So we know the participants of the 2011 Super Bowl (XLV, if you lost count) and as a neutral fan... well, things have been more promising, rooting-wise. I happen to have been pulling for a Chicago Bears-New York Jets Super Bowl—what can I say, I'm an unrepentant fan of Mike Martz and beating the New England Patriots—and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers have left me in the surrogate-fandom lurch with just a week to decide. So without further ado: A 2011 Super Bowl neutral-fan scorecard.â†µ
Pittsburgh Steelers: I'm going to be honest: I don't even like Ben Roethlisberger on the field. He's the kind of player that begs to be overrated by sportswriters and pretend football analysts—yesterday he was credited with orchestrating a victory in which he finished 10 for 19 with 133 yards and two interceptions, a game the Steelers would have lost were it not for a fumble recovered for a touchdown. That pushes all my statistical-analysis buttons.
Also: Off the field he is, at best, a really sleazy bro who I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with. Also, according to WIkipedia he calls his style of play "backyard football", which is a little too redolent of that Brett Favre Wrangler commercial for my tastes. On the other hand, Rashard Mendenhall, who actually did orchestrate the Steelers' AFC Championship victory, "reads and writes poetry in his spare time," which is awesome.â†µ
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers has successfully dislodged himself from Brett Favre's de-pantsed shadow, which is a nice story, and a Super Bowl win could set him up for a nice run as the consensus Best Quarterback in Football, whether it's accurate or not. Their backup quarterback received, totally unwittingly, my lifelong admiration when SB Nation's front-page briefly dubbed him Matt "Air-All" Flynn, which is an all-time-great nickname.â†µ
The Packers have been out of the Super Bowl spotlight for longer—much longer—than the Steelers, but 1998 isn't exactly a lifetime ago, which is what makes this year's Super Bowl so difficult to root for as a third party. Neither of these teams has spent any time wandering in the wilderness; the Packers lost their franchise quarterback and immediately proved they had another one, and the Steelers have clearly been feeding on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 10 years.â†µ
In the end, regional ties and Ben Roethlisberger mean I'll be rooting for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. (Although I'd be willing to reopen the case if Roethlisberger starts calling himself "Slash" and insists on lining up at punter.)