Outsports' guide to what to watch for when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl, including a porn angle.
You don't have to fear about attending a Super Bowl party with no idea about the game, such as who’s playing. As a public service, Outsports offers our annual Super Bowl for the Clueless. Even those with a clue might learn something.
WHAT: Super Bowl XLIII (or 43 for those who forgot their Latin), pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers from the American Football Conference vs. the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football Conference. This is Pittsburgh’s seventh trip to the Super Bowl (they are 5-1 in those games), while the Cardinals are Super Bowl virgins.
WHERE: The game will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., which holds 72,500. Most tickets for the game have a face value of $800. Raymond James is a financial firm that is one of the few to post some positive economic numbers of late. The economy, though, is even taking its toll on the Super Bowl. Visitors are expected to spend 20% less than if there were a healthy economy, the Washington Post reported.
Playboy and Sports Illustrated announced in recent weeks that they would not be holding their annual Super Bowl parties. A celebrity golf tournament and party that was to be hosted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers players Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks was canceled because of a lack of sponsors, according to local media reports in Tampa. A few talent agencies also scrapped their party plans.
The mascots: Big Red of the Arizona Cardinals and Steely McBeam of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game will be broadcast on NBC, with Al Michaels doing the play by play, and John Madden the commentary; expect a lot of comments about food from Madden. Fun fact: Dave Kopay, the first out NFL player, had his hair done at the same Beverly Hills salon as Michaels (Dusty Fleming’s).
FASHION NOTE: The Cardinals, with one of sports’ best logos, are the designated home team and will wear their snazzy cardinal red jerseys with white bottoms. The Cardinals’ mascot, Big Red, is a guy in a giant bird costume, not very original.
The Steelers will wear white jerseys with yellow bottoms. Their mascot, Steely McBeam, looks like something you’d run into at the Faultline or Cuffs. One guy who dressed in Steely’s costume lost his gig when he was arrested for DUI; having a job dressing as Steely McBeam would drive anyone to drink.
THE TRADITION: The Steelers are NFL blue-bloods, owned by the same family (the Rooneys) in the same city since being founded as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1933. A win over Arizona will give the Steelers a record sixth Super Bowl title. The model of stability, the Steelers have had three coaches since 1969.
The Cardinals are Sun Belt vagabonds, having started as the Chicago Cardinals in 1920, then moving to St. Louis in 1960 and Phoenix in 1988. The model of instability, they have had 14 coaches since 1969 and last won a league title in 1947. Their owner, Bill Bidwill, has long been known as an incompetent cheapskate whose teams were league laughingstocks. They are one of the most unlikely Super Bowl entrants, being only the second team to make it with as few wins (nine) in a complete regular season.
THE COACHES: Both coaches are fairly young – Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) is 36, and Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt is 46. Tomlin is only the third African American coach in the Super Bowl, following Indianapolis’ Tony Dungy and Chicago’s Lovie Smith two years ago. Whisenhunt has a strong Steelers’ connection, being the offensive coordinator for head coach Bill Cowher in 2005 when Pittsburgh last won the Super Bowl. He apparently still has strong feelings over not being Cowher’s replacement, so beating his old team will be doubly sweet.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Talk about a study in contrasts. Arizona’s Kurt Warner is a devote Christian of the annoying and incredibly obnoxious kind, the kind who says you’re going to hell if you don’t believe what he believes and drops God’s name in every conversation. Warner really bugs me. I’ll take Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger any day, Yes, he was dumb enough to ride a motorcycle without a helmet (it almost cost him his life), and he looks totally goofy when drunk. But Big Ben comes across as a regular guy and is easy to root for.
As players, both are terrific, but different. Warner is a classic drop-back and stay-in-the-pocket passer, with great accuracy. Roethlisberger has the ability to thrive when his pass protection breaks down and he is able to scramble and make something out of nothing. The Cardinals rely more on Warner’s passing, than the Steelers do Roethlisberger’s. Each has won a Super Bowl (Warner following the 1999 season and Roethlisberger in 2005).
THE PORN ANGLE: Yes, there is a porn angle to this game and it involves two Steelers. First, we have kicker Jeff Reed, who dropped his pants, fired up his camera phone and snapped an image that shows his pubes. Deadspin has the whole story from 2006.
