the Steeler defence. He ambled back and forth, in and out of the secondary---always on the prowl to sniff out the plans of the opposition’s offence. If you came into his house with the ball, he made you pay.
Another member of the Steeler dynasty had strong local roots---trainer Tony Parisi. He had played hockey in the early 1950s in Belleville, and there was a wonderful picture of him on the tattered walls of the Memorial Arena. As kids, we admired his style portrayed in the nets, in his “Memos” sweater. Hockey took him to the Pittsburgh area in ghis youth, and he remained there as a trainer, both for hockey and football teams. He has maintained his relationship with the famous Goyer family over the years.
This year’s contingent of Steel Town competitors is led by the young giant-Ben Roethlisberger. Only is his second year in the NFL, he has taken his lumps, he has paid his dues. He is now ready to wear the mantle.
But the boys from the West Coast are not ready to hand over the Lombardi trophy just yet. The Seahawks are also a favourite team of many Canadians, as those on the left coast of the country make the short trip to Washington State to watch the American game. The British Columbians are also avid Mariner baseball fans. Geography prevails, occasionally.
Shaun Alexander is everyone’s MVP this year. He has lugged the ball for the Seahawks throughout the season, and has quietly assumed the role as the premier running back in the NFL.
Keep an eye on Number 52 for the Seahawks. Jean-Philippe Darche is a McGill graduate who has been with Seattle for six years. Originally drafted by the Toronto Argonauts, he moved to the west coast in 2000. He has handled the snapping duties for the Hawks for five consecutive seasons. His brother, Mathieu, also played college football in Canada---then moved on to play in the National Hockey League. Pretty fair genes.
And so, the stage is set. Come next Sunday, around six in the evening, most of our eyes will be focussed on the game in Detroit. The Main Event is ready to go.
You may stand for the kickoff, but please, down in front for the rest of the game!