Next up is wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who became an Internet sensation last season when a full-body shot of him standing in a shower fully naked made the rounds. Click here to view, but be warned: It is very NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Let’s just say that Holmes chose his jersey number 10 for a reason.
HOW DO YOU SAY “TIGHT END” IN MACEDONIAN?: The game will be broadcast live in 35 languages, including 11 different languages from the stadium: English, Danish, Flemish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Spanish. In addition, the game will be broadcast in Arabic, Basque, Catalan, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Farsi, Filipino, Finish, Galician, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish and Thai in their respective countries.
ENTERTAINMENT: John Legend and Journey perform in the pregame portion, Faith Hill sings “America the Beautiful,” and Hudson the national anthem. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are the halftime entertainment, so no nipples in this show!
COMMERCIALS: NBC is asking a record $3 million for a 30-second spot, and as of last week, 10% of the inventory was still unsold, another sign of the economic times. The game is always the most-watched show of the year, so advertisers figure they get bang for their bucks; it’s just that there are fewer companies willing spend a lot of money on an ad (GM and FedEx are two longtime Super Bowl advertisers who have dropped out this year). Ford and Chrysler are also not advertising, so auto companies Audi and Hyundai have jumped in. According to Ad Week, “Audi's 60-second spot for its A6 sedan … pokes fun at the stock Hollywood chase sequence. … Hyundai is taking the highbrow route, enlisting cellist Yo-Yo Ma to perform a Bach composition over glam shots of the 2009 Genesis sedan.” Sounds like a perfect time for a bathroom break.
Expect to see a lot of Anheuser-Busch and its Clydesdales, as the beer company has bought 4.5 minutes in ads. Pedigree dog food (owned by Mars) is also advertising for the first time, so I imagine cute or talking animals will be all the rage. Denny’s is also a first-time advertiser, so can we expect talking pancakes?
FACTS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS: The father of Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a sportswriter in Minnesota and he will be covering his son at the game. … The Steeler fans will be waving their iconic Terrible Towel, a yellow towel that has symbolized the team since the 1970s and raises money for charity. Steeler fans travel better than any other in the NFL, so expect the stands to be about 75% black-and-gold. … The Steelers are seven-point favorites in Las Vegas. … Teams wearing their white jerseys have won the last four Super Bowls. … Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is a hero in South Korea. His dad is American and met his mom, a Korean, while stationed in Korea. Ward sports a tattoo with his name in the Korean alphabet. … Cardinals running back Edgerrin James also has an Asian connection. He did not join his then-Indianapolis Colts teammates on a 2005 preseason trip to Japan, declaring, "The closest I'm going to get to Tokyo is Benihana."
THE GAME: This game is pretty simple – the Cardinals thrive on moving the ball via the pass, while the Steelers like to get a lead and run, run and run some more. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has been mind-boggling in the postseason and is probably the best receiver in the league. He is impossible to cover with one man, so look for the Steelers to put two defenders on him. If Fitzgerald is having a big day, that’s a sign of great things for Arizona.
The Cardinals do not run the ball well, though that has improved somewhat in the postseason. The Steelers are impossible to run against, giving up a measly 83 total yards in two playoff games. The key for the Cardinals will be protecting Warner. The Steelers were second in the league in sacking the quarterback, while Warner has been sacked only three times in three postseason games. If Warner’s jersey is clean in the fourth quarter, that’s another positive sign for Arizona.
On the other side, only three other quarterbacks were sacked more than Roethlisberger. He will be greatly helped if the Steelers are able to run the ball against a suspect Cardinals’ run defense. This will take pressure off of Roethlisberger and prevent the Cardinals from focusing exclusively on rushing the quarterback. The health of receiver Hines Ward will be critical for Pittsburgh. He is playing with a sprained knee and if he is not effective, the Steelers offense really suffers (Ward was MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl win).
All in all, Pittsburgh is the superior team through the regular season and so far in the postseason. The Steelers played the NFL toughest schedule and still went 12-4; in contrast, the Cardinals finished 9-7 in a weak division and became the first Super Bowl team to lose four regular season games by 21 or more points. The only way I see a Cardinals’ win is if Pittsburgh makes some killer mistakes, but that’s highly unlikely for a team that is playing with poise and patience. The pick: Steelers 30, Cardinals 17.
Editing note: I was a bit clueless in writing first that kickoff was 3:18 Eastern; it is 6:18 Eastern (3:18 Pacific, where I live.) That has been fixed.)
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